January 23rd, 2012


This Isn't Really Working For Me - 1: The Microwave

This is the first of what will be an ongoing series of posts necessitated by my "User Interface Design and Development" course.

Frigidaire microwave - Photo by Shirley MacClure

This is my grandmother's Frigidaire microwave. She has trouble setting it because she finds the button layout confusing. Or at least she did when she first got it - she's remarkably adaptable.

One problem is if she wanted, say, "1 minute 30 seconds", she'd push the 1 but if she didn't get on to the next number (3) quickly enough, the microwave was like, "Oh, easy set!" and went on for one minute.

Another problem is that it's not clear at a glance whether one should enter the power level first or the cooking time first.

My grandmother's previous microwave had a dial to set the cooking time. She much preferred it. Naturally, it broke, and there were no more microwaves with dials available when she needed to get a new one. If I were designing a microwave right now, I'd centre it around a dial but also include a LED and a digital power level selector that defaults to "HIGH / 100%" so that the complexity is there if you need it but otherwise it's entirely optional.
long beard

NHL Playoff Seeding and Structure Idea

Ah, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs - my favourite half of the year!

By now you're probably aware of the proposal to move from a two-conference system to a four-division system, and also that they won't be doing it for next season (2012-13), but it could still happen for the following year (2013-14). (Here's a cool map of the proposed alignment.)

Ideally, there would be 32 teams, and I wouldn't be surprised if:
- They expand to Seattle and Quebec City.
- They move Phoenix to Hamilton.
Or some combination of the above. I don't buy the "second team in Toronto" thing unless they want to share the Air Canada Centre. Remember when Jim Balsillie came within a hairsbreadth of making Hamilton a reality? It could still happen, though I wouldn't advise any breath-holding.

So let's say they have 32 teams as that's much neater. Then 16/32 make the playoffs. But! I would only guarantee playoff spots to the top two teams in each division. And it wouldn't be a particular seeding either, just a spot. Teams with better records than you who happen to be in third or lower in their divisions will slot in ahead of you.

Then we do the whole playoffs as a pyramid and do highest-faces-lowest every round. Home-ice advantage would go to the higher seed. Probably would stick with the current (H: high, L: low) H H L L H L H format, but H H L L L H H (like in baseball) has it's travel-reducing advantages. I think it makes home-ice a bigger deal, though.

#1 vs #16
#2 vs #15
#8 vs #9

Subsequent rounds repeat in a like fashion, with the top-seeded survivor facing the lowest-seeded survivor and so on.

Such a system would help make it so the two best teams are more likely to play for the Stanley Cup. You could have Toronto vs. Montreal with this system, even though they would be in the same division.

Alternatively, we could go with a hybrid system (we all love that word "hybrid"!) where the first round is #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3 in each division, definitely including a CFL-like crossover rule where #5 or lower teams with unambiguously better records (unambiguously as in not tied for points*) can steal those #4 slots and play as if they were a member of that division.

Then after that first round, the survivors are regrouped by regular season record:

#1 of survivors vs #8 of survivors
#2 of survivors vs #7 of survivors
#3 of survivors vs #6 of survivors
#4 of survivors vs #5 of survivors

similar to the first system, repeating in a like fashion. The hybrid system has the advantage of encouraging divisional rivalries while still making it possible for the two best teams to meet for the Cup.

* - Bob McCown: "In the NHL, they give points for attendance!" That might need a re-think, too. I like shootouts, but perhaps winning them should only be worth an extra half-point.