Why I hate competitive analysis

Why do we do them? To get a sense of the competitive landscape? I.E. how the competition does something better? To understand how to have parity? To understand "white space" in order to innovate? To show standings? To be better informed of customer expectations?

Bleah. So why does it always feel like a waste of time? And why do I dislike doing them so much? 

First of all, competitive analysis can only really be performed by an actual customer or user. The actual person who makes one competitor more successful than another. And their standards are informed by the current experience. They like one competitor over another because of a myriad of factors--who they used or encountered first. The content provided by the competitor. If they've "learned" how to interact with the competitor. And ineffable stuff like that they have a personal relationship with a salesperson at one of the competitors.

Secondly, we (UXers) do shitty jobs of doing them. They're based on gut feeling not any real analysis. We apply our biases and we are by no means typical users. We pretend to follow heuristics--aka our expert opinions--but we have no solid methodology for saying one competitor is better with error handling better than another... for example. And we're always wrong. We can't believe that the most successful competitor is better, because it's so ugly. Because it looks outdated. Because it's so Web 1.0. Because we're biased. Because we're fucking arrogant.

Lastly because they set low expectations, and encourage bad design. All the competition sucks. And we want to stay competitive. So we have to stay in the suck so we don't alienate our customers. For example- "everyone else is displaying data in tables. So that means we have to too." Innovation stifled.

And we do them last minute, and when we have our most limited understanding of the client's business model and world, and we don't spend enough time to do them right. They provide shitty data and even worse information.

So let's leave the competitive analyses to the business analysts, to the product managers, to the customers. And instead of competitive analysis how about we spend time coming up with an inspirational landscape of good design that we will reference when trying to solve a client problem?

The joy of being "competent"

This is a from a recent review of The Ghost Club: Spirits Never Die, a film I co-wrote, and acted in:

The Ghost Club: Spirits Never Die is above all a fun horror movie that might not have anything terribly new to offer, but it tells its story well, with its tongue firmly in cheek and never shying away from a bit of camp to go along with the scares while still delivering when it comes to shocks and suspense. And of course, a great location (an "actual" haunted mansion) and a competent ensemble playing well off one another certainly help bringing the story across.
A fun ride, really!

Aside from the fact that I think this review nails it--I think we did do a fun, funny send up of reality ghost hunting, with some nice little scares folded in--I'd like to declare that I'm proud of being part of a competent ensemble.

I'm not sure I would have always been proud of being called "competent", what with the desire to stand out, be important, make, and do things that blow people's minds. In other words to be special. With the subsequent desire to get some kind of validation, and acknowledgement that, yes, I am indeed special, because how else would you ever know you're truly special unless someone tells you that you are?  

But, you know what? I have had people tell me I'm special, smart, genius even, and aside from the fact that I never ever believe them, or worse, wonder what they're trying to get from me through their flattery, being thought of special kinda sucks. Why? Because suddenly I'm thinking more about being special, than I am about the things that I'm creating.

I'm worrying more about if I'm really shredding out those blistering 20,000 notes on the guitar, or showing my musical mastery by playing some obscure chord shape than I am about the song that I'm playing. Yet one of my biggest musical heroes is Bill Withers, one of the greatest song writers of all time, and most of his tunes barely have 3 chords in them. 

Or I'm so caught up in the judgement that what I'm writing may not be special enough that I don't actually finish it. And yet if I were to list out my favorite films, a huge percentage of them were just made at the whim of someone who had a crazy idea, and then, before they could talk themselves out of it, dove in, and made the damn film, and usually crazily fast at that. Alien. It Follows. Dazed And Confused. Etc. 

So instead of being special, I'm recommitting myself to making stuff--films, books, music, apps--but instead of trying to stand out, I'm going to do my best to be competent, and to have fun, and to shift my focus on the thing, and the process of making it, and the people I'm making it with, than on my ego-centric desire for praise, or validation. 

Why? Because I think that'll make it easier to have a fun ride, really! 

On Social & Viral Marketing

I was recently asked about using social marketing to make branded content more discoverable, and how to use social to foster a deeper level of engagement with a brand. They asked for examples. Here's my off-the-cuff answer with some hemming and hawing of course--what consultant doesn't like to hem and haw?

Can a Brand Go Viral?

This is still kinda a tough one. Despite what you've read everywhere on the web social is still an emerging space, and brands are still trying to figure out how to make it work for them. I think the most effective current strategies are to emulate the things that work for individuals who are creating their own personal brands through their engagement with social. AKA, find someone who is doing something really interesting, and successful, and copy it. One example of this: I have recently seen a campaign in my Tumblr feed by Holiday Inn, which seems to be copying Humans of New York:


Humans shows up in people's feeds because it gets shared, and because they like the page, and then you read them because we love to read about each other, we love each other's stories, we love to see all the ways we're connected. Holiday Inn shows up in people's feeds because they pay to be there. But they're trying to associate their brand with the human story angle, with a dash of upworthy 'we're all in this together', and hope that association sticks. The trouble with this for me is that Humans comes out of one person's passion, and his singular focus doing what he loves to do, whereas the Holiday Inn campaign is obviously cooked up by an ad agency. It doesn't feel honest, because it's trying to sell that you should stay at Holiday Inn by telling these human stories. To me the various Dove campaigns--The Real Beauty Campaign including the Real Beauty Sketches web videos--are still the absolute best when it comes to this kind of thing, because they aren't selling Dove at all. They are asking questions about beauty that women are currently trying to come to terms with--body image, age, etc. That said, there are still tons of critics out there who have all kinds of negative things to say about the campaign. In a post Marshall McLuhan world we just have a hard time trusting big brands to be the keepers of these difficult conversations, or to be the representatives of these values.

How About Mini-Viral?

I think the current challenge with social is that we don't tend to think of it in a targeted way--going viral is the antithesis of targeting after all--but I think there could be another approach, which is to think of mini-communities that you can offer actual value to, and attempt to go viral within that mini-community. Mini-viral? It's not sexy, but one of the things I learned working on a recent project for a company specializing in workplace law is that they are constantly writing very specific blog posts, and articles about changes in workplace law in the different states, and concerning different topics, and then basically giving all that great insight, and information away for free on their blogs, and newsletters. And then of course posting all that to LinkedIn, and Twitter. A series of user interviews led me to understand how much HR professionals, and corporate lawyers eat that stuff up. It's apparently tricky to keep abreast of all the changes in law that affect the workplace--e-cigarettes being one of the things that's changing all over the country right now--and rather than have to read law journals, and court decisions, etc. these lawyers, and HR folks just want someone smart to sum it all up, and tell them how these changes affect them, and the companies they work for. They subscribe to the feeds, and newsletters of the firm I was working for, and then do a morning read of all the new articles that apply to them. They create a relationship with the firm through these articles, and then, when the firm wants to do something a bit more marketing focused--like promote a new event, or conference--that goes in the feed too. The users are more likely to be interested in these events because they already have a relationship with the company, and might even feel a connection to one of the firm's representatives who will attend the event because that person may have authored one of the articles they've read, and found useful. And, of course, the firm continues to showcase their expertise in all aspects of workplace law through these articles, which is marketing in its own right. They are constantly communicating their expertise. I think for a big brand wanting to increase discoverability and engagement the idea would be to offer some kind of actual value to users, like the firm I worked for does. Provide information that that audience can actually use. Identify specific user segments, identify their very real desires (what they aren't getting right now content wise), and then figure out how the brand can provide that information. De-emphasize marketing, make information and analysis the most important thing, and then get these user segments to subscribe to their specific feed, and then, and only then, market events etc. to them sparingly. I think the only other option is to do something like Holliday Inn--figure out the emotional and aspirational messages that the brand is aligned with, and then figure out a fun way to reinforce that alignment through some kind of clever social campaign, like the way YouTube is currently marketing itself as the voice of young women: http://www.tubefilter.com/2014/04/08/youtube-nyc-subway-ads-michelle-phan-bethany-mota-rosanna-pansino/ Or the Dove beauty campaign perhaps. But that's not something that's easy to pull off. To me, the key is always:

  • Figure out who your audience is
  • Try to understand what they want
  • Figure out the simplest, easiest, lowest cost way to give it to them
  • Determine the ways that giving it to them helps meet business goals
  • And then line 'em up

How do we incorporate mistakes into the design process?

Come to Amsterdam and help me define a Mistake Manifesto.


Wednesday 09:30 HKU Hilversum Morning workshop by Jason Nunes

If good design requires failure, how can designers f*ck up when failure isn’t considered an option?

Edison famously said, "I failed my way to success." In the interactive world, we've all heard the buzz phrases about failing fast, and how failure--particularly in the form of prototyping--can be a powerful design tool. But what about real failure? We've all experienced projects that never got off the ground, or crashed and burned stunningly. We don't put them in our portfolios. We only talk about them when we've had one drink too many. What can we learn from our embarrassments? And are there really things we can learn by failing, especially in the agency and consulting worlds, where we are hired for our expertise, and infallibility?

Questions to think about:

Can there be actual power, and knowledge in failure? What is your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?

What are the different ways you can fail? Have you ever had a "successful" project that was a personal failure? Why? What can you learn from it?

Why are we so afraid of failing? What are the negative consequences of failure? And how can we encourage a positive viewpoint on failure?

How can we pull victory from the flames of defeat? How do you not panic when you sense yourself failing? How can you use your failure to inform future successes?

How can we build an acceptance of failure into a design or consulting practice? How can we get away from always having to be right, and move towards creative adaptability?

Help us (Keekwyn & The Hackers) record our first EP

KeekwynBoweryElectric Not sure if y'all are aware, but I'm in a band, we've been playing together for about a year, have written a baker's dozen of songs, have gigged all around Brooklyn, and starting to do so in Manhattan, and now we're ready to record our first EP. And, if we can raise enough, make a video, and even record a full album.

Like most creatives here in the age of the deconstructed entertainment industry. we're doing some crowd sourcing. Yay! Check out our campaign:

Thanks for the goose in the ass, NANOWRIMO

National Novel Writing Month is up, and I have written another one. Though I'll be the first to admit this time is different. I've done NANOWRIMO two times before this, once I wrote an incredibly messy, and incomplete memoir about graduating from college, and moving down to LA to work in the low budget film industry making horror movies, and the second time I wrote a bunch of outline and backstory stuff for a screenplay that I never went on to finish. This time though, I actually wrote a whole novel, with a beginning, middle, and end. It's fiction. It's finished, well, at least the incredibly messy, overwritten, and probably hopelessly flawed first draft is. But it was so much fun to write, and read actually, as I was writing it, so I don't even really care about any of that right now.

So, once again, thanks for the goose in the ass, NANOWRIMO!  And if you've ever thought you had a novel in you, you might consider giving NANOWRIMO a try when it comes around again next November.

The Ghost Club - Join the Hunt Initiative

Check out The Ghost Club's Join The Hunt initiative, a transmedia story scape, and alternate reality game that teaches you how to ghost hunt, and encourages you to post your photos, video, and audio, and vote on who's captured the most compelling evidence of the existence of ghosts.

Welcome to The Ghost Club Join the Hunt initiative.
The Ghost Club was founded in 1860 at Trinity College, bringing together teams of skeptics and believers like Arthur Conan Doyle, and Harry Houdini. Our mission is to investigate ghosts and psychical phenomena to gather hard scientific evidence to prove the existence of the paranormal. Today the main brach of the North American Ghost Club work as investigators for a ghost hunting reality TV show. Here on the Theatrics platform we've collected stories, and video outtakes from the show, so you can meet us, and learn about what we do.
Welcome to our next initiative. We are crowd sourcing ghost hunting, and we need your help. Over the next month we will teach you how to ghost hunt with out Ghost Club University how-to, and tips and tricks videos, and posts. We then encourage you to post your evidence here, and to our Ghost Club Wikia where we're gathering all evidence we've found to date on ghosts, and hauntings. Over the course of the next few weeks we'll all review the evidence together, and vote on what we think is the most compelling.
How do you get started? Simple. Create a Theatrics account, and post a photo of yourself. Over the next 4 weeks we'll post additional information, and give you specific calls to action to help us hunt. We'll help you along the way by posting an Alternate Reality ghost hunting game, and showing you how we perform our investigations with some premium webisodes.
When you're ready, you'll be encouraged to go on your own hunt, and post the evidence here. Then we'll all vote to determine the best evidence.
We're excited that you're on board to help us out. We can't wait to see what you find!
Good hunting.

Vote for F*CK UP Innovation on the SXSW panel picker

I just submitted another interactive panel for 2014 SXSW called F*CK UP Innovation.

Edison famously said, "I failed my way to success." In the interactive world, we've all heard the buzz phrases about failing fast, and how failure--particularly in the form of prototyping--can be a powerful design tool. But what about real failure? We've all experienced projects that never got off the ground, or crashed and burned stunningly. We don't put them in our portfolios. We only talk about them when we've had one drink too many. What can we learn from our embarrassments? And are there really things we can learn by failing, especially in the agency and consulting worlds, where we are hired for our expertise, and infallibility? - See more at: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/19144#sthash.imS0icVU.dpuf

If you like the idea, please vote for it. Thanks!

I was just invited to write another book...

by the Interaction Design Foundation.

In their words:

You have been nominated by several of our readers to publish with us. One of the reasons given for your nomination is:

'Jason Nunes is the co-author of a very inspiring introduction to user centered design'

Like our other authors, you get lots of writing invitations. However, this one is different: We are the first and only Open Access publisher of top-quality books in the world. We offer complete, unrestricted and free access to our books in online version.

Thanks, guys! I'm flattered, and I'm tempted. I like what the organization stands for, and they seem to have published some really interesting ID books from some smart people.

Only problem is, I have no idea what to write.

What do you guys thinks? Are there any UX/ID topics that you find fascinating that you'd like to see a book written about? Product strategy from an ID perspective? ID and physical computing? Something about storytelling across multi-platforms (which I'm loathe to call transmedia)? Branding from an ID perspective?

What do you think?

Even more 6 seconds of fame...

You may recall 2 weeks ago my Small Media Extra Large partner Meghan Scibona and I helped our friend Dawn Siff create what we’re calling the very first Vine video resume. It got her a ton of publicity. Today she got EVEN more.  Here's Dawn on the Today Show:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In Austin? Come see me.

Come see my book reading @ SXSW

#sxsw #Intro2ID

Saturday, March 9 10:30AM -10:50AM

Austin Convention Center Ballroom G 500 E Cesar Chavez St


And then check me out @ TECHmunch


Sunday, March 10 10:15AM -10:30AM

Whole Foods Market 525 N Lamar Blvd. 2nd Floor, Main Conference Center

After that? Standing in lines--for movies, for panels, for barbecue... you get the idea.

6 seconds of video = days of publicity

Yesterday my Small Media Extra Large partner Meghan Scibona and I helped our friend Dawn Siff create what we're calling the very first Vine video resume. Here's Dawn as a Deadline Jedi...

For those that don't know what Vine is, it's basically Twitter for video. You can post a 6 second video of yourself doing anything through (and only through) the Vine iOS app. It's kludgy, buggy, has upload problems, and is more than a pain in the ass to work with, but it is getting a lot of buzz right now, mostly because of the handful of comedians (Will Sasso, Reggie Watts, Weird Al Yankovich, to name a few) who are using it. For Dawn it was a no-brainer. By creating the very first 6 second resume on Vine, Dawn got her hands on some of that publicity.

First Mashable did a blog post on it:


And now other media companies are following suit:




The Grindstone

We'll see how far this goes, and if it results in Dawn getting her dream job--I wouldn't be surprised if it did--but from where I'm sitting right now the day after the shoot, the 4 hours of work it took to pull this off was well worth it. Congrats, Dawn, great idea, and we are very happy we could help you make it happen.


It's fun to be first

Over my long and storied career as a designer, writer, and filmmaker, I've taken part in many firsts... the first interactive online webseries, the first zombie movie with a sexy pierced punk rock zombie protagonist, and, of course, all us web 1.0ers have stories of creating the first YouTube, or (in my case) the first Spotify. But it's very rare you get to brag about it. Today, thanks to a blog post over at Mashable, I get to brag about it!


Just yesterday my SMXL partner, Meghan Scibona and I helped our friend, Dawn Siff (the idea was all her's), create what could very well be the first resume on Vine. We shot on her iPhone (with my iPhone lenses) against my living room wall. It took plenty of takes to get it right. We fought the sun, recess at the school across the street, the 6 second time limit, and broken light bulbs, but in the end, we got it! I think we're all super proud of the end product.

Like I said, it's fun to be first.

Here are some photos from the shoot:




Thank you, Dana Stevens, for coining the term "Artisanal Horror"

Here's Dana from her article in Slate In Praise of Artisanal Horror:

The term caught on only in my own brain, where it’s become a handy taxonomic classification for a subgenre that seems here to stay, even in the age of the big-budget, special-effects-laden franchise. The horror genre has always welcomed tinkerers—inventive filmmakers who are interested in taking genre’s conventions apart and fitting them back together in novel ways. If the desired effect of maximum audience creep-out has to be achieved on a minimal budget, so much the better. Artisanal horror directors place a high value on cheapskate ingenuity, the trick of scaring the audience pantsless with the simplest possible effect: an unexpected camera movement, a barely glimpsed shadow, a hand reaching for a doorknob

I'd like to think I got my start in the world of Artisanal Horror though Dana might think differently of the direct-to-video screamers I had the pleasure of working on during the 90s such as Return of the Living Dead III, Necronomicon, Pumpkinhead II, and Leprechaun III. And what I loved about working on them is exactly what she describes here--the need for "cheapskate ingenuity".

Sure we worked hellishly long hours, in pretty inhumane conditions, and yup, we did it with very small budgets, and very little pay, but there was nothing more fulfilling, and exciting for me than showing up for work, and instantly diving into the job of creating something cool, creepy, bloody, or bizarre, with the limited resources I had to work with. I've always believed there's nothing better for sharpening creativity than limits.

Sure, what we created didn't look polished, or even real (case in point, the not quite decapitated head above) but that was the charm of it for me--that cheapskate ingenuity, and the visual style that comes from it. I've always loved that about horror films. From Frankenstein to From Beyond. How a filmmaker can create a whole new world, populated with nightmares, just using light, latex, paint, plywood, and shadows. It sends chills up my spine.


And, yes, I've had my fling with digital effects as well--working as a broadcast designer for clients like Lucasfilm--but the slick digital, hyper realistic effects never had the same charm for me as the rubber puppet monsters of The Thing, or Reanimator. And those same digital effects made some of my first loves--Star Wars--unwatchable (but that's a rant for another day.)

You never forget your first love. When I was a little kid, my father introduced me to horror through the original black and white King Kong, and I fell in love. Sure, you could see Harryhausen's fingerprints all over the fur of King Kong, but that didn't take away from how terrifying he was, for me it somehow added to it.

So when I decided to write, and produce my own movies, well, I couldn't help but want to reanimate that feeling of falling in love. That's why I wrote, produced, and acted in movies like Blood Junkies, and The Ghost Club - Spirits Never Die, and why I'm working on  Cryptids, and PDA--feature films that definitely fall squarely on the artisanal horror film spectrum.

I'm just psyched to finally have something to call myself, and what I create.

Blood Junkies Teaser from Small Media Extra Large on Vimeo.