Zeno's Paradox
While critical thinking may not make up for a lack of knowledge, it is essential for gaining knowledge.
Saturday, August 03, 2002:  
The Folly of Forced Ranking
At first glance, it makes sense to systematically identify and remove the worst employees. They can be replaced by better employees, and ridding the organization of poor performers also sends a strong message of low tolerance for poor results. But is using a system that requires the firing of a certain number of underachievers the best way to create a high-performance organization?
No, though it is a nice way to keep managers busy with something other than ensuring the performance of their employees or otherwise taking some responsibility for their employees' performance.

    -  Ron  2:16 PM

Friday, August 02, 2002:  
Human Factors:
Ann’s Rant: Lawyers, Doctors and Usability Folk
When a professional activity is new, it has no orthodoxies, standards or familiar procedures to steer by. And transition to a more august role is not always easy, elegant or wholly successful.
New? At least a few decades old. The problem here is not that it is new, but that its practitioners do not want it to change or mature.
I was at a UPA meeting last year when a group of participants were voting on whether – in an ideal world – usability work should be the preserve of specialists or wholly integrated into the job of designers and developers.
It's the same question that UPA asked and answered a decade ago. Was anyone listening then? Is UPA standing behind its decisions?
But, assuming that we are all engaged at core in improving performance, there are still enormous divisions.
But the assumption doesn't hold. For the web, aesthetics are usually more important than performance, not that most "usability folk" understand the distinction.
Propaganda level: Very High
Propaganda quality: Medium
Information quality: Low

    -  Ron  7:27 AM

Thursday, August 01, 2002:  
Human Factors:
More Analysts can mean Less Effectiveness in Usability Testing
'The use of multiple analysts is recommended for improving the thoroughness of UIMs,' say Woolrych and Cockton, citing the work of Jakob Nielsen on heuristics. 'As more diverse more analysts are added, then hits increase as confirmed by Nielsen's studies. Nielsen's recommendations do not consider how analysts' predictions are merged. No further confirmation or elimination resources are proposed, and thus we must assume that when one analyst confirms a problem, it will be preserved, even when additional analysts eliminate some problems.'
The problem with heuristic evaluation is the very high rate of false alarms. Without a means to eliminate the majority of the false alarms while retaining most of the true hits, heuristic evaluation is of questionable value. Adding more evaluators just adds to the confusion.

Medicine and Human Factors:
Estrogen, After a Fashion
What we want is for medicine to be a science. We want competent, well-informed doctors to give us consistent answers based on exhaustive research. We want them to be right. But medicine is a peculiar combination of science and fashion, half penicillin, half shoulder pads. It takes what is known at the moment, combines the knowledge with what the consuming public wants and comes up with a product.
Medicine is not a science. Nor is it a compromise only between science and the desires of the consuming public. Compromises are also made to gain power, money, or both.

Ten Commandments of Egoless Programming
thin-skinned developers (and some would argue there is no other kind) would be at a disadvantage when working in an environment where constructive criticism is handed out so freely. Programming, like writing or creating art, is a very personal endeavor, and, like artists, some of us just can't stomach it when someone else disparages our work.
Forget the references to programming. This is about working together to improve product production, individual and group responsibility, and management.

    -  Ron  6:06 PM

Human Factors:
A Little Brush, Reborn
We start building models very quickly, and we make dozens of them. That's important because the toothbrush lives or dies based on the way it feels in your hand. You can make beautiful renderings, but they can't give you the information you need to evaluate the form.
When a product is as simple as a toothbrush, its design can and should be dominated by issues of aesthetics. What the article doesn't mention is that the motivator for the design changes is increased profits.

    -  Ron  9:13 AM

Medicine and Human Factors:
Snakebite Advice Is Close to Snake Oil
"These old anecdotal methods of treating snakebites are outdated and really should be abolished," said Dr. Barry S. Gold, assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins medical school and lead author of the study. "In most cases they just complicate the wound and cause a delay in getting treatment.
This is an interesting piece of good propaganda by both the author and the researcher.
The researcher has the job of creating a simple first aid procedure that can be used by anyone, based upon the current medical evidence and snakebite statistics within the US.

    -  Ron  7:59 AM

Wednesday, July 31, 2002:  
Copyright Law:
Copyright as Cudgel
Recent actions by Congress and the federal courts -- and many more all-too-common acts of cowardice by publishers, colleges, developers of search engines, and other concerned parties -- have demonstrated that fair use, while not quite dead, is dying. And everyone who reads, writes, sings, does research, or teaches should be up in arms. The real question is why so few people are complaining.
Propaganda level: Medium
Propaganda quality: High
Information quality: High

    -  Ron  7:28 PM

Human Factors:
Design critical, says Web guru
"It must be viewed as an integrated part of your company," Nielsen said. "If you hire (a supplier) to do it, they don't know your customers well . . . To them the customer is you, the one who signs their cheques."
Of course, Nielsen would have us believe that his own company doesn't make the same mistake with their own consulting.

Embarrassing article. I hope most of the problems are do to poor reporting and editing.
Propaganda level: Very High
Propaganda quality: Medium
Information quality: Low

    -  Ron  9:14 AM

Tuesday, July 30, 2002:  
.SIG - Sometimes appearing in my email:
Six usability teams cannot find a single common usability problem when independently testing the same product. Usability - Is it anything more than mass delusion?
I'm known to use hyperbole from time to time, but the 0 out of 6 statistic is accurate. It refers to the results from Kessner (2000) below, and is consistent with earlier research.

References on the reliability of usability testing:
How reliable is usability performance testing? analysis by Dr. Robert Bailey.
Comparative Usability Evaluation - CUE results and reports of research managed by Rolf Molich.
Kessner, M. (2000), On the reliability of usability testing, Carleton University Masters Thesis, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December.
Kessner, M., Wood, J. Dillion, R.F. and West, R.L. (2001), On the reliability of usability testing, CHI 2001 Poster.

    -  Ron  4:49 PM

Sunday, July 28, 2002:  
Influence and Human Factors:
All communication is in some sense propaganda. The more we understand propaganda, how people are influenced, the better we can controll its influence on us.

References on Propaganda:
Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion by Pratkanis and Aronson, ISBN: 0716731088.
Propaganda Analysis by Aaron Delwiche

    -  Ron  11:21 AM

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