Richard Anderson http://riander.blogspot.com has been a great friend of CHI-SI. He has played an important role in helping found CHI-SI while he was ACM SIGCHI's Chair for Chapters. Over the years, he has helped secure keynote speakers for the CHI-SI annual conferences and helped solve several issues. Here's a recent CHI-SI interview with Richard.


1.  You've been in the HCI field for 20+ years. What are the 3 most important things you've seen happen in the field over this time?

Changes to the scope of each word in the acronym of "HCI" have been of tremendous importance.

The humans referred to by the "H" have dramatically increased in number and now come from all walks of life. The computer referred to by the "C" has dramatically changed in nature. And the variety of contexts and purposes and types of interaction referred to by the "I" has dramatically increased.

Reflecting all this, HCI is far more multidisciplinary and plays much more prominent roles in the world of business and the lives of people. Indeed, the extent of these changes even calls into question the continued adequacy of "HCI" as a label for the field..

 
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2.  Talk to us about your university classes on usability and user-centered design.

I taught a full-semester (i.e., 15-session) course on user-centered design and usability engineering several times via University of California Berkeley Extension in California's Silicon Valley. As an "Extension" (i.e., continuing education) offering, this course was designed for and taken by working professionals. But unlike most Extension courses, this course was akin to a full-scale graduate school course. Many considered it to be one of the most challenging courses they ever took, though also one of the most rewarding.

Because the course was intended for working professionals, I designed it to be an extended "workshop." In other words, readings, discussions, activities, assignments, etc. were developed to help participants formulate approaches best suited to them and to the needs of their employers.

Many dozens of people working in a wide range of companies in the San Francisco Bay Area took this workshop/course, and many shifted their careers in the direction of usability and user-centered design because of it. Though I stopped teaching it after the Spring 2000 offering, I continue to get requests to offer it again.

For a long time after the Spring 2000 offering, I increased my involvement in developing professional conferences instead of teaching university classes. For example, I was a Program Chair for the first Designing for User Experiences conference (DUX 2003) and a Conference Chair for the second (DUX 2005).

However, earlier this year (2006), I co-developed and co-taught a Managing User Experience Groups workshop/course that was offered via University of California Santa Cruz Extension in the Silicon Valley. Designed for those who presently or may in the future manage a user experience group, and for higher-level managers whose domains of responsibility include user experience, this initial offering was very successful, and we look forward to doing much more with it in the future. Do you think we should offer it sometime in India?

 
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3.  You were involved in design consultancies and startups, including your own. What are your learnings that you'd like to share?

The design consultancies with which I was involved included Studio Archetype, Clement Mok's ground-breaking international brand identity and Internet business design firm. There and elsewhere, I was responsible for making the organizational culture much more "user-centered." And Studio Archtype was one of the cases where I was responsible for doing so in part via starting, growing, and integrating the discipline of User Research across the company.

Among my learnings in such situations was the importance of closely integrating a new discipline's work with the work of other disciplines. For example, those whose work needed to be influenced by user research needed to be involved in the research in important ways. To be most effective, user researchers needed to be effective facilitators, guides, and collaborators.

I also learned of the importance of the roles user experience can play in shaping business and product strategy. I learned of the importance of being creative -- of moving beyond cookie-cutter, "purist," or academic approaches to research and design. I learned of the importance of involving clients in the work done by the consultancy for them. And I learned of the importance of giving user experience a seat at the executive table of a company.

 
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4.  You have interviewed well-known HCI practitioners. What has this experience been like? Which was the interview you enjoyed most?

I've interviewed a lot of fabulous luminaries, many within "HCI" but others in related specialties, and all on stage in front of an audience. And the experience has been great. In my view, an on-stage interview provides a special opportunity to truly connect with people and their perspectives.

My approach to such interviews involves a lot of preparation, including reading as much as I can that has been written by and about the interviewee. I also attempt to craft a narrative that I'd like to have emerge throughout the interview that will make the interview an interesting, wholistic experience for the audience. Rarely have I spent much time discussing the interview with the interviewee in advance; in my experience, the best interview emerges when the interviewee does not know too much about what is to come.

Of course, I've needed to be prepared to deviate from my interview plan, as interviewees will sometimes leap into certain topics and issues unexpectedly. This happened in response to the very first question I posed to Don Norman and Janice Rohn at CHI 99. Don responded with a provocative response to a very different question than I had asked, which prompted an immediate reaction from Janice, which led to a pretty lengthy debate between the two. I let the debate continue uninterrupted, since it was about a topic I wanted them to address anyway. As captured in the May+June 2000 interactions magazine article (http://www.well.com/user/riander/normanrohn.pdf) about the interview, I eventually interrupted with, "I wonder if I could ask a question." Don responded, "Excuse me, who are you?" We all had a good laugh, which nicely set the mood for the remainder of the interview.

As reflected in that example, I've interviewed pairs of people in addition to individuals. And I've greatly enjoyed interviewing pairs. The twosome of Paul Saffo (Institute for the Future) and Jaron Lanier ("father of the virtual reality industry") provided a particularly riveting interview focused on their predictions for the future.

Perhaps my favorite interviewee of all: Sara Little Turnbull, Director of the Laboratory for Change in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. I interviewed Sara, now 88-years-old, twice -- once in a pair for the closing plenary session of DUX 2003, which prompted a standing ovation. Sara is a wonderful, amazing, insightful person who has worked for years to get design, business, and technology professionals to work together effectively -- which is often critical in the world of user experience. I've been blessed to have had the privilege to interview her and become her friend.

 
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5.  You have helped launch several ACM SIGCHI chapters worldwide. This is very challenging work. What was your motivation? How did you accomplish that?

I have long recognized the importance of community to the development of a profession and its members. For example, I was a member of the group that helped found the San Francisco Bay Area chapter (BayCHI) many years ago. That early involvement in BayCHI transitioned into long-term involvement, as I became BayCHI's its first elected Chair and was BayCHI's Program Chair for 12 years. In those roles and others, I helped build BayCHI into SIGCHI's largest and most successful chapter.

Given my contribution to BayCHI, I was asked by SIGCHI to oversee development of SIGCHI chapters worldwide, and I was delighted to say "yes." Several local chapters existed at that time, but almost all were in the U.S., and many weren't doing well. So, I dove in, connecting with chapter leaders and potential leaders worldwide, learning of their needs, and working to help them. I started bringing these people together for workshops, wrote and edited numerous articles for SIGCHI Bulletin to help chapter leaders, worked with ACM and SIGCHI on chapter (and other) issues as a member of SIGCHI's Executive Committee, and kept assisting (prospective) chapter leaders worldwide.

This was, indeed, challenging, and time-consuming, work. And, since it was volunteer work, the pay was terrible! ;-) But it was greatly rewarding work, and I delighted in getting to know and work with so many people around the world. As tracked by Steven Pemberton (former editor of SIGCHI Bulletin and interactions), the expansion of national and regional chapters over this period of time was phenomenal, with an explosion of chapter activity outside of the U.S. And according to Joe Konstan (a more recent editor of SIGCHI Bulletin and now outgoing SIGCHI Chair), my local chapter columns serve as a useful, ongoing reference "as ever-renewed generations of chapter leadership face the same challenges anew."

 
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6.  You have played a key role in the founding and success of India's CHI-SI and its conferences. Did any factors encourage you or make it easier to do that?

I already knew Pradeep Henry (CHI-SI founder), who took my user-centered design / usability engineering workshop while he was in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hence, we knew we could trust each other, and I knew Pradeep would be successful as a chapter leader.

I also knew that the creation and development of an HCI community in India was very important. So, I'm delighted to have contributed in this way to India's user experience professional development.


7.  What are your top recommendations for Indian practitioners of HCI?

Become skilled at collaborating. Collaboration is key to overcoming obstacles to doing good user experience research and design in business. Yet, too few people know how to collaborate effectively.

Don't focus solely on HCI. Address HCI in the larger context of the entire user experience, as well as the larger context of business success.

Leverage an understanding of your culture to teach businesses -- particularly those in "the west" -- the importance of understanding and leveraging cultural differences. (See Ashwini Asokan's DUX 2005 case study -- to appear at http://gain.aiga.org/content.cfm?Alias=gainjournal&clsid=654783 -- for a good example of this.)

Lastly, participate in your professional community and its development. Get involved with CHI-SI, and watch for opportunities to help UXnet (http://uxnet.org/) support development of the broader user experience, multidisciplinary community of practice.

 
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