Friday, December 26, 2003

Nothing really to say these days  That's why I haven't written in so long. Oh, there's a new job, a loooong-ass commute, and Christmas, but, hey, I've been tired. Maybe later.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Do they still play the blues in Chicago...?  Oh. My. Gawd. How in the world the Cubbies could drop this one is beyond me...or maybe not. Still, though it's happened before ('79 Pirates did it over the Orioles in that year's series), it sure is rare. And with the Cubs, geez, what a heartbreaker!
After they lost, I rooted for the Bosox..and another case of heartburn! Definitely exciting baseball, but, I mean, why!? Why can't these two teams win at least once? Oh well, wait'll next year, right?

Monday, September 29, 2003

Bring on Da Power!  As of Thursday afternoon, we actually have electricity! O frabjous day! Calooh! Callay!

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Poignant Music  Listening to Janet Martin sing and play "Cloud Cover" reminds me of the time in the late 80s when I used to hang out at the Moondance Saloon and watch her play solo acoustic guitar (for free) Wednesday nights. Man, that was a fabulous time! Her sultry voice and spot-on dreadnought guitar playing always touched both my head and heart.
I'd love to hear a CD of just her on guitar. Too, after I returned to Richmond and hadn't seen her for seven years, I was amazed at her slide guitar thing. She'd learned slide as well as a Delta bluesman selling his soul at the crossroads.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Surviving Isabel...Barely  Well, afer a harrowing night of wind and rain and falling limbs, Isabel passed by last Friday morning (September 19). Neighbors came together, and still come together: last night Gregg & Sonya hosted a "Queer Eye" evening, thanks to their generator.
Though thankful we all (our neighbors and friends and families) came through safe, being without power since September 18 is getting old...real old...real fast. I'm not saying Virginia Dominion Power is intentionally ignoring heavily populated urban areas in favor of white-dominated suburbs and rural areas, but it does appear as if they're doing the easy stuff first.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Here Comes the Rain Again...  As Isabel bears down on the coast, the forecast calls for heavy weather in Central Virginia. The biggest problem for me is that I plan to drive to Western Maryland Friday on my Moto Guzzi for a Guzzi rally. Even if the rain stops, the winds'll be heavy...not a lot of fun driving a bike in that kind of weather.
But, best to wait till Friday.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Chicago in the (Late) Summer  What a town! Always great to be in Chicago, especially when the weather's as balmy as this past weekend. Too, the chance to see Dave Specter play blues & jazz is impeccably great. Thanks for Albatross, Dave!
Enjoyed the German-American Fest in Lincoln Square. Although it was small and the only German beer was Beck's, the festival did capture the German fests we experienced in Hamburg. In fact, nostgalgia reigned supreme this weekend...almost like visiting two former homes at once!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Under the Richmond Sky  Having spent the last several months working on the back yard (mostly waiting to work on it, because of the rain), I am glad we finally finished...or at least this phase. Owning a home is great in terms of equity and security (that there will be a place to come home to), but it sucks in terms of the crap that you have to do. Ah, the lies that the DIY industry foist on us!

Friday, August 29, 2003

Not-so-full Circle  Having had a good exchange with the legendary Alison J. Head about her great article on personas, I've been seriously wondering just where and how people are able to actually practice this craft (this craft being user-centered design, experience design, information architecture, whatever).
Certainly not in Central Virginia. Having decided to leave IconMedialab at the end of 2001, I thought somehow that my years of experience would stand me in good stead and propel me to bring the gospel to Richmond.
Alas, it was not meant to be. Instead of bringing the fledgling Sokohl & Associates to renown, I've retreated in my career to my humble beginnings—I've returned to technical writing.
It's a bit sad, really. I moved away from tech writing in the late '90s during my stint with mpct Software. Writing HTML-based help for a NeXT-based banking software system, I began applying stuff like Don Norman's affordances and Ginny Redish's user and task analysis. It was a great inspiration for me. Because of my move toward human-computer interaction, I got the job with IML.
More than two years later and with a bunch of experience such as SOS Children's Village, Siemens Medical, and other pitches and usability tests and heuristic reviews and such.

It was a great time, an inspiring time, and a fun time. When I returned, I thought my experience plus willingness to live out of a suitcase would raise my star in the contractors' heavens.
Doesn't seem to be working out that way, though. I grow old, I grow old....

Friday, August 22, 2003

A Cold Day in Hell  A great shout-out to Jenny Berger: You gave me a great laugh, today, girl!
My question, though, is this: on what basis do souls have mass?

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

another man done gone  As you probably already know, Eric E. "Rick" Stanley died yesterday morning. Here're a couple of notices about it:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch article

50-Plus had a great bio on Rick last year

A memorial service is tentatively planned for Monday, August 18 occurred Wednesday, August 19, at the Arthur Ashe Center on North Boulevard next to the Diamond. When I know more, I'll certainly let you know.
It was a great service, opening with a New Orleans-style band composed of members of the Richmond Jazz Society. Opening with "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and closing with "When the Saints Go Marching In," the service was a celebration of Rick's life and impact. Nicely done.
Also, you might like Andy Garrigue's tribute.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

My Head Is Gonna Explode  The great Molly has once again said what I think. Seems that the great Bruce Tognazzini has written a polemic creating a new UXness: interaction architects.

Indeed. Just what this field needs—more fragmentation of our job description.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Useless but OK  Well, although I know my role is still considerably diminished, I'm much more resigned and less angry. Thanks to the anonymous poster who reminded me not to whine so much. So I've toned it down. Depression is quieter, anyway.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Don't Mess with Me  I'm pissed off today.
Not your fault, but I'm still totally torqued. I spend hours researching something as detailed as whether a menu list should be alphabetical, geographic, or ordinal. I conclude that alphabetical is best, based on such sources as Stuart Card, Ben Schneiderman, and Karen Schriver, among others. I specify it so. My PM receives the info, though he doesn't concur (he feels it should be geographic, based on current practice and politics...organizing interaction around organizational charts, not usage models). He goes into our bosses office, He discusses with him. They agree on a result. They never ask me, they never inform me. They just do it.
Then, in a meeting today with the developers (a different internal org), I discover their decision. "Joe, you won't like this, but...."
So, bottom line, I'm pissed. Guess my irrelevance should work to my advantage—perhaps a policy of coming in late, leaving early, and taking long lunches will at least improve my quality of life.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Helpful Help  Often written help carries the reputation of being unhelpful. Here's a technique to creating more helpful error messages in your online, Web-based presence. If you can get the appropriate rights, you can edit the type of 404 and 401 messages users receive--the dreaded File Not Found and the unauthorized access messages. Thanks, Heiko!

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Who Can Attend Conferences Anymore?  A note I sent to Molly:

Hi Molly,

we've never met but have mutual friends/acquaintances in Peter Merholz, Christina Wodtke, and some other IA/UX folks. I've been reading your blog with delight most days.

One question, though: how are you able to do all the travel that you do? That is, in this economy vis-a-vis our profession, how are you able to attend so many conferences and also do so much flying around? My curiosity is primarily professional. Having left Germany in December 01 and returned to the States, I've seen a marked downturn in corporate support of conference attending. In addition, despite what airlines would like us to believe, travel (especially internationally) continues to be expensive.

I miss it, actually. I miss the flying from Hamburg to Chicago to San Francisco to Seattle to Newark in order to test an information architecture. I miss the frequent travel from Hamburg to Munich and Innsbruck for projects. I miss the travel to Gotheburg and Stockholm....and I miss the international give and take with folks at the IA summits, STC (yes, even STC), CSCW, and other conferences.

So what's yer secret?

Anyone else have the same question?

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Ain't No Such Thing As Job Security  So today 51 positions were eliminated, 25 currently filled. That puts in jeopardy 25 mortgages. 25 credit ratings. 25 families. Maybe more than 25 children who won't go to college...or whose choice of college is severely limited.
Meet the new boss...

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Does Usability Matter?  Some random thoughts...
  • Usability is a quality of something, not a thing in and of itself
  • Despite ROI claims to the contrary, businesses still don't get the need to worry about what users think
  • Customers and users are two different (though often intersecting) groups

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Goin' to the Show  We went to the opera last night—the first time I'd ever been! My wife's first time, too. It was extraordinary. I especially loved the sets and the acting. A lot of my impression about opera is built on popular myth—divas posing on stage and hardly moving, much less really acting. Yet Errol and I agreed on the connection between silent movies and opera—the ability for actors to act without talking is a skill rarely seen in an age replete with the technobabble and gratuitious eye-snapping action of matrices.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Let the People Decide  Peter Merholz has a great photographic discussion of paths people take.
Feats Still Don't Fail Me  On the 7th of May I went to see Little Feat in concert at the pasture they call Innsbrook Pavilion in Short Pump/Glen Allen, Virginia (a suburb of Richmond). Man o man o man did the Feat rock!
They started with a killer version of "Cadillac Hotel," with Shaun Murphy belting out the vocal gymnastics the song requires. They then proceeded to play for 90 minutes straight. Tunes such as "Time Loves a Hero" and "Day or Night" sounded timeless and clear and poignant. Pulling out the Band's "Rag Mama Rag" (which the Feat covered on Chinese Work Songs) delighted the audience of largely 40+ listeners. And the acoustic trio of songs included one they'd just written and recorded for their next album.
If you wanna hear the music again, go see the Feat on their current tour!

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Valves are Better.... Well, thanks to some folks on the Enfield Bullet listserv, I was able to get some good advice. I've since learned how to fixt the dang things...or at least how to adjust them. The bike's running fine now, even taking me on a wonderful circle last Saturday--Richmond to Hanover Court House to Montpelier and back to Richmond.
Man, it don't get no better than that!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Setting Valves I hate the fact that I have so little skills at mechanical things. I was trying to set the valves on my Royal Enfield this morning. I screwed up. I mean I really, really screwed up. So I couldn't ride to work this a.m., I couldn't enjoy this beautiful 82-degree/23-degree day. I feel so frustrated in being such a klutz at wrench-turning, board-sawing, and wire-connecting. Meanwhile, my skills in organizing information architecturally or visualizing interactions or writing words doesn't amaze me...or anyone else, for that matter. What the hell am I worth?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Bored and Depressed So now I'm bored with my job, bored with user experience evangelism, bored with trying to make a difference. It seems others are, too—Peter has dropped out of blogging, Christina's not well, and others seem to say it just doesn't matter. From my perspective, user experience attention does matter&e#151;it's just that we are Cassandra on the walls of Troy....

Friday, February 07, 2003

Mailer Nails It Although I'm sooo not a Pat Buchanan fan, this article in his magazine is a nice interview with octegenarian Norman Mailer. Love him or hate him, Mailer's always fun to read.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

When It All Slips Away So it seems that "the powers that be" are looking for someone to be the user experience architect. Trouble is, I think I'm very qualified for it—I'm the only one in the team with any experience in this area. Yet no one bothered to talk to me. Maybe I've got it wrong—maybe it's just one guy's opinion that they should appoint/hire/anoint someone as the UEA....but if it's true what I think is true, then there'll be hell to pay....

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Doing What I Ought Too bad that I rarely get to do what I should be doing here. Instead, I find myself formatting Microsoft Word docs and Excel spreadsheets (people, Excel is a spreadsheet program, not a word processing program!). Instead of writing them or editing them, I'm just...well...formatting them. Not exactly the best idea for my skillset, I'd say. Rather than being a technical writer or, even better, a user-experience architect, I'm a glorified admin.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Comments...grrr I'm having trouble editing my enetations comment behavior: I want respondents' web pages to open in a new window, not the comment window...which has no resize capabilities. Thoughts?