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Tantek Çelik on HCI

Tantek Çelik, a true Web hero, offers “Three Hypotheses of Human Interface Design“. He puts some nice language around the concepts that “more clicks is more cognitive load”, that “more latency is more cognitive load”, and that therefore cognitive load is the enemy of usability. (quotes are paraphrases)

It follows that better sites load faster and require fewer clicks.

I know it may sound like that’s common sense, and to a certain degree it is, but I’m saddened by how infrequently that “common sense” drives contemporary design and engineering decisions.

Don’t stop with my summary. It’s worth it to read his examples and context, which you can do here.

YUI Party

I blogged this over on the YUIBlog last week (You’re Invited: YUI First Year Party), but figured I’d quickly post a notice here too in case you missed it. There are still a few dozen RSVP slots open, but they probably won’t last long.

If you’re interested in giving a quick five minute demo of something you’ve build with YUI, let me know…

See you there.

Rounding Off the Edges

In Alex Russell’s latest blog post, When Utility Isn’t Enough, he writes that he’s “starting to focus more and more on the ’sharp edges’ of the web development experience.” I think he’s suggesting that we — tool developers and envelope pushers — might best spend our time reducing the pain points instead of always chasing the latest advancement. I agree. He continues that:

“rounding off the sharp edges is an exercise in usability: things are only useable (sic) when they do what you expect them to. A system that hurts you more than you expect isn’t useable.

I share his conclusion that “sacred cows and continually sunk costs” can’t continue forever.

Come to think of it, this is probably one of the chief issues of the past year, and forward too. A common manifestation of this syndrome is the ongoing struggle between “because it’s the standard” and “because it works.”

teaching the machine

A video called “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” is an engaging and enjoyable 4.5 minute non-verbal documentary taking us from ‘pencil’ to ‘Web 2.0′. It adds context to the advances that got us here, and suggests what might yet be in store. At about 03:40, highlights from an August 2005 Wired article, “We Are the Web,” are used to suggest that we are “teaching the machine.” I’m afraid that that notion is still inadequately understood and appreciated.

Perhaps the so-called “social web” isn’t about connecting people (not about helping people socialize), but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable. We’ve barely started to figure out what to do with this second-generation information. Where we have it’s been exciting, useful, and successful: Flickr’s Interestingness and Clusters, the notion of “watching” on Upcoming, the newer “people who looked at this ultimately bought that” in Amazon, and of course Google’s PageRank. The idea isn’t new, but it’s still under appreciated.

Here’s the paragraph from Wired that surrounds the words used in the video:

And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we’re already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn. Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea. Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.

Here’s the video, which was created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University:

(via via)

CNN Practicing Good Journalism

In addition to pointing to CNN debunks false report about Obama, I wanted to summarize it. I struggled a bit, but luckily a great new magazine GOOD summed it up well (emphasis mine):

A conservative magazine started a rumor that Obama attended a madrassa in Indonesia that taught fundamentalist Islam. Then they falsely sourced Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the tip. This might have been a pretty ingenious campaign smear a few years ago, but these Rove-like tricks don’t seem to work anymore. CNN did some good, old-fashioned journalism and quickly debunked the story. Republican strategists should denounce these tactics if they want any chance in ‘08. The American public is finally wise to it.

Let me reiterate their conclusion: this shady business won’t fly in the ‘08 election cycle.

(If you’re not familiar with GOOD, take a look and consider subscribing (100% of your subscription money goes to an organization of your choice.)

wow: photosynth

Watch the video demo of photosynth from microsoft’s labs to see what’s possible when the world has zillions of photos of everything. (Hint: you can go inside them in 3D.)

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