A Micro History in Hyderabad

Hema Malini Waghray or Malini is the principal investigator for the archival research project about  the Brahma Kshatriya Community (BKC) of Hyderabad. It is one of the thriving communities, and one that has managed to preserve its identity for centuries in the diverse religious and ethnic landscape of Charminar, the Old City and new Hyderabad and is a progressive one to the present day. Primarily employed in the bureaucracy of the erstwhile Nizam, the monarch of Hyderabad State, (in southern India/Deccan) in the professions of medicine, law, banking, and education in the pre- and post-independence India, the community has expanded its presence primarily in Hyderabad but also outside of it. As a community before, during and after independence, it had and still has progressive ideals of supporting education, going beyond traditions to strictly enforce the abolishment of the marriage dowry and thriving in the geography that was not fully home to them. The Brahma Kshatriya Community was a group of 200+ families that came together in the mid 1700s and set up a formal structure to associate with each other and live together. In the background to their lives is the notion of nation building, modernity and an overall progressive outlook that came to lay the foundations of what the community is today.

Why the Brahma Kshatriya Community and why now?
One reason to study the BK Community is to highlight the people’s perspective of history.
That history up to now has been written top-down by those wielding power, whether
economic, cultural, social or political and has been limited to books. Experiences drawn
from common people provide insight to the real struggle and overcoming of the social
and political challenges that a community has faced.

I propose to do this research interviewing members past 80 years of age and have been born and raised in the Old City of Hyderabad. Recording oral histories of ordinary people and their day-to-day lives as it existed back in the day enriches the understanding of the community and its history.

The outcome will be a digital/multi-media collection will be compiled as an exhibit at local cultural institutions in Hyderabad.

Choosing Wellness

In 2015 I was diagnosed with having a 5.6 on my a1c level and an appointment with my primary care physician did not go well. I remember, she quickly went down a list of dos and don’ts, asking me to give up a lot of stuff/ food but also making me feel utterly helpless and ashamed of not being in control of my health. I was at another job but my work on Choosing Wellness started back then when I downloaded My Fitness Pal. I beat down my a1c without medicine but by managing my food habits but my stressors didn’t go away. The Fitness App became a ruse to exercise but it did not help me.

At this time I was also approached by the business stakeholders at Choosing Wellness to set up the site from scratch. I explored the various ways to doing it and this research has lead to what it is today. The initial site set up worked out with the engineers at WordPress, followed by my work to bring in writers, to do 1:1 meetings, to talk about what this work encompasses and bring it to the people. The most satisfying part is when the writers agree to this and submit their bios. The articles come right after!

As part of my user research, I realized I was also a subject-user where I was doing a study on myself. I used My Fitness Pal, 7-minute workout, Fooducate, iPhone health-app, U-Biome, 3TandAi in an effort to log and use the devices to keep things in check, failing along the way. In retrospect, this was changing my lifestyle way too much and I struggled with that.

I explored how physical health is connected to a family, a school and the larger community but also to the planet as a whole. Sociology as my primary source of knowing the world thus became about looking at wellness in a holistic manner- individual, family, schools, community, planet, all of which I think are connected. I wanted to approach the users of wellness, the people to share their stories and Choosing Wellness does that.

Issues that trouble us, make us wonder what is the right thing to do and what is the right way to think about an issue- gender equity, traditional forms of ways of life, LGBTQ rights,  the minimum wage workers and those below the poverty levels or the economically and socially disadvantaged segment of the population.

Choosing Wellness is about sharing the people’s wellness stories- about physical health, but simultaneously social and psychological wellbeing, about a community’s health. It is a way to navigate these issues and make sense of them through the stories and experiences of individuals.

I believe that the one-size-fits-all model doesn’t work. The struggles related to health have nuances that a simple usability test may not reveal. People learn from stories of others’ struggles the types of problems that they faced, the interventions that were utilized and the outcomes and overcoming of problems. This is what I am making an effort with CW.

Research on employment in Princeton area

There was a blackbox that needed to be unearthed before the job search app began. It came out of the user need to fill the gap for the low-wage work force in Princeton. Combining disparate elements of the ongoing employment efforts underway by many agencies in the area was a task in itself. Some of the work that is happening on unemployment, job-search and job readiness around town is listed below.

I first met with Elisa Niera of Princeton Township Human Services whose work dissects across various income levels for employment. She was the key figure providing the following details.
1. Latinos in Progress had a point of contact- Nina Lovado.
2. Committed and Faithful Princetonians (YMCA) (POC: Larry Sprull and Fern Sprull), mostly work is with African American populace.
3. Elisa Niera working with Stonehill Church- a non-denominational church with skilled patrons who are participating in a mentoring pilot program for job-readiness. December 19 is the 1:1 workshop/pilot and it caters to skilled workers. Niera works with GA (general assistance) and TANF (temporary assistance to needy families) folks to bring them into the workforce.
4. Library itself has programs for employment in terms of resume building, interview prep and mostly catering to white collar jobs.
5. Princeton University- POC is Christine Applegate is the Director of Community and Regional Affairs. She is always looking to engage with the community and this might be something that the university might be willing to take on.Continue reading “Research on employment in Princeton area”

Landing page- bike view

The location for this prototype was the bike view front page showcasing how the first page. This signifies the most critical aspects of what the users would like to look at based on their feedback after usability testing was done.

The application is able to use real time data from the NJ DOT dashboard and provide location insights about accidents, weather conditions and updates from Mercer county and the Princeton police.

Full stack developer projects

Hema’s skill profile also includes  HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Bootstrap, Materialize, FireBase, GitHub, Terminal/Bash, Heroku.

She is currently working with a healthcare startup preparing website launch on AWS, front end work, API pulls for a user base concerned with healthy living.

A sample of her projects is listed below with links to GitHub for code and Heroku.

  1. Bootstrap  HTML, CSS sample
  2. Using Firebase for data and HTML
  3. JavaScript and npm modules
  4. NodeJS 

 

Mary jacobs library: a note

The Mary Jacobs Library Foundation works to find financial and community support for the Mary Jacobs Library, situated in Montgomery Township, New Jersey. “The Foundation’s mission is to provide a library building for the community. We strive to maintain an innovative, safe and welcoming environment that inspires learning, advancing technology and cultural engagement in the community.” I created a review document for the purpose of understanding and clarifying some ideas for the foundation. The research was drawn primarily from my long-standing association with the library while fundraising for Ootsav; the notes from a meeting and discussions with board members.Continue reading “Mary jacobs library: a note”

A first step

Until now the work that I did has been about creating prototypes for developers as a product of my user experience research. I love working with people, understanding their contexts and listening to their stories (demographics and the sociologically significant data). Giving this sociological perspective to the stories has been the process I followed.  In the past, I have interviewed bikers, job-seekers, administrators, patients to understand their user pain points. I study their specific context, look into the related stories in other demographics, look at other societal contexts to understand how things are different and if there is options of adaptability in the current context. A contextual review, a heuristic analysis, a comparative assessment and data analysis is what is required to get to the pain point.

The work I do is possible due to an immediate empathy that I am able to advance to a context. I put myself in the users shoes then calculate and assess what their story looks like in terms of technology, time, need and usage. I then find what’s lacking in the context of an interface and a design and take it from there. To me clients/users are people first, always!

Some of the outcomes I provide are personas, journey maps and solution prototypes to developers. These days however, fixing the problems with technology is a way I do it. I went back to school to learn to code and I am loving every minute of it.

My background always had development tools but I am now a certified developer.

User testing for bike view

BikeView.org

The landing page for the page BikeView.org is the first impression that is created and it is what will stay in the users’ mind. It needs to convey the objective which is really tied in with people USING the website. We have a host of people who will use the site- municipality, police officers, researchers, public, planners etc. But our one key user has been the BIKER -all else being the additional beneficiaries.
The objective is to focus around the need that the user wants to satisfy and the action we want users to take. Addressing just one important aspect of the biker is a good way to bring sharper focus to our work.Continue reading “User testing for bike view”

UX research for bike view: New Jersey department of transportation crash data

The Bike View website/app came out of data analysis work at Code for Princeton on New Jersey Department of Transportation Crash Data. In order to use the data further, the Princeton Bike and Pedestrian Alliance member came forward with an idea to use Bike Crash data. Experienced bikers in the Princeton area were able to help out. The user stories are structured around the following questions that users were queried around.

  1. What kind of App do you want? What feature is most important to the bicyclists?
  2. As a bicyclist, what problem do you want addressed? What is your main concern?
  3. What process or program can be made better with technology?
  4. What do you currently use in terms of an app or a website?

Users can be put into two categories from our sample- all weather bicyclists and those who bike only in warm weather. The ones who bike in all weathers know all the rules and bike on pretty much all lanes- even Rt. 206. Those who bike in warm weather do so on the safe routes that they have explored- which is all roads away from Nassau Street. Following are the user feedback:Continue reading “UX research for bike view: New Jersey department of transportation crash data”