访谈嘉宾：Kathy Sierra， O'Reilly出版社Head First系列图书策划人之一，大型Java开发者社区JavaRanch.com创办人，多款教育类和娱乐类游戏主要开发人员。她深谙产品交互之道和认知科学理论，为加利福尼亚大学洛杉矶分校创立了新媒体与交互设计课程。多年来，她一直帮助大公司、创业公司、非营利组织和教育者重新思考打造用户体验的方法，培养持续忠诚的用户。
- O'Reilly出版社Head First系列图书策划人之一
Head First（深入浅出）是O'Reilly Media出版社推出的一套入门指导型图书系列，由Kathy Sierra和Bert Bates策划创办。最初，该系列只涵盖编程和软件工程。由于该系列图书的成功，目前已经扩展至其他的主题，像科学、数学和商业等领域。Head First系列强调图书的“非正统性”，强化读者的视觉感受和读者的参与度。图书增添了很多互动性强的谜题、笑话，摒弃“标准”的设计和布局，推崇会话式的写作风格，让读者可以参与到给定的话题当中。（翻译自Wikipedia）
Kathy是电脑游戏Terratopia的主要开发人员，这是一款由Virgin Sound & Vision公司在1998年发行的儿童冒险游戏。另一款叫作“所有的狗狗都去了天堂“的游戏，是一款基于电影的游戏，素材由米高梅公司免费提供。
From your blog, I know you really love horses. What could you get from them compared with human, since only a few people could have those experiences?
We actually apply the same principles from “badass” to the horses, and what we get is amazing feedback and response from the horses by helping them become better at being horses. Most horses are traditionally used in service of the human, as riding horses for sport or leisure. And the emphasis is usually on training the horses to be more skillful at what the HUMAN sport wants them to do. We have a very different approach… by training the horse in what the HORSE most wants to do — to be an agile, proud, athletic, happy, competent horse. The wonderful result is that by focusing on this, so many of the problems people have with horses: fear, aggression, “lazy”, disobedient, etc. — these disappear when we focus on the horse as a horse, and then the side-effect is we get to ride a beautiful, athletic, happy and fun horse.
Working with the horses is like an experimental laboratory :) for many scientific theories on learning and motivation that we test, as MOST of the research on movement and motivation science applies to most mammals as well as humans. And the horses give us very quick, very rewarding feedback. Many of the concepts in the book, we apply to the horses.
According to your experience of game developing, what do you think of the anti-addiction system? Actually, a game of Tencent named “Strike of Kings” has received strong criticism for lacking anti-addiction system?
I do not know very much about China’s anti-addiction systems, but I know a LOT about the addiction mechanisms in game design, and I have argued against deliberately designing “addictive” technology in all forms. At least games are transparent about their role to get you to spend time playing the game, but I am also extremely concerned for other technologies that use the underlying principles from behavioral science to keep you “hooked” on their product.
Our goal — and this is discussed in the book — is to help people become more skillful NOT at “using the product” but at the bigger context of what the product enables in their life. The simplest example I use is that we do not want people “addicted” to a photography app or camera, but to becoming more skillful at the bigger context of photography or art or journalism and the like.
I know the science well, and I think we — as designers of products and user experiences — have an ethical obligation to consider how our products and experiences impact ALL of a person’s life, not just the time they are engaged in our product. Are we contributing to their life? Or are we hurting it by taking away cognitive resources and time they could be more fulfilled from doing other things they care about?
It is a mistake in many ways, I believe, to base the success of our product or business on the amount of attention resources we can “steal” from people who are our customers/users. The best product encourages people to learn more, do more, to actively apply what they get from the product, NOT become addicted to or obsessed with using the product. As a professional animal trainer as well, I see companies treating human customers as just animals pressing a lever for rewards. And they are hiring Behavioral Science PhDs and using Big Data to make this extremely powerful. I will not even treat my animals this way.
We can do better. We can design user experiences and products that help people enrich their lives, not just spend more time engaging with the product. I believe this is how we DO have the most successful product.
What makes Bert Bates and you decide to create the Head First book series?
I had been teaching Java programming for several years, and I saw where people were struggling. I had to learn Java from a book, when the language was first emerging, and I felt it was very inefficient to learn from the way most programming books were designed. But I also had a background in learning theory, and I realized that there were many things we could do to make learning much more effective and easier for people. But there were 2,000 books on Java at the time we were writing our book! So of course we had a much bigger challenge — how to set OUR book apart in a meaningful way? We believed we had to choose a different goal from just “write a good book” — we needed to write a book that people would really LEARN from, so they could tell others, “I learned from this book!” and THEN we knew that this could ONLY happen if people actually DID keep reading the book, and we knew the statistics say most people do not read much of any programming book. So that became our goal — how can we help people keep moving forward in the book, so that they will keep learning? And that caused us to make all of the unusual aspects of the book. This choice is in many ways the basis of what is inside the Badass book.
In the field of book planning, which direction should editors consider first, content, author or reader? In each direction, what are the factors you would look into?
We have very different views from most traditional publishing :) We believe that books should be treated exactly as products… and that we do not think of “readers”… we think of them as “users”. That the book must be useful, and usable. That it must provide an experience that creates benefit and change for the “user” in a way the user finds meaningful. We believe that the largest problem with most technical books is NOT that they aren’t good quality — most ARE — but that they have the wrong mindset. Most technical books are written to BE “good books”, but in the same way someone could make a “good” product that is high quality but does not let the USER do what they most want to do with it. The world is full of beautiful, high-quality products that nobody actually used. And the technical book world is the same way.
We also believe that authors should be seen as product designers and experience designers, NOT author/writer. (Unless the book IS a literary from a great writer). Most of us writing technical books are NOT writers. And if we think of ourselves as user experience designers — that we are creating an experience from which the user (reader) can be transformed in some way that THEY (the user) cares about — then we have the best chance of success from the book.
At the first sight of your book, I was attracted by the word "badass". So, what does it mean by using "badass" in your book?
This is the one word that also has caused many people to NOT like the book ;) I had a very deliberate reason for using that word. For a long time, I talked about “creating passionate users”, which was long ago to be the name of the book. But I learned from working with so many companies that they wanted their users to be passionate about THEM (the company/brand/product). That the word “passion” was too easy to be seen as “fans of the company”, when that was never what I meant. What I meant was “the person has a passion for whatever it is you help them do”. I was always having to explain that. So I wanted a word that would make that much more difficult to get wrong.
By using the word "badass", it makes it much more DIFFICULT to interpret as "passion for the company/brand" and puts the focus on the USER's ability.
What if users don't want to be badass at something and have no motivation to move from beginner even to a little bit higher level?
We talk about this in the book. That there is always something that people DO want to be “better” at if you step far enough up in context. There is no reason a company could not choose to help users become better at something NOT RELATED to the product. It’s about helping people become better at something… even IF we do not know exactly how that is exactly related to our product. But because it helps people develop a better feeling about themselves AND US as a side-effect of what we enable for them. And this is, we believe, a far better use of our marketing budget than to simply try to keep blasting people with all the ways they should think WE are awesome.
In addition to ideas stating, there are lots of supporting cognitive resources in your book. How did you get that knowledge?
This is something I have been researching and studying and teaching (long ago at UCLA) for a very long time. In both usability and education, it is very important to consider all the ways in which someone can or cannot focus their limited cognitive resources, and it is our job — if we care about the user’s experience or learning — to help make good choices to support this. And ‘addictive’ tech that is based on “operant conditioning” (positive reinforcement / intermittent variable reward) is NOT about supporting cognitive resources, but about consuming those resources. The best technology would NOT be one that says, “OK you have been doing this for too long, we are shutting off now…” but would go further and give people an experience they could transfer back to the real world so that the person would make that choice for themselves, thanks to how the product and the entire user experience is designed.
A lot of times we don’t have control over the product design — the product is the product — but we can still have a LOT to do with the experience, through user manuals, videos, what we put on social media about it, user groups, etc.
Nowadays, there is a growing awareness of replicability crisis in science. It's also found in medicine and psychology that experiments cannot be reproduced on subsequent studies. Some people started to think Ego Depletion is a mistake. In this sense, how should we understand the view “Willpower and cognitive processing draw from the same pool of resources” that has been talked in Chapter 8?
There is a significant body of research on cognitive resources. Even though there is some question on replicating some of the specific “ego depletion” studies, there is no question — we believe — that the issue of cognitive resources as a limited resource is well-supported by hundreds of diverse studies. And of course each individual study is asking a very specific question, and many studies will find conflicting/opposing answers to even the same question, but we look more at a larger body of work and what do we know about limited cognitive resources. Whether the actual mechanism by which these things happen is fully understood — well, I do not think we ever will. The further science goes down the rabbit hole of understanding neurochemistry, for example, the more we realize that there is a chemical balance that we do not understand. That the same chemicals that support certain forms of learning, for example also suppress certain forms of learning, in higher amounts. Dopamine, for instance, is known to play an extremely powerful role in so much of our desire to seek out information, knowledge, learning, experiences, but too much of it can easily overwhelm or “hijack” the brain to REDUCE the amount of "novelty" and playful curiosity, and so on.
What we try to do — Bert and I — is to look across a very wide spectrum of science domains, and to draw from as much as we can. We look at this as sort of a "redundant" approach — which is what we did with the Head First principles. That we don't know for certain exactly which of the learning/psychology/motivation principles are always going to be working here, in the way we have applied them, but that we will engage as MANY different practices as we can, in hopes that at least some of them will work :)
I am very comfortable with having my own strong principles challenged and overturned as new science becomes available. It’s always painful at first — to learn that something you were using is maybe not what you thought it was and needs to change. But that is always a place of great opportunity. Because to me, if I find that something I believed in and was applying might not be true, then it means that there is an even BETTER way out there :) But it is always hard to go back to the beginning when you start working from a new approach, perspective, principles, theories, and practices. I have had to rebuild everything I believed in many many times. And each time, there was a difficult period followed by a period of, “Oh wow — this is even BETTER!!"
How to plan a bestseller (a book) according to the theory of badass user?
Ahhhh — that would be to figure out which question you are really answering. And if possible, answer a BETTER question than competitive books. For example, if competing books are answering the question, “How to make the best book?” we think that is NOT the right question, but it’s what most books are trying to answer. But there are so many better questions we could answer. For example, with Head First, we started by answering, “How can we make sure people actually LEARN from the book?” but even THAT was not the right question — because it LED us to the REAL question which was that people do not really even READ much of a technical book, and how could they learn without wanting to read the book? SO, this led us to answering our central question, “How can we get people to actually READ the book?” One thing we discovered is that most books do a good job with their content, but people just don’t want to keep reading them. So we looked at WHY are people not reading them? And this led to research on people STOPPING in a book because they keep going backwards, thinking they missed something, or they didn’t understand something, or they needed to refer back to an earlier diagram or code, or whatever. We said, “people cannot go FORWARD if they keep STOPPING or going BACKWARD”, so we answered the question, “How can we keep people always moving FORWARD in the book?”
And to answer that, we did things most people never DID in a tech book — we kept repeating examples, bringing the context forward over and over, so nobody ever felt they had to flip BACK in the book. And then we tried to make it very clear that there was no NEED for them to feel as though they missed something. We believe most people do not go forward because they are simply not SURE that they are where they should be. They don’t KNOW if they have enough understanding to keep going. We just keep trying to reassure them they are right where they need to be. We try to encourage them to KEEP TURNING THE PAGES. We studied books on screenplay writing for movies :)