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Putting People First

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July 2012
31 July 2012

Beyond reliability: An ethnographic study of Wikipedia sources

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Almost a year ago, Heather Ford was hired by Ushahidi to work as an ethnographic researcher on a project to understand how Wikipedians managed sources during breaking news events.

Ushahidi cares a great deal about this kind of work because of a new project called SwiftRiver that seeks to collect and enable the collaborative curation of streams of data from the real time web about a particular issue or event.

If another Haiti earthquake happened, for example, would there be a way for us to filter out the irrelevant, the misinformation and build a stream of relevant, meaningful and accurate content about what was happening for those who needed it? And on Wikipedia’s side, could the same tools be used to help editors curate a stream of relevant sources as a team rather than individuals?

Ford chose to interview editors focused on the 2011 Egyptian revolution article because she wanted a globally relevant breaking news event that would have editors from different parts of the world working together on an issue with local expertise located in a language other than English.

She has posted about the process on EthnographyMatters.

25 July 2012

Is UX strategy fundamentally incompatible with agile or lean UX?

 

The take of the author Paul Bryan:

UX strategy and agile UX are neither compatible nor incompatible. In an agile shop, UX strategists have to get ahead of the curve and do their work before agile development starts. They need to coach UX team members and convince others on a product team to value the guidance that UX strategy brings to digital design efforts and to follow the strategy in making design decisions throughout the life of the program. Once the agile train gets rolling, it may be very difficult to introduce strategic considerations.

25 July 2012

UX for learning: design guidelines for the learner experience

 

With educational applications for kids, corporate eLearning, and online degree programs, more and more UX designers face design briefs for creating digital experiences with an educational purpose.

In this article, Dorian Peters presents 14 design guidelines that derive from key findings from relevant psychology and education research on learning with technology. These findings relate specifically to user interface and interaction design for digital learning experiences.

He has drawn most of these guidelines from the pioneering work of educational psychologist Richard E. Mayer, whose discoveries form the foundation of much multimedia instruction today.

25 July 2012

Making wearable technology wearable

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This week at the San Francisco Wearable Technology Conference, Jennifer Darmour, UX designer at the Artefact Group, shared with other wearable technology experts her perspective and insights on the principles we must follow to make wearable technology more compelling to a broad consumer market.

Through the successes and failures of her research and design in the consumer electronics and wearable technology fields, she has developed four foundational principles, which if adopted will accelerate making wearable technology mainstream.

1 Contextual : Understanding your audience and what they need to improve their lives
2 Discreet : Pushing the technology to the background so it’s non-disruptive and ambient
3 Connected : Connecting to software and services that bring more value to the experience
4 Fashionable : Removing the geek-factor toward a broader consumer market

Read article

25 July 2012

Experientia collaborating with UCLA Anderson School of Management

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Experientia is one of 15 Italian companies and 53 companies worldwide participating in UCLA’s exclusive 2012 Global Access Program (GAP).

GAP pairs Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) students with international companies to develop a comprehensive business strategy that enables the companies to move to the next stage of their corporate development.

Run by the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the GAP program provides students with a challenging real world opportunity to apply the tools they have learned.

Last week, Experientia executives travelled to Los Angeles, for the first of two meetings with its team of five fully employed students (average age: 32), to define the objectives for the study. In six months time, they’ll return to LA, for the students’ formal business plan presentation focused on Experientia’s future opportunities in the North American market.

Experientia was selected for its qualities of excellence, strong propensity for innovation, and continued growth in the last years, as it seeks to channel its expansion in international directions.

The Piedmont region participation in the programme (10 out of 15 Italian companies) is substantially supported by the Torino Chamber of Commerce [Italian text, but English video].

A pleasant surprise on arrival in Los Angeles was the news that Experientia turned out to be the company – out of 53 – that was most selected by the students.

24 July 2012

Silicon Valley worries about addiction to devices

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Computers, smartphones and other gadgets have made life easier, but now tech firms are worried that they may be harming people.

Huh? Tech firms worried about addiction to devices?

As also the author of the New York Times piece writes, it “sounds like auto executives selling muscle cars while warning about the dangers of fast acceleration.”

“The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions.”

Could it have something to do with their stressed out employees?

“Many tech firms are teaching meditation and breathing exercises to their staff members to help them slow down and disconnect.” [...] “Google has started a “mindfulness” movement at the company to teach employees self-awareness and to improve their ability to focus.”

Read article

24 July 2012

Make your users do the work

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Make your users do the work< ” is the not very people-centred title of a guest piece by Nir Eyal on Techcrunch.

He argues that putting users to work is critical in creating products people love, and he has a point.

Some excerpts:

“Several studies have shown that expending effort on a task seems to commit us to it. For example, when buying a lottery ticket, players are able to either choose their own numbers or play a set of digits generated randomly. Certainly, choosing either option has no effect on the odds of winning. Traditional thinking would predict that the less effortful path would be the one users prefer.

However, the opposite is true. Despite the considerable effort required to pick the lottery numbers, a process reminiscent of filling out multiple choice questions on the S.A.T., players who choose their own numbers play more. This phenomenon isn’t just about a skewed perception of luck. According to a classic study by Ellen Langler, even when players are explicitly told their chances of winning, they choose to trade worse odds for the ability to play the numbers they spent the time and effort picking.”

“Where user investment really becomes valuable is when stored value meets a network effect. Facebook and Pinterest, both services which were useful as stored value products, exploded in use when the power of the network effect took hold. Both are habit-forming products, which bring large numbers of users back unprompted. The combination of stored value and a network effect, along with continual investment from users who regularly add content, has created a strong pull for a large percentage of their users.

Habit-forming technologies take hold when a pattern of trigger, action, reward, and investment, creates desire in the user while providing increasing amounts of value. The more users invest in a way of doing things through tiny bits of work, the more valuable the service becomes in their lives and the less they question its use.

Of course, users don’t stay hooked forever. Though these companies have a good ride, the next big thing inevitably comes along and creates a better way to start building user commitment. While the mantra of making the experience easier to use certainly has its place, the rule must be followed with a strategic purpose in mind — namely increasing the value of the service the more people use it.”

24 July 2012

Awesome experiences make us nicer

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New research by published in the journal Psychological Science shows that awe-inspiring moments can literally make time seem to stand still, or at least slow down. That feeling improves our mental health since many people often feel time-deprived in this modernized world.

Studies showed that experiencing awe made people feel they had more time in their lives. And that, the researchers suggest, can make us nicer to each other.

(via Discovery News and Press Association)

24 July 2012

Making sense of the cross channel experience

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In this short essay, Jon Fisher of UK consultancy Nomensa presents some introductory thoughts about Nomensa’s framework for ”sense making in cross channel design”. In particular, he demonstrates a potential method for visualising the information space from which understanding can be supported in a system.

“Having identified the critical nature of designing for channel transitions (and how they can degrade meaning to a user), we began to discuss various ways that we could visualise the informational needs that users require in a cross channel context. It is argued that there will be a core set of informational needs or requirements that a user must carry between channels that help them form a conceptual understanding of the wider service. We need a way, very early in a design process, to identify, visualise and map these informational needs so that we can begin to construct an idea of how information will flow across our wider product eco-systems.”

(via InfoDesign)

24 July 2012

mHealth: the next frontier or too much hype?

 

mHealth: The Next Frontier For Mobile Service Growth
By Scott Wilson and Phil Asmundson of Deloitte
Advances in wireless remote patient monitoring (RPM) are expected to have a big impact across targeted disease areas where chronic conditions are a leading cause of the readmissions problem. RPM can equip healthcare providers with timely information about patients’ health, while improving speed and accuracy of diagnosis. Wearable body sensors and remote monitoring can keep chronic patients out of hospitals and improve their quality of life while significantly reducing admission expenses.

Too Much Hype in the Mobile Health App World?
By journalist Barbara Ficarra
Aside from safety concerns, there are “two problems with health apps,” said Joseph C. Kvedar, M.D., founder and director at the Center for Connected Health in a recent interview. First, after downloading the app, it may be used once or twice and then it’s forgotten, he said. “There’s no engagement.” Secondly, health apps can be prone to error because the data that is self-entered by consumers may not be true. It’s a “social diversity bias problem,” he said, because the data entered isn’t honest and there is no meaningful engagement to help change consumers behavior. After downloading health apps with enthusiasm, the “shiny new toy isn’t so shiny anymore,” because there’s “lack of interest and lack of engagement,” said Kvedar.

24 July 2012

Debate on the UXPA name change

 

At the beginning of June, the Usability Professionals Association (UPA) announced that from now on it would be known as the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA).

This didn’t go unnoticed, and UX publisher Louis Rosenfeld reacted to this news with a strongly worded and much commented blog post, where he accuses the whole initiative to have no clear vision.

In turn, UXPA board member Ronnie Battista wrote a response to Rosenfeld’s blog post on the UXPA blog.

Enjoy the debate.

24 July 2012

Our Frugal Future: Lessons from India’s innovation system

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Drawing on the latest data and over 130 interviews with Indian policymakers, entrepreneurs and academics, this report by NESTA, the UK innovation agency, explores the policies, institutions and industries that are driving research and innovation. It measures how India’s research strengths are developing, and maps how the geography of Indian research and innovation is changing.

It takes a purposely broad approach, aiming to chart the direction of travel for Indian research and innovation. All this is with a view to help UK policymakers, businesses and universities better understand the opportunities and challenges of engaging with Indian research and innovation and how to strengthen their efforts to collaborate.

24 July 2012

Co-design in innovation

 

In a short post on the Huffington Post blog, author Soren Petersen describes how co-design – when firms and non-design users jointly design business and product offerings – is seen as a potential new avenue for breakthrough innovation in design.

“Inviting expert users and normal users to contribute their ideas has been used in design for decades; however, inviting users and other stakeholders to participate in the design synthesis process continues to be meet with some resistance from designers. Studies show that designers fundamentally believe that design and decision-making by committee caters to the lowest common denominator. In the process, concepts are watered down to a bland solution and make no one really happy.”

24 July 2012

Book: This is Service Design Thinking

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This is Service Design Thinking: Basics – Tools – Cases
Edited by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider
BIS Publishers, 2011
376 pages
(Amazon link)

This is Service Design Thinking outlines a contemporary approach for service innovation. Service design and design thinking are lately evolving into buzz words for management and business consulting. This is Service Design Thinking strives to unveil the practical meaning behind these terms in everyday use. The book introduces this new way of thinking to beginners but also serves as a reference for professionals.

Although service design and design thinking in general recently gains vast interest by both business and research, until now there was no comprehensive textbook outlining the approach, including its background, process, methods and tools as well as contemporary case studies. A set of 23 international authors created this interdisciplinary textbook applying exactly the same user-centred and co-creative approach it preaches. “The unique visual language of This is Service Design Thinking extends the idea of a classic textbook. Based on workshops and contextual interviews using prototypes of this book, the reader is now supported with various visual aides to facilitate a pleasurable and effective reading experience” highlights Jakob Schneider, co-editor and graphic designer of the book.

Change is a constant: Innovative service concepts and ground-breaking business models outrun established products and services. Social media empowers customers and cause an overdue shift of companies from classic advertisement towards service quality and customer experience. Social media as the customer’s megaphone broadcasts the perceived service experience to a growing audience. Thus, the perceived experience becomes the key factor for success of both new and established offerings. This entails business opportunities particularly for small- and medium sized companies, since customer recognition does not necessarily rely on mere market share anymore.

“The strength of service design thinking is that it is not a defined and thus restricted discipline, but rather a common approach and process including various tools and methods rooted in different disciplines from design to engineering, from management to marketing.” explains Marc Stickdorn, editor of This is Service Design Thinking. An appendant website to the book offers free downloads of ready-to-use tools such as the Customer Journey Canvas.

23 July 2012

Ethical decision-making apps damage our ability to make moral choices

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A recent crush of smartphone and tablet apps claim to make hard decisions easier, and the range of ethical dilemmas they can weigh in on will only increase. At this rate, Siri 5.0 may be less a personal assistant than an always-available guide to moral behavior. But depending on a digital Jiminy Cricket may be a regressive step away from what makes us all real, write Evan Selinger and Thomas Seager in Slate Magazine.

“Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, gives us a glimpse into what the next generation of apps might do. While discussing potential developments in “promptware” platforms that cue ideal behavior (for instance, sense that we’re exhausted and recommend we should pause before making an important call), he notes that an app in the works will enable users to determine whether they speak too much in critical situations (like business meetings) and make real-time corrections to improve their performance. He speculates large-scale adoption might do more than change personal behavior. It could transform ethical norms—the very fabric of what members of a society expect from one anothe”

Read article

16 July 2012

The Machine and The Ghost

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Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things
Peter-Paul Verbeek
University of Chicago Press, 2011
183 pages
(Amazon link)

Christine Rosen has written a very long and excellent book review / reflection in The New Republic on the recent book on the moral dimension of technology by Prof. Peter-Paul Verbeek (pictured) of the University of Twente in The Netherlands.

Interaction designers ought to reflect on the fact that Verbeek locates morality not just in the human users of technology but in the interaction between us and our machines. In this affair, human beings no longer hold the autonomous upper hand when it comes to moral agency; rather, Verbeek argues, we should replace that notion with one that recognizes “technologically mediated intentions.”

In a world where new technologies seek to seduce us by invoking the language of self-improvement and where smart algorithms subconsciously bypass our emotional and cognitive “imperfections” in order to make us more efficient, those interested in behavioural change should be aware that this also brings about an increase in moral laziness and a decline in individual freedom. “Freedom, Verbeek says, “is a hollow promise in the absence of agency and choice.”

And all of us would be intrigued to read that Enlightenment principles of human autonomy are according to Verbeek “no longer sufficient grounds for moral thinking in an era whose technologies are as ubiquitous and powerful as our own.” Rosen also quotes Alex Pentland who argues in Honest Signals, his book about sociometers, “We bear little resemblance to the idealized, rational beings imagined by Enlightenment philosophers. The idea that our conscious, individual thinking is the key determining factor of our behavior may come to be seen as foolish a vanity as our earlier idea that we were the center of the universe.”

16 July 2012

The psychology of content design

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In a long article Jonathan Cutrell talks about a strategy for creating content that revolves around its portability to multiple scenarios, devices, and access frames, and particularly about creating content that taps into multiple strong consumer motivations, and is consequently richly valuable to consumers.

(via InfoDesign)

16 July 2012

How Google is becoming an extension of your mind

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Stephen Shankland thinks that Google is becoming an extension of your mind, an omnipresent digital assistant that figures out what you need and supplies it before you even realize you need it. He also thinks that should both excite and spook you.

“Think of Google diagnosing your daughter’s illness early based on where she’s been, how alert she is, and her skin’s temperature, then driving your car to school to bring her home while you’re at work. Or Google translating an incomprehensible emergency announcement while you’re riding a train in foreign country. Or Google steering your investment portfolio away from a Ponzi scheme.

Google, in essence, becomes a part of you. Imagine Google playing a customized audio commentary based on what you look at while on a tourist trip and then sharing photo highlights with your friends as you go. Or Google taking over your car when it concludes based on your steering response time and blink rate that you’re no longer fit to drive. Or your Google glasses automatically beaming audio and video to the police when you say a phrase that indicates you’re being mugged.

Exciting? I think so. But it’s also, potentially, a profoundly creepy change. For a Google-augmented life, you must grant the Googlebot unprecedented privileges to monitor your personal information and behavior. What medicine do you take? What ads did you just glance at while walking by the bus stop? What’s your credit card number? And as Google works to integrate social data into its services, you’ll have to decide how much you’ll share with your contacts’ Google accounts — and the best way to ask them to share their data with your Google account.”

Shankland worries that “handy new features will arrive in a steady stream of minor changes that are all but imperceptible until one day I wake up and realize that Google has access to everything that makes me who I am.” His solution? “Shifting toward paid services could ensure Google is better motivated to please users rather than exploit their most personal information for the benefits of advertisers.”

Read article

16 July 2012

That’s not my phone. That’s my tracker.

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Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan argue in the New York Times Sunday Review that the device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cellphone, is in fact a tracking device that happens to make calls.

“We have all heard about the wonders of frictionless sharing, whereby social networks automatically let our friends know what we are reading or listening to, but what we hear less about is frictionless surveillance. Though we invite some tracking — think of our mapping requests as we try to find a restaurant in a strange part of town — much of it is done without our awareness.” [...]

“People could call them trackers. It’s a neutral term, because it covers positive activities — monitoring appointments, bank balances, friends — and problematic ones, like the government and advertisers watching us.

We can love or hate these devices — or love and hate them — but it would make sense to call them what they are so we can fully understand what they do.”

Read article

12 July 2012

Field notes from global tech ethnographer Tricia Wang

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A sociologist, ethnographer, and corporate consultant who studies global technology use among migrants, low-income people, youth, and others on society’s fringes, Wang has worked for the past several years in China. Since 2005, she’s crisscrossed the country–often riding the rails–observing the impact of digital technology on the lives of rural workers migrating into the cities, and more recently, documenting the wildfire spread of new social-media platforms like Weibo and Renren. Recharging at her home base in Brooklyn after a year away, Wang spoke with Fast Company about her field of digital ethnography, the benefits of working outside of big institutions, and what U.S. tech entrepreneurs can learn from their peers in China.

(Make sure to check the slide show too)