August 08, 2003

Sez U

Linux nears Windows XP usability (???!!!)

Linux closes on Windows in usability tests

I don't read German, but I'm a bit skeptical (as are others) of this report. Would be great if Linux was catching up, but the jury's still out on the test methodology used to assert such big claims.

"The Linux testers were in fact able to complete some tasks more quickly than the Windows testers, including playing and burning a CD and using email. Relevantive found that in the case of CD burning, this was probably due to the fact that the function has been integrated into Windows Explorer, which went against the expectations of the Windows testers."

...waiting for the English translation of the report...

Related Posts:
- Lyle: Usability and Open Source Software
- Open Letter to a Power User / Developer
Mark Hurst's Take on "The Role"

In a somewhat veiled response to the aftermath of Tog's bomb, Mark makes some awesome points I whole-heartedly agree with in Usability Professionals Must Disappear:

"Here's the thing about user experience work: its success depends primarily on the buy-in from everybody else in the larger organization. The primary issue isn't what you're named, but what results you're generating, and what buy-in you're getting from the company."

"In short, a good user experience practitioner is a facilitator - someone who quietly (having disappeared) guides the process, allowing knowledge to emerge, from users and the company alike. Instead of coming in with the answers, or the framework, or (my personal favorite) "the 200 rules of user experience design," they should come in with their auditory organs turned up to eleven. Listening."

Amen, Amen, Amen!
(Extra points for the Spinal Tap reference, too!)

My New Title
I'm having a hard time choosing my new title:
A. Professional Whale Tackler
B. User Boy
C. Customer-Centered Weenie

Related Spinal Tap Quotes:
"In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, an ancient race of people... the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing..." - Nigel

"It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever. " - David

Ian: "Nigel gave me a drawing that said 18 inches. Now, whether or not he knows the difference between feet and inches is not my problem. I do what I'm told."
David: "But you're not as confused as him are you. I mean, it's not your job to be as confused as Nigel."

- Lyle: An Open Letter to Tog
- Tog: It's Time We Got Respect
- Challis Hodge: UX Roles & Titles: Trend or Profession?
Inspiration Soup and Mackerelly

You have to read the text on this site and especially for each recipe card (there's about 25 of them) - some are pretty hilarious. Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974

My favorite cards:

- Fluffy Mackerel Pudding
"Once upon a time the world was young and the words "mackerel" and "pudding" existed far, far away from one another. One day, that all changed. And then, whoever was responsible somehow thought the word fluffy would help."

- Frankfurter Spectacular
- Caucasian Shashlik
- Inspiration Soup

August 06, 2003

Coders or Cannibals

Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer?

I always knew the folks that invented things like C++ and Java were sadistic, sick individuals!


August 05, 2003

An Open Letter to Tog

Tog (aka Bruce Tognazzini) of NNG has a new article called "It's Time We Got Respect." Tog issues a rally-cry for "software designers, or interaction engineers, or human interface folks, or whatever we who create the interaction model for our products are calling ourselves this week." He thinks we need a "new beginning" - that we need to name ourselves something new (Interaction Architects) that we need to create a collective brand, and that we need a new professional organization to go with it all.

I disagree.

Below is my response that I posted on the Yahoo! Group Tog has setup to discuss the article. I've added some emphasis here to facilitate better scanning for those of you that don't hang on my every word. :)

Are you in the game or sitting on the sidelines?
Okay, so I'm already a SIG-CHI member, I'm on the board of a local UPA chapter, and I consider myself an active member of the "SIG-IA" community. I'm already over-committed. Aifia is new, AIGA-ED is new, DUX is new...we've seen plenty of new organizations and events recently.

I don't call myself a "Usability Professional", although I would say I belong to that field, my title is "User Experience Architect." I came to the conclusion a long time ago that most titles need some explaining, and in the course of explaining mine I get to tell people the *value* of what I do. (For what it's worth, I also picked "architect" for many of the same reasons Tog did.) If you say you're a "lawyer," people will want to know what kind of shark, er lawyer you are, especially if they are considering using your services.

To put it bluntly, I don't need yet another organization to belong to, and I think there is enough latitude within existing organizations to accomplish Tog's stated goals. In fact, I can't see how Tog's goals are any different from UPA's.

(From the UPA web site:)
The Usability Professionals' Association was formed to:

- Provide a network and opportunities through which usability professionals can communicate and share information about skills and skill development, methodology used and/or proposed in the profession, tools, technology, and organizational issues.
- Present the viewpoints of the profession to the public and other interested parties.
- Educate the general public and others on the usefulness of the profession.
- Represent the profession before governmental bodies and agencies.
- Provide the methods and means to increase the members' knowledge of the profession through seminars, newsletters, magazines, and other communication tools, and through meetings and conventions.
- Serve the best interests of the usability profession.

They also list some Usability and User-Centered Design Activities including design.

I'm mainly a designer, and while I do some testing in the course of my work I've never said I was a "tester." I've never seen UPA as an organization for "testers" -- UPA promotes every aspect of User-Centered Design (or Human-Centered Design if you like) and all the requisite roles therein. They are, as Tog points out, very practitioner focused. Lots of interaction design and information architecture folks regularly attend our local UPA-MN meetings and international UPA events.

So what should we do?
My suggestion would be for people to get active in UPA or SIG-CHI or AIGA-ED or aifa or whatever and make an impact in the direction of those organizations. Help them better acheive their stated goals.

Start a local chapter, volunteer for a board position, start a SIG, plan an event around ID/IA that's sponsored by an existing organization. It's a hell of a lot less work than creating a whole new organization, and you won't be competing with related organizations either. Want to promote ID or Usability? Join (or chair) a communications committee and send out some press releases, recognize companies with awards, generate some interest. The number of folks really active in these fields isn't great enough to support lots of organizations. (Tog, think about how much more you and others in NNG could do for UPA or SIG-CHI...)

Critics of existing organizations may think that those organizations are doing exactly what they want to do, but the fact is that most organizations aren't doing anything close to what they'd like to do. Their efforts are severly limited by a lack of resources - financial, physical, and emotional. They can use your help, your fresh ideas, and your enthusiasm.

We are definitely "two sides of the same coin," so let's work together. Want to do something? Realize you can change what exists today, get off of the sidelines, and get in the game so we can win. Don't go start a new game - we need you on our team!

I'd be happy to discuss this further. As Tog indicated in his article's introduction, this is a very important issue.

Lyle Kantrovich

- Blog post: "Why I’m not calling myself an Information Architect anymore"
- B&A Comments on "Why I’m not calling myself an Information Architect anymore"
- The Making of a Discipline: The Making of a Title
- Challis Hodge - UX Roles & Titles: Trend or Profession?
- Argus-ACIA Salaries and Benefits for Information Architects - Most Common Titles
- Bloug: IAs: Better at Marketing than they Thought?