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Best Innovation & Design Books of 2008

Tuesday, 23 Dec 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Earlier this month, BusinessWeek revealed its list of 10 best innovation and design books for 2008. Before I looked at the list, I wondered if I would recognize the titles of any of the books or by chance if I had read any.

 Well, I had only heard of one book on the list and I already read it:

The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures by Dan Roam

I really enjoyed the book.  Dan talks about visual thinking and explains how to solve business problems with pictures.  Speaking of pictures, the book is packed with them.  Most times no more than 2 pages go by before you encounter the next drawing.  But this is not just a book filled with pictures, the text supports the learning very well.  From this book, I gained better confidence so that I don’t worry so much how my pictures look as long as they keep the communication going.

Now I have to decide which of the other nine I will read next.

For those interested in innovation in general or those looking to innovate in the world of genealogy, check out the list.


ThinkGenealogy Innovator Awards

Monday, 8 Dec 2008 | by Mark Tucker

ThinkGenealogy wants to recognize innovation in genealogy and family history.  So, if you find a book, software feature, methodology approach or otherwise that you think is innovative then send an e-mail to: mail at thinkgenealogy dot com.  If enough nominations come in for a specific item, then it will be recognized with an Innovator award. 

There are two types of awards: Thinker’s Pick and Community Choice. 

 

The Thinker’s Pick award is given for innovation that I want to personally recognize whereas Community Choice comes from nominations received from the genealogy community.  It is possible for a specific innovation to receive both types of awards and for an item (like a software application) to receive more than one award for different features.  I want to make it clear that these awards are not limited to software.  I am sure there will be plenty of software nominations, but please keep your eyes open for other areas of innovation in genealogy.

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FamilyLink.com Gives Employees 10% of Work Time to Do Their Family History

Friday, 21 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Today I came across a post by FamilyLink.com CEO, Paul Allen, that announced a new employee program where 10% of their work time (4 hours for a 40 hour work week) can be spent doing their own family history.  The idea was patterned from Google’s policy that allows employees to spend 20% of their time on personal projects.  This idea is very exciting to me and is one that I have been thinking about a lot over the last year specifically in the context of genealogy software.  Maybe I should have blogged about it sooner.

The Genealogy Software Community is in great need of innovation and it is great to see an innovative company like FamilyLink.com spend some time “in the trenches” doing family history.  Maybe they will come to understand and embrace the Genealogical Proof Standard and Source Citations and find ways to implement them in software in ways that won’t scare those who are starting out in family history.

Paul references a talk given by Marissa Mayer at Stanford a few years ago on the topic of Google’s culture of innovation.
She included the following 9 points:

  1. Ideas come from everywhere
  2. Share everything you can.
  3. You’re brilliant. We’re hiring.
  4. A license to pursue dreams.
  5. Innovation not instant perfection.
  6. Data is a-political.
  7. Creativity loves constraint.
  8. Users not money.
  9. Don’t kill projects.  Morph them.

I met Paul last week during the BYU Computerized Genealogy and Family History Conference and was impressed by his sincerity and desire to grow the family history economy.  This latest announcement is continued proof that he is out to make a positive change in the world of genealogy and family history.

Speaking at BYU Family History Technology Workshop

Monday, 10 Mar 2008 | by Mark Tucker

This week I will be taking vacation days from work so that I can attend both the 2008 Family History Technology Workshop as well as the Computerized Family History and Genealogy Conference in Provo, Utah.  I will be speaking at the technology workshop and have 20 minutes to discuss my topic: 10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do. 

Here is the abstract from my paper:

Innovation in genealogy software starts with ideas that lead to better design. This paper discusses 10 things that genealogy software should do but currently doesn’t. It is a starting point for discussion among those in the genealogy community: family historians, software developers, and designers. It is a springboard for additional design ideas.

With only 20 minutes, it will be both fast and fun.  If you will be attending either the workshop or the conference, it would be great to meet you.

Check out the schedule for other topics that will be discussed.

Thanks Myrtle

Monday, 28 Jan 2008 | by Mark Tucker

Thank you Myrtle for your kind words in a recent post where you said:

“I think this fellow Mark is a thinking man’s genealogist. Ol’ Myrt here wants to spend time talking with him personally about innovation and communication in the world of genealogy. Get him together in a room with Paul Allen, Dick Eastman, Beau Sharbrough; then throw in a few CGs & AGs and – wow! What we could dream up!”

I would really enjoy talking with you as well.  I love your meeting idea and would be honored by such an invitation.

Mark

Genealogists Can Share Ideas and Innovate

Thursday, 27 Dec 2007 | by Mark Tucker

The more we understand the design process, the better we can design genealogy software. In a previous post titled “More Design in the Genealogy Community”, we discussed the development process. In this post, we will look specifically at the Design Process that was represented as Phase 0. 

Development Process - Phase 0

Design is represented by a funnel showing that more ideas exist at the beginning of the phase than at the end. Much of this information can be found in “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design” by Bill Buxton.

Genealogists as well as designers and developers must work together as part of the design process. In the early part of this process, it is important to generate as many ideas as possible. No idea should be held back as it might be a stepping stone to a much better idea. Ideas tend to generate more ideas. As the two-time Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling, once said:

The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.

The diagram indicates that no matter how many great ideas enter the funnel, there will be less at the end. Not all ideas survive.

On page 144 of “Sketching User Experiences”, a slightly different visualization by Paul Laseau is presented which shows two opposing funnels: one for idea generation and the other for idea reduction. My modification of the diagram is as follows:

Design Process Timeline

The process begins with a single idea or a few ideas. This leads to more ideas. Ideas are explored quickly and cheaply and can be discarded just as fast – easy come, easy go.

At some point choices need to be made and ideas need to be refined. After all, idea generation cannot carry on indefinitely. We must create something to ship. If we do this correctly, we won’t just have something we will have the right thing. Ideas are refined roughly at first and then with more granularity. More ideas might still surface but they are more fine tuning of existing ideas than radical new ones. More choices are made as we approach the final design. If you think of these two funnels superimposed, it’s not too difficult to visualize the single Design funnel represented as Phase 0.

To make this point a second time, designers, developers, and users (genealogists in our case) are involved in this process. Everyone’s ideas are important. Designers share their ideas and also guide the others through the process.

The subtitle of “Sketching User Experiences” is “getting the design right and the right design.” This process of working together to generate ideas and refine them into a final design is part of getting the “right design.” When this process is not followed or those who use the software are not involved, a design will result but quite possibly not one that will provide an effective, usable, and enjoyable experience.

This blog is a place where we can have a conversation about design and go through the process together.  I want to listen to your ideas.  All ideas are welcome as we are at the starting point of design.  We can change the world of genealogy software.  Innovation can happen.

In a future post, we will explore the technique of sketching and how it can be used to quickly capture and share ideas.

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