Consumption

Consume, consume, consume.

The industrial revolution taught us to consume material goods. We created less and needed more. Friends encouraged our need.

The digital revolution taught us to consume digital information. We used to create websites, which shrank to blogs, which shrank to tweets. Now we can just click or pin to create. We don’t need all this information, but we’re high on it. Again, friends encourage our need.

We think we’re nurturing relationships. We think we’re creating value. But it is not social to just broadcast. It is not creation to just share.

No one told me TDD was just a game

Years ago, I’d heard all the advantages of TDD. Cleaner designs, improved productivity, more confidence in your code. But nobody told me that it would turning coding, at least for a reluctant pseudo programmer like me, into a game.

How you ask?

Firstly, as with all games, it’s rule-driven. Sure, you have to define the rules yourself, but once the test is written, there are guidelines that define what you’re doing.

Secondly, like in many good games, when you take an action there’s immediate feedback. Run into a ghost and you die. The ball hits the ground and you lose. Run the test and it fails.

Finally, it automatically keeps score for you. 79/81 tests passed. Please try again. And even better, the more you write, the more the score goes up.

Notice that these are also perfect conditions for flow… not a coincidence I think.

Software startups marketing focus

Even though we won’t get in I’m quite excited to get our hacker news rejection email (such is my anticipation) in the morning.

Although the focus of the software startup community is mostly about realism and this annoying tendency is a realistic one, it still grates when smart people are too focused on the marketing. I get it, it’s how you sell. It’s absolutely necessary for good products too, otherwise they’ll just die on the vine leaving the crappy products victorious. But it ain’t pushing us forward, it’s pushing marketing forward, not us.

Also marketing by market testing. Just build a landing page, buy some ads pretending you’ve solved a problem, then see if anyone cares. Do you care? Can you not make something from your own imagination. What would make the world better? Does the pop viewpoint have the best visions? Doesn’t the fringe move us forward or are they merely pushed along by the mass behind them?

One User at a Time

It’s a slow process, but we’ve just recruited another user to meltingfood – my cousin in Singapore who also likes to cook! I’m feeling quite validated, as Jenny is another person who likes to cook different things all the time. She’s got a few recipes bookmarked in IE and a lot of recipes in her head. Some fantastic ones too, as she’s selling her cakes and chilli to her friends.

Together, we tried a new recipe for a Chinese dessert. Jenny had already been passed a few adaptations from a friend and as we didn’t have the exact ingredients, we took some liberties with the recipe. It wasn’t bad, but we had to add quite a bit more sugar and we decided that the next time we wouldn’t soak the rice.

And this is where meltingfood steps in. The next time either of us tries it, we need to remember which recipe we started with, how we adapted it and how we wanted to improve it in the future. So the challenge is, in that time after you’ve just cooked it, you need to add the recipe into meltingfood – and that’s quite a big ask when the alternative is to eat a freshly cooked dessert. Just highlights that we need to make it as easy as possible to be a contributor.

Now over to Waldo for the impromptu usability test…

Usability testing ftw again and again

Usability testing is so humbling – even when you’ve already experienced it.

Tonight we asked Mel’s cousin Jenny to add recipes to meltingfood for pork belly and mango jelly cake (I’m eating it right now). Thanks for having us to stay with you in Singapore.

I’d cheated the first step yesterday by creating an account for her (then sending her a ‘forgot password’ email). Forgot password emails are very common and the link was obvious. +1

Then it gets brutal:

  • On entering a new password you get an error message saying your reset token has expired.
  • Trying to get to the ‘home’ page caused confusion about the difference between your own and everyone’s recipe lists. In fact, the first attempt was to logout to see everyone’s list of recipes.
  • Unable to work out how to give a star rating the recipe. Google’s +1 was the first suspect. Followed by clicking through 1 star, then 2 star, 3, 4 and 5 in order to set it to 5 stars.
  • Adding a recipe, but then wanting to cancel – resulted in save being clicked (’cause there was no other option).
  • I’d added something I thought was clever where you get random recipe titles if you don’t enter one… cute, maybe. Completely confusing, unpredictable for people, yep.
  • Delete recipe – icon is hard to find. Was found by hovering over each button and reading the text.

Fixes:

  • Remove or extend reset token duration and provide error messages with instructions / link to fix.
  • Not sure yet.
  • Change 0-star unrated recipes to have text instead of ‘empty’ star icons – and ‘add rating’ or similar link.
  • Add recipe needs a cancel link – not enough to have click to elsewhere to escape.
  • “No title” or something as a default title (if one is required). And not save recipes that are completely empty.
  • Consider icon & text or text only delete and edit buttons.

This only took 5-10 minutes, nothing high tech and has clearly exposed half a dozen usability issues.

Holiday Bill Splitting

The other week I took a Tuscan holiday with a bunch of friends. We had 10 people in the house for 8 nights of fun in the sun (except 1 person who only stayed three days). One villa rented, two cars hired, sightseeing days in Cinque Terre and Florence, a cooking course and lots of random food & alcohol purchases.

We usually cover splitting these expenses with a custom written spreadsheet – not this time! I wanted something that would stop everyone from having to coordinate with a single person who enters everything into the spreadsheet.

I figured there would be a plethora of web apps for that… and there are and there aren’t (I’m waiting for comments that show exactly what I’m looking for exists and is called…). I found BillMonk, which looks pretty good although the facebook integration was / is borked for me. And the others were focused on supporting big clubs or US only payment integration. (I’m sure there are plenty of iPhone apps that I haven’t checked out too).

As I had started playing with the Node.js + Cloudfoundry + MongoDB fads, I figured I’d whip up a quick little web app. The result is a hard-coded toy app that allows you to add heaps of expenses split across subsets of the whole group and tell everyone “who owes who”.

Not pretty but minimal:Bill Waldo sample

Check it out on github – bill waldo.

500 Everywhere – Inception

Three unrelated points converge: I was reading about an agile inception deck the other day – almost incomprehensible name if you ask me; I wrote a 500 scoring application this year; plus, I couldn’t sleep.

The cool thing about this inception thingy is that it’s a nice lightweight way to think about a bunch of different project start-up stuff without jumping straight into design (or code *shudder*). The beauty is that it’s so lightweight (combined with late night delirium) that you might actually get fooled into starting… to build the actual game of 500 for iPhone. Sign-up to the rss feed so you don’t miss the release.

Which prompted this 3am artistry*: 500 Everywhere – Inception on Prezi

* – Sorry yes, I didn’t really follow the template to the letter. Also my architecture section is well, not architecture or process really – but it is a diagram (let’s pretend that helps matters). And apparently this is my first prezi – and it shows.

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