Monday, August 19, 2013

Order of Operations

I recently taught my son to ride his bike without training wheels.  He was very resistant and afraid of falling down.  I discovered that the order of learning skills was very important.  Before he could get confidence balancing and moving, he needed to be confident that he could brake and put his feet down at any time. This is a coordinated movement between hands and feet as well as body balance (which foot? which side? when?)  so not as simple as it seems.

Over twenty minutes on two days, we practiced braking dozens of times: I would hold his bike up while he put his feet on the pedals, help him move forward pushing the pedals, and then either tell him to brake, or let go and he would wobble and brake on his own.  Eventually one time he forgot to brake and just kept going: breakthrough!  So the order of learning was

  1. Learn how to stop
  2. Learn how to go straight on his own
  3. Learn how to turn
  4. Learn how to start on his own
Despite having a sore lower back from holding up his bike so much, I thought this worked well.  But what a strange order to learn in!  Then I remembered how knitting is most often taught.  The teacher will cast on a bunch of stitches and do a few rows, so that the knitter can (1) go straight, then learn to (2) turn at the end of the row, then (3) bind off at the end, and finally someday (4) cast on a new beginning.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

UX for Lean Startups required reading

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and DesignUX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design by Laura Klein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Laura's book.  As I read it I kept on putting it down thinking "I need to put this down and go follow her advice IMMEDIATELY" and then I would pick it up because I wanted to learn more and hear more of her voice.   Since I know Laura I could hear her voice advising, explaining, and gently mocking commonly-held falsehoods.  The tone combines with the topic matter to break down pre-conceptions, to convince and teach.

Laura's advice is incredibly practical. Having just been through a startup I could immediately see what I could have applied, and working with other startups now I do get an opportunity to apply more ideas.  Many ideas are only obvious in retrospect (like testing fake features when you're operating on a shoestring budget) and then even once the idea is obvious, there's great advice for making the most of the idea.

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Sunday, August 04, 2013

Bleak House

Bleak HouseBleak House by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Bleak House.  Dickens uses incredibly lush and complex metaphorical descriptions for London, estate houses, and especially, the Chancery Court.  What makes this novel one of my favourite Dickens books is the sweet and good unreliable narrator, Esther Summerson.  She is not perfect (which is even better than perfect).  Her imperfections lie in her lack of self-confidence and too-trusting nature.  Even as she tells in the nicest and most trusting tone about some other character's actions, the reader can tell that other character's truer nature.  And eventually Esther comes around to the reader's opinion, saddened if the other character turns out to be less than her ideal.

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