Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning Log 8 9/2 "Surrogates: A Possible Future

The latest offering from Hollywood in the form of a sci-fi action thriller is a movie called Surrogates. The major drawing point of the movie is that people live their lives through a robot created to look like them called a Surrogate. The trailer is below:
From the look of the movie, its is a stinker because the plot is quite predictable (In a future of no crime, someone is killed.......typical), the future in the movie is looks like our present, (If I could get my hands on a surrogate.........(chuckles)), and the main character Bruce Willis plays a Federal Agent, failing to realize that you can never out live being John McLane.
However, I am more focused on the idea of a human being, confining themselves to a control device and living through a surrogate. It would essential take the humanity out of human. Technology in the present is slowly starting to increase the divide between human contact. Cell Phones with Video Chat replace conversations face to face. Text messaging and IM take away the emotions involved with talking to people. I once aggravated several guys over a CD cover that I wasn't charging for, but because you really couldn't tell how I said it and the fact that there was a typo, it ruined my junior year because I was worried about getting jumped everyday on my way home from school, something I already had to deal with. I mean the digital divide hasn't gotten completely out of touch with humanity, as technology helps keep us alive, however the idea of humans using robots to interface with people in place of themselves is strange.
The surrogates would have a place in the world, just not as an everyday application. Military and Police could use them for their services because their line of work involves casualties, so you could cut down on loss. Also, the president, could use a surrogate when going overseas, so that the threat against him. Even celebrities, if the system was fine-tuned enough, could act without even being there. However, there are many cons to this situation. A sort of couch potato effect would take place because you just sit in a chair all day. You do not have physical movement. So whenever you surrogate does fail, you wake up and you're fat. Also, a myspace situation could develop from trying date as a surrogate. For example, you meet a very attractive "woman" and she finds "you" attractive as well, so if you decide to actually meet up in real life, you may find yourself wondering why you asked her out, when her surrogate is a model and the real thing is far from that.
The concept behind surrogates is sound but if it were to come to fruition, the world as we know it will change forever.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning Log 7 9/28: Design thoughts

The final three chapters of the book were great because it explored more into the design aspect of everyday things. They also talked about human error which is an important part of how the entire design system works. If someone makes an error, be it a slip or a mistake, it can cause problems with the system they are interfacing with. A wrong key press can wipe your entire hard drive out, a misplaced figure can mess up an order for a business, even a wrong transfer can send you to the other side of the city (Its happened before). It was humorous reading Norman’s examples of each form of slip and it helped figure out what each different slip was. Associative Activations Errors and Loss of Activation errors are common with me because most of the time I will forget to do part of or the entire activity. I’ve walked out of my room and 12:30 in morning, going for a midnight snack, and then find myself in an dark empty kitchen. Also, I’ve had times where I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time, like answering “What Up, G?” on the phone with my grandmother, pre caller ID. I think designs should implement features that cover mistakes and human error. Computers have most of that covered with the often extremely annoying “Are you sure?” dialogs that come up. Cars have a warning when doors are open and headlamps are still active after the engine is off. However, I found out that my car’s warning only works on the driver side. After a conversation with my mom where I appeared to be a complete idiot, not according to her, I made sure to listen out for the noise. Also, I did agree with Norman’s ideas on social pressure and mistakes. The Korean Air situation is a good example of both social pressure induced mistake and a fairly bad interface. If the inertial navigation system could be reset from within the plane, that problem would not exist. Also, the fault of the INS failure shouldn’t fall on the pilots or at least don’t tell the pilots that they would reprimanded. I would rather not know something like that, already piloting a big steel, gasoline powered cylinder, several thousand feet in the air.

The design process chapter I enjoyed because I’ve always like designing things. Letters were always cool to me; hence the graffiti and then the graphic design major. Cars were always something I adored and I really wanted to design cars but I sucked at drawing around that time. Norman makes a great point in the heading on pg 155 “Designers are not typical users”. It speaks volumes for all the horrible designs that pass as user friendly. The expertise of the designer and the user are two different criteria. Designers think about aesthetics, comfort, usability , ease of use, and many other parameters when designing something. While those parameters are relevant to the user, the ability to use the product is the most important aspect of the design. Sure a phone can be a beautiful design aesthetically but if you can’t dial a number without becoming increasingly aggravated over the action itself, it isn’t a good design. Designs should be suggested not by the clients but the users themselves. Even though, most of the current phones are legitimately user friendly and not difficult use, sometimes you get a phone that will make you question why in the world would some one think that this would be profitable. Things like false imagery and creeping featurism are temptations easily succumbed to. I once had an organizer that could play polyphonic ringtones. It couldn’t place calls but I could play ringtones on my organizer. I understand creeping featurism but I just don’t get how piling on so many features into a device or software. I enjoy this temptation because I usually end up using all the features, even though I have no need for them.

User centered design was a good wrap up because it gives you the building blocks for great design. Norman reiterates his design principles on 188 which helps put the system and process of design into perspective. Simplifying the structure of tasks, especially complex ones, is important because no one like difficulty. For example, I’m going to use the token vs. Metrocard argument again as an example of such. The token was easy to use for the rider, but an arduous task for the MTA as they had tabulate their sales based on the sheer volume of copper tokens, minus all the counterfit tokens that made it through. The metrocard is supposed to be easier for both the rider and the MTA. The rider gets the card and swipes it. The city now has electronic systemt to tabulate revenue from the fares. The technological aspect can be circumvented by counterfeiting as well glitches with the ID strip (Fares don’t work, errors). The city made their tasks simpler while making the riders just a bit more complicated. The constraints created by designers is important because they can help the user determine the appropriate action. It is a shame that appropriate constraints aren’t used more often.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LEarning Log 6: "Xbox 360: Proof That Microsoft Still Fails"

The gaming industry is one of most challenging and money driven industries in existence. Before it was Sony and Microsoft, it was Sega and Nintendo, before that it was Atari and colecovision, even before that commodore 64 (OLD SCHOOL!!!! lol). The latest offerings from this industry are all great but lack something that the others have. This particular system: Xbox 360 is an awesome machine to kill time and procrastinate with. I am the proud owner and operator one that has already become a true Microsoft product: I had to get a replacement because of a fatal error. Fatal Error, sounds awfully familiar. Wait....

That is right, Microsoft somehow got the magic of the blue screen of death onto their Xbox platform. Called the Three Rings of Death. Pictured below, the rings are a fatal error that has been resolved by being sent back to the manufacturer. I really didn't read into this much but it happened so frequently as well as a bunch of other errors that really made not a bit of sense that I figured out that Microsoft make so much money because of their faulty software. They have cornered the market on repairs, it is incredible that a. this continues to go one and b. why no one seems to have picked up on it. Norman talks about the ease of use and constraints set but an product. Microsoft has a perfect interface, and Xbox 360 is the easiest system to set up and use, even the online package is a cakewalk to activate. The fact that they do is really ingenious and super capitalist, glad the Soviets don't exist or we wouldn't be their biggest fans, like they ever were. The interfaces are perfect but the inner workings are shotty. My solution would be to combine the pure power of macintosh with microsoft's user friendliness and wide array of software and create a dependable, blue screen and red ring friend, system for everyone.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning Log 5: Ch.3 and Ch.4

The subject of memory in chapter three was an interesting and entertaining topic. Norman highlights the overabundance of thing to commit to memory on regular basis. I can throughly understand as I can remember my PIN number, Familly Phone Numbers, Student ID number, SSN, and my license plate number. Norman elaborates on the types of memory we have as arbitrary, meaningful, and explanatory, all of which has applications in life. Arbitrary memory is simple and easy to commit to memory. Norman uses the multiplication tale as an example. I agree with that because as a kid in catholic school, the teachers were strict so everytime I got in trouble (A lot since I learned the tables in 2 weeks) I had write the multiplication tables a certain number of times. It sucked, on a massive scale. But I still pick out any equation of the top of my head and answer it (12x12=................144). Memory of meaningful relationships is another idea that I agree with as the mental model does play a role in what you remember. Metrocards (from learning log 2) are tricky and hard to use but I eventually figured out how to use them without swearing loudly by remembering the turnstile and the card in my head. Memory through explanation is probably one that I can see how it would work but have no examples of my own. I mean I did figure out how to do burnout in my automatic transmission car from my friend, but I wasn't really trying to wear my tires so my economy car can appear more than such. Norman analysis of memory its effects on how everyday actions and things we use is so easy to grasp.
Ch. 4 was a good too as it elaborated more on the designs and the number of parts involved with the product, dictating the degree of difficulty. The Lego example on page 83 is a design style as the pieces are easier to places, whereas the mixing control on pg. 93 is something only with training and familiarity can it become second nature. The use of pictures in this chapter is clearly for an explanative purposes even though the picture of the beer handle on the control panel of the nuke plant is pretty funny. Norman breaks down the everyday constraints by culture, physical, logical, and semantic constraints. I like how he uses the same example in each, as it makes each constraint easier to understand. The lego motorcycle helps explain most of the ideas. "The windshield only fits in one place"(Norman 84) (physical); "In the case of the motorcycle, there is only one meaningful location for the rider, who must sit facing forward. Te purpose of the windshield is to protect the rider's face, so it must be in front of the rider"(Norman 85) (semantic); "On the motorcycle the pieces with the word police on them have to be place right side up" (85) (cultural); "In the case of the motorcycle, logic dictated that all the pieces should be used with no gaps in the final product" (86) (logical). Norman continues on to talk about affordances and constraints being applied to everyday things, which is how it should be so that people don't mistakenly do something wrong. The doors on pg.90 are a good example of affordances and constraints. The push bar at the top has two sides so one cannot easily choose which side to push but the bottom push bar is easier to discern based on its placement. Norman also talks about visibility and feedback, things that even some technology in 2009 don't even feature.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learning Log 4: 9/15 " Samsung A930- Another Fine Product from Wishful Thinking Incorporated"

The image above is the Samsung SCH-A930, distributed by Samsung under Verizon Wireless. This phone is special to me because it marked the beginning of my adulthood. I used to have a fairly dinky phone that came with the family plan my parents setup. I had the phone for six months and it looked like a phone that had been to a death camp. So I researched phones and asked my mother for new one. After finding out how unwilling she and my dad were to replace my phone with a new one, I shelled 300 dollars for this phone. Aesthetically, the phone looks amazing. The black color allows for a subtle appearance, the cyan LCD on the outside is extremely bright, and the text on the phone was legible. The problems with this phone are numerous. The major issues I had were call quality and the mp3 function. The Call quality was often horrible. I could barely hear what people were saying and I often used the external speakers to hold conversations on speaker phone, which isn't always an acceptable method, especially in a crowded place i.e a rush hour packed subway car (Long Story). The reason for the phone's horrible signal was that the signal band was an older more ground based system, while all the other phones were using a hybrid ground/satellite system. After that discovery, I thought for 300 hundred bucks I'd at least get a decent mp3 player, especially since I got an extra memory card for the phone just for that purpose. Wrong.
The player was not a great addition to the phone and honestly was used more often to fake phone calls. The problem was that the external buttons on the phone (Right side of the image, closed phone) would trigger in my pocket when I sat down. Verizon thought it would be smart to put a 3 second delay on the play button to prevent accidental activations. The delay just made it seem like I was getting a phone call, which isn't such a great thing when all my teachers thrived on confiscating cell phones in class. I had to silence both the phone and the mp3 player, meant I had to activate the mp3 player only to mute it. My mp3 started to play during a job interview where I was just embarrassed to death. The first song on my playlist was called Illegal Life, right after I said I didn't have an arrest record or any criminal associations. Looking like a liar or loser aside, the phone's design is purely wishful. I blamed myself for not keeping the phone from going off the first few times but after a while I just blamed the phone. I ended up never using the mp3 function at all just because the work wasn't worth it when I had a CD player that worked fine. Like Norman said, taught helplessness set in right around the time I realized the mp3 volume was independent of the phone volume.
The major thing I would change about this phone would be to move the mp3 controls from the front to the side and make them smaller to avoid the accidental activations. Also, I would put the hybrid transmitter in the phone to improve call quality. I think the company behind it, Samsung, has a habit of half baked merchandise, as several devices of theirs have failed me. Just as the next few logs will come to demonstrate.

Learning Log 3 9/15 " The Psychology of Everday Actions"

This chapter was a great follow-up to the first chapter, as it explains that actions as well as the devices and interfaces we use, contribute to failure and misunderstanding. Norman chronicles each aspect of failure with interfaces. The example about the placement of the return and enter keys was a good way to explain to the idea of " If the task appears simple or trivial, then people blame themselves (35)". I agree with Norman that you often blame yourself for messing up an allegedly easy task. Sometimes, it really isn't the user fault, and other times, it is the users fault, but the design dictates that. If the user mistakes the placement of a key once or twice, they can blame themselves with too much fault. However, if the placement is habitually forgotten, it sometimes isn't the users fault. Design flaws can often lead that problem but because the task seems simple then can assign blame to themselves. Several devices are not well made but their use is so simple, people can't help but to blame themselves. It can also lead to another problem that Norman talked about, how if one part of the process is difficult, it attributes difficulty to the whole problem even though it is not wide spread. I like his example with math problems because I've experienced that phenomenon all through high school, especially learning calculus, and trigonometry. Norman wrote "Could a few instances of failure in what appear to be straightforward situations generalize to every technological object, every mathematics problem? Perhaps. In fact the design of everyday things (and the design of mathematics courses) seems almost guaranteed to cause this. We could call this phenomenon taught helplessness" (42). I find the most truth in the gulfs of execution and evaluation. If the process doesn't allow a person to complete the task with minimal effort, and if the process doesn't have a layout that can be directly understood, I believe it to be an unsuccessful device. In conclusion, the second chapter demonstrates that the actions also are the cause of failure with devices and interfaces.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Just In Case You Were Wondering........

This is what I look like.........yea.........

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MetroFAIL- The Trouble with Metrocards

I come from New York, where the subway network is a city within itself. Several interfaces exist in this burgeoning underground network but there is one that I must have at it with. The Metrocard. A plastic and wobbly card that is supposed to retain credit for the turnstile machines, as pictured below.
I wish the city took the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage. Prior to the Metrocard takeover, the city used tokens, which were far easier to use.
Step One: place token in slot
Step Two: Walk Through

The Metrocard system is more difficult to deal with.

Step One: If you don't aready have a metrocard, you have to buy at the machine
Step Two: Bash your finger into the screen multiple times to pay for the card.
Step Three: Swipe your metrocard into the reader on the turnstile
If this does not work repeat Step Three
(Nine Swipes Later)
Step Four: Walk through the turnstile

Norman's ideas on advanced technology do apply to this interface because the functions that the Metrocard have are all compacted within the data strip on the card. There is not one button on a metrocard that makes swiping it any easier. I've lived in New York all my life, and the one thing I can never do properly is swipe a metrocard. Me and almost all the tourists who invade Manhattan in the Summer and Winter months.

Monday, September 7, 2009

9/7/09 Learning Log 1 "The Psychopathology of Everyday things"

I picked up "The Design of Everyday Things" at the school bookstore, and it was almost immediately pushed to the side on my little desktop of horrors. I picked up a few days ago, and realized that it should be have a place on my desk. The analysis of interfaces in the book is great because it addresses the most basic parts of design while highlighting some the failures within the designs of everyday objects. I enjoyed Norman's story about his friend becoming "trapped" inside the entryway of a European post office (3). While the story was humorous in itself, the whole point of the story is to explain that the design of interfaces can often have problems for its users, all because things were not mapped, and properly planned for. Norman's friend was trapped within the entryway because the doors were not properly labeled for whichever movement was required. While his missed step can be considered a catalyst for the predicament, if the doors had been affixed with a push or pull emblem, that story would probably remained fiction. Throughout the first chapter, it seemed like there was nothing but poor documentation, very short oversight, and a lack of user friendliness. One part of the book I enjoyed was the imprint of "Carelman's Coffeepot for Masochists" from Jacques Carelman's book series (Norman 2).
However, Norman is on point about the advancement of technology. "Whenever the number of functions and required operations exceeds the number of controls, the design becomes arbitrary, unnatural, and complicated" (31). I had an mp3 players that was alleged to be an "iPod Mini Killer" because of all of the extra features it had in addition to its four gigabyte hard drive. These features included a text reader, equalizer, photo storage, and voice recorder. However, he only controls were a multi-directional touch pad, and power button. I hated that mp3 player with a passion because you couldn't do more than one thing. And the adjustments for the options were touch sensitive, and often, I was fumble with the settings on board for a number of minutes until I got what I wanted. As soon as came across Norman's ideas, I started to enjoy the book. I hope that there is more in store for this class, and from the book