wishful thinking; ignite the shirts

7 August 2015, 13:31

A week ago I presented about my wishful thinking and act to succeed series at Ignite Berlin. That led to some unforeseen developments, with the result that you can look forward to some real cool t‑shirts.


The Ignite format is pretty demanding. I better let them explain it themselves:

‘Each speaker gets 5 minutes on stage. 20 slides, which auto‐forward every 15 seconds, no going back. So it’s pretty brutal, although nothing that a rehearsal can’t fix.’
the Ignite format, from their about page

Yes, this is really different than presenting 20 to 45 minutes at your own rhythm, which is what I am used to. A strategy, careful planning of the 20 slides and a generous helping of rehearsal are asked for. What I regularly see at conferences—some (recycled) slides banged together the night before and winging it during showtime—is bound to have a 99.99% fail rate at Ignite.

bang, you win

The upside is that the audience wins. All the speakers are an order of magnitude more prepared than they normally would be. There is no time for waffling and even single‐issue talks are engaging for five minutes.

At this event there were fourteen talks, two runs of seven each, which sounds like a looong marathon to sit through. In praxis, one run of seven talks takes 35 minutes of pure talk time, plus some for applaus and changeover (everything is pre‐sequenced on a single laptop). Thus in 38–40 minutes, seven engaging topics have passed and then it is time for a break, to digest and discuss.

Since my talk was scheduled almost at the end of the event, I expected to be too preoccupied to enjoy all these talks before mine. On the night, all of the talks engaged and entertained me, which put me in a good mood for mine. (When is the last time you could say that about a conference?)

show and tell

In my Ignite talk I showed a selection of wishful‐thinking issues, together with the positive action that can must be taken to remedy them. Meanwhile, I told the back‐story, for instance, that—

  • I have seen all of this wishful thinking in practice;
  • I wanted to expose a destructive streak that runs through the IT industry;
  • it was more work to make issues and remedies fit a single tweet, than to come up with them;
  • I felt that I could go on ‘forever’, but called it quits at fifty;
  • being in interaction design—which is essentially product realisation and involves seeing all dimensions (product, users, tech)—makes it easy to see the damage from wishful thinking;
  • it is a real shame to see the right people, with the right intentions, run projects into the ground through wishful thinking;
  • this is not valid only in IT, but in any industry;
  • please, it is difficult, but resist the wishful thinking when you believe in what you are working on;
  • what is needed is process change, which is also difficult, introducing a design process that from the first to the last minute of the project shapes and runs all product realisation, including manufacturing or fixing that final bug.


I had plenty of interesting discussions after the talks were through, but one really took me by surprise: fellow speaker Onika Simon of Spokehub said something along the lines of ‘why don’t you put this wishful thinking on t‑shirts? There are plenty of people who deserve to get one.’

During my talk I had admitted that I am not a product maker and that never in my life I’ve had a good product idea. Thus it did not surprise me that I never had thought of wishful‐thinking t‑shirts. But now that the genie was out of the bottle, how difficult could it be?

snakes and ladders

Some parts were really straightforward. The content was already there. Deciding what should go on front and back, and picking some free‐as‐in‐speech fonts (right, no pirated components in my products) was no big deal. Neither was typesetting the texts.

Making EPS files already involved jumping through one hoop (why not accept pdf? It is just about the same tech). Dealing with spreadshirt was a three‐ring circus. Spreadshirt is suppose to make it easy to open your own merchandising outlet, but forget about the easy part.

I could go on and on, about requiring flash <spit>, crashes, usability disasters, the pervasive ‘how do I get that done?’ and ‘how do I know it did it?’ anxiety, and only finding out what you will get when you get there. But let’s say that unless you are a spreadshirt executive, I won’t bother (you with it).


Against these odds, I did manage to put up a t‑shirt shop in less than a week. There is one MVP: a limited‐edition t‑shirt (available one month only) in female and male cuts, and two variants, dark and bright:

the bright female, dark female, dark male and bright male wishful
    thinking shirts

I found out at the very end, when I got to check it out (typical, eh), that you can change the shirt colour in the shop. Suits me fine; a simple ‘menu’ to choose from and then freedom to customise, a bit.

When I checked the wishful thinking topic page, I noticed how hard‐hitting these are by themselves, so it was clear that these go, solo, on the front:

the text on the front of the shirt: the hardware specs are fixed, now
    we can start with the software design

This is the wishful thought for August ’15 and you can see that I plunged for the first one I saw. Each month I will pick a different one (no, not in the order on that page) and change the ‘bright’ colour scheme.

On the back we ensure that everyone gets the point…

the text on the back: wishful thinking breeds failed products

…just in case the beholder wishfully thinks the statement on the front is best‐practice.


And out of the blue m+mi works offers a hardware product. It will be fun offering these and I hope spreadshirt cooperates a bit more to keep it that way. I look forward to seeing one of these t‑shirts being worn in the wild.

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