Monday, 5 June 2006

Advice to Web Developers: Forget the Password

This weekend while wandering down the aisles of our local Super Target, we found a dinner table and a side board we though would go great in our living/dining room. After checking out, a couple of teenage boys wheeled the still flat-packed pieces to our awaiting PT Cruiser.

Now, after flattening the inside of the car, both pieces fit. Though either Jen or myself wouldn’t. We kindly asked the boys if they could hold the pieces until I returned.


After dropping Jen and the little man home, I returned to pick up the furniture – now in the Customer Service area.

“I’m here for those pieces.”

“Do you have the receipt?”


We chatted for a bit, trying confirm that the pieces were in-fact mine and paid for sans receipt.

I told her we couldn’t take them before, because we couldn’t get them both in the car.

She called over the same teenage boy and off we went.

One of my bigger irritations these days is with the number of passwords I need to remember to try out the latest browser-based Web2dotOhGodNo beta.

Frequently, there’s no real need for a specific web service to require registration of a unique identity, let alone I’ve already generated a pile of them elsewhere (can’t I use one of those?).

Sometimes, my browser will pre-populate the login/pass – that’s great while at the same time completely defeating the purpose of security. Security and identity are separate concepts, though security may confirm identity, there are other ways.

Point is the two concepts are mixed up so much there’s an inherent security problem.
The more passwords I create, use, manage, and remember on a regular basis, the greater the chance I’ll use something like “1234” and the whole ecosystem becomes insecure.

I’m using Apple’s Keychain Access to store passwords both me and my browser have since forgotten. Passwords for trials that have expired and services that no longer exist. Thing is, I’m far less likely to click ‘forgot password’ than I am to never return (Who knew Friendster was still around?).

Forget the password, it’s a security risk for customers and a barriers-to-entry for providers.


“Some teens chew through IM handles like candy; their nicks are things like “o-so-funny” rather than the first name, last name standard that seems to pervade professional worlds. It’s not seen as something to build an extensive identity around, but something to use to talk to friends in the moment.” – Dana Boyd

Thursday, 24 November 2005

Monday, 1 August 2005

Fix the Employee Cafeteria and You’ll Fix the Customer Relationship

Rob over at Business Pundit posts on How Broken Windows Can Kill a Business. As always, insightful.

I’m a big fan of fixing the small things. Not only does it make a change easier to implement, all big things are made of small things, so the big things start to take care of themselves.

The first comment, from David Lorenzo offers insight as compelling as Rob’s original post:

“When I was in the hotel industry and I was faced with a troubled property I would always clean up the ‘back of the house’ first. I would scrub and paint all the areas that the guests wouldn’t see. I would upgrade the meals in the employee cafeteria and I would re-stripe the employee parking lot….I would explain that we were going to improve every detail of our hotel guests’ experience and we were going to start from the inside out.”

Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Customers are Cheaper than Ad Agencies

When people are sharing more and more with each other and strangers, when audiences are splintering, when the relationship between a company and it’s customers is far more measurable, spending millions of dollars on “brand awareness” would seem hilarious – if it wasn’t sad.

In other words:

“You don’t want the kind of high-production stories that come out of ad agencies- you want the kind of stories that ordinary people can tell.”

Thanks to Hugh for sharing.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Designing for Beausage?

One of the things that continues to inspire and intrigue me is how the marks of previous uses communicate how to use something to a new audience.

In the non-electronic, non-disposable world of say, a rural Midwestern farm in the 1980s; the wear on the barn door shows you how to open it, the path through the field leads to the cows, the best place for your hands is on the shiny spots of the tractor’s steering wheel.

The action of planning for this communciation: designing for wear.
The word to describe something with this characteristic: beausage.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

A Systems Thinking Overview

As an introduction to the perspective Working Pathway’s brings to your project, I present this excellent overview of systems thinking from the late Donella Meadows: Dancing with Systems.

Here are some highlights to get you started:

“Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves.”

“Aid and encourage the forces and structures that help the system run itself.”

“Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”

“The way you learn is by experiment—or, as Buckminster Fuller put it, by trial and error, error, error.”

“A decision-maker can’t respond to information he or she doesn’t have…”

“Look for the ways the system creates its own behavior.”

Here’s an additional link to Dancing with Systems. Yes, it’s that good.

Thanks to Willem Van den Ende for bringing this seminal work to our attention.

Friday, 11 June 2004

Do As Little As Possible

How little can I do to successfully reach this goal?

Continually asking youreself that questions is the best ways to minimize rework, reach goals quickly, guarantee sustainable solutions, and design for wear.

This approach creates a functional prototype quickly, keeps stress levels down, and keeps product teams lean.

Johanna Rothman has an excellent post highlighting other benefits of this approach from the product development perspective:

  • Understanding the requirements is a scarce resource, and we should focus our energies towards delivering something that shows we understand the specific requirement and the value it has to our customer.
  • Schedule is critical and we don’t have time to do it again, or build technical debt
  • Project cost is important, and we need to manage it

and another on how this approach specifically addresses rework

See how little you can do, and deliver that much as quickly as possible. The technique I use most often is to break the pieces into groups of requirements/features and then perform iterations within whatever lifecycle the people are used to.

Thanks to NerdHerding for Beginners.

Sunday, 29 February 2004

Measure Once – Cut 5 or 6 Times

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we spent the weekend redoing our bathroom & entryway. The biggest a-ha I can offer you:

Iterate For a Snug Fit.

For each piece of sub-flooring, each tile, and the new mopboard – we would:

  1. Make the measurement
  2. Cut off a hair little less than we measured
  3. Massage the piece in place
  4. Mark where it didn’t fit, and take off a little more
  5. Repeat as necessary

This gave us a much closer fit everywhere – and taught us more about the house than measuring and cutting exactly. Which wouldn’t have worked perfectly anyway because, as my father-in-law says, “The blade has width.”

For more on iterative prototyping check out Michael Schrage’s book Serious Play.

Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Legalizing Feng Shui

Last month Assemblyman Leland Yee introduced a bill in the California legislature to put Feng Shui principles on the books.

State officials were speechless “We know earthquakes knock down buildings, we know fire burns down buildings. We don’t know what feng shui does to buildings.”

As Assemblyman Yee responded, “A lot of the principles of feng shui are common sense. You should have light, air, and you should not have people’s backs to the door.”

Cut away the mysticism, the compasses, the octogans, and the core of feng shui describes common sense ways to prevent yourself from being surprised and startled during the day.

Like all media, buildings facilitate relationships between people. Make a small change in the environment and you’ll transform the relationship of the people within that space. I remember a dramatic example a few years ago. I was working for a small firm – in a small, single-room office. All the desks were along the perimeter of the blank cinderblock walls. It was difficult to talk with any one about anything – your back was to them and their’s to you. Not the type of climate conducive to a successful start-up.

After about a month of being forced to ignore the others in the room, I pushed the tables together and offset the workspaces. Within a week, we went out to lunch together more and started to gel as a team. Things were going so well, we moved into a new, larger space – with built-in desks forcing us into the corners, backs to each other. We lasted 3 months in that space before disbanding.