First steps in my digital cleanse

My friend Chris recently embraced ‘minimalism’ and has been posting his progress and musings over at his blog and on Twitter/Instagram. He also is heading up the group for Cleveland.

With that, a second Android device, and the recent glut of online sites & services I use shutting down, I felt it time to consolidate or shed a lot of my digital footprint.

I used the hashtag #DigitalCleanse on Twitter as I started listing the steps I’ve been taking:

  1. Leaving LinkedIn groups – I’ve never got into using LinkedIn as a social network to discuss topics and “share”. The few groups I did join seemed to spend as much time getting rid of overzealous recruiters as it did posting about the topics. I cut the email down to digests, but even that just clogged up my inbox. So I’ve left them all.
  2. Closing “alternate” accounts – Over the years I’ve opened a lot of accounts on (then) new services. Sometimes multiple accounts for businesses, groups, or just for a laugh. Time to shut these down, or pass them on to others. This also enables me to consolidate and focus my content.
  3. Turn off notifications – Now with multiple devices, every time an email or social network updates they’d both ping and chirp, demanding my attention during the day. To what end? Most of the time it wasn’t something that needed a reply, but my focus had been broken and shifted. So the only things that make noise or display an alert are phone calls & text messages.

I’ll jot down future steps as I’m exploring the idea of “spaces” with apps like Cover and Aviate. Also Merlin Mann spoke about “modes” for sleep etc.,  which fits in with the direction I heading.


So Christmas and my birthday have now passed and we’re fully into 2014. But what felt like a fairly stable life online , now has the exciting tremors of instability once again.

So far this year quite a few services/site I use(d) are closing or switching business models. I don’t think I’ve ever downloaded so much of ‘my’ content in one month.

  • Viddler – an excellent video platform, has decided to move away from its free community model and concentrate more on its paying business side. I can’t argue with that and wish them every success, but it does mean I have to pull down all my uploads in .FLV format.
  • Zootool – This was the online bookmarking service I opted for when Delicious had all those issues. Now I’m exporting them all again. Reminds me off when Ma.gnolia disappeared.
  • ClaimID –  For over 7½ years ClaimID served as my online reputation repository. Every profile, site, or post that was to do with me had a link here. Then it suddenly disappeared. I reached out to them and Fred Stutzman was nice enough to reply, as they had “experienced a catastrophic systems failure which left us unable to bring the service back online”. Shame.
  • MyOpenID – Created by Janrain to make “registration and login easier on the web for people” it worked great, but never really saw wide adoption. Then Facebook & Twitter started offering using them as login credentials, and I guess it’s time came. But having authentication that isn’t reliant on one of the big boys is still appealing, so I’m happy Aaron Parecki reached out and is offering it as part of #IndieWeb (maybe more soon on this).
  • Editorially – An online tool that I tried out. Didn’t use it too much, but a good idea well executed.
  • Qik – Video messaging service. Features being incorporated into Skype.

These were things I had running in the background of my life. Things I’d visit and update every so often, but not pay them too much mind. With them gone it’s made me look again at my content, my choice of channels,  my digital footprint.

The next few posts I’ll jot down some ideas from my own #DigitalCleanse, the decisions I’m looking at and the apps & services I’m using to sort it out.

Also, I’m turning off comments and pingbacks etc. for this blog. Probably going to start looking implementing WebMentions very soon.

Day 2 – The World Is A Screen

Second presentation and it too was a corker! Andrew Hinton gives us a deep dive with a presentation I’d expect at the IA Summit.

Both digital and physical stores can be seen as “information environments”.

“Technology makes signage less stable”

A bus stop in Dublin and you know got familiar with the signs until someone came and replaced it. So much so, you may forget what it’s telling you. But now with digital timetables etc. you have to relearn looking at this stuff.

Pace Layers (Brand/Moreville both used these)

Information comes in 3 modes – Ecological / Semantic / Digital

James J Gibson: “Nestedness” – Perceive environments as nested containers, not logical hierarchies.

‘Usable doesn’t always mean useful"

  • Semantic – Language is environment
  • Affordance = Learned (buttons/flat design). Relearn.
  • Digital – Putting ‘human’ into the machine
  • QR Codes are great for machine-to-machine language (Delta app)
  • Avacado vs. Path = Personal experience?

Oncology is at the heart of digital

You can find an earlier version of Andrews talk on Slideshare.

Day 2 – The Design in Service Design

Magnus & Anders are two very cool Swedes. They work for Doberman and have just opened up offices in NYC.

Both coming from the “good ol’ days” at the beginning of the web they shared some of the projects that led to Doberman and the work they’d done there:

  • Apoteket – Sweden’s only pharmacy. Had customers log in to computer records and the pharmacist asks to see them with the patient to discuss them.
  • Volvo – Service Centers
  • HBO Nordics – $9/month cross-platform subscription model. more like Netflix than the HBO model in the US.

“From touchpoints to ecosystems”

Look at Experience Prototypes

  1. Forget the plan (
  2. Craft it
  3. Design your culture, not your process
    -> Co-Lab everything
    -> Play
    -> Be all you can be

They talk about having a ‘design scale’ with analytic+systematic on one side and creative+non-linear on the other. Finding that balance can be tricky, but you should tilt towards insight & strategy.

They also get each employee to use LEGO to illustrate budgets for the company. Great sense of play and problem solving in their approaches. 

They also mentioned empathy (solutions are already out there), which is something Indy Young is covering too.  Seems to be emerging in our field more and more.

I found this a really interesting presentation. I was lucky enough to catch up with them separately during the conference and chatted to them about their work on the touch-screen NYC Subway maps as well as a new health insurance site for NYC residents.

You can watch a version of this talk given by Lisa Lindström (Doberman CEO) at NEXT Berlin.

Day 2 – Conference Day

Within the 3 tracks (UX/Design/Develop) theres a lot of interesting looking sessions. I may do a little track hopping. But first, breakfast 🙂


Three different types of bacon on offer in the hotel restaurant. It’d be rude not to sample them all.

The opening keynote was by Carl Smith (nGen Works). It was a very interesting and personal talk. Great way to set the tone for the conference going forward. You can watch Carl’s talk over at Treehouse.

Day 1 – (Workshop) Service Design Making with Patrick Quattlebaum

Patrick works for Adaptive Path, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of their employees talks.

Patrick answering questions

As the walls were covered with butcher paper you knew we’d be getting our hands dirty with some exercises.  First he walked us through some examples. Going on a date night with his wife and the differences between using a cab or using Uber, and the choice of restaurant/food.

  • There’s a switch to servicing – 78% of the US GDP
  • Runs through Customer | Staff | Business

After the presentation piece we switched into hands-on exercises. Scenario was coming up with new ways for The Exploratorium to offer tailored outings:


  • Create common understanding
  • Inspire/Incite action
  • Communicate truth
  • Prototype the future


Using the printed storyboard we captured our individual ideas by noting down the ‘stage’ at which it’d take place, a description and simple storyboard panel sketch, as well as the channels that it’s come into play. Then all of these were put onto the wall, grouped by ‘stages’. We then presented these to the other groups.

Stories on butcher paper

Building Blocks

  • Key moments & interactions
  • Emotions & thoughts
  • Context!
  • Time

The next exercise was SERVICE STORMING! So after we chose an story card from each stage, we got to work through it by acting it out. Each one of chose different “roles” to play. These could be a visitor, employee, website, iPad, exhibit.

Service Encounters

  • Happens in real time at specific times & places
  • Subject to human emotion and variability
  • Mediated or augmented with other touchpoints

“It’s a way of working through problems/scenarios. Not a presentation vehicle.”

Acting out

After working through our choices we acted them out for everyone. Even though I’m a shy, reserved, Englishman I did find this a great way (in a small group) to work through problems; Even if saying “I’m an iPad app” out loud feels very strange 🙂

Service Blueprints

“How the backstage stuff works.” – “Services are process & experience based.”

  • Customer actions
  • Touchpoints
  • Staff actions
  • ——Line of visibility——
  • Backstage staff
  • Support processes
  • ————TIME————->

This was a great workshop and I would encourage you to attend it if Patrick puts it on again. Valuable in every project if you deal with anything that touches the servicing aspect of your client/company.

A book to look at “This is Service Design Thinking”. Also check out the companion website.

You can find Patrick’s presentation on SlideShare.