InfoCamp Notes – Day 2

Welcome Session (9:30, Theater)

Recaps of things learned yesterday:

  • Theory about why multimedia pods aren’t used in libraries: not social!
  • Creative Commons licensing – as soon as you put something online, it defaults to personal copyright unless licensing model is changed explicitly by the author
  • Legalese: “for when something gets really messed up” (hmm, what’s the lawyer to say to that?) – Complexity of language as a shield
  • Axure: “interesting” – Aaron Louie, a lot of interactions that can’t be represented: http://www.axure.com/
  • Tamara Adlin: demoing Denim: http://dub.washington.edu:2007/denim/
  • Privacy: it’s all about trust – user experience space hinges on the idea of trust

Plenary: Tamara Adlin: The Dirty Little Secret of User Experience (Theater)

  • “Things that you probably already know but that are too easy to forget”
  • Build something which provides information!  Therefore empowers users!
  • Problem: a lot happens before this is even possible, and all these things are handled by different people
  • If we don’t think about things that happen before design and build, we’ve lost a huge opportunity
  • We are Fish!
  • Waterfall method of designing software
  • Agile is actually “Agilefall”, since nobody’s actually doing agile, they just say they are
  • Information professionals (IP) should be there first understanding things and how they work before anyone else does anything
  • IP bring in their tools, but not much really works.  Why?  We throw our data into a hostile environment – nothing grows no matter what the IP does and no matter how good methods are
  • Environment: “executive staff” – if you don’t understand these, DOOM!
  • Dirty secret of UCD in real business: those that make the decisions haven’t decided what they want you to do! (there’s more to this.)
  • Executive: “Why the hell are you building X?  You should be building Y!” – they didn’t know they didn’t want X until they saw it.
  • Our job: help them figure out what they’re trying to do, then write it down!
  • In order to sell a process, someone has to admit that the current process is broken
  • Big honkin’ reports are still what we end up creating.  But data solves everything!  It’s totally the panacea!
  • We give big presentations with lots of bullet points, putting people to sleep – it’s our fault that they fall asleep!
  • Data solves nothing on its own.  Business speaks “Busineese”, you have to translate stuff in order to show them what’s obvious according to data
  • You can’t create great UX if the corporation is confused
  • In the absence of the forces of good, decisions will be made by a hippo – the (hi)ghest (p)aid (p)erson’s (o)pinion
  • Methods: doctor, heal thyself; make yourself usable to the people who are asking you to produce things.  Analyze your users, then create usable projects
  • Ask for business goals (usually have #s), brand goals (usually related to other brands, perception management), and customer experience goals (things you want to hear after people use your widget) – GET THEM APPROVED OFFICIALLY AT LEAST ONE LEVEL HIGHER THAN THE PERSON YOU’RE WORKING WITH!
  • Help customers get these three things written down – that’s your role as UX
  • Be the dumbest person in the room and apologize a lot.  Congratulate other people for your own ideas.  Remember that everyone in the room walks on thin ice and help them.  When you’re totally stuck remember that everyone else will think whatever you do next is the most inspired thing ever.
  • Do at least one exercise that forces people to play with sticky notes.  Put paper on the wall and sticky notes – it makes people feel important! (Adlin: “Maybe it’s because we deal with electronics all day and then they’re like ‘Ope, Paaaypeeer!'”)
  • Audience question: who needs to be in the room playing with the stickies?
  • If you pick the wrong persona, as long as you’re in the right neighborhood, you’re probably going to create something that’s better than you would have created otherwise.
  • Office: “At some point, someone’s going to want to put a pivot table on a birthday card!”
  • People who need to be in the room: those who care and the biggest pain in the rear available
  • Create personas, then show executives something that looks like Excel.  Create a persona-weighted feature matrix: ask people to weight the personas, then weight the features based on those personas
  • Get from business, brand, and customer experience goals through to actual features and functionality
  • You MUST be able to trace decisions back to the business goals
  • Hippos never go away, but if they sing the same tune, great!
  • When doing activities, go in cold – it shows confidence

Session 5: Geoinformatics: Why You Need the Science, Why the Scientists Needs You (Room 104)

  • Geoinformatics: geographic information systems, using GIS to describe environment – maps!  Find a spot on the surface and get information related to that location.
  • What’s going on with water quality, air quality, the amount of vegetation?  There’s not many piece of information about the environment at a particular location.  USGS has put together before and after imaging of different things – coastline lost, for instance
  • Discussion: we’re information consumers of this information – are we using interfaces to get information about our environment?  What opportunities exist for information professionals in geoinformatics?
  • Frustrations: people provide great data, but no underlying machine-readable files
  • We have precision to see this information, but the interface is bad – “Beautiful map, but we can’t interact with it”
  • UrbanSim: http://www.urbansim.org/
  • Nat’l Weather Service relies on USGS data to provide things like flood warnings
  • There’s overlap and wasted resources because agencies work on the same issues.
  • Resistance to opening data to a specific standard: “I’m a GIS analyst and I use a complex system and I know that system well, so why should I turn around and give out the data?”
  • Does information get quashed out of fear?  USGS has no regulatory oversight duties – it doesn’t matter whether a volcano’s going to explode tomorrow, they present what’s happening
  • This is about information about the earth – what’s going on, not just what’s on the map
  • The data is completely meaningless without some hint of what that data is about – ideally, the structure given to that data self-narrates and describes what that data is about without additional documentation
  • There’s so much here and so much information that’s useful, but we’re so far down the road that there’s so much data in so many standards that it’s all very hard to start working with now that we’re actually interested in manipulating that data
  • “I want this data to be interoperable” – how do we get that to happen?  Contact USGS, congressperson, representative, anyone you can come up with – Department of the Interior
  • It’s not necessarily the data per se that people want, it’s the tool that interprets the data
  • Useful sites/resources: EPA SuperFund, Storet, National Water Information (NWIS), King County Parcel Viewer

Session 6: Some Database Design and Designing a Database About Everything (Theater), Quentin Christensen

  • How do we come up with a way that we can work with a lot of different diverse database sources?
  • First step: requirement gathering – what’s the data model we want?  What information do we need to have stored?
  • Relation: a table.
  • Normalization: 1st form: only one value; 2nd form: all rows have unique identifier (primary/candidate key); 3rd form: dependencies
  • Physical modeling: how much data do we have, how many times are operations performed, what types of operations?  These all have different costs – performance optimization!
  • Prototyping: create database tables, create operations, etc.
  • SSPiN: Wiki-inspired database system with different aspects that allow for linking generic aspects
  • User-generated content is great for the bottom line – you manage the infrastructure, but the users do all the work on giving your site data to work with

Session 7: Brainstorm: Solving the online identify crisis (Nick Finck) (Theater)

  • There’s you, your circle of friends, then groups of those friends (and networks that extend beyond that second degree)
  • Social networks: not really networks, but tools
  • Supposedly, UX builds these tools to help ease people’s lives… except we’re at the center of the hub and have to maintain all these tools
  • How do we manage all this information that these systems have that are not necessarily being shared but being used?  We really want to share this data across systems, connecting discrete pieces of information across systems.  These services are afraid to share data!
  • We need negotiators: things that take data and then share it with other systems – but systems are very protective against this.  OpenID is a translator, not a negotiator.
  • Common users aren’t programmers – they can’t get into APIs.
  • What happens if users can control and define data about social connections?
  • “I could go out and tell the system, ‘these are all my friends’, and it would just go out and figure out where all my friends are…”
  • We don’t want this kind of a system to be created by a company – we want it to be community-based.  There is no entity that we really want to give sole control over this sort of an idea.  Make it open source.
  • User should be able to control what data is used where and how it’s used – determine whether data should be shared.  System may be able to self-negotiate such a thing.
  • There’s no shared vocabulary that allows the definition of who is friends and other types of contacts
  • Next generation of social networks: it’s not just what’s connected, but the value and strength of those connections
  • If I’m connected to Bob and trying to connect to someone, it’d be interesting to know what that person has done as a result of creating that link.
  • Problem: APIs suck right now for social networks.  They just aren’t useful.
  • Creating separate identities for different purposes – one for professional interactions, one for “the dirt”
  • Services exist that combine all your phone numbers into one with various ways of manipulating where phone calls go
  • For gateway: first identify what accounts are yours, then categorize the accounts – note that some stuff would have to be stored by the gateway service – “the less, the better”
  • Forget CRMs, we need IMs – identity managers.
  • Challenge is where the borders lie: what information do you want/need to be different across services?
  • Define mappings between services, as well as mapping directionality: “this group on LinkedIn maps to this group on Facebook, and this is what I want copied”
  • (perhaps we could call this protocol “identity management protocol” or IDMP…)
  • Build the system based on what exists
  • Biggest problem for this system: membership – how many users does such a system have?

5 Minute Madness (interesting ideas, what we’d like to do, etc.):

  • Delridge Cultural Center has a great Halloween party in its space!
  • Not many blogs linked to the wiki…
  • Sessions touched on a lot of different parts of how we create user-centered information and experiences – these conferences can be overwhelming with “why don’t I, why should I…”
  • Where is your niche?  Not everything everyone else is doing matches every business situation or personality – know your gift and let your particular gift shine
  • What we really need for student research is a central, free tool
  • Idea: Crowdsourcing weather forecasting – put a bunch of transmitters on cars, if windshield wipers are on, where are they?  Anonymous data.  Idea: Metro has transit broadcasters already for bus locations – piggyback?  Washington Ferries do this for marine weather…
  • Idea: GPS track peoples cats – apparently this is already done…
  • Northwest Tea Festival coming up!
  • Refresh Seattle in Fremont
  • http://soxsoftware.net SOX software

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