Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I like my cereal crispy but with milk. I just don't like it mushy. So, I usually don't pour a lot of it into a bowl. I'll pour a few tablespoons worth into the milk, eat it before it gets soggy, then pour some more. This morning, I poured a bowlful of blueberry wheaties and half of them got way too mushy :-(

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Open Government & Usability

Yesterday, my work celebrated Open Government Day. We had half a day of speakers, including the Deputy CIO from the White House, Beth Noveck. It was interesting to me for a bunch of reasons. I think I am going to talk about this in a bulleted list so I can keep things straight in my head and not forget anything.

Firstly, let's get some quotes I wrote down that I foujnd pertinent to this discussion:
  1. By the CIO at our work: "Open Government (OG) fosters an informed public. It reboots the relationship between the goverment and it's public. "
  2. By another member of the CIO's team, "we are here to serve the American public."
  3. Beth Noveck: "OG helps empower citizens to work withg overnment to build a better government and a stronger democracy."

So, as you can see, a lot of talk about involving the public and for where I work, the public is our biggest end user. So, if the whole idea behind this open government initiative is to empower our end users, help them become engaged with us and do this by opening up channels of communication between us and them ... where does Usability figure into this?

As usability professionals, we are trained to speak to our end users, to observe them in order to focus on their needs and help them reach their goals efficiently and effectively. Right? That's the definition of usability. So, wouldn't it make sense that in the effort to engage the public with their government, some of these specialists, who know how to figure out what these users need, would have been involved?

I think this is an oversight. In order for open government to accomplish what it wants to accomplish, they need people to go out and engage with the public, find out what and how they think, find out what they expect from their government agencies, and then work towards fulfilling the unmet needs. For that, they need to involve usability professionals.

Do people agree? Disagree? Am I missing some very important point?