One hard-won lesson I've learned is to trust other people to do great work. Early on I believed if I didn't do it myself, either it wouldn't get done or it wouldn't be good enough. Rubbish.
This portfolio represents collaborative results at every step, presented as a selection of key moments through my career in Chicago and Seattle. I have detailed my specific design, implementation, and operational support efforts for each project/company below, but of course everything was a team effort.
matthewshobe.com has my complete CV and professional timeline. Unfortunately not every stop along the way has yielded work examples I have access to anymore and/or permission to republish.
R Motors was my exploration of the business of EV restomod — restoring classic cars while converting their powertrains to battery-powered propulsion. (Think of it as one way to have a sustainable mid-life crisis.)
I partnered with a master mechanic (Jancsi) and we prototyped the actual EV restomod process on a 1977 Fiat 124 Spider, using a kit from Electric GT. See the Instagram gallery for some highlights. The car is fully drivable today, but it was difficult work at every turn to properly integrate the kit. There is a reason why only a handful of companies worldwide are making EV restomod their main line of business. But that may change as car enthusiasts‘ sentiments toward EV change.
In addition to an actual drivable Fiat EV, this exploration produced three other deliverables that are a good reflection of my product thinking around EV/restomod/connected car trends at the time and am still deeply interested in:
I joined Spare5 as Chief Product Officer just as it spun out of Madrona Venture Labs in 2014. Spare5 applied crowdsourced human insight to enterprise data organization, labeling, and rating tasks.
The company eventually rebranded as Mighty AI, keeping Spare5 as the community app brand.
We built a two-sided marketplace: people from all walks of life downloaded our app (Spare5), supplying their skills and insights on one side. On the other side were companies with data sets and the need for all of that human skill & insight to improve their data.
Our focus narrowed over time to enabling our community to label vehicle camera sensor images. Labeled images train AI for autonomous vehicle computer vision systems to ”see” the world the way we do.
Mobile: I designed several labeling experiences for our iOS app and managed updates to App Store listings. We built a full-time iOS team to carry the work forward.
Webapp: I redesigned and reformatted (in Ruby on Rails) the initial internal tool we used to set up and manage our labeling projects. I also designed game experience features (levels, experience points, and a prototype for task team-style collaboration) in Spare5.
I also managed a UX R&D and community support team of eight fantastic people.
Much like FeedBurner, Spare5 had a large community of regular users who needed to learn how to use new tools we offered them. It was also important to us to give the Spare5 community a sense of agency and access to our team.
We created community forums, offered direct email support, and scheduled semi-quarterly, bilingual webinars (Spanish speakers made up a majority of our community).
From the website: "Blinkfire Analytics is a Sponsorship Data Platform™ that uses computer vision to measure media value accurately and in real-time, so rights holders and brands can better engage fans and sponsors." Blinkfire is currently a venture-backed private company operating in the US and Europe.
With Steve's product vision as input and backend coding as bedrock, I designed the initial version of the public and signed-in webapp experiences. A screen from my original 2013 design era is shown here.
The live service has obviously evolved in the nine years since I was involved.
I also designed the original logo and lockup.
"Monkeyboy" is a game that started as a contest among NFL football-watching friends of mine in Chicago, in the early 90s. It's a simple concept: pick the winners of each week's games all season long (against the point spread). The player with the most correct picks wins.
The twist: Monkeyboy. A totally fictional player who makes all his picks by random chance. Surely all the human players can always do better than a roll of the dice? Nope. In the 25+ year history of the game, Monkeyboy has won two entire seasons twice, and frequently half of the field is below the monkey in the standings.
Monkeyboy has served as a three-decades long theme to stay current on programming languages and development tools/stacks, starting with Ruby on Rails, then moving to Python/iOS/Android, and then back out to the responsive web.
With others' help, Monkeyboy is where I have covered the deepest technical stack personally. This stack includes:
The app is currently in hiatus. The Python 3 migration budget has never gotten approval from management. 😂
My motto on my internal Google resume: "My answer is yes to every reasonable request."
I ended up chasing down a lot of requests.
Soon after Google acquired FeedBurner, I worked mostly on other tools for publishers and advertisers: AdWords, AdSense, and Google Ad Manager.
A fun 20% project whose files I do still have: my logomark design for the notorious Data Liberation Front. I think we broke every single branding guideline Google might have had in place, and for just this once, that was the point.
One of the most fulfilling projects during my time at Google was a summer 2008 effort we dubbed "Project Major League". A fellow UX researcher and I helped publisher product and engineering leadership envision a single journey through products for publishers of any size. We visited many publishers in the field, ranging from Slashdot to USA Today, to understand how they saw themselves growing with Google's help. We distilled insights into a set of recommendations for how to align publisher products in a way that allows customers to move from the “minor to major leagues” - ramping up in increasing ad unit sophistication, inventory management, and revenue.
In 2020, I worked with one of my former FeedBurner design colleagues, John Zeratsky, to construct a talk about design and user experience for a (mostly) non-designer audience: the Google I/O developer event.
We wanted to offer simple principles for anyone who wants to deliver the best possible experiences:
The specific examples are all over a decade old, but I think the general principles have held up well!
FeedBurner helped bloggers, podcasters, and big publishers measure and manage their content's distribution in the pre-social media era. Podcasters still rely heavily on the RSS feed format to update pod players when new episodes drop.
I led a three-person design team responsible for most site copy, visual design, front end development, all workflows, and information architecture.
I designed and coded the front end of a "bulk management" version of FeedBurner for publishers with dozens/hundreds of publications, called FeedFoundry.
I also designed the "flame" logo and lockup.
I wrote much of the HTML/CSS/JS in close collaboration with the other two designers, and dabbled in middleware (Java Struts/Tiles). I learned the hard way why you never deploy code on Friday night.
I oversaw design and daily operation of publisher community support resources.
FeedBurner had a loyal publisher following, so we were able to host lively public message boards and regularly engage with superstar volunteers who helped us support a large community.
We also offered direct email support and built a culture of "everyone in product engineering takes a support rotation". We were well known for responsive support.
The team bought into the values required to get everyone involved in providing customer support and never saying “it’s not my job”.
It's true, I have work that in many cases is now only available on the Wayback Machine.
Spyonit.com, my first company as a co-founder, was one of the first general purpose web alerting services. If it happened online or in real life, Spyonit could notify you about it on the device(s) you chose.
Spyonit was a tremendous startup learning laboratory. My co-founders and I had to figure out how to provide customer support, scale in our own data center, and meet a 24/7 SLA.
As the sole designer, I was responsible for the entire surface area of the site - all onboarding, spy creation, and alert messaging workflows and channels were my responsibility.
I was responsible for all of the front end design and HTML/CSS/JS development, the spy catalog information architecture, most site copy, and the developer documentation for our "Spybuilder SDK". Still functional!
(Far too many layout tables and spacer GIFs to count. Times were different.)