Kathy Sierra SXSW Keynote

WONK WARNING: Raw, fast typ­ing ahead. Won´t be 100% accu­rate, and def­i­nite­ly ain’t spell checked! Read no fur­ther if you want Dick­ens. He´s at some oth­er con­fer­ence. But if you wade on, you’re in for a brain treat.
Kathy Sier­ra kicks off the SXSW keynote by ask­ing is any­one Live blog­ging this event? (Well, may­be not *quite* live, but I stick up my hand). She says OK, lots of peo­ple are record­ing this, peo­ple are vlog­ging it, web­cast­ing it, putting it on twit­ter. So nobody else needs to be here. We could just strap those peo­ple into chairs and every­body else could go enjoy it at the bar, or lat­er. So Why Are You Here?????

You guys make the prod­ucts and use the tech­nolo­gies that mean that you don´t need to be here. But you´re here. There´s only one rea­son why you´re here. Sci­en­tists want to know why peo­ple like to be with real peo­ple. Some think it might be just smell. But if we want lov­able appli­ca­tions, we need some form of HUMANNESS. Not a humane inter­face. Some­thing that´s actu­al­ly human.

She iden­ti­fies three groups: Design­ers: If hyou saw a man drown­ing and you either save him or pho­tograph the event… how would you tag it on Flickr.

Coders: If you could choose between cod­ing and open source web app or hav­ing sex…

Mon­ey: Visu­al­ize mon­ey per­son and insert humourous mon­ey per­son com­ment.

Then we all have to meet peo­ple in cat­e­gories oth­er than our own. It´s fun, the whole room buzzes, and she has to call us back to atten­tion.

Why we are here when we´re the peo­ple cre­at­ing the things that mean we don´t have to be.

(Gra­tu­itous Pup­py Pho­to. It does things to your brain. it gets past your crap fil­ter. it makes you pay atten­tion.)

Two things we can do:

1. Help our users get togeth­er offline

2. Make our inter­ac­tions in our apps and web­sites feel more human

When we reverse engi­neer pas­sion, peo­ple are get­ting togeth­er real time offline and the more they do that the more their pas­sion increas­es.

Wiki on how to start your own bar camp, wine camp, non prof­it camp. meetup.com is the best resource you can have.

What can a human do with a human that they can´t do with a com­put­er. A user can´t make this face to a com­put­er

The com­put­er doesn´t know that face is there, doesn´t respond in an iter­ac­tive way. Com­put­er can´t ask user a ques­tion. Being able to look con­fused and hav­ing the oth­er enti­ty respond appro­pri­ate­ly is cru­cial to human inter­ac­tion.

Slide with a series of state­ments:

I have very nar­row inter­ests, but am expert in those areas.

´m good at gath­er­ing facts and con­sid­ered high­ly intel­li­gent.

´m bad in social sit­u­a­tions and will often look at my shoes.

I don´t under­stand facial expres­sions, and am often con­sid­ered social­ly awk­ward.

What is being described? Some­one who suf­fers from Asperg­ers.

Asperg­ers describes not only Nerds, but all our apps.

Nobody is pas­sion­ate about things they suck at. Any­one who gets their users past the suck thresh­old and to the pas­sion­ate lev­el faster prob­a­bly wins.

FAQs and online help???? No, because the per­son who wrote the FAQ thinks you look like this.

When in real­i­ty, you look like this.

How do I say to a com­put­er WTF? Hilar­i­ous exam­ple of a real user try­ing to fig­ure out how to add a column of nubers in Excel and con­sult­ing help and office assis­tant and get­ting nowhere. And a long page of results from search­ing on “What the Fuck” includ­ing “Where did my Mod­ule go?” but noth­ing, of course, about how to add that column of num­bers.
Con­fu­sion is a prompt to ques­tions: What are you con­fused about? Where did you get lost?

You could use nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing to have dialog with a user.

Fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions are sel­dom fre­quent­ly asked by the real per­son strug­gling.

Get user to the right con­text ASAP. FAQs don´t go back­ward. They nev­er back you up and say no you went too far, let´s put you in anoth­er place.

Give them under­stand­able questoins. Let the user choose from a high lev­el state­ment: ´m lost. Why did that hap­pen? I don´t know what it’s called, but I need it. Nar­row the user choic­es, then present a list. Get the CONTEXT right.

I’m in Code Blue sit­u­a­tion, I don´t care what it’s called. Help shouldn’t be tree focussed, it should be forest focussed.

Click the pic­ture of the face you´re mak­ing.

You know you´re suc­ceed­ing when you creep peo­ple out: it´s like the appli­ca­tion read my mind, I had this weird ques­tion and there it was. Because it was based on real user expe­ri­ence.

Peo­ple stop writ­ing like humans when they write FAQs. At sun microsys­tems they were told not to use con­trac­tions. In Hol­ly­wood, when they want to com­mu­ni­cate that a being is not human, you can always spot them by the fact that they don´t use con­trac­tions.

Use the word YOU. Makes a huge dif­fer­ence. Pro­found ben­e­fits from mak­ing the lan­guage more con­ver­sa­tion­al. Your brain doesn´t know the dif­fer­ence between a con­ver­sa­tion it´s read­ing and one with a real human. So it goes Holy Crap ´m in A Con­ver­sa­tion I Got­ta Hold Up My End. And so it pays ATTENTION.

Help, FAQs, and user docs might not sound sexy, but they are the key to pas­sion.

Out-teach your users. Get them up that pas­sion­ate curve faster.

Hi Res Expe­ri­ence. Wine taster vs High school stu­dent try­ing wine. Font design­er look­ing at Comic Sans. Musi­cian lis­ten­ing to music. They see, hear, sense dif­fer­ent things than a non-expert.
Don´t under­es­ti­mate the impor­tance of what we´re doing. We think we’re writ­ing sil­ly web apps or even world chang­ing web apps but we get bogged down and we don’t think about the neg­a­tive aspects of our work. Think about the expe­ri­ence you are giv­ing a user. If you can make them have a slight­ly bet­ter expe­ri­ence and have five extra min­utes of free time because you made their job eas­ier. When peo­ple are in flow, every­thing they are wor­ried about doesn´t mat­ter. And to give users the expe­ri­ence of flow is a great gift, and a sacred task. We don’t have to change the world on a big scale, we can do it one user at a time.

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14 thoughts on “Kathy Sierra SXSW Keynote”

  1. Wow — what a fan­tas­tic write-up! You even said a few things in here I *wish* I’d said… (and you get extra extra points for rec­og­niz­ing the puppy=getting-through-the-crap-filter… which I didn’t actu­al­ly say in this talk. : )
    Thank you so much.

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