Archive for March, 2009

User modeling (was: stupid word processors)

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Was editing an exam in OpenOffice, and I had to make a table with headings showing resources: r1, r2, r3… As I was typing them in, OpenOffice writer was happily capitalizing them behind me: R1,R2, R3… As this was incorrect, I had to go back and change it back to r1, r2, r3… And OO was capitalizing them again: R1, R2, R3… I had to go through some significant acrobatics to let it leave where as it was (exiting the cell downwards, rather than leftwards, and weird stuff like that).

Now, two issues:

  • Apparently the OpenOffice background processor can not figure out that a word like r1 is probably not a regular lexical word subject to capitalization. ‘Cause English words do come with numbers in them. But this is the least problem.
  • It seems that the OpenOffice system does not have a minimal model of the user. It only knows about the document (BTW, Microsoft Word is just like that). Well, if you are automatically doing things to the documents, like these programs do, then you probably see document editing, where you are trying to help the user achieve what it wants. If that is what you really want, then probably the first rule is: “If you have done a change, and the user had gone back and reverted that change right away, then probably the user wants it like that, so do not change it back again“. What this means, though,  is that you need a user model as well as a document model, and in this case, the document model is overridden by the user model. Now, by the way, implementing this particular thing would be an afternoon’s work, if somebody wants to do it right – eg. after I have fixed the first R1 –> r1, the system might guess that I don’t want it to mess with r2 in the next cell.

Now, I know that the OpenOffice guys have limited resources, but Microsoft???

Pinocchio and Thomas Acquinas

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

It came to pass that in 1270 the students of the University of Paris were gathering to hear a lecture on Aristotle by the famous Doctor Angelicus. How surprised were they, when they were told that they will be presented a virtual lecture: the lecturer will be represented by an avatar (a wood doll with a long nose), and the text delivered by a ventriloquist.

When asked in an exit survey whether they thought that the delivery mode improved on the instruction (yes / somewhat / limited) and whether they could understand the ventriloquist (yes / somewhat / limited), many of them sneaked out through alternative exits.

The ones who showed up for the next lecture had a real interest in puppetry. The ones interested in Aristotle went somewhere else.