Caregiver: An Exercise in Lean & Agile Design & Development

Bringing the Human Element
of Happiness to Home Care

A Hackathon

A month ago, PhillyCHI teamed up to promote Drexel University’s Philly Codefest, a three day hackathon in Drexel’s URBN Center. Of course, some of us also wanted to participate, so PhillyCHI board alum Matt Thomas, 50onRed dev ‘n design players Patrick Smith, Matthew Parke, Andrew Christiano, and myself created a team to make some cool stuff.

It was a fun weekend of camaraderie, coding and creating. Each of us got to know each other better, some of us stayed up all night and we did our best to create a lean, functional application with thought out, well designed accouterments (as our judging requirements suggested we do.) In the end, though quite a positive experience overall, we were unable to present any of it to anyone at the event. Thusly, I’ve taken the opportunity to showcase the raw materials of our efforts here.

With our diverse backgrounds, we decided to utilize the data provided us to create something useful for a growing constituency: caregivers in the United States. Welcome to our organized notes for our app, Caregivers.

(The slidedeck is broken up into parts below, but for a continuous look: Slidedeck)

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As life expectancy increases, so too, will the need for caregivers. Searching for home care services is challenging for a caregiver already managing a multitude of care-tasks.

The senior demographic is an emerging market for social innovation. In 2013, the oldest baby boomers (depending on birth years used) reached a common retirement age in the United States—67 years. This demographic also sits in what is called the “sandwich gap,” meaning they act both as caregivers for their parents while simultaneously caring for both the X-gen and the ever popular millennial.

Cornered into this unique position, a baby boomer, the average caregiver, is faced with managing a full-time job (remember, baby boomers aren’t retiring anytime soon), caregiving on either end, which deals with a multitude of logistics ranging from setting appointments, scheduling medication intake, transportation, other activities for daily living (ADLS).

Our solution looks to streamline this finding process with a unique score/comparison algorithm vetted by a unique Happiness Index. To enhance care-recipient safety and quality of life, when an appropriate home care service is located, the solution will act as a mediator to create a symbiotic relationship between caregiver and home care providers.


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John Michaels is a 56 year old caregiver for his mother, Sarah, who is 84 years old. She has dementia which causes her to have difficulties with her Activities for Daily living (ADLs).

John works full time as a high school teacher in Philadelphia. His wife passed away several years ago leaving John as the sole caregiver for Sarah. He also has a 31 year old daughter, but his daughter lives in San Francisco.

Individual is a inspector-provider personality type.

Inspector (ISTJs) are responsible organizers, driven to create and enforce order within systems and institutions. They are neat and orderly, inside and out, and tend to have a procedure for everything they do. Reliable and dutiful, ISTJs want to uphold tradition and follow regulations.

Provider (ESFJs) are conscientious helpers, sensitive to the needs of others and energetically dedicated to their responsibilities. They are highly attuned to their emotional environment and attentive to both the feelings of others and the perception others have of them. ESFJs like a sense of harmony and cooperation around them, and are eager to please and provide.

John has a inspector-provider personality type, which means John prefers organization, having a procedure for his day-to-day while also having a high level of compassion and sensitivity.

Working long hours, John is looking for a home health care provider to send an aid with occupational therapy and nursing care capabilities to help out with his mother’s ADLs. Attempting to search online, John finds he must navigate to too many sources for quality assessment of home health care services. Furthermore, he is shocked at the information overload and that these sources do not talk to one another.

Despite being an organizer and planner, John is easily overwhelmed with too much input of information, but does his best to organize information to provide the best care solutions for his mother.

Overwrought with work, his personal life and other care-tasks, John’s pain points are as such:


  • No quality assessment of existing home health care services (HHCS)
  • Information overload (when researching resources)
  • Fragmentation: all resources do not communicate together
  • No voice compared to HHCS
  • No community with other individuals in need of HHCS
  • Overwhelmed with other care-tasks (full-time job, scheduling, care-recipient’s activities for daily living

John owns an iPhone 5 and is proficient with email and word processing. He navigates the web for resources dealing with dementia, but his searching acuity is low.


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John uses CAREGIVER’s geotargeting to find all of the home care services in his area. John then selects search filtering options appropriate to the needs of his mother and then CAREGIVER feeds medicare feedback data into a proprietary algorithm to provide John with a list of the best home care services.

Having selected a home care service, the aid visits Sarah every day, providing 5.5 hours of service including weekends. John rates his and his mother’s experience through CAREGIVER’s Happiness Index data, compiling this information into an overall score for the home care provider.


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Happiness Index

Our solution innovates by streamlining the process of finding home care services with a unique score/comparison algorithm vetted by a unique Happiness Index. When an appropriate home care service is located, the solution will act as a mediator to create a symbiotic relationship between caregiver and home care providers. This in turn will enhance care-recipient safety and their quality of life, while also providing much need respite for the caregiver.

We are taking data provided by relating to home health care resources and aggregating this into an easily digestible format for the caregiver. A caregiver, using our solution will be able to locate and bridge into the best home care aid to assist the care-recipient.

In addition to indexing nearby facilities, we’re also feeding medicare feedback data into our proprietary algorithm, where it’s aggregated with our Happiness Index data, and compiled into an overall score for each in-home healthcare facility.

This in turn adds to the home care provider’s overall score for other users. John is able to go back and look at the trends of his and his mother’s experience to ensure an additional way to aid in the caregiving responsibilities and expectations for Sarah.


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As stated earlier, for a variety of reasons, not everyone who created something at the hackathon was given a platform to present. While unfortunate, we are glad to have put this much thought and effort into our presentation. The broken up slides throughout this writeup made for a five minute presentation with a demonstration of our app. For an uninterrupted, undivided look at our presentation, check it out over here.

By Weekend’s End

By the end of it, we were all pretty tired, but built some great camaraderie and friendships. Honestly, these guys are great. If you have the honor of knowing them or working with them, pat them on the back. We all chose a topic that we hoped would benefit a needing population and we all did it with agility, ingenuity and a helluva lot of fun.

Initiate 2014

2014 x2

The first minute of 2014 came quietly, but in no way a bad entry to the new year. Reflective. Content.

And then Lunar New Year came with a gallop and a leap, befitting of the year’s sign, gallantly making its way into the world. Between the two New-Year-markers, much happened. The rush up to this minute was intense. Weeks prior involved many projects ending, new ones starting. You know, new year stuff. Last week I said I’d commit to writing more and putting my stuff out there.

So what better way to start than share a run-down of what I’ve been up to! Scroll on down to check it out, or jump to the update you wish to see!

PhillyCHI     |     Gung Fu     |     123&Co.     |     Dribbble     |     SBYF Project



I became the 2014 Chair of PhillyCHI! What is PhillyCHI you ask? From the source, PhillyCHI is the Philadelphia region’s chapter of the ACM SIGCHI, an interdisciplinary academic and professional group interested in Human-Computer Interaction, User Experience, Usability, and other related disciplines. PhillyCHI holds monthly meetings and socials to network and discuss current topics in HCI.

So we host cool events pertaining to user experience and usability. As for being Chair? I was apprehensive at first, but with great support and working with a phenomenal leadership team comprising our 2014’s board, well, it’s been pretty hectic, but also wholly satisfying. The greatest thing is learning to lead while being able to deliver. The curve is huge, but as I said, I’m working with a fantastically talented team with phenomenal support on the sidelines.

Some things PhillyCHI is looking to make happen this year:

Showcasing Philadelphia as a primier design & tech hub. Ever been to a PhillyCHI event? Heard our panels? Seen our sponsors? Engaged in the dialogue we’re having with the local universities? If you have, you will well know Philadelphia as a leading design city, one that creatively advances. If you haven’t, you can glean this from the many existing creative initiatives citywide. But PhillyCHI wants to push the focus further. We believe Philadelphia as a city of burgeoning opportunity for creative professionals. This year we want to hone in on the amount of opportunity for designers of all disciplines to embrace our city’s offerings.

Focus on stewarding Philadelphia’s design & tech talent. From recent grads, transitioning entry levels, aspiring experts and adept masters—this city has all shades and we want to help them blend in nurturing fashion. In a couple of week’s we have a coding marathon with Drexel. In the coming months, we’ll be partnering with even more organizations to make these relationships possible. So join our mailing list and tune in.



Why We Train: Three Generations of Cultural Study — my latest creative project was working with Arvil Prewitt to create this video short. It’s a reflection on the cultural relevance of gung fu, a piece I am extremely proud of. Please check it out by heading over here.

2014 marks my return to teaching gung fu. I taught for a little while at Philadelphia University as a part of their extracurricular physical education program. While the opportunity and exposure was great, it was hard to really nurture the art and the students: the turnaround was fast while the education really an introduction, a primer into the culture.

This year, I am fortunate in having a few private students request my teaching. Thus far I’ve worked with them for a little over a month, the relationships being fantastic. They are passionate, forcing me to become a better practitioner through their hard work. As pressure tests go, humble-yet-knowledgeable students, eager to learn, they are as good as they come.

This came at a coincidental moment to a project I was working on for a fellowship application I submitted. I chose to focus on the cultural relationship of my base martial art, Kwong Sai Jook Lum. As anyone who knows me knows, the passion I have for martial arts is multifaceted and you can glimpse another part of that by looking at this creative project I’ve had the opportunity to create with my colleague and gung fu brother, Arvil Prewitt. I’m proud of this piece, as it pays tribute to my teachers while also providing a synopsis of the cultural relevance to an otherwise obsolete art.



123&CO. is a side project my roommate and I started. It is comprised of friends and colleagues working closely with organizations in Philadelphia for social good. While we realize that our small efforts won’t save the whole world, we believe affecting change in any sphere of influence is a great start.

Our first gathering is an ice cream social to support Youth Emergency Services. You can learn more about this particular social here and learn about the thought process behind my logo design here.



I’ve promised myself to be more assertive with sharing my work, especially on Dribbble: it’s the only way I’ll get better and hold myself accountable. I thought I’d share my latest with you here!

My latest Dribbble post was inspired by something I read last autumn: that the ancient Chinese believed winters grew so cold due to the Earth, once a year, moving far away from the Sun. They embraced autumn as a time of finding beauty in change and sorrow, a time for courage in the face of increasing darkness, and a time of hope for the coming spring.

This sparked a little story in my head with Tàiyáng (太阳), the Sun, reaching out to her departing love, Di (地), the Earth, due to unseen forces (gravity) driving her towards the direction of autumn.

If you’d like to see any of my other Dribbble shots, please head over to my collection and leave a crit or two!

SBYF Project


SBYF Project rolled out with some updates during the last quarter of 2013. If you haven’t checked that out yet, we are continuing our workshops in storytelling and memory collecting! As a matter of fact, have a story to share? Have a memory you want to preserve? Head on over to our website and submit one!

While you’re at it, if you need some inspiration or simply feel like reliving tales from other members, direct your attention to the SBYF Online Memory Library. One of our objectives is to foster community and sharing through stories, so dive in and enjoy moments from a diverse pool of history!

There You Have It!

I hope you enjoyed some of the things I’ve been working on so far! This was a nice opportunity to take some stock in the excitement I have for the rest of 2014. Stay tuned and until next time, enjoy 2014!


I’ve Been Busy…

I’ve been busy. I know, I know, it’s something we hear from most folks. And busy rarely equates with “productive” or—what I’ve learned to matter more—”purposeful.” But I’ve been busy. A lot of it productive, a good chunk of it purposeful.

Hence not writing in a while. Sure, I’ve THOUGHT a lot about writing, The trouble is, I had a hard time committing to putting something down. Typing or writing out the words made it “real” and if it were real, it was vulnerable to criticsim. And to quote George McFly, “I don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection.”

Which, as I am sure you are well aware dear reader, is absolutely silly. I read a quote from Matt Fraction recently (of the esteemed Hawkeye series—I don’t care if you think comics are for luddites or not, read it) in response to someone asking him about his process of sitting down to write. He said something along the lines of writing as a physical act. We assume it’s some ethereal thing, but in reality, it requires physical effort. He then asks us to pick up a pencil (or open Byword on your Macbook) and then write “Something.” “Something” what?

” i don’t understand the feeling of, the way people speak of writing as though it were, like, some kind of djinn to be summoned or like it’s the loch ness monster or seeing a shooting star. it’s a physical act. it is a thing you do with your muscles and your body and your willpower. watch, i’ll show you: get a piece of paper. get a pencil. put the pencil on the paper and write the word “something” there. you did it. you wrote. you wrote ‘something.’ now put a word after something. Something what? Something… happened? creaked? died? flew? exploded? snapped? Tell me. With your hand, with the hand holding the pencil or pen or marker or crayon, it doesn’t matter, push your fingers and hand up and back and across and back until there is another word after “something”.

There. Now you’re writing a story.”

— Matt Fraction

This is my something. Something I’ve been working hard at, getting a lot of ducks lined up for 2014 and beyond.


2013 was a great year of change. Turning 30. Balancing out work and life. Changing careers to focus more on social services. Applying my interests in creative direction, storytelling and culture into servicing the social sector. Confidence. Exploring my values and behavior. It’s all in-progress. And for once, in-progress feels good. Not procrastination, but knowing these projects, even upon completion, are an in-progress iteration toward learning more, doing better, exploring, staying curious, being open.

It’s all been for the better. And as a part of that, I decided that it was also time for me to fear less, do better, share more. The doing part I’ve done, but I was never comfortable with sharing it. A part of that is the fear I was talking about. The fear of having your work ridiculed or dismissed. Of being called a hack or irrelevant. Of being an amateur.

Pressure Testing

It’s the age of information. And once we put something out there, it’s out there. That’s a lot of damn pressure. But you know what? If it’s not out there, no one gets to know about it either. And if no one knows about it, I won’t get feedback, I won’t get pressure tested. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned about myself it’s that life requires some pressure testing. Here’s to improving.

And so, I’m looking forward to posting up some of the work I’ve wrought into being from the past year, using this blog-space to explore some of my loftier speculations on life and wonder. It’s a place for process. To showcase how I think through my designs, to display some of the polished work I’ve executed. It’s a place for me to be accountable. To share ideas and share how they’re developing. A place to communicate to those interested in knowing how my mind works or what I’ve been up to. A place for my written word to do, you know, what humans do: relate.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this past year, it’s that you can do anything you want. But you can’t do everything. And with that lesson, I’m going to tell you of some of the things I have done and some of the things I will do. Because life is short, and if we’re unable to do everything, let’s pick and choose what’s worth doing.

So join me. Choose. Commit. And let’s do something.

Short Term Satisfaction or Long Term Quality and Loyalty?

I get it. Metrics are important and I know that in order for me to become more than just a digital metaphor for the fresh coat of paint on whatever the latest device happens to be, I need to perform and show value in a clear and measurable fashion.

“Long before the cash register was even invented, businesspeople intuitively knew that cultivating relationships with loyal customers was key to long-term success. Yet still, even in 2012, there is no end of companies who find ways to pull short-term profits out of their customers, at the expense of the longer-term customer relationship.”1

The short-term works great, especially if you want to bolster up immediate numbers. But I am more interested in the lasting quality of the crafts I buy, interested in developing into an artist and designer that brings lasting (if everlasting isn’t any option) quality to the forefront of any product I’m interested in backing.

“We want to know your name.  If our goal were to sell something to everyone, we would no longer be selling to shepherds; but only to sheep.  We’d lose our edge and our designs would lose their originality and charm.  We don’t want to be a common name in everyone’s home, but certainly in a few.”2

Why Tech Specs Rarely Mean Much

What does it mean to design experience? The artists and crafters of our digital lives owe all the credit due to them. But what else do we experience when we find interest in a product, when we release our own product?

“The unforeseen cost, of course, is that those extra features hurt usability. But we know all this. There is plenty of literature on the subject, and good usability is table stakes for a modern product. If your product isn’t usable, your business is in a dangerous position. Maybe you can get by in the short term by boasting your killer feature set; but the fact is that if people can’t figure out how to use your bells and whistles, you’re going to feel it on your bottom line sooner or later.”

And that goes for everything. The packaging is a part of the user experience, the customer service is a part of the user experience, the instructions are a part of the user experience, the purchasing, and of course, using the product is a part of the user experience. It’s not a feature-fest, it’s about the experience. Design should be invisible.

  1. Roderick McMullen; Usability Is King For Your Product. Here’s How We Can Finally Measure It

A Thought on Postcards EP Release Party


The Spaces Between Your Fingers Project (The SBYF Project) has a simple mission: reconnecting. Tangibly with your senses, with rewarding awkwardness and fresh supplication. Digital preservation and sharing of wisdom between generations may make sense for posterity, but collecting wisdom the old fashioned way, that makes sense for the soul.
Picture And so it made sense Matthew Ross Smith wanted to share his POSTCARDS live. I’m glad he did. Having heard the EP in all it’s stages, it wasn’t until Friday night’s performance that I realized Matthew’s objectives to help reconnect was as much to reconnect with ourselves as it was to reconnect with others. When we go out to shake hands and share stories we are forced to constantly reflect and assess the wisdom gained and the wisdom given. This is conversation.

What would you say if you had the chance to send a message back to a previous version of yourself? What would you do then had you known what you knew now? And would you be the same person if a “future you” saved you from heartache, but spoiled all the mystery? The fun of POSTCARDS is in it’s ability to invoke these questions. Matthew may have written them for himself, but the postcards speak to everyone.
If you missed out on the release party, you can always head over to for a chance to hear an artist reflect on such things in his own way. On the road putting faith in strangers, in the idea they all had something to teach him, he learned to also put the question to himself. His postcards, the music acting as his reminders of where he’s been, of where he’s headed, was his way of doing it. And in the process having some fun.