Chris Messina

Developer Experience Lead at @Uber. Inventor of the hashtag

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 17, 2016

Discussion

Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
I lead Developer Experience at Uber, and I'm always looking out for emerging technology and product trends. I'm super excited about conversational software and the ever-increasingly thin line that separates human experience from real life technology extensions. I've worked at startups and big companies, and helped to bring a number of communities into existence in the last 10 years. Let's talk about what's going to happen next!
Ankit Shah@iamankitshah · Artist | Fashion Photographer | Doer
Did you know that #hashtags would get so popular when you first used it?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@iamankitshah OMG, no. I mean, we didn't even know if Twitter would become popular, let alone survive the fail whale! And considering how Biz and other leadership at Twitter poo-pooed the idea, I half thought that they'd be proven correct, and hashtags would be too nerdy to catch on. Fortunately I kept pushing the idea, and organically, over years, they caught on!
Motiv@motiv · Motiv
@chrismessina @iamankitshah Nice. Can you even imagine a world WITHOUT hashtags now?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
Devesh Kumar@onosmosis · Developer, WhiteShark
Thanks for creating it!
Sar Haribhakti@sarthakgh · Learning
I have already told you how I like your ability to connect the dots. You have a deep understanding of both macro and micro level stuff when it comes to products. What does your learning process look like? My q is purposely open ended.
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@sarthakgh awh, thanks! I appreciate your attentiveness! Y'know, I just love to observe products and people and trends and think about things from a macro perspective. I've always been an abstract thinker in that way — so much so that in high school I often got in trouble for it! My guidance counselor actually had to work intensively with me to get me to be "more concrete", and focus on things around me, instead of long term concerns. So, I guess I've always had a preference for understanding the world, and relating what's happening at the micro level to broader shifts happening at more systemic levels. My process is organic, intuitive and opportunistic, which can be frustrating to accommodate for people who are more data- or process-driven. I tend to think in network effects and watch for biomimetic clues that might suggest why something is happening the way it is. For example, if you think about the interwoven root structure of trees in forest, they "collaborate" to protect themselves rather than compete in a survival-of-the-fittest model. We can learn a lot from nature and how resilient it is when we design systems for humans — and so I'm always looking at the negative space to try to understand things from oblique or unexpected angles.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Yo, Chris! You've spoken and written a lot about conversational commerce (love your #ConvComm collection). Bots and audio-based interfaces introduce new challenges and opportunities for product designers. It's still very nascent and it appears that people are still figuring out how to design experiences for these platforms. What are the best examples of conversational commerce done right?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@rrhoover there's conversational commerce as a new product category, then there's those that extend existing service offerings, and still others that are using conversational contexts to build brands and extend narratives. In the last two categories, I love the work that Pullstring is doing — and in particular I really like the Call of Duty and Persona Synthetics Messenger bots because they're doing something native to the mediums and using character development and rich narrative authoring to do something useful and innovative.
Esther Crawford@esthercrawford · CEO, Molly
After the election of Trump it's even clearer that average workers are being left behind thanks to advances in technology. It's no secret at Uber is testing driverless cars. But in a world where there aren't any more drivers there will be tens of millions more people without jobs (delivery / taxi / Uber drivers and even truckers). Companies like Uber and Google win big in this new world of automation (along with their shareholders) but if workers are displaced and left to feel hopeless -- then liberal values could be the real loser... because history teaches us that when people feel left out and disenfranchised they get angry and support tyranny. I'm curious what you think the role of the tech industry is in leading conversations about the future of work and economic reform?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@esthercrawford great question. I think about this often and worry about it. I don't think that there will be easy answers, and instead will require leadership to help people adapt to the new reality that technology and automation will bring, and that the economic shifts that will occur because manual or repetitive labor will be taken over by machines will require us to think differently about the kind of useful work and activities that people will be able to pursue. I don't believe that there's anything "special" about the jobs that people have had in the industrial revolution; what's more important is that people engage in the power process, which, like in any game, allows people to opportunity to be challenged, to try, to learn, to adapt, to change, and then grow. If we orient society around pursuits structured around those kinds of personal growth and transformations, and we figure out how to value and reward them, then I think education and culture and art will become primary activities that we celebrate and engage in as robots and automation take over more and more rote work.
Thanasis@tnsrig · UI/UX @EU_Commission
What's you guess for the future of Mobile interactions? Do you see apps stop being the center of users and instead pushing content to a general idea through let's say voice commands?
Lucas Barboza@lucasbarboza · Senior Developer at Sprinklr
Hi Chris, i have a lot of curiosite of methods, best practices and tools, you and your Team use to develop user interface and user experience. Can you explain a little about this subject?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@lucasbarboza if you're talking about Uber, a lot of folks use Sketch, Illustrator, Origami, and Principle. There's also a lot of qualitative user research that's done to inform the design process, which is often very iterative and involves paper prototypes, wireframes, plenty of white boarding sessions, and prototyping. We also run experiments in different cities to determine whether a product or feature will make sense before rolling out more broadly.
Lucas Barboza@lucasbarboza · Senior Developer at Sprinklr
Farbod Saraf@farbodsaraf · Co-founder Everboard.io (YC SUS17)
As a ConvComm evangelist, what are some bots that you're using on a daily basis?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@farbodsaraf it's important to distinguish between the messaging context as a new channel for delivering automated messages, versus a bot as an interactive digital agent, like Alexa or the Google Assistant. As such, I actually now get a lot of my news via Messenger bots, like TechCrunch, The Verge, USA Today, HYPEBEAST, and CNN. But, I also love Purple, but it's not really a "bot" per se — it's a news service powered by humans but delivered through messaging channels. I'm also interested in simple services delivered through the messaging channel, like icon8, but also think hybrid services like Operator and the forthcoming Crosby from Pana show a lot of potential.
Amrith Shanbhag@amrith · Community at Product Hunt & Feathrd
What does your average day look like?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@ambonium I usually get up around 7am (depending on whether it's a week with our two kids), do a short fitness routine, make breakfast (fried eggs in coconut oil, bacon, avocado, coffee), and then either head into work or take the kids to school. My days at Uber are spent working with the Platform team, liaising with other teams, working on social media, events, talks, posting to Product Hunt, Twitter, and staying up to date on news. My days usually end around 630-7pm. I'll admit that I wish I was a little more focused and disciplined during the day, but that's never been a strong suit for me.
Deepak Ravindran@deepakravindran · CEO, Lookup.to
What will be the future of conversational commerce like? Will that be on voice instead of message?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@deepakravindran I believe that hybrid solutions will be the most relevant. It's not about messaging versus voice versus touch — it's about designing services that are adaptable and meet people where they are, just like the people you interact with in your life: in person, over text, over email, over phone, over video, and so on. Our expectations are shifting so that we are starting to expect that brands have a presence in these channels — and that's what will bring about the "conversational commerce" future that I see.
Deepak Ravindran@deepakravindran · CEO, Lookup.to
@chrismessina Agreed. But don't you think it's far more easier to just say than type? Especially with the new opportunities using Alexa and Google Home? What are the top things you think voice can disrupt better than texting?
Colin Devroe@cdevroe · Co-founder, Plain
It seems like the smallest of ideas end up having the broadest impact, even if relatively unnoticed. You've either had the idea or helped the ideas get pushed forward notably coworking, microformats, hashtags, openid, convcomm (bots), etc. I don't have a hard Q in this, but more would like your perspective on how small ideas, when combined with other things or when allowed to grow, become large difference makers in our world.
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@cdevroe thanks Colin — I appreciate your question, especially since you've been around to witness so many of these initiatives take shape. Of course, you haven't listed the ones that haven't taken off, so it's worth reminding people that not everything me and many of my friends have worked on have caught on. In the examples you listed, I think it comes down to constantly vacillating between being up close and in the weeds, and then stepping back to get a sense for directionally where people want things to go — i.e. where is the friction or the confusion, and how do you simplify an idea to its bare essence? How can you edit technical ideas down to their basest, most common and relatable form without losing the original integrity of the idea? It's an iterative and intuitive process and requires constant gut checking and socializing ideas to see what resonates and what confuses, and then dropping the latter and doubling-down on the former. It takes time, but I've found that that process has helped me hone my ideas over time. I'd also add that investing in other people's success goes a long way to guilting people into helping you. Specifically, with BarCamp, I'd make localized BarCamp logos for people and "gift" them to people that asked me to organize an event for them. I'd send them the logo I made and say, "I won't organize it for you, that's up to you. But here's a logo for you — now go make me proud!" And then they would. That kind of affirmation and permissiveness seemed to really work to get people to take ownership and become contributors.
Colin Devroe@cdevroe · Co-founder, Plain
@chrismessina "How can you edit technical ideas down to their basest, most common and relatable form" - I've considered this my job for my entire career. Thanks so much for the response.
Ankit Shah@iamankitshah · Artist | Fashion Photographer | Doer
Could the hashtag have been patented? Just curious to know. Who better to ask to than @chrismessina the inventor himself.
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@iamankitshah it's funny, I get this question a lot! I wrote an answer on Quora, which I'll repeat here: 1. claiming a government-granted monopoly on the use of hashtags would have likely inhibited their adoption, which was the antithesis of what I was hoping for (which was broad-based adoption and support — across networks and mediums) 2. I had no interest in making money (directly) off hashtags. They are borne of the Internet, and should be owned by no one. The value and satisfaction I derive from seeing my funny little hack used as widely as it is today is valuable enough for me to be relieved that I had the foresight not to try to lock down this stupidly simple but effective idea. I'd add that, 10 years later, the spirit of open source and free technology is struggling to find champions, because so many of us are used to using or publishing to proprietary networks. But free and open technology is as important as ever — and the story of the hashtag is one that I hope helps educate the next generation about how the web came to be — as a platform that allows anyone to contribute without requiring special permission from any central authority.
Benj Merritt@benjmerritt · CEO @ ItsAlive Chatbot Solutions
Do you believe in few years time, that everyone will have a personnal chatbot like yours, a sort of online social answering machine ?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@benjmerritt if you've ever set an email autoresponder, then in some respects, you've already used a "bot", you probably just didn't think of it that way! But yes, increasingly I think that the amount of information that individuals need to deal with is only going to increase, and to cope with that, some kind of personal automation will be necessary. The acuteness of the need will vary from person to person — but in general, I think there's a growing opportunity to help people manage the way they extend themselves digitally.
Benj Merritt@benjmerritt · CEO @ ItsAlive Chatbot Solutions
@chrismessina Thanks ! Love the idea that a chatbot is an extension of ourselves. This confirms what we are trying to do with itsalive.io ! Talk to you soon, with your chatbot ;)
Ennio@enniodybeli · Product Designer @Typeform
Hi @chrismessina thanks for your time! I'm curious about the process that your team at Uber goes through while developing new experiences for your customers, is it any different from traditional ux design processes? Also how much impact do you think UI animations have on the experience of customers who use the app on daily basis and how does it impact them? Thanks!
Alex Rice@alexr790 · Experience Designer
Hey Chris, what are some examples of poor UX practices that you've noticed in the recent surge of chatbots? And what kinds of improvements do you expect or hope to see in the 2nd, 3rd, Nth waves of the technology?
Jithin Rajiv@jithin_n_rajiv · Founder @Qvida
What is your view on location based deals and offers platforms ? Will that have a scalable future ?
Kristin Drysdale@kristindrysdale · RiteKit Angel & Maker of babies.
What was the best lesson you learned from your time with #Google?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@kristindrysdale the most surprising thing that I learned about from my time at Google is how unnostalgic it is as a company. Basically, Google rewrites itself (i.e. it's internal code) like every two years. Now, of course that's not absolute, but what it means is that it's a company that's constantly moving forward and doesn't stop to rest on its laurels or successes. There's always a way to do things better, faster, cheaper, or more powerfully, and the company's relentless pursuit of bettering itself was inspirational. Even working on Google+ gave me insights into this process and work, and to this day, even as it rewrites large portions of the work that we did over four years, you can see how it folds in and integrates lessons from that time without getting bogged down with a sense of "failure" that the original premise of the network didn't pan out.
Juliana Chyzhova@julianamacphun · Marketer in photography world
How often do you respond personally if ever (not in a chat like this :) )?
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@julianamacphun I typically get at least one direct message via my bot a day, and attempt to respond within 24 hours. So: often!
Kelly Taylor@ktinboulder · Product at U.S. Digital Service
Hey Chris! I am often justifying the importance of Developer APIs and a good Developer Experience to core business units. I am asked "Does it jeopardize our core business?" or "How exactly do we make money doing this?" I cite the Twilio S-1 often and was wondering if you had advice or a favorite article that talks about this.
Chris Messina@chrismessina · Product designer & entrepreneur
@ktinboulder it's important to think about APIs for the value they produce, and for whom. At Uber, we think about a platform offering any of distribution, revenue, or utility. Some of these things you can make direct money from by charging (i.e. Twitter and Foursquare's data businesses), or indirectly, by bolstering your own core offerings (i.e. Google Maps and Google Places with crowd-sourced content). Here's a good resource for you: https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-stra...
Kelly Taylor@ktinboulder · Product at U.S. Digital Service
@chrismessina Wow, that article even talks all about Watson Health. I need to pay better attention to the world around me ;) Thanks again for the advice Chris.
Diogo Ferreira@diogomartf
Hey Chris! What are your favorite books and why?