Showing posts from January, 2005

[Just Plain Weird] Rolling Robot or the Bubble from The Prisoner


My initial reaction is that the designers of this security robot must have watched one too many episodes of The Prisoner.

[HCI] Usability Testing vs Usability Training

Interesting argument, main point is that usability is more important to have as a part of the product development culture than to have specialists in it.

Usability professionals offer so much more than just testing. Usability dollars can be spent in other ways; in fact, I argue that usability training is often a far better investment than usability testing.

[Sec] Lame Phishing Attempt

Just got a really lame phishing attempt from "PayPal". It's actually pretty sophisticated, here is the link with the associated Javascript:

<a href=3D"
onMouseOver=3D"window.status=3D'';return true;"
onMouseOut=3D"window.status=3D' '; return true;">Click here to verify your Information</a>

So if you have Javascript turned on for mail, it masks the destination URL with paypal (though for Mozilla, the destination URL is simply not shown... is this a bug?)

Anyway, the sad part is that the URL doesn't seem to exist. How weak is that?

[Research] Publicly Signed Reviews of Scientific Papers

Very interesting idea in HotNets03.

As an experiment this year, we solicited a leading researcher to write a signed “public review” of each accepted paper. Our intent is to foster a dialogue between authors and readers. Too often, the context for understanding the relevance of a paper emerges only during the Q&A or hallway conversations at the workshop, and then disappears into the ether. The result is that each new reader must start afresh in deconstructing the paper.

We encouraged the public reviewers to be opinionated rather than factual, and to consider their canvas the broad set of topics raised by each paper. The opinions expressed in the public reviews are those of the reviewers alone, and intentionally
do not reflect the views of the program committee or the chairs. The reviewers were selected independently of the program selection process and thus sometimes came to conclusions quite different from the program committee.

[HCI] Microsoft Research on Multi Monitors

Good overview of work coming out of one of Microsoft Research's HCI groups.

And what Microsoft research wanted to understand was how (when larger displays become mainstream and widely affordable and everybody uses them) — how does the design of our software have to change to scale up to these very large displays? That's the essence of the research problem. It's not a hardware issue per se, but none of the designs right now scale to very large displays.

Itching for Birkball

Man, I've got a real itching to play it right now, but alas, the closest table I know of is in Berkeley, CA, a few thousand miles away...

[HCI-sec] Confidence Tricks

Truly fascinating reading about con men, I wonder if there are any psychology classes on this? (If you're wondering, I'm looking at user interface issues for helping people avoid these kinds of online cons. Not a bad job I have, eh?)

[Policy] What the Bush Administration thinks of Science

I usually avoid political commentary, but this is a pretty sad state of affairs when scientific research is described as "low-priority and no-priority".

Among the budget-cutting targets: the bloated Agriculture
Department, corporate welfare, scientific research,
housing, state and local giveaway grants, and other
low-priority and no-priority programs that will be slashed
or eliminated altogether.

[HCI] Enron Email Dataset

Just learned that all of Enron's email is available, thanks to court proceedings. This is a killer dataset for anyone doing any kind of email analysis.

[Just Plain Weird] Darth Tater?

Mr. Potato Head meets Darth Vader. Somehow, I can't imagine kids being quite as afraid of Lord Vader as I was when I was growing up.

From the "Truth is Stranger than Fiction" Archives

THE Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

Other ideas included chemical weapons that attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats to troop positions, making them uninhabitable. Another was to develop a chemical that caused "severe and lasting halitosis", making it easy to identify guerrillas trying to blend in with civilians. There was also the idea of making troops' skin unbearably sensitive to sunlight.

[Tech] [Privacy] Ruling gives cops leeway with GPS

Ruling gives cops leeway with GPS
Decision allows use of vehicle tracking device without a warrant

By BRENDAN LYONS, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, January 11, 2005

In a decision that could dramatically affect criminal investigations nationwide, a federal judge has ruled police didn't need a warrant when they attached a satellite tracking device to the underbelly of a car being driven by a suspected Hells Angels operative.

[Cool] Benford's Law

Still blows my mind every time.

So, here's a challenge. Go and look up some numbers. A whole variety of naturally-occuring numbers will do. Try the lengths of some of the world's rivers, or the cost of gas bills in Moldova; try the population sizes in Peruvian provinces, or even the figures in Bill Clinton's tax return. Then, when you have a sample of numbers, look at their first digits (ignoring any leading zeroes). Count how many numbers begin with 1, how many begin with 2, how many begin with 3, and so on - what do you find?

You might expect that there would be roughly the same number of numbers beginning with each different digit: that the proportion of numbers beginning with any given digit would be roughly 1/9. However, in very many cases, you'd be wrong!

Surprisingly, for many kinds of data, the distribution of first digits is highly skewed, with 1 being the most common digit and 9 the least common. In fact, a precise m…

[Cool] All-time Low Scores on Metacritic

Worst movie: Bio-dome. Keep in mind that metacritic doesn't have links to movies like Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Quotes on Technology

“Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web... at the same time, we feel emptier, lonelier and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history.”
-- Palmer Joss, in the movie Contact

“We can almost always tell if a change will bring good or bad tidings. Certain things we definitely do not want, like the television and the radio. They would destroy our visiting practices. We would stay at home with the television or radio rather than meet with other people. The visiting practices are important because of the closeness of the people. How can we care for the neighbor if we do not visit them or know what is going on in their lives?”
--Amish Interviewee, in the book Bowling Alone

[Tech] [HCI] [Soc] NeighborNode

Neighbornodes are group message boards on wireless nodes, placed in residential areas and open to the public. These nodes transmit signal for around 300 feet, so everyone within that range has access to the board and can read and post to it. This means that with a Neighbornode you can broadcast a message to roughly everyone whose apartment window is within 300 feet of yours (and has line of sight), and they can broadcast messages back to you.

[HCI] Coping with Human Error

Good overview article that looks at handling errors from a systems perspective.

Human error happens for many reasons, but in the end it almost always comes down to a mismatch between a human operator’s mental model of the IT environment and the environment’s actual state.

Nintendo DS Pictochat

The new Nintendo gameboy system has a sketch-based chat system built in. Looks very cool.

[Soc] Third Places

Ray Oldenburg (1989), in The Great Good Place, calls these locations "third places." (The first being the home and the second being work.) These third places are crucial to a community for a number of reasons, according to Oldenburg. They are distinctive informal gathering places, they make the citizen feel at home, they nourish relationships and a diversity of human contact, they help create a sense of place and community, they invoke a sense of civic pride, they provide numerous opportunities for serendipity, they promote companionship, they allow people to relax and unwind after a long day at work, they are socially binding, they encourage sociability instead of isolation, they make life more colorful, and they enrich public life and democracy. Their disappearance in our culture is unhealthy for our cities because, as Oldenburg points out, they are the bedrock of community life and all the benefits that come from such interaction.

Road Rage survey stats

Interesting set of self-reported stats on road rage. What is interesting to me here is the high rate of negative behaviors (ex. giving obscene gestures to others) and obvious signs of delusion (ex. "I am surely the best driver on the road").

It would be interesting to correlate this data with personality types. I also wonder what kind of lifestyles that people who exhibit negative behaviors have. In general, do they have successful relationships with other people?

%$#^&!*# computers!

Now this could be the basis for an interesting metric for the HCI community, rage incidents per year.

Judging by past survey statistics, Norman figures that roughly 10 percent of all new computers and tech gear given as gifts over the holidays will be seriously injured over the next few weeks in frustrated fits of rage.

Ontrack Data Recovery agrees that the holidays are an especially dangerous time for computers, but notes that technology is never really safe from the wrath or reckless whims of their owners.

Last year the company was asked to restore data from a laptop whose owner had placed the machine in the toilet and then flushed several times, a computer that had been used as a punching bag to relieve the owner's frustration with its sluggish performance, and boxes that had been fried by power surges, squished by falling steel beams, and run over by airplanes.

[Tech] [Ubicomp] Sirius to Launch Video Service in 2006

This might be the start of an interesting new class of ubicomp service.

Sirius to Launch Video Service in 2006

Wednesday, January 5, 2005; 12:16 PM

NEW YORK -- Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. said on Wednesday it is planning a children's video service for cars in 2006, a year later than it had expected, using software from Microsoft Corp.

Sirius, which provides subscription based satellite radio services for a monthly fee, said last year it would offer video services by mid-2005. Spokesman Jim Collins said timing depended on automakers rather than Sirius' capability.