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  Monday, April 24, 2006

I'm in the "alt.chi" session, which is a collection of papers that are very interesting projects but for one reason or another would not compete well against traditional research papers to make it into the conference programs.

First project: incorporating digital technologies into a playground.  Their first prototype was a mat (looks sort of like two sets of train tracks, side by side) that kids could step or run on, and hitting pressure mats would activate motors. In their second iteration, they got the kids involved in making spinners to put on the motors. Then they observed how kids used it and experimented with it, including inventing their own games.  Their big goal: use technologies toaugment playground equipment without compromising the nature of unstructired play?

Second project: Tokyo Youth at Leisure, supporting the design of new meida to support leisure planning and practice. A user study of young adults aged 18-25 (the only age group that actually has free time) to see how they plan and participate in their leisure outings. Relaxation and companionship were the most important leisure qualities; finding new romance was the least. People and TV were the top resources for planning outings, mobile device was very low (though distinguish planning from coordination, where mobile and PC are used extensively).  "downtime" is essential; they often spend it alone, but hyper-connected (via email and mobile phone). For group outings, you choose the set of people you want to be with first, then decide what to do. Planning a meeting place for a specific activity is the process of minimizing the commute and maximizing opportuinities for other serendipitous activities. One interesting take-away: lots of cultural hype of mobile phones' hyperuse as distinctly Japanese, but the PC was used a lot more than was expected; people liked the large screen for viewing information and planning activities.

Third project: RoomBugs. simulating insect infestations in elementary school classrooms.  Kids use computers to run a simulation over several days of insects in the classroom, as a science experiment where they need to quantify can classify the infestation. PC's act as stations around the room and show the virtual equivalent of a "sand trap" where they see insect tracks as virtual insects walk voer them. Kids were able to correctly count and identify 94% of over 1500 insect tracks that they were exposed to over a 2-week period. Yow!

Fourth project: Orbital Browser. How to connect up components in a ubiquitous computing environment.

Fifth project: Quill: a narrative-based interface for personal document retrieval.


2:30:40 PM    comment []

I'm listening to a panel on how to manage international user research -- whether you're trying to build a product directed at a far-away market, or trying to design for a worldwide audience.

There's fair consensus that international research is budget constrained more than anything else -- in fact, Microsoft keeps coming up as an example of a company with the "luxury" of having user researchers in many parts of the world and the money to send them to others (as if making those investments weren't a difficult budget decision just like at every other company).

Susan Dray made the good point, though, that deciding to do international research is usually a strategic decision, not a tactical one. That usually puts it in a separate decision-making process for investment.

Lots of discussion about the cultural issues -- both in terms of the "content," i.e. discovering cultural issues that affect your design; and in terms of the user research process and how certain practices (and certain questions) are not culturally appropriate in some countries.



12:54:13 PM    comment []

I'm in the first session on privacy issues. Clare-Marie Karat is presenting a paper on a system for how to express formal privacy rules in natural language.

Here's a useful and simple definition of a privacy policy:

Who has access to what personal information:

  • for what purposes
  • to carry out what actions
  • under what conditions
  • with what obligations

Many of the question revolve around ways to handle exceptions -- which is the downfall of most data and workflow automation systems.

Karen Tang presented a paper on how to preserve privacy/anonymity in mobile location-based services. Person-centric applications reduce the fidelity of queries to increase anonymity. But location-centric services/queries are different in some ways and does the fidelity-degradation approach work? (no) so what does work? The discussion of the work point out that this is really an application-layer system, and that there are many threats from other layers particularly if the application layer system is dependent upon lower layers to accurately label locations.


Kirsten Boehner is talking about "Advancing Ambiguity" Ambiguity is "the admitting of multiple interpretation" (Gaver, 2003).

Generally more information and awareness reduces ambiguity, but sometimes there are exceptions. "If you have one clock, you always know the time. If you have two clocks, you never know the time."

Wendy March talked about "Girls, Technology and Privacy: Is My Mother Listening?" Question: do you make phone calls sitting in your closet? It turns out that lots of teenage girls do. (so their parents can't overhear)

Important learning: girls pay attention to "location privacy" -- don't trust IM to be secret, just voice calls. But they don't feel like home is "their place" and will take phone (cell or cordless) somewhere that they can have a private conversation. Will only use computer for private conversations if they can physically move it somewhere private.


9:58:11 AM    comment []

I'm going to try to blog at regular intervals this week while I'm at CHI in Montreal. They have the student volunteers organized to do this too, so it should be an interesting collection of entries on the official CHI blog site by the end of the conference.

The opening plenary this morning, by Scott Cook of Intuit, was great. Scott is a very genial, affable guy who quickly builds a cnnection with the audience. The official topic for his talk, which he generally stuck to, was "Creating game-changing innovation."

He had many interesting insights into the business of innovation, many cribbed from Peter Drucker (in a good way, with appropriate credit given). Of particular note was his list of five "models of innovation inside a company:

1. the lone genius
2. the boss is the genius
3. copy competitors' innovations
4. cloister the geniuses in a lab
5. make the people the geniuses

and of course he subscribes to the last one.

The heart of his talk, though was about five principles of innovation and invention. His principles:

1. Invention comes from mindset change.
2. Mindset change comes from seeing differently.
3. Savor surprises -- as learning.  (and 3a. celebrate your failures for the learning you derive from them)
4. Focus managers on a customer metric
5. Nurture and protect teams that are doing innovative work.

Cook talked a lot about how Intuit has a culture of always starting with the customer need. He gave several examples of how Intuit products were created directly out of customer studies that gave them key insights about how they weren't solving the needs of their customers.

It was a fun and inspiring talk. If you get an opportunity to hear Cook talk, I would strongly encourage you to do so.

8:37:55 AM    comment []

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