The documentary Milius showcases the underrated writer/director

John Milius is a force of nature.

He wrote Apocalypse Now, Quint’s Indianapolis speech in Jaws, and Conan the Barbarian – and that’s just SOME of what he’s done in Hollywood. He directed and wrote Red Dawn, “punched up” dozens of movie’s screenplays (including Dirty Harry and The Hunt for Red October), inspired Spielberg and Lucas to aim higher… and he also inspired John Goodman’s character in The Big Lubowski.

He’s a master storyteller. He loves guns, cigars, and surfing… and right now he is recovering from a major stroke – one that took away his ability to speak.

Suffice it to say, someone with the kind of life John Milius has lived is someone who should have a documentary made about them… and thankfully, that documentary has been made. Milius tells the story of the man, through his own words and anecdotes from his friends and peers. It shows the highs and the lows, and touches upon how hard it is for a conservative like Milius to get work in left-leaning Hollywood.

The most inspiring segment is at the end, as we see Milius recover slowly from his stroke – and the movie ends with him finally able to return to the shooting range, triumphantly shooting down clay pigeon after clay pigeon.

Everyone who loves movies should watch this – it’s on Netflix streaming, and so you enjoy it from wherever you are. Hopefully Milius has a complete recovery, because a man with such a distinct voice should never

User scenarios, user stories, use cases – what’s the difference?

The three are different, but not as much as you may think. Let’s talk about stories.

No, not user stories… stories. We are wired to engage with and tell stories – it is a seminal part of the human species. It is the way we transferred knowledge before the written word, it is the reason why we have words – we need the words to tell the stories. Stories help us understand things, helps us learn and grow – stories nourish us as much as food and water does.

Stories are very effective things.

The three type of stories that are being discussed – user stories, scenarios, and use cases – all are different conceits that help communicate what a solution that is being created needed to do. The differences are in structure and perspective.

User stories are from the perspective of the end user, and very simple in structure:
As a (user type) I want to (action/feature) so that (reason)
As a (user type) I want to (action/feature) because (reason)

Example: As a runner I want to track the miles I run each day so that I can have a good understanding of how much I have exercised.

They also contain details that indicate what should happen, driven by context and other situations:
If (context) and (additional context) when (event) then (outcome)

Example: If I stop running and I stop for more than ten minutes, then the record of my run needs to be saved as a new run record.

User stories are used in the agile development process to scope features. They allow developers to focus on what the user has to do. The best user stories are grounded by user research and understanding – they aren’t “made up” and actually reflect what users have to do.

The next level of detail, the next “format” these stories can take in a design/development project are user scenarios. These are much more detailed and include details such as user’s motivation and environment. As opposed to the simple narrative of above, these are often presented in storyboards and as “blueprints” with a lot of details and texture that may often be superfluous.

User scenarios paint a picture that is more complete, but they are often viewed as superfluous on projects that have an aggressive schedule. When to use scenarios depends on the project and the needs of the project.

Finally, use cases are structured documents that contain requirements and details of what functionality should exist. Use cases are (usually) extremely entailed and detail both user behavior and system response. They are less about user needs and mental models and more prescriptive direction as to what needs to be developed. As these documents usually take some time to create, they have fallen out of favor with many companies who have adopted agile development processes.

So, the difference between the three type of stories? It’s all about approach, the author, and what detail is needed. For user experience practitioners, user stories and scenarios are the way most use to convey design direction and context. For business analysts, use cases is the known and used format. The line is getting blurred though – many business analysts are moving into UX these day. They key is to use the right tool for the right job, and to not overthink or over document.

After all, companies don’t ship design documents… they ship products and services produced from such documentation.

See question on Quora

On Godzilla, and keeping surprises…

Had the pleasure of seeing the new Godzilla film yesterday… and I am very happy I can use the word “pleasure” in that statement. After so many thinly plotted and disappointing big-budget movies, it was a real delight to see a movie filled with true spectacle and awe. Godzilla isn’t a masterpiece, but it is an exceptional example of the blockbuster done right.

One of the real joys of seeing Godzilla was seeing it through my oldest son’s eyes. Before the film he knew very little about the plot, having only seen the first trailer. So, when the story unfolded and the movie became something he was note expecting… well, he loved it. Not knowing what to expect made the experience even more effective than it would have been otherwise.

Which brings me to the point of this piece. So many movies are spoiled for the potential moviegoer that there are very few real surprises anymore. The most recent example of this practice was the final ads for the newest (horrible) Spider-man movie, which telegraphed and spoiled a big moment and a central character’s fate. It’s the worse type of advertisement – if you know what’s going to happen, why see the movie?

Why do studios do this? Why do they show (almost) everything to get butts in seats? I think the answer is two-fold. First, when studios invest hundreds of millions in a film, they want to show people what they are going to get for their money. You want “truth in advertising”, after all. Second, there’s no evidence that such advertising DOESN’T work – but then, you can’t prove a negative. You can only prove that a particular approach works when it was/is applied.

And that’s what we saw with Godzilla – an advertising approach that doesn’t reveal the surprises, where the teasers are just as they are supposed to be… teasers. Unfortunately they didn’t maintain that intriguing vagueness – the last two weeks of ads revealed some of the big surprises. As I said on twitter just after seeing the film, this was a disservice to the audience. The surprises should have been kept.

(And no, I won’t reveal those surprises here.)

Now, I’m a fanboy – I love spoilers. But at the same time, I love being pleasantly surprised by the entertainment that I experience. That a remake or a remake like Godzilla can surprise… that’s why I love movies. It makes me want to go to more movies.

I just wish Hollywood would realize we don’t need to see the whole movie before it comes out.

#StopOrci2014 hashtag lets Star Trek fans vent about the writer of Into Darkness

This is a pretty big weekend for fanboys (and girls): Free Comic Book day is tomorrow, and Star Wars Day is Sunday. Well, Star Trek fans decided to participate in Geek Weekend early, by using and promoting the hashtag #StopOrci2014 to complain about the potential of Bob Orci to direct the next Trek film.


I have my own history with Mr. Orci (detailed here), so I am definitely participating in this conversation… and I think the comments that are being made are a very direct and raw representation of how Into Darkness betrayed the promise of Trek for many fans. Here’s a sample of the comments:

@thingslucyreads: #StopOrci2014 coz there are hundreds of terrible fanfiction authors who also do Orci’s job a thousand times better than him w/o getting paid


@muumipeikkonen: Star Trek deserves someone better. Someone who understands it. Someone who treats the fans with more respect. #StopOrci2014

@gretathegr8: And yeah I guess he already has the writing gig but seriously?! A first time director should not be in charge of Star Trek 3 #StopOrci2014

@deasuluna: I want to see the accepting nature of Star Trek be proven right with progressive storylines not immature frat boys in space! #StopOrci2014

@AdmrlJaneway: 21st century Star Trek films shouldn’t be less progressive than the 60s tv shows they’re based on! #StopOrci2014

@squidnado: #StopOrci2014 because the morals and philosophies of Star Trek do not need to fundamentally changed to appeal to a younger generation.

@lilywinterwood: because he’s a dick to the fans and the characters of star trek and basically everything star trek ever stood for #stoporci2014

@MooreEsMas: A woman doesn’t have to be in her underwear to make an impact #stoporci2014

@BrendaJaneF: #stoporci2014 because Kirk should not be turned into a sexist disrespectful womanizer

@spock_ebooks: That amount of pompous condescension and unprofessional interactions with fans should not be rewarded. #stoporci2014

@intelligentairs: #StopOrci2014 is pretty important if you want to keep the characterisation of characters intact alongside recognition of women as people

@japangela3: #stoporci2014 because writers/directors shouldn’t openly talk shit to those that criticise their work and it not be an issue

@Winkey67: Kirk was not Bush-like ffs, and he wasn’t immature womanizer either. Stop mischaracterization of our beloved characters. #StopOrci2014

@almosthumans: #stoporci2014 because majel barret deserved more than having her character be a throw away line and reduced to a one night stand for kirk

There is no doubt that Into Darkness was a divisive film, and these comments show one side of that conversation. My personal opinion is the movie, while moderately successful and well-reviewed, has not aged well… and these comments reflect the new conventional wisdom building about the film. I am particularly… “fascinated” that so many comments are from women commenting on the sexism of the latest film. What Paramount may have forgotten is Trek has a large and significant female fandom, and the treatment of women in STID infuriated many of them.

The fact that this conversation is happening on the day that Orci’s latest film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, is released in theaters? Coincidence, probably, but if Mr. Orci (who closed his twitter account last year) wants to check in to see what people are saying about that movie he may want to wait until tomorrow, because some of these tweets are pretty harsh, and as we’ve seen… he’s somewhat thin skinned.

Follow the conversation on Twitter here.