Showing posts from November, 2016

How to confuse people

At Woking Leisure Centre, people are often stopped by the turnstiles where you have to swipe your membership card. Some years ago Sarah and I wrote and presented a paper on interface design: "Profiling API usability for consumer electronics software" Its theme, as is so much that I write, was quite simple: that an interface could be judged (quantitatively, in that paper) based on simple measures of how much effort you had to put into using it. (An API is an Application Program Interface - a defined way in which software is to be structured and used.) Interestingly, on checking our paper on interface design before writing this blog, I see it has been much cited in later work, which is gratifying. We based our work on observations from Microsoft, who put a lot of effort into designing interfaces for programmers using their programming tools. That work - and ours that leveraged it - was in turn based on psychology: specifically the psychology of Cognitive Dimensions,

Accidental Inspiration

"Where did your Surrey education take you?" The heading to a University of Surrey alumni survey, aiming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the polytechnic being elevated to a University. In the days when I went there, Surrey was a 'red brick' university - the new generation of upstarts, despised and derided as 'ex polytechnics'. Now, of course, it is the next generation of polys-turned-unis that fill that slot, and Surrey is an august established institution. Where did my Surrey education take me? It seems the most common thing people say about their education is that they don't use all that stuff they had to learn. I am lucky, and perhaps unusual, in that I use what I learnt all the time - as well as using the 'learning how to learn' that I learnt, to learn afresh. I was lucky in that my career - by accident more than design - took me exactly where I would now wish to have gone: challenging, stimulating, rewarding, endlessly changing, fasc

Slowing down

I have slowed down quite a bit recently. Slow Running is about running for enjoyment, so after my marathon I decided to take it a bit easier, and from then on have sort of ticked off declining milestones - my last half marathon, my last 10 k - because for me running has never been about the challenge, but about feeling good. So having evangelised Slow Running, I slowed down. But Slow Running, like any other activity, can get into a rut. Sometimes quite literally I run in a rut - the rut dug out by my own running shoes the day before, on the same run. The Rut Run. As I have slowed down, so I find it harder to speed up. I hit my own running wall - I can't go faster, I can't run up hills as I used to. Which is funny, as hills used to be a strength of mine - I have always been slow, but I didn't used to slow down much more when running up hills - and I would recover quickly after a hill too, so my average pace was quite good even though my fastest was slow. One other sy