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Archive for October, 2003

What shall I read?

Friday, October 24th, 2003

I’m in transition – university has finished for the year and it’s time for me to resume my normal life. I’m actually finding it pretty tough – my habit is to finish dinner and sit in front of the computer for a couple of hours studying every night, and I can’t quite break the habit.

So I need something to read. I have heaps of geek books to read (just picked up ‘The Social Life of Information’ this week), but I think I need to leave them for a while (well, maybe I’ll continue to read about activity theory, and I do have a Don Norman half read…)

So, what fiction should I read? I like (in order of current favourites):

  1. Nick Earls
  2. William Gibson
  3. Nick Hornby
  4. Katherine Kerr
  5. Robert Jordan (just because I have to get that series finished)
  6. Jessica Adams, Maggie Alderson

In more abstract terms, I like things that are well written but modern (OK, I admit to not liking many literary classics) with characters who are insightful or interesting (which doesn’t always mean likable). I don’t mind good fantasy, but have read most of the high-profile series. I quite like relationship-type stories as long as they have real characters (note – I said relationship, not romance). I could probably even give crime a go as long as it wasn’t tediously detailed.

So, go on, tell me what I should read (and if you live nearby, what you’ll loan me ;)

Who’s cooking dinner

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

Two statements from the waitress tonight:

“I’m sorry, but we’ve been having some problems with our computer system”

“So your dinner will take a little while longer”

Sorry, who was cooking the dinner? What role should a computer have in determining how long my dinner takes…

I’m free!!!

Sunday, October 19th, 2003

I’ve just submitted my last assignment for uni this semester (and it’s 3 days early!) – a completed website for a client.


So, now starts the transition back into my normal life. I think I’ll start tonight with a hug for my neglected family and tomorrow with phone calls to neglected friends…

Current fave books

Thursday, October 16th, 2003

When I moved into my new office a few weeks ago (I can’t quite believe it was less than 4 weeks ago!), I had to figure out which of my books to take with me, and which to leave at home.

In the end, out of all of the books I own (hmm, which is a few), I decided that the books that I would most likely need to use at work were:

But the one that I keep carrying around with me, and driving into work (which is almost an hour) to pick up, is Mike Kuniavsky’s Observing the User Experience. After only a few months, it is already started to look worn. Thanks Mike for something so damn practical & useful!

Watching rather than asking – an example

Wednesday, October 15th, 2003

I came across a really good example today of why we watch users work rather than just ask them about their needs.

I have been doing user research for a browser-based system, and have sat in front of it with around 20 people asking them to show me things relating to their work. There is a part of the interface that every single person has had trouble with – often having to make 6-7 attempts before they can operate it. Yet only one has mentioned it as a problem…

Holiday pics

Saturday, October 11th, 2003

We’ve been back in Australia for more than 3 weeks after our California holiday, and I only looked at our photos today.

Here’s my 3 favourites:

cars on Los Angeles freeway
All those cars on the wrong side of the road still makes my stomach leap.

windfarm on another highway
I have never seen a windfarm quite like this…

skyscraper somewhere in LA
Just a cool photo.

Listening labs

Friday, October 10th, 2003

This article by Mark Hurst is interesting – Four words to improve user research

He suggest a slightly different approach to user research – in a usability test, don’t plan scenarios. Sounds good…

What’s wrong about this is that this is not user research – you don’t conduct user research in a lab – you conduct it in context. This is evaluation. Don’t mix them up – they are entirely different things.

(I would have put this on his site, but no comments there…)

Two other things about user research

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

Two other things I like about user research, both a bit weird:

  1. I really like listening to the tapes and hearing my own questions. Really weird, I know, but every time I hear an excellent open question, I’m pleased with myself
  2. I listen to the tapes on fast playback, which makes the voices all squeaky (OK, after hours of listening to tapes, I need to have some fun)

I love user research

Thursday, October 9th, 2003

Gosh I love doing user research. It is great talking with real users, learning about how they work, looking at all of the things they have around their desks, learning about their workarounds.

I love it so much that having to stay in a really little hotel room (I swear, when I described it as a shoebox to a friend today, I was only exaggerating a little) with no decent food, a hard bed and hard pillows, still didn’t ruin my day.

The only downside about user research is that it is really draining. After 3 sessions in a row this morning, I caught myself not knowing whether I had asked a question already, and knew it was time for a break. And after transcribing comments from tape all afternoon, I think it may be time for another.


I’ve been studying too hard

Tuesday, October 7th, 2003

I’ve been working on an essay about user-centred design and its applicability to the design of large information spaces. I think I’ve been working too hard on it…

…last night I first dreamed that I was stuck in a participatory design session that I couldn’t get out of, then dreamed that Captain Picard was fighting for his life and user-centred design…

Maybe I need to get a life!

Research approved

Thursday, October 2nd, 2003

I’m currently studying a Masters degree in Internet Communication – almost finished my second of three years. It’s a bit of a strange course and next year involves two subjects that I’m really not interested in, so instead I asked if I can do a research project.

How cool – I can, and the head of school thought my topic would be good. So next year, I’m going to be spending lots of time trawling through user-centred design, human factors, cognitive psych and LIS literature (only the first of which is *my* field) looking for techniques & theories that we may use to better arrange large, heterogeneous information spaces so they are more usable. If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know that this is something I’ve been musing on recently.

Yay! I’ll let you know how it goes (slowly, I imagine)