Jonathan Cutrell

Director of Technology at Whiteboard

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Feature Requests vs. Business Problems

I recently encountered an interesting situation with a client. We were talking on the phone about a priority list of features they need on a platform we built; a while into the conversation, they mentioned that they felt like they had already told me all of the problems they were listing.

I was somewhat confused and surprised, because the problems they outlined seemed new to me. Then it hit me.

They had asked for particular features in response to their business problems.

The truth is, business problems require solutions. But it is our job as designers and developers to determine the most usable, maintainable, and effective solution for the platform and user scenarios.

Your clients may often ask you to implement a specific feature. Instead of nodding and pounding on your keyboard, talk about the root problem. Figure out what it is they experience day to day - get a true intuition for

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My Best Onboarding Experience… at a Chiropractor

Recently, I had a fantastic new customer experience at North Shore Chiropractic & Rehab here in Chattanooga.

Let me preface this: I have absolutely no incentive from North Shore Chiro to share this story, and this wasn’t prompted by them in any way. Truly, this is intended to encourage you to consider how you approach customers, not to promote North Shore Chiropractic.

For the sake of this conversation, I’d like to deflate the buzz out of the word “experience”. It’s really the pop-word defining the digital industry right now - everything is framed in terms of user experience. How does the service or app or website make you feel? How does it sound to your ears? How do you remember it? If it were a person, would it be your friend? Would you date it?

It’s not all about experience, certainly. At the end of the day, your software-as-a-service has to do whatever the software part is, not

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Design Decision Guidelines: Trendability vs. Usability

When you make a design decision, understand that there is no single more important guideline to follow than an equal balance of your own intention and the consumer’s situation.

Often, conversations discussing the usability implications of a particular design decision spike on HN/DN, bringing opinions out of the wood work. Whether you are talking about the hamburger icon or whether parallax is a good idea, the opinions of readers shift wildly.

As I said in a recent interview, there is no one guiding factor for design. Design is, in many ways, subjective.

Before you usability engineers jump down my throat and describe the difference between art and design, let me go ahead and stop you. Design and art are not two separate things entirely; instead, art is borne of design. An artist designs a particular piece (be it performance, visual, or purely conceptual) with some kind of intent, even

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The Internet of Places: The Context of Things

The Internet of Things is absolutely upon us.

Whether you’re fully aware and plugged in to tech rumor blogs and things like iotlist.co, or if you’ve never heard the term before, the Internet of Things is a huge wave in the way we think about technology.

A brief summary: everything is connected to the internet (is connected to everything), and everything is everywhere.

That’s the groundbreaking idea. To have an internet of things, you must have not only complex, multi-tasking machines like laptops and smartphones that connect to the internet, but also common elements of your every day life that connect to the internet. Lights, washing machines, thermostats, faucets, pet collars… You get the idea. If you don’t, try Googling an appliance, or really almost any concrete noun, followed by “wifi”.

This isn’t about a big red sticker saying “new and improved, now with WIFI!” - what it really

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The Terror of Facebook and the Endless Social Network

 They died.

I have seen these words on my screen countless times. I fear them, in many ways, as they seem to hit closer to home all of the time.

Fear of death isn’t irrational - I know that when someone I love dies, it will be painful. It is natural, but that doesn’t make it easy to bear.

What is irrational is believing that death is related to proximity (except in horseshoes and hand grenades). However irrational it is, when something “hits close to home”, it can have a chilling effect, and if you’re anything like me, it can cause anxiety.

Irrational or not, when those words pop up on my screen, I immediately think about the proximity of death to those that I love.

 Bad news makes the headlines.

And when I say headlines, I mean not only the ones on your TV, but also the ones in your browser (read: the top post on Facebook, or Hacker News). People attach themselves to bad news, for

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Steal these Startup Ideas: Collection One

 I want you to steal these ideas.

Seriously. Make these things a reality.

There have been a LOT of people who have said this in recent years: ideas are relatively of no value. Until someone actually executes and makes them valuable, ideas are about as value-less as dreams.

Okay, sure - the genesis of creativity is an idea. But that doesn’t mean the idea is the thing of value.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to go ahead and post some ideas here that I have discussed recently, and I will continue to post more ideas in the future. The hope is that someone will take these ideas and execute; I certainly can’t do all of them.

So, my only request is that if you are inspired by these ideas (even if you don’t execute them directly), contact me and let me know. You can find me easily. Google “Jonathan Cutrell”.

Without further ado:

 Coffee subscription drive-thru service

Credit actually

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The Anatomy of Surprise and Delight

 A chance to surprise and delight someone by doing something a little exceptional goes a long way because it provides a smack of awesome humanity upside the head. - Alexis Ohanian [1]

Bill Murray has a reputation. Sure, to many he is an actor with a strong and highly memorable personality in each of his movies. But Bill Murray’s fame goes deeper.

If you have had the chance to experience what I’m talking about here, I’m certain you would agree: Bill Murray is a delightful person.

We know the norm for the famous population amongst us is to show up almost exclusively with “their kind”, highly guarded from much personal interaction with their fans.

Bill Murray has quite an opposite approach to this mindset. On occasion, Murray shows up in an unexpected place and acts in unexpected ways. These stories have become somewhat mythical, enough that people have adopted a practice of telling

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I’m Using Buffer to Segment My Working Day, and it’s Awesome

I have a lot of different responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. I’m guessing you probably do too.

Family and home responsibilities, like loving my wife, paying bills, and taking my dog on walks.

Personal responsibilities like sleeping enough, exercising, chasing my own goals, and making time for intentional sanity.

Work responsibilities - now there’s a big (and awesome) list. In particular, let me highlight two types of work I do, at work.

  • Reactive work - work that requires me to respond to external resources, like emails, phone calls, meetings, etcetera
  • Creative work - work that requires me to build something out of nothing (or out of a predetermined specification)

As a company, Whiteboard employees recently read 99U’s Managing Your Day to Day, an excellent book about building an effective creative routine. We’ve all adopted a good number of practices proscribed in the book

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Nonchalant Arrogance, Intellect, and Caring About Your Work

I recently encountered a demeanor that I couldn’t quite place. I anonymously overheard a conversation and, unfortunately, let it get under my skin enough to tell you about it.

I (somewhat ashamedly) tried to find some kind of a meme that described the person who portrayed this demeanor, which forced me to put it into words: nonchalant arrogance.

The “yeah, it’s a big deal, but I know you’re going to think it is, so instead of aligning with you, I’m going to downplay my accomplishment so you think it’s the tip of my intellectual iceberg” attitude.

The “if you like that, there’s more where that came from, but I’m under an NDA” guy.

The “eh, their third album is okay, but the early stuff you don’t have access to is the best” attitude.

I’m not sure why this attitude is still somehow effective in shifting perception, but it is. Perhaps it has something to do with a perceived sense of

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The war of privacy is coming in 2014

What will you do when you have the opportunity to trade your privacy as a currency?

Of course, it’s not a sustainable model, but that’s not the point. The point is that as long as we can trade our info for goods and services, we will set new standards for technological boundaries on our lives. And we’ve already seen it coming fast - mobility has been tackled, wearability is next, and embedded/environmentally ubiquitous will come after.

Apple released a phone that knows you by the same way you are identified by if you commit a crime or two. (This is a gross over-generalization, but stick with me.) On the flip-side (read: not the private sector) the NSA can listen in on your conversations. Without a warrant. Endorsed by the president. He doesn’t really want a call made on whether that’s okay.

And what will this bring? With movies like The Fifth Estate coming into mainstream (albeit

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