Interesting elsewhere – 18 April 2011

Things which caught my eye elsewhere on the web

  • Fast Path to a Great UX – Increased Exposure Hours For more than 20 years, we’ve known that teams spending time watching users, can see improvements. Yet we still see many teams with regular user research programs that produce complicated, unusable products. We couldn’t understand why, until now. Each team member has to be exposed directly to the users themselves. Teams that have dedicated user research professionals, who watch the users, then in turn, report the results through documents or videos, don’t deliver the same benefits. It’s from the direct exposure to the users that we see the improvements in the design. Over the years, there has been plenty of debate over how many participants are enough for a study. It turns out we were looking in the wrong direction. When you focus on the hours of exposure, the number of participants disappears as an important discussion. We found 2 hours of direct exposure with one participant could be as valuable (if not more valuable) than eight participants at 15-minutes each. The two hours with that one participant, seeing the detailed subtleties and nuances of their interactions with the design, can drive a tremendous amount of actionable value to the team, when done well.
  • Premise: Asking the wrong question about Data.gov Open data policy matters because it reduces barriers to people with bright ideas from creating goods and services that make the world a bit better, either socially or economically. It really is as simple as that.Data.gov and all its’ domestic and international spinoffs suceed only in so far as they help the frustrated innovators or researchers to get what they need quickly and easily, so that people in the future don’t have to break the law by ‘stealing’ their own parliamentary transcripts data, as the first TheyWorkForYou volunteers had to. […]

    The open data community should shake off its guilt about not producing data for direct consumption by end users – power station managers don’t feel guilty about not producing iPods. Instead we should be proud of and fiercely focussed on enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs and story tellers to do their mass-market magic.

  • Light Blue Touchpaper » Blog Archive » Pico: no more passwords! Passwords are no longer acceptable as a security mechanism. The arrogant security people ask users that passwords be memorable, unguessable, high entropy, all different and never written down. With the proliferation of the number of passwords and the ever-increasing brute-force capabilities of modern computers, passwords of adequate strength are too complicated for human memory, especially when one must remember dozens of them. The above demands cannot all be satisfied simultaneously. Users are right to be pissed off.
  • A clash of networks and institutions | LabourList.org 2.0.2 | LabourList.org When things work well networks and institutions can be balance with one another: one serves as venture capital, the other as insurance. One exploits the present, the other builds for the long-term. The ideal is to balance the creative energy of networks with the long-term logic of powerful institutions. What this means is that networks are at their best when they not only disrupt present injustices but when they quickly move to build institutions around more just and democratic alternatives. It’s easier to organise a protest -even a large one -than to build a new economy, democracy, or society.
  • Happy Birthday Rewired State | Helpful Technology As a fair weather coder, I understand the desire to code for fun – and I think Tim Davies’ app to render Select Committee minutes in the style of restoration comedy was pretty much squarely in that camp. As a former government digital insider, I also understand the impatience that the great ideas and talent don’t make a bigger impact on online public services. It’s one of the tensions of the open data movement more generally, that putting more raw data out there hasn’t yet produced more industrial-strength solutions with major commercial or social benefits. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t.
  • Third National Hack the Government Day « Julia’s Blog I attended the third National Hack the Government day, which, contrary to some early reactions from friends and colleagues, is not some shady underground movement where people try and break things, but an energetic session where people with a combination of coding skill, curiosity and a general wish to make things work better get together and see what they can do with government data. Its run by Rewired State and todays session was at Kings Place –home of the Guardian. Notes follow on most of the presentations (apologies if I missed you out, or got your name wrong (or just didn’t get your name….) –blame my scribbled note taking or the fact I simply couldn’t get my head around what you had done!) Full details and links to all the material available should be published on the Rewired State website.
  • Light Blue Touchpaper » Blog Archive » Can we Fix Federated Authentication? Using one service to authenticate the users of another is an old dream but a terrible tar-pit. Recently it has become a game of pass-the-parcel: your newspaper authenticates you via your social networking site, which wants you to recover lost passwords by email, while your email provider wants to use your mobile phone and your phone company depends on your email account. The certification authorities on which online trust relies are open to coercion by governments – which would like us to use ID cards but are hopeless at making systems work. No-one even wants to answer the phone to help out a customer in distress. But as we move to a world of mobile wallets, in which your phone contains your credit cards and even your driving license, we’ll need a sound foundation that’s resilient to fraud and error, and usable by everyone. Where might this foundation be? I argue that there could be a quite surprising answer.
  • BBC – dot.Rory: Technology for all ages The ideas being piloted here were similar to those I’d seen at Microsoft’s research laboratory – they all involved abandoning the traditional computer and keyboard in favour of what are called natural user interfaces. Touch, talk, and motion look like becoming the ways we interact with computers in future – often without realising that the computer is there at all.When technology firms design new products, they look to early adopters for ideas and approval – the elderly are shut out of the process. Yet across today’s technology industry, the most successful new products are those which are easier to use. So the Surrey academics and their elderly collaborators could be helping to shape the gadgets of the future.