Unideal Don't Panic

Crowdsourced Document Annotation: Using your vertical crowd.

  • Jun 12th, 2011


This project explores the application of modern design patterns to crowdsourced document annotation. I combine game elements with improved aesthetics and interactions to encourage a publisher’s existing audience to work for them in exchange for publisher-specific rewards.

I’ve done very limited user testing of the system, so it currently serves as more of a demonstration than proof of these concepts. A modified version of this prototype is being readied for internal use at a publication. I’ll post more details and some measure of success or failure once it has seen some use.

Read the exciting paper and description of the demo here:


Design Guidelines for Faceted Search

  • Feb 19th, 2011

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Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 3.43.44 PMThis paper is a literature review of relevant research on the design of faceted search interfaces. The work here was the foundation for the redesign of a new Hemmings.com classifieds search interface now in production.

Design Considerations for Faceted Search Read the paper: Faceted Search Literarure Review and Implementation


Reviewing and synthesizing relevant academic literature is a solid approach to any major product initiative and Google Scholar makes it a lot easier than it used to be. Comps and heuristic approaches can get you most of the way there but adding grounding based on academic work adds a new dimension of ideas and validation.

It’s interesting to look at the Delta between my presented “ideal” version of the interface and then compare where it ended up as a production interface incorporating the inertia and natural politics of an established web property along with the limitations of development tools and time frames. Constraints, not excuses! I’m very happy with our version 1.0 system.

Under the hood, Hemmings’ classifieds search is powered by a clustered SOLR search engine using a pretty standard set of query parsers. In addition, we’ve tapped into the excellent Spatial SOLR plugin from Jteam for geographic searches. I’m really satisfied with the performance, management overhead and extensibility of this setup.

This work has not been published in any journals but serves as a decent review of the fundamentals underlying this type of interface. My goal from the outset was to produce a product rather than do any new research or insights, and the paper reflects it. Let me know if you find it useful or would like to talk more about faceted search.

Group Recommender Systems in Netflix Streaming context

  • Jul 7th, 2010

Recommender Prototype in action

Recommender Prototype in action

Television convergence is well underway and new interaction scenarios are emerging that require research and facilitation. I worked with Dr. Luis Francisco-Revilla and several students at the University of Texas School of Information to explore these situations through foundation research and user studies to imagine new interfaces that might enable social discussion and programming selection in a group context

The end result is a conference-style paper that explores group recommender systems in theory and implementation. It’s a very cool topic and the prototype generated for our research was compelling enough to warrant production of a revised full-featured system currently (under construction).

Download Paper

Pike’s Peak or Bust – Apple Farmer Racing 2010

  • Jun 15th, 2010


Apple Farmer Racing took on the 88th running of the Pike’s Peak International Hillclimb in June 2010. Pike’s Peak International Hillclimb is the second oldest motor sports event in the United States:  a 12.4 mile, 156 turn race through my butts to Pike’s Peak’s 14,110′ summit. The race forces competitors to climb over a mile and race through sheer dropoffs and dangerous switchbacks.

We were the only 4 cylinder car to finish in a large vintage class of American v8’s. We’re also the first Volvo in the race since 1958. Our final time of 15:15 wasn’t quite where we wanted to be but we chalk it up to a rookie attempt and are already redeveloping the car for next year’s event.


Design Synthesis – Watching the Horologists

  • Mar 17th, 2010

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I recently interviewed a group of watchmakers and used the resulting information to produce a series of interaction and concept diagrams for one of my iSchool classes. Everything is posted on a small sub-site to gather together the design artifacts.

Semantic Zoom Plus 1

These diagramming and exploration methods employ contextual inquiry to quickly generate insights. This work is based on 3 hours of primary contextual interviews with horologists in their offices along with 2 hours of secondary research. It produced surprisingly detailed information. The horologists I interviewed were very fun people and the concepts involved in their work are under-documented. It’s worth a look.

Check it out

Instant mobile site, just add IUI

  • Feb 18th, 2010

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IUI LogoMy latest work assignment is a major technical and product revision of hemmings.com, the web presence Hemmings Motor News’ excellent automotive magazines.


As a warm-up to the project I worked with Hemmings’ developer, Jeremy Meerwarth, to create a simple mobile-viewable version of the site. The majority of the current site usage consists of people viewing Hemmings’ premium classified ads so our initial approach was to satisfy the need for a basic mobile-viewable classified ad. In this scenario we were considering a probable entry point of a “Share this ad” email or Facebook post. A user shows up on a classified display page, we detect user-agent and render the mobile page as needed. We knocked this out in a day with some simplified templates and they looked fine. This is great if someone shares a classified ad by email or social media but otherwise it’s an isolated page with no way to navigate and explore other content.

Creating a navigable mobile classified site with multiple entry points was a different problem altogether.

Initially we explored how to modify the site’s main templates to send the site into a mobile template ‘mode’ via user-agent detection. Light prototyping here showed this to be a trainwreck of dependencies. All Picture 8of the content on the site was formatted for a 960px viewable screen width. The nested conditional spaghetti needed to accomplish merging the mobile site into the main site was way out of scope – and it felt wrong.

Our conclusion was that we needed to send mobile user agents to their very own version of the site (a typical approach across the web). Through Apache’s mod_rewrite we can detect mobile user agents and send them to our sub-site and use some easy cookie checking to let people jump to the full site as needed. Now that we were working with a blank slate we started looking for formatting and design options and any libraries that might help us.

Enter IUI – originally developed by Joe Hewitt to solve the exact same problem we were facing. It’s a lightweight javascript dispatcher pattern that uses styles to transform simple divs and lists into a user experience nearly indistinguishable from iPhone app design conventions. Animated navigation and mobile-friendly design and readability are built-in and the ramp-up time was less than one day.

The resulting site allows users to navigate from a stripped-down home page to search and browse classifieds with a familiar iPhone-like user-experience. The amount of nesting and navigation needed  leaves something to be desired but this app is so fast, loading only div content via ajax rather than refreshing the whole page, that load times are acceptable even on Edge networks. We could definitely use some polish but the bones are solid and it looks and feels great on any webkit mobile browser. Huge props to the maintainers of this code, it helped us produce something very polished in a brief period of time. Check it out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Deconstructing the Newsreaders – Usability examination of 4 iphone news applications

  • Dec 1st, 2009

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Mobile Media

mainMedia companies are now focusing heavily on mobile content distribution and looking for new revenue models on mobile devices. Understanding the unique opportunities and constraints of this medium isn’t exactly intuitive. The device landscape and trends seem to change bimonthly  and there isn’t a ‘no-brainer’ template for companies to adopt and invest in. Everyone just has to jump in the water and start swimming or be left behind. New business models, design patterns and user interactions are all still being sorted out in this evolutionary process.

What makes mobile application usability different from the traditional website equivalent? In short: small screen, limited input devices, and infinite variability of social and environmental contexts encountered by mobile users. You can’t regurgitate your website onto a small screen and call it a day, you have to give some thought to the wants and needs of a user are as they pull their mobile device out of their pocket and open your app to interact with your brand. You have to evaluate what makes your brand special in the mobile context and play to those strengths with a polished and easy-to-use application. “Usability” has lately catapulted into a long-deserved limelight role in product creation. The promotion of usability has created a new vocabulary for customers to differentiate “good” software and it can no longer be a secondary consideration.

So what attributes make a news media company’s application truly excellent and usable?

Read the rest of this entry »

Usability considerations for mobile devices

  • Nov 2nd, 2009

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IMG_0482This was a paper for Randolph Bias’ usability class at University of Texas School of information.
It’s a very light look at mobile usability considerations in mobile contexts.

Recently, revolutionary devices such as Apple’s iPhone and the Palm Pre have illustrated how important usability is in creating distinction in an otherwise commoditized marketplace of mobile devices. Studies have shown that in terms of barriers to users’ acceptance of mobile computing applications, usability is second only to security (Casper & Gonsalves, 2005). The emerging consideration of mobile usability is a topic deserving focused attention.

Mobile usability diverges from other usability interaction research in a couple of important areas. In this whitepaper I will address the interactive limitations of small-form factor devices as well as the challenges posed in creating viable research methods for devices used in many different environmental and social contexts. Read the rest of this entry »

2009 La Carrera Panamericana

  • Oct 16th, 2009

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Check out the our run at the 2009 La Carrera Panamericana – a hardcore rally race spanning all of Mexico.

Enjoy the site and be sure to follow our updates beginning October 21st 2009.


Vintage Performance Developments site redesign

  • Jun 7th, 2009

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VPD Redesign

VPD Redesign

Just finished a summary of some work I did for John Parker at Vintage Performance Developments as a project for my grad studies.

This was a complete restructuring of IA and design with the addition of new custom editing functions to give the owner more editorial control.

Take a read.

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