Zeno's Paradox
While critical thinking may not make up for a lack of knowledge, it is essential for gaining knowledge.
Saturday, July 27, 2002:  
.SIG - Sometimes appearing in my email:
7+-2 does not apply to any except the most obscure design problems. The widespread use of 7+-2 in design shows that designers want to appear familiar with research while they remain ignorant of it.
Celebrating over 45 years of confusion about George Miller's work!
It's often very hard to correct peoples misconceptions...

References on Miller's 7+-2 and why it does not apply:
How to improve design decisions by reducing reliance on superstition by Dr. Robert Bailey.
At least partially because of the success of Miller’s paper, the number “seven” is now almost universally and erroneously accepted as the human capacity limit for a wide range of issues.
The Magical Number 4 in Short-term Memory by Prof. Nelson Cowan.
Although Miller (1956) offered his magical number only as a rhetorical device, the number did serve to characterize performance in many tasks. It has been taken more literally as a memory limit by many researchers.
The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2" by James Kalbach
While Miller's "Magic (7±2)" principle reminds us of moderation, it is not appropriate for fundamental navigation decisions and leads to an arbitrary "one-size-fits-all" solution. In no event should it be taken as an absolute law.
The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two by Prof. George A. Miller
Everybody knows that there is a finite span of immediate memory and that for a lot of different kinds of test materials this span is about seven items in length. I have just shown you that there is a span of absolute judgment that can distinguish about seven categories and that there is a span of attention that will encompass about six objects at a glance. What is more natural than to think that all three of these spans are different aspects of a single underlying process? And that is a fundamental mistake, as I shall be at some pains to demonstrate.
When in doubt, read the original article!

    -  Ron  7:22 AM

Friday, July 26, 2002:  
Market Research and Human Factors:
Sharpening the Focus of Focus Groups
Not surprisingly, managers tend to use the focus group indiscriminately—and ineffectively—for almost every company problem. The bottom line? Focus groups have potentially enormous value, but not the way most companies use them.
Good article on the limits of focus groups, with the exception of the following:
Jenny Craig used a certified hypnotist as a moderator to age-regress focus group members back to their earliest childhood memories of being overweight. The results yielded more effective advertising and product information.
Hypnosis used to "age regress" mentioned uncritically in a Harvard Business School publication! It appears that the credulous at Jenny Craig are in good company!

References on Hypnosis:
Lecture Notes on Hypnosis by Professor Geoffrey T. Fong
The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis - Scientific American, July 2001.
Hypnosis - The Skeptic's Dictionary

    -  Ron  8:19 AM

Thursday, July 25, 2002:  
.SIG - Sometimes appearing in my email:
With enough iteration in combination with good usability testing, a design created by a senior programmer can evolve to the point where it is almost as good as the initial design created by a qualified designer.
Refers to results from a very good study.
(Abstract  Discussion  Derived Guideline)

    -  Ron  7:52 AM

Wednesday, July 24, 2002:  
Medicine: (Warning! Not for the credulous or those averse to critical assessment.)
Some Thoughts about "CAM" Beliefs
When a practice and/or its theoretical underpinnings are in conflict with scientifically verified facts, when it always fails scientific testing, it should be discarded. Advocates who continue to push for acceptance of such practices and products should be called by their proper names: variously cultists, crooks or quacks.
Medicine is maturing very slowly, and some would rather it recede a century or two.
(Reminds me of the obstacles preventing other fields from maturing...)

    -  Ron  7:35 PM

Project Management and Human Factors:
Users In The Development Cycle: Effective Project Communication
Members of the application team have responsibilities at each step of the process. This not only includes individual participants, but specific groups as well: project management, development, and end users.
Though there is good information here, there's a fatal flaw: What happens when users cannot meet their responsiblities as the author defines them? (Does the project fail?) More importantly, is it possible for the project manager ensure that the users meet their responsibilities or even know when they are not?

It's essential to have user (and customer - they may be different!) involvement, it's irresponsible to assign responsibilities to them. The author makes a great argument for involving users. However, his assigning responsibilities to users sounds like he is confusing users with clients...

    -  Ron  11:11 AM

Copyright Law:
Copyright in the Balance: LJ Talks with Lawrence Lessig
The public domain was supposed to be fed with new work beginning in 1998 that's been taken away from the public. It's been taken away by Congress legislating to extend the terms of existing copyrights. I think that is theft from the public as much as there is theft going on in other contexts.
Propaganda level: Medium
Propaganda quality: High
Information quality: High

    -  Ron  10:46 AM

.SIG - Sometimes appearing in my email:
In the year of our Lord 1432, there arose a grievous quarrel among the brethren over the number of teeth in the mouth of a horse... (See http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/horse.htm)
Links to a story on the power of empirical evidence over the reliance on authority and debate. Interesting enough, the story appears to be apocryphal...

    -  Ron  7:34 AM

Tuesday, July 23, 2002:  
Human Factors, Usability, Behavior:
Why We're So Nice: We're Wired to Cooperate
"Fear alone is not highly likely to inspire cooperative behavior to the degree observed among humans." ..."the newest findings present the neural carrot — people cooperate because it feels good to do it."
Nice summary on recent research of the Prisoner's Dilemma using MRIs to study how the brain is actually responding.

Lost in Sweden: A Kurdish Daughter Is Sacrificed
A tale of what can happen when cultures clash...

The Effects of Line Length on Children and Adults’ Online Reading Performance
"This study found no significant differences in reading time or reading efficiency between the three line length conditions for both the adults and children. However, the results did support the finding that shorter line lengths are preferred more than full-screen line lengths."
More solid evidence that shorter is not necessarily better.

Can Personality Be Used to Predict How We Use the Internet?
"Results of this study provide an alternative view of online consumer behavior, which reveals differing Locus of Control between customers of online sites. These findings present an opportunity to further examine what these differences represent in terms of perceived and actual usability of online retail sites."
The author found significant differences between Internal and External CLOC in length of Internet usage, online retail purchase behavior, online shopping attitudes, and online task behaviors.

    -  Ron  6:55 AM

Monday, July 22, 2002:  
Becoming a Usability Professional
Self-interest and self-promotion ruin a promising topic. Nielsen does have some good points to make, but he supports them poorly and is unable to contain his self-interest.
Propaganda level: High
Propaganda quality: Medium
Information quality: Medium

Web sites: Usable can still be useless
Thinly veiled self-promotion on the part of the author under the guise of responding to Jakob Nielsen's criticisms of the usability of websites in Australia.
Propaganda level: Very high
Propaganda quality: Low
Information quality: Very low

The Culture of Usability
A feel-good article for those looking for confirmation of their own delusions about usability testing. The author shows great sensitivity to the post-dotbomb, post-911 corporate mindset by focusing on reducing apparent costs and increasing the sense of security and control.
Propaganda level: High
Propaganda quality: High
Information quality: Low

    -  Ron  9:33 AM

Copyright © 2002-2005 Ron Zeno      This page is powered by Blogger.
Musings not completely unrelated to human factors, management, critical thinking, medicine, software engineering, science, or the like.
Zeno's Paradox Main
Comments? Email me!
My other site
Reader Favorites:
Miller's 7+-2 Doesn't Apply
Analysis of a Dilbert Comic
Reliable & Valid Usability?
Designing for Seniors

Weekly Archives
Looking for Ancient Greek Philosophy or Mathematics?
Zeno's Paradox
Zeno and the Paradox of Motion

(Current color scheme is from Aguilar's "Equilibrium".)