Emerging trend - makers reviewing makers

"The fact of the matter is only the very worst critics aspire to do what they’re criticizing."

-Chuck Klosterman

We’re used to a clear separation between critics and makers - Roger Ebert didn’t make movies, but he was amazing at reviewing them. Lester Bangs didn’t write music, yet he influenced musicians via his writing in Rolling Stone.

But now, a new trend is emerging - makers reviewing makers. For example, check out The Talkhouse

it’s a website where bands, rather than critics, review other bands. The idea is that musicians are uniquely qualified to describe the sounds of another musician’s work, because they think and talk about music all day and hear lots of new stuff before most people. There is an authenticity in the engagement between creators that can’t be matched by marketers, critics, labels, or distributors.  See Lou Reed’s thoughts on Kanye.

via: this post on Medium.

It’s not often that I disagree with Chuck, but I think this is an exciting trend that I hope continues. What maker-reviewing-maker communities have you come across? 

Send suggestions to @kaz on Twitter.

Text-only UIs

Before sketching in your notebook, try writing out your UI first. You might be surprised by what you find. 

iA Writer is a great app for distraction-free writing, but before reading Jason’s tweet I’d never considered it a tool for UI design…and actually I still don’t — but by combining text with some basic HTML I’ve found mocking up text-only UIs to be a helpful step in judging the overall effectiveness of an app.

To quickly demonstrate text’s value, I mocked up some popular feeds, sans graphics.

Note: I tried to show the visual weight of each element using various h1, h2, h3 tags — and speed trumped accuracy so you’ll see some things like User pic and Name on separate lines, when in reality graphics allowed for both elements to appear on the same line.

imageInstagram, Facebook, and Twitter — not an <img> in site.  Full size.
Some observations:
  • Instagram: The elegance of Instagram is obvious, even in its text-only form. (ps: do you think if they were acquired by Twitter instead of Facebook that they would have added pull-to-refresh functionality by now??)
  • Facebook’s newsfeed is dense — even though what’s displayed is similar to Instagram. There are options to check your status, add a photo, or check-in — all from the main feed. Just seems like a lot of separate activities going on within a single feed. To Facebook’s credit, it doesn’t feel that overwhelming in graphical form.
  • Twitter: I was surprised by how little emphasis was given to creating a new Tweet within Twitter’s main feed. Also user pics really stand out, and both name and username are displayed — which makes things feel a bit inefficient.

What do you think? Is a text-only lens helpful in creating and judging UIs? How do you go about using text to create great user experiences?

Send suggestions to @kaz on Twitter.

Have you ever wished you could follow a tweet?

Twitter redefined what it means to follow a person online, and once you’re following someone there are a few different options for how to interact with what they’re sharing. You can reply, retweet, or favorite any individual tweet, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could also subscribe to an individual tweet from someone you may or may not already be following?

On Quora, you can “follow a question” and I’d love to have that ability on Twitter - because often, "who" is asking the question has a big impact on the number and quality of responses that that question will receive.


Being able to follow, or track, a tweet might also help increase the odds of getting an answer, if similar to a retweet, you could promote the question being tracked to your own followers.

Here’s a quick mock of what the Track feature might look like…what do you guys think?


ps: if this feature existed, you’d know where to get the best burger in SF.

Is Instagram a fad?

Whether or not they are is up to them. Adding filters to photos may be a fad, but the act of socially sharing photos has been around since before Don Draper pitched the Carousel, and it’s not going away anytime soon. 

"One way to distinguish a fad from a trend is to ask what would happen if you reversed the order in which technologies were invented." So, if Flickr in its current form came out tomorrow would Instagram still continue to be successful? I think you could argue that it would, because the app makes sharing photos (and videos) easier/more fun/more social than sharing photos via Flickr.

Instagram can provide lasting value beyond the current buzz by always being the best at two things: 

  1. Encouraging people to regularly take photos/videos (currently done by offering filters that make your photos look better - tomorrow it could be something else)
  2. Enabling people to easily share the photos with people they care about (for now it’s being able to share to Twitter, Tumblr, FB - in the future the Instagram community may make Instagram itself the main destination to share).

Doing both well isn’t something that’s ever finished and whether or not Instagram is a fad depends on how well they can nail these goals vs. other alternatives.

Fad vs. trend quote via this classic Corante post.

So you want to be right more often?

Two related posts with a similar theme: being right.

The first is from Jeff Bezos:

"He said people who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today."

The other via John Gruber:

What you want is to be (1) right more often than wrong; (2) willing to recognize when you are wrong; and (3) able and willing to correct whatever is wrong. If you expect perfection, to be right all the time, you’re going to fail on all three of those. 

Related: Gingrich ‘dumbfounded’ by Obama win, but… 

"We need to stop, take a deep breath and learn." He added, "The president won an extraordinary victory. And the fact is, we owe him the respect of trying to understand what they did and how they did it…to succeed in the future, we will have to learn the lessons of 2012. An intellectually honest and courageous Republican Party has nothing to fear from the current situation."

Links on the power of working backwards

3. Theory of Change

A “theory of action” is working forwards from what you know how to do to try to find things you can do that will accomplish your goal.

A theory of change is the opposite of a theory of action — it works backwards from the goal, in concrete steps, to figure out what you can do to achieve it. To develop a theory of change, you need to start at the end and repeatedly ask yourself, “Concretely, how does one achieve that?” It’s not easy. It could take a while before you get to a concrete action that you can take. But do you see how this is entirely crucial if you want to be effective?

2. Read the questions first

He discovered on the ACT test that in the reading section, if he read the questions first, he had a better idea of what to focus on when he went back to do the reading.

1. What is Amazon’s approach to product development?

We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. 

For new initiatives a product manager typically starts by writing an internal press release announcing the finished product. The target audience for the press release is the new/updated product’s customers. Internal press releases are centered around the customer problem, how current solutions (internal or external) fail, and how the new product will blow away existing solutions.

If the benefits listed don’t sound very interesting or exciting to customers, then perhaps they’re not (and shouldn’t be built). Instead, the product manager should keep iterating on the press release until they’ve come up with benefits that actually sound like benefits. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself (and quicker!).

Why did Instagram beat out PicPlz?

They were able to do the following better than PicPlz and others:

  1. Identify what truly matters
    The right features trump more features. Speed, self-expression (via filters and cropping), and instant gratification were more important than higher res photos or multi-platform support.
  2. Offer a refined experience
    Instagram’s design made photo sharing elegant from start to finish, while a similar experience from PicPlz was filled with additional clicks, slower loading times, and a more awkward UX in general.
  3. Ignore everything else

It’s that last step that I think helped Instagram stand out. By having a “barely there” website, they had to make sure they delivered a complete mobile-only package. And by launching solely on iOS, they were able to concentrate on delivering a single great experience before having to deal with any fragmentation challenges on the other platforms. Their focus allowed them to stay small and nimble while others spent time/money building things that ultimately didn’t matter to most users.

- - - 

More on the refined experience from a Jon Steinberg post: 

"Design elegance, that which is refined and missing, is what makes it stand out. And yet predicting what feature, or absence of features that, will make an Instagram is nearly impossible without hindsight. Something that was stressed through an elegant minimalism is what made them the ones that got loved."

via: http://jonsteinberg.com/2012/04/14/the-hello-kitty-effect-and-why-instagram-and-pinterest-have-it/

There’s a very fragile line

At about the 15 minute mark in the post game press conference Marquette head coach Buzz Williams was asked to explain a late game defensive adjustment. After quickly dismissing the question, Buzz paused and then interrupted another reporter asking a different question to respond to the original one - a telltale sign he’s about to say something great.  

Here’s his response (speaking to the journalist):

What happens is there’s a very fragile line in your life, in your industry. As your industry has changed, people have lost their jobs, their livelihood. Family’s have changed.

There’s a fragile line in our industry too. And that fragile line is how hard it is to get a job. How hard it is to get a good job. And of the small collection of good jobs, how hard it is to have a good job and make it a great job.

The hardest thing in life to get is momentum. And the hardest thing in life to keep is momentum…

The reason why my answer to your question is “no” is because the next game we play is going to be another one possession game…I hope…just like the last two we’ve played. And so…I wanna see if we can win another game in the NCAA tournament.

I’m not a genius. I don’t want to be a genius. I don’t want to be Mr. Tactician. I don’t want to be tactical, I want to be tough. Within that toughness, and this is what’s missed, is that there’s a discipline that’s required to have that toughness. 

We do some things, but I don’t want to tell you what, cause I want to pass the Sweet 16 test. 

I love Buzz and love #mubb. Go Marquette.