All posts by Richard Pak

Associate Professor at Clemson University/Department of Psychology

Facebook privacy issue may be a usability issue?

I am not on the Facebook wagon but I found the controversy over Facebook’s Beacon interesting. Users were inadvertently displaying their online purchases to their friends on Facebook. Facebook claims that users could opt-out of showing this information but many users said it was not obvious. Here are some before and after screenshots [from the NYT blog entry]:

BEFORE [note the very faint X on the right]:

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AFTER [note the word remove after the X]:

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[link]

More medical errors–Operating on the wrong side of the patient’s brain!

There sure seem to be lots of medical errors in the news lately. No mention of human factors:

The most recent case happened Friday when, according to the health department, the chief resident started brain surgery on the wrong side of an 82-year-old patient’s head. The patient was OK, the health department and hospital said.

In February, a different doctor performed neurosurgery on the wrong side of another patient’s head, said Andrea Bagnall-Degos, a health department spokeswoman. That patient was also OK, she said.

But in August, a patient died a few weeks after a third doctor performed brain surgery on the wrong side of his head. That surgery prompted the state to order the hospital to take a series of steps to ensure such a mistake would not happen again, including an independent review of its neurosurgery practices and better verification from doctors of surgery plans.

We can surmise from the short news article that the source of the problem seems to be working memory??

In addition to the fine, the state ordered the hospital to develop a neurosurgery checklist that includes information about the location of the surgery and a patient’s medical history, and to put in place a plan to train staff on the new checklist.

[link]

Patient record mistakes

LOS ANGELES – The recent chatter on a popular social networking site dealt with a problem often overlooked in medicine: mistakes in patients’ medical charts.The twist was the patients were doctors irked to discover gaffes in their own records and sloppy note-taking among their fellow physicians.

Errors can creep into medical charts in various ways. Doctors are often under time pressure and may find themselves taking shortcuts or not fully listening to a patient’s problems. Others rely on their memory to update their patients’ files at the end of the day. Other mistakes can arise from illegible handwriting or coding problems.

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Warning compliance

[nytimes.com]

Authorities on the densely populated Indonesian island of Java concluded in mid-October that the threat was imminent enough to require sending troops to forcibly evacuate tens of thousands of villagers living on the mountain’s slopes, directly in the way of volcanic ash falls, mudslides and perhaps even lava flows …

that didn’t come. The government said on Thursday that the threat had now subsided enough for most evacuees to return to their homes and lands, and learn whether they had been looted or ruined over the weeks they were left untended.

In just two days, we’ve gotten two more big datapoints for the age-old quandary facing public officials around the world about where to set the threshold for public warnings of less-than-certain disaster.

There doesn’t seem to have been a crying-wolf issue in either case: both Mount Kelud eruptions and North Sea storm-surge floods have wrought devastation in living memory, and the authorities could offer plenty of objective physical grounds for their concerns.

Still, erring on the safe side takes its own toll, both material — the evacuated Indonesians apparently had ample cause to worry about looting — and psychological. Even when they are issued in good faith for good reason, every false alarm can drain some of the menace, and some of the effectiveness, out of the next warning.

iphone usability

I apologize in advance for posting news about the iphone…but apparently, Perceptive Sciences (a usability firm in TX) concluded that the iphone has better usability than the Nokia N95 or HTC Touch

Everybody will have an opinion, but what’s need is something more objective and definitive. So an expert in the field — Perceptive Sciences, an Austin, Texas-based usability consulting firm — was asked to examine and compare the iPhone and two competitors.

The results of its tests were unequivocal: While the iPhone is not the most feature-rich device, this group of experts found that when it comes to usability, iPhone does, indeed, live up to its hype.

input device silliness…

More “function following form” with input devices…iDrive anyone?

smart_drive.jpg

With big knobs in cars that control the audio system being all the rage these days, designer Hao-Chun Huang wants to take the knob joke all the way to its logical conclusion and make a super, all-purpose metallic knob to control everything in your vehicle.

[gizmodo]

never blame the user…

[heard about it on NPR, Seattle-Post story]

Around 9 p.m., the man was in line at a self-service checkout stand, ready to buy a pry bar and a hacksaw, according to a Seattle police report.

But, as a manager told an officer, the man accidentally hit the button on the computer screen for Spanish.

That was the tipping point for this consumer.

He became “frustrated that the machine was speaking Spanish,” the police report says.

So, instead of asking for help, he let loose a blow with the pry bar and shattered the computer. He ran from the store and made a beeline to some railroad tracks, the report said.