Thursday, September 22, 2005

search repositories

A have recently become interested in the concept of search repositories. The idea is that when we are searching, a lot of information is found and then lost. How many times have you skipped a link that didn't seem relevant only to go back later and try (unsuccessfully) to find it. This is also true of links that we find in content pages that we navigate through during the search. It can even be true of content that is not a link.

Wouldn't it be great if there was some unobtrusive repository somewhere that we could review when needed that would show an organized display of everything we have seen relevant to a search activity, even if it spans several sessions? Even better if we could use it to create reports, divide it into subsections for later use, conduct relevance analysis, data mine it for internal consistencies, share it with others, have it automatically updated and set up alerts when new content is added.

Anyone know of a product that does this? Or want to help me create one?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Recognition Primed Decision Making and entrepreneurship

At the Kauffman entrepreneurship workshop last week, a speaker made the comment that once you do something entrepreneurial once, you become aware of opportunities everywhere you go. This is a great example of RPD in action. A success of that nature (with lots of personal risk, hard work, time, etc.) will create a strong, large, and strongly interconnected schema. So it is very likely that new experiences will be evaluated using the entrepreneurship schema as the basis if they have even a little in common with it.

The same thing happens with my students after their HF class. Their class project is also very time consuming, effortful, challenging, and often fun. So for the rest of their lives, they see solvable usability problems everywhere they go.
Example of human factors in mass market religion.

I was thinking about the way many of the congregations I have attended pray and why I often find it unrewarding. The congregants get really used to saying the same prayers and singing the same songs over and over until it becomes aggregated into a single composite automatic schema. It becomes possible to say the prayer or sing the song with no attention to the words. After a while, you can ask the "expert" what the words MEAN, and they would have to think about it. They might not ever even have learned that part. The schema have strong links to the sensory, and perhaps the emotional areas of the brain, but they lose the links to the semantic.

Maybe I am different, but I would rather concentrate on the semantics.
Experiential Workshop on Entrepreneurship.

I just got back from a workshop on how to teach entrepreneurship using Experiential learning techniques. It was sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, which is one of the major non-profit sources of entrepreneurship support. The workshop was excellent. But why do I bring it up in my HF blog? Two reasons:

1. As anyone in the HF field should no, experiential learning is powerful for many cognitive reasons. Experiental learning is more salient so the schema that you are trying to create get activated much stronger and lead to more learning. Experiential learning is also linked to more existing schema, so it is easier to encode, easier to store, and easier to recall when needed. Experiential learning is also more motivating because it is fun. At least when it is done right. I have seen the Phil Donohue method where the prof walks up to a student who clearly doesn't want to respond and forces the issue. I don't recommend this unless you have amazing interpersonal skills and a soft touch.

2. The second reason is that we need to know more about entrepreneurship in our field. Entrepreneurship is about pursuing opportunities, leveraging resources (especially other people's resources), and meeting market needs. How many of us could use more of this in our work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Some great articles linked to webword today.

One in particular caught my attention. Out of the 100 largest global companies, only 8 met usability requirements and only 5 met advanced usability requirements. How sad is this? As an investor as well as a usability engineer, it makes me wonder. The best investing is based on sound research, but how can you do sound research if the sources are not well done? Maybe I'll put my money under my mattress after all.

It makes me think of the book chapter that I just wrote for Mike Wogalter's new book on Warnings. Not to plug myself (well, maybe a little :-D), but part of what I cover there is the risk of complicated legal documents and contracts. There is not a lot of research on how to make these easy to read, but there is enough to meet the corporate annual report guidelines (see for the list). It is really sad that they don't.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I just read Jared Spools latest UIE Tips e-newsletter on Web2.0.

Some of the new systems that are described there are really amazing. Some randoms programmers in basements (or probably in their offices while procrastinating their real work) are creating some great functionality. The newsletter focuses on the facility of Web 2.0 to handle these systems. But my thoughts are on the insight of these people in guessing what functionality people would like to have. Of course, it is a statistical process. If a thousand people create some kind of new system, 990 will fail because of poor insight and the other 10 will be famous. Does this mean they are smart or just lucky? But I don't care either way. As long as the functions are there, I will use them.