|photo by Ian Finder|
Tools for sorting things out and thinking things through
I specialize in the design of web-based communication and collaboration tools that make it easier for people to work together, whether their across town or across the country. I have contributed to the design of full-scale collaboration platforms (like ConsiderIt) and lightweight tools (like QBox and Reflect) with radically different audiences and use-cases. In general, I believe that the design is best that designs least: I strive to keep designs flexible, approachable and contextual.
Whether I'm mocking up a new interaction mechanism, walking through a scenario or proposing a new feature to the design team, the users and the context of use are always at the front of my mind. I always keep tools and techniques such as personas, usability tests, and paper prototypes and site instrumentation at the ready to "sanity-check" my intuitions and surface new design ideas. And I keep myself open to serendipity at all times: you never know what might trigger a new idea, or where even the most whimsical trains of thought will lead.
Teahouse: Peer-support for New Wikipedians
As a Reseach Fellow with the Wikimedia Foundation, I participated in the design of a new microsite on the English Wikipedia called WP:Teahouse. The Teahouse is a populated, user-friendly welcome center/help space that organizes experienced editors to actively reach out to new users in a many-to-many setting and provides on-wiki encouragement and peer support to promising new editors to promote increased engagement and editor retention. Imagine an on-wiki “peer support space” as an incubator not for content creation but for editor development. The goal is to help new editors become accustomed to community culture, ask questions, develop community relationships, etc – supporting each other on their journey to become experienced Wikipedians. The goal is to help new editors become accustomed to community culture, ask questions, develop community relationships, etc – supporting each other on their journey to become experienced Wikipedians. Although the project will welcome all good faith new users, women are a particular target population. By creating a social-learning experience that helps integrate women into the community and support them in getting past barriers to participation, we hope to impact the "gender gap" in Wikipedia editing (only 9 percent of regular Wikipedia editors are women).
I serve as the design lead of WP:Teahouse. As one of four core members of the project, I helped craft the overall design rationale and look-and-feel, conducted and collected supporting research, created design mockups, task flow diagrams and user scenarios, and developed a great deal of the content and technical infrastructure that power the Teahouse.
ConsiderIt: Structuring Online Deliberation
During the summer of 2010, I participated in the design of a new platform, called ConsiderIt for helping distributed groups make sense of complex issues. ConsiderIt was the product of a grant-funded collaboration between the Seattle City Club and a University of Washington research team. ConsiderIt was first implemented as the Living Voters Guide, a website for citizens of Washington State to explore the various 2010 ballot initatives and to contribute to the creation of a crowdsourced voters guide. The Living Voters Guide was a major success, with over 600 registered users and an average of 1000 page views per day during the run up to the election, and garnered significant local media coverage. The Living Voters Guide was nominated for a 2011 Washington Technology Industry Association award in the category of "Best use of tech in government, non-profit or education."
We are currently working with organizations in the local government, industry and non-profit sectors to secure additional implementations of ConsiderIt. We are also currently working on implementing a richer set of social media features into the ConsiderIt platform, to provide better social translucence and improve opportunities for communication between users.
ConsiderIt is an open source platform that seamlessly combines the virtues of personal reflection and public deliberation. ConsiderIt works by drawing on the wisdom of crowds to surface key considerations for decision-making: helping organizations engage stakeholders around the issues that matter most to them. ConsiderIt helps individuals make sense of complex issues through familiar deliberative activities. Pro/con lists, stance sliders and threaded discussions make it easy for each contributor to make up their mind, make their voice heard and find others who share their views. ConsiderIt's structured approach to deliberation also helps decrease polarization and create common ground among people with different views. ConsiderIt prioritizes the pro and con points that matter most to people from across the decision spectrum, helping decision-makers move towards solutions with broad appeal.
I helped design ConsiderIt, contributing to the design of several of its core interaction mechanisms (such as dual stance sliders and color-coded pro/con points), as well as the logo design and the name (which I'm particularly proud of :). I also performed user research in support of the design throughout the development cycle, including conducting user studies, creating personae, usage scenarios and paper prototypes.
QBox: Sorting Things Out in Digital Spaces
During the Spring of 2010, I led the design of QBox, a web-based tool for classifying online content. Based on Drupal and constructed using widely available addons with minimum of custom coding, QBox is a great example of how to create flexible and powerful research tools that meet user needs at minimal cost. QBox has proven a useful tool for all sorts of practical classification tasks: from characterizing the features of websites to sorting out what people say in threaded online discussion forums.
Qbox is a flexible tool developed by the Communicative Practices in Virtual Workspaces research group at the University of Washington to support innovative forms of analysis for web-based and digital material. Qbox integrates three functional areas of work associated with content analysis: consolidating and presenting source data, performing coding or classification work, and analyzing results. Developed using an iterative user-centered design approach to support ongoing research, this tool enhances research protocol by providing a flexible application to organize digital spaces, and demonstrates the power of productivity associated with agile, user-based development.
I conceived of QBox, outlined its requirments, and along with colleagues Jamie Ourada, Doug Divine and Mark Zachry, designed and developed the final product. As a user of QBox myself, I conducted several collaborative research tasks during the design process, highlighting emergent needs and functions that could be iteratively incorporated into the design. I am currently expoloring ways to make QBox more collaborative by making it easier for multiple researchers studying the same content to communicate with one another through the interface.