I’m a hungry bike riding doodler, who loves complex problem solving. I’ve lived in the US, Europe, and Asia, and love traveling light and getting lost. I enjoy making new things and talking about them, then making them better. At heart, however, I’m into old things, worn in things, things that have stories that can be told. I like those objects because they’re often attached to people who lead interesting lives, and those are the people I like to surround myself with. I’m also trying to learn the banjo.

I hear this over and over again in my peer group, and with many of my former classmates. So many of them truly want to work on positive things, to create a better world, yet the options are far too few! We have the troops, but we seem to be lacking the leaders – the people and the companies which can lead these masses towards attainable ‘good’ goals. And well, if not us – the ones who wish to help: the educated and the enthusiastic, then who?

I see AC4D as a progressive step towards creating those leaders, and that is something I want to be a part of. I am very interested in collaborating with people from different work and educational backgrounds who see this as an opportunity, not only to learn, but to then be able to branch out and build businesses, resources, and communities that can engage the masses in a positive new way.

I’m here to dream big, and connect with people with whom I can anchor those dreams in reality.


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HourSchool is a website that lets you post what you want to learn, and it helps you find someone in your network who can teach it.

Click on the video below to watch us live draw our way through HourSchool!

We’re just starting to get our website up and running… and right now we’d love to hear what you would like to learn.  Please visit www.HourSchool.com and let us know what you’d like to learn.  E-mail us if you’d like to be included in our private Beta.

Thanks!  Ruby and Alex.

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Our first peer-led class, and some.

Our goal: Last weeks goal was to hold our first peer-led class.  In essence, a prototype of the analog portion of our idea.  The place where people meet and share their knowledge.  This will then be book-ended with digital tools to help facilitate the class, aid in the continuation of the class, and encourage students to become teachers of their own classes.

Co Creation:  Our first teacher, Phill, was interested in teaching a boxing conditioning class.   We sat down with Phill on Wednesday to talk about how he planned to run the class and to talk about ways of using our networks to get students.  He had a very good idea of how he wanted to teach the class, and broke down for us the different parts of the class and how he would use the hour.  We walked through the different aspects of the class, and had a great discussion about how to find, engage, and retain students.

We then pushed out the details of the class via Twitter and FB, and called a few friends around town who we thought might be interested.   By the next day, Thursday, we had 5 committed students, and we thought we were ready to go.

Then it snowed and we had to cancel the class.

What we learned:

1.  Scheduling was difficult.  Phill works nights as a cook, so he was only able to teach the class during the day.  Many of the people in our networks worked during the day, so they couldn’t attend the class.

2.  We didn’t have a bad weather backup plan.  The weather in Austin is crazy, it was 75 last weekend, and snowing this Friday.  Our classes need to have backup plans and or clear communication to all involved what happens when the conditions for a class change.

3.  It’s hard to get people to show up on their own if they don’t know someone there, and people are much more likely to show up with a friend.  How can we leverage that and encourage people to bring friends?

Quick backup plan. What other classes could we hold with only a few hours notice?  Christina (@s0delightful) was nice enough to offer to teach a photography class on Friday night.  We met at her house around 8pm. There were 5 of us total, 2 people I’d never met before, but all people that Christina knew.   We ate some food, got to know each other, and then Christina started the class.  The class lasted an hour, and the time flew by.  We all had fun and learned some new things about photography.

What we learned:

1.  It was a very social event, starting off with some food and hanging out was a good way to begin.   Friends enjoy doing things together.  How do you continue to encourage social behavior before and after class?

2.  Christina had a lot of props to use while teaching.  This was a great way to engage people, and to let us try different things for ourselves.   Would a takeaway have also enhanced the experience?

3.  Teaching is a scary word.  After class when we asked the other students if they thought they could go and teach a class about something they knew, the reaction was – at first – very tentative.  After some more questioning, we realized that most of the apprehension was due to the perception of the word teach.  When we re-framed the question to be about sharing knowledge with a group of peers, suddenly everyone thought they had something to share.  What’s another way to frame “teaching”?

4. Christina mentioned that photography wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when deciding what to teach, but she remembered that Ruby had asked her to show her some tips and tricks about photography a while back.  The fact that there was a need present made it easier to pick a subject.  How do we encourage people to share what they want to learn with their friends?

As we move forward we will continue to prototype more and more classes.  We’ve rescheduled Phill’s boxing class for Sunday 02.06.11 at 11am.  Send me an e-mail alex.pappas@austincenterfordesign if you want to come get fit and learn how to throw a mean left hook… from this kid.

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After 5 hours of synthesis…

We’ve got some initial design criteria:

  1. Must make it easy to start
  2. Offer environment for peer support
  3. Offer environment to expand network
  4. Allow mistakes
  5. Inspire opportunities
  6. Encourage new interactions
  7. Must be fun
  8. Repeatable
  9. Create intentional lens shift
  10. Must have a new brand identity
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Data diving, dive bar-ing… and synthesis

Last week Ruby wrote a great post on the progress of our research to date.   This week I’d like to share some thoughts on our process, and the reality of funneling massive amounts of data into usable design criteria.

To put it bluntly, the past week has been all about marinating in data.  We’ve meticulously transcribed hours of video into processable data.  We’ve filled excel spreadsheets with annotated quotations linked to various images and artifacts.  We’ve scheduled interviews, interviewed, rescheduled interviews, and interviewed again.  We’ve made videos and filled whiteboards… we drank a lot of coffee.

Through those processes we’ve managed to refine our focus several times, each time re-assessing with whom we need to do our next interview.  More data.  And more data.  And more data.

This week, however, was also a turning point.  It really felt like we were able to begin synthesis in earnest, and as we did we finally brought some clarity to all this data.

Synthesis itself is an amazing part of the design process, and in the past week I’ve seen it take two distinct forms: The formal – framed by rigor, process, and rules – and the informal, framed by everything that happens in between.

Data Diving: You need to spend hours with your data.  You need to spend the time coding, reading, writing, tracking, watching, and soaking in it.  That means hours in front of whiteboards, surrounded by piles of notes, trying to make sense of it all.  In my experience this step is essential, and often leaves me feeling energized but overwhelmed; my head buzzing, attempting to link hundreds of data points into some sort of coherent message – looking for that ah-ha.

Dive Bar-ing: And then you need to turn off the computer, walk away from the whiteboard and re-enter life.  Go to a bar, drink some cheap beer, and have a conversation about anything but what you’ve been working on.  This is when life fills in the second part of the equation.  It’s the conversations you have, the things you see, the smallest interactions, that are now framed in the context of the data you’ve been absorbing.  Your brain is synthesizing while you walk down the street, when you ask someone for directions, and while you sleep.

So after days of formal synthesis, we stepped away from the data.  Then today in class we had an unexpected hour to work on our project.  I mention that it was unexpected because having unscheduled time often just as valuable as having scheduled time.  We didn’t have an agenda, or a plan on how to spend the time synthesizing… so Ruby held an impromptu interview session with everyone in class on a topic that emerged from our first round of formal synthesis.  Then the two of us sat on the floor in the kitchen of the studio and talked through how the new data informed our initial data.  The informal setting made it easy to talk about our research informally, and allowed us to begin making those links (between rigorously collected data points) that had been marinating in our heads for the past few days.

We had several great breakthroughs and it finally feels like we’re rouding the first corner of the research process; clarifying our intentions along the way.  So what were the breakthroughs?  You’ll have to come to our presentation next week to find out.

Rigor + Life = Design Ideas.

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