D. Keith Robinson

Design, product, UX and such for Heroku. Damned if you do. Bored if you don’t.

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Being Introverted

Introversion is something I’ve wanted to write about publicly for a few years now. Essentially ever since I began to understand it a bit–and understand that I’m pretty damn introverted. It’s a complex subject, something hard to understand, even for those people who consider themselves introverts. It’s also hard to explain. It’s also not a black and white thing. Some people are more introverted than others, some times interactions with others come easy, etc.

Every time I’ve sat down to write something, I can’t seem to find the words to describe what I want to say about it. That’s why I was so excited when I saw this piece from Chris Coyier today. He’s put to words something I’ve not been able to.

Give it a read. Then, if you want, come back for my story, culled from a draft post that’s been sitting here for well over a year.

Introversion: My Story

For years I would have considered...

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Maker Culture

I’ve recently been working on a small side project at Heroku to gather up and post my favorite design-related texts, videos, etc. I was calling it, for lack of a better title, “The Design Culture List”. Essentially take the design-centered works from my text playlist and share them. My intended audience is primarily other designers, but I think it might be fun and interesting for everyone.

In doing an audit of the content I wanted to share, I realized that while it was all of interest to designers, it wasn’t really all that design-focused. Of course, design is a passion of mine, but it’s the act of making things that I really enjoy. This is a passion that extends well beyond design, and that was showing up in the stuff I wanted to share.

The best designers are multi-disicplined problem solvers who take craft seriously. I’ve always called myself a designer, but where the real passion...

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Collaborative Diversity

Smarties hailing from different backgrounds (and/or with different ways of thinking) working together is much more effective than separated, homogenous groups of smarties in almost every way. After all, there are many different kinds of smart and mixing them up results in amazing things.

You’ve probably read how small, cross-functional teams are much more effective than your typical silo-ed team approach. I believe that to be true. But there is more to it than that. Cross-function is one part, but it’s also important to create diversity within a particular function. Not all designers are alike, not all engineers think the same way, etc. When you find a group of smart people that share a vision, but offer up different ideas on how to get there, that’s when the magic really happens.

I’m calling this “Collaborative Diversity” and I think it’s a great way to work.

Look at a company like...

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Learning to be Problem-centered

“The problem-centered person sees a problem as a statement about a situation, from which something has been left out. In other words, there is in this situation a relationship or consequence that has not been stated and that must be found.

"But most children in school are answer-centred rather than problem-centered. They see a problem as a kind of announcement that, far off in some mysterious Answerland, there is an answer, which they are supposed to go out and find.”

~ John Holt, from the book How Children Fail via Things I Dispised about My Education by Nabeel Qureshi

I can totally relate to this. In fact, I had something like this come up at work this week.

When people ask me questions, often regardless of how it’s phrased, my first instinct is to find the right answer to their question. To me the answer has always been the solution to the problem, and if I can find it, I win....

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Intuition & Data

Design isn’t only about solving problems, it’s about finding good problems to solve. Research and data are key to finding out where you should be putting your energy, but are they also key in solving problems? Or should that be left to the intuition of your professionals?

I’d assert that you can’t rely upon data or metrics alone to tell you what problems to solve, let alone how to solve them. For that you need human input. Having said that, data is key to making informed decisions, validating them, and getting them pushed forward.

We talk a lot about the balance between intuition and data, and how that plays into making design decisions. I think they’re both needed. You might say there is a balance to be struck here.

But these things go beyond hand-in-hand; they don’t really need “balancing” exactly. Intuition is just another form of data, and it can be learned and made more effective...

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365

I’m a big fan of New Years… stuff. In years past I’ve come up with many goals, plans and resolutions, which I’ve also kept (!!!) to varying degrees.

This year I wanted to do something a bit different. I wanted to come up with something I could do on an ongoing basis that kept me engaged, learning and thinking about ways to be better. I started making a list of some “guiding principles” I wanted to keep in mind, not only for 2013, but daily. I looked at this and thought about it for a long time, trying to figure out something actionable I could do with it.

I came up with a project that, as of right now, doesn’t really have a name. (Maybe I’ll call it “365”.) I’ve been hosting it over at dangerismyfirstname.com (that domain is to awesome to waste) and been working on it pretty much daily for the last month.

The idea is to share one interesting thing every day. Of course, that alone...

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Complaining: A Short Manual.

Complaining is lame. I do it much more than I’m comfortable with, you do it, people you want to like do it. We can be better. Here’s how:

One. Ask, “would my dad complain about this?” (Feel free to replace “dad” with anyone else you look up to. I use my dad because my dad was awesome.)

Two. Ask yourself, “will my complaining do anyone (including myself) any good?” Most likely the answer is no. Zip it. Go meditate, exercise, eat a Twinkie, move on to question three, etc.

Three. Sometimes you’ll leave the realm of complaint and you probably need an honest conversation with someone. That requires a whole other post but quickly:

  • Be honest.
  • People skills.
  • Listen.
  • Think.

Four. Do you have a journal? Or a private Twitter account with a sympathetic and patient audience who doesn’t mind your whining? If yes, complain your face off there. Really. Go nuts.

Four part two. Start a private...

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Hello, Heroku.

It’s been a bit of a crazy last few months. Thus the lack of frequent writing here. Hopefully I’ll be able to change that soon, as I’ve got a lot of good things to talk to y'all about. :)

About a month ago I left my position at Desk.com. It was a great gig and I’ll miss ‘em. But I’ve moved on and I’ve just finished up my first week at a new job.

I’m now a product designer on the web applications team at Heroku. If you’re not familiar, here’s a little blurb about what we do:

Heroku (pronounced her-OH-koo) is a cloud application platform – a new way of building and deploying web apps. Our service lets app developers spend 100% of their time on their application code, not managing servers, deployment, ongoing operations, or scaling.

Developer productivity is our battle cry, at the core of everything we do. Why require 3 steps when 1 will do? Why require any action at all when zero...

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Reducing Waste

A big part of Lean methodologies, taken, I think, directly from The Toyota Way, is the idea that you should gear your processes to eliminate waste whenever possible. In principle, this is a good idea, in practice? Well, I have to admit, it does fall apart a bit. Any solid process is going to produce a certain amount of unused work, or waste. And I think that’s ok. But let’s not focus on that, I don’t think Lean shouldn’t be about process at all. The gist of Lean, in my opinion, is that you should focus on working on what matters.

For projects and products.

I’ve harped on this before but it bears repeating; it’s hard to do great work when you’re not focused. When I think of of Lean principles and reducing waste, I look at it like this: anything that keeps you from being focused on doing good, valuable work can be considered “waste”. In most cases this boils down to things like...

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Communicating Design (Revised)

Design process and how designers communicate their design decisions to others is kind of a obsession of mine. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in just about every aspect of digital product design and I’ve seen the process from the eyes of a product manager, a designer, a coder, a creative director, etc.

All of this thinking has led me to the following conclusion, which I think still holds true:

Communicating design, in general, needs to be less about documentation and more about clear, concise and ongoing two-way communication.

In other words: spend your time designing, not documenting. I don’t know about you, but contrary to what I sometimes hear from designers, I’m not in the business of making flow charts, personas and wireframes. In the end, these things literally do not matter. Even in the best cases they usually cost valuable time and energy. Worse, can be a source...

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