Balance Reading and Doing with Kathy Sierra

Kathy Sierra
How can we as individuals (and organizations) keep up with the speed of digital? There are new technologies, features being launched, and tools at our fingertips every day. What can we do to keep up with all the new opportunities?

This is how we start many of our conversations, whether at work or at events, even among friends. There is always going to be a new tool, a new shiny object, a campaign, program, what the other guys are doing, etc. Only one of you. My bet is on making yourself smarter and more effective.

Start here:

  • find the best aggregators of good information — find the right person and site who does a good job at filtering and also at adding valuable context. Here are newsletters I read, a starting list if you are into creative, business, and technology
  • sign up for daily or weekly news services — I recently subscribed to Quartz Daily Brief and am liking it
  • get book summaries for non essential reading (I do recommend reading the actual book for subjects that interest you and classics) — for this there's a service called getAbstract
  • cut out redundancies — for important topics, it matters to get to the source, however, make sure you are not trimming different yet valid points of view
  • recognize that to achieve a balanced perspective you need to select also from outside your industry or specific domain — and ground your knowledge on general principles and timeless values

And read the books referenced by people you admire, especially when those references cross over from one to several. Kathy Sierra is someone whose work I continue to admire. Her latest book Badass: Making Users Awesome is a very pragmatic guide for anyone who wants to build a product and/or a good experience for their audience.

The book also contains several recommendations for further reading — books I have seen referenced by other people I admire and have read and would recommend myself:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck — Stanford psychology professor Dr. Carol Dweck has extensive research in motivation that shows, among other things, the damage of labels like “a natural.” Her book should be required reading for anyone who wants to help anyone get better at anything.

Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by Neuroscientist David Eagleman — recommended

The Progress Principle by Teresa M. Amabile, Steven J. Kramer — This book has piles of research on the impact (and implementation) of progress indicators:

“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress — even a small win — can make all the difference in how they feel and perform.” 

 Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihali Csikszentmihalyi — one of the most influential books for user-experience design

Microinteractions by designer Dan Saffer — he describes microinteractions as “contained product moments that resolve around a single use case — they have one main task.”  His book covers how to design microinteractions in a way that doesn't just close cognitive leaks but brings “personality and delight” to apps and devices. A cognitive microleak comes from that subtle feeling of uncertainty about whether some small action you took did exactly what you intended

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman — the concept of “knowledge in the head vs. knowledge in the world” was popularized by Donald Norman in this book. If you can choose just one book about design, UI, usability, saving cognitive resources, and caring about users — this is that book

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Dan Pink — read this book for a better understanding of the subtle and surprising science of motivation

To work on your investigative skills for user and audience research download the Complete Sherlock Holmes kindle edition. Because you're taking this to the beach with you.


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