The Super Nintendo Mouse as my first mouse: Designing for fun from MarioPaint

File:SNES-Mouse-and-Pad.jpg

Credit from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SNES-Mouse-and-Pad.jpg

The Super Nintendo Mouse was bundled with the video game entertainment system in the 1990’s, and was one of my first forays into technology.

Think about it – a mouse in 1991. Most people didn’t have a computer in their homes back then. Computers were starting to get into offices. Why would a mouse, which was then in offices, be welcome in living rooms, in a game console of all places?

Mario paint box.jpg

Cover art for Super Nintendo MarioPaint, copyrighted by Nintendo Ltd.

There was only one game I had that worked with the Super Nintendo mouse: MarioPaint. MarioPaint is a full art application – it was far more of more of an application than a game because the only task was to make art.

It was a full suite to paint, make music, and animations. The game gave you many palates to choose from, including sprites from other Nintendo games, gave you a palate for your own custom paints, sprites and stamps.

You also had animation features where you could animate an area, outline a path for the animation, and run the animation in your painting.

You can make music by placing notes that sounded like various objects like horns, cats, on a music scale. You could pick between 3/4 or 4/4 time, change the tempo and loop.

Undoing anything was done by clicking on a dog button that barked. To go back to a menu, you click on a bomb icon that exploded.

Many of these silly details and interactions helped introduce the mouse, an office device, into an art tool. As I revisited the console, here are my observations that really made this application shine.

Designing for fun

When you first load the screen, you see a running happy Mario. As an easter egg, if you clicked on him, you could make him do various things. You can also click on any of the letters of “MARIOPAINT” to change the running Mario in various silly ways, as shown in this youtube video. Then there’s a run loading animation of a guy doing sit-ups and rolling into a hand-stand.

When you clicked on various pallates, it would play a note as though you were ascending a musical scale.

If your mouse was idle for more than some odd seconds, an icon on the upper right hand  of the screen would jump, dance and be happy.

Even deleting your artwork became fun. There were at least 6 different animations to clear out a drawing. We spent time just seeing what the “clear all” animations did. Some of which were fun to see!

The key functionality of being able to paint, stamp, animate or even make music was there, but exploring these details seemed to encourage me to try everything in the suite to make something cool, just by the fact that there was some fun little result from it.

The (training) game

Even their training game leveraged the notion of fun. There is one little game in the art suite, where the goal was to swat at flying bugs before they stung you. You had to hit all bugs, including the menacing ugly boss, before you lose all your lives.
[youtube]FpzVGqkK09s&start=11[/youtube]

I didn’t realize this until reading the manual just recently, after more than a decade of enjoying this game, that the little game was actually a training application. It was supposed to be a training exercise for the player to get used to using a mouse, which was the, uncommon. But it was designed with so much fun in mind, I didn’t even notice it.

This game only allows you to save one painting. (and  the manual even gave you instructions on how to save your art by recording on a VHS tape!)

The SNES mouse is a good example of how to design with fun in mind. The fun music, the random animations that happen, the little easter eggs in the application, just made the whole experience more fun. Nintendo took a peripheral that never visited a living room before, designed a fun training game to get users to get better at it, and did a fantastic job making a fun art application, for a gaming console.

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Juggling Different Worlds – Another perspective

At GHC 2012, I was fortunate enough to be both a blogger and a panelist at this birds of a feather session, so my perspectives are a reflection of the discussions we had, from a panelist’s perspective.

In summary, we talked about different personalities that we may have around the workplace, at home, or while doing our hobbies. For example, I tend to be really animated when talking about my nerdy hobbies or even getting more women in the exciting field of technology, but I tend to be more reserved when I am in a lab or research meeting.

We helped others figure out whether these different personalities happen to them through a a tool that described 4 kinds of personalities through 4 colors. Reds were competitive, while yellows are creative. Blue are calm and cautious while greens are helpers/supporters. I tended to be blue in research work while I turn yellow for my hobbies and such.

One eye-opening fact that I realized during the session is that most of my lab tended to be blues with some greens. My lab is a talented group of smart, analytical people who also help each other out, so it’s not surprising that I ended up turning blue too!

I wasn’t the only one who had their personalities merged with their peers. What about our individuality? Should be be concerned that we are losing ourselves for the group/our career/etc? I don’t think so, because all these personalities have different strengths and weaknesses. The key is to learn how to be a leader/helper/creative/social when you need to be, and you cannot nurture the skills to be creative/social/competitive if you never were in the first place. So if you think of it like a tool set, the more, the better it is for you.

Another point we discussed was that those who are green, who tend to be helpful, friendly, and caring, may end up having many people go up to them for help, and they may end up over-committing and getting in trouble.

Some of the advice is to ask more questions to anyone who wants something from you, and if you keep on asking good questions, the person who wants you to do something may need to get back to you later on that task. This strategy seems to take advantage that the person is normally friendly, so it’s good to be clear on what the task is. Other advice is to put your foot down and learn say no, which may be really hard to do for a green/helpful person to do.

Some of us are all colors at different times, as one of the panelists  commented, like a chameleon. We all agreed that this is perfectly acceptable. Conversely, if you picked the same color for both the workplace and the  home, that is great too.

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10 women in 10 mins – GHC Wikipedia Editathon – Another Perspective

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia of information that you can edit and add to. Today, our job is to contribute to that information by adding and editing information on Wikipedia. The main phrase here is “Be bold!”, and for most of us that were not wikipedia contributors, it was a new experience.

We had a little bit of trouble with the internet but we still pervaded in editing. The guide we used was http://goo.gl/Zz8P3

This is an interactive session where we all add and edit information for some of the founding Systers of the organization. It is quite surprising how little information is provided for some of these prominent women! It’s an eye opening experience, and shows that anyone can add to wikipedia.

Ours was Jeanne Ferrante, who did significant contributions in compiliers at UCSD. We first got an introduction to wikipedia, and a later introduction on how to upload images. (An introduction was needed since we needed to upload pictures with a kind of creative commons licensing) We first tried editing the page, and later divided up the tasks.We first started writing on a notepad, since we all feared overwriting changes and making sure we all had the same version. After we all had our sections written, one by one, we went to the page and added our section.

We added the information but there’s so much more information that we did not get a chance to add in. In our group, we also discussed a bit on how anyone can add information and how that has been a good or bad thing, especially if you do not have an account address.

It was a really good experience to contribute to wikipedia, and be contributors to it. We learned how wikipedia works, the kind of work that people do as contributors, and how much information is left to be put on wikipedia.

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What do you want to get out of GHC 2012?

Yesterday between traveling, sightseeing at the inner harbor, and eating delicious crab cakes, I have been asking GHC attendees on what they wanted to get out of this conference. Here’s a quick summary of what I got:

  • No expectations so far, from newcomers
  • Full-time job, quite a few people are in the job market right now. Some post-docs.
  • Networking
  • Learning more to see what fields in computer science interest them
  • Gathering people to pitch for a panel idea next year

My personal wish list is:

  • Get more involved in GHC or Anita Borg Institute beyond the school level. This was on my wishlist last year, but the biggest suggestion I got was to start a GHC regional conference, which turns out is a very difficult thing to do as a student and in a state that already had one(it was on the other side of the state though).
  • Get a support group for graduate school life. Quite a bit of my friends have left/graduated/moved on to bigger and better things, but I am still in grad school, and would like some support group I can rant to (and be ranted at) get some candid advice, and get support/support others in the process. I am not the ranty type on facebook and social media networks, so it would be great to get support group.
  • Get an industry oriented internship. I got a university and a government internship but I lack experience on the industry side. Ideally I would want something that uses my 3D interaction skills, such as developing some cool game on the Kinect or something, or even uses my research, gaming development or my HCI skills would be great.
  • Find someone who knows what video game my necklace references. The video game series  just got two new additions to be released soon. If you do get it, I will totally get all fangirly & show off my favorite defense lawyer.
  • Really, the above is go network and find HCI and/or nerdy people who are fans of similar things I am in. Also I can totally fangirl over Portal, Avatar: Korra, Japanese animation, arts & crafty things , 3D interaction, gaming and many others, so I am a general nerd.
  • Gangnam Style @ GHC. I will request the song to every DJ and every party at the conference. This must happen.

If you have any tips to share, lemme know!

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I just got word last week that I am officially a blogger & note taker for the prestigous Grace Hopper’s Women in Computing 2012 conference. So not only am I a panelist there (Stop by our panel on the last session on Friday in “Juggling Different Worlds”) but I am also blogging and note-taking for the community. Please expect more blogs and posts around early October about the conference.

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How to disconnect youtube from gmail using Firefox and other browsers

I found a way to successfully keep my gmail logged in while keeping me persistently signed off to youtube. Here are my main reasons why politely requested this to google.

But before you jump on this solution, here’s the caveat:

If you want to log into your youtube account, you haveto undo these steps.

You either pick blocking youtube’s cookies all the time, or none at all. Given how my concerns above and that I would only want to be signed on to youtube to add videos(which isn’t very often) I am perfectly okay with this. You might not be though.

The original solution is found here: http://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/youtube/CjDZpPLV_vM

I’m reposting it here since the truth bears repeating:

How to disconnect gmail from youtube, and keep being signed into gmail:

With Firefox,

  1. Go to the youtube home page.
  2. Right-click on the page.
  3. Select “View Page Info”.
  4. Select “Permissions” at the top.
  5. For “Set Cookies”, deselect “Default”.
  6. Select “Block”

For other browsers, the steps should be similar. The main idea is to block all cookies from youtube.com. Since I am no expert in browsers, here are links to tutorials to block cookies for a specific website using:

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Request to Google: Disconnect youtube from my gmail

Dear Google,

I respect your triumphs and learn from your endeavors in Human-Computer Interaction. You also have many good friends of mine that I know you’re good taking care of.

But I have one polite request from you: Please disconnect my youtube service to my gmail account.

Months ago, I casually checked out some youtube videos and was shocked to find my name in the upper right hand corner. I have only uploaded one video, and I rarely ever sign in because I am not a videographer. But this time, I found that I was automatically signed in without me doing anything.

I later found out that you, Google, have upgraded all gmail accounts to a Google account, unifying existing services such as gmail, youtube, etc. into one log in name. For those that use lots of Google services together and often, this is great. One login to access everything, and there are better connections between these features.

Some of us have a professional, school, or academic gmail account, this is bad news.

Youtube for me is a place where I can find information that appeals to all sides of me, from the professional, tech scientist to the crafty woman to the super nerdy fan. If I want to find something, I search for it, and it’s information just like the internet.

But, my email represents my professional persona, where I am Anamary Leal, the human-computer interaction researcher and computer scientist.

Merging my Gmail account with my youtube viewing history mashes these different personals into a blob. This move links my academic papers with silly youtube videos about cats and rainbows. My research with songs about Fridays and stitching tutorials. My professional persona is mashed with my crafty & nerdy persona, without my permission.

Someone looking at my professional persona doesn’t need to know that I love videos of cats with rainbows, K-Pop artists with catchy dances, or of newscasters edited to sound like they’re singing. A potential boss might look at my youtube viewing history and judge that I am not a serious technical person, overlook my pursuit in a Ph.D in computer science, and just not offer me an interview.

Heck, maybe a potential boss just hates a video on my viewing list and may just decide to not interview me. While this hypothetical boss might be a terrible boss, it’s far better to give people less reasons to judge you poorly.

Google, your pursuit of the world’s information & how you present yourself on the internet isn’t the issue. The issue is that your services are used in completely different contexts. I use my professional email account in a professional context. But I use youtube in many more contexts than just professional, like a casual, sitting at home context, or even listening to a song context.

I control what people see about me and the kind of audience that sees my content. Telling me to merge these different contexts together seems wrong right now.

Maybe I can merge my professional, arts-and-crafty, nerdy side all into one side without fear of being judged as a weak computer scientist, researcher, or professional. But right now, I know that isn’t the case yet, and until then, I would like to control if/when I connect my professional email to my casual viewing/professionally contributing youtube account.

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GHC Notes: Jo Miller Leadership and Branding Talk

I had the pleasure and luck to not only attended the Grace Hopper’s Celebration of Women in Computing 2011, but also I got a Hopper volunteer position and I volunteered at one of Jo Miller’s great workshops. So, below are my notes for the workshop:

It is time to proactively identify and take back your branding.

Be famous for something, and know your claim to fame. That is, focus on what others detect is your core strength, and develop your branding.

Think about someone who brand themselves well. What are they known for? What is their brand?

Here are the general steps for this workshop:
1. Identify ideal career niche. What do i want to be when i grow up.
2. Create personal brand statement
3. Making brand visible

1.Identify your ideal career niche.

This involves ideal niche. Three elements:
1. What are you passionate about, as they relate to your professional life? In the zone, time flies by.
2. What are your skills and talents?
3. When does your company and or industry need and value?

When you know these, you get a rush.

Assignments. What does this look like? Sweet spot in your career. Ask others.

So, once you know that now, the next phase is create a brand statement.

2. Create a brand statement.

Be authentic on your own leadership. Style. Don’t change it. Own it. Communicate it.

Pooper scooper of lower level To the change agent

Pain in the butt, problem finder to passion to excellence.

Make a short and concise,and scalable. Example is go to person, subject matter, contributor, team player to innovator, change agent, people motivator, to charismatic leader

Example: where do i want to be in a few years? What do i need to know or be known for now, to be known for that later?

Turns fantasy into reality. Dreams into reality. Connector, innovator, empower others, mentor, leader-maker, catalyst, go to person,

Rules of networking:

  • Per week, when not looking for a job, make ten connections per week.
  • When looking on a job, it’s eighty.

Tips:

  • A brand is consistency. Something that you can keep consistent over time. Scrutinize it. Don’t let it hurt you later.
  • Find your passion. What gets you out of bed in the morning.
  • Don’t be afraid to change. Its normal to change career five times.
  • Go network, because your brand comes to you. If its negative, turn it positive.
  • Document and publish. Don’t stress, just reflect on what you’ve done, and what you want to do. Allow others to see the value.

3. Communicate your branding.

Here’s an elevator speech to fill in: Name, job title, i am known for, and come directly to me when you need a, b, c. 

For this step:

  • Work less
  • Communciate brand
  • Have career planning conversations with your leaders. How many leaders know about it? Sharing. Start the conversation with “I would like to work for you one day. I am interested in etc, or work on etc.” Ask for help. Work hard on the right projects. Make career defining roles.

 

How to promote accomplishments:

  • Present in meetings, invite leaders
  • Send out newsletter or regular status updates
  • Submit article to your organizations newsletter
  • Ask to be nominated to an award
  • Ask a colleague to toot your horn, and reciprocate
  • Speak on panels, conference
  • Forward kudos emails with “fyi”.

Think of your accomplishments like showing off your kids. Start small. Do what you say you will, and communicate if you can’t.

Promote your teams. If want a project, start a grassroots effort, and a cross functional level, so that your executives can’t say no.

Leadership is an opinion, results are a fact.

Speak up. If you can’t, ask a question.

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Lessons for a professional through my oddball hobbies

I do arts and crafts. I also do informal scripted and improvisation acting. I do anything from elaborate costumes and props, to in-depth character study & period-specific costuming research.

Those hobbies sound pretty far from what a computer scientist does, right? But, these experiences have given me invaluable lessons that apply to any profession, that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.

An alternate title to this is “how costuming, arts and crafts and acting are relevant to CS”, but I want to encourage others with oddball hobbies to chime in, and for you to take up some oddball hobbies. So, below are the lessons I learned through my oddball hobbies:

1. Presentation is key:

Whether you are not qualified enough to present the information(colloquially called “bullshitting”) or you’re the resident expert of what you’re presenting, presentation is equally important to the content, if not, arguably more important.

There is nothing more disappointing than seeing an actor with an amazing costume that must have taken months of work, and the actor isn’t acting the part. This is just as tragic as a researcher who has done excellent research, but hasn’t communicated or presented how ground-breaking their research is.

2. Practice makes perfect:

Iterations of design are much more important than getting it right.

Whenever I would attempt making the costume with one attempt, it would always fail or look terrible. My costumes always end up better if I practice on cheap practice fabric over and over again before actually do it on the fashion fabric. Even if I am close to running out of time, my second attempt of something is at least 3 times better than my first attempt.

3. Be kind & respectful to others.

My hobby is directly related to the entertainment industry, a very ruthless, yet tight-knit community. For every open position, there are 10 or more capable individuals that position, and people talk.

I learned these next two lessons in a panel about how to network in the entertainment industry, and the main message is to be kind and respectful for others. Pretty standard, right? But my last two lessons are practical advice that connects to that ideal. Do you do all this?

4. Never ever say that anyone or any company (or software program, research agenda) should be gone or fail.

Those companies, research ideas are all connected to people that have families to support, and friends that care about them. Why do you want people you don’t know, to fail? What if someone overhearing you is one of those friends? They would think you’re a jerk instantly.

5. Never use words like “you should do this”. Use instead “it would be great/beneficial if..”.

One sounds imposing, another sounds encouraging. In computer science, we use “we should” a lot, in part because we’re a young field trying to prove ourselves important in the world, but it’s really arrogant, not assertive. One response to that sort of comment is “How do you know what I should do?”

This doesn’t mean we can’t critique each other, but it means we respect each other and help each other become better. Another relevant tip is when you critique someone, say one good thing, then whatever bad things you want, and conclude with a good comment.

 

So again, I invite you to take up some hobby that is very different from your profession/discipline. Take a small class, join a random club, and explore. You never know what you might learn.

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CHI 2011: Terry Winograd: Reflections on HCI

I’m reflecting on draft posts and writings that were left unpublished, and improving them to the quality to post and share with you all. This post along with another one were notes I took at CHI 2011, one of the premiere HCI conferences. These notes came from Terry Winograd’s own reflections on HCI.

Lifetime Research Award Winner Talk: Terry Winograd

One of the shifts that Dr. Winograd has gone through is thinking about design in beyond just relevant aesthetics and values, but more as design as a mode of thinking

Computing started first in a room with a computer, and users would circle around the computers. The computer was meant to process information.

The mother of all demos really changed how humans thought about computers. Computers didn’t just output answers. The computer became a mediator for human-human communication.

Then, Mark Weiser’s work brought on various forms of computing. Computing by the inch, foot, and yard, brought  ubiquitous computing, and smart spaces.

Dr. Winograd himself contributed in the space with interactive workspaces & smart rooms. But he noted that it didn’t work out well, and was a good learning experience:

Lesson: Having a good conceptual background isn’t enough. Integration and having a good social context is essential.

What is a human? How do human qualities connect to disciplines?

  • Physical body: Human Factors.
  • Language understander: To use language. Psychology
  • Information processor: a problem solver, decision maker. Cognitive Psychology.

Lesson: people cannot refrain from projecting human qualities onto computers.

  • CSCW approach: a worker in an organization. A source of commitment. Management business

In his Stanford Digital Libraries Project, his team wanted to carefully organize and publish e-books and online information. But, the Google guys, Larry Page, noted that we didn’t need to organize information. Everything can be pulled together and searched with Google.

  • Information Seeker. “Informavore”.

Early online communities involved people meeting live, face to face, socially. People are social creatures.

  • Social beings: Sociology, anthropology

Why do people twitter? Why do people send so much time on Facebook, twitter, giving low-interest information like what you had for lunch?

He brings in insight from diapers. One of his students studied people, specifically parents and how to design better diapers. The concept of the “pull-ups” was a result.

Mechanically, pull-ups aren’t great, and may cause leaks. But design-wise, the pull-ups mean that the kid is growing up. The pull-ups are no longer a diaper, but underwear. The pull ups represent “growing up” and “I’m a big kid now”.

  • The source of meaning

Who am I? I add meaning. I don’t customize my own personal identity. I also add social meaning.

Who am I?

  • personal identity.
  • social identity. A blog is a form of social presence and reputation.
  • Fame and fortune. Reputation
  • Family and friends. The word “friend” is present much in the Facebook page.
  • We’re part of a larger community or society. In talking about this, ethics, social responsibility, politics, social issues, democracy are all involved in this aspect of identity.

Design

What is design? It’s creating an experience. His d.school is in an interdisciplinary setting with a focus on design.

What kind of research should be done?

Everything: technologies, sciences, mechanisms

What are the new possibilities?

How big has HCI grown then? HCI seems to cover a large variety of fields. Is variety still a good thing at this stage of the discipline, or should we organize?

For each major project, there are many, many projects that no one’s heard of. But, what’s more important is to frame your own research in the right way. The more important question is:

How do I design my research?

Be ontological. Consider shifts from processing, to mediator

Challenge your own assumptions and goals? This happened in his digital library project an Google challenged it, shifts in disciplines.

Be open to opportunities. Easy to say, hard to do. Sometimes technologies mature enough, or the world is ready, for certain opportunities. Most of the things mentioned came from collaboration.

Seek meaning. His advice to Larry Page is: “Do what you think is important.”

What are the meanings that matter to you and the CHI community?

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