Web Directions South 2014: Building trust

Trust between team members is essential to create great products,according to Google UX designer Johnny Mack.

He works with the Chrome team at Google.

“For me, in order to do great work, I had to bring the best of myself to the team, and I wasn’t able to do that unless i could work through the stick parts that come up when people get tougher to make things,” he says.

“Designers have an instinct to get their hands dirty right away and it takes a lot to take a step back to think lets set ourselves up to succeed.

“Rather than just jumping straight into the work how can I create a team dynamic where great work is going to happen.”

Mack talks about early in his career, when he was working in a large team, which featured lots of engineers and product managers, and they were of the opinion that they were setting the high level goals for the project, and the job of the designer just to make that pretty.

Naturally Mack was incredibly frustrated. So he started a side project, with three other people, where there was no clear defining of roles. Taking part in two design projects, that were worlds apart, gave him a unique insight into what it takes to build a great team, and in turn great products. Here are some of his observations.


Main team: there was no way to deal with conflict, no mechanisms in place where we could disagree, we’d have designer pushing for one thing, and engineers on another thing, and it would end up like a holy war.

Side project: we disagreed, but we figured out a way to work through it, debates without resorting to personal attacks, or being too stubborn We were able to disagree and that made a huge difference.


Main team:  no effort to meet each other.

Side project: All different interests, not much in common, but tried to get to know each other anyway. We figured out ways to find  common ground, a common language, where we could relate to each other. And even though it was obvious we were all trying hard, that went really far.


Main team: there was a hierarchy, it was top down. A lot of product decisions were made behind closed doors. As a consequence it was hard to know exactly what was going on, which created a lot of distrust.  There was a thought among the designers, if they could just view it our way, we’d make a great product. And I think the product mangers felt the same way.

Side project: everyone was a stakeholder. More transparency, and there were conversations when a member was pushing an agenda too far. We all felt we were making something together that was better than anything we could build on our own.

While some of those observations might seem obvious, Mack says, what wasn’t obvious to him was the things that went into creating a great team, like the one he had working on the side project.

While investigating how to create great teams, he came across Bruce Tuckman, a former Navy researcher who suggests there are four key elements to teamwork.

Forming: gathering info about the team, about the project, start to agree on high-level goals, what you guys are all here to do. Nobody is really debating, nobody is really arguing. it’s important because people are feeling each other out.

Storming: This is all about conflict. The team has built up enough initial trust, they start to feel comfortable expressing different points of view. They open up about how they feel and challenge other peoples opinions. This can be a difficult period for a team to go through, Mack says. Especially for people that are averse to conflict. But it’s an important phase to facilitate growth.A lot of teams don’t really move past this stage, he says. They get kind of stuck here.

Norming: This is when the team’s identity starts to emerge. The team starts to fall into how they are going to be. High level goals start to become more clear. This is when people start to disagree and commit.

Performing: All the members of the team are now autonomous, they’ve developed a really big knowledge of the space they’re in, and they can work with less oversight from managers. This is where the best work happens, Mack says, you’re making relationships that are really meaningful and really lasting.

The common thread among people collaborating well, whether it’s artists, musicians, developers and designers, is trust Mack Says. And it’s important to have a plan to build trust, from the very beginning of any project.

Web Directions South 2014: Being Human in a digital world.

Good morning and welcome back to StartupSmart’s Web Directions South 2014 live blog. Getting day two of the conference underway is Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell.

She’s going to be reflecting on what she’s learnt during 15 years of studying human beings and they way they use technology.

What she suggests is that, while technology is changing, there’s a number of things about what makes us human that remain steady, and profoundly shape what makes a particular product successful.

Family: Humans are social creatures and that has not changed, she says. The need for humans to have friends and family is remarkably enduring. If you can appeal to this notion of social, you’ll be successful. Think the telephone, Vine, Facebook, Instagram and the like.

Shared values : The early stories of eBay as a group of people who collected Pez dispensers. What makes Pinterest successful, its how Tumblr works.

Meaning beyond our individual lives: In the 20th century that’s been nationalism and religion. She suggests that there are ways we now talk about ideologies that resemble this. 100 year ago we would have argued about ideas of freedom and democracy. Women in many countries around the world spoke about the right to vote. The hash tagging of Twitter is a way for people to identify with a cause bigger than themselves and give themselves meaning beyond themselves.

We need to use stuff to talk about who we are: Whether it’s the technology you choose to use. The cars you drive, the clothing choices you make. There is something about the way we choose to use objects, most of them physical, but also to talk about ourselves. But even which services do you use, what apps do you use, what OS do you use?

We need to keep secrets and tell lies: It turns out the average human being tells between 60 and 200 lies a day. This is sometimes not about the deliberately manipulate, but the things we say not to hurt other peoples feelings. Take Snapchat, Secret, Whisper or Bitcoin.


In addition to those stable attributes of humanity, Bell says she there’s also a number of attributes that make us human that are constantly in flux.


Humans need to bored and want to be surprised: Bell says and there’s a long history of technology providing both. But delivering surprises is difficult, particularly with the trend of algorithms that show us content we want. One of the ideas of the Internet of Things is your phone knows if you like coffee, and what time you woke up. But what if instead of suggesting a coffee it pointed you in the direction of some wonderful public art that would challenge, surpise you and make you think. And then after that somewhere great to get coffee.

We also want to be different to one another: There are many different internets on the right now. The reality is there is always this tension between everyone wanting to have a shared set of values and people wanting to be desperately different to one another.

People want to feel time: While technology works best connected. But humans work best when they are disconnected. But technology doesn’t know that, and as such tends to interrupt our times of disconnect.

Finally Bell says we need to be forgotten. We want to not always want to be remembered. For cultures that desperately seek immortality and remembrance, it turns out we need the capacity not to remember. Psychologically we also need the ability to forget and be forgotten. There’s something concerning that technology has the potential to record and archive every single moment of our lives. That need to be forgotten is hard to thread through a world where everything we’re doing is being captured. Sometimes we want the ability to reinvent ourselves and its hard to do that in the world we’re heading towards.

The reality is there are new technologies that are new and novel that preoccupy us all right now. but there sales things that make us human, for an incredibly long time that really move really slowly. There seems to be things that are moving really slowly. Some things that make us human very stable, and some things that make us human that have been in flux forever.

To make successful tech aiming for those stable attributes is a good bet, but there’s also needs those changing attributes, which present challenges that technology, up until this point, has yet to address.

Web Directions 2014: Twitter’s Erin Moore on design for real time

Twitter senior UX designer Erin Moore gives her thoughts on how important it is to understand the concept of time and it’s relationship with design.

“When I ask how do we design for real time, what i’m really asking is how do we design for real life,” she says.

“In all of life’s objectivity and all it’s flexibility, includes, but is much greater than our computational processing speeds.”

Moore says these questions are important because developers and designers create the experiences that will shape the way people experience time with their products.

The tools and products need to be efficient, but they also need to be meaningful.

Designing for real time experiences means bridging the gap between how something works and how something feels, she says.

“It’s really exciting,” she says. “It’s the bridge that makes design valuable. “

Clocks offer at best a convenient fiction. They were powerful because what they allowed people to do. If a product doesn’t inspire action, they became meaningless, Moore says.

“We have to factor in how theses experiences feel.”

Regardless of how difficult it might be to quantify.

“This is the side of things we have a much harder time getting our heads around. We don’t have a  word to describe this.”

As there’s no quantifiable data that explains how people feel about something, designers must fill in the gap.

They need to design for the slippery world of perception.

She gives an exmaple of US telveision show House of Cards, and how it became the first TV Show that wasn’t released to a schedule.

House of Cards was the first televisions experience that recognise that time could be slippery and flexible. And they did it by putting it on the internet, making it accessible to people in real time.

Thee creators didn’t prescribe how people should use their product, they let people control their experience of time, and as a result the people paid attention.

They spent time watching because they thought it was worth it, because they were looking forward to it, because it was meaningful.

Moore says the goal should be to design sunsets. Predictable, precise, measured, repeatable, meaningful experiences.

You have to figure out how something works and what makes it feels great and how to make it feel great again and again and again.

We can create systems, buttons, screens, business and systems that bridge gaps, enter into peoples lives, changes experiences and

The pertinent question is what to people want to do with their time and how do they want to use it. How can we ensure that their time is well spent. And how can the answer to that question be applied to our products.

To help do this developers can use a formula like following:

In order for people to feel… we must build an experience that …. some was we could achieve that are… and in order to do that we do to..

In doing so developers and designers need to remember that while time is a predictable and measurable experience, it’s also completely un quantifiable.

We need to be masters of mechanics, but also be able to package those mechanics in a way  that provides people with the best possible experience, Moore says.

Web Directions 2014: Younghee Jung on user research. Open for open questions.

Next up we’ve got Younghee Jung, head dreamer for Nokia’s product marketing team. What does that mean? She provides ideas, inspiration and strategy for new mobile products tailored for developing markets.

Jung is sharing a few points about planning user research, which she’s learnt from her 14 years at Nokia.

She says there is often many many expectations in big corporations when tasked with user research.

But it’s usually impossible to cater for all those requests, because combinations just don’t work.

As such research planning becomes an interaction design challenge. Trying to keep people engaged and answering questions, while remembering the goals of stakeholders.

User research results especially for the early stage of product develop, have a long life afterwards, Jung says.

Providing the best tool for expression is the single most important step for research. During Jung’s research, she encountered a group of testers in a developing market, who were not comfortable with pen and paper. It was important to provide blackboard and chalk, tech they were more familiar with, and coins, to help express value attribution.

An example of the importance of testing that Jung provides, is from her experience conducing testing for Nokia in India. The problem she was investigating was regarding the use  of text messages  in native indian languages on mobile devices. India has 22 official languages with different scripts.

Nokia worked on a new mobile, with Hindi script on the buttons, but found that one of the reasons many consumers were buying mobiles with english input, because that implied they could speak English. The product was eventually discontinued.

She says it was not quantitative data, but the emotional arguments of various users, and how they felt about the solution that convinced the product team to believe in their new product line, affordable touch screen devices.

Another important part of user research is honesty, Jung says.

“Honest is a really difficult one in user research, because your results really depend on it, but you often don’t really know if they’re telling the truth,” she says.

“This sounds lame, but you really need to follow your gut instinct to see if you need to help people feel comfortable enough to say their era opinions.”

While researching in India, Jung says she was faced with this problem when meeting with farmers, to research a product for Nokia – they were too polite. Concerned she wasn’t hearing anything negative, she divided the farmers into two groups, encouraging them to debate particular statements. That debate provided a way in which the farmers would feel then could voice their negative opinions about the product in a socially acceptable manner.

User research should also be set to expect the unexpected, Jung says. This is particularly important to help researchers find out about issues they are completely unaware of.

Finally Jung says it’s important to always look at the forest over the trees and focus on the bigger. It’s not very easy to interpret the results, but it’s important for researchers to analyse any extra insights from seemingly inconsistent responses.

Before setting on the path of research, Jung says an important question must be asked first, do you really need user research, or is more design exploration or a stronger  belief in your direction what’s really required.

Web Directions South 2014: Opening keynote Matt Webb on IoT

Good morning and welcome to StartupSmart’s live blog from Web Directions 2014.

Getting the conference underway is Blerg co-founder Matt Webb.

He says his goal for the talk this morning will be to explore the fundamental connectivity of all things, to look at some new ideas in IoT.

“We’re entering an era of slightly smart things, or the era of the Internet of Things,” he says.

“How do we relate to that complexity without it overwhelming us? How do we speak to something that is not human?”

Webb says, everything is a little bit alive.. even fridges.

The Internet of Things is happening all around us, and it’s being made by individuals and small companies, and not the incumbents, although some of those too.

“The network is the new electricity, what we’re seeing now with connected networks is the 21st century equivalent of electrification,” he says.

Webb came up with that idea when he was in Slough in West London, at a railway station. He encountered a taxidermy dog on display in a glass box called Station Jim. 100 years ago station dim would raise money for charity, doing many things, including smoking a pipe. He was was loved so much by the public that when he died they stuffed him and put him in a box on platform 5.

“It’s very British,” Webb says.

Naturally he tweeted about his encounter with station Jim.

He was quite surprised to get Tweeted back by none other than @stationjim. Who noted Webb was on the better side of the box, and complimented him on his shoes.

“This feeling, when the world comes to life and starts speaking back to you, it’s not about WiFi, bluetooth, or the things that make up the Internet of things, it’s about relationships,” he says.

Suddenly i have this connection with the world that I didn’t have before.

The next stage in the history of electricity is the network, the internet of things.

With network products, the old metaphors that guided the development of the web, particularly “the tyranny of paper”, are not appropriate.

It’s clear to me we’re at the start of something. Whether it’s going to be easier or harder to speak to this new network world, I don’t know.

Our current attempt to live among smart things is pretty crude. Because culture is establish right at the beginning, it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

Is bitcoin already regulated?

Juan Llanos is the EVP, Strategic Partnerships and CTO of Bitreserve and he’s been working in the money transfer industry for the last decade or so in the US.

Llanos left the remittance industry after seeing the writing on the wall. He says when consumers have their devices and they send their money to each other, “we’re going to be out of the picture”. So he tried to innovate inside the company, a move which was met with some resistance and resulted in him leaving the company before eventually joining Bitreserve.


  Which brings us to his speech today, titled ‘Bitcoin and Anti-money Laundering Regulation: Strategies for Successful Compliance and Government relations’. Llanos says entrepreneurs need to approach bitcoin knowing that it is in fact already regulated.

Entrepreneurs want to do something, build, disrupt, innovate but encounter regulations and obligations, and it’s important to understand what they are allowed to do. Particularly in the highly regulated financial services industry.

Llanos says the principle is if you are doing undertaking value transfer across borders, and you’re operating a business, then its a regulated business. Governments in general don’t like anonymous payments, he says.

Anything that is anonymous is going to be fought, targeted and challenged by authorities. He says as a consequence its important to do everything possible in order to comply as well as attempting to convince policy makers to think differently.  

Bitcoin is already regulated by the Financial Action Task Force, an international body which tackles money laundering, and terrorist funding.

Llanos says there’s two huge groups that hate bitcoin, incumbents, those that bitcoin is set to disrupt, and the government.

Initaily their focus was on anti-money laundering, but thanks to developments such as Mt Gox, the focus has switched to consumer protection.

Bitcoin entreprenuers can’t ignore the risks. They must do something about it now, because every single country in the world has a financial intelligence unit that regulates all financial services that pertain to anti-money laundering laws.

He offers up some program design tips.

1. Understand the flow of money and understand the flow of data.

2. Life-cycle management and the right mix of detective and deterrent techniques, including effective training, are key.

3. Document or perish – if its not documented it doesn’t exist. Regulators are going to ask you to provide proof of your efforts to comply.



In addition it’s important to run a compliance program, and ensure you understand people by their transactions, not by who they say they are.

As long as you follow those steps, as well as the normal corporate safeguards, Llanos says “you can face any banker”.

Panel: New ideas in bitcoin

And we’re back with the second half of day 1 at the Inside Bitcoins conference after a brief hiatus during which I chased up a few of the bright Australian bitcoin startups that are in attendance (and checked out some pretty cool 3D printers).

Next up we’ve got a panel discussion on ‘New Ideas in Bitcoin’ featuring helloblock.io co-founder and TipperCoin and Sparecoins creator Scott Li, TagPesa founder Nihial Majok,
co-founder and CEO of Coinjar Asher Tan, CEO of HotwirePE Dr Craig Wright and Leo Treasure a perth based bitcoin advocate and entrepreneur.

The panel will be moderated by entrepreneur Leon Gerard Vandenberg.

After a brief introduction. LGV asks the panel to give a short two minute spiel on what they think is particularly interesting about bitcoin.


Asher: There are lots of interesting technologies built to solve problems. At the moment we can see a lot of existing service providers coming into the digital currency space.

Leo : Trust services, things that remove the barriers to having a trusting relationship on the internet, particularly using the blockchain, look really interesting, particularly counterparty. Using the blockchain for more than just currency.

Scott asks Leo if he thinks bitcoin’s trust issues are overplayed?

He says yes. It’s certainly an area that should be acknowledged. When using bitcoin people really need to know what they’re getting into. Companies that use multi sig escrow will probably win the business. Going forward we can’t have another Mt Gox.

Nihial: Any technology has to be able for people to be effective and at the moment it’s not that available. People who need to use it, up and coming educated young people in East Africa. TagPesa is trying to be an exchange and remittance platform at the same time for those people.

I think when you say new ideas. Old new ideas in new ways to a certain extent. Remittance has been mentioned again and again is a pain point for people that can barely afford it.

Scott: I guess more and more I don’t really drink the cool aid. One of the things I’m critical at is seeing merchants implement bitcoin for no real benefit. He says what is the fundamental value of bitcoin? This is something people don’t like to talk about is the anonymity.

Payments in that area is really where the potential is.

Leo on counterparty: It’s a blockchain 2.0 technology that exists on the bitcoin blockchain. You can issue anything, in the form of an asset, and it exists on the blockchain, it can pay dividends, and there’s no central point of failure, it doesn’t exist in bitcoin.

LVG: What’s the advantage of using blockchain technology?

Craig: It’s a complete history, what it allows you to do is analyse things statistically. THe whole idea of things like an accounting field, will change. It will involve continuous audit, things will monitor to the nanosecond, everything that’s happening over the blockchain.

He says he sees parallels with bitcoin sceptics and those who wondered how search engines would make money in 1994.

Inside Bitcoins keynote: Nicholas Gruen

Welcome to StartupSmart’s Inside Bitcoins live blog.

First up we’ve got Nicholas Gruen founder and CEO of Lateral Economics and chairman of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation. His keynote is titled “Bitcoin: a Public Good Privately Provided.”

He says the focusis not on how to make money from bitcoin (there will be plenty of time for that).

“Here’s a secret,” he says.

“Nobody knows quite what money is.”

Public goods are things that governments have to build because markets won’t supply them. He says the classic example is the lighthouse.

It is not excludable and non rival.

A public good typically has those two characteristics. That’s why most economists think of public goods as a problem.

But some of them are a massive opportunity. Because sharing is good. Once you’ve got this thing it doesn’t do any harm to share.

Google could  have been preoccupied with the freerider problem. But they chose not to do that. These types of goods are goods of opportunity, Gruen says.

Google made a decision that it could make more money by taking a tiny scrap of the benefit that the good provide as a public good, by way of advertising, than taking a much larger share of what it generates by charging a price and locking people out.

The world works with an ecology of public and private goods at all levels.

There are people that think ‘gee wouldn’t it be good if the world was just made of private goods?’

But Gruen says that philosophy does not lead to a happy place.

With Google its service is free and all sorts of people look at it, people are improving google by showing which links it serves up are the appropriate links. The money making that goes on is completely different from something like a beer producer. Google is worth about a trillion dollars a year, but gets by on 60 billion a year in revenue.

Even in a financial sense Google is mostly a public good, Gruen says. And we’ve found this way of making public goods and making money out of some of them.

Linux open source software is a new kind of public good.

A monetary system is a set of social relations.

The Sumerians had no physical coins,  rather a list of record that was essentially a blockchain. That’s at the heart of bitcoin. Money is information and if it’s going to be information it’s no use unless it tells you something and tells you something about the world.

Money is social convention, the understanding of the set of credits and debits that are distributed through the society.

There are two networks that use the same physical infrastructure, the phone and the internet and they’re very different animals.

The phone network is monopolistically competitive. It is effectively built up by a bunch of agreements that says I’ll show you my customers you show me yours.

Those agreements are expensive. The result is things like charging for SMS that don’t cost networks any money to send. Price charge for SMS is more expensive than what it costs to send a similar signals to mars.

This is a huge obstacle to innovation. If that was what we did on the internet we wouldn’t have the explosion of innovation that we see online., because on the net you just plug into the system and it’s available to everyone.

It’s a remarkable new world and what bitcoin is perhaps making possible in the world of money.

So what is bitcoin good for?

These are the things an economics textbook will tell you are the function of money. Medium of exchange, unit of account and a store of value.

Bitcoin’s function is that first one – a medium of exchange.

It originated as a very speculative currency that has very quickly turned into a medium of exchange.

80% of bitcoin is traded within a day of people coming into contact with that bitcoin.


Agile meets Special Forces

Next up we’ve got Curiously founder James Brett and Scott Kinder, CEO and founder of The Kinder Group.

Kinder spent 13 years in the United States military Special Operations community and had combat deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The title of their talk is Agile meets Special Forces – Leadership that lives disruption.

“The most powerful weapon is your mind,” Kinder says, getting the talk underway. “Screw embracing disruption. Create it.”

He goes on to say you’re not a passive participant, you’ve got to be active. 

Brett asks what the common ground between agile corporations and special forces is?  “high performance teams” Kinder answers.  

There are “5 Special Forces Truths” Kinder says.

* Humans are more important than hardware.

* Quality is better than quantity.

* Most special operations require non special forces assistance.

* Special forces teams can’t be mass produced.

* Special forces teams cannot be created after emergencies occur.

Working together Brett and Kinder distilled those truths into rules that can be applied in the corporate environment.  

*Great teams succeed despite the processes.

*Spend your money on fewer, better people.

*Don’t isolate high performance teams.

*Put high performance teams on the right work.

*Envision your capability and build it.

  Kinder says being a special forces team means succeeding because of exhaustive training. The core being of a special forces non commissioned officer or leader is training harder and longer to reach exceptional levels of competency.  


The basics make you special, Brett says.

We’re doing planning, we’re writing user stories. We need to understand what the basics are for us. What are the standard operating procedures you need for your organisations.

Software projects aren’t about technology they’re about people.

You need to look at Agile as a toolbox and select what’s best for you.

Get exceptional at the basics. But the basics don’t win wars. Define your set of principles.

To win the war you need disruptive leadership.

Kinder says the environments for agile companies are similar, they contain volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

The final stage is selection, education and empowerment.

*Don’t select skills and experience.  Look for Ability, adaptability and critical thinkers.

*Education is only as good as retention of education.

*Problem solving.

*People on your team want to feel supported.


  Brett says follOwing the five truths, developing a set of principles and selecting, educating and empowering your staff is how you get your company to develop a high performance team.

REA Group’s Jarrod Scott and Shoaib Shaukat

Successful products are not an accident according to REA Group product managers Shoaib Shaukat, and Jarrod Scott.



How to create successful products? Scott says they don’t believe they’re experts, rather advocates of the Measure and Learn approach and are constantly looking at ways to improve the way they work.

Scott grew up a fan of Tetris, and he says Tetris is in many ways a great analogy for product development. Sometimes there’s one simple solution, but more often than not that’s not the case, and the game is changing quickly.

We want to make sure each of those journeys are fully supported fully understood and solve the need in the right way,

Our ability to cope with change is really what defines the product development process.

Always looking to understand and learn more. When looking at new markets and new opportunities we quite often say we know nothing about this.

All the way through the planning stage we want to test and learn what approach is best.

For us, when we do actually get into the discovery phase, our approach is governed by a desire to understand and ultimately fulfil needs.

This involves understanding markets. Anticipating change. Identifying constraints. Prioritizing needs. State hypothesis.

Scott says REA Group separating needs from wants through co-creation. An offline process that takes about 2-3 hours. It brings stakeholders together in a single room, often from very different stakeholder groups and gets them to work on a problem together.

Shaukat says REA Group tries to understand the needs of interested parties, not necessarily the requirements they have, in order to understand the sweetspot where they can add more value. Then they apply the financial constraints.

He says they produce a one page product canvas which gives a sense of direction without giving all the answers.

Scott says it’s important to be learning in market. You don’t want to be guessing, you want to be learning from your end users. You want to be able to go to market with a story about what you’ve already learned.

Shaukat says its easy enough to do provided a company has the right culture and its REA’s culture that has made it possible.

Scott says there are some key takeaways about how Measure and Learn drives success. He says it involves being purposeful, having a supportive culture, understanding needs and context, designing to learn, and being in market.