Toward developer-focussed Fluid awareness videos

Paul Zablosky Paul.Zablosky at
Fri Sep 19 18:18:04 UTC 2008

    This is a really intriguing proposal and presents some interesting 
challenges. Is there a standard set of "ways of forming mental 
representations" on which the characters in the grabber video can be 


Peter Rowley wrote:
> Hi,
> The subject approximately describes a mini project I've been  
> discussing with a few Fluid folks, including Colin and Jess, and some  
> people at York.  Put in simplest terms, the long-term goal is to  
> create material that will encourage large numbers of open-source  
> developers to spend more time creating usable and accessible  
> interfaces for their software.
> Short-term, the goal is to create:
> - A short video (30-60 seconds is the target) that will be a quick  
> way of getting a developer to think "I want to know more".  I call it  
> "grabber".
> - Two somewhat longer (2-3 minutes each) videos, one on UX issues and  
> one on accessibility issues, both stressing the value of attending to  
> them and a little on how quite a lot can be done with a basic  
> investment.
> - These would then lead the developer into sets of resources  
> (content, tools, communities) that will help the developer spend at  
> least a little of their time improving the usability of their products
> There are multimedia staff at York that I can work with to create  
> these materials, but of course getting the script right is key and  
> that's where I'm looking to the Fluid community's expertise.
> My initial approach to creating the "grabber" video is based on:
> - one of the principles of good UI design: make the invisible  
> visible.  For software, that means creating representations of an  
> important part of system state.
> - the belief that one of the principal reasons that, for example, I  
> would create some software that you would find unusable is that you  
> and I think about the relevant application domain in different ways  
> (e.g. with different vocabularies, different sets of tasks, different  
> ways of combining tasks, different levels of skill in understanding  
> the objects in the domain and how they interact)
> So, I'm thinking that it would make sense to start with a UX segment  
> -- that attempts to depict how one person's mental representation of  
> an application domain can be very different from someone else's  
> representation of that domain.  As an example, maybe I think of  
> objects in a room as a list of quadruples of coordinates and someone  
> else thinks of them as shapes on a surface.
> Cinematically, you could show two people arranging furniture and zoom  
> into one head to show lists of coordinate quadruples (OK, this  
> example is a little artificial) and into the other to show shapes on  
> a surface.  You then show the first (coordinate-centered) person  
> walking over to a laptop and generating software for that application  
> domain, which of course would work in terms of coordinates.  You then  
> show the second person getting that software and being confused by  
> how it works (and ultimately walking away from the software).  Then  
> you zoom out and see more people on screen -- but just a few of them  
> think in terms of coordinates and a lot of people think in terms of  
> shapes and then the crowd walks away from the software.  I'm thinking  
> this would be best done with an animated style of presentation, but  
> there might be ways to do it with images of real people.
> Then, you have an accessibility segment that is structured similarly,  
> but this time it's the developer's model of *operating* a computer  
> that is different in some important ways from the models of others,  
> e.g. people who have a hard time seeing the difference between red  
> and green or (like me) a small font.  Again, the developer writes  
> software to operate according to his/her model and the user has  
> trouble with it because it doesn't support their model.  And, again,  
> the result is a crowd of users walking away from the software.
> Then the grabber video could end with something like "There are good  
> ways of understanding enough about users so they don't walk away from  
> your software.  For more, visit "
> So, four big questions:
> - What do you think of the basic idea?  Are there ways it could be  
> improved?
> - Which application domain would make sense to use?  Something  
> specific like learning management systems (or even Sakai) or  
> something more general like furniture placement?
> - Do you think a cinematic style that has "real people" -- perhaps  
> with cartoon bubbles to show the mental representations -- would be  
> more compelling than the approach given above?  Are there ways to  
> give the segments more emotional impact?
> - Would be  
> the right place on the wiki to anchor material for this effort, e.g.  
> script proposals?
> Thanks for your time!
> Peter Rowley
> York University
> prowley at
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> fluid-work at

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