Sep 112011
 

Tomorrow I start living on a food stamp budget. I’m participating in the San Francisco Food Bank hunger challenge to understand what it would be like to live such a tight budget and highlight the Food Bank’s important role in helping out hungry families.

In order to qualify for food stamps, the gross annual income of a family of four cannot exceed $28,665. As the economy continues on it’s weak path more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. Programs get their funding cut, or lose funding entirely. More and more families dip below the poverty line. It’s painful and sad and I often want to do what I can to help.

So here I am, trying to live on $4.72 a day. I’ll be detailing daily my adventures here on my tumbler.

 Posted by at 3:15 am
Sep 072011
 

Yesterday I wanted to make some BBQ sauce. I remembered I had a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that I wanted to try, so I spent 30 minutes looking for the right magazine. No luck. I then went online, where I *think* I found the recipe, but ALAS, it was behind a login wall. No worries, they say they have a 14 day free trial. I enter my email address.

Surprise! There is another step. I could go on about how much I dislike pretty much everything about this form, but I’ll let that one slide for now.

Am I done yet? Nope! Now it wants a credit card. Sorry, but my wallet is 2 stories down and I’m just fed up.*

Guiding people through a multistep task is tricky. How do you give them enough information about where they are in a process without scaring them away? Amazon does a solid job of guiding you through the purchase process with these little graphics. At any time you can see where you’ve been and where you’re going.

The iphone, due to it’s constrained size, often needs the wizard-style process to complete tasks. Instagram is an excellent example.

Foodspotting is fantastic as well, though it deviates from Instragram in it’s first screen. When you hit ‘spot’ you are immediately presented with 3 options.

Instagram assumes you want to snap a photo, and then deviate if you want to pick a photo from a library. There are 3 steps for both applications if you “pick a photo from a library”, but Instagram has only 2 steps if you use the camera. That’s a 33% saving! If you always want to chose a photo from a library in Instagram, you are no worse off. An improvement for them both would be to remember what you did the last time you use the app and automatically guide you into that path.

In thinking about these things, I came up with some guidelines for myself:

  • Remove noise (axe any non-essential fields, defer or hide optional fields until they’re required in some other process).
  • Point out the path you want them to walk, and give an alternate route if necessary.
  • Try not to present them with a fork with equally weighted options.**
  • Show them how far the have to go.

With these in mind, I looked at the administration panel for the SnappyTV facebook application. To set up the app, the user simply has to pick a channel, pick a show and then submit, in that specific order. I initially started simply with a long list of shows with radio buttons, but it was way too much information to present. Adding a search field on top would only make it worse – the user would expect a vast array of shows available, when we only support around 30. Turning the information into a hierarchy seemed the best way to go. Using the wizard approach, I initially decided to hide the successive steps until they completed the current step.

This prevented them from trying to click the show before a channel was selected. However, the page seemed bare and unhelpful and the user didn’t know how many steps there were.

A horizontal progress bar like that of Amazon’s was overkill for dropdown selections. I also didn’t like the cognitive work of matching a horizontal step list with the vertically placed steps.

So instead of hiding them, I show the step count with a little helpful text. Generally, I don’t like disabled links/buttons because if you can’t do anything with it, it usually is better off hidden. In this case though, greying out the steps helped the user see all the steps at once. It’s like being able to read a recipe before cooking the dish.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm
Dec 022009
 

Hans

My friend Hans passed away last week. For those who don’t know him, my meager words could not capture the essence of his greatness. He is a man with a huge heart and an unparalleled zest for life. I haven’t spent much time putting my thoughts into words – I could not bear to look at them. I’ve been having trouble pinning down how I feel. The sweet memories of him are all jumbled up with the pain of his loss. Today I decided to jot down a few ideas for his life celebration (funeral is too macabre for my taste).

I got so excited about the idea of working on celebration that for a second I forgot that Hans was dead. I wanted to call him and say, “Hans! I have so many ideas you’ll love and I want tell you all about them. I love you!” Then I remembered that we were doing all of this because he was gone, and I couldn’t call him anymore. Incredible waves of sadness.

For that one second, though it truly felt like he was here; as if he would give his big hearty laugh and say, “Sure Karen. What can I do to help?”. He lives on in my thoughts still and I don’t want that to ever ever change. I feel truly blessed to know this loving gentle Viking. I can only honor his memory by doing what he does best – living life to the fullest.

Don’t forget to tell your friends and family you love them. You won’t regret saying it too many times, but you may regret not saying it enough.

 Posted by at 12:55 am
Sep 192009
 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written an update.  I have been lax with the movie-making due a whirlwind of activity that has disrupted the flow of video processing.  At this point I have so many things backlogged that I have video constipation.  The best thing to do at this point is probably to just throw everything away and start fresh.

I moved recently.

When I moved in, it was clear that the house next door was abandoned.  A broken and boarded window, grass as tall as me, and a bright green pond I named the West Nile breeding ground.  We threw bars of soap in it.

On my way to work one day I saw an old man in old Lincoln parked in the driveway of the house.  I smiled.  He stepped out.

“Are you the new owners of this place?”  he asked me.
“Yes.  We just moved in, but we’ve been living in the Mission for years.”
“This home,” he gestured “was my mother’s.  I like to check on it every day.  I’ve lived in San Francisco my whole life.”

He tells me about the soccer field across the street – how the balls used to break his window and the players would urinate behind his stairway.  He reminisces about having breakfast with his dear wife.

I wanted to invite him in.  I wanted to have tea with him and listen to all his stories.  The Great Depression, both world wars and another war in Viet Nam, the haven for beatniks, hippies, gays.  He must have lived through many beautiful experiences in the midst of such a center for social and political change. I wanted to soak in this city through him.

But he only speaks of his wife and soccer field.   The pain of her loss has not diminished much in 10 years.  He doesn’t care for the neighborhood because it is “too dirty”, and yet he spends every morning here.  Sometimes he sits inside the house, gazing out the window and I wonder what memories he sees.

He may never tell me about drinking with Kerouac at Vesuvio, or campaigning for Harvey Milk, or hiking through the mountains with Ansel Adams.  Nonetheless, I still love to hear him talk about holding his wife as she passed on and how the soccer balls broke several of his windows.

 Posted by at 11:15 am
May 042009
 

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to join Virgin America on their inaugural flight from San Francisco to Orange County. Check out this video for some highlights including spray tanning, makeovers, and Branson’s little kissy for Justine.

They were serving Veev açaí spirit for almost 12 hours, from the gateway at the airport, on the plane, at the tarmac in OC, and at the party. That’s a lotta booze! I really liked the Eau de Veev, which included 2 ounces VeeV Açaí Spirit, 1 lemon slice, 1 lime slice, 1 orange slice & 3 ounces tonic, shaken together.

The party was at Laguna Beach which was beautiful at night. It was such a smooth launch and I had a fantastic time. Check out Justine’s photos & post for more.

I love Virgin America.

 Posted by at 1:27 am
Mar 212007
 

Justin.tv, which a far as I can tell does live mobile webcam streaming, officially launched yesterday. I met Justin at Macworld where he briefly described the technology. I like the idea, though I’m not particularly compelled to watch him go shopping and eat lunch. Ashot argues that what makes it interesting is the ‘realness’ of it. I have a sufficiently hard time dealing with the reality of my own life. It would be cool if he did short movie summaries of his day so that those who want to follow him, while attempting to maintain some semblance of a real life, could get the ‘digest’ version.

I didn’t know this when I met Justin, but the site is funded by Y Combinator. Despite the grumpy mutterings of ‘exploitation’, Y combinator gives youths an opportunity to try their hand at entreprenuership. Whether or not the product suceeds, I’m sure the developers have gained a lot of vaulable experience. I <3 Paul Graham(and he’s a Lisp guy!).

Mar 212007
 

Justin.tv, which a far as I can tell does live mobile webcam streaming, officially launched yesterday. I met Justin at Macworld where he briefly described the technology. I like the idea, though I’m not particularly compelled to watch him go shopping and eat lunch. Ashot argues that what makes it interesting is the ‘realness’ of it. I have a sufficiently hard time dealing with the reality of my own life. It would be cool if he did short movie summaries of his day so that those who want to follow him, while attempting to maintain some semblance of a real life, could get the ‘digest’ version.

I didn’t know this when I met Justin, but the site is funded by Y Combinator. Despite the grumpy mutterings of ‘exploitation’, Y combinator gives youths an opportunity to try their hand at entreprenuership. Whether or not the product suceeds, I’m sure the developers have gained a lot of vaulable experience. I <3 Paul Graham(and he’s a Lisp guy!).