join us at DCamp — May 12-13th in Palo Alto!

Hooray! The DCamp wiki opened this week, so the event is moving into full swing now! In the spirit of BarCamp, DCamp is an unconference focusing on the Design and Development of the user experience. The price is right (free, with a suggested donation of $10), so sign up and join in on the fun!

Participants make an unconference successful. All attendees of an unconference participate in one way or another — presenting, volunteering, etc. Do you have something you want to share? Go to the Presenters page to sign up!

Sponsors make an unconference possible. High-speed internet access and food are currently the big needs. If your company is interested in sponsoring DCamp, you can sign up on the Sponsors page.

We’re looking forward to a great event. Hope to see you there! The DCamp wiki will be the main hub for communications, so be sure to check there for all of the latest updates!

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getting things done

If you are having problems “getting things done,” you can procrastinate a little more, have a few laughs and pick up a few tips along the way by listening to the podcast of Merlin Mann’s talk from the March BayCHI monthly meeting. Check it out here!

wall texturing tips

According to wordpress blog stats, the most common way that people are currently getting to my blog is by searching for “wall texturing.” Who knew so many diy’ers search for blogs about wall texturing? At any rate, I am now feeling compelled to include some of my tips about physically texturing walls.

Disclaimer: I am more novice than expert in this area. These tips are provided in hopes that they might help some other diy’ers avoid some of the mistakes and worries that we had when applying our wall texturing. NOTE also: these tips relate to basic wall texturing — no fancy Italian special look or anything like that. However, the tips are for the type of texturizing that goes beyond the bubbly look that you would get from simply using a loop roller.

Tip 1: pick your tool(s). If you have an air compressor, you can buy a wall texturing “hopper” and use a flat trowel or wide putty knife to flatten the spray. You can get such an air paint texture gun at Harbor Freight. If you don’t have an air compressor, the job will take more time and effort by hand, but you can get the job done by simply using a wide putty knife. Either way, you may also want to have a sanding block and appropriate sandpaper for touch-ups.

Tip 2: pick your goo. You can go to Home Depot or your favorite home improvement store and find all sorts of goo related to wall texturing. There’s spray-on stuff, bucket o’ goo, and so on. Truth be told, my husband and I think that these are all mostly watered down (and higher priced) versions of joint compound (i.e., the type used for taping drywall). So, you can purchase the pre-mixed goo labeled for “texturing” if you want, but it is actually cheaper if you buy pre-mixed joint compound or if you buy dry joint compound (NOT the “quick dry” kind!) and mix it yourself (just add water). Note: how thin you mix the goo will determine the amount of texture. You may need to experiment to see how much texture you want (see next tip).

Tip 3: practice. My friend Suzanne is more of a perfectionist than I am, so she actually practiced on spare scraps of drywall. I have to admit, if you are trying this for the first time, it would not hurt to test out your application “technique” on something other than your target wall(s). This will allow you to test everything from how it applies and how it looks to how long it takes to dry.

Tip 4: go for it. Keep in mind that one of the characteristics of wall texturing is irregularity. Wall texturing is designed to be imperfect and inconsistent. Thus, if you are applying your goo by hand, you can put randomly sized and irregularly shaped blobs of goo, randomly onto the wall. I also found it helpful to divide the wall into smaller, more workable, areas. If you are using the hopper/compressor method, you can randomly spray the goo on the wall. Once the goo has started to dry a little, but before it has hardened too much, you should flatten and smooth your goo blobs with a flat trowel or wide putty knife.

Tip 5: touch up. Once the texture has dried, see if there are any areas that need “touching up.” If there are areas where you think more texturing is needed, you can just add some in by hand. If there are areas where you think the texture is too thick or bumpy, you can sand the areas down with a sanding block. (You should wear a mask if you sand, though.)

Tip 6: don’t worry. If, after touching up the walls, you are still concerned about how they look, don’t worry. Most people won’t know the difference. However, if you are super subconscious and want some other “masking” tips to help the job look better, here are a couple of suggestions. First, paint the walls with a lighter color. This is based on my experience and opinion, but I think that darker paint colors seem to expose “issues” with wall texturing more than lighter paint colors. Second, use a ceramic paint additive such as Hy-Tech to your primer or paint. This adds a kind of fine grained look over your texturing and (in theory) has the added benefit of providing more insulation for your room.

Tip 7: paint it up and then stand back and admire your handiwork. When all is done, stand back and enjoy the view šŸ™‚

jaw-dropping user experiences

There’s nothing like a circus to take you back to the childlike wonder and awe of amazing acts that seem to defy reality. And, there’s no jaw-dropping experience that compares to a cirque circus. We went to Cirque du Soleil (Corteo) on Friday and I think my jaw hit the ground so many times that my chin may need a band-aid! But seriously, anyone who has been to a cirque show can tell you that it is not a show that can be adequately described with words, but must be experienced in person.

This got me thinking about “jaw-dropping user experiences.” What examples of jaw-dropping user experiences do we have with respect to software, devices, or internet applications? I.e., experiences that bring childlike wonder and joy, those that suspend disbelief, or those that transform the way we do things? I think most start-ups believe that they have found a holy grail of some form or another. For some new ideas, the “aha!” moment for the user is immediate, for others, it takes time. But, for the ultimate jaw-dropping ideas, it takes a first-hand experience. Take Apple’s iPod nano, for example. Seeing it on the website brought on a “looks cool” for me. Seeing it on tv made me think that Apple must really be trying to market these things. But, seeing it in person in the Apple Store was the “wow, what’s not to like?” moment for me. The nano was the first mp3 device to defy the expected ratio of features to size — thereby changing our view of reality and what’s possible. For me, Yahoo Instant Search was another great experience for me, while services like del.icio.us did not really start to shine until they had enough critical mass to leverage the social network effect and advantage.

How about you? What jaw-dropping user experiences have you had?

search results = wall texturing for search engines

One of our first home improvement projects involved removing wallpaper from an accent wall of our guest bedroom and then giving the whole room a fresh coat of paint. As we talked about painting interior walls with friends and family, we had several people ask if we were going to “texturize” the walls. Given the choice, I think we would leave well enough alone and just paint the wall flat. Unfortunately, it turns out that the rest of the room already had textured walls, so we felt obligated to blend in the remaining wall. Since our novice wallpaper removal techniques resulted in slightly imperfect drywall, this seemed like a blessing in disguise… (until we actually tried to do wall texturizing on our own — but that is another story…)

Well, after having a) inspected our existing wall texturing up close, and b) personally doing my own wall texturing, I think I have discovered the “hidden secret” behind this technique. The truth is: wall texturing is an imperfect art designed to camouflage an imperfect job. This is actually quite brilliant on the part of the inventor. Is your drywall imperfect? No problem! — just add some wall texturing! Is this your first time wall texturing? No problem! — wall texturing is supposed to look random and like a mish mash. Does your wall texturing job look terrible when you inspect it up close? No problem! It turns out most people don’t inspect walls very closely unless they are painting them. So, to your average house guest, your (imperfectly) textured walls look perfectly fine. Furthermore, some people prefer textured walls over non-textured walls, since the texture adds dimension, depth and (unconscious) interest to the walls — i.e., texture can make the walls look better!

But, how does this relate to search? Simple. Search, especially as we experience it on the web today, is an imperfect science. Search results, or rather the way in which search results are presented, act as the “wall texturing” for search engines. Different search engines use different wall texturing techniques — all to make you, the user, appreciate the way the results look, or at least how they look in general. When you inspect the results closely, however, lots of little flaws are revealed. The search engine creators, like the inventors of wall texturing before them, have discovered that they can use an imperfect mask (i.e., the way the results are presented) to camouflage an imperfect job [of their search engines]. As long as the results look good enough to most of us most of the time, we appreciate them for what they are. Here, competition is a good thing; it’s the competition that drives the changes and improvements in the current search engines.

So, search results = wall texturing for search engines, but there are lots of different search textures out there. Which do you prefer? For a concrete comparison, try searching for “cougar” on Google, Yahoo, Clusty, Ask.com, ebay, or flickr. Do the differences in the results surprise you?

what’s in a name?

Welcome to my blog! Starting a new blog requires so many decisions: What blogging platform should I use? Where should my data be hosted? What should I write about? What should I name my blog? While I am still waivering a bit on which blogging platform to use, I am currently content with my new tag line.

So, what’s in a name? What do I mean by “remodeling inside & outside of the brain?” Given that I am in the middle of a major house remodeling project, you might say that I have remodeling on the brain. We are DIY-ing a lot of work and I am learning more about footings, beams, camber, etc. than I would care to admit. Why not put some of this newfound knowledge to good use? Remodeling outside of the brain is about things that change in the world around us. For me, this will mostly focus on user experience (UX), technology and user interfaces (UI’s). Remodeling inside of the brain is not about brain surgery — it’s about changing how we think; making a paradigm shift in how we do things; looking at things from a different perspective. Put together, remodeling inside & outside of the brain is thus about how new UX, technology and UI’s change the way we think and work. When it isn’t too much of a stretch, I will also use examples from actual house remodeling projects as analogies.

I will probably also throw in a yipee, we have a new roof! or hallelujah for drywall! from time to time as well. šŸ˜‰ Perhaps a few faq’s and humorous anecdotes (or links to them) will also show up on actual home improvement projects.

Hope you enjoy the journey and join in on the conversation from time to time.