Opening plenary: Neil Budde, who developed the online Wall Street Journal, talked about some of the challenges that still face publications presenting news stories online, such as subscription models, recognizing the difference between print and online media (you know when you're done with the physical newspaper!), making sites actually readable. When asked about RSS syndication, Budde didn't recognize the concept.
Tuesday morning: a panel on post-cognitivist HCI, exploring the direction of research in human-computer interaction. Way over my head, but interesting to hear folks like Susanne Bodker, Jim Hollan, and Terry Winograd expounding on activity theory, distributed cognition, ethnography, and "unbundling the monolithic computer."
Tuesday afternoon: a discussion between Neil Budde, Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury-News, and some other folks. Gillmor's comments pretty much reiterated what we've read in his columns--he must tire of repeating the same phrases and insights. At least he attended and wrote about a session on new forms for handheld computing.
Tuesday afternoon later: a special session on weblogs, with Micah Alpern (www.alpern.org/weblog), Andy Edmonds, and Don Turnbull of the University of Texas, Austin. Mostly introductory discussion and slides (see Micah's site), with some interesting discussion among the attendees, including one student who's actually on a blog research project!
Wednesday morning: a panel on "The Magical Number 5: Is it enough for Web testing," which challenged Jakob Nielsen's contention that, using his heuristics, you can find most of a Website's problems with only five users. The panelists, including Jared Spool (uie.com), Rolf Molich, Gilbert Cockton, Carol Barnum, and Dennis Wixon (Microsoft)--Nielsen was a no-show--turned out to be in agreement that, while five users might be enough in certain limited usability tests, you pretty much need more users, defined goals, iterative testing and development, and a clear plan.
Wednesday later morning: Current Issues in Assessing and Improving Information Usability, with Stephanie Rosenbaum (tec-ed.com) and Dana Chisnell (usabilityworks.net), a SIG discussion on what we're finding useful or challenging in getting user assistance into the interface.
Wednesday afternoon was spiced up by a special lunch for the CHI2004 conference committee, co-chaired by Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson (kinoma.com) and Manfred Tscheligi. I sat at a table with Jonathan Arnowitz (dux2003.org), Aaron Marcus (AMandA.com), and Tom Hewett (drexel).
Later Wednesday afternoon: a panel on cultural issues and mobile UI design, headed by Aaron Marcus.
Thursday morning: short talks and demonstrations on the Web, including a presentation of SparrowWeb (www.parc.com/istl/projects/sparrow), which looks much like a blog/Wiki combination with many handy management and collaboration functions. Tres cool.
Thursday morning later: a special session on emotion and the design of new technology, with discussion, slides, and a short film by Aaron Marcus, Jodi Forlizzi, Pieter Desmet, Kees Overbeeke, and Sara Kiesler, and a special appearance by Don Norman. There was very interesting talk about cultural differences in reactions to "pleasurable" interfaces, variances in perception of pleasure, and even how one is to measure responses. Designs of the future will not just be usable and useful, they'll be emotionally satisfying as well.
The closing plenary featured Don Norman expounding on emotion and its connection to cognition--seems that we learn more and better when we're having fun! The implications are, of course, profound--so we'll all have to read Don's new book.