I’m Gonna (Maybe) Be Teaching a New Class at MICA

I met with the director of the Graphic Design MFA program last week, and we’ve stubbed out a plan to teach a usability and user experience methods class starting in the Spring of 2015. Who’s excited? This guy!

Here is the course description I submitted for consideration:

There is no reason to celebrate when we successfully open a door, switch a light on or roll a window down. Similarly, there is no reason to celebrate when a web user successfully completes an online form.  Or is there?  As technology, culture, globalization, art, and politics continues to change the context of our everyday life, our expectations of things and how they should work are also changing.

The ultimate measure of success for an interface designer is complete and utter silence. When things work, they work. And people move on.  This class will prepare students to design interfaces that work and generate positive experiences.

Specifically, User Experience & Interface Design Methods I + II examines the space where computer, people and design intersect. This studio course will look at the design of user interfaces with an emphasis on supporting effective communication between designers and their audience.

Fundamental principles and practices of human computer interaction, including human capabilities, interface technology, design methods, and evaluation techniques will be covered. Students will complete projects that allow them to gain hands-on experience in all phases of interface design and evaluation. This class will be useful to any student who enjoys creating on screen or off-screen interfaces and experiences.

Interpreting the American Dream

FastCompany recently posted an article examining how the “American Dream” has evolved to reflect the attitudes of a new generation. It’s no longer the stereotypical house with the white picket fence, two-car garage and 2.5 kids. The Millennial version of the American Dream shifts focus from the materialistic to the intangible: connecting with one another, looking for career flexibility, and getting passionate about a cause.

The article resonated with me on a personal and professional level. And it compelled me to ask myself, what is my American Dream?

I was born in the late ’70’s, so I either just miss, or just make it into the Millennial generation. I grew up rather poor. I had to move a lot. It wasn’t until I was already in high school that my parents were able to finally buy a home. But I see that instability growing up as a huge benefit to me both during and after my military career. I wasn’t exposed to the reality or importance of home ownership, so I don’t consider home ownership as being a part of my “American Dream”. In fact, my dream looks more like this:

Appreciating the simple things.

One advantage of growing up poor is that you are given the opportunity to truly appreciate finer things in life outside of material possessions. I can say that being poor and having to constantly face adversity has positively shaped my “American Dream”. Growing up, I never had a lot of material possessions. I knew how it felt to  to sell them and/or have them taken away. From an early age I learned the importance of hard work, responsibility, and spending wisely—and the need to do them in order to get something in return. To this day make sure everything I purchase is not only a need and smart investment, but is something that is going to sustain and/or improve my quality of life.

Keeping that childlike creativity.

There’s the notion that the less money you have, the less opportunities you have to do things. However, it doesn’t mean you are or have to be unhappy because of it. As painful as it was to learn growing up I can now appreciate that money isn’t everything. I can’t remember much from a week ago let alone from my years as a child, but one of the things I do recall is making our own toys from baking dough and then painting them with food coloring. It really had a positive impact on me as a child.

Learning from and honoring others’ sacrifices.

My grandmother was the most influential person in my life growing up. If I had to choose the one most important thing I learned from her it would definitely be do something you enjoy. Ironically, I learned this by watching her sacrifice.

My grandmother never went to college—no one in my family did. I was the first to achieve an undergraduate degree. She spent her career working at the Hershey’s factory to provide for her children and then, later, to provide for us grandchildren. She spent long, hard days on her feet and rarely did anything for herself. Needless to say, it wasn’t work she enjoyed doing. But it was a sacrifice she was willing to make to bring just a bit of happiness to us. As I got older, I could definitely see how the daily grind of doing something she wasn’t passionate about affected her. I soon realized why it was so important to her to support and encourage us to do things we cared about.

I guess you could say my “American Dream” is having the opportunity to do what I enjoy. To be challenged. To find meaning. I don’t need  a fancy car, a big house, expensive toys. I simply need to do something that matters.

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Paul Silva is a military veteran, a designer and thinker, and idfive’s newest developer.

5 Reasons Media Monitoring is PR Mission Essential

Media monitoring, the act of monitoring the output of media from print, online, social, and broadcast media, is something most of us already include in our everyday lives. And browsing news outlets for relevant stories seems like an obvious requirement for any brand promotion or positioning. But in the realm of public relations, it’s actually much more important then just a daily check box. Here’s why.

Media monitoring is critical in:

  1. Building a relevant contact list. Find the reporters that will be interested in what you have to say and keep track of them. Keeping tabs on their stories and point-of-view will give you a holistic picture of their beat. Send releases to the reporters who are most likely to be interested, instead of wasting both of your time.
  2. Staying on top of reporting trends for better pitches. If the media is focused on a certain aspect of your industry, pitch your story so that it’s in line with trends. Alternatively, if one angle has been exhausted, show them a new perspective that still relates and tell them why. Do their research for them.
  3. Cultivating a quick response to breaking stories or events. When a huge story blows up, media outlets are chomping at the bit to get the best insider information. Respond quickly to relevant news with source offerings that position you or your client as an expert in the topic. You won’t be alone, so it’s important to be first.
  4. Avoiding negative press. Sometimes being in the news is a double-edged sword. Staying aware of media trends will help you ensure your message is clear and cannot be connected negatively with the latest public outrage or controversy.
  5. Tracking your results. Public relations is by no means an exact science. But keeping a record of where your stories landed will help you learn what sticks and what doesn’t—not to mention show the value in your work.

So media monitoring is obviously important. But who has the time?

Here is some good news: It doesn’t have to be that hard. Really. There are great free tools out there, Google Alerts for example, that gather information for you and send it right to your inbox. Following media outlets and reporters on Twitter allows you to scroll right through hundreds of stories on your phone. Make a monitoring routine that works for you and create time for it in your daily schedule—on the train or during your morning coffee. It will save you big time in the long run.

The US Gives Up Control of IP & DNS Systems

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO THE INTERNET!?

Last week the government announced it was moving forward with a plan, originally set over 15 years ago, to hand over control of DNS and IP addressing systems to an international consortium by September of 2015.

In 1997 President Bill Clinton enacted a plan to transition the main oversight of the IP and DNS from DARPA to the yet unformed Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and eventually the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The control was then supposed to be expanded to include an international consortium sometime in 2000 or 2001. But that didn’t end up happening.

The move announced on Tuesday continues the plan to create a new international technological group, which will transition the main control of U.S. “owned” IP and DNS systems to a more egalitarian system for the international community.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY SITE?

Nothing. And there isn’t much to worry about either (for now).

At this point ICANN has been given orders to begin drafting a proposal for what the future international organization would look like and how it might function. When the actual transition takes place, it should happen smoothly as nothing will physically change except the organization in which you register and update your domains and ownership information.

CONCERNS AND POSSIBLE PIT-FALLS

The Internet is constantly changing and evolving which is a great thing. One of the concerns I’ve come across in a few articles stems from “who” might be allowed to have a voice in the new international consortium. Many are afraid that countries like China and Russia, with poor track records when dealing with freedom of information, may have a disproportionately larger presence then their actual internet foot print, and as a result may be able to assert their perception of an “open & free” internet. But just like the UN or G8, there is almost surely going to be some kind of bar to entry that will help maintain standards of freedom.

SOURCES:
PCMag – U.S. to Relinquish Control of Internet in 2015
Mashable – U.S. Set to Give up Its Last Power Over the Internet
ZDNet – Analysis: What exact control over the Internet is the US giving up and is it bad or not?

Twitter Ads: A Quick Introduction

Twitter has been talking to businesses about their “Promoted” products for a little while now but it hasn’t been until recently that they’ve opened the platform up to anyone in the Twitterverse.

The platform is meant for individuals, brands, and/or celebrities to promote themselves or something else via a tweet to people outside of their network of followers.

Targeting options include:

  • Geography
  • Specific @usernames
  • Interests Categories
  • Device/Platform
  • Gender

One of the biggest draws to the platform for advertisers is Twitter’s integrated analytics, only accessible to advertisers. The ability to see what kind of users interact with your tweets or account helps shape who your audience is on Twitter and what they might be into. Be prepared to dig through the data though. At first glance it can be hard to make sense of but once you get the hang of it becomes easy.

With a small budget an advertiser can get a pretty good reach. For about $50/day, depending on your targeting, about 10,000+ impressions and 90+ “engagements”. An engagement can be anything from a click on a link, retweet, @reply, favorite, or a new follower.

What’s important, and different from other platforms, is that you’re only charged for each user’s first engagement. This means that if a user clicks on a link and then favorites and/or follows your account, you’re only paying for the click. The 2nd and 3rd engagements are bonus.

Overall, our first impressions have been fairly positive. We are happy with the engagement rates and targeting options and have been surprised by the few new follower’s we’ve received for our client. There’s some experimenting and learning to still be done but I can see us using this in the future as a traffic builder early on in a campaign or as a way to spread word of a new product or service.