my online notepad
Jakob Nielsen used to be a researcher, but has recently passed from Internet rock star to Internet pundit. Whereas I used to look to him for computer-human interface usability information, now I want to now where he gets his hallucinogens. Take for example these predictions:
Keep Your Brain Alive is a fascinating little book, summarizing recent neurological research and providing simple methods for improving your thinking and memory. The key points:
The Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University posts their projects in progress.
Using the usual mapping services in New York City is kinda silly, since whenever we're in a car it's usually a cab. And if we're walking we don't need to follow all the one way streets as MapQuest et al would have us do. What we need is a service that lets you specify a preference for the subway or bus and then generates instructions, filling in the gaps with walking directions.
My Proposal for a Digital Financial Advisor is online. My shiny new employer Razorfish says, "Everything that can be digitial will be" and I agree. This position paper, written when I worked for a bank, demonstrates what this could mean for the future of the financial industry.
"Content Gardening" is the metaphor Jakob Neilson uses to describe the idea of helpfully keeping old content around, the subject of my 5-14-1999 rant below (great minds continue to think alike). He adds another reason to archive: the value resulting from the passive distribution of links from other sites to your old pages. He points out that new isn't necessarily better, because it's the old pages that are acting as "referrals" to your site.
An aside: "gardening" is probably not the best metaphor for this phenomenon, as most of gardening reoccurs on a periodic basis and is not the creation of stuff that you keep around for a long time. But I garden and I like his idea and it sounds organicky so the phrase appeals to me. More so I'm enamored with my phrase "passive distribution." ;-)
Research papers on hierarchical 3D workspaces from Inxight (ugh, what a painful name). Bookmarked for later reading, my jury is still out on this whole fly-through hyperbolic tree stuff; aren't they just animated visual representations of how programmers think of file systems? I do have to give Inxight credit for encouraging discussion on the topic even as they commercialize it, instead of simply proclaming these ideas as Xerox PARC's great gift to users.
More revelations of "The Real Jesus", this time from Disinformation.
This interview with Tom Stewart, the intellectual capital guru, makes some interesting points. For example, he says much of the value of intellectual capital will come from leveraging information technology, and yet...
Every company says "We need better communication," so they increase from 20 newsletters and 30 videotapes to 29 newsletters and 55 videotapes. The fact is better communication comes from working together. If you and I are working together, and sharing knowledge, we will in fact communicate....some companies now think they can put all corporate knowledge on one huge server, a giant hyperlinked encyclopedia. It simply can't be done. The real value of information systems is connecting people to people, so they can share what expertise and knowledge they have at the moment, given that the cutting edge is always changing. If you really want to avoid reinventing the wheel, the solution is not to build a warehouse of everything you ever knew about every wheel you ever invented, including all 9,000 wheels you threw out because they were square or triangular. You want to connect questions to answers or to people who can help you find answers.To me this means we need to be thoughtful about sharing information via databases versus good old human-to-human contact. The benefits and pitfalls of each are mostly obvious, yet we rarely apply this test in the rush to throw computers at our problems.
And he says this which reinforces my feeling that companies, like schools, suffer when they exceed 200 people per location:
Sharing knowledge is obviously much easier in a small organization where everyone may see and interact with everyone else daily. But to the extent information and communications technology lowers barriers to entry, or enables broader and more responsive contact with customers, it can give a great advantage to small, entrepreneurial firms.
The concept of web site as archive is one of those new paradigm-ish issues that people new to web publishing should absorb. In the case of a news organization, whether it be a daily newspaper or a non-profit with a monthly newsletter, they're used to publishing discrete issues in time that a library somewhere then archives. On the web you simultaneously publish, retain control of the content, and archive it. Here's two examples of what can go wrong:
Bellcore's Web Interface Design: Learning from our Past course outline. It's mostly a rehash of the usual interface design/usability advice, but he backs it up with some testing and includes some interesting reference links.
NYU's Principles of User Interfaces course outline, bookmarked for future reading.
Whoa! It's big, bad MPEG-4 and it makes MPEG-3 look like cassette tape. In the author's words, "Tools based on the MPEG-4 standard will be the future platform for computer music, audio for gaming, streaming Internet radio, and other multimedia applications," and by the looks of it I hope they're right. Leave it to MIT to be way ahead of the curve.
Donald Norman, usability guru, gets nasty.
Gedanken Experiment - my neat word of the day. It reminds me why I keep reading Network Computing magazine though I don't actually touch networks anymore:
It is typically used of a project, especially one in artificial intelligence research, that is written up in grand detail (typically as a Ph.D. thesis) without ever being implemented to any great extent....A `gedanken thesis' is usually marked by an obvious lack of intuition about what is programmable and what is not, and about what does and does not constitute a clear specification of an algorithm.
The Search for a No-Frills Jesus is the best summary of current historical Jesus/Gospel scholarship I've seen, even more than 2 years after publication. I've finally started seeing documentaries on PBS bringing this research to the public. It could eventually have far reaching effects on how contemporary Christians view the foundation of their religion.
Microsoft's Expedia Maps look pretty nice, with nicely shaded areas instead of the cartoonish primary-colored line drawings of its competitors. But the interface is confusing: the "Place Finder" search won't let you get to street level, and the use of parallel horizontal lines of different length to control zooming is far from intuitable.
W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were just published, and I plan to comply as much as possible. I shudder to think how long it will take for the majority of people with minimal HTML skills to adapt to the changing world of HTML 4.0/dHTML/XML/CSS/ etc. For an organization infamous for its ivory tower documentation, the W3C's Techniques section for implementing the Accessiblity Guidelines is itself accessible. Here's a clip:
A good test to determine if a text equivalent is useful is to imagine reading the document aloud over the telephone. What would you say upon encountering this image to make the page comprehensible to the listener?
I just started a list of auditory interface links, although as I suspected there's no dearth of material, I just haven't searched hard enough for it in the past. I'll probably end up limiting it to Internet-based auditory interfaces in order to make it shorter, unique, and relevant to my particular interest.
I just caught up with reading the last few digests and I'd thought I'd throw out one more reason to avoid using the phrase 'click here'. A good number of tools, both on the development side and more importantly the user side, generate a list of links found on a page and show them out of their immediate context. For example, MSIE 4.0 has a feature to print, in addition to the page, a table of the links found on the page. This is great if you're the type of person who prints a lot of sites out. As a sample I just went to the Wired News site and printed their home page. Here's a sample from the 2 pages of links that were printed.
The "Official MBA Guide" appears amaturish at first, what with its sophomoric graphics and lack of a dedicated domain name. But the data is structured well and the interface isn't half bad. You can learn for example, that every Harvard MBA professor has a doctorate, that Stanford expects applicants to totally rock the GMATs, and how much more you'll earn coming out of Columbia than its downtown competitor NYU.
Copyright 1999-2002 Victor Lombardi