Friday, July 27, 2007

Anti-Phishing Phil in Portuguese

Wow, this is really cool! Portugal Telecom has taken our Anti-phishing Phil game, but has replaced our fish with a frog. It's like I'm reliving my Frogger days!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jim Morris' Notes on Venture Capitalists

My department's former dean has a blog entry about a panel of venture capitalists, hosted by Berkeley and CMU West. My favorite point:

Avoid Web 2.0 companies based upon AAA - Ajax, Adsense, and Arrogance

This makes me wonder what the carrying capacity of Adsense is. How many companies / blogs out there can Adsense fully support?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Heuristic Evaluation for PowerPoint Slides

"Death by PowerPoint" is a phrase the military likes to use to describe those presentations that cause your eyes to dry out and the drool to start coming out of your mouth. Being a tech-oriented HCI person, I figured we could actually develop heuristics, and possibly even a tool, to help address this problem.

Here's my list of heuristics that, all of which I think could be built as a plug-in for PowerPoint:

  • Fonts too small (try to stick to at least 24 points)
  • Too many animations
  • Too many sub-bullets
  • Too much text on the slide
  • Unreadable color combinations
  • Too many lines in a bullet
  • Too many fonts on the slide
  • Ugly fonts

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Alon Halevy on the Database and HCI Communities

Alon Halevy is a former professor of computer science at University of Washington, now at Google. This latest entry from his blog on databases and HCI struck me as interesting for two reasons:

It is tempting to push these problems [of how users work with structured data and their information seeking needs - JIH] to the HCI community, but I would argue this is a mistake. These problems will not be high enough on the agenda of the HCI community (there, if your device doesn’t move or perform magic, it’s uninteresting), whereas for us they are crucial for identifying good research directions and evaluating them. As a community, we need to find a way to encourage research on usability and to learn from the HCI community how to evaluate such research. We need to bring this agenda squarely into our conferences.

The first interesting point is that he sees HCI primarily as being interested in wickedly cool devices. This isn't too far off the mark, unfortunately so in my opinion.

The second is that there needs to be more collaboration between HCI and databases. Overall, I would agree (heck, I'd agree that there needs to be more collaboration between HCI and pretty much every field in computer science).

One problem is that HCI people are often given funny looks by people who don't consider it a hard science, because after all, you only get interesting results from hard sciences that give you measurable numbers.

Another problem, true of all interdisciplinary work, is that there needs to be a challenging research problem from all parties involved. HCI has to be treated as a true partner, not as a service.

A third problem, a reality I have been lamenting, is that you need money to make things happen. For money, it depends on who you get on your grant reviews. For cybersecurity, the CUPS group has been doing really well in combining hci and security. Brad Myers has also been doing really well with respect to software development and hci. For other areas, it's a real toss-up.

A fourth problem is that there aren't really all that many HCI researchers, and most of them are limited to just a few universities. It's hard to do collaborations when a partner isn't there.

I think these issues can be overcome, though. It will just take some more time and a lot more evangelism from all sides to make things happen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rick Rashid on Directions at Microsoft Research

Rick Rashid, Senior VP of Microsoft Research, has a great talk summarizing research directions at MSR. The most exciting work is perhaps helping developing countries. There is also an awareness that any help should not be done as a charity, as that isn't economically sustainable.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

An online service that airports could use - line estimators

When I got to the Pittsburgh airport today, I was shocked to see how long the line for US Air was for an early Sunday morning. It struck me that airports could offer a really nice service, which is to provide an estimate of how long the line will be at a given time, both for check-in and for security.

I don't think it would be that hard to implement either. Airlines already know how many people should be checking in, and they should know the rough rate at which people can be processed. For the security line, you just need to aggregate the number of passengers across all airlines. Afterwards, calibrate your data (ie fudge the data a little) so that the numbers match reality.