Born From Frustration


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  • So my presentation tonight is called “Things that annoy me - and why that’s cool”. I’m one of those people that is quite easily annoyed: by traffic, by noise, by shops and malls and even by other people. I’ve tried to tap into this personality disorder in what I do and why I do what I do.
  • The Internet has coined a phrase for this - it’s called ‘scratching your own itch’. This philosophy has widespread adoption in particularly the tech community, and has led to many interesting ideas and apps being built.
  • For the sake of most my presentation I would like you to imagine a time before Facebook and before Twitter and before Youtube. When the Internet was still young, when there was still plenty of opportunity, little bandwidth, lots of available domain names, and no dominant search engine.
  • I’ve always built websites: big ones, medium-sized ones, small ones. The small ones were the most frustrating: they were hard to update as their smaller budgets never warranted the build of a content-management system. The thing is that a a website was still as important for a client no matter how small or big they were. It was a frustrating position to be.
  • Outside of work it also annoyed me that there was no place to find out what was going on in the ‘local scene’. So I built this site where people could find stuff relating to what was going on in town, djs could post flyers, people could post photos afterwards, that type of thing. It was a content-management system that allowed a couple of select users to post interesting content for everyone to view, and an open comment system that allowed anyone to participate.
  • This ‘loose structure’ and ease of use allowed for interesting things to happen: one of the defining moments for e-vent happened on September 11, 2001 - it transformed from a site talking about the night-life to a site sharing information about the attacks in New York, allowing people to get together and express their fears and concerns as to what was happening in the world beyond Cape Town.
  • Fast-forward to today’s Internet and very much the same thing happened quite recently on Twitter: they had similar moments of validation with their technology but this time round the entire world was tuned in, and anyone can be part of it, quite easily. We now call it ‘citizen journalism’.
  • The interesting thing about the way the web today is that everyone is ‘managing content’ to some extent - so-called ‘user-generated content’ - and the functionality once available to the few is now the same functionality considered entry-level to many.
  • Back in the year 2000 and at some stage everything came crashing down anyway. Budgets were cut, businesses closed down, people got retrenched, restaurants had specials every night of the week. Everyone hunkered down and started working on more smaller, more meaningful and purposeful projects. A bunch of small boutique agencies sprang up, some of them survived, some of didn’t. I ended up working for a charity.
  • In the period following the crash there was this strange silence on the web, but if you listened close enough you could hear a “noise from the edge”: blogs were gaining in popularity; it was easy to start your own one, and some people were even making money from blogging. Search was actually working; and you could actually find what you were looking for on the web.
  • In particular a new type of website started to appear, websites with real functionality that allowed people to ‘do stuff’. A company called 37signals was building and releasing all sorts of interesting productivity applications, Flickr changed the way we view and share our photos, and many other applications started filtering through into the marketplace.
  • We’ve always had a saying that “there was no money in production” - all our work was usually produced for one client, and usually shipped for one website. The design & code was deployed on a server customized towards one client, only. We were reinventing the wheel over and over and over on each new job.
  • Born From Frustration

    1. 1. THINGS THAT ANNOY ME. And why that’s cool.
    2. 2. SCRATCH My itch might just be your itch.
    3. 3. BF There was a time, before Facebook ruled the world.
    4. 4. WEBSITES 1996+
    5. 5. E-VENT 1999.
    6. 6. 911 Planes crash into the World Trade Centre.
    7. 7. TWITTER Plane crashed into the Hudson River.
    8. 8. FACEBOOK Killed the internet star.
    9. 9. CRASH 2000-2002.
    10. 10. “SILENCE” Except for the noise from the edge.
    11. 11. WEBAPPS 2002+
    12. 12. SINGULARITY There is no money (or fun) in production.
    13. 13. MULTIPLICITY The rise of the applications.
    14. 14. TANK 2005+
    15. 15. 5 PRINCIPLES How to build software that doesn’t annoy and frustrate your users.
    16. 16. "If you put few things on a page, you leave lots of room for the imagination" Dick Bruna © Dick Bruna
    17. 17. "When the only tool you have is a hammer..." Maslow © Dick Bruna
    18. 18. "Easy for noobs, strong for ninjas..." Mailchimp © Dick Bruna
    19. 19. "Tank is a clean, simple & fun way to build a website..." © Dick Bruna
    20. 20. "With added complexity comes… well, complexity..." Tyler Tate © Dick Bruna