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Usability [Jan. 3rd, 2007|09:09 pm]
My workshop is about forecast integration. That is, taking various pieces and interconnecting them so everyone gets more value. We've gotten to "usability" pretty quickly, which is to say, not just "throwing data over the transom", but engaging with users to find out what they need. Of course, that's not just asking people what they want, because sometimes you need to push back on what people ought to be asking for, so that means getting involved in a two-way dialogue.

People on both sides would benefit from dialogue, so why isn't it happening already? The usual answer to "why doesn't X happen" is "because nobody's being paid to do it". That applies here, I think. Scientists don't engage end-users in dialogue because they're not rewarded for doing so, and there's an opportunity cost for doing that instead of something that will get you more funding. So I think the big question for tomorrow is: how do we pay for the dialogue? That, and: will my poster have a demo?

Unrelatedly, I really can't cope with non-tabbed browsing anymore. Even though I regard IE with great scorn, I'm glad the latest version copied it from Firefox. It lessens the annoyance of being stuck with it.

[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2007-01-04 12:50 pm (UTC)
I agree with the above comment - a lot of the reason it doesn't happen is that scientists and engineers don't like dialogue. Talking to people? Yuck!

Also, many tech-oriented people are unable to conceptualize that non-tech people might be different than themselves. At one point, I was in a meeting with a software team where the software lead said "Oh, that's not a bug! There's a workaround for it!" He detailed the _15-step_ workaround, and crossed it off as a bug, because anybody could do those 15 steps to avoid the crashing behavior.

The hardest thing for me is always trying to figure out what a user is trying to do. And I don't mean what function they are trying to execute. What task are they trying to perform? If I can figure that out, then I can design a good solution for them. But it's so difficult because they often can't articulate what they want, so it requires a lot of dialogus and langage matching to get to that point. Anyway.
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