As the originator of the classic American blue jean, Levi’s is a brand built on quality and function with a steady vision of the past, present and future of apparel. Though our sights are most often focused forward, towards the latest in innovation……
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When looking for a job, it may be tempting to design the most beautiful resume template you can and start to send it around. However, it isn’t the most clever strategy if you are looking to be hired. During job search, you should look at your potential boss as a temporary client. What are they […]
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As a graduate student at Harvard University, one of my main influences was the German philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein argued that many philosophical statements, and indeed, much of philosophy itself, became preposterous when applied to the real world.
Since completing my doctorate in philosophy, I have been a professional programmer for more than twenty years, and I have learned a lot about applying philosophical thinking to design and development. Philosophy offers deep and profound insights about subjects like knowledge, meaning and justice. Insofar as computer programs concern these subjects, philosophy can be a fantastic source of ideas – and often is. Reading philosophy books has given me ideas for writing useful computer programs that span multiple industries, from healthcare to business, which contradicts Wittgenstein’s belief. After all, if philosophy can guide the design of profitable products, it must be meaningful.
Ideas and techniques from such varied philosophers as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Rene Descartes, Karl Marx, and W.V.Quine can advance UX development and design. In this article, we’ll explore three software challenges, and the solutions philosophy inspired.
Solution#1: Descartes and Austin complete sales
Every point-of-sale (POS) transaction faces the same challenge: how do we bring users through the sales funnel and complete a sale? We know we must provide enticing content and a positive experience, but how? A certain number of prospective customers are expected to leave without purchasing, but the designer of a POS system wants to keep that number as low as possible.
In order to reduce the number of times users abort a POS transaction, we consider an idea from the philosophy of knowledge. Descartes, in his Meditations, tells us:
“An evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies in deceiving me; I shall consider that the heavens, the earth, colours, figures, sound, and all other external things are nought but the illusions and dreams of which this genius has availed himself in order to lay traps for my credulity”
In other words, if someone (in Descartes’ words “an evil demon”) misleads us, we might believe them because what they say is in keeping with what we have seen and heard and felt. For a company like Airbnb, this is exactly the problem UX designers face: the UX designer wants to help users feel comfortable renting an apartment, and so they write engaging copy and show beautiful images. But the user still has no reason to trust the company. How do we combat the problem Descartes outlines and Airbnb faces?
J.L. Austin countered Descartes, three centuries later, saying that philosophical skepticism mischaracterizes the logic of human knowledge. In daily life, claims are doubted only when circumstances suggest a special reason for doubt. Descartes has no special reason to worry about an evil demon, thus his doubt is illegitimate.
Austin’s philosophy of doubt can be encapsulated as a simple interaction design pattern. Whenever A has a doubt about B, the system has to let A know why A should not worry about B. In the context of Airbnb, UX designers solved the problem by implementing rating systems and reviews, which reassure uncertain users that their doubts—like Descartes—are unnecessary.
|J.L. Austin says:||Legitimate doubt is contextual.|
|Philosophical use:||To criticize philosophical skepticism.|
|Use in UX design:||The effectiveness of a software application hinges on specific knowledge of users’ needs. By accommodating doubt patterns (i.e. opportunities to explore alternative design paths), UX designers can support questions about perceived or presumed knowledge and create better experiences.|
Solution #2: Quine solves documentation
Not too long ago, I was asked to fix database code that returned a list of “products shipped but not billed.” In the course of my work, I eventually encountered the code responsible: a complex bit of code that ensured that no products shipped out of a certain subinventory in the warehouse would ever be billed. When I asked the team who had coded this rule, no one had any idea—there was absolutely no documentation.
In my experience, where there is inadequate documentation, there is usually a programmer—we’ll call him “Bob”—who obviates the need for documentation. Whenever someone needs to know something, Bob has the answer, but he doesn’t have time to write it all down. Sometimes a new manager comes in and asks what the team would do if Bob left, but no one takes it seriously—until Bob does leave, and no one has any documentation for their systems.
Fortunately, there is a philosophy of language which recommends a solution to the Bob problem, known as The Indeterminacy of Translation. The Indeterminacy of Translation is the view that there are innumerable different – yet correct – ways to translate any given sentence. A philosopher named W.V. Quine explained that Indeterminacy of Translation is most easily understood by considering the problem of translating a new language:
“An artificial example which I have used elsewhere depends on the fact that a whole rabbit is present when and only when an undetached part of a rabbit is present; also when and only when a temporal stage of a rabbit is present. If we are wondering whether to translate a native expression “gavaigai” as “rabbit” or as “undetached rabbit part” or as “rabbit stage” we can never settle the matter simply by ostension….the trouble is that whenever we point to different parts of the rabbit, even sometimes screening the rest of the rabbit, we are pointing also each time to the rabbit. When, conversely, we indicate the whole rabbit with a sweeping gesture, we are still pointing to a multitude of rabbit parts.”
W.V. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays
Quine’s doctrine is that there are no facts which can show “gavaigai” means “rabbit” and not “undetached rabbit parts.” Equally, according to Quine’s explanation, Bob’s omnipotence is a myth—and Quine provides a “solution” to both the Bob problem, and the problem of indeterminacy:
“It is meaningless to ask whether, in general, our terms “rabbit,” “rabbit part,” “number”, etc., really refer respectively to rabbits, rabbit parts, numbers, etc., rather than to some ingeniously permuted denotations. It is meaningless to ask this absolutely, we can meaningfully ask it only relative to some background language. ..We need a background language, I said, to regress into. Are we involved now in an infinite regress..In practice of course we end the regress of coordinate systems by something like pointing. And in practice we end the regress of background languages, in discussions of reference, by acquiescing in our mother tongue and taking its words at face value.”
W.V. Quine, Ontological Relativity and Other Essays
Suppose a code repository allows the association of our code with all design conversations and artifacts that relate to the code. Then we can support a simple interaction design pattern, called “clarifying the meaning.” When we reach the point in the code that is unclear, we index to all the conversations and artifacts that relate to that point in the code. This is documentation, but someone like Bob won’t see it as a waste of time, as it can be done quickly and while coding. Thus Quine alleviates our Bob problem.
|Quine says:||Two manuals of translation can be consistent with all observed behavior and yet diverge, intuitively speaking.|
|Philosophical use:||To attack the idea that mental entities determine meaning.|
|Use in UX Design:||Quine’s ideas suggest that the repository provide widgets which support the attachment and display of searchable discussions about what the code means (and the artifacts that accompany these discussions).|
Solution #3: Mill maximizes project happiness
We’ve all been in projects that were nearly finished when one or more stakeholders intervened with opinions that dramatically changed the course of the project. It’s incredibly frustrating for the designers and developers who attended all the right meetings, invited all the stakeholders, and yet are now faced with new requirements or merely changing minds. The worst of it is that often the stakeholders don’t seem to have any particular agenda in mind—they just want to be heard.
One philosophy that helps us to solve this problem is utilitarianism, as defined by philosopher John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism is the view that the right action is the one that maximizes happiness. He explains:
“It is quite compatible with the principle of utility to recognise the fact, that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone.”
John Stuart Mill
We can incorporate this into a design for project planning software that includes not only project member’s names and roles, but also their goals and what makes them happy. By tracking happiness alongside responsibilities, the project manager can help stakeholders to feel heard or otherwise satisfied before the end of the project—and without last minute requirements changes.
|Mill says:||The right action is the one that maximizes happiness.|
|Philosophical use:||Mill thought the general acceptance of the utilitarian principle would lead to a harmonious and stable society.|
|Use in UX Design:||Mill’s view might also suggest that customer-facing software consider the happiness of each customer as an individual element in the success of the endeavor.|
Where Do We Go From Here?
In short, although philosophy cannot provide an algorithm for solving every design problem, it can contribute to UX design. Practitioners can channel the abstractions presented by philosophy into practical principles for real world design.
To get started, follow these three steps:
- Choose a difficult or frustrating design problem.
- Read a new philosophy (Spark notes are allowed!)
- Write down every possible way the philosophy might deal with the problem at hand, no matter how unrealistic the answer might be.
Alternatively, a less weighty approach: take a philosopher out for a beer, which can provide the basis for profitable inspiration.
Learn more about applying philosophy to design at UX Brighton 2014 – Practical Philosophy, where David will be discussing these ideas in more detail.
Having one online article published is great, but having multiple articles published is awesome. And, often, the latter has less to do with your writing skills, and more to do with how you handle your articles before and after publication.
That’s not to say that writing skills don’t have their place, of course. If you want to make a living as an online writer or blogger, you should, at the very least, know how to write. This may seem obvious, but judging from the usual quality of online content, it’s surprising – not to mention alarming – how many people ignore this basic fact.
Anyway, let’s get back on topic. Suppose you are, in fact, one of those writers who can effortlessly churn out beautiful prose with your eyes closed. That’s all well and good… except there are also thousands of writers around the world who can do the same thing. Which begs the question: How do you stand out in such an enormous crowd, especially on a place like the Internet where everyone’s doing their best to attract attention? Glad you asked!
Recommended Reading: Useful Tips And Guidelines To Freelance Writing
Find Websites In Your Niche
Your first order of business is to figure out what you want to write. What do you like to think about first thing in the morning, and before you go to sleep? What topic(s) can you go on and on about for hours without getting exhausted? Do you have any experience, skills, and/or knowledge unique to you?
Once you have a definite answer to those questions, that’s the time you start searching for websites to write for. Use keyword combinations like "(your favorite topic)" + "write for us" or "(your favorite topic)" + "guest post". During your search, you’ll notice that many of the websites turning up won’t pay for contributions. If you want to write for more than just the "exposure", you can add the word "paid" to the keyword combinations suggested above.
If you’re a generalist, or someone with multiple interests, think about one or two topics you can imagine yourself writing about at least once every day. Because, hey, if you’re going to write about things for a living, you might as well love what you’re writing about, right?
Read The Guidelines Carefully
If you want to know what kind of submissions a website accepts, the easiest way to do so is to read their writer’s guidelines. Here, they’ll specify what they’re looking for, what they’re not looking for, payment terms (if applicable), rights, and other policies.
Sometimes, a website posts its editorial calendar. Be sure to check that one out in order to come up with a timely pitch. Oh, and don’t forget to look up their reading period, which is usually specified in the writer’s guidelines as well.
If they don’t have a calendar, and you’re not sure whether your pitch is what they’re looking for at the moment, you can also…
Be A "Ninja"
Even after reading the guidelines, you’ll want to check out the site’s archived articles. They’ll give you an idea of the types of articles that resonate the most with the site’s target readers, and why. With that information, it’ll be easier for you to tailor your submission accordingly and increase your chances of getting accepted.
So how do you identify the old articles that "click" with readers? Look for the ones with the most number of shares on social networking sites, as well as those with the most active discussions in the comments section.
These numbers may not be the most accurate measures of whether those articles are "good", but in any case, they indicate an ability to engage readers, which is the main reason those articles were published in the first place.
Be Familiar With The Site & Audience
If that seems like too much work, you can always browse through the ones labeled "Trending", "Top Articles", "What’s Hot", "Popular Now", etc., and observe what they all have in common. You can also subscribe to their social media pages and/or e-newsletter.
Through these, you can:
- Assess what kind of audience the website has;
- See "patterns" in the type of content they’ve been publishing recently;
- Evaluate their online marketing strategy, and the effectiveness thereof;
- Based on the criteria above, decide for yourself whether they’re worth writing for; and
- Learn something new on a regular basis. (What could be cooler than that?)
If you have friends who are online writers/bloggers, and are in the same niche you want to break into, you can ask them for feedback on the best/worst sites to write for. This is a good option if you don’t have the time or the energy to search for target sites on your own.
Remember that the guidelines are there to help relay information to you before you have even made contact with the people behind the site. Rather than skim through the guidelines, analyze what the site is looking for before you make your pitch (which is another title on its own; don’t worry, it’s coming) so you can show them that as a writer, you really did do the homework required.
Coming soon, how to make a proper pitch of what you want to write, coming to terms with the site and what to do after your post has been published (to make sure you can get more writing jobs).
Bonus: More On Guest Blogging
- Popular (But Bad) Writing Advice You Should Ignore
- The 7 Sins Of Guest Blogging (Based On True Events)
- Guest Posting: 8 Tips To Getting Your Submissions Published
- Guest Blogging: 3 Fatal Mistakes To Avoid
Read more about Brendan Dawes on finding the stories hidden in data at CreativeBloq.com
Brendan Dawes will be speaking about The Shape of Data at the Generate New York conference. Enter the code generate100 at the checkout this week to get $ 100 off your ticket!
While we look at our monitors more often than not as digital creatives, it’s important for us to stop, put on pants occasionally, sniff the flowers, try on some fresh new kicks, drink copious amounts of coffee, and get the best pickles we’ve ever tasted. And in our hood, it’s fairly easy to do. Let’s take a tour and find some inspiration to share.
Our first stop is Revolver. Coffee is very important to us, an obsession really, and Revolver is the kind of never-have-seats place that takes the beans seriously. It’s the kind of place that plays records, has a small selection of pastries, and then coffee. The attention to detail extends the experience from the small shop to the artfully cool black and white website which prides itself on a detailed listing of brewing equipment, naturally. But for fuel and a bit of inspiration, this is a good stop morning or afternoon. Of course, there’s another upstart coffee shop across the street from us, Timbertrain, is equally hip, and in a Star Trek quote on the website kind of way.
Old Faithful Shop
Old Faithful Shop is just down our staircase. Let’s be very clear, this is a dangerous place to have so close. Let’s just say Christmas shopping made Visa very, very, happy this year. Like our office and Revolver, brick is a dominant theme—Old Faithful Shop features a complex mix of artfully collected items from around the world for the home and kitchen harkening back to a slower, simpler time. At times you’re not even sure why you might need some of these products, except you just have to have them.
When you come into Old Faithful Shop you’ll find a considered selection of quality goods for everyday living,” founder Walter Manning told Booooooom. “Our store is housed in a 100 year old building and we tried to stay as true to that as possible and interpret the character of the space as it might of appeared when it was first built.We like to imagine our store as in existence in Gastown over a 100 years ago after the completion of the railway. Old Faithful Shop is a store for the senses. Our products are meant to be touched and examined, great music is always playing and the place smells amazing (a combination of balsam fir incense and a selection of rare perfumes.)
The website does a really good job of recreating that style and selection online and creating a finely tuned narrative. And then there are things you can’t get enough of, like the life-changing pickles they carry, McClure’s from Brooklyn—turning any afternoon trip downstairs into an inspired walkabout in branding, packaging, and cool stuff.
Meat & Bread
Thankfully we also have insane pork sandwiches nearby. Meat & Bread is just that. A deceptively simple and well-branded sandwich shop that gives guests a selection of permanent and rotating primarily meat based sandwiches (including the infamous Porchetta featured on Diners Drive ins and Dives) along with a daily salad and soup. It’s ridiculously simple, but the line starts around 11:50 every day. The website is just as simple, featuring only what is needed. Nothing more, nothing less than a great display of their branding, shop, and food.
In the other direction down the stairs is the always-tempting Rowan Sky. Do you know how hard it is to work above a store that specializes in a hand-picked selection of great shoes? We imagine it’s much like a heroin addict living above the dealer, convenient as hell, but frustratingly expensive. The shop carries the Pound & Grain standard issue Onitsuka Tigers worn like a uniform, by both Graham and our partner Sandy Fleischer. What the website and the store do is just keep everything very simple. “It’s the shoes, stupid” to modify the powerful political adage of the 1990’s coined by Clinton Campaign Manager James Carville.
Brassica & Co.
And finally you could imagine our surprise last week when a shopfront that had been empty for many months suddenly had a coming soon sign on it. Brassica & Co. goes beyond the general store and the hipster coffee aesthetic and is making everything out of everyone’s favourite superfood, kale. This seems to be the final straw. It was enough for us to rally against all that is hipster—to say “you’ve gone too far this time, Gastown” except that the shades of green branding, a hipster rainbow of effortless cool seems to include a line of impeccably designed it’s not easy being green products.
The Vergecast is a discussion of all things relevant and irreverent in the worlds of art, culture, science, and technology. On this week’s episode, we discuss SXSW, compare Jared Leto to a beautiful pony, and explore the notion of heaven as portrayed by Philadelphia Cream Cheese commercials.
One of the main problems in starting up your own business is in how to start off and then stay afloat financially. There are essentially two ways to do this: fund the business yourself or get investors to fund it for you.
Many startup entrepreneurs believe that it is wise to get investors who will take interest in your project, rather than push your own funds into it. Venture capitalist funding will lead to tax savings, and more importantly, it exerts less pressure on entrepreneurs. However, it takes a lot of effort to get someone else to trust in your business skills and bet on you with their money.
Recommended Reading: 7 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Began As Freelancers
Plans And Pressure
For an investor to part with their own hard-earned money, you have to know your plans inside out and convince them that they will get returns even when that is out of your control. If one resorts to self-funding, they are pushing their own money into a startup project, which could lead to a pressure cooker situation, diverting their focus from doing a good job with the business.
Entrepreneurs, like the rest of us, perform best when their mind is clear, so they can make business decisions clearly. Self financing might hamper optimum functioning of entrepreneurs, although there are people who thrive under pressure. Let’s look at some of the factors you have to consider before determining the best route to take when it comes to financing your new business venture.
Going with Investor Funding
For what it’s worth, it is never easy to get investors to take risk with your startup, even though sometimes it could be the only choice you have to get your business off the ground. Investors are never willing to part with their money. And they will ask a lot of questions, and investigate your claims and facts before unlocking their reserves.
However, if you have a good idea with great potential and can convince them that they should invest on you than on another business opportunity, there’s no reason why they would turn you away. It all boils down to your business pitch.
Read Also: 6 Ingredients To A Successful Pitch
Pitching the idea to a potential investor involves a long and tedious preparation process. You will need a business plan and a perfect outline on how you will eventually run your business, break even and eventually profit in order to get investor funding.
Once a startup is launched, a lot of work goes into carrying out the duties as the decision-maker. Having one less thing to worry about – finances being no less important than the other aspects of a business – will help entrepreneurs be more organized and mindful of their business responsibilities.
There is also the push from the expectations of your stakeholders, and always having to live up to those expectations. It helps power the thirst for success and for growth.
Read Also: Entrepreneurs: 5 Startup Mistakes To Avoid
Going with self-Financing
Self-financing on the other hand can make you laidback, and at times allows you to stay in a stagnant position where you expect things to happen on its own. You don’t have to answer to anyone. You are your own boss, and therefore are more likely to take it easy.
Although, you might be very eager to achieve success, it’s harder to maintain the level of motivation for a longer period of time, unless you are extremely disciplined.
That said, self financing can work for some startup entrepreneurs, if they know how to make it work for their business, and if they have strong backup plans. It also allows them more freedom to make their own choices, without having to go through or answer to their stakeholders.
Ways To Self-Finance
Self-financing can come in many different forms. If you want to embark on a family business, you can partner up with your family members, which is the usual choice to go with because if you can’t trust your family members, who can you trust?
Alternatively, you can find business partners and split the business (and the capital) a certain way that is mutually accepted by all parties. There are also options to get business loans from financial institutions or startup grants by the government.
Current funding trends
The arrival of venture capitalists and other investors in the form of banks and financial institutions have led even those with enough initial funds to seek investors. It is not just because self financing can be risky, but because investor funding can now come without any form of collateral.
All they need from the entrepreneurs is an in-depth look into the background of the fund seeker and of course, the winning business idea.
Read Also: Ultimate Guide To Crowdfunding Success
This kind of funding could be seen in offers by top business management schools, sometimes extended to undergraduates who have yet to break out into the working world. These funds are dispatched because the investors – the schools themselves – have full faith in their academic success, and they believe that with the proper motivation, these ideas can lead to great entrepreneurial success.
The best option
While the best option to go with is still to get an external party to invest in your business idea, getting an investor to say yes to your idea is about as hard as getting your busniess off the ground. The determining factor lies on the entrepreneurs themselves.
Can you find investors who share the same vision as yours? Can you convince your investors to appreciate the potential that is in your idea? Or would you prefer to have the freedom to experiment with your company direction and succeed, as well as fail, on your own dime?