Blogs

Jonathan Grudin

Jonathan Grudin works on support for education at Microsoft. Access these and related papers at http://www.jonathangrudin.com/publications/ under Prototype Systems. jgrudin@microsoft.com



Crying wolf

Posted: Fri, December 11, 2015 - 3:58:59

In a stack of old papers headed for recycling was a Wall Street Journal article subtitled “Managers who fall for their office PCs could be the downside of the computer age.” In 1987, hands-on computer use was considered dangerous, for employees and employers alike! Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), technology has often been viewed with dread. Woe unto us for…

Technology and nature

Posted: Fri, November 06, 2015 - 4:00:07

The black water mirrored the tropical forest above it so perfectly that the shoreline was impossible to pinpoint. The reflection included the palms with cannonball-clustered fruit that had stained the water. We kayaked for hours, seeing no sign of other human presence on the network of channels and lagoons that drain the marshes along the Caribbean coast. Or so we…

Action and research

Posted: Fri, October 09, 2015 - 6:01:55

Three favorite research projects at Microsoft that were never written up: automated email deletion, an asynchronous game to crowdsource answers to consulting questions, and a K-12 education tool. I expected they would be, as were projects that led to my most-cited Microsoft work: persona use in development, social networking in enterprises, and multiple monitor use. What happened to them? The…

Building troops

Posted: Wed, August 19, 2015 - 10:44:32

“Will you miss Khaleesi?” asked Isobel. At that moment, the samango urinated on Eleanor’s shoulder. “Ummm, yes?” Eleanor replied. The primates at the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre outside Tzaneen, South Africa were abandoned or confiscated pets, survivors of massacres by farmers who left newborns behind, injured by predators or motor vehicles, and so on. Unexpectedly, the principal task of the…

Central control

Posted: Tue, July 14, 2015 - 11:14:10

Two impressive New Yorker articles described powerful, laser-focused leaders whose vision affects technology design and use. Xi Jinping consolidated control of the world’s largest country. Jonathan Ive did so at the world’s most valuable company. Both have reputations for speaking frankly while avoiding impolitic statements. They listen, then make decisions confidently. Each is a good judge of character who assembled…

Customers vs. users

Posted: Wed, June 03, 2015 - 10:41:03

Perspectives on handwriting and digital ink in schools. Going through customers to reach users is a challenge as old as HCI. When computers cost a fortune, acquisition decisions weren’t made by hands-on users. Those responsible believed that they knew what users needed. They were often wrong. Making life worse for designers, the marketers who spoke with customers felt they knew…

Digital divides considered harmless

Posted: Tue, April 21, 2015 - 8:00:16

The problem with early technology is that you get stuck with all this legacy sh*t. – Director of Technology at a leading private high school The impermanence of elevation differentials in seismically active terrain Educational technologists have expressed concern about disadvantaged students falling farther behind; haves versus have-nots. Education faces challenges, but I assert that digital divides are not the…

The future of work

Posted: Tue, March 24, 2015 - 12:23:12

Some researchers and pundits predict that automation will bring widespread unemployment. This is unlikely. The shift of some labor to technology has been in progress for decades, but in the past 5 years the United States added almost 12 million jobs. Where is the automation effect? What will materialize to shift us from fast forward to permanent reverse gear? What…

Taking stock

Posted: Thu, January 22, 2015 - 5:20:50

Two years of monthly posts. A year ago I weighed the experience and suggested that discussion is becoming a less effective use of time, given the ease of scanning masses of information and perspectives on most topics. A blog contributes to the information pile, but engaged discussion may diminish. I see occasional spontaneous flare-ups or flurries. Does your online or…

The rise of incompetence

Posted: Thu, December 11, 2014 - 11:08:26

“To become more than a sergeant? I don't consider it. I am a good sergeant; I might easily make a bad captain, and certainly an even worse general. One knows from experience.” — from Minna von Barnhelm, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781) “There is nothing more common than to hear of men losing their energy on being raised to…