Meet Charlie (nicely done slide show)

15 06 2007

My Web 2.0 Identity Portal

6 06 2007

I’ve published by “contact me” page on my website. I wanted it to be a source for all of my web 2.0 identities for friends and coworkers to use, while also advertising some of the sites I think are pretty cool (except myspace- I have it on there purely for connection- I hate it).

the contact page at my site:

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Don’t feel stupid?

23 05 2007

Alan Cooper's BookI am currently reading Alan Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”. I just ordered “About Face 3” and I want to get his older book out of the way before I start the new one.

 In it, he makes the case that the number 1 goal for any user, with respect to computer applications, is to not feel stupid. most of us would probably roll right on over that and agree. Yes, our users should not feel  stupid and that should be a major concern.

 BUT, the way he has made the case really irks me. He claims it to be the user’s goal and I think that this is a harmful way to put it. Let me ask you- have you ever had the goal to “not feel stupid?”- aside from public situations where lots of people are watching you…

Goals are intentful.

The number one goal of a person using a piece of software has nothing to do with the software application or his/her fear of inadequacy. Those factors come in later. The goal of the person is to accomplish a personal feat- whether it be intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated.

For example, if I am using Quicken- my number one goal (meaning my ultimate goal for using the product) is to manage my finances. Aren’t satisfied? Well, picture a finance program that looks great, is usable, doesn’t make you feel stupid, yet doesn’t actually manage your finances. Let’s say that you feel empowered, but your finances are actually being managed incorrectly and your goal of organizing your spending is actually missed.

Here, we have an example of a usable program that is not useFUL. Yes, usefulness is still the number one priority of any tool we use, be it a software application or a thumbtack. If the tool is not useful, it doesn’t matter how it makes us feel or how easy it is to use.

Of course, there are execptions: like when we find ourselves desiring and owning items without funtional justification- like expensive jewelry, or stamp collections. BUT, even then one could argue that it’s satisfying the peron’s goal- even though that goal may be rediculous (I want to own a lot of sticky paper).

The point is, avoiding making someone feel stupid should be a very high priority. But, it will never be the number 1 priority. We have needs that are more important than our natural feelings of inadequacy. Those need to be satisfied first.

This is why user research and ethnographic observation methods are so important. If we are designing products (albeit usable) that are not needed or desired, then we are wasting our valuable talent and precious time!!! And this goes not only for entire products, but features as well…

New Career Alert

23 05 2007

I have just accepted the position of Interaction Designer at Mitchell International. Mitchell is a medium sized software company that caters to the automobile industry- especially in the insurance claim fields. I will be working with some really bright guys on a successful User Experience team. I am excited to get in there and start learning!

HP basketball courtI will miss my work at Hewlett Packard- and most importantly- my coworkers. But, it’s time for me to find a new direction and find a comfy home at a company that values my work as much as I feel I deserve. I start my new job on June 11th.

By the way- this is indeed the reason why I have not posted in a long time. It was exhausting trying to build my portfolio, move my blog (from blogger), hone my interviewing skills (or lack there of), keep my day job, and stay thoughtful and insightful enough to write at the same time. Hopefully, I will be able to find more time to post.

Ipod- fixed?

23 03 2007

My ipod was dead for several days. It had a sad face on the screen and all of my attempts to charge, use, connect, restore, or even reboot into disk mode were failures. Apple’s support site told me that it was in need of service repair, and since I don’t have any warranty services or whatever, it would cost a pretty penny to fix.

My Dad tried to pry it open with his keys, figuring “hey, if it’s broken, we might as well open it up and have a look.” He was likewise unsuccessful.

Then, all of a sudden, while trying to wrestle it open, it turned on and it was running in normal mode! It’s working now, but I don’t trust it… we’ll see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

If my ipod really ends up failing on me, I was be completely music-less in my travels, since my car stereo was ripped off about 6 months ago…

Barbecue Grills and Affirmations

23 03 2007

Went to Sears today to pick up a barbecue that Lauren bought.

The pick-up process was really painless and easy for me. I walked in and pressed a big area on the kiosk touch screen that says “Pick-Up Merchandise”. I was then instructed to scan my receipt under the scanner, and after it beeped, the screen told me that it was on it’s way out and that I could check on the progress on the screen above. That screen had a sort of first-in first-out list of people waiting. and the ETA.

Then, as I was waiting for my grill to come rolling out from behind the double doors, an elderly man came up to the kiosk and attempted to pick-up his stuff as well. Only, he had more difficulty. I’m not sure what went wrong, but when I started paying attention to it, it was telling him that there was nothing waiting for him on that receipt at this time. He was confused and starting to panic because he thought his merchandise was gone just like that.

What had happened was he had already scanned the receipt and his name was already on the “waiting” screen above. He was done, but didn’t catch on. So, when he tried again, there was nothing left of his on that receipt that he could pick-up.

It got me wondering about the differences in people regarding the usability of systems. No matter how easy a system appears to me, it may be completely beguiling to somebody else- due to cultural or generational differences.

As I was thinking that, he approached me and began complaining about computers these days and all the shit he’s seen in his life- a classic romanticist of analog and directly manipulative objects like rotor phones. When I told him that I work for the cause to improve the ease-of-use of technology, he smiled and looked at me like I was some kind of hero. I was kinda funny- cute, in a way. But it was also flattering to step back and affirm to yourself that people really do feel passionate about their feelings of inadequacy- their sense of not being welcome- to computers. I felt important for a couple minutes as I explained what I do, and then my barbecue burst through the doors and I was on my way.

I drove away thinking that old people aren’t so bad after all. But then, as I got back on the freeway to head home, I got stuck behind an old woman driving 25 on the on-ramp. That’s no lie.

The Traffic Guy: Perspective

20 03 2007

If I had to define a cognitive system in the most broad sense, I would say that it is any system that receives information (input), transposes it into one or more representations, manipulates them in a meaningful way (computation- if you will), and outputs that information in a meaningful way. I don’t really want to get into the specifics and the caveats, because I just want to discuss one aspect of these cognitive systems: perspective.

In a cognitive system, each player has a field of operation that concerns them.

  • In a soccer team, each player has a position, and a role.
  • In an emergency task force division, each member has a duty, a specialty, or a role in each situation.
  • In a brain, each nucleus of neurons and even each neuron has a receptive field and a specialization of sorts.

Further, every member or cell of these system also has a specific position in time and space. That seems obvious- and it is- but it is important with respect to perspective.The information that one member has about the system as a whole is usually quite different from the information atained by the other members, and also quite different from the shared information as a whole. This is, of course, a good thing because it allows for rich distributed computation to be done about different types and different ranges of inputs.

However, is the difference of perspective sometimes a bad thing? And if so, can it sometimes be minimized?

In a soccer team, one player may have open sights to the goal, but if the player who has the ball doesn’t know that because his view is obstructed, he won’t know to pass the ball to him. Opportunity lost.

This morning, I was listening to the Mikey Show, a morning show on FM 105.3. The traffic guy was talking about the traffic conditions and started off saying that traffic was looking great today. It went something like this:

Good morning everyone, traffic is looking fantastic today. There’s really not too much going on to worry about. There was an accident on the 78 eastbound this morning, but it looks like that is clearning up quite nicely. South I5 is slow from Encinitas to Solana Beach as usual, but starting to pick up. The 8 is surprisingly smooth this morning. The only freeway with traffic issues is the southbound 15. It’s packed from Valley Parkway to Via Rancho Parkway.

Now, I happen to take the 15 south to work, and I get on right near Valley Pkwy and exit about 2 exits after Via Rancho Pkwy. Obviously, for me, traffic is definitely not fantastic this morning. I could care less about the 8, or the 5, or the 78 for that matter. But the traffic guy said “traffic is looking fantastic”. I beg to differ.

The problem lies in perspective. For him, he sees the overall picture. In fact, if he’s not flying in a helicopter, he probably has a nice little animated graphic of a map of san diego freeways with symbols, and colored flow arrows representing blockage or lack there of. For him, if he sees only one red slow arrow on his screen, traffic is otherwise pretty damn good. “One red arrow? Not bad at all”

But his perspective is much larger than mine- both cognitively and visually. He cares about the 8 and the 5 freeways. I don’t. He sees activity in the entire county. I don’t. What this leads to is a contrast in system status. He feels that the status is good. I don’t.

The problem gets complicated in that the purpose of the whole cognitive system of traffic reporting is to aid the audience (radio listeners). It’s not so important to give the overall status of the entire system of transportation, because nobody in the audience cares about the entire system! They only care about what applies to them and their morning commute.

If I were in a hurry, trying to figure out which route to take to work, I might just listen to the first five seconds of his report and conclude that my ride should be fine. After all, traffic conditions are fantastic, right?

I don’t have a great solution. After all, it is radio. It’s just something that I’ve been thinking about this morning- how perspective in a system can sometimes lead to inaccuracies and misleading interpretations.