How Not to Do it

The following is a reference to workplace related design but you can see how it has implications to any design effort, particularly when we want to enable a good user experience.

In a classic narrative Mark S Sanders and late Ernest J McCormick, Human Factors Psychologist and Industrial Psychologist respectively, recall one of their conversations with a few engineers regarding nuclear power plant displays’ console design. One of the authors, as a consultant, met with two engineers to discuss the console. Additional background to the following conversation was that there was a scale drawing of a preliminary design with no mock-up (and no intent to create one either). “The consultant asked the engineers to ‘walk him through’ the console so he could become familiar.”

Here is the verbatim of the conversation Sanders and McCormick (1993) wrote in their book:

Engineers: These are the six XYZ concentrate indicators.

Consultant: What is the operator’s task here? Does the operator have to read a specific value, compare values between indicators, or use these indicators while manipulating controls?

Engineers: We really don’t know – that is Operations’ responsibility. We will see that someone from Operations come in later to answer your questions.

[The Operations office was 25 miles from the office where the preliminary design was developed. And I believe there was no Internet, leave alone the Lync, at that time.]

Engineers: Let’s continue. This is a digital readout that directs the operator’s sequence of actions.

Consultant: How does the operator use that? What displays and controls are referred to by the readout? How much time does the operator have to respond to the display?

Engineers: We really don’t know – that is Operations’ responsibility.

Consultant (now becoming a little irritated): Exactly what did the two of you have to do with this console anyway?

Engineers: We designed it! Each of us started at a different end, and we laid out the displays going across. We then compared the layouts and selected the parts from each we liked the best.

Consultant: I think this would be a good time for a coffee break.

Reference:

Sanders, M.S., & McCormick E J (1993). Human Factors in Engineering and Design (7th ed.). McGraw-Hill, Inc.

The Importance of Literacy

All the literates certainly know that literacy is a very important aspect of human life. It denotes a certain basic level of knowledge with potential for acquiring more knowledge for the general benefit to human kind. It does not mean that someone who is illiterate is not knowledgeable. Often times, the so called illiterates tend to have more practical knowledge than their literate counterparts in certain areas of human endeavor.

Worldwide there has been progress in the literacy rates. Take the example of India which had negligible literacy rate at the time of British withdrawal of their illegal occupation of the Indian sub-continent in the late 1940s. The Indian literacy rate is now deemed to be around 75% although a recent report published in Times of India emphasizes that despite the increase in the rate, there are far more illiterates than literates when compared to the decade of 2000 to the current year. Of course, one must look at this discrepancy from the stand point of India’s enormous population which is touted to overtake that of China’s not far from now.

It is a shame that countries that have enormous resources and a very knowledgeable education base cannot bring up the literacy rates to near 100%. The state of Kerala in India has achieved that. Why not the rest of the country and other countries as well?

A factor that for centuries thwarted the growth of literacy among certain countries’ populace is simply this. Child labor either through family “enterprise” or other small businesses. It is good to see that is changing with the introduction of strong child labor laws but there is a long way to go.

Let Former Felons Vote – We Are a Democracy, Aren’t We?

In recent news heard of restoration of voting rights to former felons in Virginia. The state’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, was instrumental in doing this. This is indeed laudable. When a convicted felon has served the society through incarceration or whatever penalties imposed on them and completed the punishment, it is time to let them be able to vote. Otherwise, democracy has no meaning.

I heard of some folks opposed to the governor, referred the action to taking political advantage for potentially helping Hillary Clinton (the democratic presidential candidate – still campaigning in the primary at the time of this opinion). This is absurd! After all, the former felons could be of any political leaning, democratic or republican or for that matter, independent. Just because their voting rights are restored doesn’t mean they would vote for a candidate that the governor supports. It is a stupid argument, to say the least, to think otherwise.

I did a little review of the state of the different states’ position on this issue. A lot of gaps to fill. I hope the other states will follow suit and adopt governor McAuliffe’s position.

A CBS News Report on Wounded Warrior Project

Watched a report on CBS News yesterday that highlighted the excess spending by the Wounded Warrior Project. The gist I got from the report is this: The Wounded Warrior Project which is a charity for wounded veterans was wasting a lot of the donation money for meetings at luxury hotels etc. An Iraq veteran clearly criticized the charity while another, who is a spokesperson, defended it. However, the latter could not answer a simple question by a reporter on why so much spending happened.

I also watched a report by Sharyl Attkisson in the ABC channel about the “uncharitably” huge salaries that the CEOs of charitable foundations take home. It’s high time that the authorities who regulate the criteria for non-profit status given to these charitable entities take a serious look at them and either force them to change their mode of operations or close them down. I have given some money (not much) to the KIND fund and I have complete confidence in their ability to provide their target folks what they said they would do with the funds that they get. But it looks like not all can be trust worthy, for example, the Wounded Warrior Project if what is reported in the news is proven to be true.

Mammoth Finding at Reser Stadium in OSU

Just in news yesterday that construction workers at the Oregon State University (OSU) sports stadium, called Reser, found mammoth bones believed to be at least 10,000 years old. They also found bones belonging to other extinct animals. That is great! However, I am wondering how come these were not discovered when they were originally building the stadium. How could they have missed then?

Of course, the construction workers are not experts in archaeological or anthropological findings. They could have easily missed then or never dug at the place that was dug now. I have been visiting OSU for the past 4 years for my kids. Seen a lot of construction with some new buildings popping up.

Regarding the Reser stadium construction work (it is actually an extension of an existing stadium), I would have thought, “come on, do you really need all that construction to extend an already existing and great looking stadium?”. But now I think that was worth it given the mammoth discovery. Hope some good research would go into this at OSU.