Today I was in the iPhone AppStore browsing the noise in hope of finding some signal, I found a game that caught my interest and then immediately went to the reviews to see if the author of the game can back up what they are selling.
I read the reviews and a few of them were pushing the notion that “save your 0.99c” agenda, and I for one was relieved – thankfully I did not waste that 99c I was saving.
That sobered me up, I thought to myself “I’m about to spend 99c on some bad coffee that I’ll unlikely finish while I wait for a meeting that I’ll no doubt move to a different spot for and buy yet another coffee”
The question I have is whether or not the concept of an AppStore is doing the market a positive or a negative in terms of how its conditioning us In making the purchase decisions.
How far have we come where went from spending $20-100 on games to now agonising over a $0.99c purchase and it appears the trending is pushing closer and closer to the $0.00 value.
Is this why we now are seeing games which are free-ware, you know the ones that haunt AppStore and Facebook. These are the games that get you addicted to their crack and slowly encourage you to spend $50 on diamonds to help increase your gameplay? ..give a little but not the entire farm and let the desperate/gullible micro pay their way to the abyss of content gratification.
Millions are being made on this, in fact the assumption we are often making now due to the various amounts of rumours around overnight millionaires occurring due to $2 micro purchases worldwide occurring. Its fair to say that when you do justify the $2 purchase you are silently telling yourself “Well, I’m only paying $2 but these guys are going to get millions because everyone else is paying and it all adds up”
We’ve switched from being a consumer and now have become their collective profit controller making assumptions and assertions round how much they should be allowed to make in total vs. letting the previous way of life which consisted of “Oh, they made money? Good for them” thinking.
I can’t but help wanting to ask more questions around this space, for instance – is this slowly killing the industry, or is it making it better? If word gets out that the gold rush in game development for devices is probably a false economy given its saturation levels are now encouraging mediocrity to dominate the way in which we gain enjoyment from games?
Is it me or is anyone else bored of Angry birds? Yet each season they continue to be the most prominent “this is how you’re supposed to make money and games” posturing.
I look at Minecraft itself and seeing how it was such a low price point to now being one of the biggest earners in the game industry and continue to grow, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Notch made a game that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars and he didn’t have to pay Apple a cent or abide by the rinse/repeat formula of game development on devices.
Is there stillroom for another Minecraft? Fortresscraft on XBOX pretty much cut & pasted Minecrafts engine but whacked in a XBOX Avatar, charged a small amount and is now making millions.
Nothing creative happened, just lots of rinse and repeat formulas but the upside is these games are no longer expensive wastes of money; they are instead small micro payments – less of a sting in your buyer’s remorse.
Downside, as more and more of these games abuse the new market channels they in turn drive prices further and further down. Low prices mean that in order for truly exceptional games to stand out they first must meet the $2 or above threshold of quality bands. If they then succeed in that, they are then given a huge assumption of “well they earn $2 from millions of us so I’m not willing to pay $5 for it” thinking.
In 5 years, do you think a guy like Notch can get away with charging $15 for a game like Minecraft? Alternatively, do you think indie game developers are about to get a cold reality shock given the bubble may pop?
Will game studios like Valve have to keep lowering prices to the point where they just can’t justify the expensive pushing gaming envelopes further given the yield doesn’t’ add up to the costs it takes to create. If that were the case then they’d need to create 3-5 games that are money makers in order to build a war chest that funds the next killer gaming engine of choice.
Are game engine developers retreating to charging hefty prices for leasing their codebase thus reducing the mod / expansion on innovation from occurring? Why fight the war when you can build the bullets J
Now comes the next question, is Application development about to get worse or better given these market conditions today?
Today I read that Apple iPhone makes more money than Microsoft does all up, that is to say the phone that Steve Ballmer the CEO of Microsoft used to mock – generates more revenue than his entire company does (who is laughing now).
It got me thinking, let us assume you were inside Microsoft today and you heard this news for the first time, how would you react? How would you adjust your core strategies overall and how do you think this will play out?
Inside Microsoft they have a vision, it centres on the Windows 8 or bust mentality, and that for me is something of a concern given, they really have not done anything new to be openly honest.
Yes, there is Metro which is new, well not really, the initial design execution is new but the concept of taking a minimalist approach to the desktop has been around for quite some time (Adobe really did this well with their CS5 and CS4 product UI’s which you’d be an idiot if you assumed had no influence in design today).
The web has been also doing grid based design for as long as I can remember, so that’s nothing pioneerish going on here either. The idea of some NUI effects and control, sure that’s new I guess but not enough to flip the world into a new way of doing software interaction and development in fact it probably falls down when it comes to data density.
What is new then? The most obvious piece to what is new in this saga is the reality that Microsoft faces around its future. The industry has grabbed Microsoft by the shirt and dragged them into focusing on User Experience first, Technology second and what is so striking about the metro + Microsoft story is that its hinting at some new thinking.
What hasn’t changed though is the technology first approach, Microsoft continues to retreat to its initial bad behaviour, that is to say it thinks in technical terms and not in experience terms. What hasn’t change is that each team is left to interpret the experience strategy and what hasn’t changed is that Product teams make, marketing / evangelism sustain and the divide occurs resulting in both teams looking at one another as if “its your fault we don’t have adoption”.
Allow me to illustrate.
Games make up for about 64% of the current Windows Phone 7 sales, which is a little bad given if you’re an Application developer depending on your category of choice you stand to only tap into around 8% of the audience purchasing power.
That aside, Games are the golden ticket in the Windows Phone 7 way of life. Ok, so let’s build a game? Open up your browser and start typing search terms for Windows Phone 7 game tutorials and XNA or whatever you feel is appropriate.
You should be coming up short on examples that mostly live in a small spread across Microsoft random websites that constantly change context and when you’re done there, you should also be drowning in blog posts that are either extremely detailed or very shallow (not quite in between).
That for me is a problem, if I were in the team I’d be looking at this from a perspective of two things. How can I market the potential of this platform in a game centric device world and secondly assuming that thread is off and running how can I sustain this momentum once the devs have taken the bait.
I’m not saying that the key to Windows Phone 7 overtaking the iPhone is games, there’s probably a thousand or more things that need to occur before you even embark on that discussion, what I am saying is the grass roots fundamentals aren’t in place.
Lets say I click my fingers and the $500million spent on marketing to date actually worked, you have an audience of Windows Phone 7 folks over the next 2 years running hot in potential sales of the device. Congrats, 1 in 5 mobile phones sold today are Windows Phone 7.
How do you sustain that momentum, how do you encourage more and more solutions to be built for the phone and lastly how do you retain control over the entire experience.
This is a huge problem today within Windows itself, there is so much energy spent on promoting the entire vision of WinRT and its future(s) but there is no on ramping to help the solutions delivery for this vision. Instead, it is a lot of wait and see?
Android has had next to no marketing but yet its retaining a steady share and I’d argue that its developer base of java and mono geeks have really taken this bad boy out for a test drive. It’s not a huge learning curve either, in under a week I was mucking around with the Android development and I’d say the community backing for this phone is quite loud despite the randomness of Google.
It’s still just as bad as Windows Phone 7 but that’s fine, reason being this is typical with any Google solution – Microsoft however can be better than that? They can on board people faster and with more energy than their competitors do as they are staffed worldwide better.
If you ask me, the phone itself is one thing but if the experience at the developer to consumer is filled with random noise and less signal around getting solutions to a mature level of quality, then that’s just the first strike and more to come shall follow.
There is a reason why the Windows Phone 7 marketplace is filled with crappy games or apps, some are good but they aren’t as rich as the iPhone (even then iPhone has crap to).
I’d argue that the competitive advantage Microsoft has right now that isn’t being capitalised on is the stark reality that they have a development experience that is quite rich and inviting the downside is once you get past the Powerpoint style development and want to actually build a Minecraft / Voxel Engine on a phone well you come up short.
If Microsoft’s vision is to ramp developers onto C++ then where is the investment on learning C++? DirectX? XNA? OpenGL? Etc. etc.
This phone needs much more than guys dropping the phone in a urinal as way to entice the masses to the cause. It needs to start at the experience level and work its way back to the technical detail(s). Its not just about building yet another Microsoft website that doubles down on Tutorials its more about thinking and engaging developers in ways that they understand or need massive leaps in thinking around. If Windows 8 and its device strategy can’t sustain the developer base and relies heavily on the market to teach the masses, then its yet another failure on the horizon. Same tactics as last time only more glitter.
I’m a massive fan lately of minecraft, it’s quite an addictive game (even has my 8yr son hooked on its crack). It’s a game made by a swede named “Notch” who basically by all accounts slapped the game together during some off time he had.
The game now has millions of subscribers all paying their once-off fee to buy and the part that really threw me for a loop was he made it in Java…. Oh Java, how I often reflect on your greatness (pre-Microsoft that was my drug of choice).
So what's the overall problem? Let me vent a little.
Apparently Notch is caught up in both his new found geek celeb status and attention is focused elsewhere on a game called Scrolls which is pretty much a hexagon magic battle game that reminds me of chess - Sorry I Snoozed off.
To be fair, he made his mark and he’s now off doing other things and has left Minecraft in the hands of some new found employees he’s made in the company whilst he continues to also hang in some influential circles mainly the valve software guys - (Hey I know Robin @ Valve to, I used to play TF/Quake in Oz with them, and I’d pop in for a visit or two at Valve when I was at Seattle..).
That did sound a bit venomous, I guess for me the reason I’m frustrated as this game has so much more potential ahead of it but poor Notch has suffered from the dreaded curse of “Shiny object syndrome meets geek celeb install” where the attention is spent on vNext not vNow? (he’s got a company to grow I guess, so it makes sense).
Problem is this game is unfinished and now when you look at the mod community around it you can’t but help stare at all the failings of the game – that are forgiven provided you embrace the mods that occur on servers that allow them. This is why Quake failed in the end, they forgot the reason why people played the game, its why Teamfortress team couldn’t also go further given the license issues of Quake 2 Engine (which was geared towards charging the mod community for usage).
I also watch the various staffers of Mojang via twitter and I can’t but help roll my eyes at some of the stuff being said, Its mainly due to me thinking “oh dear, they’re still coming to grips with fame… this one’s going to take a while..”
As someone who’s seen a few geeks turn into the geek-celeb status, I almost want to email them “this is what you’re going to experience, here are the things you need to avoid and you should never forget what got you in the door in the first place – minecraft”.
Today we stare at the game, waiting with drool hanging down from our lips at the slightest hint of an update, and I’m the first to line up for it as well.
In the early days of Teamfortress, Robin and the guys made a mod of Quake, it took the game to new heights outside id Softwares initial imagination, to be blunt, TF made Quake fun. Robin, John and the others were able to ship and they had talent and fame to match. Its what created the fusion between them and Valve and they’ve both since changed the landscape of gaming industry today to which one would be proud to say “hey I know that guy”… but the point is, they stayed focused and they created and Robin is quite a shy guy in person, but has insights into how the industry and its people function – deep insights that make you walk away and shake your head “that bastard was so right..”
Notch the CEO should probably spend a few more sessions with Robin and the guys on how to finish a product like Minecraft, I think we the audience would gain a huge amount of entertainment and fun from such a fusion of talent.
I am frustrated minecrafter because I want more…. Its an awesome game and Notch despite this attention span failing, deserves the success and riches that come with them. Sadly, we want an encore and I don’t’ think Cobalt and Scrolls will give him the equal amount of attention (sure you’ll get fan spillage happening, but seriously..)
The calendar increments by 1 year now and as it does I think about the last year and ponder what I liked and disliked in my sandbox that I call the Microsoft ethos
Windows Phone 7
- I liked Nokias approach to branding the product; they really took what they saw and made it the focal point of what the experience for consumers should be. That is, they did what I asked at the start of the year; make the metro design your familiar face in the crowd.
- I liked the WP7 Design contest; I rarely ever give an endorsement to contests as they are a desperate response to bad marketing, in this case though the designs that came back were actually tidy and immediately wanted you to explore the apps. Now to see if they make it into the appstore.
- I disliked WP7 marketing from Microsoft, it was chaotic, it lacked depth and $500million in marketing spent later, I still can’t put my finger on one message that you could hang your hat on. Compare Apple iPhone / Android marketing to Wp7 and it baffles me as to what is going on in that team – I think they just carpet bomb SeaTac / LAX airports with it knowing that Microsoft Execs travel through there and hope that’s enough to convince them they are “everywhere” – reality is, Bus shelter ads aren’t putting the wp7 logo on the bottom of their “get our apps” signage – which is a fail.
- I disliked the WP7 app store pricing model, fact is they are charging the same rates as iPhone devs or there about and in the end you have a marketshare that Samsung is even beating. I agree with Laurence Moroney – Reality check for two please and can we have that to go.
- I disliked the compete b.s that came from Staffers at Microsoft around WP7, fight the internal metrics and rise above the whole “heh did you see that, Apple just copied us!” mentality. Its very weak and if you are to beat the competition then you need to stop watching their every move hoping and praying for a weakness to occur. If Apple copy you, great, internalize that victory but keep it internal and instead move the bar higher as the best way for people to absorb that reality is when someone who doesn’t have an MVP or Blue-badge says “Did Apple just copy Microsoft?”.
Windows 7 and 8
- I liked the intent for Microsoft to bring balance to the UX force, which is a consistent looking brand / feel across all products from now on.
- I disliked the execution of the consistent branding. I wished they would keep all design decisions in a central team, which is everything from website design to UI design(s) for products. Allowing individual teams within Microsoft to interpret Metro outside of the central team at this early critical stage is clearly not working. If you want to attract a design enriched audience that want to take inspiration from your work, stop farming it out to agencies who nickel/dime their way through design creation and instead double down on providing a central experience.
- I liked the energy that the Windows teams have around device development, we’ve asked for this way back in the days of Surface birth. I think that’s healthy for the industry and will put touch enabled devices into more and more people’s hands sooner rather than later.
- I disliked the artificial inflation of the metrics (Windows and Wp7). Inside Microsoft you gauge success based on your ability to ignore qualitative data and instead focus on quantitative given it looks bigger. This often spills over into the marketing engine(s) at Microsoft resulting in just bad reality checks thus creating more distance between the ability to trust anything the brand states.
- I disliked the development experience required to get access to the touch enabled world. A friend of mine sent me this break down of tag trends over at Stackoverlow, basically if you are working with Silverlight and/or WPF the chances of you not using Stackoverflow in some form of way is next to zero. WPF and Silverlight dead? Can I have an extra order of reality check for team Sinofsky please?
- I liked the notion that Windows 7 is on the rise over Windows XP, the growth you have is great, and the sooner we can stomp on the neck of Windows XP the happier my development sandbox will be.
- I disliked the fact that Windows 7 has a huge market share right now, today, that I can’t access and instead am told to “chill” until Windows 8 AppStore comes online via Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft team decided “How else can I really fuck my customer base over” then some clown in the back puts his hand up and tells them of an idea to hold back AppStore whilst everyone just sits there nodding like he’s telling them that touch will be the future for Microsoft back in 2007 – oh wait… has anyone seen JJ Allard lately as that guys going places.
Silverlight / WPF.
- I liked the fact we got some releases for these products, shows there is still someone within the company stoking that release fire.
- I liked Silverlights new 3D capabilities, it hints at what could have been possible had we had it sooner. We back in the early days would often discuss how 3D would be our next frontier of innovation for the product and my hat goes off to the engineering efforts for pulling it off – they worked hard.
- I dislike that Silverlight release was late and I especially disliked the way it was done. Microsoft phoned in the release, let it happen in the dark of night instead of the grandeur we’ve been used to in the past. That for me sent a clear signal to the developer base – it’s time to move on, finish up your creations and wait for next shiny object to come to a install near you.
- I dislike WPF feature list, it was less than we were promised (technically it was more tease / flirt) and lastly the release itself was more of an internal upgrade spilled over onto external HDD’s – that is to say, the features were more derived from internal needs than external. MIC check, is this thing on, WPF is dead in the eyes of Microsoft but its far from dead in the eyes of your average .NET code jockey.
- I dislike the energy spent on HTML5 is the future, I’m yet to meet a developer who uses Silverlight/WPF get excited at the idea of abandoning this for HTML5. It must be the other developers I don’t’ see who want it – well that’s what we may be assuming amongst each and everyone one of us “must be the other guy needs it” (ie “Pretty girl syndrome”).
- I liked the SDK experiences that come with this ….product? … I think it is much easier at times than people give it credit for. I’ve used Amazon quite extensively this year and often will grow impatient that its not like Azure.
- I dislike the pricing models for Azure. I’m a fairly intelligent guy but even today I’d not say I can for certain grasp the pricing model needed for me to respond to a work order request from some of my clients (mining companies who pay very large sums of money may I add).
- I dislike the fact Scott Guthrie is running this only. In the short time he’s been the custodian of this product its gotten better, great, but Scott should be a higher power across all products. Steve Sinofsky you suck the life out of Microsoft development.
- I liked the way Bizspark program is breaking down the pricing barrier of entry for Azure, I was skeptical of this program when it first started (My office was near the creator of this program back in the day, wand watched its birth). I think this program is what stands between adoption and non-adoption but at the same time it has really piss poor marketing behind it so unless you know someone who knows someone, it needs more help (See Catherine Eibner in Microsoft Australia, she’s got her head screwed on tight around how this should work going forward. Promote her to lead the charge here).
I liked the fact IE6 is hated in a more formal fashion at Microsoft, but overall I just wish this product in its entirety would just die. Everyone else is embracing Webkit, stop fighting the obvious and bend over accept you lost proprietary way of life and jump into the stagnant waters of Webkit FTW.
- WCF team can rot in hell. I think there is enough issues around this product to simply state, stop what your doing and think about its effects on your audience. Until then, rot in hell.
- Entity Framework team, make a decision and stick with it or at least promote the reasons why you change APIs and their pro’s / con’s.
- Zune. Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Surface 2 – Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
- Bing. I googled Bing, enough said but the fact you didn’t have a Santa Tracker at Christmas – you are dead to me.
Metro, is fast becoming this unclear, messy craptuclar retardation of modern interface design. In that, the current execution out there is getting out of control resulting in what originally started out as a Microsofts plagiarized edition of Dieter Rams “Ten Principles of Good Design” into what we have before us today.
I am actually ok with that, as if I ever looked back on the first year of my designs in the 90s I’d cringe at the sight of lots of Alienskin Bevels, Glows and Fire plugin driven pixel vomit.
The part though I’m a little nervous about is how fast the microsoftees of the world have somehow collectively agreed that Text is in Chrome is out – like somehow science is wrong, that what we really need to do is get back to basics of ASCII inspired typography design(s) of yesteryear.
Typography is ok, in short bursts.
Spatial Visualization is the key description you need to Google a bit more around. Let me save you a little google confusion and explain what I mean.
Humans are not normal, to assume that inside HCI we are all equal in our IQ levels is dangerous, it is quite the opposite and to be fair the human mental conditions that we often suffer from are still quite an the infancy of medicine – we have so much more to learn about genetic deformation/mutations that are ongoing.
The reality is that most humans hail from a different approach to the way in which we decipher patterns within our day-to-day lives as we aren’t getting smarter we’re just getting faster at developing habitual comprehension of patterns that we often create.
Let us for example assume I snapped someone from the 1960’s, and I sat him or her in a room and handed them a mobile device. I then asked them “turn it on” and measured the reaction time to navigating the device itself to switching it on.
You would most likely find a lot of accidental learning, trial and error but eventually they’d figure it out and now that information is recorded into their brain for two reasons. Firstly, pressure does that to humans we record data when under duress that is surprisingly accurate (thus bank robbers often figure out that their disguises aren’t as affective as once thought) and secondly we discovered fire for the first time – an event gave it meaning “this futuristic device!!”
What is my point, firstly, the brain capacity has not increased our ability to think and react visually is what I’d argue is the primary driver for our ability to decode what’s in front of us. (point in case the usage of H1 tag breaks up the indexation of comprehending of what I’ve written).
Research in the early 80’s found that we are more likely to detect misspelled words than we are correctly spelled words. The research goes on to suggest that the reason for this is that we obtain shape information about a word via peripheral vision initially (we later narrow in on the said word and make a decision on true/false after we’ve slowed the reading down to a fixated position).
It doesn’t stop there, by now you the reader have probably fixated on a few mistakes in my paragraph structure or word usage as you’ve read this, but yet you’ve still persisted in comprehending the information – despite the flaws.
What’s important about this packet of information is that it hints at what I’m stating, that a reliance on typography is great but for initial bursts of information only. Should the density of data in front of you increase, your ability to decode and decipherer (scan / proof read) becomes more of a case of balancing peripheral vision and fixated selection(s).
Your CPU is maxed out is my point.
AS I AM INFERRING, THE HUMAN BEING IS NOW JUGGLING THE BASICS IN AND AROUND GETTING SPATIAL QUEUES FROM BOTH TEXT, IMAGERY AND TASK MATCHING – ALL CRAMMED INSIDE A SMALL DEVICE. THE PROBLEM HOWEVER WONT STOP THERE, IT GOES ON INTO A MORE DEEPER CYCLE OF STUPIDITY.
INSIDE METRO THE BALANCE BETWEEN UPPER AND LOWER CASE FLUCTUATES THAT IS TO SEE AT TIMES IT WILL BE PURE UPPERCASE, MIXED OR LOWERCASE.
Did you also notice what I just did? I put all that text in Uppercase, and what research has also gone onto suggest is that when we go full-upper in our usage our reading speed decreases as more and more words are added. That is to say, now inside metro we use a mixed edition of both and somehow this is a good thing or bad thing?
Apple has over-influenced Microsoft.
I’m all for new design patterns in pixel balancing, I’m definitely still hanging in there on Metro but what really annoys me the most is that the entire concept isn’t really about breaking way based on scientific data centered in around the an average humans ability to react to computer interfaces.
It simply is a competitive reaction to Apple primarily, had Apple not existed I highly doubt we would not be having this kind of discussion and it would probably be full glyph/charms/icon visual thinking friendly environment(s).
Instead what we are probably doing is grabbing what appears to be a great interruption in design status quo and declaring it “more easier” but the reality kicks in fast when you go beyond the initial short burst of information or screen composition into denser territory – even Microsoft are hard pressed to come up with a Metro inspired edition of Office.
Metro Reality Check – Typography style.
The reality is the current execution of Metro on Windows Phone 7 isn’t built or ready for dense information and I would argue that the rationale that typography replaces chrome is merely a case of being the opposite of a typical iPhone like experience – users are more in love with the unique anti-pattern then they are with the reality of what is actually happening.
Using typography as your spatial visualization go to pattern of choice simply flies in the face of what we actually do know in the small packets of research we have on HCI.
Furthermore, if you think about it, the iPhone itself when It first came out was more of a mainstream interruption to the way in which we interpret UI via mobile device, icons for example took on more of candy experience and the chrome itself become themed.
It became almost as if Disney had designed the user interface as being their digital mobile theme park, yet here is the thing – it works (notice when Metro UI adds pictures to the background it seems to fit?...there’s a reason for that).
Chrome isn’t a bad thing, it taps into what we are hard wired to do in our ability to process information, we think visually (with the minority being the exclusion).
Egyptians, Asian(s) and Aboriginals wrote their history on walls/paper using visual glyphs/symbols not typography. That is an important principle to grapple onto the most; historically speaking we have always shown evidence to gravitate towards a pictorial view of the world and less around complexity in glyphs around pattern(s) (text) (that’s why Data Visualization works better than text based reports).
We ignore this basic principle because our technology environment has gotten more advanced but we do not have extra brainpower as human race, our genome has not mutate or evolved! We have just gotten better at collectively deciphering the patterns in and in turn have built up better habitual usage of these patterns.
Software today has a lot of bad UI out there, I mean terrible experiences, yet we are still able to use and navigate them.
Metro is mostly marketing / anti-compete than it is about being the righteous path to HCI design, never forget that part. Metros tagline as being “digitally authentic” is probably one of Deiter Rams principles being mutated and broken at the same time.
Good design is honest.
It does not make a product more innovative, powerful, or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
Should point out, these ten principles are what have inspired Apple and other brands in the industrial design space. Food for thought.
Lastly one more thing, what if your audience was 40% Autistic/Dyslexic how would your UI react differently to the current designs you have before you.
The reality check.Will you be able to take your skills to the new Windows way of life, sure, Microsoft are often lazy to execute if not at times paralyzed with fear of taking a risk – but they aren’t completely incompetent although I would favor mandatory drug testing on executives though. The numbers rubbery, but approx. 6million .NET devs exist right now hitting “Tab dot Ship” via Visual Studio so that number is your army and for them to completely abandon them is out of the question. It’s not to say they won’t shelve them when it comes to marketing spend or evangelism efforts, but they won’t just cast them aside. They will focus on HTML5, that IE 10 Metro crack needs addicts and they need to find them early and get them to double down on producing Glow in the Dark Twitter Applications that have Angry Birds built in for extra kudos. This needs to occur because this needs to entice the consumer to stop buying porn online with their credit card(s) and instead switch over to the Microsoft Windows 8 AppStore that works like ITunes AppStore but different (just like the phsycial stores but different, cause Microsoft use Oak wood instead of Birch). C# skills transference though is never really be a dramatic issue, its akin to saying “Don’t worry guys, you know Winforms, here’s WPF, Go!” … oh wait, we did that to and yeah, didn’t quite work out that well. We also tried ASP.NET with Silverlight, again, did not work out so well. This time, though its different because you have more options to choose from and just for extra added confusion, Microsoft aren’t going to confirm or deny whether technologies you have today will be around – sure they show a few strong hints here and there but to actually come out and give a Caesar style “thumbs up” vs “thumbs down” death blow – no, forget about it. Its not like they came out and formerly cancelled MIX either, the conference that let you all know what was coming out for the web and etc. etc. Sadly, Bob Mu former executive let it slip the last time that event was close by that “our strategy has changed” and then after that slip, he was never heard of again.
So what is all the fuss about?Why is everyone getting all caught in knots about Silverlight being alive or dead, nobody’s really volunteered an exhaustive list of features that are missing right? Well maybe Uservoice but who listens to that stupid website anyway.. oops, did it again didn’t I. I think real fuss is more about the concept of patronizing the developer base with yet another executive we probably care less about talking about a technology that we still haven’t figured out why it exists over the old whilst then asking the devleopers to “trust” them and yet not confirm or deny the pre-existing technology that they originally trusted them will continue to exist. I think that’s the core fuss point, I think the PR folks are out to lunch most days and Microsoft probably need to rethink their relationship with WaggEd (the de-facto outsource PR firm) around how they are handling the messaging. In my experience, they can be quite conservative and treat the brand in many ways like it’s a Presidential campaign – cagey, artificial and lastly “good enough” but never quite “great”. Windows team will eventually turn the lights out on the current permutation of Silverlight, specifically on the Windows Phone 7 as when there is a fairly high profile leadership change out, things aren’t good internally. Something is going a miss and Andy Lee’s isn’t known internally imho for his brilliant strategic thinking, so for him to be swapped out and some other yet to be on stage for us all to ignore VP will now take his place. That to me says one thing “We have a change in strategy..err I mean tactics..” Journos and bloggers will hold your hand and reassure you that Silverlight as you know it today will continue and sure, C# and XAML still has a future but its never really been about that its more and always has been about making applications, quickly and without performance or bugs. What the fuss is all about now is do we have to re-pave an old road, where sure Silverlight/WPF have issues there’s no denying that but today, we all collectively have a fairly well rounded knowledge base in and around what they are and how to avoid them. Does that all now have to be reset? Does that mean our Google searches for answers that often get a mix between Silverlight, WPF and CTP/Beta APIs that have breaking changes get that much more polluted resulting in extra hours of wading through rants to get answers? Sadly yes. I’m a programmer and designer, I have over 9 languages under my belt and can use majority of the 3D and 2D design tooling that the planet has managed to cough up. Personally my issue has never been around learning stuff, it’s always been about learning stuff to get stuff done. Nothing personally pisses me off more is having to go backwards when we should be going forwards. Windows 8 going to HTML5.. really… that’s the answer? Does anyone not get the concept that if all browsers were equal then why make them? What’s the differentiation? Answer that question and now you are back in the game of circa late 90’s early 2000 where Browser wars an API forks were all the rage. Oh wait most of the devs that use HTML today were probably dancing to Power Ranger Intros to notice.
Yesterday the VP of Web Services at Microsoft showed us the upcoming future of Microsoft AppStore me to thanks for playing Apple iTunes clone but not quite because its metro style of solution delivery….*gasp*… (try saying that without pausing)
Side riff: Microsoft, try and pick one person to be the face of Windows.. I get VP’s want to be geek celebs, but really who is that guy anyway and why should we care about his existence?..sorry carry on reading…
I care less on who copied what and where, the fact that there is an AppStore in the Microsoft ethos for us WPF/SL developers to capitalize on and make some bank – count me in!
Oh wait, we don’t get an invite actually because in order to actually make some cash on this idea you have to kind of wait for Windows 8 to be more ubiquitous and outsell the current Windows 7 adoption curve that we have before us today.
Let me show you a big circle that has 500m attached to it and compare it to other devices and operating systems to give you a sense of scale and illusion around which is a smarter platform to target. I should also point out in September Microsoft also stated it was around 450million
Here it is.
Now, don’t ask too many questions (like how is Windows Phone 7 market share fit into that graph?) around how that number came to be, just bend over and accept its existence and let it soak into your brain mass that Microsoft have your back and we are the future of the interwebs.
Still not buying it? Well let me see if I can rustle up some insights for you from a Microsoft staffer, what about another VP at Microsoft – lets here what he has to say on the matter.
Comment: “ I thought I did, but to be honest, I’m not even sure what was said”
Comment: “…But the graph…it said…500m… and you guys also said 450m la…you know what, you are banned from using numbers”
Comment: I’m doing the math and I’m also including world population growth, projected device market sales targets and and and and… did you just tell me to start coding and stop whinging …..I am coding, I do it daily, but the problem I have is you’re co-workers interrupting that sales pipeline with a whole bunch of question marks about the future of what I’m actually coding on…so that is to say, I’m doing my part, what are your guys doing? …sorry back to the numbers.
Comment: OH snap.. no he didn’t….
Comment: Target what again… and you just said 500million earlier…what…what are we talking about again… and if Win8 launches today are you saying we should stop targeting Windows 7 and now focus on Windows 8?……. WHAT THE FU…
Comment: Which one? 500million, 450million or 300million… or….
Fair enough, he is not into the whole questions thing and regards it as being a case of being a whining and what I also found interesting was the implication that one should “shut up and code”
Only problem I find there is actually I have been coding, pretty much for the last few years and that’s the problem because I have been coding on the last set of promises they / me made to the community around Silverlight and WPF. I remember it clearly, we got up on stage and we gave the same formula you have before you yesterday, we drowned you in copious amounts of “We caught a fish this big” graphs, painted a bright and happy days future, then told you “trust us, we have this covered” story.
Fast forward today, Silverlight 5’s future is in question and WPF is well, dare I still say dead? In fact Silverlight 5 was scheduled to release last month and that was told to you by a Microsoft staffer but yet no sign of the product that describes another way of saying the word “Flash” (aka Silverlight).
Ok, well I guess we’ll all have to sit tight, hold onto the .NET …err I mean WinRT…err I mean .NET …C++?...HTML5?... Ok whatever it is we are supposed to hold onto, write some killer applications and wait for further information from Microsoft on how well Windows 8 will sell and to which verticals its likely to excite the most.
Its clear it will beat iPad / iPhone to death as once Windows gets onto a tablet like device, it will be unstoppable – well that’s what MVP’s at Microsoft tell me and why on earth would they be biased – crazy talk.
Look, I think Windows 8 is an opportunity for all to prosper, I think it has the potential to excite and increase the cash in everyone’s wallets. I honestly don’t care whether or not the developer story gets reset, what I do ultimately care about is how one can take the concepts of Windows 8 and use them in today’s Windows 7 upgrade environments.
Call me crazy but based on historical data and simply getting my fill of the Microsoft internal culture I honestly don’t think Windows 8 will replenish the market the way Windows 7 has today. I think its going to be mostly a tablet device story only and even then it’s got question marks above its head on what you can and can’t do when it comes to development.
Furthermore, Microsoft cannot seriously expect developers to trust them anymore as the amount of broken promises…. I won’t go down that path, I’ll simply leave it at “no, you haven’t earned the trust” so instead of throwing down metrics onto the table like they actually resonate with developers instead of making that team look artificially successful – why not answer some hard questions with that time.
Paint a detailed picture on what you think is the future of Windows specifically on areas where you think it interconnects, lets talk about how Windows Azure is the preferred server side engine for your Apps in the AppStore or more importantly lets talk about skill transference in more detail, how does a Silverlight / WPF card carrying .NET diehard fan transition over to the new Windows RT way of life.
How do they work with Designers in this new space? Whats your thinking around the tooling story and how they interconnect.
AppStore sounds fine, it looks good but why can’t we start today, why do we need to hold off for Windows 8 or is this your idea of a forcing function that will drive consumers to buy Windows 8 instead of Windows 7 – because of the Appstore?
That may work for new devices called tablets, but what about that 500m install base just sitting there waiting to be fleeced with my Flashlight glow in the dark Twitter application?
Stop whining and build? Build with what, who for and which platform?
So far there is less that 50,000 developers world wide targeting Windows 8 and that’s assuming that MSDN downloads indicate one developer per download ( I know I downloaded it 4x times since BUILD… so make that –4).
Never fear though, as you can now watch the developer uptake increase due to brilliant strategies like the Build Windows Contest featuring weird beard guy in front of a bicycle wheel? (WTF)
Catch is you have to be a US resident only and use the new secret stuff from Microsoft …actually I have no clue what the hell this contest is really about and lastly a VP at Microsoft once told me in a meeting “Contests are the last desperate refuge for bad marketing”… enough said.
Co-worker shares his thoughts after reading this blog post
Twitter stream caught my attention, as the conversation came up around how Agile maps to the doctrine meets reality.
I like to think I’m a guy who’s travelled around to a lot of teams and tried many things, I’ve been in quite a number of teams world wide and have seen some great projects succeed others I dare not mention for their curse alone may bring bad karma.
Throughout my travels, the concept of Agile has always been this mutated religion that often gets thrown about but really doesn’t cement the virtual “it should be done as this” to “this is how it maps to reality”.
In all the teams I’ve been in one thing always was consistent, that is there is usually one or more person(s) in that team that are often the weakest link – you know, the one that if we were playing survivor they’d be the first to go.
That person often is also one that has a degree of influence and whilst a democratic philosophy is one we should aspire to in an agile setting, reality is usually there’s an alpha in the room and they often are the ones who approve your timesheet – thus, you suck it up and give way even if it’s a dumb decision.
I’ve heard often that “Well the reason that failed is you had the wrong person” followed by how the role was given to a jackass who typically had no business making decisions other than “would you like one or two biscuits to go with your hot beverage?”
That’s the problem though with this whole agile philosophy, we aspire to working with a gang of people that make you feel as if you’re coding along side a crew that have similar skills to Oceans 11. Yet when you look around often the case is you’re dealing with a crew that came from Billy-Bobs 12 and its often the 12th man is usually the cousin twice removed but was forced to be in the team due to Billy-bobs wife being a royal pain in his redneck side.
Ok, that metaphor fell to the wayside but my point is I often find the reason why agile/scrum fails is simply due to the aspirations around the said doctrine not mapping to the reality of a commercial environment.
The amount of customers I’ve had to create solutions for often have no clue as to what they are doing and its usually why they hit the panic button, allocate budget and socket in a development team to solve the said problems. If you’re lucky you get the business ownership in a place where they feel competent enough to say out loud “I actually understand my business problems and desire software to solve them” …if you’re lucky.
Do you as a developer look at the said impending car crash and simply yell “we should really stop what we are doing and look at who’s driving this car and why” or do you simply lock onto the weakness that which is a business out of control but with a really big wallet thus as a contractor exploit this until the wheels come off. Once the wheels come off you simply throw your hands in the air and do what everyone does when agile fails “You had the wrong person….”
Here is my creative thinking on a way forward.
What if you had your team divided into two parts, that is you have TEAMA working on the grind, as per design think on your feet reactive feature development whilst TEAMB looks at iteration two, figures out the weak/hot spots and devotes more time to just R&D (spiking the big issues).
Once they have that mastered or time boxed them then switch gears, own iteration two and then iteration three is then put into R&D mode followed by a rinse/repeat formula.
Would this not also include user experience?
Anyone tried this? Or did I just declare Jesus was really a female and not a guy after all thus a war breaks out and I’m likely to be crucified for challenging the status quo.
Software today is definitely getting more and more user experience focused, that is to say we are preoccupied with getting the minimal designs into the hands of adults for task driven operations. We pride ourselves on knowing how the human mind works through various blog based theories on how one is to design the user interface and what the likely hood of the adult behind the computers initial reaction will be.
The amount of conferences I’ve personally attended that has a person or person(s) on stage touting the latest and greatest in cognitive science buzz word bingo followed by best practices in software design is well, too many.
On a personal level, my son has a rare chromosome disorder called Trisomy 8, its quite an unexplored condition and I’ve pretty much spent the last eight years interacting with medical professions that touch on not just the psychology of humans but zeros in on the way in which our brains form over time.
In the last eight years of my research I have learnt quite a lot about how the human mind works specifically on how we react to information and more importantly our abilities to cope with change that aren’t just about our environments but also plays a role in Software.
I’ve personally read research papers that explore the impacts of society’s current structure on future generations and more importantly how our macro and micro environments play a role with regards to the children of tomorrow coping with change and learning at the same time – that is to say, we adults cope with the emerging technology advancements because for us “its about time” but for todays child of 5-8 this is a huge problem around having to manifest coping skills to dealing with a fluid technology adoption that often doesn’t make sense.
Yesterday we didn’t have NUI, today we do? Icons that have a 3.5” floppy disc that represent “saving” have no meaning to my son etc.
The list goes on just how rapid and fast we are changing our environments and more importantly how adults that haven’t formulated the necessary social skills to realistically control the way in which our children are parented often rely on technology as at times being the de-facto teacher or leader (Amount of insights I’ve read on how XBOX 360 has become the baby sitter in households is scary).
Getting back to the topic at hand, that is what if the people you are designing software have an undiagnosed mental illness or are better yet diagnosed. How would you design tomorrow’s user interface to cope with this dramatic new piece of evidence? To you the minimal design works, it seems fresh and clear and has definitive boundaries established.
To an adult suffering from Type-6 ADHD (if you believe in it) that has a degree of over-focus its not enough, in fact it could have the opposite effect of what you are trying to do in your design composition.
Autism also has a role, grid formation in design would obviously appeal to their autistic traits given it’s a pattern that they can lock onto and can often agree with – Asperger sufferers may disagree with it, and could annoy or irritate them in some way (colour choice, too much movement blah blah).
Who has to say your designs work, as if you ask people on the street a series of questions and observe their reactions you are not really providing an insight into how the human mind reacts to computer interaction. You’ve automatically failed in a clinical trial, as the person on the street isn’t just a normal adult there’s a whole pedigree of historical information you’re not factoring into the study that is relevant.
At the end of the day, the real heart of HCI for this and is my working theory is that we formulate our expectations around software design from our own personal development. That is to say, if we as children had normal or above average IQ level in around about ability to understand patterns and the ability to cope with change we in turn are more likely to adapt to both “well design” and “poorly designed” software.
That is to say, when you sit down and think about an Adult and how they react to tomorrow’s software one has to really think about the journey the adult has taken to arrive at this point, more to the point how easily they are also influenced.
A child who came from broken home, parents left and raised by other adults who is now a receptionist within a company is more likely to have absolutely no confidence in around making decisions. That person is now an easy mark for someone who has the opposite and can easily sway this person to adoption and change.
Put those two people into a clinical trial around how the next piece of software you are going to roll out for a company works and the various tests you put them through, watch what happens.
Most tests in UX / HCI often focus on the ability of the candidate to make their way through the digital maze in order to get the cheese (basic principles around reward / recognition) so to be fair its really about how the human mind can navigate a series of patterns to arrive at a result (positive / negative) and then furthermore how the said humans can recall that information at a later date (memory recall meets muscle memory).
These style of results will tell I guess the amount of friction associated with your change, and give you a score / credit in around what the impact it will likely have but in reality what you really probably need to do as an industry is zero in on how aggressively you can decrease the friction levels associated with change prior to the person arriving at the console.
How do you get Jenny the receptionist who came from an abused child hood enough confidence to tackle a product like Autodesk Maya (which is largely complex) as if you were to sit down with Jenny and learn that she also has a creative component to her that’s not obvious to all – its her way of medicating the abuse through design.
How do you get Jack the stock broker who spends most of his time jacked on speed/coke and caffeine to focus long enough to read the information in front of him through data visualisation metaphors / methodologies then the decisions he makes could impact the future of the global financial system(s) world wide (ok bit extreme but you get my point?)
It’s amazing how much we as a software industry associate normal from abnormal when it comes to software design. It is also amazing how we look at our personas in the design process and attach the basic “this is mike, he likes facebook” fluffy profiling. When what you may find even more interesting is that Mike may like facebook, but in his down time he likes to put fireworks in cats butts and set them on fire because he has this weird fascination with making things suffer – which is probably why Mike now runs ORACLE’s user experience program.
The persona in my view is simply the design team having a massive dose of confirmation bias as when you sit down and read research paper after research paper on how a child sees the world that later helps define him/her as an adult, well…. In my view, my designs take on a completely new shift in thinking in around how I approach them.
My son has been tested numerous times and has been given an IQ of around 135 which depending on how you look at it puts him in around the genius level. The problem though is my son can’t focus or pays full attention to things and relies heavily on patterns to speed through tasks but at the same time he’s not aware of how he did it.
Imagine designing software for him. I do, daily and have to help him figure out life, it just has taught me so much in the process.
Metro UI vs Apple OS 5..pft, don’t get me started on this subject as both have an amazing insight into pro’s and con’s.