Keynote at SIG USE research symposium

I had the honor of presenting one of the keynotes at yesterday's SIG USE annual research symposium (part of the 2008 ASIS&T annual meeting in Columbus). The theme was "Future Directions: Information Behavior in Design & the Making of Relevant Research."

I took on the task of giving SIG USE feedback "from the outside" with these two perspectives:

  • Human-computer interaction, information architecture and general user experience professional. What is this thing called "human information behavior (HIB) research" and how does it relate to the research disciplines I am familiar with?
  • Practitioner. What can practitioners learn from HIB and apply to their challenges? How do we bridge the research/practice gaps?

I broke my talk down into 3 sections:

  • About me and my journey to gain an initial understanding of HIB
  • An analysis of the symposium position papers, where I tried to distill them down into both "how do we connect with designers" and the specific research they are doing which I might be able to apply to my "finding information" challenges
  • Stories about things I work on for, with the hope that they could spur some ideas for some research topics

Download a PDF of my slides (2 meg). I deleted / cleaned up a few things for the public archive. And usual disclaimer: slides geared for the presentation. If you were not there, they may not be very interesting.

I sped through the slides and talked too fast, but I think (hope) that I put forth some good questions for the SIG USE community to debate going forward. The individual discussions and small group work after my talk were very valuable to me. I have some more reading to do (such as information encountering) and contacts of "SIG USE people" who I can stay in touch with. Looking forward to it!

One final note: I can see why SIG USE wins awards from ASIS&T. Very well run.

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UXDesignCast 13 - Panel podcast

I was a panelist on the latest UXDesignCast. Karel, Eliane and I have done similar podcasts within IBM, but this was our first external one. It was nice to have Valerie Fox join us - see her interview with Karel to learn more about her.

I have not listened to it yet, hope I did not say anything stupid.

We plan on doing more panel podcasts and are using the UXDesignCast tag on delicious to keep track of things to talk about. Feel free to add things to the list for us to consider.

Silver surfers

The US home page has a feature on Helping seniors surf the web. The video sets the stage by talking about the aging Japanese population, and then explains how IBM helped Mitsukoshi, a department store, make its web site easier to use for older people.

The Human Ability and Accessibility Center has a case study if you want to know some of the details. (I thought there might be a Japanese version of the case study, but that page just links to the English version. No, I do not read Japanese, but one "trick" I have learned over the years is how to navigate in Japanese, and other languages, that I cannot read. One of the skills you acquire being on a worldwide team and working with great folks around the world, I guess.)

I think the last time usability and accessibility got this kind of coverage on the US home page was February 2007. Good to see. IBM does lots of cool things like this.

And in case anyone was wondering, I am part of the team that manages the high level links across the sites. That includes the links in the tabs on the home pages (come to my talk in Detroit next week to hear stories about those links), but I have nothing to do with the feature stories. This time, however, the home page feature folks did give me a heads-up that this story was coming, since they knew I would be interested in it and might want to write about here. So I got a sneak preview of this one.

Organic networking event, Detroit, September 30th

I will be part of Network and Learn - An evening of user experience design and information architecture discussion - Hosted by Organic next week. I will be the "filling" for two networking "cookies".

I will be doing another version of my There is a story behind every link: Tales of information architecture from talk. This talk was designed to be not much work for me - I have a basic intro and then take a ton of questions - so that I could, in part, do it on short notice. Folks at the Detroit office of Organic wanted to host a meeting, so I was able to help by pulling this talk off the shelf.

If you plan on attending, RSVP on Facebook. To get the most out of the session, spend some time on find stuff you like, stuff you hate, stuff that baffles you. Speak up during my talk and make your comment or ask your question. Chances are I will have an "interesting" story: about how we pulled it off, or about the challenges we face as a large company. I bet there will be a few nods of "sounds like where I work, too...."

Also, be sure to show up in time for the networking event before my talk. And I will try to keep my talk short so you can enjoy more networking after. That is the part I enjoy more than the talks, to be honest.

IBM Center for Social Software

My employer announced the opening of the IBM Center for Social Software today. Irene Greif kicked off the "MIT day" of the IBM Academy of Technology Conference on Future User Interfaces with the news of the new center, that she will be leading. I was able to attend part of the conference remotely, but I missed Irene's talk this morning (darn real work!). Here are some more tidbits I tracked down.

And, no, I did not have anything to do with the Center's web pages. If I would have been involved, I would have made sure they at least came a little bit closer to our standards.

Solutions architect (local UX job posting)

The Information Architect Institute Job Board lists something for Toledo (which is rare).

This seems to be a technical job with a responsibility like "Keeps abreast of Best in Class user experience and technical solutions and competitive sites/solutions". But an actual "do-er" as well: "Develops detailed, thought-through Site Architecture: Wireframes, Navigation, User Experience Diagrams, Whiteside/Prototypes and related documentation". (Never heard the term "whiteside" before.)

I have no idea what company this is with locally. Or who Ray and Barney is/are. They do claim (PDF) to be "Ohio’s leading SharePoint Service Provider and a Microsoft Partner". And their history seems to be focused on the IT/HR marriage: "...dedicated to transforming client HR and IT functions into strategic business units..."

Checking out their open positions, I see 3 things listed for Toledo.

  • Digital Agency-Director of Design. "...embodies the convergence of excellent design skills with advanced front-end development skills, along with the proven ability to lead and mentor more junior interactive designers...ability to translate brand essence and brand goals into the interactive experience..."
  • Digital Agency-Interactive Designer. "...interactive designers to create interactive experiences and Web sites...passion for interactive development...balances beauty, innovation and usability..."
  • Solutions Architect. Same as what is posted at IAI

If you know of more details about who the local client is, or who gets hired for these positions in the end, let me know and I will introduce them to the other user experience professionals in the area.

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IBM Total User Experience Innovation

Check out the July 22nd BusinessWeek: Innovation of the Week podcast:

  • R&D: The D Is for Design. "How research and development must change. Monty Montague, a principal at innovation consultancy Bolt, discusses how incorporating design into traditional R and D departments has led to major innovations at companies ranging from IBM to Herman Miller."

The basic question: "What is the relationship between research and innovation?" A few overall notes:

  • Innovation defined as "invention that gets out in the world" (debatable: "and provides value")
  • Do demand-driven research, not supply-driven (e.g., "outside-in" not "inside-out" which is the more traditional way)
  • Colt 45s and individualized blender examples
  • Key is "making connections" with the outside (customers, users, other industries)
  • The "D" is becoming more than just "development", including "design" (and design thinking)
  • Product, service and process innovation (not just products)

At about 6 and a half minutes into the interview. Monty starts talking about IBM. I may have transcribed some of the words wrong, but here is the basic quote:

Total user experience is how IBM has, not only through research and through revamping of their business model, developed innovative products, but they are innovating the user experience. And that is part of what R&D needs to do today. It needs to not consider itself a "product R&D group," but an "experience R&D group." And look at not only the development of the product, but the development of the user guide for the product, the service center for the product, the call center, the people calling to get information about the product, the selling environment in which the product is sold. All of those are touchpoints for the consumer that are as important as the product and the R&D team can be the facilitator of the innovation around all of those. And IBM has done that.

He does not mention specific examples or sources, but it is a very nice thing to say about IBM.

Since Monty seems like such a smart guy, I did a little searching for other things he has written. I only found a few:

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Ballot design

With the US presidential election coming up, ballot design is starting to get some attention again. My local paper printed "Ballot design, new machines, instructions recipe for lost votes" (by Andrew Stengel and Lawrence Norden, but I cannot find the article online) in the Opinion section earlier this week. The article seems to have been triggered by a Brennan Center press release. The main point of the article is that there is now data about the number of "lost votes" (votes thrown away because of errors) that points to usability problems. That is, ballots that violate basic design principles cause more lost votes.

One of the recommendations for government officials is "Make necessary changes based on usability testing and public sample feedback". Cool!

That reminded me to check up on the Usability Professionals' Association Voting and Usability project. It had been a while since I took notice of the great work going on there. Something new appears to be the Local Election Officials testing kit.

So if you are a local elections official who has read the Toledo Blade article and you want to do some usability testing, check out the LEO testing kit. Also, if you need to hire help doing the usability testing, UPA has a list of usability consultants in Ohio. And then there is Better Ballots from the Brennan Center - and Whitney Quesenbery, a dear colleague. Ohio ballots and Ohio laws that impede usability are included.

(What I also found interesting is that most of the people who started the LEO kit are from right around here. Not from Ohio, but just up north: MSU Usability and Accessibility Center, University of Michigan and several Michigan companies.)

I am no expert in ballot design, but if you are a local election official who needs help understanding how to do usability testing on ballots, contact me and I will be more than happy to help you get started.

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Save the date: Scott McCloud at BGSU, October 24

I do not have final details, but wanted to get the word out as soon as possible so you can start planning. Subject to change.

Who: Scott McCloud, Cartoonist and Theorist
What: Comics: A Medium in Transition
When: Friday, October 24, 2008, 6:30 pm
Where: 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

One of the sponsoring organizations appears to be the BGSU student chapter of SIGGRAPH / Computer Arts Club. The School of Art may also be funding part of this (Todd Childers is the one who gave me the basic info - thanks Todd!).

Poking around some more, I found "The Comic Book in Popular Culture" scheduled in many rooms in the same building at the same time. Which led me to this call for participation from the Popular Culture Department. So I assume Scott's visit is part of the conference.

And checking out "Comics: A Medium in Transition" by Scott, I see these other performances:

Stay tuned for more info...

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IBM Service Science feature

The US home page has a feature on Service Science this week.

(In the past, I have written about service innovation, frontiers in service and service science in politics.)

The main angle for this IBM feature on Service Science, Management and Engineering seems to be "it is the next computer science" (not unlike web science).

A few quotes:

  • IBM helped create "computer science" as a field of study... IBM is again at the forefront of the next major trend in college and professional education...
  • We already live in a world full of service systems, with access to more and more every day. Computer science was studying something that was very rare in the world—digital computers... (Jim Spohrer)
  • Traditional courses do not integrate across discipline boundaries...It will be very important that graduates understand that an SSME focus will lead to good jobs and careers... (Lynne Rosansky)
  • It provides for an integrated framework to explore all disciplines, especially computer science and information technology... (Mohammed Ghriga)
  • ...a group of full professors starts to teach and research SSME, then they get from their faculty a recognition of their discipline, then the ministry of universities recognizes the discipline and then it is possible to get new full professors... (Guido M. Rey)
  • ...the emerging model for software engineering is to offer an ongoing service as opposed to a tangible product acquired through a one-time sale. (Aaron Quirk)

One of the items of additional reading is the Succeeding through Service Innovation white paper, which I had the pleasure of giving feedback on. I commented on various aspects of user experience that seemed to be missing. They did use one of my quotes about the relevance to business.

I think we still have a long way to go to get the next generation ready to fix all of the messes we are going to leave them, but inter-disciplinary approaches like SSME are a step in the right direction.

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