Background Knowledge Errors

Thoughts on An Event Apart San Francisco

AnEventApart Logo

We just returned from An Event Apart San Francisco and I am trying to put down notes and ideas while they are fresh in my mind. It was three full intense days of information — some great, some good, some not so much. But overall, it was a valuable experience (and they do conference right — great food, comfortable location, endless supply of coffee and sugar). My take is always unique — I overheard some people who were ecstatic over the presentations that I felt were completely off — but I have been in the business for over three decades now and I want ideas that are new to me. So here are my notes from the presentations. “The Fault, Dear Brutus (or: Career Advice From a Cranky Old Man)” by Jeffrey Zeldman A lot of what Jeffery spoke about resonated strongly: the need to force ourselves to get rid of disdain for our clients that just “don’t get it” — mutual respect is the foundation of designer-client relationship in conversation about design, focus on purpose and use and stay away from esthetics — every person has their own sometimes, people (clients, bosses) are incapable of seeing our growth as…

LinkedIn Groups

Abstract Groups Image

I’ve started a discussion (or I hoped I did) the other day — it was about LinkedIn algorithms for auto moderating. These algorithms don’t work well. As an example, I invoked a group discussion I’ve started in a group where I am a moderator that was moved to “jobs” because LinkedIn didn’t understand the content. The article I shared was on the psychology of criminal sentencing research. It had nothing to do with jobs. Then when I looked around, I found other articles that people shared that ended up under “promotions” and “jobs” tabs. Different groups have different purposes. Some groups are about sharing information — I welcome people sharing articles about relevant topics. Such groups become magazines, news papers for narrow subject areas and self-selected audiences. That is very useful. Sometimes, there are discussion around these articles, sometimes not. That’s okay — that’s the kind of group it might be. When groups start, they are a potentiality — something wonderful might happen…or might not. It takes at least 500 group members to start the group moving and propagating. (I did a bit of research on this a few years ago.) Before that number, it is a lot of work…

We Are the Magicians

Maximilien Luce, Morning, Interior, 1890, using pointillist technique

We all make magic every day. Don’t think so? Then consider this, we conjure up complete worlds of information with a mere suggestion, just a bit of outline, a stroke or two, a few words, a spatter of color, a dash of melody. We literally make grand visions from just a trickle of data. This is true for those who design and those who consume information. Let’s first explore our ability to comprehend very incomplete information. Take pointillism — an art movement (technique) that required artists to create images using points of pure color — why are we able to “see” the complete image from a mere collection of dots? With just a collection of colored dots, we are all able to imagine the mood, understand the story, visualize the universe behind this painting. You can say: “well, the artist was great at using dots.” But it is not just dots that we are good at. We reconstruct our reality from little bits of incomplete data all day every day of our lives. Consider the tone of voice of the person who answered the phone — you can easily tell the mood and even guess at the personality of that…

Review eBook: Affordances and Design

Manches a Gigots

Victor Kaptelinin, a Professor at the Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway, and the Department of Informatics, Umeaa University, Sweden, just published an eBook with Interaction Design Foundation: “Affordances and Design.” I was asked to write a review of this book and provide some insights into using affordances in interaction design and HCI. Let me start by providing the definition of affordance as given by Donald Norman: In his eBook, Victor Kaptelinin provides the history of the idea of affordance from its initial introduction by James Gibson in 1977 to the present day. The eBook’s bibliography and reference section is a great place to start the exploration of this topic for anyone new to these ideas. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t help much if an individual is looking for some guidance on how to apply these ideas in practical situations during interaction design or HCI design. For clarity’s sake, allow me to give a very brief explanation of affordances, from their roots to the present time. When James Gibson first introduced the concept of affordances, he focused on physical environment — what actions are possible? And the set of these action were invariable — just because…

When Design and Interface are Dictated by the Technology

You’ve probably heard: If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is a commentary on how our problem solving perspective is influenced by the tools we happen to have in our hands at that moment. The tools, of course, don’t have to be physical. They can be systems, or lists, or a set of approaches that we’ve learned at school or that are enforced at work. And they can also be digital tools that we feel particularly comfortable using. These “tools” constrict our metal models, limiting the possible solutions to the design problems we face at work (or at home). It’s not a surprise that if we Google “WordPress Templates,” all the results look more or less the same. This is partly because of the tool — WordPress is a great tool, but as any tool, it limits the final creative output to what is easy. (Especially, if the designer is not a programmer.) Here’s a look at Google Image results for “WordPress Screenshots”: What’s interesting is the flip side of this phenomenon. Once we see a lot of nails, we expect nails as the solution. So it is not a surprise that not only do most…

Language, Culture, and Communication

Where we come from — our background culture: our country of origin and language, our heritage and religion (or lack there of), our family, our education, our friends, and where we live — has an enormous impact on our ability to communicate. What’s more, when people from different cultural backgrounds try to interact with each other, these differences can cause catastrophic failures. Direct versus Indirect Communication Styles Consider the following set of remarks about doing homework: Do your homework! Can you start doing your homework? Would you mind starting your homework now? Let’s clean the table so you can start your homework. Do you need help with homework? It’s getting late, do you have a lot of homework? Didn’t you say you have a lot of homework? Johnny’s mom said that he has a lot of homework today… Do you have everything ready for school tomorrow? Look how late it is — it’s almost time for bed. You have school tomorrow. Each of the statements above represents a progressively less direct command to do homework. In my family, I usually pick number 2 to communicate my desires for finished homework to my sons (although number 1 is perfectly acceptable, to…