Developing a Story

Vars signs books

How does one choose a story? Or does a story choose its teller? For me, random triggers in my subconscious coalesce and spark inspiration that is not yet a story but rather the embryo of one. That seed, with time, might ripen enough to be worth planting. But the seed of a story doesn’t contain a compelling narrative that grabs and doesn’t let go until the very last word and beyond. A good story stays with its reader long after the last word is seen or heard. It rises unbidden in the middle of the night to infiltrate the reader’s dreams and deliver something new — a melding of what the author was trying to tell and what the reader took away. What does it take to develop a good story? A spark of imagination is one. Persistence is another — it takes time and perseverance to get words down on a page. But there’s more. I believe that good stories, like all good products, are constructed following a design process. There are always constraints on how the story needs to be told for a specific audience. There are industry demands on authors. There is a ton of background research.…

Ice Music

Coding Peter Suddenly Paris 2 Covers

I wish I had heard of Siberian Ice Drummers or the use of Lake Baikal ice as a musical instrument when I wrote the second book in the “Many Worlds, One Life” series: “Coding Peter”! If I had, it would have been featured prominently in my story. Alas, some discoveries come too late…but at least they come! Take a listen:

A Year in Books


I read a few books this last year, and like a good reader, I would like to recommend and review some of those stories. So here goes… “The Wheel of Time” (4 stars) The Complete Wheel of Time Series Set (1-14) This a big commitment… I want to start this review by being very explicit — don’t start unless you have the time to finish in one go (over many months). There is so much detail and so many characters (all sounding similar) that it would be difficult to get through without an online guide…or if you just give up caring. I posted the images of the books, spines out — I want you to fully understand the commitment you are making. It took me about a year to finish all 14 books. I haven’t decided if I want to spend additional time reading the prequels; certainly not any time soon. Below are my short notes on each book (not summaries of the plot) and the number of pages per book: #1 The Eye of the World (written by Robert Jordan) — 753 pages Very interesting world, very well defined, with many nuances. I liked the characters. It was a…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

Design for Social Good

Social engineering is way of designing products and situations which actively encourage people to behave in a desired way — Nudging for Good. EDF Challenge “Sharing energy in the city, 2030” seems an ideal circumstance for social engineering for the greater social good. The basic question is how do we as designers find ways to incentivize individuals to save energy? How do we make a bit of personal sacrifice an attractive option for most? How do we “nudge” people to behave in a socially responsible ways when it comes to energy use? First, it makes sense to break up the problem into several user categories: personal energy sharing, family sharing, neighborhood or community sharing, city or village sharing. At each level we expand the circle to involve more and more individuals, and so we need a different approach for each category. Each category has a set of pressure points on which social engineers can apply pressure to achieve the desired changes. Once we identify the user groups targeted for “nudging”, game theory can be used to find the most attractive options. While there are numerous strategies that can be borrowed from game theory to incentivize the desired energy sharing behavior,…

The Post-Password Era Begins

In November of 2012, Wired Magazine wrote a cover story titled, “Kill the Password,” in which Mat Honan retold how hackers stole his identity and hijacked his social media accounts. After some research, Honan shared just how easy it is for hackers to steal passwords, often with some fairly low-tech methods. Fast forward to October 9, 2013, when Adobe Systems emailed its users that hackers had stolen encrypted user passwords. However, the fact that Adobe was hacked wasn’t the problem. The email was sent to call attention to the real problem: “We recommend that you also change your password on any website where you use the same user ID or password.” Yikes! How many web-based accounts do I have that use the same user name? In January of 2012, I began documenting all the web-based accounts I use. 66 of 167 web accounts use the same user name. 40 use another. How many use the same password? Coincidentally, 66 use the same password. Despite how obviously vulnerable I am, I might have been complacent enough to ignore my own security negligence had two more Internet companies not emailed me about Adobe’s password breach. On November 16, Eventbrite emailed me to recommend that I change my password on their site because…

Health, Human Rights, and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs, used under the Creative Commons

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper on human motivation: “A Theory of Human Motivation.” The ideas (and diagram) from that paper have been widely used in business schools and management training programs. But these same ideas can be applied to human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed into life by UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, just five years after the Maslow’s publication of “A Theory of Human Motivation”, echoes the work via a set of Articles stating the rights of every human being. Physiological Needs Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to the right of adequate food (and presumably water is included), housing and clothing (for homeostasis control), and medical care. The right to medical care implies to me the right to live healthy, or at least healthy to the best of ability of a particular individual. This right to medical care as a universal right of all human beings can be interpreted to mean many things. For the purposes of the comparison to the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it could be interpreted as every human has the right to have their physiological needs met. This could…