File under there-should-be-a-standard, Steps for finding a human on various phone systems. Some of them are pretty amazing, such as Delta, where you say ‘agent’ four times until it finally gives you an agent. This is firmly in that part of the Venn diagram where business needs fail to intersect with user needs.

Apple has introduced a new mouse which, to me, epitomizes the problems with Apple’s design culture: It looks really nice cut out on that clean white background, but the emphasis is all in the wrong place. They’ve put all their design energy into making the buttons disappear (so it will look nice cut out on that clean white background), but I can’t figure out what the advantage is to not having buttons. The site says:

“Who has time for intuitive, elegant design when there is so much clicking to do? Thanks to a smooth top shell with touch-sensitive technology beneath, Mighty Mouse allows you to right click without a right button.”
So, they’re basically saying that clicking by pressing a non-button is more intuitive than clicking by pressing a visible, tangible button. Um, am I missing something? If only they’d improve the size and shape of the damn thing we might have something. Oh, and give up on that silly “press the whole thing to click” idea. It so very much doesn’t work. Anyhow, I gotta run; I’m off to the Apple store to buy one of those cool new mice they have.

Sadly, Jef Raskin passed away a couple of days ago. More on Raskin and his recent work.

It’s about time we got speech-to-speech translators; they had ‘em on Star Trek like 40 years ago! Plus there’s a great opportunity for hackers to mess with people’s conversations from the inside.

Another gem from Scott at uiweb is his compilation of the Best of CHI-WEB and SIGIA-L, two lists that goodness knows need filtering.

I just had an interesting online experience. I wanted to sell my old digital camera. First I listed it on craigslist, which is essentially a glorified newspaper classified. Multiple people expressed interest and arranged to come see the camera but then never showed up, thereby wasting a fair amount of my time. Finally I listed it on ebay. The up-front effort of wading through the (none-too-spectacular) ebay interface was a bit onerous, but then a magical thing happened: someone won the auction (for more than I had expected) and the exchange went smoothly, camera sold.

What I find noteworthy here is that, while interaction designers often talk about software enabling human interaction, in this case, the main benefit was that the software reduced the amount of human-human interaction. In many cases, I’d rather deal with a machine than a person, no matter what Clifford Nass says.

Marc Rettig’s Interaction Design History in a Teeny Little Nutshell (3.2 Mb PDF) is a lovely snapshot of the present (by way of the past and future) state of human-computer interaction design.

India: Hole-in-the-Wall is a worthwhile quick read. Among other things, it deeply reinforces the (should-be obvious) idea that usefulness (or, related, desirability) is key to getting people to use a product. The most easy to use interface will fail if there’s no reason to use it. Likewise, even the early craptacular ebay interfaces proved “usable.” (via eh)

Computer Human Values is a nice rant about Cliff Nass’ research (amazing stuff which demonstrates that people interact with computers astonishingly similarly to how they interact with other people—like saying nicer things about an application if they are in the same room as the computer on which they saw the application!)

The Myth of “Seven, Plus or Minus 2” (via eleganthack)

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