Users

Culture, education, language, and thinking

How we think about problems depends in part of how we are taught to do so. And that education is seeped in our culture and language. Metaphors, mnemonics, analogies, riddles, word choice for explanations are tightly interwoven into our language. Just like it was probably impossible for Romans to invent calculus given their numeral system, it is difficult to think clearly about some problems in some languages. I’ve learned advanced physics and mathematics in English and find it very difficult to express thoughts in those domains in Russian (my native language). But when I first came to New York, I marveled at how poor my cohorts’ geometry proofs were — their presentations took a lot of space and too many steps to achieve what I was taught to do in minimal configuration. I was taught to jump and bound from concept to concept (in geometry), while the students in America were taught to crawl through ideas. I found that maddening! But it was a different math language, and as such it allowed for a different set of affordances… It is difficult to easily show the differences in thought process that language makes in this short blog. But here’s a bit…

Task Analysis and Product Design

Kids from India and Vegetable Choices

Imagine your were given an assignment to develop a product that could help people eat healthy. How would you go about creating such a thing? What would you need to learn/understand? What is the right medium or technology vehicle for such a product? How would you even start? Below is a very brief outline of how to get started and the key tools necessary for the job. Project Goals The first order of business is figuring out the business needs and goals: What is the product really supposed to do? You have to ask this even if you are the one who is the client on this project. But, most probably, you are working for someone else — the client — and you have to start by understanding what your client really wants to do. You can do that in several ways: Analyzing the Request for Proposals: On many such projects, there will be an initial document, something like an RFP, that outlines the business goals and desires of the client. While some RFPs are very detailed and fully fleshed out, most are not. There are many reasons for this. Some clients are worried someone will “steal” their ideas and…

25 Awesome Quotes, 11 Ways, 10 Hateful Things, 8 Steps, 7 Reflections, 5 Hard Facts, 3 Reasons Why, 2 Questions, and 1 Mistake

5 second test

The latest in the professional social media writing is the creation of lists. Sing it with me: 25 Awesome Quotes 11 Secrets & 11 Ways 10 Hateful Things 8 Steps 7 Reflections 5 Seconds Test & 5 Hard Facts & 5 Ways 3 Audiences & 3 Big Trends & 3 Reasons 2 Questions 1 Career Mistake and a Partridge in a pear treeeeee…. What’s going on? Well, the new p-prim in town seems to be: “LinkedIn users like things in neatly organized lists.” And perhaps it is true — LinkedIn might see blogs written in this format as a good marketing trick, getting lots of hits. The more LinkedIn selects such format to feature, the more articles are written in this format — it is a self-replicating problem. In my classes, we talk of surface reading — how in today’s fast-moving culture, people peck and sample content in small bits and pieces: “Just give me the talking points, please.” And we see the results in the news, in PowerPoint presentations, and on LinkedIn’s Influencer Posts. Let’s just hope that some people still take the time to wade through details and read for deeper meaning.

Google Apps New Pay Policy and Behavioral Economics

Google Apps Icons

Yesterday, Google flipped a switched on its Google Apps policy — starting with December 7th, 2012, Google Apps will no longer be free! The change is for Google Apps for Business and it effectively ends the ability to create free accounts for groups of 10 or fewer users (here’s Google’s announcement). Individuals could still have a personal account, but businesses will have to pay $50 per user, per year… That is NEW business customers will have to pay — if you had a business account prior to the announcement, you get to keep it on the same terms you’ve signed up for — free! But all new Google Apps business customers from this point forward will pay to play. There’s a lot of chatter about whether Google’s customers will pay or walk away, but I’m interested in the behavioral economics analysis of this change. Allow me describe a few experiments on anchoring — the psychological phenomena where individuals get attached to the first result they witness and base their subsequent decisions on that original priming. The experiments I’m going to describe come from two books: Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions”…

Haptics and the Uniformity of Gloss

For an introduction into the science of haptics, the article, “Primal, Acute and Easily Duped: Our Sense of Touch,” provided great examples about the accuracy and fallibility of our sense of touch. However, the proliferation of touch-sensitive input devices over the past 4 years since it was written didn’t provide the author with any insight into their pending popularity, or the effect they would have on our fingertips. If our fingertips can feel a bump the thickness of one micron, imagine the sensitivity they have even as they slide over a touch-sensitive glass tablet, a glossy plastic mouse, or an anodized smooth track pad. The more our fingertips are required to touch, drag, swipe, and pinch, even over smooth surfaces, the more abrasive those surfaces become over time and the more those subtle abrasions wear on our skin. Glass becomes scratched, plastic becomes scuffed, and biological stains build up on anodized aluminum along with all other surfaces. The point being that these smooth surfaces end up hurting, if not annoying, our fingertips over time. If the fingertips are the equivalent of the fovea of our eyes, why subject ourselves to these increasingly painful disturbances and not return to using an…

We Are 80% Optimistic

Gallagher, James, (2011). “Brain ‘rejects negative thoughts’.”  BBC.co.uk. Visited on October 8, 2012: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15214080 This article, “Brain ‘rejects negative thoughts’”, speaks of a generalized view of the brain based on evidence gathered from a wide population. Optimists, or those whose frontal lobes process good news and comparatively ignore bad news, make up about 80% of the population; while the remaining 20%, the pessimists, have a similar predisposition to bad news. Since optimists do not absorb bad news, risks are often underestimated; as a population, it can be generalized to say that the people respond more to good news than to bad. Conceptual Design: If risks are to be acknowledged and people’s views changed to reflect them, information regarding them should be emphasized. Information with positive effect will be more attractive, and need not be emphasized for message to be processed. Knowledge of this could be particularly useful in government. Knowing this, in sales, information may be designed which downplays risks, and emphasizes positive attributes, for maximum acceptance of the product in a general population. Furthermore, a population whose predilection is to pessimism could be acknowledged with information products designed specifically for them. Interaction Design: Elements of the product may be…

Who Controls Social Networks?

Article: Bohannon, J. (2012). “Who Controls Social Networks?” sciencemag.org. Visited on Oct 9, 2012:http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/06/who-controls-social-networks.html This article is about how ideas spread in social groups through peer influence. A theory long debated is that a small number of people who are influencers spread ideas through their peer groups. Critics of the theory argue that is it not how much influence these people have but how susceptible to the new idea people are. The study of peer influence has proven difficult to conduct, but the rise of social networks such as Facebook provide a means for researchers to study a large number of people. One study in the article found that on Facebook there was a clear divide between influencers and those that were susceptible to new ideas. Conceptually, it’s important for any product developer to understand who their product’s influencers are if they wish their product to spread through peer influence. The article suggests that the personality traits of people affect influence. Examples: Women influence men more than women. People over 30 were more influential than those under 30. The article states that the most important finding is that Influencers and those who are susceptible are not traits found within the…