SXSWi2009: Change your World in 50 Minutes: Making Breakthroughs Happen

Presenter: Kathy Sierra, Creating Passionate Users

started off by playing a music video … I should probably know these guys … I’m hearing the sound guy say “she just wanted to play this video for walk-in music.” cool.

There’s a huge wall between you and your goal. This is for times when incremental changes don’t work.

Incremental can = an arms race – quality race or features race.

What’s stopping us from kicking ass?
– are your users stuck in P mode (like an SLR camera)?

People don’t want to upgrade …

Anyone can compete.

How to know someone:
– ipod playlist
– flight vs invisibility – which one? We had to choose one and chat about it with the person beside us

Ask: what superpower do we give our users?
– hugely important question
– ie., auto-correct spelling man – not a superpower

Productivity man – it’s a superpower, but looks about as exciting as broccholi “because it’s good for you”

14 more ways to make breakthroughs:

– superset game. ask “what is the bigger thing are these things a part of” when you want to go after something. Can be a lot more interesting and helps you make the bigger jump

– or what cooler thing is my thing a part of. ie – blogging about your company – not cool.

– Outliers thing – 10,000 hours. That’s not acceptable for Kathy, because she’s older. How do you shrink this?

– there are patterns and shortcuts – so learn the patterns. Also shorten the duration.

– Example – how does she get 10,000 hours in with horse riding? She has a work desk with a horse-shaped saddle seat. It’s better for her back, and she’s getting in more hours when she’s not really riding. Nice. (looked sorta funny though)

Kicking ass – 1000 hours of practice.

After 1-2 years, experience is a poor predictor of success – some people do that 1st year for 10 years.

To get better, work on your strengths instead of their weaknesses.

Do deliberate practice of the right things.

5. Make the right things easy and the wrong things hard.

make it easier for users to have a breakthrough than to stay where they are

treadmill gathering cobwebs? It’s not in the corner because you don’t use it … you don’t use it because it’s in the corner. Remove all your chairs in front of the TV, and replace it with that excersize machine.

6. Get better gear (and offer it).

She’s showing a pricey saddle she bought. Her ability made a huge jump – the saddle probably helped.

You sometimes have to convince others of this though… ie., you think you need more monitors and they will make you a better hacker. Your boss thinks – it will make you be a better gamer.

So find, make, and offer higher-end gear that bumps users to a new level.

7. ignore standard limitations

– think clueless. Kathy and her husband were fired from their tech jobs, so they decided to write a book – and make it print-ready. People were saying “you can’t do this” with their headstart books – and they were successful … and stupid. Because they didn’t know what they were doing.

8. total immersion jams.

16 hours over two days vs 16 hours over two months. If you stretch it out, you might not improve.

ABC – Always Be Closing. Gave some examples of groups that get together with a challenge, like writing songs – the main goal? By the end of the time-limit, you HAVE to have a song done, no matter how it is.

(me – this is like the nanowrimo thing or the videoblogger’s weeks and months I’ve participated in – practice makes perfect (or at least improved))

Less Camp, More Jam. Don’t just talk – actually go do stuff.

9. change your perspective.

don’t make a better x, make a better user of x – ie., don’t make a better software developer book. Make a better programmer instead. Nice.

10. ? Missed it …

Who are your users, who’s your tech support (Aragorn or Jabba the Hut)

Your company is to your user as blank is to Frodo

What movie are your users in? (this was an exercise). What movie do they want to be in? … and don’t forget the soundtack.

11. don’t ask your users.

If you want to make breakthroughs, don’t ask your users.

Hugh Macleod’s new book – Ignore Everybody.

Listening to users – what they way vs what they really want

asking users gets you to consensus – you’ll get incremental change – not a breakthrough

Breakthrough – ask other people’s users.

12. Be Brave.

She stopped giving talks at microsoft because there was no bravery there.

13? Death by risk aversion – you got scared, and lost your big idea.

Ease-of-use police stop in, and we end up giving our users less than the big idea.

14. Rethink deadness. Henry Ford said – his users wanted faster horses … so he didn’t ask his users.

Re-examine stuff you sent to the deadpool. ie., $40 billion horse industry (even though the horse is obsolete)

So look at those things and see if they can have a new life.

14. (yes, 14 again). Change the EQ.

Move the slider.

With the headfirst books, they didn’t push around incremental sliders Instead, they added new sliders.

She’s inviting Gary Vaynerchuk on stage again … she did the same thing last year.

She’s asking – what did Gary do?

What did Gary add to the sliders? Gary says he talks about wine from the heart – no other people do that. Gary made wine fun. Gary was confident enough to talk about what HE thought wine tasted like, and shared that.

So – figure out what new labels and sliders you want…

passiveaggressivenotes.com – silly website.

A blog about people who mis-use the word “literally”

The blog of “unessessary” quote marks

16. Be Amazed.

Played a funny clip of a Conan interview of a guy who was giving a different perspective on flying (ie., it’s amazing!). So switch that outlook!

Experience Economy Goes by Many Names

Experience is called many thingsJoseph Pine and James Gilmore noticed this thing they called the Experience Economy. They think we’ve moved beyond purchasing mere goods and services – now, we can purchase “experiences” (hence, the experience Economy). In their newest book, they blend the idea of experience with something they call Authenticity.

But Experience or the Experience Economy isn’t the only thing this notion is called – this post will introduce you to some other similar terms.

For example, when I read their book, I didn’t see much in the way of website experience. Certainly, the underlying ideas were there, but no concrete examples were given (it was written in 1999, so I’ll give them a break). That bugged me enough to write my own book about it, and I called the website version of it the Digital Experience.

Rohit Bhargava, who writes the Influential Marketing Blog, comes from a customer engagement and marketing/PR background. In his book Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity and How Great Brands Get it Back, he calls it personality. Here’s a quote from the introduction that explains what personality is:

“The theory of Personality Not Included is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers. Every element of your business, from your interactions with your customers to the packaging of your product is an element of your brand personality, and these are the elements that inspire delight or indifference among your customers. In short, personality matters.”

I heard Jane McGonigal speak last year at SXSWi 2008. She presented on gaming and alternate realities … and called it happiness. Here are some notes I took from her presentation:

Question – are you in the happiness business? Our primary product soon will be happiness… Happiness is the new capital

Four key principles of happiness:

  1. satisfying work to do
  2. experience of being good at something
  3. time spent with people we like
  4. chance to be a part of something bigger

McGonigal’s description of happiness sounds VERY similar to Pine & Gilmore’s description of experience and Bhargava’s description of a company with personality.

Ever heard of Touch Points? It’s sort of like usability … but doesn’t focus primarily on how the thing works. Instead, it focuses on the experience customers have during their interactions with the product or service or website.

Ok, one more. A few years back when Kathy Sierra was still blogging, many of her blog posts focused on this same concept – but she called it enchantment and kicking ass.

See what’s going on?

It’s not quite usability (but lives there). It’s not quite marketing (but it lives there). It’s not quite design (but it lives there too). It’s not quite customer service (yep – lives there). Not quite library 2.0 (even lives there).

There’s a convergence in many different fields right now – gaming, marketing, PR, web design, customer service, etc. – that all have, as their utmost goal, providing the customer with a positive experience … an authentic experience … happiness … attracting them with personality … enchanting them … helping them “kick patootie.” (ok, my wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap upbringing just kicked in – sorry ).

Question – how are you working to enchant your users? Not just meet their information needs … but delight them? Are you providing a positive experience, and if so – how?

SXSWi2008, Day 2: Tools for Enchantment: 20 Ways to Woo Users

Kathy Sierra’s session, as you can expect was great. She’s a talented speaker, and has good stuff to say. She did, however, assume that most people in the audience had heard lots of her presentations in the past – so she went really fast, and at some of the points below simply said “you’ve heard me cover this one before” … so she didn’t cover it!

[note to speakers: you probably hang out with all the other cool speakers. Just because you and they “know everything” doesn’t mean your audience does – go ahead and share the basics and stuff that feels like you’re repetitive].

And now, here are some incomplete notes from her session:

Difference between fabulous and average:
– not about natural ability
– about the ability to practice/put in the time

20 ways…:

1. use telepathy. There are two flavors of neurons: mirror and motor. They feel the movements and read emotions.

Visualization – you have to see the thing you want to do in your head – that’s sort of like practicing

2. serendipity: psychic shuffle – it’s that “I was thinking about this song, then it played” moment. So add randomness.

3. The Dog Ears principle. Ears come after the head. Think about real life physics when you design.

4. Joy

5. Inspire 1st person language – really shouldn’t be about you.

6. T-Shirt-First development

7. Easter Eggs and other treats. Leave “treats” in your design, things that are there for no other reason than to make people smile. “A smile in the mind” – title of an interesting-sounding book.

8. Tools for evangelism

9. You are a… : You are a predator – predator’s eyes are in front of their heads. So right now, there’s 400 predator eyes looking at the speaker! Learn how to manage your fight/flight response. There are tools for this – ie., Stress Eraser, a breathing game – also calms you down.

10. excersize the brain – BrainAge as an example

11. Give them spuerpowers, quickly.

12. ???

13. Speed their knowledge

14. Make product (or Do’s) share your feelings

15. Help with reinvestment of mental resources… focus – have to devote all your attention on it. Attention offsets vs partial attention

16. Create a culture of support – no dumb questions, no dumb answers

17. Do not insist on inclusivity. Jargon is ok – passionate users “talk different”

18. practice seductive pacity – mystery, anticipation, curiosity

19. Atoms are NOT old skool – if you make digital stuff only, give out t-shirts – something people can hold

19.5. Do what this guy does – Gary ??? – does a radically different, passionate wine show. Gary is making his viewers entertaining – he is taking the focus off of himself