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The Trax Experience

The sun was shining, yet barely through the partially but still mostly clouded sky. The entire ground was soaked with a recent shower of precipitation that fell from the sky. There was a slight brisk flow of wind nipping at my uncovered skin as I stepped out of our pearl white Mazda 5. We arrived at the Sandy Civic Center Trax station a tid bit confused. Initially we attempted to make uneducated guesses of where to go and what to do. One train was sitting on the tracks, the windows were tinted sufficiently that from our perspective and distance it was impossible to know if the train was full or empty. After a brief discussion with my wife I decided to just venture out in search of further light and knowledge in regards to how to use this train. A relatively short distance away stood a small octagon shaped building that appeared to be either where an individual much like myself might would purchase a ticket or perhaps a reliable place in which a person much like unto myself might per chance be comfortable to propose a question. I might even say that this octagon shaped building gave the perception that a person much like unto myself would have a sufficient amount of trust that their questions would most definitely be answered. Much to my shagrin as I made my way in haste to this building it was indeed EMPTY.

Several questions began racing through my mind. Was I supposed to sit and wait for the train to open it’s doors? When the trains doors were open would that reveal more obvious answers to my questions? Might there be a ticket scanner on the other side of those closed doors? Was there a ticket scanner on the  outside of the train doors? Where would a human similar to myself purchase a ticket? I anxiously cast my vision abroad looking for some type of signage that would provide me with the helpful information my heart yearned for. As confusion began to envelope me and frustration began to overtake my faculties further impeding my ability to make calm and sane decisions, I approach a man who was also standing near the train much like myself. However, this nice young individual was standing and gazing upon the vast lot of asphalted land which was generously filled with vehicles of travel. With a confused look on my face I muttered, “How does this work?”

The cleanly shaven young man stood with a square chin and sincere eyes that reflected a similar amount of confusion, mostly due to the poor choice of words that tripped its way off of my tongue. He stuttered a response, “The train? Have you ever used it before?”

I quickly and confidently responded, “No, I mean yes the train. Where do you buy tickets?”

The man was nice, eager, and willing to help. Patiently he began explaining where the different electronic ticket booths were located. As he spoke his arm was extended with his index finger firmly pressing forward as he circled round about. Then he even offered me the day pass that he purchased explaining that it was good until a specific time, and he was already through using it. I then explained in further detail, “Well, my work badge is supposed to allow me to use the train.”

The gentle man with a scruffy beard and dark brown eyes turned my attention to a small metal post protruding from the concreate that pathed the very ground in which we walked. It was skinny and rectangular in shape and had a yellow sign with large black san-serif letters that appeared to be in ITC Avant Garde reads, “TAP ON/TAP OFF” with a large black arrow pointing upward to a small yet sufficient sized digital screen. The burly bearded figure with long flowing hair, pointing to the object said, “Just tap your badge on that and it should work.”

We both walked over together and I pulled my work badge out of the inside pocket of my black polyester suit jacket. The flesh of the backside of my right hand brushed softly against my soft black cotton sweater as I slipped into the pocket to retrieve my work badge. I placed it on the sufficiently sized digital screen precisely where that large black arrow was directing me. Sure enough a digitally enhanced beep rang through the cool crisp February air and a green check instantaneously appeared on the sufficiently sized digital screen. Still confused I looked back and the strange old bearded man and said, “Now what?”

He softly explained through his bearded face that I just needed to walk up to the door, press the button on the outside of the door and carefully walk up the steps into the train.

I carefully followed his instructions, and to my amazement I successfully boarded the train and found a mostly empty train with ample blue clothed seats to rest my wearied yet eager to sieze the day soul.

A Terrible Beginner User Experience

This proved to be a terrible beginner user experience. The Trax works perfect for an experienced rider, in fact you only really need to ride the train once to become an expert. Yet there’s plenty of things wrong happening here. I’ve ridden the Trax a handful of times now, and each and every time I either heard someone asking similar questions I had, or they asked me those questions. You shouldn’t have to rely on nice young yet old bearded smooth faced strangers with a square jaw to offer up a ticket and solutions to be able figure out how to use the system.

I rode similar public transportation in the fruitful lands of Sao Paulo, Brazil. In this far far away land you have to actually purchase a ticket before even walking through a gate that swiveled around 360 degrees to where the public form of transportation resided. They also make it very painfully obvious when the public transportation device is ready for travelers to venture off onward in their pursuit of happiness. The doors all open.

Today

Now, you can find me riding the rails with supreme confidence ready and willing to help the rest of the confused beginners. Let’s hope that this story reaches you before you anxiously strike off on your maiden voyage to set this world on fire (figuratively not literally).

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The Manufactured King

Ever since that blessed day in Utah when the last shot came sliding smoothly off the threads of the net just before the buzzer rang the world of basketball has been searching for the next reigning king.

It has become almost the kiss of death for a player to be compared to Michael Jordan. The NBA, advertisers, and the media started to become desperate. Sure the NBA was full of great players still, and plenty of all stars. Yet no single player to take over what Michael Jordan had built.

They Claim We Are Witnesses

We Are All Witnesses

Then it happened. This high school player came along. He was bigger, stronger, and seemingly more talented and dominant. This time they knew they needed to start early, and they couldn’t place the dreaded title of “The Next Michael Jordan.” It had to be something new, something fresh. The media kicked in early by televising his high school games. Sure there had been other young talented players before him that got their fare share of fame before they hit the professional scene, but never like this. Before you had to actually be a fan of basketball to be able to hear people whispering about the up and coming talent. Even people who had no interest in basketball at all were talking about this kid. It was bazaar and weird, in fact it was downright fishy and suspect at best. Nike and Adidas were battling it out before this kid even came close to graduating high school. This kid was named LeBron James. In 2003 Nike sealed the deal by signing him to an unheard of seven year deal of $93 million dollars. So it wasn’t too much longer that the creative geniuses over at Wieden Kennedy came up with this brainwashingly simple campaign;

We Are All Witnesses.

The NBA quickly jumped on board and started using him in ALL of their marketing as well. They started pretty much only televising LeBron James games. His face was everywhere. I mean his last name is even the name of a king. So why not just roll with it. The NBA and basketball in general needs a king, so why not this guy. So the media jumped on board and everyone was reminding us that we were all witnesses to this manufactured king. Nike recently described their relationship after renewing his contract for an undisclosed amount as follows;

“LeBron James is one of the world’s best basketball players and a global sports icon that has transcended generations and cultures,” Nike spokesman Kejuan Wilkins said. “Nike’s relationship with LeBron has created innovative basketball products and captivating campaigns. We’re proud to continue our partnership with him for years to come.”

SOURCE: “LeBron signs new deal with Nike

You Can’t Manufacture A King

The only problem is, they began filling our heads with all of this propaganda before the guy actually even did anything. I don’t blame LeBron James, he had nothing to do with it. All he did was embrace it all, who wouldn’t. The problem is, Michael Jordan just happened. Larry Bird just happened. No one saw Michael Jordan coming. He wasn’t viewed as the greatest player coming out of high school, and he wasn’t viewed as the greatest player entering the NBA draft in 1984. Once entering the NBA he came in with little expectations. He was continuously highly criticized by the media. Everyone was searching for the guys weaknesses. Each and every time someone tried pointing out a flaw Michael Jordan used it as his fuel to turn that into his strength. First they said he couldn’t play defense so he came back and made the NBA All defensive team. They said he couldn’t shoot and he developed a patented fade away jump shot. They said he couldn’t win a championship so he won six.

No one told us to watch Michael Jordan, and no one told us he was great. No one told us to wear his shoes. No one told us that we all wanted to be like him. Although Nike and Gatorade might argue against it. However, it wasn’t the catchy song in a gatorade commercial that got the world saying, “I wanna be like Mike.” We were all already saying it, and the campaign was already built for them. They just put what the world was already saying and thinking into a song.

Wheaties already knew that everyone wanted to drink what he was drinking, wear what he was wearing, so why wouldn’t we all want to also eat what he was eating. I’m pretty sure no one else has ever been killed for anyone else’s shoes right? That had nothing to do with what Nike was trying to sell us. Instead Nike just hopped on board the Michael Jordan train and road it all the way to the bank. They could, and have been the most ugliest shoes on the market and we all still buy them and wear them. Each and every pair becomes an instant classic to this day.

Like I said…

You Just Can’t Manufacture A King

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The Experience Debate

I recently read an interesting article on Web Standards Sherpa, titled Designing for Content: Creating a Message Hierarchy.” The article was discussing the importance of establishing a content strategy early on in the planning of a website. In fact it makes an arguement that it should be in the beginning stages of the planning.

"When we integrate content creation early in our web development processes, we are more effective at orienting our conversations to the end goals for the user and the business. This is a huge win for our users, who are increasingly demanding meaningful content experiences before they engage with our web sites and apps. It’s also vital to businesses, whose success depends on communicating value in ways that convert bystanders to buyers."

The article goes on to say;

"But why not start earlier in the creative process, before a single line is drawn? What if we all start with a set of primary messages that should be conveyed to users, and then create the visual and interactive experience around those?"

They give two tremendously creative websites as an example.

Take benthebodyguard.com or nikebetterworld.com. In each of these examples, users scroll through inherent hierarchical messaging that forms each site’s primary purpose—to engage and to educate—so users will be more likely to buy. Ultimately, the design serves to highlight the content, rather than the other way around.

This is where the article, in my opinion starts to make some mistakes. This is their example of how to effectively plan out your content first and all the visual and interactive experience then flows around the content as opposed to the content flowing around the visual and interactive experience. Essentially they are making an argument that storytelling is more effective.

What they fail to do however, is to give solid proof as to why these websites are doing a better job at selling their product. They are telling us that these websites are doing a better job with establishing and communicating a hierarchical message that engages and educates the user so they are more likely to buy, but is “Ben the bodyguard” the highest selling app in the app store? What type of results has “Nike Better World” been able to celebrate? Neither of these things are answered in the article.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these websites. I’ve experienced more websites that are very similar in nature. The first one I ever came across was a website by Campaign Monitor with the primary goal to hire some talented people. Another website is Contrast Rebellion, and even the infinitely talented Mr. Joe Faux recently took this approach for his portfolio website. I tweeted, bookmarked, and talked about almost all of these websites after encountering them. They were and are amazingly creative. These websites also did an effective job at getting me to not only scroll through the entire site, but I also read all of the content on the website.

Chris Wilson from Nerd Communications (the masterminds behind “benthebodyguard.com”) offers up this tid bit of information;

"The storytelling aspect, centered on the Ben character, has been absolutely essential to building our buzz and persuading people to ‘hire Ben,’ as we put it. From the very beginning, we gave ourselves the challenge to use this compelling, mysterious personality to get people interested in the theme of personal digital security (not such an interesting topic on its own), and we’ve definitely succeeded in building widespread interest with this method. Even when we first launched the site, there were dozens of tweets out there proclaiming their commitment to buying the app without even knowing exactly what it would offer!"

"However it should really be noted that, without our unique presentation style of the story on benthebodyguard.com, the story likely wouldn’t have gained as much interest on its own. Nobody wants to read big blocks of text online anymore."

So he is offering up proof that the website was effective in building up “buzz” about the product, and it did an effective job at sparking an interest, but was it better? Did it get MORE buzz than websites that took an alternative approach?

Also I disagree Chris… You see he said, “Nobody wants to read big blocks of text online anymore.” That is a bit of an absolute statement. One that doesn’t really offer up any actual proof as to weather or not this is a reality. I personally subscribe to the philosophy that James Archer of Forty talks about in his video presentation titled “Decision Modes: How People Buy.” In the video he basically breaks people into 4 different categories of methodical, competitive, humanistic, & spontaneous. In contrast this belief is based on a lot of years worth of psychological research on humans. Not to say that Ben the Body Guard doesn’t have each of the four decision modes in mind. However, it does support the fact that some people do indeed want to read big blocks of text online. In fact blogs are incredibly popular on the interweb. There are several websites utilizing big blocks of text online that are wildly successful.

The “Ben the Body Guard” approach reminds me of another experience I’ve found in the real world. I think the Ikea experience has many similarities with benthebodyguard.com. In contrast I feel that the Target experience (which is a more traditional experience) has a lot in common with the more traditional approach we’ve seen from websites like Mail Chimp, 37 Signals, Mint, Huge, & the ever popular dare I say cliche example of Apple.

If you’ve never been to an Ikea before it’s definitely a unique experience, at least unique to the American consumer. The store is essentially split in half. On one side is the showrooms, and on the other is the actual warehouse where they have shelves stocked with products and merchandise ready to be purchased.

When you enter an Ikea you are entering their showroom. There aren’t any registers in site, and unless you grab a shopping cart that was left behind in the parking lot, then they don’t have any shopping carts available in the front/main entrance either. You then proceed to work your way through a seemingly endless maze of enchanting and visually appealing staged environments. Essentially Ikea is telling a story and creating an experience. It is not much different then a website which strategically guides your through content like reading a story (benthebodyguard.com).

When you arrive at the middle of the story you enter the Ikea restaurant. So you stop and grab a little bite to eat as you converse about all of the amazing products and merchandise you just experienced. When you are finished with your meal and you’ve had a sufficient amount of time to gather your thoughts and decide what you want to place in your shopping cart. Speaking of shopping carts it’s at this point where they have ample amounts of shopping carts for all of their visitors.

So now with your shiny shopping cart that glides across the floor as you make your way into the warehouse portion. This is where you are greeted with shelves and more shelves of products and merchandise ready and waiting for you to throw in your shopping cart. So then you work your way back to the front of the store where the registers are.

As you make your way to the exit there is a tempting little snack bar, because you can’t go home without 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips, and a soda for $2.00. Or what about a generous sized cinnamon roll? I mean can you really say no to a delicious soft served ice cream cone? My family makes specific trips to Ikea just for the hotdogs. I mean TWO DOLLARS! Seriously? I think I might need to make a trip to Ikea this weekend just thinking about it.

In contrast, this is what the American consumer has grown to expect. In fact when I first went to Ikea I spent the first half of my experience annoyed and frustrated. It wasn’t until I thought about it, and quit expecting Ikea to be Target that I was really able to embrace the experience.

When you enter Target (You can replace Super Target with Walmart, Albertson’s, or HEB and you will basically get the same set up.) you are greeted with shiny red shopping carts. In the entrance are large visually appealing signs hanging from the ceiling advertising seasonal products on sale. The entire store is divided up into different categories and isles of shelves with products and merchandise on display. Hanging from the ceiling are large easy to find and read signs to help you figure out where each section/category is located. At the end of each isle is also more signage which helps you easily be able to understand what lives in each isle. They have made the store incredibly easy and efficient for visitors to easily navigate directly to what they came to the store for.

What Does This All Mean?

Now I love Ikea, but do I love it more than Target? Does the Ikea experience result in me purchasing more than I do at other stores? These are the real questions that need answers.

I see many similarities between these two contrasting store experiences and website experiences we encounter on the interweb. I think the problem that I am having is that this article is saying that the Target experience doesn’t do a good job with establishing and communicating a hierarchical message. That is where I disagree. I believe that both experiences can be executed in a way that effectively communicates a hierarchy of content. I also believe that you can provide a Target experience and still allow the visual and interactive experience to flow around the content. At the same time I believe that the Ikea experience also accomplishes these things as well. It’s not that I disagree with them using those examples. Instead I am disputing that the article seems to insinuate that those types of website do a better job, or essentially they are saying that the Ikea experience is better than the Target experience. When in reality they are just different experiences. I feel that the approach is dependent upon the company/brand as well as the goals of the company/brand and their products.

What Do You Think?

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The Walmart Experience

I read this article by Mark Hurst on his Good Experience blog titled, “Ignore the customer experience, lose a billion dollars (Walmart case study)" where he states that;

"Walmart spends hundreds of millions of dollars uncluttering their stores, removing 15% of inventory, shortening shelves, clearing aisles. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming, but this is what customers said they wanted, so you barrel through it.”

You’ll never guess what happens now. (Actually, you’ve probably already guessed, but it sounded better to say you’ll never guess.)”

Sales went down. Way down. I mean waaaaaay down. I’m talking, from the beginning of that project until today, Walmart has lost over a billion dollars in sales. (Yes, billion with a “b”.) It’s actually closer to two billion dollars of sales they missed out on, and maybe more.”

Although I completely agree with his overall claim to what “the mistake” was;

"The mistake was a lack of customer focus. I know, I know: “They ran a survey! Customers loved the idea!” But that’s exactly the problem. Walmart didn’t pursue the question of what customers wanted. Instead, Walmart came up with the answer first, then asked customers to agree to it. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do, because it ignores customers while attempting to fool stakeholders into thinking that the strategy is customer-centered.”

You shouldn’t simply ask customers if they hypothetically like something rather you should observe your customers and see for yourself what they like and dislike. However, I disagree that this was the “1.85 billion dollar mistake.” I feel there are far too many factors involved. First off Walmart had to of already been noticing a drop in sales prior to making this “mistake.” Why else would they even be looking to make any sort of change. Their is a reason why Walmart wanted to be more like Target. In an article posted in May of 2010 on MSN Money it says,

"Fearful that consumers will move back upscale, Wal-Mart is focusing on spiffing up its stores while maintaining a price advantage over Target. Meanwhile, Target is touting more-fashionable offerings by telling customers to "expect more, pay less."

The article goes on further to say,

"Wal-Mart, which is America’s largest retailer, with 4,300 U.S. stores, seems to recognize the problem. A zealous focus on cut-rate prices doesn’t work as well when shoppers are feeling flush. Target, No. 5 in sales and with 1,740 stores, has a different attitude. It drives visits through product selection and a more attractive shopping experience, from shorter checkout lines to nicer restrooms."

So my question now is, why can’t the real “mistake” be that Walmart tried to adapt too late in the game. Perhaps Target’s campaign has just worked better than Walmart’s. Still this article by Mark Hurst has been tweeted, retweeted, dugg, bookmarked, shared on Facebook, and blogged about. To me it seems everyone is searching for that “BIG” user case scenario to back up their argument that you shouldn’t ignore the customer. When in reality I don’t truly feel like this is the example to stick in your back pocket. There is too many other variables involved beyond just this one “1.85 billion dollar mistake.” In fact I think Walmart is even just digging for a “Scapegoat.”

This is all to familiar to natural human behavior. In a humans pursuit for happiness they will find themselves unhappy. When this occurs they start to survey their life to figure out what is causing them to be unhappy. So they will immediately look at the things causing them stress. That is when humans make the “1.85 billion dollar mistake” of looking for “escapes” from the REAL PROBLEM. Sometimes people feel their financial issues is causing them stress, so if they had MORE money then they wouldn’t have financial debt and that would in turn eliminate that stress. So with the stress gone they will then find happiness. In reality it is just like the late “Notorious B.I.G" said, "Mo Money, Mo Problems." Sometimes people will be fooled into believing that they are stressed because they are overweight. So they will go on a diet to lose weight thinking they can escape the stress and that a stress free life equals happiness. Instead they will now just be a skinnier human with new and different stress.

Walmart is NOT doing well in other areas of their business. They are facing a class action suit, and some people just really hate Walmart. So my question is, where do all of these other criticisms of Walmart come into play?

****UPDATE****

On October 29th Retailer Daily actually compiled comparable store sale data from the SEC filings of 26 major US retailers spanning several years, up to the most recently released September 2010 and quarterly numbers. In that post they had this to say;

"While Wal-Mart does not exactly have to worry about losing its number one discount status to top competitor Target anytime soon, Target does appear to be gaining some of Wal-Mart’s expansive market share. Wal-Mart, which only reports same-store sales on a quarterly basis, has been reporting negative growth since its Q2 fiscal 2010 (August 2009). Prior to this, Wal-Mart’s last negative same-stores growth occurred in April 2007, when it still reported monthly results."
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Roller Coaster

Sometimes life throws us into a spiraling winding cork screw drop just to get flipped upside down to the point where we begin to be unsure whats right side up and whats upside down. We often refer to this as the roller coaster of life, it’s a description to which everyone can relate to.

Deceptively Smooth

Roughly nine months ago everything was looking great. We were finally feeling comfortable and good about where we were. We were making good financial decisions and slowly but surely working our way out of debt. We had two children, and had no plans on adding anymore to our family at the time. We made a decision to buy a new (used) car. Our primary “family” car was a 2008 Ford Focus. I was driving to and from work in a 1988 Toyota Camry that was barely chugging along. I bought it about 2 years earlier when we lived about 5 miles from my office. Now I had a further commute and the Camry just wasn’t appreciating it at all. So instead of investing money into fixing the old thing, we decided to sell it. Heather wanted a bigger car, one that she could be able to fit larger objects that she might potentially find at a garage sale or Craigslist. So we settled on a 2005 Ford Explorer. We spent a little more than we were planning to, but still felt comfortable and confident in being able to financially handle it.

The Decent

Roughly a week after purchasing the Explorer and 2-3 pregnancy tests later we found out Heather was pregnant. This through us into a downward spiral of hopeless confusion. After the birth of our second child Heather decided to take herself off of insurance to make room for our newborn baby. So now with pregnancy being considered a “preexisting condition” no insurance would accept her. She tried applying for both medicaid and CHIP to be denied both. We missed qualifying for CHIP by roughly $200.00. To add even more confusion at the first sonogram appointment they found TWO heartbeats. Then right when we finally started to wrap our minds around the idea of having TWINS, the next sonogram showed that one of the two babies had died leaving us with one healthy baby.

We went through the majority of the pregnancy trying to figure out how to afford to pay the $150.00 doctor visits. To add a bit more drama Heather began having high blood pressure causing her to be sent to specialists and more frequent visits costing more and more money. After conversing with a few different trusted sources we decided the best rout would be to ask my employer for a pay cut so that we would qualify for CHIP. We did it, and qualified, only we made the decision a bit too late and had already accrued over a thousand dollars of debt to the doctors.

New Life Brings New Hope

Finally right smack in the middle of SXSW Interactive on March 13, 2011 at 3:54am a beautiful squeaky little boy named Jackson David Guymon was born. I arrived home a little after 6:00pm on Saturday night from a busy day attending panels at SXSW when Heather’s water broke. Luckily Heather’s mom had made the 5 hour venture from the dreary woodlands of east Texas (Louisiana) to our home in beautiful Round Rock, Texas. So we left her home with our two kids and checked ourselves into the hospital. Soon after arriving Heather requested an epidural only to find that after 10 hours of labor she could still completely feel the baby coming. They tried upping the dose of medication 30 minutes or so before Jackson arrived, but it didn’t work. Heather completely felt the entire thing. Luckily she only had to push 3 times and our fresh new born was ready to be safely wrapped in our arms.

We arrived home on Monday evening and Heather was still experiencing a bit of pain, which is too be expected and so we didn’t really think much of it. As the week went on she started to experience some pain in her chest which began to cause her a bit of anxiety by the time Friday rolled around. She attempted to self diagnos herself through Google and ended up scaring herself a bit more. Her doctors office was closed and she was unable to get ahold of anyone. We said a prayer together and I personally felt that she was ok, and didn’t need to worry. She did a bit more research and started to think that perhaps some of the medication she was taking could possibly be the culprit. After discussing her fears and pains with her parents her Father contacted a friend/nurse who reassured Heather to the best of his knowledge that she was fine and had nothing to worry about. On Saturday her parents were on their way home. Sunday was spent relaxing at home with my Mom, brothers, and 3 of my nieces. Sunday night Heather began to have a pretty bad headache. She took some medication hoping it would go away. It continued through the night.

The Scariest Day of My 30 Years of Life

Monday she woke up still experiencing a headache. This wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. She had experienced headaches before. Also epidurals are known to cause headaches. She took some more medication and had me run to the store to buy her a Mountain Dew in hopes that a bit of caffeine might help her lose the headache. We made a small trip to Sams to pick up a few things. We got home and just relaxed out our home. While both my boys napped I took advantage and began working on a website for work. Once everyone was done napping I realized there was a few things I forgot to bring home with me from work that I needed to be able to get further along with the website I was working on. So I told Heather I needed to quickly run into work to get it. She was feeling a bit restless and also wanted to get out of the house so she asked if I would mind if we all went, that way we could also take advantage and show off Jackson to everyone at my office. It was a little after 3:00pm when we left my house which placed us in the “Happy Hour” time of Sonic. We were going to be driving right past a Sonic on the way to my office so we decided to stop and take advantage and get some drinks for half the price. Neither Heather or I had really eaten since breakfast, so we both decided to buy something to snack on at Sonic.

This was the beginning of what has proven to be the scariest day of my 30 years of life. Heather was driving and we made it to Sonic and placed our order. While we were waiting for our food Heather was worried that Jackson’s head might of fallen over in his carseat, which it had been known to do. She was attempting to poke her head back to see. They arrived with our food but forgot the two drinks we had ordered for our kids. So she asked me if I could get out of the car and check on Jack’s head and perhaps use the his blanket to prop up his head in a way to hopefully prohibit his head from falling anymore. So I got out of the car and positioned the blanket in a way to help protect and support his little head.

When I got back into the passenger seat out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Heather was leaning towards me, but I thought she might be double checking my work to see if it met her approval of appropriate support for Jack’s little head. I can remember saying something like, "Jack’s head is good to go…" So at that point I turned to Heather quickly and at first I thought she was making some sort of a dramafied sarcastic facial expression in complaint of the Sonic employee forgetting the drinks and causing us to spend MORE time waiting at Sonic. So I said something to her like, "What happened?" She didn’t respond so I again turned to Heather and noticed she was making a very WIERD facial expression her eyes were closed or rolled back in her head and her mouth appeared a bit dead of expression. So I calmly said, "Heather." thinking she was perhaps “joking” or something…. Still no response at this point my brain began to process more of my enviornment I noticed her arms were both sticking straight out very stiff. So I began to repeatedly say, "HEATHER, HEATHER, HEATHER!!!!" getting louder and louder each time. At this point Hannah, who was sitting in the middle seat in the backseat (Heather since she was leaning to the side was directly infront of her), actually stood up and started joining me in yelling "HEATHER!!!" over and over again. At this point Heather appeared to not be moving AT ALL. My initial thought that entered my mind was that she was having a stroke or that she was DEAD. So I thought that if I were to YELL loud enough I would be able to snap her out of whatever was happening.

I instinctively grabbed her head with both of my hands and it was at that point that I noticed how stiff she really was. I also realized her entire body was rapidly shaking. So finally my brain communicated to the rest of me to grab my cell phone and call 911. So I called and began frantically trying to get EMS or some sort of help.

The 911 operator first asked, "Is she having a seizure?" I responded by saying, "I don’t know, I don’t know what is happening she isn’t responding and I’m not sure if she is breathing." I then described to him how she looked. I told him I was at a Sonic off of McNeil road. To the best of my knowledge that is the only Sonic on that road. Still the 911 operator asked me for the address. I frantically said, "I don’t know, it’s on McNeil road." Then he asked, "well can you find someone who knows the address." So I said, "No! I am sitting in my car, holding my wifes head, I have ALL my kids in the car, I’m not going to leave my car and try to figure out the address!" Right at that moment I noticed a Sonic employee by my car so I YELLED, "What’s the address?" He ran back inside and then returned and told me the address so I repeated it back to the 911 operator. At that moment Heather completely went limp, and didn’t seem to be breathing or moving at all. So then I began REALLY yelling, "HEATHER, HEATHER, HEATHER!!!!!" over and over again. Hannah was still standing and crying and yelling along with me. After awhile Heather coughed twice and that gave me a ray of hope that she was at least alive.

I thought, ok, maybe now I can wake her up. So I continued to yell. The 911 operator continually told me to STOP. and wanted me instead to answer his STUPID questions. After she coughed twice a lot of drool came out of her mouth and her lower jaw pushed forward like a bull dog with her lower teeth sticking out of her mouth and lightly biting on her tongue, but she went completely limp again and didn’t seem to be breathing. All hope was completely ripped from me, at this moment until she began to appear to be in a deep sleep and began taking quick deep breaths. It didn’t last that long though and she returned to not show any signs of actually breathing. The 911 operator wanted me to then turn her onto her side and lay her down. I again explained that we were inside of a car. She was in the driver seat and I had 3 kids in the back seat. So there was no way I could lay her down and turn her to her side. He then wanted me to tell him each time she took a breath. So I started to try, but each time I saw or noticed any sign of life I would start yelling, "HEATHER!!!!" again. The 911 operator continued to try and stop me from doing this and instead wanted me to focus on saying, "NOW" each and every time she breathed. I tried explaining to him that I couldn’t really tell if she was breathing or how often she was breathing. At some point we were disconnected from my phone. Around this time I noticed Heather opened her eyes and so I started yelling to her, but she wasn’t responding. Then she opened her eyes again and tried sitting up, but I told her to stay still. Then my phone rang and it was the 911 operator again, I told him her eyes were open now. Then Heather started just staring at me. It was an empty stair though. She looked at me the same way a baby would look at you. I could tell that she wasn’t completely there. So I began asking her if she knew who I was. At first she shook her head no. I kept asking over and over again. Finally she shook her head yes and was slowly able to say, "Shane." After that response I began asking if she knew who she was. She then began to look really scared and worried and tried sitting up again, and I told her to stay still. I continued to hold her face with my hands and tried to keep eye contact with her. I kept asking, "What’s your name?" over and over again. She finally responded by saying, "Mom, Mom, Mom." Only she was saying it in a way that sounded like she was calling out for her own Mom. Her voice almost sounded like she was crying on the inside with fear. At this time the ambulance had arrived and a guy was standing outside of her door. Another guy reached through my door and pulled the keys out of the ignition and set them on the dashboard. The guy standing outside of Heather’s door asked me what happened. Heather was sitting up and looking around scared and worried. She looked like a lost child. The guy asked her if she knew her name and she shook her head no. Then he asked her again and she muttered "Heather" in way that her tongue wasn’t quite working. So then he asked, "Do you know where you are?" She said, "No." Then he said, "OK, can you step outside of the car for me?" Then Heather said, "yes" and began to step out of the car. I quickly looked at the guy like he was a complete idiot and reminded him that she isn’t completely aware of what is happening and I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to ask her to try and stand up on her own. He was just standing there watching her place her feet onto the ground and start to stand up. I looked at him and asked, "Aren’t you going to help her of something?" Then in a very rude tone he looked at me and said, "What do you want me to do sir?" So I responded and said, "I want you to put your arm around her or something!" Then he said, "I’m working on it." Then I responded, "Well it doesn’t look like you are doing anything."

I got out of the car, and followed Heather to the ambulance. She walked herself over to the ambulance and climbed up into it. She sat down and looked over at me. I’m sure she saw my face was completely filled with fear. So she got a REALLY scared and worried/lost look on her face, and started to stand back up and said, "What? What is wrong?" So I said, "You just had a seizure!" She sat back down and looked towards the two men and said, "WHAT? REALL?" and began to cry. One of the men quickly stuck his head out and said, "You need to get out of here and go back to your vehicle." Then he shut the door.

I walked back to the car. Hannah was frantically crying and wracked with fear, Connor was completely oblivious to anything happening, and Jackson was quietly sleeping through it all. I talked to Hannah and told her that Mom was safe and that they were going to help her. So she sat back down in her seat and I told her to buckle her seat belt and that everything would be ok. I asked her to say a prayer to Heavenly Father to watch over and protect Mommy.

One of the men came over to me and explained to me that having a seizure is basically like restarting a computer but it is restarting the human brain. So when they first start to “turn back on” they aren’t completely aware of everything but have a heightened state of anxiety. So that is why they told me to get away because she wasn’t prepared to hear that she had a seizure, she wasn’t ready to process that information yet. So he said that she is becoming more stabilized and that she was fine. He looked in my car and saw all my kids and said, "look, don’t worry about her, just focus on your kids. Get them taken care of, then take care of yourself. After that just meet us at the hospital." Then somehow in our conversation I explained to him that she just had a baby a week ago, and that she had been dealing with high blood pressure the entire pregnancy. So he quickly said, "Well that explains it, she has eclampsia." I told him that she was actually tested for it and it came back negative. Then he replied, "Well this seizure just confirmed it."

I sat down in my car and Hannah was still crying so I looked at her and I said, "Hey, Hannah Mommy is ok, the man just told me that Mommy is ok. She’s alive, and she is going to be ok. They were going to take her to the hospital." That calmed her down, but she said she didn’t want to leave me. So I told her that she didn’t have to leave me, and that she could stay with me. I sat in the car and my mind was completely blank. I sat and tried to think of what the next step was. The only thing that came to my mind as I stared into my phone was that I should call Lyndsee Bates and ask her if she would watch my kids for me while I went to the hospital. So I called her and got her voicemail. So I hung up and tried to think of someone else but my mind was blank. I couldn’t think of anyone. The only person I could think to call was Lyndsee Bates. So I decided to call her again. This time she answered. I first asked if she was home, and she said no, but asked why. I explained to her what happened and asked her if she could watch my kids while I went to the emergency room to meet Heather. She graciously agreed to help. I hung up the phone with her, but felt like I couldn’t leave Heather. So I walked back over to the ambulance and tried to look into the tinted windows, but I couldn’t really see anything. So I thought, "well maybe they will see me standing here staring into the window and come talk to me." Well it didn’t work. So I walked over to the door and knocked. They didn’t answer so I knocked louder. One of the men came to the door, and I asked, "Will it be ok if I left, will she be alright." He reassured me that she was doing great. He said they were going to take their time. They were giving her some medication, and would slowly drive to the hospital.

So I got into the car and slowly started it. But then realized that we were at Sonic and had ordered food. I had no clue if we paid for it. So I got out and walked towards the door. A Sonic employee came out and I asked him, "Did we pay for everything!" and he said, "Yes, the receipt and your card are all in the bag." It was sitting on my hood so I grabbed it through it in the passenger seat and drove away. The only thing I could think to do at that point was call my Mom. So I called my Mom and just simply said, "Heather had a seizure…" There was a bit of silence and then my Mom asked, "Shane, do you want me to come up there?" So I then started to cry and said, "Yes." Then my Mom said, "Are you ok?" and I said, "Well… I’m scared." So then she said, "Ok, I’m on my way."

The Real Hero

As I drove to Lyndsee’s house I called her and told her I was on my way, and I told her I was only going to leave her with Connor and Jackson because Hannah didn’t want to leave me. Then Hannah said, “Dad… Dad… I want to stay with Connor and Jackson.” So I hung up the phone with Lyndsee and looked at Hannah in my rear view mirror and I said, “What?” Then she repeated, “I want to stay with Connor and Jackson. I can’t leave them alone, I need to take care of them.” It was at this moment that I realized who the REAL hero in our family REALLY is. Hannah is the real hero. She is the true source of peace and strength in our family. She further expounded by saying, “I thought Mommy died.” I said, “I know, I thought Mommy died also, but she didn’t… She is alive, and she is going to get better. We just need to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help her.” Then Hannah said, “Hey, this must be why Mommy’s head was hurting and why she was in so much pain.” I looked up at her in the rear view mirror again and said, “You’re right Hannah, your’re exactly right.”

I dropped off the kids and got back in the car and made my way to the hospital. At this point I realized I needed to call Heather’s Dad and inform him of what happened. So I contacted him and updated him on everything. Then I realized, “Well I also need to inform Angie/work what happened.” So I called Angie and explained what happened and everything I knew. By the time I ended my conversation with Angie I was pretty lcose to the hospital. Right as I walked through the door of the hospital my phone rang. I answered and it was a doctor in the ER. I told him I was at the hospital right now. So I walked to the front desk and they directed me to the room where Heather was.

It was a HUGE relief to see Heather and look into her eyes and actually see Heather. I told her that I loved her and gave her a big hug. I then explained to her what happened and helped her piece together all the gaps in her memory.

Count Your Many Blessings

This could of been so much worse. Heather could of been home alone with the kids (I should of been at work). She could of been holding Jackson and ended up dropping him. Heather was driving, and less than a minute up the road we would of been on a highway traveling 70 mph. It appears as though things worked out in perfect harmony to create a safe atmosphere for all of this to take place. Our car was stopped, our children were all safe, Heather was sitting down and in a position to where she was unable to fall and become further injured. When I think back it is almost a symphony of seemingly unrelated decisions that miraculously intertwined to weave a web of beautiful blessings turning what appeared to be chaotic madness into an infinite abyss of blessings.

"And you must bear your neighbor’s burden within reason
And your labors will be born when all is done
And nobody, nobody knows
Let the yoke fall from our shoulders,
Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all
We are all our hands and holders
Beneath this bold and brilliant sun
And this I swear to all!”

The Decemberist

There are plenty of people in this world who deal with things far worse and more tramatic than this. So this is not an attempt at gaining some amount of “pitty” points. Rather just a documentation of my life, and the beautiful struggle that it is. I think their is ample amounts of potential for everything we endure through our lives to be for our greater good. With every choice we make there is another choice that we need to make inside ourselves. Do we allow these experiences to destroy us, or do we allow them to teach us valuable lessons that we can take with us through the eternities of our existence. I chose to allow this experience to bring my closer together with my wonderful wife and mother of my children. I chose to allow this experience to help me be more grateful for the 3 beautiful children that Heavenly Father has given to me and trusted me to lead them, and guide them through this life.

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The User Experience of Life

In 2008, Christof van Nimwegen published a paper called The paradox of the guided user: assistance can be counter-effective. The paper documents a study on user interfaces and pits two groups of interfaces against each other in order to see how their users perform.

Although I completely understand how the study can be applied as a learning tool on how to better develop user interfaces, I believe it helps us learn an even better lesson in life.

The study had a “friendly” or easy to use interface and a “unfriendly” or difficult to use interface competing against one another.

Nimwegen conducted experiments with 3 different applications. The first is a computerized take on the famous math puzzle Missionaries & Cannibals that was called Balls & Boxes. The other two tasks were called: Conference Planner and Ferry Planner.

The Balls & Boxes problem involved moving yellow and blue balls from one box to the other, whilst following a set of rules. On the screen users would see the balls in two boxes, together with a dish to transfer the balls between them. There was also a set of clickable arrows that let the users move balls and the dish around. Available arrows were highlighted and clickable, unavailable moves were greyed out and disabled. The “unfriendly” version was the same, except all arrows were “available”, giving the user no hint as to what moves they could actually perform in line with the rules of the task.

What Was Measured

Time to solve the puzzle, number of moves made (including number of superfluous moves), number of dead-end states reached, knowledge of the rules test conducted after the puzzle, as well as questions concerning perceived amount of planning and feeling lost during the puzzle. Additionally, a distraction was introduced after the participants solved a few puzzles, which involved a visual rotation task expected to erase Balls & Boxes related routines from working memory. This distraction task would go on for 10 minutes after which the participants would resume the Balls & Boxes puzzle.

The Results

Those on the Internalization interface solved more puzzles. They initially took more time to solve them, but closed the gap quickly as they spent more time on the problem. While they also made a little more superfluous moves the start, they quickly overtook the Externalization interface participants with each experiment phase, and were not beaten on the number of dead-end states. Internalization participants also performed better on the after puzzle questionnaires.

Lessons Learned

In one interface the user is unable to make bad decisions. The user is only offered available choices to help them complete the task. In theory it seems that this would speed up the process and have better results. In a short race it would have, however this type of interface doesn’t allow the user to learn, grow, and develope. When more choices are presented to the user and they are allowed to make mistakes they are able to learn. So as more puzzles are presented the user is able to grow and become faster and better at solving them.

"Externalization makes users count on the interface and gives them the feeling (unrightfully so) that the thinking-work is done for them. This seduces them into more shallow cognitive behavior and discourages undertaking cognitive activities aimed at strategy and knowledge construction. Users who internalize information themselves behave more plan-based, invest more effort in cognitive processes, and are more proactive and ready to make inferences. This in turn results in more focus, more direct and economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge. This knowledge is easier to recall at a future point in time, and is better transferable to transfer situations where the interface, the task, or both are different, and less vulnerable to a severe interruption."

— Christof van Nimwegen – The paradox of the guided user

Does this mean user friendly interfaces are bad? No. Interfaces where usability is key, for example, ATMs or information websites will not benefit from Internalization since the tasks don’t have the end goal of the user “learning”. The findings of the study are more applicable to serious task environments where learning itself is the aim. Nimwegen suggests to take care with externalizing especially in tasks with: frequent interruptions, educational objectives, skill transfer, high costs, continuous attention and deep domain understanding.

I believe that “life” is a perfect example of an interface where the primary objective is learning, skill transfer, educational objectives, continuous attention, and deep domain understanding. I don’t believe that a person benefits from an environment where their choices are limited to only “good” or “correct” choices.

(— The source for this post comes from a very interesting post I read on Usability Post called “The Dark Side of Usability”)

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Creating Memorable Experiences

As technology and the internet continue to develop people are becoming more and more social. I can remember as a kid how it was a huge deal to make a long distance phone call because of the cost. As technology has improved it has made it so much easier to communicate with family, friends, and even acquaintances. It’s far more likely for people to establish a lasting relationship with someone living in another country on the other side of the world.

This same technology has also lead to people opening up about their personal opinions about things they interact with on a daily basis. We are quickly moving into a “thank you” economy. People instantly become far more confident when sitting behind a computer screen when they talk about experiences with things they interact with throughout the day.

It is really important for companies and brands to begin focusing more on creating memorable experiences. Customer service is quickly becoming the only thing that will truly set you apart from your competition.

The Effects of a Social Economy

A few recent examples come to mind. Recently I came across a photo that was posted of a disgusting unidentifiable object found in a Capri Sun. The mom cut open the Capri Sun and took a picture of the object then posted it on her Facebook. This quickly spread around the internet and eventually got Kraft Foods attention to the point that they created a whole FAQ devoted specifically to this one issue. Even the Las Angelas Times wrote an article about it. Heck even a Facebook Page was created about the issue. What I think is most important is the fact that Capri Sun DID respond. Although some debate weather or not they responded in a timely manner. The argument against that is they were most likely researching for the correct response. More importantly still is showing you how one person finding something in her capri sun caught the attention of millions of people. That is a BIG contrast to even 10 years ago. Companies used to be able to control these types of situations more effectively. All they had to do was deal with one person, and figure out how to make them happy. Sure she might carry the picture around to her friends maybe even invite them over to see the strange object in person. But that is only effecting a very minimal amount of people.

Another recent example is the whole “Death Grip" iPhone 4 debacle. The first day the phone released, new iPhone 4 users quickly started tweeting and reporting that the phone would lose bars/signal when holding the phone a certain way. Then Engadget reported that Steve Jobs replied in an email with "Just avoid holding it in that way." This was a shocking response from a company who usually has a great history in creating memorable experiences. Apples avoidance of blame and lack of a solid solution continued to gain momentum until finally Consumer Reports jumped into the mix saying they couldn’t recommend the iPhone 4. That was when Apple finally started to somewhat listen. I still argue that they continued to respond in the wrong manner. They held a special press conference where they launched a page on their website showing videos of other phones with a similar problem. Which to me is essentially what a kid does when his parents say, "Stopping hitting your brother!" and the kid responds, "He hit me first!" Regardless of weather or not other phones have the same or similar issues is not the point. No one is complaining about those phones. Nor were those phones touting the superiority of their antenna’s design like Apple was.

This is a big contrast to the way Apple responded when Apple launched an updated iPhone at a cheaper price not too long after the first iPhone debuted. They immediately offered gift cards to everyone who bought the initial iPhone.

I do have to say that Apple created a VERY memorable experience to those standing in line for an iPhone 4 here at the Domain in Austin, Texas. They continuously brought out complimentary food and beverages from Chic-fil-a and Starbucks throughout the entire day.

A similar prideful mistake happened with Toyota who has enjoyed decades of brand stability based on consumers opinions on the stability and quality of their vehicles. Then recently they ran into an issue where Toyota car owners had accidents due to sudden acceleration. It took quite some time before Toyota finally officially responded to the issue and took accountability for the blame. Now they are doing their best to clean up their image through their marketing. If their primary focus would of been on “creating memorable experiences” then I doubt this would be happening.

Companies Who Are Creating Memorable Experiences

CHIPOTLE

Back in 2004 Chipotle opened up in San Antonio next to where I was living. My wife and I saw it and were curious as to what type of restaurant it was. Finally we decided that we were going to try it and walked in the door around lunchtime and we both were a bit puzzled and confused. Quickly the manager noticed this and came over and asked us if this was our first time. He quickly welcomed us in and walked us through the process and then looked over to the lady behind the counter and said, “Their meal is on me!”

I was very pleasantly surprised, but went along with it. The food was delicious and I left a happy customer. My wife who isn’t too into change or “trying new things” wasn’t completely convinced and so it was a couple years before we went again.

Fast forward to 2008 when we are living in Austin, TX and a group of us at Practice Cafe started regularly eating Chipotle for lunch. One day on one of my colleagues birthday we ordered Chipotle and they screwed up her order. I decided to write a little email through their contact form on their website. My website wasn’t rude, I simply explained what happened and added that we love their food. I ended by saying, "It would be nice if y’all could mail her a giftcard for a free meal to make up for it."

The next day I get a phone call from one of the managers saying he heard that they had goofed up an order. He then offered to give my entire office a free lunch. I replied, "That would be GREAT, but the lady whos order you messed up is actually out of the office today." He responded, "Oh, thats fine lets get your office lunch today and when she gets back we will feed your entire office again."

We continued to order lunches as an office after our two free meals and two more times since they have randomly thrown gift cards so our next meals would be free as well as two or three times we showed up to pick up the food and pay, they tell us it was on them.

Beyond the FREE food (which who doesn’t love that), anytime I order food online and show up to get my food and it’s not done they hand me a cup and tell me to get a drink while I wait. Even beyond that they always seem to be happy upbeat people that work there.

CHIC-FIL-A

Although their food seems a bit overpriced in my opinion my family is constantly returning to Chic-fil-a because of their "my pleasure" approach to business. They consistently have happy employees who actually appear to be happy to be behind the counter and helping with your order. Also I love that whenever you tell any of their employees "thank you" they always respond with, "my pleasure" and a smile.

Once a week they have a family night where they have a fun activity for kids. Some locations even offer a "buy a meal get a kids meal FREE.” This has become a fun night out for our family for over 3 years now.

Chic-fil-a also will accept a coupon regardless of its expiration date. They also have another clever program where you can return the toy they give you in a kids meal for a FREE ice cream instead.

The takeaway

Regardless of weather you want to accept it or not the world is becoming more and more social and it is changing how we need to do business. It’s changing the way we interact with the world at large. The world is talking, it’s now only a matter of choosing to listen and responding effectively.

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A Beginners Guide to Twitter

Recently Twitter launched a brand spanking new home page. Along with it they also launched Twitter 101. I am quite shocked by the amount of people I come across who still aren’t buying into Twitter. I can relate to them because I was once one of them. It has only been a little over a year since I took the dive and signed up for a Twitter account. It still took me a little bit of time to really understand how to utilize twitter. I am finding that the biggest issue. with non believers really just comes down to them not understanding how to use Twitter.

Early on I don’t even think Twitter knew how much of an impact they would have on people and companies. That’s what makes it even more beautiful. In the beginning all most people think of Twitter is a "status update." I often hear the argument that people say,

"I don’t have time for Twitter."
“I don’t want people knowing what I am doing all throughout the day.”
“I don’t think anyone really cares what I am doing during the day.”

This is a short sited vision and not a true comprehension of the power of Twitter and Social Media in general. Know matter how much some of us may want to fight it we as humans are a social bunch.

I’ve decided to put together what I feel is a "A Beginners Guide to Twitter," If you are interested in taking advantage of Twitter for professional reasons but don’t really understand how, you might find this beneficial. If you do please pass it along, and share the love.

Customer Service

When I talk about "customer service" I am not only speaking of using Twitter as a "complaint box." Rather I think pretty soon almost everyone will be in the "customer service" business. I am totally buying into what Gary Vaynerchuk said at SXSW about being in a "thank you economy." I think it is the nature of people to want to be heard. I think that is why the internet is becoming more and more social. I think it is also why people love reality TV. So if you are in any sort of a "service" industry, which I believe almost EVERY industry is a "service" industry. As long as you are dependant on customers or users to pay you for something then you are in a "service" industry. So if you are one of these people then I think it is about time you start listening to people. Especially because with the incarnation of the interweb it is becoming far more easier for people to find outlets where they can be heard. So chances are these people that are wanting to be heard might just be talking about you or your company. So it is a smart idea to start listening to them. Not only should you listen to them, but let them know that you are listening to them.

I think this aspect of Twitter is HUGE. Twitter search provides a relatively easy way to find out what people are talking about, and to respond. I also think that listening to people allows you to learn how to grow and improve upon your product. I feel this is evident on how well open source software is doing. When you open yourself up to the community then you allow other smart people that you might of never of come across to help you out.

Twitter is also a place where people can and will praise companies. Who wouldn’t like that? So if you can find ways to invite your customers to praise you on Twitter then I think that is FREE advertising and marketing.

Community Service

If you are going to judge Twitter’s usefulness solely on it’s ROI for your business then I feel you are looking at it wrong. You should take a soft sale approach. We are in a "thank you" economy. Which basically means you do good to people and eventually good will return to you, or in the beautiful lyrics by Noah and the Whale, “if you give a little love, you can get a little love of your own (Give a Little Love).”

One way to take advantage of this is to do a simple twitter search for keywords of things that have to do with our knowledge base. Find people looking for advice and help and if you are able to help them, do it! Don’t help them in a sales pitch sort of way, help them in a loving sort of way. This is really easy to do when you are working in an industry you are passionate about.

Some Examples:

If you were a dentist, you could do a search for "tooth ache" and find people complaining about a tooth ache and then just give them some helpful advice. Not the, "you should make an appointment with me so I can fix your tooth" sort of advice, but rather just an expert advice. I know tooth aches aren’t ONLY caused by a cavity. Or you could do a search for "braces" or "crooked teeth," and help educate people by giving them informative advice on the various options that are available. Products like Invisalign and Six Month Smiles can really help people.

Again don’t think of it as, "Will this get this specific person into my office or to my website." Instead just think about helping people. The more love you give, the more you will receive. It shouldn’t matter if you don’t receive love, because you are helping people while talking about things you are already passionate about.

Be Social

We as humans are constantly on the search to find means in which to facilitate communication. We have utilized means such as, language, books, & art to name a few. So Twitter is yet another means in which to facilitate communication. I firmly believe that you should allow yourself to be as easy as possible to contact. So the more outlets you give people to communicate with you the better off you are.

A few years ago the only way I could communicate with some companies was by either writing a letter, licking a stamp, and sticking it in the mail. Or calling the company on the phone just to sit on hold for who knows how long, and going from one person to the next until you were finally able to communicate with the company.

A few months ago I was having issues with my cell phone, so instead of calling up my cell phone company and sitting on hold for who knows how long, I decided to release my frustrations off into the twitter-sphere and sure enough it turned out I wasn’t the only one. In fact I soon found that there was actually something going on in the entire Austin area. The better thing is that I actually heard from the company through twitter that they were working to resolve the issue. I believe that is how it should be. There was no waiting on hold… All I had to do was keep my frustration under 140 characters and I was heard.

Who to Follow

For me personally I have found that who I follow has really made the difference. I have built myself up a network of smart people with common interests that have constantly helped edify and inspire me on a daily basis. I searched out companies that I use and am interested in as well. Then of course I have my personal friends and family.

Then you can keep all of these people nicely organized with Twitter lists.

Tweet Tweet

With this newly aquired knowledge please venture your way out into the infinite abyss of the interweb and into the comformaties of 140 characters and tweet your heart out. Find smart people who you can retweet until your hearts content. Learn where the next earthquake will occure before it becomes “Breaking News” on the news. While you’re at it don’t forget to follwo me!

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Shane Recommends

Here are the best things I came across on the infinite abyss I like to call the Interweb in 2009. If you pay any attention to my tweets or my “Net Worthy" section on the right side of my blog you most likely already saw all of these. Enjoy™

The Four Ways People Decide

Style VS. Design

Creating a Timeless User Experience

Goodbye, Google

The secrets of Google’s design team

10 Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines

Can You Be a Web Designer?

Start-up Metrics that Matter by Dave McClure

Great Designs Should Be Experienced and Not Seen

Handcrafted CSS

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Formula to Happiness


THE PREFACE


Over the years I have learned the formula to achieving happiness. However just as in math knowing the formula is only half the battle. It’s an entirely different story when you actually have to apply the formula to actually solving the real world problem (equation). I should know, seeing as how I always struggled in math class. The majority of the time I was able to completely understand how the formula worked, however I would always miss a step along the way. I wouldn’t carry the negative sign, or I would go to fast and make careless mistakes which led to me coming up with the incorrect answer.

In my pursuit for happiness I often face the same problems with receiving the correct answer, which in this case is happiness. In other words, by me “claiming” to have the formula to happiness does not in any way mean that I am ALWAYS happy.

THE FORMULA


I firmly believe that ALL people regardless of race, color, religion, or nationality have a personal set of morals and ethics in which they set for themselves as a standard “code of conduct”. For many people religion, culture, family, and other outside forces influence this moral code of standards. In many cases it is almost sub consciously imbedded into their system. Meaning that for the majority of people it takes a lot of soul searching before we are able to realize what ours is. This is the first obstacle in being able to find the answer in the equation of our own happiness. Up until the point where we are able to learn this moral and ethical code of conduct it remains the “x” in our formula.

CREATING ESCAPES


A lot of our lives are spent trying to figure this out. I call this soul searching process “escapes.” What I mean by this is that we all find aspects of our lives that if we escape them it will equal happiness. Let me use a personal example as to what I mean by this. In the beginning of my mission for the LDS church in Brazil I went through some very difficult and frustrating times. I was in a foreign country without any family or friends. I didn’t speak or comprehend the native language and I was 19 years old. So in the beginning I remember thinking, well once I know the language this will be easy and I will be happy. Once I learned the language I only became aware of more issues, and obstacles. So then I began to search for a new escape. I continued down this path until finally it dawned on me that none of those things bring happiness. In fact the absence of obstacles, stress, and tribulation does not equal happiness. Alot of times that is our first mistake. We see all of these stresses in our life, and we begin to think, if only I was able to rid myself of these stresses I would find myself FREE of stress thus resulting in happiness. This is a very destructive path, mainly because the only way anyone can experience growth and edification is through overcoming trials and obstacles in their lives, but that in itself can and should be reserved for it’s own post.

MOVING FORWARD


Once we are able to comprehend that escaping what is bringing stress into our lives like, the lack of money, lack of friends, lack of family, lack of a job, etc… will bring about happiness. We are finally able to make some progress through this formula. We are then able to understand that only ONE person is in charge of our happiness. In fact only ONE “thing” is in charge of our happiness. We are the only ones who decide weather or not we are going to be happy. Regardless of circumstance happiness can be achieved. This does not mean to say that the pursuit to happiness is as easy for everyone, however “easy” or “hard” in itself is a relative term and is highly based on personal perception.

The only true way to find happiness is by living up to your own personal moral and ethical code of conduct inwhich we have all set for ourselves. Everyone’s morals and ethics differ, so there is no RIGHT answer. However when you you don’t meet your own expectations then you don’t love yourself. If you don’t love yourself you also are unable to comprehend or allow others to love you. Love is important because love is what brings about happiness. However when I use the word love I mean love in it’s purest form. The love I speak of is synonymous with the word charity. So the best definition I can find is in the bible which says:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in ainiquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth
1 Corinthians 13

*I find it important to note, that in the Brazilian Bible they interpreted the word charity as the word love. Which is more proof as to how perhaps love and charity are really the same word, but their definitions have become lost in time by man.

IN CLOSING


Please note that at the time of writing this post I am only 29 years old, and in my meager 29 years of pursuing happiness this is what I have learned and began applying to my daily life. I always find when I am unhappy it is almost ALWAYS in direct relation to how well I am doing in meeting my own personal moral and ethical code of conduct. So by going through the necessary steps to repair my own relationship with myself through forgiveness I am able to once again be on the pathway to happiness once again. So please feel free to add your own beliefs that you have learned along your travails of life.

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