Maker Days 2016 Q1

Wait, what?

Maker Days is what you get when you take a team of 20 or so developers, feed them sugar and a pseudo-scientifically regulated amount of beer and sit them down at a computer for an extended period of time: An in-house hackathon arranged a couple of times a year here at SpeedLedger.

We form small teams around interesting or novel challenges and go at it. Some times the tasks are technically advanced dares on the outer rims of known code-space; other times, more banging rocks together in the hopes of having them throw beautiful sparks.

The execution

Anton and Lis looking dapper in their MakerDays tees


To kick things off we met for lunch at John Scott’s stable: A local pub with free access to a projector for presentations. As we ate we shared our ideas and formed loosely knit teams to take them on.
The actual event started Wednesday, two days after our lunch meet. With an array of snacks and caffeinated beverages at our disposal, we donned our mandatory MakerDays 2016-shirts and set to work. We were heroes.

Two days later we emerged from our makeshift cave to present the result of our labour. Each team got 5 minutes to give a brief recap of the original idea and the end-result. Encouragingly, all participants had something to demo and presentations proceeded with only the briefest technical hiccup.

The projects

Das blinken lights lets us know that while some of us are at work, others aren’t.

Das blinken lights lets us know that while some of us are at work, others aren’t.

So what wondrous creations did we come up with this time?
Thanks for asking!

  • Das blinken lights
    This mysterious LED-adorned box houses a Raspberry Pi programmed to detect mobile devices on the local network. It doubles as nerdy christmas decoration.
  • The SpeedLedger Button™
    Ah, the button. So succinct, so tantalisingly clickable.
    “Why don’t we make a few for our partners’ admin websites, so that they may synchronise stuff like their member registry and what not?” mused Per, and so he did.
  • Frikkin’ Flags
    Dynamic and highly configurable feature toggles to let us try things out for a select group of users — like A/B testing — or simply activate and deactivate a service-feature without having to redeploy. Implemented using LaunchDarkly. (Note: No flags were harmed in the process of development.)
  • Listen2Speedledger
    Based on the theory that everyone loves geometric shapes and random intermittent noise, one brave team set out to visualise user interaction events in almost-real time. The events were dirty polled from Elasticsearch and linearized so that they played one after another, rather than all at once much like a grand piano hitting concrete after being dropped from a tall building.
  • Async-duh!
    A lot of our intra-service communication is done synchronously even when it would be simpler to use an asynchronous data flow. This project experimented with exposing streams of logging events to consumers, using Kafka so that interested parties wouldn’t have to resort to dirty polling.
  • Hipstereport
    Finding Clear Reports’ PDF generation capabilities “slightly cumbersome” (“… holy crap, just look at all those boxes crammed on top of each other!”), another Per came up with the idea to replace it all with a custom-built report tool using HTML5 and CSS3 for layout.

Lastly a team of talented designers managed to freshen up the careers section of our website.

Awesome work everybody!

The wrap-up

Presentation of The SpeedLedger button™.

Per, demonstrating the undeniable affability of buttons.

Last year we had some issues with screen sharing between teams; each team were responsible to share their presentation over the network so that remote location participants could partake. This year we opted for a simpler solution by having the teams connect directly to the projector and offering a video stream to remotes. Much simpler.

All in all, the event was a triumph (I’m making a note here, huge success). Most of the projects initiated were completed and the overall experience was rewarding.

Two days of hacking feels like a reasonable timeframe for hackathon projects; any less and we would be rushed to produce a viable candidate. It would be interesting to see what we could do with three days.

From Business to Buttons - Al Gore

From Business to Buttons

Last thursday we traveled to Stockholm for “From Business To Buttons” conference on friday, hosted by the lovely people at inUse. A full day conference around User Experience, Service Design and Sustainability.

Thursday night we separated to meet friends for dinner. Johan went to have a bite at Yuc and I went to Jamies Italian. Myself finished the night with a good night beer at the hotel bar before a good night sleep on the boat and hotel m/s rygerfjord.

Main experience and impressions after the day

  • Meeting great people who want to build great human experiences
  • Great design starts with culture: Work should be a safe place to be
  • We should challenge ourselves to focus on improving human lives, and don’t forget about the disabled ones
  • Problems can be solved through technology without yet another screen
  • We spend way too much staring at a screen during a day, what takes us away from our social life
  • In fact, we don’t need a screen interaction for everything
  • We need to gain more real human empathy for those who we design for
  • Challenge ourselves and colleagues to dig deeper and ask for the root cause of their beliefs through using the five WHYs
  • Al Gore is vegan
  • Scientists breed goats that produce spider silk in larger quantities
  • We can not use as much resources as we do today in order to keep climate in a shape that allows human and animal beings to live


Dr. Susan Weinschenk – CEO of The Team W Inc., Author and Behavioral Scientist

Susan’s Slide Deck

Notes from Susan’s talk:

  • Transequence (temporary content) will increase in value – eg. Snapchat
  • People (will) use technology to be social
  • Having mobile phones on the table, even if it not ours, makes us feel socially less connected towards the ones sitting across the table
  • Unconscious data processing will increase – Technology allows us to influence decision making through signals send to our brains (What If You Could Have A Direct Feed From The Internet Into Your Brain?)
  • Technology recognizes our decisions 0.7 seconds faster from our brains before we actually take actions
  • Technology will increase neuroplastic to help people see, feel and move
  • Objects are expected to manage themselves
  • People trust machines more than human to make better decisions
  • If a car has a voice, and the voice has a name, it is more likely that we can trust it
  • The simplest robot made out of cardboard with a voice of an ten year old boy, made people talk right out of their hearts
  • Experiments with robots show how human can build relationship with digital mediums (BlabDroid)
  • We tend to have more emotions when robots are animal like, rather than human like (Watch robot dog ‘Spot’ run, walk…and get kicked – YouTube)
  • Robot pets are used today in nursery home to minimize loneliness

So what….

  • Human can in fact be emotionally attached with technology
  • Digital should feel more human, as if there is no technology involved


Golden Krishna – Design Strategist at Google

Goldens’s Slide Deck

Notes from Golden’s talk:

  • Sometimes we make tasks more complicated with interfaces when in fact no interface is needed
  • So called ‘backpocket applications’ allow us to interact without picking up the mobile to achieve specific tasks – the signal of a mobile simply does it for us
  • Screens now have taken over our lives
  • Screens everywhere, in cars, in your pocket, refrigerator, and even on your nose
  • An average person spends 150 times looking at their mobile during a waken day, and more than eight hours staring at a screen
  • There are apps for everything. Are you sick? There’s an app for that! Need to pray? There’s an app for that! Dead? Well, there’s an app for that, too!
  • Most apps are intentionally addictive distractions that end up taking our attention away from things like family, friends, sleep, and oncoming traffic
  • We are eager to use new technology, like screens etc. – But we forget to ask ourselves what the bigger problem is we are trying to solve for people

So what…

  • We can build a technologically in an advanced world without digital interfaces


Abby Covert – Independent Information Architect

Abbys’s Slide Deck

Notes from Abby’s talk:

  • Many people get overwhelmed when encountered a mess
  • The majority of mess is made of information (and people)
  • Information is not like content or data
  • Data are facts, observations, and questions about something
  • Content is whatever a user interacts with
  • Information is whatever a user interprets from the arrangement or sequence of things they encounter
  • Information architecture is how we arrange the parts to be understandable as a whole
  • Language matters
  • The goal is not simplify an arrangement or sequence of things – the goal is to be clear with you mean when you say what you say
  • There is no right way
  • There are only five ways to organize anything: 1. Location, 2. Alphabetical, 3. Time, 4. Category, 5. Hierarchy
  • Organizing things isn’t the hard part – Agreeing is the hard part
  • We need pictures – Pictures give us something in common to point to
  • Visualizing something when it is hard to explain in words
  • Show process, not just results

So what…

  • Involve real users to solve the mess, understand how they would organize the content
  • Group navigation rather so it makes sense to users, not how it reflects internal structure or your own common sense


Patricia Moore – President at MooreDesign Associates

Notes from Patricia’s talk:

  • Don´t make things for disabled people, make them for everyone. If someone disabled could use them, everyone can
  • Get empathy for your user, put yourself in their position – feel how they would feel

So what…

  • Being a user for a day helps to bridge empathy
  • Talking, listening and understanding users allows us to dive deep into their context, needs and goals


Jeff Veen – Design Partner at True Ventures / Former CEO of Typekit

Jeff’s Slide Deck

Notes from Jeff’s talk:

  • Equanimity (Latin: æquanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of our exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind
  • Don´t find someone to blame, leaders need to build a safe workplace and spark a mental calmness
  • The five whys model helps to identify the root cause of a problem or critique
  • Share why something went wrong, how can we solve it and how could we fix so it won’t happen again?
  • Great teamwork with no disturbance could solve almost every problem
  • Focus to solve the task. Things that Jeff’s team at Typekit planned to take months was solved on a weekend
  • Culture should allow us to share our true thoughts
  • Chatt allow us to collaborate and act quicker
  • Chatt allows employees to respond more open on an opinion
  • We should feel safe in a work environment in order to spark innovation and creativity
  • Grow a team that trusts and respect each other leading to better products and service

So what…

  • Be open for critiques
  • Ask why five times in order to dig for the cause root of an opinion


Simon Bennett – Managing Principal for LASTing Benefits (AU/UK)

Simon’s Slide Deck

Notes from Simon’s talk:

  • Usually it doesn’t feel good when you screwed up
  • Being wrong is entirely different from realising that you are wrong
  • We are expected to be professional
  • Being professional should mean being complete human
  • Usually, the higher in an organisation you are, the less you have to defend yourself
  • Distinguish between being emotionally intelligent and being emotional
  • Ask yourself, do you hold beliefs or do you have knowledge?
  • Human beings are social animals, our communities can define, coerce and corrupt us or blame us
  • Share the burden
  • Safety is everyone’s responsibility
  • We experience others from the outside – but ourselves from the inside
  • From the outside the irrational use of power looks irresponsible and ugly
  • Leaders should use their power to shape new realities instead of distorting our view of the existing one

So what….

  • It is ok to screw up, as long as we realise we did
  • Screwing up helps us to learn
  • Encourage assumptions before knowledge


Margaret Gould Stewart – VP, Product Design at Facebook

Margaret’s Slide Deck

Notes from Margaret’s talk:

  • Advertising industry need to adapt to reality
  • We need to earn the right to be in people’s pocket
  • If Facebook wants users to continue trust, they need to continue deliver values
  • Design and act for people where they are
  • Understand device and internet connection people have access to
  • Giving advertising industry possibility to reach people in a relevant context

Four principles for designing quality business products

  1. Help people grow
  2. Balance efficiency and effectiveness
  3. Bring clarity to complexity
  4. Be accurate and predictable


Kjell Persson – CEO at inUse

Kjell’s Slide Deck

Notes on Kjell’s talk:

  • inUse to help Denver to be a better city
  • Denver wants to be a more smarter and more sustainable city
  • Learning about citizens through data, observation and interviews
  • Bringing highest managers from different unity together once a month
  • Building shared understanding across different denver departments
  • Building measurable short term, mid term and long term goals


Al Gore – Nobel Peace Prize winner, former US Vice President and Environmentalist

Notes from All Gore’s talk:

  • It was less technological advancement and user involvement we payed attention to, Al Gore impressed us mostly with his passion and engagement for environmental change
  • Guest in restaurant: If you dye your hair black, you’d look exactly like Al Gore, and you sound like him too
  • Science allows us to combine a spider with a sheep. (Spider sheep) – Interesting for biologist, more scary for normal human beings
  • We need to react on keeping smaller families in order to keep the population in a manageable amount
  • Al Gore is vegan
  • We all must make a change to environment now
  • Al Gore is positive towards winning the global warming issue
  • Do we have to change? – Yes!
  • Can we change? – Yes!
  • Will we change? – It is up to all of us
  • There is no plan B if we fail to prevent the climate change
  • We couldn’t rescue people from hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, we definitely cannot rescue world’s population from failing to prevent the climate change
Stockholm (Photo credit: Johan Magnusson)
From Business to Buttons - Golden Krishna
Golden Krishna (Photo credit: Johan Magnusson)
From Business to Buttons - Al Gore
Al Gore (Photo credit: Johan Magnusson)
Florian UX Design
Florian Fiechter, User Epxerience Designer (Photo credit: Johan Magnusson)
Johan Magnusson, Visual Designer (Photo: Florian)