October 29, 2004
Karen Schriver on ballots
Karen Schriver, one of my fave info designers, has been fairly active on the InfoD-Cafe list recently. In her first post, she points to some interesting press coverage in Florida re ballots. This one (Miami Herald; no registration required) points out issues with so-called "broken arrow" ballots. This one (Orlando Sentinel; registration required...feel free to use IDblog/IDblog as your login/password) is a more in-depth critique of Florida's ballots, with Karen as one of the expert reviewers (Tim Shanahan, from the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for the Study of Literacy, is the other).
Karen's post has led into a very interesting thread, so check out the ID-Cafe archives if this topic is of interest.
July 28, 2004
Announcing UXnet: What Lou said...
I've been waiting for Lou to go first, and he has:
Besides a minor quibble (it was UPA and DUX that were scheduled at the same time), Lou has really said this wonderfully. Please read the whole post and not just the part I've shamelessly stolen. Or visit the UXnet site and become part of the community. As Lou says:
But there's so much promise in this concept; what we right need now is support, encouragement and, perhaps, a little courage. And soon, volunteers.
Oh, and we're working on the $$ issue too :).
January 9, 2004
How much information?
In response to a question on the ID-Cafe list, Loren Needles has pointed to a really interesting study from UC Berkeley called How much information? 2003. This study is part of an ongoing effort to estimate how much information is created each year.
Here are some highlights from this year's report:
The snippets don't do the report justice, in part because the report itself provides lots of useful ways to put the data in context. For example, "five exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in half a million new libraries the size of the Library of Congress print collections." Yowsa!
Speaking of which, it seems worthwhile to pull out a link to Roy Williams' data powers of ten. I couldn't find the live version on Roy's site, so am pointing to the UC Berkeley version instead. Keep it in mind when you want to know the difference between a petabyte and a yottabyte :)
December 17, 2003
Norman in Scientific American
Just a quick lunchtime entry while blogsurfing. I just read Fred's blog entry in response to my previous mention of Don Norman's new book, Emotional Design. Fred notes that "Scientific American claims [Norman] may be off the mark; the January issue includes a brief, mildly critical article based largely on Don Norman's keynote address at the closing plenary at CHI2003."
I just did a quick search, and this article is online (for now): Why Machines Should Fear. The criticism is directed at Norman's ideas that machines should have some sort of emotions "for the same reason that people do: to keep them safe, make them curious and help them to learn." There's going out on a limb!
But emotional machines are only one (or maybe two) chapters in a book that otherwise makes an interesting point that emotions impact product effectiveness. The other criticism--that designing for emotion actually creates the kind of complexity that more directly impacts usability/effectiveness--is less of a criticism and more of a Catch-22 with design.
December 13, 2003
Ah, the joys of being Don Norman. His new book, Emotional Design, isn't yet available (will be released on 12/23), yet it is now 20,578 on Amazon's sales rank. Contrast that to the little academic book that Mike Albers and I worked on...which a year later has hit 580,099...woo baby, time to quit the day job (not :).
Seriously, Amazon's offering Emotional Design for under $20 for a hardcover. Such a deal! But if you're not yet convinced, you can take a look at some sample chapters on Don's site.
December 8, 2003
Over on the interaction design list, Hans Samuelson offered up two interesting resources in a discussion on beauty and transparency.
One was Alexander Nehamas' An essay on beauty and judgement, which Hans describes as "one of the best discussions I have found on the philosophical concept of beauty [which is] anchored in enough pop-culture references to make the Kant palatable."
The other, which I'm looking forward to exploring, is Caroline Hummels' doctoral dissertation on Gestural design tools: prototypes, experiments and scenarios (scroll down to 2000). Her abstract:
Digital products are generally controlled by buttons and icons, which emphasises the user's cognitive skills. I propose to take respect for the user as a whole as my starting point, including his perceptual-motor and emotional skills. Designers should create a context for experience rather than a product. Aesthetic interaction becomes the central theme. As a consequence, I believe that design tools should change, too. To create a context for experience, the designer needs tools which allow him to explore beautiful and engaging interactions. In this thesis, I have documented this experiental design framework and my search for such tools, especially gestural design tools.
I've only looked at the intro, but it looks like she has carried through the idea of beauty and design into her published dissertation. Thanks to Hans for the pointer...it may be a useful counterpoint to Don Norman's Emotional Design.
December 4, 2003
Blogging the semantic web
I was going to write up an entry on Lou Rosenfeld's and Peter Van Dijck's responses to Clay Shirky's latest on the semantic web. But then I saw that Carrie had beaten me to it over on paper & pencil. Never mind!
December 2, 2003
Patrick Whitney on HCD
Another failed weblogs.com ping sent me browsing MT's activity log again. Today's failed search term from the log is Patrick Whitney, who is Director of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
I've just printed out an interview he did with the Danish Design Center last spring on Why Human-Centered Design is the Design of the Future (pdf).
This page from IIT is probably full of lots of other interesting fodder as well, but I'm off to one of my last classes for the semester.
November 20, 2003
Digital industrial design?
Wow! On Tuesday, I created just a tiny bit of controversy on the interaction design list by suggesting that interaction design was essentially "digital industrial design" (this in response to some discussion about this new uber organization of industrial and graphic designers).
The responses have been incrediblly interesting and thoughtful, and from some heavyweights in the field (like Robert Reimann, who co-authored About Face 2.0).
One very interesting pointer to come out of it was to a seminar on HCI that Stanford's been holding this fall. All of the lectures are available as video on demand; some of this fall's speakers included Bill Moggridge (designer of the first laptop computer) and Howard Rheingold (author of Smart Mobs).
Well worth checking out if you have the bandwidth!
UPDATE, 11/21: Molly Steenson of Interaction-Ivrea pointed out that Bill Moggridge was a speaker at their recent symposium and that the abstract for his talk contains quite a bit of detail related to how he sees the relationship between interaction design and industrial design.
November 10, 2003
Future of information visualization
There's been an interesting discussion on the SIGIA list about information visualization. It was originally about the relationship about IA to infovis, which I thought a really cool topic, but it has morphed into a discussion about the general usefulness of information visualization, period.
I've always viewed information visualization as a technology-supported kind of information graphics. Where the latter tend to be two-dimensional and static (think USAToday), the former is typically software intensive, database-driven, and often representing attribute/value pairs that can be viewed in user-selected ways. I've been exposed to how cool infovis can be thru peripheral experience on a infovis prototype for DARPA.
Ah, but there's the rub. Can infovis be commercially successful? That's the gist of the recent discussion. Here are two interesting links that appeared on the list today. First, on the pessimistic side is this interview peterme did with Marti Hearst from UCBerkeley:
Marti forecasts a significant change in how visualizations are approached. In the past, they've been treated as standalone applications ... Where as the key for the future will be incorporating it as a small part in a larger system, integrating it with the rest of the interface. In doing so, this will require visualizations to seriously take the problem that users want to solve into account, a motivation currently lacking from many visualizations.
On the optimistic side, Ramana Rao looks forward to 2007, when he hopes we'll have overcome some past distractions:
We were willing to drop back considerably in interface quality for many years because of the rich sources of information and knowledge, new services, connections to other people available through the Internet. Only now are we getting back to considering simpler and richer ways of interacting with content, services, people.
November 8, 2003
Here are a few links that caught my eye recently:
November 3, 2003
Skiing? I think not...
If I were HCI queen, here are a few things I would change:
They do provide me with a link that shows snow quality (hey, let's hop on a plane...there's poweder in North Dakota!). But still...I think that dropping the "and ski" from the subject might make sense when it's only the Rockefellers or the Vanderbilts who may be jetting off thousands of miles to find off-season snow.
October 31, 2003
UCD meets XP/Agile
And here's another list pointer. William Hudson alerted folks to a draft of an article he's done for the Cutter IT Journal. It's a simulated conversation between a UCD consultant and an XP team leader: Adopting User-centered Design within an Agile Process (PDF). It starts:
eXtreme Programming and other Agile processes provide a middle ground between chaos and over-elaborate processes sometimes referred to as "death by documentation." A particularly attractive aspect of the Agile approach for many teams is its willingness to accommodate change no matter how advanced development might be. However, this very flexibility can cause user interface design issues and ensuing usability problems.
I'm assuming that XP/Agile are primarily relevant in software applications development. Are people using it for web sites or web applications? Inquiring minds and all that!
October 27, 2003
The any key
I got a few yucks out of this one. Here's FAQ2859 from Compaq:
Where do I find the "Any" key on my keyboard?
This FAQ entry was created on 10/8/2001 and updated on 10/25/2002. Why the update? According to Ralph Lord (who frequents the same lists I do), the original version was written by author bgates and read:
Compaq is aware of this problem and is currently researching a solution. Please check back with our website for patches or updates which may address this problem.
Ralph writes that the author of this first entry was fired. Interesting that it apparently took a year or so to discover! While amusing, there is also some semblance of cautionary tale there too. It had been a while, so I went and did a Google search for disease of familiarity. Interesting that buddy Thom Haller had slots 1 and 2, while I had number 3. But poking through the other search results ultimately sent me back to Richard Saul Wurman, who talked about the "disease of familiarity" in both the original Information Anxiety and its sequel: Information Anxiety 2. Wurman writes:
Familiarity breeds confusion. Those afflicted are the experts in the world who, so bogged down by their own knowledge, regularly miss the key points as they try to explain what they know. ... We have all had teachers who we have said are extraordinarily bright, yet we cannot understand what they are saying.
Sigh...the more I think about it, the less this FAQ is that amusing. On the other hand, the original response (and author) is still pretty funny...just not that helpful!
October 26, 2003
I spent the first fifteen or so years of my career in fairly serious software development. In '97, I moved to the web, and while there are some healthy tech challenges there (particularly doing web-based applications development), the two worlds tend to exist separately. Or so I'm thinking, because I've been completely unaware about the agile software development and extreme programming (XP) movements--both of which have recently been discussed on the interaction design/architects list.
Presumably these will have a lot of relevance to the web, yet I'm not sure how much cross-pollination is occurring. What am I missing?
October 13, 2003
CFP: Visual and Spatial Reasoning in Design
Into visualization? This may work for you...it's the call for papers for VR'04: Visual and Spatial Reasoning in Design, which will be held at MIT in Cambridge, MA, next July 22-24, 2004:
The design process has become the focus of an increasingly intense research effort. Of central importance in designing is the interplay between two types of knowledge - abstract, conceptual knowledge and perceptually based knowledge. Visual and spatial reasoning are the cognitive and/or computational processes that link these two types of knowledge and it is this aspect of the design process that forms the focus of the conference.
Based on the last conference's accepted papers, this is fairly academic. Submissions due January 23, 2004.
September 29, 2003
So many associations, so little time
The interaction design folk have released the results of their first survey to gauge the needs of their membership. I'm peripherally following this, as I'm still interested in the big picture that might unite all these separate specific organizations.
Anyways, questions like "Do you feel there is a need for a new professional home for interaction designers either within an existing organization or as a new stand alone organization?" got the responses you'd expect. Lots of folks who wanted a new home and lots of folks who wanted to work with an existing organization (particularly since it is very pricy to belong to a bunch).
Here's the breakdown of organizations that survey respondents belonged to:
Slightly more interesting was the relative proportion of AIfIA members to SIGCHI members. I'm surprised there were so many more of the latter compared to the former. I'm not sure if there is really that big of a difference between your garden variety interaction designer and your West Coast information architect. Alas, labels come back to haunt again. Since the hard-core HCI-oriented interaction designers have so little in common with the polar bear-oriented information architects, trying to find a middle ground would seem challenging.
There may be more hope for a collaboration with the UPA folks, especially if UPA and SIGCHI might join forces on providing a place for these folks--each bringing their own assets to the partnership.
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 email@example.com.
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