Intro to UX design for the ChRIS Project – Part 1

(This blog post is part of a series; view the full series page here.) What is ChRIS? Something I’ve been working on for a while now at Red Hat is a project we’re collaborating on with Boston Children’s Hospital, the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC), and Boston University. It’s called the ChRIS Research Integration Service or just “ChRIS”. Rudolph Pienaar (Boston Children’s), Ata Turk (MOC), and Dan McPherson (Red Hat) gave a pretty detailed talk about ChRIS at the Red Hat Summit this past summer. A video of the full presentation is available, and it’s a great overview of why ChRIS is an important project, what it does, and how it works. To summarize the plot: ChRIS is an open source project that provides a cloud-based computing platform for the processing and sharing of medical imaging within and across hospitals and other sites. There’s a number of problems ChRIS seeks to solve that I’m pretty passionate about: Using technology in new ways for good.Where would we all be if we could divert just a little bit of the resources we in the tech community collectively put towards analyzing the habits of humans and delivering advertising content to them? ChRIS applies cloud …

Helping new users get on IRC

Hubs and Chat Integration Basics Hubs uses Freenode IRC for its chat feature. I talked quite a bit about the basics of how we think this could work (see “Fedora Hubs and Meetbot: A Recursive Tale” for all of the details.) One case that we have to account for is users who are new Fedora contributors who don’t already have an IRC nick or even experience with IRC. A tricky thing is that we have to get them identified with NickServ, and continue to identify them with Nickserv seamlessly and automatically, after netsplits and other events that would cause them to lose their authentication to Nickserv, without their needing to be necessarily aware that the identification process was going on. Nickserv auth is kind of an implementation detail of IRC that I don’t think users, particularly those new to and unfamiliar with IRC, need to be concerned with. Nickserv? “Nickserv? What’s Nickserv?” you ask. Well. Different IRC networks have a nickserv or something similar to it. On IRC, people chat using the same nickname and come to be known by their nickname. For example, I’ve been mizmo on freenode IRC for well over a decade and am known by that …

Fedora Hubs Update!!!

The dream is real – we are cranking away, actively building this very cool, open source, socially-oriented collaboration platform for Fedora. Myself and Meghan Richardson, the Fedora Engineering Team’s UX intern for this summer, have been cranking out UI mockups over the past month or so (Meghan way more than me at this point. 🙂 ) We also had another brainstorming session. We ran the Fedora Hubs Hackfest, a prequel to the Fedora Release Engineering FAD a couple of weeks ago. After a lot of issues with the video, full video of the hackfest is now finally available (the reason for the delay in my posting this 🙂 ). Let’s talk about what went down during this hackfest and where we are today with Fedora Hubs: What is Fedora Hubs, Exactly? (Skip directly to this part of the video) We talked about two elevator pitches for explaining it: It’s an ‘intranet’ page for the Fedora Project. You work on all these different projects in Fedora, and it’s a single place you can get information on all of them as a contributor. It’s a social network for Fedora contributors. One place to go to keep up with everything across the project …

DevAssistant Heuristic Review Part 2: Inventory of Issues

This is Part 2 of a 3-part blog series; this post builds on materials featured in an earlier post called DevAssistant Heuristic Review Part 1: Use Case Walkthroughs. In this part of the DevAssistant heuristic review, we’ll walk through an itemized list of the issues uncovered by the use case-based walkthrough we did in part 1. Since this is essentially just a list of issues, let me preface it by explaining how I came up with this list. Basically, I combed through the walkthrough and noted any issues that were encountered and mentioned in it, large and small. The result of this was a flat list of issues. Next, I went through the list and tried to determine a set of categories to organize them under by grouping together issues that seemed related. (You could do this in a group setting via a technique called “affinity mapping” – another fancy UX term that in essence just basically means writing everything out on post-its and sticking related post-it notes together. Fancy name for playing with sticky pieces of paper 🙂 ) Breaking the issues into categories serves a few purposes: It makes the list easier to read through and understand, since …

DevAssistant Heuristic Review Part 1: Use Case Walkthroughs

You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a heuristic review?” It’s just a fancy term; I learned it from reading Jakob Nielsen‘s writings. It’s a simple process of walking through a user interface (or product, or whatever,) and comparing how it works to a set of general principles of good design, AKA ‘heuristics.’ To be honest, the way I do these generally is to walk through the interface and document the experience, giving particular attention to things that jump out to me as ‘not quite right’ (comparing them to the heuristics in my head. 🙂 ) This is maybe more accurately termed an ‘expert evaluation,’ then, but I find that term kind of pompous (I don’t think UX folks are any better than the folks whose software they test,) so ‘heuristic review’ it shall be! Anyway, Sheldon from the DevAssistant team was interested in what UX issues might pop out to me as I kicked the tires on it. So here’s what we’re going to do: Here in Part 1, I’ll first map out all the various pieces of the UI so we can get a feel for everything that is available. Then, I’ll walk through four use …

Anaconda Crash Recovery

Whoah! Another anaconda post! Yes! You should know that the anaconda developers are working hard at fixing bugs, improving features, and adding enhancements all the time, blog posts about it or not. 🙂 Today Chris and I talked about how the UI might work for anaconda crash recovery. So here’s the thing: Anaconda is completely driven by kickstart. Every button, selection, or thing you type out in the UI gets translated into kickstart instructions in memory. So, why not save that kickstart out to disk when anaconda crashes? Then, any configuration and customization you’ve done would be saved. You could then load up anaconda afterwards with the kickstart and it would pre-fill in all of your work so you could continue where you left off! However! Anaconda is a special environment, of course. We can’t just save to disk. I mean, okay, we could, but then we can’t use that disk as an install target after restarting the installer post crash because we’d have to mount it for reading the kickstart file off of it! Eh. So it’s a bit complicated. Chris and I thought it’d be best to keep this simple (at least to start) and allow allow for …

Design Hub Idea (Fedora.next website redesign)

So a couple of weeks ago we talked about a proposal for the new Fedora website that Ryan Lerch, Matthew Miller, and myself came up with. The feedback we’ve gotten thus far has been overwhelmingly positive, so I’ve put some time into coming up with less vague and hand-wavy ideas as to what a particular sub hub on the Fedora ‘Community Hub’ might look like. Remember, this thing we talked about: We’re talking about what one of those individual little hubs might look like. The theoretical examples above are very Fedora team-centric; I would like us to follow a model a little more flexible than that in the spirit of Reddit. E.g., it should be easy to break out a new subhub for a specific topic, or a cross-team collaboration / project, etc. So the sub-hubs won’t necessarily be along team lines. A Sub-hub for the Design Team Okay, okay, not that kind of sub. (I have a sandwich graphic too, just waiting for its opportunity. 🙂 ) I understand pretty deeply how the Fedora design team works, the workflows and processes we’re involved with, so I figured it’d make the most sense to mock up a subhub for that …

A proposal for Fedora's website (considering Fedora.next)

(I’d like to apologize upfront, in that I meant to post this about a month or so ago. You might be aware that the Red Hat Summit is coming up in 2 weeks, and I’ve had a few odds and ends to take care of for that event that cut to the front of the line on my task list because of their imminent deadlines!) So, Fedora.next is shaking Fedora up a bit – enough that our current fedoraproject.org website is going to need a bit of a gut reno to appropriately reflect the new world of Fedora! A few weeks back, Ryan Lerch and I had an informal brainstorming session about how to account for Fedora.next with fedoraproject.org. We came up with what we thought was a pretty workable concept, and met with Matthew Miller a few days later to see what he thought. Here’s the whiteboard of what we came up with: Whoah, what’s going on here? Okay, let’s walk through this. The Proposal There’s several website components to this proposal. We’ll go through each one-by-one. We have some thumbnail mockups of each site to give you a vague idea of the kind of thing we’re thinking of …

Hyperkitty categories

So, the first time we talked about Hyperkitty recently, I mapped out the current Hyperkitty UI and we talked about future ideas. We also walked through a new mockup for displaying the directory of lists on the server (marked in blue on the diagram below.) Then, following that initial post, we talked about the design of Hyperkitty user profiles, which was one of those ‘future ideas.’ (I’ve also marked that in blue in the diagram below.) Today we’re going to talk about another one of those future ideas – on the right of the diagram below you’ll see the ‘Tags & Category Directory’ and the ‘Category Overview’ areas, highlighted in yellow. First, let’s talk through what categories and tags are, or at least, how they function in Hyperkitty today. Categories Categories are pre-set in the system – an administrator would have to add or remove categories, these are not something a user would be able to make up and apply to discussions. However, from the defined set of categories, any user can mark a thread with a given category. This brings up the next point: categories are used to categorize an entire discussion or thread… they don’t apply to single …

Hyperkitty UI overview and list directory ideas

I emailed Aurélien early this week to see if I could help with HyperKitty. He said he would appreciate a UI review for mistakes and some help with icons too. Since it has been a very long while since I’ve been involved with HyperKitty, and a few months since I checked out the HyperKitty test server, I decided to do a review of sorts of the whole UI, check out how it works now, and brainstorm some ideas to make it better. Mapping Out the UI So first I clicked like a maniac and got a feel for the overall site structure. Then I drew up a site map to document the structure: Thinking through the design as I was clicking through it, I noticed a two major-ish features that I thought would make the app better: There aren’t user profiles. Each thread shows a list of the people involved in it as well as who wrote each individual post (of course.) This seems like a bit of a missed opportunity though. One of the strengths having a web app on top of the mailing list would allow in improving list communication is a bit more intelligence / smarts about …