Code4Lib 2014: Opening Keynote

Presented by Sumana Harihareswara

Works for wikimedia. Are moving towards service model vs. speghetti code model. Also run internship and do mentorship. Recently went to learn Decided to stop being a manager and be a coder and technical writer.

Sumana’s Notes

Design and emotion.

Why we don’t put enough investment into user experience? Choosing to make the right things and make it so people can use it.

Usability is like the last mile problem.

We need to be creative and disciplined enough to provide in the way that is usable.

We have more practice seeing it from the computer’s point of view, and less from another person’s point of view.

The goal state might be different from what you think is “the best”, might be convenience, flexible choices, due to lack of certain facilities, etc.



NYPL ebook borrowers were fairly abysmal.

The ratio of print to ebook 13:1 because the NYPL labs broke down the process into 18 steps and started a project on taking the steps down to 2 or 3 steps.


Number one concern is gaining and retaining wikimedia editors. Need diverse perspective.

Small usability changes made a big difference. Moving the section header edit link to next to the section header increased edits by 8.7%. Now also have a WYSWYG editor.


Academics is a hack or shortcut to the kind of long term help libraries can provide.

Encryption Technology

Terrible user usability, localization, support. Abysmal adoption rates even when stakes are really high.

User Need to Be Able to Use the Software

Bad usability can really change what the users can or are willing to do.

Why Do We Have These Barriers?

You need empathy. Need to do some reverse engineering. Need to exercise a disciplined empathy.

But tech industry is really bad at empathy.

Systematically undervalue the jobs and roles that require empathy, and traits that are “feminine” e.g. hospitality are not respected and valued.

Disciplined empathy means support should be treated as first class service and take the data from that. e.g. log every time have to tell a patron ‘no’

This is a great place to exercise empathy. Might take a course in conflict resolution. Read blogs and books of lives unlike yours. Watch real users use your services.

We have resources here.

UX or usability make a big difference for the library, institution, to better serve users.

Need to be a first class priority throughout the process.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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