You could say this month's issue is a study of computer-human interplay. Indeed, we feature two special sections that analyze human behavior from two very different angles. One creates computing tools that may alter human behavior, the other studies human behavior in order to build effective computing environments.
We look first at the newly established field of persuasive technologies; a field as controversial as it is captivating. The authors introduce us to computing products that influence human behavior to a remarkable degree. Guest editor B. J. Fogg, a pioneering spirit in the field whose work helped spur creation of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford he now heads, expects the articles to spark discussionsand argumentsabout the ethics and effectiveness of such technologies. He contends that such debate is necessary to understand more about how technology persuades and to inspire ideas about what should exist in order to steer the design of future tools.
Our other special section depicts the diversity of usability practices as seen from two sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., we have seen a gradual move toward more informal user involvement, which has been a long-held tradition for software development in Scandinavian countries. At the same time, Scandinavian developers have been experimenting with the commonly U.S. lab approach. The section follows the usability practices of three U.S. companies (IBM, Microsoft, and the American Institutes for Research) and three Danish companies (Bang & Olufsen, Danfoss, and Kommunedata). Guest editor Kim Halskov Madsen's unique editorial approach allows a practitioner from each company to explain the approach used and a practitioner from the other side to comment on the methodology. We hope you agree this cooperative sharing of workable solutions represents a valuable means for strengthening the relationship between developers and users.
As the days wind down, the Y2K debates intensify. Indeed, our columnists this month David Parnas, Hal Berghel, and Leon Kappelman cast their own convictions on the state of preparedness. Parnas commandeers "Inside Risks" to listand debunkwhat he believes are the 10 greatest myths about Y2K inspections. Berghel devotes his "Digital Village" to a personal take on the latest Y2K stories while offering up Bob Bemer's Xday observations as a potential solution. Kappelman, a frequent, welcome Y2K contributor, warns us in "Viewpoint" that the industry's "dirty little secrets" regarding Y2K compliance will soon be revealed.
Diane Crawford, Editor
COMING NEXT MONTH: A special section on emerging Internet infrastructures in developing countries. We also explore all-optical networks, intuitive decision-making tools, and how to use robots to teach engineering.
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