Allegiance Hackathon ‚ÄĒ Ideas Generated and Lessons Learned

I recently helped organize a hackathon at Allegiance. Read more about it…


Doggie Vaccinathon!

The English & Foreign Languages University is home to a pack of fine dogs, they keep us company, make us happy, give us love, and every once again are agonizing too.

There is a whole gang of committed students who take care of this fine dog pack, feed them (sometimes even Biryani!), love them, take them to the vet when needed.

One evening, we decided we needed to do a little more to keep these dogs healthy. So began scheming the idea of the Doggie Vaccinathon on EFLU campus. First order of business was finding a vet who visit our campus and spend an afternoon with us – Dr. Mirza Taher Ali Baig kindly agreed to vaccinate our dogs. He only charged us the cost of the meds, so nicely it became somewhat affordable.

On August 24th we set forth and rope in hand to hold the doggies in situ while Dr. Baig walked from place to place vaccinating the dogs.

We managed to vaccinate all the dogs that we collectively took care. Here are just a few photographs, we were more busy rounding up the doggies than taking photos!
mobileclinic fatty foxy efbee

SXSW: Lessons Learnt

I had a most wonderful time at SXSW this year. It was a phenomenal being surrounded with so much buzz and intelligence. I realize I made a huge mistake by showing up on Sunday afternoon, damn it .. the sessions on Friday & Saturday were awesome.

Top aha ideas

  • Detailed wireframes are dead. Instead lo-fi wireframe and move to mockup/prototype stage. This was a view that was shared by many of the sessions
  • Gamestorming & 6-8-12
  • Firm center – soft periphery
  • Think of the elevator pitch in sections.. miss a beat, skip to the next section

Notes to self

From various talks, in no particular order…

  • Be a listenoholic
  • There’s no wrong answer
  • Being surrounded by super smart people is phenomenal
  • Simplicity is in – not a new view, but was happy to see it reiterated!
  • Design for different media – your users are everywhere
  • Iterate, iterate, iterate!
  • Feedback, feedback, feedback. Knowing how to ask for feedback & giving it is equally important
  • Design & code for good is good! Since then I have explored both Code for America & Design for America – both meaningful ventures.
  • Typography obsession is still in, and Helvetica is still in too (I am quite certain it was the most frequently used font on the presos)
  • Wear comfy shoes
  • Plan the sched ahead of time – this was a huge dilemma since they were so many wonderful powerful sessions
  • The most popular session is not always the best
  • Go the after party .. but always go with friends
  • The “Damn, why I didn’t think of that” is still a beautiful thing. Live & learn.. live & learn.
  • I am useless “swag-getter”.. one bandana & a lot of paper is all I got.
  • Hot sauce is good – in food & in your app ūüôā
  • Don’t go for a session if you’ve read the book.
  • SXSW site & calendar suck! They must do something about it.
  • SXSW needs to go more green – less paper please!!
  • Do more bonding with engineers on my team!

My top moments

  • Meeting Anthony Bourdain.. actually I should say accosting him for a photo while he had his morning coffee.
  • Meeting Austin Powers – o yeah baby
  • Hanging with my buds Brett & Dave and eating fusion burritos every day.
  • My favorite text message – “Dude, no tofu!”
  • Being in the same space with my heroes like Krug, Zeldman, and more!

Design Technology. Prototype vs SIM

I loved this presentation from the folks at frogDesign. They were most wonderful – creative, geeky, informative all rolled in.

“Users wont wear the glove, they will dance.”

Key Concepts

  • “Quantum inspiration” – if you have inspiration, there’s a likelhod others had the idea too. Because of rapid propagation one needs to move fast.
  • Generative gut check” – trust your gut.
  • Requirements fail/wireframe fail – esp. when Visionary, Innovative & Prescriptive.



  • Step 1: State the problem
  • Step 2: Whole bunch of ideation up front – many ideas to solve the problem
    • in your gut, what is your favorite/most viable. Trusting your gut on a disparate team
    • advance this
    • identify & solve
    • focus on: architecture, interaction
  • Step 3: Build
    • Expedient technology is used to stand up the model as rapidly as possibly. Very different than wireframing/prototyping.
    • Throw hardware on it, right poor code, get it in front of the customer asap
  • Step 4: Show
    • Put the simulation in front of customer and use it for storytelling
    • Generative Whiteboarding – then pick a single viable. (very similar to the 1up concept)
    • Flipping through a virtualizations is so much more relevant for stakeholders, esp. for hardware.
    • Index of the vision, but tell them it’s fake! Blue sky factor – maybe it will be 5 years in the future.


  • Making is designing.. no more design then make! So say the folks at Frog Design.
  • Fragmentation in technology also becomes a design issue. Designing for multiple devices, one learns just making & doing.
  • Have the engineering team do design concepts early on.
  • 4 integrities: perceptual, technical viability, logical, economic.
  • Never underestimate the smallest prototype in someones hands vs. vast volumes of paper.
  • Bring the engineers into the process, don’t have them siloed. If you can show them you got to the 10% of what you want to get to, then engineerings will trust the design more and they will work toward you.
  • Flip your engineering team from the guy who protects the requirement to the guy who enables the designer.


There was a quad chart here.. didn’t have time to re-do it.. but imagine it!








Page is Dead

Jacob Surber

Product Manager, Adobe


Design for the content

  • Firm center and soft periphery
  • Responsive Web Design: Boston Globe redesign example
  • Hide the outline on the tablet, or smaller resolutions.
  • Media query – in order of your audience
  • Task oriented for mobile content – 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Object oriented CSS for improved design standards


  • Upstatement – check out the blog post about responsive web design
  • ¬†PelicanFly – absolute positioned on the grid
  • ¬†Austin W website
  • Menacing Cloud – edward cant
  • filamentgroup – responsive images
  • w3c respimages

Interesting References

  • Johannes Gutenberg:¬†Distribution methods are changing again, similar to protests in the 1472 regarding print (no longer in control of the priests)
  • ¬†Denis Diderot – Information Overload first statement – 1755
  • First concept of a “Page” – London Times – 1811

Killer Elevator Pitch

Naval Ravikant &

Jason Cohen

Elevator Pitch

  • Leave them a one liner they will remember.
  • Short, one sentence, and not too cheesy.
  • Tell the story, slowly. Shorter than 90 seconds.

Setup the Pitch

  • Who is the user, how are they using the product to solve their problem. Believe it when you are saying it.
  • What is the market, how is the market growing, how did you assess the market, why is your tool going to address this market
  • Be specific – what is the goal of your product. Don’t focus on the mechanisms, instead focus on the results.
  • Remember to:
    • Setup something interesting that you are trying to solve
    • Why are you doing this particularly better than others do it

Prepping the Pitch

  • Practice! Don’t read it quietly to yourself – do it front of people. 100 times at least!!
  • Shouldn’t come out as rehearsed, but you should be. Don’t memorize it, should have imbibed the content/idea
  • Record yourself – pay attention to your mannerisms, how fast you talk etc,
  • Killer closing, then don’t just say I’m done.
  • Think of your pitch in the sections. If you get stuck, just skip to the next section. The user does not know you stumbled.

More Ideas

  • Ruin your credibility by throwing out non verified numbers.¬†Lift, % of growth, all important to mention – but only if you have the facts.
  • Social proof really works. “These federal agencies want to try us out”. Carry photos – “We built this” esp. for unique products.
  • If you can’t do story telling, go more fact based. “There are 100s, 1000s of people who are trying to do this, but “They come back 3 times”, “partnerships with..”, “our social & facebook connectors allow us to increase the customer base x times”
  • Don’t make blanket statements.. like “We all know Amy”, instead say “I know Amy and this is her problem”. Don’t use canned users.¬†*¬†*¬†Also only need to give a name if you need to reference the person later in your pitch.
  • Find a good analogy¬†that can really shortcut the entire setup process for you.
  • If you have a good background, i.e. I previously founded xyz company which did this – and sold it here. Allows you to look like the expert without saying you are the expert.
  • Try positive spin – don’t ever doubt that someone in your audience likes or uses the thing that you diss.
  • Two different types of pitches
    • different between the in front of a large audience – to customer or more detailed in front of an angel investor
    • angel pitch should prompt more questions & a conversation.

UX Team of None

Towards a Minimum Viable Experience

This was one of my favorite presentations

Changing the button from “Register” > “Continue” increased revenue to 300$ million

Beecher: UX consultant
Brenda Evans: Google
Chris Sanders: Google
Russ Unger: UX consultant chicago

There are “no more”UX people in Chicago – funny tweet from UX recruiter
5x the UX jobs in Atlanta than UXers available.


lo-fi design concepts

  • Explore multiple concepts at the same time: 6-8-5 – most versatile. 6 to 8 sketches in 5 min. It was excellent, 1 8×11 paper. 5 minutes for SXSW find party app.
  • Do several rounds, multiple rounds. With different people in the room.
  • First round usually gets all the crap out of your head.
  • Next step: 1up. full piece of paper
  • Get feedback early & regularly.
  • Game storming – no detail, but they sent out a white paper on this.


Asking for feedback: How to ask for feedback regularly – even initial versions that you think are crap.

  • when asking for feedback, describe what you want feedback on and what you don’t want feedback on. For example, you don’t want feedback on the copy or viz. design only the flow.
  • setup the context for the user – what is the challenge, user considerations (what is the user doing before or after using your app), technical considerations (mobile, screen size etc)
  • What about this design resonates with you.
  • Give them a screenshot > post its & pens and people can constantly give feedback. If the paper looks messy, the user is more willing to give feedback.

Giving feedback 

  • constructive
  • good critique is a constant dialog.
  • keep asking questions
  • no “that’s not going to work” > “instead maybe try this to improve the flow”

Receive: knowing how to listen.

  • Fresh perspective
  • Be a listenoholic
  • don’t get wrapped up in the edge cases

Testing & Validation

Guerilla research in the wild

  • woman on street – “would you look at this for me, I’ll buy you coffee”
  • tell the user they are testing the app and not them.
  • use your phone for recording
  • make the user feel comfortable
  • ask really vague questions. Like “What do you see here”, “What would you do first”
  • you can focus on the overall or just a small piece of it.
  • show the user a max of three designs.
  • why, why, why.. whiddle down to a single.

Other testing & validation methods:

  • User/browser playing
  • A/B testing