I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.


How To Prototype And Influence People

One of the points I make in So You Want To Be A Designer is that the hardest part of software isn’t the process of creating software, it’s changing culture and influencing organizations. One of the strongest tools we have our repertoire in convincing others is prototyping and video: turning ideas into high-bandwidth communication artifacts. The goal of a prototype is to sketch an idea and to inspire participation: you are creating a narrative.

To put it another way, the value of an idea is zero unless it can be communicated. Below is the video of my talk on How To Prototype And Influence People. Not only that, but the video also includes a demonstration of live rapid prototyping! Now is your chance to see me code and debug in front of seventy-five people. It’s like pair programming with an entire room.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza How To Prototype And Influence People

Your Memories Will Be Rewritten

Your past actions are the best predictor of your future decisions. Your past—or the memory of your past—has always been immutable. What if it wasn’t? What if marketers could meddle with your memories directly, instead of trying to insert their products into your daily flow? Who would we be when our past has been hacked? When the trust you place in your friends is exploited? What implications would it have for us and society?

What if this wasn’t hypothetical?

From research in cognitive and behavioral psychology, we know how to perform inception. It’s easy. We need to understand the predictable failings of human memory and internalize its ramifications, otherwise our personal past, and hence our future, will be rewritten by the marketer. It’s your life experience, brought to you by Coca-Cola.

This was my keynote for the John Seely Brown Symposium at University of Michigan. The three previous keynote speakers were Danah Boyd, Brewster Kahle, and Lawrence Lessig. I was a bit nervous.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Your Memories Will Be Rewritten

So You Want To Be A Designer: Top 5 List

Getting started in user experience can be difficult. Our profession has an identity crisis. You need look no further than swarm of acronyms that we hide behind: CHI, HCI, UI, UE, UX, IA, ID, IxD, IxSD,… the list goes on.

Our identity crisis means learning our field is like trying to inhabit the mind of a multiple personality disorder sufferer. For an aspiring interaction designer, figuring it all out is daunting. For anyone, it’s daunting.

This is my top-five list of what I’ve found to be most important to do and master if you want to get into design.

1. The Hardest Part Of Software Is Culture. Get A Book On Negotiation.

The hardest part about creating software isn’t software. It’s people. Creating a killer interface is meaningless unless you can convince the rest of your team, client, or company that it is worth the investment. Your job as a user experience person is to cultivate a culture where good design has a leading voice at the table. If you cannot communicate, you will fail. If you can not convince, you will fail. If you cannot listen, you will fail.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza So You Want To Be A Designer: Top 5 List

How China’s Great Firewall Can Make Us More Productive

You want what you can’t have. This fundamental aphorism of human psychology means that full-stop censorship is the wrong approach to hiding ideas and information. The taboo, by definition, makes the information desirable, regardless of whether the content is revelatory or mundane. The insight is that you can use this knowledge on yourself to reshape your own behavior.

China’s great firewall carefully circumvents the want-what-you-can’t-have desire. When I last visited Beijing I tried to access the BBC expecting it to be blocked. Instead, the site came through slowly and erratically. If I waited long enough, refreshed often enough, the page just might come through. Because of the sporadic experience, I found my frustration was directed at the BBC and not at the firewall. Even with a conscious knowledge of what was going on, I had a visceral reaction that it was the BBC’s fault and not a country-wide censor.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza How China’s Great Firewall Can Make Us More Productive

Firefox Panorama: Search proof-of-concept

There are two modes people use for finding information: browsing and searching. Browsing is for when you don’t know exactly what you want to find, and search is for when you know exactly for what you are looking.

A supermarket makes a good example of the browse versus search distinction. Say you want to make a salad. When you go to a supermarket your browse for ingredients: you wander through the vegetable section picking up the the ingredients that strike you as delicious. You don’t know exactly what you want, but seeing the vegetables helps you make the selection. That’s browse.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Firefox Panorama: Search proof-of-concept

Firefox Panorama: Tab Candy Evolved

I am happy to announce that Tab Candy is coming to Firefox 4. Starting today, Tab Candy will be called Firefox Panorama and be available as a feature in Firefox betas. Head to the Firefox 4 feature list, or watch the video below, to learn how to organize your tabs into groups and reclaim your browsing experience from clutter and information overload.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Firefox Panorama: Tab Candy Evolved

Does Google Censor Tiananmen Square? How To Create an Internet Hoax

Update: Since putting this post up, it looks like Bing has fixed the issue and there are now some results that appear in Google only because of the popularity of this article.

Let me start by saying that, at least in the US, Google does not censor Tiananmen Square. Nor does Bing. Nor Yahoo. But we can make it look like they do. If you don’t believe me, click here, here, and here.

As you can see, I’m linking to the real Google domain and the looks and acts legitimately. The URL looks normal. You can even change the search, say remove “massacre” and Google still doesn’t find anything. Try it with quotes. Remove square. Still no results. The “censorship” certainly feels fairly real, and the hoax would be even harder to detect if if I had said that they were only censoring links from some third party sites.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Does Google Censor Tiananmen Square? How To Create an Internet Hoax

Tab Candy: Making Firefox Tabs Sweet

The power of the browser has grown substantially in the last ten years. We now use the Web to multi-task the activities we juggle every day, like vacation plans, purchases, sharing pictures, listening to music, reading email, and writing a blog post.

It’s hard to keep everything straight with dozens of tabs all crammed into a little strip along the top of your browser. Your tab with a search to find a pizza parlor gets mixed up with your tabs on your favorite band. Often, it’s easier to open a new tab than to try to find the open tab you already have. Worse, how many of us keep tabs open as reminders of something we want to do or read later? We’re all suffering from infoguilt.

We need a way to organize browsing, to see all of our tabs at once, and focus on the task at hand. In short, we need a way to get back control of our online lives.

Enter: Tab Candy.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Tab Candy: Making Firefox Tabs Sweet

How To Phish, Protect Your Email, and Defeat Copy-And-Paste with CSS

It’s not often that you learn something from spam, besides that there are an extraordinary number of generous Nigerians (replete with theme song) and amazing number of variations in the spelling of viagra. Yet, I recently got spam where the offer was written in pristine English: no numbers replacing letters, no images, and no misspellings. How had such a brazen piece of spam got through my filters? The answer, it turns out, was some clever CSS that caused the HTML markup to be garbled but its visual rendering to be readable. I’ll show you how to use this for both good and evil.

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza How To Phish, Protect Your Email, and Defeat Copy-And-Paste with CSS

Animation with CSS Transitions Made Easy

There are currently two proposed additions to CSS to make animating easier and with better performance: CSS Transitions and CSS Animations. Both are unfortunately named. The later is complicated, overkill, and probably won’t be supported by non-Webkit browsers, which leaves CSS Transitions as becoming the de-facto way to natively animate on the Web. Besides reducing power-hungry Javascript-based animation, the declarative CSS Transitions opens the door for hardware acceleration and commercial quality games. iOS devices and Safari already do so for buttery smooth results, and hardware acceleration just might make it into Firefox 4.

How Do CSS Transitions Work?

Normally, when you change the value of a CSS property, it changes instantly. With CSS Transitions, they automagically animate over time. Imagine you want to have a rollover indication for links where, on hover, the link changes its background color and jigs up a bit. With CSS Transitions instead of having the effect happen instantly, it can smoothly animated. Here’s how you’d do it.

You’ll have to use the -moz and -webkit prefixes for these properties until the CSS transitions specification is finalized.

  transition-property: all;
  transition-duration: 350ms;
  transition-timing-function: ease-in-out;
  position: relative;
  background-color: white;
  color: black;

  top: -2px
  background-color: black;
  color: white;

Continue Reading » | RT @azaaza Animation with CSS Transitions Made Easy