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  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:40 pm on December 24, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Banksy, , , , famous graffitti artist, , graffitti artist, , , Human behavior, Human development, , Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Maslow's pyramid, Microformat, Personal development, , , , , ,   

    Deadprogrammer’s Hierarchy of Web Needs 

    I recently received a phone call from a recruiter. He wanted to lure me away to some “big company” that still had “small company feel” to participate in a “redesign of a major website”. He felt like all of these things, as well as “a well stocked kitchen” were big selling points.

    I am a veteran of many website redesigns, major and minor. I’ve come to dread the word “redesign” because very frequently it meant taking a perfectly good website and making it significantly worse, and then through major struggles making it marginally beter. In the past I wrote a rather bloated article titled “The Russian Tea Room Syndrome” about this. Today I would like to write a bit more about this, as this topic rarely leaves my mind and my life.

    Earlier in my career, I had very little influence over the redesign process, but this is changing. This is the primary reason why my job title has the shameful word “Architect” in it: I write code and configure servers, but I want my say in strategery as well.

    So, Michael, you might ask, what is the problem with redesigns? Aren’t redesigns about making websites better? Well, many redesigns suffer from not following IBM’s famous motto.

    IBM has one of the best corporate mottos ever: CRUSH and DESTROY. Uh, I mean THINK. They even give out props with the word “THINK” on it and publish THINK magazine.

    Many redesigns happen simply as a knee jerk reaction: oh, look company X is doing Y and using Z. When you sit in a meeting and somebody is describing a redesign purely in terms of things other people do, you are likely in trouble. No thinking is involved at all.

    But sometimes it’s the type of thinking that is going on that is the problem. You have to think about the relative importance of things.

    I have a picture by famous graffitti artist Banksy hanging on my wall. It is a metaphor about true and false importance.

    In 1943 a Brooklyn College professor Abraham Maslow outlined what is now known as Maslow’s Hierarchy: a pyramid that ranks human needs. It looks like prior to him nobody really gave a lot of thought to relative importance of pooping and morality. Well, maybe a little – there’s a Russian idiom for a person of untrustworthy nature that originated during WWI when soldiers relieved themselves in rows, next to specially dug trenches: “I would not take a dump next to this person”. Also see “I hope they serve beer in hell

    Here’s Maslow’s pyramid in all of its glory:

    I decided I’d come up with the hierarchy of web needs:

    standard adherence: strict XHTML, CSS, etc

    choice of technology: language, CMS, OS, cloud/servers, etc

    other features: widgets, games, microformats

    multimedia: video, podcasts, interactive flash

    design: graphical elements, typography, pleasing layout

    semantic web: metadata, tagging

    usability: text size, image size, logical layout, uncluttered interface, site name/urls, browser support

    community features: comments, ratings, feeds

    googliness: search, speed, security

    content qualities: usefulness, interest, freshness, uniqueness

    content: text, images, links

    In my opinion unsuccesful redesigns happen when people start from the wrong end of the pyramid (always skipping the first step: I’m yet to meet anybody with power who thinks about these things are important).

    I will expand on this in my next post.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 5:03 am on December 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , HMS Beekeeper store, Human behavior, , , , , , Webkinz, Webkinz Webcast   

    Entrepreneurship Heros I 

    To celebrate my 2 year anniversary of working for Fast Company and Inc magazines, I decided to write 2 posts about entrepreneurship. Here’s the first one.

    The owner of super awesome HMS Beekeeper store recently complained that people told her that she should close “because it’s ‘buy nothing day'”. I’m pretty sure that these people would have enjoyed my childhood in the Soviet Union, where most days were ‘buy nothing day’. Soviet Union was the kind of place where reporting your father to the secret police could make you a national hero, while engaging in business activity was a crime.

    I was brought up in an environment where 99% of non-governmental commercial activity was outright illegal, and the allowed kind was considered extremely unwholesome by association. Just about any item produced by the Soviet industry would be stamped with a price in order to discourage illegal arbitrage, like this condom, for example:

    These days outside of California it’s hard to imagine a society that considers this much commercial activity evil, but when I was a kid, any schoolchild caught engaging in commercial activity of any sort could get in a lot of trouble. Personal entrepreneurship was literally a criminal activity. This kind of an environment tended to produce excellent jet fighters, but pretty crummy condoms.

    In America entrepreneurs get a lot of respect (outside of government and hippie circles), and they tend to start early. You always read about the likes of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates having business ventures in high school and college.

    My former co-worker told me a story about his daughter who got into trouble for her entrepreneurial activities in 2nd grade. She and her friend decided to cash in on the popularity of Webkinz. They went into the business of selling hand-drawn counterfeit Webkinz trading cards. Surprisingly they were able to sell a good deal of those. The trouble came when the teachers noticed that they were engaged in market segmentation and variable pricing (which is a topic of one of my favorite Joel on Software articles). You see, the girls were selling cards at a discount to the popular kids and at inflated prices to unpopular ones.

    This episode only increases my dislike of schoolteachers. If I were in their place I would have praised the girls for entrepreneurship, and explained to them that it’s copyright infringement that is problematic, while market segmentation is perfectly kosher, even if a little sneaky. I’d teach them about premium vs generic branding and how some people happily pay a lot more for identical items in different packaging.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 9:58 am on November 11, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Human behavior, , , Polish   

    Orly No Bite 

    No Bite is a fast and effective bad tasting, clear color bitter nail bite deterrent formulated to stop nail biting. Promotes healthy nail growth. Enriched with natural pearl for enhanced shine and durability. Can be use alone or over nail polish. Good for both men and women. Dries to a natural looking finish – not shiny. Does not wash off with water.

     
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