Who Inspired Jakob Nielsen

Jacob Nielsen held a Q&A session during our July Virtual UKCS conference, a theater from Chicago said that many people cite Jacob as a source of inspiration and he asked who Jacob looks to for his own inspiration.

Many people said that during the years, but one in the very beginning was Ted Nelson, and that’s Neil’s son, Nathaniel Senzo. No relation, but Ted Nelson is the guy who invented hypertext and he was back in the 1980s. He was like a kind of radical person in terms of talk about how computers could be completely different than they were at the time, where most use of computers were for a payroll processing or for scientific calculations and those type of things. So he actually wrote a book called Literary Machines that I bought when I was a graduate student. I still I still have it. And this book was like kind of homemade because he’s like sort of just made up on his typewriter and hand drawn, if we can find anything with the illustrations, kind of hand drawn illustrations and everything. So, yes, he was a bit of an old hippie guy, but honestly, very inspiring.

And I really got into this notion of of hypertext, which is like when the web came around, well, then known about usability and hypertext, that was a great combo. So Tech Nillson was a great inspiration for me in the early days. Then later on, when I actually became a professional, I got jobs and all of that. I worked at IBM’s research headquarters in Yorktown Heights in New York. And there were many great people there that I admired many of them, but particularly liked to mention John Gould as an inspiration to John Gould was one of the senior researchers there. And he was in many ways very different than me. He was a very classical psychologist in terms of like very rigorous experiments, fermentation. I’m on the side a list of some sort of simple experiments. But he was very rigorous and he just taught me, like, you can just study anything. You just have to put your mind to designing the experiment. Right. And I remember that he was studying how you could do 3-D manipulation. Kind of reminded me about this question about how you do VR. They didn’t have any of that technology at the time. So what he was doing, he made studies where the participants were given like a Mr. Potato Head doll and had to manipulate that doll in various ways. And so I was like to one of the pilot participants in the study. As it turns out, I grown up in Denmark. We didn’t have Mr. Potato Head dolls. So I kind of stumped on how to use that doll but that toy. So that was kind of a good learning experience as well, because you really had to kind of recognize how participants often think that is stupid when they can do something, even though, of course, it’s the user interface that that’s bad, as we always say. But you experience that yourself when you’re in the study and you have a hard time doing something very simple, like play with the children’s toy just because you never tried that toy before. So so John was really a great inspiration to me in many, many ways. More recently, I would also mention somebody like J.Y. He’s a K pop stars. Not really, because I, I mean, I like x several of his songs, but that’s not really why I mentioned him. But but he also, in addition to forming songs himself, he’s also written 50 about 50 kind of hit songs and for many others and he’s put together a lot of these groups that perform. And so this notion that you can kind of not just only be, you know, your own person or your own style, but you can actually put together the the the teams. And one thing he’s done recently, no, he’s Korean, but most recently, his most recent project was to put together a Japanese group, which I think is another thing is kind of surprising to me, this notion that we are worldwide and we’ve got to reach out beyond just where we are from ourselves and pull that together. I don’t think I’m going to go in like hire nine Japanese teenagers, you know, and train them like his doing. But that approach, though, I think is is very interesting. And actually, one last thing I would mention as an inspiration, this is Sir Ernest Shackleton, the British polar explorer. And I would not have mentioned him until recently because I have no inspiration, no idea that I wanted to live off of Penguin for two years or anything of that nature. But it’s just because of the current situation with the pandemic, you know. So Shackleton is is famous for. That’s a nice book. I’d also like to recommend a book about Shackleton. So this one called The Endurance. Endurance was the name of his ship. You can see here how the ship was frozen in the ice.

So his crew was trapped for two years living off penguin meat. So so the ship, the name of the ship was very prophetic in that sense.

But what Sir Ernest Shackleton is famous for is that he brought back every single member of that crew despite that hardship. And I think that’s really inspiring in these current circumstances. So you just want to, like, bring the team home, you know, despite the situation. So that’s that, I think is another good inspiration.

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