NEW NAME. SAME EXPERTISE.
We changed our name! After 14 years of creating award-winning digital products & services, it’s time for a new identity that better reflects the human insights-driven, digital customer experiences we create.
VISIT OUR NEW SITE
NEW NAME. SAME EXPERTISE.
We changed our name! After 14 years of creating award-winning digital products & services, it’s time for a new identity that better reflects the human insights-driven, digital customer experiences we create.
VISIT OUR NEW SITE

AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Archive for 2007

2008 Predictions

David just signed off for the year and I still have to get my foundation-less predictions for 2008 out.  Wait! Wait!

2007 was definitely the breakout year for social networks.  But don’t think that 2008 will just be a replay.  There’s some significant new trends in motion.

Here’s what I think we’ll see next year:
  • Consolidation of Online Activities:  More ways to take unified actions across all of your online presence points.  Apps that are now essentially toys, such as MoodBlast, will gain in depth and usefulness and allow you to simultaneously manage your various online profiles.
  • Strategic Shift to Social Applications:  In 2008 the question will be “build a social network?  Why would you want to do that?”  It will be all about building applications that leverage existing social networks.
  • Rise of Concurrent Programming:  As we move towards apps that are deployed in a fault-tolerent distributed manner across on-demand compute clouds, such as Amazon’s EC2, we’ll look towards platforms built from the ground up to support distributed, concurrent programming – such as Erlang.
  • More Blending of Web and Rich Internet Applications (RIAs):  Its becoming more and more obvious that the arbitrary division between web development and application development is breaking down.  We’re all just building applications that use the internet, with the front end technology being just an architecture decision.  New business that use a mix of RIA’s and web clients will continue to appear in 2008.
  • More WAX!:  Web Application eXchange!  With OpenID, OpenSocial, Facebook apps etc,  there are more and more examples of many web-based applications working together in order to form greater value.
There it is.  I’ll look at this post again this time in 2008 and see how well I did.  Until then (unless David gets a last minute burst of inspiration) – see you in 2008!
Ai

On absentmindedness

Loren has me completely hooked on Sandy, the web-based “personal assistant.” I email myself from work when I have to take care something the following day, and when I check my iPhone the next morning, I have a text message waiting. For a guy who puts post-it notes on his wallet, this is a fantastic innovation.

The only problem has been with Sandy’s website: for a guy who puts post-it notes on his wallet, remembering my password has been next to impossible. The site requires a login to change preferences, and as a result, I’ve reset my password several times. And the password-reset screen doesn’t include a “remember me” prompt.

Hey Sandy–how about a silent cookie? Your target user obviously needs it, and probably won’t mind.

To: Sandy
Reminder: happy holidays, Monday at 5 p.m.

The Ai offices are closed next week. We’ll see you in the new year. Wait, wait – I’m not quite dead yet! -LD

Uncategorized

First post!

Hello, and my thanks to Loren for the introduction. As noted below, I will be posting regularly in this space moving forward, with a keen eye toward developments in online branding and the user experience. Ai covers a wide range of clients, which opens us to great breadth of coverage. Including Loren’s tech investigations.

I come to Ai from the client side, so I’m still getting the hang of the business from the agency side. I’m new to this blog but not to blogging in general; my personal weblog is in its tenth (!) year. I am pleased to be blogging professionally and covering relevant topics in a business setting.

Loren and I (and our coworkers, if we can rope them in) look forward to sharing intriguing conversations about technology and the business of making websites, including some “looks behind the door” at life at our company. Stay tuned.

Ai

Introducing David Wertheimer

We have some changes coming for this blog (and the Ai website) in the near future. The first change is that I’m not driving this alone anymore, I’m going to be joined by our new Director of Strategy, David Wertheimer. Here’s a sneak peak at his bio:

David Wertheimer, Ai’s Director of Strategy, has a diverse background with expertise in online communication, marketing, ecommerce and the user experience. He leads the company’s strategic initiatives, from usability studies to data analysis, and provides focus and vision to front- and back-end web development projects.

David has been bringing brands to the Web for twelve years. In his years online, he has been a designer, manager, director, blogger, book author, columnist, educator, and public speaker. Past achievements include creating world-class media websites for The Economist and Billboard magazines and leading 200% growth in online retail sales as the marketing director for Clarins USA. He has also worked in consulting roles for a wide range of companies including Yahoo! HotJobs, Draftfcb and Rodale.

David has an MBA from the New York University Stern School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Franklin & Marshall College. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and their dog.

David will be balancing my geeky commentary with posts that touch on strategy, online marketing and user experience. Maybe he’ll talk about his dog. Welcome David!

Ai

The Tech Lead Problem

Some of us start with a career of making stuff, and then transition into a career of talking to people. This transition can be painful.

Making stuff requires concentration, or “being in the zone”. People that make stuff, be they programmers, designers, writers or what-have-you, need to block out the rest of the world, really focus on what they’re doing and crank out their stuff. People who make stuff need periods of isolation, in order to create high quality work.

The other kind of job is talking to people. Talking to people jobs, like project management, sales, customer service and so forth thrive in environments of interactivity. People who talk to people for a living work better when they’re connected to other people, through email, IM, telephones etc. Their days are characterized by frequent brief interactions with other people.

However, sometimes people who make stuff find that their job starts to involve talking to people. Often this is a function of seniority, such as when a senior programmer becomes a tech lead. Programming is primarily a “making stuff” job, but tech leads function as a kind of “transformer” between project managers and developers; stepping down the voltage between the business world of the PM and the technical world of the developers.

This transition is where worlds start to collide. A tech lead is asked not only to talk to other people (co-ordinate developers, explain tech to the PM) but also to make stuff (take on lead programming tasks). This can make people’s heads explode.

When one’s job is predominantly either to make stuff or to talk to people, one can be fairly functional. Depending on their mode, they either get in the zone or they stay in touch. However, when one has a job that entails both responsibilities it can be very difficult to get either done effectively – one can wind up being torn between modes, appearing unresponsive to people who need them to talk, and unfocused when it comes to making stuff.

I call this the Tech Lead Problem, but it applies to anyone coming out of a production background who takes on management responsibilities. They can be designers, writers or information architects.

The two modes just don’t work well together. For this reason, if you’re someone who has their duties split between making stuff and talking to people, the trick is to cleanly separate the “making stuff” mode from the “talking to people” mode.

When you’re in making stuff mode, block out a nice big appointment for yourself on your calendar so people won’t interject meetings, shut off IM, and only check your email at fairly infrequent intervals (once per hour, perhaps). Its best to be completely open about this, allowing “productive time” to live as a first class citizen on your schedule, with appropriate priority against the various meetings and other “talking to people” activities.

Take other steps to reduce extraneous noise – can you work out of the office? How about noise-cancelling headphones? Our Creative Director here has taken to hanging a flashing bicycle light on the back of his chair when he’s in productive mode. Don’t bug him when that light is on.

Then, ensure that you provide ample “talking to people time”. Turn that IM on, check your email frequently. Even (gasp!) get up from your desk, walk over and talk to people.

At first, people who’s jobs are primarily to talk to people may have difficulty understanding the importance of separating these modes. Its important to educate them however, because achieving this separation is essential to maintaining sanity if you have a job that requires both kinds of activities.

(Ironically I was interrupted twice, by the same person, while writing this. Oh well…)

Uncategorized

Crunching for PM Network Magazine


A while back I posted about how to survive crunch periods (How to Crunch). Tom Sullivan, a journalist writing for PM Network magazine (put out by the Project Management Institute) decided to interview me for an article he was writing on the same topic for this month’s issue.

Unfortunately it looks like the crunch article isn’t one of the ones that are offered as PDFs on the site, but if you or someone you know is a PMI member you should be able to grab it. If I find a way to access the article directly (or if someone wants to tell me how) I’ll post a link here.

(Not sure if I love that photo….oh well)

Business

Really Amazing


As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m trying out this new “digital admin assistant” service called Sandy. Every day I receive a “daily digest” email of items I need to take care of that day. I haven’t had anything for a couple of days – so this is what came in my “daily digest” this morning:

Nothing’s scheduled for today!

It’s been a couple of days without anything to include in your daily digest. Rather than continuing to send you an empty digest every day, I’m going to hold off until there’s something on your calendar, in your to-do list, or otherwise appropriate to send on.

If you’re having any trouble, are confused, or just need a little guidance on how to work with me on a daily basis, try leafing through my guide at http://iwantsandy.com/help/guide or send email to my helpers at help@iwantsandy.com — they’d be glad to help you out!

Have a good day!

Sandy

Just like a highly efficient human admin assistant would do. This is great! I fully expected to mechanically receive empty notifications every day I had nothing. By exceeding my expectations, and acting as close to a flesh-and-blood admin assistant as possible, the service significantly increases my productivity, and is a pleasure to use.

Uncategorized

Its the Integration, Stupid

For awhile now I’ve talked about WAX – web application exchange. A number of people took this to mean thick-client, or desktop, apps that integrate with an Internet-based service.

That’s not exactly it – I recently signed up for a service called Sandy. This fairly amazing online service allows you to send yourself reminders to do things – to keep yourself organized. It’s pretty slick.

But the thing that really makes it go is the integration. Sandy speaks SMS, email, Twitter, Jott. There’s so many different ways to get those reminders in and out. Reminders to do things at specific times come with .ics (iCalendar) files so I can add them to my calendar.

Set up is a breeze – each means of communication is verified by Sandy sending a message containing a special code that you enter back at the Sandy application. Successful entry of the code activates that means of communication.

(Honestly I probably have too many channels turned on at once. A single reminder is now going to come at me as an email, an SMS message, and a Tweet. Its going to drive me crazy.)

All of this integration allows me to leverage all of the other tools that I already use. This is extremely powerful. Now instead of relying on one application to do it all (badly), application developers can concentrate on the things they do best, and work with each other to deliver a value to the user that is greater than the some of its parts. Because of the Web Application Exchange. WAX.

This is something to pay very close attention to, and to understand how it follows a well-established pattern in technology. As a technology matures, it moves from tightly integrated proprietary generalists (building, for example, yet another social network from scratch) to focussed application developers that add their own core value to an already existing infrastructure.

Technology

Skypsperiment Pt 2: The Phone

The phone is a Phillips VOIP 841. It feels nice and compact for a home phone. The base system is the base station, a small black box, which plugs into your router, and a handset. I purchased the base system, plus an additional handset. I paid $149.99 for the base unit and the first handset, and an additional $92.84 for the additional handset.

Setup is simple: the first handset comes pre-registered with the base station, but the second handset I had to register manually. Registration essentially consists of following the instructions on the handset, and pressing the big button on the top of the base station.

The phones are fully functioning Skype clients. When you start it up for the first time, it offers you the choice of either logging into an existing Skype account, or creating a new one. I logged into an existing account, and that was pretty much the end of set up.

The system is actually designed to work with both a skype account and a regular old analog phone line simultaneously. Why you would want to keep the analog line once you set this up is beyond me, but there it is.

Making a phone call is essentially dialing a number and pressing “Go”. (The phone dials like a cell phone – there’s no dial tone). When you do this it will ask you whether you want to place the call via Skype Out or the analog line, and thats it.

Have a look at my previous post for the whole set up – you need Skype Out or Skype Unlimited to place calls via Skype to an analog line.

Additionally, like any other Skype client, you can place calls to Skype accounts – no Skype Out required. One of the soft keys on the front of the phone defaults to “contacts” – which gets you to the list of Skype contacts for that account.

Some things that are cool:

  • The handsets have a cradle for recharging, and the cradles have a power cord. Other than that, however, there’s no cable from the handsets. That makes it really easy to place them wherever you want throughout your house or apartment without needing to think about running phone cable.
  • There’s no reason you can’t have the phones and a Skype software client running on your computer use the same account. That means if you’re away from home, you can pick up your calls as normal – through your computer. No need to forward your calls – just take them with you!
Technology