Monday, December 14, 2009

Generation Gap in Usability

I got to tip my hat off to dad. He's approaching 80, but his effort in learning his way to online banking amazes me. Occasionally he needs help but it couldn't stop him.

This week he's asked for help to his newly online account provided by a mainland bank. The website (link) looks busy and "ugly". My immediate thought is how little mainlander understands usability. A supposingly quick setup of user setting and login detail takes more than fifteen minutes. I could only feel relieved afterward.

Dad then goes to work, after memorizing the login steps. He wants to walk through it all on his own. He doesn't seem to get much stressed by the clumsy design.

As gen-x, I have the baggage of perception that web design should be neat and user-friendly. But for the older user, usability has a simple and straight-foward meaning.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Time for Next Interface

My eight years old comes home one day and tells me that she is learning typewriting
in school. Learning is conducted in an online-game setting, so it's supposed to be fun as well. I could tell from her facial expression. It reminds me of when I first learn typewriting. I was in secondary, but my school does not have computer. I have to attend class in a community centre. If learning to use keyboard in front of the green monitor isn't tedious enough, the class is managed by a computer system (aka LMS nowadays) instead of a person. I think I quit after a week.

Whoever invents keyboard with computer is an engineering genius, but an interface-design idiot in my opinion (no offense). Keyboard takes two hands to operate, and it is good in very few task, like documenting, but poor in anything else, like record instruction or brainstorming. It does not cope well with raw data, that is data with no order and meaning. The later arrival of mouse pointer interface is an instant success simply because it takes one less hand to operate (frees up the other). Still, it could only be used in compliment, not replacement, to keyboard.

I'm all for computer-keyboard replacement. It shows aged when handling vast data size and looking for meaning, or meta data. It also prejudices against people with vision-impaired and/or illiterate. So for those live in poverty, it is digital-divide in one-two punches.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My iPhone Journal

On my birthday last year I've received an iPhone as gift. I am so thrilled even with the simple thought of being part of iPhone-user community (the phone is not new and is locked). Since a year has passed, I thought why not drop down a few thought.

My most popular iPhone feature is listening to my iTunes collection. I try to make used the most during my 'down-time', such as morning/evening ride, rewinding session. It's such a late spring for me, as i have not owed any MP3 player until 2+ years ago. I suddenly realise that so much time have been wasted on the road and I have not making used of them.

As I buy into the idea of being productive, audio books becomes the next logical progression. Its selling point of speeding up my reading by tenfold sounds really attractive. Initial result is apparent. I could access several journals and books, equivalent to just 11 hours of audio, anywhere I go. No more wasting time: tick.

I find I could take care many of my daily workflow from work ... replying emails, reading documents, browsing through news snapshot etc. Becoming more productive: tick.

As iPhone becomes part of my daily workflow, I become more aware of backing up my personal data which is being
"lock-in" with the phone itself. It is increasingly apparent that there is an attached condition of being iPhone community, that is, all my data almost have to stay within the walled-garden of Apple brand.

The garden is certainly not a bad place to be, for now. But I wish the decision is come from me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

From Natural Disaster to Digital Divide

If you have young kid, s/he may get the wrong impression that natural disaster is becoming a norm ... take a look at the historic earthquake, typhoon, flooding.

Techonolgy has advanced to the stage of carrying our society beyond space and time, but we are still trapped when natural disaster strikes. Our communication fails and transportation halts. Weather bureau could only allow us enough time to go home or for shelter. It ironically brings everybody from both sides of digital divide to level playing field, where we could only wait to be rescued.

One may argue that the super-rich could still flee out in-advance, just like those able to get in Titanic's lifeboats.

I'm getting sidetrack ...

Digital society to me should also be safe place for living. Thus under current climax, the adoption of technology in weather forecast and disaster relieve must be factor-in.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interacting with Idol

Our world has lost a few popular figures recently. One is an icon in pop music, with a few flaws, but nevertheless a hugely popular idol.

Idol seeking has always been within us. "The human heart is a factory of idols" (John Calvin).

Before TV and internet, fans could only be as close as what the print media and radio (audio) provides. Interaction is very indirect but yet provocative, much to do with the element of hidden mystery. I could still remember all those wall posters in my bedroom.

With cable TV and MTV, we could get much closer in real-time and 24/7. The veil of mystery is next to non-existence. The raw and nostalgic feel of excitment is often shortlive, quickly trashed by rumour and private life leaked by someone else who tries to boost their viewer-rating and advertising goal.

With the aid of digital media, fans are now driven by addiction of sort. It is becoming part of life.

Not to worry. With the current capacity of production in film, music and sports (not to mention those American 'heroes' appearing in spike), there won't be any shortage of idol supply.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Performer vs Entertainer

After Paul Potts, we now embrace Susan Boyle with nostalgic feel.

Make no mistake. The stage is for raw talent (not youth idol) be recognised, yet all the audience and panel judges, who are supposed to have neutral stance, simply presume that she could not sing.

Collette Douglas writing in
Herald put it best when she said: "Not only do you have to be physically appealing to deserve fame; it seems you now have to be good-looking to merit everyday common respect."

The fact of our culture's value system exalting beauty elevates it as a prerequisite for anyone to perform.

During the recent
Hong Kong Film Awards ceremony, the best actress in giving her speech reminds us, that acting (or singing) is a service performing for the audience.

I hope such nostalgia would still apply nowaday.

Susan Boyle is now a celebrity in her home town, but doubt remains if any of the local youngster cheering her wants to be like her.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From Financial Model to Digital Media

WIRED has just published a very nice article, about the mechanism that causes the current financial crisis. It is also available through this link.

If readers find the financial concept boring, see if you like the following version better.

Financial model is kind of like digital visuals, in producing meaning from the underlying landscape for us to interpret. Within the process of interpretation, each individual make 'sense' through our lens of history and cultural (economic) stance. In visual media, our interpretation is all personal as everyone sees thing differently. I think it is also applied in financial modelling. There aren't necessarily a 'correct' view, only collective stance.

As we have witnessed, the collective view doesn't represent the "true" picture. In the case of financial world, it is the massive default of mortgage pool. Collective view merely represents a group of think-alike (not necessary believers) in describing their understanding of picture, with degree of comfort and probability-reasoning (a.k.a. correlation).

What's next. They want power control over the rest of community (of how picture should be viewed and interpreted), and they want to make money out of it. So they starts formalising their interpretation into de facto standard, kind of like the proprietary format for digital visuals. By now readers should be able to tell what's followed (read more).

As for the rest of the community, some have joined the proprietary club and others (mostly the poor and the realist) don't. But ultimately none of us is intact after the fall, as everyone is connected to the digital world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Financial Impact of Digital Embodiment

One night while watching TV (pressing and switching channels to be more precise), the '6 billion Others' clip shows up. In case you have not heard of it before, here is the web link.

A close-up of a black woman (not sure her origin) has said the following: "I don't pay much attention to the technology and its benefit because I don't get to enjoy them anyway. But I am interested in the person who is using the technology turns into".

Her opinion sounds to me more like a critique. She points out, on one hand, the irony of inventing technology and the digital disparity against the poor. And for those of us who gets to use the technology (work or personal), are we utilise it in such a way to make things better for everyone.

Make no mistake. I'm pro technology. It extends our body and mind, while lowering the barriers of time, space and communication. On a personal standpoint, it is just fascinating to see how different culture adopt technology in their context (perhaps in later blog).

The impact of technology could be equally damaging, if we use it for self-driven motive. For evidence look no further than the current financial crisis. When we empower to after individual (corporate) gain ahead of our community, greed will eventually take over and (with technology) causing financial damage beyond physical time and space allowed.

A quiz. Who are the 'winners' from this financial tsunami?

The irony emerges when the poor who do not have access to technology nor any money to invest are better off, at least initially.