Calum's CHI Photoblog - Part 3


Woke up this morning with a very sore throat and all the other tell-tale signs of an impending nasty cold. Still made it to my full compliment of sessions today, but might struggle a bit tomorrow... hope not though as at the very least I want to go along to Jen's talk!

Started today by attending the "25th birthday party" of The Psychology of Human Computer Interaction, the seminal book by Stuart Card, Thomas Moran and Allen Newell that more or less coined HCI as a phrase. Stu and Tom were on hand to talk about how the book came about (Allen having passed away in 1992), and a panel discussion led by Bonnie John reflected on the progress we've made since then with the likes of Soar, ACT-R, and various GOMS derivatives.

Stuart Card

My other session before lunch was Am I Safe?, where three papers were presented. The first looked at a novel way of visualising firewall alerts (traditionally jargon-heavy popups presented by applications like Zone Alarm), which amongst other things drew a connecting line between the window of the process generating the alert to a world map showing the location and details of the server generating the request. A novel idea, although the visualisation still looked over-complex to me and could use some work.

The next speaker presented a system that drew graffiti on the user's desktop when it determined that one of their installed applications needed updating to patch a security vulnerability—the more prominent the graffiti, the more serious the vulnerability. Hopefully, we wouldn't have quite as much use for that on Solaris as the Windows users in the study seemed to have :)

Finally, we heard from a team who investigated the effectiveness of the "phishing" alerts generated by IE7 and Firefox 2. Solaris users will be glad to know that none of the Firefox users in the study were fooled into giving their details to a phishing site set up for the study—many of the IE users did though!

I went poster-perusing again at lunchtime (bumping into former Sun colleague Nancy Frishberg in the process). Here are a couple that caught my eye today—click for the legible version:

Poster-3 Poster-2 Poster

In the afternoon, I went to:

  • Branding the Feel: Applying Standards to Enable a Uniform User Experience: A panel from Adobe, Microsoft, Google and SAP talked about the process of writing user interface guidelines, and providing supporting materials, in the context of a corporation for whom their user interface is part of their brand. Thought I might come out of it with some insights that might be useful in the many branding discussions we have at Sun, but in fact I came away with more ideas about refreshing the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines (an exercise which is long overdue at this point!)
  • Menu and Command Selection: First, a chap from Autodesk presented their "PieCursor" concept—a new take on tracking pie menus in which the cursor is the menu (or more specifically, the tool palette, to which it's really more suited). Their results showed it to be more effective than using a toolbar, but little mention was made of the fact that they also seemed to suggest it was less effective than their existing pie menu. (Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to ask why not...)

    Next up was a presentation from a Chinese team about their "tilt menu", in which the user summons a pie menu by tilting the pen or stylus (or it may be shown automatically, if the context demands). They select from the menu by tilting the pen further in the direction of the appropriate menu item. It looked like it might be a little awkward to use, to me, and as you might intuitively expect, their study showed that some segments around the pie were easier to select than others.

    Adaptive activation area menus were next, attempting to address the 'steering problem' of cascaded menus by manipulating the 'hot zone' for accessing the submenu once the pointer landed on a parent menu. I could be wrong, but the basic method described (two other variations were also shown) was awfully similar to what I thought GNOME already did, but I wasn't sure enough to raise that point at the time :)

    Finally, an algorithm was presented for automatically improving the layout of hierarchical menus based on decision time, item category and frequency of use. The speaker was pushed for time, and was not presenting in his native language, so it was not entirely clear to me whether this was intended to be used during the design phase, or on the fly on a per-user basis in the real product. Think I'll have to go and read that paper tonight...


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