Clojure Gazette 1.45

Kathy Sierra

Clojure Gazette

Issue 1.45 --- August 01, 2013

Kathy Sierra


Kathy Sierra is another one of my heroes. Back in 2007, fresh from a job teaching mathematics, I learned about her blog Creating Passionate Users . At the time, the blog was still actively maintained and posted to. It was the Golden Age of blogging and Kathy Sierra was a significant force for good. She was teaching about teaching. It resonated with me enough to make it believable and had enough new ideas to get me hooked.

She brought a new perspective on marketing, teaching, and product design. The focus wasn't on user experience, simplicity, or any of the typical buzzwords of the day. She kept reminding us to focus on making the users extremely good at something. Marketing was about teaching how good you could get with the product. Marketing was teaching .

What was also striking was how much research went into the ideas. They were based on studies (both formal and informal) and delivered very convincingly. She used the same techniques she was teaching to write her blog. They included stimulating the desires for food, sex, and status in order to teach your subject. These are the same that marketers have used for years.

Her style had such grace and ease that it seemed as if, at least for a time, we all could write a successful blog in our spare time. Many of the early articles on my blog were inspired by her callout-on-a-photo style. Her graphics taught at a deep level through humor, sexiness, juxtaposition, and 1960's stock photos.

Alas, she stopped blogging shortly after I discovered her work. And then later she canceled her Twitter account. But she has been slowly resurfacing on the internet. And a few days ago, she started a new blog. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to reacquaint the world with her work!

Eric Normand __

P.S. Feel free to email me any time. I love hearing from readers.


Your app makes me fat

Her new blog has made a splash. This article, which seems to be inspired by deep soul-searching into her marketing and gamifying past, calls attention to a simple fact: our cognitive resources are limited, and those resources draw from the same source. So why are we leeching our users' attention? Are we ethically bound to conserve our users' mental energy? In an economy driven by pageviews, is there any other way? This inaugural post hints that these questions will be explored more deeply in time.

via @neilmock

My Favorite Graphs . . . and the future

Kathy Sierra's last post on Creating Passionate Users summed up her favorite graphics and looked to where she saw herself heading in the future.

The hi-res user experience

One way we can improve (meaning make more pleasureful and meaningful) our own experience is by learning to discriminate in the same way experts do. This is a recurring theme in Kathy Sierra's work.

Conversational writing kicks formal writing's ass

This may be a stretch, but I think this article has a lot to do with coding style. The guy on the left is speaking the English-language equivalent of Java design pattern-ese. It is bloated with over-engineered grammatical garbage, much like Java is often filled with FactoryProxyFactoryManagerSingleton classes. Even it it is a stretch, the article makes a good point: your brain actually cares about conversational language because it thinks you are actually in a conversation.


How to Kick Ass

Sierra discusses a handful of techniques that anyone can use to become

a better performer. Why it is better to visual your horse's ears than to visualize yourself riding if you want to improve your riding. What you should tell the dumber part of your brain. Why you're always in a fight with your legacy brain. What the physical requirements for best brain performance are. And what the two things are that you need to become a world class kick ass performer.

Stack Overflow Podcast #74

I was a big fan of the Stack Overflow podcast back in the day. When Kathy Sierra came on, I was doubly happy. She talks about how to build a community, the censored and edited comments debate that was happening, and how they designed the Head First books.


Building the Minimum Badass User

What is the goal of product engineering? To make our users love us? To increase engagement? Kathy Sierra answers with a firm "No!" and tells us instead what really matters when building a product is how much better our users will be when they have it.