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Help me write a Teacher’s Guide?

June 9th, 2014 15 comments

Do you use Don’t Make Me Think in a course that you teach?

I could use your help.

One of the biggest surprises I’ve had since I wrote it has been the amount of email I’ve received from two groups:

  • Teachers who have been assigning it, and
  • Students who have read it.

Honestly, I never in a million years would have thought that it might end up being used in classrooms, so it was a very pleasant surprise. And I felt glad that I wasn’t responsible for subjecting people to one of the big fat books I had to wade through as a student. Score one more for short books.

My publisher has always wanted me to create a teacher’s guide, and frankly I’ve always resisted because, well, it involves writing. But now that the new edition (Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited) is out and I’ve almost caught my breath, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and start working on one.

So if you’re a teacher who’s used it in a course, I’d love to hear from you.

I have some ideas of my own, but I’m sure people have come up with great assignments, projects, discussion topics…even quiz questions, and I’d really like to include some of them. Please email your syllabus (or a link to it) or anything you’re willing to share to skrug@sensible.com. Feel free to include some brief thoughts about what (if anything) you’ve found valuable in teacher’s guides.

Thanks!

P.S. If you’ve been using Rocket Surgery Made Easy, I’d love to hear from you about that, too, even though I’m only working on the guide for Think right now.

Categories: Other

Anyone going to U[X]PA?

July 6th, 2013 5 comments

UXPA conferenceI’m looking forward—as usual—to the annual Usability Professionals’ Association conference next week in DC.

Oh, sorry. The User Experience Professionals’ Association conference next week in DC. (I’m still not entirely used to the name change.)

I’ve always told anyone who’s interested in usability that they should try to get to this conference if they can, because unlike some professional conferences, the sessions tend to be much more practical than academic. Most of the presenters are practitioners who are eager to share their experience, so it’s always interesting and very often useful.

But I realized last year that there’s another reason why I always enjoy the conference so much.

During the awards dinner (it’s an association; there has to be an awards dinner), I looked around the room and suddenly thought, “Boy, these are very nice people.” Obviously, I don’t know most of them personally, but over the years I’ve met a lot of them, and they tend to be—on average—a lot more decent and friendly than the general population.

I only had to think about it for a minute to understand why. Usability is basically a user advocate job. We try to make life easier for people by empathizing with them as they struggle to use technology. In fact, empathy is probably pretty much a prerequisite for a career in usability. So naturally, they tend to be nice to be around.

So do yourself a favor and attend a Usability/User Experience Professionals Association event, national or local.

And do me  favor: If you’re at the conference next week and see me wandering around, please come up and say Hi. Getting a chance to talk to a lot of people is always one of the nicest things about the week. (And in case you were wondering, I love signing copies of my books, too.)

Categories: Other

My new favorite tool

September 11th, 2012 11 comments

I don’t know about you, but even though I enjoy watching some videos online, I almost always find them to be   t o o    s   l   o   w.

I don’t mind if a film noir from the 40’s drags when I’m watching it on TV; that’s part of the fun. But most webinars (frankly), and even things like TED talks (although I know it’s heresy to say it aloud) can seem to go on forever.

And as soon as my attention starts to wander, I start kidding myself that I can actually multitask, which amounts to a) opening up my inbox and working through some of the email languishing there while I half-listen, and b) gradually losing the thread of what the speaker is saying, which makes it seem even more boring. Eventually, I just close the video.

One problem is the inherent difference between print and video: You can skim print. In fact, we do it all the time. We’re constantly adjusting our pace, all the way from “just glancing at the headings” to “rereading the same sentence until we finally understand it”, with dozens of gradations in between. This flexibility lets us skip over (or at least breeze through) the parts that just aren’t of much interest or value to us.

Granted, the system isn’t perfect. We’re not always the best judges of what we need to pay attention to. And it can often lead to skipping over the harder stuff (the parts we don’t understand), which may be exactly what we do need to read carefully. But for the most part, it’s very effective and efficient. (Personally, I instantly skim past any description of a landscape in a novel. I can’t picture them well in my head, so they add nothing to the experience. If I couldn’t skip them, there are many books I’m sure I wouldn’t have read.)

Which brings me to my tool tip.

Many years ago (perhaps 20), I sometimes found myself watching videos of usability tests that someone else had conducted. As much as I love usability testing, watching a batch of prerecorded tests can be, quite honestly, like watching paint dry. The first few can be fascinating, but after that….

So I went looking and found myself a VCR (Video Cassette Recorder, for those of you under 25) that had variable speed playback WITH AUDIO. Almost every VCR could vary the playback speed somewhat, but 99 percent of them muted the audiowhen you did it. This one played the audio and  adjusted the pitch proportionally so you didn’t get the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” effect.

A few years ago, while again watching some usability test recordings online, I started hankering for the same functionality. In fact, I suggested to the folks at UserTesting.com that they add it as a feature. (I had suggested it to some other vendors in the past, but they just nodded their heads and pretended to be making a note about it.) I figured by now somebody must have solved the problem, so I went looking around online, and sure enough, I found just what I wanted.

It’s a tool called MySpeed from enounce.com.

For $29.99 (Windows or Mac), you can use it to speed up or slow down online Flash and HTML5 (FLV and MV4) video. (There’s also a premium version that works with offline files, but it costs more.)

My experience: There’s hardly any informational video that can’t be improved by watching it at 1.4x normal speed. And many can be watched happily at 2x, depending on the content and the speaker’s style. And if you miss anything, you can easily rewind a little and switch (with hotkeys) to normal speed. It can be very satisfying to watch a video in half the time.

There are some caveats, of course: Some sites, like Ted.com, stream video just fast enough to be played at normal speed, so if you play it faster it will keep pausing to refill the buffer. But Enounce has a free trial version. Check it out. Or let me know if you know of a better one.

BTW, UserTesting.com did recently implement it as a feature for the benefit of people watching test videos, and they did a very nice job of it.

Categories: Other

Seeking 2br rvr view: must seat 45

October 28th, 2011 5 comments

Help!

We (Lou Rosenfeld and I) want to bring our workshops to New York in the Spring, and we’re looking for a nice place to hold them.

A workshop venueHave you attended a talk/seminar/conference somewhere in the Big Apple recently? 

We’re looking for a room that seats about 45 people, with some tables for PCs. It has to be something we could rent for two or three consecutive days, from 8 to 5.

And, of course, a decent screen and PC projector. And wi-fi. Lots of wi-fi.

We’re not looking for a hotel conference room. We actually *like* funky spaces (we’ve done science museums, a silent movie theater, and even a zoo in the past), as long as they’re clean and comfortable.

If you know of anything, please either add a comment here or send me email: skrug@sensible.com.

Thanks!

Categories: Other