Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue

Amongst Dilbert's words of wisdom can be found the aphorism: Accept that some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue.

Two days ago, I was the pigeon. I wrote up seven or eight papers on 'user satisfaction' for my doctoral literature review, in the course of which I noted that there seem to be two different scales of 'user satisfaction', one of which is more pertinent than the other. These papers included one written by academics from the Ben Gurion University, here in Israel, which would be extremely relevant if more data were presented. Although I found the paper via Google Scholar, no reference is given which means that I don't know the paper's publication year (and neither will the reference in the bibliography be accurate). I sent an email to the professor who is one of the co-authors, who passed it on to the first author.

I received two replies, one from the first author and one from the professor. The first author explained that the paper was pre-publication - which explains the lack of a reference and so gives a publication year (2014, at least). She is currently abroad but will contact me (or I will contact her) in another few weeks and has promised to share some of her data. The professor too is abroad; she asked whether I was "looking for a position in Israel". This question can be understood in several ways; at the moment, I don't think that I am interested in having an academic post in a university, but who knows how I will feel in another two years.

I also wrote up the canonical paper about cognitive fit, which is described thus "Since humans are limited information processors, more effective problem solving will result when the complexity in the task environment is reduced. In this paper, the notion is developed that complexity in the task environment will be effectively reduced when the problem-solving aids (tools, techniques and/or problem representations) support the task strategies (methods or processes) required to perform that task. This notion is termed cognitive fit. Problem solving with cognitive fit results in increased problem-solving efficiency and effectiveness" (Vessey, 1991).

I have already found a few more papers on cognitive fit, but one seemed to be written about cognitive fit in software development, which isn't very relevant. The second paper is about the effect of cognitive fit on decision making which is very relevant; I started reading it, but I was too tired to finish. I did note that important quotes came from another paper, which I found and printed. Reviewing this paper ("Visual representation: implications for decision making" - Lurie and Mason, 2007) is the major job for today and I await it with anticipation.

Yesterday, though, I was definitely the statue. Although theoretically I am on holiday for a week and a half, I had been asked early last week if I would come to Karmiel on Monday for a meeting about a wood cutting optimisation program that we are trying to implement. No problem, I replied. After traveling for three hours (two hours by train and then another hour by car), I arrived for a two and a half hour meeting which can only be described as acrimonious, advancing our understanding of the program by perhaps one millimeter. Almost every participant in the meeting (we were five) became indignant or angry with at least one other participant. I developed a headache on the drive back from Karmiel to the railway station, which only intensified during the train rides home. As it is holiday time, the trains were packed and some people do not know how to speak quietly on their mobile phones. I should have worn my ear protectors - there is a reason why they are always in my pocket! Even after I came home, rehydrated and showered, I couldn't get rid of the headache and so went to bed at about 8:30pm, thankful that the day was over but wishing that it had never been.

The satellite television company will be broadcasting the film "Ender's game" on Friday, so I read the book (and some of its parallel version, "Ender's shadow") during the train rides. I first read the book many years ago so of course was familiar with it. Even without having read anything about the film, one wonders how such a book - which is strongly dependent on Ender's thoughts as well as null gravity - could be translated into a film. The criticism is mixed, so I don't have any expectations. The above mentioned paper (Lurie and Mason) puts this as "differences between expectations and the delivered product are likely to be lower, thus increasing post-purchase satisfaction".

Enough blogging - it's time to read about visual representation of data.

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