Thoughts on People and Technologies that Extend Them

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why I Bother Contributing to Human Experience Design and How I See Its Current State

In 2006, I envisioned having a 'perfectly ergonomic' set of electronic gadgets. Because I cannot very much tweak my hardware, I aimed at the software. My Windows XP setup was working very well then. I had my ideas incubated in OneNote and Microsoft-friendly files. One day, I literally stumbled upon (through StumbleUpon :D) Ubuntu. Researching more about it gave me the impression that it is completely customizeable, is the best Linux distribution, and will change the world. Though my perception of it changed a bit, I still believe that it is completely customizeable, is the best Linux distribution, and will change the world.

Though it would not be the case if I did it with the software available today, switching was a very painful process. Burning the Ubuntu CD image file was already challenging to me. The worst thing is probably accidentally reformating my hard drive, which wiped out all my archived ideas and memories. Because of those problems, I have been advocating making the Linux community newbie friendly. Some even mentioned that if burning an image file is already difficult for a person, using the Linux desktop is not even an option. I never believed in that. My passion for integrating my gadgets to my mind pushed me to learn even if I was challenged. I ranted about people who mention RTFM (read the fscking manual) and "Google is your friend." Some may disagree with me and think that the Linux desktop should be for limited to the inclined, but I tell them this: I am inclined now, and if it was not with the assistance of the dedicated and understanding Ubuntu community, I would not even know how to burn a CD image.

Pushing friendlier communities and better manuals is no longer my main focus now. Technology should work for the human being with little to no assistance from other people or any form of reference. Before, the answer was usability. Now, Canonical (the commercial backer of Ubuntu) and other enlightened people are focusing on User Experience (UX).

Months ago, I bought an iPod Touch to know how it feels to own and use an Apple product. I must say that the experience of using it is very smooth and pleasurable. However, my inclination to side with more open platforms is making me less satisfied with this product. I will expound on this a bit later. When I first touched the Apple mobile device, I knew what to do it. Even my two-year-old niece knew how to play with it a bit. Apple products barely need manuals, while most pieces of Open Source software do.

I believe in Open Source software even if they generally need better design more than some alternatives. Mozilla's products are probably the ones with the best UX design in the world of Open Source. On the other hand, the complete Apple experience is probably the smoothest. Most of the time, I use Ubuntu as my operating system and it runs Open Source applications. The cost of doing things this way includes the problems I mentioned earlier, but they are slowly being resolved now. The biggest problem now is probably the lack of commercial support. Flash and other proprietary formats need to be heavily polished. Also, using some devices with Linux could be from painful to impossible. I cannot watch our SlingBox or sync my iPod Touch with the latest firmware on Ubuntu. Some may mention reverse engineering, but they are often hard to execute if not impossible because mileages vary between different setups.

As for maintaining an Apple lifestyle, the problems are very easy to state. It requires a sustained spending of a good amount of money and it is too closed. The first point is somewhat self-explanatory. Apple products are just too expensive for most of the world. Some may argue that their hardware can be cheaper than their counterparts, but they are still generally expensive. After spending for a piece of Apple hardware, you will be locked up in the platform and be forced to keep on paying good amounts of money to Apple. You can choose to resist, but you will lose the 'Apple experience,' which defeats the purpose, in my opinion.

My suggested solution is to stick with open platforms. We can exclusively live with Linux-based platforms for the operating systems and avoid their proprietary counterparts for us to have a symbiotically related set of electronic gadgets. It would be a pleasurable experience, but there is still so much to learn from Apple and other technology firms.

Proprietary pieces of software generally have smoother design than their Open Source counterparts. My solution is not to live with them because their being closed, among other things, give me a bad User Experience. I choose to live with Open Source and help improve its User Experience design to help make people more satisfied.

Why I Have Not Been Posting Here

When I put this blog up, I had many topics lined up. However, a number of reasons have been stopping me from posting. The first is my ownership of the information I am to post. I am not very familiar with copyrights and other legal factors that are involved in writing. Some of the topics that I have lined up were intended for my competitive advantage when I am already making money out of what I love to do and to be properly cited. I was not willing to just give away some of my potentially expensive ideas. However, it contradicts my open principles. My deeper goal is to make this world a little better by contributing to the repository of human knowledge.

The second issue is related to quality. I do not want to spread unreliable information. Also, I am not familiar with warranties. As much as possible, I would fix the problems caused by the misinformation that I could spread, but I may not have the power to do so every single time. I will just add disclaimers.

I am not very much into writing. The third issue is my lack of confidence in my proficiency in writing scholarly blog entries. I have been tweeting because it does not require a perfect writing style. What made me more confident in publishing weblog entries are some of the dugg entries (on digg.com and similar sources of social news), that are not perfectly written. I realized that content matters more. In this world of amateur media, netizens buy good ideas as long as they understand them.

The last issue that I am to mention is procrastination. I have been telling myself that I am too busy to bother writing. The ironic thing is that I manage to do unimportant things that have no urgency. Yes, though I am currently taking a (hopefully) brief vacation between graduating and having a job, I have more than enough responsibilities to keep me busy. That is no excuse, though. Everyone, including great bloggers out there, are busy with a lot of things.

Now, I'm off to writing my next blog entry.

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Post!

Hello World!

Okay, that seems to be working. Lemme finish the mic check. There! Game.

You found a small spot in the Intertubes where Allan Caeg's technology User eXperience (UX) thoughts are going to be posted. I put this blog up because of my need to share with the world my ideas about Human Factors and Ergonomics. Earth is too unusable for human beings and it needs a hell lot of polishing. Usability is not the only issue, though. UX lovers are nagging about that topic now, but there is also evolution going on. UX designers have seen that usability is not enough. A good reference would be Human Factors International, which preaches persuasion, emotion, and trust. The development of Human Factors and Ergonomics are phrased in different jargons, but what is important is the goal to make design more suited for the user.

Join me in my journey to shape the world into an environment that provides the best possible experience to its inhabitants!

About Me

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Manila, Philippines
UX Visionary and Open Source Advocate