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More things that make you smile...


Continuing Kathy's thread of "making you smile..."

Like Kathy, I was just in the Honolulu airport and saw the men's room sign.  It made me smile too, for exactly the same reason.  Some things really are universal.

But I was coming back from the Big Island on my way back to California.  (We probably crossed in mid-air.)  I was in Kona for a conference to talk about ways to test users for the way they do web search.  While I enjoyed the conference, that wasn't what made me smile.

What made me smile was going on a nighttime scuba dive with the manta rays off the Kona coast.  It's an ecstatic, wonderful experience I'll recommend to anyone.  There's something about watching these huge, majestic creatures fly through the water that is just awe-inspiring, fantastic, and just slightly on the edge of unbelievable. 

Manta rays eat plankton--the little critters that swim in the sea, feeding everything from blue whales to mantas.  If you drop a bunch of lights in the water after dark, the plankton is attracted to the light, the mantas are attracted to the plankton, and the divers are attracted to the mantas.

We took a short boat ride from the Kailua-Kona harbor to a little cove just west of the airport.  As the sun set, we bounced around for a while on the waves, waiting for the dark, the plankton and the mantas to appear. 

There were snorkelers on the boat, they just orbited on the surface while the divers went down 30 feet to sit on the bottom with their flashlights pointed upwards--blue-green shafts of light that vanished off into the infinite dark. 

After just a few minutes, the mantas appeared--flying past silently with complete grace and serenity.  The first one passed directly overhead, seemingly inches overhead.  They're big, the largest was about twelve feet across.  I quickly figured the mass in my head--it was about a ton of fish.  Massive.  Quiet.  And stunning.  It's rare that you can get that close to a giant wild animal and live.  The cephalic fins (those big lobes sticking out of the front of the head) give them a strangely alien appearance.  It's not just large a beast, but elegant and beautifully strange. 

They made me smile.  The whole experience made me smile--the anticipation, the ride out to the cove, the dive itself...and then sitting on the sea floor while manta danced overhead.

In that sense it was a classic user experience: preparation, anticipation, crescendo, then delivery. 

We should all have such experiences; we should all have such smiles.


Posted by Dan Russell on January 16, 2007 | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 25, 2007 5:53:06 PM


Not only should we all have such experiences, we should also all work towards making sure that future generations will be able to have those experiences.

That means protecting the wildlife on the planet surface and in the oceans. Specifically, it means cutting down on consumption (reducing), using things until they're worn out or broken (reusing) and then finally stopping the used up things from becoming waste (recycling).

We've made great progress on the recycling part, but we're still lousy at reusing and reducing.

Posted by: GeekTieGuy | Jan 16, 2007 2:52:55 PM

I have also done the Manta Ray Night Dive. I too smiled. Particularly when two very large, very graceful rays collided. They kinda looked embarrassed.

Posted by: Geoffrey | Jan 16, 2007 3:25:45 PM

Hawaii is beautiful. I got engaged there, checkout these pics. http://grapheety.com/?story=6&zoom=10

Posted by: Gavin Quinn | Jan 17, 2007 4:16:42 PM

You know what makes me smile? When I call a company, get put on some automated response system, then get put on hold, and am told by a recording, "please continue holding, we value you."

That recording makes me completely forget that the company is cutting costs by not staffing enough people, that they are making me waste time because they don't value my time enough to have the resources to handle my issue.

And if the first time I hear that recording saying how much it values me isn't enough to make me smile, I'm certainly smiling the 10th or 11th time I hear it.

Posted by: Mitch | Jan 18, 2007 10:05:23 AM

Making people smile is good, we should also work to not make people unhappy. Just today, I was accused of being a dick head in a forum because a joke I made was misunderstood. I could have flamed back and written the guy off, but instead, I explained my position and apologised for the misunderstanding. I didn't want to, I was a little hurt by the accusation and really wanted to let loose, but this would have made the other person more angry, stressed me more and ultimately hurt everyone involved in a small way.
I may not have put a smile on the guys face, but hopefully I've taken the frown off it.
If everyone in the world did this, we'd all be alot happier.

Posted by: CodeMonkey | Jan 18, 2007 4:11:11 PM

I've smiled reading the post. Because it really tells you have been with mantas. And that is exactly the feeling! :)
I've 'met' a manta last year and provided a description in my blog (sorry but it's in Portuguese). Also posted a video (in portuguese, but you can check the images :))

So, back to the post, what made me smile? And what make users and customers smile? Besides the items you post, I'd add that we smile when we are touched. It's about a feeling, and a connection.
You will smile if something you see/hear/read makes a connection with something you know/feel/expect.
If your post were written like a news report, I would find it nice. But no smile.
Sometimes smile is letting the user/customer fill in the blanks. I'm not explicitly saying that, but based on my user/customer experience he will sense that. And smile.

Posted by: Lucas Persona | Jan 19, 2007 11:44:28 AM

What makes me smile is when I see Fra Latona, the once and future great love of my life. Some years ago, I saw her go by and I rushed to catch up with her. As I turned a corner to face her, I tried to wipe off my face the silly grin that she had caused in me. To my one-time-only shock and amazement, the smile on my face was frozen there and my motor comtrol commands would not obey the order to relax the smile. I felt stupid but happy to greet my Beethovenesque "unsterbliche Geliebte" with an unremoveable smile.

Posted by: Arthur T. Murray | Jan 20, 2007 4:51:20 PM

This summer, we had a similar ear-to-ear dive. We were off of Santa Catalina Island, and went on a dive with about ten Giant Black Sea Bass. Usually we're lucky to see one or two on the whole trip, but this time there were at least ten of them in the same place. We went down to sixty feet and sat down there in awe at these giant creatures, close enough to touch if we had wanted.

On another trip on the same boat, we were late coming back across the Santa Barbara Channel, but found ourselves in the middle of a pod of hundreds of dolphins -- and two blue (or possibly humpback) whales. The crew took an extra half hour out of their day, slowed the boat, and we watched the whales swim under the boat. Both the animals and the crew going above and beyond made us smile for a long time.

Posted by: Keri Morgret | Jan 21, 2007 10:52:44 PM

Here is yet another snap of this cute little smile...

Posted by: Radhesh Radhakrishnan | Jan 28, 2007 12:44:40 PM

Glad you had a great time on the Manta Dive. It's very hard not to smile after that one.

Posted by: Steve | Feb 5, 2007 5:19:35 PM

Thank you for the useful informations.

Posted by: Bank zdjec | Aug 18, 2007 3:47:43 AM

The picture of the ray made me smile. Been doing this startup thing to long. Gotta go dive.

Posted by: embed | Aug 21, 2007 1:46:10 PM

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