DonnaM » Random thoughts

Random thoughts


Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I woke up feeling strange this morning. No, it wasn’t the three hours sleep – I know what that feels like. And it wasn’t a hangover – I certainly know what those feel like. It was something quite different and it took me a little while to figure it out.

But it needs some backstory. I was at South by Southwest Interactive this weekend. It is an incredible conference, with lots of smart people and interesting talks, and quite famous for its parties. The SXSW film festival is on at the same time so Austin is packed and there is more than plenty of stuff to do.

I was on a panel with the awesome Nick Finck and Michael Angeles, called ‘Wireframes for the Wicked‘. It was fun to work with them and according to twitter our session went pretty well. Lots of people appreciated that we left half of the time for audience questions and that we actually tracked questions asked via twitter (#wickedwire) and answered them at the time and alongside questions from the floor.¬†

Immediately following our talk was one by Bruce Sterling. His SXSW rants are famous (his SXSW party at his home also used to be famous), and I’m a big fan of his writing, so this was absolutely mandatory for me. I didn’t realise it would be so hilarious. Via a few wandering twists and turns, he spoke about change. It was a serious topic, and delivered seriously in some sections, but right in the middle he had a Bruce party right there, with crisps and beer and awesome cookies. His delivery is amazing and his timing is just perfect – he had the audience roaring with laughter (or was that just me).

With that over, I grabbed my buddy Dan Willis and we went out to dinner. Dan always makes me laugh – I’m still wondering just how mad he really is. But that doesn’t matter because we really can spend a lot of time just talking and laughing.

With the film festival on, we could get into first-showings and Dan suggested we go see ‘Observe and Report‘. I love going to movies without knowing anything about them and that certainly was the case here – I hadn’t heard of the film, the director, the actors and had no idea what it would be about. The lack of expectations can make for an amazing experience and that certainly was the case. This was one of the funniest (and weirdest, and with incredible timing) movies I have seen in a long time. I don’t usually laugh out loud in a theatre but I was laughing and hooting and clapping and so was the rest of the audience. I also don’t usually talk about movies straight after, but Dan and I were laughing and cracking the best lines all the way to the next part of the evening – the Blue Flavor party.

When the bar closed and we were all pushed out the door, as happens every morning at 2am in Austin, Dan, myself, Matt Balara and Ola hung around for another hour or so just shooting the crap, talking about everything and nothing and laughing a lot.

So can you pick up the thread here and know why I woke up feeling strange. I spent about 10 hours straight laughing. Laughing in Bruce Sterling’s talk, laughing with Dan, laughing at the movie, standing ’round on the street laughing with friends.

And I still have a big ball of laughter glowing inside me. It feels incredible and amazing and wonderful and I can’t wait to do it some more…

Week in review

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Some weeks are bigger than others. This week was a big, eventful one with lots of stress, and lots of ego.


  • Appeared in Computerworld NZ (and was on the front cover of the print version)
  • Had an article published about Four essential skills for information architecture by User Interface Engineering
  • Reluctantly resigned from a client gig I’ve been working on for a few months
  • Finished writing my UI13 talk on Design Games
  • Finished a content inventory and web analytics report for a new project
  • Saw a sneak preview of Ruth‘s Web Directions presentation on incorporating accessibility into design (and it’s good)
  • Wrote two blog posts, both of them completely ego-centric
  • Downloaded way too much Culture Club from iTunes, then discovered that I scrobble my playlist to

I can haz beer now?

Ramsay/cluetrain mashup

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I don’t know if this is such a good idea, but I’ve been watching Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares, re-reading the Cluetrain Manifesto and helping a client write a set of guidelines for social media .

And I just realised what each has in common…


Ramsay, when you remove the f*** word, talks always about authenticity and simple, true food.

A big chunk of the cluetrain, and the part that I connected with when I first read it, is about communicating with a true, authentic voice.

And the core of social media is about being real, being yourself and communicating with people as a person not as a corporation.

In every case, the authenticity, realness and honesty is most important, and will always be so.

Need copy…I agree

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

This was funny…not sure what I’m agreeing to:


I’m in an 80s time warp

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

I’m in Sydney for OZCHI (where, BTW, I’m doing my first keynote) and sitting in the hotel bar – I had a day off and it is better than being bored in my room.

The bar is playing 80s music. Here’s what’s been on:

I don’t know what’s worse – that I know all of these, that wikipedia has entries for them all or that I really should be doing something other than looking them up.

(And I’m only able to write this because I have a new iBurst card – one of the best gadgets I’ve ever bought. Their slogan is right – it just works)

The pleasure of surprise

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

I’ve been using Quickflix for a while – one of Australia’s answers to Netflix and have had a very odd experience.

Every time they send me an email saying “We’ve just sent you xxxx” I think “Oh, cool, how exciting – I wanted to watch that”.

Now of course I wanted to watch it – they chose it from my queue of things I said I wanted to watch. But despite this being completely logical, I am excited every time I learn what is coming next.

This may be related to the paradox of choice – standing in the video store, making a decision from all the movies and wondering whether it is a dud. Somehow the element of surprise is quite different to this.

How do you know you’re too tired to continue?

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

How do I know I’m too tired to continue working? I was just looking for a file called ‘iawiki.png’ and wondering why it wasn’t at the top of an alphabetical list.

How do you know you’re too tired…

Spam justice

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

Michael S. Cox is a spammer.


The Musical Baton

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

I was sent the musical baton from two friends (Ben & Livia). I’m not a big music listener, so don’t expect anything particularly interesting:

1. Total volume of music files on my computer?


2. The last CD I bought

Ben Harper: Fight for your mind
REM: The best of REM

3. Song playing right now
Eels: Mighty Fine Blues
(now Bruce Springsteen: Dancing in the dark – haven’t heard this for a long, long time)

4. Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:
Whatever happens to be playing on DIG(I don’t think I have 5 best songs – I could manage 5 best artists, but not individual songs)

5. Five people to whom I’m passing the baton:

OK, I’m going to break the chain. Sorry, I’m just a spoil sport ;)

A taxonomy of frienships

Thursday, April 14th, 2005

I was talking today with some fabulous clients I’m working with. I was telling them about my theory that there aren’t enough words for ‘friend’. You know, I have friends who live near me, friends who live in the nearby city, IA friends internationally, friends who I knew from school, friends who I worked with then lost contact with, favourite friends, friends I adore, people who I think are fabulous, and many others. To some extent, all of these people have been ‘friends’ but there are quite different types of friendships within that term.

It was when I said that I had a bunch of different categories of friends, and that there really is a friendship hierarchy within all this that they started to look a bit strangely at me. ‘You really are an IA, aren’t you?’

I guess I am…

Scheduling the mobile generation

Monday, February 21st, 2005

As part of some client work, I have recently spent more time than usual in the offices of a large organisation. It has been a while since I spent time like this, and something that struck me is how organised everyone is. Actually, it’s not just that people are organised, it is that everything revolves around ‘meetings’. Everything is scheduled, slotted in and arranged, and work is the stuff that happens around the meetings.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but I have never really noticed it to this extent before – just how scheduled it all is. Our life broken into little one-hour slots.

Then I started to think about the mobile generation and how they don’t organise things in the same way my generation once did (not that I’m terribly old ;) We arrange times and locations and carry our phones in case something goes wrong – they arrange less and use their phones to make more flexible arrangements.

So what will our future look like? Will society and the way our organisations work mold this generation into scheduled clock watchers, or will work and the associated ‘meetings’ become more flexible. Will be interesting to watch…

Slow brain, slow connection

Tuesday, August 17th, 2004

I’ve had a few glasses of wine tonight after a long, tiring day of report writing and am now trying to dig research articles out of journal databases.

I was watching the little page load icon in Firefox spin around and realised that my brain feels as slow as my internet connection, which is saying something as I’m on rural dial-up. Maybe I should go watch the Olympics instead…

I’ve seen a tipping point

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

I mentioned tipping points in my last post. I’ve just seen my first really obvious tipping point happen.

Now I don’t have Malcolm Gladwell’s book at the moment (if you borrowed it, please let me know), but from memory, one type of tipping point is the point at which a product is all of a sudden everywhere.

This is a strange one, but I’ve just witnessed a plastic bag to purchased bag tipping point. In the last fortnight I’ve noticed that everyone is carrying around lime green bags containing their shopping rather than plastic bags. I’d think a couple of things happened to tip it:

  • the supermarkets have walls of lime green bags, embedding them in our consciousness
  • the bags are inexpensive
  • other people are brave enough to buy them and walk around the shopping centre with them

I’d guess that this last point is the most important one in causing a tip. People need to see that ‘everyone else’ is doing it and have the ability to do it themselves and boom – off it goes…

Donna Loves Jakob

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. To explain I have to tell you how I was ego-surfing (this is embarrassing but worth it for the story)…I had been looking at Userati (I’m not listed) and was googling my name in combination with other people, partly to see how I’d rank if I was listed. This was actually an interesting way to ego-surf – my name alone shows too many results to find interesting stuff, but in combination, I found a lot of inward links that I didn’t know about.

So I googled “Donna Maurer” “Jakob Nielsen” just to see what would happen, and got this interesting looking result:

I was very surprised that my Boxes and Arrows bio would say that was one of my favourite websites. Then I realised that this was two snaps of information from the same page – it neatly snapped two sentences that when run together made complete sense. How bizarre – I know how all of this works, but it still caught me out…

(btw, Jeanene Landers Steinberg loves google and Jakob)

Ego surfing

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Went ego surfing tonight instead of studying. Found lots of links into my blog that I didn’t know existed, and lots of nice things written about it. But this is just about the best damn thing anyone has ever said about me:

“Donna runs what may be the most down-to-earth and humanely written blog on the topic I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t mix words or use industry-only terms to describe what she does, she just talks about it and I do believe she loves what she does.”

from Textbased