November 10, 2007: Seminar: Mary Beth Rosson: When Users Do the Programming: Challenges and Opportunities for End User Software Engineering

The University of Illinois at Chicago

Department of Computer Science

2007-2008 Distinguished Lecturer Seminar Series

When Users Do the Programming: Challenges and Opportunities for End User Software Engineering

Mary Beth Rosson
Penn State University

Thursday, November 15, 2007
11:00 a.m., 1000 SEO


Over the past 25 years, user interface designers and usability engineers have studied and refined human-computer interaction techniques with the goal of improving people's productivity and experience. But the target of these efforts "the end user" is fast becoming a thing of the past. Many people now construct or extend software on their own, building artifacts that range from email filters to spreadsheet simulations to interactive web applications. These individuals are end user developers who build their own ad hoc solutions to everyday computing needs.

Will end user developers help to resolve the software crisis? Given the right tools, people may be able to rapidly develop custom solutions to a range of context-specific computing requirements, eliminating the wait for IT professionals to analyze and engineer a solution. Or are these individuals a threat to our computing infrastructure? End user developers are informal programmers with no training in software construction methods or computing paradigms. They have little intrinsic motivation to test their products for even basic concerns like correctness or safety. In this talk I argue that the transformation of end user to end user developer is well underway and discuss the prospects for maximizing the benefits to society while addressing the risks.?

Brief Bio:

Mary Beth Rosson joined Pennsylvania State University as a professor of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) in 2003. She is also an affiliate professor of Instructional Systems. Prior to joining Penn State, she was a professor of Computer Science at Virginia Tech for 10 years, and a research staff member and manager at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center for 11 years. She received a PhD in experimental psychology in 1982 from the University of Texas. Dr. Rosson is internationally known for her work in human-computer interaction, in which she has focused on methods and tools for improving the analysis, design, and evaluation of interactive systems. Recent research topics have included scenario-based development, computer-supported collaborative learning, and informal software development by end users. She is author of Usability Engineering: Scenario-Based Development of Human-Computer Interaction [Morgan Kaufmann, 2002] as well as numerous articles, book chapters, and tutorials. She has also served in many professional leadership roles, including as conference chair for CHI 2007, the annual conference of ACM SIGCHI. More information is available at

Host: Professor Tom Moher

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