A Jolly Good Fellow!

Lynda Hardman

I am Lynda Hardman, and work at CWI. I've worked in the same group as Steven, or in a group next to Steven's group, in my first 20 years at CWI.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Steven for a number of things. To start with, his single-handed insistence that Dutch CWI staff should speak to him (a foreigner) in Dutch and not in English – since obviously their command of English was far superior. I, and other foreigners following me, benefited from the struggles that Steven had endured... As his command of the Dutch language improved, he introduced new expressions into the English language such as "go your gang" and "pretty weekend". (English native speakers can ask a Dutch speaker what all that was about...)

Steven has never been scared of standing out of the crowd. He has always had a signature dress sense (a concept previously unseen at CWI): cool black, but then contrasted by his brightly coloured socks. In warmer weather we were treated to a lime-green shirt with matching socks. With his striking blond hair, he was our very own Rutger Hauer!

Professionally, I have always been a big fan of Steven's work in HCI: creating technology that works with humans. It's one thing to analyse existing systems, it's another to create things that are likely to work. This requires a subtle mix of design, innovation & cognitive psychology. And it's not that he designed user interfaces – the flashy, visually attractive artefacts that often have to provide "user-friendly" access to a badly designed back-end. Steven's strength is to apply the methods of HCI to the design and development of technologies that are used by technologists – who turn out also to be human and subject to the same cognitive constraints as end-users of their application.

Views and XForms are examples of technologies developed through this method. But technologies such as these will only catch on if they are widely available to a wide audience. And this is where the Web comes in.

Everyone has heard of Tim Berners-Lee. ?? Yes?? But we haven't heard of the people who have also devoted much of their careers to improving the web. Not only I, but most of the planet, should be grateful for Steven's longterm contributions to the web: CSS, HTML, RDFA and XForms.

Not forgetting that Guido's design of Python was totally inspired by the work of ABC.

I really hope it's clear what the huge influence Steven's work has been on the web and hence human culture.

Steven also gives excellent talks – as we experienced earlier this afternoon – being invited by different communities to speak at events across the planet. He was the person who stunned me by "the obvious" – when he was travelling he'd set up a Skype session in his hotel room, with his family at home, and just have it "on", creating a feeling of everyone being in the same room. Only later did "virtual presence" become its own research field.

Steven was an early adopter in many things – had a watch you could send a text message to from his website before I even had a mobile phone... He had internet on his mobile device – before I got my first mobile phone...

What else can I tell you that you don't already know?

Steven has an Erdős number of 3. If you aren't aware of what this is, then I can tell you that the mathematicians at CWI are very envious.

Steven was editor-in-chief of SIGCHI Bulletin from 1993 to 1999 and of ACM Interactions from 1998 to 2004.

Other talents? Steven can act. Steven can sing. He is also wonderful at telling stories.

He once mentioned at a coffee conversation that he was listed in IMDB, the Internet Movie Database. (I wonder how many other people on IMDB have an Erdős number of 3 or lower... ) I took up the challenge and found the film where a Steven Pemberton recorded the Singing voice of a monk. De tranen van Maria Machita (1991) Ellen ten Damme. Perhaps we can ask him to perform this after a couple of white wines – preferably fizzy.

Talking of champagne – I almost forgot the tasting sessions at his home. A bunch of friends/colleagues were invited round and we would sample different bottles of a similar genre. Champagne, beer... I have clear memories of a beer-tasting event. Or at least, I believe my memories are clear... We were served a glass of A and a glass of B and we had to determine which we preferred. The procedure was blind, even double blind; the data was collected and analysed and even peer-reviewed. I'm not sure where the paper was published though...

The great thing about the champagne testing is that I learned that actually I prefer Cava to champagne and have thus saved myself hundreds of euros throughout the years since! Another reason, a least for myself, to thank Steven!

Basically what I'm trying to say – that Steven is a jolly good fellow! I'd like to ask you for a toast!