Senior Interactive Developer
Years at VF: Almost 5
Years in the technology industry: Almost 5
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little the first thing I ever wanted to be was a hot dog salesman. One of the guys with a little cart and umbrella that sets up shop in a parking lot! To this day my family likes to remind me of my younger aspirations. Fortunately for me, I discovered programming instead. I will say though, that I can still grill up a pretty good hot dog when needed.
How do you spend your time outside work?
I am a die hard Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m pretty sure I actually bleed blue and white stars. During football season, and most of the off season, if it’s not work it’s the Cowboys. I also love hanging with my wife, dog, friends and family. I’m a huge gamer (mostly console and board games) and I love going on vacation. Give me a warm beach with a drink in my hand and I am golden.
What is your favorite Vectorform project?
How could I possibly pick just one!
What’s your favorite part of working at Vectorform?
The variety in what we do. Over any given year most people at VF will work on multiple projects on multiple platforms. It keeps work new and exciting. It also provides for plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. I’m always looking forward to what’s coming next. What problems are we going to solve? What are we going to do that no one else has done? I also have to give a shout out to the people here at VF. I can’t imagine a more dedicated and passionate team to work with and it shows in everything we do.
What inspires you?
Other developers inspire me the most. I love seeing other devs pushing boundaries and doing new things with technology. The amazing, innovative creations that others come up with make me want to push myself harder and become one of the visionaries myself. If others can do these things than so can I and so can we!
If you had to work at another VF office, which would you choose? Why?
It would be VF Jamaica. This may not exist yet but when it does I will be there. There are not many places I enjoy more than a tropical beach. If I had to pick a current office, it would be Seattle. Most of my current work is on Microsoft technologies and it is a rare project that I’m not working with Seattle in some way. Plus, the pictures of that office always make me jealous and I could get hugs from Woody whenever I want.
What was your favorite piece of technology as a child?
My Sega Genesis. It was my first gaming console and started my love of gaming. In a condensed version of my life, I would say that love of gaming lead to my love of technology and eventually programming. I might have been a completely different person if it were not for that Sega.
If you had to take a week off from the internet and all your devices, what would you do?
Be sad? No, I would go hang up north. For those who don’t live in Michigan everyone goes “up north” into northern Michigan as an easy getaway. My family owns a place on a river in the woods and it is a great place to spend time away from tech and just relax. My week would consist of simply doing nothing, possibly slowly tubing down the river, and a lot of reading. If would be more difficult without my Kindle but I guess I could survive with physical books for one week.Alison Atwell – February 26, 2014
Take a moment to imagine what rebellion usually looks like.
Got it? OK.
How many things are on fire? Is there a swarming crowd? Guillotines, maybe?
Rebellion, by nature, makes a mess: Social messes, political messes, and sometimes bloody messes. Rebellion in the communication space, however, doesn’t have to be that way, according to Cal McAllister, creative director of the Wexley School for Girls, an advertising agency in Seattle. But rebellion in the communication industry can still be scary, says McAllister, to both its masterminds and its audience.
For McAllister, rebellion in communication is about cutting through noise with the truest, most genuine message you know and delivering it in a way that’s disarming and, sometimes, shocking. Maybe it’s a drunk driving message spray painted in the parking lot of a high school the day before prom (a Wexley example). Maybe it’s an international “Buy-Nothing Day.”
Perhaps the best-known example of rebellion in marketing and design goes all the way back to the Volkswagen Beetle print ad that shook the advertising world with its then-unseen use of abundant white space and one, lonely line of headline copy: “Lemon.” The ad was so potent and industry reaction so polarizing that it warranted an entire scene in a very early “Mad Men” episode decades later.
These days, there are plenty of buzzwords for such rebellion in the print world and beyond — “culture-jamming,” and “guerrilla marketing,” to name a couple — but audiences have largely learned to see through what they consider vapid attempts at grabbing attention with messages that have little to do with what’s being sold.
The best form of rebellion, though, according to McAllister? It transcends gimmickry and cheap emotional tricks we’re all so used to and shake’s the audience’s expectations of their interaction with you so profoundly that they can’t help but listen.
“Be the best part of someone’s day,” McAllister said. If you really want to impress and turn expectations on their head, make someone’s day better. Nobody will be expecting that. McAllister’s rebellion doesn’t have to shout to be heard.
That piece of advice can especially influence interaction design, where surprise and delight are pillars of successful digital products. While the average smartphone user has several dozen apps installed, most of them only get opened once and then are forgotten when they fail to impress. When we make the business of everyday life delightful, however, we can build a relationship with users that lasts beyond the time it takes to download the app.
Below are some of the Vectorform Seattle design department’s favorite technologies that rebelled for the sake of user experience.
Chosen by Josh Maldonado
An ex-IDEO designer turned the conventional calendar app on its head. I came across this amazing little app called Peek after a coworker shared it with the team and have continued to be impressed by its simplicity and delightful nature. Most calendar apps are a grid of boxes, most of which are irrelevant because they occur in the past, and yet they take up a majority of the screen real estate. Peek rebels against this traditional paradigm to show you exactly what is necessary to you today and has just enough detail to remind you of your next few engagements.
The navigation is handled by a few different gestures, not to mention introducing a completely new (at least to iOS) shading gesture which shows you the current time by using your hand to cover/shade the top of the device without actually having to touch the screen with your fingers. This gestural interface opposes button-based UI to allow the substance of the app shine.
Who says that your calendar has to only be filled with boring meetings and appointments? Giving the device a little shake adds fun activities to your calendar to make sure you add some fun in your schedule. I’ve never seen an calendar app so delightful and yet extremely useful in keeping your life organized.
Facebook Chat Heads experience for Android
Chosen by Neil Rhoades
I wanted to think of an example of rebelliousness in UI, so I am choosing Facebook’s messenger Chat Heads experience for Android. Not only does it populates on top of the home screen, but it provides functionality without entering the app, follows its own rules, it literally overlaps some of my icons. “What nerve!” I thought at first. This conflict with the typical home screen model immediately felt like an affront to commonsense UX – covering up buttons a user might need and adding steps to the interaction of opening an app.
The little magic circle from the design, however, almost immediately eased my worries, as interacting with it in any way was a delightful experience. I came to understand that it followed its own laws of physics and was easy to manipulate and manage. If it is in my way I can flick it with slightest, quickest gesture to send it pin-balling into a new spot. If I don’t want it open, I can fling it into a black hole at the bottom of the screen with extreme prejudice. Whoever proposed such a UX-rule-breaking concept is definitely a rebel.
“Snow Fall” - The New York Times’ interactive story
Chosen by Alison Atwell
More than a year after Snow Fall — an interactive HTML5-based storytelling piece about skiers killed in one of Washington state’s deadliest avalanches — first hit the web, we still can’t stop talking about it. Not only was the writing itself about such an ugly tragedy so beautiful that it took the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, but every newspaper editor on the planet had to change their pants when they saw how it was presented. This well-paced, multi-part long read immerses the reader in the small events that added up to tragedy, and its interactive features help put us in the minds of the skiers who made those decisions. As editors reacted with praise, cynicism, and speculation about the project’s cost and scope in the weeks following its release (“We could never pull that off” and “We don’t have the technical skills for that”), Snow Fall also served to expose editors’ fear of technology and close-mindedness toward new ideas that has come to define newspapers. The idea of interactive storytelling wasn’t new by the time Snow Fall debuted, but The New York Times is among the first to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to imagining what news looks like in the digital age. As the Pulitzer committee described it: “The future suddenly, and spectacularly, had arrived.”
NoSQL is a fast, easy to setup, rapid development database concept that developers have wanted for a long time, and it’s finally here. There are a lot of flavors to NoSQL so you should do some homework on it before using and implementing it, but for now I will be going down the ‘Easy’ path for a seasoned .net / MS SQL developer. We will concentrate on developing a MVC4 website with a RavenDB NoSQL database.
I chose RavenDB for a few reasons. First off, they have excellent .net support. Second, like most other NoSQL databases, it’s very easy to setup and run. There are many other NoSQL databases out there, popular alternatives include Redis, or MongoDB – both of which take a little longer to setup but have upsides to RavenDB (IE: they are free for commercial use).
Before we start, you’re going to need a few things installed before we can proceed. Those are:
- Visual Studio 2012 installed
- An updated NuGet Package Manger
- MVC4 installed
First let’s download RavenDB and install it. Go to: http://ravendb.net/download and download the latest Installer and then run it. I opted to run RavenDB as a Service during the install options. It installs the server to C:\RavenDB by default. That it! RavenDB is now installed and running…scary, I know.
Let’s check out the RavenDB Manager – it’s the equivalent to MSSMS. Simply navigate to http://localhost:8080. You will then see the Silverlight RavenDB Manager – It’s that easy!
Next we will create a database to work with our MVC site…
Use our “Pay with a Tweet” feature to download the entire step by step process of NoSQL for the MS SQL .Net Dev – in 10 minutes or lessAlison Atwell – January 20, 2014
What makes us want to reach out and touch an artifact? What compels us to interact with the things around us — door handles, chairs, phones, or pets? For Andrew Kudless, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the California College of the Arts and founder of MATSYS design studio — it is the materials and functional systems working together in one form that put our brains and bodies in motion. How do we design beautiful things that are technically seamless and enticing? Once again, architecture and environmental design have something to teach us about working in the digital space.Neil Rhoades – January 17, 2014
Earlier this month the Seattle Creative Team was able to attend January’s Creative Mornings Talk at the EMP Museum. The theme for this month was Childhood, and the speaker definitely fit the bill. Jack Forman was a classroom teacher at an independent school for 13 years, plays bass in the Kindie Rock band “Recess Monkey,” hosts a live 3-hour live call-in show on SiriusXM called “Kid’s Place Live” and also has a son named Oscar.Mike Stanley – January 6, 2014
With the holidays just behind us, I’m sure its still fresh in your minds the struggle to find the ‘perfect gift’ for that special someone. Maybe you found yourself wondering about Samsung’s new smart watch, Galaxy Gear.
If you’re like me, you were also likely disappointed with the advertised product versus the actual ‘smartness’ of the device. It has a few useful features, such as text notifications, Bluetooth phone call capability, and camera, but that’s about it, aside from a pedometer and a stopwatch. That, coupled with the fact that [at least at launch] it was capable of connecting only to a Galaxy Note 3. For me to own an S4, the company’s flagship phone and, along with the S3, being the most popular and widespread Android phone in existence as of the time of this writing, it would seem like a no-brainer to make this device compatible with other devices, at a minimum at least other Samsung devices.
So, that left me with questions, more questions than answers, about the usefulness of gear. But the IT guy in me didn’t stop there. If Samsung wasn’t going to provide a practical software package for their new device [the hardware is just dandy] then someone must have. And they did. Null_ not only released a rom that will allow you to connect to any Android device or iPhone*, but even better, it is a full featured Android installation, complete with Play Store, browser, and anything else you’d want to do with Android [within the limitations of the hardware, of course].
*iPhone can be used for internet connection, but will not be compatible with ‘stock’ Galaxy Gear functions
Want to do this modification yourself?Jennifer Tonio – December 27, 2013
Many of us remember High School Mock elections recognizing a variety of behaviors and characteristics such as; Most Likely to Succeed, Class Jock, and Class Cutie but when it comes to the workplace it’s very rare to see similar awards voted on by your peers. It’s a lot more common to have an employee of the month voted on by upper management, which is great, but where’s the real fun in that?
Vectorform is not your typical company, we take pride in our strong company culture, all of our employees are very unique and deserve to be recognized for the standout things that they do all year long, not just in one given month. So this year we decided to do something different and hold the 1st Annual VF People’s Choice Awards.
We sent out a ballot with 24 awards listed, ranging from Yoda to The Welder, and opened the voting to all of our Royal Oak team members. After the votes were counted we announced the winners during our Holiday party. Each winner was awarded a LEGO minifigure that corresponded with their given award in place of a trophy. If you are familiar with Vectorform, you know that LEGOs are a big part of our culture and are a perfect match for our winners. A special shout out goes to our HR Coordinator Aimee Dooling for putting it all together. Thanks for all of the hard work Aimee!
Now the moment you’ve been waiting for…the Winners! Click through the gallery below for the full list of winners and award descriptions. By the way, the awards were held after our “Ugly Sweater” contest so some winners may still be wearing their holiday attire in their photo.
You can also view pictures of the winners on our Facebook page.Jennifer Tonio – December 19, 2013
Vectorform delivers two of Disney Publishing Worldwide’s top iOS apps to the Android and Windows 8 marketplaces. Both experiences allow children to read and create alongside their favorite characters.Josh Maldonado – December 12, 2013
Over the past year, our Seattle office has had some exciting interior upgrades. Quite possibly the most exciting piece is the installation of our brand new Vectorform signage. Our own Taylor Hanson hand crafted the sign and installed it himself. It’s backlit with remote controlled LED strips that can be custom set to any RGB color combination. We documented the installation in photos.Ken Disbennett – December 6, 2013
Thanksgiving… typically a time for reflection. For Vectorform Seattle however, it is a time to look forward. Our shortened holiday week provided the perfect opportunity to take a break from active projects and focus on experimentation, thought leadership, and living up to Vectorform’s mission of cultivating genius. The concept was simple – divide into teams, pitch an idea, and execute a working prototype in the 3 days leading up to Thanksgiving.