Thursday, November 17, 2016

DevLearn 2016 Update - Where ya been, live blogger?

Busy, Busy, Busy Bee

Maybe one or two of you have noticed, but likely not:  I have not been on here as much as I typically am. Well, for once, I don't have to blame it on my inherent laziness or preoccupation with retro gaming...I've been BUSY!  To bring you up to speed, and maybe to pick your brain a little bit about what you saw if you went, here's the sessions I've been delivering, complete with a mini recap, as best as I can remember it:

Docenting...If That's A Word

Professionally rewarding and honored doesn't even begin to explain the fact that I've gotten to be a docent at this DevLearn.  It'd be easy to look at it as another thing I've done, but when my head is the size of a movie screen, displayed next to one of my favorite colleagues (Tracy Parish) and professors (Karl Kapp), sharing the same honor, I can't help but feel awesome about what I'm (apparently) doing right in this field.

Being able to reach out with my message of Community Having Its Privileges was definitely the high note, here, for me.  I know the look...I've worn the look and I've written about the look: The "What Am I Doing Here With These More Talented People" To see this break down in a shared roast of our old elearning materials was amazing.  Plain and simple.  I just said to Julie Dirksen, when she asked me how being a docent was - "I would do this every year, every's fulfilling to an immeasurable degree.

Session 411 - eLearning Dirty Secrets: Our Worst Examples

I can say, without a second's hesitation, that this may be one of the most amazing panels/group gigs I've ever been a part of.  And the main reason for that is probably the opposite of what anyone with functioning logic would think:  It's because of how much WRONG with my work I was able to show, along with my peers.  It's because I was able to use my flawed work to allow a group of people to breathe a collective sigh of relief and accept that their work IS and CAN BE flawed like mine.

The four of us: Me, Brian Dusablon, Judy Katz, and Sarah Gilbert took turns exposing our early efforts, while the rest of us (along with some hearty audience participation) tore it apart.  And it was was almost like a Roast of the four of us.  The audience felt like they were a part of it instantly, and isn't that one of the great things:  That veterans like us always try to get folks new to the conference to chat up, but they typically hesitate due to not being sure where they fit in.  we've all had our work torn up before, we've all been through QA, and it was the perfect gateway to give folks a level of comfort and belonging they might not have had before.

Session 507 - Ukulele Learning: Exploring the Relationships Between Music and Learning

The more I do this session with my guru, Jane Bozarth, the more I fall in love with it.  Part of it is the ability to perform and truly have fun, all while pursuing learning.  But the other part is, again, not to be a one trick pony - But, the Community it creates.  The room was PACKED, standing room only in the back, and everyone joined in...clapping beat patterns, realizing the impact of music on learning, and making music.  Beautiful, educational music...

It's rewarding, too, because you get to see otherwise 'serious' learning professionals drop their guard for a moment and hum into a kazoo, strum a newly discovered chord, and, really, try something that they're likely going to fail at...all in front of their peers.  To allow yourself to fail, to enjoy it, all in the pursuit of new knowledge...that's one of the things I've, professionally, struggled with the longest  and certainly the most intensely.  Funny how a 4-stringed instrument, a dear friend, and a session can shake that right out of you...


Hey, did I mention I like Community?  I've been camped out at the ceremonial, end of conference indicating set of four tables that indicate it's time to do #lrnchat LIVE and in person.  This is where the sad starts to hit (Yes, Jane, I'm an easy crier) and, yet, the professional closeness shines the brightest.  It's almost like a "one...last..." whatever, before I begin the long wait till next year.

And that begins soon.  And I don't particularly care for that fact.


So, there's that - Where I've been, what I've been doing in case you were looking for my live blogging.  You probably weren't/didn't notice, and that's okay, too...expected, even.  Just know this:  I'm glad to be an ever-increasingly busy part of this whole beautiful picture, and seeing the Community I believe so firmly in continue to expand and solidify.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Session 301 - Communities of Practice (Jane Bozarth)


She gave fair warning, so I should, as well:  This is going to be somewhat fanboyish, as I will go on record as saying I respect/admire Jane significantly.  I stand nothing to gain, aside from friendship, from this.  I just do.  Moving on...

OK...Everyone Get Together and Share Now

Jane's not here to argue semantics, but she's here to present her definition of Communities of Practice.  If you want to improve practice, she's going to share some things with us that will help that happen.  Seems simple enough.

A lot of Wenger's initial work, from which she drew, centered around apprenticeship: How does a practitioner learn to be one?  It's by living in the environment, it's by working in the's not about just hanging out, it's about living it.  "Communities of practice are group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it..."


A body of knowledge, methods, stories, cases, and documents. 

"Collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor" = Tribe learning to survive, Band of musicians perfecting a sound, Surgeons exploring new techniques, M&M Conferences...all these are examples of a community of practice where both successes and failures are discussed to determine how to practice.  Two guidelines re: Practice (and enhancing knowledge):

1.) Knowledge is embedded in practice.
2.) You learn to practice by interacting with good practitioners.

Wenger discovered a basic framework with four aspects to it: Meaning, Community, Identity, and Learning:

1.) Meaning - Participation, Reification, Duality
2.) Community - Joint Enterprise, Mutusal Engagement, Shared Repertoire
3.) Identitiy - Negotiated Experience, Membership, Trajectory
4.) Learning - What the community gains over time

NC Train

A group of educators identified shortfalls in existing practices and began to meet and grow organically to discuss these points.  It was a self-started, organic CoP.  No one was in charge, there was no board, no management - they just wanted to do this.

Early on, the mailing list was snail mail including around 100 people, most meetings having 40-60 people attending.  Grew to 300...still 40-60 attending meetings (see: theoretical membership).  They had membership presented meetings.  One person would say "Hey, here's an improvement to X", while another might say "I'm struggling with Y", and they would all share feedback.  They were working together in the same environment around the enterprise of figuring out what, exactly, is good training.  Social learning before social learning was cool...

Over time, and of their own volition, they created their own train the trainer program, across the gamut of this CoP.  It's evolved over time, but it's maintained its core purpose.


So, how does the group make sense of what it's talking about?  You talk about Participation (Mutual recognition beyond specific activities/people), Reification (Points of focus negotiated), and Duality (Partic + reif = symbiosis, DO things vs. GET THINGS done).

Without participating, it's very difficult to make sense of what to include/to do/etc.  People get together and talk, and talk, and talk, but unless you're actually DOING, nothing will ever happen.  Without understanding how someone else works, you can't really understand that concept.  One of the things that some of us know is that a lot of organizations BUY workshops.  Over time, Jane's group bought a bunch of them, but they all did the same - Hold marker, stop video at time mark, etc.  But until you actually see someone deliver it, you will never make a significant change to your practice.

"Remember the person from the State Lab who taught us about handwashing.  We tried it and then looked at our hands under a blacklight and saw all the germs we missed..." = Active Member

"...just training techniques and stud, I mean I can't name anything off the top of my heade or anything but techniques and styles and little activities and games from the more concrete..."  = Inactive


Helps to hold each other accountable and aware of what we all considers Joint Enterprise (Negotiated, Mutual Accountability, Indigenous), Mutual Engagement (enabling engagement, Satisfies motivation needs), and Shared Repertoire (further negotiate).  This is the "step" in the process where the pain begins - The uninvolved didn't bother learning the repertoire, but they still take the output back and never change their practice.


This is the company you keep...the people you align with.  In it are considered Negotiated Experience (Own markers transition, Particip refined), Membership (Competent membership, Mutuality engagement, Accountability to enterprise, Negotiated repertoire), and Learning Trajectory (Identity is temporal).

We've all seen this...the people who don't belong.  Which do you want to be?  An entertainer or a bona fide, excellent, effective trainer.  This is the point where Jane's group started to see a wide rift form between those who could and those who want to pretend they can/look good.  One day this group realized that they're going to be able to stamp out bad training but wouldn't be able to do it alone.  They needed help.  Enter the train the trainer program, and communities focusing on service. 


This is what the community takes on and learns over time, with three focuses: Evolving engagement (Members gain CoP-wide awareness of subtelties of relationships), Tuning enterprise (Aligning engagement w/ enterprise, learning to hold each other accountable, Defining/reconciling what enterprise is about), and Developing repertoire (Practice "handed down", Tuning repertoire (remember/forget).  You see people come and go, stories get forgotten...

Why Did People Participate in This?
Not everyone cares about getting better (soul crushing fact to some), so why did the people who got in on this do so?  Pride, commiseration, assisting others, fulfillment...and more:

- Makes the job habitable
- Satisfies motivational needs
- Reduces isolation
- High performers
- CoP is place to excel and feel valued for it
- Passion...pure and simple

How can we use CoP as a motivational a developmental tool...


Here's the deal: No one cares if they learn anything...they're perfectly happy to play the same songs, week in/week out.  They don't necessarily care if they learn new songs, it's about a sense of belonging...a sense of community itself.  But is it a CoP?

Four questions to ask:

1.) Is (or is not) meaning being made?
2.) Is (or is not) this a community?
3.) Is (or is not) identity affected?
4.) Is (or is not) the CoP learning?

How you answer these determines whether or not you are a CoP and certainly indicates how your CoP (or group) performs.  If you're subject to the "bro crew" who high fives each other all the time reminding one another how awesome they are...just because they're probably means they're not a CoP, and they may actually end up doing more harm than good by not honestly critiquing and improving.


CoPs could be an incentivizing tool, but what else?  Stronger network, less duplication of effort and more...

- Help with challenges
- Access to expertise
- Confidence
- Meaningful work
- Personal development
- Professional reputation
...and so on...

Is there value?  OF COURSE!
- Immediate Value (Having fun, engagement, reflection, interaction (quality))
- Potential Value (Making good contacts, Inspiration, Tools/documents, etc.)
- Applied Value (implementation of advice, innovation in practice, use of social connections)
- Realized Value (Personal performance, Organizational performance/reputation)
- Reframing Value (Change in strategy, New metrics, New expectations, Institutional changes)

(On a personal note, these five bullets firmly solidify/concrete what I have known all along...that organziations like eLearning Guild are among the very best CoPs out there.  My journey from 2008 to today followed these very steps, in various degrees/progressions.  Wow.)


There's a reason Jane Bozarth has been one of the most influential figures in my professional development, and having an inside look into her dissertation was amazing.  CoPs, like so many other things in learning/development/etc., are a concept that can just become assumed.  But by drawing the line in the sand between workgroups and CoPs, showing what truly makes them different, you begin to see why there are tasks/things we LOVE and others we LOATHE. 

"We need a place..."

Find yours.

Opening Keynote - Penn Jillette

(Wow.  Wow.  This is happening...)


All of us and Penn have one thing in common:  We're liars.  Creative ones.  But liars.

Life does not have a narrative
Life does not have a beginning, middle, and end.

When you pick something to tell a story about, you are a liar.  You want to be an ethical one, but you're still a liar.  You're picking out a section of a bigger picture.

Jugglers and Science

Penn goes on to relate that he wasn't always a magician, but that he started as a juggler...the "piss bottom" of entertainment.  But he also liked he spent Junior High juggling and reading about science. 

When he was 13, he was watching Carson (maybe) and saw the amazing Kreskin doing an experiment.  I'm going to show you how you can learn ESP.  and he had a kit that he was marketing as an experiment (that we would call a game now).  He did a scientific experiment on thought transfer on TV.  World changing!  Mind blowing!

See, Penn's from a defunct factory town in Massachusetts, dad was a prison guard, but his parents supported his interest in science.  They bought Penn the ESP set (piece of shit, according to Penn).  His parents would do the 'kit' with him...ESP cards, pendulums, etc.  But they would sit with him and run experiments with him for weeks, and he was excited that he was doing science at home with his mom and dad.

Then, by a fluke of the Dewey Decimal System, Penn discovered some nearby magic books to the juggling books...and he just happened to pull a book by Dunninger.  Penn was reading the book about how he did tricks, read them, and after about an hour he figured out how to do the to lie.  And it was the one that Kreskin did as a "scientific experiment".  It wasn't mind transference, it wasn't was a lie.  It was a piece of shit based on a a way that can only happen when you're young and have Penn's personality type.

He felt humiliated by it and he wasn't able to say that Kreskin was an SOB.  The way it hit his mind was that adults and scientists lie to people.  And that science is all bullshit...and that performance was bullshit...thus started a downward spiral, academically.  Never again did he get a high mark in science for the rest of school.

As a parent now, he realized how strong the disappointment had to be for his parents.  He felt, as a child, embarrassed for his parents and personally.  He gave up science and went to juggling.

Meet TellerRight before Penn left high school, he met Teller.  A Greek/Latin teacher.  Teller told Penn he was a magician, and Penn immediately said he didn't like it because magicians lie to people.  Teller told him that it was a special kind of were telling them that the lie was not true.

Lying is okay in some ways...if Robert Deniro told you he was a taxi driver, he'd be psychotic. But he did it in an artful way in a little movie called Taxi Driver.  So long as you build the proscenium around the lie, it can be can be can do it for a living. 

Kreskin said "I have powers I didn't know I have" - If you rob a liquor store with a shotgun, the damage you do spreads to the community.  But with lying, you distort the universe.  You specifically gave information you know to be wrong.  so, trying to find a way as a storyteller to not feel bad about yourself is a very difficult thing.  So, what magic has become to Penn is a deep, deep look at how reality can be distorted. 

The Penn and Teller point is that NO ONE should ever leave their theatre believing something is true that THEY know not to be true.  It's the sawing in half principle:  If you see someone being sawed in half and there's no blood and guts, there's no one that believes it really happened.  You know it's a trick.  But P&T don't do the stuff that other more "mentalist" leaning folks do.


A lot of magicians try to use the word illusion...probably because of more syllables.  But this is more a term reserved for artistic interests.  A trick is more intellectually interesting. 

There's two things in magic:  There is the effect and the method.  The effect is what it looks like and the method is how we do it.  There's an effect called the bullet catch...American, but developed by Native Americans. Lead ball with initials on it, shoot at magician, magician catches in teeth.  12 magicians and 4 carnies have died doing this trick. 

P&T researched the ways these folks died (post mortem, anyone?).  Chun Ling Su (Scottish, no less) did a version of it with a gimmicked gun (2 chambers), didn't check his gun, bullet to face...good night.  Relays other stories of other ways magicians "ate it" doing this trick...

So, despite all these dangers...P&T go forward with it.  So, now what?

Once You've Decided to Lie...What's Next?You've decided to lie, you have to determine how.  When they do the bullet catch, they have three layers of security.  It is very, very safe...and Penn is okay saying that.  See, there's other magicians who want you to think that you might see someone drown, get shot, or get run over...and there's this lie that says the depiction of violence in art is a celebration of that violence.  Penn believes that the depiction of violence in art is a celebration of health and life itself.  Penn believes it's really important that anyone going to his show know that in 40 years, no one on their crew has EVER been injured.  And he is proud of that, while other magicians brag about getting close to being hurt.

...and for those who come to his show in the hopes he gets hurt? "Fuck you.  Stay home."

It's really hard to lie to smart people.  If Penn came out here and said he was going to do the bullet catch, we'd all INSTANTLY go "No you're not".  But then Penn goes through an explanation to make you suspend that support that lie.  The gun becomes the magic wand that aids the bullet in disappearing and reappearing in another place.  That's 100% true and that allows people to lie to themselves...because THEN they'll think the bullet truly can be shot across the stage and caught behind human teeth.  A lie is only moral when you inform the recipient it's a story.  Make the person lie to themselves.

And Now For Something Completely Different...and in conclusion...
Penn wraps the keynote with a heartfelt monologue...and fire.  I recorded it all and it was amazing to say the least (will update with the YouTube link as soon as I can).  But he closed with an amazing sentiment that I think we're all too NOT okay with...and that is: It's okay to not know.  It's just like DeGrasse Tyson, Savage, and now he said - Not knowing is an option.  It's a boundary.  And knowing that you don't know can make it even more enjoyable...even more okay.

I honestly could go on and on about how different yet incredibly amazing this keynote was, but I'll summarize with this:  When your audience knows what they're getting and you are up front about it, I believe the learning results are far better than trying to pull some elearning slight of hand.  Perform your act in the proscenium, believe in your craft, and be honest with your students/learners/users...the rest will follow.  I could not love this keynote any more if I tried...Amazing.

No bullshit.

DevLearn 2016 Opening Ceremonies - D Kelly

D Kelly takes the stage to thunderous applause...over 3,000 people...the's addictive.  But, really, there's only one question on everyone's minds:

Will Dave Kelly Mention His Kids During His Kickoff?

We don't know, yet...but Dave had an epiphany, that people expect it from him.  And he realized, he's becoming the overused elearning template.  He began to think about the elements of these stories - They're personal, they're ubiquitous, they're shareable.

But he wanted to flip the script and share about another topic that we can all relate to...what topic could there POSSIBLY be that we can all relate to that the media couldn't let us escape for the past year or so?  As everyone in the room gasps and thinks he's about to go political...

...only to transition to Brad and Angelina's divorce.  Well played, Dave...well played.

All kidding aside, Dave deviates but returns to discussing a central tenet to what we all do: Creativity.  But, what's more, we need to focus on the RESTRAINTS/CONSTRAINTS therein.  How could he talk about the political situation without ACTUALLY talking about it?  Same applies to us...we're going to gain a lot of knowledge over the next three days, but you have to be able to know how you CAN use be aware of your boundaries.  And boundaries are okay.

Great opening talk...good way to focus what can be an overwhelming scope of material.  Make it meaningful to you.  Well done, sir.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

#econfPSU Closing Keynote - Scott Dadich of WIRED

The Man of WIRED

WIRED was started in 1993...the magazine and the website were started concurrently.  They're a rarity in that and the first to champion digital.  What they're LESS proud of is being the inventor of the banner ad...*cue multiple boos*.  (Sorry about that)  They are the informational voice that talks about the way the world is least technologically.

In 1993, Dadich was a junior in high school...Jurassic Park was the #1 film, Windows NT, and the entirety of the Internet fit on 50 servers.  Today, Star Wars The Force Awakens topped 2 billion, 1 in 7 humans log into Facebook EVERY DAY, YouTube reaches more adults than cable TV, and Microsoft is a service company and a hardware company...oh, and Apple's Market value = > 500 billion.  WIRED always set out to feel like a letter written back from the future.  20 years, let's say...but now, what used to take 20 years to happen happens in about 20 months. 

What Is Design?
Everyone knows it...but knows their own.  Scott uses the Wright Brothers to illustrate design: Everyone thinks they designed flight.  No.  There were several flying machines before them.  They designed the human control element that allowed it to happen.  They brought it into the realm of human control.

What choices do we have when we design?  Red/blue, steel/spruce, Python/ruby...these are all design questions.  So, in some sense, we are all designers.  We are designing all the time.  Design makes things work...

Design is decision-making.

Decision upon decision ultimately builds, creates, or just plain MAKES something. 

And's important to make the WRONG decision.

Scott's Early Days

He started as a Creative Director for WIRED and was hired by a guy named Chris.  One of the things Chris wanted to do was to make the magazine "grow up".  The challenge, then, was to remodel WIRED for a modern context.  What he did was back into the component parts to understand how every little piece was built on a very common element: The pixel.  The logo represented binary (on/off/on/off) as well as the vibrations through the spine.  And, guess what?  Scott wasn't allowed to change the logo or the spine vibe.

So, Scott had a typeface created (a slab serif), went a bit more "Mad Men", a more monochromatic feel...and he was told to add more color.  Pissed, he walked away and found the gnarliest colors (safety cone orange) and added one square.  One.  And it was awful...

...but it drew attention to what was RIGHT with the design.  How SO MUCH ELSE was right.  So, next issue he went with a big RED stripe...the following he started pitting artist against artist, trying to actually make it NOT right/work.  Three-ish years later, they had come up with something...all through the "wrong" decision/design.  Present day, the spine (among so much else) has changed significantly.

The Wrong Theory and Wrong Theory Decisions

This concept has been there all along, despite Scott thinking he had actually come up with.  John Rand in 1841 came up with incredible new hues through chemistry, etc...and out of it came Impressionism.  Degas is another prime example: The pole in the middle his impressionist work with the horse/ was RIDICULED.  But then?  You begin to see it (the line element) being used more and more and more. 

Stravinsky in 1913 wanted to debut a piece featuring strings syncopating with winds, but also kettle drums playing counter to it.  By the second act of its debut, there was a riot in the theatre...they ejected 46 people, there were fights, etc.  A year later?  Biggest hit ever.  And the piece was rhythms and melodies from popular folk tunes layered over each other.  It built on what people knew, then made a considered choice.

Stravinsky was one of the first remix artists.  Boom.

Miles Davis (Bitches Brew) and The Sopranos...also examples. They all understood the rules and made a calculated decision.  It wasn't about ignoring the rules.  It was about becoming an expert within the rules BEFORE making exceptions to them.  Wrong Theory is Experimentation, Build Consensus, Find Perfection, then Ruin It.  Crazy.  But, if it feels bad, you're probably on your way to something new...wrong, right, or otherwise.  Design is not just about making something's about making something work.

(Got sidetracked listening, sorry...amazing stuff, one of the best examples being how similar our online experience is (Apple, Google, and Microsoft's native font is nearly identical) compared to how divergent the PC/iMAC situation was)

SimCity, Upsilon Circuit, Netflix...ALL playing with Wrong Decisions...and it WORKS.  In cars, Volvo makes a car JUST FOR RIDE SHARING...the one decision being taking out the front seat.  3D Printing...just a plastic spitting machine which now has been, for lack of a better term, reverse engineered.  Even our home furnishing...we're seeing it EVERYWHERE.

Find Your Orange Bar...Go Make Something Perfect...and Ruin It

I have always been risk averse for the sake of not "ruining/changing" something that works.  This talk has definitely, at minimum, started my considering of changing that thought process.  I'm hoping that I can go back to my current situation (which is chock full of change) and actually take it and ruin it for the better...I can only hope. 

#econfPSU Keynote The Third - Debbie Millman "Why Branding?"

MySpace and Beyond

Debbie was asked why MySpace, back in the day, did so well...based on its brand.  And she didn't know.  She went to MySpace, created a user ID, thought the UI was awful, and never went back.  She realized that MySpace was started two years earlier as an online storage site, but Debbie still didn't know why it had gotten so popular.

She did TONS of work and research on that very topic (including two books on branding significance) and FINALLY landed on an answer...which she's going to reserve for the end of the keynote.  Well played, Ms Millman...well played.

Back In Time

Debbie went back in time to how we branded to begin the process of picking apart the WHY as to how MySpace got big.  One of the first things she looked at was a supermarket...there's 100's of different brands of  Similar.  Hell, you go into your local Starbucks, there is nearly 19 MILLION possible combinations.  But they all look, fundamentally, similar.

Then there's the "anti-branders"...Adbusters, NoLogo, Buy Nothing Day...they're full of it, because they brand themselves.  So WHY...WHY do we feel the need to create new brands/branding?

Debbie went into a rabbit hole and landed on the conditions that lead to the conditions...50,000 years ago, no less.  At this point, our brains underwent a genetic mutation (a 3 in one brain) and they respond to markedly different stimuli than what they had.  It essentially became the "Big Brain Bang" or "The Great Leap Forward".  It's how we became the species we are big deal, right?

Debbie covers the three portions/levels of the brain...reptilian, mammalian, and the true human element.  The "Big Brain", if you will, handles the cultural universals: Language, art, music, cooking, and self-decoration.  And it was at this point in our evolution that we started to focus on two things: Making or Marking.

Making or Marking

Our understanding of reality begins to be recorded on cave walls.  There's very little difference between cave paintings and what we put on our Facebook wall.  We start to apply makeup 10,000 years ago, to make ourselves more attractive to an almighty god, then create symbols to further explain the concept.  Crescent shields and flags begin to appear to designate friend v foe on the battlefield.  We used it because there was no way to mass produce uniforms, so flags it was.

The word "Brond" derives from "to make or mark with fire".  Livestock begin to be "marked", wooden surfaces, etc...Trademarks come into being in January 1, 1876.  The very first trademark was Bass Ale (yesssssssssss).  The first place the logo was seen in an advertisement (1882) was in an oil painting. 

So, what's happened since then?

5 Waves of Modern Brand Evolution

Wave 1 (1875-1920

Brands were guaranteed to be of quality and "premium".  People would spend an extra bit of money for something that was in a special kind of packaging.  Condensed soup, soap, Coca Cola...if you took a train from State College to California, anywhere you got a Coke you could expect it to be the same no matter where.  They'd be safe and they'd be of quality.

Wave 2 (1920-1965)
Ads and brands become Anthropomorphized - They were no longer reliant on a person or quality...they were about competition and differentiation.  Personality of a brand comes to the fore front.  Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben's, etc...these brands weren't based in reality...they were fictitious.  BUT, people thought they were real...and that's all that mattered.  You could relate to and project onto a character.

Wave 3 (1965-1985)
Brands become self-expressive statements:  The brand I'm wearing, carrying, or using says something about you.  If I'm wearing Levi jeans, I'm cool as shit.  A brand, at this point, could provide status.  It signified something about the carrier.  Levi, Nike, Marlboro, Volkswagen...Marlboro man hasn't been in an ad for 20+ years, and Debbie's undergrad students can still identify him without fail.

Wave 4 (1985-2005)
Brands as an experience:  From the brand, you would expect an emotional transformation.  Disney, Apple, Starbucks...if you engage with these brands, you would have a different emotional feeling about not only yourself but life itself.

The Path to Wave 5 (2005-present)
Our brains feel happiest when we are securely attached to those who take care of us.  BUT, now more and more people are living alone.  1 in 3 households, present day, are single person households and the perception of this has changed COMPLETELY.  SO...why was MySpace so big?  Sitting around the radio, black and white tvs, color tvs, cell phones...where next?

Pre-YouTube, Pre-Facebook, what were we doing online?  Emails, playing games.  That's it. 

Enter the iPod and "Isolation Nation" - Critics wrote that civilization was doomed because we were only interested in what was happening on our device.  Per James Katz, "The iPod psychologically depopulates social space view and increases isolation and anomie".  What does this mean for a species whose brains are wired to harmoniously resonate with one another?  What happens?

WE ADDRESS IT.  Enter Social Media.  And THAT'S how Social Media became so popular.  Wave 5, then, is branding as a connecter.  We're not in love with the device, we're in love with the feeling of connectivity we get from said device.  Social, shopping, dating, education...they're all in it.

So, Why Do We Brand?

Ultimately, we create brands to create tribes to help us feel bigger than we actually are.  What's alarming, though, (predicted by Henry Miller in 1938) is that no matter how much we increase the wage earning of the individual, they're always looking for the next rung.  If we are using the largest possible flat screen TV to equate happiness, we are kidding ourselves.  That feeling only lasts for a short period of time...the dopamine fades fast.

We are metabolism machines, and this also includes our feelings.  When you first meet someone, it's magic.  First six months of dating, awesome.  2-5 years later, you complain about how the other person breathes.  The same thing holds true in the social arena...the next Generation (D), where D = depressed, struggles to keep up with this "manufactured online presence".

We need to rethink the purpose of the brands we're manufacturing.  And it comes down to three things:

1.) Help People Feel Connected
2.) Inspire People To Feel Okay AS IS
3.) Make a Difference In People's Lives


Incredible talk about an angle I, as a mere consumer, have never considered.  Takeaway-wise, I'm going to be taking a much longer, harder look at how I consume, purchase, and (ultimately) brand myself.  Great retrospective on branding and society in general.


Monday, June 13, 2016

#econfPSU Keynote 2: Eric Meyer - Designing for Crisis

The Background

Family vacation...daughter taken to ER...tested positive for strep.  Never got better, went home, went to another hospital.  Seizure, CT Scan, 2nd seizure...I'm having trouble typing the rest of this.  In just 3 days, his daughter went from "normal" to "brink of death".  CT Scan comes back, brain mass identified, life flighted to CHOP.  Without them.  Not knowing if they'd see her again.

Someone that they just barely knew volunteered to drive them to CHOP...11 at night...barely able to comprehend what was happening.  Thoughts went through his head: How do we get to our daughter?  Not, Is she alright?  Will she be alright?  Just "How do we get there?".  Eric realized he had his iPhone, googled CHOP, and the image was their homepage:  A brochure that was out of focus.  At this point, Eric didn't have the mental capacity to comprehend what he was seeing.  He was past that. 

He finally identified the nav bar, after weeding through so much else he didn't need..."comatose 5 year old" was not a result.  He managed to find a "What to expect during your child's visit" page.  He eliminated Outpatient, Emergency Room, hoped for Inpatient...and tried them in order.  He clicked Inpatient...he clicked Surgical...nothing but massive walls of texts.  Nothing but references to documents you should bring, play activities...he didn't know if she'd play again.  He went through EVERY SINGLE LINK...and not ONE would answer their question: How do I get to my child?

The Phone Number

There was a phone number in the side menu on every page he visited...he was doing his research on an IPHONE...but it never occurred to him to USE IT LIKE A PHONE AND CALL.  Eric was browsing on his phone, with the weaker battery, so that his wife could answer when THE HOSPITAL CALLED.  They were acting on instinct..."You don't decide what your users will want to do on mobile."  We also don't get to decide what users choose to use our product...

Who does the site work for?  Marketing?  Upper Management?  (Personal tragedy aside, this sounds ALL too familiar to my situation.)  The parents bringing kids in for a routine procedure, outpatient visit, etc...sure.  But who else? What about the user/parent in crisis?  The emergent user.  The person who has a stalker who's made a credible threat against them?  The person whose auto draft failed on their mortgage payment for the past 3 months?  The parent trying to get to their dying child?

It takes EMPATHY.

Empathy is a Core Dev Skill

Eric shows a picture of the CHOP homepage with a button in the middle, reading: "Unexpected visit to CHOP?  Here's what you need to know.".  If you're driving in, here's where you's how you pay for's where you's where you go in the AM, in the PM...It takes empathy.  They could have done that and still let the CEO feel good about their "Top 100" banner on their homepage...but you have to think about everyone...potentially those at the worst place they could be.

It's good to design for the 10%, as opposed to the 90%...also referred to as the Edge Case.  But, when you use it, you're willing to define those you don't necessarily actively care about.  Eric believes the term should be replaced with STRESS Case.  When you use this term, you're not defining where your 'limit' is.  Stress Cases are good because they Stress test your work without minimizing users who may need your service.

Combine Persona With Context

Eric shows three "avatars": Happy, stressed, and (for lack of a better term) nuclear/crisis.  He then adds three "contexts": Midweek lunch, After bedtime, and Waiting Room in a hospital.  The level to which the crisis appears characteristically can vary based on the context.

He goes on to share more of the story...arriving at the hospital, most of which is closed down, dark, locked, etc.  They managed to finally find the elevator to get to their daughter's floor, and were greeted with an eerily (see: user hostile) child voice in the elevator greeting them.  But, at midnight, WHO WANTS TO HEAR THAT?  Again, the CEO and other higher ups probably LOVED it, but didn't stop too empathize with the people who would be there at midnight.  There's ONLY ONE KIND OF PERSON THERE THEN...and it's not good.

Auto Insurance Example and Beyond

Eric goes on to relay another story where he was on vacation and a car t-boned his mini van.  Drivable, he was able to get in touch with insurance and work through their web form...through MUCH to do.  But he was on vacation...he was a best case scenario...he had all the mental bandwidth in the world.  What about the one car, paycheck to paycheck, service industry worker driving home from the late shift...same situation, different context/person.  What then?

Whoever made the interface on that site didn't think of THEM.  THEY assumed best case for anyone having to use the site.  HUGE oversight on their part...not being empathetic to the people who would truly need them.  He goes on to relay about "Lowes Depot" and their mission statement...gloriously floral in its verbiage...but was focused at the happy coulple having fun improving their home.  NEVERMIND the ones who had their fridge die, leak water, and start leaking through drywall and floorboards.  Bottom line:  THINK BEYOND BEST CASE.  "Lowes Depot" rethought their approach and revised with the following guidelines:
Prioritize helpful, realistic estimates.
Provide at a glance help.
Use plain language.
Write for the urgent case.
By planning for the worst, they were able to be at their best.

Back to Medical Imaging

Medical imaging rooms, in general, are scary.  Freaky.  Even when they try to make some moves towards "kid-like", it's not.  The room is scary, the potential end result is scary, and parents trying to hide the scared only end up making the kid more scared.  Bad situation, overall, medical imaging.  What's more, the imaging doesn't work if the kids move.

Most kids were FREAKING OUT, so the kids have to be sedated...LOTS of potential bad with Anesthesia: Death, reaction, long term damage, etc.  And the process takes a LONG TIME...they're scheduled for 10, you need to be there at 8...anesth starts at 9, and so on.

Enter GE Corporation, Doug Dietz, and their "Adventure Series" - "Helping children's imaging go from terrifying to terrific."  Right around the time Doug was realizing this issue, folks at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh were identifying this to and working something into their CT Scan process to help put the kids at ease.  They went to a party store, got a bunch of cheap toys and promised it to them if they held still.  Did it work?

In 2005, 354 kids were sedated.  In 2007? 4  The wait time to get in for a CT went to basically -0- because of this reduction, whereas it was 17 days before...17 days they had to sit through wondering...worrying.  All because of a simple trip to a party store...  Pittsburgh and GE/Dietz worked together to create a more inviting suite, and the results continue to improve.  MRIs were next in line to receive the "Adventure Series" treatment...with a 25.2% drop in sedation, and a 55% increase in patients seen (2009-2011). 

It's hard to put a finger on just where this hits me it the anger towards designers staying quagmired in a "best case" mindset?  Is it embarrassment that I've done this very thing?  Is it sadness at Eric's story?  Professionals need to look at users in crisis...not users in a best case scenario.   Lives can be changed for the better.  Lives can be made more comfortable.

Eric charges us with the most thankless task:  People in crisis will not notice your work when you design for them in crisis.  But you will have helped them in the most profound way by simply not adding to their burden.  He thanks us in their place..., Eric - Thank you.

#econfPSU Kickoff Keynote - Scott Stratten


President of Unmarketing, former music industry marketing, and professor at the Sheraton School of Business.  Worked with Pepsi, Adobe, and now bun and kittens mentioned.  This should be awesome.

Screaming, Anger, Millennials...Ho Boy...

Why do we use the term UnMarketing?  Very simple - The UN means the actual branding and selling doesn't mean as much as what we do.  His book cover is BLANK.  Try to convince a publisher to do'll see how hard it is to push.  But, it's WHAT YOU DO.  Ask any students/alum - Whenever you say a student's school name/title, it's what they DO.  When you see a university's logo, IT DOESN'T MATTER.  Despite what you think, the logo just creates a definition of what's behind it.  NO ONE has ever said "Hey, I got awful care at this hospital, BUT DID YOU SEE THE LOGO?"

(Oh my God...I'm listening...this is the very battle I'm fighting RIGHT NOW.)

A brand is a VERB, it's what we is NOT a logo. 

There's two types of people: People who do good to be recognized, and people who do good just because.  The story of the EKU president shoveling the driveway to get a kid to class is a PRIME example.  If that president took his own picture, that'd be one thing.....but the fact that it was a student taking his picture and it's just because he was there?  Stratten reached out to the President, as follows:

"You're awesome."
"Thank you."
"Why'd you do it?  Shouldn't you be up in, like, an ivory tower mandating to the masses?"
"My job is to serve my students.  If Twitter is the medium by which my students reach out, then I'll reach out to them this way."

He's not good at Twitter.  He's good AND he's on Twitter. There is no tool that is inherently successful.  There is nothing that works on its own.  There is no logo that makes information more relevant and engaging.  It's the push behind it.  And that's IMPORTANT.

We need to learn to use EMAIL properly before we're trying to implement this that and the other thing to solve our problems.  We don't need to re-design a look or a logo or a template (*AHEM*) to make our efforts more effective....we need to START PUTTING EMPHASIS ON WHAT MATTERS.  The effort...the intent...these things matter FIRST, all else second.  Don't use technology for the sake of technology.

...and Rosler said, "Amen".

Everything we do and say online and offline is the BRAND. 

You're The Brand

Everything you say and do is the brand.  You are the brand.  There's no such thing as a neutral brand interaction.  People need to realize they impact the brand, and a lot of times they don't realize they do.  The funnel comes into play...

You can have all the likes you can have all the follows...IT'S NOT NEW.

6 years ago, people are freaking out saying "we finally have a social platform", and those of us who are older school are like "B&*%h please".  IRC, ICQ, etc...FORUMS...and WOE be to you if you tried to post an ad on there.  You get the old "Shame and Flame".  We're breaking social media.  Twitter's where Scott built his world.  Four books and twitter supported them all.  Remember the old days of Twitter (like 9 months ago)?  We just TALKED.  Now?  NO ONE TALKS. 

What happens is when we just shout on a platform, you lose the people who create the ecosystem leave.  New people come and see nothing but shouting, and they're not gonna come into it.  Scott was in HR, but he had to get out...because he...umm...hated people.  But they didn't like conflict, so they didn't FIRE the BAD employee.  They just avoided the conflict.  There's the problem.

The Milennials, Scott...they're coming


Fact: Milennials are from 18-35...not just where we peg them.

We LABEL milennials.  What we mean is: People younger than us who we don't like.  End.
(Or because they're younger than us.)  We WANT them to feel a little suffering.  We just want you to feel the PAIN of holding down PLAY RECORD AND PAUSE to record our favorite song on tape.  we used to line up and buy 29 dollar pieces of plastic to hear the ONE SONG THAT DIDN'T SUCK.  We DON'T LIKE THE GENERATION BEFORE US.  Gen X-ers WERE the laziest, disloyalest, unmotivatedest...but THEN Milennials came along.  And we were saved.

"But Milennials don't like meetings..."


"Ohh...Milennials like to travel..."


But when we say Milennial, we label it and it's ALLOWABLE BIAS.  If you want to stereotype, let's talk about good shit:  They volunteer more than any other generation (3:1), they give more per capita to charity...they want to change the world.  SO LET THEM CHANGE THE GODDAMN WORLD!!

QR CODES - What's the deal?

Out of spite, they put a QR Code on Scott's nametag...too good.

Scott loves the technology...they're a better barcode.  Boarding pass, concert ticket...great.  But for the general population that doesn't have a QR reader built into their camera, they're practically useless.  The technology is useful to a microscopic segment of the population.  Bring in the fact that use of mobile isn't permissible in all areas...are you seeing the problem?

360 video, augmented reality, virtual reality...JUST STOP.  Technology for the sake of technology doesn't serve a SINGLE thing.  Being tech-savvy and hip does NOTHING to getting your message and product across.  Focus on your message, focus on your content...THEN, and only THEN...focus on that "other stuff".

Easily, by far, one of the greatest motivational speeches/presentations I've ever had the pleasure of being present for.  It touched upon a very real, very immediate situation in my workplace and gave me a different perspective on the perspective Scott and I share (Content > Brand).  Hysterical at all the right times, but carrying meaning like not many others have done, Scott laid out his message perfectly, and I can easily say that my "brand" will be getting an overhaul in approaching the overall "brand" I need to get behind.  10+/10...and I might even post this on Yelp.