Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford

Yesterday I attended a party to celebrate the establishment of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University.

Bruce Nussbaum of Business Week already wrote a wonderful post about Plattner’s 35 million dollar gift, a post that David Kelley mentioned in his speech.

As Plattner pointed out during his speech, Nussbaum was essentially responsible for introducing him to IDEO when he got IDEO on the cover of Business Week in May 2004. That led to Plattner and David Kelley (a professor at Stanford and founder of IDEO) getting together, which eventually led to the gift.

The party was full of the usual suspects from Stanford’s Mechanical Engineering and HCI programs, as well as people from IDEO and students from Stanford. There were even a bunch a Stanford GSB students there, which I thought was cool.

The Institute is only offering certificates at this point, but I believe they’ll offer design degrees once their new space opens up in 2007.

There are some pictures from the event, including a few of my own, posted under the d.school tag on flickr.

San Francisco Traffic Schools

Earlier this summer, I got a speeding ticket in Marin County and elected to take traffic school. The court gave me 60 days to complete the schooling. Of course, I waited until today (57 days) to look at the letter they sent me. It read:


Actually, the entire letter was written in capital letters, but that’s a gripe for another post.

Great. Apparently Marin county isn’t aware of this thing called the Internet. So, I searched Google for a list of approved traffic schools for California. Of the 25 schools that operate in San Francisco, a paltry 5 of them had websites and only two offered online booking. One of numbers even connected me to an advertisement for a phone chat line instead of a traffic school (brilliant scam, by the way). Of course, you wouldn’t know this from the information provided by the DMV. They just give you a phone number and the (often ridiculous) names of the schools.

Of the two that offered booking online, only one offered a class within the timeframe that I needed. It made me happy that this school also had a simple, easy to understand website that didn’t require me to enter a credit card or any information that I thought was unnecessary to be able to make the reservation. (See my choice at the end of this post.)

So, in case you’re unlucky enough to get a ticket in one of the few counties in California that doesn’t accept certificates from internet traffic schools, here’s what I found when I called the traffic schools in San Francisco:

Great Comedians Traffic School
You can sell them your email address for $3 (they email a coupon to you)
No information about class times on the web

Pizza 4U – Great Comedians
No website

Improv, The Comedy Club Presents
Save $3 on all CA classroom registrations when you pre-pay by credit card. Promo code: CACLASS
Class times are available on the web

ASAP Traffic School
No Website

Fun N Cheap Traffic School
No Website

National Traffic Safety Institute
No information about class times on the web

Great Classes on Sat/Sun/Days/Eve
Announced the school as Pizza 4U when they answered
No website

Pacific Seminar Traffic Safety, Inc.
No website

Gay Community Traffic School
No website

Comedy School
No website

Lettuce Amuse U Comedy Traffic School
No website

The Smart Choice Traffic School
The number is an advertisement for a “talk line” (like a telephone chat room, I guess)

Great Traffic Safety Classes
No website

Cheap School
No answer (apparently, they’re that cheap!)

Comedy For Less Traffic School
No website

Academia De Trafico en Espanol
No website, but the operator did speak a little english, which was nice

SF Bay Driving & Traffic School
Spoke to Josh who was helpful

Sunset Traffic Academy
No website

A-Safe Way Driving School, Inc.
Nice, simple wbesite…and you can signup online!

Rosy Driving And Traffic School
No answer – went to voice mail

Days, Evenings, Weekends D.E.W.
No website – the operator, Megan, was nice

Nu Tech Driving & Traffic School
No answer – went to voice mail

Les Driving & Traffic School
No answer – went to voice mail

Speed Traffic School
No answer – no voice mail (rang for a couple minutes)

New Chinatown Traffic School
No answer – went to voice mail

The school I chose: A-Safe Way Driving and Traffic School

In addition to the nice things I mentioned above, it cracked me up that they list the instructor as “the “legendary” Mr. Lee.” I imagine this guy will be as into driving safety and my high-school driver’s ed instructor, Mr. Hanley, which should make for an entertaining afternoon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update: Mr. Lee was quite the character. I have a feeling that most of the stories he told were fabricated, but they were all entertaining. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of them quite often.

It’s also worth noting that Mr. Lee is quite religious. His personal philosophy is what I can only describe as a blend of Catholicism and Buddhism. If you have a problem with people relating everything back to the “word of god,” then A-Safe Way Driving and Traffic School may not be for you.

I am a Bright, which means I don’t believe in god, but I didn’t have a problem with Mr. Lee’s style. He actually had an easy way about himself and I came away with a renewed appreciation for the things in life that really matter: friends, family, health, etc.

I wouldn’t call it the perfect traffic school for everyone, but it was good enough to recommend.

If you found this post helpful. Please post a comment!

Moving Hosts

Another chapter in the life of this site…

I’m moving hosts on the evening of Monday, July 26, 2005. Expect it to take a couple days for the dns changes to propagate. Once I get everything moved over, you can expect updates more often. Yay! Hopefully you’ll be interested in reading about the crazy things I’ve been thinking about lately.

See you on the other side!

How To Duck Cell Phone Taxes

File this under “Ethically Questionable Life Hacks.” 🙂

In a nutshell, Scott Woolley’s article in Forbes, “How To Duck Cell Phone Taxes,” says that you can avoid some taxes on your mobile by changing your billing address to an area such as Nevada, which has the lowest cell phone taxes in the country.

I always wonder if companies, such as Verizon, consider ethics when designing policies like this. In this case, at least, it seems that if they had, they could have designed a policy that their customers wouldn’t be incented to circumvent.

Actually, perhaps ethics is the wrong consideration here? I guess I’m actually talking about customer motivation. Either way, you’d think that companies would try to design their (billing, usage, etc.) policies in such a way that their customers would actually WANT to follow them. That’s how you build customer loyalty, right? Congruence between the company’s and the customer’s philosophies?

Of course, the design of this particular policy is constrained by the relevant tax laws, but an obvious work-around would have been to design the customer interaction so that it prevented the ethically questionable behavior.

Daniel Kahneman

I was getting ready to go hear this year’s Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker talk at Stanford this afternoon, when I discovered that the video from last year’s talk (which I also attended) is online!

Daniel Kahneman’s Symbolic Systems Distinguished Speaker talk (videos are linked near the listing for 2004) was one of the most interesting, thought provoking lectures I’ve ever attended.

Update: I posted my notes from Daniel Kahneman’s talk.

Definitely take a look at the video though. Kahneman reviews his research on how people experience pain. It’s really fascinating and should be relevant for anyone designing those “pain pill” solutions that all the VC’s are looking for.

Goodbye Jef

Jef Raskin passed away last weekend. He was my friend and mentor.

I met Jef back in 2001, after a talk he gave at Stanford (video of the talk). I asked him to sign my copy of The Humane Interface and then we chatted about some of the things in the book.

Since then, we’ve worked together under what is now known as The Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces. (Jef protested about us using his name, but we insisted.)

It makes me sad to think we’ll never talk again, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. Soon, we’ll be able to share the first piece of our humane computing environment with the world. It’s called Archy.

It’ll be exciting to see how people react. We’re working hard to help people understand that Archy is only one piece of the puzzle. I think the real fun will come when we integrate Archy with the other parts of our system, specifically the zooming environment. It’s going to be really, really sexy.

Luckily, Jef left us with a wonderfully idealistic and well articulated vision—one that will serve our organization for many years to come. I just hope our work will live up to being the memorial that I think he deserves.

Design the Cooper way

Kim Goodwin gave a really nice talk entitled, “Getting Your Design Built,” at Cooper world headquarters last night in San Francisco. That’s right, in case you didn’t know, Cooper is now in San Francisco and not Palo Alto.

The most interesting part of the talk for me was her discussion of the process Cooper uses. It goes like this:

Research → Modeling → Requirements Definition → Framework Definition → Design.

Which generally maps to:
Domain → Users → Analysis → Solution → Form & Behavior

Here are the notes I took. Take ’em for what you will.

  • Research (domain)
  • Interviews:
    • Stakeholders
    • Subject matter experts
    • Customers
  • Domain and Literature review
  • Ethnographic user research
  • How this helps with buy-in:
  • Stakeholders help determine interview targets
  • Each stakeholder get private air time
  • Larger team does not participate in interviews, but we gather pictures and stories to share with them
  • We hear about doubts, concerns, and questions early in the process
  • Modeling (users)
  • Requirements Definition (analysis)
  • Identify usage patterns
  • Create & Prioritize
  • Analyze workflows
  • Create context scenarios
  • Determine “requirements”
  • Determine visual messages
  • Deliverable: always a presentation, sometimes a document
  • How this helps with buy-in:
  • Personas are a critical design tool
    • Archetypal users
    • Represent observed behavior patterns
    • Eliminate elastic user
    • Avoid edge cases
  • Conclusions based on actual data, not opinion
  • Presenting this to everyone is the same room lets them:
    • Develop a shared view of users and customers
    • Agree on what problems we are / are not solving
  • Framework Definition (solution)
  • Create high-level sketches of the concept
  • Define major elements and relationships
  • Validate concepts with scenarios
  • Develop visual style studies, if applicable
  • Deliverable: presentation
  • How this helps with buy-in:
  • People can see the big ideas early and get excited
  • Faster than doing incredibly detailed text requirements before drawing any screens
  • Having something to respond to helps bring out more questions and challenges
  • Design (form & behavior)
  • Iterate, refine, & validate using details scenarios
  • Conduct usability testing if desired, once you have detail
  • Collaborate with development team
  • Refine / apply visual design
  • Deliverable: Form and Behavior Specification
  • How this helps with buy-in:
  • Check in with developers (and SMEs) every week or two to make sure your design is feasible within the timeframe
  • Pull stakeholders in if developers resist what you feel are critical aspects of the design
  • When you’re done, everyone sees how the product should look and behave.
  • Development Support (implement)
  • Provide design consultation on implementation priorities and trade-offs
  • Create additional documentation for development team

Brad Lauster (dot com) back online

Well, I promised you I’d be back in 2004 and here I am. Welcome back!

The main reason I took the site down last year, was that I got tired of dealing with comment spam. But now I have a snazzy new copy of Movable Type 3, with lots of handy features for combatting spam, so all is well in blog land.

This design is almost all my own doing, save some css I stole from Doug Bowman (which I need to remember to make a comment about in my style sheet). Let me know if anything looks weird. I don’t actually own a Windows machine anymore, so who knows what this thing looks like in Internet Explorer?

I’ll be cleaning up the design over the next few weeks, but I wanted to get the old stuff back up first. I’m looking forward to collecting my thoughts again. I hope you’ll continue to read!

Comment: Emotions ≠ Experiences

A comment I posted on nundroo™:

“Sorry, but I’m going to nit pick. When you say you can’t design happiness, satisfaction or frustration, you’re talking about not being able to design emotions, and I agree. We can’t design emotions. I also agree that experiences are tied to emotions in that our emotions are the manifestation of our experiences. But dismissing experience design because we can’t design emotions seems unsound. An experience is not equivalent to an emotion, nor is there even a 1:1 relationship between the two.

Now, I’m not saying that experiences can be designed. Lately, my position on whether we can or can not design an experience vacillates daily. The more I read about neuroscience, the more I think we can design an experience…but I digress.

My point here is not to argue for what it should be called, but to help us make sure that, in this time of definition, we are clear with our words.”