Toward developer-focussed Fluid awareness videos

Peter Rowley prowley at
Sun Sep 21 19:51:15 UTC 2008

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your note!  One of the advantages of the cinematic approach is 
that it does not have to be a full account of all the mental processes but 
instead can appeal to common sense notions of what it means to understand 
something.  So the characters in the grabber video would not have to be 
differentiated by how they think or learn (which I'm guessing is what 
you're referring to when you say "ways of forming mental 
representations").  The video could work in conveying the message as long 
as the characters are perceived by the viewer as, somehow, having arrived 
at different representations (one example is that they are in different 
classes, which use different terminology and practices with their 
materials).  As long as a potential Fluid developer understands that a 
user's representations might be different enough from their own that it 
might cause problems when it comes time for them to use the software, we 
are on the way to getting their interest.

I spoke to Ron about the video and we agreed that the idea would be more 
accessible if there were a specific script that people could react to (not 
that I've ever written a script before -- it'll be a learning process I'm 
sure ).  We also agreed that, at least in this discussion phase, it would 
make sense to use a specific context such as learning management systems. 
So I'll head down that road.

If anyone actually has written a script for a video before or would like 
to join me in optimistic ignorance, by all means I'd welcome a writing 
partner.  And in any case, I will post drafts on the wiki in the area I 


Paul Zablosky <Paul.Zablosky at> 
09/19/08 02:21 PM

Peter Rowley <prowley at>
"fluid-work at List" <fluid-work at>
Re: Toward developer-focussed Fluid awareness videos

    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
> _______________________________________________
> fluid-work mailing list
> fluid-work at

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