Design for Better Outcomes

What is outcome design? Outcome Design is a methodology I developed to help companies, innovators and engineers design solutions that yield better ‘outcomes’ for society.

Why does this matter? Well to quote myself, “When you incorporate risk or disadvantage as part of your design,
you’re able to monetize what was previously not monetizable.“

Most innovators focus on features or sophistication of a solution, but
orienting design around outcomes can help reduce risk, eliminate
potential PR disasters, and ultimately make companies more profitable.

Below you’ll find the talk I gave at Maine Startup and Create Week with examples of how it works.


Accompanying Text:

As a technologist I specialize in an area of called
Outcome Design. I work with organizations to help them best understand the
potential downside of the things they make. This helps them become better, more
profitable companies.

I myself am a software developer I spent the last
decade building software solutions that help corporations and technology
companies improve the way their innovations affect society. Initially, I did
this as a consultant to organizations that literally worked in areas of
disaster response – responding to wide-scale human disaster. Organizations like
the Red Cross, World Bank, United Nations, FEMA, Department of Defense and
others.  In 2010 I was working with a
team to deploy tech solutions in response to the earthquakes in Haiti, the
floods in Queensland, Australia, and in 2011 the devastating tsunami in Japan.

However, these days I mostly work as an investor and
consultant to corporations. I help enterprises and rising tech startups improve
technologies of all sorts. Way less stressful, but equally important. 

For investors this is important as identifying and
mitigating these risks early on can add a lot of value a young company as it
continues to grow. If I invest in your company, I want to know you’ve planned
for all scenarios, best case and worst case. For larger companies this helps
them avoid embarrassing public oversights or loss of shareholder value. 

However, before I talk to you about how to designing
for better outcomes I want to put into context why this matters to me.   We are living in a period of incredible technological
achievement and innovation. Some have gone as far as referring to this period
as a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of new technologies, apps, smart cars, bio-technologies,
and I could go on. These technologies are terraforming our world both
metaphorically and literally. 

Two examples. In the literal sense, wind and solar
farms offer the potential to change our skylines. In the not-so-literal sense,
when is the last time you visited a Blockbuster
video store? In both cases, new technologies have affected the physical
world as much as the way we go about our daily lives. It seems small and
insignificant but some people’s lives have totally changed because of these small proliferations. What was once a staple of family entertainment, the video
rental store, has been upset by streaming services like Netflix or automated
vendors like Redbox. 

I give those examples as a reminder that technology
has both a tangible and intangible affect on the world around us. These are the
outcomes I’m referring to in when I use the phrase ‘outcome design’.

And yet, if you’ve turned on the news lately there are
a number of sobering reminders that in some ways much of the world hasn’t
changed at all. Why does it seem that so little societal change follows all
this amazing technical innovation?  When Tim Berners-Lee and his peers at CERN created the
foundations of the Internet in the late 80s they imagined the internet would
become a great equalizer for communication, for commerce, for marketing, and
education. They succeeded exponentially, in ways that they couldn’t have even
hoped to have imagined at the time. As the internet developed others built on
that legacy, hoping that the internet would be come a democratizing force

Its estimated that since 1991 the Internet has
generated $19 trillion dollars in value to the global economy, and even that
number that is probably a gross underestimation. The internet of things is
projected to add ten times more than that!

Yet we know that the internet has also been a
disruptive force that’s destroyed as many industries it’s helped to create. An
article in the UK recently said that there are 10 million jobs at risk due to
the advancement of internet technologies.

Software is eating the world venture capitalist as
Marc Andreesen once famously said. By this, he meant all industries are being
impacted by the internet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a
music producer, an architect, a barista, some form of connected technology has surely
cemented itself in your professional or personal life. It’s true, software is
eating the world and the internet is eating software.

But every invention ever made has duality. A hammer
can be used to build a house or it can used to bash in a skull. A stone can be
used to build a wall or take down a giant. The internet can be used to bring
people closer together, or tear them apart.

The problem at most technology companies is that they
forget about the downside of innovation until it becomes a law suit, public
relations disaster, or a competitor exploits to oversight to steal business. 

So we’ve established that technology has the power to
terraform the world. We know this can be for better, we often forget it can
also be for worse.  

This is not a moral argument, although it certainly
could be. I help companies maximize their value by avoiding risk as part of the
design process. 

Ultimately, when you incorporate risk as part of your outcome design,
you’re able to monetize what was previously not monetizable.

Maine Startup and Create Week 2015

I’m embarrassed to admit when TEDster Adam Burk reached out
to me to Portland, Maine to speak Maine Startup and Create Week 2015 a few
months ago, I had no idea that Portland, Maine even existed. Everyone knows
Portland, Oregon but Portland, Maine was about as familiar to me as Paris,
Texas is to most people. Meaning not at all.

So I’m glad I decided to come for a number of reasons, but
the first is I learned about this new great place. On top of that, Portland, Maine is
pretty awesome (in the summer). I will definitely revisit. Startup and Create Week was a unique conference in that it wasn’t all tech oriented, there was also a food track and a general entrepreneurship track which brought in a lot more people than those who might attend the typical tech conference.

While there I was interviewed by the local NBC affiliate WCSH 6′s Caroline Cornish about my work as an investor and my ‘outcome design’
methodology which I use to help companies mitigate the risks of innovation.

You can view my interview on WCSH6 here.

Later I was interviewed by the team at the Knack Factory which can be viewed here.

Moving on from SwiftRiver and Ushahidi

Directing the SwiftRiver Initiative to where it is today has been fantastic. The project has matured a lot, thanks in no small part to the volunteer developers and thinkers who contributed over the past two years. My focus with Swift from the beginning was to construct a platform that attempts to solve the exceedingly difficult problem of vetting real-time information.

Before anything else, I’m an entrepreneur. It is intrinsic to my personality to take risks and to act upon my ambitions. When I moved to Uganda some years ago, I was following that tinge, that thrill to do something radical, with no strings attached. Three years and half later, my first company Appfrica (and sister project Hive Colab) is still growing on revenue earned. As much as I’ve loved working with the Ushahidi team, it’s time to get back to where my passion is, which is the world of business and startups.

The Swift project is growing well, offering a new consulting vertical for Ushahidi as well as new software-as-a-service products. Ushahidi just won a sizable sum in the Knight News Challenge to continue building the platform, and I know the support for Swift won’t stop there. In the past few weeks, several new partnerships with other companies and newsrooms were formed that will allow these companies to get involved in the development of Swift.  This is is incredibly reassuring, as these various companies have committed not just to the use of the platform, but to the support of the longerterm vision.  I feel this is as good a time as any to step away, to let someone else carry the torch, so I can pursue my other interests.  Meanwhile, Swift is evolving into a project supported by the community like any successful open-source project.

The vision that I shared with my colleague Matthew Griffiths around Swift was to offer a platform that solved several problems in such a way that the individual components are as relevant as they are in aggregate. The model we aimed for was more akin to open-source projects like Hadoop and MySQL. That is to say, we wanted to provide the infrastructure that other companies and individuals would build upon rather than an singular web app. That is the Swift platform as it is today, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

So what’s next?

I’ll focus on my tech startup, along with Matt who was the Lead Developer on Swift. In some ways metaLayer is an evolution of some of the things we learned about data analysis and visualization working on Swift. We’re also working in a number of completely new areas like augmented reality and social graph mining. Our ultimate objective is to create applications that add visual context and relevance to the world of information we live in.  

This contextual relevance is the primary focus for this new venture and it’s products. We’ve got an early prototype of our first iOS app nearly ready and we’d love for you to tell us what you think. If you’re interested in becoming a beta tester, sign up here!

I still intend to actively contribute code, thoughts, and ideas to the SwiftRiver open-source project, but to quote a recent phrase by Caterina Fake: “Entrepreneurs gonna entrepreneur.” It’s been nothing but a pleasure working with Ushahidi and I look forward to their continued success. Hopefully they’ll still let me hang out at their table every now and then because they’re definitely some of the coolest kids in town. 😛

You can follow me on my new career path on Twitter @jongos (as always), @metaLayerHQ on Twitter, and for everything else.

metalayer logo

Create 3D Models from Any Photograph

For the past year or so the Autodesk guys have been demoing a pretty phenomenal project called Photofly at a number of the tech conferences I’ve been to.  A few weeks ago at TED 2011, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

In a nutshell, Photofly will construct 3D models of objects from 2D images.  Here are a few of the 3D models that were generated when I used it on my face…



Those are just screen shots that I snapped, the actual app allows me to rotate and reposition the model as I could any other 3D object.  These pictures were snapped from different angles by positioning the model with my fingers on my iPad.

Great, now, I can finally be myself in SecondLife!

WordPress 2.7 Arrives

WordPress continues to evolve with the release of 2.7 to the public on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 8pm Eastern Time. That’s 5pm Thursday in California, 1am Friday in London (UTC), 8am Friday in Jakarta, noon on Friday in Sydney and so on. For a quick rundown of all the new features and updates visit WordPress Blog.

Hacking WordPress When You’ve Forgotten Your Password

Do you have multiple WordPress self-hosted blogs? If so, you’ve likely run into a scenario where you just can’t remember the password to one. With WordPress 2.5 and beyond there’s an annoying bug that sometimes generates passwords that don’t work when you click the “Forgot Password” option. Usually that button generates a query that will send an email with a temporary password that allows you to reset your password to whatever you wish. The bug in 2.5 will still do that but when you click on the link that should allow you to reset your password, nothing happens.

Actually something does happen, WordPress resets the password internally (in the MySQL database) but the link that it sent you to activate that password fails to connect with the database effectively locking you out of your blog. In this scenario, at least for me, all the potentially viable solutions lead to dead ends.

Although it should’ve, launching the database manager to reset the password manually didn’t work. I tried doing this in various ways including this method from Codex, this one from Watching The Net and this one from Thought Outflux. But none of them worked!

Opening up wp-config.php and trying to reset the password there didn’t work there either.

I was at a loss as to what to do. That is until I found the Village Idiot Emergency Password Recovery software. Using it is simple:

  • Download the script from Village Idiot WordPress Emergency Password Script.
  • Unpack the downloaded zip file.
  • Upload the file emergency.php to the root of your WordPress installation (the same directory that contains wp-config.php).
  • In your browser, open
  • As instructed, enter the administrator username (usually admin) and the new password, then click Update Options. A message is displayed noting the changed password. An email is sent to the blog administrator with the changed password information.
  • Delete emergency.php from your server when you are done. Do not leave it on your server as someone else could use it to change your password.

For whatever reason this worked flawlessly where the other methods failed and I was able to regain access to my wordpress blog and set the password to something I’ll (hopefully) never forget again. I’m not ruling out operator error on the other methods but the aptly titled Village Idiot software makes the process fool-proof.

Note: Keep in mind that all of these options will only work if you are the site administrator or have direct access to the server at which the blog is hosted.

Look familiar? I originally published this article as a writer for DeveloperTutorials

Free WordPress Theme: Aqua Marina

Aqua Marina

Theme: Aqua Marina
Author: Jon Gos
Version: 0.5 Rosie
Description: An original WordPress theme.

This was my first attempt at a bespoke wordpress theme. I created it in Photoshop then marked up to XHTML and then PHP. This is a public beta, please help me work out all the bugs and kinks by posting any errors as a comment here! The photoshop file used to make it is included for anyone who wants to redesign it.

Download Aqua Marina

Improve Image Quality of Boonex Dolphin

Recently I’ve begun building a community using the open source Boonex Dolphin software CMS. One problem I was having was that, even after using the the site UI to improve image quality, it still seemed as if uploading images was ‘lossy’. After some research and a chat with the admins I came up with the following solution:

The quality of the output JPEG files can be adjusted in inc/, where you need to replace the following line:

$writeResult = imagejpeg( $dst_im, $dstFilename );

with this one

$writeResult = imagejpeg( $dst_im, $dstFilename, quality_in_percent );

where quality_in_percent is a number from 0 to 100

Free WordPress Theme – Tech Blogger

Theme: Tech Blogger v1
Author: Jon Gos
Based on: CMS2 by Wonder
Includes: PSDs, CSS, javascript, New Media font, all image files
Plug-Ins: All-In-One SEO Pack, I Love Social Bookmarking, Image Scaler, User Photo and Simple Tags
Notes: Widegtized, Validated and ready to roll!

Download it from Mediafire

About the Theme

I began modifying this theme when I noticed that the author had stuffed it full of his own Adsense codes. I removed them from every page and I also changed the color profile because the original was hideous (purple, orange, blue and green wtf?). The Basic layout reminded me of a few popular tech blogs so I created a logo for it, added some rounded corners and gave it a new name. The download includes source files including the font and PSD used to make the logo.