Five, Prospect House

If you need to get away for a peaceful break in South Devon, to write papers, read books, walk, think, eat, drink, look at expansive sea views out to Start Point lighthouse, then try Prospect House. It comes well recommended by me!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

This blog is suspended
For a while, this blog is suspended..... I'll not go into details why, as on so many others.....

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bank account usability

You'd think it would be pretty easy to make a bank account usable.  You put money in, you take money out.  I've just switched to a new bank so I can a decent rate of interest on my money, and I'm in the process of changing all my direct debits and standing orders etc.  That in itself has proved to be a little bit less easy than was promised - several companies have simply ignored the notifications and continued to try and take payments from my old account.  but anyway, that's not what I wanted to moan about.  Every account has an account code, and a sort code (which identifies the branch).  But my new bank used to be a building society, so they have only one sort code.  sort of.  to find my sort code, I have to take the first digit of my account number, and put it on the end of a code they give me.  this is good because my account number is actually longer than the standard 8 digits.  but why make me do this?  why not just give me an 8 digit account number and tell me what my sort code is?  Usability (or lack of it) is everywhere.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Google maps plus traffic info
Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Not an ideal interface - but built with BBC support - see the BBC backstage pages - an excellent way of making the most of BBC (read, public) resources.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Standards that aren't standards

While importing some of my CDs into iTunes recently, I've noticed that the information about the tracks that come from the Gracenote database don't always match up with what I want... on more than one occasion I've had to update the track listings because someone has entered them wrongly, but this time I've found that the actual fields don't serve my purpose, even when they have the right data in them. The problem is that the information is just too precise!

Case in point: I've just imported my Best of Saint-Saens CD, which has a lot of pieces all by Saint-Saens but performed by a variety of musicians. On my iPod, I want all these tracks to show up with 'Saint-Saens' in the artist field (cos that's how the iPod primarily lets you navigate your collection). But the person who submitted this record has diligently recorded the name of actual performer in the Artist field, leaving the Composer field to tell me it's by Saint-Saens... OK, this is technically accurate, and this is different for pop/rock music where artists perform their own work, but to navigate the tracks properly I've had to change it. Not usable, for me.....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Far to busy to write anythnig recently - family illness, lots of stuff happening, including wrapping my car around a roadsign - all okay - but hopefully life will get a bit calmer from now on. Ha!

Done some interesting experiments on synaesthesia and its prevalence - was part of a different experiment but it has thrown up some interesting results in itself. Ah, the serendipity of science!

For those that don't know, synaesthesia is the experience of one sensation when another sense is stimulated: so when you see a number, you 'see' a colour - for some people it's a permanent occurance, for others its rarely noticed, whilst for most people it sounds a strange phenomena.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Usability and e-science
Interesting 2 day conference in Edinburgh on usability in e-science - big issues were that e-science is too many things to too many people, that usability is not really thought of from the beginning, and that e-science should be a new form of science. Flight delayed by 4 hours on way back kinda took the edge off though.....

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I'm currently involved with a project called My Art Space, which aims to provide visitors to museums with a way of collecting objects that are interesting to them using mobile phones. Objects are collected by entering a short code, and after your visit you can then view your personal collection and start arranging objects into a gallery that you show to other people. Each object can be annotated with your own notes, and comes complete with its own set of info from the museum archive. It's a really nice idea, and on Monday I got to see the system working for the first time.

The system makes use of an application running on a mobile phone to collect objects, together with a web-based application for viewing, sorting, and presenting your gallery. We had a lot of constructive discussion about how to change things, and one of the recurring issues for me was workflow. The team have built a flexible application that lets you do things in a number of ways, not necessarily in a specific sequence. The problem with that is that users who are not familiar with the system don't know where to start, and aren't sure what the dependencies are within the application. In some cases it really helps to have imperative text, saying "First: do this, Then: do that". This is the kind of handholding that expert users will ignore, but novice users find invaluable.

The system is going live for a school visit tomorrow, and it's a shame I won't be around to see what the kids make of it. I hope to report back when I've heard from the rest of the team. My hunch is that kids will really show the potential of the system, no doubt findings some uses for it that were never imagined...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Christmas is coming
It's amazing what you can do with computers nowadays. Really nice..... :-) It's a .wmv movie. Try it. But not for too long.

Older people do not respond to modern adverts
Research reported recently suggests that older people buy the brands that they bought in their twenties, and that they are strongly influenced by what their parents bought. But then again, another report suggests that whilst they are slow to adopt new technology, once they adopt it they are keen to use it. SMS represents one example of this. Can both be true? How can they try out new things if they don't respond to current adverts?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So wrong
This is so bad I'm almost out of words to explain it. No consultation, no parlimentary debate: no oversight, no control, no enforcement of the enforcers - what sort of state are we in danger of becoming? Ethical issues are huge: police tracking and storing our locations, wherever we go.....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New Mac's quite soon?
In my email the morning was one from Apple, encouraging me to download the latest development kit for the Mac, to make sure my code would be ready for the new Intel-based Macs. hey are not officially coming out before June 2006, but this activity makes me suspect that somethnig will happen earlier. Rumours make them sound good: the first of the new breed is supposed to be a 15" Powerbook (which has already, in current guise, had a nice screen upgrade and now sports higher resolutions than before) - this machine is supposed to be 25% thinner than previous ones.

Apple seem to keep getting it right. What do users want from a laptop? Aesthetically - thin, light. Practically: built in DVD/CD drive, connectivity. Ergonomically: decently weighted keyboard with acceptable key travel, and a big high resolution screen. And Apple keep on delivering..... The only thing they coud usefully add in to the package is a standard VGA output connector as well as the DVI out - it's a pain carrying round the adaptor. Roll on Feb or March for the releases (I hope!).....

Friday, November 04, 2005

Rocket Ajax to the rescue.

Okay, so only fans of Flash Gordon will get the reference, but Ajax is hitting the news now; partly because of Google maps being so popular and working so well, and partly cos it solves a lot of problems for web and UI designers - it offers decent interaction and removes the reliance of a server response to any interaction element.

For those who want to know more, the above reference is a good start.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A few TomTom thoughts.

TomTom offer a subscription service to allow you to know where all the safety cameras are. But PocketGPSWorld offer it for free, as a community project: contributions us are collated by them and made available to us - and we all benefit.

Alerts can be used to warn of approaching safety camera - but then you're reminded of the route every time you drive there, just so that you can hear the camera warnings. If you turn off the voice then all sound is turned off so you miss the warnings. But there is a solution - select a non-installed voice. The directions are then not spoken (or rather, spoken in a silent voice), but the alerts still go off.....

And as to it's usefulness and engageability - one of the key issues is that the cost of mistakes when navigating with a tomtom is minor - you'll still get to your destination easily - whereas if you are forced off a conventional route, you are suddently into unknown territory and the stress of finding your way becomes immense. In fact, often you'll search for a way back to your known route, rather than a way to your destination.....

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Psychology is interesting
Human nature; psychology; behaviour - call it what you will, it's very interesting.

P.S. Do Not Click Here!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Blogging frequency
As you'll have noticed, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat recently. The reasons for this are many and varied, but are mainly to do with time pressures. Well, sort of time pressures. I've been thinking about why the frequency has dropped off and decided it's because I'm working more from home. In the office, I'd often be disturbed, interrupted, and generally have my day fragmented, and so had lots of little opportunities to blog. I'd have numerious times when I'd have 10 minutes to kill before something else, so would browse the web, and blog.

I've taken to working from home much more, so am much less interrupted, and hence get lots more done - but crucially, those few psare minutes are not so in evidence, and hence I am blogging less. Not that there's less to say - far from it, all the issues are more relevant day by day - but because it's further from my mind for much of the time. And why am I blogging now? Just come up to check my recent email hasn't bounced, nothing on telly, few minutes to kill.....

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