Blogging Alone
Stephen Dulaney's Radio Weblog
        

Blogging Alone: Digital Dashboards, Dirty Dishes, Messy Desk, Workspaces and Web Logs

The design goal of the dashboard should be to make it easy for users to create many single places to find aggregated information about the world around them. This form of aggregation is more like the stacks of paper on a messy desk than file cabinet for storing documents for future use.

 

How many stacks of paper are on your desk? Why are they there and what do they represent? For me the stacks of paper are like ad hock groove workspace, and unfinished weblog essays. They both represent a problem being solved in real time. (read the social life of paper from New Yorker by Malcum Gladwell) Both are deeply social experiences with stocks and flows of social capital breathing life in the network that is the digital media knowledge space in which I live. Each day I work to refine my strategies for survival. The stacks help form a mental model and represent the struggle to determine what the stuff on the paper means. How to make knowledge from data? How to convert vision to reality? Iím not a proponent of OHIO (only handle information once) Iím just not that sharp. I must read and reread and deeply struggle with meaning and structure of the argument. The reason the documents in the stacks are not filed is that I do not yet have a conclusion on where they belong and were it fits into the knowledge space.

 

I find it helpful to look locally when trying to understand and define design goals for use when creating ďeveryday softwareĒ. I look at the way we handle information in our house. The information on my refrigerator door is different from the information I retrieve looking out my kitchen window and different from what kind of exchanges I get at the dinner table. In every day life we aim to weave our information seeking activities to many different single starting places. But these three places are natural aggregation information spaces. Papers of all kinds are stuck to my refrigerator door by magnets the constantly fall off dispersing the aggregated art and info to be re-layered in a new way with the stuff that flew furthest now in front. My kitchen sink aggregates dirty pots, pans, and dishes that show history of what went on in the kitchen just moments before. My dinner table is a place of aggregation for meeting and eating, exchanging ideas and perceptions.

 

In everyday life when searching for aggregation opportunities I find it helpful to target groups of individuals types of information and most importantly the location where they are consumed. My dinner table seats four and as a result is the place where more active collaboration takes place. My kitchens sink fits just one or two comfortable but is the place where I teach cooking and cleaning to my boy. When Iím alone early each morning my kitchen sink is a place where I look out the kitchen window to see what kind of day I might expect. My front door is best for greeting one person at a time usually a stranger from the outside on very unpredictable schedules but uniquely recognizable sounds.

 

Modularity is an intriguing concept. I like my cell phone. It is great fun to call people and exceed my monthly plan. But now, I hate how hard it is to get a new one. I hate the Input interface for maintaining contact information that is mostly text. There was a time that configuring a new cell phone was new and fun for me, I was learning and learning for me is fun. Now I donít have any new learning or escapism and I find the same task cost too much for the benefit. So today I rarely take the time to update the contact information in that ever changing form factor called the cell phone. The learning done I hate the Input experience. Iím an adopter of the cell phone not an internalizers. I remember life before and can do with out today.

 

Cell Phone Internalizers are different. Internalizers have thumbs that are far more coordinated than my thumbs.  For Internalizers the complexity cost to input text from this device is much less so there participation threshold is lower.  Internelizers have limits on what devices they have access to where adopters have budget deficits of time to figure new things out. When designing everyday software it is critical not to loose site of this distinction. When designing everyday software you must keep the complexity cost below what Buxton call Gods Law. Humans have a definite limit to the amount of complexity they can or will endure.

 

Some people donít yet have awareness for some of the problems this software is designed to solve. Why would you need groups for your buddy list, I only have a few?

 

I had a universal inbox and it was great. The cost to participate for me was zero and it gave me a new single interface to interact with information sent there. Most often I ambiently see that I have a voice mail and then pick up the handset to retrieve the message because the telephone output device is a better user experience for sound than my headphones that are the same distance away but under a large stack of paper. At times, conditions exist when the convenience of the aggregation of both voicemail and email messages together is amazing. Sometimes I stay home from work and donít want anybody to realize that Iím not there at work but here at work. At work I am a cooperative node in a social network and reliability is important for me and others that work with me.. There are times when Iíve been able to be at work from home both email and voice via a browser. These times count. Simultaneously location does and does not matter. For both my coworkers and my sick boy these everyday software applications mean that I am located where I need to be so that I can help collectively solve a problem that I face in every day life

 

Location matters, these observations directly correlate to the way we form cognitive models of information situations in our head.

 

Ambient notification reduces complexity by increasing information transmission rates. This is summed up nicely in ďThe Magical Number Seven, plus or minus two . .   a beautiful essay by George A Miller first published in 1956. Certain human conditions or capabilities stay the same over time we just change the way we use them. Short-term memory is always going to be about 20 seconds. Similarly, long-term memory through the years stays about the same but I use it differently today now that certain everyday software has offloaded the complexity of my previous information storage and retrieval needs. As a child it was remarkable how many phone numbers I had memorized where as today I have almost none but I have memorized where those numbers, that information can be found and how best I can retrieve them. Aggregation opportunities some as simple as scribbling a note on a piece of paper help us to offload complexities and clear space in the head to form more comprehensive mental maps or cognitive structuring exercises.

 

These three things Ray loves:

I LOVE the fact that Instant Messaging is this funky little window that flashes when peoples' states change, and pops up, and flashes in the taskbar, and makes noises. It's tickling my senses, semi- and subconsciously delivering information - enabling me to multi-task more effectively.

I LOVE the fact that Groove has three different notification types, depending upon how I've "tagged" the different tools in the different shared spaces. When new information appears from others in some spaces, it makes noises and briefly flashes a little message. When from others, it just shows a new little icon, or if I'm not all that interested in changes until I choose to be in "pull" mode, it doesn't bother me at all.

I LOVE the fact that eMail is separate from the browser, even if it can be implemented there. The specialization and oddities and quirks of my eMail UI, and the different look-and-feel of the UI, and the way that I see the new entries turn red in the semi-occluded window, is what helps me as a human keep track of when I'm in "email mode".

 all go into knowledge workers daily struggle for survival. Knowledge workers need to develop and maintain situational awareness. Situational awareness works on three levels. First is receiving and perceiving information. Aggregation is nice here. Second, conceiving and comprehending what the information means and how it fits together to form indicators of your present situation. The third and where I think Ray excels is projection, prefiguring, putting your comprehension to work resulting in the ability predict whatís next, for Air Traffic Controllers it may be as little as five minutes for Ray Ozzie and Dave Winer it may be five or ten years. For this reason it has been said that Ray in the form of Groove and Dave in the form of Frontier/Radio have prefigured many future software applications still unknown to us today.



© Copyright 2003 Stephen Dulaney. Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.
Last update: 5/20/2003; 10:08:32 AM.