summing up 74

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

Douglas Engelbart Interviewed by John Markoff

Q: Let's talk about the future and what got lost. There were some ideas that got taken away and turned into commercial products, whole industries. But i think i've come to understand that your feeling is that some things didn't get taken away. Tell me about what still needs to be done.

I think the focus needs to be on capabilities that you can drive. Take the business of cost of learning and set it aside until you assess the values of the higher capabilities you can go after. It seemed like there was some level that got set in the early seventies around "it has to be easy to learn". And with all due respect to all the human computer interface guys that's just to me as we'd all still be riding tricycles.

A big part of that is the paradigms we use. One example is the "book paradigm" that's just built into everybody's sort of pragmatical outlook. That's the way you read and study. And you say well no wait, that is just a way an artifact that they call printing and such produced things that would help you do that. We got brand new sets of artifacts now, so let's change our paradigms, let's see what we can do. And that is what I started doing in the sixties.

today's ubiquitous graphical user interface has its roots in doug engelbart's groundshattering research in the sixties. many of the concepts he invented were further developed at xerox parc and successfully commercialized in the apple macintosh, whereupon they essentially froze. twenty years later, despite thousand-fold improvements along every technological dimension, the concepts behind today's interfaces are almost identical to those in the initial mac. this is a very interesting interview with one of the fathers of personal computing which touches on many points of this development.

Moving from Critical Review to Critique, by Jared Spool

I ask teams whether they do critiques. “Oh, yes. All the time,” they tell me. However, when I ask them what it is they do, it’s basically a meeting where someone’s work is criticized for what it’s missing. It’s a meeting where people who haven’t given the design problem or solution much thought, until that moment, rip apart the work of someone who has. These critical design reviews are miserable experiences. Everyone completely dreads them. The experience makes them feel like crap. And then it’s time to schedule another one.

What makes a critique different from a critical design review is we are not there to find flaws. We’re there to learn from the design and to explore where it works well and where it could be improved. In a well-run critique, we explicitly separate out the discussion of “What are we trying to do with this design?” from the discussion of “Does this rendition accomplish it?”

this article has made a tremendous impact on my understanding of what makes a critique worthwhile, particularly at engagements at my clients. to me there is still the notion that between many teams, be it design, product and development, there seems to be mismatch in understanding, and a lot of headaches coming out of it. critique however is an important part of any design process and the feedback you get through a well-run critique is tremendously helpful to create a better product, make better decisions and work together more efficiently.

The Internet of NO Things, by Roope Mokka

As technology keeps developing faster and faster, all the technologies that are now in a smartphone will become the size of a piece of paper and be available for the price of a piece of paper as well. What we have to understand is that when technology gets developed enough it disappears, it ceases to be understood as technology; it becomes part of the general man-made ambience of our life. Look around you, there are amazing technologies already around us that have vanished. This house is a very typical example of disruptive technology, not to mention this collection of houses and streets and other infrastructure, know as the city, invented some thousands of years ago. Houses and cities are technologies. Our clothing is a technology, the food on the tables is the end product of masses of technologies. These are all technologies that have in practice disappeared: they are on the background and nobody (outside of dedicated professionals) thinks of them as technologies.

with all this buzz about the internet of things, i find it refreshing to talk about what comes after the internet of things. arthur c. clarke once famously remarked that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. i really like this idea of how technology disappears after it has been established.