usability struggles

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:51 pm
cellio: (Default)
[personal profile] cellio

I spend a lot of time on, and am a volunteer moderator for, several Stack Exchange sites. (Mi Yodeya is one of them.) SE has a banner ("top bar") that is the same across all sites. It contains notifications, information about the logged-in user, and some key navigation links. For moderators it contains a few more things relevant to that job.

Until recently it looked like this (non-moderator view):

original

The red counter is the inbox (waiting messages) and the green one is reputation changes. If there aren't any, you just get the gray icons that those alerts are positioned over. If I were a moderator on that site, there'd be a diamond to the left of my user picture and a blue square with the flag count to the left of that.

They've just changed this design. (Well, the change is rolling out.) Here's what it looks like now (for a moderator):

new, notifications

The most important links for moderation are the last two things, the diamond and the blue box with the number (flags). They're on the far right, where they're less likely to be seen for various reasons. (Non-moderators don't get those indicators.)

In the old design, those moderator indicators -- which are important -- were toward the center where they're easier to see. Also, all the numbers were a little bigger and easier to see.

When this was announced there was a lot of immediate discussion in the moderators-only chat room, during which I got a little upset about the reduced usability, especially those moderator controls -- which had a good chance of being scrolled away in a not-huge browser window, because SE doesn't use responsive design. After I calmed down I wrote a post on Meta about how this was going to make it harder for me to do my volunteer job, particularly with vision challenges. I expected to get a few sympathy votes, some "get a bigger monitor" snark (which wouldn't help, by the way), and no results.

That post is now one of my highest-scoring posts on the network. And I have a meeting with the product manager and a designer at SE next week to demonstrate my difficulties in using this in more detail.

Meanwhile, I've gotten some help with userscripts from some other moderators. It's hacky and a little buggy and it slows down page loads and I have no idea how to adjust some things, but at least I can see my notifications and the moderator stuff is in a better place. It'll do for now.

I sure hope I can get them to bake some of this in, though. The page-load delay is a little disconcerting as stuff jumps around on the screen. (Also, userscripts do not work on my Android tablet.)

Beyond the immediate problem, though, what I really hope for is to find some way to raise a little awareness that usability is hard, designers are not the users, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of usage patterns and constraints, and you need to somehow, systematically, figure out how to design for the larger audience. That's going to be the hard part.

a conversation snippet

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:36 pm
cellio: (shira)
[personal profile] cellio
Tonight at our s'lichot service (something tied to the high holy days), a fellow congregant greeted me and said "I haven't seen you in hours!". (We'd both been there this morning.) I said "hours and hours!". He complained that I was getting carried away.

I responded by saying: "hours" means at least two; "hours and hours" therefore means at least four; it's been longer than that since this morning, so "hours and hours" is not inappropriate.

It was at this point that somebody standing nearby said "oh, that's where I know you from!". We'd both been in a talmud-heavy class a while back.

There are worse things to be remembered for. :-)

daf bit: Sanhedrin 60

Sep. 14th, 2017 09:00 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

Blasphemy is a capital offense. Conviction for a capital offense requires careful testimony of two direct witnesses. This poses a problem, as they must testify to what exactly the person said. To minimize the damage, the court sent everybody out except for the witnesses and then told the first witness: tell us literally what he said. The witness did, and the judges tore their garments. The second witness then said "I heard this too" without repeating the testimony. (The mishna then says the third witness does likewise. I'm not sure where the third witness came from, as only two are required.)

The g'mara discusses tearing one's garments when hearing blasphemy. Rav Yehudah said in the name of Shmuel that one tears only when hearing a curse of the tetragramaton, but not when hearing other divine names. Rabbi Chiyya says that one who hears God's name in a blasphemous context today doesn't tear his garments, because if he did the garment would be torn to shreds. But who is R' Chiyya talking about? If we say that he hears this blasphemy from Jews, are Jews so irreverent as to frequently demean the name of God? No, he must be talking about hearing it from gentiles. But do gentiles know this specific name? No, if we're talking about gentiles it must be in regard to any name, and there'd be enough of that to leave one's garments in shreds. The g'mara concludes that nowadays one is not obligated to tear his garments when hearing the curse of a gentile and a curse using another name, but originally one was obligated to tear for both, contrary to what Shmuel says. (mishna 56a, g'mara 60a)

In case you're wondering (I did!) why the second witness doesn't tear his garment on hearing the first witness repeat the blasphemy, the g'mara says it's because he already tore his garment when he heard the original blasphemer. The judges, however, are hearing it for the first time.

daf bit: Sanhedrin 53

Sep. 7th, 2017 08:51 am
cellio: (talmud)
[personal profile] cellio

The mishna on today's daf lists those for whom the death penalty is stoning. (There are four methods of execution in halacha, of which stoning is the most severe.) Stoning is for:

  • a man who commits incest with his mother, his father's wife, or his son's wife, or a man who commits adultery with a betrothed maiden

  • a man who sexually abuses another man or a beast, or a woman who commits bestiality (the g'mara here does not discuss what counts as abuse)

  • a blasphemer, an idolater, or one who gives of his seed to Molech (Molech was a foreign god to whom people made child sacrifices)

  • one who incites individuals to idolatry or seduces a whole town to idolatry

  • a necromancer, wizard, or sorcerer (I'm unclear about the difference between the latter two)

  • one who desecrates Shabbat

  • one who curses his father or mother

  • a wayward and rebellious son

(53a)

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rani23

December 2009

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