Thursday, April 22, 2010

Departure ahead!

I was wrong. Simply wrong. In my last posting, I announced to go back to Germany ... but the "vulcano ash situation" changed the schedule a bit. The flight has been delayed by 6 days ... so I will leave today. Most probably.

But I wasn't the only one. Some people of the Georgia Tech University did start to organize stuff. Managing events and keeping us up-to-date via Twitter, Facebook (there is an own group for people "stranded" after the CHI 2010), Google Documents ... they have been just great. The lists contained about 160 people who - partly - needed help. Imagine all the students and their limited financial resources. Or all those business people who required a simple desk. They took care - thank you so much!

Yesterday for example, the guys organized a movie night ... we all watched The Terminal. To be honest, this has been fun because we already knew that things are moving on in Europe.

Europe. There have been many people from Germany, so we went out on Sunday to hang out at the Dogwood festival. And, some of us spent also some time in the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Funnily, they had an exhibition called "Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters" ... and they had some control boards to "build your own vulcano". Strange. At least in the current situation.

However, I've learned a lot in the last days. Most important: sleeping during the waiting loop when calling the airline support hotline :-) Please keep your fingers crossed that I can avoid that in the future.


Friday, April 16, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Four

Finally, the last day of the conference CHI ... so what happened?

Conference Stuff

I attended the course "Developing an Effective Prototyping Strategy". As far as I understood, the term "prototyping" comprised everything from idea creation phase until the start of the implementation phase. Personally, I tend to think a bit different about that ... I prefer to distinguish between idea generation, requirements engineering, design proposals. The latter one may be prototyped via paper, computer graphics, ... whatever is available :-) And this is already an important information - use whatever is appropriate for a certain problem.

One of the trainers published the book "Effective Prototyping with Excel". I am not kidding; he presented astonishing results of famous web pages and their Microsoft Excel counterparts. However, they affirmed that they had been using Calc for that purpose, too.

Two nice things popped up in the course: First, they use fidelity matrixes and and mockup expiration dates. I think I'll cover that later until figuring out how to make use of them.

After that, I went to a few presentations and joined a discussion group ... day job related. Finally, the conference ended with the Closing Plenary and "Doing what’s right with robots: an ethical appraisal of robot application". Very interesting.

Open Source User Experience

Later, I had the chance to talk with Paula Bach (Pennsylvania State University, Microsoft; I mentioned her in the previous blog posts) and Alex Faarborg (Principal Designer on Firefox). We went out for dinner and I introduced them the project and our UX team a bit.

Alex asked some very good questions about our goals and the overall strategy ... but since we (whole Community) haven't commonly agreed on anything, it became (again!) clear that there are still major issues within the project. At least when it comes - he also asked questions about that - the kind engagement of our volunteering community members. However, we will stay in contact since they (and others) are interested in a general open-source usability / user experience / human-computer interaction / ... activity. Cool!

Sorry for the picture of us three. I mean, not for the picture itself, but for the low quality ... there is always a risk when asking strangers to help out ;-)

So, to sum up the nice guys I've met in the last few days:
  • Máirín Duffy (interaction designer, RedHat)
  • Paula Bach (open source researcher, also working for Microsoft)
  • Roshanak Zilouchian (open source researcher)
  • Alex Faaborg (principal designer, Firefox)


Today I will depart - unless the recent activities of the vulcano Eyjafjallajökull will again cause delays or cancellations in the European air traffic. But even if everything wents fine, please don't expect further messages to soon ... I'll cure a bad jet lag ;-)


PS: By the way, the next conference is the LinuxTag in Berlin. My proposal "Project Renaissance in the year 2010" has been accepted. Great, isn't it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Three

The Pictures Post :-) I'm sorry to throw so many pictures at you, but many things happened and I think it is worth looking at it...

I noticed that I completely missed to show you where the conference is located - it is a big hotel in the dowtown. Although I live nearby, I would like to share the great interior of the hotel lobby.

The first item that day was the panel "Managing User Experience ... Managing Change" - insanely good when looking at corporate environments. Managers from Google, Cisco, Microsoft and (...) talked about their experience bring User Experience into the company. The funny thing was, that these people had also worked for Yahoo! or Oracle - so the attendees could greatly benefit from their experience.

As I said yesterday, I tried to attend "Involving Reflective Users in Design" by Paula Bach. I didn't knew that she made a study of the posts on our mailing lists, more precisely how our UX team members (she called them reflective users) describe problems and potential solutions for The thread she cited was the one about "showing or hiding rulers per default in Writer" (sorry, no link). I'll ask her to provide the text (the "real" paper can't be shared, it is copyrighted by the conference organization).

The absolute "wow" came with the hospitality event in the evening. It took place at the Georgia Aquarium: Sharks, Whales, Small Fishes ... similar to the participants in an open-source project (just kidding).

IBM Research provided sweets and coffee - and announced that with a sign. But when the perspective is changed slightly ... see for yourself :-)

As I said, the real "wow" came with the aquariums - here just two examples. You could walk trough a tunnel and look the fishes from below!

Another great thing was the widescreen aquarium with a huge glass front. Unfortunately the time was up already, so we had to go. Chatting with others and watching the fishes are two things which compete too much.

In the late evening I wanted to talk a bit with Paula, but I didn't see her in the masses. Instead, I've met Roshanak Zilouchian and her supervisor - great! Roshanak is an open-source community researcher and we talked about how we develop and how we interact with the corresponding tools (wiki, issue tracker, ...). Maybe you remember - there have been some mails by her on our mailing lists.

However, I was happy to join them and we went to a revolving restaurant with a great view ... enjoy!

As you might guess - I have to hurry up. The last day of the conference is today ... and I don't want to miss that.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CHI 2010, Day Two

Wow, time is running ...

As already said, yesterday I attended the course "Storyboarding for designers and design researchers". It was just great. But storyboarding? Isn't that the thing used for making movies? Doesn't it look like comic strips? What is it for?

Basically, storyboarding is a tool to share and idea within an interdisciplinary team. Okay, we assume that if you want to build a good solution for a complex problem, then this requires people being experts in different areas (e.g. our I-Teams). But that doesn't necessarily mean that they understand each other - each domain has a different language, a different understanding of things. (Ever watched a discussion between a psychologist or cognitive scientists with a computer science guy? Sometimes like being in a cabaret show.)

One proposed solution is storyboarding: a graphical way to look at the problems of one or more persons. It may look similar to a comic strip which explains situations and how the new "thing" (whatever it will be) has (a good) impact on the life of the user. It is not about discussing the final product ... it is about to get an understanding what the problem is about. To be absolutely clear: It is not about drawing comics! There are important rules which make it work ... or completely fail. End of disclaimer :-)

In my day job, we started using storyboarding with the help of a colleague with great design skills. Working in another department, we can rarely ask him to help us ... but the solution is so simple: Act with a group of people, take pictures, and add the things you need by simply drawing them.

We have been told to work out a remote control for several people watching TV. I proposed to consider the place restaurant, because I am sometimes a bit annoyed by all the TVs showing up here (yesterday, "our" restaurant had about 15 TVs running .... grrr). Other people decided to go for a family home, the gym, public places, ... We planned our scene and acted accordingly. After the planning, the simple "doing" took not more than 30 minutes - including enhancing the scenes by objects and adding sub-titles etc.

Here is the result...

You see that the tables, the TV and some other items are simply drawn. After showing that to other people, nobody had any question with regard to understandability ... which means that our team (Thank you members!) did rather well. Here is a picture of the teams showing their results ...

So is this something for Sometimes yes, sometimes not. I think, if we go for more "unknown" topics like advanced collaboration and use of documents in (more) daily life, this could be something to consider. It worked very well - and providea information visually instead of having a lot of detailed text (which is sometimes mandatory).

The rest of the day is less important to you, I think. Except that I have been able to talk with Paula Bach (from Microsoft) who was one of the organizers of the FLOSS usability workshop I've talked about yesterday. Unfortunately, we had only a few minutes, but it is really nice. She told me that she will give a talk with some references to If possible, I'll try to attend ...

The rest of the evening was spent with my colleague ... in the cinema. The media-showcase, where people showed their new solutions in short films. Hey, and the conference team provided popcorn ... this is how learning new things should work all the time ;-)

When I went home, I've met another guy staying in the same hotel. Okay, another two hours of intensive and funny talk. He turned out to be a usability professional for software APIs. I am not kidding ... he is a researcher/consultant to make software programming as efficient as possible. Interesting ...

That's it for today! As usual, I have to hurry up :-)


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CHI 2010, Day One

Many people might think that providing a good User Experience doesn't involve any "rocket science". Well, that is true. But - in fact - it requires the work in many other research areas. Many of the researchers and practitioners working on these topics meet at the CHI 2010, the premier conference on Computer-Human Interaction.

I'm happy to say that I was able to join for reasons of my day job - last time I have been at the conference in 2008. However, these topics are also related to the User Experience in, I would like to share how it feels to be here. Here? Atlanta.

The next picture is about my way to the place where the conference takes place. The most important reason for providing the picture is to tell that there is some day light - before we get into the deep and dark conference rooms :-)

The opening session of the conference - you might notice that there is room for quite a number of people. As far as I remember there are about 2500 HCI people from all over the world. The conference will provide over 200 events like talks, workshops and courses. And here you might grasp the main problem - there are so many interesting things (still, we talk about my day job) that it is nearly impossible to grasp everything. Sigh.

I talked about my day job - but here is something remarkable. There has been a workshop on "The Future of FLOSS in CHI Research and Practice" on Sunday. I was able to meet one of the participants - Máirín Duffy, a (formal) "senior interaction designer with Red Hat, Inc.". We discussed a lot similarities and differences in the communities - now you know what lunch breaks are meant for :-)

The next noteworthy event (both for you and me) might be the "visit" in the Hard Rock Cafe - together with a colleague of mine, from the Palo Alto team, and some other extremely nice guys from e.g Volkswagen Research. Besides many (!) HCI related topics, I consumed my first "real" American Burger. More detailed, a cheeseburger with American cheese.

That's it for the moment. I have to hurry up to get my course ... storyboarding. See you tomorrow...


Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter!

I wish everyone a Happy Easter*! Please enjoy the time with your family and friends ... And maybe it is even more enjoyable (for some) that I will be offline for a few days :-)


*) where appropriate