Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The prototype is done, let's ramp up!

I wrote a little while back about the Research Entrepreneurship Accelerator Project at the University of Waterloo. The program got up and running for this past winter’s academic term, and saw a team of six students working on a prototype of an online marketplace in which artists and other content creators provide creative services for owners of Christie Digital MicroTiles. I was lucky to be able to work with the student team, as well as with the extended REAP leadership team.

Last Wednesday was the end-of-term presentation for the inaugural student REAP team, and I was happy to be able to see them present the results of their project to representatives for Christie. While I had seen the team’s work at various points during the project, the students still managed to surprise me. Their presentation was in the form of a play in which the team acted out the the scenarios that they had created in support of their design work. This was delightfully unexpected, but perhaps shouldn’t have been given that REAP is an initiative of the Arts faculty that happens to build cross-disciplinary teams.

Fittingly, the first REAP term was something of a prototype itself, and the lessons learned by everyone involved are already being applied as preparations move forward for the spring REAP term that starts in May. There are multiple projects lined up this time, with some interesting ideas to explore. The recruiting process is in its final stages — last night I had a chance to meet the student candidates for the next REAP teams —and  I’m looking forward to supporting the new teams on their projects over the coming months.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We'll be right back after this short break

I’m sure that most of you reading this will have seen Google’s Gmail Motion announcement on April 1, or one or more of the company’s many other foolish initiatives on that day. I love that they play this stuff straight, and that some of the jokes can be pretty ephemeral (like showing search results for “Helvetica” on that day using the widely-disparaged type face Comic Sans).

There are also hidden bits of whimsy in Google products that have been a round for a while, but which still make me smile. The question in search results for “recursion” is a favourite of mine. And when I occasionally look in my Gmail spam folder for missing messages, the ads that link to recipes that use Hormal Spam® are always welcome.

Message: Loading...
Sometimes the bits of whimsy are quite fleeting, but no less delightful when I notice them. I only recently discovered the messaging provided by Google’s chat functionality within Gmail. The company’s attention to details means that there are usually helpful status messages that explain what’s happening: “Loading...”

Message: Unable to reach Karos Health. Please check your Internet connection.
When there’s an interruption in service, Chat will try to reconnect. Again, a message provides details on what’s happening: “Unable to reach Karos Health. Please check your Internet connection.”

Message: “...and, we’re back!”
Of course, there’s also a message when the connection is restored. Evocative of a television talk show host announcing a return from a commercial break, the message “...and, we’re back!” is easy to miss, as it typically lasts only a few seconds. That means, though, that it’s also unobtrusive and it doesn’t get annoying. Lovely stuff!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Randomly generated assessment: Mark designs better

At Karos Health we’re always trying to improve the way we work. To that end, we recently enjoyed some Agile coaching from Declan Whelan. Declan is well-known in the Waterloo Region and beyond for his deep knowledge and passion for all things Agile, and his presence Karos was a welcome one.

During a presentation/workshop, Declan shared some of his findings into his review of our development practices. One of the artifacts that he showed was a tag cloud created using Wordle, and which was based on notes that he took during one-on-one discussions with the team. I’m  big fan of Wordle, for both the insights that it can provide into a source text as well as the aesthetic appeal.

In the case of Declan’s Wordle, an unexpected juxtaposition of words was particularly delightful for me. The first image shows the original image that Declan showed. The second image highlights the randomly-created, found phrase that caught my eye. Sometimes, little discoveries are a lot of fun.

Declan’s Wordle

“Mark designs better”