Category Archives: Adventures on the web

SXSWi Panel: Conserve Code with Storyboarding

It’s been a week since South By Southwest Interactive ended, and now that I’m finally back into a routine, I wanted to share some of the amazing stuff I learned through the conference.  I’ll be posting a new one each day this week.

Today’s topic: Conserve Code: Storyboard experiences with Customers First, presented by Joseph O’ Sullivan and Rachel Evans from Intuit.  Once again, audio is posted at the above link, but here are my notes.

I gleaned a lot from this presentation thanks to the skill of the speakers (not boring) and practice (we all got some paper and there was time built in to put some of what they were saying to use).

So what is a storyboard?  It’s a quick illustration to understand the context of use of a product.

Intuit apparently uses it for just about everything — from web and mobile applications to internal human resources.  O’ Sullivan and Evans say storyboards:

  • Can identify the real need before a lot of time is spent building a product
  • Can encourage more honest feedback because the designs are crude. (Customers don’t think they’re hurting your feelings)
  • Let you do more experimentation and drafts because they can be thrown away.

There are three parts to a storyboard

  • Problem — What can you learn?  Do you understand the problem?  Is it important?
  • Solution — Does it solve the problem completely?
  • Benefit — What is good about the solution for the customer?  Will it delight them?

First you make out a script based on that structure. Then you draw up the visuals — the cruder the better! After that, you have to learn from your storyboard, so you show it to people and ask for feedback.  The goal is to gather as much feedback as possible.  Who knows?  You may not have discovered the right benefit.  You may even have misidentified the problem!

I walked away really inspired to use storyboards from now on.  I have a bunch of ideas buzzing around my head for different applications.  Time to test them out!

SXSWi Panel: Making Money with WordPress

It’s been a week since South By Southwest Interactive ended, and now that I’m finally back into a routine, I wanted to share some of the amazing stuff I learned through the conference.  I’ll be posting a new one each day this week.

Today’s topic really appealed to me: Making Money with WordPress.  It was presented by Shane Pearlman, CEO Shane & Peter Inc, Alex King, founder of Crowd Favorite, Brandon Jones, Creative Director of Epic Era Studio, and Sonia Simone, CMO of Copyblogger Media.

I’m moving more and more toward WordPress development, as I mentioned in my post about the Interview with Matt Mullenweg of WordPress/Auttomatic, so I really wanted to hear more.

What’s absolutely fabulous is that the folks at SXSWi have already posted audio from the presentation at the above link.  If you don’t feel like listening to it, here are some of the main points I took away.

If you’re a developer:

  • Consider making and selling WordPress themes.
    Wordpress is open-source and you can learn to use it through the tutorials on the WP Codex.
  • Consider starting out by selling themes through a marketplace like ThemeForest, which takes a large cut of the profits but drives marketing and protects the author from support issues.
  • Also consider child themes, which are built on existing code.
  • If you build themes, be sure you know your users and look for niches.  Ask clients what they’re looking for and develop it.

“Content is education and personality” — Sonia Simone

If you want to make money off of the content in your WordPress blog:

  • Make sure your content doesn’t suck.
    Your content should teach something that people actually want to learn and have personality so readers don’t drown in information.
  • Keep your site secure so readers won’t be turned off if you are hacked. will monitor your site for malware/hacks
  • Get a theme with clean code for search engine optimization (some free themes have crap code).

And here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t sell stuff to broke people — i.e. a market not willing to pay for what you’re selling.
    Customers have to have money and also find value in your product.
  • Not define your end product and expectations.
  • Be impatient.
    Content or themes won’t make you money in 6 months.  It doesn’t happen right away — just wait for it.

What’s a nursing mom to do?

Cindy holds Madeline right after her birthWould you eat dinner that was cooked in a public bathroom?

How about a fried egg after someone just flushed a toilet? Or maybe a sandwich?

Most people would give a resounding “NO” to that question. It’s gross, right? And yet that’s what people expect babies to put up with when it’s chow time and their mom doesn’t feel like hiking up her shirt in front of thousands of people.

In Texas, nursing moms are legally allowed to feed their babies in any public place.

Unfortunately for me when I attended SXSWi, I did not have my baby with me.  It probably would have been easier had she been with me.  Then I might not have dealt with what I did.

I took my breast pump with me to the conference each day (I live in Austin), and when I arrived on day 1, I asked at the info booth if there was a room where I could sit and pump — not a bathroom, because that’s gross.  Using a breast pump is not very discreet, and it sounds like a milking machine.  I did not want to be out in a hallway.

They were very nice, asked a lot of people, then sent me to another info booth when they couldn’t find the answer.  Same thing at the next info booth — very nice and understanding, and told me a room was available beginning on Saturday at noon.  They even told me where it would be — Mezzanine 2 in the Convention Center.

Cool.  I was jazzed.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t true.  On Saturday at noon, I trooped up to Mezzanine 2 to find a door that said it was under “lockdown,” and watched a staffer walk in.  I glanced inside for a moment to see several people staring at computer screens.  Dumbfounded, I searched out an info desk again to ask.

Again, the volunteers were very nice, but they couldn’t find the answer.  One even offered to walk with me back up to the room to ask what was going on.  Inside, we found a very busy SXSW production room with staffers who had no idea what I was asking about.  One staffer offered to find out.  He called and then ran down to find someone who could answer my question — was there a room where I could pump in private?

The answer: No.  Apparently there had been a room in 2010, but not this year.  And then the staffer told me he knew of a one-room handicapped bathroom where I could pump.

“Is that OK?” he asked.

“Do I have a choice?” I replied.

I was angry.  I was annoyed.  I had wasted so much time and missed a panel session in search of this phantom room.  I tweeted my frustration:

Dear #sxswi: really? No room for nursing moms? I have to use a bathroom? You suck. Really. Thanks.

Then, after fighting through a crowd to find the bathroom, I discovered it was locked:

So the “single” bathroom I was directed to is locked and no sound inside. Hmmm… Stall or car? #thissucks #sxswi

And that’s when I went to my car.

My friends tweeted about my experience, and I even talked to a SXSW staffer at the Digital Moms Meetup who seemed very sympathetic to my predicament.  The next day I got this response:

@cindybrummer Not sure who you talked to, but we very much support breastfeeding in public here at SXSW. (Many (cont)

I felt embarrassed when I saw it.  Had I really thought they were keeping me from doing my thing?  I just wanted to crawl in a hole.  But then, later that day, as I made the trek to my car — in the heat — to pump, I started to wonder whether SXSWi misunderstood what I was asking for.  So I sent a direct message — since that seemed to be the only way to get a response.

sxsw: So, is there going to be a room available for me to use my breast pump? I’d like to not use my car mon and tues…


I heard nothing.  I took it as a huge no, and I quietly went about my business.  I made it work in my car, trying not to feel entitled to a precious room, but still feeling the sting that some mother last year was allowed privacy to nurse or pump in air conditioning.

I tried to be positive — at least I was parked close by.  And at least I only had to miss two panels a day.  And at least I didn’t have to lug around my pump.  Still, I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had taken the MetroRail instead of driven.  I guess I would have used a bathroom stall.


Should I have made a bigger fuss?  That’s not really me.  I didn’t want to go to bat over a breast pump.  And I don’t want people to think I felt like SXSWi should have set aside a giant room just for me.  But it steams me the amount of conflicting information I received and how much time I wasted trying to seek out that information.  If I had learned on Friday that there would be no room, I would have been disappointed and moved on, rather than spending so much time getting to the bottom of it.  And yes, it sucks that last year there was a room, but not this year.

It won’t be a problem for me for SXSWi 2012.  I don’t plan on breastfeeding that long, but if you’re a nursing mom who’s planning to go — be aware!  If you’re like me and you like being discreet, it might be easier for you to just bring your baby.

SXSWi panel: Interview with Matt Mullenweg

South by Southwest Interactive kicked off Friday with a bang!  On entering the Austin Convention Center, there was an excitement in the air that seemed to raise the hair on my arms.  Goose bumps!

It’s amazing to see so many people excited by their work and by meeting new people and being a part of innovation and technology.  I remember being incredibly inspired at SXSWi 2010, and after getting a taste today, I know I’ll walk away inspired again this year.

I was pretty disappointed by the first panel (at 2pm) — How not to Design Like  Developer (#betterdesign).  It was unfocused.  It didn’t inform me much.  I expected better.

But I was totally excited by the interview with Matt Mullenweg of Automattic/Wordpress (#sxswwp).  I’ve really moved into designing for WordPress over the last year.  And I’ve been using WordPress more and more as a CMS, rather than just a blog — which seems to be the way WordPress development is heading.

And Matt talked about that — when at it’s best, WordPress is invisible.  It’s a tool.

Currently, he says 12% of the Internet is using WordPress.  That’s pretty impressive, and for those people who say blogging is dead — it’s just not true, according to Mullenweg.  WordPress adds a new blog every 2 seconds.

I could tell that Mullenweg admires the power of Twitter and up-and-comer Tumblr.  Twitter — for taking mobile seriously — and Tumblr — for it’s simplicity and great design.

And while there was a lot of talk about WordPress’ business model and how it works, what I took away about the future of WordPress is that it will continue to be an open source platform that focuses on a user-centric model (offering products that users find valuable and want to pay for) rather than and advertiser-centric model (relaying on ads for revenue), although some ads are necessary.

WordPress 3.1 was just rolled out along with a couple of major products for .com and .org users, so work hasn’t yet begun on the next version.  But Mullenweg said his ideas for the future include slicker media embedding, a better writing experience in full-screen mode, an easier way to integrate podcasts, and making the mobile apps better.  he freely admitted they aren’t good and they should be.

I loved hearing from Mullenweg, and I’m excited about the future of WordPress, especially since I’m having so much fun designing and developing with it.  It’s definitely become my favorite platform to work with.

In the meantime, I’m soaking up as much as I can at SXSWi.  There’ so much to do and see!  I’ll be tweeting more than I blog, but I will be doing both on Saturday!

Follow me @cindybrummer.

Countdown to SXSW 2011

With just 2 weeks to go before South By Southwest gets underway in Austin, I can feel my excitement building.

The 2010 Interactive festival was an inspiring touchstone for me, and I can’t wait to go back.

Last year I mainly attended business sessions, with some design and technology thrown in.  This year my focus will be on social media, design and marketing.

I’ve already started working on my conference schedule with the help of the newly released SXSW Go app, now available in the app store for iPhone/iPod Touch.

Interactive has grown by leaps and bounds (pardon the cliche), and this year panels and presentations will be spread to 10 campuses according to organizers.  They addressed it at a recent mixer, and you can read more about what was discussed in the Digital Savant.

I’m not sure I will be able to keep up the go-go-go pace I kept last year of going to sessions in nearly every hour and a half.  This year I face the added challenge of having a 5-month-old baby.  She won’t be attending with me (my mom is flying into town just to watch the kids during SX), but I’m still nursing, and I’ll need to make arrangements during those days.  I’ll probably have to miss some sessions that I would otherwise be able to attend.  Ahhh, the challenges of motherhood.

Still, this year I won’t be nearly as exhausted and I’m already planning to check out several evening mixers and parties. (A bunch are listed at EventBrite — just do a search for “Austin”.)

Networking!  It does a business good!

If you’re also planning on being at SXSW Interactive — holla at me!  Check me out on Twitter and tweet me at @cindybrummer.

Portfolio upgrade:

Doug Naugle Fine Art home pageI am thrilled to announce (belatedly) the relaunch of!

Visual artist Doug Naugle and I worked together to redesign his site, with the express intention of seamlessly integrating his blog and adding an e-commerce component.

Doug also needed a way to upload images of his art (both photographs and paintings) and showcase them throughout the site. Straight HTML/CSS just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  He needed a CMS.

I’ve been working with WordPress for a while on all of my personal blogs, and I love the way this versatile CMS can be customized, so I recommended it for Doug.  It worked out beautifully.  Doug was already using WordPress for his blog, and it was no problem for him to learn added functionality for the rest of a site.

I used a number of my favorite plugins, including NextGEN Gallery.  There are a number of e-commerce plugins for WordPress now, but it was hard finding one that worked just the way we wanted.  In the end, we chose WP-ecommerce and added the Gold Cart to it.  It’s not ideal — I wish we had found something that would have more easily integrated with the galleries — images must be uploaded separately to a gallery and to the store — so there would be less work for Doug.  But we eliminated the need for ME to be in the middle, uploading images.  Doug can do it all himself, and that was a major goal for this site.

I’m really starting to turn into a WordPress template/theme designer.  I’m loving working with this platform.  And I can’t wait to go to the WordPress Party at SXSWi.

Oh my gosh!  SX is almost here!  Woo-hoo!


Tirades from the trenches (or couch, rather)

I have completely taken over my couch and coffee table.  It’s my new favorite work space.

The scenario: My Dell Vostro on my lap, feet on the coffee table,a glass of iced mineral water nearby, the iPod hooked up and pumping LCD Soundsystem through my earbuds.  Awww, yeah.  This is what I call working!

Yes, it’s true I have a wonderful, dedicated desk and computer in my office, with three monitors — one of which is wide-screen.  I like it too, but I’ve found that I’ve fallen in love with my laptop.  It’s small, portable and it makes it easier to pay attention to Madeline, rather than holed up in my office.  I also kind of FEEL like I’m working offsite — even though I’m not.

I think I’ve finally found that tenuous place between caring for a baby and taking care of clients.  Madeline has many times throughout the day when she’s content to play in her bounce seat or nearby on a play-mat.  As long as I’m in view she’s cool.

Still, I put in most of my web hours after she’s gone to bed.

I haven’t slept much lately.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-02-06

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-30

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-01-23