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Talent Spotlight: Mathieu Boulet

Talent Spotlight: Mathieu Boulet

The Next Generation Of Remote Controls Is Already In Your Hand

How many remote controls do you have in your living room right now? If we may fathom a guess, you probably have at least 3, and each of them have about 50 buttons of which you only use five most frequently. Right?

This week, we're doing a special feature in our Talent Spotlight, which shines on Mathieu Boulet - an interactive designer associated with Make Me Pulse. In his personal capacity, he is working on RemoteThink, which is a concept app designed to revolutionize the way we view content on our televisions and other devices. It's all about making the remote interface more intuitive.

"Do not let the remote control you."

TV viewing is a passive activity where users are provided a remote to drive their experience, but between 1956 and 2014, there has hardly been a serious attempt to reduce the frustration most users face today. Sure, there have been numerous attempts to make the TV more interactive in the recent past, but they have all failed to significantly reduce our cognitive fatigue. 

Boulet's idea to use our smartphones as TV remotes is not unique, since 81% people already use both at the same time. Already, there are apps in the market that allow us to use our phone as a remote - Logitech Harmony Smart Control, TiVo app, Freebox Télécommande, Peel Smart Remote, and Samsung TV Remote - just to name a few.

The difference, however, lies in his ergonomic approach so that users don't even have to look down as they flip through channels, or adjust the volume. They can even do more complex tasks, like finding programs per channel, hour(s) or keyword(s). The design allows your TV to automatically switch to your favorite show or channel as soon you switch it on and it makes your live feed much more interactive.

If we were to test Boulet's proposed design (RemoteThink) against Peter Morville's criteria for a successful user-interface, we find that it is (or can be) useful, usable, desirable, nested, accessible, credible and right - that's a check on every criterion! 

Let’s just call it ‘Hand Shaker’ for now

Let’s just call it ‘Hand Shaker’ for now

A user story describing a tool we’d love to bring to life

Thomas Koulopoulos writes these words in his 2012 book “Cloud Surfing: A New Way to Think about Risk, Innovation, Scale, and Success”:

“The cloud is exponential in its impact; it has a multiplier effect that goes well beyond the power of any collection of individual skills. What we lack is not brains but the ability to connect them.”

I’ll prepare the ground for this post by meshing up the thought above with another one from Josh Kauffman on his book “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business”:

“The best businesses in the world find ways to attract the attention of qualified prospects quickly and inexpensively.”

Now having read these statements, I’d like you to picture a day in the life of Mark. Mark is a group creative director in a global advertising agency in Madison Avenue. He manages the work for a group of very known, international brands. But he’s constantly frustrated about the overall quality of his team’s output. He has great people under him, but he thinks that the agency is too slow to find and hire the kind of diversified expertise that he now constantly needs for his ideas (programmers, 3D artists, sound designers, motion graphics experts, icon designers and/or illustrators with a very specific style). It’s just not in the business model of his agency to sustain these hires, and he would only need them on a per-job basis anyway.

Mark dreams of a tool that would help him with that.

Now imagine Mark comes across a tool called “Hand Shaker”. Hand Shaker is a cloud tool that allows Mark to define his current creative problem, starting with defining which client he’s working for at the moment.

The first battle with the agency’s IT team was won already, and Hand Shaker was adopted by him and his team. Hand Shaker is now integrated with the agency’s CRM and time sheeting system, so Mark doesn’t have to input the data of the client from scratch, or worry about manually keeping track of his time in this job.

The first thing Mark needs to do is define the situation at hand. He does that by creating a new “Project”. In this project, which acts just like a case folder. He drags and drops the contacts from the client’s team that are involved in the decision-making of this particular creative project. To lower a bit the communication overhead, Mark also adds in the creative team assigned by him to this “Project”. From now on, major milestone, highlights and important messages around this project will be sent via transactional emails to all people involved. Mark also writes a one-paragraph description of the brief to be solved. He also assigns a category to the project, let’s say “Product Launch”. His agency’s account team has already listed down a proposed budget inside the CRM, so he knows how long his airstrip is for this creative project.

At this point, Hand Shaker starts to do some magic for him. Because Hand Shaker is already hooked up to his Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail and IMAP (work email) APIs, it loads for him all the interactions he and his team has had with any of the client’s contacts. The client’s contacts are also loaded with interesting information, because Hand Shaker has reached out for that in those same APIs. Things like Klout Score and latest tweets for each person are also available. He knows automatically who talked to whom, when and what’s the topic and content of the conversation.

Hand Shaker also helps out Mark by automatically looking at Behance andDribbble’s APIs for any projects done for the same client or brand. It does that by looking at the client’s information and searching these databases. It also lists all the people that have worked on these projects, so now Mark has direct access to a range of people with experience on this brand.

The project is at a stage that will need to share with client a Non-Disclosure Agreement and proceed to work on a Statement of Work document. Hand Shaker has an integrated PDF engine that pulls the client data to generate the files for those automatically, already loaded with the client’s information, and based on a template that had to be created only once. For the SoW, Hand Shaker generates a landing page on the web for the client to see and approve. Analytics tracking knows if the client has seen the document or not.

Mark now proceeds to set some project milestones, like meetings and presentation dates. Everyone involved is automatically notified, and a calendar is generated.

Hand Shaker keeps on doing its magic. It knows the client is based in a certain location (based on the address located in the CRM’s contact entry) so it goes snooping in at Sharedesk’s API for available workspaces near the client and plots all the information into a new Google Map (using the Maps API). To this map, any geographical information is constantly added, like the addresses to contacted suppliers or proposed meeting locations.

Mark has now brainstormed a bit about the creative solution to the project, so he updates the brief and writes down in Hand Shaker a few keywords based on the resources he will need: “social media strategist”, “motion graphics artist”. At this point, Hand Shaker gets Mark’s current location and reaches out to LinkedIn, Behance, Dribbble and oDesk APIs. The result is a dashboard of people that might be of help on this project. Hand Shaker’s algorithm here could evolve to start understanding better and recommending users based on a series of factors (in the future).

Mark goes on to shortlist relevant people using a simple Yes/No system. Users marked Yes are automatically sent an introductory email from Mark’s email address, containing a request for a chat and some basic information about the project. A drip emailing program keeps reaching out for users until they make contact.

All along this time, time sheeting has been automatically done using Hand Shaker’s desktop and mobile app widgets. The personnel costs for this project are being automatically tracked and deducted from the initial budget set by the account team, and invoices are generated accordingly, just waiting for the time to be sent out for the relevant client contact. Any important expenses can be added by the team as the project evolves.

Mark selects a few collaborators from the cloud, proceeds to add them into Hand Shaker with a special authorization level, and they are now shown the relevant material they need to get the work done. All working files are stored using Google Drive API, so everyone has access to everything at the same time, from just one cloud repository.

Hand Shaker uses Google Hangouts API to integrate video chatting between remote users, so they can all see their online statuses and chat with a click of the button. And so they do, until the designs, code files, iconography and copy for this new “Product Launch” project is finished.

Mark reviews it all, takes it to the client, and gets a good response from the client. The project is approved with minor issues.

Mark goes back to Hand Shaker and assigns the project as finished. At that point, invoices are shipped out to the client, and payments to collaborators are issued using either Paypal or Stripe API. The funding is debited from the project’s budget, and an hour and expenses report is generated.

Everyone de-briefs on these, and happily move on to create another project inside Hand Shaker.

Liked this idea? Want to help me and Mecenato program it? Contact me or please share your instant feedback below.

This essay was originally published on December 1st on Medium

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Idea: On an API for donation tracking

Idea: On an API for donation tracking

How to use software to bring transparency to the act of donating

To donate is to basically cast a vote in favor of a better future. In much the same way as voting, the current method of donating pretty much everywhere is highly based on trust. Trust that the donation funds will be used wisely, effectively and produce tangible benefits for the communities that they are intended for. However, there is absolutely no mechanism in place that guarantees that. This fact — added to the frequent media coverage on corruption cases, embezzlement and misuse of funds — creates a scenario where most potential donors shy away from donating. But there are ways we can help change that that scenario.

Let’s work on a solution that brings full accountability and transparency to the flow of donated funds. It needs to be a simple idea and it needs to be easy for all stakeholders to adhere to: donors, NGOs and community representatives.

I would like to share the concept of a ‘Donation Tracking API’:

“It’s a free, open-sourced global accountability Application Programming Interface for metadata assignment and tracking of donation funds”.

How does it work?

It’s basically a piece of middleware software that sits in between the user’s donation and the destination NGO’s fund system, through which all donations are automatically tagged with relevant metadata (unique id, origin, amount, project, GPS location, etc) that allows the donation to be fully tracked from its origin to its final destination, be it communities in need, NGO operations, etc. Much like web data packets and shipment boxes, donations will now be assigned unique traceable codes that will show the donors where they have been used and to what purpose they were assigned for.

Why would the involved stakeholders adhere to it?

• For the donor, it won’t require any additional effort, and they will be rewarded the added security of tracking their donations at any point they would like, in the same way you can when tracking a parcel through a logistics company’s website;

• For the NGO, adhering to this new standard will grant them a seal of approval from a global community that is bound to attract more donors because of its enhanced accountability;

• For the local community representatives, it will ensure that funds earmarked by NGOs operating in their areas reach their agreed final destination. Currently, without the transparency that this system will now provide, the communities are not part of the process of accountability for the projects that they have a crucial stake in.

Why do we expect to succeed?

It would be the first time the idea of an application programming interface is applied to the issue of donation (we think), and we feel that a community-owned, open sourced approach would guarantee that all stakeholders feel like they are part of the solution. By applying code and software expertise to this problem, we might be close to shifting the sector to a complete new paradigm of transparency and accountability.

How do we expect to make this happen?

First, a public-facing website;

This deliverable will make the donation tracking API available and explains the overall concept behind it, who are the stakeholders and companies behind the effort and what are the measures to consider this project a success; This website will also be the main awareness element of the campaign, to which all people will be directed to for more information, updated content, sign up and engagement;

Second, the code development of the application programming interface solution itself;

This part will demand most of the development team’s effort: we will need to first research how NGOs are commonly using accounting methods and mold a solution that doesn’t create a huge disruption from their current methods, which is critical for the success of the idea.

Third, we need to prototype and test the web tool;

Conceptually it works in a similar fashion to a web payment gateway like PayPal, Stripe or Google Checkout, with the additional element of marking and tracking the path of the donation fund throughout its entire lifecycle. This can be done by assigning unique metadata to each system input, and making sure that the funds can only be outputted by the NGOs if proper objectives are assigned. The community representatives will play the role of auditors in this process.

What kind of feedback are we looking for?

• We’d like to map out detailed scenarios on how different NGOs manipulate, receive, extract and keep track of their available funds;

• We’d like to create a database of international NGOs (and their representatives) that might be interested in testing out the donation tracking application first hand;

• We’d like to have the donation tracking application tested by a selection of donors and measure their response to this new approach in comparison to donors who have relied on current donation systems.

What would be the next steps?

• To fully build the donation tracking system and make it available to a larger audience through the website;

• To scope and plan for launch in additional languages;

• To generate and execute a communication awareness plan for this new application and its website;

• To enlist a handful of large, high-visibility NGOs to sign up for the system and vouch for it;

Liked the idea? Please share your feedback with me or interact with our quick survey below.

This essay was originally published on November 8th on Medium

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Inspiration quotes using Notegraphy

Inspiration quotes using Notegraphy

I have always been a fan of the work of Rafa Soto and his team at HerraizSoto in Barcelona, Spain. Starting with Ommwriter, a writing tool that has been part of my creative toolkit for more than two years, and was written by Oriol Ferrer Messià , a programming genius I was privileged to have worked with while at Fabrica in Italy. They have just released Notegraphy, a mobile and web application, and I decided to try it out by designing a few interesting business quotes into their template system. These were originally posted in our Facebook feed.

Idea: On fashion meets do-it-yourself revolution

Idea: On fashion meets do-it-yourself revolution

I know you’ve faced this problem too. You’ve worn out your favorite pair of jeans, or finally had to let go of that special shirt, and you wish that you could go back to the same store and buy the same exact item. Yet the fashion business model dictates that you shouldn’t be able to do something as simple as that.

So what if one of the major fashion players out there started sharing the refabrication instructions (material choices, layouts, designs, cutting instructions, assembly) into a free online repository?

It could initially apply only for past collections but maybe based on the goodwill and popularity of the platform, could even include the current season designs. Possibly this would evolve into a whole ecology of companies that would be able to fulfill deliveries on top of these instructions, of users hacking and upgrading the designs, of online stores selling raw materials (all viable startup ideas for these major fashion conglomerates).

Who will take the first step?