Inside the Organisation

May 15, 2011

Moving the blog

The Vanity Experiment is moving to

Small change you won't hardly notice if you're browsing online, but if you're reading this via a RSS reader, you'll want to go change the feed address to this: feed://

Why the change? I've been using Movable Type version old.OLD since about 2004, so I decided to get with the times. Bring on Wordpress (which is now running my entire site).

Posted by Ant at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2010

Word of the Day: Homophyly

ho·moph·y·ly [hoh-mof-uh-lee, hoh-muh-fil-lee, hom-uh-fuh-li]

–noun, plural -lies.

1. a resemblance due to common ancestry.

2. the condition of being of the same race.

An interesting segment on ABC Radio National's program Future Tense discussed "Echo Chambers" this morning - a label given to the phenomenon when we seek out people who share our opinions in environments such as Twitter and other networks. For a long time we’ve known that birds of a feather, flock together. But it’s interesting to explore what role the information age and internet play in exacerbating this phenomenon. Quite opposite to what many think; that the internet brings us closer to people from other cultures and divergent opinions; the evidence of behavior on social networks suggests that we actually talk very little to those we don’t know and/or don’t share our values and views.

It got me thinking about how this phenomenon can be better leveraged by user experience practitioners and business. We like people like us. If you’ve ever studied anything about body language, you’d know that we mirror people’s postures when we want them to like us. You may also know that we alter our digital identities on social networks in ways that we think will make others like us, maybe such that they are more like them. Take LinkedIn for example. Would you post pictures of your unguarded moments at a party on a network designed for making professional connections? We don’t because the people we want to like us would not think the best of us if we did. It's not the professional image we think employers would project of themselves.

This phenomenon of homophyly has many implications for the experience designer. Outside of the digital realm and into how we approach clients, it means we need to dress the same as our clients and talk using terms they understand if we expect them to like us, believe us and adopt our recommendations. Too often we flock together, talk to each other in our special language because we are human. We like people like us.

But, clients who pay the bills usually aren’t like us. They think we’re oddballs spouting jargon about things that don’t seem to matter to them. That is, until we make it real for them by speaking about the bottom line and how good customer or user experience positively affects that. Or about how they don’t succeed with their internal projects because there are just too many opinions; opinions that don’t ultimately matter because it’s not usually about the internal people at a company. It’s the customer’s opinion that matters and you can only hear that through the filter of the experience researcher and designer.

We are translators of customer needs, goals and can lead business strategies through this acumen. That’s our value and that’s how we must position ourselves if design is to be taken seriously and truly change the world for the better – bringing our clients success. But not in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers when our clients wear suits. And not in a suit when our client wears jeans. And never speaking in terms they don’t understand.

Posted by Ant at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2009

We're still too fluffy

OZ-IA is an information architecture conference held here in Sydney annually. I presented this year on a topic which has occupied me the past few years: Selling user experience design and the value of design thinking to business.

The thrust of the presentation goes like this:

  1. We, as a profession, have largely failed to make great product experiences.
  2. There are certain people that matter in the world of design, and it's not designers. It's the people who pay to have things built
  3. Communicating the value of design to people who pay to have things made needs to be better done by the industry. They call this "Selling" and we can learn it from traditional salesmen.

Posted by Ant at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2008

UX Dreamteam Part 2

The second part of the article I've been chewing on for the past while is now up on Boxes and Arrows.

Building the UX Dreamteam - Part 2

In this second part of a two-part series, UX manager Anthony Colfelt follows up with some solid considerations when looking for your next superstar. Building a dreamteam goes beyond looking for tight technical skills: personal chemistry is needed to find that perfect match.

Posted by Ant at 04:42 AM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2007

Building the UX Dreamteam

After much writing and re-writing, the first part of an article I wrote called "Building the UX Dreamteam" is now up on Boxes and Arrows. Boy, who would've thought that putting together your thoughts could be so hard? I'm very happy that I had good editors, in particular, Chris Palle who really directed me how to cut this article into shape - Thanks mate.

"Finding the right person to compliment your User Experience team is part art and part luck. Though good interviewing can limit the risk of a bad hire, you need to carefully analyze your current organizational context, before you can know what you need. Herein lies the art. Since you can’t truly know a candidate from an interview, you gamble that their personality and skills are what they seem. Aimed at managers and those involved in the hiring decision process, this article looks at the facets of UX staff and offers ways to identify the skills and influence that will tune your team to deliver winning results."

Posted by Ant at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

Being nimble to a fault

"The Company" has traditionally not been particularly agile at creating new products, or redeveloping old ones. In fact, until recenlty the technical architecture was such that it was pretty hamstrung in its efforts to make the most basic of improvements to the product. Larger changes took a very long time to develop, going through a gauntlet of a rigorous waterfall process before eventually being released to the public. The technical constraints heavily influenced the way work was done, because when changes take a long time to make its important that they're the right changes. New products or improvements were modeled and forecasted predicting revenues for executive review and prioritization; products were designed with care (if with more focus on the bottom line than the user) and development was slow involving performance testing and a many QA cycles before release. We joke now that the company operated more like IBM than an internet company.

With new and astute technical leadership, the company has begun the steady march to rebuild the infrastructure - readying it for faster development. But, culture is slower to change than code. We still tend to operate with the same deliberate, beaurocratic attitude. Change is hard for any company and it never comes quickly or without a few shocks to the system. We are receiving those shocks by way of a few 'initiative projects' by senior managment setting an example. With these I'm observing an interesting dynamic, something not totally dissimilar to post 9/11 USA where those who dared question the wisdom of the government were painted as 'unpatriotic'. When culture needs to change and the agents of that change encounter resistance to it, they'll toughen their stance to see their will enacted. Subordinates who wish to avoid lambasting (and gain political capital) make 'yes' their favorite word... and those that challenge the new "wisdom" are deemed 'old guard' and bypassed.

And so it is that with the necessary change to make the company more nimble and competitive, skills such as Information Architecture are discarded like babies with bath water. IA means thinking and planning and that would certainly not be nimble... Consideration for making designs usable and scalable is brushed aside with the glib notion "We'll iterate". But iteration doesn't happen when everything needs fixing. More 'initiatives' are launched to fix other broken parts and the old initiatives are destined to remain in beta versions. Strategy (which by nature is planning and therefore also taboo in the new order) seems as foreign as focus is to a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.

With the best intentions, one dysfunction is replaced with another.

Posted by Ant at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

Company News, issue 7

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

Article on the rebirth of this exciting interweb thingy
The brave new(ish) world is upon us it seems. Are we geared up for it?
“If you’re not yet amazed, inspired, and a little anxious, you might want to consider it. Then get a good night’s sleep and perhaps take a rejuvenating vacation. We’re going to look back at Spring 2005 as a milestone. Watch closely, ladies and gentlemen. Things are about to change in a very big way.”

Internet users are ok with banner ads, hate interstitials and video

Yahoo – My Web Beta
This is a combination of the ‘Save Search’ concept and bookmarks. Read an article about why this is important/interesting here.

What’s ‘Save Search’?
It’s a way to save the terms you’ve used to search for something, and the results that the search yields. Real-Estate companies helped to pioneer this idea, by building their web searches to remember the type of house, location, price-range etc of your search query for next time you visit.

What’s ‘ bookmarks’?
“ is a social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add sites you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only between your own browsers and machines, but also with others.” Visit Delicious to find out more. Essentially, Delicious allows you to keep your bookmarks independent of your computer or browser. It also allows you to search for other people’s bookmarks that are similar to the ones you’ve made via how they describe them.

Yahoo is making a foray into this area, although it seems that they’re not doing it quite as well as the freestanding forms of each service.

A lot of excitement around the internet at the moment is about a fairly simple concept called ‘Folksonomies’. In a nutshell, people write descriptive words (aka meta tags) about a thing (could be a photograph, a web article, a piece of writing etc) and then share both the thing and the descriptive words on some kind of web site. This allows other people to find similar items via the descriptive words supplied by the user community (known as ‘bottom up’ classification) rather than by some ‘top down’ imposed taxonomy. Flickr,, 43Things are some examples of sites using Folksonomies to get those who submit user generated content to also assign meta data to it.

RSS Mixer
Making the Internet’s myriad of ‘stuff’ more easily accessible is the challenge that has faced the industry since the inception of the Web. RSS aggregators are an alternative way to the web browser for ‘pulling’ content from personally interesting sources. You can also use RSS to place content from other websites onto your own. RSS (which can stand for RDF Site Summary, Rich Site Summary, or Really Simple Syndication) “…is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites…” read more about RSS.

This gadget is an interesting tool for allowing you to mix various RSS Feeds into one. Watch the horizon for RSS as it starts to change the way people think about the internet.
“Mix any number of RSS feeds into one unique new feed! You can then point a parser at the new feed and display a mix of stories from various sources on your website”

Guess the Google
Quite Addictive and fun.

Another word creating thing that uses Google Images to make pretty words.

Posted by Ant at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Company News, issue 6

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

De La Soul and Jakob Neilson are not dead. “Dr Nielsen has looked back at a decade of work on usability and considered whether the 34 core guidelines drawn up back then are relevant to the web of today.”

Online Advertising – lessons from TV
“Perhaps it’s happened to you too. If you’ve clicked on an interesting image or piece of content only to find that you clicked through an online advertisement, you may be missing the lines between content and advertising. Their dichotomy is not new: television networks have been thinking about the distinction for over 60 years. Can their models reveal anything about the future direction of online advertising? While this issue of Boxes and Arrows provides us with strategies on looking forward, we might also look back for indications of how to proceed.”

FOAF… again is exporting and importing FoaF too… they claim to be the first. (For new starters to this newsletter, FoaF was something mentioned some weeks back with regard to LiveJournal. Go here to find out what FoaF is). believes in allowing the user to be in control of his/her own information. We do this using FoaF, an emerging standard that makes it easier for you to manage both your profile and your social network across different systems and websites.”

Foaf browser allows you to view raw foaf files in a somewhat intelligible format.
“Even though FoaF and the Semantic Web is designed for machines, it can sometimes be interesting to browse the virtual neighbourhoods of friends in much the same way the "regular" web is browsed. The FoaF Explorer tries to present the information and assertions in a human-readable format, currently by way of direct transformations of the raw RDF/XML to XHTML with XSLT”

Clay Shirky’s Semantic Web Essay
Whilst we’re on the topic of the Semantic Web… what IS the semantic web? Basically speaking, it’s a way to ensure that objects, people, files etc on the web are tagged in such a way so they can be connected to other objects, people, files etc in meaningful ways. FoaF is an example of this idea. This essay does a lot better job of describing the concepts.

Email best practices
Some complain they don’t get enough email, but most people claim the opposite. Here’s some really practical ways in which you can make both reading and writing email a lot more useful to everyone.
“Before e-mail, senders shouldered the burden of mail. Writing, stamping, and mailing a letter was a lot of work. Plus, each new addressee meant more postage, so we thought hard about whom to send things to. (Is it worth spending thirty-two cents for Loren to read this letter? Nah….) E-mail bludgeoned that system in no time. With free sending to an infinite number of people now a reality, every little thought and impulse becomes instant communication...”

Rent a German
This one is particularly for Marco to meet his translation requirements, but if you have a warped sense of humor like me you may get a kick out of this website too.
“ offers a wide range of Germans for your personal and social needs.”

Posted by Ant at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

Company News, issue 5

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

Yahoo 360 Ain’t All That
This is a critique of Yahoo 360, by Marc Hedlund examines Yahoo 360 (Yahoo’s new community platform) using Lessons from Lucasfilm’s Habitat (essay that recounts the experiences of Lucasfilm Games making a graphical, multi-user online environment in the mid-1980s, and it stands as a great analysis of what makes online communities thrive or fail). This Article starts weakly, but persist because the lessons lower down are really pertinent to our development.

Social Software on TV

Mobile Phone community access
H2G2 is now a pretty busy online community (H2G2 is code for ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a sci-fi cult series by Douglas Adams). They’ve just released a service that makes the site available via mobile phone. This is pretty ground-breaking stuff and is the first site of its kind I’ve heard of to leverage mobile devices for gathering user-generated content (discounting moblogs & camera-phone friendly photo sharing sites).

Mobile Google
Whilst mobile devices are in mind, here’s what Google is doing to make available useful internet stuff to mobile users. Of course, you will need a web enabled mobile phone.
“Google mobile lets you search and view the Web on your mobile phone. Google takes HTML pages normally viewed on a computer and translates them so that you can see them when you're on the go. To get started, simply type in your search query, and Google will return the most relevant results in a format your phone understands.”

Admittedly, this pertains to UK law, but its interesting reading for those who want to understand the general dividing principles about what user-generated content XXXX could be held libel for.

Trace your ancestry… back to Africa?
The National Geographic is offering a service that will cost you $100 to find out who your great great great great great great great great… you get the idea.

Posted by Ant at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Company News, issue 4

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

History of Social Software
Outlining the history of computer mediated communication, dating way back before the internet as we know it today.
“The term 'social software', which is now used to define software that supports group interaction, has only become relatively popular within the last two or more years. However, the core ideas of social software itself enjoy a much longer history, running back to Vannevar Bush's ideas about 'memex' in 1945, and traveling through terms such as Augmentation, Groupware, and CSCW in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.”

Do we do research right?
This article advocates a different approach to research that empowers those who design products.
Design Research: Why you need it

An Evolving Glossary of Experience Design
You may read terms in the articles from this newsletter, which are new or foreign. Here’s a glossary that outlines some of them.

New Search Engine
Jux2 finds the best results by finding the results that overlap between all three engines. Its got a few interesting features like the “What Google is missing” tab…

Ajax Travel
This online flight booking service uses AJAX (as mentioned last week – see this article if you didn’t read it) to great effect. The result is a software application feel to a website i.e. responsive, quick and powerful. As I’m in the market for flights right now I can testify that the results are pretty good too!

Monkey Love
A study suggests even rhesus macaque monkeys are fascinated with celebrity.
Status-Conscious Monkeys Shed Light on Celeb Obsession - Experiment May Help Explain Fascination With Famous and Powerful

More letters fun
This makes a word out of product images that relate to the term you’ve typed. Very cool… not sure how they do it.
This one works much the same way as the Google one sent 3 weeks ago, but uses Flickr’s API

Posted by Ant at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2005

Company News, issue 3

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

Shop Social
Newest kid on the Social Software block is (that’s ‘Buy’ backwards) and brings commerce and shopping to the community paradigm. It’s a little rough around the edges, but there are things to note here.
“When you visit, you'll be able to meet people from around the world, hang out and discuss trends, and shop for more than 2.5 million products at the world's best online retailers. As part of our revolutionary free service YubBasic, you'll always be able to save or earn 1% for you and 1% for another member on every product you buy when you shop via When you join YubClub, you'll be able to earn up to 15% on everything you buy and we'll still give 1% to the recommending friend.”

“Ajax” was something my mother used to scrub our bathtub with and has nothing to do with the internet or software. So where does this new buzzword come from and what does it mean?
Google Suggest and Google Maps are two examples of a new approach to web applications that we at Adaptive Path have been calling Ajax. The name is shorthand for Asynchronous JavaScript + XML, and it represents a fundamental shift in what’s possible on the Web

Digital ID Pillage
A disturbing news article about how easy it is to convince people to hand over their vital personal data.
“The chance to win theatre tickets is enough to make people give away their identity, reveals a survey.”

Random: Beard and Moustache championships

Posted by Ant at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2005

Company News, issue 2

I've been creating a newsletter I send out to the company every week to try and encourage a more 'heads up' approach to the internet/technology industry. I'm posting the same content to this blog so it doesn't feel quite so stale. Some of the links may seem a little "old news" due to the fact that they are. These early ones were ferreted out some 6 months ago.

I don't mention my employer's name on this blog to save hassle should anything writen here prove 'objectionable' to those who write my paycheck. If you see 'xxxx' that's where I've crossed out the company's name.

Ecommerce sites get lambasted
Interface guru Bruce Togganinni (he worked on the original Apple Mac interface) provides insight into why Ecommerce sites still aren’t all that good. This well thought-out article addresses why the e-commerce experience isn’t as good as buying from a store. There are things we can learn here too, although we’re not in this business, strictly speaking… yet?

All about FOAF (friend of a friend).
Never heard of FOAF? This is an XML variant that deals specifically with social networks. It’s an experimental project, but now MyLiveJournal is exporting FOAF data as an RSS feed. Standards are the only way to enable the semantic web and this, albeit 'experimental' standard is an interesting one for social software services such as XXXX.

Ad blocked
Mozilla’s Firefox has an extension called ‘ad-block’. It wouldn’t be surprising if this becomes popular in the same way that pop-up blockers are. It allows you to filter the ads out of web pages, leaving content only. The extension is located below.

The best of the web's blogs - online diaries or websites where people publish their thoughts - have been recognized in the annual Bloggies.

The alternative to alternative journalism
While you’re looking at blogs, check this one out for an alternative. Lo-fi and hilarious!

Posted by Ant at 05:27 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2003


Today we were mostly being restructured... again. I think it's about the 8th or 9th in the four years I've been here... two a year. That's a pretty good average.

I wish I could send around the Dilbert comic that was sent around the office today, but can't because of copyright. It gave me comfort to know that this phenomenon is common enough to warrant someone writing a comic strip about it.

At today's 'briefing' it was like the head of the department was reading the results of an ugly management turf-war-cum-cat-fight. But I'm sure nothing like that happened at all and it was all in the best interest of the company... ahem.

Posted by Ant at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003


Spent the morning interviewing potential designers to do next year's trainee scheme. Quite tedious since it's the third round of the selection process. It would save so much time if some people just came with 'deadshit' tatooed on their forehead.

We'd managed to weed out those who submitted photos of their 2yr old's plasticine model horses at the portfolio stage. We now have found two stars amongst a quagmire of mediocrity.

Posted by Ant at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)