Monthly Archives: March 2012

UX Killed Usability

UX Killed UsabilityUsability is dead (or at best on life-support and not conscious), and I’m sorry to be the one that has to tell you this, but it’s been mortally wounded by UX (aka User Experience). How do I know? Well, you see, I’m a big fan of usability. Consider my blog, Useful Usability, which has the name of usability right in it. I eat, think and sleep usability, which is why I’m so sad that UX has killed it.

Yes, I’m a big fan of usability, but I can assure you it has been killed (or at best is now on life support and comatose). And I have proof, which I’ll sadly but scientifically share with you in a moment. But for those of you who can’t wait and want to know the executive summary, here it is:

“Usability as a term is pretty much dead and has been replaced (not very well) by UX, meaning user experience.”

Now like I said, I’m sorry to be the bearer of this bad news, but if you are in the usability profession I suspect you already have an inkling of this fact.

The fact is usability will most likely be has been consumed and overwhelmed by the new catch-phrase and relatively new role of UX. The sad part however is that where most people knew what usability was (how easy things are to use, measured and tested via a scientific method), no two people exactly agree on what UX is.

Usability definition:

According to WikiPedia, the definition of usability is…

“Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object. The object of use can be a software application, website, book, tool, machine, process, or anything a human interacts with. A usability study may be conducted as a primary job function by a usability analyst or as a secondary job function by designers, technical writers, marketing personnel, and others. It is widely used in consumer electronics, communication, and knowledge transfer objects (such as a cookbook, a document or online help) and mechanical objects such as a door handle or a hammer.

Usability includes methods of measuring usability, such as Needs analysis and the study of the principles behind an object’s perceived efficiency or elegance. In human-computer interaction and computer science, usability studies the elegance and clarity with which the interaction with a computer program or a web site (web usability) is designed. Usability differs from user satisfaction insofar as the former also embraces usefulness (see Computer user satisfaction).”

Whew! That is a lot to read, much less to say. Can you see yourself saying that to your mom or dad if they were to ask you what usability is? I can’t. So, as you can tell, I’m actually not a big fan of this definition, because it’s not very user-friendly (and thus not usable) in my opinion.

I prefer my description of usability, which is…

“Usability is how easy or difficult something is to use. Usability can be measured through a scientific process focused on evaluating user critical tasks and the ability, or lack thereof, of those tasks to be completed by users . Usability includes how efficient something is, how easy it is to learn, and the ability of the item to satisfy the user.”

So like I said, usability is pretty easy to understand, once you have a usable definition.

Proof that UX killed Usability

You may ask how I know usability is dead, or at best on life-support and not conscious, what’s my proof? I’ll show you. Just like a lawyer.

Well, a lawyer that we actually like.

I’m thinking Raymond Burr as Perry Mason. He was a lawyer everyone liked. So picture me as Perry Mason and let us now examine the evidence that proves UX killed Usability.

Google Insights, Interest over Time, UX vs. Usability

UX vs. Usability per Google Insights Data
UX vs. Usability per Google Insights Data

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you the first piece of evidence that UX killed usability. Interest in UX has beaten interest in usability and is now more than double the usability interest.

The Google Insights tool provides a useful comparison of interest in subjects over time. The numbers on the graph above reflect the index of how many searches have been done for a particular term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over that time. They don’t represent absolute search volume numbers, because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0-100.

As the above graph demonstrates, usability was at about 80% interest in 2004, but has declined ever since and is now about 20% interest. UX meanwhile was at about 75% interest, and is now at roughly 55%. Both fell, but usability fell much more than UX.

Simply put, UX interest is beating out usability interest and has been doing so since 2006. And if Google’s forecasts are accurate we can assume usability interest will continue to fall to less than 20% interest, while UX will maintain at about 50-55% interest.

User Experience Interest Growing

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I now present to you the second piece of incriminating evidence that UX killed usability.  As demonstrated by the Google Insights information, interest in user experience continues to climb, while as we saw earlier interest in usability continues to fall.

user experience interest per Google Insights data
User Experience interest per Google Insights data

I direct, ladies and gentlemen, your attention to this graph above, which clearly proves that interest in user experience has almost doubled from 2004 to 2012. Interest in 2004 was roughly 50%, but today has climbed to about 95%. This increase is in stark contrast to usability which is currently hovering around 20%.

Clearly user experience interest is growing at the expense of usability interest.

Google Indexed Pages, UX vs. Usability

And now ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I would like to show you the next piece of evidence in the case of UX against usability, which is the number of pages Google has indexed, or attributed, to a certain term. UX has yet again beaten usability, in this case a severe beating, by having over double the number of pages indexed.

Number of Google's indexed pages for UsabilityAccording to Google, there are about 57,300,000 pages that have something to do with the term ‘usability.’ That’s not bad. However, that doesn’t hold a candle to UX.

Number of Google indexed pages for UXAccording to Google, there are over 130,000,000 pages that pertain to UX. That’s more than double the usability total. And ladies and gentlemen of the jury, just in case you were thinking there are other uses of the term UX that may be inflating these numbers, I present to you this corroborating piece of evidence. The term ‘user experience’ has far more number of pages indexed than either UX or usability.

Number of Google indexed pages for user experienceThere are over 236,000,000 pages that are indexed by Google for the term ‘user experience.’ Compared to the 57,300,000 pages that index for usability, clearly user experience has far more content, by a factor of almost four to one. This proves that user experience, and UX, are overwhelming usability.

Monster job postings, UX vs. Usability

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I now turn your attention to the next piece of evidence that UX has killed usability, the number of jobs posted that pertain to usability vs UX. Note the number of jobs that appear when a search for usability is conducted on Monster as demonstrated below. You’ll clearly see ladies and gentlemen that there are 19 jobs for the term usability.

Number of usability jobs on Monster is 19But now ladies and gentlemen I call attention to the following result for the term UX. When you type in UX into Monster you see a whopping 1,000+ jobs appear in the results. This completely overwhelms usability and its feeble 19 jobs. And should you assume that these may be jobs that only have a slight bearing on the terms of UX I would like you to note that in both searches the search term (usability or UX) is required to be in the title, as demonstrated by the checked box for the Title selection.

There are over 1,000 UX jobs on Monster

Austin Chapter of the UPA Meetings

Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, witness the relatively small interest in usability at the local level. As president of the Austin Chapter of the UPA I’ve been struggling for two years now on trying to expand the interest and activity in usability and user-centered design in the Austin, Texas community.

I love doing this, as I feel my volunteering with the UPA is my way to give back to the community and in some small way help our world to be a better place to live. But I will confide with you and tell you it has been a struggle to grow membership. At best, our meetings average about 20 people (as demonstrated below). Our FaceBook page has 102 Friends and we have 56 Followers on Twitter. Not too bad.

A typical Austin chapter of the UPA meeting with about 20 attendees
A typical AustinUPA chapter meeting with about 20 attendees

However, as shown below and just as a reference point the recent Austin IxDA meeting had almost 100 people in attendance (not counting me although I was there). In addition, they have 296 Followers on Twitter, which is pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Austin IxDA and a happy member. I just bring this up to point out the size discrepancies between a group focused on interaction design and UX, and a group focused on usability.

A typical Austin IXDA meeting with about 100 attendees
A typical Austin IXDA meeting with about 100 attendees

In addition, I asked several members at the recent Austin IxDA meeting as well as other places such as SXSW about their feelings for the local UPA chapter. Here’s what they said in a paraphrased form…

“Yeah, I like the Austin UPA and all, but usability is just focused on research, and that’s just a small part of everything I have to do as a UX practitioner.”

This now makes sense to me, especially when you look at the job posting descriptions for “UX Designers” or related terms.

A typical UX designer job postingNote that most of the time the job posting is a mixture of part IA, part usability researcher, part designer, and part coder. No wonder usability is now only a minor part of the UX world!

Conclusion: UX killed Usability

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, clearly the evidence is overwhelming, UX has killed usability. True, usability is not completely dead, it lies in a slowly decaying world of interest and roles, now relegated to a minor part of someone’s very large and growing list of responsibilities as a UX designer. Whether the term usability will continue to survive in this world is a matter of conjecture.

However, I suspect that if you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, dust off your usability interest, evaluate the true meaning of usability, which is the extent to which things can be made to work better, and work on educating the world and your part in it about the importance of usability, it won’t truly die.

It’s up to you. Only you can determine if UX will be allowed to kill usability, or if you will use usability and enable it to continue to play a role in the new world of UX and user experience.

So, do you agree that UX killed usability? Are you ready to convict? And if you see usability having less significance, what do you propose, if anything, to do about it?

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Top 10 Secrets of SXSW (or How to Survive and Thrive at SXSW)

Top 10 Secrets of SXSW
The Top 10 Secrets of SXSW

Having somewhat recovered from the amazing SXSW 2012 interactive conference, I wanted to share my list of the top 10 secrets of SXSW, (alternative title, how I survived and thrived at SXSW).

I’ve attended multiple years, and can definitely tell you there ARE great secrets to SXSW survival (and enjoyment). What are these secrets? They are secrets to how to do SXSW well, how to get maximum value for your expensive ticket, and how to survive nicely by eating and drinking for little or no money.

But before we begin, let’s cover the issues that most people were voicing to me in the hallways and meeting rooms. Before, during and after sessions you get to meet a lot of people, IF you can get them to stop looking down at their mobile device long enough to talk to you! Among the many people I talked to, here’s a few of the more common rants I heard:

“Austin and the convention center are PACKED! I can’t get around!”

“These sessions are so jammed that I missed the ones I wanted to see.”

“This talk was dull, I didn’t learn anything new.”

“SXSW is so costly, I can’t really afford to go!”

“I had to wait over an hour to get my badge!”

“Who the heck are these speakers, I’ve never heard of them.”

“There’s too many sessions, I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to go to!”

“I have a hangover”

“I can’t get to all the booths at the SXSW trade show, there’s not enough time.”

“There’s too many parties, how do I know which ones to go to?”

Among the many SXSW hallway and session conversations I had, these were the most common I heard. The good news is there is a solution to most of these issues, and quite a few people were pleased with my responses. So, without further ado, I’ll share what I told them with you. I present for your edification:

The Top 10 Secrets of SXSW:

1.       Getting around in the packed Convention Center and City of Austin. The secret to Austin and the convention center is to get wherever you are going EARLY. If you attend by car then be sure to get to your parking lot of choice no later than 9AM, 8AM is much better. A handy tip is the Austin convention center parking lot at the corner of 5th Street and Red River (entrance on 5th street). This year parking was $10 for the entire day, easily beating the many other lots charging $20 or more.

SXSW Austin Convention Center Parking
SXSW Austin Convention Center Parking

Better yet is to take the train, avoid taxi or bus service as traffic can turn what normally should be a half hour trip into an hour. Same deal for getting around in the convention center. Allow yourself plenty of extra time. Another secret is if you have to go from the north side (say Ballroom D) to the south side (say Ballrooms B and C) take the Austin Convention Center Level 3 (the middle floor) and you can quickly get from one end to the other without messing around with the massive crowd on the bottom floor.

2.       Missing sessions because they are full. There are two solutions to this problem. First, get there early. I always show up at the room a half hour prior to the session start. I also sit in the very front, normally because I live blog. But even if I am not live blogging I will still sit in the front. After all, I spent a lot of money to see the speakers, so why not sit where I can actually see them?

The second solution to this problem is to plot your sessions in advance on a map. If your 10AM session is at a hotel several miles away, and your 1PM session is at the convention center, there’s a high probability that you’ll miss your 1PM session after attending the 10AM session. Determine in advance where your sessions are, map them out to see how far away they are, and allow a LOT of time to move from the hotels to the convention center.

3.       Attending a dull session. This one happens no matter whether you are at SXSW or any other conference, it is the nature of conferences. SXSW Session Details

SXSW Session level
SXSW Session level

The trick with SXSW is to realize that if the session you are at is a dud, don’t assume you’ll be able to try a different session during that same time block. You have a choice, either hang in there and try to pull something interesting out of the topic (including use the Q&A session to ask pertinent questions), or leave but know that you now have an instant hour and more of free time to get to your next session.

The other trick is to very carefully read the description, including the detailed description of the session, the speaker Bios AND the level to make sure this session is something that meets your expectations.

4.       SXSW is so costly. Yes, it costs a lot to go to SXSW. Although to be fair it also costs a lot to go to almost any other conference out there. With hotel, travel, meals, parking and the cost of the conference ticket, you (or your company) will easily shell out a big chunk of change. That said, there is value to attending SXSW that goes well beyond the cost of the ticket, especially for Austin-based companies that only have to pay for the SXSW conference ticket (no travel or hotel costs). But do yourself (and your boss) a favor and get tickets early! You save a lot of money by ordering in advance.

You also can get a hotel room near enough to the convention center that you don’t have to take transportation. Can’t get your boss to cough up the cash to go? Take it from me, getting your boss to agree to spending the money to go is hard, but can be done with this simple trick. Add up the potential learnings you’ll receive from each session. Estimate how much each learning might mean in terms of a better user experience, number of leads, increased sales or whatever the metrics are that are important to your boss. Now multiple the potential increases (or savings) and propose to go to SXSW so your company can leverage those learnings. I’ve been rather successful with that tip, you can too.

5.       I had to wait over an hour to get my badge: Yes, there are huge lines to get SXSW badges. If you are one of those people that shows up at 10AM the first day of conference to get your badge you absolutely will be in a line longer than almost any airport security line anywhere in the world. Guaranteed.

Again, the secret is to get there early! Badge pick up actually opens up the day before the conference, which will certainly take the pressure off of you. Likewise, getting in line early, say around 8ish the day the conference opens does mean waiting about an hour, but also means you’ll be through the line with badge in hand with the entire rest of the day available for SXSW. Do yourself a favor and pick up your badge early so you don’t miss any of the events.

6.       Who the heck are these speakers, I’ve never heard of them: One of the main reasons people go to conferences like SXSW is to hear top industry speakers presenting the latest information on a subject of interest to them. The problem with this is very often over time the same information is presented by the same speakers in the same ways, year after year, which can be boring. Sometimes it is good to hear someone new or different, someone you have not heard of before.

SXSW tries to bring both recognized speakers like Guy Kawasaki and his chat with Google’s Vic Gundotra as well as new speakers to the SXSW crowd like Frank Abagnale and his amazing life and thoughts about family and love. Even my buddy David Greene (who although I know him is not a well known speaker) was a presenter, at the interesting Flash: F Bomb or Da Bomb session. The point is that although there are plenty of unheard of speakers, that doesn’t mean their session is without merit. Attending the sessions with the unknown speakers can be a great way to learn something new, different and unexpected.

7.       There’s too many sessions, I don’t know how to choose:

Only half of the SXSW schedule for just one day

SXSW is indeed overwhelming. And the SXSW schedule interface needs a serious overhaul. As a user experience advocate I believe their search results and listings of the hundreds of sessions could be presented much better, helping to reduce the confusion. Interface aside, the secret here is to not wait until the last second and instead get a sense of which sessions you want to attend at least a week prior to SXSW.

There’s another reason for this, which is to map out where each session is so you can allow enough travel time if you have to go from convention center to some far flung hotel and back. If there’s not enough travel time between one session at let’s say a hotel and another at the convention center, you may need to re-consider your choice in sessions. Let’s be honest, this interface (below) is not very useful (image cut in half by the way).

8. The dreaded, ugh! I have a hangover:

SXSW Hangover
SXSW Hangover

This one is easy. Restrain your SXSW partying (yeah, it’s not a popular notion I grant you that). Limit the partying you do by focusing on just the top two parties you really want to attend, and if you do party take it easy on the free drinks.

Also, it’s a good idea to try to eat some food prior to partying, so you have something in your stomach to help absorb all that alcohol that you really shouldn’t be slamming down.

I pace myself, I usually have a drink, then have a water, then have a drink, then a water, you get the pattern. Also, on the subject of hydration, it’s very easy to forget to drink water while you are at the SXSW sessions. Be sure to carry water with you, it’s best if you can buy it outside the convention center and bring it in a backpack, because a regular size bottle water was $3.50 at the convention center this year. Ouch.

9.       I can’t get to all the booths at the SXSW trade show:

I hear you on this one and agree. Having the SXSW trade show start at 11am the day before Interactive closes is stupid. There’s not enough time to really see all the booths, unless you miss a half day during the last two days of sessions. I repeat, “It’s stupid.”

Do you hear me SXSW planners? Why they can’t start the trade show on Saturday (the day after interactive opens) is beyond me.

Hopefully the powers that be at the SXSW will come to their senses regarding extending the days of the trade show to allow Interactive attendees to actually see the trade show.

I can also tell you that my company exhibited at this year’s trade show, and that from our experience attendance on the final two days was very low. All the crowds were at our booth during the first two days.

Hmm, is this why so many big companies don’t have trade show booths at SXSW?

Hint hint SXSW planners! Gee, perhaps you could get a LOT more big companies to set up trade show exhibits if you actually allowed them enough time to get enough traffic to make it worth the cost!

As I say on my @ctomlin twitter feed often, #justsayin. For you poor souls who want to see the booths, do your best and move fast, but efficiently, from one to the next booth. Try to cover the booths in two half days, and contact the SXSW staff to send a nasty letter expressing your dissatisfaction with the ridiculous schedule they’ve given the trade show.

10.   There’s too many parties, how do I know which one to go to?

SXSW party
SXSW party

There is a few simple secrets to this one. I suggest you focus on the party that is in the industry you most closely follow. Getting business done at these kinds of parties is not likely. Just use it as a chance to network and get to know others that care about the stuff you care about. As with the sessions, you have to choose carefully and in advance, because if one party is not good, trying to get to another could be very difficult given traffic conditions in Austin during SXSW.

When choosing, consider the size of the party, the SXSW kick off party this year I heard had about 5,000 registered. That’s not a party in my opinion, that’s a drinking convention! Many vendors have invite-only parties, and usually these are better places to meet and chat over a drink. Get on your vendor email lists a month or so prior to SXSW if you want to be invited to those.

Top 10 Secrets of SXSW Conclusion:

So that’s it, that’s my Top 10 secrets to SXSW. Make sure you plan in advance. Buy your tickets in advance, get your hotel well in advance. Plan your schedule in advance. Don’t party too hard. Map your sessions so you don’t miss any due to travel time and for goodness sake tell the SXSW staff that they need to extend the trade show! I hope you enjoyed them and I hope you will try them out if you are going to SXSW.

And if you are not going to SXSW, well… go!

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Create More Value Than You Capture

#sxsw #values

Andrew Mcafee, Principal Research Scientist MIT

Tim O’Reilly, Founder, CEO, O’Reilly Media

SXSW 2012 Create More Value Than You Capture Mcafee and OReilly
SXSW 2012 Mcafee and OReilly

Andrew introduces Tim O’Reilly, who interestingly put up Global Website Navigator which can be thought of to be the first monetized site on the web. Tim started the open source movement, eBooks, Web 2.0, Govt 2.0 and Big Data, among many other things including being a major publisher of web-based publications.

Tim: In 2008 we saw an industry change from living to serve society, to living to serve itself. Consider the banking industry which existed to help serve liquidity and society. At a conference called Money:Tech 2008 I learned sobering news, financial firms used to trade on behalf of their clients, but were transitioning to trade against their clients. They achieved great rewards for themselves, but at the expense of their clients.

This is a pattern in technology. Consider Microsoft. They were called the evil empire, but the early days when they had a vision of ubiquitous computing. Their vision was a computer in every home. Remember this was in the day when IBM “owned” computing, and computers were not accessible to everyone. Microsoft created an eco system of thousands of developers. But eventually they turned away from that ecosystem and people went somewhere else.

A pattern exists, entities build up, helping others, but eventually become all about themselves, thus losing that which they originally tried to gain. Economic failure is taking out more than you create, which you can see in the way certain companies, or governments fail.

Tim Berners-Lee created the web based on an open concept to benefit all of society. Value captured is the metric society uses to gauge success, yet you can destroy while busy trying to capture more value.

In 1994 the CEO of Microsoft at the time gave a speech in which he said there’s a few documents that are read by millions of people, and millions of documents only read by a few, and we at Microsoft network will be in the middle adding value. I thought at that time that the intangible economy came from sharing non-monetization. The monetization usually comes later. Value creation starts by having fun, and only later do the entrepreneurs see how to turn that fun into money.

If you understand it better, you can be better as an investor or entrepreneur. If there are people swarming around trying to make money then you may already be too late.

Unhealthy is when you see a huge number of startups focused on making a huge amount of money then making a quick exit. It’s like a road trip, a road trip is not a tour of gas stations, but there are lots of entrepreneurs out there doing that. Creating value and changing the world in a better way should be the venture model.

I’m proud that we never took venture capital at O’Rielly Media.

The biggest thing wrong is we don’t have enough people who are trying to make a difference.

Andrew asks: Do you see too many people trying to chase something and make an exit?

Tim: If you look at Built to Last and Good to Great, good companies have big hairy audacious goals. Working on solving a real problem is a good motivation, and the right motivation.

The open source movement has had such an impact on the world we live in. Often the creators don’t profit from this effort. The web infrastructure was built by people that didn’t make a lot of money for what they did.

The clothesline paradox (PDF). It was a paper I read in 1975, by Steve Baer. He was writing about alternative energy, which is sad considering we have the same issues today.  The effort of being energy independent was going on in the 1970s, but we kicked the can down the road and never did anything about it. Anyway, about this paradox, Steve Bayer had a great insight. Hanging clothes on the clothes line instead of using a dryer is the equal to energy savings, but is not measured. We are not taking the energy savings credit of using the clothesline, instead it’s just energy that “disappears.”

The content economy is the same, with “free” and the subsequent take-away from paid sources of content not be measured accurately.

I think we have to re-set our economic thinking.

Mcafee asks, how do we measure economic theory to estimate the size of the “free” economy?

Tim says, “I don’t know.”  (audience laughter to Andrew’s “darn!”)

If we were to connect SIRI to Moore’s Law, what will happen to people? Soon there will be customer service without people, it’ll all be automated. Likewise, the automated economy using online websites for shopping is a like idea.

Tim, we are losing the big middle class we created originally. At TED a couple weeks ago a speaker said he was tired of investors creating jobs, but they don’t. Customers create jobs. Investors are only needed if there’s too many customers.

If you have too small of a group capturing value then the whole ecosystem breaks down.

The gains from taking people out of companies seems to be going into the paychecks of CEOs, instead of back into the society. More and more jobs are being taken over by machines.

Tim says, the use of computing to add value to what were formerly lower jobs. Think about retailers removing sales people from their stores. Apple figures out that they can be successful by using people to help other people. Walgreens is doing the equal of a Genus Bar for healthcare. They are trying to move from paying for outcomes (money saved by people not being served healthcare goes back to the health care firm). Since Apple created people as genus level to help sell and take care of computers, why not add value the same way to the health care system?

Todd Park is our new Federal CTO.

The YouTube economy is where artists make a real living, in this case supported by advertising. Air B and B is mentioned.

Going back to economic cycles, a sharing economy does eventually get monetized. Like the web, at first we were sharing things amongst each other, but eventually it added advertising to monetize the experience.

Policy makers need to focus on protecting the future from the past, but are too focused on protecting the past from the future.

Advice to a young innovator, what is your advice?

First, work on stuff that matters. Work on stuff that you’ll look back on and be proud of.

Second, find people that are just as passionate about what you do as you are.

Q & A from the Audience:

Q: Absentee owners, is that good?

A:  No, there needs to be a revolution in corporate governance.

Q: The old economy of scarcity of resources seems old, the new one seems about jobs.

A: Well, manufacturing will change. Like a lamp bought on ETSEY, it was a $10 lamp that had music notes added, i.e. added value, which I purchased for $300. That’s an example of people adding value in this economy.

Q: What do you think about collective advantage and the “biggest company wins?”

A: I think Google is a good example, they started out wanting to do well for their customers, but now they are focused on the dollar, and I think you’ll see them not be as successful because of that.

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SXSW 2012 Live Blog: Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abagnale 10 Years Later

#sxsw #CatchFrank

Frank Abagnale speaking at SXSW 2012
Frank Abagnale speaking at SXSW 2012

So, it’s Saturday afternoon here at SXSW and the crowds are intense. Luckily I had a chance to grab a bite between live blog sessions. Next up: The amazing Frank Abagnale and Catching him, if you can. If you’ve seen the Tom Hanks movie of Catch Me If You Can you know all about Frank and his, ahem, prior work, and new work now. So here we go…

Frank tells the story of his life, which as you might imagine is not exactly like the movie. Turns out he never did meet his dad after he ran out of the divorce hearing. He saw his mom again 7 years later. His first job was in a store much like his dad’s store which was a stationery establishment.

He altered the digit on his id card to gain 10 years, so that he could get more money at work vs. being a 16 year old. When he started writing checks that bounced he realized NY was no longer a good place to go. He was walking in NY at the Commodore hotel, now the Grand Hyatt, when he noticed the pilots coming out of the hotel and loading into the van. He realized that being a pilot would be a great identity to get more checks to cash.

He focused on Pan Am and called purchasing, told them he was with Pan Am based in the west coast, but lost his outfit. He went down to the Well Built Uniform Company and got a uniform. For payment, he filled out a form, as they wouldn’t take cash or checks. He went to LaGuardia walking around but couldn’t figure out how to get on the planes.

During a lunch break the captain of another airline, who mentioned that Pan Am doesn’t go to LaGuardia. He said he was stuck there going to Kennedy. Asked about ‘equipment’ he was on.  He said GE, catching the pilot’s attention.

He noticed they had ID tags. He looked at companies that made badges, he found it was 3M Polaroid. He called a manufacturer and told them he wanted a sample Pan Am example card because they were thinking of buying the system. He suggested they show him how to use the card machines and they said fine, sit here!

The laminate card had everything except for the logos. He notice models of Pan Am 707s at a hobby shop, and bought it, and took the logo off the plane and added it to the ID card. He flew on every other airline except for pan am, flying over 1MM miles. He’d get a pass to do dead head on jump seats. He would have the same questions, and answer them the same way over and over again.

He would find the hotel and take the airline crew van to the hotel which had an agreement with the hotel to cash a check up to $100. He would go to many hotels to cash checks, then after a shift change would go back and re-cash all new checks.

The FBI was after him on a John Doe, so he went to Atlanta and came up with the occupation of Dr. on the apartment form.  Dr Frank Williams Pediatrician was his new name. After a while he was introduced to a new neighbor, Dr Gordon, who was the Dr running the pediatrics board at the local hospital. So, he went to the library and read the johns Hopkins lasts magazine and bother his new neighbor, talking shop.

A call mentioned that he could help temporarily in the hospital, which arranged for a temporary license to administer the hospital.

He passed the Louisiana bar, but in 2 months.

He used to open a bank account with his fake bank id, waiting for the checks to arrive in about 2 weeks. He learned that temporary deposit slips were numerous and readily available, and came up with the idea of adding his account magnetically to those slips. He bought a Burroughs 1000 magnetic encoder, took many bank slips from the public counter and went home to place his account magnetically at the bottom of each, then brought them back to the bank place them back in the public dispenser.

He went to the airport, noticing cash and receipts were being put into cash bags and drop them into the drop box. He had rented a security guard uniform, and placed a sign on the box saying “box out of order, give bags to security guard” and they gave him the bags.

The French were the only ones to catch him. He entered the French jail at 198 pounds and left at 109 pounds. He was extradited to Sweden, where he served time then went to the US where he served 4 years of a 12 year term. The FBI took him out of prison early in exchange for working for them. He’s been working at the FBI ever since. His oldest son makes computer games in China. Youngest boy is an FBI agent as well after having received a law degree.

He receives no money and was not able to participate in the film due to FBI regulations. He has spent over 30 years helping his country. He gets emails from people from 8 to 80 especially after watching his films. He feels if he had been brilliant he could have figured out a way to live without stealing. He was gifted some people say, and he felt that was true because of his dad.

His dad would always tell him and his brothers and sisters that he loved them before they would go to bed each night. Sixteen year olds are in his opinion children who need their mother and father. Divorce he says is a devastating thing over a child’s life. A stranger (the family court judge) told him at 16 to pick a parent, so he ran away and spent the next many years alone, crying to sleep each night.

He knew he would eventually get caught, and when he was he went to bad places. His dad had died due to a fall in a NY subway, and he never had a chance to see his dad again. He feels he owes his country and that’s why he’s served 23 years past when he had to. Three presidents have pardoned him, but he’s never accepted the pardons. He met his wife in Houston, and broke protocol to tell her who he was. His wife, he says, and everything he has is because of his wife.

He says if you still have your mother and father, give them a hug and kiss while you still can. For the men in the audience, it’s not about money or positions or degrees. A real man is faithful and loves his wife, and puts his children first in his life.  He says he’s done nothing better than to be a good husband and a good father, and that’s the best thing he could possible say about his life.

And with that he opens the floor to questions, and there is a standing ovation from the audience.

Q: is it easier to do this today?

A: Absolutely, in my day to forge a check you had to have a Heidelberg press which would barely fit in a giant room. Today he can forge a four color check for Delta, buy the check paper, color printer and print fake checks. Even making a fake airline ID today is still simple.

Q: Were you at all “playing?” as a kid doing those things?

A: I had three stages, first I had to survive on the streets in NY. Then it was people chasing me, and finally it was me running away so they couldn’t catch me, which to a certain extent was playing, but I always knew that I would get caught.

Q: Did you really sneak out of the back of the airplane that way?

A: Spielberg had a big research team to ask people what I did and did his best to make the story true. In a real I escaped through the service area of the aircraft, not the toilet. He was desperate, but not that desperate. I never did meet my mom, so there was no little girl in the window.

Q: Did you impersonate a substitute teacher?

A: yes I did.

Q: Did you tell your wife and how did you do that?

A: She was working at an orphanage; I went there to investigate the place, as one of three other Master of Social Works and went to work there. My wife was finishing a Masters in child psychology. I had to have a different story, different name, met her parents with that false identity. Normally I would say as the assignment is over that there’s a death in the family and I will leave for a short time, then call to say I’m not coming back. I told my wife my real name, that I was not a Master of Social Work, that I work for the FBI and that my assignment is over. She asked if I was a govt agent, and I said yes but not by choice and had to go into the whole thing.

Q: Would you do that over again?

A: No, it was very lonely, I gave up my teen years, I spent many years in prison. You could never make friends because people don’t like to be deceived. If I could live it over again I would not do it. People will tell you life is short, but life is very long. When you make a mistake in life you have to live with that for the rest of your life. As time goes by what didn’t bother you then will bother you in the future.

Q: Do you have a professional goal you still have to achieve?

A: There’s still books I’d like to write. I’ve spent the last few years talking to consumers. If you educate the victim and tell them how to eliminate the risks they do better. We do a horrible job of educating people about protecting themselves. If I make them aware of it by books and TV that helps the education. There is no master criminal doing a breach. Usually there’s an employee doing something they shouldn’t be doing, which opens the breach, open the door for someone, which allows the bad guys to get into the system.

Q: Can you elaborate on the NYC hot dog cart where a cop recognizes you.

A: Yes, I escaped and that’s what I was convicted of. A NYC police detective caught me in Manhattan.

Q: What about your bothers and sisters?

A: my younger brother recently passed away a few years ago. My sister is now retired. My brother is retired form a catholic school in NY. I get to go see my mother in NY a lot.

Q: In the movie, you bought James bond suites and a vehicle, did that happen?

A: No, I liked nice clothes and car, but there was no James bond thing, Spielberg just picked up on my interest in nice clothes and cars, but there was no Austin Martin. The greatest thing I had was I was a kid so I had no fear of getting caught. I didn’t think about things, I just did them. If I was a bit older, I probably would have rationalized things to death. When the FBI agent came into my room I just said I was secret service, I didn’t think of that.

Q: Do you show your badge in security, do people react?

A: No, most people don’t know my face.

Identity theft is a very serious crime. Even back in 1988 I wrote about it, back then you had to go get the information by going to the microfiche to get data. Last year we had 1MM kids bullied on Facebook. Creeper is a application that lets me know where your kids are. I can take a picture and use that for face recognition. Don’t tell people what State you were born in. Put a pic of you on Facebook but with other people. Don’t put your date of birth. The Wall Street Journal said they look at Facebook pages before they hire them, and won’t hire if they see something bad. Writing something when you are 13 can come back to haunt you because hiring folks.

Protect your identity – Shred everything, the only one that shreds write is a micro shredder. Look for a box that says “Micro shredder.” Privacy Guard is a service I help found and I stand by it today. 10 of 12 financial institutions use it. It monitors all three credit agencies and monitors in real time along with letting you know in real time. I don’t write checks very often because they have too much information. I don’t use a debit card. I use a credit card. It’s the safest form of payment. When you use your credit card you build your credit, get points, and get more credit. A debit card gives you nothing. The greatest thing a parent can do is give the child a supplemental credit card to help them build their credit.

Send questions to frank@abagnale.com, I will answer them eventually, and I answer each one, or send it to someone who can answer it.

And with that another huge round of applause and Frank thanks us, and I thank you for reading this!

Guy Kawasaki’s Fireside Chat with Vic Gundotra on Google+

#sxsw #google+

Howdy all! So I’m dusting off the Useful Usability blog, sorry for the delay in blogging. What with being VP of online strategy, moving to Austin, and being President of the Austin Chapter of the UPA I’ve sort of run myself out of time to do any blogging. Sorry all! I’ll try to fix that!

Guy Kawasaki and Vic Gundotra
Guy Kawasaki and Vic Gundotra

So, this is me live blogging #SXSW 2012. And this is you reading a pretty cool fireside chat (minus the fire, what gives?) with Guy Kawasaki and Google+ czar Vic Gundotra. Without further ado let’s dive in!

Guy: What’s Google plus?

Vic: At its simplest level it’s a social layer across all of Google’s services. Vic says Google is all about taking things like photos from space and enabling you to see your backyard, making the extraordinary ordinary, like navigate to a museum using Google mobile.

Google looked at services and knew people used them every day. But the problem is they didn’t know who the user was and what was important to them and their family or friends. If we can build a common notion of what’s important to you, we can make Google better.

But the challenges are many people have trouble understanding that. Vic shows a Harpers weekly illustration from 1892 which looks like a duck, or a bunny. The point is, what we see is heavily influenced by our experiences. You can see a bird, or you can see a bunny during Easter.

So the idea is to build a layer to help us understand you better.

Vic: What if we only knew one bit of information about you, like you were a vegetarian. Well, if you search for restaurants we would highlight search results of restaurants that are vegetarian restaurants, or show restaurants via mobile.

Guy: But are you still not doing things that are evil?

Vic: No, with one click you can leave Google and go to a competitor. Google circles is a privacy feature because you can build groups of family, or acquaintance, which enables better privacy.

Guy: Where are you in Metrics?

Vic: How many use Google+ was the old way we tracked Google+ adoption. But, the new way is we switched our metrics to better determine usage. How many users come back monthly and daily. Daily, 150 Million daily actives. About a 100 Million monthly usages. This is the fastest growing service we’ve ever had in Google.

Guy: 100 Million people have come back in 30 days and done something, right?

Vic: yes, we call this Google 2.0 because it’s not silos of Google services. Instead, we know you so now we show you things that are important to you. Gmail is mail from your circles, Youtube is videos from your circle, etc.

With our competitor, they don’t take into account your likes, or other information. Wait until you see what’s coming next.

Guy: What do you say to people who come to Google+ and have no circles, where are they getting that?

Vic: You have to use it correctly. You can share either privately or publicly. The majority of content shared on Google+ is in private circles. You may not be seeing that, but it might be there is no activity because you are not in one of the more trusted circles.

Guy: Scoble says “I check on this but nobody posted anything, why would Google say I should follow someone that doesn’t post anything.”

Vic: For celebrities, just like for people, the majority of content shared is private. You have to get into the circles to see the sharing and content.

Guy: Will my stuff have ads?

Vic: Not today. But we will serve ads in the future, but more relevant ads. We think there’s a big difference between us and our competitors. When you share a photo of your daughter it’s not best to share an ad, we only do it with commercial intent.

Guy: The Facebook album rip-off of you has ads, and yours don’t have ads, is that right?

Audience laughter

Vic: It’s like going to a game to watch the game, and not ads. When you socialize with friends and family that’s not the best place to show ads. So we won’t have ads in the Google+ album. We will show ads when they are searching or restaurants, not when they socialize that there’s a good restaurant with their family.

We closely track user behavior. Cannon came out with a new camera. Previous if you searched we would show you articles. But if you use Google plus what we surface is commentary about the new camera, if someone in your circles who’s a cannon enthusiast mentions it we will show that.

Guy: How many turn personalization off?

Vic: Small amount, but we’ve made it right on the top to turn on or turn off personalization.  We are connecting people in new ways, and this is an effort that’s just a few months old, 6 months.

Guy: what’s with the API?

Audience applause

Vic: You can blame me. I don’t want to do it. I’ve seen people open up and make a new eco system, but then if we turn it off or change it everyone gets mad. And we are still working on it, it’s not ready. We are not going to open up write access because a 3rd party injecting content into that might overwhelm the stream.

Guy: When can I share with an Android phone?

Vic: You can already. How many here in the audience share from Android to Google+, (hands go up, but Guy says it’s just Google employees). Vic says there’s lots doing it. But audience disagrees. (ICS banter which lost me. Sorry, I’m not an API dude).

Vic: I’m not going to release the API, because if I revoke it that’s a terrible experience for developers.

Vic explains that he’s not going to release the API unless (maybe with asterisks) that things may change. But he feels because the stream is still not perfect he doesn’t want to release it yet.

Guy: Does everyone see my post at the same time?

Vic: The comments are real time. Google+ is real time, which causes a fluid conversation. For most people posts are realtime. But as you climb in following we have to fan-out posts across the users, so it’s near real time. Suggested user list is a great way for new users to get used to G+.

Guy: Talk to me about spam. I had a nice stream for a while, it started nice, but now it’s a beautiful pool which gets wrecked by spam, just like turds in the pool like Caddyshack. If I post 9pm pacific time I get crap, so I don’t post then. What are you doing about spam?

Vic: The same gmail spam team is working on Google+. We’ve made great progress, we’ve changed the tone of conversations, but are doing this with cultural differences included. Short comments are ok in some cultures, but not others, we’re working on that. Likewise real spam is out there and we’re capturing that and hiding it away. We identify algorithmically, then hide it. This is a machine algorithm, we look at age of account, we can see if someone is following someone and posting the same link. Some spammers use real humans, but we are getting better at tracking that. You can also report spam, and that helps us detect spam.

Guy: How do you stop a false positive? What happens if someone reports you because they disagree with you?

Vic: Actually very few people do that. But even if they do that we don’t take just one signal. We use multiple ways to see what’s abuse. If we get a false positive, you can ask us to restore. We take that very seriously and trace everything back to the point of origination.

Guy: Is there going to be a Google+ edgerank?

Vic: If someone is following you, if they click on a circle, we always show everything. The only place we do ranking is the stream view letting you have control with the slider.  We think this helps Google better understand what’s important to you.

Audience questions: Google gives you the ability to correct what you know about us?

Vic: Yes, you can go into your profile and change settings.

Q: Identity, support for pseudonyms?

Vic: Yes, we are working to support those.

Q: How do you know that Guy is Guy?

Vic: Today we have a rudimentary system, a celebrity for example we use out of bant (or band) systems to verify that. We are working on more scalable solutions of stronger identify for those that want that. But we won’t have that for a while.

Q: There is a new Google reader by hivemind which popped up because of lack of sharing.

Vic: There are communities that get passionate behind a product, but when you shut it down it can cause difficult decisions.

Q: Commercial intent, it’s the filter for advertising why not on YouTube?

Vic: Answer, historically Google services were siloed, so our advertisements will get better everywhere, including Youtube because of data we have from Google+

Q: Hangouts, why are you building them they must be expensive.

Vic: We looked at video conferencing. Why don’t families connect?

1. Expensive, ok, we make it free.

2. Complicated, using software and hardware, we made ours browser.

3rd is Social, what if someone rejects you? You won’t go to neighbor and knock on door to say “hi”. But 2 or 3 people on the porch and you feel compelled to walk up to them and say hi. In circles, if there’s 2-3 people, and people go to the hangout because there are people there, that stimulates usage of Hangout. We provide hangout free.

We want Google to empower passionate people to do amazing things.

Vic: Social annotation of an ad. If a friend of yours in the circle plus one’s an ad, like a charity for clean water, and you see it, you are more likely to click the ad. We are seeing click through rate are higher by 5-10% increase in CTR.

And with that the session ends!

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