Tomorrow I’m heading out to San Fran for Macworld 09. I’ll be giving demos of Jing, my favorite TechSmith product, and yacking about video and visual communication. If you’re attending come on by and say hello–I’d love to chat. Oh, and if you’ve got any recommendations for for food and drink (ahem, beer) I’d love to hear them.
…uh, yah…I hate being subtle….we’ll be making a nice little announcement about Jing on Tuesday, January 6th. ;-)
There’s a damn good article on pcworld (yes I’m aware of how dubious that sounds) that articulates some of my ideals for software design and reservations about usability testing.
In the past I’ve described the issue as the “users as aliens” effect. I realize this is a bit of an esoteric metaphor, but its intended to relate that our deepest insights into software design / engineering come from within. My best insights come because I, like other users, am a human being. I am more alike other people than I am different and I therefore have insights into the expectations, frustrations and joys we all experience when using technology (any tool really).
Now the absolute best form of usability testing is dog-fooding. Become an actual user and you’ll quickly experience the pain points and frustrations of repeated normal use and gain deep insights into what users want. As a bonus you’ll be much more apt to understand and recognize issues reported by users. This is far more valuable than setting up arbitrary tests in a lab, watching users be “facilitated” through an activity and asking them a few questions. In fact, in this all too common scenario, as the pcworld article notes, you end up with a lot of false positives–wasted time and wasted money.
I’m a huge advocate of simplicity, but that isn’t the same as “idiot proofing”. I’m reminded of observations I’ve made of some of my less tech savvy friends and family of late. In such situations I can watch them in their natural state, struggling to solve a problem with software. More often than not they are foiled by the rather rudimentary user interfaces and arbitrary rules the software imposes on them. They are making sophisticated assumptions about how things should work based on their experience in the physical world and the problem is the software can’t handle it and limits their behavior for seemingly no reason.
There’s a huge distinction here–people are actually too smart for the software they’re using. That’s a radical departure from the view that people are idiots who must be protected from themselves (reminds me of the age old social contract theorist–Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau–debate). Its a great reminder that we rush to believe people are “idiots” who need to be protected from themselves. Sure they are sometimes intimidated and overwhelmed at first, but aren’t we all when doing even mundane activities for the first time. Wouldn’t it be better if we used our knowledge of being human rather than our deep understanding of operating systems and user interface conventions to create solutions for people (this is a challenge to myself as much as anyone else). Anyways, there’s plenty to chew on. Go read the article and feel free to come back and leave a challenge or affirmation.
I’m not sure I’m going to be able to survive all of the hype and misinformation surrounding HTML 5 video.
No mention of the 800 lbs. gorilla–codec licensing and royalties. Who is paying for all of this plugin killing? Are we relying on “proprietary” OS vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to provide a common set of codecs and foot the bill (where’s the gain in that)? What about open source solutions like FreeBSD, Linux and Open Solaris? Oh and there’s this little thing called mobile–given its ascendancy it might be the major player in this market by the time HTML 5 comes along. And you guessed it–that means some sort of standard set of codecs will need to be on all of these devices before the HTML 5 video tag means much of anything.
While we’re at it I should mention that HTML 5 developers will need a whole slew of low level media APIs that allow them to build interesting media centric functionality into their widgets and web applications. I mean, you want all those fancy playback controls, tagging ratings, searching, etc., right?
Gulp, looks like the folks at Wired don’t really know what they’re talking about.
I’ve dropped my phone a handful of times in the past without effect, but I went to the well one too many times…
So far falls have destroyed my first mac (macbook pro fell out of an unzipped case when I was dropping my dad at the airport) and first iphone (snuck out of my jacket pocket as I was getting out of the car). Definitely one of my favorite devices and its still working despite the damaged screen…do I dare buy a plastic 3G replacement?
I’m deeply appreciative when I use software that continually simplifies complex tasks. Lightroom is one such application and deserves huge props for much of its user experience. This software gets me. I feel like I’m communing with it on a much deeper, but more natural level. When I use it the visual feedback provides so much context that I can literally feel my way around, as if I’m holding something physical in my hand. Here’s a short example:
That’s pretty powerful stuff. Now if only I could get the same experience when using a development IDE–I’m talking to you Eclipse; you big, nasty brute with a face only a
mother nerd could love.
Holy sh*tola, I want all of this all of this stuff…yesterday:
I see quite a few applications for screen video. For instance it would be great to associate a callout bubble with a window, or see a path that the mouse or a window followed, or reposition windows by intelligently looking forward and backward in the video–lot’s to chew on.