Sunshine

She crossed the road to chase the light so bright,
she was off chasing the sunshine.
Cannot tell one from the next;
Plunge ahead believing it’ll work out for the best.
There is no wrong here and no right
she was off chasing the sunshine.
she felt bad, she put up a fight,
ploughed, plundered, tired but still holding on tight.
she went off chasing the sunshine.
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Let the games begin!

The moment we have all been waiting for since the first posters and signboards were put up announcing it 2 years ago is here finally. The opening ceremony for the Common Wealth Games – India, is today – 03 October 2010. It has been quite a ride and maybe a little more so for those who stay in Delhi. Sure many a things have been brought to surface, many a things that went wrong and were brought to light. For us in Delhi, or let’s say me personally, I have seen it change the face of Delhi in the course of these last 2 years. And on the threshold of the games, my heart does warm up with pride when I drive around the city which can truly be called world class now.

Common Wealth Games - Delhi 2010

Common Wealth Games - Delhi 2010 (image from http://hoowstuffworks.blogspot.com)

And before we know it, it’ll all be over. And we will move on to look forward to another event soon. To complain about the inconveniences caused, to root for its eventual success. And so will life go on. Many a events will happen and many will pass.  The mindset that comes with it – maybe it’s inherent. Maybe it will change. Maybe it is changing because people are demanding for it to.  Maybe things will actually improve (I believe they have already). Who knows. We have to wait and watch. For now, Let the games begin! 🙂

(I stumbled across this wonderful post while searching for an image for this post. All about Common Wealth Games, Delhi 2010 – Do find the time to read it.)

Nice people make nice designs

Like the name of the post suggests. It’s just a belief that I have had since I was introduced to terms like HCI, Usability, User Focus, User Experience Design etc etc etc. When I read and learnt more about these thing to start applying them to my work, I felt I was becoming sensitive to the idea in various aspects of my life.  The way you drive on the road, the way you treat strangers around you, the way you are sensitive to the needs of other people.

I remember standing on the Delhi Metro platform a number of times, getting pushed and jostled around, having people thrust their smelly armpits towards me, people looking away when they see an elderly/pregnant person standing so they wouldn’t have to give away their seats .. and I remember thinking, now this guy could never make a user friendly design. They are just not friendly to the people around them.

Or when you’re driving on the road. God knows all those blessed with vehicles have also been blessed with rear view mirrors in the same. And we can safely assume (hopefully) that they are trained to follow traffic rules. But when people drive with their lights on high beams, drive at full speed in residential areas, swerve without looking in the rear view and think they own the road. These guys probably can never make a user friendly design.

I own a Hyundai i20 and though a few acquaintances have had a bad experience with theirs, I find the car a delight to use. The entire experience is focused towards the comfort and convenience of the driver and I simply love driving it. Now the people who designed this car – Nice people! 🙂

This is perhaps just an inherent belief. Maybe one that I have cultivated over a few years now, all through observation – of myself and others. Maybe I am just shooting a baseless arrow in the dark here. But I truly believe usability touches (or should touch)  all aspects in our lives. Especially for those who design for usability. Life around us is a wonderful training ground. Which is why I say nice designs are made by people who are nice … or get trained to be nice 🙂

[Disclaimer: The author of this post by no means wants to imply that she is a nice person or that she makes nice designs. But she assures you that she knows nice people who make fantastic designs :-)]

How power-fool are we?

We relish the animations on Ice Age even though we are the Global Warming generation. We have a voice and we believe that we can make a difference. We are the ones who tread into the future and leave behind a giant carbon footprint which we just cannot retrace. We have moved too far ahead to undo or erase. Not that that stops us from trying.

So we hold Green Day concerts. The intent is pure. For sure. We have to save the earth is the message. Be frugal today so there is enough left for tomorrow. And so we fly over artists from all over the world. We print posters, we make brochures. We make websites, we write blogs too. We sit in our airconditioned rooms and log onto the internet and cry our digital lungs hoarse. The voice should be heard by one and all, and in the process we have already borrowed more than we could possibly save at all.

We make airconditioners and inverters that save power. There are those offices designed green and batteries healthy for the earth’s spleen. So we set up more factories more chimneys that smoke. We need to advertise to sell so we fly around those stud blokes. Competition is tough so we will deliver till home, the hole left by your carbon footprint this time is just an inverted dome.

And then we host talk shows to discuss how hopeless the situation is. And like many others I too write a blog post using electricity, a laptop and internet connection and we talk and we talk and we talk … If there ever was a vicious circle this is one.

We all know the problem. And of course just like the spectators of a cricket match, we all know we could’ve scored better if we’d been playing. But the fact is that we ARE playing. … Playing with our own lives.

For some reason we believe it’s the bigger actions that matter. Everything should be done at a large scale. No single believes that his lone effort will matter. And it won’t. Not when it’s done by that one person and that one time. One power-saving air conditioner bought will not equate the millions spent in manufacturing, advertising or delivering it. One Earth-hour will barely save power equal to that spent in all the malls across a city in a month (I assume). One Green-day concert will make a big noise, enjoyed by a lot and still be forgotten. One more blog post will be written and add to the digital pollution (as if we needed another kind). So, no … our solitary efforts will not help.

But can you just imagine the power of a hundred solitary actions? And then those hundred solitary actions multiplied by a thousand. And that thousand multiplied by another thousand … and … well… you get the picture.

The sad truth is that we all know this. What I’m writing here is no apple dropping on anyone’s head. But then there was an apple that helped discover gravity and there was the apple that got us all locked out of Eden. And then this here is an apple that we all want to savour and all it requires is a little iEffort ;-).

So yes, that car pooling will help. Switching off the power while leaving the room – do it over the year and you’ve already done better than switching off just during the Earth Hour. Yes, do close the tap while you’re brushing your teeth. Use a bucket instead of shower to have a bath – may even make you relish the rain better :). Do please go ahead and buy that power-saving airconditioner – and use it as little as possible. Walk more than drive, Let’s help the Earth survive 😀

And as long as we are wasting digital power, let’s discuss more ideas, small efforts that we all can make to make things better. And after we are done talking about it, let’s do as Nike says and Just Do It!

On a quest of how to search …

Everyone knows that search on the web is synonymous with Google. Or is it? I’d say it used to be … still is to some extent … but not entirely.

Anyone who spends a considerable amount of time browsing the internet and searching for content is bound to be – knowingly or unknowingly – using more than one medium to search. I will try here to share some that I use.

Well, see the problem with google search is that it throws up a lot of irrelevant search results along with the relevant ones. So that means you have to dig through the search results, drill down, refine your search string and despite that at times come back all sweaty, grimy and empty handed. Well maybe an exaggeration, but it could still leave you wanting for more.

The second problem that I see with google search is, that I am not getting any feedback, opinions, ideas related to the topic I am searching for. So there is no conversation happening. I cannot ask any questions, get any replies .. it is like watching television… very one sided. It is because of this reason that I had said on twitter once that “Twitter is making me lazy. I prefer to ask a question here and get contextual answers rather than do a search on Google”. This other time I tweeted that “Twitter search has something Google doesn’t have – people”.

But I digress. The point here is not to put down Google search (They are doing their job pretty well I’m sure) but to discuss alternate means of searching for content on the web.

The trick is in knowing what you’re searching for and what could be the optimum places to look for them. I was recently looking for a prototyping tool which would give me the option of adding rich in-the-page interactivity. Searched high and low on Google but came up with nothing. That is when I turned to LinkedIn. Yeah.. LinkedIn. While it is a great community for business networking, the added advantage is that it has an active community of professionals discussing, offering feedback and opinion – all of which is a lot more useful because here is someone talking about their own experience rather than trying to sell you something. Well guess what! In a discussion of User Experience professionals group, I found a list of prototyping tools I had not come across on Google, found opinions of which ones are useful in which context and also tips of how people are using existing tools like powerpoint and visio very successfully for prototyping.

I did mention Twitter already. A very active community, people on Twitter (notice how I refrain from calling them Tweeple 😉 ) are always more than willing to help you out if you need something. Just try it sometime. Looking for something? Ask a question on twitter. Believe you me, you will not be disappointed. People offer suggestions, opinions and if they don’t know, they will RT- retweet – your tweet so that someone in their network can offer you help. People on twitter called it Crowd Sourcing. I have indulged myself on various occasions, asking about tools I needed, acronyms I shouldn’t have mentioned 😉 and hell even opinions for narrowing down options while buying my car.

Even Twitter Search throws up very useful results. I now often tend to put a search string in http://search.twitter.com/ before I google. Twitter search again brings to you tweets of people sharing their views and comments along with suggestions. You do want to know more about the link you are going to click, the tool you are searching for, that phrase you have to research, links people are recommending. It helps to filter out a lot of crap which you otherwise tend to encounter through regular search.

You may even consider platforms like Slideshare and Scribd. Although with Slideshare you are most likely to end up with a list of ‘ten things your organisation should or shouldn’t in the social media space’, no matter what was your search string. If you have the patience to dig through that content, you may come across some real insights related to the topic you searched for.

Some of the other sites I have used successfully in the past are YouTube, Digg.com (this was a very useful resource while I was searching for icons once). The point is that these are all sites with user generated content. So if you search on them, you will definitely find more than you were looking for. Opinions and suggestions make your search more relevant and the conversations make it more interesting 🙂

Having said that, Google still has what none of these sites have – Pacman!! :-D.

Do share your experiences of searching on these sites and also any special tips or techniques that you use while searching. Would be really good to know 🙂

Tweet-te Raho!!!

Considering the amount of time I spend on twitter each day and in an attempt to certify myself a true twitter-aholic (read Twit), I am going to publish the following list –

You know you are a Twitter-aholic when:

1. With every major or minor thought in your head, you are already trying to compose a 140 character dialogue to tweet it. (Have seen people who write tweets like –> *heard sound* *woke-up* *realised nothing* *going back to sleep*) 😀

2. You are hanging out with friends and family and they are begging you to get off your phone and stop tweeting. (Happened to me today :D)

3. Yes, you are tweeting from your phone.. because you just need to tweet all the time!

4. You tweet while driving (done that) (I think they will come up with a law against this soon) (*gulp!*)

5. You can proudly claim to know people who are bigger twits than you! (twits = twitteraholic —> Look at the top right widget. Yeah I’m a twit :D)

6. You have participated in one of the rollicking trending of hashtags marathon. Great fun! Especially when we trended #iconicindianads

7. You start hashtagging each conversation with friends – even on IMs and SMS. (also, if you know what a hashtag is :-P)

8. You write everything in a hashtag and create bizarre and insane hashtags. I’m a newbie at this, but some great examples would be Dr. Gonzo, TyagiG and Nothing Man (great people all of them! Follow them at your own risk 🙂 ) #YouCanAlsoDoItLikeThis.

9. You feel very happy when someone RTs your tweet (RT is ReTweet you nOOB!)

10. You have a lot of fun on twitter and start believing that you are making great friends there (this could also be a sign of how you don’t actually have a life, but that point of view is just of people who don’t get it 😉 )

11. Follower count matters! You feel bad each time this count drops and hope it was a bot leaving and not someone you bored with your tweets. Yeah it matters.

Also, you have to admit, signs of a true twit is to be writing this post :D. So we will call it number 12. (For those of you who know me in real life.. don’t you dare laugh at this number!!! :-P)

Know of some more signs? Please do add to this list.