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Hi! My name is John F. ("Jeff") Kelley, Ph.D., CPE.

Personal Stuff

Aside from family and job, my interests are: a capella vocals and theater, choral conducting, writing of poetry, sailing, carpentry, motorcycling, to list a few. I have also been captain of a co-ed corporate softball team (in which capacity, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek training memo entitled Zen of Softball). I was recently licensed in New York State as an EMT-D and was a "probie" with the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department. Check out the KeeneFest link for news about a choral/conductor's workshop I am involved in! (I am Chair and Webmaster for The Dennis Keene Choral Festival, Inc, a not-for-profit corporation.) I also sing tenor in (and am past-president of) an a capella chamber ensemble called Charis Chamber Voices. We perform in Westchester and Manhattan and, I'm pleased to report, we recently finished recording our second CD! (which, you might be interested to know is available for sale -- or audio preview -- on the web: From Sorrow Free.)

I have also performed various roles in community theater: Bumble in Oliver, Max Detweiler in Sound of Music, Mr. MacLaren (and assistant director) in Brigadoon, Smith the Warden in 3-Penny Opera, to name a few.

Apropos of nothing, my sister, Casey, decided at the age of 39 that she wanted to take up bicycling; when she was 42, she won the women's division of the Race Across America. This is a grueling 10-day ride across the country with little opportunity for sleep (maybe 4 hours a night).

Professional Stuff

As you can see by my my resumé, I am, by profession, a CPE (board-Certified Professional Ergonomist). (Or, if you prefer: Certifiable Professional Ergonomist!) Other terms include Engineering Psychologist or Human Factors engineer (I coined the term Psycho-Ergonomist, but I'm not sure that conjures up quite the image I'd like!). I've also just been elected as Fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and have just concluded a 3-year stint as Editor of the journal Ergonomics in Design (check out my Editor Columns).

I got my Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University where my dissertation advisor was Professor Alphonse Chapanis (whom I have always called the "Godfather of Human Factors"). Aside from a fellowship from the National Institutes of Mental Health, I also worked during graduate school as a psychology instructor at Towson State University. For my dissertation, I built a small computer calendaring program that was able to "understand" up to 97% of the natural language queries that were typed into it by normal people who walked in right off the street. Even today, a lot of computer scientists working on natural language software just don't get that. (The secret is: limited context and cost-efficient empirical grammar design...but keep it under your hat.) While working on that project, I coined the term "Wizard of Oz Paradigm" to explain the way it worked: the experimenter was in another room (behind a curtain, as it were), "helping" the computer to "understand" the inputs during the early phase of the design, before all the empirically-derived grammar was in place (later on, the computer could "understand" the inputs without help). This term is widely used in the field today, though few, if any, of the scientists who use the term know the original definition of the acronym: "Offline Zero". If you think you're going to meet someone who does this kind of research, send me an e-mail and I'll explain what that means and you can really impress them when they mention their "Wizard of Oz" experiments and you tell them something they didn't know!

From 1982 through 2000, I worked at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, NY. My group put the Guest Services Kiosk system in place at the Expo '92 World's Fair in Seville Spain; over 15 million users signed on during the fair. For that project, we won the Alexander C. Williams Award for "Outstanding human factors contributions to a major, operational system" from HFES, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. I got to demonstrate Expo '92 to Senator John Glenn at the World Summit on Trade Efficiency in Chicago, IL.

I am currently Chair of the Technical Program Committee for HFES and am Webmaster (and outgoing chair) for the Computer Systems Technical Group of HFES.

My group at IBM also did the visitor information kiosks that are spread throughout the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. My primary responsibilities included the ergonomic/engineering/aesthetic design of the physical kiosks themselves as well as the printing and floor-plan subsystems. I have won several awards from IBM for my various projects, including my patent portfolio.

I have just taken on an assignment as a Human Factors Consultant to IBM's Usability Engineering Practice. My first project is to be User Centered Design team lead on a significant project to build a website for a major global corporation.

One way to describe what my teams have done is what we call "Human Factors Research in the Marketplace". We have a lot of ideas in my department at IBM about how to do that. I published a paper about it in 1996 called Extending User-Centered Methods Beyond Interface Design to Functional Defintion. This paper caused some controversy when I presented it at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society conference because in it, I mentioned that our development group doesn't begin a software development project by writing a big document called an Interface Design Specification, and we also don't write another big document called a Functional Specification. Instead, we just build a small sample of the actual computer application and we embody our emerging ideas about interface and functional design right into the program itself. Then, as we get feedback from our actual users, we just keep adding and modifying until we end up with a software application that does the job. This is upsetting to a lot of folks because they like writing and reviewing and re-writing big documents that explain, in black and white, everything that anyone will ever need to know about an application (if the application ever gets built). My position was that this specification writing becomes a process about the process of writing and editing big documents and not about building some software to help folks with particular problems to solve. (This was a hard lesson for me to learn, because I personally like writing big documents and discussing them in meetings with my colleagues!)

P.S. In case you are interested on how research papers really get written, check out the Glossary for Research Papers.

In my "spare time" (ouch), I also volunteer as a firefighter and EMT on the IBM Emergency Response Team (ERT) at the T.J. Watson Research Center. ERT firefighters get two days of training every year on how to stumble around spraying hoses in a smoky room with a Scott air pack and 25 pounds of fire-retardant clothing and try not to incinerate ourselves or get in the way when the real firemen show up. That was so rewarding that I ended up joining the Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department and had a very interesting time on my first two fire calls!

In 1999, I was given the Safety Spotlight Award for this volunteer work at IBM.

Quite unrelated to my work in Human Factors, I have just been granted a patent for an ice tray you can use in your freezer at home that will produce clear, dense, "professional" quality ice, just like you find in finer restaurants and bars; this ice looks better, lasts longer, and doesn't melt all those freezer odors into your drink. If you are or know a plastics manufacturer or someone at Lillian Vernon or Sharper Image, you might want to have them give me a call!

My 15 minutes of fame: Eric Gross just did a feature story on me, relative to my ice tray patent, for the Putnam County Courier; zowie -- the picture turned out great -- melting ice dripping down my arm and everything!

Beyond the work I am doing at IBM, I also enjoy hacking together webpages in my spare time. Here are a few recent links of mine...

This page is under construction. Please come back soon and visit me.

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