Fedora Design Team Planet

Using AMD RX Vega driver OpenCL on Fedora 29

Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on November 14, 2018 05:18 AM

The Raven Ridge APU is very capable processor to handle OpenCL inside some applications like Blender, Darktable and Gimp. Unfortunately, the current implementation from Mesa, clover, stuck to 1.3, is not supported. AMD released their driver 18.40 with OpenCL2.0+ targeting only Red Hat Enterprise Linux/Cent OS 6.10 and 7.5 in addition of Ubuntu LTS. The good new is the former rpm format can be used on Fedora.

The graphical part of Raven Ridge is Vega 8, basically a cut-down of Vega56 or Vega64 meaning choosing either driver for RX Vega.
The instruction is provided for extracting the rpm files but here is
 some requirements for OpenCL:
  • kernel-devel (provided by Fedora repository)
  • amdgpu-dkms
  • dkms
  • libopencl-amdgpu-pro
  • opencl-amdgpu-pro-icd
Once done, applications needing OpenCL will automatically detect the driver located on /opt/amdgpu/lib64. Blender will list as unknown AMD GPU and Darktable will enable it.

OpenCL from official AMD driver enabled on Darktable

Raven Ridge Vega8 listed as unknown AMD GPU detected

There is a ROCm version but it currently does not support the graphical side of Raven Ridge at this time. It will be great that someone will finally write a srpm for Fedora.

HP Envy x360 Convertible Ryzen 2500u update

Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on November 09, 2018 02:39 AM
Nearly one month later, HP Envy x360 Convertible 15  powered by Ryzen 2500U is running smoother on kernel 4.19.0 with someissues:
  • The LED for the mute button failed to work suggesting a possible ACPI issue.
  • An unfortunate oversight from HP for not including a led for Num Lock button. 
  • The touchscreen function failed due to ACPI bug related to a mis-configuration of tables. Sadly, it affects all HP Envy touchscreen series equipped with AMD processors. Workaround made by an Arch user exists and no upstream Linux maintainers has picked up yet for clean up and improvment. The side effect would be an unfortunate false impression HP touchscreen with AMD processors is horrible.
  • The gyroscope needed to automatically rotate the screen depending of the position is broken possibly due to ACPI bug.

On the positive side, I was impressed by the modular adaptability  of HP Envy x360 upgrade wise thanks to the excellent HP documentation. The board can be replaced with the powerful version of Ryzen 7 APU. Adding memory turned out very easy once the procedure is fully followed.  Currently the upgrade has 16 GB RAM and a SSD 1TB storage drastically improving the overall performance. Granted the hardware is not mean for heavy 3D gaming but is powerful enough for visual editing and some 3D rendering.

The hardware overall is very capable 2-in-1 Linux machine once issues are ironed out hopefully as soon as possible. The users as community provided a suggestion, the ball is on the upstream maintainers/vendors themselves improving the solution so testers can verify.

Well, if nothing else, I’m having some trouble figuring out where to start.

Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 06, 2018 06:37 PM

Well, if nothing else, I’m having some trouble figuring out where to start.

I was originally hoping to use whatever the current styles and design patterns were to start the process, but it seems like they aren’t actually consistent or easy to find enough for this to be useful.

I’m also working on meeting with people who are likely to have the strongest opinions so that we can develop a brand style and business goals, as these seem like they would inform the design system.


In general, I recommend a few things:

Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 02, 2018 07:01 PM

In general, I recommend a few things:

See if there are any open source places that are looking for UX help. I’m currently volunteering with GitLab, for example. There are also things like Code For Boston — where are you located? Code for Boston, at least, is very much a thing you want to be able to attend weekly meetings for.

If you are willing to do both research and design of the non-visual sort (eg making mockups and prototypes), you may be able to find a friend who needs your help on a crazy idea they have.

Finally, check if you have any local UX groups — they may have useful ideas that are relevant to wherever you are. If you don’t, maybe try contacting your local governmental businesses and things like libraries about helping with their site.

Intro to UX design for the ChRIS Project – Part 1

Posted by Máirín Duffy on November 02, 2018 05:45 PM

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”.
<iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" data-mce-fragment="1" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dyFQD87jU68" width="560"></iframe>

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 computing, container, and big data analysis towards good – helping researchers better understand medical conditions!
  • Making open source and free software technology usable and accessible to a larger population of users.A goal of ChRIS is to make accessible new tools that can be used in image processing but require a high level of technical expertise to even get up and running. ChRIS has a plugin system is container-based, providing a standardized way of running a diverse array of image processing applications. Creating a ChRIS plugin involves containerizing these tools and making them available via the ChRIS platform. (Resources on how to create a ChRIS plugin are available here.)We are working on a “ChRIS Store” web application to allow plugin developers to share their ready-to-go ChRIS plugins with ChRIS users so they can find and use these tools easily.
  • Giving users control of their data.One of the driving reasons for ChRIS’ creation was to allow for hospitals to own and control their own data without needing to give it up to the industry. How do you apply the latest cloud-based rapid data processing technology without giving your data to one of the big cloud companies? ChRIS has been built to interface with cloud providers such as the Massachusetts Open Cloud that have consortium-based data governance that allow for users to control their own data.

I want to emphasize the cloud-based computing piece here because it’s important – ChRIS allows you run image processing tools at scale in the cloud, so elaborate image processing that typically days, weeks, or months to complete could be completed in minutes. For a patient, this could enable a huge positive shift in their care  – rather than have to wait for days to get back results of an imaging procedure (like an MRI), they could be consulted by their doctor and make decisions about their care that day. The ChRIS project is working with developers who build image processing tools and helps them modify them and package them so they be parallelized to run across multiple computing nodes in order to gain those incredible speed increases. ChRIS as deployed today makes use of the Massachusetts Open Cloud for its compute resources; it’s a great resource, at a scale that many image processing developers previously never had access to.


A diagram showing a data source at left with images in it. The images move right into a ChRIS block, from where they are passed further right into compute environments on the right. Within the compute environment block at the right, there are individual compute nodes, each taking an input image passed from ChRIS, pushing it through a plugin from the ChRIS store, and creating an output. The outputs are pushed back to ChRIS. On top of ChRIS are several sibling blocks - the ChRIS UI (red), the Radiology Viewer (yellow), and a '...' block (blue) to represent other front ends that could run on top.

I have some – but little experience – with OpenShift as a user, and no experience with OpenStack or in image processing development. UX design, though – that I can do. I approached Dan McPherson to see if there was any way I could help with the ChRIS project on the UX front, and as it turned out, yes!

In fact, there are a lot of interesting UX problems around ChRIS, some I am sure analogous to other platforms / systems, but some are maybe a bit more unique! Let’s break down the human interface components of ChRIS, represented by the red, yellow, and blue components on the top of the following diagram:

The diagram above is a bit of a remix of the diagram Rudolph walks through at this point in the presentation; basically what I have added here are the UI / front end components on the top. Must-see, though, is the demo Rudolph gave that showed both of these user interfaces (radiology viewer and the ChRIS UI) in action:

<iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" data-mce-fragment="1" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/p1Y9wlPSgt4?rel=0&amp;start=1954" width="560"></iframe>

During the demo you’ll see some back and forth between two different UIs. We’ll start by talking about the radiology viewer.

Radiology Viewer (and, what do we mean by images?)

Today, let’s talk about the radiology viewer (I’ll call it “Rav”) first. It’s the yellow component in the diagram above. Rav is a front end that can be run on top of ChRIS that allows you to explore medical images, in particular MRIs. You can check out a live version of the viewer that does not include the library component here: http://fnndsc.childrens.harvard.edu/rev/viewer/library-anon/

Through walking through the UX considerations of this kind of tool, we’ll also talk about some properties of the type of images ChRIS is meant to work with. This will help, I hope, to demonstrate the broader problem space of providing a user experience around medical imaging data.

Rav might be used by a researcher to explore MRI images. There’s a two main tasks they’ll do using this interface: locating the images they want to work with, then viewing and manipulating those images.

User tasks: Locate images to work with

A PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System) server is what a lot of medical institutions use to store medical imaging data. It’s basically the ‘data source’ in the diagram at the top of this post. End users may need to go retrieve images they’d like to work with in rav from a PACS server – this involves using some metadata about the image(s), such as record number, date, etc. to find the image then adding them to a selection of images to work with. The PACS server itself needs to be configured as well (but hopefully that’ll be set up for users by an admin.)

A thing to note about a PACS server is you can assume it has a substantial number of images on it, so this image-finding / filtering-by-metadata first step is important so users don’t have to sift through a mountain of irrelevant data. The other thing to note – PACS is a type of storage, which based on implementation may suffer from some of the UX issues inherent in storage.

Below is a rough mockup showing how this interface might look. Note the interface has been split into two main tabs in this mockup – “Library” and “Explore.” The “Library” tab here is devoted to the location of images for building a selection to work with.

User Task: View and configure selected images

Once you have a set of images to work with, you need to actually examine them. To work with them, though, you have to understand what you’re looking at. First of all, one thing that can be hard to remember when looking at 2D representations of images like MRIs – these images of the same object along 3 different axes. From one scan, there may be hundreds of individual images that together represent a single object. It’s a bit more complex than your typical 3D view where you can represent an object from say a top, side, and front shot – you’ve got images that actually move inside the object, so there’s kind of a 4th dimension going on.

With that in mind, there’s a few types of image sets to be aware of:

Reference vs. Patient
  • Normative / Atlas – These are not images for the patient(s) at hand. These are images that serve as a reference for what the part of the body under study is expected to look like.
  • Patient – These are images that are being examined. They may need to be compared to the normative / atlas images to see if there are differences.
Registered vs. Unregistered
  • Unregistered images are standalone – they are basically the images positioned / aligned as they came from the imaging device.
  • Registered images have been manipulated to align with another image or images via a common coordinate system – scaled, rotated, re-positioned, etc. to line up with each other so they may be compared. A common operation would be to align a patient scan with a reference scan to be able to identify different structures in the patient scan as they were mapped out in the reference.
Processed vs. Unprocessed
  • You may have a set of images that are of the same exact patient, but some versions of them are the output of an image processing tool.
  • For example, the output may have been run through a tractography tool and look something like this.
  • Another example, the output may have been segmented using a tool (e.g., using image processing techniques to add metadata to the images to – for example – denote which areas are bone and which are tissue) and look something like this.
  • Yet another example – the output could be a mesh of a brain in 3D space. (More on meshes.)
  • The type of output the viewer is working with can dictate what needs to be shown in the UI to be able to understand the data.
Other Properties
  • You may have multiple images sets of the same patient taken at different times. Maybe you are tracking whether or not an area is healing or if a structure is growing over time.
  • You may have reference images or patient images taken at particular ages – structures in the body change over time based on age, so when choosing a reference / studying a set of images you need some awareness of the age of the references to be sure they are relevant to the patient / study at hand.
  • Each image has three main anatomical planes along which it may be viewed in 2D – sagittal (side-side), coronal / frontal (front-back), and transverse / axial (top-bottom).

Once a user understands these properties of the image sets sufficiently, they arrange them in a grid-based layout on what I’ll call the viewing table in the center. Once you have an image ‘on the table,’ you can use a mouse scroll wheel or the play button to view the image planes along the axis the images were taken. This sounds more complex than it is – imagine a deck of playing cards. If you’re looking at a set of images of a head from a sagittal view, the top card in the deck might show the person’s right ear, the 2nd card might show their right eye in cross-section, the 3rd card might show their nose in cross-section, the 4th card might show their left eye in cross-section, the 5th card might show their left ear… so on and so forth. Rinse and repeat for front-to-back, and top-to-bottom.

You can link two images together (for example, a patient image that is registered to a normative image) so that as you step along the axis the images were taken in a given image set, the linked image (perhaps a reference image) also steps along, so you can go slice-by-slice through two or more images at the same time and compare at that level.

Below is a mockup I made with some suggestions to the pre-existing UI last fall with some of these ideas in mind (some, I learned about in the back and forth and discussion afterwards. 🙂 )

A little more information about Rav’s development

Rav as a codebase right now isn’t in active development. It was written using a framework called Polymer, but due to various technical considerations, the team decided the road ahead will involve rewriting the viewer application in React.

An important component used in the viewer that continues to be developed is called amijs. This is the specific component that allows viewing of the image files in the Rav interface.

In terms of UX design, a future version of Rav will likely be implemented using the UX designs we worked on for Rav as it is today. There is a UX issues queue for Rav in the general ChRIS design repo. Rav-specific issues are tagged. You can look through those issues to see some interesting discussions around the UX for this tool

What’s next?

I’m hoping to become a regular blogger again. 🙂 I am planning to do another blog post in this series, and it will focus on the main UI of ChRIS itself (the red block in the diagram at the top of this post.) Specifically, I’ll go through some ideas I have for the concept model of the ChRIS UI, which is honestly not complete.

After that, I plan to do another post in the series about the ChRIS store UI, which my colleague Joe Caiani is working on now with design created by my UX intern this past summer Shania Ambros.

Questions, ideas, and feedback most welcome in the comments section!

The project in question was not, no.

Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 02, 2018 02:02 PM

The project in question was not, no. We ended up deciding that what he needed was more a visual designer than a researcher/interaction designer.

Do you have thoughts on design system creation for startups in the B2B space?

Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 01, 2018 04:50 PM

Do you have thoughts on design system creation for startups in the B2B space?

Fedora 29 Design Suite Lab available

Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on November 01, 2018 12:39 AM
Fedora 29 Design Suite is available for downloading with latest stable release  applications including Gimp 2.10.6 among the features.
On the bad news side, Blender 2.79b on Fedora 29 has broken user interface due to compatibility issue related to python 3.7. Workaround will be installing from the flathub directory.

Next release will be interesting considering the structural change for the incoming Fedora 30 with the advent of flatpak packages.

Running HP Envy x360 Ryzen 2500U with SSD

Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on October 23, 2018 04:29 AM
Replacing the 1TB 7200rpm HDD with a well reviewed  Samsung 860 EVO 1TB HDD turned out a drastic improvement in term of speed caught me by surprise.

Noticeable effect was the nearly five seconds boot straight to the login screen and the response time of opening and closing applications. Envy x360 Ryzen 5 feels snappy now.

On a side note, Windows 10 has a nice app called Windows Hello to authenticate with face similar to facial recognition founds on Android device. A similar open source application called howdy is available but not packaged for Fedora yet. 

Retiring ASUS X550ZE and greeting HP Envy x360 Ryzen 5

Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on October 19, 2018 06:02 AM
My ASUS X550ZE reached its end of life due to hardware power issue after getting a lot of abuse. From that experience, I have learned a lot about dual Radeon graphic processors working in the open source world and I followed AMD graphic development since then.

Enter HP Envy x360 Convertible 15-cp0xxx Ryzen 5 marking the return to tablet PC. I originally intended to buy the Ryzen 7 version for more performance but the specification is very similar with only a sightly more powerful graphic processor as the difference on Ryzen 5. The model uses a 1 TB hard disk drive with 8 GB DDR4 RAM and I plan to upgrade to a 1TB solid state drive (Samsung Evo version looks suitable).


 Installing Fedora 29 Beta Design Suite was very smooth after shrinking the partition of Windows 10 and keeping Secure Boot enabled by default.

Post installation 

Some revealing issues:
  • Touchscreen and stylus mode is broken due to acpi bug preventing proper detection.
  • AMD Raven, the name of the APU, works fine but occasionally glitched on log out and reboot. At this time of writing, mesa version is 18.2.2.
  • Battery usage is adequate but has yet to take advantage on improvements currently for Intel based hardware. Running powertop sightly increased the time of battery usage.
The remaining details is on https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/User:Luya/Laptops/HP_Envy_x360

    1000 downloads of Scribus unstable in COPR Fedora 28

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on August 25, 2018 07:12 AM

    What a surprise to see 1000 download of Fedora 28 repository for Scribus Unstable! Thanks a million.

    Bíonn gach tosach lag*

    Posted by Máirín Duffy on May 02, 2018 12:55 PM

    Tá mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge; tá uaim scríobh postálacha blag as Gaeilge, ach níl mé oilte ar labhairt nó scríbh as Gaeilge go fóill. Tiocfaidh sé le tuilleadh cleachtaidh.**

    Catching up

    I have definitely fallen off the blog wagon; as you may or may not know the past year has been quite difficult for me personally, far beyond being an American living in Biff Tannen’s timeline these days. Blogging definitely was pushed to the bottom of the formidable stack I must balance but in hindsight I think the practice of writing is beneficial matter what it’s about so I will carve regular time out to do it.

    Tá mé ag foghlaim Gaeilge

    This post title and opening is in Irish; I am learning Irish and trying to immerse myself as much as one can outside of a Gaeltacht. There’s quite a few reasons for this:

    • The most acute trigger is that I have been doing some genealogy and encountered family records written in Irish. I couldn’t recall enough of the class I’d taken while in college and got pulled in wanting to brush up.
    • Language learning is really fun, and Irish is of course part of my heritage and I would love to be able to teach my kids some since it’s theirs, too.
    • One of the main reasons I took Japanese in college for 2 years is because I wanted to better understand how kanji worked and how to write them. With Irish, I want to understand how to pronounce words, because from a native English speaker point of view they sound very different than they look!
    • Right now appears to be an exciting moment for the language; it has shed some of the issues that I think plagued it during ‘The Troubles’ and you can actually study and speak it now without making some kind of unintentional political statement. There’s far more demand for Gaelscoils (schools where the medium for education in all subjects is Irish) than can be met. In the past year, the Pop Up Gaeltacht movement has started and really caught on, a movement run in an open source fashion I might add!
    • I am interested in how the brain recovers from trauma and I’ve a little theory that language acquisition could be used as a model for brain recovery and perhaps suggest more effective therapies for that. Being knee deep in language learning, at the least, is an interesting perspective in this context.
    • I also think – as a medium that permeates everything you do, languages are similar to user interfaces – you don’t really pay attention to a language when you speak it if you’re fluent, it’s just the medium. Where you pay attention to the language rather than the content is where you have a problem speaking it or understanding it. (Yes, the medium is the message except when it isn’t. 🙂 )Similarly, user interfaces aren’t something you should pay attention to – you should pay attention to the content, or your work, rather than focus on the intricacies of how the interface works. I think drawing connections between these two things is at least interesting, if not informative. (Can you tell I like mashing different subjects together to see what comes out?)

    Anyway, I could go on and on, but yes, $REASONS. I’m trying to learn a little bit every day rather than less frequent intensive courses. For example, I’m trying to ‘immerse’ as I can by using my computers and phone in the Irish language, keep long streaks in the Duolingo course, listen to RnaG and watch TG4 and some video courses, and some light conversation with other Irish learners and speakers.
    Maybe I’ll talk more about the approach I’m taking in detail in another post. In general, I think a good approach to language learning is a policy I try to subscribe to in all areas of life – just f*ing do it (speak it, write it, etc. Do instead of talking about doing. Few things infuriate me more although I’m as guilty as anyone. 🙂 ) There you go for now, though.

    What else is going on?

    I have been working on some things that will be unveiled at the Red Hat Summit and don’t want to be a spoiler. I am planning to talk a bit more about that kind of work here. One involves a coloring book :), and another involves a project Red Hat is working on with Boston University and Boston Children’s Hospital.
    Just this week, I received my laptop upgrade 🙂 It is the Thinkpad Yoga X1 3rd Gen and I am loving it so far. I have pre-release Fedora 28 on it and am very happy with the out-of-the-box experience. I’m planning to post a review about running Fedora 28 on it soon!

    Slán go fóill!

    (Bye for now!)
    * Every beginning is weak.
    ** I’m learning Irish; I want to write blog posts in Irish, but I don’t speak or write Irish well enough yet. It’ll come with practice. (Warning: This is likely Gaeilge bhriste / broken Irish)

    Scribus 1.5.4 available in COPR repository

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on May 02, 2018 04:14 AM
    For users finding Scribus 1.4.7 lacking in features notably the complex text layout for Asian languages, Scribus 1.5.4 is available via COPR repository from Fedora 26 (soon reaching end of life) to Rawhide.  
    Additionally, a snapshot for the future 1.6.0 (currently 1.5.5) is also available for improving the experience to upstream.

    Fedora Infra Hackfest 2018

    Posted by Ryan Lerch on April 19, 2018 02:58 AM

    Earlier this month, I attended the 2018 edition of the Fedora Infra Hackfest. The hackfest was a meetup of members of the Fedora Infrastructure team, including also the developers that work on Fedora apps such as pagure and bodhi.


    The hackfest was held in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA. As always, getting to these things for me is quite an adventure from down under, but the travel went smoothly. This was in part due to the organisational skills of Paul Frields, who organized the hackfest. The venue itself  — the University of Mary Washington — provided a great place to work on Fedora infrastructure.

    What we worked on

    Over the course of the week, many different elements of the Fedora infra were touched. A few of the big ticket infra items that were worked on were beginning to set up AWX for Fedora Infra, hacking on Infra’s Openshift instance, and rawhide gating in Bodhi. Most of these were items that i was not much help on, so I focused on some of the smaller items where I could help.

    Package Maintainer Docs

    On the first day, we all worked on the Package Maintainer documentation. These docs are currently all in the Fedora wiki, and provide information for new and current package maintainers on creating and updating Fedora packages. We went through the large list of docs in the wiki, and identified the ones that contained useful content. These were then converted to asciidoc, and moved into a newly created wiki. Using these as a base, we massaged these into a new set of documents, and started writing. Additionally, i did a quick pelican setup rendering asciidoc so we could easily view the rendered documents as we were writing. All the output from the Package Maintainer docs work is available in this repo.

    Bodhi Rawhide Gating

    As part of the bodhi rawhide gating work, Randy and I sat down to look at the Create Update form in Bodhi. This form is currently a bit strange, as it asks for a Package Name, but only uses that for finding builds, but the way the form is laid out, it appears to be a critical part of the form. We fleshed out a basic idea for how updates will appear in Bodhi when going through to rawhide, and added some extra discussion on how to tweak this form to make it easier to understand.


    We also brainstormed a name for the new front-end for CAIAPI — we came up with noggin. CAIAPI and Noggin will together be a new replacement for the current Fedora Account System. Patrick and I worked together to create a basic list of requirements, and an idea on how to implement the front end. I also spent some time creating the beginnings of Noggin — creating a basic application with theming support, and implementing a handful of the views (that are currently not hooked up to anything yet). Results from the hacking that i did on Noggin are already in the newly created Noggin repo.

    Vulkan now fully functional on ASUS X550ZE

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on April 15, 2018 07:18 PM
    South Island (Hainan) and Sea Island (Kaveri) functional with RADV

    Running Fedora 28 Design Suite post beta shows a nice surprise: Vulkan with RADV is fully functional on both South Island (Hainan) and Sea Island (Kaveri) cards on ASUS X550ZE laptop. amdgpu driver is needed to enable the feat in combination of boot parameter (cik.amdgpu_support=1 cik.radeon_support=0 si.amdgpu_support=1 si.radeon_support=0)

    Vulkan smoketest running on RADV
    Some minor issues need be to addressed like occasional glitches. Otherwise the performance is stable enough for dail use.

    A follow up on Fedora 28's background art

    Posted by Máirín Duffy on March 12, 2018 12:04 PM

    A quick post – I have a 4k higher-quality render of one of Fedora 28 background candidates mentioned in a recent post about the Fedora 28 background design process. Click on the image below to grab it if you would like to try / test it and hopefully give some feedback on it:
    3D render of the Fedora logo in blue fiber optic light strands against a black background. Image is angled with some blur and bokeh effects. the angling of this version is such that it comes from below and looks up.
    One of the suggestions I’ve received from your feedback is to try to vary the height between the ‘f’ and the infinity symbol so they stand out. I’m hoping to find some time this week to figure out how exactly to do that (I’m a Blender newbie 😳), but if you want to try your hand, the Blender source file is available.

    Marcela: I am not certain that teaching a large class would do what I’m wanting to do.

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on March 07, 2018 04:18 PM

    Marcela: I am not certain that teaching a large class would do what I’m wanting to do. The people I most want to help get into UX are also the people least likely to be able to afford to take UX courses.

    Fedora 28's Desktop Background Design

    Posted by Máirín Duffy on March 06, 2018 06:46 PM

    Fedora 28 (F28) is slated to release in May 2018. On the Fedora Design Team, we’ve been thinking about the default background wallpaper for F28 since November. Let’s walk through the Fedora 28 background process thus far as a sort of pre-mortem; we’d love your feedback on where we’ve ended up.

    November: Inspiration

    As of the past 3 releases, we choose a sequential letter of the alphabet and come up with a list of scientists / mathematicians / technologists to serve as an inspiration for the desktop background’s visual concept:
    F25's wallpaper - an almost floral blue gradiated blade design, F26 a black tree line reflected in water against a wintry white landscape (the trees + reflection resemble a sound wave), F27 a blue and purple gradiated underwater scene with several jellyfish - long tendrils drifting and twisting - floating up the right side of the image
    Backgrounds from Fedora 25, 26, and 27. 25’s inspiration was Archimedes, and the visual concept was an organic Archimedes’ screw. F26’s inspiration was Alexander Graham Bell, and the visual concept was a sound wave of a voice saying “Fedora.” F27’s inspiration was underwater researcher Jacques Cousteau, and the inspiration was transparency in the form of jellyfish.
    Gnokii kicked off the process in November by starting the list of D scientists for F28 and holding a vote on the team: we chose Emily Duncan, an early technologist who invented several types of banking calculators.

    December: First concepts

    We had a meeting in IRC (which I seem to have forgotten to run meetbot on 🙁 ) where we brainstormed different ways to riff off of Emily Duncan’s work as an inspiration. One of the early things we looked at were some of the illustrations from one of Duncan’s patents:
    Diagram etchings from 1903 Duncan calculator patent. Center is a cylindrical object covered in a grid with numbers and various mechanical bits
    Gnokii started drafting some conceptual mockups, starting with a rough visualization of an Enigma machine and moving to visuals of electric wires and gears:
    3D perspective alpha cryptography keys scrolling vertically in 3D space
    wires with bright sparks traveling along them atop a gear texture, black background
    wires with bright sparks traveling along them atop a gear texture, blue background
    During a regular triage meeting, the team met in IRC and we discussed the mockups and had some critique and suggestions which we shared in the ticket.

    February: Solidifying Concept

    After the holidays, we got back to it with the beta freeze deadline in mind. Note, we don’t have alpha releases in Fedora anymore, which means we need to have more polish in our initial wallpaper than we had traditionally in order to get useful feedback for the final wallpaper. This started with a regular triage meeting where the F28 wallpaper ticket came up. We brainstormed a lot of ideas and went through a lot of different and of-the-moment visual styles. Maria shared a link to a Behance article on 2018 design trends and it seemed 3D styles in a lot of different ways are the trend of the moment. Some works that particularly inspired us:

    Rose Pilkington’s Soft Bodies for Electric Objects

    Gently-textured pastel hues of bright cyan, orange, yellow, and pink in a softly gradiated set of flat but almost 3D like rounded abstract shapes

    Ari Weinkle’s Wormholes

    Almost psychedelic, cavelike, wavy environment made with cascading 3D ridges, orange and purple hued palette

    Ari Weinkle’s Paint waves

    Vibrant, rainbow hued, gracefully curving and spiraling super thick sculpted 3D paint with a ridged texture
    Both myself and terezahl, taking these inspirations as directions, started on another round of mockups.
    Terezahl created mockups, one which appears to be inspired by Pilkington’s work, based of the concept of 28’s being a triangular number:
    On top, a black to greenish blue shaded abstract composition with a floating triangle floating in front of a background with an inverse gradient. On bottom, rounded abstract shapes in purple, blue, and cyan jewel tones.
    I was inspired by Weinkle’s paint waves, but couldn’t figure out a technique to approximate it in Blender. Conceptually, I wanted to take gnokii’s wires with data ‘lights’ travelling down the wires, and have those lights travel down the ridges in an abstract swirled wave. I figured probably it would take some work with Blender’s particular system, since the mass of a character’s hair is typically created that way. I had never used Blender’s particle system before, so I took a tutorial that seemed the closest to the effect I wanted – a Blender Guru tutorial by Andrew Price:
    <iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XPFJGkB4v9U" width="560"></iframe>
    As per the feedback I received from gnokii – the end result was too close to the output you’d expect from such a tutorial. I wasn’t able to achieve a more solid mass than the fiber optic strands, although they visually represented the ‘data light’ concept fork I was going for:
    Sparkling blue-hued fiber optic threads against a black background, their ends glowing light blue, with some blurring and bokeh effects - 3D rendered
    Time was short, so we ended up deciding to ship this mockup – as close to the tutorial as it was – in the F28 beta to see what kind of feedback we got on the look. Thankfully Luya was able to package it up for us with some time to spare! So far, the preliminary feedback we’ve gotten from folks on social media and/or who’ve seen it via Luya’s package for beta has been positive.

    March: Finalization

    Since the time-consuming work of building the platform in Blender from the tutorial is done, I’ve started playing around with the idea to see what kind of visuals we could get. The obvious, of course, is to work the Fedora logo into it. Fedora 26’s wallpaper had a sound wave depicting the vocalization of the word “Fedora” – I was trying to think of how to have the fiber optic ‘data’ show the same. Perhaps this is too literal. Anyhow, here are the two crowd favorites thus far:


    3D render of the Fedora logo in blue fiber optic light strands against a black background. Image is angled with some blur and bokeh effects


    3D render of the Fedora logo in blue fiber optic light strands against a black background. Image is angled with some blur and bokeh effects. the angling of this version is such that it comes from below and looks up.
    we need your help!
    Anyway, this is where you come in. Take a look at these. With the system built in Blender, we have a lot of things we can tweak easily – the angles, the lens / bokeh / focus, the shape / path of the strands (like how the latest renderings follow the Fedora f/infinity), the shape / type of object the strands are made of (right now long / narrow cylinders.) These kinds of tweaks are quick. Any ideas you have on a path forward here, or just simple feedback, would be much appreciated. 🙂

    If I didn’t have to earn money…

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on February 13, 2018 06:40 PM

    I was recently asked what I would do if I didn’t have to earn money.

    That was an interesting question, especially given that it’s difficult to say what that actually means. For example: If I don’t have to earn money, does that mean I’m able to do things that are more expensive than everyday things? Can I travel?

    I decided to interpret it as if I had enough to be comfortable. For me, that includes at least some travel.

    Season Matters

    The first thing that came to mind with this was the significant difference in my mental state in winter and summer. I’m functional in winter (seasonal depression and insomnia are treated, but not completely countered). I’m good in summer — even with the insomnia, since it’s better with enough light.

    So, ideally, I’d be doing something that feeds my soul (so to speak) in winter, and feeds my curiosity and enthusiasm and need for people in summer.


    <figure><figcaption>Part of the eco tour at Mount Dora in Florida — so much sun!</figcaption></figure>

    Having just returned from a week in Florida to visit my parents, I think that I would want to spend at least some of the winter somewhere with sun. I’m so much more… awake. Aware. Happy. Human. It’ll fade, since it still is February in Boston, but it’s such a strong reminder. I think Florida winter light may be better (stronger? More direct?) than Boston summer light.

    So maybe in winter , I’d go somewhere bright for a few weeks to a month. And, overlapping or not, something involving animals. Whether it be spending time with lonely shelter animals, or helping out at a zoo or sanctuary, I find that doing something involving animals helps feed me in ways that help counteract the lack of light.

    <figure><figcaption>“I require surface area! It’s warmer than it’s been and I need warms!” — a turtle, also on the eco tour</figcaption></figure>


    In summer, with better sunlight, I think I’d want to do two main things: Spend time outside in the sun, and teach UX to folks who cannot afford to pay for schooling.

    At the moment, I’d need to spend more time learning and practicing UX research and interaction design, and maybe more visual design. I’d want to have years of practice, and maybe do some teaching on the side. Once I feel a bit less like I’m too new to teach (which isn’t actually true; I just would want to know more to feel comfortable), I’d want to pass that knowledge on to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to get into UX. I’m already offering info to anyone who I know needs it, even though I am fairly new to UX. The fact that I tend to dive headfirst into anything I’m interested in means that — while I know there are gaps — I’ve learned a lot in the past two years of learning and practicing.

    I think I’d want to focus on Women and Racial/Ethnic Minorities in tech (especially black folks and latin@s), as they may well be interested in and skilled at the UX field, but may not have any way to pay for learning. Similarly, I’d bet a fair number of people who would be excellent UX practitioners have no idea that such a thing exists.

    Tech needs diversity, badly. Even if I ignore the fact that not having access to tech jobs means that there’s huge swaths of folks who aren’t making as much money as they could or need, diversity in a company means that there will be more people with different backgrounds looking at problems and the proposed solutions. There are far too many stupid mistakes and problems relating to thoughtlessness that would have a much better chance of being spotted if entire teams weren’t made of white, cis, men. It’s not their fault that they don’t spot problems, but different life experiences have a huge effect on how one thinks and the types of solutions one might suggest and implement. Refusing to admit that this is true is both short-sighted and self-centered.

    So, I’d want to teach. And since I find UX so fascinating, and that’s my focus and likely to stay that way, that’s what I’d want to teach.


    I need people. I need my family, my friends, and to interact with people I don’t already know in low-pressure environments.

    So I’d want to build in time to spend with my family and friends, and find ways to meet new people and learn who they are and what they think and what they want. Sure, that last part sounds a bit like User Research, but it’s more than that. People are fascinating. And if it’s low pressure to us both — which user research is not — I get the chance to get to know more people without anyone feeling pushed into it. Some parties are good for this, if there are quieter spaces so that conversation is possible.

    I need touch. Both with people I’m comfortable with and with animals who rely on me and who do not. That would need to be part of an ideal life, as well.

    I need to move. Walking is great, but often harder in winter due to weather and to seasonal depression making inertia stronger. Kayaking is shockingly fun, although my inflatable kayak is not heavy enough — I always feel like I’m going to fall out. Swimming is good, if I don’t have to deal with chlorine. I’m sure there are other things that easily and comfortable fill my need to move, but those are the first that come to mind.

    What would you do?

    If you didn’t have to earn money, what would you want to do?

    Application process — redesign

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on December 17, 2017 02:09 AM

    I recently applied for a job somewhere, and found the initial application process confusing and dismaying.

    The reason, I think, is that it was not clear a) if the entire process actually happened, and b) what all I was actually submitting. So, I decided to take a bit of time and add some redesign to make things a little less confusing. I’ve also blurred out the company name for politeness’ sake.

    What did it look like at first?

    When you look at a job description, you get something like this (with a bright orange ‘apply now’ button that is not visible in this screenshot). This seems fine.


    After you click Apply Now, you get an odd sort of thing about your personal data collection. I’m guessing this is because it’s a security company, but it reads all sorts of weird. Whatever, that’s not a huge deal.


    Next, you get your first page of the application. I like that they remind you what you’re applying for!


    If you upload your resume, your name and email are auto-filled. That’s cool, thanks! When you select ‘Next’, you get this:


    Wait. What? We just jumped to questions about my nationality and my affirmative action status? What about my work experience? My education? A cover letter? Did the resume upload skip the need for work and education info? Maybe, let’s keep going.

    You might notice (I didn’t at the time) that this button says ‘Submit’, not ‘Next’. I didn’t grab a screenshot (and didn’t want to apply twice), but that’s the end of the application process. It thanks you, and it sends you email confirming your application.

    What? I don’t even know for sure what it sent! I don’t know how well it parsed my resume. I have no clue at this point what just happened.

    What would I fix?

    Ok, so that was all sorts of confusing. Enough so that last night as I was falling asleep, I was distracted by wondering what would help. I considered a progress indicator, as that would at least make the extreme brevity of the application not a surprise. I also wondered if they’d labeled the final button ‘Submit’, which they actually had. (but perhaps ‘Submit Application’ would have been a clearer signal!) Finally, right before I fell asleep, I realized that what I most missed was a summary of what I was about to submit.

    So, my version of the first page, with a progress bar added (using their font as detected by What Font and the same color as the next button for the progress indication):

    <figure><figcaption>Look! It’s the first step of three!</figcaption></figure>

    My version of the second page (which was the last in the previous version) also has a progress bar, and changed the button to say ‘Next’. Not sure why I couldn’t make the carets a little more visible when they are between things. And perhaps I need some sort of ‘completed’ indicator for the first step, like a checkmark.

    <figure><figcaption>Still a weird jump, but at least I had a chance to expect it.</figcaption></figure>

    Finally, I made the very barest of bones summary page (the progress bar, what one was applying for, and a brief statement about the summary page). I didn’t make the whole page, which means that I didn’t get to include a “Submit Application” button instead of just ‘Submit” or suggest ways to make it easy for people to change things they don’t agree with. The latter seems important, especially if it really is automatically interpreting the resume; perhaps offer inline editing?

    <figure><figcaption>Not entirely sure how to end progress bars of this type, but you get the point.</figcaption></figure>


    I’m struggling with the visual design part of things, but at least I feel a little better about the weird application process, having “fixed” it (at least in theory).

    I’m not sure what happens if you don’t submit a resume in that first page (or if you use linkedin or something instead). It seems like it might be a kindness for them to tell you what submitting your resume (or associating with social media) did for you, so that it’s less confusing when it never asks about jobs or education.

    Also, Gravit Designer is a pretty nice tool for this purpose!

    Digital Ethics: Whose responsibility is it? (3/3)

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on December 05, 2017 04:58 PM

    UX folks may be in the best position to identify ethical issues in their companies. Should it be their responsibility?

    This is the final piece of the story I’ve been telling. It started with an explanation of some of the problems currently present in the implementation of UX practices. I then described various ethical problems in technology companies today.

    I will now explain how UX folks are uniquely situated to notice ethical concerns. I will also explain how, despite their unique perspective, I do not think that UX folks should be the gatekeepers of ethics. Much like UX itself, ethical considerations are too likely to be ignored without buy-in from the top levels of a company.

    Ethics and UX

    Ethics and user experience are tied together for a few reasons:

    • Folks who are working on the user experience of a piece of software will often have a good view on the ethics of it — if they stop to consider it.
    • UX folks are trained to see the impact of a product on people’s lives. We are a bridge between software and humans, and ethical concerns are also in that space.
    • Like UX, ethics needs buy-in throughout the company. It can otherwise be difficult or impossible to enforce, as ethical considerations can be at odds with short-term company priorities like shareholder profits or introducing convenient (but potentially problematic) features.

    Given that UX folks are in a great position to see ethical problems as they come up, it may be tempting to suggest that we should be the ones in charge of ethics. Unfortunately, as I described in an earlier section, many UX folks are already struggling to get buy-in for their UX work. Without buy-in at the top level, we are unlikely to have the power to do anything about it, and may risk our jobs and livelihoods.

    This is made worse by the fact that there are a lot of new UX folks in the Boston area. If they are on the younger side of things, they may not realize that they are being asked to do the impossible, or that they can push back. New UXers may also have taken out student loans, whether as an undergraduate student or to enable a career change into UX, thereby effectively becoming indentured servants who can’t even use bankruptcy to escape them.

    Even new and career-changer UX folks who have not taken out loans can feel like they can’t afford to annoy the company they’re working for. Given how few entry-level jobs there are — at least in the Boston area — it’s a huge risk for someone new to UX to be taking.

    The risk of pointing out ethical problems is even worse when you are talking about an ethnic minority or others who are in an especially vulnerable position, and who may also be more likely to notice potential problem-areas.

    Individual UX folks should not be the sole custodians of ethics nor of the commitment to a better user experience. Without buy-in at high levels of the company, neither of these are likely to work out well for anyone.

    Who should be in charge of software ethics?

    Who, then, should be the custodians of keeping software from causing harm?

    The UXPA Professional Organization

    The UXPA organization has a code of conduct, which is excellent. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really have much to do with the ethical concerns that have come up lately. At best, we have the lines “UX practitioners shall never knowingly use material that is illegal, immoral, or which may hurt or damage a person or group of people.” and “UX practitioners shall advise clients and employers when a proposed project is not in the client’s best interest and provide a rationale for this advice.” However, these are relevant to the problem at hand only if a UX practitioner can tell that something might cause harm, or if a client’s best interest matches up with the public’s best interest.

    The code of conduct in question may not be specific enough, either: the main purpose of such a code of conduct is to offer practitioners a place to refer to when something goes against it. It is not clear that this code offers that opportunity, nor is it really a UX professional’s job to watch for ethics concerns. We may be best positioned, and we may be able to learn what to look for, but ethical concerns are only a part of the many tasks a UX professional may have.

    Companies Themselves

    A better question might be: how do we encourage companies adopt and stick to an ethics plan around digital products? Once something like that is in place, it becomes a _lot_ easier for your employees to take that into account. Knowing what to pay attention to, what areas to explore, and taking the time to do so would be a huge improvement.

    Maybe instead of asking UX folks to be the custodians of ethics (also here), we can encourage companies to pay attention to this problem. UX folks could certainly work with and guide their companies when those companies are looking to be more ethically conscious.

    I’m not at all certain what might get companies to pay attention to ethics, except possibly for things like the current investigation into the effects of Russian interference in our politics. When it’s no longer possible to hide the evil that one’s thoughtlessness — or one’s focus on money over morals — has caused, maybe that will finally get companies to implement and enforce clear, ethical guidelines.

    What do you think?

    What are your thoughts on how — or even if — ethics should be brought to the table around high tech?

    Thank you to Alex Feinman and Emily Lawrence for their feedback on this entry!

    Digital Ethics: Whose responsibility is it? (2/3)

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on December 01, 2017 02:31 PM

    UX folks may be in the best position to identify ethical issues in their companies. Should it be their responsibility?

    In the previous section, I described the state of UX practice at technology companies, and the need for high-level buy-in for successful UX integration.

    There is a concerning — and increasingly evident — lack of ethical consideration in the processes of most software companies. In this section, I will describe some of the ways in which this has recently become more apparent.

    Digital Ethics

    The software in our lives are not generally designed with our health and well-being in mind. This fact is becoming clear as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are in the spotlight relating to Russia’s interference with our elections and increasing political divides. Twitter has also typically been unwilling to do much about threats or hate speech.

    There is too much focus on engagement and creating addiction in users, and not enough on how things might go bad and appropriate ways to handle that.

    Internet of Things (IoT)

    There’s a proliferation of products in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, many of which are completely insecure and thus easily turned into a botnet, have the private information on them exploited, or hacked to be used as an information gathering device.

    Effects on Kids

    Some IoT devices are specifically targeted at kids, but few or no companies have put any effort into identifying how they will affect the development of the children who use them. Concerned researchers at the MIT Media Lab have begun to study the effects of intelligent devices and toys on kids, but this won’t stop the continued development of these devices.

    Similarly, it’s unclear how the use of devices that were originally aimed at adults — such as Alexa — will affect the kids in those houses. On one hand, it doesn’t involve screen time, which is no longer completely contraindicated for kids under two but is still wise to limit. On the other hand, we have no idea how those devices will answer questions they were not programmed to handle. Additionally, these devices do not encourage kids to use good manners — one of the important lubricants for the fabric of society. It’s hard enough to teach kids manners without having that teaching undermined by an intelligent device!

    Finally, consider how machine learning can result in some truly horrific scenarios (content warning: the linked essay describes disturbing things and links to disturbing graphic and video content).

    Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level.
    James Bridle · Writer and Artist

    Willful ignorance: Twitter and Equifax

    Similarly, we’ve seen the results of a focus on metrics and money over security and sanity. Twitter not only knew that there were spam and fake accounts from Russia and the Ukraine in 2015, but refused to remove them because

    “They were more concerned with growth numbers than fake and compromised accounts,” Miley told Bloomberg.”

    Equifax stores highly sensitive information about people in the US, and left security vulnerabilities open for months after being told about them. As a result, they had multiple security breaches, basically screwing over anyone whose data was stolen.

    <figure><figcaption>Yeah, no. You knew you had vulnerabilities!</figcaption></figure>

    Thoughtlessness: Google, Facebook, and Big Data

    Even without willful ignorance, thoughtlessness alone can easily be enough to put individuals, communities, and societies at risk.

    Considering the breadth of data that many companies are collecting on those who use their products, there is a worrying lack of thought given to the invasiveness of this practice and to how to safeguard the data in question. These companies often make poor choices in what information to keep, how to secure and anonymize the information, and who has access to that information.

    Some might say that having conversational devices like Alexa and Google Home are worth the privacy risks inherent in an always-on listening device. Others might suggest that it’s already too late, given that Siri and Google Now have been listening to us and our friends through our phones for a long time now.

    However, regardless of one’s thoughts on the timing of the concerns, the fact remains that tech giants have access to an amazing amount of information about us. This information is collected through our phones, through our searches and purchasing patterns, and sometimes through devices like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home Mini.

    Some companies are better than others, such as Apple’s refusal to break their encryption for the FBI, but it can be quite difficult to identify which and where companies are making the best choices for their customers privacy, safety, and sanity.

    Machine Learning

    Take machine learning (also known as AI), and the fact that companies are more interested in selling ads than considering the effects their software has on their customers:

    It’s not that the people who run, you know, Facebook or Google are maliciously and deliberately trying to make the country or the world more polarized and encourage extremism. […] But it’s not the intent or the statements people in technology make that matter, it’s the structures and business models they’re building. […] Either Facebook is a giant con of half a trillion dollars and ads don’t work on the site, it doesn’t work as a persuasion architecture, or its power of influence is of great concern. It’s either one or the other. It’s similar for Google, too.
    Zeynep Tufekci · Techno-sociologist

    One of the major problems with machine learning is that we have _no idea_ precisely what associations any particular algorithm has learned. The programmers of those algorithms just say whether the output those algorithms provide is good enough, and often ‘good enough’ doesn’t take into account the effects on individuals, communities, and society.

    I hope you begin to understand why ethics is a big concern among the UX folks I follow and converse with. At the moment, the ethics of digital products is a big free-for-all. Maybe there was a time when ethics wasn’t as relevant, and code really was just code. Now is not that time.

    In part 3, I’ll discuss the positioning of UX people to more easily notice these issues, and the challenges involved in raising concerns about ethics and ethical responsibility.

    Thanks to Alex Feinman, Máirín Duffy, and Emily Lawrence for their feedback on this thread!

    Digital Ethics: Whose responsibility is it? (1/3)

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 29, 2017 06:38 PM

    User Experience (UX) folks may be in the best position to identify ethical issues in their companies. Should it be their responsibility?

    This will be a multi-part story.

    In this first part, I’m going explain some of the problems inherent in the implementation of UX practices at technology companies today, to provide the background necessary to make my point.

    You can also skip ahead to part two, in which I talk about ethics in the tech industry today.

    First: Why do Businesses want UX?

    <figure><figcaption>Poor user experience = burning your money</figcaption></figure>

    Businesses are starting to realize that they need to incorporate UX to retain and increase their customer base. Discussions with Boston-area user experience folks suggests that companies have figured out that they need to have incorporated UX years ago, and that they’re behind.

    Many of those businesses are so new to UX that they don’t understand what it means. Part of the reason for this is that ‘UX’ is an umbrella term, typically including:

    • user research
    • information architecture (or IA)
    • interaction design (or IxD)
    • content specialists
    • visual design

    In addition, some UX teams include front-end developers, as it can otherwise be difficult to be certain that the developers implementing the interface have a basic understanding of user experience.

    <figure><figcaption>User Experience is complicated!</figcaption></figure>

    When looking for UX employees, some businesses end up throwing the kitchen sink into their job descriptions, or look for the extremely rare UX unicorn — someone skilled at all parts of UX as well as development. This unfortunately makes it approximately impossible that they will get what they need, or possibly that they will get any decent candidates at all.

    <figure><figcaption>Often, people expect the UX unicorn to be able to do all aspects of UX and write code. This version is more reasonable: to understand how coding works, even if you don’t do it.</figcaption></figure>

    Other employers prioritize visual or graphic design skills over the skills necessary to understand users, because they have gotten the impression that ‘making it pretty’ will keep their customers from leaving. Often the problem is at a much deeper level: the product in question was never designed with the user’s needs in mind.

    Successful UX needs high-level buy-in

    Unfortunately, UX professionals brought into a company without buy-in at the top level of the company nearly guarantees that the UX person will fail. In addition to their regular UX work, they will also be stuck with the job of trying to sell UX to the rest of the company. Without support from higher-ups in the company, it is nearly impossible for a single person to make the amount of change necessary.

    Surveying local people, I learned that being the only UX person in a small company or startup is probably doable, if the company understands the value you bring. There are fewer people to convince, and usually fewer products to deal with.

    However, being the only UX person in a big company will likely be an exercise in frustration and burnout. On top of the fact that you’re trying to do too many different things on your own , you’ve also got to try to keep the bigger picture in mind.

    Some important long-term questions include:

    • “What are the right strategic directions to go in?”
    • “Are the things that you are creating potentially going to cause or enable harm?”

    The second question brings us to the question of “who in high tech is thinking about the ethics of their creations?”. Unfortunately, too often, the answer is ‘no one’, which I will discuss in Part 2.

    Thank you to Alex Feinman and Máirín Duffy for their feedback on this article!

    Thinking With Type: Fonts

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 28, 2017 02:12 PM

    I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the fonts section of the “Thinking With Type” book.

    I started by hunting for family trees for common font families. Failing to find those — likely because there’s an astonishing number of fonts out there — I started doodling around trying to get something on paper for myself.

    Without further ado, here’s my best approximation of the information in the section I’ve read, with some space available for further exploration. Mostly, I think I’m baffled by how one selects a font or font family, in part due to the sheer number of fonts out there, and in part because some require money. I’ll start out playing with with google fonts, because those seem to be specific for the web, and free. Open Sans seems to be a decent default, and Patternfly uses it.

    Font Categories

    “Thinking With Type” starts out by explaining the history behind fonts, and structures things by that history.

    Humanist (or Roman) fonts include what were originally the gothic and italic typefaces — these came from hand-written, script and body-based styles. These relied upon calligraphy and the movements of the hand.

    Enlightenment fonts were based on engraving techniques and lead type, and allowed for more flexibility in what was possible. This included both Transitional and Modern typefaces, which began the process of separating and modifying pieces of a letterform. Transitional started with Baskerville’s sharper serifs and more vertical axes. Modern went to an extreme with this, with Bodoni and Didot’s thin, straight serifs, vertical axes, and sharp contrast between thick and thin lines.

    Abstract fonts went even further in the direction of exaggerating the pieces of a letterform, in part because of the additional options available with industrialization and wood-cut type.

    Reform and Revolution were a reaction to the abstract period, in which font makers returned to their more humanist roots.

    Computer-optimized fonts were created to handle the low resolution available with CRT screens and low resolution printers.

    With the advent of purely digital fonts, creators of fonts started playing with imperfect type. Others created font workhorses using flexible palettes.

    <figure><figcaption>This is probably better named Font History!</figcaption></figure>

    Humanist Fonts

    Humanist fonts were based on handwriting samples.

    Gothic fonts were based on German writing, such as that of Gutenberg:


    Whereas the Italic fonts were based on Italian cursive writing:


    These were combined by Nicolas Jenson in 1465 into the first Roman typeface, from which many typefaces sprung:

    <figure><figcaption>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Jenson</figcaption></figure><figure><figcaption>I don’t have much about the ones after Jenson.</figcaption></figure>

    Enlightenment Fonts

    With the Enlightenment period came experimentation.

    From the committee-designed romain du roi typeface, which was entirely created on a grid:


    To the high contrast between the thick and thin elements from Baskerville, no longer strongly attached to calligraphy (the point at which you enter the Transitional period for fonts):


    The Modern fonts from Bodoni and Didot further increased the contrast between thick and thin elements beyond Baskerville’s font.

    <figure></figure><figure><figcaption>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodoni and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Didot_(typeface)</figcaption></figure><figure></figure>

    Abstraction Fonts

    In the abstraction period, the so-called Egyptian or Fat Face (now known as slab serifs) fonts came about. These were the first attempts at making type serve another function than long lines of book text, that of advertizing — otherwise known as display fontfaces.

    These took the extremes of the Enlightenment period and went to extremes with them, making fonts whose thin lines were barely there, and whose thick lines were enormous.

    <figure><figcaption>Egyptian, or Slab Serif, from http://ilovetypography.com/2008/06/20/a-brief-history-of-type-part-5/</figcaption></figure><figure><figcaption>Fat Face, from http://ilovetypography.com/2008/06/20/a-brief-history-of-type-part-5/</figcaption></figure>

    Reform and Revolution Fonts

    Font makers in the reform period reacted to the excesses of the abstraction period by returning to their historic roots.

    Johnston (1906) used more traditional letterform styles of the Humanist period, although without serifs:


    The Revolution period, on the other hand, continued experimenting with what type could do.

    The De Stijl movement in particular explored the idea of the alphabet (and other forms or art) as entirely comprised of perpendicular elements:

    <figure><figcaption>Doesburg (1717), https://zaidadi.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/de-stijl-in-general/</figcaption></figure><figure><figcaption>Forgive the bright pink aspect of this. It’s my lighting!</figcaption></figure>

    Computer-Optimized Fonts

    The low resolution of early monitors and printers meant that fonts needed to be composed entirely of straight lines to display well.

    Wim Crouwel created the New Alphabet (1967) font type for CRT monitors:


    Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans created the type foundry Emigre, which includes Licko’s Lo-Res (1985) font:


    Matthew Carter created the first web fonts in 1996 for Microsoft, Verdana (sans serif) and Georgia (serif):

    <figure></figure><figure><figcaption>From Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdana and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_(typeface)</figcaption></figure>

    Imperfect Type

    With the freedom from the physicality of the medium (such as lead type or wood type) that came with computers, some font designers began experimenting with imperfect types.

    Deck made Template Gothic (1990), which looks like it had been stencilled:


    Makela made the Dead History (1990) font using vector manipulation of the existing fonts Centennial and VAG Rounded:


    And Rossum and Blokland made Beowulf (1990) by changing the programming of PostScript fonts to randomize the locations of points in letters:


    Workhorse Fonts

    Also during the 1990s, some folks were working on fonts that were uncomplicated and functional. Licko’s Eaves pair, with their small X-heights, are good for use in larger sizes:

    <figure></figure><figure><figcaption>https://www.emigre.com/Fonts/Mrs-Eaves (1990) and https://www.emigre.com/Fonts/Mr-Eaves-Sans-and-Modern (2009)</figcaption></figure>

    Smeijer’s Quadraat (1992) started as a small serif font, with various weights and alternatives (sans and sans condensed) added to the family over time:


    Majoor’s Scala (1990) is another simple, yet complete, typeface family:


    Finally, at the turn of the century, Frere-Jones created the Gotham (2000) typeface. Among other places, it featured prominently in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign.



    In an effort to better remember various suggestions and terms used throughout the Font portion of Thinking With Fonts, I created a terminology sheet.


    I’m most likely to forget that there’s multiple different items which can be understood to be quotes, and how to use them. Additionally, that larger X-heights are easier to read at small sizes.

    Common Fonts?

    I started making a list of common fonts, but quickly realized that this was a complex and difficult task. I’m including what I made for completeness, but it seems like a superfamily (like Open Sans) will be fine for most of my work.


    What’s next for me in Typography and Visual Design?

    The book discusses Text next, after an exercise in creating modular letterforms on a grid. I’m looking forward to it, but I do need a break from it for now.

    I’ve started trying to mimic existing visual designs (from the collectui.com website), as many folks have suggested it’d be the best way to get a feel for what works and how to do it. I’ll likely talk more about that here, once I’m further along in that process.

    <iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="https://cdn.embedly.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fupscri.be%2Ff51076%3Fas_embed%3Dtrue&amp;dntp=1&amp;url=https%3A%2F%2Fupscri.be%2Ff51076%2F&amp;image=https%3A%2F%2Fucarecdn.com%2Fa012775d-9666-4b2e-8ea6-c128f754667b%2F&amp;key=a19fcc184b9711e1b4764040d3dc5c07&amp;type=text%2Fhtml&amp;schema=upscri" width="800">https://medium.com/media/b85dfbb5286d8a25cf2e754b9462cf45/href</iframe>

    Thinking With Type: Fonts was originally published in Prototypr on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

    Visual Design: how does one learn it?

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 22, 2017 12:44 AM

    A lot of companies out there seem to want UX visual design skills more than they want UX research skills. I’ve often felt like I’m missing something important and useful by not having a strong grounding in visual design, and have been searching far and wide for some ideas of how to learn it.

    One of the more interesting suggestions I have had relates to typography: many websites have typography and grid principles incorporated into them, so that is a good place to start. I’ve also had a number of suggestions to just make things, with pointers to where to get ideas of what to make. Below are the suggestions that make the most sense to me.

    Typography to start?

    A helpful fellow volunteer (Tezzica at Behance and other places — trained in graphic design with a UX aspect at MassArt) at the UX Fair offered me a number of useful ideas, including the strong recommendation that I read the book called “Thinking With Type”, by Ellen Lupton. This books is, if nothing else, a very entertaining introduction to the various types and type families. There is the history of various fonts and types, descriptions of the pieces of a piece of type, and examples both good and bad (she calls the latter “type crimes” and explains why they are type crimes). I’m only 1/3 of the way through it, so I’m sure there’s a lot more to it.

    Tezzica also suggested that I take the SkillShare course by the same author, Typography that Works. Given that I currently have free access, I am in fact doing that. Some of what we’ve covered, I knew from previous courses (grids, mostly), and some recapped a bit of what I’ve read in the book thus far. Reminders and different types of media are really useful.

    I’m unexpectedly bemused by the current section, in which we are to start designing a business card. While I found the ‘business card’ size in Inkscape, I’m not completely sure that I’m managing to understand how to make the text do what I want it to do. I suspect that a lot of visual/graphic design is in figuring out how to make the tools do what you want, and then developing a better feel for ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ with practice! (I’m currently playing with Gravit Designer, which is a great deal easier to use while still being vector graphics.)

    I’ve also had a chat with one of the folks I interviewed about getting a job in Boston, Sam, who had gotten a job between me talking to him and interviewing him. He also strongly suggested typography, and seems to have already worked through a lot of the problems I’m struggling with: not a lot of understanding of how visual design works, but a strong pull toward figuring it out.

    Another thing that Tezzica mentioned was assignments she’d had in school where basically they had to play around with type. In one, the challenge was to make a bunch of graphics which were basically combining letters of two different typefaces into a single thing, or a ‘combined letterform’.

    What do graphic design students do?

    Tezzica suggested that it would be useful to peruse Behance for students of RISD and MassArt and see where the samples look similar, and potentially identify the assignments from classes at those schools. I have thus far not been successful in this particular endeavor.

    Another possible way to find assignments is to peruse tumblr or pintrest and see if any old assignments or class schedules are still there. Also thus far unsuccessful!

    Both Tezzica and Sam suggested doing daily challenges (on Behance, since the accounts there don’t require someone else to invite you) using ideas from dailyui.co or dribble. Tezzica also suggested taking a look at common challenge solutions and seeing if there’s an interesting and different way to do it. Tezzica also pointed out the sharpen.design website and its randomized design prompts.

    Sam suggested taking a website that I like the look of, and trying to replicate it in my favorite graphic design tool (this will probably end up being Inkscape, even though it’s not as user-friendly as I’d like), and pointed out that it could go onto my portfolio with an explanation of what I was thinking while I did it.


    Tezzica suggested a Hand Lettering course by Timothy Goodman and a Just Make Stuff course by him and Jessica Walsh (this one being largely about ‘making something already’). She also suggested Nicholas Felton’s Data Visualization courses (introduction to data visualization, and designing with processing). Both are on Skillshare.

    Sam suggested I watch everything I can from John McWade on Lynda.com, and a graphic design foundations: typography course also on lynda.com.

    Other training methods

    Finally, Sam recommended taking screenshots and making notes of what I notice about sites that are interesting or effective and why.

    This reminds me a bit of my periodic intent to notice what design patterns and informational architecture categorization methods websites use.

    Mostly, I need to train my eye and my hand, both of which require practice. Focused practice, and I think between Sam and Tezzica, I have a good sense of where to go with it. At the moment, I’m focusing on the Thinking With Type book and course, as otherwise I’ll overwhelm myself.

    I’m a researcher and interaction designer who’s been teaching myself UX for nearly two years.

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on November 09, 2017 11:28 PM

    I’m a researcher and interaction designer who’s been teaching myself UX for nearly two years. I’ve recently started trying to learn IA, and have been looking for jobs in the Boston area for most of that time. I’m not really sure what I’m looking for from a mentor, other than perhaps sympathy for the amount of difficult finding a job has been and maybe connections? (https://suzannehillman.com — for the curious)

    What have I been doing lately?

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on October 25, 2017 07:56 PM

    I’ve been up to a lot of different things, focused mostly on increasing my chances of getting a job.

    Organizing my links

    I have a lot of UX-related links. They aren’t even all in the same place, as some are in bookmarks, some are in OneTab, and some are in email.

    To handle this problem, and to offer others the chance to benefit from them, I’ve been sorting them into Enboard pages:

    If anyone has any thoughts on how to better organize these, I’m all ears. Especially the UX Beginners one, as it’s becoming unwieldy.

    After I finish sorting the ones I have, I hope to ask some folks about their preferred terms for things and organization preferences (as per Information Architecture, aka IA) and improve the organization that way.

    Online Courses

    Skill Share

    I’ve been taking an IA course on skillshare (https://www.skillshare.com/classes/UX-Series-Designing-Web-Navigation/503660567/) which has been decent. Unfortunately, it appears that the course instructor isn’t paying attention to it anymore, so it’s not possible to get answers to questions or ask for broken things to be fixed. Even so, though, it has been useful guidance and practice.

    Skill share is free for a two month trial period, and if you get your friends to sign up, you get an additional free month per friend once they pay for their first month.

    O’reilly Safari

    I used the two week free trial of O’Reilly’s Safari to get a quick introduction to Sketch (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/working-with-the/9781491998748/). This was amazing, as it didn’t require me to do visual design as past of learning Sketch, and the instructor is excellent at making sure to explain things, including the need to be organized and prepared before jumping into Sketch.

    I also used it for Success Skills for Introverts (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/success-skills-for/9781491930700/) which was useful for concepts like:

    <figure><figcaption>Filling this out ahead of time makes it a lot easier to engage in quick, useful conversations. It also means that you have good back and forth, and are much more likely to make connections.</figcaption></figure>
    • Meeting preparation. Some of the things that hadn’t already occurred to me or I have trouble remembering included: asking if there is an agenda (to help keep things on track) and offering to make one if there is not, figure out something to say within the first 5 minutes of the meeting — aka the First Five Minute Rule (so you don’t get stuck in a position of never saying anything or being heard from), practice the heck out of your presentation (and make sure you say it aloud, whether to yourself or to a friend), and making sure you know why you’re there and what you can contribute. (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/success-skills-for/9781491930700/video217196.html)

    Joe Natoli’s Portfolio Course at Give Good UX

    Finally, I’m about halfway through an excellent, concrete and straightforward course which should help improve the user experience of my (and your!) portfolio (https://wispfox.wixsite.com/hillmanconsulting/portfolio — the one I’m working on, not yet official). It costs a bit under $90, which is not bad at all. https://learn.givegoodux.com/courses/enrolled/217467 — I’m at the point of starting to make changes based on this course and on feedback from someone I had a chat with from http://designmentors.org/.

    Unfortunately, I’m unable to make the live chat for the course, as I’ll be at AthenaHealth’s hackathon in Watertown (http://athenahackathon.com/).

    I’m planning to write up a Medium post about portfolios after I finish this course. Maybe it’ll help others more than most such articles seem to?

    What about Visual Design? And Quantitative Research?

    I’m also trying to figure out the best way for me to learn Visual/Graphic Design. I’m currently hunting through SkillShare’s offerings, to start something after I finish my current courses. I have some idea of the basic stuff from the Coursera course I took on Design Principles (https://www.coursera.org/learn/design-principles/home/week/2), but I’d like to have stronger skills for contexts like my portfolio and to be able to say that I have experience with basic visual design when job hunting. Many jobs in the Boston area want visual design skills and already have folks who do research.

    Similarly, I’d like to better understand how to incorporate my existing quantitative research skills from graduate school into my UX practice. At the moment, I’m perusing a PDF of “Measuring the User Experience” by Tom Tullis. Lots of people suggested it! I have also obtained “Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research” by Jeff Sauro and James R. Lewis as I suspect that it’ll be useful for someone with a statistical background like myself.


    Recycle Bot

    The Recycle Bot toy project I’m mentoring Radhika Sundararaman on is proceeding slowly. Our free Axure licenses expired before we did usability testing, so we translated it to InVision using screenshots from the Axure shares we’d published (you cannot access your Axure files when your license expires).

    We’ve since done a pilot test (with each other) and will be making some changes to our scripts and tasks. Due to the expiry of Axure, we won’t be making any of the obvious changes that came up during the pilot test.

    If I find time, I may see about adjusting some of what’s in InVision to be less inconsistent with itself. We hadn’t originally figured out how to make it possible for us both to work on the project in InVision at the same time, so I’d been talking Radhika through some of the problems and confusions she ran into (sadly without the option to see her screen and what she was trying to do). We since managed to share her prototype with me, but it’s a lot of work to change the screenshots after the fact.

    We’ll be looking for a few people to do usability sessions with soon, and in cases where they are people we know well, will see about having the other person work with them to avoid some bias.

    Newbies First Jobs in Greater Boston

    I’ve presented to the board, but they are currently focusing on the UX Fair that’s coming up early next month.

    Folks who weren’t at the meeting I presented at offered feedback on the summary I sent to the president of the board. This was a bit awkward for a couple of reasons:

    • I hadn’t realized that I was writing something to be shown to people who weren’t there, so it was much less well fleshed out than I would have liked.
    • I cannot reply to the list, so any replies I give go to the people I’m replying to, not everyone.
    • When I asked the president to forward one of my replies, I wasn’t cc’d. So I have no idea what, if anyone, was said in reply.

    That said, much of what they offered was useful. Some seemed to be assuming that I was focusing only on what I personally could do to get a job, when I’m hoping to help others as well. My current plan is to figure out how to follow-up on those points after the UX Fair.

    I’ve also emailed with the XX-UX folks in San Francisco, as they have a mentoring program going. I’m aiming to get an idea of what they are doing, have done, and what has been working for them. They did suggest that I needed two other folks to work with on the mentoring idea (or creating an XX-UX branch in Boston), which has been difficult. I’ve had people say they want to help out with this project, but they end up being too busy for one reason or another. Alas!


    The user dropdown research I was doing with Patternfly has turned into research on UI specifications for standard menu design patterns (https://github.com/patternfly/patternfly-design/issues/464). I should be able to use some of the information I gathered on the user dropdown, and the results of this ought to be related to that work.


    I’ve been chatting with a couple of guys who are working on a tool called Simmetri (http://simmetri.com/) to help non-developers create VR worlds. We met at MIT’s Reality, Virtually hackathon (http://www.realityvirtuallyhack.com/), which was otherwise not a good experience for me for reasons not MIT’s fault.

    I am _so happy_ this tool exists, and spent a couple of hours downtown a week or so ago offering them feedback on the things that tripped me up, and offered suggestions for areas where different organization was needed. The UI was initially based on Photoshop, which isn’t really an interface I’ve ever liked.

    I don’t know what the best practices are around designing a design tool, especially a 3-D design tool or one that is meant to connect with VR devices! I also would want to identify their competitors to figure out what their unique contribution in this space might be (and see what others have done for their interface).

    They are currently looking for funding (in the art/creative space) from friends and family, and indicated an interest in bringing me on if they get it. I typically would avoid a startup, but I _like_ these two guys a lot, and they seem like they’d be reasonable about the fact that I don’t know all pieces of the UX umbrella.

    Information Architecture on a friend’s game’s site

    I’ve not yet started this, in part due to the sheer number of other things I’m working on, and in part because I’d like to finish the IA course I’m taking. However, a friend has suggested that his site isn’t well organized and would like my help. I definitely like the idea of getting real IA experience, so that sounds good to me.

    This friend has already found a couple of people in his gaming group (using his system) who would be happy to talk to me. Very nice!


    I’ve not forgotten this project! I have been a bit stumped about how to approach it after I finish up with some of the things I’m working on. I have an ok understanding of what it’s about and for, but no strong sense of the users and their needs (which may mean that I need to watch some of the users who are not the developer use it?), nor the best areas to tackle first.

    I think part of the problem is that it is a pretty nebulous concept (“support and encourage collaboration about and sharing of information within communities.”), which makes it more difficult to approach.

    I shall keep it in the back of my head, but for the meantime it’s on a back burner.

    Job Hunting

    Red Hat

    Looks like Red Hat is only looking for mid-level interaction designers, as they’ve got lots of junior and senior level people. At least based on the most recent opening I saw, this appears to mean at least 5 years of experience.

    I’ll keep my eye on their jobs, but it’s looking unlikely that I’ll be working in UX at Red Hat any time soon.

    Vitamin T

    I’m happy with Vitamin T as a recruiting agency. They talk to me when I indicate interest in a position they send me, quite quickly.

    No idea if it’ll go anywhere, but they’re passing my info along about a contract position in Waltham.

    The Creative Group

    I’m pretty happy with The Creative Group, too. They also want to talk to me when they have things that relate, and the person I most recently talked to specifically suggested that I get in touch if I see something I want to apply to. They may have contacts that I do not, and all.


    Job hunting is frustrating. I’ll have the two years most junior positions seem to want as of February. Maybe that’ll help.

    And I do need to finish updating my portfolio based on the course and the feedback I got from the designmentor.org guy.


    I’ve been going to a decent number of UXPA and Boston Chi events, although not all of either of them. Getting home from Boston proper isn’t easy to do, since commuter busses have stopped by then.

    It’s really odd to have the major project I’m working on be the one about finding a first UX job. People ask me what I’m working on, and I find it a little awkward to talk about given that I am myself looking.

    I’ve given my card and suggested resources to lots of other newbies, though. I have a lot of info after almost two years of this! Too bad I’m not getting paid to help my fellow newbies. ;)

    I’ve also been using the #ux tag more on Twitter after attending the UX Careers Handbook presentation by Cory Lebson. Among many other things, he pointed out that it was a very useful way to be seen as involved with UX. I shall get that book at some point, because it does a good job of helping one keep track of the things involved in the job hunting process.

    I’m doing a lot of things!

    I sometimes forget. No wonder I feel overwhelmed at times.

    I think my focus needs to be threefold: Finish the IA course. Fix my portfolio and make it be the new official one. Finish up the project with Radhika.

    The portfolio part is definitely the most daunting piece. I’ve been working on that for so long! I guess it means I have a good grasp of what I’ve worked on?

    “The Designership”

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on October 12, 2017 12:06 AM

    “The Designership

    Will check that out!

    I’ve also been fond of UX Mastery, and the Junior UX Community slack.

    I’m in the middle of a career change, and turned 40 a week ago.

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on October 11, 2017 11:55 PM

    I’m in the middle of a career change, and turned 40 a week ago. I’ve been working on UX projects in my own time, and trying to get paid work in UX has been quite difficult. I think part of the problem is that there are a huge number of new UXers in the area I’m in, which makes it harder to stick out as worth someone’s time.

    Finding a mentor is _hard_!

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on October 11, 2017 11:50 PM

    Finding a mentor is _hard_!

    Then again, I’m not entirely clear on what a mentor is supposed to offer a mentee. I’m currently working on a simple project with someone currently in school for technical communications, which feels like mentoring even though I’ve not yet managed to get a paid UX position yet (I’m a career changer).

    Just a strange position to be in!

    Running Sapphire Radeon RX 560 on Fedora 27 beta (follow up)

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on October 09, 2017 05:45 AM
    Following the previous blog and some investigation, it turned out the kernel package from Mystro256 COPR repository based on agd5f kernel branch (one of AMD developers) resolves the blank screen issue. That could trigger a problem for users having a new AMD graphic hardware so perhaps a warning should be written on the release. Perhaps having one of contributors be part of kernel team bringing these improvement until those patches arrive to the mainline kernel for a better user experience.

    Past the issue, the desktop experience with Radeon RX 560 was tremendously improved compared to the retired GTX 460 v2. Gnome on Wayland on Fedora runs smooth showing how far the open source amdgpu driver went through compared to previous years. That was also the opportunity to run a vulkan based smoke test demo on RADV, which is a counterpart of glxgears.

    Overall the card is excellent once missing software are installed.

    Running Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 560 4GB on Fedora 27 Beta

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on October 08, 2017 07:08 PM
    I bought a Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 560 4GB to replace the broken Nvidia GTX 460 v2 after a long years of service. It is then my first ever dedicated AMD based video-card for a desktop.

    The boot sequence on Fedora 27 hit a problem: a plain blank screen suggesting the card is not yet supported. Looking at Phoronix website revealed one of possible requirement missed: LLVM 5.0 which is currently not available to Fedora repository save a failed built. I filed a bug report to address the issue. Hopefully that will land on time for the official release of Fedora 27.

    Considering AMD desktop card

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on October 03, 2017 08:53 PM
    My Nvidia GTX 460 v2 card just died after six years of service after attempting to restore it. It was the last known Nvidia card that could work out of box with open source driver.
    I have used Nvidia for a long time but the behaviours from the company prompt me to no longer consider that option. Currently the GPU market is very expensive to afford a good AMD card.
    Additionally, the nine years old motherboard needs a replacement as the venerable AMD Phenom II 940X shows its age. The onboard Geforce 8300 is troublesome to run.

    For now, I use a laptop until I can afford a powerful custom built desktop this time will full AMD hardware.

    Enabling New Contributors

    Posted by Máirín Duffy on September 27, 2017 08:57 PM

    I had a random idea today and wanted to share it in case anybody has thought about this too, or tried something like it, or could add on to the idea.

    How We Onboard Today

    I onboard, mentor, and think a lot about enabling new contributors to open source software. Traditionally in Fedora, we’ve called out a ‘join’ process for people to join Fedora. If you visit join.fedoraproject.org, you’ll get redirected to a wiki page that gives broad categories of skill sets and suggests Fedora teams you might want to look at to see if you could join them.
    I started thinking about this because I’m giving a keynote about open source and UX at Ohio Linux Fest this weekend. One of the sections of the talk basically reviews where / how to find UX designers to help open source projects. Some of the things I mention that have proven effective are internships (Outreachy, formal Red Hat intern program, etc.), training, and design bounties / job boards. Posting UX assistance on say join.fedoraproject.org? Didn’t come up. I can’t tell you if I’ve actually onboarded folks from that workflow – certainly possible. My best success ratio in onboarding contributors in terms of them feeling productive and sticking around the community for a while, though, is with the methods I listed above – not a general call for folks of a certain discipline to come to the design team.
    In fact, one of the ways we onboard people to the design team is to assign them a specific task, with the thought that they can learn how our team / processes / tools work by doing, and have a task to focus on for getting help from another member of the team / mentor.

    Successful Onboarding Methods are Task-Oriented

    Thinking about this, these successful recruitment methods of new contributors all focus on tasks, not skills:

    • Internships – internships have a set time period focused on the completion of a particular project, scoped for that duration and complexity, that has been documented for the intern. This is such that digging through archives of proposed Outreachy and GSoC projects unearths (if it were still current) a great set of directions that any new contributor could use to get started.
    • Training – in my experience, when training folks without UX experience in UX, they had a specific task they were working on already, knew they needed the skill to complete it, and sought out help with the skill. A task was the driver to seek out the skill.
    • Job board postings – (e.g., like opensourcedesign.net/jobs) – they are focused on a specific task / thing to do.
    • Bounties – super task-focused!

    If onboarding new contributors works well when those new contributors are put to work right away on a specific, assigned task with a well-defined scope, why do we attempt to recruit by categories of skills with loose pointers to teams (that get out of date), instead of tasks? You might have someone fired up to do *something*, but they’re redirected to a wiki page, to a mailing list, to wait a few days for something to respond and tell them “hi, welcome!” without actually helping them figure out what it is they could do.

    An Idea For join.fedoraproject.org

    If you’re with me here, up to this point… here’s the idea. I haven’t done it yet. I want to hear your feedback on it first.
    I thought about redoing join.fedoraproject.org as a bounty board, really a job posting board, but let’s call it a bounty board. Bounties are very well defined tasks. I did a talk on how to create an effective bounty a while back, here’s the high-level crash-course:

    1. Set the Stage. Give the narrative around the task / project. What is the broader story around what the software / website / project / etc. does? Who does it help? How does it make the world a better place? Most importantly, what’s the problem to be solved that the bounty taker will work on, and how does it fit into that broader narrative?
    2. State the Mission. Make a clear statement at what exactly the bounty is – state what the successful completion of the bounty would look like / work.
    3. Provide a Specification with Clear Examples. Give all the details needed – the specification – for the completion of the work. Is there a specific process with steps they should follow? Provide those steps. A specific language,or a specific length, or a certain number of items? Make this all clear.
    4. Provide Resources and Tools. What are the resources that would be the most useful in completing this bounty? Where is the IRC channel for the project? The mailing list? Are there any design asset / source files they will need? How about style guidelines / specifications to follow? Will they need to create any accounts to submit their work? Where? Are there any tutorials / videos / documentation / blog posts that explains the technology of interest that they could refer to in order to familiarize themselves with the domain they’ll be working in? Link out to all this stuff.
    5. Outline the Benefits. Clearly and explicitly state what’s in it for them to take on this bounty. Job sites do (or at least, they try) this too. You’ll become a Fedora contributor! You’ll get a Fedora account and membership in the team, which will get you an email forward! When I did bounties, I sent handwritten thank you notes with some swag through the mail. You’ll gain skills in X, Y, or Z. You’ll make life better for our users. Some of this is obvious, but it helps to state it explicitly!
    6. Ground Rules and Contact Info. How does someone claim the bounty? Do they need to get an account and assign it to themselves? What happens if they don’t do anything and time has passed, can it be opened up to others interested? (We had a 48-hour rule before we passed on to the next person when we did this on the Design Team.) Who is the contact person / mentor for the assignment? How can they contact that person?
    7. Show Off the Work! – After a bounty is completed, show off the work! Make a post, on a blog or mailing list or wherever, to tell the story of how the person who took the bounty completed it and give a demo or show off their work. (This is a big part of the benefits too 🙂 ) This not only gives the new contributor a boost, it’s encouraging to other potential new contributors as they can see that new contributors are valued and can achieve cool things, and it’s also helpful in that it shows folks who haven’t set up bounties that maybe they should because it works!

    I was thinking about setting this up as a pagure repo, and using the issues section for the actual bounty posting. The notion of status that applies to bugs / issues also applies to bounties, as well as assigning, etc. So maybe it would work well. Issues don’t explicitly manage the queue of bounty takers (should the 1st claimer fall through) but that could be managed through the comments. Any one from any Fedora team could post a bounty in this system. The git repo part of the pagure repo could be used for hosting some general bounty assets / resources – maybe a guide on how to write a good bounty with templates and cool graphics to include, maybe some basic instructions that would be useful for all bounty takers like how to create a new FAS account.

    What about easy fix?

    We do have a great resource, fedoraproject.org/easyfix, that is similar to this idea in that it uses issues/tickets in a manner geared towards new contributors. It provides a list of bugs that have been denoted as easy to fix by project owners all in one place.
    The difference here though, is that these are raw bugs. They don’t have all the components of a bounty as explained above, and looking through some of the active and open ones, you could not get started right away without flagging down the right person and getting an explanation of how to proceed or going back and forth on the ticket. I think one of the things that makes bounties compelling is that you can read them and get started right away.
    Bounties *do* take a long time to formulate and document. It is a very similar process to proposing a project for an internship program like Outreachy or Google Summer of Code. I bet, though, I could go around different teams in Fedora and find projects that would fit this scope quite well and start building out a list. Maybe as teams have direct success with a program like this, they’d continue to use it and it’d become self-sustaining. I don’t know, though. Clearly, I stopped doing the design team bounties after 4 or 5 because of the amount of work involved. 🙂 But maybe if it was a regular thing, we did one every month or something… not sure.

    What do you think?

    Does this idea make sense? Did I miss something (or totally miss the point)? Do you have a great idea to make it better? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

    Further on the UX hiring process

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on September 22, 2017 09:55 PM

    Hi again!

    The previous post on this topic offered an overall summary of what I’ve been learning in my conversations with folks. Now I’d like to go into a little more detail on some of the topics.

    So what should I learn?

    Identifying the best areas to focus is probably one of the hardest tasks, especially for those folks who are not able to afford to get a degree or do a bootcamp like General Assembly. The guidance offered through official programs is not to be underestimated!

    What do you already know?

    You almost certainly have experience in _something_ that falls into UX design. Whether it’s researching how to do something, drawing things in your spare time, talking to someone new, explaining a skill or idea to someone else, or trying to use a new piece of software: these are all applicable to UX in some way or another.

    The way I like to think about UX research and interactive design breaks down like this (see my quick and dirty handout from a recent talk I did):


    Everything informs everything else, from the information you gather at the beginning, to the analysis with other folks, to the early sketchy design possibilities you create, through to iterating on your design based on feedback you get from stakeholders and users.

    When these designs need to be produced in higher and higher fidelity as your team gets closer to something that works well for the stakeholders, there will likely be continued iterations based on what’s actually feasible and plausible. (I am not as experienced in the visual design aspect of the UX process, so I cannot offer as much structure around that part.)

    What do you like to do, what do you need to learn?

    Figure out what you know how to do or could easily learn. With that information, you can focus on what you know how to do and how to integrate it into a project, and then on improving any areas you specifically want to learn.

    I personally need more practice in visual design and data visualization: I’m not especially familiar with visual design or otherwise making things visually approachable, and these both seem useful to at least have a basis in.

    I’m working on identifying the best ways for me to improve these skills, and found that working on badges with Fedora folks helped a bit. Among other things, it meant that I had the opportunity to ask what people did when they did specific things that I might otherwise not have encountered (such as specific keystrokes in design programs).

    For other folks, it might be wise to learn the basics of HTML and CSS. Even if you do not wish to write the code for your designs, it is immensely helpful to understand how programming works.

    Depending on one’s level of familiarity with these, something like https://www.codecademy.com/ might be your best bet. These are free courses that let you see what you are doing as you go along. You might also appreciate https://codepen.io, which will update with your changes as you go along, and which supports HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

    If you’re not familiar with how to phrase things, maybe you want to work on writing content for your designs. Maybe pretend that you are talking to someone who has never run into the thing you are talking about, or to someone who is too busy to give you more than a 30 seconds to a minute to read whatever you have to say. Figure out the most concise, but clear, way to say whatever you need to say. Even if you don’t want to write the content for your designs, it’s really important to be able to express yourself simply and clearly. Words are important, along with visuals and structure.

    If you are looking to get into research, it would behoove you to learn some about quantitative research, not just qualitative. One of the major points that folks looking for quantitative researchers want is the ability to tell if the company is measuring success effectively.

    Possible places to get cheap but decent classes include Lynda and Coursera. I’ve done some Coursera courses, specifically “Human-Centered Design: An Introduction”, ”Design Principles: An Introduction”, and “Information Design”.

    Whatever it is that you need to learn more about, there is probably a way to do it online (remember to check Youtube!). However, it is often the things one needs the most help in that are the hardest to figure out how to learn on one’s own. Knowing the terminology is important for any successful google search!

    (Note: I suspect that offering classes in basic aspects of each piece of the UX process would be a good value for the UXPA boston group, given the content of the previous paragraph. Not everyone learns from videos/written instruction very well)

    Do a project. Any project

    In my experience, the best way to learn is to find a specific design project — really any design project is fine to start out — and start working on it. If you have friends who write programs, see if they want your help. If you have friends with lots and lots of ideas, ask them to let you help design one of them. If neither of these are the case, consider an area in which you wish that something existed, or in which you wish a piece of software were easier to use. At this point, it matters less if your project goes live — although that’s always preferred if possible — and more that you are working on something.

    Take lots of screenshots and notes and keep track of what you’ve tried, what worked, and what didn’t work. These will be useful when it comes time to create your portfolio!

    Remember: the point of your first project is to learn, rather than to succeed, and most people learn the best from failure. Failing at something isn’t actually bad. Indeed, it’s almost expected, since you’re new at it. Figuring out where things went wrong is the important part.

    That said, it can be difficult to know what to do at any stage of a project, especially if you’ve never tackled one before. This is where having someone you can check in with is invaluable. Not only is UX design not really a solitary activity, but having someone to help nudge you on the right path when you get stuck is fantastic.

    If you have a mentor, that’s great. If not, see if you can find other folks who are also job hunting to work with. Chances are good that you are each better at different pieces of the project, and this will provide you both with additional experience.

    For a possible mentors, join http://designmentors.org/ (credit to David Simpson for this!) and get in touch with someone who looks useful for your needs.

    If you’re still struggling to figure out a design idea, this page might be helpful.

    If you’re not sure how to approach a project, this site talks about the whiteboard design challenge that sometimes happens in interviews, and is a decent overview of what a design project could involve.

    (Note: Offering folks ways to get in touch with others who are looking for their design projects to work on might be a useful feature. Similarly, ways to find mentors.)

    Which tools?

    In general, you will need to use a tool of some sort for your design project. Paper prototypes are amazing, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, they are difficult to test out remotely, and rely on excellent drawing skills and handwriting to be easily used for prototypes.

    There are a large number of options for tools in the UX design space.


    Some are focused on being easy to use to make low and medium-fidelity mockups and prototypes (Balsamiq was my first tool, for example. Axure is easy to start out, but a bit complicated to learn to turn into a prototype). Some are specifically meant to help folks turn their designs into prototypes (like Invision, which is free and supports uploading existing designs) and often support collaboration quite easily. Others are more on the visual design side of things, although sometimes still include fairly easy ways to make mockups and prototypes (Sketch is extremely popular, but mac-only).

    Adobe’s creative cloud service includes a lot of commonly used graphic design tools, whether photoshop (for which Gimp is a decent free and open source substitute, if poorly named), illustrator (vector graphics; try Inkscape for a free and open source substitute), indesign (as far as I can tell it’s about design for publishing online and off? Not sure of the best free equivalent) or the recently added experience design (XD beta, again not sure of an equivalent, although I think it may be meant to compete with Sketch).

    The ones I’ve listed above are the most frequently mentioned in job applications, especially Sketch and Adobe creative cloud. Axure and Invision are also quite common. There are a _lot_ of other newer (and often free/beta) options, although I’ve not done much exploring of those.

    (note: classes/mentors for basic introductions to the most common design tools might be useful, especially for those who are not already familiar with Adobe Creative Cloud. Not everyone learns from videos/written instruction well)

    Other tools and techniques

    You may also want to investigate tools for mind mapping (I like MindMeister, free for a small number of maps), which can be useful to keep track of relevant ideas and concepts. Or for remote affinity mapping (I like Realtimeboard, free for a small number of boards) and other sticky-note/whiteboard-based activities.

    There are a lot of other techniques that could be good to learn, including task flows and journey maps.

    Many companies want folks with experience in the agile framework, so learning what that is and the various ways that design folk have figured out how to integrate into it would be useful.

    If you are not already familiar with style guides and pattern libraries, getting a basic understanding of those would be useful.

    Ok, I’ve done my first design. Now what?

    First, congratulations! That’s often the hardest part.

    Review your work

    Take a look at what you did with an eye toward improving. What do you want to learn more about? What do you need help with? Where do you feel you excelled?


    Take a look at various blogs in UX, as now that you’ve done your first project, you will likely start finding that those start making more sense to you. I found that reading various blogs and watching videos was overwhelming before I’d done a project, because I had no idea what was relevant.

    Twitter has a lot of fantastic UX folks, although who you want to follow may be partly location-based. I like Jared Spool, Joe Natoli, Luke Wroblewski, Mule Design Studio, Dana Chisnell, Sarah Mei, and What Users Do.

    http://52weeksofux.com/ is an excellent overview site that I really need to revisit myself, now that I’ve got some experience in UX.

    I’m also fond of UX Mastery, and the Nielsen Norman Group.

    There’s also a lot of good books out there!

    (note: a curated list of useful links and books would be really helpful!)


    Your best bet would be to summarize what you did, whether as part of your portfolio or as preparation for your portfolio. Keep your eye out for things you would have done differently next time, as well as things you think worked out well. You want to describe your process, and at the same time tell a story about what you did and why. Remember to be clear on what you did and what your teammates did: as I’ve mentioned above, UX is typically a team process.

    If you want to write the HTML and CSS yourself, that’s fine. However, beware of the problem of running down rat holes to make things look perfect, and never actually creating a portfolio that you can share. That’s a major reason I’m moving away from a static website to Wix.com — it’s so much easier to do good design if I’m not also trying to write the code.

    Tell a story?

    I’ve had lots and lots of people say to tell a story, so I’ll share something about that. I had no idea what that actually _meant_ until I had a chance to a) dig deeper into what specifically folks were thinking about and b) see examples of this. One of my major problems is that writing a portfolio for a UX researcher is _hard_. You tend to have fewer pretty things to show folks than the typical graphic design portfolio might, and you may or may not have the design skills to make your portfolio pretty.

    To the best of my understanding, your story needs to include as much guidance for your reader as possible. Like everything else, use your nacient UX skills on your portfolio: guide your reader through it.

    Guide your reader

    Use Gestalt principles to help your reader know where to go next, and I recommend an overview (this links to my in-progress update for my website) of your major goals and results to act as guideposts.

    From this page: Include as much as possible of the STAR method in your portfolio to communicate what the situation is (goal of the project), what tasks and actions you accomplished (your UX toolkit of wireframing, usability testing, sitemaps…) and what the end results were (analytics, final designs, customer testimonials).

    Note that I’m still struggling with the best way to explain the end results in some of my projects, because they either were one shot things (through hackathons) or are on pause while underlying things are completed.

    I’ve got a portfolio, now what?

    Get someone to look at it! Just as in everything else, you want someone else to take a look because there will be something you’ve missed, or ways in which you are not as clear as you’d like.

    If that’s not an option, take a week or two, and then take another look at it. You’ll probably find typos and brainos (places where what you wrote doesn’t actually make sense), even though you are the one who originally wrote it.

    (note: I expect that offering folks portfolio feedback would be really helpful! I’ve personally gotten in touch with someone from designmentors.org and have a review pending)

    Do more design work!

    Find more projects to work on. Now that you have your first one under your belt, this will go more smoothly, and you likely will find it easier to identify areas to work on.

    If you happen to be able to find an internship in UX (say, Outreachy), take it! Guidance is amazing.

    Start looking for jobs

    This will help you get an idea of what the market looks like right now. It may help you decide what tools or skills to learn, or identify things you specifically _don’t_ want to do. And hey, you might find a job that looks good!


    Honestly, I should have already said this, but this is easier when you have a little experience. At least in my case, having some basic knowledge makes it easier to talk to folks about UX.

    Better yet is if you have a specific goal in talking to folks. For example, since I’ve been collecting data about the hiring process in Boston, I’ve had no trouble contacting folks about interviewing them. You may be able to take the tactic of asking folks about what they do in UX, potentially allowing for the opportunity to learn more about UX at their company.

    Business (MBA) folk do something called an informational interview. In some cases, this appears to mean talking to folks about UX at their company. In others, it might involve the possibility of going to someone’s company and actually seeing how it works. As far as I can tell, your best bet is to see if you know anyone working at a company that includes UX folks and see if you can get any of them to introduce you. You can also message people on LinkedIn without a connection, but that may not work as well.

    Present on your project

    If you have the opportunity to present on a project you’ve done, take it. Presenting skills are very important in UX, and practice does help. Talking in front of a group of people can be scary, especially if you’re also trying to get them to hire you. Practice in a safer space, first, if you can.

    Be visible online

    If you don’t already exist online, you really should. Start a blog (I’m quite fond of Medium) about your UX experiences/learning/thoughts. Be active on twitter. Be visible in your UXness.

    What next?

    I’ll be chatting with more folks over the coming weeks, and will be speaking to the UXPA Boston board the first week of October. Watch this space!

    Website and portfolio design

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on September 16, 2017 06:30 PM

    I’ve been slowly moving my website from the official pelican-based version to an in-progress Wix-based version. I learned interesting things around current web development while using the Pelican version, but I found it difficult to implement the kinds of design choices I wanted to make. I also found it quite difficult to get a responsive design that _stayed_ responsive when I made changes to the CSS file.

    Wix is very nice for many design decisions, in large part because one can take a particular design element and put it wherever you want on the page. There is no futzing with the HTML or CSS, and no need to learn Python or Javascript.

    Given that I want my page to be welcoming and easy to follow, easily choosing specific design elements is vital.

    Tell a story!

    One of the most important aspects of a UX portfolio is demonstrating one’s UX skills. This means walking folks through your process and making it easy to follow and understand.

    One of my major challenges was (and is!) deciding how to structure my portfolio to offer the greatest ease of use without losing too many of the specific details. Upon the recommendation of one of the many recruiters I’ve spoken with, I’ve been adding an overview page to each piece of my projects:

    <figure><figcaption>In this version, I offer an overview and links to more details of some of the pieces.</figcaption></figure>

    If you compare this to the currently official version of my page, it’s a clear and huge difference in usability:

    <figure><figcaption>This doesn’t show the overall goal, what my role was, or offer much guidance. It’s also not physically structured for easy reading.</figcaption></figure>

    How to tell my story?

    One of my major struggles is with offering too much information. Too many details, and too little structure.

    I want people to know what I did! Unfortunately, if there’s not enough structure, they won’t read any of it. If there’s too much information, they won’ read any of it. So my major task is to take what I have and create overviews; not just for the main page of a project, but for sub pages.

    This is unfortunately not quick or easy! As a result, I’m working on bringing the overviews back to my pelican site as I make them, with the eventual goal of fully transitioning. Sadly, I have been unable to convince my pelican site to let me stack things horizontally. My impression is that this is one of the major improvements to my Wix site, so even though I’ll bring some of the ideas back to Pelican, they are simply not as well-designed there.

    I’ll be asking for feedback before I move over completely, of course. In the meantime, it’s pretty clear to me that my Wix site is just _better_. I’ll also be grabbing what I have at the Pelican site before ditching it, as I will worry that I’d lose information otherwise.

    Other changes?

    I’m also ditching the references to Cambio Buddies. It was a valuable and useful project, but I had very little guidance for what I was doing. I made a lot of mistakes, used techniques poorly, and am generally not happy with that project. Maybe it’s a mistake to remove my first project, but I just don’t like it.

    Some folks have suggested incorporating the ‘current’ and ‘complete’ design projects into a single area. I’m reluctant to do this, since the current projects are still in process: I don’t want to be presenting them as if they were finished when they are not.

    Similarly, folks have suggested getting rid of the design artifacts page. I’m not completely clear on why: they are in the Projects area, and it seems helpful to let folks get to a specific artifact quickly if they so desire.

    One of my early bits of feedback for the Pelican portfolio was a lack of process. I’m still not entirely clear on what was meant by that, although I suspect that the lack of overview may have been part of it.

    UX Hiring Process investigation ongoing

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on September 16, 2017 06:03 PM

    Hi folks!

    I’ve been meeting, finding, and interviewing folks at various points in their UX careers. It’s been fascinating, and reminds me that I’m _much_ better at networking when I have a reason to talk to people.

    I’ve not yet had a chance to analyze my interviews in depth thus far, but I have noticed some interesting trends.


    Portfolios and online presence

    1. It’s difficult to know what to put in a UX portfolio, especially for researchers. Lots of folks talk about having a story for your reader to more easily understand and follow what you’ve done. I’m collecting information on what this could mean in practice.
    2. It’s really helpful to have an online presence that shows how you think about design, whether a blog, twitter, behance, dribble, or github. Some companies won’t consider someone without an online presence demonstrating their thought processes and personality. Put links to your online UX presence in your resume.

    Finding your first job

    1. There’s not a lot of companies hiring folks who are new, and there seems to be a bit of a lull right now even among those who typically would be doing so. There’s a much better chance to get a job if you have at least 2–3 years of experience.
    2. Most internships require that one is currently or recently in school. It’s also difficult to find mentors or apprenticeships.
    3. Folks doing the hiring may or may not understand what UX is, what each UX role involves, or what the best things to look for are. Job descriptions may or may not involve throwing everything they might want in there, so it’s often worth applying even if you don’t know all of what they are asking for.
    4. Lots of companies are playing catchup — they feel like they should have gotten into UX 10 years ago, so think they need senior UXers to get things jumpstarted. Those senior UXers are typically under-resourced and rarely have time or space to take on juniors and help get them the experience they need. Unfortunately, without higher ups understanding and believing in UX, even hiring seniors often results in failure of the UX team.
    5. Very few folks I talked to have specific tools they prefer folks to know how to use, except in cases where getting permission to use specific tools is complicated. This is especially relevant given the sheer number of tools out there, whether for wireframing, prototyping, or creating high-fidelity visual designs.

    Keep learning

    1. It’s hard to figure out what online resources and books are the most useful to read or follow.
    2. It’s important to keep toward learning more about UX — even for folks who have a UX job. The field is constantly evolving.

    Getting experience and taking criticism

    1. It’s difficult to get experience before you have a job in UX. This may be worse for researchers, as visual designers have an easier time selling their skills (but ‘looking pretty’ may not actually translate to ‘useful’).
    2. Even if you’re not great at sketching by hand, it’s really important to be able to jot your down ideas on paper visually. This offers a way to communicate your thoughts, and is quick and easy enough that you’re less likely to be attached to the ideas you’ve come up with. In turn, the sketchiness and reduced attachment makes criticism easier to take.
    3. Work with other folks on your designs. Practice giving and taking criticism, because no one gets it right on the first try. Design is a process for a reason, and there’s a lot of different pieces to it.

    Possible solutions?

    Getting experience

    This is a significant problem. Given that few places are hiring folks without a couple of years of experience, newbies and career changers need to find ways to get that experience.

    For those who can afford it and have access, in-person UX programs like Bentley’s master’s in human factors program and Jarod Spool’s Center Centre are an excellent choice. These offer curated and guided information, connections, and practice at design. Unfortunately, these and other programs rely on proximity and available time and money, and are not inexpensive (although Center centre tries to mitigate that part).

    There are also online courses which can be helpful, and bootcamps both on and offline, but these again cost money and may or may not offer built-in networking.

    So how does one find work, even if unpaid? There’s a few options that I am aware of:

    1. If you can make Code for Boston’s weekly meetings, that’s a good option. They tend to have ideas for what to work on, and specifically mention both developers and designers.
    2. You can find other folks looking for UX work, and see if they want to team up with you on something. This is especially useful if you each have different skills: like a researcher and a visual designer, or a UX person and a developer. This does require being able to find those folks, and is one possible option for how my project can offer help. These designs are less likely to go live, but any projects are better than no projects.
    3. You might be able to find non-profits who need help, although this does require a) that the non-profit is able to understand the value of what you can offer them, b) you know the right people to talk to, and c) that they have someone able to implement the suggestions you make. Attending a Give Camp may help with those problems, but the New England page appears to not be functional (the website for it goes to a godaddy page). This may be another thing I can offer help with through UXPA.
    4. Outreachy might be another option. This is a program to help women and minorities get into open source software, and is not specifically focused on UX. However, I was able to do a UX research and interaction design project with the Fedora Project through outreachy, and it was fabulously helpful and interesting.
    5. You may be able to find an open source project to help out with, such as Red Hat’s Patternfly Design Library (also on github).
    6. Do you know any developers working on projects in their spare time? See if you can help them out.
    7. If you are currently in school, or just recently left, look for design internships. These are easier to get if you have some design experience, perhaps through your classwork.

    Options 2 and 6 may be more difficult for designers just starting out, as they are much easier to do if one has some guidance for how to approach design problems.

    Finding a mentor

    Mentorship is really important, especially if you cannot afford to attend school and get guidance that way. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find a mentor, and precisely what a mentor can offer or do for you varies by the mentor.

    Ideally, I think that mentors should offer:

    1. Guidance around how to start or continue your UX learning process.
    2. Suggestions for how to improve the things that you’ve identified as weaknesses in your skillset. Alternately, ways to identify those weaknesses.
    3. Portfolio and resume reviews.

    Beyond this, it’d be lovely if mentors could offer networking help (eg: connections to open positions and folks who may eventually have open positions), and suggestions for projects to work on.

    The XX UX community offers a mentorship matching program in some cities, although Boston is not yet one of them. This may be another opportunity for my project to help folks out, whether by working with XX UX (which would mean it’s only available to women), or by building on their example and making our own program.

    Curated resources

    Given how much information there is out there, a possible way to help folks out would be to offer resources that experienced UX folks agree would be useful to those who are starting out.

    These resources could include basic guidance for portfolios for various design specialities, design interviews (including design exercises), and job applications, as well as structure within which to learn design processes.

    Also relevant might be instruction on persuasion, on communicating and working within cross-functional teams, and on presentation skills (both creating a presentation and presenting it).

    We might want to include specific information such as the use of short-cut keys within design programs (Ctrl d, alt Ctrl shift arrow keys for movement, etc), recommendations for tools to start out with and an introduction to their use, and suggestions for how to use those tools to more easily share and maintain one’s designs (since all good design involves many different folks in various different teams).

    Finally, we could offer recommendations for good books for folks in various stages of learning.

    Keep learning!

    One of the most important things for someone new to a field is to keep learning. Be visibly interested in and passionate about your field: it’ll communicate itself to those you are working with, and will help keep you informed and aware of what’s going on.

    At the same time, don’t believe everything you read — some folks make things look more clear-cut and simple than actually happens. Reality is messy!

    Don’t be afraid to try things out. No one in UX knows everything about it, and mistakes are how to learn.

    Remember to mention others who had a role in any design you talk about: design isn’t typically an individual process (collaboration is important!), and hiring managers want to know that you understand and can talk about your role in the project.

    If you’re interested in research, learn both qualitative and quantitative methods. Most of your work will probably be in qualitative spaces, but it’s useful to be able to measure success (are we accomplishing our goals?). It’s also helpful to understand basic data visualization techniques.

    Remember to take pictures at all stages of your process! This will be hugely helpful when it comes time to make your portfolio.

    Flock 2017, Cape Cod, Masschusetts, USA

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on September 02, 2017 06:25 PM

    Hi folks!

    I returned from Flock 2017, which was in Cape Cod, MA this year. This was my first Flock, largely as a result of my Outreachy project. I will be claiming my Outreachy travel fund for it, and likely would not have gone were it not for that fund. I’m still job hunting, and all!

    There is no substitute for in-person interaction!

    Fedora folks are very friendly. :) OK, at least the ones at Flock were! Being there reminded me of the aspect of my Regional Hubs design wherein a major goal was to encourage in-person interactions because they’d increase the chances of people remaining engaged with the community. I’d say Flock definitely confirms this goal, given the number of ways in which people — including myself — were becoming more involved simply through chatting with others in the community.

    I’d say one of the major effects of my time at flock was making people I’ve spoken to only through IRC and email more real. I do find in-person interaction so much better! Of course, I also really like people and being around people, and lack of a job means I am not really getting a lot of that (I’m one of those weird introvert/extrovert combination people).

    I met a lot of people, although being partly faceblind and poor at remembering names made (and makes) that more complex. Hopefully people remember me, even if I can’t remember who they are!

    Presenting my work

    <figure><figcaption>My best approximation of a UX design process.</figcaption></figure>

    I gave a presentation on my UX work for Regional Fedora Hubs, with the goal of helping others be able to do basic UX work on their own development projects. I did most of the talking, and Mo was helpful for moral support and answering Hubs questions I didn’t know the answer to. The presentation and handout are available on my website, and the video will also be available there once I have access to it. I’m not certain how likely others are to use that information, however. I did find that people asked relevant questions at the end, suggesting that not only did they follow my talk, but they were interested enough in it to be curious about things I hadn’t mentioned.

    I appreciated the chance to present to a new audience, and to gain additional practice in presenting and preparation thereof.

    What did I learn? What did I do for the first time?

    I also appreciated the opportunity to attend various sessions on UX, both to see how other people do certain tasks and to add additional tools to my toolbox (microtesting, “SUS” or System Usability Scale, and focus group-based usability testing all come to mind).

    I enjoyed learning about various aspects of Fedora that I hadn’t yet encountered, whether specific technical concepts like modularity and project atomic, or being able to attend and contribute to the diversity team’s session. I also liked being able to get caught up on what’s been doing on with Fedora Hubs since Outreachy. I’ve been out of the loop there because jury duty for 3 months and various temp jobs make it difficult to attend the weekly meeting.

    I created my first badge, albeit through a very simple change to an existing one. Additional experience with Inkscape with others around to guide me is always appreciated, given that I’d like more experience with basic visual design!

    Now what?

    I am not sure yet how I might best continue to offer my skills to the Fedora and open source community, but this conference has definitely confirmed my interest in doing so. Thank you Flock, Outreachy, and the organizers and participants thereof!

    We’ll see if I can figure out some way to make the next Flock. :)

    Calling all UX peeps

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on August 15, 2017 01:27 AM

    Yesterday I mentioned a discussion I was involved with on Facebook in which someone on the board of UXPA Boston suggested that I could organize a program for UX newbies and career changers.

    I’m really pleased by this idea, and very glad she suggested it. However, before I bring my ideas to the board and get advice and help, I want to have slightly more clue than I currently have.

    So, research!

    The best way I can think of to get more clue is to talk to people in the UX space. I’d like to talk to other people who are new, people who do the hiring, and people who are working in UX with other UX team members.

    UX Job Seekers

    Based on my instincts and some of the suggestions on the FB discussion, I suspect people trying to get into UX full-time struggle with:

    1. Getting experience
    2. How to best structure their portfolio and resume
    3. Becoming known to companies

    Some off-the cuff ideas of ways to help with these:

    1. Internships, co-ops, programs like Outreachy/Google’s Summer of Code/akamai’s technical academy, mentorship, apprenticeship, small multi-person design projects, and UX hackathons
    2. Finding mentors, having get-togethers to review portfolios and resumes (among each other), and developing sustainable ways to get feedback from hiring managers
    3. Things that I listed in option #1, company visits, and informational interviews

    UX Hiring Managers

    I have a lot of interesting ideas above, but I would need to know more about what hiring managers are looking for to understand what would be most useful.

    For example, in an ideal world, what do hiring managers want to see from candidates? What would be most useful to determine if they want to take a chance on someone? What do they want to see them do, have done, or be interested in doing? What do they _not_ want to see? What do they struggle with figuring out, but very much want in their employees?

    People currently on UX teams

    Of course, not only do I need to know what hiring managers look for, but I’d like to better understand what people look for in their co-workers.

    Such as, what do UXers find most useful when working with other UXers? What do they especially dislike? How well do their hiring practices seem to tease these out? What do you most appreciate in your co-workers?

    How can you help?

    If you are in UX, or trying to get into UX, talk to me! Comment or email me!

    Patternfly User Dropdown

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on August 13, 2017 07:51 PM

    I’m back with more about Patternfly’s navigation bar user dropdown.

    More from developer

    I’ve done a brief, remote, contextual interview with the developer who originally asked for this to be researched. With this, I confirmed a few things about what his concerns are:

    • Accessing items within a dropdown takes more time and more clicks than without one
    • Dropdowns can be extra slow to interact with when on a slow network connection, especially when animations are involved
    • It’s easier to remember where to go to get to menu items that are top-level rather than under a dropdown
    • Frequent use items need to be easily accessed and easily discovered

    Discussion with patternfly UX researcher

    I’ve started a conversation with the UX researcher at Patternfly, Sara Chizari. In large part, I wanted additional perspectives on the problem. I was also hoping to learn if there is existing research on this topic that I’d missed.

    My inclination is that the major goal of this research is two-fold:

    1. In the specific case of the developer I’m working with, what are the best guidelines for the use — or lack of use — of navigation bar dropdowns.
    2. In general, we need guidelines for the use of dropdowns.

    I expect that these will also change with the display screen size: limited space constrains what can be at the top level.

    How do we figure this out?

    I’m not yet certain of the best way to go about figuring this out, which is part of what I’m discussing with Sara.

    In this particular case, the dropdown is not expected to contain high-use items. While useful, I wouldn’t expect things like ‘settings’ and ‘log out’ to come up during the course of everyday use of an application or webpage. It’s difficult to be sure what other categories of items people are likely to wait to use here, but the real-world examples I have are suggestive:


    It looks like basically everyone includes settings and sign (or log) out. Many also include help. Of these, I would expect that sign out would be highest use, especially for those folks who access the applications on computers that are not their own.

    Because these won’t be high use items, I’m not yet sure how best to create tasks for people to do during a usability session. I don’t think I want to overemphasize actions that they might not otherwise do, as it’ll make it somewhat difficult to identify the highest use items. At the same time, I need to have people try different prototypes of the menu and menu area to see how they turn out in practice.

    What do I think so far?

    My instinct suggests that we will specifically want to test the usability of a few different things:

    • Dropdown of 3 or fewer items vs not being in a dropdown.
    • Logout, settings, and/or help being inside or outside of a dropdown.
    • Mobile vs tablet vs computer monitor

    These feel like they will address the ‘dropdown vs not dropdown’ item number cuttoff point on various screen sizes, and the specific menu items that I believe to be the most frequent use.

    I may want to identify the most used items in those dropdowns, before I go into more specific testing as per the above list. I’m not yet certain of the best way to approach this, however.

    Now what?

    Patternfly dropdown

    Sara will be doing some literature research this coming week, and will then be busy until mid-Sept on her own projects. I’m hoping to figure out the kinds of things to be testing with the aim of starting usability sessions in September.

    UX Newbies and career changers group?

    In the meantime, due to conversations with the local UXPA group on Facebook, I’ve started investigating both problems and potential solutions facing UX newbies and career changers within the Boston area. The major goal here will be to figure out what types of things are interfering with getting new people into UX jobs, coming up with concrete things to do about them, and figuring out how to make those things available to people locally. I’d love additional perspectives and ideas, since I am only one of many folks trying to get into UX, and will definitely not have thought of all the obstacles (or possible solutions!).

    What is Querki?

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on August 11, 2017 06:05 PM

    I’ve met with Mark, the owner and developer of Querki, a couple of times now. I shall now do my best to summarize my understanding thereof, with the purpose of identifying any obvious gaps in my knowledge and any clarifications that may be needed.

    Querki is intended to support and encourage collaboration about and sharing of information within communities. The longer blurb on the Querki help page is:

    It is a way for you to keep track of your information, the way you want it, not the way some distant programmer or corporate executive thinks you should. You should be able to share that information with exactly who you want, and it should be easy to work together on it. You should be able to use it from your computer or your smartphone, having it all there when you need it.


    Everyone has a lot of information to keep track of, much of which they would also like to be able to share and discuss with others. Querki offers a customizable interface in which to manage, display, discuss, share, and explore small to medium data sets with small to medium-sized groups.

    An existing example of this is from the Cook’s Guild in the local SCA chapter: they have recipes from specific time periods, and they figured out reconstructions of those recipes so that they can be made nowadays.


    As you can see in the screenshot above, the recipes are categorized by type of food, period of food, and culture. Clicking on any of those — also known as tags — will bring you to a list of relevant recipes.

    Many of Querki’s useful abilities are currently only possible using the Querki programming language (QL, said as ‘cool’) — such as finding a recipe for 14th century French pancakes in the above cook’s guild space. In the future, the plan is to make common tasks easy to do without the use of QL.

    Basic Usage


    To view a Querki space, one only needs a link to said space. Precisely what a space will look like varies depending on the desires of the owner of that space.

    One of the topics that Mark and I are currently discussing is the idea of a basic default structure for a space . This would hopefully mean that those who don’t want to spend a lot of time structuring their space will still have usable spaces for people to access, discuss, and interact with the data. For those who want to affect structure, that can be done when one has time and inclination, smoothly allowing the transition from a basic Querki space structure to whatever modifications are desired.


    A Querki space is meant to be a place for information to be stored and shared. To do this, however, one needs to tell Querki how you want your information to be structured. A model is how you tell Querki the structure you would like for your information.

    For example, a model for a CD might include properties for the album title, author, song lists, genre, and publication date, as well as an auto-generated name of the model. Properties can be added when the model is first created, as well as after the fact.

    Properties have types. Types include the tag type, the text type, the photo type, and the views type, among others. Properties can themselves have properties, such as with tags. Tags are both the name of a thing and have the possibility of pointing to a related model. Tags may have a description, visible when the tag name is clicked, or simply show a list of things with that tag.

    Views are ways to display models. The current default view shows a list of things with that model associated with it. There is also the possibility of a ‘print view’, which will tell Querki how to print the model.

    Models will have instances of that model: rather than the generic properties that models contain, instances contain information specific to the instance of that model. In our CD model example, you might have the CD Zoostation by U2, as an instance of the CD model.

    In addition to models and their associated pieces, Querki has pages. These are unstructured, and may be understood as a report from a data base, or a wiki page.

    What else?

    Major goals of Querki

    • Allow for integration with existing social networks in order to help people connect with and invite people they know to work together on Querki.
    • Get Querki to the point of general availability (it’s currently in beta) and having people interested in paying for it. It’s not yet clear what this entails. More investigation required.

    Different skill levels of users

    Currently, there is an idea of an ‘easy’, ‘medium’, and ‘hard interface. These largely describe the degree to which one needs to be able to program to get the interface to do what you want.

    • The “easy” interface is meant to allow people to use a published template (aka ‘an app’) from an existing Querki space to structure their own, and to use someone else’s space.
    • The “medium” interface allows more customization, but doesn’t present the more complicated/confusing programming options to the user.
    • The “hard” interface is meant for hard-core programmers, allowing the use of every tool available in Querki. This allows the building of templates (apps) and lots of power user commands through the underlying programming language QL (pronounced “COOL”).

    It is not currently very clear to users what their options are for using QL.


    Search is very basic right now, with searches being within a Querki space, on plain text strings. The goal in the future is to include the ability to search across spaces as well as objects, including tags.

    There are currently icons for editing a page, refreshing a page (with your changes?), and publishing a page (for those spaces which do not want changes to happen immediately during editing). Are these reasonable things to have as icons? Do they need text also/instead?

    Mobile is very important! Consuming a page should be possible even on small phone screens. Editing should also be possible on a mobile phone. Designing a page for a phone isn’t likely due to small screen, but planned for tablets.

    Data manipulation/query building talks about the need to do some basic filtering and sorting of the information in an instance. We need to figure out the most common queries of this type, and see how many can be abstracted away from the underlying programming language for use by anyone/everyone.

    Specific pages in need of (design?) work: front page, help, contextual help, model design page/advanced editor. The programming UI needs help (see the design page), and likely needs a simple IDE.


    Querki spaces are mostly publicly visible, which should help come time to improve the login page/start page.


    Tag names cannot currently be the same name as the model associated with them, due to the fact that tags point to a related model rather than containing it. This may need to be invisible to users to avoid confusion?

    Recycle Bot

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on August 09, 2017 08:42 PM

    I’m working on a toy project with a Northeastern student to get us both more experience with UX.

    What is it?

    The student I’m working with, Radhika Sundararaman, came up with the idea of a robot that would carry recycling bins from someone’s home to the dropoff point. This is most relevant for people who live in condo associations and other larger housing complexes with the dropoff for trash and recycling at some distance from their homes.


    We expect the main users to be folks who are unable to walk, unsteady on their feet, or do not have the strength to carry a bin. We imagine this to be relevant for older adults and differenlty-abled folks.

    In addition, we think there is a market here for folks who are too busy or too forgetful to get their trash out regularly.

    What are we looking into?

    Our focus for this project is the user interface.



    We have done quick interviews of a few different people, and came up with 5 personas.

    These include an older adult couple, a single mom with two kids who works full-time, another mom with three kids whose husband is typically away on business, an office manager, and one adult of three whose household often forgets to bring out the recycling.

    While exploring the personas, we identified a need for a website, a mobile app, and buttons on the robot itself.

    Each persona includes important information about the context of each person’s trash situation. Some of the more relevant points include:

    How do they find out about changes in trash pickup?

    • Poster in the room with the mail
    • Voicemail
    • Email
    • Paper schedule mailed out every year

    How far are they from the pickup location?

    • 500 feet
    • Up a large hill
    • On the curb next to the stairs leaving the house

    How much trash do they usually create?

    • Minimal
    • Lots — small child still using diapers

    What sorts of difficulties do they run into?

    • not home on trash dropoff day
    • too busy
    • Forgetful

    Tasks & Scenarios

    During our task and scenario analysis session, we decided that one of the 5 isn’t a user we will focus on at this time, and another was covered pretty well by the first three users. We used sticky notes and a handy empty wall to organize our thoughts and discussion.

    We started the process by writing down what users would do in the case where there were no errors. We made notes of where errors might occur, and things we might like to include as options in the future.

    <figure></figure><figure><figcaption>Who are we talking about? What are the main points to keep in mind? How might they want to interact? What are the goals?</figcaption></figure><figure></figure><figure></figure><figure><figcaption>The actions that users might need to do, problems they might run into, and ways we might handle those problems. Also a short list of things to keep in mind for the future.</figcaption></figure>

    We translated those into step-by-step descriptions of how a user would do their ideal actions with our software. Finally, we investigated those situations where things didn’t work out quite right for one reason or another, and explored how that might translate to our software.

    <figure></figure><figure><figcaption>What are the situations for ‘things working as expected’? What do we need to have for settings and configurations?</figcaption></figure>

    Once we had gotten to a point where we felt ready to start sketching, we also translated our sticky notes to a digital format for greater ease of access and reference. We do not have a centralized location in an office building to leave them, so this is the next best thing.

    What are we not doing?

    We will not be creating the robot itself, as this project is meant to complete before Radhika returns to school in September. Neither of us has the technical expertise to focus on construction, and my experience with robots strongly suggests that this is not a simple problem to solve.

    We are assuming a few things about the robot as part of our design process:

    • It will not be able to handle stairs
    • It has a weight limit on how much it can carry
    • It cannot pick things up

    Next steps

    Our next steps are to start sketching our ideas and discuss what we have each sketched. This will allow us to get onto the same page about our ideas, and come up with more effective and useful interfaces as a result of the exploration we will do.

    Still plugging away

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on July 20, 2017 01:06 AM



    I’m playing around with Wix for my website, in part because it’s a giant pain to change things around in my (still official) Pelican-based website, and in part because it’s useful to have the very ‘what you see is what you get’ perspective that Wix offers. I’m still deciding where a good point between ‘offer an overview’ — missing from the pelican version — and ‘not enough details’ — true of much of the Wix version right now — is.

    <figure><figcaption>Pelican version of my site</figcaption></figure>

    For the moment, any major changes that I think are important to include, I’m trying out in Wix first, and then figuring them out in Pelican. That which is frustrating me most right now is the apparent lack of grid support in Pelican, since that would make so many things look nicer and be easier to follow — indeed, that’s why I don’t have much overview in Pelican right now.

    I’m hoping I can get Pelican-alchemy to work as a theme, as it appears to support bootstrap, which itself supports grids. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to get it to stop ignoring the settings I have in the style.css file. And, because it’s not as professional-looking without that, and it’s hard to see what things look like there without publishing them first, it’s slow going to figure out. I just want a clean style and grids!

    Alternately, I need to continue to move things over to Wix and just give up on Pelican. But it’s a lot of work. And slow. Which is why I’m trying to get obvious wins over to Pelican in the meantime.


    I’ll be meeting up with the person who is working in Querki next week, to get a decent basic understanding of his goals and needs, as well as to figure out the reasoning behind some of the current decisions.

    I need to get in touch with people about doing a contextual interview with them about putting their recycling out for pickup. This is for the project I’m working on with the Northeastern student.

    I’m also hoping to get a contextual interview with the developer who originally had concerns about user dropdowns. He has provided some screenshots of the kinds of places he runs into the problem, so I need to integrate those into our shared google doc, and figure out some next steps if he’s not willing to do a contextual interview.

    I also need to grab some time to continue with my review of the accessibility document in patternfly.

    Job Hunting

    I am thoroughly confused about the status of my RedHat application. Theoretically, I was supposed to hear something after 5 days when I went through Mo for applying. Of course, I was also supposed to have had three applications through her, and only one managed to actually associate with her name. As of right now, it still says ‘manager review’ — whatever that means. That’s better than the other two, which say “no longer under consideration”. Confusingly, the job titles are all very different from what I actually applied for (the one I’m “under review” for talks about doing development, which… not so much).

    I’ve also got an application in with Wayfair, whose UX team is fairly large and has openings at multiple levels of skill. We shall see.

    I was contacted by someone at Onward Search, yet another UX recruiting agency. He seemed pretty impressed with my background, and optimistic about being able to find me some possibilities. We’ll see — I’m working with a _lot_ of UX recruiting companies at this point.

    Easy way to fix non functional ctrl key

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on July 18, 2017 05:18 PM
    Ctrl key buttons refused to work on laptop?
    • Tried pressing Ctrl + Alt + Fn? Mixed result.
    • Reboot hardware? No dice.
    • Pressing Ctrl + Left click on Touchpad? Worked

    I am not sure what exactly caused the problem as the issue surprisingly affects more models than expected.

    I’m happy to find time to talk about it; in person or skype work for me. :)

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on July 08, 2017 03:16 AM

    I’m happy to find time to talk about it; in person or skype work for me. :)

    Thanks for link!

    Done with Jury duty

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on July 05, 2017 05:23 PM

    That was a long and tiring experience, but now I’m not able to be called in again for it for 6 years.

    I’ve been helping out with Patternfly. I started by helping to fix easy bugs in an effort to get a good understanding of their processes. I’m now helping to edit their accessibility document and working with one of the developers on a UX research project.

    Navigation Bar User Dropdown

    The UX research project in question is to determine how user friendly the common pattern of the user (profile? settings?) dropdown actually is. For example, see this upper-right dropdown:

    Before click:


    After opening the menu:


    Under ‘More options’:


    The developer I’m working with had concerns about the extra clicks required to get to items in the menu, the extra processing time to read and interpret those items, the speed with which the menus actually open, and the quality of the animations for the menus.

    This dropdown is very common for tools within RedHat, since they are generally based on patternfly’s pattern library.

    Has anyone already researched this?

    My first goal was to get an idea of what, if anything, online research says about this. Curiously, I was unable to find research specifically on the user dropdown pattern, even though it’s everywhere nowadays.

    That said, I did confirm my suspicion that it’s generally better not to hide high-use items behind a menu. There were a variety of reasons for this, including the ability to find out what is possible, remember what is where, and the extra time to locate the actions.

    This suggests the need to know what, if anything, within the user menu is likely to be high-use. Unfortunately, the example I currently have is not a real example, and I’m hoping to get some real-world examples of what the developer has struggled with soon. This will make it much easier to identify the tasks that might cause one to need to use the user dropdown, and gather information about how high-use those might be.

    What might we do?

    One possibility I’ve suggested is that if there are some high-use items in there, they might be better off outside of that dropdown. The following example assumes that settings is the highest use option, and that we have minimal screen real-estate (on a mobile phone, perhaps).

    For example, instead of the existing top-level controls:

    <figure><figcaption>Balsamiq version of the controls</figcaption></figure>

    Have the settings control be at the same level as the others:

    <figure><figcaption>Now you can use the settings without the dropdown</figcaption></figure>

    On a larger screen, I’d suggest that the settings gear — while in common use — should be the word ‘Settings’ to improve usability.

    What next?

    Once I get some real-world examples, I think the next step will be figuring out what questions we want to get answers for. Since we’re hoping to get an idea of how much this particular pattern affects users — within RedHat and perhaps more generally — we’re going to need to figure out what sorts of tasks are likely to send people into that menu.

    I’m also going to want to select some good examples of the situations we’re most interested in. On top of whatever real-world examples we think are most relevant, we’ll want to offer users other options. If, for example, we suspect that settings and logout are the most likely options to use, we’re probably going to want to offer interfaces with one or both of those outside of the dropdown.

    Currently, I’m waiting for information from the developer before I can continue.


    A friend of mine has been working on a project for a few years now, and it occurred to me that I could offer him UX feedback on it. He’s working on it part-time nowadays, so I’m currently waiting for some background information from him. I need to know where is it so that I can see it, how he would describe it to people, and what he wants people to be able to do with it.

    Early stage project with someone from Northeastern

    I’m recently started discussing a possible project with a technical communications Masters student from Northeastern. She’s interested in getting more experience with UX, and I figure it’ll offer me more experience and mentoring people isn’t bad.

    We’re currently trying to identify areas of UX that we are interested in, both in terms of domain (e-commerce? Machine Learning? IOT?), and in terms of specific aspects of UX (usability reviews? Design updates? Or specific pieces like transitions as related to optimization of interstitial anxiety or hapnotics?). If nothing else, time spent researching some of these should be time well-spent.

    Still job-hunting

    And, I’m still job hunting. Which is still frustrating, because a year and a half of experience means people rarely get back to me. Or it could be something else, but because no one gets back to me, I have no way to know.

    In the cases where I apply through someone at a company, they usually say something like “we’re going with someone who more closely matches our needs”. Maybe that’s amount of experience? Maybe something else. Who knows?

    I’m keeping an eye out for temp and contracting positions, because they can lead to full-time and are at least paid experience. We’ll see.

    Propose a talk for Flock!

    Posted by Máirín Duffy on June 08, 2017 12:43 PM

    Propose a talk for Flock!
    Flock 2017’s CFP is open!

    We need your Flock session proposals!

    This year’s Flock is more action-oriented compared to previous Flocks. The majority of session slots are hackfests and workshops; only one day (Tuesday the 29th) is devoted to traditional talks.
    Calendar showing days of Flock - Tue Aug 29, Wed Aug 30, Thu Aug 31, Fri Sep 1
    The registration system allows you to submit 4 different types of proposals:

    • Talk (30 min) – A traditional talk, 30-minute time slot.
    • Talk (60 min) – A traditional talk, 60-minute time slot.
    • Do-Session (120 min) – A 2-hour long hackfest or workshop.
    • Do-Session (120 min) – A 3-hour long hackfest or workshop.

    There is no session proposal limit. Feel free to submit as many proposals as you have ideas for.
    Our CFP ends June 15 so you have one week to get those awesome proposals in!

    Submit your Flock session proposal now!

    How to create a strong proposal

    How can you ensure your proposal is sufficiently strong enough for acceptance into Flock? Here are some tips and guidelines:

    Align your proposal to Fedora’s new mission statement.

    Fedora’s mission statement was updated almost two months ago. The revised and final mission statement is:

    Fedora creates an innovative platform for hardware, clouds, and containers that enables software developers and community members to build tailored solutions for their users.

    If you can explain the connection between your session and this goal, you’ll make the proposal stronger. Even if you are not directly working on a hardware, cloud, or container effort, you can relate your session to the goal.
    For example, say you’d like to propose a Fedora badges hackfest. Task the badges hackfest specifically with creating badges for activities associated with efforts aligned specifically with hardware, cloud, and container to strengthen it.

    Make sure the folks relevant to your topic are involved.

    If you want to propose a Fedora badges workshop, that’s totally cool. You might want talk to Marie Nordin or Masha Leonova, and see what their plans are, give them a heads up, and coordinate or even propose it together with one or both of them.
    The committee reviewing proposals occasionally sees duplicate / overlapping topics proposed. Generally, the committee chooses the proposal that has the subject matter experts most involved in the topic. A weak proposal on a topic has no indication of involvement or coordination with subject matter experts most actively involved in a topic.

    Make the audience for your topic clear.

    Think about who you are giving your talk to or who you want to show up to your workshop or hackfest. If you’re proposing a Fedora Hubs hackfest, are there enough Pythonistas in Fedora to help? (Yes, yes, there are. 🙂 )
    Tailor your content for your audience – while you may be able to get folks familiar with Python, they may not be familiar with Flask or how Fedora Hubs widgets work, so make sure your proposal notes this material will be covered.
    General user talks are discouraged. This Flock will be focused on empowering Fedora contributors and actively getting stuff done, so make sure your audience is a subset of existing Fedora contributors.

    Focus on taking or inspiring action.

    A major focus of this year’s Flock is taking action, so talks that inspire action and hackfests / workshops where action will take place are going to be strong proposals.


    Feel free to ask on the flock-planning list if you have any questions. Or, if you have private concerns / questions, you can email flock-staff@fedoraproject.org.
    The Flock planning committee is looking forward to seeing your proposals! 🙂

    Submit your Flock session proposal now!


    Scribus 1.5.3 available on COPR repository

    Posted by Luya Tshimbalanga on June 06, 2017 06:46 AM
    Scribus 1.5.3 is now available on the new COPR repository while scribus-unstable is now switched to 1.5.4 snapshot.
    Highlighted featurese for 1.5.3 are:
    • The most important change isn't immediately visible, namely a completely rewritten text layout engine, which supports complex scripts like Arabic, Hindi or Thai, as well as providing access to advanced OpenType features, such as ligatures and alternate glyphs.
    • Scribus now follows the XDG standard for configuration files. Therefore, the Scribus preferences directory has moved from ~/.scribus/ to a new default location: ~/.config/scribus/
    • The performance of copying and pasting objects in/from/to files with huge color palettes has been vastly improved. 

    Measuring things only makes sense if you know what you’re measuring, why, and what you intend to do…

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on May 26, 2017 08:50 PM

    Measuring things only makes sense if you know what you’re measuring, why, and what you intend to do with it. Otherwise, even if you _have_ numbers, they don’t actually have any meaning. So what’s the point?

    Applying for a UX volunteer job

    Posted by Suzanne Hillman (Outreachy) on May 04, 2017 12:13 AM

    I’m trying to keep myself in the UX game, which is complicated by the grand jury thing lasting through the end of June and making contracting positions difficult to do right now. My mentee (who is really only slightly behind me in her UX path) commented that she’ll be looking to work with non-profits and government sites such to get more experience.

    She pointed out https://www.catchafire.org and https://www.taprootplus.org/ as possible places to hunt through. A quick glance at catchafire when we were co-working to get an idea of what possibilities there were, and I saw something called a ‘website audit’ for the American Cancer Society.

    “Huh,” says I. “What is a website audit?”

    Looking at their list of needs, I see that they want a report that includes an outline of the organization’s goals for the site, feedback on the current site’s UX in general (they give specifics, but I think my summary is accurate), and recommendations for improvements to help achieve the desired goals.

    Looks like UX research!

    Ok, interesting. This sounds a lot like UX research, mostly. With some prep work to figure out what they mean by ‘organizational goals’ and who their users are. Given that these goals could as easily mean ‘goals that someone in the organization thinks sounds good’ as ‘goals that were researched throughout various facets of the organization as well as users’, I think that’s going to be one of the first things I want to figure out.

    They already have a site and some goals, which at least means that I should be able to work with them to figure out whose goals those are, and how specific they are. I’m not entirely sure what they mean by ‘built out site’, although I suspect they may mean working prototype. I don’t _think_ they mean the existing site?

    They specifically list millennials as a target market, and I’m really curious as to what they actually mean by that. They say they want to engage young professionals, which is… rather non-specific, but certainly better than nothing.

    What do I want to find out?

    I’ve got a call with them Friday morning to see if we’re a good fit, and I’m going to focus on what they mean by organizational goals and who their actual and prospective users are. I strongly suspect that my QE experience will combine nicely with my UX research experience for this particular project, so we shall see. And hey, it’s a good cause!

    I’m also noting that they suggest up to nearly half-time work hours for a month and a half. This may be too many hours what with three days eaten by jury duty, but we’ll see.

    I do hope it’s not an SEO website audit (which is mostly what google says about websites audits) as I’ve no strong sense of those, but given that SEO shows up nowhere on that volunteer job description I doubt it. Worst case, I adjust my thinking and do some online research to see what’s relevant. This looks useful in that case!