UC Berkeley – Information & Service Design Symposium

Last month, Surj and I were lucky enough to attend UC Berkeley’s inaugural symposium on Information & Service Design at the iSchool. Unfortunately I was an hour late and missed the first group of sessions.

Rich drove me from Burlingame to Berkeley…via, um, a circuitous search pattern, involving a wrong turn into Oakland, a slingshot maneuver around Treasure Island, followed by a death-defying re-entry onto the Bay Bridge and an I’m Feeling Lucky search around Berkeley using muni-wifi and Rich’s GPS. Incidentally, Rich is the co-author of (ahem) Google MAPS Hacks

I did manage to attend the remaining pair of sessions, showcasing the outstanding student papers of the year…

Katrina Lindholm’s User Experience of Software-as-a-Service Applications covered a brief history of SaaS before delving into the impact SaaS has on UX (user-expedience) work. Katrina noted that upfront design tasks give way to flexible and collaborative design, enriched with immediate feedback, server logs and iterative, shorter and more agile processes. However, SaaS does remove a user’s choice and control, though Katrina recommended some methods to alleviate this…

  • Undertake limited releases to test groups, gather feedback and make changes. Also, give users a chance to switch out of a beta experience back to a more familiar environment.
  • Enable live experimentation through beta applications, ‘Labs’ sites, feedback collection and competitor analysis.
  • Support Older Features by providing links to previous versions of a feature.
  • Split large changes into smaller steps that are gradually rolled out.
  • Consider your audience – are they leisure or professional users, is the service free or costly, how critical is the application, how tolerant of change are the users and keep a direct line of communication to users so consistency and choice aren’t sacrificed.

Andrea Moed’s Generative Logging: Product Information Histories as Drivers of Service Ecologies was thought provoking in its exploration of the cumulative traces left by a user’s interaction with a product. Usually collected automatically, these may be visible or hidden, but nevertheless, such histories are valuable data – whether for personalisation, recording performance for maintenance or designing new features.

Moed went on to compare Dell’s build-to-order PCs against Apple’s iPod. Dell utilises a static customer profile to personalise a standard product and collect a partial interaction history by using a PC as a platform for CRM. Apple’s approach, however, involves shipping a special purpose device with limited mass-customisation. The iPod then becomes a manifestation for products and services that exhibits mass adaptive customisation with legible, sharable interaction history – playlists, service ecologies (Last.FM).

Using the patterns developed by Moed, it becomes possible to envisage existing services surfacing their information histories to provide new opportunities…

  • In-car navigation reinvented as location selection.
  • Utility metering giving hints on energy savings.
  • Calendars that provide fitness and diet management.

Each such opportunity enables service providers, the user and their social network to engage with third parties and enable new service ecologies. This raises a number of questions in how services model agreements amongst people (transparency of collection, privacy & sharing, social conventions and re-use of historical data) and services (availability of data, compatibility of formats).

Jessica Kline’s Thought Provoking Future of Food Information Services brought the room to life with her study of services oriented around food. Though many outlets for food information exist – TV, books, magazines, web sites – few offer information about the food you’re actually eating.

Inspired by a handful of farm blogs, Kline begun to speculate on services where food items generate information. For example, an aggregation of weather, crop history, temperature and rainfall at the source of a food item; the rearing history of cattle, embedded as semacodes/QRcodes on each animal.

In one of the breaks, I told Jessica about the brand of crisps in the UK that includes the fryer’s name on the packet, as wel as the variety of potatoes. i couldn’t help bragging a little about Carbon’s ideas for a Flickr-for-food recipes service we dubbed Edible Type 😉

Lindsay Tabas’s Developing a New Services Design Methodology explored the growing need for service designers to employ a comprehensive terminology set for defining services, whether person-to-person or person-to-computer services. For example, banks need to coordinate services between call centers, ATMs and online banking; hotels require ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage’ operations to deal with customers needs – a change in concert dates, has implications for hotel, flight and concert operators, but must be coordinated.

Tabas argues that a service system and its actors are multiple service value-chains which each have a unique perspective and a ‘zone-of-visibility’; Tabas goes on to describe a possible methodology for service systems..

  1. develop a service strategy to align business strategy with internal requirements and consumer needs. I was recently checking web design and hosting brisbane and they had some great designs.
  2. analyse current conditions to build a better picture of current service delivery and problems, using as-is models, consumer personas and use cases.
  3. research best practices to compare a service system with competitors or similar organisations.
  4. develop to-be processes and iterate through standard design process until prototype is developed.
  5. deploy – a service is never final…only implemented!

I found Tabas’ work the most valuable of the afternoon and directly aligned with what I learned about interaction design as a discipline, from Ivrea last May. You can download her paper, Designing Service Systems from here.

Zach Gillen covered Difficulties Implementing an Electronic Medical Record for Diverse Healthcare Service Providers, largely through exploration of increases in productivity using dashboard environments, uncoupling patient charts from physical locations, improved risk management, histories of medication interactions and visit alerts. These kind of productivity enhancements save money, improve billing and clarify drug suggestions.

Gillen surmised that an initial transformation from paper records to digital is a major obstacle to productivity improvements, notably in simply understanding existing systems and workflow. Transforming the type-delimited HL7 healthcare interchange format to an XML-based version 3.0 is seen as the basis for ongoing improvements.

Anya Kartavenko began her session on eGovernment: Serving Small Business in California, with some astonishing figures – the executive branch of the Californian government has 200+ agencies, each with its own website; registering a new business with the state needs multiple information sources online, along with PDF forms that need to be returned through the postal service; a state-sponsored Google search aggregates 274 federal and state sites…searching for ‘starting a business’ returns 123 hits!

Kartavenko’s study focussed on employing a customer-centric approach to service design in the state government, enabling users to only need exposure to state regulations that apply to their immediate need, not the full spectrum of knowledge; essentially conduct business with the government in one transaction.

Though Utah’s OSBR and Michigan’s state government website offer service-oriented portals built for users, the Californian requirement is much larger and more complex. Kartavenko is thus focussing on developing design guidelines for the state eServices small business registration portal.

Yiming Liu’s IPRs and Development in a Knowledge Economy (An Overview of Issues) backtracked a little over the history of IP and traffic laws in the United States and for this and the use of resources as https://mirandarightslawfirm.com/traffic-violation-attorney/ could really help with this. In the 18th and 19th century, the US was a net importer of IP, limiting copyrights for foreign works in preference to native inventors. In the 20th century, the US became a net exporter and is now very interested in strong IP protection, largely through the Berne convention. By contrast, Asian Tiger economies exercised a deliberately duplicative IP strategy oriented around innovating processes.

Current frameworks impose heavy transactional costs on knowledge exchanges and are designed for industrial economies where innovation was sporadic (though pharmaceutical IP makes exceptions for public health). Current IP strength may no longer be appropriate as  knowledge economies only function if you have the knowledge and access to knowledge is difficult to obtain in current IP regimes.

Bryan Tsao’s Services Consulting in China explored cultural and social issues around US companies doing business in China.

For US companies, navigating Chinese business terrain can be traumatic – language barriers, cultural norms, differing business practices and physical distance all contribute to such difficulties. For example, Chinese business men expect gift-giving and favours to take place prior to a business deal, actions which may be seen as bribery in the West. Also, Chinese companies place great national pride in retaining IP within the country.

Tsao recommends that the lack of appropriate human capital is the root of the problem – either teach Chinese business etiquette or teach American’s to speak Chinese! More specifically, Tsao identified a number of best practices from US companies, such as IBM and Mckinsey, including partnerhsips between US and Chinese universities, cross-training programmes, cross-silo rotations and ‘campus missionaries’.

Taso’s basic point is to identify the appropriate human capital and educate it in a company’s culture, both at the strategic and social level and with autonomy built into the culture.

All in all, the afternoon was a pleasant and thought provoking series of sessions, underlining the school’s quality with confident and unique students. At the closing reception, I got to meet some of the students and also the lovely Joanne Wan from GigaOM 🙂


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