Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gonna get to the bottom of this

So I'm finally starting to get really serious about my MBA indepdendent studies thesis. That's the last thing I need to do to be done with my MBA. ^^; I've entertained various topics in the past, one of which was going to be about the future of the music industry. Then a great book on the topic of the future of music was published by Gerd (who was a professor of mine at Berklee Extension School) and David Kusek. So I scrapped that idea. Now I have another topic I'm fascinated in and would like to take this opportunity to learn more about. To keep me motivated and to also serve as a place where I quickly jot down my findings on the topic I'm starting a blog. Hopefully this will allow me to interact with experts in the field that would like to educate this humble student as well. =)

The topic is about the "End-User Revolution". What exactly am I interested in? Well, when I look at the trend in which technology has been introduced to the market, it seems like it started off as being all about the technology itself. Lots of cool inventions that allowed people to do things that were never before imagined possible. But, things were centered around the system in which the technology did its magic. What you saw was what you got, and you just kinda had to bear with it. Then the industry started to study how human beings can more effectively use tools. It seems like various industrial design efforts, ergnomics, etc... were all about this. Then there were also notions such as market research, usability study techniques and other related user research that all basically gave more focus on how the users interacted with technology. This is where we throw in the buzz words such as user-centered design, etc... I want to cover that spectrum of history along with a survey of current state of research into the subject of end-user involvement in innovation. I would then wrap up with a conjecture for the future.

As I begin to gather my resources, my current hypothesis is that the industry will have to once again make a leap, but this time to provide end users with a much greater power to create their own experience, which makes the model not simply user-centric, but something much more flexible. It goes without saying that there is a big community of hackers and DIY folks that have taken this to their own hands, but I'm talking about it becoming adopted at a more full-blown mainstream level. I see gilmmers of the potential for this happening, but I could be wrong, of course. =) That's what I'm trying to find out. I'm also thinking that I need to cover quite a bit about the notion of "paradigm shifts" and how it relates to the industry as well as the market.

To start, I'm putting together a list of all the books I'm going to have to read (or re-read even if I had read it previously) on the sidebar. If you believe there are other books I should look into, please lemme know! Magazine articles and other forms of references are welcome, too! I'm hoping to be done with the thesis by the end of the year 2006 (December)~ Alright, let's start the journey!



Sounds really interesting, and an endless amount of data to pour through. Given my limited knowledge I immediately thought of Herman Miller and the various outfits that tried to conform the office environment around a worker's habits or work flow while taking into consideration ergonomics, ventilation, lighting, etc. I don't know how relevant this is since it looks like your thesis may be geared towards the digital end of the spectrum. But industrial design will probably play a role in your thesis initially considering all the studies people in the industry now do could probably be attributed to the type of studies conducted in the early 1900s. There are probably similar studies in other sectors that predates it though.

We can already sense that products that can be hacked or personalized in some way draws much more of a buzz and a larger community than those that are closed off. Then again, Apple defies this notion. Perhaps there are two different groups that would need to be looked into here. The hackers/DIYers who are at the forefront modifying whatever companies put out and the mainstream folks who benefits from this because the early adopters are capable of molding the experience into something the end users may prefer in the end.

Given the success of the iPod and other Apple products, it sort of runs counter to what I'm trying to say here because those systems in my view are closed off. I think the key is to not inundate the user with as many choices as possible. I think the key is to drill down to the work flow/functions that are needed and clearly present to the users the choices they have, and the choices should be easily differentiated. Otherwise you'll get yourself into a situation where Microsoft Office has 100x the tools you'll ever know about, but most people stick with what they know and never have the time to take advantage of what's out there. From what I've read about the new Office coming out, I think they are going in the right direction by only allowing you to see the tools that may be relevant at any given moment (which somewhat appears now, i.e. when you click on a picture the picture toolbars appear).

With communications the way it is now, I'd be more interested to see corporations farm out their product/user interface designs to the community. Lego kind of did this by plucking out the top tier members on some community forums and including them in the design process. They didn't get paid, but they got their voices heard and received free stuff. More than any fanboy could ask for. This is just another logical extension of the beta test groups etc.

Okay, gotta get to doing real work, but thanks for allowing me to fire my neurons this morning with something like this. Maybe this is a subject I should write about on the Design blog.

By Blogger DC, at Tuesday, April 11, 2006 8:19:00 AM  

Oh and black text on a red background is kinda hard to read man. GUI this thing up!

By Blogger DC, at Tuesday, April 11, 2006 8:20:00 AM  

Hmmm... Very interesting. I don't have too much experience on this matter, but it seems like the development of technology and ease of use by an end user is something that will never be truly seamless. If something is new, there will always be (and I also believe, should be) a learning curve. The main issue of debate is, does the progression into the use of a device/application work with the learning curve of the basic user.

The task of the device/application is probably the key issue, and there just seems to be certain devices that are out right now where the user must learn to work around a way a system works, rather than the other way around. (I'm talking specifically PDAs, which is why I refuse to own one, heh)

But like I said, as interested as I am in discussing this with you, I'm not too familiar with this subject. But it seems as though the most successful end-user experiences are those where the technology creates a bridge between how a person thinks, and what the person wants to achieve.

By Blogger [illegal] architect, at Tuesday, April 11, 2006 5:28:00 PM  

roomba has done something like this, and added a port into their new models so that hackers can program the robots. it's like an officially sanctioning them to reengineer their product.

i think a driving force behind this is the internet's ability to quickly diffuse and pinpoint information, and give anybody anywhere publishing ability. so info from everybody is available to everybody. all the early mistakes and obstacles on hacking my cell phone, laptop, etc. have been conquered, making it very easy for me to find a diy guide on how to do it, as well as find experts on how to help me do it.

let's look at

- booting windows on apple computer
- xbox hacking
- grand theft sex hack

this information would have normally been limited to an very exclusive, elite, tiny community. but instead joe farmer out in iowa after a day of harvesting corn can find out how to do stuff like the very day the hackers figured out to do it themselves.

i think what is starting to happen is expertise is being immediately transferable, within a very short time frame. you can find forums, teeming with professsional and amateurs who've been tinkering for years on how to do everything. there's a forum on how to build cheap custom soundproof studios, how to get the cheapest flights, how to pick up girls, how to get comped in vegas.

in conclusion
- incredible depth of knowledge (with both real world experience and academic credits to back it and building on eachother)
- wide breadth of subjects
- unparallel speed of diffusion
- no physical dimensions (who cares if you're in nyc or missouri, as long as you have broadband)

this is what i see as the end user revolution, because users have found each other, and the synergy of our combined knowledge is unprecedented and is galloping across the globe

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:44:00 AM  

Hey Seung Chan,
Quite an interesting topic you are researching about. Actually my sister is in this field too. She got her interaction design masters from CMU and started her own company in Hong Kong doing HCI and user experience design consulting.
You may check out her company's website, there might be a few articles or presentations of interest to you:


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, April 24, 2006 11:38:00 PM  

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