Tuesday Dec 09, 2008

mother of all demos

Flyer to Doug Engelbart's Presentation 1968

December 9, today, 40 years ago in 1968 Doug Engelbart presented NLS to the public. NLS was a system named after the literal meaning of being on-line with the computer – the oN-Line System – where “on-line” was not used with the sense of today to have a system connected to the Internet. There was no Internet yet. The meaning of on-line in the 1960s was to use the machine interactively! For Engelbart's Augmentation Research Center at the Stanford Research Institute this was made possible by the use of one of the first time-sharing computers.

The presentation at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco at December 9, 1968 is often referred to as “the mother of all demos”. Doug Engelbart and his team presented the mouse, windows, interactive text editing, video conferencing and hypertext capabilities of NLS. A kind of magic and religious moment, as Alan Kay recalls.

Here are some excerpts from Vision and Reality of Hypertext and Graphical User Interfaces:

And finally I have some compelling interview clips for you, and of course the original recording from 1968:

Matthias Müller-Prove is a User Experience Architect for Desktop Virtualization at Sun. Sometimes he blogs here – sometimes at Acetylcholinesterase.

Friday Oct 10, 2008

From Sketchpad to ILoveSketch

Quite some time ago, in the early 1960s, Ivan Sutherland developed an interactive sketching system. Even if you do not consider the bulky house-size computers of the time, Sketchpad remains a remarkable milestone in HCI. Here is a short clip out of a seminar by Alan Kay "Doing with Images Makes Symbols. Communicating with Computers"(Apple 1987) where he comments on Sketchpad:

 Now please fast forward by 46 years an watch what's possible today:

ILoveSketch from Seok-Hyung Bae on Vimeo.

Amazing, isn't it? (Source: IxDA-discuss

Matthias Müller-Prove is a User Experience Architect for Desktop Virtualization at Sun. Sometimes he blogs here – sometimes at Acetylcholinesterase.

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Easily Skinnable Swing Components

Dusan Pavlica is a senior Interaction Designer in the xDesign group. He moved from Prague to Los Angeles to support SOA/BI team, but he is working on JavaFX project currently.

The main idea of skinnable Swing components came up after James Gosling's presentation of Matisse (new GUI builder in NetBeans) at JavaOne 2005. Some people from audience were really excited about cool components used in the demo of the MP3 player. The components looked like rounded buttons with nice skins and completely different than the typical ugly Swing components. I would say the presentation was successful because of the cool look of the components.

So then, within the scope of the Innovation project (project focused on innovative ideas and design approaches in Prague's xDesign Group), we were thinking about some improvements of Matisse related to the ability to change components' skins easily. Then Jan Taus joined our team and was willing to work on it as a part of his Master's Thesis. I led him to implement it in a way that the user can re-skin a component easily without needing to write code.

He created an experimental NetBeans plug-in, which allows the user to set new skins of components in a visual way without coding. The user can prepare skins and even animations in a visual editor (e.g. Photoshop) and then can easily apply them to components in the Theme Editor.

There is a screen shot of the Theme Editor:

Some example of buttons in a new skin:

We presented all of the results of our research and experimental version of the Theme Editor to the NetBeans development team. They were interested in it and we discussed how to utilize the idea of easy skinning in NetBeans and the JavaFX project too. In my opinion, the improved version of the Theme Editor (e.g. its UI can be polished or it can be integrated into the Matisse better) could increase the popularity of Matisse or support the success of JavaFX.

Tuesday Oct 23, 2007

A designer's take on the myths of innovation

Maya Venkatraman is an Interaction Designer at Sun Microsystems. She started working in the area of Human Computer Interaction in graduate school, where she earned her Ph.D, and has been working in the industry for almost a decade, designing software that is easy to use.

http://www.scottberkun.com/wp-content/themes/scottberkun/images/myths_cover_small.gif There seems to be a tight coupling between each phase of the internet era and a set of buzz words. The omnipresent and overused buzz word for the web 2.0 era is "Innovation".

My garden supply site , a respected business journal, and everyone in between wants to tell me about their innovations, how to innovate, who is innovating, why we are not innovating enough, and many, many more innovative things.

Given all of this attention to the topic of innovation, I found it hard to resist buying and reading Scott Berkun's latest book The Myths of Innovation. After reading his first book , The Art of Project Management, I expected this book to be pragmatic, realistic, entertaining and informative. I was not disappointed.

The earlier book, The Art of Project Management, is about the effective management of the environment in which designers work. But this book is about the everyday work of designers and the way their work is perceived. While I learned a lot of new facts reading "The Art...", I found a lot of supporting evidence for existing beliefs when I read "The Myths...".

The book is organized into ten chapters, each chapter focusing on debunking one myth. I have taken the liberty to translate the list into design parlance:

  • Myth 1: Good Design is the Result of a Single Moment of Inspiration or Epiphany
  • Myth 2: Winning Designs Are Immediately Obvious
  • Myth 3: There is One Single Method to Get to Good Design
  • Myth 4: People Love New Designs
  • Myth 5: The Designer Works Alone
  • Myth 6: Good Design Ideas Are Hard to Find
  • Myth 7: Your Boss Knows More About Design Than You Do.
    (probably not, but he can create an environment where it is safe for you to innovate)
  • Myth 8: Problem Statements Do Not Matter
    (they do, phrasing the problem correctly can give you half the solution)
  • Myth 9: The Best Design Always Wins
    (no, the design that is optimum for a given situation and time - wins)
  • Myth 10: New Designs are Always Good

I can see myself reaching for this book when I want to use a quote or anecdote to make a point, but I can also see myself using this book to analyze the "innovation trajectory" of projects that I'm involved with. My favorite quote from the book is, "An idea is not an innovation 'till it reaches people."

Entertaining and informative, I would highly recommend this book to anyone involved in, or nearby, a design project.

Monday Oct 08, 2007

User Research at Innovation@Sun

Nalini Kotamraju is a user researcher in xDesign, and a PhD in Sociology. She has a penchant for research methods and telling it exactly like it is.

Jen McGinn and I recently had the honor of giving a talk about user research at Innovation@Sun, a gathering of Sun's top engineering talent. This illustrious group count among their ranks people who are pioneers in Java (of course), but also in computer graphics, routing security, cryptography, and large-scale distributed computing. Many great technical brains, many patents in pockets. An intimidating group, by most measures.

Jen was presenting (I was back-up) about user research that we had done last year for an organization in Sun. The research findings themselves are terrific and already being applied within Sun. What we wanted to share with this audience was the innovative way in which we conducted the research, and to remind the audience of the importance of understanding the people who are ultimately often the end-users of technical innovations.

One might imagine that such an audience, gathered to exchange information about advances and challenges in the realm of engineering might be -- at best, apathetic -- to a presentation about users and user research. Or at least I had imagined such a response from the audience. Instead, I found that many of the people who stopped by during the poster session or who asked a question after the talk were not only receptive, but were even enthusiastic about user research. In the formal settings, as well as over meals and in hallways, these engineers asked questions about how we think about understanding users and, more often than not, wanted to know how they could utilize user research in their own work for Sun.


xDesign is a software user experience design group at Sun.
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