Jon Udell and Mary Czerwinski on interruptions, context reacquisition, and spatial/temporal memory

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My guest for today's episode is Mary Czerwinski, a research area manager at Microsoft Research. Our conversation begins with a reference to the search strategy I used to recall Mary's name, which I'd seen in a SeattlePI.com story about a workshop on attention and interruptions that was held last month on the Microsoft campus.

Mary focuses especially on adaptive user interfaces that leverage our spatial and temporal memories. One of her projects, for example, presents thumbnail views of source code so you can see everything at a glance. Another project, called FASTDash, which was featured on Channel 9 last fall, enables a team to have ambient awareness of what's going on with a code base.

We also discussed how teams at Microsoft Research create prototypes, instrument them, log interaction data, and then analyze that data. This process supported the development of new user-interface techniques such as the Office 2007 ribbon. Going forward, it will support new "context reacquisition" initiatives that aim to help us recover more gracefully from interruptions.

Finally we discussed the January workshop's conclusions about the technical, social, and educational dimensions of the "infomania" crisis that it was chartered to explore.

All in all it was a fascinating conversation that is perhaps best summed up by Mary's motto: "AI (artificial intelligence) and HCI (human-computer interaction): Better together."

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