Meet Google’s search anthropologist [SF Chron] – While the article still has a bit of the wow-technology-companies-use-social-science-to-watch-people-use-stuff wide-eyedness we see in every popular press piece, I was intrigued by the nice exploration of the gulf between what some people reveal they need and what design changes make it into the product. It’s not a one-to-one match and the article speaks to that reasonably well.
Google has hundreds of millions of users, each with different needs, working styles and levels of search competence. Every change for one subset – like those who occasionally use advanced search – comes at a cost for others – like the vast majority of people who never use it and don’t want it cluttering up the main page. Striking the right balance for the greater good requires listening to the data – and, of course, to the users themselves. “That particular interview didn’t finish off the painting,” Russell said. “But every interview helps fill in a little bit more of the canvas.”
Why Storytellers Lie [The Atlantic] – “Lie” is a perfect headline-grabbing word and it probably pays to read the piece with a less judgmental take on what people tell us. There are many situations that are lies but in research it’s our job to seek a number of possible truths and understand why what we hear may not always be the same as what we identify as true.
Sinister as that may sound, therapy likely helps many of us feel better at least in part because it encourages us to become less truthful autobiographers. As studies have shown, depressives tend to have more realistic—and less inflated—perceptions of their importance, abilities, and power in the world than others. So those of us who benefit from therapy may like it in large part because it helps us to do what others can do more naturally: to see ourselves as heroes; to write (and re-write) the stories of our lives in ways that cast us in the best possible light; to believe that we have grown from helpless orphans or outcasts to warriors in control of our fate…We should remember how much we all have a tendency to fictionalize, whether we realize it or not. We like stories because, as Gotschall puts it, we are “addicted to meaning”—and meaning is not always the same as the truth.
Clickers Offer Instant Interactions in More Venues [NYT] – This continues to be an almost-trend; the desire/opportunity/ability to “like” stuff IRL (“in real life”) the way we do on Facebook (see a previous example here).
The delighted shouts from middle-schoolers and seniors alike suggest that neither group is accustomed to having its opinions solicited. But with a clicker, “suddenly their voices are important,” said Professor James Katz, the director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers. “If people feel their opinions really count, they’ll be happy and likely to give more opinions.” The dynamic of social comparison — understanding where you stand relative to your tribe — is also a draw. Clicker software satisfies that curiosity by immediately displaying a bar graph of responses in the room. “This is a new form of transparency for crowd psychology,” he said. He added some cautions about using clickers, also called audience response systems. In a society in which checking the crowd’s opinion becomes the norm, Professor Katz said, taking risks or relying on one’s instincts may be devalued. “Those who want to strike out in new directions and challenge the sentiments of a crowd, like artists and writers, have an additional burden with this technology because they can know that no one takes comfort in their vision,” he said. “There goes the Great American Novel.”
The Wizard of Oz Focus Group – Footage from an early focus group for The Wizard of Oz. ‘Nuff said.
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What Makes People Share Information? [Mozilla UX] – The Mozilla UX team is doing a nice job at sharing their inquiries, their methods, their artifacts and their thinking behind all of ‘em.
We’re starting another research study this week. We’re interviewing 8 users in their homes, for 90 minutes each, to understand how people define their online life. It’s purposely broad as we’re trying to learn more about how people discover and organize websites from both online and offline sources. It wouldn’t be a successful interview without some artifacts to help us collect this data, so we came up with a two fun activities – the timeline and “me in the middle”. At the beginning we’ll start with a simple timeline and have the participants walk us through their yesterday – what they did, where they where and we’ll prompt for what tools and devices they used – but that is just a way to get all the raw data on paper quickly. What we are really after is their stories.