appreciations

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this year for Thanksgiving ( and why not also for each and every day ) take some moments to simply appreciate life

life is such a mysterious experience

one which i hope we’ll never Scientifically truly understand in the least

to try and understand life too much is to miss out on: the actual experience; and actually tuning in well enough to appreciate that experience of human ( among other forms of ) life

see if you can appreciate, too, all aspects of our experience together

up and down

good and bad

we are wed to life in all of its wonder and chaos, in all of its highs and lows — so try and appreciate and accept all that life offers us, even when it feels unfair or broken or wrong

this year i appreciate life — i choose to tune into that channel of human energy in a personally meaningful way

 

we almost lost our mother this year

i have a lot of questions for her, about her behavior, about her constant struggles with mood and escape and negativity and then manic joy

not all of these questions will be exactly smooth or supportive

i can feel ( in an unfortunately negative and low / sad way ) the immense power of our socially collected energies as a human organism — my mother’s purposefully-chosen attempts at the ultimate escape can be nothing but a dark and dreary ripple of hopelessness and confusion — a horrific example to ‘put out there’ for anyone in the world

it shows a lack of appreciation for life, for people, for anyone and anything beyond herself

my empathy for her obviously wanes at this point in the aftermath

but, for the rest of us at least, let’s hold on to life

we are all very vulnerable and life can escape us all on its own at any moment

there are no logical systems or reasons, either, that death needs to adhere to

so let’s appreciate life together

let’s set a good example for the world and the people we love

let’s appreciate each other with a new sense of closeness and humanity

tune into little things when time gets dark

tune into life

Meeting Santana

santana

I just connected with Santana on LinkedIn

I couldn’t believe he reached out to me like that — so totally amazing, right?

I mean, its not Carlos Santana, of course — its Henderson Santana

I don’t really actually know Henderson Santana IRL { that’s ‘in real life‘ for those not familiar with internet slangology ;] } — like, we’ve never actually met face-to-face or anything, or even virtually now that I think of it

This makes me pause and wonder a bit …

Am I too friendly on social media? Is it wrong or strange to connect randomly like this in an online and public forum like this ( and other ) social web experience prior to actually knowing a person and how they might influence my personal brand, among other potential ripple effects to my online identity? Do I take my social presence across multiple SM properties too lightly? Do I come across as I too playful and too casual online? Do others perceive me as unprofessional or inappropriate by my accepting a request like this to connect upon a cold and seemingly random invitation sent by a virtual ( and also real ) stranger that lives somewhere in the world on the other side of my computer monitor?

All I know is it frikkin’ Friday y’alL — enough with The Spanish Inquisition here, right? — who cares? — I’m here to have fun, get some rawkin’ creative work done, and to just play and discover the rules through experimental, semi-naïve doing — if Henderson or Carlos or any other of the mere instant acquaintances start to even feel toxic via Social, there’s an amazing click or tap I can access to cut ’em away — or better yet, I could interact a bit and find out what the strange behavior’s all about, when and if it even happens at all

but, up front — I give people the benefit of the doubt for a bit up-front and figure it all out as I go along — why over-stress about this shit, right? — i mean its just Social ;]

Stand-Up

onStandUpi just wrote and posted some of my recent thoughts On Stand-Up Comedy and UX up on LinkedIn — go gander a bit and read if you’ve got some minutes to spare, i think i’ve bumped across a lot of interesting similarities between the 2 fields by taking Amy Tee’s Stand-Up Comedy course out at North Shore Community College this Summer and some of the work i’ve done by learning about stand-up — through the process of writing and refining a set of stand-up comedy — enlightened me about various aspects of my life ( both personal and professional ) on SO many levels

its been a fascinating journey

that said — in less than a week i will perform my very first serious set of stand-up comedy out at Timothy’s in Danvers — here’s a link to the Facebook Even Page in case you’re interested in seeing more about the event or maybe even purchasing tickets for dinner and the show — its gonna be a lot of fun with over 10 comedians breaking out their material to friends, families strangers and frenemies, i really can’t wait

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after this week’s debut stand-up performance i will most likely head back to Laughter at the End of the World, Outloud Open Mike and other similar, wonderful events to perform and test my material and hopefully augment this initial 6 minute set into a fuller body of work to keep pushing my comedy

after that, i gotta get back to focusing on building out and working with the team of Comedy Catalysts i’ve rounded up for TEDxBeaconStreet this November — SO many amazing TED Talks goin’ down for a big weekend in midNovember, and SO many talented comedic professionals expressing interest and comin’ on board — ‘sGonna be SO much fun!

 

 

a little discussion about Behavior Modes

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Photo provided courtesy of C. Nancy Niu

Once again — I’m fortunate enough to in life to engage with The Boston Area UX, Design and Tech Community by giving talks on topics I am deeply passionate about within the realms of creativity, collaboration, experience and story.

Akshat Pradhan invited me out to UX Boston last week to present Behavior Modes for UX, an important sub-topic to my larger concept of designing with a storyFirst human-centered design approach. And I got to give the presentation as part of an evening of talks called Ideating Mobile, Prototyping w/ Sketch, and Behavior Modes! that included a talk on The Mobile Ecosystem Matrix from The Meme Design’s Carlos Cardenas and a super helpful prototyping walk-through by Aquent Gymnasium’s Jeremy Osborn.

So, here’s a quick, high-level fly by
on what I’m calling Behavior Modes:

 

Behavior Modes for UX

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In a nutshell — as a now near-20-year-spanning, lifelong experience designer in New England, I feel that UX teams embedded in various firms in the area nicely use all the amazing industry-standard tools and tricks, but we sometimes seem to just go through the motions of assembling the toolkit while missing the core point and actual tactical unique benefits of why we’re using some of these tools to begin with, ya know?

My case in point for this particular talk — personas

Companies develop personas. Sometimes they outsource persona development and invest a lot of big money to conduct painstaking research to craft a fantastic batch of 10 or so personas per user type within a company’s anticipated target audience. And this is all wonderful. It shows that firms are really starting to step up and take research and user-centered methodologies seriously because hopefully they understand that serving people is what we need to be all about.

But …

In 2015 most teams seem to almost treat personas as some sort of Fine Art object we put on the wall. We see faces and little blocks of stats and commentary pinned to the wall like strange dossier-like posters to remind us that there’re people on the other side. Its a bit reminiscent of the hunter’s lodge tucked so politely away in a wooded Vermont hillside cabin, nicely decorated with the dead, static remains from that huge invoice —from all that research — like a pristine, captured set of kills strangely stuffed and mounted to the wall like a museum-like reminder of the people that we once knew and talked to and taxidermically preserved. We got ’em. Check! Task done!

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But I’m not sure that this is how Alan Cooper intended teams to leverage personas in our daily work. And I’m certain they’re not supposed to simply be flowers on the wall. We’re, at the very least, always supposed to keep the faces, names and motivations of our personas in mind as we design — and I’ve noticed at least a dozen occasions over the last 17 or so years where someone does the whole ‘Do you really think that’s the way TechSavvy Simone would want to create a new user profile on ProductX?

That’s not enough though, right? Just a dozen times in nearly 20 years? C’mon!

I mean, besides UX professionals digging into putting together a list of potential user types and maybe referencing one of the personas as a way to advocate for a semi-fictional real person in a design review meeting, not once have I seen anyone fully embrace the entire potential and value of tuning into your personas.

This is why I am talking about putting our personas into a situational context to bring them to life.

As creatives, I feel that its quite sad how flat and dead our design processes can feel. It seems that you get the gig, set up at a desk, start attending the meetings and doing the work ‘n all — but we all tend to hang up the power of our imagination somewhere else entirely. And this is a shame. After all, these powers and skills are forces we were actually hired by a company to use in our daily design work. But somewhere along the line we all tune out of The Imagination Channel and tune into whatever readymade, prescribed policies and processes make the most sense to use at work because we’re used to them.

I want us to tune back into The Imagination Channel.

Personas are the best way for us as designers to get out of our own heads and into the minds, hearts and emotions of our human users. Its literally a way for us to channel the users in that fuzzy kind of New Age way and wonder from somebody else’s perspective. But I think there’s a reason why our personas remain on the wall in their frozen taxidermied state as these cutely named posters on the wall. Personas need context to come back to life. We need to not only understand the statistics we’ve researched around real people that use our products, but in order to best design for real people we also need to understand:

  • when they’re using the experience(s) we’re designing;
  • how often they use it;
  • why they’re using it in a certain temporal context;
  • how often they might get interrupted mid-task;
  • when and how they might re-engage and continue an interrupted experience with your product or service;
  • where they’re using it;
  • what version of a holistic experience design our users are engaging with ( mobile, desktop, tablet, wearable, kiosk );
  • who else is around when they’re using it;
  • how people use it within different levels of criticality ( if that even pertains to the experience );
  • etcetera, so on and so forth

This is what Behavior Modes are all about.

Behavior Modes are bits and pieces of modular context to map to your personas to better dream up and understand an actual person’s story within a temporal situation as they might experience what you’ve design for them.

I think of Behavior Modes as different than a formal use case scenario, although I imagine you could leverage the contextual factors that come together to make up your behavior modes to develop interesting, near-real-life use cases to consider for your design processes and reviews.

I’m working on formalizing my thoughts around Behavior Modes and my storyFirst Approach to Human-Centered Design and will post more to my blog here as my concepts come together.

Stay tuned!

on the next …

lou suSi, stand-up comedian and comedic performer

so, here i am

much of my life remains the same in so many ways — and yet recently i feel like i’ve made fantastic strides in life that open up new areas for discovery, new opportunities to grow and contribute in an entirely refreshing way

i’m starting up a new chapter in life

this is a chapter that i’ve actually been working on for most of my life

i’m such a fucking late bloomer, though

a complete clod

always fumbling for the pull chain to click-click the closet light on and finally shed some light into the darkened room

i say this not to beat myself up here on my very own blog or anything, but i guess in retrospect its all so refreshing obvious to me now

my new direction feels so incredible simple, too — almost too entirely natural for me to feel like i just suddenly discovered it over the course of the last few months

i’ve finally decided to start taking humor and comedy seriously

it sounds so hilariously strange to me when i write it out like that, too, but its one of the few times in my lifetime that just make sense and feel right { other similar times from my life include: coming back into Art and Creativity as my core career focus; falling in love and marrying the woman of my dreams and making a family and life together; digging deeper into my creative energies and talents to focus on experience design and research-driven, user-centered processes as my lifelong avocation }

i’ve done a lot of self-reflecting,
soul searching and analysis
these last few years

and its been wonderful looking back at my life to see the long list of crazy, humor-based projects, performances and installations i’ve either curated or directly created — running through my CV, i get this sense now that i’ve been tap-dancing like a madman in a field of pollock paint splotches, perhaps so busy making — happily making — to even see from a higher perspective if there might be any patterns lurking in the mix

part of me doesn’t want any of it to make sense at all

as an artist, that’s not my job at the end of the day anyways, right?

but another part of me knows that you can create from a far stronger place with a deeper sense of self-awareness around what you do { or even around what you did } and i think that’s what i’ve been finally looking into as a way to build a new place from which to make my work

you would think that all of this self-reflection, too, would lead me to a far mature foundation from which to make and curate and perform

but it looks like i still needs to be silly

perhaps even sillier than i’ve ever been before,
at least within the context of my past work

i recently took on the amazing role of the official Comedy Catalyst for this year’s TEDxBeaconStreet in the Fall and i am committed to making the comic relief i bring to the weekend and all of its surrounding events so completely knee-slapping nuttyFun hilarious that i’m almost skipping rope with glee like a naughty child from right my office desk at the moment

i am committed to bringin’ the funny in such a big, big way

just remember — i couldn’t possibly make fun of TEDxBeaconStreet by my lonesome — its only via my carefully hand-selected Comedy Catalyst Team that the right kind of laughter can flow between the cracks of over-glorified bleeding-edge ideas from the most upper ups of our oh so humble Boston-Area intelligensia

let me know if you’re interested in joining our wisecrack ninja team of humorists, stand-ups and other olympic comedic adventurers out at TEDxBeaconStreet — ‘sGonna be too much fun { TMF that is }

 

 

our new granddaughter

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Carol and i are sooOOoOoo happy to welcome our brand new baby granddaughter to the world — she’s such a precious, peaceful little baby { born on Thursday, April 23rd 2015 } — we love you