Earlier this week, we spent some time catching up with
Adrienne Bassett, an interaction designer on the Yahoo! Search team. Adrienne
was one of five Yahoos that recently took a leave of absence to redesign the ONE.org website, the online arm of the ONE campaign,
an organization founded by U2's Bono that's fighting global poverty and AIDS.
This project was the latest focus of the "Yahoo!
for Good Scrum" initiative, an internal program that allows Yahoo!
employees to take time off from their typical day jobs to apply their technical
talents to projects with a social mission.
We asked Adrienne to share her experience working behind the
scenes on this project.
Adrienne, what exactly is a Scrum?
A scrum is basically a small team of people working on a
project that's accomplished in short, concentrated bursts of activity with very
specific goals. They can be pretty intense, although the ONE.org project was
technically more like a charrette
or a hack day,
our team was working on a combination of design, usability and functionality
problems all at once.
What was the team trying to accomplish with the redesign?
The ONE campaign is all about how people can incite change,
one by one, to fight AIDS and poverty. The campaign has a huge global
community of supporters, but it wasn't very visible with the previous website.
Our goal was to change that, to capture and infuse community back into
ONE.org. Also, to use the site for creating and growing awareness of the ONE
What were some of the ways that the team "infused community" into ONE.org?
Something we learned fairly quickly was that ONE campaign
communities were already forming and thriving online, so part of our
challenge was simply aggregating, organizing and supporting these
communities via the ONE.org site. I'll give you a few examples:
Several ad hoc Yahoo!
Groups have formed around the campaign in the last two years, with
the new site, we're now showcasing these groups for supporters that
might not have otherwise known about them, we're also providing
easy-to-use tools and resources to encourage new group forming at a
local level. ONE Groups are now surfacing in cities across the U.S.
In fact we're using the Yahoo! Maps API to capture
and track this growth via the "Where is
Another good example is the "Who
is One" module on the front page. Often you see lists of names of people
who have pledged their support for a cause, ONE.org has this too, but we wanted
to take things a step further and enable people to share their faces as well.
The Who is One module is a living and
breathing photo mosaic of the people behind the ONE campaign. I think it adds
an interesting dimension to the site. People are no longer just names on a
list. You can see them. They can see you. It visually humanizes the campaign
in a powerful new way.
There are several other examples I could point to, ranging
from ways we've incorporated community education and learning via Yahoo!
Answers, to a customized ONE
toolbar, we've even created virtual ONE
tees for people's Yahoo! avatars.
Tell us more about those avatar tees...
I think for the same reason people wear the white ONE wristbands in the real
world as a sign of support, the avatar t-shirts are a way for people to share
their support on the web. It's also simply a unique way to get people talking
and connecting with each based on common interests.
Now you took three months off from your day job to work on this project. How tough was that?
At first it was difficult, leaving my team wasn't easy, but they
were all very supportive which helped. As luck would have it, I was
also between projects when this opportunity surfaced, so it was good
timing for me. I've been with Yahoo! for a little over five years
now, and it was a good chance for me to detach from my typical
assignments, to wear a different hat and to work with a different
How did you get this entire project done in three months!?
We had an amazing team of people working on this project --
all day, everyday -- each of us with a unique skill set. It wasn't a big team,
I was only one of five, but we shared a collective interest and passion for
this project that was clear from the get-go. I also have to thank folks like
Meg Garlinghouse and Geoff Ralston who were incredibly supportive and gave us
very valuable feedback and guidance along the way.
Were there any significant challenges you had to overcome?
You mean other than getting this project from start to
finish in three months!? Yeah, we hit a few bumps, nothing too significant, I
think our biggest challenge had to do with ways we could balance user-created
content, like comments, photos, etc., with some reasonable backend controls for
moderation. There's a degree of risk the ONE.org website had to accept by
enabling communities to connect and express their opinions and feelings freely
via the site, our team tried to mitigate this risk by building and baking in
some simple controls.
What would consider your big personal takeaway, now that it's complete?
I certainly feel invested (emotionally) in the ONE campaign,
I feel pride with what we've accomplished, I'll continue to do as much as I can
to support it. I also walk away with gratitude toward Yahoo! and my team for
giving me the freedom and flexibility to work on such a cool assignment, I'm
looking forward to returning and digging back into things.
I don't think anyone on our team will forget this experience. It
was good for the mind and soul.