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Paul LabergeWeb Platform AdvisorMicrosoft Canada
A new school year starts and a new Imagine Cup begins! This year's theme is "Solve the World's Toughest Problems." So, what are the world's toughest problems? The United Nations has identified some of the hardest challenges in the world today in its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This year the Imagine Cup uses these ambitious challenges as a guiding light to inspire change all over the world. You can the list of problems in the picture below and click on it to learn more.
I was listening to the BBC World Debate over the weekend on the progress of achieving MDGs. It was worrying to hear that based on current developing trends, we won't be able to reach many of the MDGs by 2015. The UN says that we face a "development emergency". With the current financial crisis spreading globally, is the international effort to achieve these MDGs in a serious problem? Or even reverse the success we've made in the past several years? Our own Bill Gates joined with UN and government officials to try to answer these questions and to debate the best way of forward.
This is a serious problem and exactly the right time to have Imagine Cup based on these millennium goals. This year we have 9 categories of competition: Software Design, Embedded Development, Game Development, Robotics and Algorithm, IT Challenge, MashUp, Photography, Short Film, and Design.
The Design category this year expends the Interface Design category from last year. Now students can explore creative possibilities not only for software applications interface, but also any other type of design creative manifestation, such as PC hardware and Peripherals. This is exciting! I hope it opens the competition to Industrial design and engineering students. Check out the details of the design competition here.
So, start think about using technology to help a brother or sister get an education, find entirely new approaches for medicine, discover ways to counter the inequalities that exist between genders around the world, or fight global warming. I can't wait to hear what you can come up with!
While we don’t have all the speakers listed as there are over 60 across the country (most should be there for the end of the week), we do have the sessions and you can sign up for the early bird price right now. We are going out to the masses later this week and given we’ve limited attendance to 5000 across the country…please take advantage of this as soon as you can. As you participate in our community connection blogs, I feel it’s important that we give you an advance heads up in order to miss the rush.
Again, Thanks for all your comments and keep them coming. My hope is that this type of subsided conference is one that is worthwhile to each of you and you vote with your feet to attend.
I look forward to seeing you there!
Late last week, Scott Guthrie announced the availability of the Silverlight 2 Release Candidate. This is pretty exciting news as it represents a significant milestone towards the go-live of Silverlight 2.
The RC release of Silverlight 2 represents a developer release with the intent of providing a glimpse of what the final Silverlight 2 product will look and behave like prior to its release. The reason this is being done in this particular case is that so that Silverlight solutions built with the Beta code can be tested with bits that are considered very close to the go-live release to fix anything that will break with the new version.
You can download the RC bits for Silverlight 2 here.
For specific information on the breaking changes the RC bits introduce, you should check here and here.
And before you ask when Silverlight 2 goes live, don’t ask me because I’m not allowed to tell anyone. :)
Explore Design is less than a week! Last year I went to the conference as an attendee and had a blast. It was great to talk to high school students who were interested in Design and connecting with design professors from colleges and universities around the country. I was really impressed by the creativity on the show floor and inspired by many keynotes and design seminars which conveyed the value and excitement of design. More importantly, I was thrilled to see there are so many students who were hungry to be the next greatest Interaction, Game, Fashion, Industrial, ... Designer! I wish there was an education fair like this when I was in high school. ;-)
This year , we are participating in the conference in a big way this year. In addition to title sponsor the conference, we along with our partners are bringing the following content:
Oct. 1 @ 12:00pm: A Design Vision for Microsoft Surface: Predicting the Past Lisa Anderson, Director, Microsoft Surface UX Team
A new inflection point in human-computer interaction is upon us. Along with other technologies, Microsoft Surface marks a departure from graphical user interface (GUI) into the world of Natural User Interface (NUI.) This talk focuses a lens on how one design team is thinking about designing for a new era in which intuitive interaction is the imperative. Using theoretical models drawn from a mix of history, science, philosophy, and even video game design, this presentation reveals some principles behind experience design for Microsoft Surface and beyond.
Lisa C. Anderson is currently the Microsoft Surface User Experience Director. Previous to this role, she held similar positions at Intuit and Autodesk in the Bay Area. In years past, Lisa acted as User Experience Director for several other teams at Microsoft: Windows XP, MSN, Real Time Collaboration. She was also Executive Producer at Corbis for several years, where she produced award-winning, high-end documentaries on CD-ROM (Leonardo da Vinci; Critical Mass: America’s Race to Create the Atomic Bomb; FDR; The Barnes Collection). Her background and education are in Design, Art History, English Literature, Writing, Editing, Publishing.
Oct. 2 @ 1:30pm: The Story of the Ribbon Jensen Harris, Principal Group Program Manager, Microsoft Office UX Team
Farewell, menus and toolbars! In this talk, you'll hear the behind-the-scenes stories of how the Microsoft Office 2007 Ribbon user interface was imagined, designed, and validated. You'll see never-before-shown early prototypes, hear about the mistakes we learned from during the design process, and find out the principles of user experience design we used each step of the way in creating the first totally new user interface for Microsoft Office.
Jensen Harris is the Group Program Manager of the Microsoft Office User Experience team and was one of the key designers behind the new Ribbon user interface introduced in Office 2007. Jensen joined Microsoft in 1998, and has focused on the overall user interface of Microsoft Office since late 2003. Prior to working at Microsoft, Jensen graduated with degrees in music composition from Yale University and Interlochen Arts Academy. He publishes his thoughts on software and user interface design on his blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh.
Oct. 1 @12:30pm: Designing Magical User Interfaces
Susan Greenfield, UX Designer, Infusion Development Qixing Zheng, UX Advisor, Microsoft Canada
Experience the no-holds-barred creativity and killer apps that are leaving the web as you know it in the dust. We'll introduce you to the interaction designer's new best friend - Microsoft Expression - the one tool for designing stunning and immersive user experiences.
Oct. 2 @ 11:00am: Form follows Fun: Player-Centred Design in Games
Julian Spillane & Douglas Gregory, Frozen North Productions, Inc.
The types of people who play games and the expectations they bring to the medium are diversifying at an incredible rate. Julian Spillane and Douglas Gregory of Canadian game development studio Frozen North Productions talk about the challenges in designing games for new types of player, and strategies for creating good, accessible fun.
Design for the Greater Good Talk from Canadian Imagine Cup Winners
Oct. 1 @ 11:30am: GreeNet and Imagine Cup Jin Fan and Kevin Muise, Simon Fraser University, School of Interactive Arts & Technology
The Design Story Behind a Sustainable Interaction Design Application. Kevin and Jin will discuss GreeNet and the design story behind it and their tales from the Imagine Cup competition in Paris. They developed a prototype Facebook application that they hope will raise awareness of unnecessary energy consumption in daily life.
Microsoft Design Showcase Booth
Come and play our innovative designs firsthand with Surface, Expression Studio, XBOX, Zune, Home Server, Silverlight, and a big surprise that you don't want to miss!
Lastly, you don't have to be a student or teacher to attend. If something at the conference interests you, just drop by the conference to attend one of the talks or play at our booth. Individual ticket is only $15.
Your feedback on TechDays has been great and I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to share your comments with me. I thought, as there has been three major themes in all the questions, I’d share my answers both broadly and individually via direct email.
Firstly, thanks for all the positive comments on bringing the technical conference series to Canada. It is an exciting time. The team is pretty jazzed about doing what we can to support your development and passionate about being a positive contributor to the ICT industry. We can’t wait until you attend and experience the event, so we can get your feedback to make it better….for next year.
Secondly, I’ve had some comments on if there is a discount for students and user groups. Short answer is no as this is an already subsidized conference. Long answer: It costs a lot to bring this level of technical conference to Canada and since we wanted this type of training to be accessible to all, we’ve invested quite a bit to make the early bird price as low as it is. Our cost to deliver this conference series on a per per person level is well over the full costs of $499.99 (2 Day event) and $249.99 (1 day event). To that point we are committed to supporting you and your development/skills growth.....So, please take advantage of the early bird price as soon as you can.
Thirdly, While I’m sorry that the Toronto date is the same time as the professional developers conference we did have to think about the broad audience. We tried to get a different date and were limited in the availability due to our short booking time (I guess you need about a years notice). On a positive note, for those not able to go to PDC, now they have the opportunity to attend a technical conference with similar depth of content in Canada.
Again, Thanks for all your comments and keep them coming. Personally this is an important challenge and a needed conference that I’m excited about being a part in bringing to Canada. Your support has been wonderful and I’m going to make it a point to be at most if not all the cities to do a listening tour in order to gain more of your feedback to make this even better next year. So when you come, hunt me down and share your thoughts.
The team also reminded me that…….It’s all about the BLING and if you what to show your excitement, please check out the the “badge / bling” page use it as you like to share your passion and download/use the TechDays Countdown gadget if you’re a real geek like me.
As always, please get engaged, enjoy your journey and reach out to share your experiences. You can connect directly to me or my team via our blogs or please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director Audience Marketing and Community Evangelism
Microsoft Canada | Direct (905) 363- 8589|Messenger email@example.com
Similar to last year, I'm filling up my calendar with upcoming UX conferences and activities. Here's the list I created. Feel free to add the ones you like in comments.
Oct. 1- 2: Explore Design presented by Microsoft, Toronto
It's the first North America design education fair for youth. A consortium of educational institutions, associations, professional groups, and companies will provide 2 days of interactive exhibits, seminars, hands-on workshops. Keynote presentations will be provided by internationally recognized design professionals. Explore Design explores a wide range of design disciplines such as industrial, fashion, graphics, game, and digital design.
We are participating heavily in this year's conference including presenting two keynotes, two seminars, and showcasing the latest innovation technology from Microsoft. I'll talk about the details in a separate post.
October 5 - 8, 2008: Associate of Canadian Ergonomics (ACE)’s 39th annual conference, Ottawa
This years conference theme "Demistifying Ergonomics", explores the many fields involved in ergonomics design of productive, healthy and effective working environments.
Oct. 13 -15, 2008: 10th ACM Conference on Computers and Accessibility, Halifax
The ASSETS series of conferences is aimed at providing a technical forum for presenting and disseminating innovative research results that address the use of computing and information technologies to help persons with disabilities. This is an academic focused research conference but a great place to see the newest innovation in accessible computing technologies.
Oct. 27 - 30, 2008: DesignThinkers2008, Toronto
Although the conference focused more on graphical designers but I was very inspired last year by attending the keynotes and sessions. Visual design is a very important part of UX design, and more and more visual designers are doing interactive work as well. As they merge and become interactive designers, we'll see a lot more creative digital designs. You can read my thoughts on the conference here and here. The conference also encouraged me practicing more on my visual design skills.
Nov 13, 2008: World Usability Day
This is an important date rather than a conference. I see this as our UX professional's holiday. :) We usually have various local celebrations for World Usability Day. You check out their site and find an event near your city to participate. This year's theme is "Usability in Transportation."
Nov. 16 - 18, 2008: CanUX 2008, Banff
I had a blast at last year's CanUX conference. This is the Canadian conference for UX professional. They whole conference is a very hands-on workshop and a lot of opportunities to meet and network with your peers. Highly recommended! I wrote my experience at last year's conference here.
Feb. 5 -8, 2008: IxDA Interaction '09, Vancouver
This is the hottest conference to look out for 2009 for UX professionals. It's an amazing the conference started from the IxDA mailing list and now a 4-day conference. Interaction 09 will be held from February 5-8, 2009 in stunning Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in conjunction with Simon Fraser University’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology. Join several hundred Interaction Designers from around the world as we address the design of interactive systems of all types: applications (web and desktop), mobile, consumer electronics, digitally enhanced environments, and more. Start your year off with stimulating talk, fun parties, and smart discussions about our growing field.
Other great UX conferences south of the border
I often listen to the DMI (design management institute) web seminars. This conference focuses on design management. This year they are exploring what happens when you mix traditional approaches to design, identity, and branding with new ways, tools, and influences.
The uxTV 2008 conference will bring together researchers and designers of interactive user experiences for TV and Video from academia and industry.
The Future of Web Design brings together leading talents from the world of contemporary web design to share their knowledge and insight. An audience of over 800 professional creatives will listen to the people who have designed some of today's most successful sites.
Of course, MIX is on next March again and we'll see you at the Venetian. MIX is an intimate opportunity for cutting-edge technical, creative and business strategists to engage Microsoft in a conversation about the future of the web.
It's a big show every year. SxSW Interactive Festival celebrates the creativity and passion behind the coolest new media technologies.
The HCI conference to go every year! CHI 2009 will be the showcase for the technologies, designs and ideas that will form the new world of digital life. There are many exciting new ways in which computing can improve life in many parts of the world. CHI 2009 will be the place to see that happen.
There are a lot of creative students in Canada who are doing innovative work to improve people's life through interactive, visual, informational, and other aspects of User Experience Design. I invited them to introduce who they are and share their work with you. To nominate a Design Student of the Month, email us. The Design Student of the Month for September 2008 is Danielle Lottridge! Congratulations!! Let's hear from Danielle.
I am halfway through a 4-year PhD program in Human Factors, in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, at the University of Toronto. I have had the benefit of learning from gifted mentors who have inspired me and instilled in me a life-long goal of learning. I am passionate about the pursuit of meaningful questions with appropriate and rigorous methods. I have deep enthusiasm for the foci of human factors and human computer interaction; my work aims to improve the design and evaluation of interactive systems.
Teaching is also important aspect of my work: I aim to provide my students with motivation and tools to pursue their own questions and learning paths. I always try to approach the world with curiosity. This is one of my favourite quotes: “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” - Voltaire
What cool stuff is Danielle doing?
I will highlight two projects from my two main research areas: design methods and emotional evaluation. Please see the video below where I talked about my two research areas.
Wendy Mackay and I developed a method to sketch design spaces. Low-fidelity sketches that include design dimensions (axes), point designs (devices) and boundaries (inclusion-exclusion criteria) can help designers generate ideas, select among alternatives, re-frame a design project and iteratively refine a design. We purposefully include technology, design and social science dimensions to frame design spaces from a multi-disciplinary perspective.
My research on emotional reactions aims to provide users with an effective way to communicate their emotional experiences, in the context of system evaluation. Today’s standards of likert scale items with common labels (happy, angry) do not provide enough granularity for an account of continuous interactive experiences. I created several prototypes to report emotional responses: including tangible components and dynamic animations on a touch screen. The prototypes are based on the two-dimensional psychological model of emotion: valence (positive-negative) and arousal (excited-calm). I recently completed a study with 12 participants to assess correlations with psychological measures, reliability and cognitive load. I plan to use the results to iterate for an improved design. This work aims to contribute a rigorous, continuous method of measuring self-reported emotion as a valuable addition to traditional HCI evaluation methods such as response time, accuracy, usability, satisfaction, and workload.
1. Lottridge, D., and Mackay, W. 2008. Sketching Design Spaces (Interactive Poster). CSCW’08
2. Lottridge, D. 2008. Emotional response as a measure of human performance. In CHI '08 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 2617-2620.
What are Danielle’s plans after graduation?
I love exploring questions from multiple viewpoints: theoretically, empirically and through design and practice. Universities are great places to engage with other people in pursuing this type of multi- and trans-disciplinary research. The next step after my PhD is to do a post-doc. After that, I plan to pursue a tenure track-faculty position.
Want to learn more about Danielle?
Check my website for my contact information and a list of my publications: www.imedia.mie.utoronto.ca/~danielle
A summary of my thesis, presented at the CHI 2008 Doctoral Consortium, can be found here: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1358628.1358728
Back in April Qixing wrote a post about how Deep Zoom could provide an innovative way to present slides. Apparently others have found this idea interesting as well as the Microsoft Office Labs team in Redmond has released a plug-in called pptPlex that allows you to view your PowerPoint 2007 slides in Deep Zoom format.
You can download the plug-in here, but I highly recommend you visit the pptPlex page to view some of the videos describing it and how it can be used.
The Microsoft Office Labs team has a number of great ideas that you can use to extend the experience for Office 2007. I highly encourage you to visit the site and see what else piques your interest! For example, one of the ones I have been playing with is Community Clips, a viewcast recording tool that is great for recording video of your desktop as you walk through a tutorial you are presenting.
Earlier this summer, a brand new design for DiscoverIT launched! A great Canadian design story is waiting to be told...
DiscoverIT.org is a site aimed at high-school students to help them discover career options in IT. It was first created by the Information & Communications Technology Council(ICTC) of Canada 5 years ago. Since then, many new web technologies have emerged, the ICTC corporate branding has changed, and new programs needed to be added to the website. More importantly, the old information architecture cannot meet the user needs. Therefore, it's a time for a re-design.
Macadamian Usability team took on the challenge, and their senior usability specialist, Monique Catner, led the redesign of the site. I visited Monique in their Ottawa office and chatted with her about the project. The high level design goals for the project are:
After talking to users and ICTC, they discovered the profile design of the old site is outdated. The three major profiles (or type of users) for the site are: students, parents, and teachers. In the old design, there are a lot of overlapping information across the three profiles, so the unique information for each profile was buried. In addition, parents will probably care about both the student and parent information in order to give better advice to their children. A profile-based site made navigating between multiple profiles hard.
Monique and her team implemented the design/usability process which integrates with standard business and technical best practices to create great user experience (see the picture on the right). In my 12-minute interview with Monique below, she shares with me how she got into the field of UX, her role for DiscoverIT project, deep dive into the information architecture of the new site and how the new IA solved the business problem and so on.
Monique Gatner is a senior usability specialist with over 10 years experience in user-centred design. She has worked on a diverse range of products from enterprise-wide applications to telecommunication systems, and has benefited from the experience of a wide variety of roles throughout her high-tech career. Most recently, she has worked on a variety of public and private sector projects as part of the Macadamian Usability team. She brings to the table an expertise in information architecture and design to the benefit of her clients and team members.
While I guess the surprise is out. TechDays is real and no longer just a dream. We’ve been working hard over the last year to bring a similar experience as TechED across Canada. Yes, not just in Toronto …..our pilot experience is also in six other cities across the country. This was not easy, we had many challenges and while we not 100% there…. It will happen! We are passionate about this conference series, as you’ve told us that this type of experience is very important. From the many focus groups, your comments in our surveys and direct conversations, you’ve made it clear….. less marketing and more focus on your skills growth. Our technical events and programs should be about learning, connecting and supporting you! Oh yeah…. and it has to be local. We had hoped to do this conference series in more cities and with your help in making this year’s pilot successful, sharing your ideas then perhaps next year we can.
TechDays 2008 is our largest technical education conference series for IT Professionals and Developers in Canada ever. It focuses on providing you with skills development through deep technical training, a place to connect with your peers and the opportunity to learn and evaluate across a wide range of technical sessions. The broad technical education at TechDays is delivered by Microsoft, Partners, and industry experts.
You can get an great overview and perspective at Darcys and Miguel blogs. I think they have expressed the overall experience in their words very well.
I’m excited about this as our hope is for the technical sessions and onsite experiences combined with the TechDays learning kit to help you grow your skills, share best practices and build connections. We also want to see if we can support you with more learning tools as continue your learning journey after the conference.
I know that there is so much to learn, so little time and given that we made the commitment to take on this big challenge to increase supporting your development…..
I’m really glad that with your support and the teams passion to announce that TechDays 2008 is real!
Over the course of the next few days the team will be sharing many more details on this experience here and at our other blogs as I’m sure (and hope) you have lots of questions. The registration site will be up soon and watch for some early birds specials….:-)
Please get engaged, enjoy your journey and reach out to share your experiences. You can connect directly to me or my team via our blogs or please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today we released social bookmaking capabilities for there major Microsoft resource sites: MSDN (targeted at developers), TechNet (targeted at IT Professionals), and our own Expression Community site. I checked out the Expression site and made my own "social footprint." I like the social networking direction our online resource team is going. Able to network with other designers who are interested in Expression and exchange learning experience is important, especially for a new community like this. However, we need community participation to make this work, so hope to see you at Expression Social! Here's a video explaining the social booking site in more detail.
Flash, Silverlight. Silverlight, Flash. The debate started a little over a year ago when Silverlight was introduced and as time has passed, the debate continues stronger than ever.
While some people are attached to a specific RIA toolset and platform due to a strong preference or sense of loyalty to a company or its technology, in most cases people are pragmatic and try to choose the tool that best suits the problem they are trying to solve. This pragmatic approach is also beneficial to you as a designer or a developer building RIA applications because the broader your skillset, the more valuable a resource to your company or your clients you become.
If you happen to create RIAs using Flash for a living and you are interested in learning about the Silverlight platform, it may be a little daunting to find the right resources to get up to speed and start learning the technology. So where do you start? There are a few resources out there that can help you learn the Silverlight platform, particularly if you are a Flash professional. My colleague Tim Heuer (a Microsoft Program Manager for Silverlight) in the US has created a great blog post with some resources and I’ve listed them below for your convenience:
Do you know of any other great Silverlight learning resources for Flash RIA creators? Let us know through the comments section!
Another great thing happened during my vacation last month is the public launch of Photosynth. Now everyone can play with Photosynth and create their own synths. It's one of the Microsoft innovations really caught my attention when I first saw it earlier last year. I've been showing demos to different UX community groups and got great feedback, but today, I finally had a chance to create my own synth- stuffed animals on coffee table. :)
Just a quick reminder for what is Photosynth - based on a large set of photos of a space or an object, Photosynth program recreates a 3D point model of the space or object. On the Photosynth website, an inspiration for Photosynth is:
Imagine being able to share the places and things you love using the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the mind-blowing detail of the real world. With nothing more than a bunch of photos, Photosynth creates an amazing new experience.
Imagine being able to share the places and things you love using the cinematic quality of a movie, the control of a video game, and the mind-blowing detail of the real world. With nothing more than a bunch of photos, Photosynth creates an amazing new experience.
You can play with my synth below. You'll be prompt to download the Photosynth viewer if you haven't already. Once you have the viewer, you can check out all the great examples on photosynth.net. Since it was my first time creating one, I took 52 photos and 81% was synthable. I think I could have got better 3D model if I took more close up photos. It takes practice! Once you took the photos, the creation process is a no-brainier. It's very similar to use DeepZoom composer that I talked about earlier: import photos and then create your synth. With your Windows Live ID, you have 20G space on your Photosynth account for you to play with. Photosynth was featured on CSI:NY ealier this year as a crime fighting tool! Watch the highlights here.
Here is the video explaining how to create your own photosynth examples. You can download the video here.
Why don't you start creating your own synth and share your synth with us?
I'm back from my vacation in China now. In addition to watch Olympics with my family and friends, I did quite a few things I haven't done before like climbing water falls with metal chain, ride on the those bamboo rafts that I saw so many times in Chinese Kungfu shows, flying on top of forest though cable cars. I hope you had some time to relax and recharge in the summer as well.
During the month I was gone, there are several things cumulated that I'd like to talk about. One of them is the Mojave Experiment. It's an experiment we conducted to see what do people think of Windows Vista when they don't know it's Windows Vista. We told the experiment participants that they were looking at the next version of Windows operating system, codenamed "Mojave." There are 140 participants. We demoed the new features of Mojave to the them. These are the people who never used Windows Vista, and we let them decide how much they like the "new" OS. Some interesting stats came out the experiment:
You can learn more and watch many interview videos on the site. I actually thought about doing this experiment myself earlier this year when I heard my friends talking about how much they dislike Vista when they never used it. They always say that "I heard Vista is blah, blah..." They were treating their perceived opinions as the reality. Why not give it a try and truthfully decide yourself? I tried and find something I like about Visa (e.g. Start-> Search) and something I don't like (e.g. annoying security check windows). This experiment was a clever way to find out how much people may actually like it. Some experts in the blog sphere pointed out the weakness of the experiment was that the demos were shown by experts, so if it were let alone for people to use the OS for a longer period of time by themselves, they may not have such high satisfaction toward Mojave. This is a good point, and I know the Windows UX research team has done many and is continuing doing longitudinal studies on how people are using Vista.
I think the negative opinions is partially due to that we didn't do a good job in communicating to the public why you should excited about Vista. How can vista help you improve your experience when using your computer: be more organized, be more productive, and have more fun. When we sit down with participants in Mojave experiment and "show" them the new features, they get it. So, how can we scale this and let the public at large get it or at least give it a try and decide themselves? Mojave is just a start.