Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ambient interfaces

This article in today's Fresno Bee describes how PG&E is giving "energy orbs" to major users. The orbs change color color based on energy demand (i.e., shortages).

I talk about ambient interfaces like the energy orb when I teach HCI (CSci 291T at Fresno State and ICS 664 at the University of Hawaii). My favorite is the ambient pinwheel: the more unread email messages, the fast the pinwheel spins. If you are running OS X you can get a similar dashboard widget that represents your unread emails by the number of flowers in your virtual vase.

The first commercial ambient interfaces I remember seeing were from Ambient Devices. You can see a fuzzy picture and read a paragraph about the ambient pinwheel at this archived web page.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Telephone usability

I think an easy-to-use cellphone with big buttons would be a great. Check out this short article from about cellphone usability and how Sprint Nextel does usabiltiy testing.

If you have hardcopy of the June 2006 FastCompany magazine, page 42 is about how picturephones introduced in 1964 never made it big (although iChat might change that :) Here's a quote from the director of customer research at AT&T Labs:

Around 1971, I surveyed 173 executives in the Chicago area ... The bottom line was, there were virtually no business situations for which the picturephone was best.

To read the article online, you can enter the access code found on page 10 of the June hardcopy issue, or wait until next month and read it in the free archives.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Malc watch update

Malcolm Gladwell was on CSPAN's Q&A show last weekend. You can watch it or eventually read the transcript. In the beginning of the interview he talks about his mixed-race family growing up in the Mennonite hotbed of Elmira, Ontario Canada.

Also, the New Yorker posted audio of a February 2007 talk Malc gave about "prodigies and late bloomers".

IT, stress, and training

A survey of IT professionals sponsored by Skillsoft is getting some press. Although most people are pointing out that IT support is the "most stressful occupation" (you can check out the top ten list), I noticed the following about training:

Kevin Young, managing director of SkillSoft says: “Our research was sparked by a recent Gartner report which claims that the untrained or under-trained desktop user will cost an organisation five times more to support than a well-trained worker. This led us to thinking about how much pressure this must also put on the IT professionals who have to provide such support.

Other things in the study remind me of what McConnell says in Rapid Development about what makes software developers nuts (see the middle of one of my previous posts): number one on the SlillSoft "Top Ten Colleague Irritations" at the end ot the article is "seeing others not pulling their weight" :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

videoconferencing & desktop sharing

We've been looking at systems for real-time videoconferencing, and even cross-platform desktop and app sharing. Here are some links:

  • Marratech (commercial system).
  • Elluminate (commercial system, cross-platform app sharing!)
  • iVocalize (commercial, but inexpensive). It looks like a work-in-progress, but the TLT Group likes it and uses it.
  • ePresence (open source, but I'm not sure if it works on Macs)
  • and if you only have a few Mac people to talk with, iChat AV is amazing. Using Trillian I think you can even iChat with your PC colleagues.

In November, InternetWeek had a review of five web conferncing systems, and last month Network Computing had a good article "TechU: The World is Our Campus" where they graded nine web conferncing systems.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The web page for the basketball video isn't very well organized, so here is the direct link to the video to watch:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I accept the challenge!

At a faculty end-of-semester reception today, a colleague from the philosophy department challened me to find a video he saw in a cognitive science talk.

Most people remember seeing the video featured on Dateline NBC.

Here's the easiest way to experience it:

  • Go to
  • Scroll down to "view the basketball video" and do what it says.
  • after watching the video and counting the number of times the team dressed in white passes the basketball, go back to the first page and click on "learn more about inattention blindness" :)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Does computer science need a Feynman or Sagan?

A few postings ago I gave links to data about CSci enrollments.

It's a hot topic: a recent article in Business Week, an interview of six CSci profs in Computer World, and Grady Booch's response on his blog.