Steve Jobs on Saying No

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

—Steve Jobs on product development, from "Steve Jobs: Get Rid of the Crappy Stuff" in Forbes.

Gallo exaggerates a little, but I like the point he tries to argue later in the article about focus and reduction. It takes courage to reduce and say no, and that is a big differentiator when it comes to Apple hardware and software.

Apple is the easy example, but for good reason. Many argue that hindsight analysis of Jobs' strategy might be easy, but the company's success in product development continues to provide lessons to learn.

The idea of knowing when to say no seems obvious and is something you might say is always top of mind. But, if you're working on a product, you're likely to be challenged every day with decisions to say yes or no to the possible products you might design, and the features you might build into your products. Every one of these challenges requires courage to say no if the outcome compromises your vision, because in the moment it will seem like the world is begging for you to do it.

I know as a user of different products, I've been vocal about the pet features I've wanted as a "power user" of said products, and bitched when that voice didn't get heard. But I believe that the tech products that I continue to use and that are of value are those that hold onto a clearly defined vision and purpose, and whose features reflect that with selectivity and refusal to deviate from it. More often than not, to me, these products have provided a more focussed experience.

Via Core77

Why Invest in Sketching?

Jumping in and immediately starting to build the product, even if it does get completed and ship, is almost guaranteed to produce a mediocre product in which there is little innovation or market differentiation. When you have only one kick at the can, the behaviour of the entire team and process is as predictable as it will be pedestrian.

—Bill Buxton in Sketching the User Experience
Buxton writes in this passage on the impact of iterative sketching on risk, exploration and innovation.

The more you know, the less you need.

“The more you know, the less you need. The experienced fly fisherman with only one rod, one type of fly, and one type of line will always outfish the duffer with an entire quiver of gear and flies. I never forget Thoreau's advice: 'I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes...'"

—Yvon Chouinard in Let My People Go Surfing.
Chouinard is a mountain climber, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia. He was writing about product design in the quote above.

Why Creative People Need to Be Eccentric

I love these two posts by Mark McGuiness on the 99% on why eccentricity and how daily routine helps trigger creativity.

He points out three characteristics of a hypnotic trigger:

  1. Uniqueness - it should be something (or a combination of things) you don't associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.

  2. Emotional intensity - the kind you experience when you're really immersed in creative work.

  3. Repetition - the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.

I live by daily routines, but I also associate that with my need to feel balanced and in control of my time and the living and working space around me. I also have a tendency to be impulsive or to dive very deeply into activities, so routine acts both as clock and trigger.

There are some excellent anecdotes about the routines of famous creatives. I find myself really intrigued by the more eccentric ones, like those of Victor Hugo and especially that of Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk's act of re-creating his "walk to work" trigger is pretty ingenious. Read more...

Creating Sketchboards in Mockups

Sketching interfaces is a path focussed on generating many ideas and finding the right design. Lately I’ve been thinking about how to adapt the activity of physically sketching on paper to get the same results in Mockups. On the Balsamiq UX blog, I wrote about a technique I’ve been experimenting with to do sketchboards in Mockups using a Symbols library.

Ed Parker on Competition

"It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent's line."

—Ed Parker, Martial Arts Instructor and Author

Will Wright on Game Play and Education

Will Wright’s talk at the Summit on Science, Entertainment, and Education looks at how game play can be relevant to education. These are my notes from this talk.

How we process information

Our basic model for processing and acting on data that we receive in the world looks something like this:

- Behavior
- Models (Predictive) ↑
- Schema (Abstractions) ↑
- Metaphors (Patterns) ↑
- Examples (Data) ↑

How our minds work when we play games

Games become relevant in education because they offer a more effective way to use and build knowledge.

Game play is about:

- failing
- changing your model
- repeating

Game players, through experimentation and repeated failure, ramp their model of the game up over iterations of play. Their model becomes more complex as their understanding and ability to succeed increases over each interaction and learning experience.

Wright tells a story about a pottery class, in which a teacher tells one group of students that their grade will be based on one single pot they are produced. The second group is told their grade will be based on the amount of pots they produce. The second group ended up with the highest grades.

When your work is based on building the most rather than creating the perfect work, you fail repeatedly, update your model, and produce the best work.

What makes a good educational experience

Wright applies what James Paul Gee lists as attributes for a good education experience and says these are the same for game play.

- allow identity
- offer a reason to do it
- allow and mitigate risk
- encourage failure
- provide situated meanings: you’re learning for things you immediately need
- get you out of ordered problem solving

Blurring the lines of maker/player

In addition to becoming effective tools for learning, the game community is blurring lines between the game ecology and the community. Social experiences afforded by games like Spore and LIttle Big Planet are good examples. Players become creators and contributors. Learning and creation and contribution are one and the same.

Thanks to Alex for pointing me to this vid.

Read "Mobile Design & Development" free online

Brian Fling’s book, Mobile Design & Development, published by O’Reilly in 2009, is available to read in its entirety online. Fling says he says 75-80% of the content of the book (which is some 68,000 words) is up to date and extremely relevant as of March 2011.

More from the author:

I wrote this book to have something for everyone interested in designing in developing for mobile devices, regardless of experience and regardless of the application. The first half is a crash course in the mobile ecosystem: how to develop a strategy, address the mobile context—even how to decide which of the multiple mobile application types is best for you, and finally, how to create a user experience for it. The second half is focused on using these principles to make a mobile website or web app.

This means this book isn't for anyone looking for a quick fix to the “mobile problem.” As I told my excellent editorial team throughout the writing process, “this is a book that teaches people how to cook, not a collection of recipes.” However being O'Reilly's first book on mobile, we decided to cover a lot of ground, basically detailing mobile from it's origins to the devices of tomorrow.

Read at the book site.