Know Your Humans: A User Research Pop-Up Class

Setting yourself up to design a delightful product or experience means starting with strong user research (you’ve heard me talk about this before). Health behavior designer Dr. Steph Habif and I will be teaching a class at the Stanford design institute (“”) for three nights in February, and we’d love to have you involved. Come learn how to do research that effectively informs user experience in this fun, interactive pop-up class.

We’ll get you comfortable crafting questions, putting on observational and analytical hats, and asking how and why. You will practice how to see and understand users’ small daily choices–the ones that other people might miss–to be able to design with those users. Students who take this class will be able to identify highly motivated users, practice keen observation skills, and have more insight about how to meaningfully impact the people they are designing for.

We’re excited to open the course to students of all ages, including a guest participant from the Hasso-Plattner-Institute, a leader in design thinking in Germany. You can apply to take part here.

Introducing Badges User Profiles

During the tail end of this year I’ve been working with the Open Badges team at Mozilla to prepare for BadgeKit, a software toolstack for badge issuing, assessment, and more. In undertaking product planning, we took a good amount of time to ask who might interact with these offerings and how. What you’ll see is a set of characteristics that extend beyond BadgeKit and, I think, speak to the diverse growth of the badges community and its players. (You can download a copy here.)

These profiles are based on conversations with community members (new and experienced alike) in spring and summer 2013; one-on-one interviews with educators, technologists, and observers of the space; and notes from participants of weekly research and badge system design calls. The latter have provided feedback on these profiles, and thanks to them badges skepticism is importantly included.Untitled-1 more

Be Yoga Comes to Noe, Thankfully

I’m thrilled to have a new SF yoga teaching and practicing home base in the form of Be Yoga. I first got to know Be through their spaces on the Peninsula while trying to burn off nervous grad student energy. I loved the sense of local community they foster and am jazzed to watch it grow in the city.

The month-old space on Clipper and Sanchez Streets is a bright neighborhood studio–and a great place to wake up, should you find yourself doing sun salutations with me on Mondays at 6:30 AM. I also teach an intermediate level Vinyasa flow class on Wednesday nights at 6:15 PM if that’s more amenable to you. You can hear a sample of music you’ll be practicing to here. And check out all our teachers–we’ve got some powerful Forrest-style instruction!

In Noe, a minimalist aesthetic and having Pressed Juicery as a (nearby) neighbor have sold me. You can check out more images of the space taken by my fellow instructor Naemi, and I encourage you to come over for class. See you there soon, yogi and yogini pals.


Danke n00bs, Mentors, & Ninjas

I mentor people for empathy.

After my teammates Jess Klein, Chloe Varelidi and I brainstormed on fun (hackable!) buttons to take with us to gatherings of Mozillians throughout the month of October, I was excited to see a colleague pick up a marker and write the above phrase on a three inch-wide piece of plastic.


Participants at Mozilla Summit and the more making-focused MozFest two weeks later were invited to pick their preferred fill-in-the-blank button. These aren’t “actual” Open Badges that have digital counterparts, though those were available at both gatherings. But they were part of a fun international experiment to see how individuals would edit these three lines: I mentor people for ______; I’m a _____ nin.ja (or expert); I’m a ____ n00b (or beginner/newbie). After the first round of white buttons were snatched up, we reprinted 1,000 more in neon colors. more

On Soliciting + Sharing Feedback

This past weekend contributors and staff working on the Mozilla project came together in Brussels, Toronto and Santa Clara to share where we’re headed. One of the best parts of this Summit for me has been getting to know the Mozilla User Experience team. (Those would be our cohorts on the Mozilla Corporation side of the house, which is a sister organization to the Foundation where I work. Go figure that it took traveling to Belgium to meet smart folks who sit one floor away in SF!)

Tony Santos hosted a session about soliciting and giving actionable feedback to designers. Together a small group of engineers, UX staff, and a communications director talked about our teams’ approaches to peer-based critique and the difference between that and feedback solicited from external stakeholders. We agreed that we can all be more open about our processes and clear in what we’re seeking (including reactions from community members even on quick timeframes).Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 5.16.04 PM more

Design Duo Designs for Young Lady Makers + Mentors

Design DuoSTEM

I remember my Dad teaching me at an early age how to use computers, mostly publishing programs, and how much I loved that time. The words you typed would instantly show up on the screen (!), and it was a neat excuse for us to learn about software together.

So it’s not surprising that I’m excited about what the team behind Design Duo has created in their new DIY kits for dads and daughters. I suppose that the hands-on boxes for making gadgets could be used by any youth-adult combo (or even youth-youth), and the potential this has for lighting young people up about hardware creation could be neat. This is one response to many middle school-age girls perceiving technology-related careers as lonely, and the Roominate building toy is another worth watching. Kudos to Kirti Patel and Laura Bruursema, Master’s students in Stanford’s Learning, Design & Technology program for designing the idea–let me know when the boxes can be sent as gifts for gals.

Garden Guides & Global Education

I recently wrote about organic growth and discovery of badges in regards to a research and design project we’re undertaking on the Mozilla Open Badges team. It feels like this theme is burgeoning in my personal life, too, as my beau and I are working with the Bernal Heights shop Succulence and @loverbee to select plants for our wedding in three weeks. Some of her recent creations at right reflect important questions around the interviews I’ve been undertaking: as badges help illustrate our learning and interests, might the commonalities between badges help highlight the relationships between them? And how can their differences pique our interest?Camera

At this moment in our protoyping process I have more questions than answers, but a few core themes are revealing themselves in the wilderness:

  • Garden guides could help people recognize their life goals. On the team we’ve talked about the idea of mentors and coaches helping turn learners onto different pathways. more

How Does Your Garden Grow? Considering Badges Discovery

Garden by the bay

“My university degree is the tree. It’s a bedrock of legitimacy but lacks specificity with regards to what I’m capable of. Badges are the ornaments that show what I am good at. That’s where the details are.”                – Charles, MentorMob

I’m excited to have taken on a fresh new role on the Mozilla Open Badges team as product and design researcher, largely because I’m getting to talk to community members about their needs within this connected learning ecosystem. In asking educators and technologists (or badgering them, as some might say) about tools that will help in finding relevant content and locating related programming, I’ve learned that analogies abound. People like Charles are describing the OBI and its potential impact in very different ways. more

The Bay Welcomes (Very Needed) Passion Parlours

Maybe because it’s summer–though we San Franciscans are still awaiting our warm months–or because #PassionProject is trending, but connecting with meaningful work and a creation ethos seems to be on many minds. I say: amen. And bring it on!

But putting our interests into action can be as hard as initially identifying them. What’s a person to do? Pause and Shine has launched locally with tools to create space for realizing big audacious goals. One of them is in-person workshops–“Passion Parlours”–that have sold out across SF and the Peninsula. A mobile app aimed at personal reconnection is in the works, and stories on the site take a real (and tough) approach–maybe the reason you haven’t made money doing the thing you love is that you haven’t been working on it long enough. Do get on the community list set up by founder and Airbnb technologist extraordinaire Jessica Semaan and coach Ije Ude–and report back upon exhale.

Passion Parlour

TechCrunch: Samahope to Help Fund Medical Treatments for Women in Need around the World

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 9.28.19 AMI was honored to feature Samahope’s work to help women in need of medical care around the world in TechCrunch.

This Sunday, there’s a lot you can do in honor of the woman who raised you. There’s TheMomtract, a project out of the ad agency Mother New York to give your mother authority back over some part of your life. There are flowers and promises to let fewer of her calls go to voicemail.

But the San Francisco-based startup Samahope hopes that funds usually reserved for cross-state chocolate delivery might be used to finance medical treatments for women in need around the world. Its #HonorYourMom project is soliciting donations for medical treatments for women along with tweet-length anecdotes about participants’ own parents’ uniqueness. And while funding fistula repair surgery may not have been part of some users’ plans this year, the non-profit organization’s founders hope that providing safe birth kits in a mom’s name won’t take much convincing. more