Polar Beverages: Say no to NED

Dear Polar Beverages,

I am disappointed that your company is supporting the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline, proposed by Kinder Morgan/Tennessee gas. You can find the text of your letter here: http://www.kindermorgan.com/content/docs/PB_SupportLetter.pdf

Please reconsider your support for this pipeline. Please write a letter of OPPOSITION to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and please persuade the MA food association to change their stance and oppose it as well. You can write to FERC using this web address http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp. Please let me know when you have done this so that I can publicly thank you on various social media sites. I plan to BOYCOTT YOUR BUSINESS until you change your stance on this pipeline. I usually spend between $5 and $10 a week on your products.

Here is why I am asking you to oppose the NED pipeline:

NED Might not Help Reduce Cost:

NED is NOT Environmentally Friendly

The MA food association support letter cited “cleaner” natural gas as a reason to support the Pipeline. However, NED is not more environmentally friendly than coal or other fossil fuels for these reasons.

I hope that you take the time to better educate yourself on the pros and cons of the NED pipeline. Please use these references for more information:




I am happy to have a meeting or call with you and/or your company representatives to discuss this further. The NED pipeline is a SERIOUS environmental issue. As a seller of healthy foods, I urge you to take the broader community health into account as you decide to oppose this pipeline.

Thank you


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Please help test this Android app for non-native US Citizens

Hi Readers,

Can you please help out my daughter, who is a computer science major in her sophomore year?
Her team and made an android app that’s supposed to help immigrants connect to other non-native US people and also help explain the citizenship process.

So if you have an android, would you be willing to download ConnectUS?
If you’d just play around with it for like a minute each day, then send her a quick email after you fiddle with it about your experience, I would super appreciate it.
Basic email format:
Subject: ConnectUS
I found [feature, use case, whatever] confusing.
I found [feature, use case, whatever] cool.
Anything else interesting you think about the app!
Thank you very much!

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Designing for the most common use cases: sometimes the outliers really do bite

In my job as a software user interface designer,  I  try to design for the most common use cases — so that the most frequent (or most important) are the ones that are easiest to accomplish.  Sometimes I really do decide that a user has to go to another screen  make additional clicks to get a rare task completed.

With this in mind, I worked with the people installing our hot tub a few years ago. The Sales person recommended that we put it as close to the house as possible. “The closer to the house, the more often used” was his adage.  So we decided to place it about 4 feet from the “human” (not car) garage door.

It worked well for several years. Our favorite time of year to sit in the tub is winter. We get a great view of the starts, and there’s nothing like  sitting in the tub and watching light snowflakes fall.

Until this winter.

hottub1 hottub2

We just had too much snow. And no place to put it.  I dreaded cleaning off the hot tub, and the reward of sitting it in almost did not make up for it.

I questioned whether I’d made the right decision to put it just behind the garage. Especially when snow from the roof fell on the path I had just cleared to the tub.  This winter, the location was bad.  And I was really annoyed.  I had to pause and think about the other, less harsh winters and how we hand’t had such an issue. I am sure that many users of the software I’ve designed have felt similar emotions when they’d have to go to a different area for preferences, or find an “Advanced” button.

In the long run, the placement of the hot tub has been good compared to the 10 years that we’ve been using it.  It was worth the annoyance of the snow this winter.

I hope that most of the users can understand that when it comes to an annoying moment or two when using software.

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Innovation is Alive and Well in Education

Last night I had the opportunity to be a “UX Expert” at an “Expert-a-thon” arranged by the Boston area User Experience Professionals’ Association (UXPA) and LearnLaunch. What a fun evening! There were 8 education-related start-ups there, I got to choose 2  for whom to be a UX expert.  That meant I heard their general pitch and then we talked about ways to improve various aspects of the user experience for their product.

I was able to spend some detailed time with Authess and Ni-O toys.   Authess is interested in authentic assessment (beyond multiple-choice tests), and  might focus first on university education, while Ni-O was at the other end of the spectrum, making hardware development kits for kids and leveraging 3-D printing.

photo 2

CEO Paul Crockett of Authess

photo 1

CEO Nadav Liebermann and CPO Geut Gonen of Ni-O Toys

About 30 other “UX experts” showed up as well, and I even got to re-connect with some former colleagues.

I also had the opportunity to meet and chat with Asad Butt, the Operations director of the LearnLaunch Accelerator.  He gave me more background on how the accelerator is assisting education-related start-ups. I think this is really cool stuff.  Asad mentioned that they are always looking for UX mentors. This could be a commitment of visiting the accelerator in downtown Boston a few times, or participating via web conference to provide feedback on product design. If you are interested, feel free to drop him a note at info@Learnlaunch.com.

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Had Fun Being a “Guest Reviewer” in a Harvard Business School Class

Over the past 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to be a “guest reviewer” in Professor Tom Eisenmann’s  product management class  at the Harvard School of Business. The students had formed groups and come up with products ideas, and my role was to provide feedback on the design of their software product. Several other UX designers had been invited, too, so that each team had 30 to 45 minutes to really do in detail into their product. Here I am with Professor Tom and one of the students:


It was a lot of fun to hear about the product ideas and talk about their business models. Some teams had already fleshed out detailed interaction designs,  complete with Balsamiq click-through demos for me.  Others came with blank sheets of paper and we sketched as we talked.

The class took place in the Harvard Innovation Center, in a really cool room that was east to rearrange for small or large groups. (I wish i had a room like this for my team at work!).

I’d like to thank my former colleague Suzanne Livingston for this opportunity- she’s working with Professor Tom on this class and it was her idea to invite in some real-word UX designers to provide feedback. Great idea, Suze, and I’d be happy to do it again.

harvard2 harvard3

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Reflections on Two years as a UX Director

Wow. Two years as a director of user experience at EMC.

I am shocked that it appears that it’s been an entire year since I did a personal blog post! Yikes, how can this be!!??

This past year, my team and I blogged at our EMC UX design site: uxblog.emc.com, and from a personal perspective I note that instead of blogging, I tend to just post longer personal updates on my facebook page. I am sure there are media pundits, sociology researchers, and  philosophy gurus who can explain why that is so….

The team and I also posted in our  EMC community space.

I am still struggling with the low levels of community participation from our customers (compared to my experiences at SolidWorks and IBM)

My second year was a challenge in some different ways than my first. I’ll admit that one of the biggest was that I had to let people go in the beginning of the year. It was excruciating (though Len Conte still wins the excruciating prize because I had to lay him off on his first day at FTP back in the 90s).

During this past year, our “Advanced Software division” merged with another to become the “Emerging Products Division”.

Many things are changing, and in general I feel that it’s all change for the good.

We are still growing our Design Partner programs for various products, and still growing our usability test participant database (if you want to test EMC Products, sign up here!!  http://www.emc.com/usability

This year we had a new approach at our yearly conference — EMC World. We partnered with  the designers of EMC.Com to have one combined booth. It was a lot of fun!

We also still had our usability lab, as you can see below, where JoAnne is conducting a test of ViRP SRM with a customer.

joanne pointing

And we had a terrific time doing “Gorilla” usability testing!


Overall, year 2 has been a challenge. I still need to learn more about the products, but I feel like I’ve made good headway into understanding where the EMC portfolio fits into a data center or a CIO’s overall plan.

AS I write this, I have a job opening for a UX designer (located in Hopkinton, MA, Nashua NH or Montreal Que!), which is great because it indicates that EMC  has some level of appreciation of UX. My mission here is to really change the EMC culture to be more user-centric. It is a challenge, but as my friend Patti has observed about me, I love a challenge. So bring on year 3!

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Reflections on One Year as a UX Director

Congratulations to my team for enduring me for a year! It has been an eventful year for me at EMC. I started as the director of User Experience Design in the ASD (Advanced Software division) one year ago today – with lots of plans to increase customer input and to leverage social media to inform the design of products.

We have made some good progress. I have one designer who said she worked here for 9 years and had not done a customer visit. Within 3 months of me starting – she had done a customer visit, and has done several since then as well! I have another designer who I pushed to really partner with the field, and she has, and she says she really has a much better understanding of how people use our products!

On the other hand, I am very disappointed in the fact that our use of social media, such as our UX blog (at http://Uxblog.emc.com) does not have very many views and even fewer comments. This is very different than when I worked on Lotus Notes and my very first blog post got over 70 comments! Maybe Storage admins are not social. Maybe we need to figure out how to involve them in other ways.

If you are an EMC customer, I welcome any suggestions you have about how to get feedback from YOU. (Don’t forget! you can register to be a usability test participant here! https://emcinformation.com/146505/REG/00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000.ashx

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