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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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  • Its an interesting discussion on different desktops. I think that's why I haven't been impressed/needed some of the cool things in Vista, Gadgets/Sidebar, etc because I don't like anything on my desktop and 99% of the time my screens are full screen and I just alt-tab between them and go the entire day w/o seeing the desktop background. In fact sometimes I don't even change my desktop background from the default screen
  • Another great converstation. Is there a tool that is available like the one Mary mentions that shows how much time I'm spending in IE or Email or something like that for the public? I would use it to make sure I stay on task, sounds great and would love to try it.
  • RichardRudekRichardRudek So what do you expect for nothin'... :P
    An interesting podcast.

    I suspect that what I'm about to say is already understood, but the thing that bugs me about this personalisation stuff is that it does it without my permission, and typically, in a half-arsed (appendaged/simple) fashion.

    I would probably use at least some of it, if it instead collected the appropriate information (tightly integrated), and then only after it has figured out that there would be a significant improvement in my productivity, make an offer to personalise the program. The offer should provide supporting evidence, and appropriately focused solutions, much like you have would to do in the real world. eg:

    "Hey, I noticed that you keep opening and closing the object browser. You don't have any of the accessibility features enabled, and you have enough screen real estate, did you know that you can dock it so it is now accessible via a Tab ?" with options for "Show me" and "Bugger off"

    Or the opposite, "Hey, I noticed that your screen redraws are piling up because your using the Visual Studio IDE via Remote Desktop. If you unpin these panes..."

    Just like in the real world, these offers should only occur at appropriate times (scheduled ?). Naturally, this includes the ability to completely turn this stuff off. Logging and all... Wink

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