Usable Patterns

Scott Berkum on Innovation

An economics podcast is an unusual place for a discussion of UI design, but this conversation with Eric Raymond (The Cathedral & the Bazaar) includes the usability of open source software.

Open source development works when,

  1. Capital goods required to do the work are cheap.
  2. The limiting factor on the work is human creativity and attention.
  3. The work is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. There is an objective metric for success that everybody in the hive mind can agree on without too much effort. Without that condition you get thrashing.
  5. Zero-cost communications.

Any designer knows Item 4 is a problem: different types of users with a wide range of experience, conflicting goals, etc.  The open source community is starting to recognize that UI design requires a single vision. They are appointing “UI dictators” within each project who “get their way.” “It’s better to have a flawed individual vision than try to do it by committee.”

I have recently returned from the Agile 2008 conference in Toronto.  I had a great time, and met some great developers, as well as some people I have only known vicariously through email lists.  It was nice to actually see some of these individuals face to face.

I am making my presentation available here as a download.

This link is a PDF file, but if you want the original, please just let me know and I will get a copy to you.

Using Personas with XP at LANDesk Software, An Avocent Company

Scott Berkun has put together a small article on how to innovate right now.

He mentions that every innovator’s tool kit includes these three things:

  1. Questions
  2. Experiments
  3. Self-Reliance

Key points include:

  • Borrowing ideas from the Past – look at ways others have solved the solution before you then try variations on them
  • Ask a lot of questions
    • Why is it done this way?
    • Who started it and why?
    • What alternatives did they consider?
    • What are my or my friend’s biggest complaints about how it is now?
    • How has this been done in other locals, cultures, or throughout history?
    • What assumptions were made or constraints did they have?
    • How can I apply any of the above to what I do?
  • Try things yourself
    • There is no substitute for first hand experience when trying things
    • Don’t be afraid of risk – the bigger the innovation, the greater the risk
  • Try, Learn, and Try again
    • This could be called iterating your design
    • Remember what Edison is attributed for saying “I haven’t failed, I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work”