Sitting in the dark

As I sit here sans power with just the light of the window to see, and cold coffee to drink, I have the opportunity to explain to my son for the 11th time why he can’t keep opening the refrigerator. The kids are generally mystified why there are problems with power. For the past number of years we lived in the Hsinchu Science Park where it would take an act of war to knock out essential services like electrical, water and Internet. While the rural areas on the Island would be recovering from severe typhoons or earthquakes, the Science Park would continue churning out the important bits of the tech supply chain. Nary a storm day either.

With our experience in Taiwan as context, it’s amazing to me just how fragile the infrastructure is in Prince Edward Island.

In Taiwan and in China I kept a go-bag stocked with the essentials and large water containers filled and placed throughout the house (there is always a real threat of structural failure in an earthquake). I have been slowly creating something similar here and with just how sensitive P.E.I. is to infrastructure failures and possible food shortages, I should speed up my efforts.

Not all is lost. There are a few books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t had the time, and my son took the opportunity this morning to go and clear a neighbors walkway. So some good has come from our relegation back to the dark ages.

Why You Only Need To Test With Five Users

When discussing user research and testing recently I blanked out on the actual reasons why I don’t use the same number of participants that people with marketing backgrounds are convinced they need. Generally I schedule 6 – 7 in case a session goes awry but otherwise my reasons for using limited participants mirror those below:

The five user number comes from the number of users you would need to detect approximately 85% of the problems in an interface, given that the probability a user would encounter a problem is about 31%. Most people either leave off the last part or are not sure what it means. This does not apply to all testing situations such as comparing two products or when trying to get a precise measure of task times or completion rates but to discovering problems with an interface. Where does 31% come from? It was found as an average problem frequency from several studies
Why You Only Need To Test With Five Users

Also: Do you really only need to test with 5 users?

Quitting Instagram

But Richardson isn’t a bystander reckoning with the ills of technology: She was one of the 13 original employees working at Instagram in 2012 when Facebook bought the viral photo-sharing app for $1 billion. She and four others from that small group now say the sense of intimacy, artistry and discovery that defined early Instagram and led to its success has given way to a celebrity-driven marketplace that is engineered to sap users’ time and attention at the cost of their well-being.

“In the early days, you felt your post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about,” said Richardson, who left Instagram in 2014 and later founded a start-up. “That feeling is completely gone for me now.”
Quitting Instagram: She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it

Instagram used to be this special place where you could go and sometimes see beautiful pictures of interesting places and things. Over the years it changed somewhat, I initially thought all the food shots were ridiculous, but I joined the fray with my own banal photos of latté’s and some such. Lately my feed has been inundated with extremely long diary-like posts, ill suited to the format, and a seemingly endless stream of self-help style entries. If I see another post telling me how awesome I am or encouraging me to take action on some “thing”, … well I think it’s just time to leave the platform. Most of it just seems like a marketing or sales channel, and almost every budding entrepreneur or local “marketing expert” all tout it as being so. A demographic shift has occurred and it doesn’t include me.

While I won’t join Bailey Richardson in deleting my account, I for some reason don’t feel comfortable doing so, I will delete the app and waste my time elsewhere.

A possible replacement for my morning coffee

Years ago I had a project manager who recommended that I first thing in the morning go outside and walk on the grass in my bare feet. This was her advice after sharing that I was feeling lethargic and a bit down in the dumps. The January blues perhaps. I didn’t take her advice, though I will say walking on grass is mildly therapeutic, but this conversation came to me this AM as I was outside having a snow ball fight with Camren in my bare feet. There is nothing that tells your body to wake up more than putting your bare feet to snow. Exhilarating and eventually mildly painful over time. Highly recommended.

A collection of empty notebooks

Yeah, that’s my sketchbook. It’s very cheap. I like it because it doesn’t put pressure on you. I prefer cheap. I don’t like the moleskins or those other notebooks because they’re so expensive. They look like a book with no printing inside, and it puts the pressure of getting something that a real book, which people have been editing for a year, that’s the kind of pressure you get for every little line you put in.

This is exactly how I feel about many of my notebooks – the paper (especially the paper), binding and cover all have a quality to them, so much so that I feel whatever I put in them would not be worthy of the space that they occupy. But I love notebooks, so my collection keeps growing, until one day in the future when I have a wall full of empty notebooks. Perhaps by then I will have something worthy of their empty pages.

What’s In Your Bag, Simon Stålenhag?

iPhones are hard to use

Very advanced, very tuned-in people learn about, and learn how to use, new Apple features by watching them being demonstrated onstage during Apple keynote events.
Then there’s everybody else.

I used to blame having a communication designer manage the human interface group, or the perception that usability/behaviour side of the user experience was deemphasized for the emotive, but for whatever the reason, I agree with the gist of Joe Clark’s article.

One part he didn’t mention specifically is how when pinching to zoom in maps the text stays at the same unreadable size. I once in frustration grabbed a magnifying glass so I could clearly see the garbled text.

iPhones are difficult to use.

Blind Faith

I thought I had my backup strategy all figured out. I have time machine backups, a NAS for archiving and remote access, a back-up of the NAS, a back-up drive in a safety deposit box, iCloud, Dropbox for collaboration, and I have been using Google drive for my active projects folder. Some redundancy, and though it may seem complex, it isn’t, and it should just work. Except it doesn’t.

I’ve been working on a podcast, and wanting to hear the final file on my iPhone before uploading for distribution, I looked for the file on Google Drive for iPhone. It wasn’t there. Neither was the file folder, or any new folders and files added since this past April. The same with the GD web interface.

The Google drive icon is spinning, and every time I check, it says it is syncing, except it isn’t. All the right boxes are checked and I looked for the usual silly errors that I might have made. Nothing.

I’m sure after digging deeper the problem will resolve itself but I think it wise in the future to not believe that software services should just work as advertised. Because if they don’t, and the rare failure occurs, the results would be disappointing to say the least. From here on out, I’ll be setting a reminder to check data versions between local and remote files – or perhaps set an automator action to do it for me.

Interestingly, in my regular review of where my “cloud service” dollars go, I gave Google Drive a pass, accepting the status quo. I think I’ll revisit that decision and perhaps GD will join Flickr and Evernote in the no longer useful column.

Our Sackville Diversion

Cranewood on Main

With the kids having so many days off over the weekend I thought a road trip of some sort might be in order. My first thought was a trip up West, but as I don’t recall ever travelling past Summerside I had no experience to guide us. So I relied upon Peter Rukavina’s Visit West Prince Every Five Years post to build out a 2 day 1 night itinerary. Unfortunately, almost every point on his route has disappeared or was closed for the season. I forgot how the Island tends to close down come November.

So as we often did in Taiwan, I looked into booking some time in a resort – the only one being the Mill River Resort near O’Leary. Unfortunately, questions sent to the resort via email were never answered, so I scuttled those plans for a last minute day trip to Moncton.

I’ve had on my todo list for some time, whenever en route to Halifax or Truro, to make a quick diversion to Sackville’s Cranewood on Main Bakery and Café. We haven’t been able to find the time during out last couple trips, but I made a deliberate route change on our drive to Moncton. I wasn’t disappointed. The coffee and food was fine, but the main attraction for me is the ability to sit in an interesting place, whilst soaking up the conversations of arts students intent on changing the world.

I like small college towns and after we finished our sandwiches, soup, latte, hot chocolate and cookies, we went for a quick walk around the town and campus, buying some used books as we went.

We’ll likely visit again – despite the extra bit of milage, it’s a much more interesting waypoint than the admittedly more convenient Irving Bigstop that we have been visiting in the past.

This afternoon’s diversion. I’ve lived in some unbelievably noisy places but nowhere have I been required to constantly wear earplugs until I moved to Stratford. This due in part to a building made from wood and a couple neighbours who were never taught to not stamp their feet. I’d have moved by now but am hampered by Charlottetown’s housing crisis and the lack of affordable homes that suit our needs.

Effects of floor impact noise on psychophysiological responses

Effects of Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations: Environmental and Occupational Perspectives

The effects of low frequency noise on people

Relaxed education

We are in the midst of a long 5 day weekend for the kids and as I sit to organize my calendar for the next couple weeks I see that they have yet another 4 day weekend coming up this month. Though we consciously came here for a change in how our kids are taught, coming from the frenetic system that they grew up with, the education system here still comes across as a shock. The amount of paid PD days teachers get here would be the envy of the people I have worked with in the past.

Thus far the greatest challenge they have faced, other than English writing, is that they no longer face the overwhelming workload and pace of study that they had in Taiwan. The effect of this was that their days from early morning to night were completely prescribed. Often my daughter would start the day at 5:30am with the swim team and end it at 9:00pm with test prep classes. My son hasn’t had any homework to date and my daughter hasn’t much in High School either. Tests are few and far between.

I fear they will become complacent or bored.

The positive side to this new found freedom, is not that they can brag to their old classmates about how relaxed everything is, but that they now must be self-directed learners. There are no requirements or pressure of any kind. If they want to achieve excellence then they must do so on their own, without the goading of a teacher, or a long checklist of things that must be finished. They only have to put up with me – which is likely enough for any child to bear. If they can manage to study above and beyond the modicum that is provided here than I think they will be far better off in the long run.

Improving Onboarding with Employee Experience Journey Mapping

I so wanted to map out the onboarding process for the last company I joined – most couldn’t believe just how bad it was. Unfortunately this idea like so many never saw the light of day, due in part to the reluctance of HR to hear any ideas that might lead to constructive change.

We present a creative method for applying the UX technique of journey mapping to improve the onboarding experience of new employees in any organization. Journey mapping is a well-known design research tool used to gain insight into how a user experiences a service, process, or product, with the goal of making informed improvements to deliver a better experience for future users. We argue that journey mapping can also be used to improve the internal process of onboarding new employees and improve the experience for future new hires, which is important because positive onboarding experiences are linked to increased productivity and greater employee retention. We share how other organizations can use journey mapping to improve the onboarding process utilizing our employee experience journey mapping project toolkit designed to help guide similar projects, complete with shareable templates. In addition, we share the methods used at our library, as well as our findings, recommendations, and lessons learned.

Improving Onboarding with Employee Experience Journey Mapping: A Fresh Take on a Traditional UX Technique

Holding phone technique

I used to take a lot of photos of people using their mobile devices in order to document how they used them and in what context. The above is a former colleague using a “2 thumb technique” to scroll through a long list of WeChat messages.

Being able to see things through the eyes of someone else is one of the most important abilities a designer can have. But it’s also very difficult for most of us to do. Could a rather dramatic break with convention put designers into the shoes of the people they design for?

“You never really understand a person until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Designers need to go deeper if they are to really experience the users’ perspective. They need to experience the world of the user first hand. Because—let’s be honest—if your design job ties you to your desk all day long, the only thing you should be designing is a product for designers who are tied to their desk all day long.

See different

My Startup Weekend PEI experience

The weekend started with me playing the role of the introvert, sitting on the sidelines, watching all the extroverts network, talk about school, and dev. related topics. In the sea of these people there was one other individual sitting by herself, ignoring the fray, and who I would team up with later to develop, or more accurately refine, a business plan she had.

I talked to a lot of people over the weekend, which for me is an accomplishment in itself, but which in combination with poor sleep, left me tired and required a morning respite in front of Netflix watching trashy TV.

My experience on the whole was very positive.

I’ve been apart of many similar activities, most involuntary and inside corporate R&D, and fuelled by crappy Dominos style food. It’s amazing how much difference the quality of food makes in an experience such as this. I’ve never attended any kind of design/dev event that has served food comparable to the lobster lasagna, fresh shucked oysters, sashimi, and hot sandwiches that were presented this weekend. There was copious amounts of fruit, fresh hot coffee and cold beer on tap. I commended every organizer that would listen, that the food served at this event was world class and absolutely delicious.

There was one aspect that proved to be a point of concern. Not everyone understands the whole pitch-startup culture and it’s rapid fire iteration and style of speaking. The people I teamed up with didn’t, and they are the people, in PEI at least, that may benefit from this kind of event the most. They were local, rural, and will stay such. The “CEO” of the team lives in the country, hires people from the area, and wants to expand. What better fit could there be for a startup event in PEI? Unfortunately, this lack of understanding, they registered at the last minute, meant that for much of the weekend I felt like an unpaid consultant, instead of someone practicing the development of a business idea. While it’s the responsibility of the participant understand what they are getting themselves into, some kind of quick refresher at the beginning might have proved valuable (not everyone reads all the text on a website).

Other than meeting so many interesting people, including our passionate “CEO” and the team, the highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to work with someone from an entirely different background, take them through an experience design process and come out of the process with agreement, understanding, focus, and new ideas for a business. I’ve worked with people in tech whose eyes gloss over when you talk about the value of personas, understanding your customers experience, and mapping out your customers journey through the use of a product. It can be very abstract to most and the value not readily apparent. While not applicable to every product, it worked extremely well in this context, and she, the CEO, understood its value almost completely. In the end, with the help of one of the many mentors, she came away with an entirely new potential revenue stream. I came away with some valuable new experience – it’s all too rare to have the opportunity to do this kind of work with passionate, strong people outside of the tech community.

I certainly look forward to participating again, in some capacity, in the future.

I am a fan of manga during work hours

Great analysis. I didn’t know Boxes and Arrows still published.

Remember the constructed emotions theory: Emotions are learned, not born. Different people therefore have different emotions; cultural environment influences these emotions. As video content becomes more dominant in our daily life, it becomes more influential on how we develop our emotions. As the content offering becomes more varied, the differences in emotion sets for the same geography becomes wider.

The change in the distribution of mass content has brought a change in global subcultural groups and thus in the global system of emotions.

My suggestion is that to have better prediction of viewer datasets, recommendation-based companies should involve the users in the tagging process of content. Don’t build a team of content taggers or analyzers: Ask your viewers to define the content. As is often the case in technology, the old way—in which people define rather then experts and algorithms)—is the more advanced.

Content recommendations and the creation of emotions

Startup Weekend PEI

I’m participating this year in Startup Weekend PEI which starts tomorrow evening and ends sometime on Sunday. I’ve had similar experiences, including a Yahoo Hackathon, but this is the first time I will be thrown together with a bunch of strangers in an effort to create something business like.

The event has been on my radar for a while but I am often a bit dubious about any experience that people speak about in such glowing terms. Despite my doubts I finally decided yesterday to pull the trigger, register, and participate as a designer.

My motivations are simple, I love working at the beginning of the product development cycle and I haven’t had much opportunity lately, outside of my own product, to design much of anything. There are risks of course, I am participating without any preparation and without any idea who I might be working with. So much depends on the personality of the group of people involved, and to a lessor extent our collective experience and ability (the outcome is only a demo, not necessarily a functioning app., so mad dev. skills shouldn’t be necessary).

I’m expecting it to be fun and at the very least I should get some experience drawing star people and meet some new interesting freinds.