July 10, 2014
What makes ideas “Sticky?” A Google UX pro knows!

The User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) DC chapter hosted John Douglas, Head of Social UX Research @ Google, last night at nclud for an interesting discussion how to better “Make Your Ideas Stick,” while battling the “curse of knowledge” that plagues UX pros far and wide.


We all have ideas. Most ideas are crap. Some are worth pursuing. And then, there’s that idea, that one revelation that has the potential to change the world. For all you future Zuckerbergs, how can we take these brilliant ideas and turn them into incredible products, defeat the curse of knowledge and have our peers, clients, team members, investors and venture capitalists buy in?

Remember that old John Maxwell book Talent Is Never Enough that was on your reading list (or at least it should have been) back in high school? The premise is that we all have certain, natural born, God-given (if you will) talents that are only useful though verification and application. Well, ideas, in this case, are never enough. Douglas posits that ideas need certain characteristics and motives in order to come to fruition and realize their full potential. It starts with relational communication. Take your geek hat off and put you social cap on!

Lesson 1: Make your ideas concrete.

You’re the expert! Your users (unfortunately) are not – at least not yet. So how do we get our ideas to resonate with our audience? When you sell UX, what do you talk about? What do clients hear? Have you ever asked? We need to strike the balance between jargon speak and that magical universal language so everyone clearly understands why our idea is so great!

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 10.29.20 AM.png

Douglas spoke about talking to your audience in “human scale.” WTF is human scale? In general terms, it’s the difference between saying “Bill Gates has a ton of money!” vs. “If you stacked Bill Gate’s money in $1 bills, it would go to the moon and back 7.36 times!!!” Which do you think is more impactful?


 Douglas gave his favorite example of human scale by showcasing the first iPod marketing ploy. “Say hello to iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket.” Literally, the iPod was a portable, chargeable hard drive with an adaptive screen and a program to play songs. Figuratively, it kind of is 1,000 songs that you can fit in your pocket.

Lesson 2: Know your audience.

Knowing our audience allows us to make calculated decisions based on our specific users. With user research, we can begin to predict our first audience - people that directly interact with users, such as clients, bosses, etc. Once we know who we’re pitching to, we can begin to define the problem in a way to make our stakeholders give a shit. We can do this by finding out what keeps them up at night or what reduces the workload. Then, and only then, may we present them with a solution!

Implementing our ideas takes vision. And it’s that vision that carries the idea through to implementation phase. We may get frustrated with our products, explaining the problem and how our products make user’s life easier. However, it’s important to remember what our product market fit is and speak to those individuals within the given market. Once we understand their pains, we can then prescribe the medicine!

3) Facts tell. Stories sell.

Facts are great! Facts support the basis of qualitative and quantitative data that supports our propositions and ideas. But at a deeper, more relational level, what hits home with most people is playing to their senses and emotions. We do this by telling engaging stories. Stories need to have activities, motivations and characters. Stories evoke imagination and help mold ideas into reality. Once users are able to envision themselves interacting with your idea, they’re much more easily sold.

Ever been to a car dealership and had the salesman ask you “Can you see yourself in this car” or something to that effect? They’re actively trying to get you to imagine yourself in the car, to involve your emotions and senses. If you can’t imagine yourself using the product, or seeing how others might use it, then how do we expect our audience to see it?

Hence, our favorite lesson of the night: Facts tell. Stories sell.

July 8, 2014
#Nofilter just a busted @SamsungGear the way it came…

#Nofilter just a busted @SamsungGear the way it came…

9:07pm  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/Z5F42r1KyAIhf
Filed under: nofilter 
June 27, 2014

Yesterday, the seventh annual Google I/O conference kicked off with viewing parties at far off locations around the world, such as Rosslyn! Organized by our friends at TandemNSI at the Artisphere in Rosslyn, the day started off statistics of vital national importance- specifically the 93 million #selfies taken on Android devices a day. Hopefully more selfies will be taken all over the world on the new Android One—a more affordable “smartphone with the purpose of disrupting underserved and emerging markets, thereby “changing the world” or something like that!?  

Other Clickhole worthy “innovations” announced included the concept of “material design,” which will add a “z” component, transforming (merely scary?) shadows into shadows that are “real-time!” There’s also a new “personal unlocking” feature, which uses voice prints, location data to easily unlock your phone, or simply drain the battery with useless tech wizardry, thereby rendering it useless for thieves - Brilliant!

An area of particular interest to us—Android Wear (OS for wearables)—was unfortunately given less attention during the opening keynotes than we would have liked. Will the new “smart-watches” from Samsung, LG and Motorola be anything more than glorified iPod nanos? So far, ehh, not so much. Although, standardization of SDK / APIs for wearable technology from Google in the form of “Google Fit” is a development we believe has got legs!

Android Auto was unveiled! Having extensively tested the multimedia / GPS systems of every ZipCar imaginable, it is remarkable that automakers have finally realized that they their proprietary navigation and multimedia systems all suck. Now, simply plugging your phone into the car for music, navigation and voice controlled messaging should be available later this year, with a list of 40 partners partners on board.

Since nothing says #MERICA like an more efficient way to stay glued to the couch, we’ll now be able to control the swill available via Android TV with a phone, watch or tablet! Personally, we’d rather have better, cheaper broadband without risk of death via balloon, but okay?!



Also, for those of you with a Chromecast, you will soon no longer need wifi to connect. Prepare for hilarity as scoundrels takeover TVs across the land via HDMI port to stream whatever they please!

Google is doing big things to disrupt multiple markets. The Hooli of Silicon Valley is making moves. As proud Google Partners, GSS will be looking to use these new tools to help with the development of the new Amplifi app. Amplifi is an application that creates “smart playlists” based on your body’s feedback during a workout and sends it straight to your earbuds. You doin’ cardio, bro? Amplifi detects your heart rate and will automatically play tunes best fit for cardio. On a cool down? It will grab some of your favorite chill-lax mixes for you to taper down your workout. It’s like a personal DJ for your fitness routine! Amplifi’s founder, Grant Hill, joined us at the end of the day for a great happy hour, still at Artisphere, connecting with a few old friends and making some new, all conversations about Android and Android Wear, of course!

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Filed under: IOxDC dctech 
June 17, 2014
Hopefully this from @stevewoz is the door prize #digitalmaker #dctech

Hopefully this from @stevewoz is the door prize #digitalmaker #dctech

June 16, 2014
#LordofWar of interwebs marketing working from home #becausefutbol

#LordofWar of interwebs marketing working from home #becausefutbol

June 13, 2014

It’s Been A Good Year - Let’s Celebrate!

Thanks to a great team and some fantastic clients, the agency I founded last year via Georgetown’s StartupHoyas summer launch program is now one year old! So, if this is the first time you’ve heard from me in awhile, come join the GSS team along with my favorite #dctech group, DigitalDistrict, for a drink.. or two… or three. But first.. Sales Pitch!
Some highlights from the last year:
TL / DR; After a solid year of hard work and dedication, we’re totally psyched to sponsor this year’s Digital District Annual Summer Kickoff Happy Hour - Join us! 
WHEN: Wednesday, June 18
WHERE: A-Bar DC (Directions)
TIME: 6:00 to 9:00 PM (EDT)
WHY: First Drink is FREE!!!
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Copyright © 2014 Gray Street Solutions, All rights reserved.

June 10, 2014
Announcing The /Developer Program: A New Hub for Federal API Creators


By Leah Bannon and Gray Brooks

We recently launched our /Developer Program (pronounced “slash developer”) to help federal agencies develop useful, robust APIs. The Program is a collection of educational resources, opportunities to engage the community for help and feedback, and tools that can…

June 4, 2014
A Must from a Great Organization, @demandprogress & Progres + @fightfortheftr- Reset The Net

I just supported Reset The Net on @ThunderclapIt // @fightfortheftr @demandprogress

May 1, 2014
Facebook Is Dead?!

April 23, 2014
Who (doesn’t) want to be the next Tony Stark? Let’s start doing #BizOpps with the Fed at a practical level.


“Genius. Billionaire. Playboy Philanthropist.” A line from The Avengers sums up every boy- (or girl)hood dream we’ve ever had of being Tony Stark, Iron Man himself.

So. When TandemNSI hosts an event titled “Be the next Tony Stark.” Well, then. Sign me up!

Maybe it’s not that cut and dry, however. The event was actually a way for its panelists to discuss and showcase how companies that contract with the government are also shaping the way we use technology in our daily lives and ways us mere mortals may get some business with the fed.

“GPS, Google, Siri, and the smartphone in your hand: the biggest, coolest, world-changing innovations in technology all came from tech companies working with the federal government.”

The Iron Man fan in me then must draw some parallels. Where is Stark Industries’ – the fantastical weapons and technology company portrayed in the comics and movies – real-life counterpart? Lockheed Martin? Raytheon?  Both respectable and very high profile weapons systems companies. However, the likelihood they have a mad genius in a lab directing Jarvis all day is pretty slim. Or maybe it isn’t?

But the real question is this this. How do smaller, startup companies get their foot in the door with the fed? How can some company only a handful of people know about help procure business with the government? This is how Tony Stark and Stark Industries does it.

As epic and awesome as this scene may be - and probably my personal favorite of the whole Iron Man movie series - the truth is, we don’t have a million dollars to roll out flashy missile demo. And as far as the “That’s how dad did it. That’s how America does it. And it’s worked out pretty well so far.” line – maybe that isn’t the best approach. Perhaps this isn’t your daddy’s government business opportunity?

“There are two problems in government acquisition. We don’t know what to ask for [and] it’s hard to ask.” – Dan Doney, Chief Innovation Officer, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Perhaps, in this case, the Tony Stark approach would work. If they don’t know what to ask for, tell them what they need. Be proactive. Understand the problem and the need. Present the solution. And maybe we’ll be selling Jericho missiles by the time it’s all said and done?

And as the auto-lifting, mobile hyper-cooled bar raises with a perfectly prepared scotch (or bourbon), we may tout - “We’re throwing one of these in for every purchase of $500 million or more. To peace!”

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