August 2008 Archives

Creative Failures

E and I just finished watching Elton John on Inside the Actor's Studio. (Why exactly he was on the Actor's Studio we still aren't sure, but regardless.) At the end of the show, when the audience is allowed to question the guest, one of the students asked about Elton John's song writing process. As way of illustration, Elton John asked the audience for a book, any book, and proceeded to sit at the piano. He smiling said "now I'm going to make an ass of myself," and put some random lines from a play to music, singing them as he made up the melody.

This reminded me of one of my favorite Actor's Studio episodes, the one with Robin Williams. At the end of the hilarious show, a student asked how Robin Williams could stand to risk so much. And he asked, "but what I have risked?" In awe she replied "everything," but Robin disagreed. They were just playing around, having fun with the craft, with humor.

And this got me thinking. Here are two brilliant professionals, at the top of their game. Their creativity and imagination seem endless to me. I love watching people like that. The athletes at the Olympics have the same effect. They make everything look so easy, so effortless. To watch them making their art, there is none of the blood, sweat and tears that I feel go into whatever I create. Yet I'm sure that Robin Williams would say that the jokes he made up that night were not his best. And that Elton John would think that little tune to the play was crap.

How much is that ease and lack of effort a result of not being afraid? They are so comfortable with their skills, with their tools and in their medium, that they are totally free to just... see what happens. They aren't worried about everything being a hit. They know some things will suck. But who cares? In going through the process of creating something less than par, they are finding something that they can take and turn into the next perfect piece.

I think it is their lack of self censorship and inhibitions that I find so inspiring. So often when I sit to make something, whether it's sketches for a design, a piece of knitting or a new recipe for dinner, I freeze up because I'm afraid it won't be any good. Rather than trying, and seeing what I come up with, I horde my ideas until I feel "ready" to bring them forth in all their brilliance. I have this innate tendency to only want to bring forth things that are polished and finished and brilliant. But that day hardly ever comes.

I know from my own past experiences, and from watching others like John and Williams and even others at Adaptive Path, that my work is better when I grow it, making it better over time. I start with something, and working it, shaping it, tweaking it until finally it is what I intended. Or even better, it has surpassed the initial idea and turned out more wonderful than I could have predicted.

I wish I could cast aside the drive for perfection out of the gate. To give myself the permission and the space to try, just try. Just put something out there. I think I would surprise myself with what I could accomplish.

I just got the following spam in my inbox:


I thought you might be interested in this article: "10 Virtual Spokesperson Tips"

Adding a Video Spokesperson to your website can not only improve conversion rates but also help you explain your product or service with ease.

Here are the first few tips (Click to see the rest of the article):

10 HD Quality- Make sure the videos that you use are always shot in HD. We live in a world where we are judged by our appearance. If you have videos on your website that do not represent your business in an ultra-professional manner it's waste to even add a video. Quality is key!
9 Close Captioning- Adding close captioning is important. The reality is that some users don't have speakers or are deaf. Therefore, taking into consideration their needs is imperative.
8 User Experience: You have the ability when adding a spokesperson to customize it where if the same user comes back to the same page within a 24 or 48 hour period of time, then that user would not get "force fed" the same video again. The user would be given the option to play the video again if they chose to, but wouldn't be forced to watch it again. It is important to be courteous to your users and look at their experience when adding a video spokesperson.
Click to see the rest of the article, or go to

Some companies do a very good job of using a Video Spokesperson on their website. However, there are a lot of mistakes that are being made that can significantly hurt a websites appeal.

I hope you find the rest of this article interesting and useful.



I mean, I guess it's good that they are mentioning user experience at all. It wasn't that long along that such folks would have no idea that such a thing existed. I find it interesting that they don't have a problem "force feeding" (their term, not mine) the video to a user the first time (or if they come back a few days later). Just don't do it multiple times in a 24 hour period.

Um... how about never having auto-play audio or video? That seems like a much more considerate approach to me. I'm fine with using video to explain a product or process. But let the user have control of the experience. Let the user decide when and where they want to watch a video.

I wonder how much of their "conversion rates" are people just clicking on it to try to turn it off.

Comin' to Austin, Y'all

We've just announced the last date for the UX Intensive workshop series this year. We'll be in Austin, Texas from December 8-11, 2008.

This intermediate-to-advanced workshop series examines the four key elements that contribute to a successful interactive experience: Design Strategy, Design Research, Interaction Design and Information Architecture.

The information architecture day is a deep dive into the wonders of bottom-up IA. We'll look at metadata, controlled vocabularies, how to create vocabularies and apply them. And then how to use all that structure to build innovative interfaces and improve systems such as site search.

As always, use the code FOCF to save 15% off the registration price. Early bird pricing is good through August 31 (which is in addition to my discount code).

2008 IA Institute Salary and Benefits Survey

The 2008 IA Institute Salary and Benefits Survey is open at:

The survey takes only a minute or two to complete, so be sure to stop by and contribute.

As in previous years, the survey will remain open until October, and the IA Institute will post the results on the IAI website in December.

Breathing Earth

I discovered a really neat animated visualization today called Breathing Earth.

It takes population data, births and deaths, as well as CO2 production for each country. In an animation, it shows a map of the world with the births, deaths and CO2 production for each country. There is a running total for how many people have been born or died since you started watching the site. You can also roll-over a country to get information about it.

It's beautifully hypnotic. I love the way the colors change and the little suns appear and disappear over different countries. It's also sobering to see how big the numbers get so quickly.

Updating RSS Feed

I'm moving all of my blog feeds over to Feedburner so I can track the stats more effectively. If you are reading this site via RSS, it would be most awesome if you could update the link to [ ].


The Management

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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