• How We Interact with Technology
  • How We Interact with Technology

Thought-provoking and sticky takeaways about our social relationships derived from human-computer interaction and social psychology research. 

Stanford professor Clifford Nass has discovered a set of rules for effective human relationships, drawn from an unlikely source: his study of how people interact with technology. The Man Who Lied to His Laptop describes powerful strategies for working with people learned from watching what succeeds and fails in technology interfaces. It was published in September 2010 by Current, a division of Penguin.

“If Dale Carnegie had been a Google engineer, this is how he would have written How to Win  Friends and Influence People.”
Chip Heath, coauthor of Switch and Made to Stick 

“Nass and Yen serve up a wealth of practical, mind-expanding insights. This entertaining book will help you think afresh and gently lead you to social strategies that really work.”
Paul Saffo, Technology Forecaster


I hadn’t imagined I would co-author a book. It isn’t what typically follows graduating with an engineering degree. But when Cliff asked me to write his next book with him, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Though we had never worked together before, we hit it off immediately. Working closely with such a remarkable researcher and extraordinary person was an amazing experience.

Cliff was a leading expert in the field of human-computer interaction. His research centered on the groundbreaking finding that people use the same rules and heuristics when interacting with technology as they do when interacting with other people. He applied his research to the design of over 250 media products and services for companies as diverse as Microsoft, Toyota, Philips, Sony, and Fidelity. Through working on the book, I became fluent in his research and other social psychology topics including personality types, the laws of emotion, persuasion strategies, and how groups form and work.


emotion graph final.1


An author of two academic books, Cliff wanted to share his research with a broader audience by drawing out its implications to people’s day-to-day life. As a co-author, I helped him to conceive of the book, to structure it, and to tailor the book in feel and tone to a popular science / business audience. We had a close working relationship and a lot of impassioned discussions: from what material to include to how to make a section flow to where to put the comma. All of the writing went through many iterations that we passed back and forth and worked on jointly.

While my primary role was a writer and editor, part of why Cliff sought out a co-author was to help keep the project on track; as a professor, researcher, and consultant he had a lot on his plate. That meant sometimes being a project manager and sometimes being a cheerleader. I also played various other roles as needed, like reading self-help books while we were developing the book concept, designing and creating a website of Cliff’s press mentions for our book proposal, and synthesizing findings from social science literature to include.


Article on BoingBoing ( link )

Review by the Wall Street Journal ( link )

Interview with Cliff on NPR’s Marketplace ( link )

Interview with Cliff on NYTimes Tech Talk podcast ( link )