Weekly Thesis Post #14

December 21st, 2010

We’ve reached the end of the semester, so this will be the last thesis post of the semester. I expect I’ll continue blogging about it next semester.


This past week has largely been a production week, for thesis as well as the other three projects I had due last week. For thesis, I had the storyboards and prototype ready last week, so this week has largely been about refining the storyboard and building a presentation around it, though I did make a few changes from my storyboards last week.

For one, I cut out the idea of analytics living on a web site somewhere. I think there’s a compelling case to be made for a broader sense of analytics of what everyone is doing at work, but the core of this project is behavior change to prevent distraction in individuals. I’ll be open to revisiting the idea if it can inform a way of influencing that individual behavior. The impact of this decision is that more of the analysis has to live in the app rather than the web site, which I think will be better for the user experience.

I also pulled out the idea of badges. I think they’re kind of fun, but possibly a distraction from what the core of the idea is all about. I want to prototype to see if badges are effective, and I’ll make the decision based on that.


I gave my presentation yesterday. I’ve posted a few of the documents from my final presentation.

I got some good feedback from the presentation. Some of the interesting comments were:

  • Do a better job of emphasizing the positive feelings that people have when they complete their work.
  • Do a closer analysis of the social relationships at work. Is it fair to distract the people who are concentrating with coworkers who are distracted, or would that make the situation worse?
  • Think of ways to allow people to self-report.
  • Allow for different styles of working.
  • Consider adding a way of tracking and finishing goals. Maybe even allow them to set out milestones ahead of time to help them reach those milestones.

Also during the feedback section, one commenter suggested that one of the design principles of this project is that the application cannot be distracting. I do not agree with that principle. My stance is that, since distraction is always relative to something else, the application will inevitably be distracting. The challenge is to make sure that it’s distracting in the right way, to improve behavior.

One comment that also comes up at most presentations is that I should try to drive people to the place where they’re most concentrated or meditative. I think it’s a compelling idea, but it would require a different approach from this project. This project is about quieting the things that prevent you from doing your work generally, whereas the other project is about improving the experience of working on a single task. I can’t redesign every software application to make the experience better (much like OmmWriter tries to do), but I can design a broader system that fills in those gaps users figure out how they’re using those apps and how they’re doing.


I plan to do some more work over winter break. I still have a pile of articles I intend to finish. I also want to finish up the Fidget browser extension I started working on the middle of the semester. And finally, if time permits, I hope to start building and prototyping the application in more depth.

See you next semester!