Spotlight on PPIGers

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David Gilmore

As an old and original PPIGer I thought I'd update people on my activities.

I am now the senior HF specialist at IDEO Palo Alto, worrying a lot about the user-centered design of numerous internet related products. I worked on 3COM's now-departed Audrey and a number of other internet-enabled keyboards, picture frames and entertainment devices - all involving detailed visits to people's homes and offices to understand their needs, goals and motivations.

As I write this I am in Helsinki about to spend 3 days visiting homes and offices here to understand a different cultural perspective on the internet and wireless technologies - for a client determined to provide a user-centered internet experience, rather than just a product catalogue.

Besides the high-tech angle I have also been working recently on the design of kitchen tools, office chairs and innovation in products for your pet (well mainly dogs in fact!).

Although the work of a user-centered design consultancy doesn't really include programming, I've been struck many times by the striking difference between hardware and software product development.

In hardware development there is a very clear boundary between the activities of the industrial designer and those of the engineers (whether mechanical, electrical or manufacturing) - even though they impinge on each other they all seem to be in pretty good agreement about their territories. Most importantly there is fairly standard agreement between them and clients about who has which responsibilities and what the appropriate form of deliverables should be.

However, for software no-one seems to know (or at least agree) where the boundary lies between interaction design and software engineering - a problem which can make life very difficult. Here there is little agreement about the right kind of design deliverable to enable software engineering to proceed.

And as one moves into the arena of web-enabled experiences .... - it seems that there is even more potential here for boundary confusion. Isn't this an area where PPIG should be contributing intelligent debate?

Alan Blackwell

"It's not really PPIG news, but since Helen and I have both attended PPIG in the past, people may be interested to know that we have just had our first child."

Congratulations to Alan! You can e-mail him at Alan.Blackwell@cl.cam.ac.uk

Terry Eden

I'm a third year student in the University of East Anglia's applied computing program. My third year project will be concentrating on HCI issues in ubiquitous computing. I'll be looking at how humans expect to be able to control ambient intelligence (think of "The Computer" in Star Trek). It ties with Europe's Disappearing Computer initiative that is described in more detail at www.cordis.lu/ist/fetdc-ob.htm.