November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

Continue reading

Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, games, Niantic, User eXperience | Comments Off on Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO
September 27

Easter Eggs of a bygone era

I’ve been thinking of Easter Eggs I miss lately. Versions of software I’ve worked on where my name pops up on the second or third screen of contributors. A set of doors that would pop open when you closed them in a certain sequence at one place I worked (yes, like the West Wing episode).

But my favorite was in one of the original versions of the Apple Remote for the iPhone. If you hit the key sequence on the remote just right, (okay, fine, if you hit replay) you could put on a movie to play over and over and over again.

I loved it because I could put on a movie to fall asleep to. If I woke up, it’d still be on and I could drift back off. Handy to have before I got a white noise setup.

I kept hoping it’d be expanded, and you could use it to set up a playlist of shows or movies to just run.

Sadly, it’s now gone. I think the fourth or fifth update, someone nuked it. I can sort of understand why, and with the newer AppleTVs running iOS now, it might not have been long for this world, but it’s still something that might be useful. Set up a couple of episodes of this or that, let it run and repeat, especially for home movies. Truly an edge case scenario, but one that was pretty useful on nights when sleep was helped by a soothing replay of an old favorite movie.

Category: Apple, User eXperience | Comments Off on Easter Eggs of a bygone era
September 23

Break Fast. Learn Things.

Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERT What is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.

A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).

My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …

But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.

image of a woman pretending to be a stopsign
When you trick or treat in a neighborhood populated with self-driving cars …
Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Break Fast. Learn Things.
July 8

I love a (dragon) parade …

Dear Backflip: Nice code update! I can run Dragonvale on an older iPhone without a lot of crashing.

However … you need a clear button for the dragon parade. I’d like to be able to kick them all when I’ve maxxed my ring count for the day.

Dragonvale Parade screen shot from the iOS app
I … love a parade.


Edit: They did! Thanks for “righting” this!

Category: fix it already, Free Beta Testers, games, User eXperience | Comments Off on I love a (dragon) parade …
May 22

Lego, Lego, everywhere ….

This came across my LinkedIn feed as a “like” from a colleague a few weeks ago.

As I learn more about how I learn and my kids learn and the world and learning turns into “everyone is a YouTube star” these days, I find little shares like this great. We’re coming up with new ways to learn things, to teach things, and to reach people.

And I’m not so much talking about YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Minecraft and Project Spark and, and, and … but the underlying Internet. People can reach across the world with new ideas and share things in a way I never had as a kid. Inspired teachers came from “somewhere” (probably other inspired teachers) and if you were lucky you got one or two in your school career.

And even those without Internet are feeling the effects. Memes become tee-shirts and bags and books and television shows.

Knowledge is an infection. Feed the disease. 🙂

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May 2

What a drag it is getting old

I’ve been yapping about the new Apple TV lately; mostly because I’ve been the one using the remote. Usually I just watch everyone else struggle with it and complain. And we aren’t all that old! Though we’re getting there.

It’s not that we fear change

Yeah, I hate it when things change. I was a diehard Windows 98 user. For a while you were not getting me away from WindowsXP. I still have Office 2003 installed on this very Windows 7 laptop. It really took a lot of being annoyed to recently request I have Office 2013 installed on my work computer if we ran out of other ways to fix the problem. And I got annoyed enough at “live photos” that I deactivated it as soon as I realized why my pictures were all “screwed up”.

But we aren’t all exactly like whomever is beta testing the hardware over at Apple’s main nerve center.

I realized this because I actually had to dig up and use the Apple TV remote to test my last couple of posts on this subject. “Dig up” because I don’t actually use it. We programmed the Apple TV to accept commands from my “dumb” IR TV remote.

Then I lost my “dumb” remote. Maybe with practice and no other options, I can learn to use the slick new Apple TV remote, but I really dislike the design and current use enough that I really don’t want to.

Annoying! The Apple TV remote is annoying.

Honestly, if I hadn’t been able to program the Apple TV to accept data from my “dumb” remote, I probably would never use the Apple TV at all. I’d watch things on my phone or read a book.

But if Apple follows my suggestions (or takes them and turns them into something even amazingly more funderful), we also have to remember the dumb remotes.

Just like one can set the click speed on a mouse or the touch sensitivity/help on an iPhone, do it on the Apple TV, too. For all kinds of remotes.

Siri, help me set up my remote

So you’ve done a few things to let us customize our experience, Apple, because you read my first two posts and shifted your agile teams into high gear to get right on it. Like one in fifty nerdly geeks have programmed in our favorite shortcuts and you have lots of data. Take that data, and use it to build onramp protocols for Siri to use.

Guide a user through a friendly questionnaire at first, to set up the most basic functions. If they want to “expand it”, walk through setting up long clicks or assistive clicks. Then, no matter what remote they use, (annoying Apple TV one, “dumb” IR remote, or their iPhone/iPod) they have a non annoying experience.

Don’t let Siri guess too hard

But don’t push it too far. Don’t let the “AI” style programming make all the decisions. Feel out what your users want, and ease them into it. It’s been about twenty years since someone taught me how to dial a cell phone (type in the number, press the green “send” button). I don’t like being told “this is the only way to do this”, but I also know we can’t fall into the trap of infinite customization. In that way lies madness … and I spent enough years trying to wrangle the madness of infinite customization into mere user guides for mere mortals.

Category: Apple, Free Beta Testers, hardware, User eXperience | Comments Off on What a drag it is getting old
April 28

Next on my list, Apple … UNDO! UNDO!

The night after I wrote up the post about looping us nerdy geeks into customizing our Apple TV software and doing all kinds of beta testing for your UX team, I fell asleep to a movie. Not too unusual; my days have been long as we get more sun and a great movie can help me wind down after a particularly productive day.

The next time I opened Apple TV ….

It wanted to show me my movie again. Which can be cool. I’m the kinda nerdling that can watch the same movie a couple times in a row. But getting out of the movie screen was …


Many many clicks, many many things. I could enumerate the steps but it’d require me falling asleep to Interstellar tonight. And remembering to amend this post in the morning. No thanks.

How about this?

  1. Click to wake up the Apple TV.
  2. Long-click the menu (reverse last order) button to pop all the way out back to the home screen.

Or double-click. Or triple click! Or whatever else I customize and record.

Just like last time, it would make this user happy. And it would make the process designer in me ecstatic. All those Apple TVs out there, and one in what, fifty super user geeks like me making their own design decisions? I can imagine getting my hands on that kind of data as a UX person: How the super user geek uses the Apple TV to improve the design for all users.

Come on, Apple. Give us some code! Beta nerds, beta testers, rah, rah, rah!


*I know that a lot of the architecture is very response based — so a lot of my ideas may not even be implementable. I’d have to crack open an SDK (if there is one) to even see if there’s an appropriate call and response or way to queue up commands so they aren’t “lost” as the Apple TV box takes its time loading up the right screen via the internet ….

Category: Apple, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Next on my list, Apple … UNDO! UNDO!
April 25

The JawboneUP doesn’t wake me any more

I bought the original JawboneUP. And held onto it while they retooled it, and made it last until the second generation of sturdier stuff became available (trading back my old one).

Then came UP24. Neat! Bluetooth! Kind of annoying at times, but otherwise neat. Until it died.

I wasn’t going to buy another one; I went back to the second UP, waiting for UP2 and UP3.

I bought the UP3 and returned it immediately when I heard it wasn’t quite all baked. Not that I needed to know my heart rate, but still … why not wait until it was better?

And last month, I bought an UP2. I gave it a week, but ultimately returned it.

I do like that each generation is more sensitive to my sleep patterns (and I like to track my numbers and see if things I do improve it). But the UP2 doesn’t work for my heavy sleeping.

It’s too easy to turn off and fall right back asleep. What am I going to do when all the “old” UP hardware is too far gone and I don’t have the lovely “shake awake” feature that wakes me and not my bed partners anymore?

Category: hardware, User eXperience | Comments Off on The JawboneUP doesn’t wake me any more
April 22

Waze should have laughed at me.

The privacy-aware side of me was a bit freaked out the first time my phone decided to let me know that if I left for work right now I’d probably be on time.

Information my phone gives me
“Shouldn’t you be heading out soon?”

It knew, though it didn’t know why, that I tended to do a weird morning routine. Loop through the school parking lot at 7:10, drive to the grocery store at 7:15 and park, do a loop-de-loop around the school parking lot again at 8:10, before finally heading into work by 9:00. Fuh-reak-y.

But carrying around a cell phone is a walking, talking, data-collecting elephant to begin with. What’s a little more data? That useful part of it makes the data and usability nerd in me happy.

Hyper-Realtime Traffic Info

I got to thinking about the head to head race I had this Easter Sunday. I was thinking about it as I was running errands at lunch, my usual use of that hour. Did I have time, I asked Waze, to skedaddle west eight miles and south ten miles to pick up paperwork from a medical office?

Waze assured me in it’s non-judgemental way that I’d be held up by rail crossing closures and heavy lunch time traffic. And, oh yeah, a huge festival (one of what, 50 this year?) that had a major arterial road blocked off for at least half a mile. I might make it ….

What it didn’t tell me, but I remembered in time, is that the office closes every day for lunch. I put that errand off for another day.

But what if Waze was hooked into NAP data, too?

I gave Waze the address of the place I wanted to go by sending it information I dug by hand from my contacts list. But what if I were able to send that info automatically? And put hours into my contact information for someone? Say, that the office opens at 9am and closes from 12:30 to 1:45 for lunch? We could Waze could read that, too, and then laugh at me tell me I was attempting a fool’s errand.

Or even better; if Waze was hooked into Google’s NAP data, with open and shut times? I wonder if it even supports “siesta” times? It’d be darn helpful if it did.

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Google, User eXperience | Comments Off on Waze should have laughed at me.
April 19

Organic Bouquet, why can’t I quit you?

This email was sent by: Organic Bouquet
555 Winderley Place Suite 129 Maitland, FL, 32751, USA

You were sent this message because you previously expressed interest in Organic Bouquet or Organic Style. If you no longer wish to receive our e-mail advertisements, simply unsubscribe.

Please do not reply to this e-mail as we are not able to respond to messages sent to this address. For further questions, please email

I’ve got about 300 emails not yet deleted, dating back to 2011. Every few months I click “unsubscribe” and it tells me I’ve unsubscribed and how sorry they are to see me go.

And then a few days later, I get another email ….

I’ve called. I’ve emailed. I’ve clicked to unsubscribe.

Organic Bouquet, why can’t I quit you?

Image of a long list of emails from Organic Bouquet.
National Smoke & Mirrors day, you say?
Category: fix it already, User eXperience | Comments Off on Organic Bouquet, why can’t I quit you?