Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Join WIC in fighting cancer!

IMPORTANT: Online registration ends on 4/17, so please contact me ASAP! I can be reached at


The annual Coach Hep Cancer Challenge will take place Saturday, May 1 at the IU Stadium in Bloomington, and Women in Informatics and Computing has formed a team for it.


There are five different events you can choose: a 2K Family Walk, a 5K Run, a 25K Family Cycle, a 50K Cycle and a 100K Cycle. You can choose to do just one, or a combination of those events.


ANYONE can join our team…we encourage participation from women, men, undergraduates, graduates, faculty, staff, and friends.

With the  the $5 discount you’ll get for being on our team, the cost is $30 per staff/faculty/general public and $25 per student.  And “participants receive a free pair of red shoelaces to remind friends and family members that we are all tied to the fight against cancer.”

Red Shoelaces



Seeking technical inspiration

I am on the advisory board for Indiana University’s Women in Informatics and Computing, whose mission is “to provide support and information to further enhance the education of women in computing and information technology at Indiana University.”

For my take on why this organization is important, see my previous blog post, Why WIC?

My role is  “IT Professional Liaison”.  It’s a position that was recently created.  The goal is to engage more IT professionals with this student organization.  As I stated in the Why WIC post, there is a shortage of women in IT, and one way to overcome that shortage is to provide role models to women who are thinking of entering, or who have recently entered, the IT field.  Currently most role models associated with WIC are in the academic arena of technology.

So, my goal is to find some role models in the professional technology fields.  I would like to put together a panel of IT professionals this spring.  The people on the panel would be current IT professionals who would be willing to talk about things like why they chose their career, what challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them, who their role models were and why, why they believe women are important in IT, any advice they can offer to current IU students who are studying technology…and whatever else we think of between now and then 😉

I’d like to cover as many areas of IT as possible…government, entrepreneurs, software, programming, design, gaming, etc. etc.

The only requirement for the speakers would be that they support increasing the number of women in the IT field.  The panelist do NOT have to be women. We would, of course, want women on the panel.  But, I want to be very clear that we also want men on the panel!  It’s important that this conversation take place between both genders.  (Likewise, we hope that both men and women will attend the panel.)

I do not have a date set, and will try to be flexible.  The panel will take place on the IU Bloomington campus.  The panelist will be volunteering their time, but it will be a great opportunity to network with future IT professionals!

So, now I come to the point of this post.  I need ideas for people to contact about this panel.  If you are someone who thinks they would be able to contribute to this panel, or if you know someone who you think would be a good panelist, please send me an email with a name and contact information.

Also, I am soliciting ideas for questions we can ask the panelist.  I mentioned some topics a few paragraphs above.  Are there others that you recommend?  Feel free to email me at the above link, or leave a comment on this post.

Thanks in advance for any and all help!

Jakob Nielson’s take on intuition

I subscribe to Jakob Nielson’s Alertbox. Today’s email contained an ‘extra’ article that I found very interesting.  While all of his Alertbox articles are online and can be found at his website, the twice-monthly email usually contains some other information that is not included in the Alertbox article.

Usually, they’re plugs for upcoming workshops and conferences (all of which I would love to attend).  Today, the email had a blurb about a workshop called “Usability and the Human Mind: How Your Customers Think“, for which he explains why it is important to conduct “observational research of actual, empirical behavior”.

One of my biggest pet peeves is cell phone use while driving.

I never can understand why otherwise normally reasonable people put their lives, and the lives of the other people on the road, in danger by using a cell phone when driving, especially when many of these same people admit to the dangers of driving while drunk and say they’d NEVER do that. Yet, they think nothing of talking or texting while driving, even though study after study has proven that is just as dangerous — if not more so — as driving while drunk.

This extra little article in the email I received today addresses that pet peeve of mine.  Plus, it’s very relevant to the work I do.  So, I wanted to share it.  I am unable to find this small snippet anywhere online, so I am copying and pasting it here.  These are Jakob Nielson’s words, not mine:


I can’t count how many times I have said that what people say and what they do are different things, but here’s very striking evidence of this old lesson:

In an opinion poll, the New York Times asked whether Americans wanted to outlaw mobile phone use while driving.

80% of respondents said that using a HAND-HELD cellphone while driving should be illegal.

But almost 90% said that it should be legal to talk on a HANDS-FREE cellphone.

Completely OPPOSITE INTUITIONS about the danger of these two ways of using a mobile phone. This despite the fact that all studies show that it’s EQUALLY DANGEROUS to use hands-free and hand-held mobile phones while driving.

Research has found that the danger comes from the cognitive distraction of carrying out a conversation with somebody who’s not in the car. The problem is not holding the phone with one hand while driving with the other. The problem is the conversation and the way it lays claim to limited cognitive resources.

This finding is completely counter-intuitive: how can it endanger your life to carry on a simple, everyday task like a conversation? The survey clearly demonstrates that people’s perception of danger is completely divorced from the actual danger.

This, of course, is why we need observational research of actual, empirical behavior. Please don’t just ask users. Watch them.

Here, Here, Mr. Nielson!! 🙂

Happy Birthday, Mac!

The Mac will be 25 years old tomorrow. Crazy! I was in 6th grade when this commercial came out, AND we were reading 1984 in my English class, so I remember this commercial very well. And, here I am 25 years later an avid Mac user! 🙂

Thanks to @jaysteele for pointing this fact out, and for providing the link to the commercial that started it all!

Top Careers for 2009

My job, and what I’m getting my Master’s degree in, has been listed as one of the top careers for 2009 by US News & World Reports:

Usability Experience Specialist

Online Communities or Social Networking Sites?

My Computer Mediate Communications class conducted it’s last discussion today. (Next week is the last class, where we’ll give presentations of our papers.) One article we discussed was about the importance of social networks in EverQuest. Another article was about the intentions of people who use Twitter. And, the last article was about how people in Italy used SMS and interactive TV to have conversations.

While discussing Twitter, someone made the claim that they didn’t think that Twitter was good for groups to communicate. That gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about my two favorite new uses of Twitter: #tow and wwtweets

About a month ago, one of my tweeps, @typewriter tweeted that he was looking for support in losing weight and he was going to use #tow and invited others to join him. It just so happened that 4 days before that I had recommitted myself to Weight Watchers. So, I joined in.

Anytime any one of us wants to announce something we did for our health or ask for motivation or toot our own horn, we just include #tow in the tweet. To see all the #tow tweets, you just have to make use of the many Twitter search engines. The API I use to get tweets, Tweetdeck, has a nice search feature that refreshes automatically.

Maybe a week or so later, @jen_da_bookworm tweeted to #tow about wwtweets. To participate in the wwtweets community, I direct message wwtweets. Whatever I write is then retweeted by wwtweets. That way, anyone who is following wwtweets will see my tweet.

Yes, Twitter was not designed to support groups. But, as the two examples above show, people are finding ways to make it work for them.

Similarly, the Italian interactive TV study showed that people sent text messages directed to specific people that were displayed on a TV station for anyone to see. Yet, that was not the use that the TV station had anticipated. The same can be said for some of the aspects of social networks mentioned in the EverQuest article.

In all three cases, people were using technology that wasn’t designed to foster community to do just that. Unintended use of technology is nothing new. That was how email got started, for example. But, I just find it curious that all of these unintended uses were for the same purpose–to make connections with other people.

A classmate said she’s heard criticism that all of this newfangled (my word, not her’s) technology is causing a lot of isolation…people are spending more hours alone in front of computers and xboxes. But, if a lot of the new technologies are being hacked to support communities…what does that say?

I think that humans really just pack animals and we have an instinctual desire to seek others out. And, it appears that the emerging method of seeking others out to form online communities in whatever way we can.

Speaking of online communities….I’m writing my capstone paper and I can’t decide whether or when to use the terms “online communities” or “social networks”. Some papers I read use the terms interchangeably, some use only communities, some use only networks. What’s the difference? Is there one?

I asked this question in my CMC class today. We couldn’t come up with an answer. So, I’m asking here on my blog.

Do you think there is a difference between Online Communities and Social Networks? If so, what?


I am currently attending the 2008 Participatory Design Conference.

When I got the email a few months ago through my school listserv, I thought it looked interesting.  And, since the worlds of HCI, and Participatory Design (PD) intersect nicely, and since usability is part of HCI, and since it was going to take place right here on the IU campus (which means no travel, lodging, or other extra expenses), and since I am a full-time student and could get a discounted rate, I figured I’d ask my boss to let me go on the department’s dime. She was awesome and said yes.

At the time I signed up, I figured it would be a good opportunity to learn about PD, since I’m not too familiar with it.  Plus, I enjoy attending conferences.

Now, that I’m in day 2, I realize just how incredibly lucky I am to be here!  This converence has been happening every 2 years for the last 20. This is the first time it’s been in the US.  It’s usually in Europe, though the last one was in Canada.

The wealth of papers that are scheduled to be presented are quite impressive.  There are so many good ones, it’s really hard for me to decide which sessions to attend.  I love, though, that I was given a book that contains all of the papers, so I can at least read the ones I’m not able to see presented.

Oh, and during the “Introduction to PD” session yesterday, I realized that I DO already know what it is and have in fact been studying and practicing it for the past year.  It’s just that the term “Participatory Design” isn’t what we’ve called it at the School of Informatics in my HCI courses.  Contextual Inquiry, Prototype Testing, User Testing…those are all PD.  Yesterday I walked in feeling like a total noob in the world of PD.  Today, well, I’m still a noobie, but at least I don’t feel like a total noob since I’ve got a year of study and 3 months of work at it under my belt.

Some general thoughts/observations about the conference:

  • I am in the minority in that I am an American.  The majority of the attendees are from Europe (Denmark, Germany, Sweeden, Italy…) Yesterday, I was in a session where I was one of only 3 Americans, and the only one from IU.  I really expected there to be many more IU folks, since it’s right here on campus.  (But, I now realize I’m very lucky in that I was able to arrange to miss classes and my work allowed me the time…and paid for it.  I’m sure cost and other commitments prevented many people from attending.)
  • The attendees sure do love their coffee!  I arrived about 15 minutes before the Keynote today, and all coffee was already gone.  During the first break, the first carafe of coffee was gone in less than 10 minutes. I usually have a cup or two at home in the morning and that’s it.  But, yesterday, I found myself drinking coffee all day long since it was available.  Of course, I had problems falling asleep last night!  So, today I didn’t have any before the Keynote (since it was gone LOL), but by the morning break, I was feeling sleepy, so I am having a cup now.  But, that’s all.  I’ll be switching to water for the rest of the day.
  • This is the first conference I’ve been to where they gave you travel coffee mugs and encouraged you to use them throughout the conference, instead of paper or plastic cups.  I think it’s a great, and simple idea to promote sustainability!  I just wish I saw more attendees using them instead of the paper and plastic cups.
  • You can definitely see the influence of the European background to this conference.  The coffee breaks are scheduled for 30 minutes; lunch is an hour and a half.  All of the other conferences I’ve attended just put coffee out in the hallway and you grabbed some during the 10 minutes you had between sessions, and lunch was 45 minutes.  Also, not one single session or talk or paper presentation I’ve been to yet has started on time.  I thought I was running late this morning when I walked into the auditorium at 9:02am for the Keynote that was to begin at 9:00.  But, I was only the third person who had arrived.  The first speaker actually walked in after me.  It’s no big deal.  Just interesting to me, as most other conferences I’ve attended were very strict and tight with their schedules.  (I do want to point out that even though they’ve allotted longer times than I’m used to for breaks and lunches, they are packing in A LOT of sessions, so content does not suffer.)
  • I guess this is the first “academic” conference I’ve been to.  All other conferences were corporate.  That could explain some of the differences, too.
  • As I said before, there are a lot of Europeans in attendance.  There was one person from Japan and one from China in one of the sessions I was in, but the majority are white.  I find that interesting because in the HCI/d program here at IU, there are a large number of Indian and Chinese and Korean students.  I was assuming the same would be true for here.  I enjoy when my assumptions are proven wrong.  Makes me think more! LOL
  • As usual, the lounge areas of the IMU is full of sleeping undergrads.  I find it rather amusing, but wonder if it makes other conference attendees think that American students just sleep all the time.  LOL

Ok, the first paper presentation is about to begin, so I’ll stop here.