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I can barely contain my excitement as I type this, so I'll get right to it:
Michael Angeles, the man behind Konigi and one of the people I look up to the most in our industry, has agreed to join Balsamiq.
His job title is Director of User Experience, but we just call him UX Guru, for short. 😉
Michael is a very well-known figure in the Information Architecture, UX and usability industry. He is one of the co-founders and a current advisory board member of the IA Institute, he regularly speaks at conferences and writes about wireframing, IA, UX and web design, and he's the man behind Konigi, one of the premiere UX sites on the web.
If you've been reading this blog you know that the Steve Martin quote above is one of the mantras we try to live by. Well, Mike is a prime example of someone so good, we couldn't ignore him. 🙂
Let me explain, by telling the story of how we met.
As I mentioned in my post about the value of blogging, one of the first things I did when I started writing PatataMonkey, my daddy blog, was to look for other blogs just like the one I wanted to write.
The very first ones I found, and my favorite overall, was called "UrlGreyHot and Lorenzo", a daddy blog I found a very intimate, private and soft-spoken blog (full review, a funny post). It immediately inspired me, not just to write a better blog, but to be a better father.
Guess who was behind that blog? That's right, Michael Angeles. But that was 2005 and I didn't think much of it. I was just getting into UX back then and didn’t recognize his name.
My memory is a bit blurry about this, but as the months and years passed, Michael's name kept popping up in the blogs and websites I visited. It was on Boxes and Arrows, IA Slash...all over the place!
It was hard to make the connection at first, since Mike uses several nicknames online (jibbajabba, urlgreyhot, konigi), but I remember the day I put it all together in my head and thought "wow, this guy's everywhere! And everything he does, I like!" 🙂
Ever since that day, I've been following his work more closely, you could say he's one of my online heroes.
Fast-forward to more recent times, and it now seems obvious to me that our paths were on a "merging course". 🙂
Last year I received an email from Mike asking me if I'd be interested in making a special version of Mockups to use on Konigi.com. The idea is for people to have a place to post their wireframes (maybe anonymously) and get a critique done by their peers and UX experts.
This was just around the time we were starting to develop myBalsamiq, so I thought that "public myBalsamiq projects" would be perfect for it. In fact, Mike's the reason public projects are in v.1 of myBalsamiq, and I can't wait for him to start hosting these critique sessions!
Anyways, we had a Skype chat about this idea, and I was immediately struck at how easy and exciting working with Mike was. We immediately clicked, it felt like we had known each other forever (well I'd been reading everything he wrote for the last 4 years, so maybe that had something to do with it...).
Do you know who Robert Scoble is? I bet you do, but in short, he's the definition of the "digerati", one of those people who truly "gets" the current state of technology and how it affects society, because he lives and breathes it every day, with enormous dedication and passion.
Now, did you know Rackspace hired Scoble last year? Many people who know who Scoble is don't know this fact, which it's telling!
I remember thinking how smart it was for Rackspace to "snatch him". They basically hired Scoble to "BE Scoble", they give him what I imagine is a very good salary so that he can have the freedom to do whatever he wants, every day.
In return Rackspace gets to put a tiny little Rackspace logo on Scoble's avatar, and most importantly gets first access to someone who's a thought leader, years ahead of most everyone else.
Because of this simple move, I now think that Rackspace "gets it" more than its competitors, and I am more inclined to do business with them. They also acquired Slicehost, whose success was based on providing outstanding customer support. So they get it in more ways than one...but I digress...
Back to our story. One thing I learned during my Skype chat with Mike is that Konigi was just his hobby, his nights-and-weekends job.
This news came as a bit of a shock. Given the quality and quantity of material on Konigi, I had assumed there had to be a whole team of people working full time on it.
So last fall, as business was booming, I started thinking: what if Mike had the freedom to work on his passion FULL TIME? What other amazing things would come out of it? Could WE pull our own mini-Rackspace move?
At first it was a dream, a secret. I tried to push it away because I didn't want to get my hopes up in vain, but it kept popping into my head, more and more often. Sales going so well and work piling up didn't help either. 🙂
So one day in December I mustered the courage and called Mike on Skype. Shaking, with a trepidation level not much lower than when I proposed to my wife, I asked Mike to start thinking about what it would take for me to convince him to leave his job and join Balsamiq one day.
Well, amazingly, it didn't take too long! 🙂 We had a long chat that day, and the next day, and again a week later.
Then, on December 29th, we sealed the deal with a high-five over Skype.
Unbelievable. I hate to brag but I gotta say, I felt so proud, I guess we're doing SOME things right! 🙂
Mike nicely rounds out our Balsamiq roster, bringing with him a set of skills we were sorely lacking (more on this in the next post).
On top of that, his reputation and "IA DNA" brings us a step closer to some of the most important people in our community, the thought leaders in the User Experience field.
You already knew we think life is too short for bad software. Supporting Mike's work is another way for us to show everyone we're in this for the long haul and are dead serious about doing our part to help rid the world of frustrating digital experiences.
Tomorrow we will publish a blog post detailing what Mike's set of initial responsibilities will be, but to give you a sneak peek, his first priorities are:
In the last few weeks Mike has already been reading support emails and GetSatisfaction threads, has met everyone here on Skype or over the phone, and has been active on our internal Yammer stream. We are all super-excited to have him join our Balsamiq family, and can't wait to do great things together in the future.
So please join us in welcoming Mike by leaving a comment here, or on his announcement at Konigi, or on Twitter at his old @konigi account (which he'll continue to use), or his new @balsamiqMike account. They guy does a lot huh? 😉
P.S.Today also marks the day Balsamiq Studios LLC (our American company) offers health-insurance plans to all of our employees. We are very proud of this, and Valerie will share everything we've learned about the process of setting that up on her blog soon. Yes!
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This is really exciting news!
Konigi’s my favourite ux blog and Balsamiq’s my favourite tool!
Thanks for the warm welcome everyone! I look forward to chatting with each of you individually. I’ll be looking for people who are interested in talking with me about how you use Mockups.
Kudos Michael and Peldi and Team . . . you guys and gals are amazing. Please sign me up for every release of every offering, for the next 99 years. I’m in! – Andrew
You rock, Peldi! What an amazing team of talent you are pulling together…I just hope I never compete with you! 🙂
Great! Angeles’ wireframe stencils were – years ago – the basis of choice for my own, so I have high expectations for it! 😀
Sounds like a wonderful match for everyone involved. Balsamiq is my favorite web start-up story. It is a lesson of how to do it for anyone interested in running a company the right way.
Wow – I can barely contain my excitement. There is lots to do, so let’s get to work!
I don’t know much about Konigi, but reading the post, sure sounds like
some one who is going to have a significant impact on Balsamiq.
Congrats to everyone.
Congratulations, Balsamiq folks! It really says a lot about your company that one of your first few employees is a Director of UX. Awesome! Really looking forward to the contributions Michael will make.
Congrats to the Balsamiq team!
Great move, Peldi. Prepare to leave your competition in the dust, you’re going big time now.
P.S. That Skype high-five is one of the dorkiest things I’ve heard in a long time! It makes me laugh (and cringe a little bit) when I picture it.