Archive for November, 2007

I have finally gotten my hands on Nielsen’s Usability Engineering.  I’m very early on (about 40 pages in), but I have to say that my earlier ideas of mapping usability on to writing studies are feeling more and more dead on.

I almost feel as though I could write another book, modeled on Nielsen’s, that says everything he says, but about writing instead of usability.

I’m very excited about this.  The paper is still formulating, but I’m feeling gaps close and the cloud of ideas is beginning to coalesce.

Why I can’t procrastinate

Posted: November 6, 2007 in meta

I’ve never been a procrastinator. When I was in college I had a friend start reading the book that we had a 8-10 page paper due the next morning for at 10pm. How he finished I will never know (I’ve always secretly believed that he was posturing and had read the book already). I had a girlfriend who would put everything off until the day before it was due, then panic and spend all night writing a paper.

Me? I finish papers at least a week before they’re due. Sometimes more. I used to use Thanksgiving break to write all my final papers, so that the last two weeks of school were easy for me, low stress.

But I never really stopped to think about why I do it. Yesterday, the answer came to me. To explain it, I have to first give a bit of backstory. (more…)

The Psychology of Everyday Things

Posted: November 4, 2007 in Review, Usability

I just finished reading Donald Norman’s Psychology of Everyday Things (POET, as he calls it). Since one purpose of this blog is just to talk about my research, I thought I would take a shot at reviewing the book.

Before I continue, let me state that this is not intended to follow any normal reviewing format. (more…)

As the title of this post suggests, this is an informal brainstorm. I do not know what will come out of it, but hopefully it will be useful. It is my intention to try to pump out at the very least 2 pages of good text this weekend. My hope is that will include both a ‘disclaimer’ (that this is a sample from a larger work, written for a class, etc) and a solid introduction. I also want an outline, which is why I’m here.


In order to figure out what to write this paper on, I had to consider the list that I made. But I had to consider other things as well.

I had to consider the outside constraints of the paper. It is meant to be a representation of my research, of my writing ability, in the hopes that it will impress several PhD programs enough that they will fall all over themselves in a desperate desire to recruit me into their program. But it is also a final paper assignment for a class. The class, Computers and Writing, focuses on many things. The biggest issues I have seen thus far, though, are Usability, its close partner Accessibility, Iterative Development, and technology’s involvement in the field of writing studies.

I also had to consider the inner constraints of the paper. In particular, how busy I am and how little time I actually have to work on this paper. As much as I would like to devote all my time to it, I just can’t. Classes, both those I take and those I teach, get in my way, as does a “misguided” desire to remain sane and happily married.

Given those constraints, then, what can I write about? It has to relate to one of the themes from class and it has to involve relatively little new research on my part (though I am reading “The Psychology of Everyday Things,” among other books).


I said before that I wanted to make a list of everything that interests me. My hope in doing so was to be able to figure out what part of this interest I want to focus on for the paper I am currently working on. I’ll get to that in a moment. Now, the list, including what was and adding what must also be:

  • Development of Technology
  • Process of invention (both user centered and otherwise)
  • Predictive power of science fiction
  • Conflict between ‘popular’ fiction and ‘Literary’ fiction (as examined through usability)
  • Pedagogy
  • Peer responding/editing
  • Parallels (between programing/writing)
  • Parallels and links between Philosophy and English Studies
  • Iteration
  • Writing Studies
  • Writing History
  • Philosophy
  • Logic
  • User Centering
  • Ease
  • Accessibility
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • New Media
  • Usability
  • History of writing
  • Methods of writing
  • Audience

The list is likely to continue to grow. Realistically, it should always grow; I should constantly be advancing what I am interested in.

Right now, though, I need to focus. My original problem with the paper I was writing was, I think, that I wasn’t focused enough. I didn’t follow my own mental model. Let me digress to explain that. (more…)