Mapping OER with Wikimedia

Final conference – photo by Ben Bernhard – Mapping OER – Bildungsmaterialien gemeinsam gestalten, CC BY 4.0, Link

What are  opportunities of Open Educational Ressources and how can we map the various efforts, projects, groups, together with the vivid and diverse community so that the community can coordinate their efforts and funding gets funneled effectively?


Learning has always been a dynamic process as knowledge & methods evolve but also as the motivations and needs of learners vary. For centralized solutions with tight copyright, producing such a high diversity of material is just too expensive. Open Educational Ressources, in contrast, offer material editable by teachers and pupils, material that can be expanded and re-mixed (5r of open material).

But they also come with new questions: How can I evaluate quality? Can I rely on proper licensing? What training is helpful to work with open ressources? And, of course, how can appropriate business models allow for sustainable and professional services?

OER are today driven by a diverse community of practioners, researchers, and activists, including some positions in official administration. Knowledge, questions, and positions are equally diverse.


Working as a close team with Wikimedia, we developed a series of expert workshops around these four focus questions, and a final conference for about 200 people. While Wikimedia provided domain knowledge and was in touch with the community, we brought in our knowledge of methods for engaging multi-stakeholder workshops.

Each workshop collected existing experiences, moved on to needs and gaps the participants sensed. Dedicated input on technology or legal issues made everyone aware of constraints. All of this served as input for ideation sessions in small teams. The group as review body provided immediate feedback for  further refinement of the proposals. Plenary discussions, brainstormings, individual focused work, and guided analysis sessions in small groups supported a high level of activity and fostered exchange among the the participants.


Initially, we planned the workshops meticulously in activity and timing. We soon found out that all participants were highly self-motivated and that the groups were very good in self-organizing and following their own pace to be most productive. “Lateral guidance” was a true difference to strong structure and motivation that we often need to provide in corporate workshops.

Looking at OER themselves, I realized that it isn’t about ressources alone but about a different approach to learning (and teaching and schools in consequence). More self-driven and peer-based, more exploratory, more open ended. “Don’t call it education” as André Knörig of Fritzing put it: At Fritzing, people find inspiration. They gather knowledge as a means to build cool stuff.


Firefox OS privacy controls

5 key privacy features of FirefoxOS in an overview

Mozilla teamed up with Telekom Innovation Labs and IXDS to develop an introduction tour and control interface for the remarkable privacy features of their novel Firefox OS. This operating system is meant for entry level phones in emerging markets, where Mozilla sees the chance and the necessity to empower users for a safe journey into the mobile web.


For any user, but especially for these potential “newbies”, privacy and security need good explanation and motivation: security risks can be distant and vague and technical backgrounds can feel intimidating. At the same time, users are usually up for something else than privacy, such as setting up their phone to make the first call. “Respect my task & time”, how Larissa Co brings it to the point in her excellent talk. (yes, we need to face it: taking care of privacy and security is on no ones todo list and is usually not “productive” per se.)


We approached this UX challenge by strictly limiting topcis and features, using short and fresh explanations, and carefully drawn illustrations. To arrive there, we initiated co-creative workshops with users, Mozilla, and Telekom Group Privacy. We also worked very closely with the respective tech teams to make sure our ideas would make it into reality. We could build on IXDS user research knowledge on privacy and identity from previous projects and from Mozilla’s research team.
Mozilla does not rely on the exploitation of private data (e.g., for targeted marketing) and therefore is a trustworthy broker for the user. They can offer features like granualar permissions (in Android only very briefly in 4.3 / 2013 in the Cyanogen Custom ROM) or blurred location tracking.

The results were also presented at the W3C workshop on usable privacy controls (Berlin, 2014).

  • Early sketches from a workshop to find the best approach for the privacy tour.


During the highly playful workshops, the participants produced some really entertaining and insightful explanations on privacy topcis, e.g. a role playing video in the style of a Kids TV series to explain email encryption. This shows how important it is to move privacy questions out of their dry and defensive atmosphere and give more personal, active, and playful answers.

It also helps to be very clear about your target groups. Only few activists will accept harsh security and privacy settings to really protect them, even against more targeted attacks. Regular users see their benefit in more peace of mind and a sense of control over their data but it must be balanced with the general comfort and user experience.

Note: The Privacy Dashboard and the included Guided Tour are also scientifically evaluated in Piekarska et al (2015): Because We Care. Privacy Dashboard on Firefox OS.


PixelCarpet paper accepted!

A while ago, I got the opportunity to take part in a large, EU-wide research project on computer network security and data visualization. The goal of SASER is to lay the foundation for more reliable, efficient, and secure communication networks (I guess the recent revelations about the NSA infiltration might have played a role in the decision to work with substantial effort inside the EU on advanced networks).

Our part as a team of researchers at the Interaction Design Lab at FH Potsdam was to investigate data visualization, visual analysis tools, and dashboards as a support for computer security engineers. While watching traffic and server activity, they often have to sift through loads of data to filter out the suspicious traces of attacks and other malicious activity. Data visualization would certainly help them exploring data, especially bringing patterns to the light that they would have not expected (and therefore wouldn’t have looked for with their data mining tools).

We wrote a paper about our work and one of the resulting demonstrators (which we call Pixel Carpet) – it now got accepted to the IEEE VAST conference in Paris! (yeah!)

The following brief overview is taken from our team’s website, complexdatavisualized.

It builds on the observation that security engineers know their data and the requirements of their work very well. However, they might not be acquainted with advanced visualization techniques. Visualization researchers, on the other hand, know methods to visualize and analyze data but usually lack insight into the specific requirements of computer network security. The paper revolves around two main contributions:

  • results and learnings from a co-creative approach of jointly developing visualizations
  • a pixel oriented visualization technique that graphically represents multi-dimensional data sets (such as computer log files), reflecting ideas from the collaboration

You can get and read the full paper here:

Landstorfer, Herrmann, Stange, Dörk, Wettach (2014): Weaving a Carpet from Log Entries: a Network Security Visualization Built with Co-Creation. in Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST), 2014 IEEE Conference on, 2014 (to appear)
at 27MB or a smaller file (4 MB) without embedded video.


Co-creative Approach

User centered approaches are well known in the visualization community (although not always implemented) [D’Amico et al. 2005, Munzner et al. 2009]. Jointly developing the visualizations themselves, however, is rather rare. As we have very good experience with co-creative techniques in design and innovation, we wanted to apply them to the domain of data visualization as well. For example, we tried to experiment with data sets during a day-long workshop with a larger group of stakeholders (a session we called the “data picnic” because everyone brought his/her data and tools).


For this paper, we focused on a pixel oriented technique [Keim 2000] to fullfill requirements such as visualization of raw data or a chronological view of data to preserve the course of events. We stack graphical representations for various parameters of a log line (such as IP, user name, request or message) so that we get small columns for each log line. Lining up these stacks produces a dense visual representation with distinct patterns. This is why we call it the Pixel Carpet. Other subgroups of our research group took different approaches that can be found at other places in this blog.


Snapshot of the Pixel Carpet interface. Each “multi pixel” represents one log line, as it a appears at the bottom of the screen.

Data and Code

Our data sources included an ssh log (~13.000 lines, unpublished for privacy reasons) and an Apache (web server) access log (~145.000 lines, unpublished), and ~4.500 lines (raw data available, including countries from ip2geo .csv | .json ).

We implemented our ideas in a demonstrator in plain HTML/JavaScript (demo online – caution, will heavily stress your CPU). It helped us iterate quickly and evaluate the idea at various stages, also with new stakeholders. While the code achieves what we need, we are also aware that computing performance is rather bad. If you want to take a look or even improve it, you can find it on github.

To bring it closer to a productive tool, we would turn the Pixel Carpet into a plugin for state-of-the-art data processing engines such as ElasticSearch/Kibana or splunk (scriptable with d3.js since version 6).



Breadboard view of Fritzing (more recent version)

Fritzing is an electronic circuit design software focused on makers and enthusiasts, rather than engineers. For this, it takes special care to explain electronic circuits and to make them accessible, e.g. by a dedicated view that reflects the physical appearance of electronic parts. At the same time, it contains everything to design and document a full project and make it production ready.

Initiated at FH Potsdam (Reto Wettach & André Knörig), it was built for but also heavily with the maker community. Its open file format allows easy documentation and sharing of electronic projects, enabling and boosting open source in the hardware area. It’s widely used in the community for presenting open source projects, for feedback, and for learning.

I contributed as a UX and visual designer, mostly in the area of the “Parts Editor”, that helps users modify or create parts, modify their internal logic such as connection points to wires, and provides a taxonomy for the parts library. I also explored user interfaces for potential new features, such as electrical rules checking.

  • Parts Editor: Error messages for connectors

Remarks on Service Design

You can even order a professionally produced circuit board from within the application. This is a remarkable feature from an interface and service design perspective: From the user’s design, the software creates the necessary production files, shows prices directly within the app, collects information for shipping, and sends everything to a factory. The user doesn’t have to deal with file formats, production standards, researching a production facility, or negotiating contracts. All of this is taken care of through the application and the Fritzing Fab server. Considerable technical and commercial coordination has to be negotiated and operational in the background but it doesn’t come to the user’s attention.

Besides its merrits for advancing the open source ideas in the hardware sector, Fritzing has also explored a number of business models around an open source core software.


Buddyguard on Stage

buddyshow teaser

Finally, my studies at FH Potsdam come to an end. I will give the presentation of my Master’s Thesis and projects on

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 15 h
in the FH Potsdam Casino.

It has been a tough time untill my book went into press and I’m still quite busy preparing a decent show for you. But, hopefully, you will enjoy it and I will succeed in gaining a proud and honourful Master’s degree.

Buddyguard is helping me with making up a proper guestlist. But you are invited now already, as a reader of my blog!


Social Button – my first paper on stage

The paper Larissa and me wrote a couple of months ago got finally accepted at the NGMAST conference in Wales this September! This is pretty exciting news, it’s my/our first step into the serious (official?) world of science.

The full title reads

Social Button – Mobile Technology Supporting Social Interaction.

Our project is about a small wearable display with a pin, that can be attached to your clothes. It gets your address book from your mobile phone and checks for matching entries on other SocialButtons that might be in the area. The Buttons indicate a match by displaying each participants personal symbol – a twist, that makes it much easier to find others and protect your privacy at the same time. Larissa’s animation explanes it far better:

So we went to the wonderful city of Cardiff (Wales, UK) some weeks ago to present our work. We got very encouraging feedback and some helpful critique there, and had some interesting face-to-face talks in the City Hall where conference took place. (Our slides come in at 8MB)

The city of Cardiff

NGMAST was the first conference on “Next Generation Mobile Applications, Services, and Technologies”, so it was rather tiny (compared to the very well known ones), but also quite personal, with a very warm chair, and easy to get in contact with the other participants.

With this event it became clear that our idea is promising yet only partially finished – so we are open for your comments!

(There is also a corresponding workspace at our University’s site for internal communication, incom)


Inbox Expo

discussing art people

at the exhibition of inbox artspace



diplomausstellung - Plakatausschnitt
Endlich ist es wieder soweit: Die Absolventen in Mannheim stellen aus. Nach einer längeren Pause installieren sie zum Sommersemester 06 die Ausstellung wieder als wichtige Veranstaltung. Die Studenten können sehen, was letztendlich aus ihrem Studium werden kann, händeringend nachwuchs-suchende Personalchefs finden frische Ideen auf dem Präsentierteller – und die Absolventen wollen ihre Arbeit natürlich auch nicht für die Schublade produziert haben.



Meine charakteristische Neugier bezieht sich nicht nur auf das Geschehen in meiner Umgebung, sondern auch auf das, was dahinter steckt. Beides erachte ich als entscheidend für mein Selbstverständnis als Designer


emotisys das diplom

emotisys verschoben
emotional interfaces – Warum wir Menschen den Maschinen näher stehen als wir denken

Je menschlicher der Computer sich äußert, desto einfacher werden wir mit ihm zurechtkommen. Der Kanal für Emotionen ist wegen des sozialen Charakters der Interaktion dabei ohnehin geöffnet, so dass sich eine sehr gute Möglichkeit bietet, auf mehr Ebenen als im bisherigen Interface-Design (absichtlich) zu kommunizieren: Wir müssen dem Computer nur Emotionen verleihen, bzw. sie ihn glaubhaft simulieren lassen. Der Mensch kann solche Informationen ohne Anstrengung, eben intuitiv, verarbeiten.

. . . . .