A Canadian in Berlin

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. – Einstein”

Read this first

John Ware, Canada’s Legendary Cowboy (1845-1905)

When I was a teenager, I heard the call “Go West Young Man”.

And so I did.

Source: Bernie/Flickr

From 1977 to 1979, I had the privilege of living in Calgary, Alberta during its boom years. The city was thriving. Everything was possible. It was like magic to me. I had never seen real mountains. I had never seen a sky as blue and never-ending as I saw there. And I had never experienced how vast and awesome Canada really is. It was a formative moment for me moving from suburban Toronto to the wild west of Calgary. Well, it wasn’t that wild. But it was new and wonderful for me.

During part of that time, I stayed in a rooming house belonging to a very kind elderly woman who rented out rooms for students attending a nearby community college.

Miss Janet (Nettie) Ware

Her best friend was a woman by the name of Janet (Nettie) Ware, the daughter of Canada’s most legendary cowboy - John...

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Another fun graphic using Illustrator - with a message

Here is another graphic I did with Illustrator.


Copyright © Glenn J. Lea 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

What’s it all about? I did this graphic over 20 years ago, yet it seems so relevant, if not more so, today.

Greed out of hand?

Seems greed and wanton lust for cash has gotten a bit out of hand these past 20 years of economic growth. As much as I wish it not to happen, I see foreboding clouds of an economic bubble about to burst. Housing prices have gotten out of hand in many cities in North America and Europe. Wages have stagnated for years. The stock market has continued to roar into the stratosphere with many companies making little or no profits yet whose stock prices are astronomical.

Stagnant Salaries and rising cost of living

Young people out of university with amazing degrees in technology and engineering work for great salaries, yet they need to share apartments to...

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Fun with Adobe Illustrator

Somewhere hidden deep inside me is an illustrator waiting to come out. Here is an illustration I made with Adobe Illustrator, about 20 years ago. I took some courses on graphics design. The can of coke on my desk looked like a great challenge to draw, and here is the results.


Copyright © Glenn J. Lea 2018-2019. All rights reserved.

It isn’t an exact copy of the can of coca cola. I spent hours looking at a can in front of my keyboard and recreated the font, the lines, the artwork using Adobe Illustrator. I changed the colours somewhat, just for fun.

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Human Factors and Daily Life

What is “Human Factors”

I define it as the analysis of the cognitive processes people experience when interacting with their environment, whether it be machines (such as computer programs) or processes (such as assembling a Billy shelf from IKEA). It is often an engineering discipline, such as Human Factors Engineering, but as I have learned, its mandate spans a wide range of disciplines, including technical documentation. Human Factors essentially attempts to make something usable.

Example from everyday life - a traffic intersection, or junction

First, some statistics. According to official EU statistics, see Traffic Safety, Basic Facts, in 2017, approximately 5000 people were killed at traffic intersections, or Junctions. Both Germany and the UK reported higher than EU average deaths at Junctions. Looking specifically at pedestrians, during 2015 the year at which statistics are...

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Human Factors Primer

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of usability in traffic intersection design and how this fits nicely into producing good quality documentation. In this post in the series, I provide a quick primer in Human Factors. I use the example from my last post. If you have not read that post, I recommend doing so now before continuing.

Human Factors Primer

Here are a few on human factors issues that go into designing and developing good products:

  • Visibility of system status - the system should always keep the users informed about what is going on through appropriate feedback. With our traffic light example, the placement of the traffic lights across the intersection allow the user to be kept informed of the status of the intersection at all times.

  • Match between system and the real world - The system should speak with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, not...

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The iClay

Did you know technical writing may have had its origin in the ancient city of Babylon! Well, not really! But … you never know …

Technical Writers are Highly Skilled Professionals

In Babylon, Technical Writers were a highly skilled professional, just as they are today. To be considered a professional, these specialists required many years of training and experience in the many skills associated with producing high quality documentation. They were also a very valuable asset to any ancient organization whether run by a ruthless dictatorial king or managed by a sympathetic local governor.

Technical Writers in Babylon organized themselves into guilds. In these societies they held exclusive rights for producing documentation for the King’s court as well as for producing documentation for the general public and for commercial interests.

In those days they were not called Technical Writers...

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Usability: Intersection dead zones

I just coined a phrase, I think, for a place void of information for the user - A “Dead Zone”

How did it come about?

German Traffic Lights

In Berlin, and in Germany generally, when a user drives his or her car into an intersection to make a left turn, to turn right or to proceed straight ahead, at some point the user (driver) no longer has any status information of the state of the traffic light. How so? The traffic lights are now behind the car situated on the initial corners of the intersection. As such, if the user (driver) enters the intersection, he or she no longer is provided with any information about the state of the traffic light. Is it green still, or is it turning to yellow?

Yes, I know a little arrow is added on the far left corner to let the user know he or she can proceed to make a left turn because the oncoming traffic now has a red light, but it seems to me to be an...

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The Usability Genius of WW II Era Quonset Huts

Perhaps you have heard of the famous Quonset Hut used with great effect during World War 2 for military housing, storage, and general use? Think IKEA’s assemble-yourself products. Quonset Huts are the original assemble-yourself products named after a Military Base at Quonset Point, Rhode Island where they were designed and developed.

What is a Quonset Hut

A Quonset Hut is a lightweight structure made of a half-tube of corrugated iron sheeting assembled over a supporting lightweight structure of wood with plywood end walls. It can be assembled directly on the ground, on a concrete base or on piers depending on requirements.

According to Wikipedia, these structures were developed by the US Navy in 1941 as an all-purpose, lightweight building that could be shipped anywhere and assembled without skilled labor.

The following shows a Canadian Airbase camp in Skipton-on-Swale, UK with a...

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