Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rethinking the Annual Review Self Evaluation

Every year I have to do an annual review - where I meet with my manager and discuss my performance over the course of the past year. Usually these reviews require me to respond to some sort of questionnaire about my work - with questions kinda like these:

List the projects that you worked on?
Which project are you the most proud of?
How can you improve?
For my last review, I felt inspired to switch up my submission to my manager and handed her this instead of the traditional q and a response form:
My manager, Erin Knight, responded to it well and was able to ask me relevant questions based on the things that I chose to highlight. This year I was going to take it up a notch and make this an interactive experience. As I started to think about how to go about this work.

The first thing that I did was create a list in Evernote of all of my work:

Then I started to think about if this was going to be interactive - where would I link out to my work. This helped me to realize that I have my work documented in several places online, including: this blog, flickr and github. This lead me to an a-ha moment. I had skills that I wanted to show off, evidence to back up that I did in fact earn or enhance those skills and... I had a peer reviewer to potentially endorse me. Are you following me here? BADGES!

What I imagining here is a re-envisioning of the self evaluation. Instead of thinking about this as an evaluation - you can imagine this being a tool to help to uncover what you have learned over the course of the year and how you could potentially further your learning moving forwards. I am proposing a tool where I can self issue badges, with evidence and have those badges endorsed by my peer. A more complex version of this would integrate career pathways and mentorship opportunities - as well as a recommendation system.

Here is my first sketch on this idea:

Thinking to be continued.....

Saturday, November 16, 2013

MentorN00b : matchmaker matchmaker make me a match!

I have been doing a lot of little projects for one off events lately.  Like this badge claim page I made for the recent Mozilla Summit:


Or the one that I made for Mozilla Festival:
Usually we try to make one - offs more meaningful by actually doing some iteration on them or using them as a use case to inform the core product that we are actually working on.  So for example, I will probably work with our development and design team to figure out how to incorporate these kinds of claim pages into BadgeKit and will use the feedback that we got by standing and watching hundreds of people "test" out the sites as a usertesting and research exercise.

For these two events we also made something that I would put in the category of "schwag". Which, yeah - can totally be fun to make, but kind of usually feels a little meaningless. Here are the buttons that my teammates Chloe and Emily and I made for the events to help people to get interested in Open Badges:

This exercise, (I have to admit - quite surprisingly) turned out to be a meaningful design exploration that keeps on giving to us things to think about on the badges project. As Emily explains in her blogpost, the badges took on another life in practice. People hacked them and used them to give peers a glimpse of their identity - but not just identity with a capital I - really a deeper, more nuanced thing - how people self identify.

One day, I was in a coffee shop with Atul and Mike - thinking about the badges schwag and we were kind of doing our usual brainstorm of - wouldn't it be cool if ..... - and we came up with an idea for a prototype that could have pretty tight parameters. I would categorize this as a prototype that's not designed to scale. 

What we realized was - that at these events we would be seeing people with different kinds of expertise and desires and how in a perfect world we would match-make button wearer's so they could help each other out to learn skills. So for example, my button said that I was a javascript n00b and if Mike's button said that he was a javascript nin.ja we could be paired together.

What the three of us started to hack on was an app - where people could sign in, state their interests and then get paired with a like-minded friend to help mentorship. I could imagine this being something that could be taken further - so after a match is made, a mentor could help a n00b to develop a learning map/goal or trajectory and suggest or create badges for the n00b to work towards. Using the tools offered in BadgeKit, the mentors could then provide peer assessment for the n00bs. Additionally, the feedback loop could be closed by the n00b then giving the mentor through various kinds of mentor badges. This would in essence develop a mentor - n00b community and give participants the ability to always identify as somewhere on the spectrum for different skills or activities as mentors and/or n00bs. I particularly like this idea - that someone could be a mentor and a n00b at the exact same time. 

Here is a mockup that I worked on to start to express the idea:

We haven't gotten super far with the prototype, but I could see this as something that might be interesting to test out with the Hive or the mentor community activities at Mozilla.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On bathrooms, hurricanes and my new approach to design

On a recent flight I was reading some blogposts that were sitting in my Pocket for quite a while and I came across an article talking about the famed architect Michael Graves that originally appeared in Metropolis Mag in 2006. After a long career as an established, yet accepted quirky architect, Graves became paralyzed and wheel-chair bound due to a nerve condition. The way that he approached his work ever since that day has been altered. He did not stop dead in his tracks, but as a designer, he started to see the world around him with a new lens. Now he was seeing how inaccessible the world was how this was an opportunity for design thinking, problem solving and perhaps a  bit of innovation.

I finished reading the article, heard the pilot announce the infamous "10 minutes to landing" - bathroom call to action, and I got up to go to the restroom. Only this time, when using the restroom, I wasn't just using it - I was noticing it. I was thinking to myself "how on earth does anyone in a wheelchair use a toilet on a plane?" and wondering how they can even fit into this itsy bitsy space! Because Graves shared his personal struggle, he made me think about design solutions.

I guess I am writing about this because it helps me to understand why I feel compelled to share the story of how my life changed and how the way that I approach design has changed. One year ago, hurricane Sandy hit my hometown of Rockaway Beach, NY - and in many ways devastated the geography and the lives of the locals. At the time, I reacted by doing emergency webmaking - creating places for people to connect to volunteers, acting as a technology translator and inadvertently I became a resource for hyper local open news. Weeks went by and we found my displaced friends and family and started to repair their houses. Months went by and we dealt with long term repairs. A year went by and we moved from response to rebuilding.

During this time a tornado hit Oklahoma, and a flood hit Colorado - horrible natural disasters where people reached out to me for help - due to my so called expertise. I told them what I did and they iterated on it in their own communities. But like Graves, I had identified a problem - and an opportunity. The problem is the way that we are handling large scale emergency response and our opportunity is to use our webcraftsmenship and various kinds of innate skills to address the challenge.

If we are living in this blended environment of the web and the real world - how can these environments help eachother out when one of the environments is in trouble? My hope is that because I spoke out about things (even though I am no Michael Graves), you will see the world through this lens and approach your design problems by thinking about this story. This event changed my world and I can't help wonder if perhaps it could positively change many others as a result.

Right now I am sitting here feeling a bit pissed and angry - as I watch yet another natural disaster on the television - in the Philippines. Often people think that all they can do is give money for someone else to do something amazing and helpful, but really, we are a community of designers and developers and THINKERS. Lets use our anger and new lens to make something innovative so that when emergencies strike - people can feel empowered to help each other and help themselves.

I know I am feeling a bit cranky because I also know I have this prototype that I am itching to work on and just haven't had the time to work on it. I feel committed now more than ever and am going to push it forward. I don't just design for solutions or for work, I design to help people - and I feel that planet earth is giving us a kick in the ass and saying, come on - create, work together.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Badge Directory: A Yelp for Badges

Over the Summer, I started working (although I haven't gotten super far) on an idea for a Badge Directory - that was kind of like a Yelp for Badges. I have previously talked about this here . This is definitely in the realm of prototyping for a future addition to the Open Badges world, but the general idea is that it's a directory that leverages community input to categorize, group and rate the fidelity of the badges. This could be combined at some point with the idea of a Badge dashboard for users, but independently I see this as having some value as a service or a tool on to itself.

When I initially mocked up the concept for a badge directory, I was smack in the middle of thinking about how cities (like the City of Chicago) might benefit from a directory. At the time I made this sketch:

A mobile - first design made sense as the geographic location was deeply tied to badge or content discovery for participants in the Chicago Summer of Learning. So I could literally imagine a game - like alert notification if a user had geolocation services on their mobile devices. 


At some point, I sat down and tried to make this a real thing - which forced me to think about it in terms of a tool or a service that might be more broadly used. When I considered all of the things that I was imagining the tool doing (recommendations based on interest, location, skill, peer group etc) I realized that I needed some sort of way to collect the data. This began my investigation into creating a community crafted directory - aka a "Yelp for Badges." 
  Initially I started by thinking about the structure of the service as a searchable - interactive filter layer for public badges. 


Here is what a badge detail might look like (below):

Some features that I added here that don't currently exist are:
  Goal Group - this allows a potential badge earner to build a collection of badges that they intend to pursue and to declare a goal for that collection. This could take the form of badge pathways where someone says - my goal is to become an expert at woodworking and then all of the badges that they add to that group represent the learning map for how they are going to achieve that goal. These groups could be made public and could potentially be forkable.

 Badge Rank - the idea is that an algorithm will be generated that helps to contextualize badges in relationship to one another. The algorithm( in theory) will take into account crowdsourced feedback and evaluate the metadata contained in each badge as well as other factors that I am sure I have not thought about at this point.

  License - think of this as a creative commons license for badges. I am actually really excited about this - but the general idea is that is that like a work of art or a concept, people have different ways that they intend the badge to be used or reused - and this will give the author control over their intent.

  Reviews - users of the directory will have the ability to read and write reviews for individual or groups of badges. This helps us with the possible problem of the badge ecosystem being flooded with meaningless badges - the reviews (hopefully) will force content providers to put out high quality work (and if anything could just keep badgemakers on their toes). As I worked a little more on the UX wireframes, and got some initial feedback. I realized that I needed to  raise the hierarchy for search and make it easy to access, consistently placed and focused on specific forms of output: goals, reviews, badges. Here, I also explored visualizing badges as pure text.

Finally, I started to incorporate the idea of a user dashboard and backpack into the directory. If you are making goal groups, and badges and are able to get recommendations - then really, what if the interactions were combined to give a user control over their learning data - before, during and after the act of doing whatever it is that they are doing to learn a skill or concept. 

So, let me take a second to talk about the Backpack sync that I incorporated into the mockup above. Imagine you are logged into the directory - as a user - via twitter (for this example) . As a user, you want to get recommendations on your interactions on the site as well as the knowledge of badges that you have already earned. Here, you sync to your backpack (s) - have your services talk to eachother and eventually earn recommendations for goal groups, learning maps, badges and peers based on this newly expanded perspective of what is in essence, your profile.

I still have a lot more to think about, and am frankly writing this post so that I can keep track of my thinking and get some feedback. Some things that need to be thought about here are : how are badges added to the directory? Is there something in the badge specification that would need to be altered to accommodate this? Is there a different view for badgemakers? Can I make a badge directly from the directory? How does this work relate to BadgeKit? How is this moderated? …. and I'm sure much much more.  I look forward to hearing feedback and talking more about this.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Community Aid Badging

The Emergency Hack Lab sessions at Mozfest and the "virtual hackathon" that developed globally online - had over two dozen passionate geeks, civilians and design types crafting solutions to support community response efforts during times of crisis.

First we tried to make an emergency hack lab kit - a toolkit that people in a crisis situation could use to bootstrap their community efforts. However, after reviewing all of the great materials and content that already exist in the world, we focused on identifying gaps.

This is the gap and problem that we identified (as told by Willow Brugh from Geeks Without Bounds): 

During times of crisis, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, relief work can be really complicated - even if people are really well intentioned. One of the hugest problems that I encountered with Rockaway Help was a lack of a feedback loop between us (the grassroots organizers), the individuals in need and the volunteers. This is crucial for many reasons but to name a few : efficiency with task management, ability to acknowledge volunteer skillsets, the ability to match volunteers with appropriate tasks, and the ability to identify mentorship opportunities.

By connecting volunteers directly to members of affected population through Open Badges, we empower people who need help to engage in the relief effort, and maintain involvement before and after they have received aid. There are many reasons why this is valuable, including:
  • acknowledgement, verification of a task in a moment of crisis for the relief organization
  • acknowledgement that you have helped someone
  • the potential ability to self assign tasks based on skills
  • the ability to ask for mentorship based on expertise validated through badges
  • the ability to see your impact on a community in need
The solution that we are developing is platform independent and open-source. Additionally, we are essentially designing a service that can be built directly into other successful tools that already exist out in the world.

So - what's next? We are deep in the weeds of figuring out how to make this real (and would love feedback and help!)  We know that we need to define the badge design experience using a badge building tool that combines the wonderful open source UN OCHA icons with meta data definition. In order to do this we will need to continue to develop out the badges and the badge systems that we hope to align with the UN standard for emergency relief. After that piece, we will work on the badge issuance through SMS. You can check out the wiki that was started as MozFest, or take a look at the work being started on Github.