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Hi Zak,

let me first introduce myself to make my point of view more clear: I'm memb=
of the KDE usability and HCI project, and working as a usability=20

While I agree that it's the dream of each usability expert to gain statisti=
data how users use their applications from the whole user base, I have big=
concerns using anonymous feedback mechanism like you described in the HTML=
document. This discussion is not new to me, so far it has come up in many O=
projects I've worked in. It is always an idea developed by developers, and=
IMHO an attempt to solve a *usability* problem technically.=20

The reason why we do usability testing and user observation in controlled=20
environments (either in a lab or sitting next to a user in his/her actual=20
work environment and just watching them) is that it provides the ability to=
collect *context information*. Without knowing the context of a certain use=
situation, you are not able to evaluate if the actions a user performs are=
appropriate or not. Without knowing the goals a user has, you can not say i=
the chosen action was helpful to fulfill the goal. Even worse, you don't kn=
when or if a goal was achieved at all. We do usability testing instead of=20
collecting anonymous data because we need to *ask* for such goals and the=20
user's background, only then we can explain a user's behaviour.

=46rom a bunch of anonymous data, you will get several high and low peaks, =
sequences of actions. Without knowing about their tasks it's impossible to=
know if actions were not used because they were not part of the task they=20
wanted to perform, or if they did not find them. Taking Thomas' example of=
DnD in Konqui, you'll never know it the people don't do it because they've=
already learned it does not work, or if they don't use dnd. Even worse,=20
information about the user is missing! How do you know if the people who se=
in their data belong to your targetted user group? Maybe all your data come=
from the developers themselves, how should you know?? Even if Microsoft use=
these mechanisms successfully, the method does not convince me. Of course=20
you'll get some basic data, but after all, they also had to supplemented it=
by extensive user testing and observation of users in their work environmen=
to gain a usable application.

And here we get to my second, even bigger concern: A software that is=20
*potentially* able to call home, is not trustworth for many users. I very=20
well remember when Microsoft XP was launched: The first thing everybody who=
got a new PC running XP was told by his peers was to switch off the 'call=20
home' function. Still, people were unsure if it really was switched off. If=
software has the power to observe you and send the data to an unkown=20
recipient, a user cannot be sure if a simple button to switch off the=20
function really works.=20

You may argue that an additional software that needs to be installed manual=
might be a solution - but then I wonder how we should address all those=20
non-power users whose data is of most interest for KDE?

I'm sorry to be so harsh, but I've heard that solution quite often. In the=
first run I somehow liked the idea to get a big bunch of statistical data.=
But the benefits (which are less than you might first expect due to the=20
missing contextual information) do not outweigh the costs, namely loss in t=
user's trust for KDE. When it comes to sending usage data back home, there =
a clear answer from my side: Don't!

However, KTips is another thing. In applications where you know about=20
weaknesses of the interface that can't be fixed by the one or the other=20
reason, you might specifically support the user. If he uses some bad=20
workarounds we know that are likely to occure, we can tell the user.=20

Here, the approach is the other way round: Instead of tracking the user and=
taking his data as a basis of our usability work, we do usability work firs=
identify the major pitfalls, and provide proper support in these situations=
The difference is that these tips are *context-based*, we observe certain=20
actions, assume a context of use, ask the user if it's the case and if so, =
provide help. Fine-tuning will be a challenge, though

If you also like that idea of context-based tips, I'd be happy to support y=
to find out major pitfalls in a certain application. Kontact keeps coming t=
my mind... ;-)=20


On Tuesday 14 March 2006 23:15, Zak Jensen wrote:
> Note: CC'ed the kde-quality and kde-usability mailing lists.
> I guess I should first introduce myself, for those who do not know me.
> I am Zak Jensen, a senior at Drexel University, and a long time
> supporter of open source, the KDE project in particular. Some of you
> may know me from kdedevelopers.org (where I have responded to some of
> your blog posts), the kde-usability mailing list, or kde-artists. I
> have been lurking on the kde-devel, kde-core-devel, and kde-quality
> mailing lists for about 2 months now.
> About 4 months ago, I proposed a replacement for the KTips dialog: a
> mix between non-intrusive version of clippy, a plasmoid, and the
> present KTips functionality.
> http://lists.kde.org/?l=3Dkde-usabil...22114054&w=3D2
> http://lists.kde.org/?l=3Dkde-usabil...25600245&w=3D2
> http://lists.kde.org/?l=3Dkde-usabil...17629919&w=3D2
> http://lists.kde.org/?l=3Dkde-usabil...85931144&w=3D2
> And have also talked about it a bit on the kde-artists forums.
> Unfortunately, the kollaboration forums have been relocated, and I
> cannot find the original post at this time.
> In any case, the idea has mutated from being an improvement of KTips
> to a generic "action monitoring" service. The basic idea is to collect
> abstract usage information from users, and analyze it. That analysis
> could be used to target interfaces which should be investigated. The
> information can also be used to pinpoint seldom used interfaces or
> features.
> It is important to mention at this point that we are providing an
> abstraction to prevent the perception of our software as malignant
> software. One way that we are doing this is by limiting the type of
> information which the system will accept. We are limiting the input
> information (in future versions) to abstractions like "typing",
> "button click", and "toggle checkbox".
> At the moment, we are finding out how the mechanism will work, or if
> it will work at all. Future versions of our software will be built
> with a proper outlook on security and privacy.
> My senior design team wishes to integrate with an already existing
> project, and I recommended KDE to them. To those ends, I was wondering
> how interested the community is in the project. We are open to ideas
> for features, feasibility, and recommendations on how to integrate
> with KDE. We are not looking to be incorporated into the project at
> this time. Rather, we require an audience to help us tailor and focus
> our project, and we hope that there will be a few interested projects
> within KDE.
> Another portion of our project is defining a generic model for
> graphical user interfaces which can be applied across several
> platforms. If anyone knows of such a model which already exists
> (excepting that defined by a set of libraries) details for that would
> be greatly appreciated.
> Attached are 4 documents (in the tar file) providing more detail for
> our project. The best viewing of the html files occurs within
> Konqueror, but they render alright within FireFox 1.5 as well.
> Please forward any questions back to this thread or, if I have posted
> to a particular mailing list in err of its guidelines, to me
> personally.
> Thanks,
> Zak


Ellen Reitmayr
KDE Usability Project

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