Earn $30 for reading blogs!

August 14th, 2009

We briefly revive the UID Tea blog for the following message.  CHI is in the air…

Adam and I are working on a project that we will release to the public soon. First, we want to make sure it does what we think it will, so we’re running a user study.

We’re looking for Google Reader users to try out a new extension that helps you share interesting items with people you know. E-mail the FeedMe team at feedme@csail.mit.edu to participate!

If you are: a Firefox user who uses Google Reader regularly (addicts are welcome!)
You can get: a $30 gift card for using our Google Reader extension at least every other day, for two weeks
We are: an MIT computer science research team
Dates of the study: preferably Tuesday, August 18 to Tuesday, September 1

E-mail feedme@csail.mit.edu if you’re interested. Follow your feeds while you help science!

- Michael Bernstein

Here’s a standard I can get behind - Sarcastic font!

February 28th, 2009

Remember the Monty Python skit in an architect’s office where somebody said something obviously sarcastic and then in HUGE green letters “SARCASM” flashes on the screen several times?  The point of this joke is that whether your sacasm is good or bad there’s always somebody who doesn’t get it.

To help fix this is Sarcastic Font!  Anytime you say something sarcastic, the text should lean to the left (think oppose of Italics). It’s a grass roots movement, but then again, so was the emoticon :)

- hmslydia

Standardized Emotions

February 28th, 2009

It sounds Orwellian,  but it’s true.  The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has release a spec detailing the a mark up language for text. Personally, extremely disappointed. Emotion, like style, should be separate from content.  What we need is Cascading Emotion Sheets.  Here’s one of the W3C’s examples:

<emotion>
    <category set="everydayEmotions" name="satisfaction"/>
</emotion>

Honestly now, what is the driving need for this?  One possible use is for screen readers.  You can read marked up text now with the proper inflections.  The W3C suggests tagging time frames in videos with emotions - could this lead to a Google Emotion Search?

The business of standardization is peculiar in general.  I think it’s clear that the world needs standards, and that somebody has to make them.  One thought to chew on is that standardization is best done after various approaches have been tried, and we begin to know the best way of doing something.

- hmslydia

Microsoft Research’s Social Desktop

February 28th, 2009

What does it mean for your desktop to be social?  To Microsoft this means files and folders on your desktop having URI that can be accessed online by anyone.  This means you can blog about your spreadsheets! (check out the SUM of E:19 to F:37) or anything else on your hard drive.  Other people can go and tag or comment on your photos and videos.

Social Desktop sounds extraordinarily useful but there’s lots to be worried about too. We all know that this is going to lead to many “Oh shit” moments, when people didn’t realize what they were making public.  Right now, however, there’s nothing to worry about - you can’t get Social Desktop.  It’s a research prototype and no, it’s not a feature of Windows 7.

- hmslydia

Remote Access to your computer…

February 17th, 2009

via iPhone?  Mocha VNC does just that. One of the reasons many of us are interested is because of Firefox extensions - until Firefox (with extension capabilities, too!!) becomes available for smart phones, remote desktops can be a great way to access some of those capabilites.  There are also several ssh apps for the iPhone.  Having access to a more powerful computer can act as a useful crutch while waiting for netbooks and smartphones to meld into one highly-portable, highly-functional personal computing device!

- Katrina Panovich

Gmail Multiple Inboxes

February 17th, 2009

Gmail recently released a new labs feature - multiple inboxes.  For users with the screen real estate, this can be another great way to manage to-dos.  Tagged and starred emails can be displayed alongside the main inbox, making more emails visible at the same time.  Since many people use their email to manage their to-do list, it’s a well-chosen feature on the part of the Gmail Labs crew!

- Katrina Panovich

Skipping Steps

February 17th, 2009

Microsoft’s Knowledge Base has a feature that allows users to accomplish a series of tasks immediately, in the form of a script that users can download and run on their computers from Internet Explorer.  Thanks to the interconnectedness of Windows, options like this can happen quite smoothly.  After years of having to follow steps that were listed, one button can change that.  This is really impressive - “a herald of good things to come.”  Adobe’s Flash Settings are embedded in Flash as well - streamlining the settings/help process is a step that, while not easy, can really help to improve a user’s experience.

- Katrina Panovich

Usability of Language

February 14th, 2009

With many of our researchers currently working on Natural Language Processing coursework, the subject of the usability aspects of different languages is a reasonable topic for exploration.

There are a number of different qualities that add to the usability of language in people’s day to day lives. One of them is learnability and ambiguity of various word forms. One of my pet issues has always been English’s reliance on the inclusion of the letter’s ‘c’, ‘k’, and ‘x’, when a combination of two of these would suffice by eliminating the ‘c’ glyph entirely and replacing it with k and s when appropriate, and replacing the glyph for the ‘ch’ phoeneme with the original one, ‘x’. (The ‘x’ glyph has essentially zero places where it cannot be replaced by another letter).

Compactness isn’t everything when it comes to language, however. The graphical representation of languages, and the manner in which different written elements of a language come together, is another important aspect of using languages in modern computing environments. Block alphabet written languages, like Latin derivatives, have an extremely convenient way in which words are constructed compared to pictographic language sets, like brahmic alphabets.

In fact, the impact of this convenience in computing has arguably affected the progression of some languages. Most alphabets have shown a progression towards simplifying the set of glyphs available. This especially impacts languages like Spanish, which has constructs like individual ‘letters’ comprised of multiple letter glyphs, but also some languages like English, which used to share more of the stresses and notations of the languages from which it derived.

Do these potential changes increase the usability of languages, or decrease their ease of use, or breadth of expressiveness? One of the anti-patterns of user interface design is pigeonholing unique constructs into generic interfaces. Is reducing alphabets merely following the same pattern? Or perhaps the need of computers to limit their input options will help hone languages by removing extraneous features. I’d easily take the spelling “Klayton” if it meant I didn’t have to explain the intricacies of “ch”, “ca”, “ci” all using the same letter to my kids someday.

- ctsims

MIT-Yahoo Seminar is now online!

February 4th, 2009

Dr. Ed Chi, a senior research scientist at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), gave a talk in MIT-Yahoo Seminar Series on human computer interaction yesterday. The title of his talk is “Augmented Social Cognition: Using Web2.0 technology to enhance the ability of groups to remember, think, and reason.”

If you missed it yesterday, don’t be upset. MIT cooperates with Yahoo to publish this talk completely online! This online talk does not only gives you the video stream, but also all slides with searchable text contents.

Check it out today!

- Tsung-Hsiang Chang

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Pachube, Processing 1.01

January 27th, 2009

Pachube (”patch - oo - bay”) lets you send/receive/broadcast feeds of data through their site. There are a number of applications for this: loading data from a hardware system like Arduino, home security, interaction with “virtual things” (eg Second Life), monitoring weather or electricity usage…

Also related to Arduino, Max notes that Processing 1.01 has been released. Processing is a nifty java library that is often used by designers (to make cool visualizations easily) and hardware hackers (Arduino).

- Matthew Webber