Monday, December 11, 2006

The Rise of the Consumer

Great video on YouTube about the rise of the powerful consumer here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Civilicon Disobedience.

I had a funny experience recently that just popped back into mind tonight, so i thought i'd share it with all of you. On a recent trip to Boston, i was picked up and treated to the best "taxi" ride ever in Jeremi Karnell's moxified new BMW SUV on our way to a MITX panel discussion. Immediately upon exiting the hotel garage, the automated voice navigation lady informed us in a sultry synthesized voice that "if possible, please make an illegal left-hand turn onto Huntington Avenue."

Hunh. Sivilicon Disobedience. I half expected her to suggest next: "if possible, please turn right and head toward Walden Pond. Live deliberately. It's only a few miles from here."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Designer - Linguist not Novelist

At a presentation tonight by visiting professor Josh Tennenberg, a discussion arose about the "problematizing" of the role of designers in a world where design research seems to be finding more and more that the outsourcing of design to the end user (participatory design, experience co-creation, innovation democratization, etc) produces a better design.

My thoughts on this?

Glad you asked - or at least kept reading so far. As designers find themselves outsourcing design and innovation to the users themselves, they become no less "designerly." Instead, it is merely that the locus of the value that they add to the process shifts. This process of locus-shifting is not without historical precedent. Education itself has seen this shift occur, for example. Where once the educator was seen as the disseminator of knowledge and the students as the receivers, now a good educator is often a facilitator that creates the space in which students learn. Where in a monarchy, the ruler was seen as the maker of laws and the determiner of ethics, democracy attempts to create the space in which the people govern themselves. So i see that designers are no longer the designers of designs that consumers consume. Instead they are becoming the designers of the spaces in which consumers (though this name will need to change) can configure and create their own designs.

But there is something more. For the last few months, i have been working on understanding this "space-creating activity", continually conceiving of it as "creating a space" into which user/consumer creativity could pour. But this would merely make the designer a demolition man, blasting holes in the earth in hopes that people would then spontaneously construct mansions. This is as ludicrous as the theories of extreme anarchism, which seek to destroy government in hopes that a civilized society will spontaneously form.

No, the new designer is not a demolition man, but a linguist. Where once the designer acted as a novelist, striving to put together for an unskilled public just the perfect work of literature that would educate, entertain, embolden them, now the designer is a linguist, who creates for her skilled public the grammar, the language, that the user/consumer can easily learn, use and re-use to create their own works of art.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

MITX Panel Discussion

This Tuesday i participated in a panel discussion in Boston around the current research methods in the marketing space (event website here), at the request of One to One Interactive, who sponsored the event. The presentations and discussion was much too short to have any substantive dialogue, but some extremely interesting questions were raised by the industry-focused folks in the audience, and i came away with some thoughts, written here. Each of the 5 panelists presented 10 minutes of their own thinking, and the floor was then opened to 60 minutes of questions, moderated by Sandy Pentland.

There were a few things that struck me as interesting, noted here in short form:

Lowered Technological Barriers
The digitization of commerce and of marketing is lowering the bar for tracking and measurement. The more that consumer engagement is digitized, the easier it is to map those bits to other bits, and to try to gain semantic (what does it mean when a friend sends a piece of media to another friend) and structural (what does the sending of the media say about the structures that allow the sending to occur) meaning from the relationship between those bits. Dr. Carl Marci and his company Innerscope are doing some extremely interesting research on BioMeasures as indicators of what they call "engagement". I will be writing more on this in the coming weeks. S. Adam Brazel and his lab are also doing some very interesting work in eyetracking. The fact that this is economically feasible is a result of the capabilities and lowering cost of the enabling technologies.

The recent lowering of the barriers for end user participation has been significant. High School-age netizens now have better knowledge and easier tools with which to create their own media. As one small example, ~300,000 amateur flash artifacts have been created and uploaded to an amateur multimedia community. This presents a unique opportunity and challenge for marketing folks concerned with the spread of the "brand" of a product or company. As the loci of media production become more dispersed (anyone can create media), and the channels for their distribution become greater (everyone has multiple channels through which they can share all or part or a modified version of that media), the complexity of the operational and of the analytical task of marketing through media channels becomes more and more complex.

Increased Connectivity/Fracturing of Attention
This is of course a long-touted trend, but it is nonetheless steadily coming. A person's (and therefore a population's) attention is becoming more and more fractured as they interact with the digital via mobile devices, computers, laptops, etc etc. For the field of marketing (which actually covers the processes from product ideation all the way to product support), this is a grand new challenge. What marketers commonly refer to as cross-channel marketing can be challenging to manage and to measure.

Humanities and Science
In a recent conversation with Jeff Bardzell , he pointed out the fact that the humanities are very good at asking questions, and at interpreting the answers, but that the hard sciences do the best job of actually answering the question. It was clear to me that all 40-or-so participants (both audience and panelists) in the MITX discussion were open to this view as well. In the discussion, i brought up the question of CGM (consumer-generated media) as a means of advertising. This area of inquiry is a good example of one that is difficult to explain without repeatedly crossing the (i think arbitrary and unnecessary) humanities/science rubicon.

My approach so far at looking at this has been a philosophical one (humanities) to understand the user, the aesthetic, and the experience (thanks to Jeff Bardzell for re-introducing me to my formative thinking in the humanities - and from that to generate some falsifiable hypotheses (science) about the user and network-level dynamics at work in the massive spread and extension of media like Numa Numa and the Star Wars Kid. I am currently considering the design of some studies that will examine CGM phenomena from a semiotic (humanities), network (science), and perhaps even pre-cognitive (science) perspective. My instincts tell me that these will generate some good analytical and perhaps even predictive knowledge. At the end, though, when all of the data is in, i will likely resort to a cultural (humanities) analysis of the results of my empirical research - especially as it pertains to the culture of business to consumer relations in which we currently find ourselves.

In conclusion, i think that there are huge opportunities for all willing to involve themselves in a multi-directional dialectic between business and the academy, humanities and the sciences in pursuit of understanding and productive use of some of the most powerful forces in our world today - media, end-users and businesses. I am very much enjoying the process of diving into this complicated but fruitful space.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Split Personality

In any sort of project where functions of business, design and production are separated from each other (software, landscaping, architecture, music where Quincy Jones is concerned), there is an "interesting" tension between the business person, the designer and the producer. The epic battles that often occur between software designers and software coders is highlighted in Alan Cooper's book The Inmates are Running the Asylum, and i have seen similar struggles over and over throughout my career.

CEO of 25 million dollar publishing firm with a dollar-shaped twinkle in his eyes (otherwise brilliant business man and designer of sorts): Alright team, we've got an email list of 3000 people that are just champing at the bit to buy this video. Every one of them needs to make instant online payments via credit card through our system by Friday. This is the web. I love the speed of the web!

Web Team of the same 25 million dollar publishing firm with somewhat bleary eyes: Um, we don't have an online credit card payment processing system. This company has always worked on a subscription basis.

CEO: What? But [100 million dollar publishing firm's name omitted] processes credit cards online all the time. How hard can it be?

Web Team: It's not actually that "hard", it's just that the 3-4 day payment gateway approval process will put us at 1 day before launch before we can even test the system.

CEO: Great, so we'll be ready to take payments on Friday!

Web Team: Um, Ready to take test payments, perhaps, but when processing credit card transactions it's important to test at least..

CEO: - That's great. Make it so! (with thin star-trek reference)

Such struggles highlight 3 very different approaches to the same problem. In the above example, the business and design functions were both accomplished by the CEO.

As far as i can tell, one of the main sources of problems between the three in any given project is lack of cognitive capacity. It is a well-known fact that the human brain can only attend to a certain number of things at once. When dissention breaks out in a project, it seems to me, it is not so much that the business person cannot understand the point of view of the designer, or that the designer cannot comprehend the constraints of the producer. Rather, it is that any one of them cannot cognitively attend to the needs of more than one approach at one time. Given an extended period of time (and assuming that they have the core knowledge necessary to do so), the designer might be able to shift their attention and take on the role of the business person, or the business person that of the producer. What is virtually impossible, however, is for them to be effective in all roles simultaneously.

This fact has recently come to the fore of my mind as i continue work on a set of theories, tools and methodologies for SMB's (small to midsized businesses). In this work, i've simultaneously held all three roles for an extended period of time, and it's been quite a ride. My initial role was as part designer and part business person (the tools and methodologies are designed to be offered in the end as a business). Once that was started, the next step was to switch into producer role, in which i did some heavy research into the best digital frameworks and tools for production of the online platform that is part of the business. Next it was back to the designer role, where i worked to develop new tools that would serve the theoretical underpinnings of the concept. Simultaneously in the business role, i worked to ensure that the solution would still be marketable and profit-worthy, as well as theoretically sound. Finally, since some of the tools were best put into digital form, i entered hard-core producer role, creating an online enterprise application .

I've found, as a result of this sort of auto-ethnographic research, some interesting insights:
  • For the most part, my usual level of business, design and production abilities each diminished when combined simultaneously with another. The degree of diminishment (sp?) seems to positively correlate with the size of the project (i.e., at the beginning of the project when it was fairly small, combining the three roles caused almost no perceivable loss of effectiveness in any of them. This seems to suggest that this is related to cognitive capacity.

  • (more later)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I love Bloomington

I had been wondering for a while at my own overweening love of Bloomington. I was puzzled by the little tear that oft forms in my eye while driving south on route 37 from Indianapolis, and at the beaming accounts that flow from my mouth during visits back home in Boston. It all seemed a bit inordinate. I mean, why do i gush at every chance to tell of the culture, the arts and the fresh produce? It seemed extreme. And why do i automatically tack on an extra %5 gratuity every time a restauranteur welcomes me to B-ton? It didn't make sense. And why do i skip along merrily from building to building on campus, even in (and perhaps especially in) heavy rainstorms? I mean, Bloomington is a great place - the culture, the geology, the University, the people, the food and the recreational possibilities. All of these things are good, but it just didn't seem to add up and explain my over-exuberance about living here. So i was lost for an explanation until now..

That little inexplicable spring in my step was immediately explained yesterday by a broadcast on WFIU radio, where it was revealed to me that - hold on to your spandex - Bloomington is not only my current home, but also the birthplace of David Lee Roth - the reigning King of high culture. Yep, read it and weep, Boston - you with your pitiful little Emersons, Poes, Morses, Franklins, Fiedlers and Adamses. I'm living in the eden that birthed the genius behind consummate American ballads like "Jump", "Hot for Teacher" and "Bad Habits." I'm breathing the same air that fueled a generational spandex conflagration.

Monday, September 25, 2006

HCI/d and NPD - Acronyms Ahoy!

I'm currently doing an independent study with Dr. Thomas Hustad, a professor of Marketing in the Kelley School of Business. His extensive knowledge of the area has been extremely helpful in scoping a new area of research for me that occurs at the nexus of marketing, new product development(NPD), and overall business strategy, particularly as these things are increasingly facilitated on massive scales (or could be) via computer systems. For any hard-core HCI/d folks out there, i'd highly recommend taking at least a quick tour through the some of the NPD material that is out there. Essentially, the field of NPD covers the product life cycle from concept creation to launch, and even into later product-related activities which includesthings like customer relations management (CRM). For the HCI designer in practice, or for those of you headed into practice in the future, it is imperative to understand the hardcore business viewpoint on the business to product to consumer relationship.

What does an MBA-trained NPD person see when they look at a potential product? Where we as HCI/d professionals are trained in and tasked with understanding the user, the NPD professional (take for instance a product manager who is tasked with getting a quality product out the door) is trained in and tasked with understanding the financial, legal and logistical issues that make it possible (or not) to launch a quality product to these same users, but to still maintain legal compliance, company strategic objectives, product schedules and to still at the end of the day to return some money to the stockholders whose money is funding the entire endeavor.

For the HCI/d professional, it is important to understand the current NPD thinking for a few reasons:

1. In our current economy, unless you are designing a product only for your close circle of friends or for opensource distribution, product design is usually part of a larger, fairly standard business process. If we as HCI/d designers are not aware of this larger process, we risk designing amazing solutions that cannot make it to market where they can actually be a benefit to real users.

2. One of the struggles that has always faced NPD teams is innovation. Right now we are in a time of unprecedented online user participation. Wikis, Social Networking, Consumer Reviews, etc. etc. Since consumers are now becoming socialized to participate in an online context, HCI/d designers may be just the people to develop effective ways for lots of users to participate in product innovation. In the NPD literature, this has been written about in the last few years, but not done very well to this point. I'm currently reading Eric Von Hippel's book Democratizing Innovation - available for free online under a creative commons license, which takes a broad societal look at this idea. I think the HCI/d community can take a lead in this area if we step back a bit and think about the computer imaginative-(pdf download) idea that one very good way to bring thousands of people together to foster innovation may be through the Internet.

3. As HCI/d pracitioners, we can gain some valuable insights from the ways that business people get things done. There are always tradeoffs between idealism and pragmatism in any process. In my experience, excellent pragmatism is what makes good MBA grads into a great business leaders. This sort of pragmatism is absolutely necessary in business, since there is usually hard empirical accountability for one's actions. The excellent pragmatist is expert in efficiently considering many factors and making smart decisions that have positive outcomes.

4. As designers, we can bring new ideas - especially in the area of customer interactions - into this process that can perhaps foster breakthrough product developments, rather than just incremental ones. In an article entitled New Product Development as a Complex Adaptive System of Decisions this month's issue of the Journal of Product Innovation Management, Ian P. McCarthy, Christos Tsinopoulos, Peter Allen, and Christen Rose-Anderssen introduce a complex adaptive system that, in their words:

..develops and presents propositions that predict how the configuration and organization of NPD decision-making agents will influence the potential for three mutually dependent CAS phenomena: nonlinearity, selforganization, and emergence. (from the abstract)

it also

..takes into account considers individual NPD processes to be capable of switching or toggling between different behaviors—linear to chaotic—to produce corresponding
innovation outputs that range from incremental to radical in accord with market expectations. (also from the abstract)

I am still working through the article, but what the publication of this article represents is a willingness of the field of NPD - and perhaps an eagerness on its part - to find new ways of stepping out of its linear, deterministic roots and into more organic means to understand and to improve New Product Development. I have seen similar shifts in the thinking of business strategy experts, who are even looking back at some older ideas like Stafford Beer's Viable System Model. At the IU School of Informatics, recent collaborations between the Complex Systems and HCI/d folks have shown a great deal of promise in the design of music recommendation systems, analysis of social networking, identification of shortcomings in traditional HCI in predicting large-scale computer-facilitated emergent user interactions, and other areas. Perhaps NPD will be another place we can help.

I'm still in the early stages of understanding the codified field of NPD. More to come in the near future.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Status Skills

At, a site that i'd highly recommend to anyone interested in the consumer space, the September issue focuses on "Status Skills", there defined as:

"those skills that consumers are mastering to make the most of those same goods and services, bringing them status by being good at something, and the story telling that comes with it."

As with all of their content, this issue is chock-full of nice examples of Status Skills in action. Essentially, it refers to the art of empowering, and then leveraging the empowerment of, an increasingly particpatory consumer market.

The idea works like this:

1. Sell a consumer a product
2. Educate them on how to use the product (Give them Skills)
3. Offer further monetized education on how to use the product (Give them More Skills)
4. Create superusers of the product
5. Make the superusers the superstars in the user community (Give them Status)
6. (they allude to this but don't develop it very far) Allow the superusers to help you improve the product (Use their Skills)

I think it's brilliant if it's not exploited by companies for evil - and this whole movement is starting to get companies thinking about the fact that inviting consumers inside of the "castle walls" has the multi-positive result of a) creating greater customer loyalty, b) generating more word-of-mouth referrals, and c) gaining more valuable customer insights.

Since most of the companies referred to in these reports have thousands or millions of customers, this is an area where Informatics can provide a lot of guidance. One company that is already having success in this area is Powered.

Monday, September 18, 2006

On the Fly Wiki

A company called SystemOne is preparing to launch a very interesting new product that finds semantic links between what a user is creating and content on the web, in emails, rss feeds, etc. I have yet to preview the s/w, but i wonder if this could be useful for researchers? Short review by Michael Arrington of Techcrunch here:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Marketing as HCI/d?

It occurred to me today that the heavily-evident connections in the systems inside of my head are not easily made by those outside of my head (go figure). So for those of you who are wondering about the not-immediately-obvious connection between marketing and the field of Informatics/HCId, please allow me to explain.

The field of what i would call business-consumer relations has undergone some fairly large paradigm shifts over the last thousand-or-so years. To be clear, business-consumer relations, in my mind, includes fields otherwise known as product development, sales, marketing, pricing, customer relationship management, and a few others. Some of the major shifts within this area have occured along the lines of consumer knowledge, participation and entitlement.

1000 A.D. (private, local economies)
  • consumer knowledge of the product and of the business: HIGH - the vendor was often also the manufacturer, and the product was simple enough to understand (quality, design) immediately
  • consumer participation: HIGH - consumers were involved with the vendor/manufacturer personally, since they probably knew them as neighbors
  • entitlement: HIGH - if the product was defective, the vendor would see the customer around town daily. in addition, bad word-of-mouth would spread rapidly
1800 A.D. (industrial revolution)
  • consumer knowledge of the product and of the business: LOW - products became more complex as did the businesses that produced them. the distance between business increased
  • consumer participation: LOW - consumers were no longer involved with the businessowner personally, and became mere consumers
  • entitlement: LOW - businesses held most of the power. in addition to labor being subject to industry's whims, so was the consumer
1980 A.D (Duran Duran era)
  • consumer knowledge of the product and of the business: MEDIUM - the rise of Ralph Nader and Consumer reports helped to create educated consumers, now aware of the "man behind the curtain"
  • consumer participation: MEDIUM - consumers began to band together and "participate" in business by forming buying blocks, demanding safety standards, ethical business practices
  • entitlement: MEDIUM - consumers began to demand that businesses respect the consumer
2006 A.D (still the Duran Duran era, in my book)
  • consumer knowledge of the product and of the business: HIGH - massive internet information from both professional and amateur sources provides everyone with information about business practices and products
  • consumer participation: MEDIUM - businesses are now trying to find ways to actively involve consumers in the business, pursuing new methods such as WOM (word of mouth marketing), ECC (experience co-creation) and various other sundry acronyms
  • entitlement: HIGH -consumers have been mistreated and mislead for a long time, and they are now empowered by information and massive interconnectivity to demand good treatment from companies
So here's the HCI/d to business/consumer connection:

It is clear that we're living in an age of historically peculiar traits with respect to consumers and businesses. These include
  1. massive consumer interconnectivity
  2. massive amounts of publicly, instantly available information
  3. massive consumer publication and participation
Any time the words "massive", "public" and "participation" co-occur, the antennae of HCI/d practitioners should start twitching. Connected computers (the Internet) is the first medium in history that allows for the facilitation of "massive public participation". As i see it, one of the great challenges ahead for HCI/d is to become expert in the creation of efficient spaces where consumer/business interactions can occur, creating value for both in a sustainable way. It will require continued research into group innovation, participatory strategies, value creation, complex systems and a host of other things. In my opinion, future gurus of HCI/d will not be the masters of adding %100 of the design value, but instead the masters of the design of interaction spaces (see Erik Stolterman's very fine ahead-of-its-time essay on conspiratorial design), where the users can then create their own value.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Marketing As Seduction

Kathy Sierra, one of the oft-quoted "customer-centric" pundits, recently posted a blog about some of the myths surrounding marketing to geeks.

I have been doing some recent exploration into the attitudes and practices of businesses, and have found some interesting things going on:

Marketing as Conquests
For many years now, product development and to a greater extent marketing (these are fundamentally part of the same function, though they have been "siloized" in recent years) has gotten a bad rap as a coercive art, designed to create a need in the consumer that they didn't have before - to get them to buy something that they wouldn't have otherwise. To be fair to the general public, this is mostly true. One way to get at the underlying philosophy of a discipline is to analyze the vocabulary of its discourse. Sit in on a product development or marketing meeting, and you'll hear words like "targeting", "campaign", "segmentation", "launch", "positioning", "attrition". The last time i checked, these words have a longer history in military conquest than they do in the production of goods and services. Rome mounted many campaigns, all of which targeted, just about anyone in their way, with the goal of furthering the interests of his country. They never claimed to be fully customer-centered in their approach, except for the thinly-veiled claims that they were bringing order and infrastructure to the people they conquered.

The Dissonance
In many recent interviews with successful small and large business owners, i have seen a distinct dissonance between their vocabulary and tactics (there's another one of those words). Most all have spoken of their customers in fond terms, citing that they feel indebted to them, and that they honestly desire to make them happy. Despite these feelings, business owners strain within an inherited system that still sees the business and the consumer in an adversarial, almost martial relationship. It's a system they've inherited which has told them for decades that the best way to grow a business is to squeeze as much revenue per customer as possible, and that non-monetary value only goes one way - created by the company and given to the customer in the form of a good or service.

This sort of dissonance would certainly occur in the case of a wide-eyed suitor, madly in love with a beautiful woman, who was forced to act on the only source of romantic advice he could find - from the mouth of his good friend Ghengis Khan.

"You say you love her? Yes, this is good. Acquiring her will be easy. Find where she lives, then ride as fast as you can around the Great Wall of her defenses (drinking your horse's blood to get there faster). It will surprise and delight her that you have showed up unexpectedly, sneaking in through the back window of her house. Once inside, if you have correctly targeted her, she will be yours. While you are there, ask if she will refer you to a friend. Then take her back to your stronghold. She will feel pleased and popular since she is your 100th wife, and you will know this by giving her a satisfaction survey."

The Future?
In some sense, the current product development/marketing methodology (exaggerated a bit here for rhetorical fun and impact) is similar to that provided by Ghengis. The business owners i've been talking to have learned through decades of practice that the customer should be treated like a target, though they personally feel otherwise. Currently though, there is no good alternative system. Up until recently, this has sustained business, but with the advent of highly informed, connected customers who sometimes know more about a business than does their owner, old assumptions are being questioned, and business owners are wondering if there is a new methodology out there to guide their practice.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Information Filters

In 1997, Steven Johnson wrote Interface Culture, an insightful book in which he points out the rise of media content like Bevis and Butthead, Mystery Science Theater and Talk Soup which, he points out, provide little if any original content. Instead, they are what he calls "parasitic media", which act as filters for an increasingly digitized world of information - helping to explain the behemoth machine of information that drives society. These forms, he argues, are similar in function to the Elizabethan novel that helped the populous to make sense of industrialization - a shift that must have been overwhelming - a machine that drove society, but that was too large to make immediate sense to the human mind. In a sense, this has always been the function of myth - to help so explain and filter the machines (loosely defined) of nature and society in terms more understandable to the human mind.

Since 1997, we have entered a new era of information filtering, where terms such as "folksonomy" and "wiki" suggest that the effects of mass human filtering is greater than the sum of its parts. Mathematicians and complexity theorists seem to suggest that it is the structure of these systems that is importantly causal in this sort of filtering - what seems to me to be a highly empirical/structuralist myth. Humanists seem to suggest that it is the intention of the actors of these systems that render these emergent interactions effective - the self-corrective mechanisms arising out of the statistically significant goodness of the majority of writers of wikipedia.

These are of course myths we're devising to explain a far more complex system than we can understand at the moment. I wonder what myths will supercede them?

Flash Debugging (code everywhere)

I periodically receive questions about Flash from students and colleagues, so i thought that i'd post the answers online for all to see. Hopefully these posts won't merely be a fix to each individual problem, but will also give some sort of ideas for troubleshooting methodolgy when working in Flash.

In this problem, when running a movie, error messages were appearing as follows:

**Error** Scene=Scene 1, layer=button, frame=50:Line 1: Mouse events are permitted only for button instances on (press) {

Here is the way to diagnose such problems in Flash. The first step is to look closely at the error message:

**Error** Scene=Scene 1, layer=button, frame=50:Line 1: Mouse events are permitted only for button instances on (press) {

This tells us a lot. The first thing, is that we're reasonably sure that the problem here is on frame 50, line 1. So the first thing to do is to look at the code on frame 50. There we find two keyframes with code in it. The second one has the same code included in the error message:

on (press) { gotoAndPlay (10);}

Now, the error message says that "Mouse events are permitted only for button instances". But this code is on a frame. Here is the problem. Looking a little closer, we see that the event "on(press)" logically would be hard to apply to a frame, since there is nothing to press. So we can then take the code out and see if the error still exists. In this case, the error goes away, and the problem is solved. You actually had redundant code both on the timeline AND on the button in frame 50.

The overall thing to be careful in Flash is code in places where you don't want it. Flash allows you to put code on movieClips, timelines, and other places where certain types of code will not work. Therefore be careful. Best practice is to put ALL of your code on one layer in the timeline, and create event handlers that refer to clips on the stage. i.e., for a button with the instance name "myButton" on the stage, the code would be

myButton_mc.onPress = function () {
trace ("onPress called");
//put the code here to effect change in the movie

The error messages from the Flash IDE are generally fairly easy to follow, and can be used to logically deduce the problem. The first step is therefore to look closely and to see what it is telling you. The next step is to take a deep breath. Third, use the "trace" function liberally to try and get at the problem. Trace is your friend.