Sunday, 11 April 2010

Opera portal needs work

I really like Opera as a web browser. Many really good features for my usage over Firefox.  I set up a whole pile of RSS feeds onto Opera Portal. Mistake. Don't do it. The sync between machines didn't work.  Opera have now lost my feeds. I have no idea how I was supposed to have made a backup. Life in the favela (Bruce Sterling).

Saturday, 30 January 2010

"Working through Screens" available as a book

"Working through Screens" is a remarkable achievement.  Jacob Burghardt of Flashbulb Interaction has produced clear, elegant material that supports the difficult bits of designing user interaction.  I haven't seen anything that even tries to cover the same topic.  In addition to being available as a .pdf download, it is available as a Lulu book.  Do have a look and buy the book. Well worth the investment.

Customer management and safety

I like travelling KLM. The staff are really  great, and Schiphol is a very successful hub. 

My KLM flight last night got me to Glasgow an hour late, causing considerable inconvenience. That, however, is not the point of this post.

Schiphol was busy (Friday evening, no surprise) and freezing. There was a queue for the de-icing machine. 

The pilot told us that the delay for the de-icing was 22 minutes, and we had taken on extra fuel to go faster, and that ATC would allow us to take a shorter route.  From a customer experience point of view, misleading people and not keeping them informed is indeed a bad thing to do. It would have been so much better for him to have said "Very sorry. We will be an hour late. If you need to make a mobile phone call to tell people please do it now. I will tell you when to turn off your mobile phones". However, this post is about communications, and not the usual bleat about not being told what is going on and how inconvenient that is.

My anger at the inconvenience to my wife (and my consequent embarrassment) led me to consider this from a Crew Resource Management (CRM) point of view. 

The pilot:

  • Did not challenge the information given by the ground crew (he must have  known it was wildly optimistic);
  • Did not make realistic plans, and counted on 'something turning up';
  • Did not keep people informed.

This is what you are trained to NOT do in CRM.  What makes him think he will be able to drop these bad habits when he is under stress? Why not practice the right approach all the time? Good for business, good for safety. Poor communications with passengers appears in far too many transport-related incident reports.  London Underground seem to have made a real commitment to improving passenger communications. The recent Eurotunnel breakdown problems are an example of poor communications.

If you want more background on why this matters, try googling KLM, crew resource management, Tenerife.

Are we always doomed to second-rate software?

Technical excellence and commercial success have always seemed to be negatively correlated in software, whether it was Algol/Fortran, Pascal/C, Interlisp/C++, and endless other examples. After a forced computer update, this still seems to be true.

Good news for Mozilla, I suspect. 

Opera is now miles ahead of Firefox in terms of Quality In Use, but miles behind in market share.  Thunderbird is claimed as the latest, biggest, best thing for email clients, but it is actually amateur hour compared to Outlook (which is hanging on with established corporates).

Apple seems to be the bright exception, and has also provided a sensible market for frustrated open source coders, but I cannot  bring myself to trust them with any of my IPR (generated or bought) because they are so predatory.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Google, China, Innovation and Western Corporations

James Fallows has some terrific posts on the Google-China issue.  One has a comment from a reader that gives a remarkable perspective on the history of innovation. I hope they don't mind me sharing it.

"Analogously, in the information revolution following the introduction of the printing press, censorship in Catholic countries (especially Spain) had a similar "non-effect" initially because there was an active black market in banned books. However, in less than 50 years, in the Protestant countries, where the press was not controlled, people of the crafts-producing class were able to become literate and change the way they produced goods. Over time this new way of producing goods became capitalism.

"In Spain, Italy, Portugal and to lesser extent France people of the crafts-producing class did not become literate. They continued producing goods in the same way as they had in the past. Soon they were out competed by Holland and then England where better goods were produced more cheaply. Over time this had a profound economic impact on the wealth and power of the various countries.

"Innovation by the "out group" based on access to the benefits of the new information technology that creates new sources of wealth and power. I would conclude, therefore, that China, having made Spain's decision to control information, is now out of the running for world leadership."

My question is this.  What do Western corporations think they are doing when they impose China-like restrictions on their employees? They are killing the use of information technology and innovation.  The corporate firewall is an effective form of deathwish. Will they learn from the Google  fight with China? What fight?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

User Feedback Device - the Form Response Form

The Document Design Center seems to have disappeared, which is a great shame. In one of their 'Simply Stated' newsletters, they had a Form Response Form, which may well be of use to people today. Enjoy.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Behavioural economics applied to health and safety

The HSE has published a report authored by University of Liverpool and MBS on behavioural economics.

This is very welcome; the view of 'human error' in the safety community has been very limited, and this research may bring about a wider view of error. There is quite a sizeable collection of literature.

Surprising omissions include James Montier and Michael Mauboussin. Being academics, they do not seem to have a good handle on the range of decisions that affect safety (workplace = overalls + people not as bright as us), and the recommendations are the inevitable ones for more research rather than application.

Despite these limitations, it is an extremely welcome publication.

Friday, 1 January 2010