2007 Predictions

 Why would any of us risk ridicule by predicting trends? Because we’ve
shrunk the future. The velocity of change has accelerated in the last
decade, and there’s no sign it will slow anytime soon. So let’s forgo
a long, thoughtful look into the deep future; it’s sufficient now
merely to have a good sense of what’s around the corner.

 1. Start with the ascent of China and India, now collectively
referred to as Chindia. Smart, cheap labor has made these two
countries, Himalayan cousins if you will, the offshore suppliers of
choice for the U.S. computer industry. But that’s yesterday’s news.
Today’s headlines reveal an educated class of professionals who no
longer dream of snagging jobs abroad. Today they’re asking: Instead of
making chips and assembling computers, why not create and manufacture
high-end products? Why build prosperity for others when it’s possible
to do it for yourself—and, in the process, turn the U.S. into the Old
World? Yes, we’ll still see these countries churning out fake Polo
shirts, but increasingly we’ll also see India and China rocketing up
to challenge Japan and South Korea.

 2. Move on to the globalization of everything. Once, we may have
taken globalization to mean that the world would be America’s factory
and marketplace. Now it’s clear that, to borrow Thomas Friedman’s
phrase, the world is flat. Instant access to the Internet around the
globe means it doesn’t matter where you live. All that’s important
now: what you know and how you can contribute.

 3. And it turns out that just about everyone wants to weigh in,
whether the topic is culture, politics, fads or celebrity follies.
This universalizes every news flash—let a big name stumble, and the
entire world hits the keyboards to talk about it.

 4. Time is becoming the enemy. “How do you know you’re in New York?”
asks the sign at the copy shop. The answer: “Everyone needs it right
now.” So much to do, so little time—to the extent that time has become
more precious even than money, which has no inherent limit to its
supply. Paradoxically, we lose more time whenever we accessorize with
another handheld communications device designed to make our lives

 5. Life is good if you’re a brand. Better get busy if you’re not,
because branding is no longer just for businesses. As an individual,
you’re a cipher; as a brand, you’re instantly recognizable and
respected. For what? For successfully branding yourself, of course!
It’s the ultimate interpersonal shorthand. You may never need to
explain what you “do” again.

 6. There are no boundaries or straight lines today—just a blur.
Nothing’s in sharp focus. Plastic surgery renders age meaningless; men
use as many cosmetics as women; “reality TV” is cast as carefully as
dramas; and product placement makes programming look like advertising.
And it’s all served up so professionally, you can’t get a fix on
anything. From now on, we’ll put quotation marks around “reality.”

 7. Antisocial is the new normal. People on the street wear their iPod
earbuds, or maybe they’re Bluetooth-enabled. Either way, they’re in
their own private bubbles—turning public space into private. Who are
their role models? On TV, they are House, the nastiest doctor in
television history, and Entourage’s seething agent, Ari Gold. Clearly,
the new message is “Do not disturb.”

 8. We want real food. TV ads for foods laden with fats and chemicals
used to amuse us; now they’re repulsive. We’ve elevated chefs to
celebrities, turned cooking into an admired hobby and gone back to the
past for edible inspiration. In a time of high-tech factory farming on
one hand and all types of food randomly labeled “organic” on the
other, the only word that rings true for us now is “authentic.”

 9. We are steadily redefining family. The Ozzie and Harriet family of
married mom and dad, two kids and no live-in grandparents may have
reflected 1950s America but has long since ceased to be a demographic
reality. Today’s families are defined only by affection, and they’re
as individual as the people who create them: extended, single-parent,
gay and unmarried couples with kids. Pets? Friends? Who says they’re
not family?

 10. We just might be coming around to the hard truth that global
warming is no myth. Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science
studies at the University of California, San Diego, got tired of
hearing claims that “most” scientists disagree with the notion of
global warming, so she read every piece of science written on the
topic—and not one scientist called it merely a theory. Ever since
Hurricane Katrina, it’s become harder for skeptics to win converts.

 Taken together, these trends suggest a world of paradox: convulsive
economic changes in the global economy, more struggle for control and
consistency in our private lives. We’ll be enclosed in our bubbles
during leisure hours, in battle mode during the workday. Can these be
integrated? Not likely. If there were a final trend, it would be that
it’s extremely unpopular to look at the big picture.


What did we learn this year?

  • Legibility for low-vision users is improved by using wider characters
    with extended spacing. Of the standard fonts, Times New Roman is the
    best option for users with low vision. (Arditi, 2004)
  • Narrative
    presentation enhances comprehension and memory. Narrative
    advertisements produce more positive attitude about the brand and a
    higher incidence of intent to purchase. (Escalas, 2004)
  • The earlier in the decision process a product is recommended, the more
    likely it is that users will choose that product. Surprisingly, use of
    a negative tone increased the chances that the recommendation would be
    considered. (Ho and Tam, 2005)
  • The elements of content, navigation, interaction, and presentation all
    seem to play a role in determining a site’s trustworthiness.
    (Corritore, et al., 2003; Sillence, et al., 2004)
  • The organizational structure (grouping and schema) has oft been touted
    as the key to good Web site design. To the contrary, the Resnick and
    Sanchez study indicates that generating high quality labels is more
    critical. First concentrate on creating user-centered labels; then
    focus on the structure of the site. (Resnick and Sanchez, 2004)
  • Avoid simultaneous audio playback of onscreen text when designing
    multimedia instruction. You should only present text and audio
    concurrently if their content is different. The exception: use of
    auditory files for users with visual impairment. (Kalyuga, Chandler and
    Sweller, 2004)
  • Screen vs. Print: 100 characters per line seems to be the optimal
    length for on-screen reading speed; however, there’s a mismatch between
    subjective measures and objective performance. Although longer line
    lengths are read faster, people prefer a more moderate length. Also, a
    single, wide column is read faster, but users prefer multiple narrow
    columns. (Dyson, 2004)
  • Black text on white background is the combination users prefer, and the
    one they rate as most “professional”; however, if you use other color
    combinations, users will remember what they read just as well. (Hall
    and Hanna, 2004)
  • E-mailed surveys are cheaper and have the same response rates as postal
    mailed surveys when proper motivating tools, such as advance-notice
    postcards, are used. (Kaplowitz. Hadlock, and Levine, 2004)
  • GUI vs. Web – In general, visual layout guidelines for GUIs also
    apply to the Web, but there are differences to be aware of. For
    example, dense pages with lots of links take longer to scan for both
    GUI and Web; however, alignment may not be as critical for Web pages as
    previously thought. (Parush, Shwarts, Shtub, and Chandra, 2005)
  • In 2001, Bernard found that prior user experience with Web sites
    dictated where they expected common Web page elements to appear on a
    page. The same still holds true today: Users have clear expectations
    about where to find the things they want (search and back-to-home
    links) as well as the things they want to avoid (advertising). (Shaihk
    and Lenz, 2006)

iger Goes on Camera-Crushing Spree

14 Desember 2006

Hollywood starlets have nothing on a camera-averse young tiger in Riau
Central Sumatra that recently went on a 10-day spree of destruction
that left three of WWF’s camera traps in pieces in the jungle. In each
case, the film inside was spared and revealed that the same culprit was
responsible for all three incidents.

glimpse of the tiger responsible for destroying the WWF camera traps in
Sumatra’s Kerumutan Wildlife Reserve. © WWF-Indonesia/ Tesso Nilo
program, 2006

Infrared-triggered camera traps take photos of animals moving past that
trigger their temperature-sensitive sensors and are used to gather
photographs of wildlife and identify tigers in an area. In less than 10
days, a far-ranging tiger attacked and destroyed three of the cameras
WWF had stationed in the jungle 12 kilometers apart as the crow flies.

“Fortunately, the photographic evidence survived,” said Sunarto,
lead tiger researcher for WWF in the central Sumatran province of Riau,
Indonesia. “We developed the film and were able to identify the same
individual in each case – a young tiger that clearly doesn’t like
having his picture taken. The flash from the camera apparently set him
off each time he passed by a camera and he walked over to it and ripped
it to pieces with his teeth.”

photographic evidence survived, showing the same individual of tiger
responsible for destroying the camera. © WWF-Indonesia/ Tesso Nilo
program, 2006

Each tiger’s stripe pattern is unique, so photos from camera traps
allow WWF scientists to identify individuals in the jungle and help
determine an accurate population estimate. The film in all three
incidents revealed a tiger with the same stripe pattern.

“We’ve had camera traps destroyed before by tigers and other
wildlife and we’ve had camera traps stolen by illegal loggers and
poachers,” Sunarto said. “But this is the first time we’ve been able to
identify a culprit. Subadult tigers are highly curious and adventurous.
I’ve warned our team to be careful working in this area with such a
tiger around.”

The series of attacks took place in the Tesso Nilo-Bukit Tigapuluh
Conservation Landscape, inside the Kerumutan Wildlife Reserve, which is
surrounded by land about to be cleared by pulp and paper companies.
Conducting research in the remote area is difficult and WWF’s tiger
teams spent weeks trekking deep into the interior of the reserve to set
up the camera traps.

One of three camera traps destroyed by the tiger. © WWF-Indonesia/Tesso Nilo Program, 2006

“In our interviews with communities and local authorities, only a few
people said they had ever seen signs of tigers in Kerumutan,” said
Cobar Hutajulu, a member of WWF’s tiger team in Riau. “But these photos
are evidence of healthy tigers in the area. Unfortunately, we also
found a lot of evidence of illegal logging in the area.”

Central Sumatra’s tiger and elephant habitat has declined
drastically in the past two decades, with many animals now isolated
from each other in small pockets of forest. WWF is working to stop
further clearing of natural forest in the area and to reconnect
isolated fragments of habitat via wooded wildlife corridors.

There are estimated to be fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.

** By Nur Anam, Tiger Communications Officer, WWF-Indonesia


Benefits of Progressive Disclosure

Hypertext provides a simple implementation of progressive disclosure:
higher-level pages contain higher-level concepts and simplified
descriptions, and lower-level pages fill in the details for those users
who want to know everything.

In a system designed
with progressive disclosure, the very fact that something appears on
the initial display tells users that it’s important.

For novice users, this helps prioritize their
attention so that they only spend time on features that are most likely
to be useful to them. By hiding the advanced settings, progressive
disclosure helps novice users avoid mistakes and saves them the time
they would have spent contemplating features that they don’t need.

For advanced users, the smaller initial
display also saves them time because they avoid having to scan past a
large list of features they rarely use.

Progressive disclosure thus improves three of usability’s five components: learnability, efficiency of use, and error rate.

You might assume that by initially focusing users’ attention on
a few core features, they might build a limiting mental model of the
system and thus be unable to understand all of their options. Research says that these are groundless worries: people understand a system better when you help them prioritize features and spend more time on the most important ones.


How to Build a User Community, Part 1


Most user communities take a typical path–the newbies ask questions, and a select group of more advanced users answer
them. But that’s a slow path to building the community, and it leaves a
huge gaping hole in the middle where most users drop out. If we want to
keep beginning and intermediate users more engaged (and increase the
pool of question answerers), we need them to shift from asker
to answerer much earlier in their learning curve. But that leaves two
big questions… 1) How do we motivate them? 2) How do we keep them
from giving lame answers?

Actually, this isn’t the biggest problem with most user
communities. The real deal-killer is when a new or beginning user asks
a “dumb” question. Most supportive, thriving user communities have a
culture that encourages users to ask questions, usually through
brute-force moderation with a low-to-no-tolerance policy on ridiculing
a question. In other words, by forcing participants to “be reasonably
nice to newbies”, beginners feel safe posing questions without having
to start each one with, “I know this is probably a dumb question,

It was precisely that idea that led to the original javaranch… in
1997, the newsgroup was just too nasty a place to ask
questions. Even if you were brave enough to ask an obviously stupid one, the slamming you got was enough to make it your last. And without users asking questions, the community evaporates.

But most user communities–especially the new ones–aren’t hurting for people asking
for help, they’re in desperate need of people willing to help the
newbies. And one of the quickest ways to keep a user community from
emerging is when questions go unanswered. So the real problem is getting people to answer questions.

Encouraging a “There Are No Dumb Questions” culture is only part of the solution. What we really need is a “There are No Dumb Answers” policy.

The best way to grow a user community is to get even the beginners
to start answering questions. The more they become involved, the more
likely they are to stick with it through the rough spots in their own
learning curve, and we all know that having to teach or explain
something to another person accelerates our own understanding and memory of the topic. The problem, of course, is that the beginners are… beginners.
So, here are a few tips used by javaranch, one of the most successful
user communities on the planet (3/4 million unique visitors each MONTH):

1) Encourage newer users–especially those who’ve been active askers–to start trying to answer questions
One way to help is by making sure that the moderators are not always
the Ones Who Know All. Sometimes you have to hold back the experts to
give others a chance to step in and give it a try.

2) Give tips on how to answer questions
Post articles and tips on how to answer questions, which also helps
people learn to communicate better. You can include tips on how to
write articles, teach a tough topic, etc.

3) Tell them it’s OK to guess a little, as long as they ADMIT they’re guessing

4) Adopt a near-zero-tolerance “Be Nice” policy when people answer questions
Don’t allow other participants (especially the more advanced users) to
slam anyone’s answer. A lot of technical forums especially are
extremely harsh, and have a culture where the regulars say things like,
“If you think that, you have no business answering a question. In fact,
you have no business even DREAMING about being a programmer. Better
keep your paper hat day job, loser.”

5) Teach and encourage the more advanced users (including moderators) how to correct a wrong answer while maintaining the original answerer’s dignity.
And again, zero-tolerance for a**holes. All it takes is one jerk to stop someone from ever trying it again.

6) Re-examine your reward/levels strategy for your community
Is there a clear way for new users to move up the ranks? Are there achievable, meaningful “levels”?