An ephemeral iPhone app for creative writing


Right now, developers are deploying and scaling apps on giant data centers at Airbnb, Twitter and Netflix. These companies represent a group early adopters of a new technology called Mesos, an open-source Apache project, which allows thousands of servers to be treated as one big computer.


Other companies and developers are eager to get their hands dirty with Mesos, but the software is hard to approach. Mesos has limited documentation and takes a long time to get up and running locally, never-mind in a datacenter.


Many people who were interested in learning more about Mesos planned to attend an upcoming conference, appropriately called #Mesoscon. At Mesosphere, a company who builds products around Mesos, we needed a way to make the Mesoscon attendees feel confident about approaching Mesos, in addition to showing them a couple 'hello world' demos.


The Problem

Attendees at a tech conference want to try out a complex piece of software locally on their laptop, that normally runs at scale in a datacenter.

The Team

The majority of this project was made of up a core engineer who made the special one-size-fits-all build of Mesos , a solutions architect who wrote the documentation and requirements, and visual designer who contributed heavily to the branding of the landing page and the USB stick design, and me.


Business goals

  1. Increase Mesos adoption
  2. Continue to impute Mesosphere as the thought-leader for Mesos


  • Mesos has many pre-requisites, each specific to the user's platform (Mac, Windows, Linux, etc)
  • Limited or slow internet connection, typical of conferences and banquet halls


  1. The hurdles of setting up Mesos locally is an adoption blocker
  2. Showing the power of Mesos locally is impressive and will act as a gateway-drug to adoption in production environments
  3. A delivery mechanism that didn't require an internet connection would nullify the network bottle-neck of a conference

Success metrics

We debated about how to measure if this effort could drive adoption, in a quantifiable way. Implementing harder variables would be impersonal and off-brand, because the developer community views any form of call-back mechanism or tracker as unfriendly and invasive.

We concluded that since this had many attributes of a Service Design/brand-awareness campaign, it should be measured using soft variables, like chatter in the IRC channel, personal conversations with attendees and Twitter activity.



The delivery mechanism we chose was the good 'ol USB stick. A USB stick is small, ubiquitous, brand-able, portable and had a large capacity potential. Most attendees would have their laptop and would be open to loading some of our software onto their laptop via USB (I added this to the list of assumptions later on).

A physical device required a Service Design methodology, augmented by a designed-for-emotion approach; in this case the emotions surrounding confidence. We wanted users to feel confident about trying out Mesos for the first time and reward that confidence with some fun demos on their laptop.


Main flow

Getting a USB stick at a conference is commonplace and we needed a modest but informative way to give them out. We considered dropping them in the tote bags, sticking them under the seats with glue-dots and attaching them to the ID badges and lanyards.

We settled on handing them out in the registration area. I debated this because that area has the most traffic and doesn't provide the time or atmosphere for us to make a good first impression.

We needed to ensure that everyone who received a USB stick knew that it enabled them to run Mesos locally in seconds. This couldn't be achieved by a simple post-card or stick, it needed to be said to each person, when they're paying attention and their hands aren't full of tote bags, papers, swag or coffee.



I drove the content creation and collected the copy and requirements and quickly assembled a wireframe. This process came together quickly but there was a bit of a learning curve for me around assigning an icon to a drive and file and having them show up on the user's Finder of File Browser. I hunted around on Stack Exchanged to find a script that hides the Mac drive on Windows, so that each platform would have a consistent experience.

Visual design

Our visual/UI helped us introduce some light-weight styles and icons for the HTML page, which we implemented together. This was easy because we re-used existing styles from our bootstrap custom theme.



The best opportunity we saw was in the registration area, but immediately after they check-in and before they receive their tote bag. Their hands wouldn't be full and we'd have their full attention. Also, we felt there's a habit of expectation around a user sharing personal information and expecting to get something in return; not just checking-in at a booth but also at a bank, the airport and the doctor's office.

We built upon this expectation by delivering a tangible, tactile and beautiful USB stick which enabled a feeling of confidence, and excitement, when we told them what it could do.



A couple hours after the USBs were distributed at Mesoscon, IRC chatter and emails started trickling in about how easy it felt to try out Mesos.

Not only did it increase confidence in the attendees, but also in Mesosphere and its ability to craft delightful experiences around such a complex and hard-to-approach technology. 


Here's a few responses from Twitter: