It is that time of year ago when I review the past 12 months by looking at my blogposts.
I have done a lot of writing and creating materials this year, much of it was the update to my HCI course, which is why I chose the picture at the top of the blog. It sums up my year of wrestling with Spiderman (Ben Schneiderman and all the HCI rules) but not so much blogging, so I have only written 11 blogs this year and two blog post videos explaining how I was updating my HCI course: Human-computer 1.5: Upgrading the upgrade: and thinking about the past: Written on the body, so I haven’t counted them in the list.
At first, I thought that I hadn’t written many blogs because of the course update and thought that it was like just like 2020 when I first created it, as I didn’t do many blogs then. Looking back at 2020, I see that I still managed to write 36 blogs, and we were in lockdown so that is quite impressive.
At this time of year, especially when I don’t blog so much, I ponder to myself about blogging like I did a decade ago in: Is there anybody out there? Why do I blog? (December, 2013) sometimes I ask myself in January: What’s my why? (January 2022), or I wonder at all the blogs I have written: Sit. Feast on your blogs, (January,2018), and what they mean and what it means when they are popular: The story in the stats, (October, 2019) sometimes I declare that I won’t be writing any more blogs: The accidental techie (10): Finished, (October, 2019) but then I do because I love it.
So long, WordPress
I used to love WordPress too, it’s always been my tool of choice, as I have written about lots of times. But, like all good things, I think it is coming to an end, it is so bloated nowadays and makes me write in a way I really don’t want to which is worth a blog in and of itself, something I used to teach about when teaching HCI at university. The tools that us designers create to support our users sometimes force them to work in ways which are not in their best interests. Alas, the students were not always impressed when I got them to use tools that forced them to work differently in order to prove my point.
WordPress these days makes me tired, though the one thing I do really like is moving around blocks of text with one button:
The up and down button, third button from the left on the popup menu in the pic above, is so handy and when I write in Word now (I had to abandon LaTex as everyone wants words in Word) I click the paragraph and want to move it, but I can’t as it’s Word not WordPress, so I will miss that, but the rest of WordPress is getting harder and harder to use and I won’t miss that, but I still miss LaTex.
I guess I just hanker for when things were simpler and I could manipulate my page layout more easily. WordPress makes it harder to do that, ironically by making it simpler, i.e., it does everything for you, and so if you want something non-standard then you have to do it yourself, and then it gets complicated which something I am writing about at the moment for my course upgrade. When you make the choice to make an interface easier for a user, you reduce their access to the functionality of a system. It is a trade-off.
I think this is partly why I gave up on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I had been on there for a over a decade and I had too many pictures to navigate, it was unwieldy and no longer easy to use, so I turned them into a two minute film and now I can watch them whenever I want. I also gave up on Pinterest too, but as I didn’t have many pins I made them into a short.
I love blogging still, I just want an easier way of doing it without an unwieldy content management system (CMS), and so if I redesign my site without a CMS just using a bit of the old information architecture, I can pop that on my course as an example too. Designing navigation in a blog is a bit trickier than say a portfolio website, but it can be done, or perhaps I may just whack a list all in one page and be done with it, though I do like the search facility but I can easily embed Google to do that.
The other nice thing about having blogged here so much is that I can read whole chunks of my website straight into the microphone as a lecture for my HCI course. I did that a lot with the Design Theory section – turns out all that wrestling with my ideas and writing them here made for clear concise scripts which was a lovely surprise and a total bonus.
So! Reflections on 2023 reflected, here without further ado here are my top 10 blogs written in 2023:
Top 10 blogs written in 2023
I am not surprised that this came first, as I wrote it to process my feelings after I tried to share my artificial intelligence (AI) knowledge in a women’s group after a guest speaker was talking absolute nonsense. I was shut down and then heckled by the woman who runs the group in a really unpleasant fashion so it’s been nice to have this safe space for me and some of the other women who had to witness it, to talk about it here, and offline. This blog had two goals: A) to say general artificial intelligence doesn’t exist and isn’t coming anytime soon and B) Be a bit careful if you do decide to do a course with her.
I wrote this with my eldest as she was at home feeling ill and so to take her mind off things we put together all the reasons why the last Star Wars Rise of Skywalker reboot film fell apart, and how it betrayed the promise of meritocracy with which it began. The Force Awakens was so refreshing and so inviting and basically said that anyone could tap into the Force and be special which was a theme it continued right throughout the first two films. The third film did a volte face and created an unsatisfying ending as it gave lots of nods to previous films and endless tedious fight scenes from a more patriarchal age as it turned Rey from an orphan to the granddaughter of Palpatine and went backwards on everything. The whole saga began with so much promise but ultimately failed to deliver on any of it.
I wrote this blog after I had given a lecture on AI at the WI. I loved preparing it, but it was far too long and tried to cram everything in there, but the WI were brilliant, they listened and got the all-important take-away: AI won’t take over the world, it’s not the hyper intelligent out of control thing thing OpenAI business owners want you to believe it is in so that they can dodge plagiarism lawsuits.
This blog also explains exactly how ChatGPT works – in a nutshell, like predictive text – and thus, is not at all capable of any sort of intelligence, it works by pattern matching.
These two blogs came in together at no. 4. In Spiderman’s golden rules I talk about how I struggled to present them in an interesting fashion for my course but am glad I did as they are important. Then, feeling normal came after my daughter was exploring in GCSE Art, her environment, and how her environment at the British Transplant Games makes her feel normal. I got to ponder if she would have been any different had she been born ‘normal’ or what society considers to be ‘normal’ and how we are not ‘normal’ given our experiences.
This was me giving myself a pep talk about writing scripts for my course upgrade, as I explored the length of a tweet, the length of a sentence and the length of time it takes to speak. I enjoyed that very much. I do love getting into the numbers of words.
This was surprisingly popular as I wrote this very quickly to remind myself in case I need to do it again and I forget. Backing up gmail is easy, but you absolutely need gmail again if you want to reread anything so I came up with another offline solution which turns out to be what other people want too.
This was another one about my course in human-computer interaction (HCI), and the big wrestle I had creating a section on HCI rules for my course, because the idea of them bored me. I think it’s popular as the pic is soooo cool! I also mentioned the other new sections that I loved creating for the course such as: input and output, cognitive science and design theory, based on a lot of blogs in here.
This was a blogpost I wrote after appearing on as a panel participant at a conference which I only signed up to go to so I could hear Sally Kempton speak. Sadly, Sally died in September, but I am so grateful for all she shared over the many years and I give thank for all that I was able to learn from her.
On the panel my position was that in order to create a more balanced, equitable world we need to everyone at the technology table, not just white men based in America.
This blog, I wrote, just recently, when I decided to delete my account from Instagram. Like most social media these days, I can’t find who I follow easily for all the advertisements in the feed. I thought I would be sad deleting my account, but so far I am fine and I love watching the little two minute film made of all the photos I ever put on Instagram.
This was a blog about ChatGPT, Macbeth and how the two got linked in my mind. ChatGPT reminds me of the Tarot and of randomers in the street, or in Macbeth’s case, on the heath, giving unsolicited advice and predictions about his life and about the choices we make when we choose to pay attention. The conclusion I came to was that both ChatGPT and Macbeth hallucinate and are unwell. I chuckled writing this blog.
HCI and AI themes
When I look at the blogs of 2023, I see two major themes: HCI and AI, which have been pretty constant in my life since I was a student and I love thinking about them.
So in 2024, I will continue upgrading my course on human-computer interaction as I enjoy it and reusing everything here is very satisfying too.
And, I will continue talking and writing about AI, in spite of the hecklers. As I stated in my tagline many years ago, I am endlessly fascinated how people use technology and vice-versa.
The vice-versa means that we continually let technology dictate how we should live our lives instead of the other way round. We keep feeding the machine with our half-baked ideas and hoping for a revelation which is as about as sensible as Macbeth listening to three randomers on the Heath and then making a lot of really bad decisions.
I expect to see a lot more of that in 2024.
We live in interesting times.