Techweek Day 3

Digital Media Reimagined

Speaker Dave Marsey started off talking about the rapid growth of social, as user’s time spent on social is overtaking all other online activities. Facebook is now the size of the internet in 2004. Then he made a few things on which marketers need to get away from traditional ways of thinking, such as:

  • Focus on the needs and interests of consumers.
  • Embrace the non-linear consumer journey.

He drew inspiration from the way architects think. In approaching a new design they first gather info about the needs of occupants, then organize the needs into a coherent pattern, and lastly design something that meets those needs.

Think about what users need around a particular topic that is relevant to the brand. Who is influential? where are they? What, why, how and when are they sharing? He gave Hunch, bitly and bluefin labs as examples of sites that are doing this well.

Most people (90%) are watchers (passive). On the opposite (1%) are igniters (content creator, thought leaders). In between are sharers (10%). He used Digitas’s Real Women of Philadelphia as a case study for how to approach these different types of people.

Biggest takeaway: Focus on sharing rather than telling.

Fireside Chat with Jason Fried, CEO of 37signals

Business managers make things too hard on themselves. Keep it simple for as long as possible. From his beginnigs in working at a grocery, shoe store to a gas station, Jason was always surprised by how complicated businesses are. Always ask yourself “Why Grow?”

2 things grow until they die: Businesses and Tumors

Jason has a completely opposite take on growing businesses from Silicon Valley. It is sexy to say you raised money, and get validation, but what does it do for a business? Jason feels it sets up the wrong priorities. There are 2 ways to start a business, spend money or make money. Bootstraps have to make money. Making money is how businesses stay alive. In order to get good at it, you have to practice. Spending money is easy. Making money is hard.

Jason has no problem the y-combinator approach, where the initial investment is small. Once you take a big investment, the clock starts ticking and the pressure is on to produce a return on someone else’s time frame. If someone else owns your time, then you do not own your business.

The interviewer pointed out examples of large companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter) that have become successful with the venture capital approach. Jason said those are outliers (lottery companies). What about everybody else? Many more examples of success with the bootstrapped approach.

“Go to Subway with an idea, and see if they will give you a sandwich.’

You can have a large impact by focusing on one thing. People overvalue the idea, and undervalue execution. An idea isn’t anything until you build it.

Charging for things forces you to be good. You can beat free by charging. Free doesn’t last.

Jason draws inspiration from the gaming company Valve. They have an amazing way of working. Even their employee handbook is awesome. He ‘loves loves’ Kickstarter, one of the best ideas he’s seen in the last decade.

Recommendations for startups: Be Small, Charge & Have Principles. Figure out what you would say no to. If you would just say yes to money in every case, you will run into trouble.

Turbocharging Enterprise Innovation

Bernhard Kappe, founder and CEO of Pathfinder Software started off with a question: “Why Innovate?” The answer: to get beyond the life cycle of your products. Fortune 500 turnover is at an all-time high and it continues to accelerate. Enterprise is not good at disruption. Business plans are assumptions, not facts. No business plan survives the first customer contact. 9 of 10 projects fail. For enterprise, they fail more spectacularly.

Lean Innovation focuses on the search for a business model. Concentrate on building a business model, not a product. Learn first, scale later. Use a build, measure, learn loop. Make a hypothesis, build something to test (MVP), run an experiment to get a measurement that proves or disproves the hypothesis. Acquire a deep understanding of customer needs and iterate.

Use MVP’ for a fast feedback loop of validation and learning. Examples of MVP’s:

  • Dropbox – did a prototype of a bunch of screens, made a video, put it on a landing page with a sign up to gauge interest. They got 80-90K people to sign up in a couple days and thus verified that their file storage concept was worth building.
  • Egyptian Democracy Movement – Did mini demonstrations in small areas away from police and traffic to see how many people joined them and what messages worked. How long before police got there?
  • Groupon – Made a WP Blog and did a deal with the Pizza place downstairs for an experiment.

Selling 101 for Entrepreneurs

Pretty straightforward stuff from the panel. Some quotes:

  • We are all selling, all the time, whether we realize it or not.
  • Be bolder than you want to be.
  • Ego and empathy as consistent traits in most salespeople
  • Keep a list of top prospects and do something to move the relationship forward every day
  • If people feel like you are not listening, they want nothing to do with you

Mint.com on the Customer Beyond the Web

Many companies are ignoring the unique benefits of the mobile platform and simply re-creating their site for a smaller screen. Ken Sun, Group Product Manager for Mobile at Intuit talked about some keys to making successful mobile apps.

Make one thing amazing – How? Work backwards. Think forward to the when the app is ready to ship. What is the key feature you would put in a press release for a product, or a hero shot?

Make it beautiful – Thanks to Apple, the bar has been raised for design on mobile devices. More important than desktop apps.

Focus on the First Use Experience – Optimize for performance and ease of use.

Touch Mechanics – More complicated than most people think. Testing and user feedback are essential. For example, phone users use sliders more than tablet users (one hand motions).

Law and Social Data

Oh man, this session made my head hurt. Intellectual property, right of publicity, workplace issues, trademarks, defamation, misconceptions about what constitutes fair use, data privacy and security, regulatory regimes, children’s privacy. States passing regulations for the internet. Lots and lots of new guidances for commercial enterprises and social media. New York is trying to pass a law to prevent anonymous speech. Lawyers can’t provide definitive advice on what can keep a social media product 100% legally in the clear because laws are vague and rapidly changing. Users don’t read privacy policies or terms of use, so it is up to companies to think about it for them. What a minefield! #1 Legal Tip: Read liability sections of contracts.

Designing Interactions and Experiences

Sequencing events for an intended outcome.

Research changes design. Design changes behavior. Behavior changes the world.

Case Study: Designing a School Cafeteria

Healthy food is subjective. (Pizza is a vegetable?) Healthy food is not a silver bullet. When CPS tries to inject healthy food, kids reject it. Parents and teachers are constantly cajoling the kids to eat the food. Kids and food don’t always know how to eat.

Research: Mealtime observation, stakeholder interviews, staff shadowing, in-home interviews, kids-eye-view cameras, time-lapse photography

Experience Journey: Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, Extend.

Design: Co-creation within the community. Parents, kids, school. Behavioral prototyping: Go through the behavior you want the person to do. Spotlight Concept: From Tray to Yay!

Insights: Presenting food all at once leads to overload of information. Do it like a restaurant and home. Choose and eat at the table

Simulation, followed by prototype at the school.

Case Study: Designing a Smart City

Cities have lots of data, but what is done with it?

Context: Design interactions at an intersection, minimize negative. Issues: spontaneous u-turns, jay-walking and deliveries. Adding trees makes cars drive slower. Use a pedestrian scramble. Create instant detours for when there are traffic incidents.

He also talked about designing interactions for a marathon and gave a preview of an upcoming ambitious Kickstarter project for creating an official public transit app for Chicago.

Tech Cocktail Startup Showcase & Mixer

Throughout Techweek, the Expo is packed with startups promoting their companies. At the cocktail party, the energy got turned up a notch as the startups are competing for a 100K prize. The startups varied greatly. There was non-profit benevolent.net, marketplace rentstuff.com, medical technology company Briteseed and hardware inventors rune17. It was a lot of fun talking to them, hearing about their businesses. In many cases, the developers were there and happy to answer questions about the technology powering their companies. Beyond the startups competing in the challenge, there were other tech companies at the expo, ranging from established larger startups like taskrabbit to young scrappy ones like Edit Huddle (update 3/3/2013 Edit Huddle appears to be defunct). Then, beyond that, there are countless interesting people walking around making connections with each other. I had a chance to meet and chat with people like gamersportal founder Sami Rageb, Design Cloud Senior UX Designer Nick Hahn and Digital Multimedia Designer Tim Maeder.

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