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Latest Issue of Interfaces

Source: Interfaces, 24 August 2001

Editorial from the latest issue of Interfaces.

A certain grizzled Glaswegian announced at the ScotlandIS Usability Forum that 'Usability was a dried up backwater of HCI'. On the one hand this supports my view that usability is mature enough to be suitable for technology transfer programmes (such as TCS).

On the other hand, has everyone really drunk the usability stream dry? Any four-year-old teaches you that usability expands like the universe. Human abilities and expectations evolve - yet another challenge for 'Design Darwinism'!

Our new commissioning editor Alex Dixon scores a scoop in his first contribution, with an exclusive conversation with the Don himself at the Usability conference at InternetWorld. Alex also reviews the conference. Alan Dix chips in here with a timely analysis of the key role of marketing in the usability of products, and the trust that must be maintained between the vendor and the user.

Long-time contributing editor Xristine Faulkner, as well as yet another book review (how does she read so much?!), helps launch 'Learning and Doing', our focus on student work. In the last issue I announced a section called 'Group Projects' and promised to bring back 'My PhD'. Reality is never quite as tidy!

However, we do have three contributions from learners at different levels. Sofie Johansson and Xristine (her honours project supervisor) tell a compelling tale of contemporary human motivation and ethics. Andreas Kakoulli shares his first impression, as an undergraduate computing student, of HCI.  Lastly, one of the first groups of students on our MSc Interactive Technologies for e-Commerce, describe an actual 'Interactivity without Frontiers' solution - the Sino-Scot link.

This is only one of several pieces that should broaden our minds in advance of the Lille conference, 10-14 September. With a fair wind, one of the most important contributions from Lille may be a definition of a 'Usability Professional', and, by inference, the role of HCI educators. The middle pages of this issue contain a questionnaire that we need YOU to complete and return, to influence the definition of a Usability specialist's competency.

Jonathan Earthy and Andrew Monk's exhaustive and exhausting work have defined the proposed criteria for accreditation. This will also be the subject of an ‘HCI in Practice’ session at Lille. On the following day will be the panel session that Chris Rourke describes in this issue.

At a time when educators are increasingly required to design programmes that dovetail onto checklists and levels of competency defined by industry, professional or standards bodies, in the interplay between these two sessions, and related activities at the conference, lies the future for many of us. Linking nicely is Sandra Cairncross’s book review on cyber-ethics - in particular she notes the emphasis by the BCS on increasing the ethical knowledge of computing professionals.

Our long-time pillars of wisdom, a somewhat rowdy Cassandra Hall, and the vieux storyteller himself, Alistair Kilgour, complete this issue, each with their own entertaining ability to think about the past and the future while pointing out the failings of the present. From each we get a sense of how usability really is perceived outside this community and there is clearly much yet to be done.

Lastly, as the Monk age gives way to the Cockton era, I would like to salute our retiring Chairman. Andrew Monk's tenure pre-dates considerably my involvement in the British HCI Group, but he has helped me considerably in this publication - with content, advice and support. His chairmanship of the BHCIG executive meetings (and management of the Group) have been an inspiration, and he has laid well the path for Gilbert's world domination.

Tom McEwan
Interfaces Editor

British HCI Group