Page 94



H4. Working Annotations Knowledge workers’ shorthand, contextual annotations can support their own recollections and other cognitive processes. Product teams can envision functionality concepts that could allow workers to record these lightweight, often private annotations in the context of specific interaction objects or functional areas.


When and where are informal, working annotations currently used in the knowledge work practices that your team is striving to meditate? How might your application concepts allow targeted workers to similarly “draw in the margins” while they work within certain onscreen displays?

This large deal could play out in a few different ways, and I want to make sure that I go down the right road...

More specific questions for product teams to consider while envisioning applications for knowledge work:

Examples from three knowledge work domains: A financial trader, while considering different possibilities for a large trade, adds some notes to the trade form that he can look at later, when he goes to execute the deal. He wants to make sure he gives each of several different scenarios a fair testing before committing to a set of terms, and his working notes allow him to keep track of different pros and cons in order to get to the best deal (see illustration). An architect, having just concluded a brief client meeting, wants to make some quick notes in her building modeling application. She switches to the floor plan view of the project’s file and adds a number of vague, private, reminders on building elements that require her attention.

Which workplace locations or artifacts do targeted individuals currently apply informal, offloading annotations to as part of their work practices?

Financial Trader

Are working notes relatively static or are they iteratively placed and revised?

So I’m tes�ng out different possibili�es...

A scientist is planning a new round of experiments for a clinical study. As she thinks through the changes that she would like to make based on the outcomes of a previous round of experiments, she adds some quick notes to a number of standard templates in her lab’s information management application. In variable, interrupted (D5), and emergent (A6) tasks or larger activities, individual knowledge workers may face some difficulty in keeping track of their own thoughts and actions. To help counter these burdens, workers may opportunistically create lightweight annotations that offload the effort of remembering their plans and situated interactions (E1, E2). These lightweight annotations can effectively tie recorded “work about the work” to specific artifacts in the annotator’s practice. Although such notes may be seen within a circle of colleagues, the shorthand of working annotations may not contain fully formed ideas that are intended for outside interpretation (J1, J5). Product teams can envision functional support for working annotations as textual notes, onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attachments, links, and other options. They can also consider how these methods might come across as lightweight and informative rather than binding declarations. When product teams do not actively consider functionality concepts for informal, personal annotations, resulting applications may drive workers to turn to outside annotation methods such as marking up printouts (J7), notepads, or other media. Individuals may find integrating these outside annotations back into their work within a computing tool to be difficult (I) and time consuming (D3, D4). Conversely, in some knowledge work domains, working annotations may be better supported outside of interactive applications. Offline methods can provide certain affordances and a level of expressiveness that workers may find preferable to the options that are available in contemporary personal computing. See Also: A, B2, B6, H, J1, I7

What role do these annotations play in workers’ individual and collaborative mental efforts? What value do they provide?

Do relatively long lasting private annotations sometimes become public communications over time? What do workers think of outside viewers seeing their working notes? Which areas of your team’s application concepts could be used in activity contexts with high levels of cognitive burden? How might users offload some of those burdens by taking advantage of direct, lightweight annotation options? Which areas of your proposed computing tool are tied to time consuming activities where it is likely that workers will be substantially interrupted from their mental flows? How might they mark their place by using annotation functionality?

And as I try them out, I’m wri�ng some notes to myself. It’s good to have them in the form in case I get called away to make some other deal...

What methods of annotation could be appropriate within your team’s sketched functionality concepts, based on characterized offloading goals? Might textual notes, onscreen drawings, standardized categorical facets, attachments, or links be useful? How could your sketched representations of working annotations contextually tie them to their onscreen subjects? Who should be able to view whose notes, based on their permissions within your computing tool? What useful supplemental interactivity and information might your team envision around various working annotations? For example, should workers be able to check off completed notes or set durations after which their notes will fade from prominence?

These notes will help me remember in the end which approach is best... I can get rid of them whenever I want, so other people in our firm don’t have to look at them...

How might your team’s support for working annotations relate to your functionality concepts for automated historical records and versions? Do you have enough information to usefully answer these and other envisioning questions? What additional research, problem space models, and design concepting could valuably inform your team’s application envisioning efforts?

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...