Friday, November 28, 2008

Project “Renaissance” Kick-Off

Project Renaissance, to rethink the graphical user interface (GUI) and interaction of, was announced on OOoCon 2008 and has been officially launched this week. Renaissance is a long running project and will start from scratch, so please do not expect to see something in OOo 3.1.

Some details about the project
The project is divided in three phases:
  1. Research
  2. Design
  3. Evaluation
Currently we are in phase 1 where we want to understand our users before we start designing anything. We will do usage tracking to get real data what our users do. We do surveys to understand who our users are and what they think about the product and we will do a lot more of things to understand our users (i.e. focus groups, Isometrics survey ). In phase 2 we will not limit ourselves to the possibilities of our current OOo GUI toolkit. We will create a list of requirements and the development will work to create a framework that could fulfill these requirements.

The Problem
Why do we run this project?
  • users complain about its cumbersome and outdated graphical user interface (GUI)
  • A great deal of functionality is hidden in many overstuffed toolbars, poorly structured menus and complex dialogs
  • Functions are thus difficult to access for novice users or too inefficient to use for expert users
  • In addition, the GUI offers an antiquated look & feel which is hardly capable to communicate innovation and to create joy of use
Our Mission

“Create a User interface so that becomes the users' choice not only out of need but also out of desire.”

Our Goal
... to know and to understand our users as they are, and to help them accomplish what they want to, by providing efficient access to valuable functionality through a desirable user interface.

Scope of the Project

We want to rethink the interaction and visual design of OOo. We do not want to build new features.

Project Home
Project Renaissance uses the Wiki for project coordination. As we start from scratch, you will currently find only basic information around the project. Details about communication channels (Wiki, Blogs, mailing lists) will follow as soon as possible.

This is a very important project for OOo and we are really looking forward working with the OOo community! So please stay tuned and participate!

Best regards,

Frank Loehmann
OOo User Experience Project Lead

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Back After 3 Years

Amazing, but true! In Germany it is possible to take three years of parental leave.
When I returned to the office a few weeks ago, some guys couldn't believe it had been so long already. I told them they were coding when I left and they are still typing code now, so that's why they didn't even notice the passing of time. :-)

My parental leave ended when my little boy turned 3. It wasn't three years of only fun and games, though. When he was only two months old I realized that he had stopped breathing, so after intensive care and diagnosis, the doctors sent us home with a monitor. You know, electrodes on his chest, oxygen sensor on his foot, alarms sounding whenever he stopped breathing or the sensor was faulty, etc. "Fun" for the whole family, but at least it was only a matter of time till his body repaired the bugs in the software. Now he goes to preschool and is full of mischief. He is bright, busy and bilingual---speaking German (like Papa) and English (like Mama).

I'm so glad to still be an employee at Sun, but, aside from now being only part-time, my job has changed. I used to be active in the community mostly in marketing and German native lang, but may be remembered most as the enthusiastic linguist in charge of UI text in the German and English versions of the office suite.
If you are also passionate about User Interface text, you might be interested in the style guide I wrote before I left on leave.

Now, I am no longer in charge of text on the software design team. So please don't send me those issues/bugs! ;-) My current focus is user experience in general and to this aim I have joined the website mailing list because I thought I'd help improve the usability of the wiki. This and other similar work is something I can do easily from home and at odd hours, as is often necessary when small children are involved. Sun is a great employer, especially since I get a SunRay with peaceful and productive network access from home or office. I'm a big fan of computer people (I married a Java developer, of course!), but I am really quite pleased when I can do my work and let them do theirs. ;-)

I plan to write more about work and life on this blog. This is my first blogging experience and yet I already feel like a happy little pixel in the global picture.

Friday, November 21, 2008

ODF documents statistics

As Christian mentioned in his post here, the IBM Symphony UX team did some statistical analysis of text documents on the web and they presented the results at the conference in Beijing. Since then, I could not sleep and was wondering how they did it and how we could possibly do similar things since their code is not available yet.

So, I just started sniffing around in the XML files of one of my own ODTs and look what I found:

This is a line from the meta.xml file that describes some basic document statistics. It includes the number of tables, images, other objects, pages, paragraphs, words, and even characters.

As a consequence, it is amazingly easy to get these statistics from ODF documents, assuming that every ODF file has this information included. I will bug Svante a bit about that to figure out some more details.

Then, I checked out the page and the opportunities the framework offers. So here is shot, how about a small and nice piece of Java code to parse the exact meta.xml files within ODF documents and to output a Calc spreadsheet with the statistics? I’d love that and the information would actually help us to make particular decisions within the Renaissance project.

So, what do you think of that, any volunteers?


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wordle, I love this tool!

Recently, I posted a survey on my Linkedin account (Q&A section) to collect some feedback to the following question "If you were offered Microsoft Office 2007 or 3.0, BOTH for free, which would you chose and for what reasons?". I was pretty much interested for what reasons people would or would not prefer OOo 3.0 over MSO 2007. The survey is closed now and I received 64 answers. The feedback is very interesting and valueable, as soon as I am through with the analysis, I will post the important things here.

However, so far I just tried to make some sense out of it and put it into Wordle. A very cool tool, I just love it. You can insert plain text, from a survey for instance, and this tool creates a nice word cloud of the input. Very useful if you want to see which words occur in the feedback and how often. So, without any further comments, here is the result!



Monday, November 17, 2008

OOoCon 2008. What's next?

Writing this blog post feels a bit like sharing my final thoughts about this year's conference. I still cannot believe that only one week ago, I sat in a plane on my way home - the last week passed by without noticing it.

Okay, even my connecting fly just passed by ... because our plane from Beijing was pretty late. So I "enjoyed" one additional night in a hotel nearby. At least, it was payed by the airline, but that did not make it more comfortable :-)

After my job took total control over me, I finally managed to upload my photos to share it with ... the world ... and you. I added some comments, so today I will just skip the explanation about what happened on our last day in Beijing (from the tourist point-of-view).

But, the days in China were not only interesting in terms of or visiting Beijing's sights. It was also very helpful for me to get some personal feedback by other community members. One example: People got the impression that the structure and argumentation in my emails made many discussion somewhat "final". From their point-of-view, this is a big problem for new UX members who want to contribute ... those members may be somewhat "frightened". I think that such kind of feedback is very valuable, and I will try to consider that in the future. And if you will ever notice that I "lost my mind" - remind me, please :-)

There are also other things I don't want to get lost. On my way back, I thought about how we can make our contributions more efficient and better in quality to get them better adopted by the developers. Another thought was how we can fulfill the mission statement of the new project "Renaissance" - creating innovation. The funny thing is, that most of the ideas to achieve that have already been mentioned in the last months. Either there was no time on my side or the discussion just got lost... So after this year's conference, my personal goals are:
  • Create a place to collect new ideas. You may remember the discussion about UX brainstorming, I mentioned something like the "UX brainwaves" blog. However it will be finally called, it would be great to collect and discuss ideas in one place.
  • Get a better understanding for data driven UX approaches. Some months ago, I asked what the UX community thinks about approaches like Personas. Personally, I'm convinced that this is the way to go for complex activities like "Project Renaissance".
  • Working on the Writer's notes, again. After presenting the Notes development to the public, I would like to re-intensify my work on them. Yesterday I worked on the "Notes Ruler Control" which hopefully will make it into Writer 3.1. That would be great!
These are my personal favorites, so please feel free to propose topics which you think are important for UX. In the best of all cases, our goals match - especially for the ideas blog the UX project needs help: technical realization, design, ... and ideas. So is there anybody who wants to mastermind that?

That's it for today. Cheers,

OOo Con 2008 --- Wrap Up

I was really impressed about the fact that this years Conference had 9(!) UX-related talks. This is really a success and emphases the importance of user experience in the whole Project. IBM and RedFlag presented [1,2] some pretty cool UI improvements realized on top of

Image courtesy of RedFlag2000 Software CO.,LTD [3]

We've received pretty positive feedback on the User Feedback program and the Isometrics questionnaire [4]. Another talk I'd would like to mention is the "Learn more about office users - Feature usage study by document element statistic" presentation [5] (sadly not publish now). The IBM Lotus Symphony UX Team analyzed 1600 ODF, DOC public available documents for feature usage analysis based on document element statistics. They've figured out that:

* 41% of all documents contain tables
* 95% of all documents contain less than 10000 word (approx. 30 Pages)

As mentioned earlier, it is good to see that interest in UX-related stuff exist and rises. I hope that the next OOo Con brings up even more talks on User Experience related topics.


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Friday, November 14, 2008

The UX Team at the World Usability Day in Hamburg

Yesterday, members of the UX project actively and passively attended the World Usability Day in Hamburg. Christian and myself gave a presentation about the Usage Tracking Extensions and the IsoMetrics-S questionnaire. Basically we talked about same things as during our presentation in Beijing, but this time in German. The feedback was quite nice, people were really interested and impressed, to some extent, that we have chosen a data-driven methodology to improve

However, other contributors had very good presentations, too. James Kalbach, for instance, gave a nice talk about Commercial Ethnography. That was my favorite. Since we plan to do similar research in form of ethnographic interviews in the context of the UI redesign, that talk offered some insights how others successfully use qualitative methods for UX design. People from gave a nice introduction about their first experiences combining Agile software development and User Centered Design. Also an interesting and a hot topic in the UX community since Agile is the way to do development nowadays.

Overall, I was impressed by the amount of attendees and the amount of usability professionals present at this local event. By the way, we were able to distribute a lot of flyers and writing blocks. So, in terms of marketing, this event was also a success.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

OOo Con 2008 captured in 2D

Hi folks!

just a short notice, I uploaded some of my OO.o Con pictures. Here comes the link:

Two things I'd like to share. I really liked the talks, a lot of UX. Actually, more than I expected. Way to go! Being sick and not able to attend several important post mortem events, that is something I really did not like :-(


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Get Three for One

Today, you will get some news from three days in one blog post. Unfortunately, the preparation of our presentation took more time than expected. But, let's just start with...

Thursday: Project Renaissance

Thursday was the second day of the conference - and it was still very inspiring. The most interesting part (at least for me *g*) was the announcement given by Frank Loehmann of the "Project Renaissance" (presentation "The State of the User Experience project"). This activity will lead to a new user interface and interaction concepts for You are not dreaming, it seems to be true :-)

What should be achieved was formulated in the mission statement: "Create a User Interface so that becomes the users' choice not only out of need but also out of desire." Here is a snapshot of the presentation:

The announcement is just a start and can be interpreted like a commitment of Sun to support such an activity. So there are no concept or mockups available, but we all may contribute to improve concerning UX (usability, productivity, enjoyment). I asked Frank and he will provide more information to the community in the next few days.

Until then, we may have a look how Chinese travelers work as a community to support the bus driver (photo taken at the evening):

Friday: Our Presentation and The Closing Ceremony

Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of "Making the New Notes - Community, Collaboration, Concepts". Nevertheless, I think we did provide some useful insight in our Notes2 activity. But you may want to judge for yourself...

We had the last presentation slot and then moved on to a very fine hotel to attend the closing ceremony. Some speakers took us some days back in time and provided insight in their view of how the community evolved. Then, delicious meals were offered and we had the chance to see some Chinese acts (magicians, acrobats, fighters, ...):

Here, I would like to say thank you to our Chinese community and the sponsors which prepared and financed the OOoCon. My overall impression is that everything was really excellent! So again, a big thank you to all the supporters and volunteers!!!

Saturday: Tourist Trip Starts

When we registered, we have been offered to attend a two days tourist trip in the area of Beijing. So after getting up really early, we went to the "Great Wall" and back to Beijing to visit the "Bird's Nest". It is really impressive and it is hardly imaginable that, e.g. for the latter one, the Olympic Games have been there only few months ago. Between those sightseeing spots, there have be some arrangements to visit a Jade factory and a Silk factory - let's say that this caused discussion in our group :-)

At the evening, we went on to buy some small gifts and to get something to eat. And, like every day, the rest of the evening was spent in the hotel bar to meet the other community members and to strengthen our relationships. I'm pretty sure that I will miss some of the people when I leave...

Oh, due to the preparation of my departure, I'm not sure if it is possible for me to blog tomorrow.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nothing really thrilling today, but at least my first attendance on an conference...

The opening ceremony was held in a official building (Diaoyutai State Guesthouse) which was decorated in the colors of the OOoCon 2008. Although being a bit different in comparison with the 'blue', all media (presentation screens, banners, cards, ...) seem to be carefully designed and are very consistent. It was a pleasure to look at:

After the ceremony, which seemed to be a bit long, we drove on to the Peking University. There, the Sun User Experience team members Bettina Haberer and Christian Jansen held the first presentation: "What's New in 3.0?". Although there were some issues with the data projector and the internet connection, they demonstrated how did improve over time. And now you can judge if the persons on the picture did improve, too :-)

The evening was spent together with e.g. the Sun UX team, some Sun Writer team members and the German community. Like the evenings before, there were discussions about the project, how to handle issues, how to manage new features in Writer and the quality of the Chinese beer. Not bad, by the way. So we "ended up" in the bar of the hotel. And, most probably, some people may still be there... As I said, no surprise today.

So enjoy the rest of your day,


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Oh, it's pretty late!

Wow, it's about 2:30 am now... it has been a great day before the conference really starts (great except playing the tourist).

So, after an extensive breakfast, some attendees moved towards a coffee bar to get some "real coffee". And, some bits and bytes from the "free" (as in beer) WLAN internet connection. I think, it has been a very funny discussion and I enjoyed to get in touch with some German community members I didn't knew much about, e.g. Jacqueline Rahemipour, André Schnabel, Stefan Taxhet and Andreas Mantke (see the post yesterday):

At 2 pm we had finished to work on our mails. We went back to the hotel and picked up some members of the Sun User Experience team and Max who just arrived. They starved from hunger. So we continued our discussion during a great meal. We decided that the most delicious dish was the "exploded chicken" (own interpretation). Let's have a look at Christian Jansen (Sun UX), Frank Loehmann (Sun UX), Max Odendahl (OOo development) and Andreas Mantke starting the meal (from left to right):

After being filled with an enourmous amount and variety of food, we went on to see the "Lama Temple" which is located in the center of the city. Like yesterday, we missed the opening hours by a few minutes ... Ouch! Instead, we took the chance and walked around in the smaller (and maybe less beautiful, but also interesting) streets - like in the picture here:

Do you miss something? I think yes, because I didn't talk about the next meal.... A very large group of people joined a meeting in a restaurant nearby. Perfect dinner which brought up a very interesting UX discussion. One of the people involved was Cor Nouws (OOo contributor, e.g. NL marketing contact). From left to right, front to rear ... various people except me:

Finally, I don't want you to miss two very interesting UX bits I found today, both located in the Beijing metro. First, there is a very interesting button on the ticket vending machine:

The description is rather far away from the button, and the pictures itself help nothing at least. But what could it be on the first sight? It is round, red and protected by a transparent cover to avoid unintended activation. Best guesses: The self destruction mechnism? The ultra-secred rocket launcher? No, it seems to be the help button... but I still don't know if it is for emergency use. Anyway, we should re-think the menu item to make it look similar to prevent people from opening the help. This would greatly reduce the efforts for maintaining it :-)

A much better idea was to put braille texts on the handrails for the staircases. This idea rocks and shows how information can be integrated within physical objects: the staircase both leads into a certain direction and will be touched most propably (at least blind people will use it).

Now, I will get in touch with my bed. I'm looking forward for my first official conference day...

Bye, Christoph

Monday, November 3, 2008

Christoph, this is Beijing. Beijing, this is Christoph.

Finally, I'm in Beijing. It's hard to believe...

The flight was good and I arrived at the Beijing Capital Airport at about 10 am. Before I left the airport building, I noticed a guy with an "" neck strap and made my very first contact with another attendee: Claudio Filho. So people, please don't forget those important indicators! I don't have one yet ... and my excuse: this is my first OOoCon.

Together, we took the bus to the hotel. The closer we came to our destination, the more attendees we met. In the hotel, we met Peter Junge, who is one of the main conference organizers. We took the chance and went to lunch with him - so he was in charge to select some very delicious dishes for us. Thanks Peter, it was ... yummi!

The picture shows our group before the meal. That's better, because afterwards the table looked less shiny. We will soon get used to chopsticks :-) Anyway, from left to right: Christoph (it's me), Claudio Filho ( Project), Florian Reuter (Novell), Andreas Mantke (German Portable Project) and Peter Junge (RedFlag 2000).

After the meal, some of us headed towards the "Big Bell Temple". Unfortunately, the area was closed in the moment when we just arrived, so we missed that opportunity. Instead, we took a photo from Mr. Small Bell.

Bang. That wasn't the bell... the jetlag came instantly and we hurried up to get "home" and some sleep.

Later in the evening (I went out to get some fresh air), I noticed that the entrance hall now looks like an real entrance hall (tomorrow, I expect more people to fill the space).

After all, it has been a very nice start for me! So I'm looking forward to see the other UX team members who will join tomorrow...

See (and meet?) you!