Alcides Fonseca

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SHiFT 2008

So SHiFT stands for Social and Human Ideas for Technology and it is a great event in the areas of Interaction, Social Design, Usability, Web, Mobile, etc…

I’d like to start this post by thanking SAPO who gently offered free tickets to Portuguese students, which includes me. Unfortunately I could only attend on the last day (damn you school!) and this is some ideas I got from the day.

Pedro Soares NevesSocial web and urban design

Although short, this presentation focused the need of bringing online experiences (like the prosumer) to urban design, in his case a project where we gathered graffiti writers from Bairro Alto in workshops and practicing in a way that benefits themselves and the community around them. Surely a project to follow!

I managed to get the end of “Brian Suda”:http://suda.co.uk’s presentation on microformats, and I noted down about the Long Now Foundation, that uses 5 digits in the year representation. 02008 has a different impression in people than 2008: the first makes our lifetime really small in scale than the second one.

h3. Delphine MénardCatching up with the cultural gap

In general, this talk mentioned the need for specific attention to the cultural gap between different cultures that interact with each others all the time. And even when you’re on the web, you have to be really careful with localization and, if you can, adapt the site to each cultural/linguistic community (pt-PT, pt-BR, en-UK, en-US, etc…) and not just in language, but sometimes in content or even in the business logic. Different users from different places may expect your service to work in different ways, so you should aim for the stereotype and then improve with the feedback you get.

Manuel LimaA visual exploration on mapping complex networks

In 2030 the portable computer is expected to store 1 Petabyte (1.000.000 Gb), so that’s going to be a lot of data. In order for that data to make sense and be useful for us we must be able to visualize, navigate and manage that non-ending information. That’s the motto for his project VisualComplexity.com where he tries to gather different kinds of visualizations of data, and tries to match the ones that help us to understand each subject or relationship better. The presentation was full of examples you’ll be able to see in the powerpoint later.

Susana VilaçaUsability vs. Software Development Process

Ending the morning sessions, Susana gave an interesting talk on how including usability in your development may not only improve the quality of your software, but also reduce your costs ( money and time included). This works pretty well if you are using an agile methodology since you can run usability tests whenever you have some valuable piece done. This way users can evaluate what you have already done, and give you information right from the start of things that you may not doing properly instead of only mentioning when the product is done, and you waste a lot of time going back, correcting and redoing the whole project. However, you should keep in mind that bringing the user into the developing process may be complicated since they don’t work the same way as developers do, and may make your life harder.

Henriette WeberWhy every company should be a Rockband

Everyone wants to be a rockstar. Even if they don’t have a clue about how to play music (which is my case1). And you don’t have to know how to play the guitar, you just have to work as a rock band would do. Each rock band has a manager, that handles the secondary stuff to allow each band member to do what they do best. And then there is the coolness factor, since you can get fans not only be playing very well in your field, but also by worrying about your users concerns (the example of Nokia being the greener of the telephone manufactures). One other thing your company can learn from rock bands is to have groupies, that elite group of fans that really worships your music, and works as a wonderful marketing machine (here, the obvious example of Apple).

I got to see the end of Fred’s presentation that fitted quite well in this theme, since we (developers) should not only aim for what our user needs right now, but what they might need, and achieve that coolness through the quality of service.

Stephanie Booth Online Culture: what parents, teenagers, and teachers need to know

This slot gave me an hard choice, and I ended up not seeing Tara Hunt even if a few meters away, but I related more to the problems of the Online Culture in the education of teenagers. Being a teenager myself2 and having given a few classes to younger students, I really understood the problems that exist between the parents and teachers that don’t get this computer stuff, and teenagers avid for exploring this new world. Neglecting an important part of their children’s life is not the best approach, since communicating online brings the same dangers (and maybe some more) than communicating in the real world. Parents and Teachers should be aware of the culture that exists online (not necessarily to be a part of it) in order to educate teenagers to interact and socialize safely in the Internet.

Final notes

I got to ride a Segway for the first time, and even though it’s amazing how that thing works so well, the ratio price/what you can use it for is not that good.

I’d like to thank the organization for the great event that happened, bringing world-class speakers (and even attendees) to our country that resulted in this wonderful gathering of ideas and people.

Oh, you were looking for pictures, right? There you go!

See you next year!

1In fact, apart from school, I had piano lessons for 4 years, and if I get in front of my keyboards, I don’t know what key should I play.

2Even if only for a month or so now.