Windows Phone 8 is the reset we have to have.

I’ve been reading quite a lot of narrative around Windows Phone 8 and mostly around how existing devices are going miss out on functionality. Looking at the two phones) in theory there is little stopping existing Windows Phone 7 users from having such features) but in truth I don’t think this was ever a technical discussion.

Windows Phone 8 is the entry point.

I’ve pretty much said a number of times over the past 2 years around how I think Windows Phone 7 will fail with consumers) and to be clear and to the point, it has. Nokia sales are poor, the units adopted vs. shipped are a mathematical failure and lastly the uptake and adoption excitement hasn’t been as attractive as it could have been - despite Nokia’s positive influence in their brilliant marketing blitz. Bottom line is the Phone itself has and always been a “save my position in line until I’m ready to enter the market” strategy. It had to rely on Silverlight teams work to firm up the UX platform strategy and entice an existing development mindset onto the phone. The early marketing campaigns were just embarrassing to watch, there was no structure to the developer engagement model(s) and it was very reactive and haphazardly handled. I stated in 2010 the phone would fail simply because I got a sense this was about to happen, as the more I looked at the future strategies of Microsoft from an insider perspective the more I could see it wasn’t about consumers or developers, it was more about internal staff shuffling and jockeying for power to appear to be solving these problems. Today, Windows Phone 8 plans have been trickled out, and even as I type this I can’t but help criticize the approach taken during the release keynote - excluding Kevin Gallo, given out of the entire keynote it was one guy’s clarity and approach that provided a sense of confidence behind what was brewing. That all being said, I’m positive about Windows Phone 8 going forward. I think Microsoft are finally starting to suffocate the internal politics and are starting to firm up a coherent strategy around what they think the UX Platform of the future is likely to be. The strategy is still a work in progress and despite how polished that the company appear to be around what’s coming up next they are still fumbling their way through the evangelism and marketing rhythms that still have large amounts of work to be done. Windows Phone 8 is the release we should have had, it’s in many ways like the old historical “service pack that fixed the release” which is commonly associated with Microsoft Windows (ie I won’t install until they release a service pack mentality). The phone itself has a lot of potential successful entry points to help kickstart an economy and adoption curve that could definitely, if architected (and I mean a big if!) correctly. Firstly, the phone finally has a what looks like to be a clear vision around how Enterprise adoption can take hold of the said phone that I’m hoping (yet to clarify this) that Windows 8 tablet(s) can also make use of. This one small but significant feature is what I think can make the adoption cycles stand out from the rest as given there is so much ratcheted excitement around the idea of having smartphones and devices handling complex business focused solutions, this is the first of a united platform strategy that has not only less friction for developer(s) to adopt but also feels more natural within most organisations (given .NET adoption to date is deeper within enterprise than ever before). Secondly, the wallet feature is still a bit of a left of center idea around how to commercialize and monetize future solution(s) with regards to the Smartphone/Device market(s). What I mean to say is this is kind of the “Deep Zoom” functionality within Silverlight whereby at first glance you could see usage for it but it really isn’t something that was widely adopted or specifically asked for. I’m hopeful that this feature will get traction across all device(s) more to the point I am dreaming of the day I can buy my coffee from a cafe via my phone vs having to take out my wallet (given they constantly break my notes into coins or I don’t have actual cash on me when I need a coffee). The technology for a phone-wallet like approach is in place but it will still take a large amount of maturity from both the developer community and Microsoft to get this into the market in a meaningful way (which I’m sadly skeptical will happen - much like Cardspace days, good idea just bad execution). Thirdly the NFC/Bluetooth and App to App functionality is quite a powerful little gem when you stop and contemplate its future potential. This one requires some visionary, go on a leap of trust with me ask. The idea that I can have an application and then “bump uglies” with a fellow phone user to not only get the app i’ve just recommended but also potentially share information on the spot, is something that actually makes sense. I’ve personally sat in meetings where i’ve watched people fumble around with sharing information or better yet in desperate search for the idea of continuous client whereby sharing amongst many as the user navigates the said data would be quite a powerful communication tool. This feature I believe will wash over the consumer base with hardly an impact but I do see in the Enterprise space it will definitely have a lot more potential than it has to offer today - provided the phone gets traction, attracts the right designer/developer mindset and lastly can remove all friction roadblocks that may impact its clear line of communication (it’s hard to isolate these given the specifics aren’t clear at the time of writing this).

So it’s a going to be successful right?

I said it has potential and I didn’t say it was going to be successful. There is still some blood in the water around those who own the Windows Phone 7 device today being basically given the “thanks for bleeding on our bleeding edge of discovery”. I don’t think this will be an easy hurdle to jump over and should they succeed it’s only due to the fact that the Phone’s consumer failings are going to ensure this level of distrust / toxic venom isn’t as loud as it could have been. I think it will also require a lot of strategic and careful evangelism on Microsoft’s part to seed this within all those organisations hanging onto their sharepoint / .net way of life with a death grip. In order to solve that problem, Microsoft really need to sit down and have a detailed heart to heart with the developer base on what their plans are specifically around WPF/Silverlight/WinForms development today. Kevin Gallo in the Windows Phone 8 presentation actually gave clear guidance on this but I think his message needs to be broadcasted as clearly and cleanly has he gave it. Kevin in my view should be the one who faces the hordes of Developer(s) out there given Scott Guthrie has been shunted to the geek-celeb fame left. Despite this annoyance that the one guy you’d love to hear the most from (Scott Guthrie) isn’t speaking loudly as you’ve grown acustom to is somewhat of a large mistake on Microsoft developer relations part. None the less they definitely need to give Kevin the stage and make him the consistent face amongst many “who cares who this VP is” Microsoft executive crowd. In order to win this over they really need to pick a team that can be the consistent personalities, it’s why Robert Scoble got success in the early Microsoft days. He was your trusted camera guy who roamed the halls of redmond giving you insight into what’s being published from the Software factory known as Microsoft. Microsoft have lost this element of success, they are producing technical solutions that may or may not win hearts & minds but ultimately they aren't clear on what they want to say about the said solutions. They are preoccupied with letting some random executive get on stage and have his & her say to which you never either see them again or you’re still confused as to who they are and why you should listen to them? In order to have Windows Phone 8 win the day, they need to really just drive home the message calmly, clearly and in a unified voice that builds trust. Lastly the entire UX platform strategy is starting to bend inwards, in that they are starting to unite the teams under the one vision which is why I’ll simply leave off with one last ranty thought. I suffer from bipolar but so does Microsoft marketing, in that their entire website strategy is a confusing mess of stupidity and creates more of a problem than it solves. I truly hope Microsoft abandon the “File-New-Website” approach to messaging Windows 8 and Windows Phone by reversing the engines, that is to say unite the entire vision under just one site. Don’t let internal politics screw this next 1-2 years up, unite and build or you’re just going to be yet another ongoing punchline to a bad technology joke. Windows Phone 8 is the reset we have to have simply because it starts to be an additive to a united vision (whether you like it or not).

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Being diagnosed with bipolar.

It’s been around three months since I had a full time role at a company. I quit my job for a couple of reasons firstly, my dad was dying so I felt more time with him definitely outweighed a pay cheque and secondly I wasn’t in the mood to write or designs software anymore. The months leading up to my resignation was quite emotionally turbulent, in that I hit a point where I just wanted to quit the Software industry all together as it had little or no excitement left in it (despite the advancing UX platform(s) of the future).  To the point where I found myself sitting in the Queensland Police force recruitment seminar and started to get excited about the idea of being a police officer, in that I've kinda always wanted to do this but they don’t get paid as much as a Software developer/designer - so it’s always held me back.

I was bedridden for two months

My dad died soon after I resigned and I found myself pretty much in bed most days watching countless TV/Movies day in day out. I wasn’t depressed, I was more indifferent to the world around me in that I had no desire to write anything or do anything other than just relax and live a stress free existence. This went on for 2 months while I went to a few job interviews and even to the point where I was turning down job offers even though I went to the initial interview? (wasting peoples time basically). It wasn’t until I got a small contract role (4 weeks) to do some UX prototyping (given finances were low) that I began to notice that not only was it time I stopped sitting on my lazy butt but get off it and do some work to ensure my family's bills are paid (given we made a huge dent in the savings). I found something very odd happening within, in that despite the importance of getting the work done in order to get paid, i still found it a struggle to get motivated or concentrate. My first initial thoughts were, maybe I’ve been lazy for to long and i need to just let the cob webs get out my way in order to get back to a developer/designer routine? Two weeks pass and I’m not getting better in fact I’m being worse, in that I’d laze around during the day and then find myself coding/designing until 3am each night to make up for the lost hours. The cycle began to get out of control and it worried not only my family but I myself started to get a bit concerned around why. With this concern, I went into a local GP office and sat down and told her what was going on. She asked me a series of questions that related to emotions/moods etc and history of these events etc in the past. She then left the room and asked one of her colleagues who’s a psychiatrist to come in and ask a few more questions. Two hours later, they both looked at one another and then turned to me and said calmly “we think you are suffering from bipolar”. I was silent, in somewhat disbelief as i’m not depressed, suicidal or any of those i’m just tired? how is being bipolar relevant here? We then went on to discussing what it is, how it is likely to be the cause of a lot of issues within my career/life and so on. Fast forward to today, and i’m taking Lithium as a medication in order to round out the highs/lows of my “mania” that comes with this disorder. At first I was afraid of it being a chemical lobotomy, as I didn’t want to lose my creative edge but at the same time my ability to finish what I start or concentrate for long periods has always been the failure in my career (amount of bridges I’ve burnt). It however is working, whether it's a placebo or not is something I can't answer  - but - I'm getting stuff done now and I'm able to concentrate for long periods without interruption (in 15 years of doing software development & design, it's actually extremely rare to have me concentrate on one task for more than 1-2 hours at a time - yesterday I worked a full 6hours non-stop). I don't think its the miracle cure but I think calming my mind from being a virtual ping pong machine does help stabilize my ideas into work.

It's embarrassing to say you have bipolar outloud.

I’ve tortured myself a little at posting this on my blog, given well it's embarrassing to admit that i have this dark passenger (as dexter would say only minus the killing of course) within me. It’s not that I choose to have whatever this disorder is it’s simply I have to live with it now. It’s something I’ve managed to work around for all my life, in that when I found myself in the lows/highs i’d look to other means to chip away at the problem and they varied from exercise (run/walk it out), drinking (beer helps hehe) or find an external outlet to clear the mind (dirtbike/moto-x riding, fishing, reading, PS3 etc). To now have a label and medication to trump all of the above seems firstly cheating and lastly embarrassing. I have bipolar? will the kids at school make fun of me now? etc etc.

Why now, why is this an issue today?

I first started noticing some signs that my emotions) in general weren’t normal when I was working inside Microsoft. The environment within the company is toxic most of the time so if you’re suffering from a condition that has degrees of both paranoia and high/low emotions, then basically Microsoft can be like making an alcoholic work for a brewery. One specific event comes to mind when i was trying to get the team to leave me alone in order to redo the Silverlight website(s). We hit a point where other members of the team who initially rejected the idea of its creation started to hijack that success I was having with it and thus it created this emotive response mixed with large amounts of paranoia. Long story short, I found myself yelling / swearing quite loud at three members of my team to the point where they had a look of fear on their face as if to say “this guy is losing it!”. I to this day am utterly embarassed with this event as I did totally lose it, it was over something so small yet it was just the start to what I would call my last dark days of Microsoft. I spent the next 3-4 months just being a complete asshole to others in the team that I wasn’t friends with to the point where my ego was getting out of control. The day I quit was a welcome relief to my the group manager Brian, as I could tell he was shocked as to how I went from being "yes, hire this guy now" to being "what the hell just happened". My doctor(s) now tell me that I was probably simmering up until that meeting and from there it was just a downhill race to rock bottom and that had I not reached the point where I was three months ago it was likely that i’d repeat this eventually somewhere down the line. The reason however this time I was just bedridden was simply the passing of my father, in that up until that point I’ve always kept a death grip on my hypomania but with his passing I just let go (giving grief can be a dark time).

Why post here about it?

What is my motivation to tell this story out loud. I’ve thought about this and the main reason is to apologise out loud to people I know and worked with over the years, as the more I think about this condition the more I now realise the difficulty that I may have put people in and lastly to thank those who despite my attitude still believed in my work and found ways to navigate around this. Lastly, to get it out of the way, I have bipolar, it sucks but now I have a name for whatever the hell this is and with a steady stream of medication and/or programs that I can tap into now, then I feel as if I can now get back to what I’m good at - designing software. The ability to have an idea and finish is a goal I’ve always had but never quite reached for almost 15 years. I’m looking forward to sitting down and writing something from start to finish now, and I’m hoping with treatment for this disorder it can happen again. I have bipolar and it doesn’t bother me now.

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Digital Skeuomorphism decoded.

There seems to be an undercurrent of contempt towards Digital Skeuomorphism – the art of taking real world subject material and dragging it kicking & screaming into your current UI design(s) (if you’re an iPad designer mostly).

I’ve personally sat on the fence with regards to this subject as I do see merit in both sides of the argument in terms of those who believe it’s gotten out of hand vs those who swear it’s the right mix to helping people navigate UX complexity.




Here’s what I know.

I know personally that the human mind is much faster at decoding patterns that involve depth and mixed amounts of color (to a degree). I know that while sight is one of our sensory radars working 24/7 it is also one that often scans ahead for known pattern(s) to then decode at sub-millisecond speeds.

I know we often think in terms of analogies when we are trying to convey a message or point. I know designers scour the internet and use a variety of mediums (real life subject matter and other people(s) designs) to help them organize their thoughts / mojo onto a blank canvas.

Finally I know that with design propositions like the monochrome like existence of Metro it has created an area of conflict around like vs dislike in comparison to the rest of the web that opts to ignore these laid out principles by Microsoft design team(s).

Here’s what I think.

I think Apple design community has taken the idea of theming applications to take on a more unrealistic but realistic concepts and apply them to their UI designs are more helpful then hurtful. I say this as it seems to not only work but solves a need – despite the hordes mocking its existence.

I know I have personally gone my entire life without grabbing an envelope, photo, and a paperclip and attached them together – prior – to writing a letter to a friend.

Yet, there is a User Interface out there in the iPad AppStore that is probably using this exact concept to help coach the user that they are in fact writing a digital letter to someone with a visual attachment paper clipped to the fake envelope it will get sent in.


Why is this a bad idea?

For one it’s not realistic and it easily can turn a concept into a fisher price existence quite fast. Secondly it taps into the same ridiculous faux UI existence commonly found in a lot of movies today (you know the ones, where a hacker worms his way into the banks mainframe with lots of 3D visuals to illustrate how he/she is able to overcome complex security protocols).

It’s bad simply for those two reasons.

It’s also good for those two reasons. Let’s face it the more friction and confidence we can build in end-users around attaching real-life analogies or metaphors to a variety of software problems the less they are preoccupied with building large amounts of unnecessary muscle in their ability to decode patterns via spatial cognition.

Here’s who I think is right.

Apple and Microsoft are both on this different voyage of discovery and both are likely to create havoc on the end user base around which is better option of the two – digitally authentic or digitally unauthentic.

It doesn’t matter in the end who wins as given both have created this path it’s fair to say that an average user out there is now going to be tuned into both creative output(s). As such there is no such thing as a virgin user when it comes to these design models.

I would however say out loud that I think when it comes to down cognitive load on the end user around which Application(s) out there that opt for a Metro vs. Apple iPad like solution, the iPad should by rights win that argument.

The reason being is our ability to scan the associated pattern with the faux design model works to the end user favor much the same way it does when you 30sec of a hacker busting their way into the mainframe.

The faux design approach will work for depth engagement but here’s the funny and wonderful thought that I think will fester beyond this post for many.

Ever notice the UI designs in movies opt for a flat “metro” like monochrome existence that at first you go “oh my that’s amazing CG!”. Yet if you then play with it for long period of time their wow factor begins to taper off fast.


I don’t have the answers on either sides here and it’s all based of my own opinion and second-hand research. I can tell you though sex sells, we do judge a book by its cover, and I think what makes the iPad apps appeal too many is simply – attractive bias in full flight.

Before I leave with that last thought, I will say that over time I’ve seen quite a lot of iPad applications use Wood textures throughout their designs. I’d love to explore the phycology of why that reoccurs more as I wonder if it has to do with some primitive design DNA of some sort.


Here’s some research that hints at this space [Click here].

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Apple gets complaints about consistent incremental growth in their product(s).

Just like in the lion king, out come the Apple execs holding their new king high in the air as if the “circle of life” sound track is about to be played – yet again – hail the new Mac Book Pro and its retina display for it is the answer to a question nobody asked!

Apple Kool-Aid aside, something struck me today about the staying power of a Apple as a brand and it had little to do with the a-typical Steve Jobs circle jerk “he’s the technical second coming of jesus” rants.

Today, we cast our eyes to the big fruit in the RSS filled sky and we have two choices before us. We can either praise and high five Apple for all its brilliance and might – or – we can boo, hiss and denounce it as the new entity within the technology axis of evil for yet another lack luster development in product planning.

To me though something struck me as a stand out thought amongst many in my coffee overdosed bipolar mind. Today we are afforded the luxury of complaining about Apple and how dare they keep a consistent product roadmap that appears to be growing incrementally over the years. There’s no sudden abandonment or about face turn on product roadmaps, there is no product sitting in the portfolio suddenly gone really really quiet from a marketing standpoint to the point you almost would swear it never existed.

They have this nerve about staying fairly committed to their product vision and future and what really gets under my skin is how they keep improving on their designs.

An example comes to mind, the new Macbook Pro. All it has really is a tighter retina display that they borrowed from the R&D they clearly have put into the iPhone/iPad(s). What a cheap attempt at fooling me into buying their product – I’m outraged.

As you all know, I’m a Microsoft .NET developer & designer these days and to be openly frank about this, I don’t like it when a brand sticks to a commitment around their product line(s). I’m not used to it and I expect after 1-2 years the product has to be parked in the “old ideas” parking bay and I await now the new vision of what’s new coming up next.

The idea that you’re R&D can be re-used across all your platform(s) in a consistent and carefully designed manner that isn’t highly reactive to your competitor(s) is quite arrogant and clearly a dumb idea.

Microsoft will show Apple who’s boss, they’ll take the Windows 8 Tablet and ram it down the vegan fruit eating zen smoking hipsters throats. They’ll give them a lesson in how to confuse and alienate their customer(s) with inconsistent visions and platform resets that are a massive answer to a question that nobody asked.

Watch this space Apple as you’re about to be skooled on Windows 8 and yes there is no start button because that’s 25+ years of habitual usage that need not apply anymore – yeah they did it, they meant it and Sinofsky is here to represent it – Windows 8, no start, no finish just existence.

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