This week on the Boagworld show we look at our morale obligations and how to help clients embrace agile.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the Boagworld show the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development, and strategy. My name is Paul Boag and joining us on this show is Andy Clarke, Rachel Andrew, Sam Barnes and Leigh Howells. Happy Christmas everybody.
Andy: Ho, Ho, Ho.
Rachel: Happy Christmas
Paul: It doesn’t feel quite like Christmas yet because we are recording this on the 5th but it’s not going to go out for another week and a bit. So then it’s looking a bit more acceptable.
Rachel: Yeah, I’m in Vancouver where it is snowing, lovely fluffy snowflakes so feels very Christmassy here.
Paul: Oh, I envy you.
Andy:(singing) I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…
Paul: Has anybody put up the Christmas tree yet?
Andy:(singing louder) …just like the one I used to know.
Rachel: No, because I’m in Vancouver
Paul: Ah, yes, that would be difficult Rachel.
Rachel: You can’t take them on planes with and that, you know!
Andy: …and sleigh bells listen…
Paul: I love the way that we are all just ignoring the fact that Andy is singing.
Rachel: The best way I think.
Paul: (laughter) But I’m interested in is how my wife is going to transcribe this. Because it’s going to be Andy singing in the background and us talking over the top.
Andy:… In the snow… I dreaming…
Paul: Andy, have you put up your Christmas tree?
Andy: No! No, we haven’t got a Christmas tree yet. See, you see I’m a bit of a grinch! To be honest. When it comes to Christmas.
Paul: Why’s that?
Andy: Well, I don’t know, I was never really a Christmassy kind of person really. So although we’ve always enjoyed Christmas the three of us before that I was never really into Christmas that much so I have to… it is a bit of a struggle for me Christmas.
Andy: And when it comes to trees… When it comes to all the traditional things, you know Sue always wants to have a proper tree so we go and spend, Lord knows how much! 30 quid or more on a tree. Whereas to me I would have an inflatable tree if I could!
Paul: We are having a one that goes on the wall this year that’s just lights basically in the shape of a tree.
Rachel: Oh how very swish.
Paul: Thats how lazy we are!
Rachel: I have over 30 nativity sets. (Laughter)
Paul: Of course you do!
Rachel: I do yes, I like nativity sets they are a bit weird and people keep sending me them because I profess to like them, and I do buy them as well when I see them on my travels.
Lee: You’re a collector.
Rachel: Yeah, so I’ve got all these nativity sets which Drew keeps telling me that I’m not allowed to put out. But they are coming out, they are in storage because there are too many of them to fit in our house.
Paul: It must take you all of December just to set them up.
Rachel: I have… in the past we have, my daughter and I, arranged them in a kind of nativity conga on the dining room table, we had a very large dining room table. But there is more than there were then, now. I shall get some photos I do have photos.
Lee: I’ve got hilarious nativity set. I actually bought it from Bethlehem. That sounds very cool but…
Paul: Oh listen to you, drop in there" I was in Bethlehem.
Lee: However it’s the most hideous thing you have ever seen! Basically they had a showroom which you looked at and then you said “yes I’d like that one please.” They went out the back and got one all boxed up ready for you. We got back on the coach and unwrapped it and it was nothing like the one that they had on show. It’s like it had been hacked out of balsa wood
Sam: There’s nothing like a bit of Christmas fraud!
Lee: And Mary looks like a “bag of spammers” as Andy might have said. We laugh at her every year. (Laughter)
Andy: We went to Barcelona last year for the first time sort of just before Christmas. And I’ve never seen this Catalan tradition, have you seen this? A Catalan tradition of having these little figures that you put out at Christmas time where they are all sort of showing their arses.
Paul: Yes, I’ve heard about that.
Andy: It’s the weirdest thing! So you go to a Christmas market and there’s stall after stall of these little figurines that are basically bending over having a crap. But you can get, literally name a popular culture or real person and you can get a copy of it. You can get like the Queen. Bending over and having a crap.
Lee: So it’s not just showing the bottom it is actually…
Andy: No! It’s actually having a… Some of them have a little toilet.
Sam: Are they Christmasy at all!?
Andy: No, not at all! This is the weird thing. I was looking at this big stall full of these things and there was Alex Salmond from the SNP was one of the…
Andy: It’s the strangest thing.
Paul: That is incredible!
Paul: Yes, really strange.
Paul: Well I’m getting very nervous because this Sunday I am going to my family get together that happens every year. The extended family, all of my Mum’s side of the family and we get together and Lee will know how this is quite a traumatic experience for me. I don’t know whether he remembers, we basically, a few years back we were driving down there, and I hate doing this family gathering. It’s horrible, every year I have to go through this pain. And so one year I was bitching and moaning on Twitter about it and I was sending these tweets, “I got to go to the family gathering, rah”.
Lee: Yes, I remember!
Paul: And so we started driving down there and then we got stuck behind traffic so I was bitching and moaning about that as well and how awful it was. We went on a bit further and then the road was closed because it was raining. And it had flooded so we, ahh, moan on Twitter, moan on Twitter. Got there eventually, got to this Christmas party and I was sitting in there bored out of my skull, you know, wanting to go home. And so I tweeted “Get me out of here”, in absolute desperation. Unfortunately Twitter miss-placed me. You know, when it Geo located me. And it geo-located me to the middle of a field and some clever arse, one of my followers put two and two together and got six. He saw that on the BBC News website it was saying they was major flooding in Somerset which is where I was going. He saw me in the middle of a field concluded that I was trapped or in trouble and called the fire brigade. (Laughter) So, two fire engines spent the next two hours going around Somerset trying to find me! Eventually, they got my telephone number from somewhere and rang me up absolutely irate at my “fake call!” Which it wasn’t my fault. And it cost me 50 quid to the firefighters benevolent fund to get them off my back. And the irony was that at the time I was designing the firefighters benevolent fund website! So there you go. So as a result I am terrified of Christmas.
Lee: I didn’t know you had to pay. That was purely voluntary or did they actually…
Paul: Oh yeah, no, it was voluntary. But they certainly guilted to me into it. So there you go that was Christmas. Terrible, I hate it! (Laughter) so one a more positive note…
Andy: You love Christmas!
Paul: Yeah, I do!
Andy: I can imagine you sitting there surrounded by all the artisan uncles with the paper hat on your head. Tucking into Brussels sprouts.
Paul: I’ve bought myself a Christmas jumper. I’ve bought myself a Christmas jumper this year. It’s completely black, right, and it has written on the front “Ho” with a three symbol, So “Ho” cubed. Ho, ho, ho. See that’s funny (laughter)
Sam: No one’s going to get that!
Paul: Nobody is meant to get it. Anyway. So what about Christmas presents. I’m buying myself, this is how rock-and-roll my life is, I’m buying myself a Dyson heater for Christmas. That’s my present to myself for Christmas. What are you getting Andy? I bet you’re getting apes.
Andy: No, I’ve collected all the apes that I want to collect for the moment. So, I don’t actually really need anything.
Paul: Yeah well, Christmas isn’t about needing things. It’s when you buy yourself pointless gadgets.
Andy: Well in that case I’m going to get myself a Jaguar F type and an omega sea master watch, the James Bond one the Spectre Limited edition.
Paul: Okay, yeah. How much does that cost?
Andy: I think it’s about six grand for the watch and about 70 for the car.
Paul: Oh, well that’s fine. Get two.
Andy: Loose change!
Paul: One for you, one for the wife.
Andy: No, she wouldn’t want one of those she’s more into an Aston.
Paul: Oh, okay. Well by her and Aston then. You’re an Internet celebrity, leading web designer figure. You must be rolling in it!
Andy: Rolling in it, yeah!
Paul: Exactly, there we go. What about Leigh, Leigh you constantly buy gadgets. What’s the latest gadget that you want?
Lee: Well, the only time I ever play games is at Christmas. I haven’t played a game for a long time. I really like the Uncharted series but you’ve got to buy a new console to play that haven’t you? So I might have to buy a PS4.
Paul: Oh, and Uncharted four is brilliant.
Lee: Just to play that and then I’ll probably sell it. (Laughter)
Paul: Well that’s good enough. I play games quite a lot these days on my PS4.
Lee: That is because you got so much spare time Paul, you know, bit of work here and there.
Paul: Occasionally, when I can be bothered. And Sam will be buying something cat related.
Sam: No, no. We got two choices. So before we recorded I mentioned my electric shower as a very exciting present! That I’m hoping to get myself. But I have thought of something cooler which I’m actually waiting for them to arrive, they are called “quiet on” earplugs. And they are essentially noise cancelling ear plugs. So imagine the Bose type technology but these are wireless and you just bung them in. I’m really hoping to just block out the world.
Andy: Not an awful lot cooler mate! To be honest. A bit of peace and quiet is not rock ‘n’ roll.
Sam: Oh, I know. I know. But you know what’s going to happen, they’re from kick starter, so they’ll be breakable, they’ll fall apart and hiss and buzz.
Paul: Well you won’t get them for another six months at least.
Sam: I’ve already been waiting, this is a very early Christmas present I gave myself.
Paul: So let us know what they are like.
Sam: Yes, I will do.
Paul: Because, in my experience, anything that you buy from kick starter is shit.
Sam: Yeah, I’m not learning that lesson. There’s something fun about it. I’m not learning.
Paul: You keep getting drawn in.
Sam: I see the videos, I know how they’re made.
Andy: I actually got something that wasn’t shit arrived in the mail this week from a kick starter, which was the reproduction British rail corporate identity manual.
Paul: Gore, you are so rock and roll Andy. And you had the audacity to accuse Sam of being dull.
Andy: I got very excited by the 1950s British Rail style guide. Fascinating!
Paul: Yeah, I’m really pleased for you. Rachel what are you going to get, please save us! (Laughter)
Rachel: I’ve got no idea actually. I don’t know.
Paul: Private jet?
Rachel: (Laughter.) Yeah, sort of something aeroplane related. I noticed that the tag on my suitcase has got all… I had to buy a new suitcase because British Airways eventually destroyed the other one. Burn marks on it, I mean what are they doing to the things. So anyway, I’ve got a really swanky looking suitcase now and I’ve put my, I can’t remember what things look like. I’m completely non-visual as a person so to actually be able to identify my suitcase as they come around the baggage thing I need to put things all over it that I can remember what the name of it is. So I’ve got this orange baggage tag. Now if the damn thing ever fell off my suitcase I would never find my suitcase again.
Sam: You just wait there until you are the only one left right?
Rachel: Yes, and it’s just going round and round. Well that must be mine then! (Laughter) So anyway, I’ve got this orange tag that is all frayed. So yes I think it has to be another orange tag. Because I know that it’s an orange tag that is on my case.
Sam: Have you thought about putting a tile in it and then you can track it on Bluetooth?
Rachel: Yes, that’d be good. Those tiles are quite a good idea, that be a good idea.
Paul: Well you can get even better ones now that are luggage specific aren’t they. That track you from airport to airport.
Sam: They look a bit like a brick though. But you carry them around yeah…
Paul: Yeah but you put them inside.
Sam: Yes that’s right.
Rachel: Yeah, that would be quite good. I like travel gadgets and travel things that’s always a good thing.
Lee: Have you got any noise cancelling headphones Rachel? It’s just that I’m selling some, you know. (Laughter)
Rachel: Yeah, I do. I don’t tend to, I’m not too bothered about plane noise. Because Drew wears noise cancelling headphones when he flies. But I’m not that fussed about noise. So long as I can I block out the light I can sleep. It doesn’t matter what chaos is going on around me.
Lee: You like the drone!
Rachel: Yeah. Mind you, I did notice I flew over here on a 747 and the flight before when I came from Singapore was an A380 and the difference in noise on the older planes compared to the new planes is quite striking.
Sam: Rachel, I saw that you tweeted about being on a seaplane though? What was that like?
Rachel: Yes, that was excellent! I can get very, very excited about any form of transport but especially planes. We were in Vancouver, Drew and I, we walked down to the harbour and just as we arrived a sea plane landed. And I was like “Ah, so cool” seeing a seaplane land. We went round the corner and there’s a whole seaplane airport! Wow, a seaplane airport! Is there anything better.
Andy: Honestly, the lot of us were is about as exciting as a 1950s style guide. I mean, Rachel how do you even know what sort of plane it is that you are getting on!?
Rachel: I could tell you where the good seats are in all the BA configurations.
Andy: Sam just once a little bit of peace and quiet. Sitting in the corner in this muffler!
Sam: Leave me alone! All of you!
Andy: And there’s me reading me British Rail manual! It’s just… (Laughter) honestly, and I thought Marcus was old! (Laughter)
Paul: Oh dear. I think it’s time for us to move on I think this is getting quite pathetic isn’t it really.
Andy: What a fascinating pod cast this is. (Laughter)
Paul: Why do people listen to this!?
Sam: Ahh, but this is the Christmas one. It’s meant to be a bit fun right?
Paul: No, no. Next weeks is the Christmas one
Sam: Oh, okay!
Paul: This is the pre-Christmas one.
Sam: Wait till next week people!
Paul: I have no idea what we’re going to do next week. I hadn’t really considered that.
Rachel: I think we should just drink. I think that would be fun.
Paul: It might make us slightly more interesting. Let’s quickly talk about our sponsor then will get onto the discussion.
Andy: What sponsor have we got this week Paul?
Paul: We’ve got Videoblocks again because they have been supporting us through the whole season. Thank you for asking Andy. They are an affordable subscription-based stock media site, don’t you know. That offer unlimited access to premium stock footage. They also have got a sister site called Audioblocks that, unsurprisingly, offers unlimited access to premium stock audio. Really great value, really good model actually. So if you are doing any kind of video or audio work the idea of having unlimited download is so useful because you can download different video or audio. You can try it out see if you like it, if you don’t nothing lost. You know, you haven’t bought it and then committed yourself. So they got a great selection of over 115,000 videos and 130,000 audio files. So you are going to be able to find footage pretty much whatever it is that you are trying to put together. Their average subscriber ends up paying less than a dollar per download over a year because you end up downloading so much. Because you can. It’s a really good variety of high quality audio and video. They are continually adding new stuff and you’ve got unrestricted access. You can use it in any way that you want. They are doing a really nice little offer for the listeners of this show where you get a years subscription to both Videoblocks and Audioblocks, because really you’re going to pretty much want both of those specially if you’re doing video work you’ll want sound effects and background music, et cetera. And all of that is only $149 for a year. Which is a hundred dollar discount on their usual price-tag. So it’s almost half what they usually charge. You can find out more by going to Videoblocks.com/Boagworld2016.
Round Table Discussion
Paul: Okay. So, for the discussion I want to do something a little bit different because… Well not a little bit different… It’s not going to seem directly related to kind of our work to begin with. But I think we will get there. And it comes back to the fact that Rachel spends her whole life travelling. So you are currently in Vancouver at the moment?
Rachel: Currently in Vancouver, Confoo conference, last conference of the year.
Paul: And you tweeted something very interesting recently about how being in a time zone that far away has kind of changed what you are seeing on social media. And it got me thinking about filter bubbles. Explain what you meant first of all.
Rachel: Yeah, so before I came here… a week ago I was travelling back from Singapore. I was in Singapore for CSSconf, Asia. And also this year I’ve been in Australia. And particularly those times zones, being in Australia and being in Singapore, you realise how much of the world is kind of asleep when we are awake in the sort of… I tend to deal with people who are in either the UK or in Europe or on the east coast of the states, mostly. Because those are the time zones when I am up and working generally. If I am at home at my desk. Those time zones I can kind of cover. So when you are somewhere like Singapore and so you are eight hours in the future compared to GMT and you tweet something, an entirely different bunch of responses come back from different people. So I put out tweets about CSS stuff I am working on and what-have-you and I am seeing this very different kind of people replying. And also the things that you see when you are in that time zone are different. And it kind of made me think, you know, how we often see the West Coast of the states as being quite insular. But you see when you are in this time zone, I mean I wake up early I woke up at, I’m jet lagged as well, but I was online at 5 AM here this morning, which was 1 AM in the UK so half the day had gone. So if I was going to go to work at a normal time, pretty much the UK is winding down. At the time I would get to work, and how much of a bubble does that cause, say, the West Coast of the States to be in because they are not interacting with the UK and Europe perhaps. And certainly not with places further east because they are just not online at the same time.
Paul: Now that made me think of something quite interesting from your perspective and the business that you run. I mean there are two questions really. One is do you… Your support that you offer for Perch people, is that 9-to–5 UK time? Do you have any kind of coverage outside of, you know…
Rachel: It’s pretty much when we are awake. So I will answer, I get up early so I will answer stuff from five in the morning. We will be answering stuff until like we go to bed. I would love to have support coverage. I think if we were to take on someone to do support I would probably try to take on someone who was, yes Singapore or in, or on the West Coast of the States or in Australia. That would help us cover more of the global time zones. I mean for Perch we are still mainly European. But there are quite a lot of American customers and Canadian customers. So it is spreading out. And we have lots of Australians who use Perch and they kind of do get a slower response because they will post stuff and often it will go round to their next day before we can answer just because of the time zones. We are pretty quick at answering support. So we try not to leave people any longer than we absolutely have to because we were asleep.
Paul: You are allowed to sleep Rachel. I know as I said before the show started, you are a bit of a machine but you are allowed to sleep.
Rachel: It is generally annoying, I would quite like it… I’m waiting for a kind of robot bodies where we don’t need to sleep and things. That would be good.
Paul: Yeah, I like my bed. It’s cosy and nice and safe.
Andy: Here we go again. (Laughter)
Lee: You work from bed every day Paul don’t you?
Paul: I do… What is this! This reputation I’ve got that I don’t do anything. It’s grossly unfair. I work for a living.
Lee: I just said you did it from bed.
Paul: That is true. But I mean, it does raise… It’s quite interesting this kind of idea. I’m interested, do any of you guys schedule posts and social media updates in advance or is it all just spontaneous? So in other words, are you sending stuff out at night?
Paul: You do.
Rachel: Yeah, I use buffer and I am increasingly using that to put stuff out. Obviously for Perch but also just personally. To put out things I’m working on or CSS questions I’m asking as part of the stuff I do, the CSS layout stuff. Because I realise how much of the world misses that stuff when we are all awake at a certain time.
Paul: Yeah, I kind of, I use buffer as well but actually my buffer… I use it mainly to spread out my ranting. Rather than it all coming in one go. But I’m not very good at different time zones which is sad because a big percentage of the listeners of this show are from Australia actually. And I don’t really ever get to talk to them very much online which is a bit of a shame really.
Sam: I used to use buffer myself when I was a bit more prolific on Twitter and I would definitely schedule different times. My kind of mission was to get digital project management to be recognised amongst the boring stuffy IT project management and also designers and developers all over the world. So I did find that when I first started and didn’t schedule tweets and just tweeted at whatever time I did it. However when I would schedule it for much later in the UK time I would then start getting responses from the US and from Australia. And I did notice it. Then I would spread them out across 24-hours just to see what would happen and it kind of, I wouldn’t say that the numbers spiked as such, but I definitely got, if you looked at the geographics then definitely without a doubt, it was very different than if I was doing it myself.
Paul: Umm. Andy, what about you?
Andy: Well I don’t really schedule much any more because I haven’t been sort of putting as much stuff out. But I had a question more than anything else which is when you are travelling, as I have done, I’ve just spent six weeks in Australia. I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned that in the past! But one of the things that I had noticed was… Because I followed quite a lot of Australian designers and developers, so I would pick up on their mood, in a way. And Australians being Australians tend to be very optimistic. So I found Twitter to be quite a light-hearted kind of place. Whereas when I’m over here particularly, kind of… Sydney is what?, 11 hours ahead of us here, so it’s very much that what’s happening in the UK or in Europe or in east coast of the States is basically off while Australians are up which is the interesting thing. So was very kind of optimistic and happy Twitter while I was there. Whereas when I come back, particularly when the Americans wake up, it’s much more kind of a dismal place. Bleating about how bad the world is. So I did find that it was a different place. And that was interesting.
Paul: Yes, because it was interesting from our perspective as well because while you are away Twitter was quite positive upbeat place. (Laughter) and then when you came back and started talking about Brexit it all got a bit miserable!
Andy: Well maybe I should have scheduled my Brexit tweets to be when you were awake Paull. If only there was an app for that.
Paul: Yeah, so it is an interesting point but it kind of moves on to something a little bit broader which is this idea of filter bubbles. The fact that we are being fed, echoed back to us our own experiences. Whether that be in a geographical sense or whether it be that you naturally follow people that are of the same mindset and attitude as you. This has come about partly because of the algorithms of things like Facebook, for example. Which pushes in your face stuff that it knows you would like. But it also creates interesting scenarios. Let’s take YouTube for example, Youtube looks at what you watch and uses that to recommend other stuff that you would like to watch. So as a result I don’t get many pop videos posted to me because it’s not the kind of thing I like. So there’s a filter bubble being created there. So the question is, talking about from a user experience design point of view, one of the things we argue is that you give users what they want, all right. But if you give users what they want, so what they are already looking at, you give them more of that. You are creating a filter bubble around them. So should we as user experience designers be talking about giving people what they need rather than what they want. And sometimes that is exposure to a broader set of stuff than they think that they want. If that makes sense.
Sam: Could it even be the opposite, in a way.
Paul: Go on Sam, what you mean?
Sam: I definitely know what you are talking about. I wasn’t really aware of echo chambers or filter bubbles until Brexit, if I’m to be honest. What I have been doing sort of quite recently is following people on various sites that I wouldn’t normally. And some of them actually, you know, make me angry. Just to see what the difference is and it’s been interesting I have to say. I found myself… My mindset is changing. I can’t quite articulate how but it is definitely changing from when it was coming all back to me. So one thing I thought was like on YouTube, if you’re watching videos of a particular, say, political persuasion I’m wondering if there is a case where, just to break this filter bubble world that we are in at the moment that if perhaps you would, I don’t know how you would do it, you couldn’t force it but you could perhaps offer options of seeing the opposing views. I don’t know, something like that is what I have done manually and is actually… it is doing something to how I’m thinking right now which is I think is the point.
Rachel: I think it is interesting, we have realised as an industry that, we are starting to realise things that have happened recently that we have quite a lot of power over what people think. And that any of us individually could be asked to work on something which kind of… could essentially hand power to the wrong sort of people. Certainly change the way that something pans out. Because we actually.. if we are working on any of these kind of projects we are actually quite got a lot of power in terms of those algorithms, about what people see. I don’t think that anyone doing that stuff really thinks that through. I don’t think they did until now. I think people are starting to realise now that there is an awful lot of power in being able to show people things. Yeah.
Sam: If you want to see a really, really good to talk about that says Mike Monteiro’s “How designers destroyed the world”. The entire talk is about really making you focus on the power that you as a designer, in that case, have and he gives some really, really dark examples real-life examples, of where people’s lives have been damaged because of someone just saying “Yes, yes and yes” up the chain.
Paul: Can you give me an example? Can you remember any of them?
Sam: I think the example, the biggest example he used was to do with someone working at Facebook and it was to do with privacy settings and someone’s sexuality and I think that it’s basically Facebook made a change. They made a change that might have seemed quite small to whoever was involved in the change but it actually made some of this persons information public. Rather than private. I think that was the gist of it. And what he was really saying was.. that think about what you are doing. It only takes three or four people in some cases to say “oh, okay I’ll do it” and suddenly you’ve damaged people and the world. It is quite… Honestly watch that talk it is really humbles you.
Rachel: Yeah, I think on a similar note is the talk that Eric Myers has been doing and I think now there’s a video of it. It was his EventApart talk about the way that we can sort of design for the extremes. The sort of extreme situations that people find themselves in, and sort of helping people in those difficult situations. There’s a whole load of stuff that we don’t realise we actually have the power to impact really. And even anyone can be asked to do just as part of their job.
Sam: I was going to say, it’s quite difficult though because at the end of the day somebody is making that decision probably because they think it will make money. Right?
Sam: So the person who’s making that decision is not going to be thinking along the lines that we are. And this was kind of the bit of the talk was having the courage to say “no.” That could end in all sorts of bad ways I guess but it is definitely something… Since Brexit I have to admit that it has really been at the top of my mind.
Rachel: Yeah, and this kind of bubble both not being aware perhaps of the rest of the world and so on. Particularly if you think of the Silicon Valley area and that sort of West Coast. There was a real echo chamber there I think, and you feel it when you are on this coast and it is a lot of it is just time zones related. You know you don’t hear the voices from other parts of the world as much. And so it can be quite easy to think… And I think a lot of those people are very young and have got a limited life experience compared to someone who is older. So they are creating a world which is, which works very very well for young people living on the West Coast of America. And the decisions that they’re making are based on them being young people on the West Coast of America and have got disposable income and, you know, and maybe don’t have a lot of responsibilities. And that’s…
Lee: They are the kind of people who are writing the algorithms for Facebook’s newsfeed and that kind of thing. Yes that’s the kind of endemic problem underlying things isn’t it.
Paul: It was really driven home for me recently when I went to India. I’m as bad as Andy and Australia aren’t I. But experiencing… That really opened my eyes to little design decisions that we all make, all of the time and how annoying it was. I mean I was working… I was out there and Simon who ran the project that I was working at came back home and we were sitting around and he was really frustrated and worked up. He said “I’ve been trying to sort out a Visa for one of our workers all day. The website it has been driving me nuts.” So I said I’d help him, you know, with the website. So I was going through this application and stuff like this. Setting aside all the bad design problems and all the other issues that were there, just the fact that I was on such a poor connection made the whole process incredibly frustrating. Although I knew intellectually that there are people in the world that are on really shit, poor connections until I was trying to do this, and this thing that should have taken five minutes took over an hour. I didn’t emotionally connect to it. And I think that’s a big part of this as well. It’s not just… If you spoke to someone in the silicon valley or if there are people in the Silicon Valley who are listening to this now and they are thinking “Oh, I know I live in a bubble. I’m aware of that and what the valley is like” it’s one thing to be aware of it and there’s another thing to feel it, do you know what I mean?
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s the same with all kinds of things like accessibility and stuff. Until you’ve experienced being in some way disabled, for instance. When I shattered my arm and I was completely one-handed for a good period of time, and I still use a lot of the accessibility controls on my computer. You suddenly realise “oh, this is what this is like”. I’ve always cared about accessibility but I was unfortunate enough, and I’m still very fortunate that other than one slightly dodgy army I’m pretty able to do all the things I want to do, but it makes you realise when you actually run into that situation it’s like “Oh, this is what it’s really like and it’s a real struggle.” How do we make this better for people because actually we all end up in those situations at some point.
Paul: And it does raise an interesting question, mind. Which is that “what should we be aiming for?” Because somebody a minute ago said, I don’t know whether it was you Rachel or Sam. But one of you said, the danger is here that the decisions that we make may end up giving too much highlight to one audience over another. That’s bad people might get into power, I think was the example that was used. So the question is is it for us to make those kinds of decisions? Or should we be aiming for impartiality in all of this?
Rachel: I think that if we are put in the position where we are asked to. Then there has to be… I think it’s about being aware that you could well be in that situation and not just kind of sleepwalk into doing that without thinking it through. I think there’s obviously a moral decision to be made by individuals or by companies as to what they are going to do. That is a different thing. I think what is most interesting is the fact that most of the time these decisions are made by people who, you know, they’ve not even considered the moral question. It’s just like “Oh, from a business point of view this would be really great, if we give these people more of what they want to see and they’ll click on more ads, so let’s do it, is going to be good for business” and it’s quite likely that no one, certainly not an individual engineer perhaps working on that, didn’t even think “Oh but what if this then causes this bubble which then causes this to happen…” you know, I think it’s being aware of it so that when those questions are asked of you, you know, when a job comes in that is “do this” you think hang on, actually is there a moral decision to be made here, which side of this do I want to be on?Not just sleepwalking into doing it because “Oh, that’s my job to write this code that does this”
Sam: The sleepwalking bit for me is the key. It’s actually giving it that thought. I mean from watching Mike’s talk. That’s what it left me with, you watch so many talks you forget all the details. You’re left with that primary message, that was what it did to me. I have kind of done a similar talk from a project management point of view because it is no different. It struck me that each and every one of us no matter what role we do essentially we are part of some kind of chain. So as a project manager I actually was able to think back to decisions that I had made, I had slept walked into it and it did cause issues. It does flip it slightly so that every time something comes in now it almost is a subconscious processing now.
Paul: Andy, in your situation as someone who is actually running a agency or a business, have you actually turned away work on moral grounds. That you feel it was inappropriate.
Andy: Yeah, we are slightly straying away from whole time zone part of the conversation.
Paul: Yeah we are but that’s fine.
Andy: We have had for many, many years, and it’s at the bottom of our website for anybody who wants to take a look at it, we have had a ethical and political policy. It is literally at the bottom in our footer it says “ethical statement”. And we have certain things that we like to do but certain things that we just won’t do. So we will offer reduced rates for charities for example and we will offer reduced rates for working in organisations but we won’t work for anybody that supplies the military for example.
Andy: You know, I’ve been a long term, you know, for all of my life I’ve been an anti-war protester. Particularly when it came to nuclear disarmament. I would not want to work on a project where that company was, you know, taking the bulk of their money from supplying the military for example. This has been good for us, we’ve actually won work because of it. A few years ago when I did the big project with new internationalist magazine and they were really keen on the fact that we had got this policy on the website. In fact WWF (WWS?), the work that we did tail end of last year early part of this year, again that was a big part about why they chose us was because you know, we don’t want to work for organisations that we might find objectionable. So that’s been quite good for us. There’s been a couple of occasions where people have turned round and said no. We’ve just spotted this thing on your website and therefore please don’t come in and see us. But that’s kind of a filter. It is self-selecting. And I feel quite happy about that. I mean I’ve changed the tone of it over recent years I’ve turned it into a more positive “This is what we want to do” rather than “This is what we don’t do”. Because I didn’t want to make it sound too judgemental but I think it’s important. I am more than happy to have that on the website because you know, if you’re putting something about yourself into a design, which I think is incredibly important, then your values need to go in there as well.
Paul: Yeah, yeah. I would absolutely agree with that. Okay, let’s shift gear because I do want to… The last couple of weeks we’ve only managed to cover one topic and I do want to cover another one today if we can. Which is, Sam, you had an interesting dilemma that was worth discussing.
Sam: Yes I reached out to the digital project management community to see what kind of talks, sorry, what kind of topics they would like to hear on a podcast like this and I got a few good suggestions but overwhelming one of the biggest ones I got was how do you go about convincing a client to switch from whatever they are working to “Agile”, an agile way of working. And I know that we have kind of delved into this briefly, I think in a previous season. I think we had Holly Davis talking about the agency that she worked at the time. They would get a client comfortable with the concept of by converting client budgets from time to points. The client only pays for points completed. Brett Harned, on the other hand says that one of the problems he’s had, and one of the issues that he personally has is that the time that you assume the client has to get involved in this process. And sometimes it’s just not there. And myself, I talked about how to, sort of how I would sell agile but you know it’s really tricky. If I put my client, and I have been a client in many respects, I really can understand, even today went to us it seems like perhaps an obvious thing to do or something it’s been going on for a while, it seems like people don’t really think about how difficult it is to get your head around agile as a client. Compared to the traditional way of working.
Paul: Yes, yeah. Yes that makes sense.
Sam: So yeah, how do people do it. Should you do it?
Andy: I’ve been talking about this with clients for a while because as a micro studio we always used to get ourselves into a real pickle when it came to scheduling. Because quite often you would have jobs that would overrun or things would collide in the calendar and it was a nightmare. Scheduling was one of our biggest issues. So what we decided to do was to start working on a weekly billing schedule. So would say to us client “right were going to work with you for these specific weeks and we are going to charge you X amount per week” and that was very good for us. But one of the things that it kind of encouraged was that it encouraged more of a sprint based approach to the work.
Paul: Sorry Andy. I want to understand… Make sure I’m understanding this correctly. You’re saying that you moved away from charging for deliverables to charging for time. Is that what you’re saying?
Andy: Yeah, it is still tied to deliverables but what we do is we say, when we are billing, when were charging up a job, estimating a job we will say “Right, we think it will take let’s say six weeks and week one we are going to do one thing and week two we’re going to do something else”. So it is kind of deliverable based but what we are doing is we are breaking it down into those weeks. It’s just.. the thought occurred to me, that these are just quite like agile sprint periods. And clients actually really could understand that. They liked the idea that they would be working on something intensively for a particular period of time. And it helped us because they would be able to get all of those collateral bits and pieces ready for when we were about to start that part of the project or that sprint. But we never really called it agile, you know, there may be elements of agile in their. We would want to have regular conversations with the clients every morning for 15 minutes or so. But we wouldn’t necessarily think about it in terms of a stand-up. And I’ve got no bloody clue what a kanban board is.
Paul: Nobody has!
Sam: I completely agree, there’s a difference between agile with the capital A or an agile way of working. I think the more I’ve been through those conversations the more I am, for the want of a better word, selling agile with a small a. Just whatever works. It always seems to be the stock answer. But that really is the answer in my experience.
Paul: I’m interested to just delve in a little bit more to what Andy does. So a couple of questions there Andy, what happens if you overrun. What if something takes longer than you had planned for. Are you still offering a fixed price solution or would they end up paying more if they overran.
Andy: Very rarely do we overrun.
Paul: Oh right, okay.
Andy: Now we might go over for a day or two and I don’t watch the clock in those kind of situations. You know, I’m my worst enemy when it comes for not wanting to stop working on a job until I am 100% happy with it. The number of times that I’ve got halfway through a week and not liked what we’ve come up with. We haven’t even shown the client at this stage but but I’ve not been happy with it and I’ve thrown it all out and we’ve started again. So there will be occasions where we’ll run a few days over but one of the things I like to do with this particular way of working is, we’ll sort of set a general theme for the week rather than a specific set of… I don’t know, do you remember when people used to do, like, technical specifications. You know, you’d nail everything down in the document before you would start working. Now that’s very costly from a small business point of view.
Paul: Yeah, that was gonna be my second question actually. It sounds like there’s a lot of upfront work.
Andy: Whereas actually what we do is we just say to a client “Right, we can work on the homepage this week, we gonna work on the shopping cart pages the next week” and it’s much, much looser. Now, we’ll put a rough specification together but the documentation is intentionally loose. And then if the client turns round and says “Ah, I’ve had this brilliant idea” we’ve kept it flexible enough that if we think we can do it within that week then we will do. But if we turn around them and say “Do you know what, that’s going to take us almost another week, we’ll roll that into another sprint week.” And obviously they’ll know that a sprint week costs 4 or 5 thousand pounds.well, all of a sudden sometimes there great idea isn’t a great idea any more. Because they don’t want to pay for it. And if they do then that’s better for us because you know, we commit to more work.
Paul: Sorry, Sam go ahead.
Sam: I was just going to ask Andy. How do you get the client on board with that in the first place. I mean obviously there are clients that, especially now, that have heard of it or have worked with other people that use it, so it can be slightly easier. But I’m thinking about that difficult case, that so many agencies out there face that are probably on the smaller end and don’t have existing relationships or big accounts. Talking to another small business owner perhaps, they’ve got a finite amount of money, all the usual constraints, how do you get someone… I know what the advantages are but is there any… Do you just tell them flat out and they are on boards and…
Paul: Sorry to interrupt Andy, I’m sure you’re capable of answering your own question but I’m going to interrupt anyway! To me I don’t think you have the normal problems with agile Sam that you would have because the normal big problem from the client’s perspective with agile, with the capital A, is that “We’re going to do a series of sprints, you pay for sprints rather than for the deliverables”. And so in theory you if you end up with a sprint… You’ve got no finite deliverable for a finite cost. Which is always clients big fears with digital. But what Andy has just described is he is giving a fixed cost for a fixed project. And yes there is a bit of looseness into how exactly that is going to work but to be honest clients are okay in my experience with that. So he is kind of sneaking in agile… He is compromising agile with a big A to enable us to still offer a fixed-price. Is that about right Andy?
Andy: Yeah, it is about right because you know, small businesses in North Wales comes along, we don’t work for small, small businesses but you know, a reasonable size business comes along. Let’s argue they’ve got, I don’t know, let’s say a £15,000 budget. So not a massive amount but a decent thing if you can actually work on it and keep the time down so that you can still make a profit. As us as a business. So you’d say to them “Okay, we think this job is gonna take four weeks we are going to work on it so that in week one we work on the design concepts, design principles. We do all of the research we get to know you and we do all that kind of preliminary stuff. We start making some design concepts up. Week two is gonna be more about how the thing actually works. Week three is going to be about turning that stuff into HTML and CSS prototypes so that we can actually, you can test things on devices and get all responsive. And week four is going to be about integrating it with Perch.” And they go “Sounds good and sensible to me.” Now most web designers, most small companies of our size if they are building website for a client, that takes three months! From a client signing up to actually getting something online for us it takes four weeks. Because we are focusing on that one client at one time. And when you’ve got three or four people that are doing that you get it done really quickly.
Paul: Yeah, and there’s a huge advantage as well is, as Leigh, I am sure, will testify, working on one project at a time is a hell of a lot better.
Leigh: Yeah… Yeah
Andy: And the other thing in terms of cash flow, this is the last thing I will recommend to people, is that we charge one week in advance.
Andy: Because you know, what do most people do. They charge a 50% deposit and then the balance upon completion? When the hell is completion? Four months later? When the client has decided that they are going to write the copy? To put into the templates that you finished three months ago? So actually if you do what we do and you charge people just a week in advance then a) it keeps the financials a lot simpler but it is also great for positive cash flow. Nobody ever owes us any money!
Paul: And also it’s great for the client in some ways as well because it is spreading payment. Instead of having to pay it in one big lump sum upfront. Sorry Leigh, you were going to say something.
Leigh: No, I was just going to add that I think the problem that I have always found with agile, even with the lower case a, is that the client doesn’t work in an agile way and the decision-making process doesn’t work in an agile way. The people up the chain aren’t part of the process and they have to get sign off and that can be an unknown quantity. That is usually what holds the process up. So we’ve had cases where daily stand-ups have ended up becoming weekly and then something hasn’t happened, somebody hasn’t signed something on and then everything is stalled for a few weeks whilst that person gets tied down, sort of, University kind of jobs where there’s a massive organisation and structure. And with the best will in the world of agile, their institution doesn’t work like that.
Sam: Yeah, that’s kind of where I was coming from. I think my experience is that it’s always something else that’s the issue. With me it was really how funding is done, how payments are done and they didn’t have the flexibility to pay when they wanted as such. They needed very strict things in terms of things like corporate governance to get it signed off. And that required X, Y, and Z. Perhaps a specification or something like that. So yeah…
Paul: And that’s, yeah, and that’s where things begin to snowball which is kind of almost what has happened with my career in a sense. You know, I started off as designer, hands-on designer and then, you know, you start coming across barriers in terms of “We can’t do the best thing because of some organisational issue” and before you know it you’re kind of trying to deal with change management of the whole organisation. So I think in truth, agile is a radical different way of working and it doesn’t… For a lot of organisations it is diametrically opposed to how they are set up and how they are organised. So the only way that you can effectively run agile with a big A within an organisation is if you can isolate it from the rest of the organisation. So you’ve got access to the key decision-maker who has their own budget and you don’t have a large number of stakeholders involved. Then by all means go ahead and do agile with a big A but beyond that I think there is going to be compromise. There is going to be the need for flexibility in the way that you work. Or in an ideal world you start addressing some of those larger organisational issues and not blind the accepting. “Why does procurement want to work in this way?” Where does that come from? Why can’t that be changed? And to start addressing those. But then you’re opening up a big can of worms and you’re talking about… That’s the kind of stuff I do these days.
Leigh: Yes, you try and change the organisation itself, to suit the process!
Paul: Yes, and that takes years and years and is almost a generational thing so, and is by happy circumstance the topic of my next book that is coming out.
Leigh: Oh, is it really Paul. That’s interesting.
Paul: Look how subtly I did that! If you want to know more about the book there will be a link in the show notes. Just saying!
All right, so let’s wrap up at that point because we are running out of time. We want to look at Vivaldi. They’ve been doing a great job… They’ve done my job for me. They’ve done their own little ad slot that we just drop in. And they talk about how great their product is. So here is what they want to say about their browser today.
Paul: Thank you Vivaldi. It is a very cool browser so it is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already checked it out. It’s nice to have variety in the field these days. There was a time when we all used to be slightly afraid of having multiple browsers and the more browsers that came along meant the more testing and more of a nightmare and the browser wars in all that kind of stuff. But these days as long as it’s a nice compliant browser, which Vivaldi is, then you are good and dandy. But it’s got some really nice features. You can find out more about it at Boag.world/betterbrowser. Okay, so that about wraps it up for this week. Where’s the best place to find out about all you lovely, spangly guys. Andy what about you where are you you you?
Andy: Hang on, don’t we get a joke this week?
Leigh: Yeah, yeah I found a bad joke for you!
Paul: Thank goodness for that!
Leigh: I googled bad jokes and…
Paul: Well I suddenly realised, just as I started to say that “Marcus isn’t with us so we don’t have a bad joke” but…
Leigh: This is equally as bad as anything Marcus would have come up with. I have actually run it past him and I think it meets the mark.
Sam: It’s got approval, good.
Paul: Marcus approved, I like it, go for it.
Leigh: Well I’ve got two actually so now I’ve got to decide which one. Let’s do that one. “How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?”
Paul: Go on.
Leigh: 10, “ten-tickles” (silence)
Andy: Oh my god.
Paul: That is awful. I’ve got to have the other one as well.
Leigh: “What did the poorly chickpea say”
Leigh: I falafel “I feel awful?!”
Sam: That’s awful that one. (General laughter and comments)
Leigh: There you go.
Paul: There was a good one in the slack channel that was a designer one. It’s “If you removed a statue of an angel from a fountain would you be left with a san serif font?”
Andy: I never thought that I would pine for Marcus. (Laughter)
Paul: Go on, you do better then Mr Clarke!
Andy: No, I haven’t got a joke up at the moment.
Paul: I think next week, we all ought to bring a joke because it’s the Christmas show.
Sam: Nice, I like that.
Andy: Does it have to be a Christmas joke?
Paul: No, no it can be any joke you want. But a cracker joke.
Rachel: Oh, will have to all, you know, pull a joke out, very carefully out of the cracker. And then put back in! (Laughter)
Paul: How tight are you Rachel! Not even willing to use a whole cracker on the show.
Rachel: No! You can’t use crackers before Christmas. I don’t know, something bad happens!
Paul: It’s criminal is it? We need to come up with what we are going to do on next week’s show. I feel like it needs to be a bit different but I haven’t got a clue at the moment. I’ll talk about that after we wrap up. Let’s wrap up. Andy where can people find out about you?
Andy: People can find out about me at stuffandnonsense.co.uk and I am @malarkey on Twitter.
Paul: And Rachel?
Rachel: I’m @RachelAndrew on Twitter and I usually reply unless I’m actually in a plane at the time and I am RachelAndrew.co.uk on the web.
Paul: And not Marcus, otherwise known as Leigh.
Leigh: Headscape.co.uk. Or @Leigh on Twitter.
Paul: I’m surprised you didn’t push your own personal website. Is it a mystery design?
Leigh: Nothing interesting on there, you don’t want to go there! (Laughter)
Paul: Ahh. Normally Leigh has got this thing where he basically periodically redesigns his website but never puts content on it.
Leigh: No, the exciting bit is redesigning it but actually maintaining and putting things on it is the boring bit isn’t it?! I’ve got to mention Headscape anyway because this is, as we established last week, Headscape’s only marketing channel. So…
Paul: Yes, that’s it isn’t it, yeah.
Andy: Wait a minute, you actually listened to this crap when you’re not on it? (Laughter)
Leigh: Yeah, I’m indiscriminate with podcasts. What can I say.
Paul: Well, also it is written into the contract of anybody at Headscape that they have to listen to it. You know, you’ve got to consider that. Sam, what about you?
Sam: I’m on Twitter @TheSamBarnes and my website is TheSamBarnes.com.
Paul: There is now a lot of people wondering weither it really is written into Headscape’s contracts.
Leigh: I’ve never read it so I wouldn’t know. Laughter)
Paul: Unbelievable! Right, okay. I just want to, talking of Christmas, I just want to remind people that we are running a Christmas appeal at the moment where we are trying to encourage people to, instead of sending Christmas cards, especially if you run an agency and you end up sending loads of Christmas cards to clients. Instead of that to donate the money to a charity that I visited recently in India and send your clients an email instead. I’ve even produced email templates for you to send out to clients because I know how damn lazy you all are! You can find out more about that at Boag.world/Xmas. I would really appreciate if you could donate anything either personally or as an agency that would be wonderful. Thank you very much for listening and join us again next week for the last show of the season. It’s going to be an extra special Christmas one we just don’t know how yet, well I don’t. See you next week, bye.
Links mentioned in the show
- Boagworld Christmas appeal
- Confoo conference
- CSSconf, Asia
- Mike Monteiro’s “How designers destroyed the world”
- Eric Myers
- Holly Davis
- Brett Harned
- User Experience Revolution
- Andy Clarke at stuffandnonsense.co.uk
- Rachel Andrew at RachelAndrew.co.uk
- Leigh Howells at Headscape.co.uk
- Sam Barnes at TheSamBarnes.com