Happy Father’s Day

June 16th, 2013

one of my favorite Dad stories… I think I was like 5 or 6 since this was in California.

He and I walk up to the bank and there is a very long line about 20+ people and one poor frustrated looking teller. I grumble that this is going to take forever.

And Dad says “Yes, it is. One person can only do so much. But you can decide if the experience is enjoyable or not.” He then strikes up a conversation with the annoyed looking woman in front of us. And then he artfully joins in the guy in front of her. Within a minute or so, the whole line is talking and laughing. The teller was so grateful to my Dad and his kind words to her that she looks ready to cry. Dad says something about “all of us being in this together…” And you can tell he means much more than standing in a line in the bank. :-)

As we leave… he asks me if I learned something ;-) I said “yep!” And look back at a line of people that are still laughing and talking to each other. And wonder at how infectious emotions can be…

That’s my Daddy! Thank you for being a joy to so many more people than just your family.

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Post SXSW update

March 31st, 2013

So what have I been up to lately you may ask since I haven’t even come close to updating this blog often enough.

Well my current passion is SapphireOS.com and the whole “internet of things” At SapphireOS we are creating a mesh network of things. I am concerned about many of the projects I see in this “IoT” arena because of the disjointed nature. I can’t imagine having a different website for every networked gadget I buy. And don’t even get me started on the privacy aspects esp in regards to the Quantitative Self toys. So I am getting involved in every standards body I can! ping me if you see something interesting and intro me around please! You know me I’ve been advocating Citability and#OpenData for almost a decade.

As many of you know what really gets my blood flowing is organizing. So I look at this chaotic space and think… We can organize ALL THE THINGS – literally ( and yes I do mean Literally.)

I am also helping with another kickstarter for some blinky light jewelry that I hope will be another one of the the “things” on the network.

And I have dreams of doing a Blinky light GAME at Burningman in 2014. One that has implications in the developing world. I promise to blog more about it later. And I am finding various NPO and Academic partners! Even grant proposals… (and could use some writing help here of course.)

I am also making a resolution to have more tea parties. I did one last week in SF and it was so amazing. Yes I prepped for two days but still… it was a glorious thing. So i wanna figure out how to do a kickstarter for parties. Normally I have to find a sponsor and that always slows me doing from doing the really epic parties I enjoy throwing.

hugs all!

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Codeathon Bounties

September 12th, 2012

A compelling case study: At Bay Area Drupal last year, I met Sean Larkin  of ThinkShout who reported his work for a Drupal Distribution, Watershed Now, (http://drupal.org/project/watershednow) which he made for a group of nonprofits. To develop the program, $16,000 was needed. Whereas nonprofits are often cash-strapped, especially in the current economy, by pooling resources, they were able to develop software that none of them could afford individually, and each nonprofit received a $20,000 Drupal product for a fraction. In addition to the cost savings to a larger group of users, Sean noted that by coordinating necessary specs between the  users  he ended up with a much more complete product description than working with a single customer.  As a result, the end product was more widely useful to a larger group of nonprofits than it would have been if it were built solely on the wishlist of a single user. This particular case  is a win for the Free Open Source Software movement because it provides a generalized model for cost-effective collaboration for nonprofit organizations.

I want to explore this scenario further to illustrate how it could work in a codeathon. Representatives of the nonprofits can proactively form a consortium which will create specs RFP-style and release them as a project with a bounty. At the codeathon event itself, programmers will write the code and test the software. At the end of the process, the representatives of the NPOs will review the demos and act as a jury who award the bounty. It is preferable if the programmers coordinate their efforts–we don’t want multiple versions of the same basic code–but in some cases, the same tool can be created in different programming languages or for alternative platforms. The jury will reward the tool which best suits their needs. Despite the judging, the codeathon is not about competition, rather its purpose is to create the best and most utilitarian Free Open Source Software. The codeathon is at heart a collaborative process which encourages organizations to pool resources effectively and to develop more widely applicable specs and products.

The panel could include more than representatives of the NPOs—for instance, design experts. What are your thoughts about a jury panel for a codeathon? How can the bounty process be made more collaborative?  Please share them below in the comments.

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Making education Fun

February 10th, 2012

The game I am co founder of Tune Hopper Just received an awesome review on Appolicious!

My favorite part
Jessica Daily says, “Ah, why isn’t all education so enjoyable? While aimed at kids there’s no reason someone new to music or trying to learn an instrument couldn’t use this to start learning music theory.”

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on gamification and repetitive learning

January 30th, 2012

Since I am working on an educational game for teaching children different aspects of music theory, I feel like I need to address this issue of gamification.

It’s so sad to see the word “gamification” become so abused because, honestly, it could be used to express the idea of applying the best concepts of game theory and education to learning and interaction.  Instead, most implementations of “gamification” are (pondering how to be nice and failing) LAME, boring, annoying or even worse EVIL.

Gaming is not just about points, badges, levels, leader boards, rewards, and missions.  Gaming is more than the mechanics.  Some of those mechanics are highly useful both for monitoring, encouraging certain behaviors, and creating visibility, but is it a game? Does the end product contain all the pieces that make a game sustainable?  Does it achieve flow – that special mind state that we humans find enjoyable and learn faster when experiencing?

And for me – does the tactic of gamification add value to the world?   I used to work in the gaming industry, but I was tired of making addictive games that did not benefit society. We purposely created games that were as addictive as possible.

Sadly enough I was so anti-gaming at one point (a divorce where game addiction is a factor will do that to you) that I didn’t consider what I learned from game theory valuable.  I saw gaming’s ability to encourage addictive behavior as a dangerous tool and to be avoided and I dropped out of the gaming scene.  My discussions with Jane McGonial, at foocamp and her whole hearted displays of physical and personal interaction melted my hardened heart.  Thank you Jane!

“My own personal metaphor is that gamification is the high fructose corn syrup of engagement. Ultimately, very unhealthy for all but the repetitive, dull, boring tasks for which there never WILL be intrinsic rewards. There IS great value in that… It is when gamification is applied to stuff that does (or could) have potential for intrinsic value (like, say, READING) where the damage lives.”  http://www.paulpedrazzi.com/post/6215504253/kathy-sierra-on-gamification

I would instead like to look to gamification and addiction as a way to help people get over the difficulty of repetitive learning.  For example, our game TuneHopper appears to be a fun little game while, slyly in the background, it is training your musical ear.  It is also slowly introducing scales and notes so that unconsciously you begin to gain a better understanding.  In the next version of the game, I want people to actually sing the notes into the mic instead of pushing buttons.  They’ll truly learns what E sharp sounds like.  I also want a composer app where players learn the notes and the sounds while creating their own songs to share.

I have hopes.  I like that Greg (our little green dude in tunehopper) purrs and giggles when you do things right and cries when you don’t and that inspires my nieces and nephews to work hard to feed Greg and make him happy. I like that teenagers at my family christmas party were challenging each other to see who could get a higher score and, as musicians, saw it as a reflection of their musical prowess.  I believe we can make learning more fun and gamification is a way to achieve this!

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Lazy trumps all – for the supporters of SOPA and PIPA

January 18th, 2012

One of my favorite quotes from Hunter Ellinger is: “Necessity may be the mother of invention, but laziness is the father.”  (I don’t know if he said it first, but that’s where I heard it first.)

I find that quote to be accurate in so many ways.

I look for how to get the most leverage and the quickest win.  The normal arguments about doing the, “right thing”, unfortunately, don’t always apply. It doesn’t help that the industry itself isn’t really trusted or viewed as doing the “right thing.”

So in regards to SOPA and PIPA – we have to ask: “what are the real goals here?”

If the REAL goal is to sponsor the artists and make their lives sustainable, then we need to take advantage of people’s laziness.  Set up something like iTunes appstore for individual artists and give them a fair cut.

Or perhaps we should better pursue something like YouTube’s commodification for popular creators/posters.  If you have a popular enough channel, you can actually make a living off of it.  But then, YouTube actually understands the Long Tail in regards to content creation.

Another option would be something like a donation jar like the website http://flattr.com/ which allows you to give micropayments to content creators and bloggers.

I also like the idea of microdonations for nonprofits.  But again, make it easy…  Appstore purchases are only a password away!

Also don’t force me to “steal” to enjoy something I have already purchased.

RIAA and MPAA need to start looking towards more convenient purchase models like iTunes and Paypal.  (Though Paypal could be a lot easier IMHO.)  It is so easy for me to do “the right thing” on iTunes.  Imagine instead that more artists saw direct profits like developers do on the appstore…  How would that change many peoples’ purchasing habits?

I also hope and dream that someday Facebook will realize the amazing monitization that could occur if they looked at things a little more like YouTube and realized that we are not the content to be sold to advertisers but instead are the artists that could be supported by our friends.

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Let Me Help You Start Up!

July 18th, 2011

Let me help you start up your Startup!

Some work I have been doing recently:

  • Business development helping engineers, artists and visionaries monetize their interesting ideas
  • Designing Pitch decks that get the attention of Venture Capitalists
  • Pitching those ideas that I believe in to the Venture Capital firms
  • Creating highly detailed design documents for programming outsource
  • UX design for mobile projects
  • Architecture design for large online systems
  • Hiring of staff from Programmers, Accountants, Legal, Artists, Designers

email me at myname @ myname .com or call me at 512- 750 -9220

I love to help you make your dreams come true.  I think big and help people structure their ideas so they can grow.  See my recommendation page.  Also google me or facebook me to talk to people that know me…  Since it is best to always check references.  I prefer clients that do!

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Capture the flag!

June 8th, 2011

If you come to a discussion with a set position you turn the discussion into a game of capture the flag.

The goal then becomes to affect the position you have staked territory on.  This greatly limits creativity in regards to end goals.

We often unconsciously do this by stating a position and settling on it before considering all of our options and talking with the people who matter most (friends, partners, employees, customers.) If you plan on negotiating from your position… you have already shot your self in the foot (going with the military strategy metaphor:-).)

Try stating things in regards to goals you would like to achieve instead of positions. Remember, it is EASY to add your favorite tactics or tools after others have contributed.  And try not to create goals that predetermine tactics. For example: “I want 10K twitter followers by tomorrow” as a stated goal instead of, “I want to have a viable two way conversation with our most influential customers.”

Don’t accidentally make tactics and tools the end goal and the primary focus for your team.  Goals are the true end game – don’t lose sight of them.

PS: Capture the flag is a great teaching tool for your troops when it comes time to determine how best to use the tools and tactics given :-) Just don’t limit them upfront!

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Starting a consultation process- framing communication

May 24th, 2011

My top tool for framing communication with clients and partners is Google docs.

I use Google docs from the very beginning of the consultation process.  The versioning feature makes it safe for the client to feel free to brainstorm.  The commenting feature makes it even safer to ask questions without feeling intrusive.  The iterative process makes it a real exercise in a new type of “active listening.”  And because it is shared online it can be asynchronous. (Though I do wish there was a better change notification process. :-/)

Even before we do a legal doc I now create a google doc of expectations of what we will address in the legal doc.

It also makes it much easier to do NDA’s when clients can more easily post their appendixes of exceptions to my standardized doc.

Often I start the process by creating the document and sharing with the people that will need to own the process. I start with an outline based on informational interviews we have had earlier.  Sometimes I even start the document during the meeting with the client, esp. if they are new to google docs.  I can explain the use of the tool in person and this really speeds up the process of educating them. 

One nice thing about starting with an outline is that it gives structure and frame without dominating the process.  It is much easier to add to a outline than it is to rewrite more detailed text that someone else has written.

I try at first to focus on goals.  This might just be because I am a natural negotiator but I believe if we understand the true intent of all parties the rest is flexible and can change through the iterative process. Here is the order I like to use:

  1. Client/partner stated goals
  2. My interpretation of our goals
  3. Group goals (interpretations of other maybe not directly involved in process eg customers)
  4. Evaluation of value of the goal (prioritization etc)
  5. Assessment of if achieved
  6. Metric of success
  7. Constraints
  8. Deadlines

I also typically create a basecamp project immediately.  I admit I don’t often keep it updated daily but it is a good place to organize, add and assign action items in a shared, visible way.

And this doesn’t necessarily belong in this discussion… but I also typically immediately make clients create their social media presences.

This means:

  1. Checking and getting domain names
  2. Twitter accounts
  3. Facebook page
  4. WordPress blog
  5. A designer for immediate branding :-)

I move fast because there are so many evil squatters out there.  I don’t know how many times I have been playing with a keyphrase and had some jerk decide that because I just tweeted it he should have it :-/  I am pretty sure that the process is automated at this point…

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Expectations – they aren’t just your own ;-)

May 24th, 2011

Expectations:

We all have them.

We try to capture and document them.  We all hope (or assume) that we have enough common starting ground that our documentation of these expectations makes sense.

We talk about concrete things like “I will give you X percentage of X profits.”  We try to manage the informational flow with things like “The consultant has a 2 week turnaround after the deliverable  is signed off on by the project manager.”

We list Requirements, Deliverables, Benchmarks, Resources, Allocations, Budget, Schedule, Dependencies, Roles, Responsibilities and hopefully even Goals ;-)  But in regards to change and expectation management we rarely talk about the other expectations…

There are so many other types expectations projected on processes that are difficult to account for.  Things like cultural and behavioral and even emotional expectations.  I have watched these kill projects and partnerships esp international ones.

And while this seems too fuzzy or emotional to address, you would be surprised at how often it happens. We human beings enjoy working with people we like and trust.  If those emotional needs are not handled they can start to cause problems in communication over Resources, Schedules, etc…  If fundamental levels of trust cannot be supported this whole glass house of partnership can begin to fail on a basic communication level of shifting sand.  Perceptive filters are incredibly important. And a negative filter will kill a project or partnership.

So being the touchy feely girl that I am, I would add to the expectation management portion – an understanding of cultural, emotional and behavioral differences.  Trust is an essential cognitive filter in regards to understanding language and communication with others.  Once it is gone it is difficult to recover a level of positive communication that is needed to handle expectations properly… probably because those “expectations” can obtain a very tarnished filter.

Projects are always risky.  You can try to enumerate the risks at the beginning.  But the true interpretation of risks in that of perception which is often colored by the belief of intent.  The real risks are the unknown unknowns that you can’t enumerate at the beginning of the project that your partners have to believe you honestly did not see.

Also emotion affects perception, if communication is hurt then you can be perceived as underperforming even when technical expectations are met.

I think this is a substantial trap that women deal with often in the work place.  I can say the exact same thing as a man.  I don’t mean I say things that have the exact same meaning… I mean I say the exact same words.  And simply because I am in different packaging ( like a dress ) it will be heard differently.  This can be positive and negative.  I have had my looks and friendly approach guarantee I don’t set off Alpha Male paranoid in regards to position.  But it also means that I have to reframe myself at times in regards to leadership roles.  Awareness is key.

At no time forget that perceptive filters are in place.   Active listening i.e. repeating back your interpretation is crucial to creating accurate filters.  As I learned in India, Also have them also repeat back to you what they understood your requirements to be.  And never forget to check in with cultural experts and liaisons…

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