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On Yo!

I’m trying to understand why I’m using Yo so much.

Everyone loves to hate Yo. My non-tech friends say, “this is the stupidest app ever!” yet they use it, a lot.

And when I tell them they app raised $1.5 million their jaw drops.

Like most tech/design folk, I install a bunch of apps each week, most of which aren’t there the next week. But Yo is. Why?

This morning I read this article on behavioural design by product designer Kursat Ozenc.

In it he mentions something called a ‘Motivation-Ability Matrix’, a tool that can be use to change customers behaviour.



In the article, Ozenc states that, “Behaviour change happens when the individual with the right motivation and ability threshold is nudged by external triggers over a designated time. Someone might have the motivation but not the ability, or vice versa.”


Yo with my friends

There are two or three people in my life that I’m in better contact with now because of Yo. It’s not an email or a what’s app or FB message, it’s just a simple notification that by itself says not much, but the between you a the other person, you add your own context.

For example, a friend and I have been trying to catch up for coffee for several months. We’re both super busy and we’ve been using Yo as a way of saying “I’m free now, are you?” If either one of us gets a Yo back, then we send a message or email. If not, then there is no more time wasted.

What I think has happened here is that we haven’t realised we have the motivation to let friends know that we’re thinking about them. Yo give us the ability to do this really quickly and it let’s you add your own context. We’re all busy and Yo understand that.


Yo as a service

On Twitter this morning @seanh listed a bunch of Yo accounts that you can follow that completely change the app from a simple message app, to a diverse notification service. e.g. follow RAINY to get a yo if it will be raining in your city that day

I’ve currently got the app set up to ‘Yo’ me when certain people I follow on Instagram post something. (Just add ‘IG’ then their Instagram handle on Yo. e.g. ‘IGDANBILZERIAN’)



It fees like the Yo API is providing the ability for Yo to become the trigger for people to achieve a bunch of different things (Yo as a service). And the product off the shelf, provides the ability and the trigger for me to engage in a meaningful way with my friends.

Looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Download Yo here


The Positive Posters Problem

In March 2009 I pitched an idea to a small room of people. The idea was to build a website where designers could upload posters about the things that were meaningful to them. The ideas they wanted people to talk about.

We launched a crappy site built on WP that September and something like 350 from 50+ countries sent in posters. It was a competition model, so we closed the submission part of the site in November that year.

The competition continued to run annually for the last 4 years.

Over that time we made improvements to the site and our community grew. At one point was doing 10,000 unique visits a day.

Naively I never spent much time thinking about a business model for PP and as hosting charges increased and revenue (mainly from corporate event sponsors) decreased it became harder and harder to work on it.

Most of our team moved on to other positions in new companies. Unsurprisingly I started accepting paying offers to work on other people products and projects (The Loop, IDEO etc.) to help pay for my time on PP.

fast forward to today

On Sunday night I was thinking about the events of the last few days. What’s happening in Gaza and the tragedy of flight MH17. Since the brief of 2011, we’ve always let the PP community choose the topics that they create posters about. Sometimes they have been linked to events like the Japanese earth quake, or the riots in London in 2012. Other times they address issues that for the most part aren’t linked to a specific date like equality & equal rights, and global warming.


The design our community creates are simple, beautiful and often confronting. Visual styles differ from country to country, but the one thing they have in common is they all tell a story. They capture emotions, a feeling or a moment in time. They let us all stop and reflect on an idea we otherwise might have missed. And in a week like we’ve just had, I wonder what kinds of stories our community would be telling if we accepting submissions today?

Today I’m wondering why, 5 years after PP began, we don’t look at PP as more than an annual competition? I wonder why we don’t look at it as a product, a service that we put real development and design resources behind and keep it running 365 allowing people to create and submit designs when they want about the issues and ideas care about?

The value of PP isn’t the code thats behind it. The value is in the community. A passionate, talented, global community of designers.


The content is good.
If there was every any doubt about how ‘shareable’ the content is that our community creates, well you just have to look at this post by popular media site 9Gag from a few weeks back. They shared a poster that Joey Klarenbeek designed for the 2013 competition. It received close to 500,000 like on Facebook.


What happens next?
I don’t know. I know the right people to build PP into something great, the developers, designers, community managers etc. I also own a media company that could in theory help with monetisation (through advertising).

There certainly is a part of me that want’s to open the site for submissions and just see what our community comes up with, but we know where that road leads (ho$ting & re$ources).

Some people spend years trying to find product market fit and then build something great. For what ever reason, PP resonated with a lot of people and its weeks like this that I miss working on it and engaging with our community.

The path forward isn’t clear for PP right now, but its getting harder to make a compelling argument to shut it down.


Post 44: Who works on what?




There are lots of questions that we’re yet to answer with this product. How is it different from Who is the customer? Is this just for one vertical? etc.

The overall question we’re still trying to answer is “How might we improve the professional story telling experience?”

Over the weekend I met a bunch of folk in SF and finding out more about them afterwards is still a ‘Google their name and open a bunch of tabs’ situation.

The people I’m wanting to find out about often are involved in many projects or have made or contributed to many things.

Their personal websites are actually all pretty similar. Often one page with a bunch of text with links to things they’ve made or worked on.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 1.52.01 pm Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 1.51.56 pm

One thing I found myself wanting to know browsing around today was not just what you’d worked on but who did you work on it with.

At the top the .gif shows a mock of Shane’s profile with each of his projects represented as a tile and tapping on Skedadel, you get taken to a company tile with more info about the company and it shows you who works there.

This isn’t dissimilar to AngelList, but the key differences here are that it’s a mobile experience, and Shane can list other things about him like a Youtube clip or that fact that he’s done work with Charity Water.

All things that make up his professional story.

Post 43: More UI

In response to positive feedback on similar interface ideas, I hacked this demo together using

If you’re interested is more complex and time consuming that Flinto which I normally used for app prototypes, but there is 100x functionality options.

Some notes on the design.

There are 3 images in the prototype and all of the images have been taken from Google or Instagram. This is important because I think it can be a mistake to use ‘glossy’ or professional images in mock-ups that they a regular customer couldn’t get their hands on when using the live product.

Each profile is made up of the persons LinkedIn description with images placed in between.

Towards the end of the video, we show how you might be able to tap on text, e.g. Facebook, to see more information.


Post 42: Examples in the wild, Wilson Miner

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 2.04.09 pm

Browsing around today I found product designer, Wilson Miner’s personal site. Elements are very similar to the interface we’ve been working on.

At it’s simplest, there is a photo, a coloured background and some text. Some of the words in the text are links to projects or work or companies.

In a way, Wilson has chosen to tell his professional story in a similar way to how we are thinking others could tell their own story with our product.

CD_MVP_V6_Wilson_Text2Wilson had a lot more text that they 200 characters that are in the other examples so I put this quick scrolling mockup together to get a feel for the experience you could have if we allowed the text to scroll over the top.


Post 41: One Screen Prototype


Previous designs have focused on a vertically scrolling interface where peoples experience and info is revealed below the higher level bio and photo info.

This mockup tried to keep all the info in one screen. Customers have a photo and 200 characters about themselves, but are able to make words in their bio tappable which revels more information about that part of their work life.

Post 41


In this example Erika signs up with Twitter, browses around and find our more information about Ryan’s work with IDEO and AIGASF.


Post 40: Adding tiles to profile



Tony and I are happy to show you the .gif above which demonstrates the newest piece of functionality on our app.

‘Tiles’ as we call them, have been in our mock-ups for a bit over a month and we just pushed them live then.

The best image size is around 600px X 400px.

While a vertical list of tiles might not solve the ‘professional story telling’ problem we are looking at, it’s a great start and more importantly, an opportunity for us to learn how you’d use the app.

Sign up or in on your mobile at:



Post 39: Reduction

Talking to a few friends and product people in the Bay Area over the last week, a common theme has come up. We keep talking about ‘improving the professional story telling experience.’

How would we make it more engaging for the content consumer and how can we make the creation process more interesting?

Last week after I caught up with some folks in NY, I created a .gif of my career. It isn’t something that I can see being a finished product, but everyone who has seen it has thought it is interesting.

Over the weekend I experimented with reducing the design to its most basic elements and keeping it within one screen.

CD_MVP_V5The objective really is to make the whole story telling experience more human. Both of these design variations communicate the same thing, but one chunks the information, the other presents it in one sentence.

There is an animation below of how I think you’d dive deeper into the second design to find out more about the person.

Like the .gif I mentioned above, I don’t think this is a solution, but it’s an interesting idea – ‘tell your story in 200 characters on one screen’. I like the restrictions.




Post 38: A different approach

Last night I felt like I’d been spending too much time on one solution to the problem of mobile professional story telling (a vertical list of ’tiles’ that visually represent your story).

Do people really want to scroll up and down a profile? Do we have the time? Is there a quicker way? Is speed actually a consideration or not?

These are all fair and relevant questions.

With these in mind I used the tiles from my own profile to create an animated .gif of my own professional story, from roughly 2009 – today. It’s a bit messy, but you will get the idea. There are 65 frames in my story and it is broken down into 6 sections representing each major professional commitment in my life:

  1. Personal slides about me
  2. Positive Posters
  3. Sex, Drugs & Helvetica
  4. The Loop
  5. IDEO
  6. Career Deck

The end result is below at 2 different frame rates (0.1, 0.2 seconds).

It’s certainly a different way of looking at things. Not sure if its better or worse.

*These are both videos of my laptop screen. The files were each 6mb+ as .gif. Need to look into reducing file size without reducing quality of image.

Post 37: Enhancing the story experience

One of the key design challenges we have at the moment is trying create an experience where the viewer gets a really good snapshot of someones professional story in these categories:

  1. Ability
  2. Skills
  3. Culture fit

(The third one is the most difficult and most important). Together, we believe there equal ‘professional value’.

In the mock-up below, there are some examples of potential features that could help solve the story telling/context problem.



1. Welcome Note
The idea popped into my head the other day of letting people ad a voicemail type recording to the top of their profile to add context. It could be something like “…Hey, I’m currently taking a vacation so might not response as quickly as usual.” Hearing someone’s voice gives you a lot more context than just seeing an email responder. Tech could be a SoundCloud plugin.

2. Quote & Image
I’ve noticed that so many people have quotes by their hero’s pinned up around their desk or workspace. Whenever I see some quotes I always try and read them. So a possible feature could be to let people add quotes to their profile. In the example above I placed an image of NYC behind to give it a bit more feeling.

3. Keynote
There are a few people I know who have given great keynote presentations at places like Creative Mornings, but the seldom appear on their personal websites. It could be useful for people to add a Youtube or Vimeo clip to their page.

4. Preferred Supplier
Okay, this last idea is a bit unfinished, however I thought it could be interesting to give people the option of listing the things and services they use professionally as a way of getting a bit more context and giving props to the brands they love. I’m always interested to hear if someone uses Spotify or Rdio and why? Or if someone flys with Virgin or AA. Or if someone uses Google Drive or Dropbox. I don’t know of anywhere right now where people list their preferred suppliers which might mean it wouldn’t be useful, but you never know.