Seattle Mind Camp registration is closed

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/27

If you’ve snost, it looks like you’ve lost — Seattle Mind Camp registration page is now saying the event is sold out.

Bummer — I was hoping to get a few more friends to come — looks like it’s going to be a great time.

Seattle Mind Camp anyone?

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/26

I’ll be at Seattle Mind Camp over the weekend of November 5-6. Looks like it’s shaping up to be an interesting event. Here’s the description from the web site —

Seattle Mind Camp is a self-organizing, digitally minded, entrepreneur-driven, overnight Seattle confab. What happens when you put 150 of Seattle’s smartest geeks in an empty office building for 24 hours? We’re not sure either, but we’d like to find out. It’s time to meet and connect with those involved in the interesting projects going on in Seattle in a relaxed environment. What: A weekend, 24-hour, multi-track event. Think huge space with breakout rooms, broadband Wi-Fi, projectors, white boards – and you. Who: 150 of Seattle’s forward thinkers: techies, entrepreneurs, executives, gamers, musicians, and anyone else with a great idea. When: Mind Camp will take place on November 5-6 Why?: You know all those hallway conversations that never get to flourish during a “normal” conference? Now they will. Seattle Mind Camp is completely free of charge…

If you are interesting, you should join us. It’s down in Tukwila (Go South Seattle!! — I live in downtown Renton, so it’s kinda my home turf ).

Go here to register (which again, is free)

If software lived in meatspace

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/24

Great post on Signal vs Noise over at 37signals the other day proposing that “If software was physical you’d have to look away”.

It’s not only funny, but thought provoking as well (always a powerful combination in my book).

The idea came to mind again yesterday as I was talking with a friend who is a tech leader at a large healthcare organization in the Seattle area.

We were on the topic of content management systems (or knowledge management systems, if you prefer) and why the big expensive enterprise ones, like Microsoft’s Sharepoint products, result in so much suckage.

In reflecting on our discussion, I realized there are several ways to make the case — here are a few for instances —

For Instance 1: I can talk about how these types of systems don’t follow baseline “Don’t Make Me Think” usability principles — which works really well if the folks you are talking with are aware of Steve Krug’s work (and better still if they agree with it).

Even if they haven’t heard of “Don’t Make Me Think”, I’ve found that I usually sound smarter than I am (often the case — ha ha ha) because the title is funny and my sound bite description of Krug’s thesis often gels with folksy conventional wisdom — even if you don’t spend your free time studying human interaction and user interface design best practices.

(For the record, my soundbite synopsis of Krug’s thesis goes like this — “We think people use computers with much thoughtfulness, like many of us tech folks do — but, the research is showing they don’t — most folks actually go to a screen and just start clicking on stuff — often getting confused really fast and then giving up, or, alternately, settling into a process of smoldering frustration if they can’t accomplish the task at hand” — my colleague Christian Watson has posted this great picture of this point from the back cover of the book in his review of the second edition)

For Instance 2: I can describe how inflexible a Sharepoint system is when compared to some of the open source solutions that are quickly reshaping this business space.

For those of you that don’t know, there are a lot of free tools out there that are hands down kicking Sharepoint’s ass — examples include Xaraya (customer facing implementation of which can be seen via these sites from Sacred Heart Medical Center of Spokane, WA and The Schwab Foundation), Drupal, WordPress, Moveable Type, Mambo, Writeboard, etc.

For example — I can make most of the open source tools look like this or this or this (if it makes usability sense) but I can only make the Sharepoint site look like an ugly stepsister of this even if it is, to put it politely, not optimal for my users.

For Instance 3 (The Closer): I could take the 37signals cue and just say, “If Sharepoint existed in meatspace, you’d have to look away”.

The folks with good visualization skills would immediately feel nauseated, say “Yep — you’re right” and we’d all be moving on to the next topic.

This third method, in my book, is a noteworthy and cost effective method of rapid systems prototyping — ha ha ha

Get Well Soon

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/21

Get well soon — you know who you are — I am sorry this is happening to you — I am also praying for you (seriously, despite what follows).

This is an off topic post but frankly, I’m pissed, so here goes.

I just found out a couple of days ago that a friend I work with is sick — really sick — sudden onset of leukemia over 40 years old sick.

It has me quite angry — shaking my fist at the universe on his behalf (or God for the misery coping theists like me out there).

It’s the kind of angry where I have no capacity to write warm fuzzy get well notes on Hallmark cards (you know those cards – the ones with the flowers and the sunsets and the bad poetry written in flowing script).

On the card that came around the office on Friday I couldn’t bring myself to write the things that social propriety tells me belong on cards like that. Call it a lack of composure if you want, I really don’t care.

I think I started out by saying “What you are going through completely sucks.”

And this is the space I’m still stewing in.

He’s a great guy (I don’t know how he feels about blogging etc. so I’m not going to mention names). We’ve worked together for about 2 years now. Some of the anecdotes that come to mind —

…whenever I pass him in cubeville he’s zinging some funny quip that takes the edge off of things — and God knows we need less edges — I love him for that.

…he’s got two teen daughters who sound like they are pretty smart – so much so that I’ve been asking him how I can raise my kids (infant and toddler) to be so smart.

…he works so hard with the teams around him to keep impossibly lame systems up and running — and he does a great job of it.

(and, yes, that is an open shot at vendors who make non robust systems and then expect other folks to spend their lives picking up the slack — lamer than lame, in my not so humble opinion – for God’s sake, please cowboy up and make great shit that works).

This is the friend of mine who is really sick and I am heartbroken.

All I can think about is how angry I am and how much my guts are screaming, “This ain’t the way things are supposed to be – why is this chaos, this illness, this system crashing bug — why is this ripping into our systemized orderly bit driven lives?”

“There are a lot of other guys in the universe who deserve shit like this –” (we’ve all got our lists, don’t we?) “– but not this guy, not my friend.”

And the only comfort coming to mind as I write this is a piece of ancient commiseration that goes like this –

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

While I completely agree with this notion on an intellectual level (and what follows it in the original text), my heart is still saying —


          This is completely fucked.

          Why is this happening to my friend?

Get well soon

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/18

Get well soon — you know who you are — I am sorry this is happening to you.

Tutorials overlaid onto live software applications??

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/17

I am back from presenting at the Cerner Healthcare Conference in Florida (hello humidity!). Got an interesting question from the lively Q&A following my panel presentation.

A clinical applications analyst (who is an RN) asked if any of us knew of eLearning systems that overlaid help or tutorials onto live software applications.

While I knew I had looked at one about a year ago, I could not recall the name of the product or vendor at the time of the session. Did a Google desktop search this AM and found it (that application is significantly increasing my daily productivity for finding info I know is somewhere on my machine, but is at the blurry edges of my recall)

Was thinking of the Epiplex (unfortunate name, I know — gives a connotation of perplexing epilepsy, which I, for one, do not associate with positive software system training experiences).

Had first heard of it mentioned in an article titled “Simulation-based Application Training: A Case Study” from Bersin & Associates December 2004 “What Works in E-Learning” newsletter.

Sounded like an intriguing concept and since Bersin seems like a pretty credible eLearning consulting organization, I scheduled a demo. Here’s the details of what I learned.

Epiplex is a product of a company called Epiance. It’s got a feature called ‘Desktop Assistant’ that is described on their website via the following —

Delivers Cue Cards, onscreen support for complex tasks and processes that guide the user through the application, encouraging and enforcing best practices.

If anyone knows of other products/vendors offering this kind of approach, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about them.

Cerner Health Conference 2005 Presentation

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/11

As promised, here are the files from my panel presentation “Web-Based Training: Effective & Affordable Solutions” from the Cerner Health Conference in Orlando on October 10, 2005.

The PowerPoint File:

The Flash .exe file demoing the Children’s CIS WBT structure and interaction model. (Intended for 1024×768 screen resolution):

The Moment Your PowerPoint is Done (A musing on the mystical result of reduction toward simplicty)

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/06

It’s fun to watch effective solutions propogate across industries and disciplines.

That’s what struck me as I finally watched the ‘Identity 2.0’ presentation Dick Hardt of Sxip Identity gave at O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) a couple of months ago in Portland.

While the presentation was brilliant in it’s content (he really made a technical subject very easy to understand to folks like me who went to public high school) — his form is what grabbed my attention.

If you do any public presenting in any industry (executive, teacher, supervisor, project manager, sales, pastor, etc.) — GO WATCH THIS VIDEO NOW!

(Yes, I know I’m shouting — but hey, I need to get your attention and that’s the rarest commodity these days.)

Hardt uses a conversational and simple PowerPoint (apologies for the CamelBack) style that will have a big impact on what these types of presentations look like in the future.

The thing he does so well here is what any seasoned graphic, mulimedia, or user interface (UI) designer tells the novices around us to do everyday –

Simplify, simplify, simplify!

Use white space!

Or — the one I picked up somewhere many years ago — the voice of the aged design guru who, in passing his years of wisdom to the young grasshopper now before him, leans in and in a classy foreign accent says –

“Zhe first prinicple of design is to take zhevrything possible out of zhe design – ZHEVERYTHING!!”

“Zhuntil it nearly breaks.” (This part is whispered)

“Zhuntil the thing nearly stops working.” (Again, whispered)

“…zhe moment when you’ve done zhat and you can do no more – zhis is the moment you are finished…” (This is when the guru sighs, and dies)

So it was great to watch Hardt run with it — spectacular, funny, and simple — in a way that that the whole became more than the sum of its parts.

Then, to top it off, Hardt notes that he did not invent the style but picked it up from Larwence Lessig.

Wow — very cool — I have been a big fan of Lessig for years but have never seen or heard him present. Nice to see effective solutions go viral (and to note, yet again, that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants — forget this and you will be left behind).

For me it begs the Myst (or Narnia) question of whether we are creating new things or whether we are (re?)discovering things that have always been around, but that we’ve forgotten or never noticed.

It’s a kick to watch this reduction toward simplicity (HTTP, XHTML, web services, AJAX, etc.) generate things that are nearly mystical (Web 2.0, The Long Tail, Kurtzweil’s spiritual machine musings, and other rings of power).

Most content management systems (CMS’s) fail because nobody wants to be an editor

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/04

Was having a conversation with a collegue today on why content management systems (CMS’s), or knowledge management systems (KMS’s), if you prefer, often fail.

I relayed a core idea I picked up last year from an article by Jeffrey Veen of Adaptive Path, titled “Why Content Management Fails”.

The nutshell that really struck a chord with me was that these projects often fail because no one wants to be an editor.

Content management is not a technology problem. If you’re having trouble managing the content on your Web site, it’s because you have an editorial process problem. Your public-facing Web site is a publication. Treat it like one. If you’re not in the business of producing publications, you won’t be able to do better by plugging in a technology and crossing your fingers. Rather, solve the problem with people.

Would really recommend reading the entire article if this idea resonates with you.

Ambrose Bierce on Zeal

Posted by bryanzug - 2005/10/03

Picked up a nice quote on zeal from David Allen’s blog this AM. Great note to folks like me who, shall we say, brew over with passion from time to time.

It’s by Ambrose Bierce —

Zeal, n. A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced. A passion that goeth before a sprawl.      When Zeal sought Gratitude for his reward      He went away exclaiming: “O my Lord!”      “What do you want?” the Lord asked, bending down.      “An ointment for my cracked and bleeding crown.”      — Jum Coople — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary, 1911

David posted part of the quote. I was able to google the full thing and the source.

(Have I mentioned that I’m a huge fan of David Allen and that I’d stalk him if I had the time?)