Saturday, December 16, 2006

News of note

Once again, the result is wasted time and wasted money.

The NBA has reversed its own decision to use a new microfiber ball and reverted back to using leather balls, due to player complaints.

In other words, they didn't check in with the users before making a design/implementation decision.

(My wife is the one who mentioned the connection between this story and the field of usability, so either the concept really makes sense, or I'm talking about it way too much.)

Also in the news . . .

Time's most recent cover story, How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century, outlines the 21st- century skills that leaders of business, industry and education say that our children MUST have moving forward. Among the notable quotes:
Jobs in the new economy -- the ones that won't get outsourced or automated -- "put an enormous premium on creative and innovative skills, seeing patterns where other people see only chaos," says Marc Tucker, an author of the skills-commission report and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. Traditionally that's been an American strength, but schools have become less daring in the back-to-basics climate of NCLB. Kids also must learn to think across disciplines, since that's where most new breakthroughs are made. It's interdisciplinary combinations -- design and technology, mathematics and art -- "that produce YouTube and Google," says Thomas Friedman, the best-selling author of The World Is Flat.
Sound familiar?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Clips from here and there

I'm neck deep in accessibility issues and need another week or so to get back to active posting.

In the meantime, a few interesting clips regarding the usability of voting machines and automobiles:

In the first one, a documentary filmmaker shills for his latest project by noting the
flaws in testing the machines for the state of New York. Aside from his central point about full disclosure (an important one to be sure), the testing approach appears to be flawed. What kind of result are you getting if you instruct the participant in how to use it beforehand?

In the second one, a representative of the MIT Media Lab provides a
demo of a new voting machine prototype. Not sure I'm on board with all of the decisions they've incorporated thus far, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.

Finally, an amusing look at the attempts to implement
new automatic parking features in automobiles. The actors are playing it up, but the point is made.