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It took me a little while to realise that Skype has finally introduced a very useful functionality from its version 4.0 onwards – namely, you can run multiple instances of Skype at the same time. This in real terms means that you can simultaneously be logged into more than one Skype account. Why is this useful?

Dr Jekyll on SkypeMr Hyde on Skype

Skype started off for me as a fantastic solution for keeping in touch with my family and friends while living abroad. I can’t even begin to express how much easier living away from home has become, knowing that you can have endless online conversations which don’t cost you a penny. With the popularisation of webcams one can feel even closer and keep up with one’s friends’ hairstyles.

Before I noticed, half of my Skype contacts were business related and soon I started to worry about my Skype status updates and Skype avatar – these were meant for my family’s entertainment and not as a PR tool. I started wondering if there was a way of keeping these two separate, so that I could have my private photos and my live music updates visible to some of my contacts, while at the same time keep the professional façade by displaying my business logo and work-related messages to others. Back then – there was no practical solution to this problem.

I was pleased to find out that this has been now addressed and would like to share my discovery with all other freelancers who want to have a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Skype existence. Please refer to the Skype Help for detailed instructions on how to run two Skype accounts on one computer. This is really simple and allows you to have two accounts and be logged in on both of them and needless to say, each of them can have different contacts and different settings. It just needs a little effort to tidy things up in the first instance, such as sending new details to the Contacts you need to move to the other account, but after that – you are free to be a split personality.

Usable Usability?

February 25th, 2009

The term usability has caused me a bit of a translator’s headache recently. After just a few minutes of research, I discovered I was not the only one. What a nuisance it has been to the Polish IT-crowd and linguists! You just need to look it up online and bang! you have just walked into a mine field of self-righteous blog posts, snide comments and endless forum threads.

Do I even dare to join the discussion?

The Wikipedia definition of usability in English is the following:

Usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal. Usability can also refer to the methods of measuring usability and the study of the principles behind an object’s perceived efficiency or elegance.

Let’s get an overview of possible/existing translations of the term ‘usability’ into Polish:

użyteczność – the most widely used Polish translation of the term is strictly speaking incorrect. It is a loan translation from English which entered the IT jargon before linguists managed to get to it! It translates back as “usefulness” or “practicality”, which is not equivalent to the ease of use that the real ‘usability’ offers.

Jakob Nielsen's vote - No!

funkcjonalność – being fit for purpose – we are getting warmer – however, this term has already been taken to denote “having many functions” – the English equivalent of “functionality”. Next please.

używalność – the proposed alternative to użyteczność, which seems to tick the boxes – it suggests the capability of use, however the suffix -alny can be also interpreted by some as a “bare minimum”. Let me give an example: in Polish jadalny means “edible” – it is far from being delicious.

Jakob Nielsen's vote - Not sure!

ergonomia – the study of principles and methods for adjusting devices and tools to the human physical and mental capabilities. Jack pot? I think this well established term is the closest in its meaning and scope to “usability” and offers a whole range of possible usages as a noun, an adjective or an adverb.

Jakob Nielsen's vote - Yes!

My verdict – Funkcjonalność jest używalna, a ergonomia użyteczna.

Viva la ergonomia!