15 May 2018

The knack of interaction design

Ganked from a Twitter thread I ranted in March 2017. I should turn this into a proper article someday.
Via @vgr I learn that some people cannot visualize things in their “mind's eye”

I am reminded of something I realized years ago about the Secret Talent Behind Interaction Design

When I present an IxD (interaction design) solution to clients or colleagues, they often challenge me with “but what if the user does XYZ instead?”

After showing slides with a walkthrough of some key behaviors, I answer questions about other paths with quick sketches at the whiteboard

“Oh, if a user clicks here in this situation, then these things light up, and this comes up in X case, or that comes up in Y case.”

For a while I thought clients were so often astonished at this because of the obvious brilliance of my design solutions.

Not so.

Then I thought they were astonished at my facility at quickly communicating IxD solutions through simple whiteboard sketches.

Not so.

(For the record, my whiteboarding hand is inelegant, though I know a lot of little tricks for using whiteboards well)

I finally realized that what astonished my client was that I had the behaviors of the system in my head at all

Then I saw @MrAlanCooper's early dialogue with @KentBeck with its astonishing disjoint of ideas

I realized:

Most people cannot picture the interaction design of a software system that does not exist. They must build it to “see” it.

As someone with the knack for it, it had never occurred to me that most people in the software industry could not “visualize” IxD.

And of course if you don't have the knack for picturing IxD, it would never occur to you that someone could.

Many software industry practices are predicated on the assumption that attempting to do too much planning of projects inevitably fails

(And I do not want to overstate the level of planning I think is possible. Software development is an unruly process.)

I don't want to make IxD visualization sound easy. It is hard work. It takes several weeks to lock down good IxD solutions in my mind.

And keeping even a moderately complex IxD solution in my head “fills” it; I cannot remember the details of past IxD projects

But I can really have the whole system in my head.

Part of how I know an IxD solution is good is that its logic makes this possible.

I think much of the skepticism about IxD and UXD in tech comes from a reasonable but wrong assumption that the core work is impossible

If UX designers’ “knack” were properly understood, I think it would radically transform the entire software industry

@archslide suggests that visualizing IxD is more skill than talent.

There is definitely a skill one cultivates doing the work ...

Good balance doesn't make you a tightrope walker. But if you don't have good balance, no amount of practice will make you one.

RT Chris Doyle <@archslide>:
I have the same skill wrt code. Probably v difficult to succeed as a dev w/o abstract visualization/organization ability
Ability to visualize deep software logic and interaction are similar skills, but don't seem to be coupled

I think many UXD projects are stillborn by not having enough time committed to them, leading to We Tried Baseball

RT @exiledsurfer
took me years to understand what i could see in my head & drew / explained to others was invisible to them until it was manifest.

12 May 2018

Some history of trans politics

This isn't a post, more like a goad to myself to make a post.

A few times recently I have encountered people opposed to the current moment of acceptance for transgender people, and they had a telling of history that took me by surprise. According to them, the terrible trans women who showed up suddenly and demanded to barge in to every private women's space, harassing cis women from the very beginning, blah blah blah. This is, of course, pretty much the opposite of how things went down, given my second- and third-hand understanding.

Since my knowledge is fragmentary, facing this line of critique I want to be able to think and speak from a more grounded sense of the history. So I'm collecting some resources I have picked up from people much better informed than I will ever be about trans cultural politics. I hope to turn this post into a survey of those resources at some point, but for the moment, it's a pile:

  • An archive of articles about the early emergence of trans-exclusive radical feminism (I'm told that the interviews with Sandy Stone and Robin Tyler merit especially close attention)
  • More from Sandy Stone
  • Early articles from Emi Koyama
  • I'm told that Susan Stryker's book Transgender History has a particularly instructive chapter on Beth Elliot and the Daughters Of Bilitis and the West Coast Lesbian Conference. I'm told that Beth Elliot had helped to organize the conference but then Robin Morgan called a vote on Elliot could stay ... and when the vote went in Elliot's favor, Morgan's group threatened to shut down the conference.
  • An article about Margaret O’Hartigan has some more leads.
  • Perspectives on PantheaCon 2011 (note that I played a small part in some discussions about related events at PantheaCon the following year)

I also cannot resist capturing this little dialogue between a pair of experts, which I will anonymize:

All I can really say is that it was obvious that MWMF's organizers were deliberate and very much premeditated in causing as much pain as they could get away with.

There is a direct connection between MWMF and what we saw in the pagan world too, not least due to Ruth Barrett and her followers being active in both scenes. Same people, same TERF bigotry in both cases.


Yup. MWMF served as an incubator, a radicalizing center, and a rallying point in both propaganda and organizing.