Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Big Red Apple in NYC

Came back from a Northern California Cornell Event tonight in Menlo Park.

(I know, I only attend Cornell alumni events unless it’s within 10 minutes drive from where I live or where I work, right… )

I was actually drawn by the topic/speaker of the event. The dean of Cornell NYC Tech Campus came to the silicon valley to give an update on Cornell’s plan building the NYC Tech Campus and its curriculum programs.

Last year, Cornell won this ‘bid’ in NYC (believe was competing with Stanford) and will be building a tech campus on 1/3 of Roosevelt island in NYC for graduate programs, primarily graduate students interested in Tech and Entrepreneurship. To NYC, it’s an huge effort to catch up with west coast tech centers such as Silicon Valley and Seattle.

The dean Dan Huttenlocher is a very good speaker, with great manner and tempo cultivated from years of academia experience. A few interesting facts learned from the event tonight are:

  • The tech campus starts in January 2013, with 15 students recruited from existing Cornell master student body.
  • Unfortunately, no international students are allowed at this stage, as DHS still needs to review all the criteria needed for foreign students to be accepted by programs in this Tech Campus.
  • Before the tech campus takes off, Google has generously offered some of its office spaces to Cornell to host courses and events.
  • Twitter’s former CTO (Greg Pass) now full time works for Cornell Tech Campus, and is recruiting industry talents and entrepuernuers to offer courses and become industry mentors for graduate students in the Tech campus.
  • By 2017 (which is only 5 yrs from now, sounds so dauntingly future and yet, CLOSE!), at least 3 buildings will be ready for classes, student dorms and supporting facilities. The rest of the campus areas will be occupied by industry offices, co-working spaces, depending on the amount of donation and industry support Cornell may get. Itself is a fund raising project.

I remember going back to Cornell back in May, and met with my former advisors in grad school after I’ve been out in the bay area for 2 years. They asked me, how did the graduate level of courses prepared you for industry?

To be honest, I’d say, in terms of mindset and learning skills, I benefited a lot from the courses and doing research with faculties, but in terms of real world hands-on experience, very minimum. The fact that Cornell locates in upstate New York, and when New York’s no long the center of everything, especially in the tech field, makes it more difficult for interdisciplinary students (info science, user experience, communication, etc.) to stay in the game.

I’ve met with graduate students from Stanford, since the valley’s so close, it’s literally a part-time job from their full time schooling to get hands-on experience in the industry. Ultimately, only a small fraction of graduate students will/should stay in academia and continue down the career path of a professor. The majority of us will end up building something, or selling something. The location itself also prevents industry-smarts to give talks and host events on campus. It’s a very ideal environment for theoretical science and research, but not so much for industry/tech incubator styles of higher education, as we often see here in the bay area. That’s also why the MBA program of Cornell was never a bit hit in comparison to other ivy league schools.

The marriage of Tech and NYC might also lead to some interesting chemical reactions. For those CS graduates who ended up working in NYC, I believe it’s the city itself has turned them into half financial professionals. The trend is to combine everything with finance, just like in the sillicon valley, everything is depended on technology, web or mobile. In order to live in NYC, even if you are a geek, you need to learn what’s appropriate to dress and what’s not; you need to get used to hitting a bar as opposed to a cafe after work, and you need to have some sense of the financial data of your company, not to hire a CFO to take care of everything.

In a city in which an average developer can get pretty decent income just by working at a financial company, what’s the attraction for them to work under a mid to low salary for a start-up for 10+ hours each day then? People come to silicon valley to work for their next Google or Facebook dream, but what do people go to NYC for? Wall street, Madison avenue or Statue of Liberty? None of those seems to be as attractive as Palo Alto or Mountain View in a same aspect.

Before Cornell puts this Big Red Tag in NYC, maybe the metropolitan life style is the real question here, for Cornell Tech Campus, as well as for IT start-ups in NYC to think about.

还停留在找工具的初级阶段

这段时间在做平板上面的一些东西,如果单纯是画流程和草图,并用不到任何设计工具,白纸铅笔就行了,如果要稍微贴近真实产品感觉的话,网上也是有大把大把的UI stentcil可以下载,随便放入一个原型制作工具(比如Omnigraffle,或者是powerpoint, keynote),都很快可以做出能够让用户测试的产品原型来。

但问题在于,如果要测试交互,还是要有可点击的,有互动性(click-through)的产品原型比较好。以这个考虑,之前的几个工具在制作交互方面都显得不够专业。Omnigraffle适合静态画图,powerpoint和keynote不太好scale,如果原型只有10幅图还好,要图多了,光是在这些屏幕里超链接来超链接去,就得花上大半天的时间。

在网上搜了一些,适合做互动性比较强的原型的工具,试了一下,有两个比较推荐的:

BluePrint by Groosoft

Blueprint是一款直接在iPhone或iPad上做iOS app原型的工具。它提供了不少iOS原配的图像和交互元素。

虽然这是给设计师用的,但一看就知道是工程师做的产品,界面设计乏善可陈,但功能极其完备。各种iOS设计的元素一应俱全,并且有一些初始的设定(比如某些元素只能放置在顶端的导航栏,某些只能置于底端),确保一些不符合iOS交互原则的设计不会发生。

如果觉得产品本身所提供的设计元素不够,也可以从其他渠道(照片,dropbox,box,etc.)导入图像元素,并且进行大小和位置的调整。这款app的位置微调功能从视觉上而言,真是极其简单难看,但又极其好用,有时候就是那么一两个像素的调整,让整个界面看上去就舒服很多。

如果是做简单的产品原型,或是功能性比较强的企业型软件,blueprint还是很handy的;但如果要做在交互和视觉上都有创新的app,最好还是不要用这个工具,可能会反而禁锢住思维。付费版本要花20刀左右,没有免费版本里图片数量的限制,个人感觉还是值这个价的。

Solidify by ZURB

ZURB是加州的一家产品设计公司。我开始以为,和其他小型设计公司一样,也是只接客户的案子,后来发现公司自己也做app,而且是专门给用户体验设计师或是研究者来做可用性测试和设计的工具。

Solidify是他们最近才发布的一个web app。Solid是个英文形容词,意思是‘扎实’,后面加个’ify’,就把形容词变成了动词,意思类似于‘夯实基础’(-_- 不好意思,让我翻译就看出我是个土人来了…)。

前面介绍的Blueprint的局限性在于,只有在iPad上安装了这个app,才能够展示给用户看,每次都是一对一。对于agile的设计和开发环境,因为改变太快,不可能每次一改完就有用户等着帮你测试,这样测试的数量比较有限。

Solidify的好处在于,你可以把所有的静态设计图上传到它的web app上,连好各种超链接之后,选择你想要测试的平台:Web(网站),Phone(手机)或Tablet(平板),然后它直接生成链接,你可以一次性发送给一个群组的用户,让他们在各自的设备上进行测试。

这样的测试方法,的确是会丧失一对一,面对面交流中的丰富的用户反应和反馈,但如果目的只是想在短时间内避免明显的可用性错误,就未尝不可了。

当用户测试完成后,Solidify也提供完整的视频,记录用户完成任务过程中的所有点击动作。这个部分我觉得的确是做得不错的,有时候看用户的点击轨迹其实已经说明了大部分的问题。

因为是款Web app,又是刚发布,感觉app本身稳定性和速度都有些问题。比如会出现,用户收到链接,但好半天都打不开。这可能跟,当你把测试链接发给大量用户,大家都在测试,软件的server需要同时录制大量的视频来记录这些用户数据有关。这会儿设计师就歇菜了,只能等牛逼的程序员来解决这个问题了。

 

什么时候脱离工具,回归思路本身,才是大道至简吧。

最近在“非你莫属”

一年多以前在纽约跟璇吃饭,她说,姐们儿我最近在看一特牛逼的节目,叫《非你莫属》,像我们这读文科PhD的,毕业了真不知道找什么工作,就想看看国内的人都怎么找工作的,这万一回国还得给自己找一着落不是。

还没等我回来开始看这节目呢,没过多久,一女海归和这节目主持人就干上架了,然后那段招聘视频就被满大街分享,再下来就是这节目被广大留学生(和非留学生)声讨。

记得当时刚看完那段“断章取义”的视频,本身也是一个留学生的我,的确是挺义愤填膺的,觉得主持人和嘉宾们都不太厚道,以“家长制”的方式把一小姑娘给莫名其妙整特惨。这之后也就更没了看这节目的理由。

直到最近,才完整的看了几集以前的《非你莫属》,对这个节目有更多了解之后,感觉和理解和之前最初的印象其实有些不一样:

比如,主持人其实没那么二

张绍刚,不可否认,是个内心强大的人,已经建立起他自己既有认识世界的框架,不会轻易改变。而他对选手所作出的判断和评价,也无外乎是基于他自己的人生经历,也是符合国内的普世价值观的。

比如,对那些有比较solid工作经验的选手,或是人品好、不说大话的选手(到不一定是能力出众的选手),他毫不吝惜自己的喜爱之情。

这和他的专业背景(学电视、摄影出身),以及所成长的年代和环境相关,一二十年以前,在机关单位,能混出来的通常是勤奋、实诚,懂得收敛,会说话的人,而这也成为他判断优秀选手的最高标准。

而至少是我所处的环境里,凭借出众的个人能力,即使品行,性格或是人生诉求不那么出众的人,也可以各得其所的生活,甚至,个人能力被放到一个极其重要的地位,有乔布斯这样的榜样在前,哪怕是个asshole,如果有职场的卖点,一样是可以被接受的。

但我觉得,真并不应该blame张绍刚的偏中国化的职场“审美”,他个人经历的局限性(当然,每个人的经历都有局限性)导致了他的判断。如果一个人因为环境原因,没有获取足够的信息,所以没法做出最佳的判断,这个是情有可原的;真正特二的情况是,这个人获取了足够的信息,但仍做出错误的判断。

至少这几期看下来,并没有觉得张绍刚是一个多么不可理喻的人,相反,更多的时候他是很机智,并且懂得掌控场上求职者、老板和主持人之间的度的。

几位老板里面,特别有留意一下从长沙出来的一家企业 —— 咖啡之翼的老总,尹峰。当时读高中的时候,咖啡之翼也就是长沙好几家中西餐厅品牌中的一家吧,不过至少听节目里的介绍,好像最近发展得很好,全国开了不少分店。但之前并不知道是位女老板。

感觉尹峰还是位很典型的可以“出得众”,“上得了台面”的长沙妹子吧。她的身材长相对于这个年纪,并且企业做得这么成功的老总而言,当然是奇葩了。但不可否认的,跟那些北上广或者家庭条件比较好的背景里出来的女孩/女人,又有点不一样,她的言谈举止、甚至打扮之中或多或少会有那么一点长沙的“乡气”和“霸气”,打扮再淑女,说话方式再轻柔,遮不住的是曾经在艰难的环境下打拼之后,留下来的人生印记。

比如,强烈的自我保护意识:面对女求职者说到,自己曾经受到上司的性骚扰,尹峰的态度是,应该从自己身上找原因,什么样的女员工会成为受害者,而什么样的女员工一开始就不让别人有机可乘?

比如,自强、逞强:面对一上台就大肆渲染自己之前吃了多少苦的女求职者,相较于社会对于女性的普遍期望:找个稳定的工作,找个好老公嫁了,她的告诫是,苦有什么可怕的,越是苦,我越是要从中找到快乐。

所以说,“穷山恶水出刁民” LOL 做这么一个纯粹、独立、“霸得蛮”的长沙女生也挺好,自己内心强大,任它风吹雨打。

不过看了几期,也就差不多了,感觉这个节目的问题在于,首先,企业平台局限性太大,这些企业还是打广告的目的远大过于找人,那些真正牛的企业(不需要打广告的),也不用上这儿来浪费时间,所以,老板们到底有多少权威,谁都不知道。

其次,张绍刚还是个人特色太明显,一个在北广教课的老师,不可避免的会把他对学传媒的学生的判断带到节目中来,很多时候,能不能找到工作,变成,是不是一个好的聊天者和谈话者,这样,节目可看性是增加了,但跟找工作关系就不大了。

看来最近的确是有够无聊,连看完这种节目都能大发感慨…