User Research Presentation by Michael Margolis

I came across this really great presentation and explanation on how to quickly do user research in the context of the startup. The presenter, Michael Margolis, is a Google Ventures partner and has been doing this kind of work for more than twenty years. He works with the GV startups to help them understand their users and to figure out how they should build their products in order to meet the needs of their users.

One argument that sticks out from his lecture is the reason for observing users. He argues that the importance of observing users is to understand the 'why' of particular user actions. He compares observing users to looking at detailed website analytics. Analytics will reveal what people are doing, yet it won't reveal why they're doing what they're doing. Seeing the metrics of a certain website funnel, or being able to see the data of people dropping off at a certain page doesn't give insight into the problem that might be causing users to drop off. Discovering the 'why' behind a certain problem will then reveal the solution.

I Don't Always Farm, But When I Do, It's Vertical

Two weekends ago I had the bright idea to grow some of my own vegetables in a cardboard box. After a quick trip to the hardware store to get some soil and seeds, I was on my way. I grabbed the easiest veggies to grow: radish, spinach, microgreens, and mixed greens. The results are below.

Well, there it is. The vertical farm by my window. I will follow-up with another post showing progress.

Well, There It Is

Exploring Tuva's Embed Feature

At Tuva, we've heard from users they want to use Tuva's tool for analyzing their own data. We also noticed that occasionally, people analyze a dataset that they want to share in an interactive format. So, we explored this feature, and I'm creating this blog post as an example of how Tuva's tool appears within a blog/article format.

Board Games: Competitive vs Cooperative

I'm feeling a general sense of frustration with competitive board games, like Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, Risk, and the like. When I play these games I end up in last place, or near to last place, and I'm left with nothing to do during the game. The rest of the players continue the fun as I then sit by myself, sip a drink and ruminate over the rule book to see if there was something I could of done differently. Was it my luck? My inability to strategize? Maybe a bit of both.

Enter cooperative board games: a few years ago I played a cooperative board game called Defenders of the Realm. At first I was drawn in by this game's attention to detail, visually stunning renderings and beautifully crafted backstory setting the stage for the players. Then, I was blown away by being able to get feedback on my strategy as a newbie from other players and also coordinate my moves with other players. I was hooked, and inspired.

Ever since I learned about cooperative games as a genre, I've been itching to design my own cooperative game. About four months ago I began designing and testing it out with friends.

Stay tuned for updates as I continue development! And in the mean time, let me know what you think of competitive and cooperative games in the comments section below. What do you like about them? What do you hate about them? How well does it hold your attention throughout the course of the game?

A prototype of the game I'm working on.

What are animals thinking and feeling?

Of all the TED talks I've seen, and I've seen pretty much every single one, I found this one especially moving. Carl Safina passionately holds up a mirror to who we are and the effect we have on the animals we live with. If you have 20 minutes to watch something today, watch this.

Balance Bike: A Learning Game

Over the past several months I've been hard at work learning to develop android apps. I just published my first app on to the Google Play Store. The app is called Balance Bike: A Learning Game.

Balance Bike is an educational game for young children to learn words, letters, and numbers through touch, sound, and speaking. The app currently contains six categories: farm animals, wild animals, birds, alphabet, numbers, and colors.

Balance Bike starts up with a home screen that allows kids to pick from different categories.

Once a kid picks a category, they're presented with a wheel of pictures. Here, they can spin the wheel.

The wheel eventually stops spinning and an animal is selected. On this screen, the first sound we hear is the name of the animal. The second sound we hear is the animal's sound. Clicking on the left and right musical notes repeats the animal name and animal sound, respectively.

Underneath the picture of the animal is a third button. Pressing the microphone, the app focuses on the word, asking the child to speak what they see. At this point, speech recognition is used to see if the word is said correctly.

TuvaLabs at the TechStars+Kaplan EdTech Accelerator

It's been a while since I've had time to write an update. The past month has been hectic. One piece of amazing news I'd like to share with friends and family is our acceptance into the TechStars+Kaplan EdTech Accelerator. You can read about the press release here.
We're working in their office space in New York City with eleven other amazing educational companies. The program started about a week and a half ago, and we've been learning a lot through their workshops and meetings they've planned out for us. As a team, we know our best has gotten us here, and with the feedback and criticism from the experts in this program we'll be able to take our process and skills to the next level.

I feel very fortunate to be working on new educational technologies at such a pivotal time in the history of education. Hopefully TuvaLabs will be able to create a positive and lasting impact in the analytical and critical thinking of students around the world. And in the long run, encourage more students to become data literate by engaging them with data that's from the real world.

And finally, a view from my seat: