Design and Usability Conferences 2011

I am hoping to make it to at least a few of these conferences this year.

SXSW South by Southwest Interactive

March 11-15, 2011, Austin, TX

Conference $675 ($1150 for all access)

Flight about $325

Hotel going fast! About 160 per night ($800)

Plus food stipend

http://sxsw.com/interactive

Computer Human Interaction 2011

May 7-12, 2011, Vancouver, BC

conference cost $760 ($1360 late and for non-members)

flight about $600,

hotel 239 CAD per night ($1440)

plus food stipend

http://chi2011.org/index.html

UPA 2011 , Usability Professionals Association

June 21- 24, 2011, Atlanta Georgia

conference cost $695 ($895 for non-members)

flight about $500,

hotel 173 per night ($692)

plus food stipend

https://www.usabilityprofessionals.org/conference/2011/index.html

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Republicans Push for Cutting Bay Area Transportation Funding

As a daily commuter in the Bay Area, I have been excited at the prospect of improved public transportation here. The high speed rail, the BART extension, the subway in San Francisco.
I was doubly excited to hear Obama’s commitment to national infrastructure improvement during his State of the Union.
Now to hear that Congress wants to cut this funding, affecting us here in the Bay Area, I must call upon my fellow Bay Area Commuters to go to support Obama when he comes to meet high tech business leaders on Thursday, February 17.

Original article posted By Gary Richards on Mercury News

One day after the Federal Transit Administration announced it would give the BART extension to San Jose $130 million as a down payment on $900 million in aid from Washington, political reality set in.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee now recommends slashing funds to new rail lines by 22 percent — cuts that could slow the flow of money for BART and 27 other projects across the country.

“Obviously, any of their cuts would set us backwards rather than going forward,” FTA administrator Peter Rogoff said Tuesday from Washington, D.C. “We want to work with the House Republicans on deficit reduction, but we are heading in opposite directions on infrastructure and investment.”

President Barack Obama’s budget calls for $3.2 billion for new rail lines across the country, up from $2 billion this year. San Francisco’s Central Subway line would get $200 million, with Sacramento in line for $50 million for light rail.

The Republican budget proposal set off a flurry of angry responses Tuesday. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, called it “another example of mindless budget slashing. We can’t win the future if we don’t have a 21st-century transportation infrastructure to take us there.”

William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said, “None of these cuts makes sense.”

Added Randy Rentschler of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, which allocates federal and state money to the nine counties in the region: “It is areas such as the Bay Area who need a balanced transportation system and who would be affected most by this proposal. We need more, not less funding.”

Easing the potential pain for transit agencies is the freeing up of $350 million in federal aid after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blocked construction of a commuter rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. This would have been one of the largest transit projects in the country, and nearly $9

billion of the $12.7 billion construction costs had been covered.But Christie canceled the project because it would have meant borrowing funds or raising the gas tax to cover the difference — moves he refused to make.

Michael Burns, the general manager of the Valley Transportation Authority that will build the BART extension, took heart, saying that even with the Republican budget proposal, nearly 80 percent of the new train program would be funded.

“This demonstrates that the new starts program has solid bipartisan support,” Burns said.

But issues remain, from opposition to increasing spending to questions about where Obama’s ambitious transportation budget would get more revenue.

It calls for spending $556 billion over the next six years. But only $230 billion would be covered by gas tax revenues over that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“How does the president propose to bridge the $326 billion funding shortfall?” asked Ken Orski, editor and publisher of a widely read transportation newsletter and the associate administrator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Last fall a panel of 80 transportation experts that included Norm Mineta, the director of transportation under President George W. Bush and a former congressman from San Jose, estimated that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion must be spent per year through 2035 to rebuild and improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Locally, said Honda, that must mean delivering on the promise of federal money for BART.

“The long-awaited BART to Silicon Valley project is too important for businesses and jobs in our communities to be put in danger by political gimmicks,” Honda said, “and I will fight tooth and nail to make sure it gets the federal funds that it deserves.”

Top Ten Usability Findings of 2010

I think these findings have been “found” before, but its good to reassure the researchers that our assumptions are still valid.

Keep these, posted by Jeff Sauro on measuring usability, in mind as you design your next research project.

  1. 5 Second Usability Tests: Ratings of website usability after only 5 seconds are the same as those after 10 minutes.
  2. Unmoderated Usability Data is Mostly Reliable: Data from remote usability test takers is rather similar to lab based studies except for task-times which differ more substantially.
  3. Cheaters: Around 10% of paid usability testers will cheat on your test by rushing through the questions just to receive the honorarium.
  4. The Geometric Mean works better than the median for reporting the best middle task time for sample sizes less than 25.
  5. Usability accounts for at least 30% of customer loyalty: Net Promoter Scores correlate highly with scores from the System Usability Scale (SUS).
  6. Users Self-Reporting Problems: Users are able to find and report around 50% of the problems usability professionals find. Just asking users to report what problems they encountered, how severe they are and potential fixes can be a cheap and effective complement to other usability activities.
  7. Survey respondents prefer the left-side of the rating scale. The way you order your response options matters. People generally lean toward responses that are on the left-side. If you have more favorable responses (e.g. Strongly Agree) on the left you’ll get a slightly inflated score.
  8. Asking users to rate task-ease during a task lowers ratings: If you give users only five seconds to complete a task they will rate the task as much more difficult than those who are given no time limit. Contrast this finding with the 5 seconds tests results which shows that user attitudes about usability are different at the task vs. whole website level.
  9. Making survey questions more extreme will generate more disagreement: Scores will be higher if questions are all extremely negatively worded and scores will be lower if all the questions are extremely positively worded.
  10. Usability problems are almost 10-times more common on business applications than on websites

Top 25 Oddball Interview Questions

These were posted on Glassdoor, a great site for reviewing companies when you are in the job market (as many people are these days) and preparing for interviews.

While we all know the interview process can seem like a bit of a stressful process, for some it can be downright grueling! Glassdoor culled through tens of thousands interview questions that job seekers from around the world have shared on their site over the past year and found some pretty off the wall stuff. Here’s their take on the top 25 oddball interview questions of 2010:

1. “If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?” – view answers
Asked at Goldman Sachs. More Goldman Sachs interview questions.

2. “How many ridges [are there] around a quarter?” – view answers
Asked at Deloitte. More Deloitte interview questions.

3. “What is the philosophy of Martial Arts?” – view answers
Asked at Aflac. More Aflac interview questions.

4. “Explain [to] me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years.” – view answers
Asked at Boston Consulting. More Boston Consulting interview questions.

5. “Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 how weird you are.” – view answers
Asked at Capital One. More Capital One interview questions.

6. “How many basketball[s] can you fit in this room” – view answers
Asked at Google. More Google interview questions.

7. “Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?” – view answers
Asked at Bloomberg LP. More Bloomberg LP interview questions.

8. “If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” –  view answers
Asked at  AT&T. More AT&T interview questions.

9. “You have a birthday cake and have exactly 3 slices to cut it into 8 equal pieces. How do you do it?” –  view answers
Asked at Blackrock. More Blackrock interview questions.

10. “Given the numbers 1 to 1000, what is the minimum numbers guesses needed to find a specific number if you are given the hint “higher” or “lower” for each guess you make.” – view answers
Asked at Facebook. More Facebook interview questions.

11. “If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?” – view answers
Asked at Amazon. More Amazon interview questions.

12. “An apple costs 20 cents, an orange costs 40 cents, and a grapefruit costs 60 cents, how much is a pear?” –  view answers
Asked at Epic Systems. More Epic Systems interview questions.

13. “There are three boxes, one contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled such that no label identifies the actual contents of the box it labels. Opening just one box, and without looking in the box, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?” – view answers
Asked at Apple. More Apple interview questions.

14. “How many traffic lights in Manhattan?” – view answers
Asked at Argus Information & Advisory Services. More Argus Information & Advisory Services interview questions.

15. “You are in a dark room with no light. You need matching socks for your interview and you have 19 gray socks and 25 black socks. What are the chances you will get a matching pair? “ – view answers
Asked at Eze Castle. More Eze Castle interview questions.

16. “What do wood and alcohol have in common?” –  view answers
Asked at Guardsmark. More Guardsmark interview questions.

17. “How do you weigh an elephant without using a weigh machine?” –  view answers
Asked at IBM. More IBM interview questions.

18. “You have 8 pennies, 7 weight the same, one weighs less. You also have a judges scale. Find the one that weighs less in less than 3 steps.” –  view answers
Asked at Intel. More Intel interview questions.

19. “Why do you think only a small percentage of the population makes over $150K?” – view answers
Asked at New York Life. More New York Life interview questions.

20. “You are in charge of 20 people, organize them to figure out how many bicycles were sold in your area last year.” –  view answers
Asked at Schlumberger. More Schlumberger interview questions.

21. “How many bottles of beer are drank in the city over the week.” – view answers
Asked at The Nielsen Company. More The Nielsen Company interview questions.

22. “What’s the square root of 2000?” – view answers
Asked at UBS. More UBS interview questions.

23. “A train leaves San Antonio for Huston at 60mph. Another train leaves Huston for San Antonio at 80mph. Huston and San Antonio are 300 miles apart. If a bird leaves San Antonio at 100mph, and turns around and flies back once it reaches the Huston train, and continues to fly between the two, how far will it have flown when they collide.”- view answers
Asked at USAA. More USAA interview questions.

24. “How are M&M’s made?” – view answers
Asked at US Bank. More US Bank interview questions.

25. “What would you do if you just inherit a pizzeria from your uncle?” –  view answers
Asked at Volkswagen. More Volkswagen interview questions.

Got a good response to any of these questions? Make sure to leave your attempt at the answers through the above links.

These are just a handful of the 80,000+ interview questions Glassdoor has collected from job interview candidates through their Interview Reviews. In addition to interview questions for specific job openings at specific companies, Glassdoor collects full reviews on the interview process (phone, in-person, panel, etc.) as well as overall difficulty and whether the experience was generally positive, negative or neutral.  Their goal is to help job candidates get as prepared as possible for the job interview and it seems to be working – more than half of job candidates who complete an interview review report they got a job offer.

I used their site while recently interviewing and found it to be extremely useful. The internal (anonymous) reviews by current and past employees can really give you a sense of the culture of places you are considering working at.

Oakland Police Getting Dog & Wildlife Training

Oakland police officers must now take dog and wildlife courses.

The order for mandatory training in dog and wildlife handling comes after high-profile shootings of a barking dog and a confused deer in neighborhood backyards.

The free training by the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will include several hours of instruction on dog behavior, local wildlife habits and alternatives to shooting animals.

The Oakland Police Department’s entire 679-officer force will be required to undergo the training once a year.

Oakland animal control director Megan Webb says it’s designed to make sure animals are treated humanely.

Two weeks ago, a barking 11-year-old arthritic yellow Labrador retriever was shot when officers entered a backyard in search of a burglar. In May, officers shot a fawn in a backyard.

More on the story in the San Jose Mercury.