The top 10 innovation sites

As a technologist and UX Lead for one of the world’s biggest software companies, I spend a lot of time reading about the latest trends in innovation and tech. How do I do it? I have a short list of sites I visit on a regular basis, and I thought you would like to see that list as well. Here it is (with a bonus link at the end I particularly like, for reasons you’ll soon note):

TED

The TED conference features a lot of very smart people talking about a range of different topics, but innovation is always consistently represented (and presented). http://www.Ted.com

Innovation Excellence

A great site with lots of posts on how many of the top companies in the world focus on innovation. http://www.innovationexcellence.com

TechCrunch

TechCrunch is a news site plugged into silicon valley, and covers startups and established companies. http://www.techcrunch.com

Patently Apple

Not everything Apple patents will ever be released, but it doesn’t hurt to see what they are thinking about. Everything the innovative company files and is granted a patent for is listed here: http://www.patentlyapple.com

Popular Mechanics

The magazine focuses mostly on hardware, but there’s lots of innovation present in every issue. The website features all the content from past issues as well as news and videos. http://www.popularmechanics.com

Wired

Wired has lots of great online-only content about technology and culture – a good place to look to see some of the moral and ethical issues involving the latest innovations (such as Google Glass). http://www.wired.com

Kickstarter

Where can you find a lot of today’s most innovative thinkers? Look to Kickstarter: There you will find new products in the formative stage – these kickstarted campaigns can provide insight into where things are going. http://www.kickstarter.com

Tech News Daily

“Tech news written for non-technical people” is this site’s slogan, and they live up to it: A lot of helpful insights that will not make your eyes glaze over due to technobabble. http://www.technewsdaily.com

Forbes’ Innovation and Science section

Forbes covers innovation with a focus on business and process, and I like reading the science content they provide as well. http://www.forbes.com/innovation-science

CultureBy

Grant McCracken is a very smart man, and he’s written a lot about innovation design and culture. His site has got a lot of random thoughts (like mine) but there’s some great ideas here. http://cultureby.com

This Week in Innovation

This list goes to 11, because I’m also listing my newest website, This Week in Innovation. This Week in Innovation aggregates stories from many of the above websites, giving you a snapshot of what is “top of mind” in the innovation space. It comes out every week (naturally) and can be read here: http://www.thisweekininnovation.com

Photos: The Computer History Museum

Another week, another cool sightseeing destination. This week was the Computer History Museum, in the heart of silicon valley. If you are a geek, then here’s pictures from the museum covering the gamut of computing devices – from slide rules to smartphones. If you are not, there’s plenty of other sites on the Internet.

Here’s some pics (and a lot more are here):

What is the best way to create a UX roadmap?

First off, let’s discuss the term “UX Roadmap.” I’ve heard it used in a couple of different ways. Here’s one definition, from UX Game Changers:

The UX roadmap defines the stages of the user delivery. And while demands can change deliverables, the roadmap provides guidance and helps set priorities. The term “roadmap” is defined as being a course of action or a plan for future actions.  Roadmaps provide the underpinnings of what should eventually turn into efficiencies and revenue.

Here’s my take on it:

A UX roadmap details where your users are, where they want/desire to be, and when you will provide offerings that will take them where they want to go. It is a timeline of activities and offerings that is driven by user needs and aligned (and, optimally, influencing) product release schedules.

An example: You sell a widget that allows people to instantly see their blood sugar level. This widget does one thing – the blood sugar check – incredibly well. Your users like it because it is simple and effective. However, they want more – they want to be able to log this sugar over time, and they also want to not have to sync this information with their computers – they want to just have the information “beam” itself to there. And as these users get more exposed to similar technology, they will also want to have multi-function devices that supports more than one function.

They – and the world – are heading towards “multitasking enablers” that support  health monitoring. How do you evolve your product to keep up with that? You flesh out a roadmap based on research, understanding, technology, and society trends.

This is what a lot of product managers do, but their product roadmaps are often “keep up with the Jones” efforts, where they strive for feature parity with competitors. The secrets sauce is the UX roadmap, because it looks not at the competitive landscape but user needs and their mental models. If you don’t do that, don’t understand where people’s “heads” are at and where they are going… Well, it can lead to a failed product line and a dead company.

See question on Quora

A visit to Southfork Ranch

I’ve been visiting a lot of fictional places lately.

Last week, I was in Cleveland, where I visited Ralphie’s house from A Christmas Story. This week, I was in Dallas… and my destination was one I always wanted to visit.

Southfork Ranch.

Yes, the home of the Ewings, the oil-barons of the TV show Dallas. I had watched the show when I was younger, rewatched it with my wife… and I was a fan. Not as big a fan as Twin Peaks or Star Trek, mind you… but I was a fan nonetheless.

I even had the opportunity to meet Larry Hagman, JR himself,  a few years ago. His autographed photo hangs proudly in my man cave along with an autograph of Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie).

Well, the visit to Southfork was a must-do, when I realized I had some extra time to kill this week (I’m in Dallas on business). I spent a couple of hours exploring the Dallas museum, the gift shops, the grounds, and (of course) the house. I was amused by the “delta” between the real world and the show (the producers built sets that don’t really “fit” into the floor plan of the actual Southfork home) and I was impressed by the owner’s attempt to make the house as “authentic” as possible.

The old (and new) show shots exteriors at Southfork, and the new show has taken advantage of the grounds a lot more than the original (they even shot the Mexican hotel room that JR dies in IN Southfork, so JR technically ‘died at home’).

Here’s copious amounts of photos taken as I was geeking out over the whole thing. With all these visits to fake/real locations recently, my perspective on things are getting a little blurred…

 

The day I saved Timothy Leary’s life

I realized a few days ago I had a couple of pretty good stories that I had never written up. One, involving Richard Simmons, I will not recount until he passes away (dead people can’t sue). The other, involving the time I saved Timothy Leary from grievous bodily harm… that one I can recount here.

It was many many years ago, at Atlanta’s DragonCon convention. Way back in the early 1990s I was a volunteer providing video production services to the convention (If you have ever attended the convention, you may have noticed they have dedicated TV channels in the four main convention hotels that rebroadcasts panels – that was my idea, way back in 1991). I helped setup equipment, run cables, and basically do lots of grunt work video recording panels. I only did it for a couple of years, because A. I was young and B. I enjoyed it. Once I realized DragonCon was exploiting volunteers/slave labor so they could make a pretty profit, I stopped doing it.

One year (I think it was 92) a big guest was Doctor Timothy Leary. I had read a lot of Leary’s work and by that point he had become a living legend of the 60s and 70s counterculture movement. I was excited to see him, and was thrilled to have one of the best “seats” in the house.

I was on an elevated platform manning a video camera during his panel – it was in one of the big rooms, and for Dr. Leary it that was standing room only. He spoke eloquently about how humanity should evolve, should be open to all possibilities… and how LSD was just one of may ways that we could reach higher forms of consciousness. Though I had never done drugs before (or since), his inspiring words made me consider taking that step. He was a great salesman.

And that lead to what happened when his panel ended.

Leary, who was by that point in his late sixties/early seventies, walked down the stairs to the left of the stage and talked to several people who lingered around. One of those people was a long-haired man from England whose intentions were not honorable. From my position I read the body language instantly – this guy was angry, and was charging towards Leary.

By this point, Timothy Leary and the crowd had moved, and he was standing right next to my platform, and his back was to me as the young man shoved past the person Leary was talking too and started screaming at him.

“YOU KILLED MY BROTHER WITH DRUGS YOU SON OF A BITCH YOU DESERVE TO DIE”

And with that I lifted Timothy Leary up and pulled him up to my platform. I’m 6 foot four, and lifting him up was an easy effort. He didn’t know it was coming, obviously, and as I set him down turned to me, shocked, he smiled. I got a sense that this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.

I grabbed for my walkie-talkie to call for security as the man continued screaming from below, but before I could get a message out two other volunteers bolted over and pulled the young man away. Found out later they guy had a knife on him.

Timothy muttered “Well, that was interesting. Thank you.” Then he walked down the steps off the camera platform and apologized to people for the interruption. Amazing. HE apologized.

I exhaled, thinking that what happened was interesting in the worse possible way. I went about my business, thinking that was the end of it. A couple of hours later a man came up to me and quickly said “Mr. Leary really appreciated what you did early. There’s a get-together in his room after 8 tonight, and he’d like to invite you to attend.” He handed me an index card with a room number and walked away before I could respond, “You bet.”

When you volunteer at a convention like this, getting to engage with a celebrity guest is one of the big (usually unfulfilled) opportunities. And here I was, getting invited to a private party because I had man-handled a 60s icon.

I was there at 8, right on time.

I was let in, and as I entered I saw that the party had started early. In the very large suite were many of the other convention guests – some big names in TV and film. I also smelled a distinct odor – they were enjoying a little weed along with their cigarettes.

I quickly sat down at a couch in the living room, and there – sitting across from me, on the couch opposite mine – was Timothy Leary. He recognized me, and smiled. He looked like… well, I hate to say it, but… Yoda. He looked like Yoda. Smiling, wise… peaceful.

And then he looked down. At the coffee table between us. I did, too.

There, on a dish, were four sugar cubes.

I looked at him, and he looked me. A moment of decision had arrived. And then…

There was a loud knock on the hotel room door.

Police.

I looked over, and saw someone had opened the door to one of Atlanta’s finest, who did not look interested in joining the party. After he introduced himself, he quickly declared “There’s been numerous complaints about noise in your room, and if you people are going to have a party you need to keep it down.”

I turned back to the table and… the sugar cubes were gone. Leary had snagged them off the table in a moment, like a flash. He’d done this before.

I laughed, quietly – the moment had passed.

 

For a while, I wondered… would I have done it? Would have gone on a trip with Timothy Leary? For many years I shook my head at the possibility, thinking “absolutely not.” That was my conservative upbringing talking. Now… Now, I smile ruefully at the lost opportunity.

Ah, well. Such is life.

Photos: 2014 Joelanta Action Figure and Toy Show

I just came back from the Joelanta action figure and toy show, which took place this weekend in Atlanta. As I had just returned from a long business trip early that morning, I didn’t have a lot of excess energy to spend so I was only there a couple of hours. It was just enough time to check out the sales floor, marvel at the custom-built action figures, and be amazed at the huge 16th scale dioramas that had been set up – My favorite as the one based on The Walking Dead.

If you are a toy collector in the Southeast, Joelanta has always been and continues to be a must-attend (now two-day) show. Here’s some pics: