less is not enough

Less is Less - How Cover

OK. So I’m finally almost brave enough to send you in the direction of my very first ever podcast that I did for the Office 2.0 Podcast Jam. (Assuming you haven’t wandered over there and had a listen already.

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about this ‘cult of less‘ that 37 Signals seems to be leading and whether, in fact, it has an evil side. Well… ok, not an evil side. But is it all as good as it seems?

I started thinking this when I was listening to Peter Morville give the keynote at EuroIA the other weekend. He was pondering the ever increasing abundance of information that we have around us now, and wondering if it was helping us to learn, to make good decisions.

I wondered the same about information architecture and interaction design.

So, I’ve been thinking a bit about these web based project management solutions such as BaseCamp and GoPlan and thinking about what they *don’t* do when compared to more complex software such as Microsoft Project.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying that there aren’t some *serious* problems with Microsoft Project but it was, for better or worse, instrumental in teaching me how to be a project manager. This is something that neither BaseCamp nor Go Plan could do.

Similarly, we’ve seen some interesting user testing lately that has shown users asking for more complexity to help enable their decision making.

So our natural response as designers, to simplify the interface, may in fact, be reducing the ability of the people using our software or websites to be able to learn, and to make good decisions.

So, that’s the crux of what I’m thinking of. What do we lose with ‘less’? And is it (always) worth it?

If you want to hear the full blow raving version, you can find it here.

I think I sound a bit less like Judith Lucy in this one :)

Image credit: 37 Signals being featured in HOW magazine

what’s it like being a designer at Flickr?

I’ve wondered this myself… so I thought I’d use the PodCastJam as a great excuse to get in touch with George Oates, an Australian (ex Adelaide) gal who’s been working with Flickr since before they were Flickr (remember Ludicorp?).

So, in my podcast interviewing debut (and… yes, I need more practice. Want to be interviewed?), I’ve posted an interview with George on the PodCastJam site.

I feel very nervous suggesting this, but I can’t hide such a great opportunity to chat with someone who designs in such an interesting spaces…. so, go check it out!

(Does anyone else think I sound remarkably like Judith Lucy?! Surely I don’t talk like that all the time…. must be my special podcast interviewing voice. A cousin of my phone answering voice).

Personally, I’ve found it really interesting that despite all the different perspectives that people have been coming at Office 2.0 at the conference and the jam, two really loud recurrent themes keep coming out – community and collaboration.

I like that.

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Posting v Podcasting (Ideas on Privacy & Perception)

Resting Microphone

So, today I did my first ever podcast and shipped it off to Anne for the Office 2.0 Podcast Jam.

I’ve shied away from podcasting for as long as I’ve known about it for a few reasons.

Before this blog I had a few short lived experiments with websites and blogging, but none of them really stuck. Partly, I think, because they were so inauthentic. Firstly, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but more importantly, I didn’t really want people to know who I was for security reasons. The idea of someone hunting me down somehow from my website was something that was a real fear for me at the time.

When I first start blogging it was with a mixture of excitement and fear. I was using my real name and talking about my real life and experiences, but this time I was not afraid for my personal safety, but rather scared that people would think I was talking crazy talk. Or that because I didn’t have a full and complete understanding of absolutely every topic I decided to write about, that people would think that I wasn’t very smart.

Nonetheless, by the time I started this blog, you could Google me and find out bits and pieces about me. One of the reasons for starting this blog was to have more control over what potential employers and others would discover if they started searching the internet for me. (heh. not that I have anything to hide, except for a *really* dorky assignment from my undergraduate degree that just won’t seem to go away!)

The design of my blog – until very recently – was not really personalised at all. It was like a WordPress uniform – taking seriously WordPress’s default tagline ‘just another WordPress blog’. It didn’t really give much away about who I was. My age, my gender, my nationality, who I worked for. None of these things were actually hidden – you can find them all on my About page if you really care – but they weren’t explicit in the design of the blog. I didn’t link to my Flickr account (where my *real* life was documented) from my blog for a long time.

This was quite deliberate. I felt that it wasn’t really to my advantage to make a big deal of being an Australian girl who talked about user experience and went for beers with her work mates on Friday nights. To be honest – I felt that these factors would probably create perceptions that weren’t necessarily as credible as if I was a 40-something year old guy from somewhere in the States.

Now given that, as it turns out, many more people reading this do so via RSS than by looking at my blog, then perhaps that didn’t really matter after all. Although – I guess you have to see the blog and decide to subscribe… so maybe it does make a difference.

Podcasting takes that feeling of ‘exposure’ and multiplies it exponentially. All over again, by letting people hear my voice, I feel as exposed as I ever did when I first posted a page on the internet. Not that I’ve gotten all worried about stalkers again, but I worry about what perceptions people will make of me when they hear my voice. Will I sound like I know what I’m talking about? Will people take me seriously?

This ‘exposure’ worries me much more than the other deterrants to podcasting.

For me, podcasting is much harder than writing a blog post… writing a blog post seems to happen at about the same rate as my brain is able to process things in some kind of vaguely structured and (sometimes) logical way. Podcasting moves much more quickly. When you pause to think, there’s a big gap of silence, which is all good until you realise there’s been a big gap of silence, and then it gets longer and longer,… ok, so this only happened a couple of times.

I podcast, it seems, the lazy way, that is, without doing much post production work. A podcast for me is kind of like the 8 minute opening scene of Altman’s ‘The Player’one great big long take!. It’s agility training for a blogger. You’ve got two options – work out what you’re going to say, memorise it, then recite it. OR have a structure and a point to make, and get stuck into it. I think the second approach is the only real option – but it really is an interesting exercise.

As I blog, I find my post heading off in directions that I wasn’t expecting. This is fine – sometimes it’s interesting, other times it’s a strange and tedious tangent that just gets deleted. With my one-take podcasting approach, I have to be working out how the structure is working as I go along, but still get through the argument that I’m currently making somewhat coherently!

Funny how this was so much easier when I was doing High School debating!

Perhaps I should just succumb to post production? I suspect that if I’d started editing this, my first podcast, I would have edited it all away and been left with never to contribute to the Jam!
So, there -some initial thoughts and reflections on podcasting. I’d be interested to hear your experiences and how you’ve found it or why you avoid it.
I’d also be interested to hear if you think that my overly anxious approach to both blogging and podcasting is perhaps, gender related? Anecdotally – Anne reckon’s that women seem to angst a lot more over the quality of their podcast than men do. Or perhaps they just share their angsting more?

Not that I want to make it all about gender – but it’s interesting that one of the reasons for PodCast Jam was to give more women the opportunity to have their voices heard… but we’ve still got significantly more men than women sending in the podcasts (unless things have evened up today).

photo credit: Matthew Whatley on Flickr

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but, what is Office 2.0?

So, as you know, I’ve been trying to recruit design and user experience types to participate in the Podcast Jam for Office 2.0. (hello! are you out there!). Something I’ve noticed is that your average designer on the street doesn’t necessarily know what Office 2.0 means, and what’s included.

If this sounds like you, can I recommend that you invest 5 minutes in Richard MacManus’s opening keynote podcast in which he talks about Office 2.0 as a paradigm shift that is more than just web versions of the Microsoft Office suite, and discusses a few examples of Office 2.0 services that you may or may not have heard of.

Meanwhile, an amazing thing about podcasts… I love hearing people’s voices! I particularly love people being surprised to hear that Richard has a New Zealand accent!

And, I’ve noticed that people are saying ‘two dot oh’.

Surely I’m not the only one who’s been saying ‘two point oh’…

or am I?!

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