Saturday, May 29, 2010

Learning, or not, from the past

In the reinventing-the-wrong-wheel category, Nielsen and Norman lament user interface mistakes in the latest incarnation of gestures for devices such as the iPad. Norman also says that gestures are not uniformly interpreted across cultures, and that generally, we've been down this road before:
The problems faced by gesture developers remind me of similar issues that arose during the early days of development of the GUI. Thus, in the development of the early Xerox PARC systems, when one moved the icon of a file across the screen to a file folder, it was natural that the icon would disappear into the folder. Similarly, when a file was moved to the trash, it was natural that the icon--and the file--disappeared from sight. But this movement principle got into trouble with the printer: Moving the file to the image of the printer caused the item to be printed, but it also caused it to disappear from the screen. Much rethinking took place then. Much rethinking is required now.
While you are poking around Nielsen and Norman's websites, or waiting in a checkout line, you can learn about the psychology of waiting in lines, without all the mathematics we used in graduate queueing theory class.
Speaking of math, crunching the PGA data shows that Tiger Woods (pre-Thanksgiving incident) is 2.65 strokes better than the professional average, mathematically-speaking:
"In 2008, for example, Tiger computes to being 2.65 strokes per round better than the average," says the professor of mathematics at Roanoke College in Salem, VA. "He rates 1.4 stokes per round better than any other golfer on tour. Over four rounds of a tournament, this predicts that Tiger wins by at least 5.6 strokes."
Finally, a couple of things from the world of social psychology. I usually point out a couple of these in my HCI class. First, some "practical business lessons" (you'll remember primacy and recency from Intro Psych class, and social loafing from any team you've been on), and "psychological influence" (check out "people want shortcuts" and "emotional narratives are remembered best").

Oh, and Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U I talked about previously, was interviewed on C-SPAN, and you can watch it (and read the transcript).