[syndicated profile] eaglespath_feed

Review: The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman

Publisher: Basic Books
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 0-465-05065-4
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 298

There are several editions of this book (the first under a different title, The Psychology of Everyday Things). This review is for the Revised and Expanded Edition, first published in 2013 and quite significantly revised compared to the original. I probably read at least some of the original for a class in human-computer interaction around 1994, but that was long enough ago that I didn't remember any of the details.

I'm not sure how much impact this book has had outside of the computer field, but The Design of Everyday Things is a foundational text of HCI (human-computer interaction) despite the fact that many of its examples and much of its analysis is not specific to computers. Norman's goal is clearly to write a book that's fundamental to the entire field of design; not having studied the field, I don't know if he succeeded, but the impact on computing was certainly immense. This is the sort of book that everyone ends up hearing about, if not necessarily reading, in college. I was looking forward to filling a gap in my general knowledge.

Having now read it cover-to-cover, would I recommend others invest the time? Maybe. But probably not.

There are several things this book does well. One of the most significant is that it builds a lexicon and a set of general principles that provide a way of talking about design issues. Lexicons are not the most compelling reading material (see also Design Patterns), but having a common language is useful. I still remember affordances from college (probably from this book or something else based on it). Norman also adds, and defines, signifiers, constraints, mappings, and feedback, and talks about the human process of building a conceptual model of the objects with which one is interacting.

Even more useful, at least in my opinion, is the discussion of human task-oriented behavior. The seven stages of action is a great systematic way of analyzing how humans perform tasks, where those actions can fail, and how designers can help minimize failure. One thing I particularly like about Norman's presentation here is the emphasis on the feedback cycle after performing a task, or a step in a task. That feedback, and what makes good or poor feedback, is (I think) an underappreciated part of design and something that too often goes missing. I thought Norman was a bit too dismissive of simple beeps as feedback (he thinks they don't carry enough information; while that's not wrong, I think they're far superior to no feedback at all), but the emphasis on this point was much appreciated.

Beyond these dry but useful intellectual frameworks, though, Norman seems to have a larger purpose in The Design of Everyday Things: making a passionate argument for the importance of design and for not tolerating poor design. This is where I think his book goes a bit off the rails.

I can appreciate the boosterism of someone who feels an aspect of creating products is underappreciated and underfunded. But Norman hammers on the unacceptability of bad design to the point of tedium, and seems remarkably intolerant of, and unwilling to confront, the reasons why products may be released with poor designs for their eventual users. Norman clearly wishes that we would all boycott products with poor designs and prize usability above most (all?) other factors in our decisions. Equally clearly, this is not happening, and Norman knows it. He even describes some of the reasons why not, most notably (and most difficultly) the fact that the purchasers of many products are not the eventual users. Stoves are largely sold to builders, not kitchen cooks. Light switches are laid out for the convenience of the electrician; here too, the motive for the builder to spend additional money on better lighting controls is unclear. So much business software is purchased by people who will never use it directly, and may have little or no contact with the people who do. These layers of economic separation result in deep disconnects of incentive structure between product manufacturers and eventual consumers.

Norman acknowledges this, writes about it at some length, and then seems to ignore the point entirely, returning to ranting about the deficiencies of obviously poor design and encouraging people to care more about design. This seems weirdly superficial in this foundational of a book. I came away half-convinced that these disconnects of incentive (and some related problems, such as the unwillingness to invest in proper field research or the elaborate, expensive, and lengthy design process Norman lays out as ideal) are the primary obstacle in the way of better-designed consumer goods. If that's the case, then this is one of the largest, if not the largest, obstacle in the way of doing good design, and I would have expected this foundational of a book to tackle it head-on and provide some guidance for how to fight back against this problem. But Norman largely doesn't.

There is some mention of this in the introduction. Apparently much of the discussion of the practical constraints on product design in the business world was added in this revised edition, and perhaps what I'm seeing is the limitations of attempting to revise an existing text. But that also implies that the original took an even harder line against poor design. Throughout, Norman is remarkably high-handed in his dismissal of bad design, focusing more on condemnation than on an investigation of why bad design might happen and what we, as readers, can learn from that process to avoid repeating it. Norman does provide extensive analysis of the design process and the psychology of human interaction, but still left me with the impression that he believes most design failures stem from laziness and stupidity. The negativity and frustration got a bit tedious by the middle of the book.

There's quite a lot here that someone working in design, particularly interface design, should be at least somewhat familiar with: affordances, signifiers, the importance of feedback, the psychological model of tasks and actions, and the classification of errors, just to name a few. However, I'm not sure this book is the best medium for learning those things. I found it a bit tedious, a bit too arrogant, and weirdly unconcerned with feasible solutions to the challenge of mismatched incentives. I also didn't learn that much from it; while the concepts here are quite important, most of them I'd picked up by osmosis from working in the computing field for twenty years.

In that way, The Design of Everyday Things reminded me a great deal of the Gang of Four's Design Patterns, even though it's a more readable book and less of an exercise in academic classification. The concepts presented are useful and important, but I'm not sure I can recommend the book as a book. It may be better to pick up the same concepts as you go, with the help of Internet searches and shorter essays.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Postmodern Jukebox

Oct. 23rd, 2016 23:42
kareila: (music)
[personal profile] kareila
Postmodern Jukebox is a rotating collaboration of various musicians and vocalists performing retro versions of assorted popular songs, as arranged by the group's founder, Scott Bradlee. They have several charming performance videos on YouTube, and I believe most of their music is available on iTunes.

I first discovered their music a couple of years ago after an American Idol contestant performed one of their arrangements. I later found out that several Idol alums have worked with the group, including one of our family favorites, Casey Abrams. I was thrilled that Casey was one of the vocalists who appeared at our concert! The other singers we saw were Aubrey Logan, Ariana Savalas, Maiya Sykes, Sara Niemietz, and Mykal Kilgore. The fabulous tap dancer Sarah Reich also performed.

Here are my notes on the set list for the October 22nd show, and associated vocalists as best as I can recall. I think that at least two other songs also had tap dancing, but now I can't remember which ones.

Set list (with YouTube links)... )

(no subject)

Oct. 23rd, 2016 23:05
zvi: Dreamcult - Home of the Metawankers (dreamwidth critic)
[personal profile] zvi
Why am I like this? I was at the office about seven hours doing 3-4 hours' worlht of work. Just Twitter and news articles. Well, I ate a bit, too. But, god, I would like to focus better, just do my work and go home, but I can't quite work out how.
umadoshi: (kittens - sharing a chair)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Fannish/Geeky Things

Toby Daye fans! Priscilla Spencer, who did the map of the Kingdoms of the Westlands for the newest book, is selling copies here.

"The Extended Ghostbusters Cut Fixes the Film's Biggest Plot Hole". [io9]

"The United Federation of 'hold my beer, I got this'" compiles a bunch of marvelous Star Trek Tumblr headcanon about humans and humans' relations with other species.

"Hot Topic's New DC-Based Jackets Look Sort of Great". (To be honest, I only particularly like the Supergirl hoodie, but it's adorable.)

"Wonder Woman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Princess Leia Have the Same Birthday Because Obviously They Do". [Tor.com]

Social Justice (all from The Establishment)

"What Is The Role Of Autism in Art?" [Sarah Kurchak writes about The Accountant] "Neurotypical reviewers—whose expertise ranges from having an autistic child to talking to the parent of an autistic child to having interacted with an autistic person at some point—are taking it upon themselves to decide what is and isn’t realistic and/or offensive about the film’s portrayal of autism. Outside of a few allies amplifying our views on Twitter, every single thing about The Accountant has been by and for neurotypicals, as if we don’t also go to movies, write about movies, and maybe even write our own movies—as though we can’t watch, read, and listen to what the rest of you are saying and thinking about us."

"The Disturbing Science Behind Subconscious Gender Bias".

"What Being A Phone Sex Operator Taught Me About Sexism And Racism".

"The Remarkable Privilege Of Running".

"Not Like Other Girls: Reflections On Hair And Queer Identity".

"Why I’m Scared Of White Women".

Cute Stuff

Via [livejournal.com profile] lnhammer, "15+ Tiny Animals In Tiny Sweaters That Will Make You Go Aww".

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] jimhines, "15+ Unbearably Cute Sloth Pics To Celebrate The International Sloth Day".

Also via [dreamwidth.org profile] jimhines, "24 Cats That Have Failed Adorably".

"Shop Cats: Photographer captures charming felines living in Hong Kong's shops".

"Photographer captures what kittens look like mid-pounce".
green_knight: (Sandwolf)
[personal profile] green_knight
That's 'mid' as in 'deeply involved, have played some time' not 'half way through' and I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that I've just reached Rivendell.

Wow, I needed that. I've had this game in my library for a couple of years now, and I've tried to play it but struggled with the controls (they need a certain type of skill), the inventory system (it sucks and it's somewhat broken), and the concept of 'WTF am I supposed to do' which is part of the eternal dilemma: you cannot get better at this type of game if you don't play it, but you cannot play it unless you already have some basic skills.

If you want to learn to play, I highly recommend 'FATE' (MacGamestore link; wait for a reduction; try the demo to see whether it runs) which is completely unapologetic about what it is. (Reviewed here)

Even on a low graphic setting, War in the North is a game full of gorgeous, ever-so-well imagined settings. It has a reasonably linear storyline, but enough side quests and corners you can poke into to not feel completely railroaded. It builds on LOTR without retconning the story: you're one of a party of three (dwarf fighter, elven mage, Dúnedain archer) who go and keep Aragorn's back free and investigate various *other* nasties. There's plenty left to do in Middle Earth. So far, I haven't found the easy setting to be too challenging: it's nice and exciting but doesn't need my full brain/fast reflexes/super-duper tactical skills. I'm probably not making the most out of all the options, but then again, I'm playing this for relaxation.

The MacGamestore version runs nicely in the background and runs smoothly on a not particularly high-powered Mac; at 10.5GB it won't kill your hard drive, either. (Looking at you, 70GB Shadows of Mordor.)

So all niggles aside, this is a gorgeous game, it feels rich and deep, and I admit that I like Middle Earth as a setting; the nods to the main storyline are enhancing the feel.
kareila: (sketchy)
[personal profile] kareila
Yesterday was nonstop. Up at eight to go see the Texas A&M marching band practice, home at eleven to start baking cupcakes for the church festival cakewalk, while Will worked on decorations for the Go Fish game booth. Everything was finished barely in time to get to the festival for setup at 3:45. Left at six to pick up H&P and get downtown for an eight o'clock concert. Postmodern Jukebox was fabulous. We didn't get home until midnight. Had to go to church this morning as usual, then meet my mom to pick up the kids. A good time was had by all, but I definitely wore myself out.

I'm taking a break this afternoon to watch the Patriots for the first time in a month, and to try to catch up on the Auburn game I had to miss yesterday. Later I'll need to help Connor with a homework project and catch up on my email and Twitter. Tomorrow I'll be busy all day again. I need to leave the house right after breakfast in order to deal with rush hour traffic, trying to get to my mom's house and then get her to the hospital for her tests. Presumably I will get home just in time to help the kids with their homework, eat dinner, and go to choir rehearsal. We don't get next week off choir for Halloween, either, although since the boys don't want to go trick-or-treating this year, I guess I won't miss much.

We do have tickets to the symphony's Halloween concert next Friday night, which should be a lot of fun. Looking ahead into November, there are movies coming out each weekend that I want to see: Doctor Strange, Arrival, Fantastic Beasts, and Moana. Still not sure if we're staying in town for Thanksgiving - that decision may ultimately depend on tomorrow's test results.

Back in print!

Oct. 23rd, 2016 11:10
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

available for free download here.

Originally published with this cover: Dorothy wanted something more like a Nazgûl.


Oct. 23rd, 2016 10:28
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
My work shirt was already the colour of blood!

#wellthatbledmorethatiexpected #ieventuallyboughtbandaids

(no subject)

Oct. 24th, 2016 00:30
jeshyr: Blessed are the broken. Harry Potter. (Default)
[personal profile] jeshyr
New title idea:

Self-care Without Energy

Like it?

[ETA: "energy-free self care"? ]
[syndicated profile] mobileread_feed

Posted by pdurrant

After being moribund for several years, Amazon is finally going to close Mobipocket.com at the end of October.

The annoucnement on the Mobipocket home page reads:

"The Mobipocket website & its services will be permanently shut down on Oct 31st, 2016. Prior to that date, please ensure:
You have downloaded copies of all the ebook content you've purchased through Mobipocket. Please re-download any ebooks you need prior to October 31st.
You have activated all your Mobipocket CDROMs. You can activate CDROMs by clicking here."

I think I only ever bought one book from the actual Mobipocket.com web site, and trying to download that now just gives a server error.

But if you had used Mobipocket in the past, and you don't have current backups, it might be worth seeing if anything is recoverable from your account before the end of October.

Daily Happiness

Oct. 23rd, 2016 01:51
torachan: scott pilgrim pouting (scott pilgrim - pout)
[personal profile] torachan
1. It was really busy at work today and sales were high.

2. The weather has really cooled down a lot, yay.

3. I managed to get a little translating done tonight after work.

4. Molly looks so sweet and kittenish in this picture.

umadoshi: (read fast (bisty_icons))
[personal profile] umadoshi
All else about The Vampire Diaries aside (and if I have anything else to say it'll be inherently spoilery, so it's not going in this post), I remain both amused and grumpy that Allison Scagliotti is playing a character named Georgie. The universe is fucking with me, y'all.

Dewey's Readathon is going on this weekend. I've never participated and probably never will, since AFAIK it's always in October and April, when I'm either at Casual Job or trying to pack in as much freelance work as possible before work starts up for the fall. (A Twitter acquaintance has pretty much literally just sat down with Deadline as part of the readathon. *wriggles*)

This weekend involves a lot of work, as all weekends during Casual Job do, but tomorrow night is Ghostbusters (extended edition) night at Chez Ginny-and-Kas, and I am veryvery excited. I believe Chinese takeout will be involved. (Here: "This Video of Kate McKinnon's Ghostbusters Outtakes Is the Lone Bright Spot of 2016". [io9])

(We'll have to have another viewing sometime soonish, too, because a couple of local friends who still haven't seen the movie at all aren't able to make it tomorrow. But I've had the Blu-ray since release week and it's burning a metaphorical hole in my bookcase.)

The Logan trailer dropped a few days ago, and I don't know what to do with myself. I think the kindest thing I had to say about the first Wolverine movie was "well, it was better than X-Men 3" (possibly the single most-loathed movie of my life; I saw it opening weekend in theatres, haven't seen it since, and am still furious at what an unfathomable, horrific embarrassment it was), and the second Wolverine movie had its moments but annoyed me in places and overall I didn't bond.

So having FEELINGS about this trailer is very, very weird for me. I don't understand. Found-family bonding! Wolverine being (as I am FAR from the first to say) the best he is at what he does, that being MENTORING BADASS YOUNG GIRLS in a non-creepy, supportive capacity! And despite my mixed-to-negative feelings on Wolvie's solo movies (and the fact that I never bonded with the character all that much in the comics), I've always love Hugh Jackman's performance.

So. I'm excited for a Wolverine movie. That is a thing that's happening.

I hope I don't regret it too much.

I haven't delved into what info may be out there about the context; I haven't seen Apocalypse yet (!), and don't know how Logan connects to the original movie timeline or the altered one or anything. And while I do know who the girl in the trailer is, I've never read any of the comics that include her. (Before this week, I knew a character with that code name existed. I now know exactly as much as is contained in this io9 article.)

(Sidenote: Johnny Cash's "Hurt" cover? A+ music choice, IMO.)

Claudia's Ceiling Adventure

Oct. 22nd, 2016 23:11
umadoshi: (kittens - Claudia - green wall)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Not that long before midnight last night, while I was talking to [twitter.com profile] xicanti about some key events from the last three seasons of The Vampire Diaries (in preparation for my watching the season 8 premiere tonight [ETA: since it's been about three years since I stopped watching, to be clear]), [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose came to my office to tell me we had a problem:

Claudia had been on top of a bookcase in his office that was about a foot below one of the several ceiling holes throughout the house (there's been a lot of rewiring over the years, and patching the holes has just never been much of a priority), and then she'd leaped up into the ceiling and disappeared.


(This after months of Claud showing interest in the ceiling hole in my office and getting held up so she could peer into the one by the light switch, and my vague worries about the largest hole in the house, semi-above the kitchen island. For some reason the hole she finally vanished into never occurred to us as a problem. *so much facepalm*)

I'm not entirely clear on how long it took us to get her down. We tried summoning her with treats and the noise of a crinklepuff toy and cracking open a can of food, and she sometimes came back to the hole she'd gone into, and other times peered down in the garage, but she seemed to be happy as a clam up there. We focused on a garage hole, since it was the largest one in the ground-level ceiling, and eventually [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose was able to get hold of her after we tried opening the can of food.

Except then she freaked out and tried to flee deeper into the ceiling. And she's an escape artist, so she slid right out of his grip, and he caught her by a hind leg before she could quite disappear, and then he had to get as far into the ceiling space as possible to slowly drag her out. Emphasis on SLOWLY, because she was terrified and wriggling and latching onto everything she could with her front claws, and [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose was balanced semi-precariously up off the floor while all this was going on. O_O

He did finally get her down (as you might guess from the fact that this post isn't incoherent textual shrieking). Over her protests and lashing tail, we brushed her a little and wiped her paws (and rubbed a damp cloth over her) in case anything nasty had gotten on her, and she ate a hefty portion of the food we'd opened, and accepted some treats. She's fine.

Through all of that, even when [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose was pulling her down and she was scared and unhappy, she didn't leave him with a single scratch; the same was true when I was toting her upstairs and getting thwacked repeatedly with a very anxious (and grumpy) tail.

She was much less happy to find that [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose kept the door of his office closed until after he went to the market today, and that he immediately sealed up that ceiling hole and several others; as soon as he opened the office back up she bolted in there and stared up at where "her" hole had been with great annoyance. She clearly made no connection between her grand adventure and its distressing conclusion.

Oh, my most excellent, overly-intrepid kitty.


piranha: red origami crane (Default)
renaissance poisson

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