E.W. Dijkstra on teaching the "radical novelties" of computer science

Coping with radical novelty requires an orthogonal method. One must consider one's own past, the experiences collected, and the habits formed in it as an unfortunate accident of history, and one has to approach the radical novelty with a blank mind, consciously refusing to try to link it with what is already familiar, because the familiar is hopelessly inadequate. One has, with initially a kind of split personality, to come to grips with a radical novelty as a dissociated topic in its own right. Coming to grips with a radical novelty amounts to creating and learning a new foreign language that can not be translated into one's mother tongue. (Any one who has learned quantum mechanics knows what I am talking about.) Needless to say, adjusting to radical novelties is not a very popular activity, for it requires hard work. For the same reason, the radical novelties themselves are unwelcome.

By now, you may well ask why I have paid so much attention to and have spent so much eloquence on such a simple and obvious notion as the radical novelty. My reason is very simple: radical novelties are so disturbing that they tend to be suppressed or ignored, to the extent that even the possibility of their existence in general is more often denied than admitted.

Usability week ending September 5th

Saturday, 4th September, 11:45 PM
@sugarsock Pareto was an old 19th C noble who didn't much like the other 80%, thought the poor were just like peas--can safely ignore him.

Thursday, 2nd September, 2:38 PM
What 20% of things on your web site would give you 80% of your desired results? Pare down for better conversion: http://j.mp/aUrhWL

Thursday, 2nd September, 8:41 AM
5 negative perceptions about Information Architects and how to defeat them: http://bit.ly/cyUrPL #ia /via @userexperience

Wednesday, 1st September, 11:07 PM
Apple TV isn't for pirates, it’s for parents. "Can't think of a single device that makes renting TV and movies easier": http://j.mp/c1326r

via twitter.com/terretta

Usability week ending August 29th

Friday, 27th August, 4:19 PM
Tailored computing experiences promise a pipe dream of safety, beauty–but real delight lies in making your own choices: http://j.mp/c6HVvl

Thursday, 26th August, 12:29 PM
A believable 3-D #persona has psychology, physiology, and sociology, as well as inner goals, needs, and desires: http://j.mp/cmaS10 #ux #ia

Wednesday, 25th August, 5:25 PM
Solving media overload takes a single word -- "No." : http://j.mp/aDNa9B

Tuesday, 24th August, 10:02 AM
Done well, "help" content offers tremendous potential to earn customer loyalty: http://j.mp/a6wKXU #ux #usability #help #documentation

Monday, 23rd August, 10:11 PM
Apps vs the Web -- why there is a proliferation of #apps instead of web pages that can do the same thing: http://j.mp/axxsqy #ux #usability

via twitter.com/terretta

The magical founding team mix for web startups

OnStartups.com offers a short explanation of the importance of usability to a startup's prospects, framed as an argument that founders should be developers first, and usability experts second.

#1. Developer.  If a web startup has only one founder, it should be a brilliant developer.  And by a developer, I mean a developer — someone who can produce, release and maintain working code.  Not a CTO or “architect”.  Not someone who thinks they can recruit developers or someone who knows someone who runs a development shop in Croatia.  An actual developer. 

#2. Designer / UI / UX person.  If the startup has two founders, the other founder should be a brilliant designer-type.  By this, I mean someone that can take a problem that humans have and come up with a software solution that humans want to use — repeatedly and delightedly.  I think great design talent has always been useful in a software company — now, it’s become crucial. 

#3. Inbound Marketer.  If the startup has three founders, the third one should be an inbound marketer.  An inbound marketer is someone who is good at pulling people in (vs. pushing a message out).  I decidedly don’t mean someone that’s good at spending a marketing budget on advertising to try and find people that are interested.  I mean someone that will create remarkable content that will attract traffic, users and customers. 

#4. Sales Person.  If there’s a fourth founder on the team (which I’m not a big fan of by the way), it might be useful to have a sales person.  And, remember, startups don’t need a VP of Sales — they need actual sales.

Curiously, other than mentioning its effect on sales, the article overlooks the benefits of usability to cash flow. Viral word-of-mouth, increased sign-up rate, reduced churn, and lower support costs, all stretch your startup dollar farther. This is why startup needs a business co-founder. Your usability won't get used if you don't have the cash flow to let users keep using...

Usability week ending August 15th

Friday, 13th August, 10:48 AM
Throughout history, the forms of our letters were influenced by the tools we used to create them: http://j.mp/aSMoE7 #typography #usability

Thursday, 12th August, 7:36 PM
Pay attention to net neutrality debate. User experience determines success: http://j.mp/bFtz7g #ux #netneutrality and http://j.mp/dc6Fpj

Wednesday, 11th August, 1:08 PM
Four bits of #design wisdom that may come in handy some day: http://j.mp/biL7za #ux

Wednesday, 11th August, 12:42 PM
Dutch traffic engineer shows streets without signs are safer than roads cluttered with arrows, painted lines, and lights: http://j.mp/djRF6U

Tuesday, 10th August, 11:28 AM
How Star Trek artists imagined usability 23 years ago http://post.ly/r7ts

Tuesday, 10th August, 10:09 AM
Star Trek designer on #usability: Someone beating their brains into guacamole to make this machine easy for *me* to use: http://j.mp/bNUqrJ

Monday, 9th August, 3:20 PM
On corp blog home page, showing summaries of many articles is more likely to draw in users than full articles: http://j.mp/bxUYTy #usability

via twitter.com/terretta

How Star Trek artists imagined usability 23 years ago

“Complexity should be abstracted, synthesized down to the simplest possible interface for instant gratification, with the shortest possible learning curve—that is the wave of the future.”

Michael Okuda's and Gene Roddenberry's emphasis on ease of use as driving factor behind technology made their devices seem prescient. I enjoyed this Ars Technica discussion of Star Trek's PADD versus today's iPad, and what happens when the software defines how the device can be used.

Interestingly, Okuda notes part of his emphasis on simplicity originally came from budget constraints. This is another example of my theory that price vs performance need not be a trade off. By aiming for simplicity and elegance instead, technologists can achieve higher performance at a lower cost.

Usability week ending August 8th

Friday, 6th August, 11:34 AM
"The door is ajar" -- the talking car, and the value gap between #marketing and customer experience: http://j.mp/91egS8 #ux

Thursday, 5th August, 4:55 PM
Want to leverage social media? First build a good customer experience: http://j.mp/9r1Quy #ux #socialweb

Monday, 2nd August, 5:38 PM
Nothing about having a lot of money improves odds of a consumer internet startup creating a great product: http://j.mp/dBEaVq #investment

Monday, 2nd August, 11:44 AM
Jakob Nielsen's #usability issues -- missing menu, site identity, terminology, content organization, readability: http://j.mp/a6meSB #ux

via twitter.com/terretta

Usability week ending August 1st

Friday, 30th July, 9:41 AM
The disappearing PC http://post.ly/pSXI

Friday, 30th July, 9:07 AM
The real reason why consumers won't pay online -- it's a pain: http://j.mp/adUlHL #usability #ecommerce #ux

Thursday, 29th July, 8:58 AM
Positive emotional stimuli can build a sense of trust and engagement with your users: http://j.mp/cReO19 #ux #ui #interface #design #emotion

Wednesday, 28th July, 12:53 PM
If you're going out on a limb putting up a #paywall, be willing to iterate. The #UX designer's job is never done: http://j.mp/d5LHv7 #design

Wednesday, 28th July, 11:30 AM
Maybe customers are shifting toward self service because they don't want a relationship with companies: http://j.mp/cqVlCe #ux

Monday, 26th July, 5:58 PM
#Citibank is creating a bad customer experience by fooling its prospective customers: http://http://j.mp/6FiBG #ux

via twitter.com/terretta