Pipsqueak Articles

Posts written by Olga Werby or Christopher Werby

Thoughts on An Event Apart San Francisco

AnEventApart Logo

We just returned from An Event Apart San Francisco and I am trying to put down notes and ideas while they are fresh in my mind. It was three full intense days of information — some great, some good, some not so much. But overall, it was a valuable experience (and they do conference right — great food, comfortable location, endless supply of coffee and sugar). My take is always unique — I overheard some people who were ecstatic over the presentations that I felt were completely off — but I have been in the business for over three decades now and I want ideas that are new to me. So here are my notes from the presentations. “The Fault, Dear Brutus (or: Career Advice From a Cranky Old Man)” by Jeffrey Zeldman A lot of what Jeffery spoke about resonated strongly: the need to force ourselves to get rid of disdain for our clients that just “don’t get it” — mutual respect is the foundation of designer-client relationship in conversation about design, focus on purpose and use and stay away from esthetics — every person has their own sometimes, people (clients, bosses) are incapable of seeing our growth as…

Commons Assembly: Bridging Health Divides

Commons Topper

Last week was the week the Sage Event—a conference of Sagers (individuals who have been Sage Bionetworks supporters over the years and some new comers) that I have been organizing for the last 5 months. At its core, the idea for this event was the provide an opportunity for Sage Scholars and Sage Mentors to come together and share their projects. These Sagers are incredible people! Below are some of my thinking as it emerged from listening to their presentations. And when the videos become available, I will link to those as well in another post. There were four general themes for the day: 1. ICT and Health; 2. Delivering Health to Hard-to-serve Populations; 3. Rare/Orphan Diseases; and 4. Health, Education, Patient Data, and Advocacy. But the ideas shared at the event were not to be constrained! So allow me to present a very different non-technical view as a way of summarizing ideas that floated during the day. First, allow me to break the science investigations into two parts: • First based on DATA Science—analysis of information available about patients and the environment as coded in medical records or submitted via apps or gathered via sensors. In other words, scientific…

Mapping the Wisdom of the City

Sage Assembly 2015

One of the events at the Sage Assembly in Paris this year was the group design sessions to try to solve “problems of the city” after the Charley attack. Paris is still in shock and the city is trying to do something to heal itself. My group, led by Arno Klein of Sage Bionetworks, was charged with finding ways of using crowdmapping to help find some interesting solutions. This was a complete blue sky session. And our ideas were presented by Arno at the Hotel De Ville in Paris. Here are my prep notes for this event. Cities generate an enormous amounts of data: parking tickets data; water consumption data; number of riders using public transportation per hour per location; etc. But most of the data stays locked within isolated databases inside frequently competitive city departments. There are several cities that are trying solve the data silos problem. Palo Alto, CA, created a city API and open-sourced all city data to allow its citizens to discover problems and develop novel solutions. One of the prevailing problems, even after the break down of data silos, is that the data is not normalized, making it very difficult to manipulate. Data normalization can…

2015 Paris Sage Assembly Summary Slides

Institut Pasteur Sage Illustration

In 2015, the first Sage Assembly was held at the Institute Pasteur in Paris: http://sagebase.org/paris-assembly-2015-april/ Below are my slides from the last day’s concluding remarks. 1. Let me start by saying what an amazing experience the last few days have been. Interesting ideas, great people, innovative solutions all came together here, in Paris. Thank you institute of Pasture for being such wonderful hosts. 2. And of course none of this would have happened if not for one man, one American in Paris, Steven Friend. Thank you for working so hard to change the world, Steven! 3. And all of us! Don’t we group well? But there are still some obvious empty pins on this map. The World-wide Sage Community has room to grow! So let me come straight to my topic — how do we create systems that help us change the world? How do we design and foster supports , scaffolds that make open data initiatives possible? Well, I believe we have to start by understanding the people and communities in which they work. And we need to think about how change propagates… 4. Change can be sparked by a single individual and then move all the way up…

Gamification and Sociobiology

Portable Heart Monitor

For the last several years, the has been a steady drum beat: Gamify, Gamify, Gamify. Universities are struggling to gamify their students and curricula, hospitals seek to gamify their staff, corporation are trying to gamify their sales strategy. Gamification is everywhere. What’s lacking is a clear understanding of what it is and what it isn’t. Here is a couple of examples where gamification of user activity was causing direct harm. Understanding what drove undesirable behavior allowed designers to remove those aspects from interaction intentionally. And an example of using gaming strategy to increase sales. Online Support for Anorexia Patients British online support site for young eating disorder sufferers provides access 24/7. It is absolutely vital to help children during times when they feel vulnerable, especially once they’ve been released from a program. But old habits are hard to break. It’s easy to devolve into a numbers games on a public BBS — “I’ve lost/gained 5 pounds in the last 2/4 days” is an absolute trigger message for a person recovering from anorexia. Anorexia is a numbers game: How long can I go without food? How little can I eat per day? How many pounds can I lose? How fast? There’s…

Remarking on the Unremarkable

Steve Jobs Wikipedia cropped B&W

What’s the difference between a consumer of good design and a designer? Well, it boils down to the ability to notice an opportunity where a product or a fix or a nudge can make a positive difference in someone’s life. During his 1989 interview with Inc Magazine, Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.” You see, designers don’t ask for solutions. They discover them and share them with the world. So what does it take to discover a good design solution? I believe it comes down to ability to see a pain point, to notice an opportunity, to remark on the unremarkable! Allow me to share to few examples from personal experience in the last few months. Drug Labels I recently had a heart stress test. Unfortunately, the IV drug they tried to use had an unusual side effect — my heart rate would go up and then quickly drop, enabling the doctors to perform the test. The nurses scrambled for another drug, but they also needed to make a report — such and such a drug on such and such a patient resulted in bad reaction.…

We Are the Magicians

Maximilien Luce, Morning, Interior, 1890, using pointillist technique

We all make magic every day. Don’t think so? Then consider this, we conjure up complete worlds of information with a mere suggestion, just a bit of outline, a stroke or two, a few words, a spatter of color, a dash of melody. We literally make grand visions from just a trickle of data. This is true for those who design and those who consume information. Let’s first explore our ability to comprehend very incomplete information. Take pointillism — an art movement (technique) that required artists to create images using points of pure color — why are we able to “see” the complete image from a mere collection of dots? With just a collection of colored dots, we are all able to imagine the mood, understand the story, visualize the universe behind this painting. You can say: “well, the artist was great at using dots.” But it is not just dots that we are good at. We reconstruct our reality from little bits of incomplete data all day every day of our lives. Consider the tone of voice of the person who answered the phone — you can easily tell the mood and even guess at the personality of that…