Anyone know anyone looking, in the Boston area or even elsewhere? Job ad here: Mathworks GUI Developer
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
A 1999 issue of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) was dedicated to this subject. ("CSCW" is more or less a subdiscipline of the research arm of the field of human-computer interaction, which itself broadly covers aspects of interface design, product design, and usability methods.)Here's the Introduction to the journal, which summarizes the basic topic they covered:
This special issue documents four kinds of invisible work: (1) work done in invisible places, such as the highly skilled behind-the-scenes work of reference librarians, (2) work defined as routine or manual that actually requires considerable problem solving and knowledge, such as the work of telephone operators, (3) work done by invisible people such as domestics, and (4) informal work processes that are not part of anybody's job description but which are crucial for the collective functioning of the workplace, such as regular but open-ended meetings without a specific agenda, informal conversations, gossip, humor, storytelling.The way I actually used the term yesterday was in reference to another kind of invisible work, I think more formalizable than (4): the shadow job, the job you do that doesn't at all match your job description, but more or less has the same end goal. It's the job you have to do to get your job done, and the more it doesn't match your job description, the more dysfunctional something is (or might be) in the company: hiring and evaluation of candidates may not be oriented correctly if the shadow job is done by everyone, or team dynamics may be screwed up if it's only one person doing the shadow job out of the crowd with similar job titles. Perhaps the company doesn't know the categories of work that could exist or need to be done by someone, because they haven't got those activity classifiers in their sights yet. To me, it comes down to an ethnographic research issue: what's labelled vs. what's not, and why? What are the missing vocabulary items?
One of the articles in this issue gets close to another topic dear to my heart, the shadow work involved in the user interview/usability test/qualitative data analysis. It just happens to be about ethnography here:
In her paper, "'It's Just a Matter of Common Sense': Ethnography as Invisible Work," Diana Forsythe turns the analytical lens on ethnographers--those who have made significant contributions to uncovering everyone else's invisible work. Forsythe notes with irony that now that ethnographers have convinced researchers and corporations of the value of ethnographic work in technology design, they face a new and unexpected problem: appropriation of their methods. Ethnography does look easy. It's just talking to people, right?!... Drawing on Star's concept of "deletion," Forsythe observes how certain kinds of activities are "deleted," or simply not considered salient, from various kinds of accounts....For example, Forsythe reports from her studies of artificial intelligence researchers how technical people describe the work they do in terms of programming or system design, but consistently delete social activities such as meetings and other kinds of social interaction. The work would not get done without these interactions, but they are deleted by the researchers as inferior to "the real work."Lots of usability professionals (and UI designers) discuss and have to shrug away this issue in practice; it's better to have 4 developers who've never had a course in interviewing visit the customer alone and bring back enthusiastic (if noisy) stories than to have one usability professional interview a dozen people and return with carefully analysed data that doesn't interest anyone else because they didn't get it viscerally for themselves. And it's better to have everyone participate in usability testing and hear the data first hand even if the signal gets garbled, than to have one person attempt to rein in the wild horses and sour everyone on the practice at the same time. There's usually no time to give people a crash course in methods, after all. We just mope about this at conferences with our colleagues and buck each other up over cocktails.
Invisible work is certainly a problem even for folks in high status positions doing what's seen as the "real work." I've recently had conversations with a few developers about their own invisible work; some of them need cocktails at conferences as well, I think.
(On a personal note, Diana Forsythe was very important to me as a role model and colleague when I was in grad school; she died in a hiking accident in Alaska a year later, an enormous blow to me and to an entire discipline.)
Monday, March 28, 2005
See Om Malik on Broadband: How Yahoo Got Its Mojo Back. Note the mention for their beta for Yahoo 360, a combined photo and blogging effort, perhaps trying to fix the weaknesses in LJ and in their own communities effort, while competing with blogger. At least I hope, if they've done their usual decent requirements analysis. (Posting photos in LJ was a problem that many people in my blog survey identified as needing improvement.)
Sunday, March 27, 2005
In case you like soloing: Fodor's Travel Wire: Lea's Top Ten Picks for Soloists.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
An amphibious humanlike being was reported in Karelia in 1928. The creature was repeatedly seen in the lake of Vedlozero by local residents. A group of researchers from the Petrozavodsk university arrived to investigate the case on location. Unfortunately, the findings were classified and the members of the research party eventually perished in the Gulag.(Gotten from the Anomalist, which also linked to an article about Cold Fusion this week!)
You too should count the number of times Einstein gets second-guessed in this list.
For the Rough Guide Brittany and Normandy, the phrases listed are:
www vedettesdebrehat com, star campsite, menus that start, fishy menus, gulf tours, municipal campsite, brasserie downstairs, least expensive double room, room without shower, pleasure port, cheapest menu, modernized rooms, gare maritime, daily loam, excluding airfare, slower services, second fortnight, moules frites, parish close, pedestrianized street, petit train, low season.Which makes me think that if I buy this book I could actually find a hotel in Normandy in low season on a pedestrianized street, featuring a brasserie downstairs boasting cheap fishy menus and of course moules frites, some fresh daily loam in my room at all times, and convenient access to a pleasure port offering gulf tours; but I think I can do without the typically European room without a shower and slower service all around. If I can get there by a petit train, that's a plus, though.
Another guide, Michelin's Charming Places to Stay in France for Less than 80 Euros, has "plush bourgeois" and "rooms with bathrooms." I guess maybe it IS statistically improbable to get a room with a bathroom for less than 80 Euros in France.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Buried in a long list of posts about the ideal kitchen design (using photos of real kitchens as examples), cherry blossoms and the value of cut flowers, links to items for sale in NYC (I always want to move after reading this site), I hit a couple posts that made me pause. In response to a post about typically American competitive more-more-mania and depression, a poster mused on his top ten toolbox for being happy.
I used to keep a Far Side cartoon on my fridge which read, "The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression." How do I keep the Chicken away?(I obviously quoted that because it's funny and about some guy named Ned, but anyway:) His list includes Review, Don't Take Yourself Too Seriously, Too Much is Not Enough, And Yet Splash Out, Don't Postpone Joy, and Clean Your Plate. And he ends with a poem that made me think of Paris, so when you read it you should think of your version of Paris, too: Apartment Therapy: On Happiness.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Glancing at the 84 rave reviews of the book on Amazon, I am picturing myself rereading Little, Big on my sun porch this summer when the weather is good again. I intend to remember this plan, so the sun porch looks particularly nice; on the rocking chair is a model of a complex little house that I can't quite understand from the outside.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Some of the key responsibilities for this role include:
- Responsible for the user research, including planning and running usability studies, benchmark studies, competitive evaluations, participatory design sessions, ethnographic field studies, user surveys, heuristic evaluations, and similar methods.
- Provide insight and vision for the team based on researching user needs. Convert research findings into actionable items.
- Collaborate with other research organizations within Yahoo! (market researchers and data mining analysts) in order to create comprehensive coordinated research.
- Synthesize research findings from other data sources (including market research and data mining) into meaningful recommendations and actionable items.
Their new corporate design mantra is "Life Engine," which you'll have to embrace to work there. It's all about integration of experience, in the face of Google's growing presence.
The VP position is most interesting and revealing (my commentary in brackets):
...A key goal for this position is to elevate the influence of the UE group to become a strategic resource. [Whoa: They aren't now. They're biting the bullet and making it a VP-level job--unless someone quit--because everyone in the industry knows user experience can't succeed as a priority without VP-level support--? But I'm a little surprised Yahoo feels this too; it must be Google nipping at their backside.]
...Ensure successful knowledge sharing and improve visual, functional, and conceptual consistency across products and components - oversee the development of design standards, guidelines, and best practices; [Again, I always thought they were remarkably consistent and had this already. One ad says "new creative direction," so I suppose they're just worried about continuing and pulling deviant products into line.]
...Partner with Engineering on the development of new interface conventions and code libraries to ensure consistent and efficient deployment of design; [Ah, the crucial insight into why standards are hard to enforce -- the tools need to enforce them well, not a human post-design police force. This goes back to Don Norman in, like, the Stone Age, I think. But few places get it.]
....A professional manager with strong executive presence, credibility, and a reputation for unquestioned integrity and management skills that allow for instant credibility with business partners; Demonstrated ability to build strong relationships with and influence senior executives and internal clients; Degree in graphic design, human interface design, interaction design, computer science, or information design; advanced degree in these fields and/or MBA a plus. [I like this: Computer science counts too, and an MBA is an asset. And the rest: Whoever wrote this is pretty right on.]
Other places hiring widely now: Google (of course, and in multiple regions), Adobe (because of a small diaspora, I believe), Intuit (always hiring, very hard to please), Microsoft (ditto and hard to please the hiree, too), and a few design agencies like Razorfish, which is usually the best indicator that the industry is in an up-turn. You can check out the Yahoo UED job list at Yahoo! Find a Job.
If you're interested in the physical processes behind sleep, or lacking it far too often, this is the place to go: Circadiana: Quarterly Summary.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I jump for "alien tinkering" in this kind of situation, but the scientists involved are looking for things like exposure to galactic radiation as we move around the universe; Oort cloud meteor gravitational effects; planetary plumes of eruptions, and Improbable Stuff Like That.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Topics of current interest to academic groups using this include bioinformatics, protein structure, social networks, bayesian inference, and a whole lot of other HCI (human computer interaction) stuff. In other words, lots of stuff I care about right now :-) For an actual example, see this citation: CiteULike: Community structure in social and biological networks.
Now I just need access to a real academic library again.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
I am firming up my latest theory on certain Things that Are Fun on the computer: There's some element of chance involved (that mimics expectations about the "real world"), a system to interact with, and a well-presented result of the interaction between the two that's both surprising and predictable in some measure. The more the system is complex and hidden, the more it can look like "chance" and remain fun as discovery occurs. Here's a site that I think agrees with me, that I want to spend some time playing with:
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
The curse itself, a 16th century curse attributed to the Archbishop of Glasgow and aimed at the lawless raiders (reivers) of the borderlands, is vivid and vitriolic. It's also very comprehensive:
I curse them going and I curse them riding; I curse them standing and I curse them sitting; I curse them eating and I curse them drinking; I curse them rising, and I curse them lying; I curse them at home, I curse them away from home; I curse them within the house, I curse them outside of the house; I curse their wives, their children, and their servants who participate in their deeds.
And there are about 18 other paragraphs with details on what should happen to them. But surprisingly, it ends on an upbeat note, as curses go!
Sunday, March 06, 2005
Fast Company's December 2004 issue is on creativity and innovative companies. There's an in-depth and somewhat inevitable article on Microsoft Research, What Money Can't Buy: the gist seems to be that they spend more time and money being defensive, and innovating (i.e., sticking new features onto) their existing products rather than figuring out new arenas to conquer. That's a company that clearly delineates between research (the "creative" folks) and ordinary folks. They're likened to the telecoms in the 1990s, and it does sound a bit like the AT&T I remember -- who never wanted to develop on any idea not guaranteed to be an instant billion dollar market.
And there's a surprising, charming piece about W.L. Gore, the company that made Goretex and apparently Glide dental floss among other stupendous and profitable items. They, in contrast, have a non-hierarchical, team-based, inclusive approach to innovation. And, I'd add, a lot of equally clever marketing folks, who manage to break them into areas that are truly new for them, not just extensions of existing brands. Even into areas already flooded with big names. The article describes this difficulty with a few anecdotes about viral marketing among other tricks. They sound like a 3M, only even better.
Finally, a study on corporate creativity that debunks some myths about what makes people and cultures innovative (and here I've rewritten her myths to make them truths):
- Creativity [Doesn't Only] Come From Creative Types
- Money Is [Not] a Creativity Motivator
- Time Pressure [Doesn't] Fuel Creativity
- Fear [Does Not] Force Breakthroughs
- Competition [Doesn't] Beat Collaboration
- A Streamlined Organization Is [Not Necessarily] a Creative Organization
My favorite quote: "One day's happiness often predicts the next day's creativity."
Thursday, March 03, 2005
- Street E & E : Evading, Escaping, And Other Ways To Save Your Ass When Things Get Ugly
- Bouncer's Guide To Barroom Brawling : Dealing With The Sucker Puncher, Streetfighter, And Ambusher
- Put 'Em Down, Take 'Em Out! : Knife Fighting Techniques From Folsom Prison
- The International Fugitive
- How to Pick Pockets for Fun and Profit: A Magicians Guide to Pickpocket Magic
- Advanced Fugitive : Running, Hiding, Surviving And Thriving Forever
- Fugitive! : How To Run, Hide, And Survive
- Getaway: Driving Techniques for Evasion and Escape
I'm especially impressed that the original Fugitive! sold well enough to justify a sequel; did all those guys on the lam write to the publisher asking for advice on how to thrive--instead of just survive--outside the law? Are they sitting in their sleazy pay-per-night hotels with a stack of self-help books by the bed?
- For the "Automatic Playback Overshoot Correction System," the cool interaction design feature where it "corrects" your overshoot on rewind+stop on the remote control. More evidence of how patentable good interaction design is.
- For aspects of the "trickplay" bar, the green status bar that shows where you are in the video stream when you use the remote control. Another UI innovation.
- "Method and Apparatus Implementing Random Access and Time-Based Functions on a Continuous Stream of Formatted Digital Data": aspects of the DVR ability to pause, rewind, and ff in cached live TV.
- "Television Viewer Interface System to TiVo" apparently "describes several aspects of the intuitive TiVo user interface." This is the one I most want more details on, of course. None to be had in the press release.
- And this one could be very important: "TiVo has also acquired the exclusive right to license and enforce U.S. patent number 5,241,428 entitled Variable-Delay Video Recorder known in the industry as the Goldwasser Patent. Filed in March 1991, the Goldwasser Patent is one of the earliest patents regarding digital video recorders of which TiVo is aware. This patent covers devices that permit the simultaneous recording and playback of video material with a variable time delay between recording and playback of a given video program segment."
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Ken [to Bob]: cappy's near bostonSometimes I really miss muds. Here's his notes: Yahoo APIs.
Bob flips through a big book and says, 'Cappys Cleaners & Laundromat at 41 Belvidere St Boston, MA; phone number is (617) 859-7525'
Bob whispers to Ken, 'You can see a map at [big url]'.