Goodnight Moon – and Beyond

While our three children were very young, at some point in the evening the echoes of my wife or me reading Goodnight Moon would be filling the house. I will never know whether reading the book was more for the kids or for calming us down after a hectic and harried day. I do know that if I brought my “read it and be done with it” attitude to reading the book, our children would slow me down by pointing to objects on the page or try to read the book from their memory of repetitions. It didn’t take long to take a deep breath and slow down.

The start of the book always has the calming effect of a great cup of tea:

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red baloon
And a picture of –
The cow jumping over the moon 

I was reminded of this wonderful book when I was browsing at the UW University Bookstore and came across Goodnight iPAD. There was no question that I had to buy the book and add it to our collection at home. There was also no question that I would get the hardcopy book rather than the Kindle edition.

I quickly thumbed through the book amazed at the creativity of the author. So I flipped back to the front cover to find the author’s name and started chuckling – Ann Droyd. Now that is too cute for words.

There are lots of other parodies we’ve collected over the years so that if grand children ever show up in our lives we can provide more diversity for their early reading pleasure. A few of the previous parodies are:

Of course, no parody list would be complete without my adult favorite Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach.

Any parent who has ever spent the night holding a crying baby has uttered these words (at least mentally). It is a wonder that the “F-word” isn’t the first thing that a baby says rather than “ma ma” or “da da”. The book was a sell out even before it showed up on Amazon’s order list. This book may be one of the first best sellers that derived from desperate collaboration on Facebook.

Last night’s dreams were more peaceful than I remember in the last year as the joys of Goodnight iPad (video) reverberated through my sleepy brain.

Posted in Content with Context, Curation, Design, Family, Teaching | 1 Comment

Teaching “Hybrid” Courses

I love synchronicity. As part of David Socha’s research agenda is the rethinking of how one transforms a class from professor centered to student learning centered. As part of the ever flowing collaboration between David, Alan Wood and me, we are creating alternative ways to teach Alan’s upcoming senior level course on History and Globalization for undergraduate business majors at UW Bothell.

Lorraine Stock

As we were wallowing in alternative designs, Alan came across a seminar in the digital humanities arena from the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities. A long time colleague of Alan’s, Míċeál Vaughn, sent a note inviting him to hear English Professor Lorraine Stock from the University of Houston give a workshop on “Designing and Teaching ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Blended Learning’ Courses: Why and How?”

As Alan was introducing us to Míċeál before the workshop, Míċeál shared that medieval scholars were doing digital humanities long before the term came into popularity. Why? Because all of our primary material is unique, there are no two manuscripts that are the same. We study things that are well before the age of reproduction. To gain access to these rare documents everything has to be in digital form. And just to hurt my head some more, Míċeál shared that he was heading up a new effort on textual studies.

I had to ask what he meant by textual studies in the digital humanities sense as in does text include art and images. “Of course,” answered Míċeál. Now I am in real trouble if I can’t even keep clear what is meant by a text. Something tells me this is another longer conversation we need to have.

Míċeál introduced Lorraine and both shared that they’d studied at Cornell University about the same time.

A short description of what Stock talked about is:

“The undergraduate Chaucer course is an intensive literature class about texts created in a culture located across an ocean and over five centuries removed from that of contemporary students, and written in a difficult language that is at best a distant, sometimes unrecognizable ancestor of modern English. The themes and genres of medieval literature are strange, and visualizing this temporally remote and geographically distant period is difficult for students native to Houston, which does not even boast a pseudo-gothic cathedral. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are a text about medieval people on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, the shrine of Thomas Becket, telling tales in a storytelling contest to alleviate boredom. Teaching this material in a regular face-to-face class is difficult enough; to make the medieval period come alive, extensive “show and tell” of pictures, films, and music are usually employed. Much more challenging is the task of keeping students engaged when the material is presented through distance learning, which adds yet another layer of “distance” from the course materials.

“Having agreed to teach Chaucer as a “hybrid” course, with 50% of course content delivered through electronic or other means, Lorraine Stock set out on her own pedagogical pilgrimage, attempting to create or find available and suitably engaging content to compensate for the 50% of class time that she would not be meeting her students. Organizing the course around the metaphor of “pilgrimage,” she constructed the curriculum as a pilgrimage, tracing the students’ journey from ignorance about Chaucer and medieval life to mastery of The Canterbury Tales. Using an interactive map of the pilgrimage route from London to Canterbury as the course guide, she constructed learning modules about the phenomenon of pilgrimage in general, Chaucer’s life, major historical events in Chaucer’s period (the Black Death and the 1381 Uprising of Peasants), the different literary genres practiced by Chaucer, and other topics. Materials created or found and utilized include self-created webpages about the content (featuring text and images), radio programs, photo galleries, QuickTime film clips, music files, podcasts, and other materials. Employing “gaming” in the design of the course’s writing projects, Stock assigns each student a medieval pilgrim identity, which they research and then create a self designed persona, in whose “voice” they write for assigned writing exercises.”

For most of the presentation, Professor Stock had an image of a map of the Canterbury Tales on the screen. It was interesting that for a talk on “hybrid learning” the three hour workshop was almost entirely in traditional lecture format with only a couple of uses of visual images about two hours into the presentation.

The map on the screen looked something like:

Using the metaphor of the journey fit well with the Canterbury Tales with each city being the starting point for a given lecture and the resources available for the lecture.

I was as fascinated with the tips and tricks that Lorraine shared as well as the business rationale that Houston used to encourage teachers to go to this hybrid learning format. Once again I was impressed with how much could be accomplished using just Powerpoint and Google image search within the context of the Blackboard learning system. For a humanities professor that is not part of the digital generation, she’s put together a well thought out set of content with loads of practical learning.

From a business model standpoint, Houston was encouraging professors to go to this format so that they could essentially double the existing classroom space. By having half of the learning outside of the classroom, face to face time could be reduced to a single class meeting per week. As Houston is a commuter school, this also reduced the number of times a student would need to come to campus. Space is always the final frontier at a university and this business model pays for itself very quickly.

By all indications the students are happier with this format, the professor is happier, and the administration is happier. Win, win and win.

What most surprised Professor Stock was how the quality of the class discussions dramatically improved. In her 30 years of teaching, she has never experienced how excited the students were to talk about Chaucer, medieval times and the implications for their avatar. As part of the class, Stock has each student select one of the pilgrims for their avatar and then they do several written assignments in the voice and mindset of their embodied pilgrim. She pointed out that not only were the discussions lively but the students writing was much better and a lot more fun to read.

She also described that in some of the classes she and a Teaching Assistant made the session more lively by channeling Black Adder and Baldrick routines. I must confess I had no idea what she was talking about. With my trusty iPad, I found a pointer to the BBC shows and bookmarked them for later viewing.

Over drinks later in the UW Faculty Club after the workshop, Professor Stock shared that doing this hybrid course reinvigorated her understanding of Chaucer and how much more she learned than in all her previous 30 years of scholarship with Chaucer. As I pushed her to provide examples, she came back to the example of the houndfish. She’d been reading the following passage all my scholarly life:

In scholarly texts, you might have the houndfish in a footnote that just says “houndfish.” It wasn’t until she looked in Google image search and saw what a houndfish actually looked like that she realized how much the beard bristles really hurt.

I can only imagine what the power of including images with the text does for a better understanding of an otherwise foreign language (Medieval English) and culture for the students.

Beowulf Manuscript

I always enjoy the special knowledge byplays that come with two colleagues who have a deep understanding of a topic.  Lorraine and Míċeál started a discussion about a recent movie of Beowulf. Míċeál immediately exclaimed how the movie ruined “our” Beowulf.  An energetic discussion ensued. Finally, Míċeál realized that the rest of us didn’t understand what they were arguing about. Succinctly, Míċeál shared that he is interested in “translation” and Lorraine is interested in “adaptation.”

Through their artful discussion, I now have new distinctions of translation versus adaption to take into my future.

Thank you Lorraine for your trail blazing work in “Hybrid Learning” and more importantly for your excitement in sharing what you’ve learned.

Posted in Content with Context, Curation, Design, Human Centered Design, Innovation, Learning, Teaching, User Experience | Leave a comment

Day 5 – Creating My Future

Before I can get to arranging the images this morning, I have a lot of re-immersion homework. I print out the previous four days of images along with Christine’s additions. I also print out the stories so that I can look at them side by side. I stare at the previous collages and re-read and reflect on the stories. What is common? What is missing? All good “left brained” stuff.

As the week went on, I was finding it harder and harder to truly incorporate the rainbow image and the fossilized nautilus shells, so I deleted them from the set leaving me with six images. I really like both deleted images, but they didn’t seem to be working to help me express what I am searching for.

Remembering the question “what is the future I want to create for myself for this new venture and product?” it is time to shift to right brain stuff.

The story just erupts out of me:

“What has to be at the center are the berries.  The core product of the new entity are the living fruits of the talent that contributes to ‘content with context.’ The breakthrough is to think small and have millions of little living things (digital media content pieces) connected together. Each piece is complete in itself like a berry, and yet can be appropriated to make something larger – either a handful of berries to eat, mixed berries for a dessert, or fermented berries which are aggregated and blended to form a fine biodynamic wine – biodynamic information and connected/blended knowledge.

“The berries also are meant to be recursive in that they can be combined and remixed to create a document or a book or a curriculum or a degree or a product or an app. The smaller berries can be created relatively quickly and are what they are.  The desserts and remixed wine (longer documents et al) require patience and many blending (curating) activities.  Like all living things the content berries have a shelf life, they decay over time if not tended to.  These berries can also be small companies that are nurtured and fermented to become larger entities.  There is a vibration in the vision between starting small with content and starting small with early stage companies.

“The clay pot is a reminder that we can build/design/create a ‘product’ each day, whether a 3D object, a piece of software, or a piece of content, or a company. The vision of the pot is started in the head and then the clay and the potter interact with each other until there is a doneness.  But the doneness is the start of the journey.  The potter may be done but then there is the firing and baking and painting and putting up for sale and distributing.  Once distributed the clay pot becomes a container for the new owner to be used in innumerable ways.

“Surrounding the fruits of nature and the interaction of man with nature’s raw materials, are the artful purer makings of man’s mind represented by the three paintings. The products represented in the photographs are real products.  The three images represent the creative inspiration for the products and companies (right hand painting), the nexus of production (the left hand painting), and the journey to market (bottom painting) with multiple stages of value adding and partners (the ‘gates’).

“As I was working through these images and story and reflecting, I realized that there was something important missing.  The left most painting gets to it a little bit, but doesn’t show the brilliant innovation of connections and open innovation. The 3D printed Nexus Sculpture captures the unique thing that happens when through the combination of artistic innovation and mechanization (3D printing) we can create things by computer and CAD that we cannot do in ‘nature’ or through craft.  That is my fondest hope for what will happen with the platform of content with context’ in both the material world through the revolutionary innovation of distributed 3D printing and through a content with context platform for other forms of content and applications.

“Ultimately what the company is about is the development of ‘just in time’ collaboration by difference tool suite.”

“Each person builds a ‘product’ for sale each day.  The company builds a new company each day.  Growth occurs by splitting, not be getting bigger.”

Slowly but surely the fog is lifting. Just remembering the work that I did in designing our ‘nexus’ personal patterns prototype is huge. I am not feeling unstuck yet, but I am a lot farther than five days ago.


OMG – you can do spirals after all.

From your wise cracking vizbot.


Well, this is embarrassing. I didn’t even realize that I’d created a spiral.

I am reminded of Robert Fritz’s story of learning to play the clarinet. His teacher gave him a new, harder piece to play each week. For the first six weeks, Fritz was very frustrated because he could never “master” any of the pieces. Then the teacher asked him to play the piece from two weeks previously. Fritz played it flawlessly. It is the constant stretching that is important.

Maybe there is some hope for me after all.

Now it is on to the do an iPad painting a day. Maybe I can kick that off when I get the new iPad 3, I just ordered.

Posted in Content with Context, Human Centered Design, User Experience, Visual pattern Language, VisualsSpeak | 4 Comments

Day 4 – Creating My Future

I start the creating my future exercise today bound and determined that I can create a spiral of images.

I arrange and re-arrange the images until I am sure I have finally done it. I stand up with my iPhone 4s to take the quick photo.  As I look down at the collage, I just break up laughing. For all my work to break out of my habit, I have just shifted the angles to form a diamond. Too funny for words.

Back to re-arranging. While I had believed Christine’s research, I clearly didn’t realize how difficult it would be to break out of the prison of one’s visual patterns. If I can’t break out of what should be a simple design patterns, how many other deep seated patterns am I locked into that I can’t “see.”

I struggle beyond the allotted time to re-arrange the pictures. I finally am satisfied that today I got it.

Today’s story revolves around the rainbow in the center:

“The paintings are not clumped together in this one.  That took work.  And yet, I still can’t force myself as far as the ‘jumbled up’ example you sent.  Soooooo, what does it mean?

“At the center is the rainbow and the call to all the wonders of nature.  It is a reminder that all of science flows from nature and all of technology flows from science and all products flow from technology (and art – actually in Heidegger and Goethe, but lost in the industrial revolution – hmmmm). It is the starting point and it is the inspiration and it is the muse.  While there is no pot of gold, nature’s rainbow inspires, that is the pot of gold.  That inspiration flows through humans and back out to others to ‘throw their pot.’ The clay pot is envisioned first in mind and then flows through the hands.  It is the interaction between mind and hands, the craft of creation. While it is important to throw a single pot, it is but the beginning of creation and the start of the journey.

“Sometimes that journey is through the desert, and some times there are oases where we can celebrate the gains that we’ve made with the fine wine produced through many hands from the biodynamic fruit. The wine is used as toasting but pours back into the earth and is fossilized as a spiral of life, a reminder of the seasonality of life. As I finish up the circle of inspiration, I realize that the key is to have each talented member of the company perform many jobs to develop many talents so they can see the many points of life and light they bring to the endeavor.  Those many points of light leave rainbow traces, much like laser art, to illuminate a whole, which then emanate to others.

“As I stare at the images and reflect, from many different directions (Bootcamp TeamArt, VisualsSpeak, Heidegger, Betty Edwards, Dale Chihuly) I get the message loud and clear that the new company has to include as a core value (and maybe as a core product) art making or process art. The other reminder in these images is to resurrect the “biodynamics of information” work I did a couple of years ago.

“As I look at this collage with the rainbow at the center, I am reminded of the slide I use to introduce myself.  Rainbow photos are my favorite to capture with my DLSR camera off of my deck at the house and whenever I catch one on the ferry.  The print for building a rainbow was given to me by a colleague 30 years ago and framed hangs in my office.”


Christine, the computer, responds to the collage with another collage.


Here are the four days of images. What do you notice?

When you think about what you notice, do those things have anything to offer you about your question?

Reread your stories from each day. What are the themes that enter day after day?

Are there particular images that you have grown to really like? Any that have lessened in importance?

Make one more version tomorrow, without any effort to make it a particular way. Simply answer the question, starting with the image and then allowing words to emerge.

Best from your computer muse……


Getting a little pushy on this one, oh computer muse.  Moving from asking to telling.  I love it.  We’ll have to remember that when we give the VisualsSpeak chatterbot a little personality.


Moving from divergence to convergence – across the facilitation framework (another chart) :)


You didn’t show me that one.   Holding out are we?

Glad to see that we are travelling the same paths.  The divergence convergence divergence waves are what is always hardest for my students and entrepreneurs to get.


Here is part of the VisualsSpeak Facilitation Framework that deals with the divergence/convergence cycle:

SKIP: Onward and upward then to Day 5.

Posted in Content with Context, Human Centered Design, User Experience, Visual pattern Language, VisualsSpeak | 2 Comments

Day 3 – Creating My Future

There is a new energy brewing this morning. Sleep time recollections were powerful. Creating a company or creating a product is the conundrum. What should I be working on? Should I be changing the core question?

Trust the process, Skip. Bring out the images and let’s get to arranging them. I am going to try hard this morning to do something other than verticals and horizontals. This morning I select the nautilus shells for the center focus.

The story I tell is a combination of sleep time work and staring at the images.

“In the twilight of awakening this morning, I realized that the previous two days were working on the vision of a product.  When what I really should be working on is the vision of a company.  As I ‘awoke’ to those thoughts, I realized that I should be doing innovation at the company level not just at the product level. I shouldn’t be trying to form one single company and I don’t really want to form an incubator company but rather something that will encourage a thousand flowers to bloom.  The real work is not absorbing or co-opting VisualsSpeak or Lizi or the Design Way team or Shift Labs (all folks I am advising) but finding a way to obtain the resources to allow each to flourish AND to develop and nurture the talent that lies within each group.

“So working really hard to overcome my hard won visual design sense (hard won but still at the micro level), I fought the urge to use straight lines and came up with this morning’s collage (OK, a tiny baby step beyond the right angles). At the center is the importance of a natural spiraling structure – from the small seed crystal product and inspiration spirals out to customers and the customers customers a dynamic and natural chain of learning and results. Some of the efforts will be with the physical, interactive world symbolized by the clay pot (distributed manufacturing through 3D printing). The beauty of distributed manufacturing is that anyone can now start a company (fostered entrepreneuring) no matter where they are in the world, much like you need very little to ‘throw a pot.’ The fruits that turn into wine are a reminder that within each tasty, beautiful berry is the seed of another plant bearing fruit. The rhythms of life remind me that each startup needs to build in its own regenerative core as a key value – both to encourage entrepreneuring from within and provide a product which will be tasted by the millions.

“The paintings (yes, I know they are all on one side again, maybe tomorrow I can do better) represent ‘it’s a journey, not a destination’ and there are many hands providing light both for the growing of products and for the growing of people.  We don’t know where the journey ends, but we know that there are multiple places to celebrate and to stop and share what we’ve learned. Sometimes we need to turn our world upside down and examine what is figure and what is ground, what is the source and what is the ‘sink’ (destination) of that which shines from each company each day. The ephemeral rainbow is a reminder to stop and SEE the beauty each day in what our talent produces, recognizing that there is no ephemeral pot of gold, but an even bigger gift – the multi-hued light that connects the rain (the down periods) with the light (the up periods).”

On a related note, I am preparing for and attending a “seminar” this evening with Gray Kochhar-Lindgren (one of the folks on the phone the other day) and several other UW Bothell humanities folks.  The seminar is about technopoeisis as described thusly:

 “To be clear, the ‘topic’ is rather broad; it’s really many topics. The term ‘technopoeisis’ does a little work to explain what we are focused on. By reading philosophers and cultural theorists, we want to understand the ways that technics (the material objects in our daily lives) and technique (the practice of using those material objects, individually and collectively) help produce (and are produced by) (poeisis – ‘bringing forth’) a particular moment of the social, political and/or cultural.”

Our first paper is one from Martin HeideggerThe Question Concerning Technology.” It is interesting that this paper shows up now which is about getting to the essence of technology while I am trying to get at the essence of VisualsSpeak and the essence of my new venture(s).


Christine as neutral observer computer that just notices and throws out possibilities that might help participant see differently

The paintings are clustered together, but so are the photographs. It’s a strong repeating pattern, so what could it mean? Is it reflecting something about the way you are thinking about the question?

All of the images touch the nautilus except the berries. What is different about that photo? Would the story shift if that photo moved in to touch the center image?


Thank you, oh neutral silicon/carbon observer, from the plateau of hills so far south of the gray cloudy Bainbridge.

So this is interesting.  You are commenting each time only on the images, and not on the content.  Why is that (process wise)?  Is this what you’ve always done which is to restrict yourself to the images (as story) rather than the story (interpretation) as story? Or something else completely?

Just asking because “Skip acting as computer” would be wanting to visualize the relationships in the text (and to the tagging of the images and image analytics of the images that are selected).

“Skip as human being and human doing” – I am into a couple of hours now of compiling notes triggered by the three days of images and the last several weeks of activities looking for my patterns of immersion versus stuckness of not moving into action.  Well, one form of powerful action was to commit to writing a blog entry each day for three months to develop at least some capability for writing (non-business writing – something I have aspired to do for 40 years).


Ok, so I’m cheating a bit because I know things about you……but I’m trying to stay more neutral than I would do in a live interaction.

I do primarily focus on the images when I facilitate mainly because it is my superpower. Most people don’t see the image patterns, and often they hold the deeper information. I would look at the verbal patterns later, when there is more information. The verbal patterns over a week are more significant than one day.

With you specifically, the last thing I want to do is engage you verbally because you already do that – its a core pattern. If you could think your way out of this with words you would have already done it. This isn’t a surface level stuck – it’s deep. So I’m looking at getting around what you usually do, and trying to get you to do something else. Some of what I am doing is tugging at the unconscious through the image patterns.

I could “tell” you things, but if you discover them, you will own them much more deeply.

What about doing an iPad painting everyday for three months? See what that sparks……

I do think we should also play with engaging with the verbal patterns and various combinations – testing to see what is most effective for which segment.

Make sense?


Yup.  Thanks.

I have on my list to do art everyday (a commitment to self I made a couple of months ago) but it is subservient to the do a blog post every day (which is getting harder to do as I break away from my home office each and every day).

I would love to do a painting a day, but I am just not able to get the hang of it enough to get started (even with the acrylic paints at the Bootcamp). I tried to get started by just trying to copy some of the iPad paintings you had done, copy in the loosest sense of the word, and I couldn’t come remotely close.

Sooooo, is there the proverbial hour long tutorial you can do to get me started, or point me to one of the 100s of iPad painting app tutorials?

I feel like I am missing something basic.

I also thought about doing a photograph a day as a way to bridge the gap.  I do enjoy photography and seem to be able to do pleasing pictures (of everything except people) on a regular basis.  But my friend Cash Elston points out that I need to move beyond just taking the picture to spending time “developing” the picture with my Lightroom app.  Yet another step I haven’t taken.

The other “art” I’ve been looking at is doing generative music creation on the iPad.  The wonderful professionals who developed KOAN many moons ago that Brian Eno used for much of his generative music have finally produced an iPad app Mixtikl.  I have started to play with it but haven’t gotten very far.

It is clear from the progress I feel I’ve made with the writing (several of my humanities professor colleagues are sharing how much they enjoy reading my blog which boggles my mind) that the key is to practice every day. With the painting I just can’t seem to get over the basics enough to keep going.

Thanks for the encouragement.


Consider the possibility that it is about the process not the product……

Try Omnisketch. Just look at it as a discovery process, what does each brush do?

Or if you want something more real world painting like, try ArtRage.


It’s about allowing your intuitive and other parts of your brain to come forward and create a space for the insights to emerge.

It’s not about creating any kind of product. You can throw it away and still have the value.

Once again, Christine kindly reminds me that it is all about “process art.”

One more day.

Posted in Content with Context, Design, Human Centered Design, User Experience, Visual pattern Language, VisualsSpeak | 1 Comment

Day 2 – Creating My Future

I am eager to get up and work with the images once again. The core to the four day process is to use the same set of images but come up with a different arrangement for the collage and a different story.

Before starting I reflect for a few minutes on my core question “what is the future I want to create for myself for this new venture and product?”

Sitting at my desk, I lay out the eight images on my deskpad. I look for the image centerpiece that I’ll arrange things around today. I decide I want the many hands, many suns in the center.

The story I tell today is:

“At the center is the luminosity of many hands and many bodies working on the platform vision of the future. The challenge is to embody the beauty and dynamism of nature (nautilus shell) without it becoming fossilized.  Across the top, the challenge is to be able to grow with the power of augmented nature (man and nature cultivating fruit) with the designed earthen ware of the potter and the pot.  I want to create a system that is at once natural and a product of nature.  Both a vessel (the pot, the wine glasses) and the biodynamic product of nature’s fruit. Across the middle we have the inspiration that feeds me and the team that is grounded in the needs of the product’s users. While the path is winding it has some milestones and celebratory arches that signify significant progress which leads to celebration (top right). The pot of gold on the lower right fuels the rainbow that brings beauty out of the interaction and intersection of light and rain. Natural. Biodynamic. Grounded. Shaped.

“I am reminded of the story from The Grail:  A Year Ambling and Shambling through an Oregon Vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the Whole Wide World by Brian Doyle.

“Grapevines are amazing life forms when you think about it, they plunge their fingers a hundred feet down into the rocky soil, they can live for hundreds of years, they fend off all sorts of insect attacks, and they have been working with human beings for so long, thousands and thousands of years, that you wonder sometimes who cultivates who, you know what I mean?  Are people manipulating and taking advantage of grape vines, or are grape vines deftly using human beings to take over the world?

“If we build this tool right, we won’t know who tended who – the product development team or the content users and connection discoverers.

“Having another great day.”

I hit the “Send” button and off the electronic missive goes to that muse Christine. Back comes:

“Christine as computer again

“Interesting, yesterday you put all the paintings on the left and photographs on the right. Today all the paintings are across the middle horizontally and the photos above and below. Any significance to that?

“I also notice that only one of the nautilus shells is showing, just like yesterday.

“What might happen to the story if you tried really hard to assemble the images in a different pattern? Just for one day to see what emerged.”

We chat back and forth:

SKIP: Thank you Christine, oh wondrous computer (said in my best HAL 9000 voice). They were in a different pattern.  So clearly you mean something different by a different pattern.  Are you suggesting one of those patterns I can’t do – like a spiral? Also, now that I have worked with these images for a second day, I am feeling like there is something missing.  So can I dip back into the well of images or should I play out the string of four straight days.  I am inclined to do the latter.

CHRISTINE: Different – not required, just suggestion, for example:

CHRISTINE: You can do spirals, they will just look/feel strange to you. Sometimes that can be useful. Yes, try to stick with the program (you can add images later)

SKIP: But this is just so wrong.  ;)

Posted in Content with Context, Design, Human Centered Design, User Experience, Visual pattern Language, VisualsSpeak | 1 Comment

Day 1 – Creating My Future

As Alan Wood, David Socha, and I were sharing another wonderful breakfast at Sunflour Bakery and Cafe, continuing our discussion on how to improve higher learning in higher education, Alan shared his desire to have a tool like Devonthink to help him with his research. I shared an overview of what I’d done in the past with Attenex Patterns as a much better alternative and then shared what I had in mind for a new tool code named “content in context.” Alan immediately got in my face and said “You’ve got to build that.”

Well, thanks Alan, I’ve been wanting to build it for three years but I just can’t pull together the energy. We chatted about the amount of personal energy required to start a company, raise funding, build a product, and then sell the product (hopefully to millions). After having started so many companies, I can’t fool myself any more about how much energy it takes.

As luck would have it, I traveled to Portland,OR, the next day to meet with Christine Martell to work with her on updating a business plan for her company VisualsSpeak. In addition, we hoped to work on a high level design for the software system she would really like to have.

Christine Martell

As we finished up over a late lunch at an organic grocery store deli, Christine asked me what I was up to and what I wanted to do next. I should know better than to try and share what I want to do when I’d just had my world turned upside down by the depth of what Christine has researched and created with VisualsSpeak. I needed some sleep time to do the synthesis for how to integrate the vision I’d just glimpsed of what it would mean to combine the power of Christine’s visual thinking with my designs for “content with context.”

Yet, it was the right question to ask so I rambled for an hour sharing the different pieces I was immersed in and pulling together and the option space for ways to move forward. On my four hour drive back from Portland, OR, to Bainbridge Island, WA, I reflected on what the implications of Christine’s work were for my design. Then it hit me that the constant theme of the several meetings with Christine was that what VisualsSpeak is really good at is helping people get unstuck by changing their story.

The next morning I called Christine and asked if there was a way we could simulate the software design we’d come up with. She suggested that we do the four day process with the Exploring New Options pack of images. I would do the work each day and send her my results and then she would simulate how the computer would give me feedback as both a test of our ideas, a deeper way for me to understand her process, and with any luck help me get unstuck.

The core of the process is to first formulate the question that is at the heart of what I am stuck in. Then, you spread out the images from the Exploring New Options pack, select the 5-7 images that speak to me in the context of my question, then arrange the images in a way that makes sense. After arranging the images, then tell a story that connects the images in the context of the core question.

Once I had the image collage and the story, the next step is to submit the two to Christine the human computation pattern recognizer. Christine the computer will then respond with the questions that emerge from the deep patterns represented both by the images chosen and their arrangement.

The core question I started with was “what is the future I want to create for myself for this new venture and product?”

With the question in mind I spread out the deck of images. Way too many of the images were speaking to me. I selected the following eight images:

As I stared at the images, I began to move them around. I then realized that I needed to select one of the images to be in the center.  I selected the potter with the clay pot. I then arranged the rest of the images to surround the potter.

The story I captured with the collage of images in the context of the question was:

“I am envisioning a new venture that requires many hands to create.  From the individual work of making the clay pot to the inspirational work of partners (left most picture) providing inspiration (double entendre) for me to create a legacy that is the result of a long and twisting path.  I want the thing that is made to be biodynamic in nature as a fine wine that is grown and results in the magic elixir.  I want the legacy to be as natural and organic as a nautilus shell (the first logo for the ALL-IN-1 product that I created back in 1981). I would like that legacy product to be as long lasting as a fossilized shell – still as beautiful today after thousands of years. The balance though is to achieve the wonderfully dynamic properties of a fine wine – a product that continues to live as it ages, yet with something firm enough (clay pot and nautilus shell) to be long lasting. The product of this work has to be capable of evolving through all of the partners (influencers, purchasers, suppliers, customers, customer’s customers) in the process. In other words, the product delivered has to be a process.”

As I sent this off to Christine, I laughed at my inability to arrange the images in a spiral or more randomly. My natural style is to have everything nicely vertically and horizontally arranged.

In our first meeting, Christine shared her matrix of the different patterns that people arrange the images (see matrix in the center above). She has noticed that each of us has a style and it is very difficult to get people to shift their arrangement to another style. The closest personality indicator that she correlates with this finding is the Hermann Brain Dominance Indicator.

Christine responding as the computer noticed the following things in the image:

“Does it mean anything to you that the images on the left side are all paintings and flowing, and the images on the right are photographs with circular patterns and a spiral off the side? This division is in the center of the image, which if often the most important.

“Is there anything more to say about the images that are tucked partially underneath at the top right and bottom left?”

I am fascinated by the lines/paths she draws through the images. My software design brain cuts in first and starts to think about how we would do the image recognition to follow the lines and shapes through a collection of images.  I feel some wavelet decomposition mathematics coming to bear.

Slowly I quiet the software brain down, and get back to the image questions. I am fascinated how “unconscious” I was at lining up the many different lines and circles. My biodynamic fine wine growing imagery is hitting me left and right as I think about the cycles of sunshine to plant to berries to containment vessels (clay pots) to sharing fine wine in celebration of the journey.

Right now these questions are too deep for me.  I’ll let sleep time deal with them.

Posted in Content with Context, Design, Human Centered Design, User Experience, Visual pattern Language, VisualsSpeak | 1 Comment