Design, Post-Modern

For 20 years, I’ve been pining for the industry to consider interactive design as something far more than pushed pixels, first & foremost. Looks like even industrial design is becoming a second class citizen to the experience of things.
jonathan-ive

Has Jonathan Ive Designed Himself Out Of Existence?

[…] Think of massively linked datasets on user behavior, which allow your phone to guess what you want to do, when you want to do. Think of digital assistants able to parse even the vaguest commands and parcel out all the sub tasks to the right app—”Hey, can you make a reservation at one of my favorite restaurants this Friday, and make sure that my best friends get the invite too?”

These things are invisible. We can’t hold them, and the sense in which they are “designed” will be vastly different from any piece of hardware we have today, or even any piece of software, no matter how beautiful. […] The next great design monuments won’t be easily displayed in a design museum. They’ll instead be the systems and incentives that dissolve all the messiness of our whims into that simple bit of feedback that happens when your smartphone listens to whatever convoluted thing you’re asking about, and simply says, “Okay.”

The Oldest Methodology In The Book: Adaptation

Inspired by Damien Newman's process
Inspired by Damien Newman’s process of design visualization

That’s a 30,000 foot view of Damien Newman’s process of design. It may be crude, but it’s absolutely clear: the unknown heading into Research leads to the sparks of Ideation and culminates with the clarity and details of Design.

While being a universal axiom of both art and design—we all start in a fog as we attempt to narrow down to any clear form of visual or behavioral communication—what it doesn’t begin to touch upon are the moving parts found within the various methods that we must employ in order to participate within & contribute to a product development team.

I’ve been thinking about the evolution of my own creative method for a while now, as I’ve moved from personal expression to participating within and creating Design methodologies for both start-up & large organizations over a 20+ year-long career. So if you’re inclined to join me on this journey, be warned up-front: I’m going to start at the beginning and that goes way back.

Being an Artist

Before, during and after art school, I was a “drawer” on most days, and an illustrator when things got fancy. As a drawer, I’d go directly to pad with either pencil or rapidograph, often to remove cognitive processing altogether with blind contour drawings—my portfolio for art school was filled with them. The subject matter was mine to define, and I finished when I felt it was complete.

As I became more serious, I’d spend time understanding the subject matter, find inspiration, and prep in a number of ways—taking photographs, sketching, cutting images out of magazines, you name it. If the illustration was for a class or a client, I’d spend time up front to understand the concept I was attempting to illustrate. My creative process evolved to include other people’s input for the first time.

artist ad design
“Dunk” (1988) & Sunkist: Nature’s Temptation (1991)

Undergrad Advertising Design

My illustration focus at Crouse College quickly took a turn to advertising design, and with it, a whole new set of creative challenges and processes were introduced.

We discussed campaign objectives and parameters in studio, sequestered ourselves to research, sketch and write copy, and then returned to present three concepts and be critiqued by our peers. Repeat, narrow down, complete. It may not sound like much at first, but being able to clearly pitch an idea, and then take criticism as constructive rather than negative, is almost as important as the ideation process itself.

Towards the end of my undergrad career, we began to collaborate with Newhouse copy writers, prepping us for the machinations of a real world creative team (I never pursued a traditional print & tv agency career). With no developers in the mix, this was a commercial design process, but one with greater degrees of complexities than illustration when it came to client input and iterations towards sign-off.

Game Design

Directly after undergraduate, I spent my days designing CD-rom games after landing an internship at a design and production studio. The biggest contrast between then and now is that the notion of a downloadable patch or a version update simply didn’t exist. We were pre-web, so production houses didn’t staff and operate with the concern that developers constantly needed to be busy shipping product.

We began each project with a singular clear goal of burning a gold disk to take to a reproduction house on a specific date far off in the future. There was no iterative approach, no outcome to meet other than great reviews. We were 100% big bang.

big bang product development
From nothing to everything

Our creative process looked something like the following:

  • the writer develops a linear script
  • our team translated it into a non-linear, node-based script
  • we storyboarded key frames and the interaction model
  • environment, sprites, and animations were identified
  • we then focused on final animations and artwork

As we made progress, the development team would ramp up their technical requirements and begin to shape their architecture; new details from the design team would impact their approach and they’d iterate accordingly. We would intensely collaborate, and the engineers prototyped both good and throwaway code. The process felt much more like collaboration found in film production than a web-based product.

Our reputations and compensation were dependent on releasing a finished product that found a market. Our distribution partner placed the product into the limited sales channels that existed prior to the robust long-tail of online retail, so we only had one chance to make a impression with both reviewers and customers.

So if you ever see me twitch when an MVP is mentioned, that’s simply muscle memory from a product age long ago. It subsides with a good night’s sleep.

Agency Life

As east coast game production dried up, I transitioned to the web and cut my teeth within a couple of agencies; first as an interactive art director, and then as an information architect.

  • The creative process as an IAD was somewhat similar to undergrad—though pitches and critiques absolutely stepped up in intensity—and my experience in the gaming world prepped me for collaborating with a development team. Similar to gaming, online campaigns, websites, screensavers, etc. were a first impression pursuit— the notion of iterative updates was nascent in adoption.
  • As an IA, the work was much more focused on defining and then translating requirements into sketches, schemas, taxonomies, etc., but the ideation, presentation and executing processes were highly similar. The “new” element was the explicit notion of documenting user requirements as an explicit point in the process. Functional requirements (user + business + technical) and strategy docs were the foundation for how we ideated solutions

= = = = = = = = = =

In the late nineties, when agencies were in the luxurious position to offer soup to nuts services, development teams didn’t have the same agency to drive innovation as they enjoy today; they were mostly beholden to the client initiative, which didn’t often align with experiments as Creative drove the process. Aside from feasibility reviews of deliverables, and early exploration to settle on technical requirements, innovation was boxed within the core vision of the client, the strategy team’s position paper, and the design process.

linear design process
Traditional process for one-off production

Only the best of the best shops could honestly tout a record of pushing the boundaries with their work, and those shops were doing it with amazing collaboration and client partnerships across the board. My time spent time at Organic exemplified such a business environment. These days, firms such as IDEO and frog have diversified with such quality and talent that they can demand the proper price to bring innovation to the table.

Smaller studios and boutiques have to be creative in how they sell their creativity, otherwise they fall into a game of pitching beyond their capabilities. Clients may invest upfront to bring in a shop to provide specific thinking or output—forever the value of an external team—but businesses are leaning more and more on newly formed in-house product design teams to take on the majority of design thinking and execution capabilities.

collaborative-ideation
Collaborative method for ideation

While traditional full lifecycle innovation is difficult in the agency space, outside consulting can foster innovation within this climate through ideation around notions such as brand experience, behavioral and industrial design, and technical approaches.

The challenge ahead for studios will be to move to a business model and underlying IP creation method that can adapt to the shifting world around them to redefine what innovation looks like and how an external team can provide it with clear and understandable ROI.

= = = = = = = = = =

Engineering Leading; Engineering Billing

After stopping by for the tail-end of a startup experience (Tripod)—where method wasn’t much of a focus—I experienced working within a development-centric organization for the first time. As the Chief Information Architect of a consultancy spun off from a global IT shop, my charge was rather specific—to develop an information architecture practice within a creative team methodology that was flexible and scalable, and could roll out across the agency offices across the U.S.

Aside from forming strong allies with creative directors in each office—which became a difficult line to toe as they (understandably) felt comfortable running their own teams as they saw fit—the largest problem I faced was that ancillary teams (business analysts and developers, in particular) operated in an object-oriented, UML methodology. Engagements began with JAD meetings that lasted days, sometimes weeks, and stacks of business and development documentation were produced for the project’s build.

I’m sure good thinking came out of those sessions, but it looked like ceremony for ceremony’s sake, especially as I came to understand that the majority of the work turned out to be websites with less than innovative aspirations, degrees of difficulty, or complex user needs. The scale and complexity of the challenge ahead of me was clear.

How to drive a designer crazy, 101
How To Drive A Designer Crazy 101

My primary goal out of the gate was to figure out how to get tech management on-board with user-centered design in the midst of client engagements constantly kicking-off across the country.

What I immediately discovered is that IA had to own as much of the actor-driven UML documentation as possible or we had no leg to stand on. While we were successful in taking ownership of certain aspects of the process—from key insertion points to deliverables—we just couldn’t nudge the overall methodology, which was a nightmare.

As our team attempted deeper degrees of change, our efforts quickly became a game of tug of war with management. This was the time we lived in (2001)—many of my design peers were experiencing similar struggles with development-centric organizations across the industry. The attempt to convince an entrenched executive technology staff that Design needed to have a seat upstream to inform development of what users needed, even with wins in tow, quickly devolved into a street fight.

Technical documentation = billable hours.

Looking back, the daily struggle for optimizing how Design fit into a potential innovative space created a blindspot for me to the possibilities of more collaborative opportunities. Maybe we could’ve figured out a pre-Lean UX / Agile approach, or complimented JAD with design activities. At the end of the day, I believe we were too early to a problem that not enough people had yet encountered.

Over the next five years, I unceremoniously took on the conscious role of being a change agent for Design, which unbeknownst to me at the time seemed as important to me as producing innovative work.

Product Design Where No One Considered Product As A Thing

In the period following my uphill battle within the IT world, and just prior to the rapid evolution of Extreme Programming & Goal-Directed Design, I took a position to design streaming applications in the financial industry—well before the FinTech descriptor was anointed. Not only was this particular domain ripe for Design to impact innovation, but the financial industry as a whole was a chasm for our craft to fill.

As with my previous stop, it took results to seal the deal of institutional change.

Over the three years that I was in the employ, of Datek / Ameritrade, Design moved from a position of downstream application to an upstream presence that impacted every aspect of the brand made available to the public. But to describe our methodology in a simple sentence just isn’t possible.

Both firms knew they were providing a service to their clients, but at the highest positions internally the authenticated space simply wasn’t perceived as what we commonly understand product to be today. It was treated as the “flip side” of the marketing layer; the logged-in space that pushed traffic to pages or applications that triggered trading charges.

When Ameritrade bought us, the Business provided Development with direction that prioritized desired projects, and Marketing was accustomed to providing all visual assets when applicable. After successfully navigating the domain for a few years, I positioned myself to staff a UX Design team to design a new trading platform after a deep, collaborative analysis of user needs by me and former Datek leadership.

The Active trader platform, Apex, was born and we had real, innovative work to do.

cooper design
We ran a modified version of Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design

While our process was more waterfall than not, the front-end engineers were in our group (UX) and were constantly prototyping our designs for testing and skeleton development. Consider us an early EPD team, with the evolutionary notion of product management still stuck between the business analyst and project management roles.

Without this organizational approach, waterfall would’ve stopped development in their tracks, but our team collaboration was top-notch. At any given time we had 10-15 active projects prior to the era of collaborative platforms (e.g. Basecamp). Our productivity would’ve grounded to a halt if it weren’t for how well our internal processes adapted to produce both on-time and above expectations.

We pushed forward within a Goal-Directed Design framework to innovate an experience designed specifically to support scenarios particular to our active trading clients. The opportunity to apply human-centered design thinking in a broader manner was limited by our place at the bottom of the engineering reporting structure.

True collaboration between Design, Development & Business had a ways to go.

Calling The Shots, And Not

For the past ten years, I operated a design shop that would flex in size depending on the opportunities in front of me. Similarly, the particular engagements I landed (and the domains behind them) greatly influenced the process and methods available for me to employ.

For almost two years, I engaged with a huge player in the media industry, building out my team to six to completely re-imagine how they published to their online brands which received millions of views per day.

Our design process with the internal project management and development teams was steeped in an early-stage (2007) Agile method with a blend of GDD., as we needed to understand and meet the needs of a cross section of internal users—editors, designers, media buyers, product management. It also had the challenging objective to be generic enough to be used by teams across multiple brands publish to different the same, yet differing front-end templates.

After beginning the gig with a round of research to understand the role-based needs of the product, we kicked off the work by identifying key scenarios to pursue, beginning with the “publish and edit article” scenario.

My team, located across the US and the UK, would hold our own daily scrum each morning prior to joining in for the client scrum in the afternoon. We (myself, the PM and dev lead) discussed where we were in designing for the scenario in play, and what we’d complete over the following three week period. We would sketch, review, and specify, and then work with dev.

As this was an internal application for a high-profile brand, a certain degree of politics limited our iterative learning capabilities. If I were in-house, I probably would’ve dove directly onto that sword; as it were, I did the best I could delivering what we had promised to deliver.

The lesson from that experience is that methodology decisions matter, as method—collaboration, research, iteration, agility, etc.—directly impacts the creation of a useful experience for real people.

Design Thinking With A Side Of Innovation?

We began with a process of design, which seems ridiculously simple looking back across this essay, and here I am, fully taking in how much I’ve had to adapt to my environment over the years to thrive, even survive at times.

While I’ve explicitly operated in a manner to nudge others to shift their perspective on how to work with Design over the past 20 years, the evolution of my understanding of Design, and how it fits across industries, form factors, and customer types has immensely changed as well.

Just as business leaders shift their operational tactics as the world evolves around them, we designers must also evolve in order to produce quality work in an ever-shifting technological environment with varying expectations from clients and business partners alike.

Adaptation to circumstances
My d/Design interests have never led me to submitting entries in an awards chase. I don’t care about accolades; I care about results. My interests lay squarely in the realm of leading a team of practitioners, contributing to an excellent product vision, understanding human needs, innovating solutions, and executing designs to the point of wild success.

What method gets me there is still yet to be defined.

Redesigning The NBA: From The Playoffs To The Draft

fix-the-draft-nba

Former Commissioner David Stern never shied away from change. As a matter of fact, he embraced it. In his own words:

You will ultimately be defined by the sum total of your responses to circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn’t anticipate and indeed probably couldn’t even imagine. So just keep your eyes on the course and be ready to move in different directions depending upon the crises and opportunities with which you are faced.

Stern faced his fair share of crises and opportunities over his 40+ year reign, with most of them not having anything to do with the actual game on the floor, but he did recognize opportunities to improve gameplay by tweaking rules, which affected the direction and style of the game.

  • As the league gained a reputation for physicality over gracefulness, in the late-eighties to mid-nineties, the no-hand check rule came into play allowing guards to get off more open shots and drive into the paint with greater ease.
  • When Charles Barkley began posting up opponents with his large backside for upwards of 15 seconds on route to a move to the hoop, the league put in a five second rule for backdowns, making players pass more often.
  • After the Malice in the Palace, technicals began to be called much quicker to keep players from talking trash which might escalate passion on the floor. Also, the definition of a flagrant foul evolved in an effort to keep hard fouls in check, so we see more now than in the past.

One could argue for or against any one of these and other rules changes Stern oversaw, but one can’t argue against the popularity of the league today vs. 30 years ago.

Adjust. Refocus. Improve. Sell. Profit.

The game has evolved from a high-scoring, yet at times a highly physical, packed in the paint game to an informed game, one that is now played wide open, allowing coaches to properly space the floor and showcase not only player skills, but the intrinsic beauty of the game itself. From guards spinning into the lane, euro-stepping to the rim to three point shots raining down from the unthinkable situation just 10 years-ago—pull up threes on a fast break—the game plays the numbers more than ever.

Advanced analytics inform organizations about player strengths & weaknesses and provide key insight into the game itself; how players on average shoot best in what spots on the floor, whether off screens or two dribbles, why a decent three point shot is better than a good mid-range shot, etc. Analytics provides smart coaches with additional input to structure their sets around their personnel, ball movement, spacing and the long/short game.

Yet for all this progressive thinking applied to the actual game over the past 30 years, the league remains unbelievably conservative when it comes to dealing with the two biggest issues staring them directly in the face.

The Playoffs

One of the two biggest problems the NBA has today is figuring out how to convert the casual fan into a core supporter. As it currently stands, casual NBA fans don’t pay much attention until the playoffs begin, and it’s a completely understandable position. With the large number of regular season games played, the lunacy that 53% of teams make the playoffs anyhow, the recent trend to rest players for the second season and the growing number of teams tanking (more on that later), the two month-long, seven game series format is perfectly digestible for all basketball fans.

nba-playoffs

But if there’s a valid gripe about the playoffs, it should be centered on the reality of less than average teams making the tournament. This year, three teams won’t have a .500 record in the east, yet still receive the opportunity to make playoff revenue and through dumb luck, potentially advance to the next round.

So how can the league address the conversion issue staring them in the face without reducing the number of regular season and playoff games (avoiding losing money for both owners and players)? The playoffs conundrum can be simply addressed in the reseeding across conference lines conversation, and I’m all for that as a first step, but that doesn’t move the needle with fans enjoying the product on the floor during the regular season.

Let’s come back to the playoffs in a bit, as there’s an even bigger elephant in the room and they go trunk in trunk.

The Draft

Prior to the 1986 NBA draft, the worst team in the league would get the top pick. It worked for a while, but once the game gained in popularity (read: revenue), it became obvious that less than decent teams were taking advantage of the system by losing on purpose. Finally, Stern made the move to a weighted draft lottery, as the product suffered when teams purposefully produced a bad experience for paying customers.

Fast-forward 30 years. Even though the team with the worse record now only has a 25% chance at the first overall pick, teams are still tanking and doing it publicly. Simply the chance at landing a transformative superstar has teams gutting their franchises to their core and selling the approach to their fan-base as a winning strategy in the current NBA landscape, where being a middling team is the kiss of death for championship desires.

nba-tanking-fans

Who can argue with them?

The DNA of basketball has the ball in the best player’s hands more often than not, so it becomes a star-driven league. Without one or two of the top 10 to 15 players on your roster, the odds are simply stacked against you ever winning a chip. Sure, superstars can be acquired via free agency or trades, but those cases are rare, as a middling team needs assets to trade (not many have a good player, young talent and a few good picks to land a superstar) or cap space, a preferable market and a decent core to drawn in a top flight free agent.

If you want to build a team with a chance to win it all, the draft needs to be at the core of your strategy. That said, it’s bad for the game, for the product, for the bottom-line to incentivize teams to lose—not to mention, it’s the absolute wrong strategy for the league when trying to convert casual fans into core NBA supporters. Bad basketball and losing, no matter how it’s sold to a casual fan of the game, isn’t going to help win them over, but that’s the current incentivization model the NBA has created for teams to get better.

Commissioner Adam Silver: Let’s change all this today.

Incentive To Win AND Build For The Future
incentives
What if the NBA system was such that trying your best—from the players on the court to the coaching staff to the GM to the owner—would put an organization in a position to not only have a shot at the playoffs, but a shot at the top draft pick?

Yesterday, on Max and Marcellus, the guys came up with an interesting approach to stop tanking and add more excitement to the end of the season. Their idea was as follows:

  • Take the eight teams with the worst records at the end of the year and put them in a March Madness-like tournament
  • Seeding would be based on the number of wins a team has AFTER they are eliminated from the playoffs (so this year, because the Knicks were eliminated first, they’d have a head start on collecting wins and having home court advantage for the eight team tourney)
  • The winner of the tournament gets the first pick in the draft, with the remaining teams’ draft order based on tourney results and seeding
  • The 9-14 teams would then fall in line with draft seedings by their record.

Brilliant on a number of levels:

  1. There will always be the cellar dwellers of the league, but if you’re forced to win games once eliminated from the playoff race in order to get the top pick, then organizational tanking (see Sam Hinkie) simply isn’t an option. You have to remain competitive.
  2. This makes the regular season much more watchable and stops lesser teams from waiving good, veteran players, only to have top five teams scoop them up for the playoff push. 15 win seasons will be an absolute anomaly and fans of those teams will have more to root for.
  3. An added bonus: NBA July Madness! Imagine a bizarro eight-team tourney, held after the championship series, where the number one seed, which may be the worst team (though to a much lesser degree), must battle to win the first pick in the draft! I’d watch those games with popcorn and brew; it would be so much more of a TV event than the draft lottery.

It’s a pretty great fix on its own, but as my man John Witherspoon famously implored:

coordinate-eddie-murphy-

…but you don’t stop there. see, you got to keep going…

Why not take this opportunity to address the issues of the current playoff system as well? There’s no way that the 16 team format will be reduced—again, too much money is on the table—but along with reseeding, why not have a play-in tournament to have lesser teams prove their playoff worth? Here’s the idea:

  • Reward the best in the league by giving an automatic qualification to the top eight teams, regardless of conference. That would mean as of today, Golden State, Atlanta, Houston, Memphis, Portland, Los Angeles, San Antonio and Cleveland would get in.
  • Place the remaining 14 teams—9 through 22 by record, across conference—into another single elimination tourney. That would mean as of today, Dallas, Toronto, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Washington, New Orleans, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Miami, Boston, Utah, Charlotte and Indiana would have the privilege to fight for the 9-16 seeds in the NBA playoffs. The six teams that do the worst (based on losing and seeding) end up with the 9-14 draft order.

Move this direction and competition gets even tougher during the regular season.

On one front, the best teams will push to earn a guaranteed spot and rest before the playoffs begin, and on the other, the worst teams will keep their talent in order to fight for the top pick in the draft. Most importantly, though, this removes the vast gap between the best and worst teams, ensuring that every team is giving maximum effort for their paying fans who are spending big bucks to come out to games.

Adding two, week-long, single elimination tournaments to the TNT/ESPN schedule and interest from college and casual fans will skyrocket, generating new revenue streams and future growth. It’s a solid business move for both teams and the league alike.

Change the incentive and change the results.

If players are working into mid-July, back-to-back games would need to become a thing of the past. I’m pretty sure this would have to be addressed in the next CBA, but as long as players see a cut of the action, and are agreeable to the timing, I can’t imagine why they’d be against it.

It’s logical, compelling, dramatic and quite simply…fantastic!

New Product Launch: Inter-American Development Bank

iadb-home

Not all projects have the potential to make you feel like you’re making a difference in this world, but after 18 months of blood, sweat and tears alongside my design and branding cohorts at studio analogous, I’m proud to announce the launch of the new Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

With a very limited understanding of the IDB mission at the beginning of the project, we came to understand the profound nature of their day-to-day mission rather quickly. In their own words:

We work to improve lives in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Improved lives” is the result of operational projects that come in all shapes and forms, funded multilaterally by member countries throughout the world. Essentially, the IDB pinpoints localized projects, and funding is provided to manage green-lit projects through to completion. In order for the website to successfully present the numerous narratives, statistics and data that embody the IDB mission, we began by centering on the core needs of a handful of key design personas.
idb-persona-expectations

In the end, our process narrowed the primary focus of the site to highly related information objects, which formed the basis for the topical navigation:

  • Projects – procurement opportunities, portfolio presentation, mapping
  • Countries – projects, people on the ground, statistics
  • Sectors – OECD standardized, projects, data, strategy
  • Data: – data via indicators & countries, dynamic presentations
  • Publications – bundled research, organizational attributes

After synthesizing the requirements for each section, we designed a shallow and narrow navigation system, as well as a flexible pattern for sectional navigation, which we used in different areas of the site to allow for deep dives without losing key task context. The most complex area was the Project section, as the previous site had numerous single database search interfaces spread throughout the site. Our solution involved a persistent navigation device to allow for instant browse and specific project-object related queries.

idb-project-wires

project-navigation

In building out our design pattern library, we sketched the templates for each section to present similar navigation metaphors, information modules, and eventually, visual patterns wherever possible. Examples include:

  • the use of the hero area to introduce stories, campaigns and provide multiple paths into pertinent information
  • page modules that introduce country and sector narratives through the presentation of data and statistics
  • navigation that remain as flat as possible, never moving beyond two-levels deep, while shifting to present smart navigation in specific areas of the site

statistics

While the corporate site isn’t a strong candidate for a heavily infused social layer focusing on comments and sharing, IDB has a growing community of domain experts posting to a separate blog presence regarding sector-based work in Latin America and using twitter and Facebook to spread the good word of their work and connect with interested folk in the region. We felt it was important to share those voices both on the homepage and throughout the site when post attributes overlapped with sectional attributes.

social

It’s far too early to know if the redesign has impacted usability, traffic and the underlying ROI. If/when that feedback comes in, I’ll follow up with a post along those lines.

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For more insight into this project and my process, feel free to reach out to me at spcoon{at}gmail{dot}com

SXSW2006 Day Five: Democratization of the Moving Image

rocketboom
Andrew Baron and Amanda Congdon are Rocketboom.

We are in an interesting time, as production tools for mass communication are dirt cheap and accessible.

Rocketboom:

An interesting intersection of blogging, TV over IP, radical advertising, etc. […] The art of the possible.

  • Personal filters (media, people they meet, events, etc.) – always on the lookout for more information.
  • Design – “One of the most important aspects of Rocketboom is… interface design; making the interface comfortable and easy to use.” The simplicity of the interface equals the experience for all viewers/users.
  • Global – “Audience is scattered all around the world. Correspondants are in Kenya, Prague, all over the States.” Very interested in global stories. Rocketboom.jp just launched to communicate from Japan, presenting video stories which isn’t language-centric.
  • Time – “Time is power.” Whoever has information before another will have a huge advantage. Large organizations cannot be agile enough to move fast. Rocketboom is daily, so it becomes habit-forming. “Simple concepts, but so important to us and our success. It’s worth considering them in-depth.”
  • Consequence – Unlike other business models built on one, two year business plans, Rocketboom deals with consequences in the moment. They’re able to shift their approaches in the moment to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Being open to change is huge.
  • Interactive – 25% of Rocketboom stories are user-generated. Then there are comments, emails with viewers, etc. They feel very strongly about the communities this interaction with viewers build. This medium is interactive, so even though a user is digesting video, it’s not TV.

The show is already available on cell phones (thanks to a fan hack), TiVo viewers, PSP and iTunes.

Defenders Of The Common Man?

democratic party

The longer we drag forward within a completely partisan run government, the more the Republican Party proves to be vile and full of power mongers.

This particular administration spins faster than a dreidel on Hanukkah and smears more often than a left-hander writing in a rainstorm, but if one can remain objective when studying their tactics, one cannot discount the fact that they’re a well oiled machine, running their party with business-like effectiveness. They’re so organized, they remind me of a hive of worker bees, humming to the whim of the queen, existing only for the future of the hive and a taste of the honey they produce. This is how they roll—deep and in-tune.

So how do the Democrats stack up?

Bill Bradley recently wrote an opinion of the state-of-the-party in the New York Times, describing political organization in explicit detail; how the Elephants have created a thirty-year strong infrastructure— with defined roles, responsibilities and financing—to further their agenda, while the Donkeys get lost in the tactical arguments of the moment and eat their own in a fight to reach an elected seat.

In other words, the Republican Party has mastered the pyramid organizational structure. They’ve created a template for a replaceable leader at the top of a sustainable ecosystem, built to pro-actively defend their ideologies via responses in a moments notice from any type of Democrat or citizen retort.

Democrats, on the other hand, are renowned for tearing each other up during the primary season, unwittingly exposing each candidate to the Republican propaganda machine; a media machine that instills doubt in the minds of the casual electing public with repetitive rhetoric. So without the head-on-a-swivel organization of the GOP, each potential Democratic leader has to build his/her own pyramid of a strategic platform on the fly, sans the years of networking, research and coordination.

The results of such a non-strategy should be obvious. I mean, imagine how well an upside-down Egyptian pyramid would’ve worked out?

upsidedown-pyramid

The Democratic Party claims to be the party for the common man, but through their actions they actually project the appearance of being selfish and petty. As individual politicians, they don’t seem willing to barter for their place in a sustainable, Party structure, as they far too often seem overly anxious to take the weight of the world on their individual shoulders.

This me first perception can be illustrated in numerous tangible forms—their website is a classic example:

In the topical, global navigation, one category (People) reads as an attempt to describe the make-up of the Party. Rolling over the navigation nomenclature speaks volumes to their organization. What the Dems seem to want to do is show people that they have a broad set of programs and focus geared to numerous types of people.

democrat-website

What it says to me is that the Democrats cut the population into discrete targets, placing ethnic groups next to the disabled community; farmers next to Gays, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgenders, etc. Sprinkle in each religion, old people, small businesses, unions, families, women and students and you have the American mixing pot.

Which groups did the Democrats leave out? How about Caucasian, middle-aged men? By creating this hodge-podge of Americans on a single level labeled People, such a representation in the navigation screams, “Us white guys can help you needy, poor and minority slobs out… vote for us.”

What kind of an inclusive message is that? How does that message leverage the very diversity they’re trying to represent through their party? It fails miserably.

  • Imagine an African-American, bi-sexual woman coming to the site to find out more about the Party. Wouldn’t she feel a bit more like a cattle poster—with dotted lines drawn on her psyche, trying to leverage her leanest and most tasty parts—than as a partner in a political movement?
  • What about an Asian-American, union member? Would this unspoken classification of European ethnicity as the default power representation model make someone feel uncomfortable?

Don’t get me wrong, compared to this current administration and the spin cycle of the right, the Democrats are still a beacon of hope, but an asteroid hitting the White House right about now would get the same props from me. Instead of going the Madison Avenue route and “marketing” the Party toward groups of people, how about simply exposing and addressing the issues that affect such constituents?

People know who they are; they need to know who you are.

If the Democrats want to expand their reach into the Independent/non-affiliated voter arena, they’ll have to start off by throwing their egos out the window, work together with a purpose, speak with conviction on topical issues and begin to create some form of a strategic plan to combat those evil, memory laden, pachyderms.

And fix the damn website.