secondary windows article for a grad school usability class.

Subject: secondary windows article for a grad school usability class.
From: Melissa Alton <altonm -at- US -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 8 Sep 1998 12:26:13 -0400

The top half of this message is an idea I pitched to a professor about an
article assignment. Below is his response. I'm writing to you guys with some
help clarifying exactly what my focus should be because when asking my
professor for some direction here he just threw the ball back in my court (see
messages below) but if I knew the answers to his questions I wouldn't be asking

The only directions he's given us about the assignment are:

"The article assignment asks you to play the part of a professional technical
communicator asked to submit a manuscript for publication in a(regional,
national, or international) conference or a peer-reviewed journal (such as
Technical Communication, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication,
SIGCHI Bulletin, the Journal of Computer Documentation). Your task in this
assigment is to select an actual conference or journal and to gear your
manuscript at that audience.

Length and style depends on the guidelines provided by the conference
proceedings chair or journal editor.

Your tasks will be to produce the following:

a proposal: a 500-1000 word proposal for consideration; the proposal should
include a title,
overview of the contribution, and brief biographical summary. (5 percent)

an article or conference proceedings paper. (30 percent)

a presentation: a 20-minute presentation of your conference paper or article to
the class; handouts and
visual aids are required; your aim here is to teach us all something important
about your topic of choice.
(10 percent)"

My message to him:
>I'd like to do my project on something that I could learn some new information
>about as well as be relevant to work and the people that I work with. I have
>one idea for my article so is on the usability of spawning new
>I was thinking of doing a literature search of what has already been done,
>doing a small focus group here at IBM, explaining my methodologies (how I
>structured the focus groups and what I actually did with the people) and then
>writing up my recommendations based on findings from the focus group (are new
>windows good or bad? when are they good? when are they bad? what should they
>look like, or contain? how should they be executed/implemented?)
>What do you think of this idea?

His response:
I'd need to know more about your idea before imagining a target journal; it
would be particularly useful to see what sorts of research you're drawing
on (and from what journals). However, the interest that you've described
below is a very important one. Off the top of my head, I think most
research would support at most two or three additional window overlays
(just in terms of reducing cognitive overload), but I can't think of any
research that gets at user perception/preferences and window numbers. You'd
have to define what you mean by "good" or "bad" of course, and window
contents might complicate your topic somewhat, in addition to how they're

This does sound like an excellent area for research though. I'll keep my
eyes open for relevant studies! Hope the above is useful. Have a great
holiday weekend.


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