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Things I Would Like To Happen Soon

For all those who believe in speaking ideas into existence and prayer in the universe will return to a person.  I simply want to write a lis...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Benchmark of Women's Leadership

Women having roles in leadership is the topic of this article.  This piece was the official report of a study performed by the White House Project.  It discussed how the fields of Academia, Business, Entertainment, Journalism, Law, Military, Nonprofits, Politics, Religion and Sports would all benefit from putting more women in charge.  It later goes to recommendations on how to acquire more leadership positions and what are the important things to know about the appearance of each industry.   
Now, I do not think the topic is misguided but I do feel the perspective can be questioned.  To say we need more women to rise up the ranks is fair.  There is always time for a momentum shift in society where a perceived lower class can be beneficial to everyone if they were able to achieve equal opportunities.  The data as it is presented does not necessarily say how the adjustment would be favorable to have fewer men in those positions.  As a minority, I understand the call for change.  We can all say why we need to see more people like ourselves in the world.  It is not just for diversity but for the potential of the next generation to have hope.  However I also know that if I cannot out do the person currently in the job or stop the progress of them to maintain themselves as the standard then my efforts will be nullified.  I feel the study could have been helped by concentrating on specific women that would enhance the job if they were to have it versus emphasizing statistics for why so few women are leading men in each division of the professions.  To condense this topic to certain women that are the best examples would be a better argument for its cause.  Then if proven to be true then they could open the door for more who have real capabilities of producing improvements over what was previously done.  The report does not discuss why the numbers are the way they are necessarily but only that they should be different.   
If we were able to learn about the women currently in each field, it could add to the reason their proposed alternative should be implemented.  We can have examples where the top earning men are compared to the top earning women and see the disparity.  We can also use illustrations of the upper and lower levels of women and determined how that came about.  Let’s study if that segment of data is copacetic or if there are biases and preferential treatment being accepted to get to that point.   
I learned that women are underrepresented in many areas of leadership throughout the workforce.  Nominating women for roles and comparing current participants would provide more accurate information for someone who is not aware of the situation and using a novice’s viewpointThe report shows leading to correct the course is as important as calling for more representation for results. 

Usability Study Of Frostburg's E-Mail System

This study was intended to assist in the improvement of the Frostburg State University email system development from Microsoft’s outlook.  Microsoft outlook is one of the many products developed from the corporation that has become trusted among countless users.  However, I recently experience some difficulty.  After subscribing to the discussion board links, my inbox was immediately flooded with messages.  Messages for every possible transaction that occurred.  I was notified of every thread created and reply to any post.  I needed to filter these to a new folder.  I have created a new folder but I have not filtered messages from my inbox to one.  I looked for how to do filtering and could not figure it out.  Then I did a search on how to complete the task and discovered it was called sweeping in the outlook system.  This was new to me.  Once I was revealed to the terminology, the steps to make the adjust were easy to follow.  It was just getting to the first step that was challenging.  Then I wanted to consider other aspects of mailing.  For instance, I have never intentionally flagged a message and do not know what someone might.  It is similar for automatic replies but I have a much firmer understating for why that may be activated.  So this is the basis of what this study will focus upon.  My goal is not really self-serving.  I would like to find that I am the only one who has found trouble with some of these tasks.  I have asked for some assistance in gather information from some classmates to get a sense of other user experiences. 
                I did not conduct face to face interviews for this assignment.  In contrast, I sent a questionnaire to each person who said they were willing to participate.  Each contained fourteen questions, for the user to complete and return when done.  All users had at least one email account.  Not all have used all the features though.  This indirectly states that these may not be of necessity.  None of them have used the filtering.  One participant said they did not because their inbox did not require it.  More users have flagged messages though.  Flagging a message activates an alert to the message.  Users have said they have used this to as a reminder for future use or for indicating a certain sender.  Those can be instances for filtering but that was not the option chosen.  To filter a user will have to create a rule and decide a string that will capture those messages.  For the examples provided, you could move those message to a new folder or select something specific that would be the sender.  Flagging uses less steps as you only have to click the indicator next to the message in many mail servers.  Some of my reported users have tried the automatic reply feature.  Automatic reply can give a pre-entered response for any incoming messages you receive.  This is an appropriate replacement for whenever someone will be temporarily unavailable for an extended period of time. 
                Oddly enough, the participants answered that all the features were necessary to their daily experience with the checking and reading of e-mails.  Even if they do not personally put all of them to use, they feel no need to remove it as an option to the application.  Except for one that I will discuss more later.  This a fair reaction to my study in my opinion.  When requesting information from others, all opinions are valid and assist to your cause.  Though they might not personal attest to its usability, they think all are usable.  The features are important to the application itself as suggested by the software’s provider.  I cannot express with certainty that a similar study was done on their behalf but I am sure there was some talking about it before the final release.  I did not ask the users to perform these task for my report because I preferred a natural response to if they already find value in the function prior to being asked about it.  I find there is more information in having experience beforehand than reacting only for my request.  These results are surprisingly positive, for the most part, about how we view this technology. 
                There are two standard definitions for the word usability.  The first is capable of being used.  The second is convenient and practical for use.  From my own thoughts in addition to those of my contributors, I find that these features are obviously capable of being used.  That is not the issue of discrepancy here.  However, the reports show that it is not really practical to do so.  Though it was not an overwhelming number, the skewed results suggest flagging is preferable over filtering or sweeping.  I, personally, am on the other side of that argument.  A larger number of responses may say something different but that is not conclusive.  To indicate a message needs attention is not like sending it to its own section.  As a good designer, either can be used which is not true for all servers.  Kudos to Microsoft and Frostburg for that.  Automatic reply was not heavily used either but I know firsthand that is more of something derived from corporate culture and not necessarily a student’s problem.  Whether on vacation or just away for a certain period of time, employees usually use the response to route urgent questions to someone who can help when unavailable. 
                In conclusion, I found this to be a healthy practice.  The testing of the features and user input provided some valuable information.  The lack of contributors I could gather however does not allow me to implore if an alteration is mandatory or not.  This report can be presented but a larger swath of data is needed to discuss if an application of this size needs improve.  There are suggestions too for the sweeping feature.  One is to have the option of user sender and date which I think is available.  Another is to undo but would it be fair sacrifice many to address the request of one.  Part of the usability study conducted was to enhance not detract.  For this sort of application, I do not feel it is required to remove any feature that is part of the design.  Removing would be the same as not using it if you do not like it.  It is not a core mandatory component that you must interact with for the main functionality.  Safe to say as with all technology there will always be periodic updates for the advancement of software.  And I will paraphrase one response as simply “I am happy with what I see”.  Thank you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summary of the Book The Design of Everyday Things Written By Mister Donald A. Norman

Chapter one address the mindset of how we interact with common elements.  The author, Mr. Norman, starts by discussing how doors are used and how they can be misused.  Frustration can occur when there are no visible signals that the user is accustomed to.  He then talks about the concepts of discoverability and understanding attributing to the complexity of modern devices.  Discoverability is about how actions are to be performed and understanding deals with interpreting what the conditions mean.  There should be an inherent naturalness in believing what you see.  There is not too much more to comprehend or decipher from design is what I think he is trying to advocate.  That is until we encounter a difference.  This critique introduces affordances and signifiers to the reader as what actions are possible and what might indicate how to accomplish it.  This relegates explanation for some situations while others are to be understood before any action is taken.  Conceptual and mental models feed into our idea of the system image.  Mr. Norman reiterates the importance of visibility and mapping before closing the chapter on feedback and a soliloquy about designing things well as more difficult than you would think.  The acceptance of technology faces a testing battle in its early stages.  Then through maturity and feasibly user spread ideas, good design becomes widespread and easier to manage.
                Chapter two begins with an anecdote about his landlady.  This evolves to a discussion on user error and whether it is partially due to design.  There is an allegory of two gulfs for people with new technology.  The first is for execution of figuring something out and the second is what happens as evaluation.  Bridging the gap between the gulfs are the seven stages of action which is, ironically, talked about in different sections.  Determining the goal as discoverability, planning for feedback, specifying the concept, affording the performance, perceiving the signals, mapping your interpretation and comparing the constraints are the main points of that topic.  Blaming yourself for errors caused when using devices is not a healthy practice.  The task of designing items so their intended use is infallibly mistake free is not your responsibility.  In a previous edition of this book, the author then goes to discuss misconceptions of everyday life using the intriguing example of bullets which is valuable for this chapter.  Physics does not necessarily explain how one fired from a gun will take so much longer to hit the ground than one dropped from a hand.  The speed it will travel horizontally has a direct effect on the rate at which it descends.  This leads to people being explanatory creatures as events like this are proven true or false by human collaboration.  He then disputes his earlier point by saying that people do not blame themselves all the time for events and look for a cause to dispense culpability.  Learned helplessness comes from repeated failure.  Positive psychology tries to acknowledge that these things happen and something reaffirming can be gained from it. 
                Chapter three inserts a smarting theme that behavior is contained by one’s knowledge.  How much we know will dictate how we act for particular circumstances.  Though knowledge is always in the world, the requirement of it reduces as we improve in other areas.  Reduction is the need to simplify things and give structure.  This is the case when dealing with precision and memory.  Memory is the knowledge in our head gathered from the world and retained for our own purposes.  Memory in humans, like computers, can be either in short-term or long-term form and have no relationship or linked by a direct correlation.  There is a natural mapping effect to that concept that draws from culture.  This is on display with his question concerning the timeline paraphrased as what is in front of us and what is behind us?  This is primarily directed by point of view but we should allow a subjective amount of time for users to assimilate to the newer ideas of the world. 
Chapter four begins recalling points for the previous chapters.  The two types of knowledge and the component that factor into each.  The author then uses the example of Legos to support his point.  The pieces, as they are separated, do not provide instructions for children on assembly.  It does give a visual as the finished product and the constraints that only allows them to fit together a certain way plays in the final determination.  Even with constraints being an indicator, some trial and error will actually complete the design.  There are four types of constraints.  Physical constraints allow for a strictly visual interpretation for the user.  Cultural constraints apply to individuals whose should conform to certain standards and conventions of those around them.  Semantic constraints deal with understanding the meaning and defining the actions required for use.  Logical constraints is the inherent order of the design and subsequent result of a device.  Mr. Norman add affordances and signifiers to the discussion using the models of doors and light switches.  Afterwards, he introduces a new concept of constraints that force certain behavior.  Constraints that do more than prevent and have varying locking aspects to them.  The chapter then goes to design in the form of the faucet.  Faucets tried to acclimate to the user with different ways to control the temperature and rate of the released water.  It draws to a close with the advice that sound is necessary from a cultural standpoint to alert other people.
                Chapter five revisits topic of human error versus perceived bad design.  When error happens we should try to discover a root cause to the matter and five additional questions to ask why about certain particulars.  Another concern that can be interpreted as error is violations.  Deliberate violations are intentionally done by users and maybe punishable.  A major cause of violations can be rules that are inappropriate to encourage damaging acts.  Errors can be classified as slips or mistakes.  Slips employed improper actions leading to the correct goal.  Mistakes do not meet the right ending.  Slips are classified as capturing the wrong activity, description-similarity for confusing the target, memory lapses and mode error given the controls different meanings.  Mistakes are classified as rule-based where identified practices must be given but not followed, knowledge base where lack of user expertise can be involved and memory lapse again.  When errors happen, the key is to learn of them quickly.  Once they are it should be reported by the user or the witness to the event.  This can help the manufacturer design for users by knowing what can go wrong.  It is simple to design for a device to perform perfectly for intended parameters and usage.  A study of errors might actually improve design. 
                Chapter six begins to remind the reader of how to analyze errors by mentioning he never tries to solve the problem he is asked to.  The root cause maybe separate from the five whys is what I think he is inferring.  Finding the right problem first is just as important as finding the right solution.  The human centered design process encompasses observation, ideation, prototyping and testing.  This assist in the natural challenge of design where nothing last forever and can always be improved.  Something is usually designed because there is a need for it.  Therefore, it is being created to address a past void and not for what is to come next.  It must meet the requirements of the designer, end user special cases and every intermediary along the way.  So complexity is good until it causes confusion.  To evade confusion standards should be reinforced. 
Design for the business world is the theme of the last chapter of this book.  There are two overriding concepts of competition and innovation.  Competition has a confusing aspect where organizations try to separate from each other by using the same ideas for the same products.  Very slight yet intricate differences are the dividing line between sport and lawsuits.  That also involves innovation in terms of being either radical or incremental.  Products that exist need improvements.  This can be dangerous experimentation when customers are happy with what is current.  The features that are suggested by research to be added on, can be just enough or excessive.  This can jeopardize the certainty you know for the possibility of reaching.  And new products face definitive challenges as implementing change and how long does it take to be accepted.  The change can be forced but customer purchase product with a conforming mindset.  A key statement he makes in the end is that as nearly everything changes around us, there will always be some fundamental standard that will endure and be relevant in any time period. 

Summary of the Book User Task Analysis and Interface Design Written By Miss JoAnn T. Hackos and Miss Janice C. Redish

Interfaces are primarily how users interact with the product.  Good design is important to this feature being productive.  This is not an easy task however.  Problems can arise from making the application too complex or from focusing on the product more than actual user requirements.  The author is writing the book to help with doing this successfully.  Interfaces are usable if the user can perceive it as such.  The author goes on to emphasize that user and task analysis is the first part of any project.  This is done to address the seemingly systemic issue of bad design.  Correcting it in the early stages will save money during the rest of the process.  There are many components to this type of analysis.  Study of people and culture play into it.  So does studying how people think, learn, communicate and behave as consumers.
                Learning about and thinking about the user is the theme of chapter 2.  We should want to know their intended user and about their decision method that leads them to choose the product as designers.  Research who the users are, who they share the product with and who else may be expose to that activity.  There is sort of two parts to the user profile.  How do we define the user and how they define themselves?  We can implement a research team and try to discover the ideal group we would like to connect with.  We can then look at self-revealing facts like employment and actual usage by the user to see if it matches the preconceived assumptions.  The results of the study should show the differences of users making it more personal for individuality.  The more data you have will give you a better strategy into promoting your design.
                After assessing the user then we should discuss the tasks.  The “task” itself is about how this product will help the user work or develop something to work.  This can be inspired by seeing how tasks are accomplished without your concept.  Again, start with the user’s goal.  Then see what issues they may have when trying to complete the task.  You can then think about refining the process or filling the void in some way.  Analyze the workflow of the user with the task of the job and combine the grades for your own process.  Reanalyze your initial finding as your users mature from a novice level to becoming an expert.
                You have to incorporate every aspect of the user environment in the scope of your design.  There are many things to consider for the physical environment.  The size of the work space is one of the characteristics to consider along with noise, cleanliness, lighting, room temperature and dangers.  Designers should also comprehend the speed of system reaction and the sources of information the user will need.  All the characteristics and any possible dangers should be discussed with engineers before proceeding.  Social environments are about the processes of a task and how they will be divided.  This can vary highly and is subtly suggested to not be presumed.  Cultures permit some disciplines and vocabularies that we must pay attention to and be aware of.
As you make assumptions, you may need to observe the users in their environment in action.  There are many cases that can be presented as resistance to this procedure.  This may be generated from your own organization or the designated users themselves.  Once you can verify its essentials, it is recommending to complete tests on a small group of users to challenge or confirm all the information previously recorded.  As you prepare the business proposal, you will need to calculate the approximate return on invest and where the result will be in proximity to your competition.  Once this information is collected, you can supply it in a suitable format to management.
The techniques to use of site visits in critical and can play directly into your result.  The way in which you address and converse with individuals about inquires and tasks are important factors.  Part of your goal is to get them to become willing participants in the study with events like role playing, interviews and walk-throughs.  This type of work is to provide a better product as the main service but connecting with your customers in a friendly manner is not a negative.  You should also be able to perform more traditional assignments and share how you handle your job to improve theirs.
Setting up and preparing for the visit, I assumed would be very similar prior to the reading.  You cannot skimp or take any short cuts in setting up for the event.  Secondarily, you have to prepare with your team and make sure there are not holes in the set up.  Make sure that the plan was correct and perfected and then follow through with accurate timing.
As you conduct a site visit, you should use the opportunity to refine your observation and interviewing skills.  See how the users work in their environment.  Try to define their job and how it is completed.  This will only help to assist in the continued planning for identifying the task and its improvement.  Begin to remove the assumptions and inferences with the realized outcomes of your view.  Also as you conduct your interviews pay attention to verbal and non-verbal responses.  Specify the information you intend to learn but be weary of forcing participation and making participants uncomfortable.  Your notes should contain quotes of user answers and other information that they felt could contribute to the reporting.  The interviewer should have a well-thought out plan.  However, since you are working with other people who have their own requirements, you should be flexible as to what you can be stringent on.  Ending as a good experience is as important as gathering the data.  As you analyze your time on the visit and information provided, you can begin to format it for presentation.  Categorize the data to how it was collected by user, environments and tasks of their associative variety.  This will emphasize who provided the corresponding information and how it may relate specifically to their situation.  You want the presentation to become an accurate representation of the work done.  The best methods to use for your presentation will be dependent on the other members of your contingent that is responsible for completing the assignment.
You should begin designing from what you have learned.  Metaphors is imperative to the concept of interface design.  They are the connection from the supposed real world to the virtual world.  Scenarios and sequences should be used to both prepare your organization for the product and when you are beginning the roll out for waiting customers.  Diagramming with models and storyboards are key to visualization on the process of creation and hierarchy of the developed ideas.   Prototyping is the next step of design.  Now prototyping can be anything from a 3-D object to the first usable version of the interface.  Building and evaluating this item is part of your job.  When testing the prototype, review the initial or provided list of requirements of the user.  It is pertinent whether it is capable to meet those standards as an unfinished product.  You should also see if it can go beyond that in this phase of design.   As a prototype, you can continue to make improvements and corrections from previous research and with the feedback of information gather from testing it.  Request adequate responses from willing participants for enhancing the product.  The last step is for documentation and training.  Provide a thorough written report for what the product is intended to do, how it should be used and all other relevant information any user should know.  Training from trials from within the company can generate into becoming excellent tutorials for others.  An organization should be prepared for in-class and remote sessions to teach about the product and maximizing its effectiveness.  And these should be catered towards the audience and not just written from a perspective of wisdom.