Archives for category: life

The infamous TN1-VISA: Its like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, except this one lets me legally work in the US.  I took this photo 5 minutes after walking out of the US customs office in YYZ

(for tips on what to do/expect when making the move yourself, checkout my other post here)

I recently moved from my home town of Toronto, Canada to downtown San Francisco.  A lot of people have asked me why I moved (other than the job) so I thought I’d write a quick post about my move.  Over the next few months I will also be publishing weekly (hopefully) updates about my journey into the heart of the tech world.
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I always feel uncomfortable taking photos in airports

I often (wrongfully) ignore great examples of UI design outside the computer world.  While making a connecting flight in Vancouver, I stopped to take a picture of this (in my opinion) great “User Interface”.  It reminded me of Tufte’s Envisioning Information, although I’m sure there are many other books which better exemplify this point, maybe this one.

I am always reminded of an interview question a friend had a few years ago while interviewing for a PM position at Microsoft: “Design a information kiosk assuming that your target demographic is illiterate.” That’s a cool problem that I think a lot of people freeze on.  It opens up so many ways of exploring perceptual psychology and visual affordances, and generally brings up some great design questions.

The above sign is printed in English and French (Canada’s official languages), Chinese (likely due to the large amount of Chinese visitors and immigrants going through Vancouver) and some visual queues for everyone else.  But realistically, the visual queues are the main focus, and the labels are just supplementary information.  An arrow showing which direction to walk, the picture of a man traveling, the Canadian flag, signifying domestic, and a green light… which to be honest Im not sure what means, but lets me know that going this way is good.

Does your application’s or website’s UI communicate well to your users?  Do you rely too heavily on English labels?  Do you rely too heavily on icons?  Does your website pass the blur test (now that green circle makes sense)?  I won’t open the debate of icons vs. labels, or even the discussion about Realism in UI design, I am just thinking aloud.

An interesting thought, which stuck me while passing by this lonely sign in the Vancouver airport .

Update: For a very interesting and thorough breakdown of this idea in field, check out this great article on SmashingMagazine:

I love the color pink/purple - I change my syntax highlighting colors so that I comment more...

One day, a software developer was walking down the street and came across a large pill of dog shit.  He bent down to get a closer look and said to himself “yep, that looks like shit”.  He then gave it a sniff, and said “Yep, that smells like shit”.  He then put his finger in it, and said “Yep, this feels like shit”.  Finally he did the unthinkable and tasted his finger and happily said: “Oh yeah, that tastes like shit…”.  He then walked away satisfied, and said out loud:

“That was definitely dog shit.  Good thing I didn’t step in it!”

An old joke which I managed to re-arrange and fit into my experiences with software.  Sometimes you have to taste the shit to avoid stepping in it. Don’t look too deeply into the metaphor.  Testing is hard, not everyone wants to do it, but it is your duty to prepare for and handle the worst, so your customers don’t need to.  I guess there is a hidden message about thoroughness too.

The penis shape was truly unintentional

I thought about drawing a linear / exponential function, while lining up for a beer at a club on the weekend.  To prevent myself from becoming either an alcoholic or one of those ‘holding a drink dancers’ (see graph x:[7-9]), I will just no longer go to night clubs.

I haven’t done a paper prototype since my 3rd year of University, and when I did, it was Black/White on lined paper.  Feeling the need to brush up on some basic UX  practices, I decided to let my work/nerdy side invade my Halloween (yes this post is a few months late).

Tools Used:
Omnigraffle, Photoshop, TextMate, CSS
Pencil+Foam Core, Scissors+Paper, Glue Stick, Sharpee Markers

All purchased at local art store for < $20 (much better than Adobes $1,000 CS suite)

Next came the planning and comparison shot:

Please note the "Keyboard Cat" video open in the other tab

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Doesn’t relate to movies, software or books, but just how I always find myself in funny situations.
A coworker asked me to write about it, because it seemed too unbelievable to be true.

“The Metropass”

I was at a friend’s house for dinner recently and a group of us decided to head downtown to a bar.  Since the cold Toronto weather had begun to show up (it was around -20°C that night) we looked into getting a cab.  We had a group of about 5 people so we ordered a van cab (because certainly getting 2 cabs was out of the question).  As we waited, an argument arose because several of the people present had metropasses, rendering the $30 cab a waste of money. This took place during the first week of January, and I had actually purchased my metropass earlier that day.  The argument continued on about the additional $10 charge for ordering a van cab (making the cab fair >$40) and we decided to take the bus.

As we walked to the subway we called in and canceled the cab, only to see the cab drive by us about 30 seconds later.  About 5 minutes into our walk, and feeling the reality of the freezing cold weather, we changed our minds again and decided to take the cab after all.  The cab (now returning to wherever it originally came from) drove by us once again, this time we flagged it down.  The idea here was that since we did not explicitly order the cab, the $10 would be waived.  He realized we were the original callers (some how) and after 2 minutes of arguing we decided to take the subway instead.  The cabbie was pissed off, I was cold, and we were standing 100 feet from the subway entrance.

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