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Fixing computer science with web science

In the June 2007 Communications of the ACM (Vol 50 #6), Ben Shneiderman has a "Viewpoint" article that hits close to home. "Web science: A provocative invitation to computer science," subtitled "Here's how it can awaken computer science to the interdisciplinary possibilities of the Web's socially embedded computing technology."

I have written about various pieces that Ben mentions (Web science and IA, universal usability, IBM's services science, as examples) but he has tied them together better. And added a wrinkle that I was not concerned with (until now): how to invigorate computer science programs by adopting the Web science framework.

I am not really in touch with the specific woes of computer science, but I can see how the social perspective would make CS research a lot more relevant. Studying social networks instead of computer networks. Researching e-government instead of compilers. Student projects on sharing animation instead of rendering algorithms. Focusing on users instead of computers.

Ben's other main point is that web science can help create a synergy for more interdisciplinary research. Emerging applications like Web 2.0, universal usability and ubiquitous computing are all natural fits under Web science (that traditional computer scientists would likely say are outside their scope).

Ben ends with: "Visionaries say it is time for a change, but will the traditional computer science community accept the invitation? I hope it will."

This CACM article is not online yet but will eventually be in the CACM section of the ACM Digital Library. Here are the references and other mentions from the article while you wait. (Some links lead to summary pages where you need membership to get the full article.)

  1. Japan Prize Commemorative Lecture
  2. Foundations and trends in web science
  3. Creating a science of the web
  4. A research manifesto for services science
  5. The social life of innovation
  6. Crisis and opportunity in computer science (PDF)
  7. Leonardo's Laptop
  8. 911.gov
  9. Web Science Research Initiative

Other reform movements

Microsoft and User Experience

Josh Holmes (Architect Evangelist for Microsoft) is speaking at our local .net user group next week. The topic is Silverlight. I won't be able to make this one, but "Architect Evangelist for Microsoft" reminded me of those User Experience Evangelist job postings from last year - what ever happened with that?

I started hunting around and found the blogs for the first two hires:

Are there more?

I see Chris talking about NextD and IBM and other topics of interest, so I am glad that I found his blog.

I also found this: Microsoft's Architect Evangelists (software architecture, of course, not physical or information architecture) are teaming up with Chris for a "roadshow" that is part of ArcReady: (bold added by me)

Microsoft's journey towards creating new technology strategies, platforms, tools and practices is to drive the next generation of software for consumers and the enterprise. It's not without irony that one of the most neglected and challenging components of the software design process is understanding how to identify, design and implement the 'experience' that an individual will have with an interface. Learn how Microsoft is elevating 'user experience' to a first-class citizen in the software design and development process. Understand why 'user experience' may be one of the most important parts of an Architect’s job in creating new software that will matter.

Our next ArcReady program is called "Architecting for the User Experience." Our guest speaker will be Chris Bernard, UX Evangelist for Microsoft. Together with the Central Region Architect Evangelists, we’ll discuss the role of the 'user experience' in architectural design and provide hands-on, practical guidance for getting better results in your own projects. We’ll discuss WPF, Silverlight (formerly “WPF/E”), XAML and the new Expressions suite of products that allow designers, architects and developers to build great 'user experiences' using the same base technologies. More importantly, we will discuss how architects can work with software design professionals in new and innovative ways to create the next generation of 'experiences' and products that will be demanded by consumers and the enterprise.

The midwest is covered extensively and there will be several shows within 3 hours of Toledo:

Targeted at senior developers, there are 2 parts to the talk: (1) What architects should address as they design software. (2) How architects and designers work together.

Looking at the other cities and dates, makes me think of a rock star schedule...

Agile interview

The parade of interviews continues - I love it. Last night was one about integrating user-centered design into Agile methods with David Fox, a student of Frank Maurer. I met Frank at CASCON where we did a workshop together on the human element of Agile.

Some of the things we talked about: lo/medium/high fidelity user experience work, how our Agile UX team is working with an Agile development team (and less-than-Agile) other teams, what tools would be valuable to get the UX work better integrated, and specifically on information architecture work and Agile.

HCR Manor Care: Web Content Administrator

Here is a local job opportunity for a user experience professional (there are not very many opportunities around here).

HCR Manor Care: Web content administrator, Web Design (CSS) / Portal Administration. "This Web Content Administrator position will work with a team to administer our portal, utilize HTML/CSS for our web applications / web sites, manage and enhance our content management system." Two of the skills listed (in the local newspaper ad for this job):

  • Web usability and user experience
  • Information architecture

I know some of the people there - it would be a good place to work.

To find out more about this job, start with a Corporate office job search. You will eventually get to the job description where you can apply.

Blog topics: 

Being interviewed about how I got started

I have been interviewed twice in the last 3 days about how I got started doing what I do, what influenced me along the way, what were the major events in my career. (Not sure when each interview will debut.)

The first was at Kent State, where I made a video for the IAKM program. They interviewed several people at the IA Summit in Vegas last month. I waited to do mine since I knew I would be visiting them. Questions ranged from how I got started in IA to the challenges I see today. The panel session later in the day also had several good questions about the early days at Argus.

The second was this morning, part of the brand new UX Pioneers project by Tamara Adlin - site launched about 2 hours ago. (Tamara delayed the debut of her new site for an hour and a half to talk to me today.) Just in time for CHI - 3 interviews up so far and lots more to come. I am in the "and later" category: it will take a while for my meanderings to be transcribed, edited and made intelligent.

It took several months to set up this interview. I think the first hurdle was getting over the "pioneer" label, which Tamara finally convinced me did apply. Never written a book, never run a company, never invented an input device, never created software of note, never established a research program, never did anything that I think people would normally think of an HCI, IA, UCD or user experience pioneer to have done. Yet, there I am, listed with many people I admire. Go figger.

Anyway, these interviews have caused me to think back a lot and appreciate how lucky I have been. I am sure I will do some blog entries that look back - I will try not to bore you.

Henry Petroski, April 30th

Another interesting speaker coming to Northwest Ohio - Henry Petroski, Monday, April 30, 6:30 PM, Nitschke Auditorium, University of Toledo. "To Engineer is Human" is the title of the talk. Sponsored by the U of T College of Engineering.

Local announcements: (will add more as I find them)

To help me understand what Henry is all about, I did some research into what my user experience colleagues have said about him.

If Josh and Peter and Don have read him, then I think it will be worth going to see him.

Blog topics: 

A day at Kent State, April 26

I will be spending Thursday, April 26th, on the campus of Kent State University, hosted by the wonderful folks at IAKM. I will be meeting with various groups throughout the day, but at 4pm will be my main presentation, an update to my "Applying information architecture to university web sites" (first presented at CASE V). I will also be meeting with the Usability I class in the evening.

A joke term we used when planning the event was Keith Instone Day - and that term stuck. I am kind of embarrassed to have my own day at KSU, but I do like the idea where experienced professionals spend a day on a local campus and share their expertise with students (and others).

I am also on the IAKM Advisory Board. Spending a day there seems like a good way to strengthen those practitioner / researcher / educator bonds (something I think IA needs more of).

Also, Karl Fast, who I worked with at Argus, will also be on campus, as he prepares to join the IAKM faculty. With Samantha Bailey also coming, another Argus Alum, it really should be Argus Associates Day.

IBM Technical Leadership Exchange

I am heading out to the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange conference in Anaheim today. (It is an IBMer-only event, so there is nothing I can link to for more information.) This is my first time attending this, so I am not sure what to expect - but I know it is BIG - lots of attendees. IBM has a lot of technical leaders, imagine that. I am not even sure I am really a "technical leader" - I feel more like a bridge between the technical and business leaders.

There are many too-technical-for-me sessions going on (like product certifications) but I found some sessions that I am looking forward to:

  • Case study using IBM products for an information architecture project
  • Several Web 2.0 talks, from how it is changing marketing, to how to do it on WebSphere Portal, to how QEDWiki will enable it
  • Future of user experience
  • Agile for the whole team

If you are an IBMer that is also going and want to meet up, then send me an email or look up my cell phone number and give me a call.

If you are not an IBMer, then ignore this posting..... (^:

More notes from Entrepreneurial Thinking conference

The Entrepreneurial Thinking conference was well worth it. I look forward to the next one on April 18th, 2008.

Alan Webber (adding to my quick notes)

  • He did not have slides, so this is what stayed up on screen as he talked: Expert on change and innovation in the knowledge economy.
  • Two things matter for business success: Innovation and Leadership. That is where you stand out. (The rest are important but taken for granted.) They are two sides of the same coin. Innovation: upset status quo to create new value. Leadership: guide/create positive change, master the art of change. That means the coin is called Change.
  • Three brutal facts of business life: Globalization, Technology, Human capital. My favorite quote (paraphrased): "Web 2.0 is a buzzword that means: If the work is not moving to India or China, then it will move to the web." Human capital - it really means "hire the best people." Interesting stat: The top programmers are 10,000 times more productive than average ones.
  • In the TINA questions, I of course liked the fact that "customer's skin" and "design" are next to each other. Good quotes: "Know your customers better than they know themselves," "Your web site instantly communicates your brand values" and "Design is a signal of intention."
  • The best question for Alan was about open systems. The old model of a great business was that you controlled everything within your corporate boundaries.

Guy Kawasaki

  • Worth the price of admission. Very inspiring. And funny. Great presenter. (Guy is one of the judges in SlideShare's World Best Presentation Contest.)
  • His talk was titled "The art of innovation" and it was very similar to his "art of the start" talks. There are several copies of his Art of the Start floating around - here is one on SlideShare and another.
  • Since some of his points were different, I will list them here., with short notes. (Update: PDF attached below.)
  1. Make meaning (the money comes from the meaning but you cannot make meaning just from money)
  2. Make mantra (not mission statements)
  3. Jump to the next curve (10 times better, not 10% better)
  4. Roll the DICEE (Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Elegant, Emotive)
  5. Don't worry, be crappy (ship and then test, but only revolutionary products can get away with this)
  6. Polarize people (if you design for everyone, it works for no one)
  7. Let 100 flowers blossom (spread it widely because you will get unanticipated customers)
  8. Churn, baby, churn (hardest part is shifting from "do not listen to the people who tell you it is impossible" before shipping to evolutionary mode - "listen to your users" - after shipping)
  9. Niche thyself (high value + unique product - high and to the right on the charts)
  10. Follow the 10/20/30 rule (for pitching ideas - 10 slides, 20 minutes of talking and then discussion, 30 point font)
  11. Don't let the bozos grind you down (innovation is about seeing the next curve, those stuck in the current curve will get in your way)
  • I now get the last quote in Guy's presentation, where he calls himself a bozo. "It's too far to drive, and I don't see how it can be a business." He interviewed for the job as CEO of Yahoo! when it was first starting, when it was only a hierarchy of links. He figures it was a 2 billion dollar "no thanks." Correction: I originally wrote "was offered" the CEO job - thanks Guy for clarifying that point.
  • One of the questions stumped Guy and set him off on a trail that mentioned his near-divorce and ended up with him buying his way into heaven, on a first class airline seat. I could not hear the original question, but it was something like "How has your coolness factor affected the impact that you have had?" Guy gave an Orel Hershiser answer ("aw, shucks, I am just a regular guy"). Not sure if he was referencing Orel since he went to BGSU or if Orel is some standard for humility.
  • I did not realize Guy was a hockey fan (seems obvious now from this cartoon). He was given a BGSU hockey jersey - I need a copy of the photograph of him and coach Scott Paluch for my office wall. Too bad we could not arrange for Guy to play some hockey during his visit (like he did in Minnesota in January). The guys I play with at BGSU had ice time Friday morning. The next time Guy visits, we will definitely have to get him on the ice and see if his hockey skills are as awesome as his keynote presentation skills.
  • Other things

    • I hung out a lot with the great folks at Hanson. Very nice to have them involved. Shared a lot of great ideas for nurturing the user experience community in the area.
    • BGSU is doing other good things. I did not take notes on this part, since I was eating, but from what I remember: A new program where a cohort of students go thru the business program with a cohort of multi-disciplinary teachers. A way for alumni to come back for "lifelong learning." A new WBGU-TV program of interviews with entrepreneurs, starring Martha Rogers. (I will blog this more as I learn more - or someone who knows the details can add a comment here.)
    • There are other events happening at BGSU this weekend, none of which I can attend. The one I really will miss is Oprah's dress (not).
    • Keith Trowbridge, Executive Quest, is quite the character - I attended the break-out session where he spoke. Stories ranging from how he got the curling rink built to the "BGSU mafia" to his innovative timeshare business.

    Quick notes from Alan Webber talk

    Most people were scribbling down Alan's 12 TINA (There is No Alternative) questions, so I will blog them first and do other notes from the Entrepreneurial Thinking conference later.

    1. Do you have the right kind of leadership for your organization?
    2. Are you playing a bigger game?
    3. Are you getting more than your fair share of truly great people?
    4. Is your culture about teamwork or "all for yourself"?
    5. Is your corporate DNA diverse enough?
    6. Are you living inside your customers' skins?
    7. Do you know what your company's design is saying about you?
    8. Do you know what your company stands for?
    9. Is technology a cost or a way of doing business?
    10. Is your company a talk show?
    11. Are you a fast company or a slow company?

    Update: Were there 12 questions or 11? I think I may have missed one. Also: Technorati tag: entrepreneurial-thinking.

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