February 28, 2003
Deja vu all over again
Ah, take me back. Christine is working on her master's thesis for Georgetown's Communication, Culture, and Technology MA program. I finished my thesis there over the summer of 2001. I can feel her pain!
February 27, 2003
Tyranny of Tiny Type
You probably already read this over on Mike's blog, but his wife and I have been working hard getting ready for a cool event that is looking at the issues related to older adults online. Some usability, some technology, and hopefully a lot of useful info and best practices.
This is just a first in a series, so if you have any interest at all in these issues, please let me know.
February 25, 2003
Notes to self. Lou will be in the DC area on April 30th doing a seminar on Enterprise IA.
February 23, 2003
I mentioned a while back that 10% of my grade in one of my classes this semester is for maintaining a weblog. For half the class (most of whom are students who've been on the net for forever), this assignment is pretty straightforward.
And then there are classmates like Greg, who come into this primarily with a print designers' background (the school I'm at also offers an MA in Publications Design; this class satisfies a business elective for them).
I got a chuckle just now reading Greg's take on weblogging:
I really couldn't care if google purchased blogger. I'm trying to get my kids through school.
Okay, it may be more funny if you've met Greg. But it's probably also worthwhile to get those occasional reminders that not everyone is madly in love with all of this.
Trends in online assistance
It's always nice to come across something for the tech writers in the audience. (I hope there are some tech writers in the audience! As others have noticed, the tech comm folk don't exactly seem to be taking the blog world by storm.)
Anyways, I was emailed the link to this piece titled The future of Help? Nine trends in online user assistance. As someone who did WinHelp in the 3.1 days, these are welcome trends. It's the idea of moving help into the interface (just-in-time assistance) and it's one of the reasons that sessions such as this one (on moving into UID from technical writing) are becoming more and more popular at STC conferences.
February 19, 2003
Here's something for those ID folks whose taste runs to the information visualization area--the Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge:
The National Science Foundation and the journal Science, published by
the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),
invite you to participate in the first Science and Engineering
Categories include photography, illustration, and multimedia. Hat tip to Karel van der Waarde (on the ID-Cafe list).
February 17, 2003
Tilting at power laws
(Three entries in an hour? Gee, someone's getting tired of being snow-bound.)
Over on the AIfIA list, Christina asked if anyone has tried to change the curve inherent in a power law and/or whether it was worth doing. In response, Eric Scheid (host of the fabulous IAwiki) submitted some useful links on the wiki, along with this one from Nature on language and power laws.
I suspect that most efforts to "change" the power law (e.g., this one) are really only effective at moving individual objects up or down the curve...they don't really change the shape of the curve itself. But if I make my brain hurt (and dust off the old college math), I'll study this and see if I can understand it better.
One thing I do think is that the effort, unless futile, is valuable. This may be true for weblogs, but I think it is even more true for wealth. The latest issue of UUWorld (alas, is not online yet) has an interesting story about Chuck Collins and his United for a Fair Economy. Collins is a grandson of Oscar Meyer, and he practices what he preaches; he donated a $500K trust fund to charity in his mid-twenties. He is working with Bill Gates' father on an effort to stop the repeal of the estate tax. Interesting stuff.
Thanks...I needed that!
What if, for the past year or so, terrorists, working in U.S. factories, have been putting lethal biochemical agents on... duct tape?
Open? I think not!
From the Federal Government as of 1:18PM ET:
February 16, 2003
And pardon me while I stray a bit off-topic, but it's nice to hear that Tom Ridge is considering lowering the alert status. I'm sure that in reality we won't be more or less at risk, but after 9/11, the snipers, and recently a media-induced run on duct tape, nerves in DC are showing just a bit of strain.
But for today, things are quiet and peaceful. Let it snow!
A postscript: qu'elle surprise...Mike Lee (whose visual weblogs continue to inspire me) has blogged the snow scene in Baltimore. (I would have sent you to the individual entry page, but if you haven't heard the news, you should scroll down to read the news about Google acquiring Pyra! Wow.)
February 14, 2003
Hergee berger snooger bork
February 12, 2003
How designers work
I haven't looked at lots of dissertations, but this one is a beaut. It's Henrik Gedenryd's How designers work: Making sense of authentic cognitive activities. Here's the abstract:
In recent years, the growing scientific interest in design has led to great advances in our knowledge of authentic design processes. However, as these findings go counter to the existing theories in both design research and cognitive science, they pose a serious challenge for both disciplines: there is a wide gap between what the existing theories predict and what designers actually do.
February 11, 2003
Inequality and the Internet
Ooh, how weird is that? Just as I finished the first half of Barabási's Linked: The New Science of Networks for class, the fine folks at WebWord post this succinct summary about power laws, networks, and weblogs.
Barabási's book is quite the interesting read if you're at all into math, science, or the Internet. Barabási is a physics professor at Notre Dame, and his findings relating to how networks lead to these power laws (with few hubs with many links and many nodes with few links) are very interesting. The book describes all this in a very user-friendly way, with lots of discussion related to phenomenon such as the six degrees of Kevin Bacon.
I've got to finish the second half for next week's class, but at this point, there is certainly the hint that this understanding of networks, hubs, and power laws may provide some clues for how to deal with terrorist networks like Al Qaeda (I'm guessing it is by interfering with the hubs and not worrying about the less-connected nodes). Heavy-duty stuff.
Son of RSS
I've gone ahead and added a link to the right nav so future visitors won't have to be guessing the URL :)
February 09, 2003
I'm not sure why, but I'm feeling incredibly drawn to the whole RSS thing, unlike the whole MUD thing. Then again, I never got into chat either. I guess I must like the writing/publishing aspect inherent in Usenet/WWW/RSS rather than the interaction thing inherent in MUDs or chat.
Right now I'm experimenting with RSS readers (any recommendations?). After that, the prospect of serving IDblog via RSS is similarly compelling. I need to upgrade to MT 2.5.1 first.
After that, I'm thinking that RSS could be a a great topic for one of the papers I have due (assuming I can cover the subject in 750 words). As I'm leaning towards looking at the issue of public interest and the Web for the final paper, there seems to be a potential for linking the two. It may be time to touch base with Dave Winer.
February 04, 2003
A cool link from LucDesk: see something called Imagination at Work, think Tetris :). My mouse dexterity stinks (ah heck, it wouldn't matter if I had a tablet, I'm no artist either). But I spent a chunk of time playing with this. There's something strangely compelling about the preview (which retraces all your actions). And it's even more interesting that they are saving the traces to replay them for your recipients. Seems like great fodder for a contest!
February 03, 2003
Content and Complexity!
It's official! Our happy little book, Content and Complexity: Information Design in Technical Communication is now in the warehouse. This is an academic book from a seriously academic publisher, so it's proving to be a challenge to do stuff like, umm, get the cover up on Amazon and perhaps a few inside pages too.
But since I know the effort that will take, here's an overview of the book's chapters (45K, in PDF).
I can't really say what my favorite chapters are (isn't that like choosing a favorite child?). All of them are interesting and useful in their own way. But I must admit that I think Whitney Quesenbery's chapter on the Five Dimensions of Usability (aka, the "5 E's of Usability") is going to be on just a few syllabi in the fall. (If you're an academic, send me an email and I'll help you out with a fair use copy for this or any of the chapters.)
February 02, 2003
Learning about customers
When I mentioned a week ago that part of my grade for one of my classes will be based on my ability to do a regular weblog, I may not have mentioned that the fodder for the class would likely become fodder for IDblog. But there are obvious places where the interests overlap.
For instance, consider this reading (PDF) for my class on 2/3. This could have come out of the ID/IA/usability community, but instead, it comes out of the world of business:
Many B2B exchanges were launched because they were possible, not because there was a compelling customer problem they could solve. Thus, the first step is to shift the orientation to continuously learning about customers. It was once estimated that fewer than 15 percent of all web start-ups tested their sites with customers by living with them and observing their behavior. Winners will not make that mistake.
(Emphasis mine.) From my read of this paper, the authors can't really have meant this to apply only on B2Bs, particularly as they hold Amazon up as an example of a company with Bezos' vision of being the "most customer-centric company." How interesting that I'm taking this class together with one that is essentially all about user-centered design.
Finally, an unrelated postscript. I was watching Letterman recently and was blown away by one of his musical guests, Vienna Teng. I just got her album from Amazon, and if you like lyrical voice and piano along with songs with lots of relationship angst (think Tori Amos without the edge), you'll want to check Vienna out. What's even more amazing to me is that she almost wasn't a performer, having started out on the path to being a geeky computer nerd.
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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