Researchers at the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer
Science (ECS) and Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a computing application which
could replace the Post-It note.
dr mc schraefel (lower case international) of ECS is working with researchers
at MIT on a project that aims to see computers being as easy to use as Post-It
The researchers have developed List.It, which is a start at a lightweight interface
to do two jobs: to let people capture notes on a computer as effortlessly as
writing a sticky note, and to let the researchers get a better understanding
of how people take notes.
Office spaces adorned with sticky notes of all colours and illegibility are
very common, but the research team, led by David Karger of MIT’s CSAIL
(Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab) and by mc schraefel of the
ECS Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia group, wondered why the kinds of information-scraps
which the notes were used for were staying on paper rather than making it into
Researchers in the group, including PhD students Michael Bernstein and Max
Van Kleek, undertook a study of the use of Post-Its in an office environment
and came up with a number of reasons why the actual physical object of a sticky
note would be preferable in certain contexts to a computer program. But they
found that one of the main reasons for using Post-Its was ease of use and time
taken to make the note.
'Too often the computer gets in the way of what a person wants to do', says
Karger. 'That’s right', says schraefel; 'we can quickly jot "meeting
at 5 with Max tues" on a Post-It and the job is done; the reminder there.
'But to do this same task on a computer means opening a program, filling in
a bunch of fields in a form, navigating an interface to pick calendar dates
or time ranges to make it easy for the computer to parse what we mean,' she
'The cost of these actions can be perceived to be too high for the value of
the note. So we don’t bother; we lose stuff. We want to eliminate that
kind of interaction. Kill the form. Design software to support how we work,
rather than have us continue to work for the computer.'
The next extension of this approach will be to let people use List.It to say
things like 'Remind me about this paper the next time I’m with my boss'
and have the computer bring up that document at the right time and place. 'We
want to explore this kind of lightweight interaction as a way to get the computer
to provide more support for less effort', said schraefel.