Saturday, September 27, 2008


I had a thought today and it was fairly discontinuous. As I was attending the HCI 440 Class, my mind wandered. We were into Conceptual models and wandering and mental chatter can happen particularly when you are doing a distance online class.

So I thought of continuity. How I can connect thoughts that are discontinuous over time. More of how to categorize or come up with thought buckets.

This past weekend I attended a wedding and memories from that event will go into a Family and friends Event bucket, within that, it would go into a Wedding bucket and so on. Then over time as the thought becomes discontinuous, I can easily store thoughts into its proper taxonomy.

At some point in time collection of thoughts in these buckets turn into intuition. Cognitive sciences are all over this for ages. For example, you tell a child, dont touch fire, the child touches fire, bucktizes the information about how it burns when he/she touched fire and then eventually never touches fire with her bare hands. Interestingly never revisiting that truth ever again, becuase hot is hot and will continue to stay that way.

My exposure to electricity is pretty similar. I always cringe when I change a bulb for fear of touching a wrong part. I dont ever remeber ever getting an electric shock, but some how the cognitive process registerd this into my intution and now I tread lightly.

However I see electricians work with electrical equipment and electricity in general with disdain born out of knowing electricity well. I wish I had that knowledge in everything I did. I wish all of us have that power to undertand. That power can actually eliminate fear. Continuity can be a wonderful thing, for it provides a window into those buckets of the past.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who Said Ducks Cant Dance?.

It is true that Ducks cant Dance, but they do Waddle and more importantly they know how to have fun. Perhaps they even drink?

And so it came to pass that last Weekend most of the D'Souza cousins (extended of course) met in Cleveland to celebrate Vinay and Angela's wedding. I had promised myself, I would keep up with the writing even if I were at the wedding, but good times prevailed, and the writing hit the dust.

These past few days, there has been a lot of email traffic with the trendy topics of discussion revolving around, the happy couple, contended parents and of course the duck footed D'Souza cousins. My take: they are not duck footed at all, there are some amongst the cousins who are way too good, making the rest of us look duck footed. But dancing lessons would be a good thing, No?

By Sunday morning, as each of the families started to leave for home, we all felt we should do this again. The place of choice appears to be North Carolina in June of 2009. On Tap: Dancing lessons, Cricket, sunshine on the beach and good food.

I wanted to leave you folks with my thoughts on the wedding:

The rehersal dinner on Friday night was great, loved the place, loved the food and most of all loved the company. Denzil, Ronnie and Lynn did a great job making sure no one was left behind. I know some of you thought the bus driver did not know what he was doing, but he got you there on time. The night before the wedding: We drank and sang and got security to visit us. Always a sign of a great party. The Roce: it is a tradition, a little messy for some but great for the rest. Aunty Celene, Jennifer, Yvette, Antoinette, George, your oveos are the best in the continental US. Loved you guys reading off the blackberry, shows we can be traditional and cutting edge at the same time. The Wedding: On time, short and sweet and that priest was good. The Choir deserves major kudos. You guys sounded so professional, it was truly a treat. Jim Bab and Willie Bab, I am sure were watching, truly proud of thier offspring. The Reception was a great party, great fun and lots of terrific dancing, we wished it did not end.

  • Vinay and Angela, you guys looked Marvellous, such poise and what great smiles.
  • Dawn and Jose, you have passed the milestone of milestones and you did it with grace and style. Now for those "grandchillen"
  • Sannu and Tom: You are the Smartest and cutest couple we know. You make us proud, and it is a pleasure to just hang around you guys. Remember your Mom and Dad want "grandchillen". I had this anecdote that I wanted to share about a goat who knocked down Sannu, when she was yeah tall in Salem. Not sure if anyone remembers, but Mom, Dad and I do. Sannu you were about 15 months old then.

  • Sydney, Sanjay, Anosh, Michelle and Liam (Angella's brother)
    reminded me of the good times we used have at various weddings many
    years ago. I still hear the pigs squealing at 5 in the morning, but
    what a great memory.

  • Maya was so excited weeks before we left for the wedding, she
    was excited to meet up with Merryl and have fun, it is nice to see
    cousins grow up.
  • My Brotha Denzil, thank you for being you. Thank you for all the hard work and thank you for getting us to the church on time.

  • Lynn and Peter, Great toast from Lynn, but then I dont think anyone expected anything less.
  • Aunty Celene, in a wedding steeped in tradition, it was fitting that you
    presided as the D'souza elder. Thank you for representing Mommy, I am
    sure she would not have it any other way. Shanti for the great konkani
    songs after the rehsersal dinner. I am amazed how well you remember all
    those songs and yes I will come for your Birthday if you invite me.

  • Eugie, Merv and Raju, it was great seeing you guys after 25+ years, I agree with Seema, Raj is the handsomest of the lot.
  • Geetha and Mario, it is always great to see you guys. You have great children and Jennifer owes Michelle big time.

  • Jennifer and Cyrus, you bring back memories of Chickamaglur, white house, the church next door and ofcourse Balehithlu estate.
  • Antoinette
    and George you guys are simply amazing, those are not just words. The
    roce and the Wedding would not have been the same without you guys.
  • Vernon and Carly, thank you for coming down and sharing. Hope you
    will continue to join the gang and keep up the traditon of good times
  • Yvette
    and Mike, You both were spectacular on the dance floor and your singing
    is out of this world, I am truly honored to have such great cousins.
  • Geraldine and Shaidan, You both just blew my mind, you have so much energy and such grace, it was a treat. Thank you.
  • Ronnie,
    Seema you are the coolest couple I know. More importantly, Seema what
    magic do you possess? the kids behave like angles when they are at your

  • Loy and Margaret, it was great seeing you after 20 years.
    Vivek this was our first time meeting, it is great to see the next
    generation kick into high gear.
  • Shayla, thank you for being there. Freeda has many reasons to be proud in you.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Validating Truths every so often

If you are a Project Manager, one of the things you do as you run the project is to review the requirements at certain intervals to make sure your project produces a product that will be used when complete.

It happens in real life as well, take our school system for example. I remember when I was in the 6th grade, I did something I should not have done, I got called into the principles office, where this nun pulled out a long narrow flexible cane, made me stick out my palm and whacked me a few times across it. We don't do that any more in most schools. At least I think we have validated our truth about discipline and use other methods to discipline our children. I don't think we do this enough, because if we did, we would have evolved faster or at least we would have shed some truths that need shedding very badly. Perhaps I should make a list like Earl on his hit show My Name is Earl.

What made me write about this today?. Well as you know I am taking a HCI class at DePaul this quarter. The first assignment was the proverbial usability experience analysis of an "Alarm Clock". It is a cliche in the UX (Usability eXperience)world to use the alarm clock and usability in the same breath because of the ubiquitous nature of the device and the ubiquitous nature of the fact that we wake up every morning to do something. As I set down to write this paper, I realized that we never validated the truth about the the alarm clock. Is it a time keeper or is it a device to wake me up?.

If I were asked to design a device to wake people up today, from scratch as Google did with the new browser, what would I do? What would you do?

Here is what I came up with:

Having used an Alarm clock for over 30 years now, I never once had to validate the truth about Alarm clock design, until I got to this HCI class. As a designer, I believe in validating design requirements often, hence this approach. Consider this is an academic/design exercise and I start with validating the truth as follows:

In my years of using the Alarm Clock, I have come to associate an alarm clock to have 3 major components:

1) Alarm/Alerting mechanism;
When an event occurs, send out an alert indicating it occurred.

2) Time displaying mechanism:
A device that displays universal time that is adjusted for time zones represented by geograpic locations

3) Setup/Configuration process: The user is given hardware and instructions on how to program the Alerting mechanism as well as the Time displaying device.

Validating Truth behind the purpose of the device:

The question is what are we trying to accomplish? If the mission is to be woken up at a specific time, then we need a device to wake us from slumber/sleep/state of rest at at a time we specify before that state or have specified as a recurring event. The whole object is to to be awakened from Sleep. That is the purpose, the object, the criteria we should design for.

Through time and iterations of industrial design, we have arrived at the modern day alarm clock. When I was growing up, my Mom or my sister used to wake me up. I always woke up as they persisted until I woke up. In essence my job was to wake up and the job of reminding me to wake up and persisting till I woke up was removed from me in a state of slumber. The closest that any "Wake up" method of today comes to that effective way of being woken up at a specified time is the Wake up call, where you call into a system, be it the front desk of a hotel or a wake up service and it automatically calls you at a specified time.

If I were given a fresh start were asked to design a Alarm clock today, that is exactly what I would do. with this method, I am not investing in a Clock, but more in a Wake up device.

So my truth (validated) today amounts to this. If I need a Wake up call, I should use the most efficient way of doing just that. If I need a clock, then look for a device that provides the most Accurate time for you and your current state. If you are blind, you should get a audible time display device, If you are deaf you should have a Visual or sensory display and so on.

Should Alarm Clocks be designed as a combination Alerting mechanism + Accurate Time keeper + interface for Users to configure Alerting and Time?
Perhaps they should and if so let us design for each of the 3 parts and then consolidate them to arrive at a good design that fits our UI and UE (user interface and experience needs). Following are guidelines for each of these components:

1) Keep it simple: means using known, stable methods and technology that consistently provides alerts, keeps correct time and provides a simple UI. Failure is within six sigma limits.
2) Keep it redundant: means making sure in case of failure, a back up plan kicks in, keeping Failure with the six sigma limits.

Keep on Validating your TRUTHS, that's my Saturday morning Rant for this week.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Of Content and Content deliverers.

Last weeks Rant was all about Listening: Natural progression would be to talk about the yang of that Yin. Which brings me this week to "Content and How to deliver it so folks would listen".

Let me start with some examples from current events:
1) Google created a Web Browser from scratch and released it with a COMIC STRIP this week. They spoke through a comic strip.
2) RNC (Republican National Convention) kept the media/analysts away during their speeches, so the Content would not be sliced and diced in real time.

While listening is more of a passive role, meaning you listen to what is being said or deliverd, Delivering content appears to be very dynamic and often times takes ingenuity. Take this scenario:

Back in the 80's the guys at the Xerox Palo Alto labs, wanted machines to talk, so here is what they came up with:

CSMA/CD Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection: The low level network arbitration protocol used on Ethernet. Nodes wait for quiet on the net before starting to transmit and listen while they are transmitting. If two nodes transmit at once the data gets corrupted. The nodes detect this and continue to transmit for a certain length of time to ensure that all nodes detect the collision. The transmitting nodes then wait for a random time before attempting to transmit again thus minimizing the chance of another collision. The ability to detect collision during transmission reduces the amount of bandwidth wasted on collisions compared with simple ALOHA broadcasting. (1995-02-23)

In every sense, we converse very much like the Protocol but still are in a state of conflict, are we creating protocols better than we can humanly interact?. When will human communications and interaction learn from switching, multiplexing, compression, stateless and stateful packet filtering?

Why is this relevant? We create in our likeness, so pay close attention as I dissect this using a metaphor approach. On the left is What is our creation and the right side is Human perception.

1) Protocol = grammer
2) Ethernet = Language
3) Nodes = People
4) transmit = deliver content.
5) Collision and detection = from a transmitters point of view, eliminate noise

What is missing appears to be the listening part. Why was that left out?. Perhaps at that time, LISTENING was not important enough to those who developed Ethernet. Circling back to my current events thought from earlier in this post, Google said they created a new browser because things have changed since the first days of the web and the HTTP protocol. So they developed a browser from scratch to meet the new paradigms of today. Quite a concept. So if Ethernet were developed today (again) would the emphasis be on LISTENING? and not so much as TRANSMISSION? Food for thought perhaps which leads us to WE NEED TO VALIDATE OUR TRUTHS OFTEN.

Problem I see with using metaphors to get a point across, is that one can get lost along the way or your reader can loose his way in the maze so the trick is to use these design principles

VALIDATE the content periodically.

VALIDATING CONTENT , introduces the element of TIME. So the big question is should we validate our TRUTHS from time to time? and when it comes to LISTENING and SPEAKING, do our concepts need validation? Most probably.

Circling back one more time to the RNC convention mentioned above: Quite a few half truths were presented to make the point that we should vote for the Mccain/Palin ticket. Lots of innuendo's, and an approach of instilling FEAR was evident in most of the speeches. The CONTENT and the DELIVERY can be a powerful way to sway our perception even if they are half TRUTHS.

I have rambled on about the other half of the equation that makes up a CONVERSATION today. Not sure if it is a cohesive set of arguments. I will leave you with that for now.

Remember VALIDATE your TRUTHS frequently. The result might surprise you.