Human Computer Interaction

There is the natural and there is the artificial. There is the world we live in and there is the "world" we create. However, as we create, innovate, and develop, the world we live in subsequently evolves.

For the past decades, we've witnessed the world coevolve with the advancement of technology. These technological innovations have brought many advancements in many different areas of life including communication, education, transportation, health, business, religion, and government to name a few. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, computer technology shapes most of our interactions and experiences. Thus, it is safe to say that technology has greatly impacted people and life (mostly in good ways).

This is the reason I believe that all technology that is created is by default "human-centered"; whether it's apparent to the creator or not. It's hard to escape the fact that every technology that is created affects people directly and/or indirectly and negatively and/or positively. After all, we live in a real world, with real people. This very notion and understanding is at the core of the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) field. 

HCI is grounded at the intersection of human experience and computer technology. On the human side, HCI seeks to understand people and their constructed meanings and experiences formed through interaction with others, the environment and artifacts in therewithin. So on one side, HCI is strongly grounded in people, social sciences, and psychology. On the other side, HCI is grounded in technology, engineering, and design. 

HCI is about understanding and translating people's real world interaction and experience into their interaction and experience with computer technology. After all, the world of computer technology is different compared to the natural organic way of life. Thus, for technology to be truly Human-centered and meaningful to people and the world, one has to understand people and their environment--needs, wants, values, strengths, weaknesses, intentions, knowledge, place and space, behaviors, judgements, and all the innumerable facets that make people the complex beings that they are. This is where HCI thrives as a field and I believe this is what places HCI at the forefront of the future of technological innovation for the betterment of life. 

 

Do! Stop thinking and planning.

Let's start with the basic fact that the real world is more practical than the theoretical nature of planning and thinking. If you want to test out the ideas you have, put them out in the world. If you want to actually accomplish something, don't spend time planning it, do it. Read on if you have time.

Four years ago, I decided I wanted to start blogging. Blogging was probably more common at the time, so it was a "cool" thing to blog. I also thought of it as a means of growing and eliciting some sort of feedback that I could use to improve at the time. So, I made a resolution (in my mind) to start writing blogs. That was was four years ago...I started blogging late last year. Why did it take me that long to start blogging (consistently)? I mean, after all, it's just a blog post that no one, or maybe one or two people might accidentally stumble upon, right?

Right. I must have subconsciously thought to myself: first, blogging takes too much time and thought. Second, blogging is about putting "stuff" out there, sharing content, knowledge, etc. Putting stuff out there involves some sort of risk. Risk is uncertain. Uncertainty is scary. Scary is not good. When you put yourself, your work, thoughts, ideas out in the world, you run the risk of sounding stupid. You might be wrong. You might receive no feedback. You might ____________(fill in the blank). Now you see why it took me this long to start blogging. I probably was subconsciously scared and probably made excuses (e.g. I'm too busy).

The moral of the story is: do! Stop thinking and planning and just do! 

The real world is practical; unlike the theoretical nature of planning and thinking. When you do, you test "something" out in the real world. That's why doing is hard. It's much harder than thinking. Doing takes work. Doing takes risk. Doing can lead to failure. Doing puts you out there. Doing puts pressure on you. Doing produces more observable results than our thoughts do.

I will share a personal story. If you are a designer, read on (if you have time). 

I am working on a couple of projects in topics that I don't have much knowledge about. But I am interested in learning, understanding, and hopefully designing solutions for these topic areas. For help, I consulted Dr. Erik Stolterman. Among all the insights Dr. Stolterman brought up, he completely answered dozens of questions I had with one short statement he made. That statement cleared up all confusion and worry I had created in my head, and gave me clarity of actionable next steps for progress.

Dr. Stolterman mentioned, "...thinking is doing when it comes to design..."

In other words, do and base your thinking on the results of your doing. Don't waste your time in thought after thought, plan after plan, meeting after meeting. It's only when you do that you get results. 

Okay, okay, okay, We get it. Common sense. Nothing special. Nothing amazing. Not really inspiring. I already knew that. Maybe not?

With the projects I am working on, I did have a good plan of what I wanted to do. I had a good idea--at least it was great in thought and on paper. The problem is that it was still in my head. Not only that, I also had this awful plan to read more, research more, and read some more, and try to "understand" more. Sounds familiar? How often do we get caught up in planning, meeting, researching, talking, making empty promises, having good intentions, only to have either nothing to show for it or empty and meaningless rationales for what we have to show.

To conclude: if you are a designer/developer/doer and want to get things done, then DO. Do prototype. Do build. Plan based on the results of doing, then iterate. The basic point is that if you want results, move from planning to doing; and the sooner you start doing, the better. 

Insights on Design

These are some of the insights I have gained from reading, learning, and practicing design.

As a designer:

  • Pay attention to subtle details. 
  • Look beyond spoken or written words. 
  • Seek hidden meanings, interpret emotions and experiences. 

Develop the ability to see and perceive holistically. 

  • User Experience and Interaction Design is detail oriented but,
  • Step out to see the BIG picture.

As a designer:

  • Connect people. People want to interact with each other. 
  • Become the user. Do this to embody the user's passion, needs, etc. 

Lastly, design well, design everytime. 

 

Rework: Scratch your own itch

I am continuing the summary series for Rework, written by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This time I will skip a couple of sections-- "Be a starter" and "Make a dent in the universe". You can read the sections in the book. But to give you a short summary:

  • "Be a starter" simply champions the term "starter" in place of "entrepreneur" to refer to a new group people that are innovating and creating wonderful business ideas. "Entrepreneur", as the authors mention, smells like a members only club. It is "an outdated term loaded with a lot baggage." 
  • "Make a dent in the universe" brings up the sense of obligation most people have to make a difference. Make the change you want to see, don't wait for someone else to do it. It doesn't take a huge team to make that difference (i.e. Craigslist, Drudge Report, etc…).

Now to the central topic of this blog, "scratching your own itch" means making something you would want to use. It means solving your own problems. Solving your own problems means building products that correlate to you or your company's own needs/wants/goals. This saves you resources you would use to conduct extensive studies--there's no need for focus groups, market studies, or middlemen. You make all the detailed calls instead of "stabbing in the dark" at someone else's problem.

james dyson

Examples of people that scratched their own itches:

  • Inventor James Dyson-- While vacuuming, he realized his bag vacuum cleaner was losing suction power. Dyson came up with the world first bagless vacuum cleaner. 
  • Vic Firth played timpani for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and so wanted to make better drumsticks. He began selling drumsticks from his home's basement. One day he accidentally dropped a bunch of sticks on the floor and heard all the different pitches. Ever since then, "he began to match up sticks by moisture content, weight, density, and pitch so they were identical pairs." Firth's factory now produces over 85,000 drumsticks a day.
  • Bill Bowerman, a track coach, wanted lighter running shoes for his team and so went out to his workshop and poured rubber into the family waffle iron. Nike's famous waffle sole was born.
  • Mary Kay knew her skin-care products were great because she used them herself. She didn't conduct extensive studies to know the products were good, she just looked at her own skin.

When you solve your own problem, you know the value of its solution intimately. If it's something you'll be working on for the rest of your life, "it better be something you care about," the authors conclude.

Design Philosophy...as of now

I believe that good design moves from aspects of usability to understanding and designing for human experience. I believe that experience is a product of interaction and the rich attributes of a person interacting. The context of interaction is an important variable that affects the experience and outcome of the design. This context can be environmental, emotional, purpose of interaction, and etc.

As a designer, I have a platform to use technology as a tool and medium to design solutions that reach at the core of human need. As a designer, I embrace the power to improve, innovate, and bring value and meaning into people's interaction with technology.

 

http://www.pascaltresorlola.com/home.php#design-phil

Ease of Access and Implication for Design

You are more likely to consume something that's easily accessible and readily available regardless of need, or lack thereof, than to consume something less accessible/available. 

I once caught myself eating a snack (free snack that is) given out on a flight when I suddenly realized: first, I wasn't hungry at all, so why am I eating the snack in the first place? Second, I promised myself to not eat this particular snack again because I developed an upset stomach the last time I ate it. Inspite of the reasons I had to not consume this snack in this situation, I still did anyway. 

Most people have previous experience with a similar situation--consuming something with no real purpose, need, or thought behind it--not that one needs a purpose for each consumption or action. But why do people often act on impulse? Why do we gravitate towards the things that are easier to attain or do? Sometimes consciously, other times unconsciously.

People are situational. So are interactions (that require people). This is basic nature in human behavior- reacting to artifacts and situations presented in specic temporal instances in the world. People automatically respond to things that bring them perceived pleasure. The more accessible the artifact, and the less energy required to perform the action the more likely an action will occur. Ofcourse the concept is way more complicated than that.

But in summary, ease of access increases the likelihood of consumption or action.

And this is something that designers (in broad terms) can design for, or against. Whether it be increasing or curbing the consumption of food, entertainment, digital device usage, texting and driving, and etc. 

In conclusion, make it easy to do and readily available if you want it done more. And anything else, especially that which doesn't lead to meaningful and desirable actions, is a distraction away from the core purpose of your design.

 

Rework: Growth and Workaholism

This blog is a continuation of my summary of Rework, written by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This is solely based on my own understanding and interpretation; therefore, read the book to get your own true interpretation. 

Growth

I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin where he mentioned, "if we put a number on it, people will try to make the number go up." People assume that the more followers/friends/subscribers the social media account has the more successful...right? We sometimes attribute the "size" of an organization to its success. There is something about the concept of "growth" that makes it very desirable in different aspects of life. Who doesn't want to grow? Businesses seek growth in revenue, shareholders, employees, and customers. However, something that I believe is forgotten is that growth happens best naturally. There is a quantity of growth that is "just right", based on a current and specific circumstance. 

As the authors of Rework state, "The bigger the number, the more impressive, professional, and powerful you sound." Therefore, expansion has become an empty goal that many organizations pursue, with the end-result of satisfied egos, more politics, and less meaningful and impactful solutions. 

  • The right size for your organization might be 5 people, 40, 200. Or you and the laptop. 
  • Grow slow and see what feels right. Don't make assumptions about how big you should be.
  • Small is more that a stepping stone. Small is a great destination in itself. 
  • Small brings with it more agility and flexibility. 
  • Don't be insecure about being small.
  • Focus on making the impact large, not the organization.

Workaholism

This was by far one of my favorite sections in the book. Inorder to maintain the original intended meaning, I will summarize it using quotes from the authors themselves. 

"It's considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project," the authors state. 

"Working more doesnt mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more."

Workaholics "try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force..resulting in in inelegant solutions."

Workaholics "...create more crises...they don't look for ways to be more effecient because they actually like working overtime."

Workaholics "...enjoy feeling like heroes."

Workaholics windup being "just plain tired. No one makes sharp decisions when tired."

Workaholics "...may claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they're wasting time fixating on inconsequential details intead of moving on to the next task."

"Workaholics aren't heroes. They don't save the day, they just use it up."

THE END. 

Rework: Failure and Planning

Failure is not a rite of passage

We all have heard famous lines that go something like this: "It's okay to fail", "we encourage you to fail", "after all, we learn from our mistakes". According to the authors of Rework, "learning from mistakes is overrated." Failure is a part of life but you don't need to fail to succeed. Failure doesn't equal success. You learn more from succeeding than from failing. "Already-successful entrepreneurs are far more likely to succeed again than those that failed the first time," according to a study by the Harvard Business School. The authors mention, "what do you really learn from mistakes?" You might learn what not do, but it's less valuable than knowing what you should do.

Rework

I just finished reading Rework, written by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This book is a highly recommended read for everyone, especially team leads, startup founders, UX designers, and businesspersons.

For the next few weeks, I will post short blog posts summarizing my understanding of the book. I still recommend you to read it for yourself. It is a quick read. I finished reading it in about 4-5 sittings. I could have finished in 1 sitting of about 4-5 hours in length (I am a slow reader); however, I didn't have the luxury of time. For a quick summary, read the back of the book, as pictured below.

  • ASAP is poison
  • Underdo the competition
  • Meetings are toxic
  • Fire the workaholics
  • Emulate drug dealers
  • Pick a fight
  • Planning is guessing
  • Inspiration is perishable

Image source (http://vitamincm.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/rework-book-cover.gif)

For a longer summary, check out every subsequent blog post. 

Stuck in a rut: when you feel like you are not growing

Ever reached a point where you feel as if you are not growing, learning, or getting any better at a specific activity? 

I remember reading an article years ago on what is refered to as a "rut". Sometimes in life you find yourself in a "rut" where everything seems so dull. There is a lack of inspiration, excitement, and anticipation. You seem stuck and sometimes you might feel hopeless. How did you get here?

From the article (which I don't remember the name or the author), he/she mentioned that we usually arrive at this point when we cease learning; which can happen intentionally or unintentionally. We become comfortable with the level of knowledge we have and thus cease to seek growth in knowledge and practice.

Feeling as if you are stuck in a rut happens when there's need for growth. When you grow uncomfortable with your current physical, mental, spiritual, academic, intellectual, emotional, and social state, it's usually a sign that you need to pursue change, to seek growth.