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.

“Set Phasers on Stun” still relevant in healthcare industry

Center Treats Wrong Side Of Patient’s Brain

DETROIT — A patient undergoing treatment at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit received a dose of radiation on the wrong side of the brain, according to a report filed with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

According to the report, a crucial piece of information was misread prior to treatment with a gamma knife, which delivers a targeted form of radiation therapy that zeros in on specific locations in the brain.

The patient went through a routine MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of the brain just before the procedure, but went into the scanner “feet first,” rather than the standard practice of head first, the document said.

“The gamma knife-authorized medical physicist failed to recognize the scanning error when importing the MRI images into the Gamma Knife treatment planning computer, and subsequently registered them as head first,” the report said. “This resulted in the wrong side of the patient being targeted and treated.”

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What went wrong? Deviation from standards (if there are standards)? Too-busy doctors? I’ll be interested to see who gets the blame.

Another precient post

The multiple monitor post made me think of something I read yesterday. This is from The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman in 1988.

“Would you like a pocket-size device that reminded you of each appointment and daily event? I would. I am waiting for the day when portable computers become small enough that I can keep one with me at all times. I will definitely put all my reminding burdens upon it. It has to be small. It has to be convenient to use. And it has to be relatively powerful, at least by today’s standards. It has to have a full, standard typewriter keyboard and a reasonably large display. It needs good graphics, because that makes a tremendous difference in usability, and a lot of memory – a huge amount, actually. And it should be easy to hook up to the telephone; I need to connect it to my home and laboratory computers. Of course, it should be relatively inexpensive.”

When Norman wrote this, the “first PDA” had been on the market 4 years. Though armed with a full (though alphabetic) keyboard, it hardly fulfilled Norman’s ideals.

Today, of course, even the technologicaly challenged own one of these, only differing in that it IS a phone rather than having to hook it to one:

treo

One thing I find interesting: the device above fits Norman’s functional desires to a T. However, if there is anything that still needs usability improved… it is the cell phone.

And if there is anything that needs it more than a cell phone, it’s anything combined with a cell phone.

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.

Fast Food Wednesday

I was browsing the nutrition information for Moe’s the other day and was struck by the uniqueness of their interface. It let’s you specify exactly what you order, exactly how you order, at their restaurant. Give it a try (click on “Nutrition” in the menu at bottom.) This is obviously an interface for those who need to know just how many calories are in those jalapeno bits.

moes

As an informal comparison, check out these interfaces from Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Burger King. They all make assumptions, perhaps correct, about their users. For example, it was pointed out to me that taco bell makes sure it’s easy for you to have more than one of the same item (since that’s how people order… two soft tacos, please).

tacobell

McDonald’s seems to think that importing the same table they provide in-restaurant is the way to go.

mcd1

Burger King pretends to be novel, with the “big book of nutrition”, but exploration of any item eventually turns up a table.

bk1

bk2

It does seem to be the most parental of the sites, offering as many tips on how to eat as telling you what they serve.

These interfaces are so rich with both good and bad human factors, I can’t possibly cover it in one post. Let us know your favorites!

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.

Not blaming the user since 2007!

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