Monday, September 20, 2004

A9.com - shortcut to the semantic web?
Lots of discussions about the semantic web, and being able to effectively search for meaning and knowledge, not for keywords - some general themes of the mement (and of HCI conferences) for sure, but here's a shortcut route to that information. By choosing and integrating different sources, Amazon's A9 search engine provides categorised information that they claim to be more useful and useable than Google's keywork search, and yet which doesn't need the infrastructure of RDF or the a.i. technologies of semantic searching.....

I'm planning to use it for the next month or so and will report my findings after that. Initial tests have proved interesting.....

Smartphones get useful
I'm about to change my phone (as many of you will know) - and whilst I expect to be mildly disappointed with the Motorola V3 phone, I want to see it and handle it before getting my current favourite, which is the c500 smartphone.

Why a smartphone? I have a pile of PDAs with broken screens, about a foot high - they are supposed to be personal organisers, so you need to have them everywhere - and when I have them in my pocket I sit down and the screen cracks, or they fall out and break on the floor, or something - basically, they are not tough enough. But I also need electronic reminders to prod me to do things, so my current paper filofax isn't working either. My phone, however, is pretty tough (though when I dropped it into a foot of sea water it stopped working for a few days.....). So, a PDA that is as tough as a phone, the size of a phone, and which also means I don't have to carry a phone as well should be a great thing.....


And now they are getting even more useful - as well as phone calls and texting, and calendar and email, the newer systems are acting as portable displays for GPS devices, and so I'll not get lost either. There are even plans to offer systems that tell you about heavy traffic, accident blackspots, and speed cameras, though, annoyingly, not all able to be run at the same time and certainly not integrated into one package.....

For travelling, this neat app gives you weather and currency and other such info - and it automatically updates so you know what it's going to be like before you get there. Neat, huh?

MobileHCI 04
Back from Mobile HCI'04 - first impressions of the event recorded here and now, cos I'm off on holiday for the rest of the week (if a passport arrives - more on that story when I return). Full details later.....

Like most conferences I go to now, the best bits are the interactions with people in the coffee breaks and at the dinners - I can read the papers in the proceedings. And the coffee breaks were long - typically 45 mins, so plenty of time to chat.

Some interesting trends - many HCI people working in the mobile space, with the emphasis moving away from technolgy and towards user-centered design, something that the commercial organisations reflect as well as the academics. Many more commercial people at mobile HCI than HCI itself, and in some ways a more dynamic conference - or maybe it was that there was less of a clique and a more inclusive feel.

Good socials - dancing at Loch Lomond, drinking in Galswegian hotel bars until the early hours, and still making the 9am start.

A focus on application areas - elderly care, location and context, and a few empirical results that will have effect are my main thoughts. That, and the fact that I spent a good proportion of my time on the wireless LAN doing a grant proposal - such is the life of aUK academic.....

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Context in Glasgow
Presented our work on context modelling in Glasgow to the mobile HCI audience - only a short talk so that the 2 takehome messages were: metaphor for context - treat it like a flim, with an overall theme and historical context as well as a scene and elements in a scene - with a frame being the instantaneous set of environmental readings that we actually want to use. Second message - by exposing the model of context-awareness, users understand how their actions affect the interface, and, most critically, subvert the triggers that change the display in order to navigate the display, rather than using the standard navigation buttons. More information in the paper, in the proceedings.....

Good conference, with a few gems, and some fun people. Dancing last night by the shores of Loch Lomond, too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

New day, new role
A lot of interesting things to report from the BCS HCI conference, which I'll write up when I get a chance - still doing the conference round. But one of the big changes for me is that I'm now chair of the BCS HCI group.

What does that mean? - Well, I'm trying to figue that out still, but am taking lots of input from the other members of the exec - we're currently collecting opinions and views on what the group should be focussing its energies on. If you've any thoughts as well, please email me.

We are considering how we can interact more widely with the world and promote our ethos, ethics, ideas, research, practical skills, theories and practice to all: users, designers, companies, politicians and professional bodies.

We are wondering what more the HCI group can do for its members, and how it can work with the other professional organisations.

We are trying to understand the role and timing of the conference.

And we want to know how we can most effectively use our most precious of resources - the time of our volunteers.

More on the interesting and not the admin shortly.....

Monday, September 06, 2004

"How the Treo is changing me" from IA? EH
Clear, personal perspective of how easy sharing of images can affect the tone and style of conversations between individuals - a treo with a camera built in has profoundly affected Christina Wodtke's communications.

Having never had a camera phone, I don't know how this would affect me, but I am keen to experiment with social awareness via images, so I suspect that it might become a significant part of my communications when I'm away. But as I can't organise my digital photos at the moment - at home we're basically living in the e-stone age, cos my Windows95 machine has just about expired and we've not updated anything for ages - it may not be as dramatic as I'm imagining.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The KJ-Technique: A Group Process for Establishing Priorities
Both a technique for design groups, and aleadership and management technique, this slightly formalises what most people kind of realise about running a group session. Focus, brainstorm, cluster, prioritise, move on.....

Useful for educators to read when setting up class tasks too.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Usability test software tool: Excel data logger
A potentially useful tool, this actually shows the problems I'm having in the e-space at the moment - do I post this here, so that we can all see it, or do I add it to my personal bookmarks (or compromise by using del.icio.us) or put in a Wiki for later use by myself, or what? Ah, well, it's HCI and usability we focus on, and I may as well let you have something useful.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Art: Martin Wattenberg
Now this is cool - so cool it's ultracold. There is some great stuff here - art that is aesthetic, interactive, and has strong roots into artificial intelligence and shared media spaces. You simply must see some of this stuff.

Thinking Machine (shown here) produces a visualisation of the branching and evaluation processes of a chess computer live, as you play it, whilst Third Person takes the timeline notion of media spaces and makes art out of it (much as we want to do for Open Days here, allowing students to interact with others that were here a week ago).

Body and brain of gamers probed
This relates to work we're recently proposed which is (currently) unfunded, to understand what aspects of graphics/sound/interaction are needed to create lifelike experiences and heightened awareness - if we understood this (and games makers generally do it much better than e-learning people, for example) then we could ensure that everyone could have a better experience.

This realtes to the anecdotal evidence of colleagues who find that playing Halo in two-player mode has improved their relationship, since they are now much better at communicating with each other over everything, not just which aliens to kill next.....

Blogger Help : What is the Navbar?
Oh dear oh dear. How terrible. Blogs are personal - and a search is desperately needed on blogger. But Google's aquisition of them makes them lazy, it seems - they use the sitesearch facility to try and do the search (and it rarely works), and use it to push lots of other blogs. Why would I want to go to a random blog from my blog? Why would I want a direct link back to the Blogger home page? Have Blogger lost the plot and their contact with their users.....? Useless for FTP publishers, and pretty awful for Blogger-hosted ones, this is one of their poorer ideas.....

Update: the bar is instead of the adbar for blogger-hosted people, so perhaps it's not quite so bad - it gives (theoretically useful) functionality and Blogger/Google promotion instead random advert promotions, which may be an improvement. Glad I'm hosted elsewhere, however.

New RSS feed
Feedster have failed to address the errors in the RSS feed they created for this blog, so we've gone elsewhere (in 3 clicks and 5 mins, so not hard!) - so please update your aggregators if you want to use RSS to read us. Apologies for the lack of action on this front for a while, but I'd expected at least a reply to my emails to the feedster people - I think it must have gone the way of many an internet idea.....

All quiet on the blogging front
Back from sailing now (and yes, we were in the bottom 2/3) and all has been quiet on the blogging front - partly because of so much travelling and partly because of family issues for the main contributors.

But next week sees HCI, Ubicomp, and then Mobile HCI the week after - so there should be some interesting things to tell during those.....

In the meantime, I nearly bought the C500 smartphone, but still want to see the Motorola V3 first.....

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