Saturday, April 30, 2005
This kind of thing would make for very nice portfolio material for anyone interviewing for a UI design job. One is supposed to be able to show stages of development and talk to them. Without a little more "documentation" of what's going on, it's not quite sufficient as is. But for supporting material in a website resume, for example, it would be pretty cool.
Friday, April 29, 2005
"Mirror neurons suggest that we pretend to be in another person's mental shoes," says Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. "In fact, with mirror neurons we do not have to pretend, we practically are in another person's mind."
Since their discovery, mirror neurons have been implicated in a broad range of phenomena, including certain mental disorders. Mirror neurons may help cognitive scientists explain how children develop a theory of mind (ToM), which is a child's understanding that others have minds similar to their own. Doing so may help shed light on autism, in which this type of understanding is often missing.
"You need someone new to get the creative juices going so you don't get trapped in the same ideas over and over again." Uzzi added, "If your systemic network has teams with only incumbents, and especially incumbents who have worked together repeatedly, your field tends to have low impact scores. The fact that we found this across fields with equally powerful minds suggests that how the brain power of a field is organized into different kinds of networks determines the field's success."
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Sunday, April 24, 2005
He implemented one of Newman's fast algorithms for detecting community structure in Java and it worked out fairly well.
Coolness AND attractiveness factors, ok; but back to the substance that convinced me I wanted to date him before I even saw his picture. He's applied his general network analysis algorithms to analysing wide ranging network data, from biological pathways to animal behavior to routes in cities to physics paper citations to web site linkage. The papers tend towards the math-full, but the points are pretty interesting nonetheless. And his math gives me hope I can crunch my enormous pile of LiveJournal network data into something tractable, eventually!
On his pubs list, look for the "Why social networks are different from other types of networks", "Finding community structure in very large networks" (in which they analyse Amazon.com buying patterns and find community-like structures), and the sweetest one, "Identifying the role that individual animals play in their social network," a study of dolphin communities.
Apparently one individual (SN100) acts as the broker between 2 dolphin groups. (Other dolphins had names like "fish" and "thumper"; so why couldn't SN100 get a real handle?) Dolphins hang with other similar dolphins, just like people do. Here, I'll make it easy to get to the dolphin story.
Edited to add: I can't leave this site alone, I'm too enthralled.
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Saturday, April 23, 2005
Gotten from the wonderful Things.
"By embedding electroluminescent materials into the pattern of the wallpaper and incorporating a light sensor, the wallpaper responds to the lighting requirement of a room, acting as a decorative element when a room is naturally bright, and as a wallpaper light when the space requires more light. With power supplied from a solar charged battery or standard electricity, it can also be manually controlled to increase or decrease luminosity."
Other good ideas in there: "The Activity Wallpaper, by Tobias Skog, explores how a place can get an electronic "memory" of how it is inhabited: how people move around, socialize, make noise or spend time there." (This is an oldish theme from the HCI literature, in which documents or objects or places record previous usage or interactions for later users to see. Nicely applied to wallpaper, though.)
And then there's "The Not-So-White Walls, by Dario Buzzini, is an interactive wallpaper that works like a display, giving you the possibility to change patterns and content as you wish. Resistors placed behind the paper surface make the color of the paper change according to your fantasy: you can dim lights, turn on home appliances, read email on the wall, view pictures taken with a camphone, etc." Yes, but can I watch a movie on it?
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Check it out yourself: Blogpulse Trendline for MMORPGetc.
The Conversation Tracker: Another in the collection of tools to show threaded conversations, this time at the meta-level, across sites. While very difficult to do in the general wide open system of the Internet, tracking topic spread and threads is far, far simpler in relatively closed systems like Usenet (see Marc Smith's Netscan stuff, of course) and LiveJournal. I'd like to see more tools for handling LiveJournal's sprawling disaster of a conversation space.... Now THAT would really benefit a lot of users who are frustrated, and with good reason. (Difficulty following conversation across LJ's was one of the major issues raised by users in my survey results, which I'll digest and post sometime in the next month.)
The Trend Tool: Their tool for simple graphs of topic spread over time. What can I say, I love graphs, especially time series data. I haven't played with it enough to know what I think of it as a general purpose tool, though.
HP Labs Empidemic Analyser: Yevgeniy Medynskiy of Cornell pointed me to the HP Labs work on meme spread, which seems to be evolving into some cool tools. Their thesis is that viral memes and topic memes spread similarly. I'm going off to play with this thing now.
For all these links: BlogPulse Tools, scroll down for the items in question.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
At CHI I saw a bunch of people from my old research lab days, and in well-timed coincidence, while I was there I got email from an old friend from AT&T who was not at CHI and with whom I'd long ago lost touch. He used to run a cool websurf mailing list with commentary on odd sites he'd found on the net. Of course he has a blog now, and I think his observations would entertain some of my readers. (He was the source of the "what's hard" hierarchy story I cited in the "invisible work" post comments, although I muchly shortened his story.)
Check out tingilinde, the blog of a former Bell Labs physicist turned Internet guru, who is also an amazing Photoshop artist and now a paint artist as well!
Off of a strangely laid out CHAOMEI CHEN's HOMEPAGE.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Jared's contention is that usability departments don't scale -- hiring more usability professionals doesn't make for more usable products. He trots out dubious statistics about big name companies (MS) employing huge numbers of usability folks and still having very poor websites; and hotshot firms like Amazon with few or no usability staff producing famously usable, standards setting sites.
His points come down to these, from my summary notes:
- More usability staff doesn't necessarily (or often?) equal better usability. (But his numbers from various companies were faulty, and people called him on this.)
- Good usability often means good design culture, not good testing culture. More people doesn't mean good design.
- ROI isn't calculated and monitored by usability departments; this is dangerous in riffing climates.
- Are we an engineering discipline or a craft? We want to claim both and don't provide the mechanism and support for either for our profession. "Engineering" means standard skillsets and repeatable results; "craft" means some people are just better than others and portfolios matter.
- Process quality in usability is important.
- When usability is effective, are we effective because of our methods and skills and training, or because a company that hires us is thinking about new things and considering them at the same time and could do it just as well without us: customer needs and feedback, firm marketing goals, good beta testing feedback, design process, quality.
Item 2 is his most unexamined, unsupported point and yet the one I also agree with most. He's flippant about what "good design culture" entails and how it works. Yes, evaluation and design aren't the same thing, but they also aren't simply separable either. And good design itself is a complex and difficult issue in environments where employees have diverse skill sets, engineering compromises are required to make deadlines and marketing demands the impossible -- in short, where multiple stakeholders are responsible for implementing the many parts of a large system (who often disagree on the goals or the "design" to achieve them). Design is hard to do well, even in a company with supporting usability staff and cooperative players working in development and management. The cats all need to get along.
Item 4: He's just correct about this. But since design and evaluation are often practiced by the same professional, it's not clear we need to be either an engineering discipline or a craft and frankly we often have to be both. Not everyone is going to be good at both activities, though. And as an audience member said, it's certainly true that some engineers are better than others, and it's also true that at the architectural level of engineering, it's really design that's going on.
Item 6 is disturbing. I worry about this regularly, especially faced with teams that don't really need much help, for whom I'm kind of an expensive waste of company money. Where's the value add? At least I don't think my stone is magic, when it comes to testing products. Jared told the stone soup fairy tale, in which the soldier with the stone knows full well it's the vegetables that make it good, but coerces the townspeople into cooking, and then he moves on with his stone to the next town. Jared thinks usability engineers think they're really making good soup because of their magic stones, and aren't seeing the vegetables too.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
At the end, Marti Hearst (UC Berkeley) asked, "I'm not sure if this is a serious paper or a parody of a CHI paper, but in the spirit of parody, have you considered the dogs' privacy?" A big laugh there -- they nodded deadpan and said of course this was a concern.
My biggest disappointment with it was that it wasn't "done"; it hadn't been deployed and tested at all. Some of the people who left the room said the same -- amongst the flat out "it's ridiculous" accusations circulated "even if it was serious, they hadn't done the usual required analysis work." And some consternation that this got in and serious work got rejected instead, but then the CHI reviewing process is always a crazy crapshoot, since the conference is so interdisciplinary.
Maybe I've become a former-CHI-hardass in the past few years away, but I thought it was both funny AND interesting, despite the research flaws. Dog owners probably would like something like this, which for me makes it more than a little compelling! There are too many CHI papers with solutions to non-existent problems, or that present incremental design work on existing products. Dog owners meet other dogs and dog owners all the time, and they even meet non-dog-owners, sometimes quite enthusiastically ("want to meet women? get a puppy and take it for walks" -- who doesn't know this one?). So for me their paper was only 45 or 90 degrees off true right-on; it needed to focus less on making dogs happy with each other and more on the owners of dogs, and it did need some deployment (with associated design issues worked out) and testing.
In general, I'd like CHI to include more experimental thought-projects and I'd like to see more wacky creative design. I suppose the design briefings track sometimes included this stuff in the past. But of course I'd also like to see this stuff done well. CHI has been late for the boat on a lot of hot technology trends (games, poker, handheld entertainment, porn...? blogs?) because of the extreme "seriousness" of so many of the reviewers and attendees. Randy Pausch said in his opening plenary that it was important to be silly sometimes; I agree, because non-researchers and consumers and our users are sometimes silly too and buy dogs to meet women.
Friday, April 08, 2005
I like these ideas, because tags only go so far to illustrate relationships and aren't in themselves so interesting; intelligently placing tagged photos inside another context (even purely visual) or applying sematic network searches to them could make for more interesting applications down the road.
Day Four: Boromir so irritating. Why must he wear big shield like dinner plate all the time? Climbed up Caradhras but wimpy humans who cannot walk on snow insisted we climb back down. Am definitely prettiest member of the Fellowship. Go me!And who could ever forget Aragorn's "Still not king?"
Day 30: All this paddling about in boats is hell on my complexion. Aragorn obviously starting to find Frodo strangely attractive. Sam will kill him if he tries anything. Still the prettiest.
Day 33: Boromir tempted by Ring. So tedious. Cannot be tempted myself, as already have everything I want i.e. perfect hair and a butt like granite.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Check it out: prefuse: an interactive visualization toolkit
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Check out Jotspot's overview slides and site.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
SixFoo!660: "Finally, a way for social networks to stay connected to other social networks, and meet interesting social networks like yourself."
Share what matters to you. Create yet another place online. Share pictures of your cat. Create a blather. Make the same lists of crap you made somewhere else last week, send out a BLAMMO, crush on an indie chick and abandon it all after only 12 days.Click on the sign in link to see their UI... it's very nicely meta. (Thanks to Ka-Ping Yee for pointing it out to me today in our CHI conference workshop about subjects much like this.)
Keep your social networks close. Invite social apps to your place to see what works about their service. They can steal ideas from your service. Tag each other silly until you can't feel your toes. It's a great way to feel like something new and important might be happening before the bubble bursts again in early 2007.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Favorite excerpts: the ad for Plain White T-Shirts and the O'Reilly "Maybe: Technology. Whatever" ad, Cory's DRM talk translated back into English (hey, Cory, get the hint), taking your knitting needles on a plane to make an infinite or four-dimensional space out of yarn (!!), and cool hack for turning any word into letters by just typing it.