Monthly Archives: January 2010

The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things

Reading “The Design of Everyday Things” by Donald A Norman (published in 1988), I came upon a passage that was worth posting, because so many application user interface designers seem to have forgotten:

“If you set out to make something difficult to use, you could probably do no better than to copy the designers of modern computer systems. Do you want to do things wrong? Here’s what to do:

  • Make things invisible. Widen the Gulf of Execution: give no hints to the operations expected. Establish a Gulf of Evaluation: Give not feedback, no visible results of the actions just taken. Exploit the tyranny of the blank screen.
  • Be arbitrary. Computers make this easy. Use nonobvius command names or actions. Use arbitrary mappings between the intended action and what must actually be done.
  • Be inconsistent: change the rules. Let something be done one way in one mode and another way in another mode. This is especially effective where it is necessary to go back and forth between the two modes.
  • Make operations unintelligble. Use idosyncratic language or abreviations. Use uninformative error messages.
  • Be impolite. Treat erroneous actions by the user as  breaches of contract. Snarl. Insult. Mumble unintelligble verbiage.
  • Make operations dangerous. Allow a single erroneous action to destroy invaluable work. Make it easy to do disastrous things. But put warnings in the manual; then, when people complain, you can ask, ‘But didn’t you read the manual?’ “

Dilbert User Interface

The section on ‘Explorable Systems’ in the same chapter provides the following advice:

“One important method of making systems easier to learn and use it to make them explorable, to encourage the user to experiment and learn the possibilities through active exploration.  There are three requirements for a system to be explorable:

In each state of the system, the user must readily see and be able to do the allowable actions. The visibility acts as a suggestion, reminding the user of possibilities and inviting the exploration of new ideas and methods.

The effect of each action must be both visible and easy to interpret. Thus property allows users to learn the effects of each action, to develop a good mental model of the system, and to learn the causal relationships between actions and outcomes. The system image plays a critical role in making such learning possible.

Actions should be without cost. When an action has an undesirable result, it must be readily reversible. This is especially important with computer systems. In the case of an irreversible action, the system should make clear what effect the complicated action will have prior to its execution; there should be enough time to cancel the plan. Or the action should be difficult to do, nonexplorable. Most actions should be cost-free explorable, discoverable.”

Dilbert Crazy Talk


10 Uses for Twitter in 2010

What is ElephantEar going to do with Twitter this year?

  1. Listen to customers – by monitoring traffic to @overtone and hashtags #overtone and #openmic – and engage with them personally and en-masse
  2. Watch competitors – by monitoring traffic with their @userids and #hashtags
  3. Listen to leading edge thinkers
  4. Make instant complaints (or just rant) using the hashtags #fail and #servicefail and talk to hotels, airlines, retailers and online sites tweeting using their @userids
  5. Virtually attend conferences – by monitoring hashtags like #sn09 (Supernovahub) and #w2e (Web2.0Expo)
  6. Listen to bleeding edge thinkers
  7. Logging my checked baggage when I travel
  8. Find amusing web content: xkcd @shitmydadsays
  9. Get Stock tips from StockSource
  10. Tell my friends where I am using Foursquare

What is Social Media Engagement?

Copyright Overtone Inc. 2010

PASSIVE / BROADCAST (top left) – organizations listening to their entire market, say, by doing a keyword search on the fire-hose and analyzing the posts that come back over time for sentiment and topic

PASSIVE / PERSONAL (bottom left) – organizations or probably marketers or product managers following or listing individual influencers to hear what they are saying with regard to the product or brand

ACTIVE / PERSONAL (bottom right) – individuals within the organization watching Twitter and making direct responses (More Evidence that Social Network Marketing can Work , Hyatt McCormick Place Twitter Account)

ACTIVE / BROADCAST (top right) – marketing groups watching Twitter and making direct responses to the poplation that follows them via their own @corporate_account (e.g. Seesmic’s Twitter Account ,VirginAmerica’s Twitter Account or Wholefoods’ Twitter Account)

Three recent articles discussing Twitter

Follow the Tweets by Huaxia Rui, Andrew Whinston and Elizabeth Winkle (November 30, 2009)

Rui, Whinston and Winkler’s post discussed how “executives can make accurate predictions about sales trends by analyzing tweets that mention their products or services”

Their research followed 3 movies – and observed correlations between box office sales and the sentiments expressed about those movies by Twitter users. Their findings concluded that revenues could be predicted using Twitter postings as a leading indicator.

These lessons can be applied equally in other industries and the article offers advice to executives on how to use Twitter:

  1. Listen to and engage customers
  2. Be a part of the Twitter ecosystem
  3. Identify influencers
  4. Pay attention to shifts in opinion
  5. Follow trending topics

Twitter and Me! Why It’s The Only Social Media Tool I Use by Vivek Wadhwa  (January 1, 2010)

Vivek Wadhwa voted for Twitter in the Crunchies because of how it has impacted him despite his reluctance to embrace Social Media.

He likes the conciseness of communication, the real time communication aspect – how Twitter has created a low overhead, rapid focus group, opinion gathering, market research mechanism. He adds that “it’s the most efficient mechanism I have ever seen to allow me to peruse the thoughtstreams of others who live all over the world”.

In the comments, @douglasputman so eloquantly says: ” I have a home on Twitter, where I can sit by the River and watch the world flow by. And I can dip my toe in the water if it pleases me.” – which makes for a very pleasant picture indeed.

Why Twitter Will Endure by David Carr ( January 1, 2010)

David Carr overcomes his initial skepticism over Twitter amongst other Social Media ‘web-bourne life intrusions’

He points out how Twitter allows him to be “in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible”.

He comments on the user-defined folksonomy of #hashtags and describes Twitter as being “so friction-free” and again the river analogy “Twitter can be overwhelming, but think of it as a river of data rushing past that I dip a cup into every once in a while. Much of what I need to know is in that cup”

Generally though, he comments on how Twitter has become part of the online fabric and has to potential as the river where content can easily flow into and be captured from – and this will fuel its continuance.