Sunday, August 19, 2007

Know your user: Video clip comedy depicting tech support interaction with someone transitioning from ancient scrolls to books

This funny video clip highlights the idea that developers can not assume that users share similar approaches to learning new applications and technologies!

I noticed version of this videoclip, entitled "Old School Help Desk", posted on Ladonna Coy's (ladcoy)Technology in Prevention blog.

The scene depicts two medieval European men making the transition from scrolls to books. One man plays the role of the "low-tech" user, new to the concept of "books". Even with the patient support from the help-desk guy, the poor soul continues to be baffled by the book-opening, page-turning, and book-closing process.

If you watch the clip to the end, it closes with a humorous interaction with the new-fangled book's tech manual. The clip has English subtitles, but it is clearly funny in Norwegian.

Off the Desktop: Technology Supported Human-World Interaction

This is the first post of the Technology-Supported Human-World Interaction, or "TSHWI" blog. I'm planning on using this blog as a resource for people interested in developing, using, or learning about user-centered application development for emerging and innovative technologies.

Just after I posted the template for this blog, I came across an intersting article, written by Tara Prakriya, a Microsoft Architect who focuses on the "incubation of emerging markets that leverage pen, touch, and ink". Although the article focuses on Microsoft Vista, much of what's covered in article is useful to people developing for other operating systems.

The article,
"How to Be Where Your Customer Wants to Be" was written for software developers who are making the transition from desktop to the world.

In the article, Prakriya emphasizes that developers must take an "off the desktop" point of view. At first glance, this sounds like mobile computing, but it is much, much more.

Prakriya shares that Microsoft has "done a lot of research with our customers to try and define some core areas and scenarios for which they want and need to use their computers more times of the day. Taken together, we often hear: “Give me more applications to help me when I am traveling, shopping, on the train or bus-basically, fill the gaps where I know access to information can help me.”

What does this mean for developers? According to Prakriya, Vista has many features that will enable developers to tailor applications to meet the needs of users. These features support collaboration, multitasking, time-slicing, and data/note capture.

Prakriya also discusses a number of areas that are open for project development, which is just about anything people do or need when they are away from a desk, including home automation, social communities, personal productivity, navigation or wayfinding, games, education, media, and entertainment.

Prakriya concludes with a pitch for developers to explore user-tailored application development that takes advantage of the Windows Vista Platform, which supports touch-screen systems such as the HP TouchSmart IQ770 PC, the Tablet Kiosk UMPC.

In my opinion, in order to create useful, usable "off the desktop" applications, traditional software developers will need to take on the perspectives of a sociologist, psychologist, and ethnographer in order to anticipate the technology needs of humans across a wide range of settings and situations. This development might very well provide women and people from other disciplines who are considering a career in software development more meaningful opportunities for study and work.

Short list of related resources:

Roy Want's recent articles, published in IEEE Journal of Pervasive Computing, provide a good background for developers who are moving off the desktop:
Carry Small, Live Large and People First, Computers Second

The work of
Don Norman, the author of "The Design of Everyday Things" "The Design fo Future Things" (November 2007), and "Why Things Don't Work" (2008)

Usability Professionals' Association