Excellent Talks this Week

Three excellent talks are scheduled for the Peninsula this week. The first is tonight at Bay CH I: Fred Turner will talk about his new book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: How the Whole Earth Catalog Brought Us Virtual Community. His talk is at PARC tonight at 7:30pm.    (LJQ)

Tomorrow, Allison Fine will talk about her new book, Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age. It’s required reading for folks in foundations or nonprofits. The talk will be at Margaret Jacks Hall at Stanford tomorrow at 7pm.    (LJR)

On Thursday at 4pm, Jim Spohrer will speak at PARC on his Service Science initiative at IBM. If you haven’t heard him give this talk yet, you need to go. His vision and approach are extraordinary.    (LJS)

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make Fred’s talk tonight, but I am planning to be at Allison’s, and I’m hoping to make Jim’s.    (LJT)

Usability and Encouraging Expert Usage

I was at SuperHappyDevHouse last Saturday with the rest of the Hyperscope crew. At around 2am, a group of us started having this great conversation about usability. Late night serendipity — you’ve got to love it.    (KCT)

Tony Chang asked us what we thought the most frequently pressed button was in Microsoft Office. We all guessed wrong. The correct answer is “Paste.” It turns out that practically no one uses Ctl-V to paste in Office. This, of course, was stunning news to all of us developer types, because we all use Ctl-V regularly.    (KCU)

Tony’s point was that real-world data trumps so-called expertise, a point that was hammered into all of us over and over again at the FLOSS Usability Sprints.    (KCV)

Microsoft’s response to this data was to enlarge the Paste button. (See Jensen Harris‘s Bay CH I talk for more on Office usability.) This response troubles me. On the one hand, it enhances the usability of the application for novices, which is a good thing. On the other hand, it does nothing to encourage users to learn the keyboard shortcuts.    (KCW)

Doug Engelbart often decries the misguided notion of “user friendliness everywhere” by saying that we would not want a world where everyone rode tricycles. Tricycles serve their purpose, but eventually, most people upgrade to bikes.    (KCX)

How can we design our apps that are usable for novice usage, but that also encourage expert usage? In other words, How do we design bikes with training wheels rather than bicycles? In the Office example, I would argue that there’s value in encouraging expert behavior and that emphasizing the Paste button is counter-productive in this regard.    (KCY)

Pie Menus are an excellent example of usable design that encourages expert usage. They address a novice need, but they also encourage expert behavior, because calling commands is associated with a physical gesture that becomes part of a user’s muscle memory.    (KCZ)

At RecentChangesCamp, Ward Cunningham talked about one of his challenges at Eclipse Foundation. He observed that the core Eclipse developers used the tool much differently than most users, an experience that was far more powerful and hence, far more gratifying. In typical Ward fashion, he’s trying to create a social space in which the core developers share their “aha” experiences with Eclipse as a means to encourage expert usage.    (KD0)

There are definitely cultural aspects of encouraging expert usage, but I also wonder if there are affordances that we should be encouraging in the design of the technology itself.    (KD1)

Mimi Yin on Getting Things Done

Mimi Yin (along with Merlin Mann) will be speaking on Getting Things Done at Bay CH I on Tuesday, March 14, in Palo Alto. Mimi is awesome. She works on Chandler at OSAF, and she has been one of our superstars at our past two FLOSS Usability Sprints. Sadly, I’ve got regular Tuesday night project meetings, so I won’t be able to attend myself, but I highly encourage others to check it out.    (KAQ)

More Usability Sprint Fallout

More fallout from the FLOSS Usability Sprint. A number of participants, spearheaded by Joel Aufrecht, have launched the Open Web GUI project. The idea is simple: Create highly usable web pages for common administrative CMS tasks and distribute them under an Open Source license. The motivation is simple. The administrative function of most Open Source CMSes are largely the same. One way they could help each other is to collaborate on developing a highly usable UI (including menu layout, workflow, etc.) for common tasks that any project can use. They’re looking for visual designers and usability folks to help out; check out the web site for more information.    (IG9)

I spoke at Bay CH I on March 8. We had a great turnout, including many of the participants from the sprint. It was great to see those familiar faces. (Has it really been only a month?) Richard Anderson blogged about my talk and contributed some anecdotes of his own. Tony Chang also blogged the talk, and reiterated a problem that Rashmi Sinha had made:    (IGA)

What are the incentives for usability analysts to help open source projects? Eugene mentioned having public work that one can cite in a resume, but there must be more than that…    (IGB)

Marketing isn’t the only incentive. There are folks who pay for Open Source work, but most of these folks aren’t hiring usability practitioners. One reason for doing this sprint was to make these people realize that they should. The money is there; it’s a matter of making the case that the money would be well spent by investing it in usability.    (IGC)

Finally, Mary Hodder has been taking the notion of Extreme Usability, which emerged from the sprint, and has been running like crazy with it. Her anecdotes are great, and I have a feeling that where she’s taking the notion will be even better.    (IGD)