Marvel Comics and the Future of UI

kabam-marvelI’m catching up on Agents of Shield, and (not a spoiler) there’s a robot (technically an Android, as she looks human)  in a recent Season 4 episode. She’s a nearly-perfect humanesque Android, and her creator pronounces she has come “through the Uncanny Valley and out the other side!” She’s any techie’s dream creation.

Indeed, the Android looks and acts human* and easily passes most Turing Tests, fooling people into believing she is real, picking up on slang and idioms, even beginning to grasp when lying is “allowed” and when she must be truthful as programmed. It has also quickly become clear that her creator is in love with her, which is perhaps a Turing Test of its own.

This is not the only Marvel Android to mar the human/robot line, as well as the AI/UI line. This is where it gets interesting. Vision, for example, is an Android created out of an AI, and is now an independent entity with his own set of morals, beliefs, and emotions. Tony Stark’s Jarvis is a UI who is also arguably Tony’s best friend. And then there’s Karen.

If you haven’t yet seen Spiderman Homecoming, you might want to stop here. Because now, there are some (minor) spoilers coming up. Continue Reading


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I’m not sure when I realized I wasn’t going to live past 21. I say “realized” because, at the time, it didn’t feel like a decision. I saw suicide as a possible solution, but I didn’t consider it something I was capable of. I had no suicidal plans; instead I dreamed of accidents. I figured one day in my late teens I would accidentally ride my mountain bike off a cliff, and my last feelings would be the joy and terror of falling, akin to riding a roller coaster. I thought the only thing holding me back was fear of death.

Luckily, that fear of death stayed with me. After I turned 21 I began to lose the confidence I had always felt; a confidence brought on by the belief that what I did didn’t matter. I struggled to make plans, since I hadn’t expected to make it to this milestone. I had no career goals, savings, or even an idea of how I wanted to celebrate my birthday – something I had planned in detail every year before. I spent 4 years struggling and spiraling downward, but luckily, and I mean very, very, luckily, I had friends and family who cared about me and paid attention and helped me realize something was wrong, and I got the medical help I needed.

This year I’m turning 31. It’s 4 months away, and I am already planning my birthday. Every year since my 25th has been the best year of my life. Sometimes it feels like every week is better than the week before.

This month is mental health awareness month. Listen to the people around you, your friends and family. Don’t brush off the nagging feeling that something may be wrong. More than 1 out of every 20 people has a mental health disorder. Too many of those people do turn to suicide, whether it’s an official plan or just a series of dangerous life choices that might lead to an “accident.”


The Failure and Success of PuppyMonkeyBaby

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need for user testing, as evidenced by the frightening and decidedly NOT cute PuppyMonkeyBaby shown at the SuperBowl.

Since then, I’ve come to two realizations.

  1. I stand by my ascertain that combining a puppy, a monkey, and a baby sounds adorable but looks terrifying, and therefore it’s a great metaphor for products that sounds great in theory, but fail in practice.
  2. While the puppymonkeybaby product is a failure, this doesn’t mean the commercial was a failure. In fact, weeks later we’re still talking about it. Is it possible this is what the marketers intended? Seems likely!

Food for thought: this is the difference between product development goals, and marketing goals.


The Parking Lot

When I first started practicing yoga, many things came easily to me. Certain poses reminded me of gymnastics classes from childhood, and the instructor’s firm yet gentle guidance was similar to martial arts classes. But meditation was difficult. I struggled to empty my mind, and I grew quickly frustrated as I mentally reprimanded myself for my impatience, and then reprimanded myself for reprimanding myself. It was a vicious cycle.

The best meditation advice I’ve ever received is to accept the thoughts that come. Instead of trying to push away my thoughts, I now try to acknowledge them and move on. Instead of reprimanding myself, I try to recognize that this is a thought I may later return to, and then let it go. While it doesn’t always work, it’s certainly better than the pit of mental anguish I used to fight to escape.

Yet it took me even longer to realized I was putting clients in this same difficult position when I recommended they hold their questions to the end, or focus on the topic at hand. In essence, I was saying “put that out of your mind,” when I should have realized how impossible that can be. Continue Reading


A New Era at Mad*Pow

Over the past two years of freelancing, I’ve learned about the content strategy community, about meeting clients and making sales, and about myself. I’ve grown confident in my knowledge of what I do best, what work I most enjoy, and the future I see for myself as a content strategist. With that in mind, the next stage of my journey is to rejoin the agency world. As of yesterday, I am officially the new Director of Content Strategy at Mad*Pow.

Why Mad*Pow?

MadPow_AIGA_AFTA_150x150I’ve always loved agency life. I get to work with an interesting variety of clients (like a freelancer), and I also get to work with a team, learning together and growing together (like an in-house content strategist). I’ve missed the camaraderie, and though the community on Twitter has been a decent substitute, Mad*Pow offers the real deal: a team of designers, strategists, researchers, and developers who value education (in all its forms) and encourage professional growth.

In addition, Mad*Pow has a few areas of specialization. While many of their target industries are familiar to me, healthcare is the industry I am most excited to be working with. I learned soon after beginning my freelance career that I prefer working with companies that in some way “do good,” and healthcare projects (typically) fall into this category. At Mad*Pow, the team shares my craving and seeks out this type of work.

What’s next?

Now it’s time for all the excitement of agency life, PLUS I get to help Mad*Pow grow a truly fabulous content strategy team. With all of that going on, some things are changing quite a bit, and others not at all.

What’s changing:

  • I’ll be at the Mad*Pow office most days, rather than in my home office with the adorable-yet-distracting Simi.
  • I’ll have many wonderful coworkers to collaborate with on projects.
  • I may be writing here less frequently, until I settle in.

What’s staying the same:

  • I am still the managing editor at UX Booth, and will continue to hold that position.
  • If you want to work together, you can still contact me. Mad*Pow takes on content strategy projects, and you may even get more value from my new coworkers!
  • I’ll still be speaking and live blogging at conferences, and I hope to see you there.