The lighter side of Collabomatic

Today was the first day that Dwayne, Rod and I were all together in the same room after “becoming a real company.”

We’re not anywhere near claiming victory until millions are enjoying using Collabomatic, Dwayne is navigating his submarine across Lake Washington, I’m flying overhead in my new helicopter and Rod is catching up on 5 years of TV absence by watching his very own HD set … But …

Being able to focus, pay ourselves, and plan for the future does feel a bit like a milestone achievement.

So after getting home from dinner in Seattle tonight, I became nostalgic and started digging through my emails from some of our early conversations. In doing so I started to compile a list of some of the funnier and more notable moments from the last 10 months and did what any good nerd would do … I blogged about it.

In no particular chronological order, mainly cut and pasted from email tonight, as well as memorable quotes from various conversations that stand out ….

“Mom; please please please could you not use the phone; I’m waiting on an important call”
– Rod, about 30 seconds before receiving a call from potential investors while we were still working from his parents basement.

“I unplugged the phone upstairs just in case she tried to pick up during our investor call”
– Rod, still paranoid, the next day about 5 minutes before a follow up call with potential investors.

“My Elevator pitch requires about a 67 story building”
– Dwayne, when describing his elevator pitch at a recent startup event.

“David and I just finished our lunch. David’s a pretty good guy
— great hair, likes the right beer. I won’t screen his calls.”

– Rod, to Dwayne and I after Rod and I met for the first time on a “geek blind date” at Mongolie grill in Edmonton.

“We really need a codename! I can’t get through a pitch without someone in the room laughing every time I say “Collabomatic.”
– Dwayne, in an email to Rod and I after giving a pitch to some Seattle Tech startup guys. 10 months later, we still call ourselves and our product “Collabomatic.”

– Rod after spilling coffee on one of his only 2 dress shirts that made the trip to meet potential investors in Texas.

“Get your mom and dad to move to Edmonton. Problem solved”
– Dwayne, in an email to me after I told him I wasn’t sure what the he@#ll I was going to do now for money now that I had quit my job.

I’m sure this is only the surface and I’ll wake up with a fresh new set …

Modern user interfaces could learn a lot from Tecmo Super bowl

My fellow NFL enthusiasts from Canada and I were engaged in a conversation this past weekend regarding “the best hit in NFL history” which lead to a Youtube search of “Christian Okoye Steve Atwater.” If you’re an NFL fan, you know what video clip we were in search of. However, instead of the mind blowing Steve Atwater hit we were seeking, the majority of search results were actually of the classic Nintendo cult hit “Tecmo Super Bowl.”

Watching these old clips from the game, frustrations of just getting spanked 38-0 in NFL 08 on the Xbox 360, and a recent Collabomatic UI design session reminded me how simplicity is often a design decision that is overlooked in favor of using every bell and whistle in the book.

In the old Nintendo classic, functionality was dead easy. Offensively 8 plays were at your dispense, defensively, Quarterback controls were limited to 2 buttons (cycling through intended receivers with ‘A’ and throwing with ‘B’). Madden 2008 on the other hand allows for about 9 formations, each with 20 plays, each with audibles, players in motion etc etc. Obviously, Madden appeals to power users.

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a time and a place to cater to the power user and allow for highly customizable functionality, but I do believe that the in 99% of software interfaces, customization hasn’t delivered enough value to make up for the loss of ease of use.

I think that most if not all software systems start with simplicity being an initial goal; but I see a couple obvious reasons why this goal becomes convoluted.

1. As you start to gain traction, some percentage of users start to ask the “how do I” questions. Because we’re geeks and always looking to make people happy, the easy non-confrontational solution is to build this feature if it’s not already there.

2. As your system progresses, other technologies (hardware, supporting libraries, platforms, frameworks) become available for usage. Because we’re geeks and want to be using the latest and greatest, we often leverage these systems, This is one of the things that Tecmo Super bowl resisted doing. When the game was moved from the Nintendo to the Sega Genesis, the decision was made to stick to using just 2 buttons, even though the Genesis made 3 buttons available.

Neither of these reasons is deserving of catering to the few and sacrificing simplicity.

Off to the Seahawks game.