Monday, September 27, 2010

Karos Health is hiring

I’ve been at Karos Health for several months now, and I’m excited by what we’re building here.

Our team is doing innovative work to connect health care records to the stakeholders that need them, supporting collaboration that improves the quality of patient care. It’s a huge area in which to work, there’s a lot to do, and our products make a meaningful and positive impact on people’s lives.

We’re building not just great products, though, but a great company. While we’re a small startup with a great team, we’re growing to ensure that we can continue our success and take it even further. We currently have a two full-time developer positions open, as well as a co-op/intern position for the Winter 2011 term.

Have a look at our careers page and get in touch if you see a fit.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A dozen ears of corns and a bushel of tweets

Yesterday was a meeting of the community managers Communitech peer-to-peer group, held for the first time in their new space at The Hub. The speaker was Trevor Herrle-Braun, of Herrle’s Country Farm Market, who talked about how he has embraced the world of Twitter to evangelize his family’s market and its farm products.

While new to social media when he took to tweeting through @HerrlesMarket last spring, Trevor quickly developed an identifiable and authentic voice and has grown a healthy list of followers that today stands at over 500. His tweets go beyond announcing that fresh corn is available as he has found a way to engage the community deeply through Twitter. A couple of keys to success have been a great understanding of what will work for the Herrle family and business, and a decision to take on one thing and do it well. That one thing, from a social marketing perspective, has been Twitter. Neither Facebook nor blogging have been a part of the mix.

It was interesting to hear how a business as ancient as a family farm has embraced new technology to reach customers old and new.

On a related note, I’ve written in the past about some of the independent businesses that enhance the experience of living in Waterloo Region. Herrle’s is one of the places that my family has enjoyed for many years. The fresh produce is an obvious attraction, but the outdoor play area, corn maze, and generally friendly atmosphere all contribute to a great experience.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marshmallow-centred design

Last week I had the good fortune to facilitate not one, but two Marshmallow Challenge events. Briefly, the Marshmallow Challenge has the deceptively simple goal of building a tower using spaghetti, masking tape, and string, that will hold a marshmallow highest above a table top. Of course the lessons learned and the experience of building the tower, rather than just reading about it, are revealing and meaningful. The two big ones are to question your assumptions and to prototype early and often to learn as much as possible.

The first event, on Thursday, was the September meeting of uxWaterloo. The competition was close, and the teams all had a great time. After declaring a winner, we watched a video of a TED talk about the Marshmallow Challenge. That was really just a starting point for some enlightening discussion about the experience of building towers and about the ideas explored in the video. My favourite moment of the night was the realization that when designing for user experience, the user isn’t a marshmallow that can be plopped on at the end. Tower-builders that take that approach rarely succeed, and a user interface that doesn’t involve users early in the design process will often fail as well.

The second event, on Friday, was at VeloCity residence at the University of Waterloo. Having experienced the uxWaterloo event, I knew that VeloCity should go well, but I was still taken aback by the large number of students and by the enthusiasm and positive energy in the room. The event structure was the same as for the previous night, and the students dived in and seemed to have a great time with the challenge. Needless to say, I had a fine time as well, and enjoyed the conversations immensely. A major bonus for me was that Dan and PJ from tinyHippos were their as well, their young family in tow, to talk about what’s important in building software products at a startup.

Thanks for the invitation, Jesse.

Monday, September 13, 2010

uxWaterloo this week and Ignite in November

This week I’ll be enjoying the September meeting for uxWaterloo (the snappily, and concisely, renamed User Experience  Group of Waterloo Region) on Thursday at the Accelerator Centre. We’ve got a fun design workshop planned, which should be a great opportunity to work together with UX folks and maybe we’ll all even learn something, too. Come on out.

Looking farther down the road, Ignite Waterloo has announced the date and location for the fourth evening of talks, conversation, and general good cheer. November 18 is the date, and the new location is the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts. We’re excited about the new venue, and hope to deliver another great event. If you’re interested in being a speaker, head on over and sign up.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A user’s experience shapes user experience

I had a conversation with someone a while back about user experience on mobile devices. In the course of it he asked me how much I use video on my iPhone. I responded that I used video occasionally but not much, which was accurate in that it characterized my behaviour but which also felt incomplete.

I’ve been thinking about it since then and observing my patterns of use. I think that I now better understand why I answered the way I did. That is, I now understand the why of my behaviour. It’s not that I’m uninterested in watching video. It’s that I’ve shaped my behaviour to match my experience of the capabilities of the device. Two big factors colour my experience.

The first is battery life. My iPhone 3G will, in normal use, last the whole day on a single overnight charge of the battery. I found early on, though, that watching even a few videos will cause the iPhone to run out of power before day’s end. For a few reasons normal use for me has changed for me over time. So, too, has my iPhone battery’s ability to hold a charge. As a result, many months ago I started to regularly use my mobile data plan for connectivity rather than WiFi — turning off WiFi extends battery life.

More recently, while reflecting upon the video question from that conversation, I (re)discovered that I’m more likely to watch a video if the day is mostly done and I have a good charge left on the battery. This behaviour was almost unconscious; I had to notice myself doing it a few times before realizing why it was happening.

The second factor is network performance. The value of the video needs to overcome the cost of waiting for it to download, which can vary dramatically on my mobile provider’s network. As well, even if the video starts playing quickly, the download is rarely fast enough to allow me to skip ahead conveniently, which I often like to do. In the end, while using my iPhone if I encounter a video that seems interesting I most often reserve it for later viewing on my laptop.

I’ve discovered many other subtle behaviours that distinguish my own use of an iPhone from my use of a laptop on a fast network, but thinking about mobile video is what got the exploratory ball rolling for me.