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Don't Get Burned By Bad Citations. Posted on 05/25/2002.

In the latest Cooper newsletter is an essay by Wayne Greenwood, "Don't Get Burned By Bad Mapping", which begins with a lengthy discussion of how stove dials often don't intuitively relate to the burners they're meant to control. It's a good example of "bad mapping". Unfortunately, it's also someone else's example. This is the classic example from Donald Norman's Design of Everyday Things, probably the most influential text in the practice of user-centered design.

Now, in the 7th paragraph, Wayne cites Don, but only for the concept of "natural mapping." There's no acknowledgement that the prior 6 paragraphs were pretty much lifted from Don's book. The newsletter's audience, which is probably possible clients, are lead to believe the stove example is Wayne's own.

This is sloppy work, particularly with a text this well-known. And it casts a pall over the rest of the essay, which, while valid, is tainted by this muddled scholarship.

Don's stove example was used to good effect in this article on the infamous Florida ballot.

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That's a real shame. I bet that one of the newslettter's main audiences is actually people like us: other designers who will immediately recognize the source of the example as Norman's.
Posted by Andrew @ 05/28/2002 12:41 AM PST [link to this comment]

Sure, from the perspective of an interface designer talking about mapping you should refer to Donald Norman's example, but the way you put it here, the stove dials are monopolized as a concept. As a product designer making "real" objects I feel no obligation to refer to Don when I talk about my physical product interfaces refer to the stove configurations. Though I keep Donald Norman in hig regards, I don't want him to take all our work (yes the stove with its problems is the work of product designers) and make it his intellectual property. Neither would he.
Posted by Ianus Keller @ 05/28/2002 02:18 AM PST [link to this comment]

No, the stovetop design is not Norman's intellectual property, nor is using it as an example. This isn't about intellectual property, it's about standard citation practice for professional writers.

Peter's point here (which maybe ex-academics feel more strongly than others) is that the problem is Greenwood's *obviously* using it directly out of Norman's book without even saying "this example, made famous by Don Norman in POET/DOET....."

If I'd done this in school it would be called plagarism.
Posted by Andrew @ 05/29/2002 02:27 AM PST [link to this comment]

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