James Governor's Monkchips

Kathy’s Idea meet Bill’s, Bill’s meet Kathy’s: On Idea Splicing and Attention Economics

Share via Twitter Share via Facebook Share via Linkedin Share via Reddit

——warning: this blog has little if anything to do with enterprise systems—————
This interweb thing is pretty cool. There are, like, all these people out there talking about stuff. They don’t know each other but sometimes their ideas inform one another. It’s pretty neat. The ideas end up talking to each other, if someone makes an introduction, a link. Even if the people don’t meet, their ideas do. This is, like, better than a library. Its nearly as good as a pub.
Anyway, terrible intros aside, I couldn’t help but mentally tag some associations between Kathy Sierra and Bill Scott’s blogs yesterday when I was reading though them. That is, I did some thlinking.
What do “interest”, “UI design”, “story-boarding” and “courseware” have in common? Let’s see what I can point to.
Bill Scott is helping to build better user interfaces as an Ajax Evangelist at Yahoo.
The other day he had an intriguing post, Storyboarding Interesting Moments, about the language used in web design. It’s really not so interesting talking about “event states”. So, what about an alternative?
Recently, I was at a talk where Nate Koechley presented about the new vocabulary of user experience in the world of Rich Internet Applications. He used the term Interesting Moments (which was coined by Eric Miraglia) to describe the event states within an interaction that are points of user engagement or interest.
I love interesting moments.
Kathy Sierra is shaking up the world of technology training by jumping in headfirst. She writes one of my favourite blogs- Creating Passionate Users, which is all about how to create kick ass experiences so users get jazzed about what you do for them, so they keep coming back for more, and tell everyone how great you are.
Yesterday she wrote about training courses- but is it interesting?  
the word “interesting” doesn’t even set the bar very high–it’s the word we use when we can’t think of anything complimentary to say. “He is…well…interesting” or “Hmmm… interesting perspective.” The words we actually wanted to use in the checklist were compelling and engaging, but we thought interesting would be an easier sell.

But even if he’d left “Is it interesting?” in, I now realize that many people would automatically check it off without really stopping to consider whether something really is interesting. Or that people would assume that given a certain context, “interesting” is irrelevant. Think about it. Even if your actual product is interesting (but still, stop and ask yourself if that is really true), do you have docs, FAQs, specs, articles, learning/support blogs, etc. that are NOT interesting? Should they be?

Of course they should. And I can’t help thinking about building training and technical documentation as a UI issue, and vice-versa. After all, poor documentation is a barrier to entry. So, of course, is a poor UI.

Bill and Kathy’s ideas meet in the concept of storyboarding. Bill says:

Thinking of storyboarding interesting moments within an application, an interaction, or a widget simplifies our thinking.

It actually turns event states inside out and focuses them instead on the user. It asks the question, “What is interesting to our user?” and “What is needed to engage them (invitations) and aid them (feedback) through our story?”

The designer becomes a director. Kathy gives some pointers to increase and create interesting moments: 

* Surprise, novelty, the unexpected

* Beauty

* Stories

* Conversation

* Emotionally touching (the whole kids and puppies thing)

* Counterintuitive failures or mistakes

* Fun, playfulness, humor

* Varying visuals

* Faces of people, especially with strong expressions

* Sounds, music

* Shock, creepy things

and of course…

* Sexiness

One fairly straightforward way to make documentation/training/articles interesting is to crank up four sliders Conversation, Variety, Visuals, and Story.

What does this mean for RedMonk, or your business or service? What is our/your UI? Are the potential interaction and entry points “interesting”? I think this question is something we all need to work on in 06: how do we create interesting moments?
Interesting moments foster attention which drives revenue.
How does attention drive revenue? Just ask David Beckham or Kate Moss (even negative attention drives money, sometimes more money, into your pocket) or any of those popstars that have no discernible talent but do have a multimillion dollar marketing budget about the relationship between attention and money. Paris Hilton is the acme of the mainstream attention economy. Attention directly drives money, its as simple as that. The more attention RedMonk gets the more in demand our services are. RedMonk could give away all our content and if it meant more people knew who we were we would make more money in the long run. But you have to be interesting… 
I could argue this blog is an exercise in Bloom’s Taxonomy. I certainly like the idea of ideas that bloom and subsequently bear fruit. It would be great to think a blog about training courseware could impact on Yahoo’s user interface design, especially if I had been involved in introducing the ideas to one another. This blog might even introduce the people behind the ideas.
And that is, like, The Conversation in a nutshell: what story are you telling and how can you be more interesting to people? And what would a creepy event state look like?


  1. I can give you at least one example of a creepy event state.

    When your program compiles the first time, no syntax errors. And then runs correctly. The first time.

    That’s creepy.

    Finding out that the computer knows things about you that you didn’t know yourself is creepy, too. An example of this is Amazon’s temptation box.

  2. stephen says that is *really* creepy!

  3. Thanks James. Besides being a Maven, you are an excellent Connector (guess you have read the Tipping Point, right?)

    One of the things we are striving for within Y! is providing more delight in our interfaces. The tie-in is that interesting moments are the opportunities for engagement.

    I completely agree with Kathy that our goal is not to make an interesting interface, but instead to create a sense of wow, delight and love. Or in other words make passionate users.

  4. maven and connector? you want to see my sales technique, man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *