December 29, 2016

Happy Holidays

Have a peaceful end of 2016

While 2016 has been a very quiet blog year for me, there has of course been, as always, a lot going on - and that's exactly how I like it, having a lot on my plate is what makes me tick, what makes me happy and what makes me who I am. 

The holiday period is however a time for reflections and peacefulness, at least for me - sure, as always (when I'm not travelling) I spend a lot of time in front of the computer but I also try and get some reading done, try and eat well and try and not have much planned. That I have successfully managed also this Christmas, and for that I am grateful. 

I hope you have had an equally peaceful time, regardless of what holiday you celebrate, or even if you just enjoy time off and the lights. 

And even though it is late, Happy Holidays and enjoy the last few days of 2016.

November 10, 2016

GDG - what an amazing community

More to be proud of

I wrote a post about the proudest moment, as I feel it is important to not give up but to remember the good things that are out there, working towards change, supporting strong people, and especially now, in today's world, supporting minorities, women, and young people wanting to change.

There is more that I am proud of. Another thing I am incredibly proud of is being part of GDG, Google Development Group.

Together with other organisers in the DACH region we organise tech events, and not only that, we get involved in events others set up. Being part of the DroidConDE organisation and what's going on around Droidcon two years in a row, if only at the days if the event - another thing that I am proud of.  I wouldn't even have known about it if it wouldn't have been for GDG.

I am one of the organisers of GDG Düsseldorf, the chapter in Düsseldorf and together with our members we organise tech talks every month - you can find us on Meetup .

November 09, 2016

The proudest moment

Continue to learn and remember to reflect. 

About a week ago I was asked by someone to describe my proudest moment, when it comes to work.

One of the most proud moment is, without any doubt, the teenagers I ran onto in Düsseldorf, teenagers who came up to me, gave me a High Five, and wanted to talk about workshop they had attended. Months after the actual workshop. 

I don't think there is anything as rewarding as feeling that you have managed to reach out, that you have triggered something in someone that made them reflect and to think more about something. I had been working with EgoUpdate, an exhibition, together with the rest of the team at NRW-Forum hosting workshops and tours. The exhibition, EgoUpdate, was about identity, notion of self, and social media, with selfies, youfies and more - and it as in the workshops connected to this exhibition that I met the teenagers who, months later, came up to me and wanted to continue the discussion. If the world was full of engaged, fascinated/fascinating people like this, people open for discussion. 

Noting to do with my IT career, at least not in a direct way. 

And absolutely a moment that made me incredibly proud.  I love working with people, also in my IT roles, that is what is most important - the people. Reaching people - incredible. 

I have been involved in so many different types of projects, business improvement projects, changing ERP systems, site moves, starting/opening new locations, design projects, move to cloud and so forth, and I always had the luxury of working with very strong and productive teams - there is a lot to be proud of there, proud of what we achieved as a team. 

November 08, 2016

Spread love

 - about leadership in the digital age

A post about not using the language of the bully but about finding our own language.

I had the luxury of attending TEDxBerlin today, November 8.

I was here for something else but I happened to get a ticket for TEDxBerlin. Topic suited me well: 

Leading in the Digital Age. 

They were all good  talks, but there were a couple that stood out even more.

Kübra Gümüsay talked about internet trolls and bullies, a hot topic not just November 8 but in today's world.

 The title of the TEDxBerlin Talk? Organised Love, a talk about Internet hate and how to break the pattern and push our own agenda - about organised love, about showing what kind of world we want. The TEDx talk did really strike a chord because of all the discussions I have had lately, not the least in the tech area, around diversity, around online forums.

We need to create an environment of trust, where everyone feel comfortable to express themselves and discuss - especially important to me, I believe this to be absolutely critical to achieve success - of any kind. The speaker, Kübra Gümüsay (link to her twitter account), is a well known journalist and blogger in/from Germany, who fights racism, discusses feminism, populism and is involved in politics - in short, someone who can really make a difference, and she does' all the time, because, as she said:
"Silence in the face of hatred is approval"  
We cannot sit quiet, we have to respond, and Kübra Gümüsay made a very important point: WE choose HOW we respond - constructive, or just by cleaning up and defending. She suggests that from now on, let it be about love, let us push a different agenda, set an example, lead. Kübra Gümüsay suggested organised love as an antidote against Internet hate, turning a bad situation into something positive. The TEDx talk did to me what a TEDx talk is supposed to do - it made me think.

October 28, 2016

Why? And five of them...

Finding the REAL reason

I am convinced we all at some point experienced that something didn't go quite the way we wanted to - and even though we thought we addressed the issue, it either pops up again or we never managed to quite solve it. 

There is no point in mopping up the water if the tap is still running, it is just going to get wet again

Work with solving the root problem, not the Symptom. 

Working in a LEAN environment I am used to asking WHY. Six Sigma training helped underlining this, and so did Lean training. It may also bit of a family trait, we analyse, and like to get to the very bottom of things. I can't help but wonder if that's because I come from a big family and with a lot of children around, you always hear "Why"... We are simply used to it - maybe not so strange that all of us ended up in IT, Lean environment, Logistics, Development, Project management... 

There is a recipe, a technique for this, the 5 Why principle.

August 28, 2016

The beauty with Cloud

The beauty of Cloud...

Not only are they amazing formations of condensed water floating around in the sky, creating dramatic views,  protecting us from direct sunlight, sometimes carrying snow or rain - the clouds, visible from far away.

Clouds that with a little bit of imagination can become whole cities, teddy bears, trolls, miners, dragons and tiny little fairies. 

Then there is also the other thing with Cloud. Cloud from an IT perspective. 

Cloud for storage and cloud for running software as a service, SaaS. 

I am not sure how and when it sneaked up on me, the cloud, I think it was just something that happened, over time. I remember being suspicious, and then suddenly realising I was a convinced user without understanding how that happened - a bit like when I started to eat olives - I will tell you about that in a separate post, some other time. 

The cloud was really just sneaking up on me, it just happened. 

It started a long time ago, really - and the first steps was, I guess, storing everything on the server - it just made it easier to both switch computer and to recover from crashes - like that time when me and my poor computer got drenched by a tropical rain. I survived but my computer didn't, another story for another time...  

The support team at work had a spare computer for me a day later, and another two weeks later I had a new computer. All the data intact, just took some effort to set up getting the data that had been synced onto a specific server to sync back with my PC - time consuming because I had so much documents and I had to be on the LAN when I started the full sync - and never the less it was far better than having data stored locally. I was very happy I had insisted on setting my computer up that way, when most of the others had manual backups they did, now and then, to an external hard drive. Not me, I used the server.

No manual work where automation makes sense!  

At home I still stored information locally though, stored it locally and worked with it locally - with backup, but not synced.

August 21, 2016

Santa Cruz has a piece of my heart

Santa Cruz - a city to fall in love with

In May 2016 I was in California for Google I/O , a huge developer conference, where Google presents the latest and the greatest - a conference that started in Mountain View, went to San Francisco only to return to Mountain View again this year. 

I loved it, very inspiring - as you may have gathered from previous posts where I mention talks from I/O. However it was just not attending one of the biggest tech conferences in the world seeing and touching new technology, talk about new ways of getting work done - Firebase functionality for example, and updates to Material Design. However it wasn't just the conference and all the interesting people there that made the trip special, it was also fantastic to be back in California, with the amazing nature - and I also get to catch up with some friends, win-win really!

I learnt a lot from this trip - like I do at every conference, also from the people I meet, not just from the talks and presentations. I also learnt other things. I learnt more about the public transportation and trains in California, and the shuttles (makes me very happy to live in Europe, by the way, we really are lucky with our public transportation here) - and I did transport myself around sans car, without car the whole time I was in California. It is kind of a sport to see if it is doable, and in this case: I really didn't want to be stuck in traffic or try and find parking, and Google had arranged shuttles from the train station as well as from various hotels, so there was no need, at least not during the conference. 

June 30, 2016

UI/UX challenges - decipher that phone number

The user experience - feeling safe

I know. We can't think about everything, especially not when it comes to design - we simply have so much that we take for granted, so many things that are a given for us but may not be for others - read Norman's book "The Design of Everyday Things" if you don't know what I am talking about. We had an interesting discussion at our latest GDG Düsseldorf meetup, after our Accessibility talk, about that.

We also, in our discussion after the talk about how we use different concepts for different audiences - user centred design.  And we should.

Different user groups have different needs, and different expectations

However there are some things that they have  to work regardless of the end user. Some things that are so essential that if no one sees them, sees the problem with them, I just don't know what to think. There are many examples (and I like to collect them - both so i can learn and because they are great as anecdotes for talks).

Below is one example. It is from a bank, but as I don't want to out the bank I didn't use a screenshot, but created my own, and of course these numbers are made-up Hollywood numbers (so don't try and call them).

showing phone number in clear text and one which has been masked and only shows the four last digits
Can you guess the secret number?
The bank, a European bank, sends a text to your phone every time you need to confirm a payment

Great. To be safe, they have made sure they block the main part of the number, the way we do with credit card numbers, and the way we do when we want to show you that "we have your number but we want to keep it safe, so we never display it in clear text".  

June 29, 2016

Accessibility - Usability taken to the next level

Accessibility. It's Usability taken one step further. And it is good business, too

Recently (June 28 2016) I presented at GDG Düsseldorf. I've talked about accessibility before, and I get involved in usability a lot, both when it comes to design and leading/advising on projects. 
It isn't always easy to get the business to understand the impact on the business when you don't consider usability and accessibility - especially not when times are tough and you need to deliver.

However I firmly believe that accessibility is really good for the business. For most businesses. And if you don't think it is for you - well, that's fine, but at least make sure it is because a conscious decision you made and not because you "didn't think about it".  

This is not a tech heavy talk, but more of a generalist talk, to get your attention - and that is completely on purpose. I may build on this and do a more tech heavy talk in the future, but I am also convinced that every developer and every designer is fully capable of finding the information they need - we have a world of knowledge at our fingertips.   It is also not a talk with fancy pictures, and animations - that is the part I do myself when I present.

June 24, 2016

A visit to Berlin and to Droidcon

Last week I attended Droidcon Berlin, a big conference that takes place in every year. Droidcon is focused on Android - as the name would indicate - and is a fantastic opportunity to get together and network and learn more - from amazing speakers to the other participants and from sponsors and companies exhibiting. Droidcon has been running since 2009, and, according to the website, there were 300 participants at the first Droidcon. My first Droidcon was last year, 2015, and that year there were over 800 participants! 2015 was the year  that I really got a bit obsessed with Android - and Droidcon was one of the reasons.

Droidcon has since it started 2009 spread out over the world. from Berlin to UK, to Greece, to Zagreb, to Dubai, to India and many other places - you can read about the history on the Droidcon international website.

Attending conferences is a fantastic opportunity to learn more - for Droidcon about the world of Android. The talks are generally very inspiring and I found especially the talks on Best Practise useful, especially since I am still learning especially coding for the the Android platform - I am not a real coder but one of those with a good technical overview and broad general knowledge, and I do a lot of IT project management and design related stuff. But when it comes to coding for Android I am still learning.

Anyone who has stopped by here before may also have figured out that I am passionate about usability and user experience - so I always try and attend those talks. I also very much enjoyed the keynotes the second day by Joanna Smith from Google, Android Development Yesterday and Today (and maybe tomorrow) - it was a fun walk along memory lane and while it didn't contain any technical details, it was really quite inspiring and a lot of fun. It was recorded and should be on the Droidcon Youtube Channel soon (June 24 2016)

droidcon Berlin 2016

Notice! This photos isn't mine, this is taken at Droidcon, by the Droidcon photographer. I have embedded it, meaning if you click on it you'd get to the channel that it came from and you can flick through the other official photos in the photo stream.

This year I had the luxury of being at Droidcon for three full days, and while the talks were really inspiring and interesting and taught me a lot, I also missed a lot of the ones I had planned to see, talks I will have to catch up on once they are online.

Why did I miss talks?

June 14, 2016

Error messages that one can't dechiper

There has been a lot of activity from my side lately, and I have been setting up accounts and working on webdesigns - quite a lot of fun, once upon a time that's where it all started, and I love to be back.

A street sign saying "slow children"
However, the whole setting up accounts and working with designs raises a lot of usability - well, not concerns, but awareness and thoughts. I want a site, or an app, or whatever it may be, to be as usable as possible, and one of the things I am looking for is error messages and general feedback to the user.

One of the most frustrating things for me personally when I try and set up an account or change an existing account is getting an error messages that I cannot decipher - and there has been a lot of that lately.

Creating a password an I am getting
"Password must contain [xx] number of characters and must contain both numbers and special characters
despite the fact that I already have all those covered - it turned out that I had used the WRONG special characters; There was a limited set of special character I could use. That's fine, I understand that from a coding perspective, but TELL the users which special characters he/she can include! Same goes for letters from foreign alphabets. If the letters have to be from the German or English subset, just make it clear. 

For another account, I had this message popping up:
"Your password cannot include your name or user-ID". 

June 09, 2016

Taiwanese touch - in California!

And in Mountain View I found Taiwan

I was in California recently, for Google I/O, one of the biggest (the biggest?) tech conferences in the world.

Green hills overlooking the Bay AreaIt was great to be back in California, a part of the world I have visited many times before. I am especially fond of the area around San Francisco and San Jose, the whole  Silicon Valley, the nature is amazing here.  I wouldn't actually mind living in California for a while, despite all earthquakes and the ridiculously high prices if I found an interesting job there (although since I am not actively looking in that area that is unlikely to actually happen).

But that's not what I wanted to tell you about!

What I wanted to tell you about was an unlikely meeting. 

One of the days during the weekend I decided to visit the Computer History Museum -  that in itself so interesting that it deserves a separate post if I find the time later - and on the way back to San Jose, where I was staying for the majority of my trip, I stopped by Castro Street to get something to eat- and there,  not far from the  train station, in the heart of Mountain View, I found something that made me immensely happy. 

June 08, 2016

Design for Accessibility

There is a huge market share you may be missing

1 billion people across  the globe, 1 in 7, have some sort of disability, according to this talk from Google I/O 2016.

ONE BILLION people. That is a number so high that I can't understand it. I have no way of visualising that in my head. 1 billion.  I feel the streets of Düsseldorf, Germany can be crowded during Christmas markets and we aren't even 1 million people living here.

At another talk I attended during Google I/O - yes, I was lucky enough to get a ticket - we were told that 20% of Americans will sometime during their life have some sort of disability. July 4 the American population was 321,442,019 people, according to US Census bureau. OVER 321000000. OVER 321 MILLION people. 20 % of that is a LOT of people.

Design for Accessibility. 

Develop for Accessibility.

It pays off. In more than one way. 

Building in accessibility from the start, making sure that people with disabilities can use your app or your website - that is not just nice to do and has a great social impact, it also gives you an edge and an advantage for the future, enabling a bigger market share - not to mention how you enable your employees to continue to contribute even if they would, at some point, face challenges such as impaired vision.

Put accessibility in there together with usability.

Ginny Grant, from Benetech, whom I also was lucky enough to have a long chat with in Mountain View, starts by giving us some very clear advice (notice that I have just summarised - listen to the talk!):
  • Start early. Think about accessibility as early as you can. 
  • Look for all the design standards
  • Think about "POUR"
She also gives some very concrete examples on how to test for accessibility:
Turn the volume down. Turn down the monitor. Use an oven mitten to try and navigate. 

June 04, 2016

Sustainability Conference in Düsseldorf - Sustainica

There are few things I care about as much as about sustainability

Well, that would be usability and accessibility.

Sustainability is really important. It's the only thing that matters in the long run, because if we overall fail in the sustainability field - well, then there isn't much point in worrying about anything else. 

Orange poppy, close-up, illustrating environment
There are a lot of discussions on what's best for the environment and how to do things: Bio fuel is better for the air quality but since much of it is palm oil based there are other impacts on the planet. Deforestation  is just one of them..

Aluminium cans are easy to recycle and can be recycled again and again, but the amount of energy you need to produce them in the first place is - well, let's just say cans that end up as landfill is a terrible waste. 

We light candles to save energy - but the candles releases CO2 in the air. 

We collect plastic in yellow bins in Germany and call it recycling but the recycling means mainly burning - however we reuse the energy from the burning and heat houses with it so is it good or bad? I had some interesting discussions around this at the Plastic Icons exhibition here in Düsseldorf.

There are simply a lot of questions out there

April 30, 2016

Plastic Icons - and other exciting designs

Plastic Icons at NRW-Forum

Did you know that Düsseldorf has a museum for synthetic materials and plastics?
Photo of red plastic chair and the text Plastic Icons

Neither did I. But we do! Deutsches Kunststoff Museum, a museum with a spellbinding collection - however without a house of their own where they can show what became important across the globe after WWII - products made of plastic.

Yes. I know. We have new knowledge now and realise there are challenges with plastics, not the least from a sustainability point of view, but never the less, plastics have played and plays a very important role in our lives.  

AND! Right now you can see the exhibition Plastic Icons at NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf - an absolutely fascinating exhibition if you ask me. It is full of design icons and other items most of us will recognise, if not from our own homes from the homes of our parents or grandparents. 

Plastic Icons may not be as big as the main exhibition at NRW-Forum right now, but it is very rich in content - and it is even more fascinating as there is something for everyone, it is going to be difficult to find a person who can't connect to at least some of the items in the exhibition. We use plastics when we go on picnics, we use plastics in toys, in building materials, when sitting, when travelling, there are plastics in our smartphones and our computers. 

April 20, 2016

Does Design create value?

I read an article today, on  Quora, an article by Jon Schlossberg.

The Title? "Design doesn't deserver a seat at the table" - you'll find the article itself here

I have a lot to say about the article but I will not go in to all details here, partly because I find it hard to follow, Schlossberg doesn't really follow a red thread - and it is a long article. 

However the one thing I to bring up that I want to talk about is  "Real value" vs "perceived value".

Schlossberg (and notice that this is just a cut from the article):

I’m not saying design is unimportant—design is often critically important. I’m saying design doesn't create real value.

This is where I disagree. 

Good design creates REAL value. Not on it's own, that is true, but that's also true for an algorithm or a mathematical problem. Maths on it's own: Great to know but if it isn't in a context: Useless, really (and just like Schlossberg works with design and says design doesn't create real value, that comes from a woman who loves maths).

Design creates real value simply because in design at least I include usability - and a product that the consumer/customer/client can't use - it doesn't MATTER how good the program behind is, if the functionalities can't be used/can't be found/... the program is useless. Design creates real value. 

And a product with poor design might not just not create value but actually end up COSTING the company. It is not about "perceived value" - it is very real value. A product that isn't used at all or isn't used the right way is costly to develop, cost money to run and is unsustainable. 

Design can create both REAL value and perceived value.

April 10, 2016

There is something fishy going on - blogging

Just a little update: For some reason I am not allowed to comment on my own blog. Probably due to some settings on the browser - I tend to set my security level to "paranoid" - but I just have to find out the reason.

I really like getting comments so please just have patience! I am NOT ignoring you.

Oh, and Mike who asked about the header - thank you! It is not from Taiwan at all, the photo that I used for the header is taken in northern Europe, in the archipelago outside Gothenburg, Sweden. 

Similar bare cliffs like in Taiwan, maybe that's also one reason why I like Taiwan so much (others being the amazing people, the food and the climate) - but the cliffs in the archipelago outside Gothenburg, and along the coast from Gothenburg up to Norway are much softer, they were worn down by the ice during the ice age. 

March 07, 2016

International Women's Day coming up

It's that time of the year again.

International Women's day. 

Yes, this is really still a very important day because women are STILL, in this day an age, regularly discriminated against, women STILL have to work much harder on getting heard, getting recognised, women are STILL earning less than men for the same job - on average - read Sheryl Sandberg's book "Lean In" if you don't trust my word for it (link from The New Yorker)

Women are still not sitting at the table under the same conditions. 

And we still have defend ourselves for doing/acting/responding the way a man does. 
Often we are treated differently by men who don't even realise that they do  - I was asked to speak at a conference once, a tech conference, and as a friend of mine said (a male friend, mind you):
You, who are such a techie, are asked to speak at a conference, and what do you get? Diversity? Why not ask you to talk about one of the tech topics that you know so well
And yes, that's exactly what it is being a woman. It is assumed that you can take the "soft topics" while the "REAL" techies take care of the tech topics, and because we women are raised to work for the team, we don't want to stick out and claim our position; We were simply not brought up that way... No matter how open your family is, you are also a response to your surroundings. 

And that is ONE of the many reasons I like this video, which a friend of mine posted a link to on Twitter.

February 22, 2016

Fear only hides the problem

On the topic of software development and project management, or management in general - this video is worth watching. MAKE the time for it. See it in parts, but see it.

I attended a seminar here in Düsseldorf recently, and Richard Sheridan from Menlo Innovation was the speaker. Sheridan is the author of the book Joy, Inc, about joy in the workplace and how to combine that with a very successful business.

I found this specific video when giving a good friend who had some things he wanted  feedback on, regarding some team challenges - our discussion made me remember the talk with Sheridan, and I decided to try and find an inspirational video - and I did.

In the video Sheridan gives us some very valuable advice, among them to create an environment where people feel safe and can express their concerns - this helps improving productivity in the long run, and creates a sustainable work environment.

"Fear makes bad news go into hiding. Bad news doesn't go away, they just go into hiding and then you don't end up not making little mistakes quickly, you end up making one really big mistake very slowly."

Another very important one is "I don't care about individual performance". He also mentions something very important, about 40 minutes into the talk, during the Questions & Answers section; If you focus all your work in progress on the highest performing machine and that machine breaks, the entire plant could shut down, quoting Lean manufacturing, something I have been very involved in. And Sheridan is totally right; You need a strong team, and you need to develop that team, and let the team grow with the task. 

I like things to be as transparent as possible to make sure the team doesn't stand or fall with a single individual. I want to be able to go on holiday knowing that things will be taken care of, and I believe that is important for everyone - but as managers and leaders we have to promote that team work, that sharing. THAT is what should be noticed, as much as possible. 

And a piece of advice from MY side: 
 I know it is very tempting to put people in charge of things they are really good at - but ask them what they want to BECOME good at, and let  them work in that field; That's when you will see the real commitment. We all have to do what we are really good at too, at  times, but most people will grow with the challenge - everyone will, if the challenge is one they picked for  themselves, is my experience. 

Being inspired is what makes us great, in the long run. Without it, eventually we will lose our edge. 

January 10, 2016

EGOUpdate - Last Chance to see

EGOupdate - Identity in the Digital Era

Since September I have been involved with the exhibition EgoUpdate at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf here in Düsseldorf - I wrote about it in October already, and  then again in November.

Night view of NRW-Forum, building from the 1920, with lights
© NRW-Forum / Foto: Andreas Kuschner/ALIMONIE
Working with this exhibition, put together by Alain Bieber and his team at NRW-Forum, has been absolutely fantastic - it is an exhibition that deserves your attention. 

#EGOUpdate is a very unique exhibition, I dare say. One of the young men I met at one of  the tours put his finger on it: While many other art exhibitions are a lot about facts, this exhibition is about impressions, what you feel and think when you experience the show. 

I have to agree with the young man. There are of course a lot of facts to be told about the art and the artists in EgoUpdate, but what's even more important is what the artists say with their art and how the audience sees it. What is, at least to me, essential for EgoUpdate at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf is what the exhibition makes you feel - it brings up topics like identity, privacy, chances, risks and opportunity with digital photo, where we are coming from and where we are going. Ego Update is a very thought-provoking - and FUN - exhibition that offers many opportunities to reflect upon the world around us, and, I feel, hence a tremendously important exhibition. Here we meet avatars, alter-egos, we talk about how we document and present ourselves, what is fake, what is real, about different roles we may have - this is an exhibition that, if you let yourself get inspired, and go in with an open mind, can really change your perspectives.