Cognitive Walkthrough + Review: Tribe – Private Photo Sharing App

App Chat - Tribe App Review

One of my favorite parts of usability research is the fly-on-the-wall style cognitive walkthrough. You can get as low or high tech as you want with such a test but essentially you have the subject or user attempt to complete a task and ask them to vocalize their thought process. Tests like this usually provide all matter of insights the visual style and usability of the app.

The cognitive walkthrough is a usability evaluation method in which one or more evaluators work through a series of tasks and ask a set of questions from the perspective of the user.

The focus of the cognitive walkthrough is on understanding the system’s learnability for new or infrequent users. The cognitive walkthrough was originally designed as a tool to evaluate walk-up-and-use systems like postal kiosks, automated teller machines (ATMs), and interactive exhibits in museums where users would have little or no training. However, the cognitive walkthrough has been employed successfully with more complex systems like CAD software and software development tools to understand the first experience of new users.  (Source)

Tribe App Review / App Chat

I’ve been searching for the right format to do app reviews and decide to try and combine cognitive walkthrough style reviews with a popular video genre on YouTube called First Impression videos. Someone films themselves having a first impression to a service, product, art, ect. Kind of like unboxing videos. I decided to try and film myself doing a cognitive walkthrough / first impression / rapid fire critique of an app I had been seeing in the headlines: Tribe. The articles I came across (screen shots in the video) were commenting on the “pivot” the company had made from a Snapchat style private photo sharing service to something that was marketed towards weed smokers.

Screenshot of video

I’m not sure how well this worked. I found that the most valuable insights came to me after the fact so I ended up adding graphics and text to call those out and clarify on some of the industry lingo I dropped in the video. I should mention that I cite my Mental Notes deck throughout the video. Check it out:

September 8th, 2015|App Reviews|

Natural Dye Workshop at the Earthship

Photographing this event was a feast for the eyes. Which I should have expected from the premier workshop event at the Earthship by Earth tu Face. The space is beautiful and if you are in the Bay Area it is work making a trip. It is located in Temescal close to the Creative Reuse Center (and many yummy restaurants such as my current favorite: Cholita Linda). Check out some photos of the space on The Merchant Home blog and Mood Maybe blog.

The workshop participants each got two scarves to dye with a variety of natural dyes. It was taught by Celine Thibault of Moon. I found this blog post up about her dying methods and story on the Juniper Ridge blog.

I also compiled a little teaser video for the Earthship crew to use to promote their new workshops. Enjoy!

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

A finished scarf freshly dyed

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Rosemary cocktail crafted by the garden witches of the Earthship. A workshop participant takes notes.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Celine Thibault ( instructs the class.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

One of the many ways to get manipulate fabric to prepare for dying.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Grinding up tiny dried bugs for red dye.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Celine making dyes

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Dying scarves outside the shop. Checking out the results after the first dip into the dye.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Picking a dye to dip a folded and bound scarf in.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

A finished scarf getting ready to dry.

Earthship by Earth Tu Face - Moon Dye Workshop - Temescal Oakland

Finished dyed scarves hung out to dry.

July 26th, 2015|Events|

Gray Area Conference

A conference, performances, workshops, and a large-scale exhibition that gathers artists and philanthropists to discuss the impact of art and technology on culture.

I’m a big fan of Gray Area. Their mission of supporting art and technology with positive social impact resonates on so many levels with my own existing and developing ideas. They recently had their first festival / conference and I was lucky enough to be able to attend most of the sessions and night time show case events. A few of my photos were chosen to be part of this piece about the event on Vice’s the Creators Project. Learn more about Gray Area on their website.

Screenshot of the Creators Project article.

A feature on the Creators Project – Click through for article.

photo of Jono Brandel talking at Gray Area

Jono Brandel – Talk: The Human Side to being a Digital Practitioner

Jono Brandel taking a selfie.

And then the took a selfie using a selfie stick with the audience.

Meara O'Reilly talking on panel.

Meara O’Reilly talking on the panel: Creative Applications and Experiences

Max Weisel and Joshua Kit Clayton on stage

Max Weisel (with microphone) and Joshua Kit Clayton talking on a panel: Creative Applications and Experiences

Michael Naimark talking

Michael Naimark talking about Art & Invention


Some of the audience.

Art installation

One of the installations!

Panel of speakers

Panel: Finding the New Medicis


Lustmord performing live.

Lustmord visuals

Lustmord’s visuals.

Shigeto on stage

Shigeto live at one of the evening showcases.


Effixx doing live visuals during Shigeto’s set.

Visual of a bird

Effixx + Shigeto Visuals

July 6th, 2015|Events|

Work in Progress: Digital Doll


This is one of those projects that just has to get out of me. It is the synthesis of so many things that I enjoy and am intrigued with. I have a vision for how all these elements can be combined and birthed into the world as and understated but powerful digital experience.

Where to begin…

I think about 5 years ago I was reading Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget and got introduced to the concept of  “somatic cognition” or an awareness of your body. Jaron Lanier is often credited as the father of virtual reality, btw. He describes a realization that happened upon experiencing a glitch in an early prototype. His hand was suddenly much larger than it should be in the simulation and he realized that the mind was able to adapt surprisingly quickly to this new body. For details I highly recommend this article by Jaron Lanier in 2010 titled “On the Threshold of the Avatar Era” where he dives deep into the idea. He says…

…the mapping of the homunculus could be so flexible as to adapt to non-human bodies was initially a shock, but a delightful one. The sensation of inhabiting a nonhuman avatar is a new kind of pleasure. Think about what it would be like to wear wonderful clothing, combined with driving a superb vehicle, combined with mastering an extraordinary physical skill. It is like all those things together, but more expressive.

That idea really resonated to me and my philosophy on styling one’s appearance. An informal philosophy developed initially more as a way to exercise my creativity in the daily march of life. A way to stay engaged in routine day to day interactions. When I get dressed I become this nonhuman avatar, and now everyday interactions are more engaging through this lens of pretending. Psychological implications aside, I am a believer in the potential of virtual reality to hack our somatic cognition into making us feel and experience really significant things.

That is the ultimate end goal – exploratory experimental avatar embodiment and customization.

A step in that direction was inspired a few years by my nieces (both under 5yrs old) and my own acceptance of makeup as a natural extension of appearance styling (clothes, hair, shoes, nails) and the disintegration of a deeply held belief that it was frivolous because it was girly. It’s not. I was a closet beauty junky and this triggered plenty of feminist guilt. (Related: A video of Caitlan Moran sharing that her makeup goal is to look like a Puffin.)  As I looked towards my two nieces, I wondered what type of media or digital experiences might help them reach that conclusion sooner and embrace that makeup is there for them as just one of many elements with which they can play with their appearance.

Toca Tailor is a rare awesome gem. Some examples from

Toca Tailor is a rare awesome gem. Some examples from

Finally I played with the mobile game Toca Tailor and Toca Hair Salon. I went looking to see what else was out there in the way of doll games. I’m a grown woman but I can still lose hours to customizing an avatar, I can’t be the only one? Checking out the competitive landscape of iOS doll games – I was left mostly unimpressed, somewhat insulted, and just saddened at the quality of the graphics and interaction and concepts.

I envisioned busy mom’s downloading doll games for their introverted children to entertain themselves while they run errands (the 2015 equivalent of my late 80’s bi-monthly Barbie doll purchase) and leaving them to learn that dressing up and looking pretty is only for thin white girls girls and the aim is to get asked out to drink with hot frat guys (the name of this app is “College Girl.” Our girls deserve better digital toys with complex female characters.


Because duh, that’s what college is all about! – from College Girl app

And so an idea was born: Dara the Digital Doll. A stepping stone towards that ultimate goal of creating a digital experience (virtual and/or augmented reality) of avatar embodiment and customization.

Dara Doll is a mobile app and game. Dara likes to express her individuality and style by dressing creatively. The game encourages dressing up as a means of self-expression and as a valid artistic endeavor. It aims to encourage play with personal appearance and style as a means of self-expression, artistic statement, and identity exploration.


First comes the pencil and paper planning…

Stay tuned for part two where I share my sketches, character development and touch on the technology I plan to use to build the app. Subscribe to my blog vis RSS or sign up for to receive updates by email in the footer.

June 10th, 2015|In Progress|

App Review: Moon


How often do you think about the moon? Consider, for a minute, how much more our lives revolved around the lunar cycle in times before street light became the norm. Yet moon has no light – it only reflects the light of the sun. For this reason, the moon is often regarded as a symbol and metaphor for self-reflection, introspection and intuition. And us night owls know well the serenity of a moment shared basking in the moonlight.

Which is why I’ve been loving the free app: Moon – Current Moon Phase on my iPhone (also works great on iPad). This app stands out to be because it is delightfully simple and surprisingly playful for such a utility. It has a personality despite having pretty much zero UI elements and four screens:

moon phase app screenshot iOS iphone

The personality comes out in the periodic alerts the app displays. I had no idea that I had alerts enabled so I was pretty pleased to see the somewhat cryptic message coming from Moon. It is all the more endearing because the chatter is completely unexpected, cheeky and even kind of Zen at times. Check out the collection of screen shots I’ve been taking over the past few months of using Moon.


I mean, quote Radiohead to me and I’m yours.

It is so important to resonate emotionally with users and giving your app, and in this case the moon itself, a personality. Every time I received one of these alerts it made me smile and endear to the moon. It strengthens the bond between a cosmic body and our present state – making us wonder and a moment to reflect on whether the full or new moon is affecting your or people around you. Is it what caused your dog to behave out of character? Or why everyone seems to be driving without the use of blinkers today?

At the very least you can drop moon cycle knowledge in conversations and seem super in-tune and metaphysical. Which in some circles can win you friends.

It is interesting to think about how much more appealing or unappealing the app would be if it was presented differently. What if it was named something like “Sassy Moon” or “Zen Moon”?

Some other features include the ability to see what phase the moon was in on a particular date:


And the ability to share a moon state/phase phase as a photo:


Moon is a simple app, free and free of ads, with the potential to help us tune in to the cycles of nature and ourselves. It might even make you smile and look up.

If you are interested in learning more about how moon phases affect life on earth I highly recommend this article.

June 3rd, 2015|App Reviews|