Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dumbell's #

According to the Wikipedia entry, "Dunbar's number is suggested to be a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person." And since it's on Wikipedia it must be true! ;). The average number of these integrated social relationships is 150.

150 friendships.

I like to get students thinking about this in class by having them tell how many contacts they have in their phones and how many 'friends' they have on FB or other social networking site. Many have noted that they feel they have a much smaller number of relationships that would count as part of Dunbar's concept. Others point out that you may have 150 or more, but you do not associate with all of them constantly. 

It definitely should cause you rethink how Facebook has redefined for us what a "friend" is.

But that's not what this post is about.

I propose a different number. Dumbell's Number.

This is the number of passwords for apps, programs, devices, accounts, etc. that a person can possibly know. And I think it's about two (2), especially if the second one is a derivation of the first.

I am so sick and tired of having to come up with another password every time I turn around! And good security advice is to never write it down. Don't put it on a Post-it on the back of your computer or inside your desk drawer, or under the stapler. Any half-way decent hacker knows every place you would think of to hide it.
And of course every new password must be longer, more convoluted, use absolutely no recognizable terms, blah, blah, blah.

So what's the solution? Well, if I told you that, then you'd know my password!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Digital Fingertips

What's the next big thing in UI (User Interface)? Is it a 3D touchpad? Is it a Minority Report virtual screen that reads your gestures? Thought control?

Image Courtesy of Microsoft Office
You know what I've decided? We haven't come very far in the last 6,000 years. We still think in 2D. We still work in 2D. At least when it comes to technology interfaces. Even with the touch screen revolution of the past few years our fingers are only working like a pencil or a stylus on a 2D screen. And that cool virtual interface used in Minority Report, and that is making it's way into the mainstream world, is still a basically flat surface that we connect with.

Perhaps technologies like Wii and Kinect are visions of how we will use our laptops, mobile phones, and pad computers in the near future. But, it's still hard to beat the versatility and joy of a pencil and a scratch pad.

We do so much of our communicating on a flat surface that I think it is hard for us to get beyond that. I remember in my graduate studies classes that it hit me one day that most of the theoretical models for our discipline were trapped by the parameters of two dimensions. Fancy xy grids and diagrams lacked a true three dimensional aspect. Those statistical charts that did incorporate a third, z axis tended to blow our minds and were hard to comprehend.

What if we let sculptors and other artists design UI technology?! How would they envision getting in touch with electrons through digital fingertips!?

Dr. S.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Teaching an (sorta) old prof new tricks

I’ve always been stuck between generations. My generation got stuck between the Baby Boomers and the Baby Busters. My generation got stuck between PCs and Mobile Computing. My generation got stuck between newspapers and Twitter.
Am I complaining? No. Just in a fog at times. I’m not hooked on social networking. I do love the Internet and all it offers, but fear we’re waaaayyyyy too self-disclosive. I don’t get the blogging thing. So why am here?
Old dogs sometimes have to learn new tricks. Like when your workplace says, “Make a web page for yourself.”
As a professor in today’s marketplace and social spaces, a Communication professor at that, I get it. Everyone’s online reading everyone’s stuff. Young people (and their parents) want to see that you are a real person and not just a mug shot on a boring standardized institutional website.
Doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with it. At least not yet.
Ok. I know enough about this online presence thing to realize I’m bordering on ranting. :)
(Do you see that?! That’s an emoticon! Ooooh! I’m up-to-date now!)
Photo: Mitzy, the rolling robot dog. A new old spin on our "best friends." Art by Will Wagenaar. Learn more at GizmoWatch.com.