May 27, 2003
Images and context
What's the secondary information in the design of money? That Andrew Jackson had some spinal deformity not mentioned in the history books of my youth?
On the left is Andrew from the latest $20 bill. On the right is Andrew's portrait, which is mostly intact in the $20 used up to the mid-1990s. Can you say context is key? What is clearly high collar in one image is "spinal deformity" in another.
This site shows that Andrew made it relatively unscathed until 1996, when the US made its last change to the $20 bill, which did a tighter head shot compared to earier bills.
Given all this, it is funny to read the language on the US Treasury's press release: "The most distinctive change in the new currency design is the color. ... Even with the new colors and other features, the world will recognize the new notes as distinctly American. Everyone who sees the note will know instantly what it is and what it stands for. "
For some, it looks like that is osteoporosis :). Oops!
May 19, 2003
NYTimes on wikis
Rats. Just a couple of hours after I finished a session at the STC conference called "Wikis and Weblogs: Tools You Can Use", I check my email to find all sorts of pointers to a NY Times article called Business Is Toying With a Web Tool on wikis (free, registration required).
The most distinctive characteristic of a wiki is that anyone in the group (or for public wiki sites on the Internet, anyone who visits) can edit, modify or even delete material on the pages. ... The creative anarchy of the wiki is the philosophical inverse of conventional corporate groupware software. Groupware's highly structured rules and processes do not always reflect the way people really work. Employees often ignore costly corporate-sanctioned software and revert to informal social networks whether simply e-mail or impromptu water-cooler discussions. ... While wikis can be helpful for project managers and employees in charge of small teams, corporate managers who favor greater control are more likely to be wary. That is why various entrepreneurs are beginning to tailor wiki software to corporate use.
It would have been nice to share this with folks, as this was the point I tried to make for my audience--while these are certainly interesting as personal tools, the reason to pay attention to them is for their business applications.
It was nice to meet fellow STC blogger Fred Sampson today, who shared his perspective of these tools as well (and who beat me by one day for the earliest weblog entry from Dallas :).
May 15, 2003
CFP: Into the blogosphere
Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs
Abstracts are due June 30th and need to be mailed to email@example.com.
Journals in mass communication
Here's an interesting resource that appeared on the air-l list (internet research) yesterday. It's the THE IOWA GUIDE: Scholarly Journals in Mass Communication and Related Fields. Use this link for their splash page (nice photo, no useful content) or this one for their index page.
The Iowa Guide:
catalogs the manuscript requirements and review processes of more than 125 English-language scholarly journals published in the United States and countries spanning the globe. Some of the journals focus on journalism, mass communication or communication as their primary concerns. Others address communication in the context of another discipline, such as law or sociology, or they include communication under an interdisciplinary umbrella such as popular culture or womens studies.
There's also a guide for those new to scholarly publishing. Look like it's worth a bookmark if you're at all into communication research, whether reading or writing!
May 14, 2003
What were they thinking?
I'm a bit surprised that this isn't getting raked over the coals on WebWord, but this May 2003 story on using photos to increase trust in a website is just downright depressing. Surely they jest?!? Using Flash to render an article?!? Is it April 1st?
Look, this is not an anti-Flash diatribe. Me? I like Flash, and love cool applications of it. And, even if they are doing the bull in the china shop thing, Macromedia is trying to make Flash accessible.
But an article?!? I'm waiting for the "heh heh, you were part of our psychology experiment to prove that webloggers have no sense of humor" or the "gee, Flash really isn't accessible" punchline. What am I missing here?
If I sound a bit punchy, well, maybe I am. We're trying to promote good usability practices at work, while at the same time, we're getting pressured for "cutting edge." Yikes. This is all they need. A usability firm that uses Flash so that you get 5 seconds of "sizzle" while the article loads. It would have been one thing if it was good Flash, but this?
So much for separating content from presentation. Yee gads.
Warning! More what's in a name!
Okay, you've been warned! If these IA versus ID versus whatever discussions make your blood pressure rise, then just say no to the next link :). But I cannot keep myself from pointing out that Dirk and I have been continuing our what's in a name discussion from three weeks ago. I'm quite enjoying it myself!
May 12, 2003
Well, I have the paper done and turned in for my Digital Economy class, so now I just have to finish the report and presentation for my UCD class (due Thursday). I have a weblog entry percolating about the Larry Constantine CHI report re usability testing, but that will need to wait for tomorrow or the next day.
In the meantime, how about checking out these snippets from xBlog? There's this one on why good design comes from bad design and this one on visual language (note to self: probably should acquire Yuri's dissertation).
The first was of particular interest to me, in part because it is so easy to slip into the "let's mock up a design and present it to the client" mindset. Obviously any good designer can create something that the client can respond to, but without creating alternatives or exercising one's design muscle, solutions can wind up less than their fullest potential.
May 09, 2003
The lament of the tech writer is that no one reads the products they create. Over on Usable Help, Gordon talks about one vendor's "approach to exhorting users to read the documentation" (on the left).
To see these in context, check out Warning! Read the manual!
Vog blog: a correction
It's hard to say (communication is such a fun thing), but I don't know that I was necessarily thinking he meant putting video on a traditional blog, though given my mention of Mike's photo-enhanced moblog, I can see why he might think that.
I originally said I wasn't sure what to think about video blogging (the term Adrian uses to describe what "vogging" is). I do think there's a fab application for multimedia as a tool to help folks with their information needs, and clearly video (presumably with an audio component) has an awful lot of advantages compared to static text and images.
I can say for sure that I did not think that Adrian's tutorial was about putting video on a traditional blog! I really thought it was more about making a video blog, and I stand by my comments that the directions were more than I wanted to go thru to see an example of video blogging. And that was probably my mistake...thinking that the tutorial was a way to actually see an example of a video blog!
All that said, I agree with Adrian that things would be very different with a video-capable Movable Type tool. So...in case you assumed that Adrian is working on putting video into traditional weblogs, he isn't! Instead, he's hoping to make sure that we know what to do with video weblogs when the tools make it something for Joe Average Weblogger. Cool!
May 08, 2003
Sorry if the posts are a bit spotty, but between being out of the office for three days and getting all my final projects for school done (due next week), I'm a bit behind! I'll catch up after the STC conference, I promise!
Two of the three days I was out were spent as an exhibitor at the spring FedWeb conference. Booth duty was slow, so fortunately there were some good sessions to attend, including one by local bud Thom Haller--who is one entertaining and informative speaker! I also caught Jared Spool's plenary on Wednesday. I know some hard-core usability folk have some issues with Jared, but he makes one hell of an entertaining speaker and was a great choice for an audience like the one at FedWeb. Alas, I missed Ginny Redish's, but fortunately I'll be able to catch her at STC in Dallas.
I also finally responded to an old daBurgh bud, Ken Mohnkern, in the STC conference thread. If you aren't a link clicker, do check out Ken's weblog. Interesting stuff!
May 06, 2003
We just wish that T-Mobile would hurry up and enable the device to sync with Microsoft Outlook and other PIMs.I went with the Treo because I didn't want to have to go to the pain of regular exporting and importing of calendar and contact info. But boy, I am enjoying it! Although I didn't catch up with Lou and friends at the DC happy hour last week (I arrived after the festivities were over), it was really cool to be sitting on Connecticut Ave. and looking up the address for the bar on bloug :).
Speaking of which, Lou's got an interesting entry there now titled UX Bumpage. (Maybe I'm listening to too much Howard Stern, but when I first read that title, I parsed that as Bum-page, not Bump-age!). The comments are already flying...check it out.
Tufte on PowerPoint
Lee Potts writes that Tufte has a forthcoming essay (24 pages, at the printers and available May 12th) called The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. Very amusing cover! I'll comment more once I've gotten it.
If I were more organized, I'd probably be able to put my hands on some notes I took when Tufte spoke at an STC conference years ago. But probably most folks are aware of his distaste for PowerPoint...PPT slides are his example of an information product with the lowest possible data density.
In a pinch, I have no problem with PowerPoint that operates primarily as a speaker's aid (as long as you don't--horrors--read them). It's nice when these kinds of slides are at least minimally designed so that the audience doesn't run screaming out of the room. And of course it's even better when slides operate as an audience aid.
While we're on this subject, if you haven't seen it (or read it in a while), I'd recommend Dan Brown's Understanding PowerPoint over on Boxes and Arrows.
May 02, 2003
Clement Mok on design
Well duh. I stopped this morning at a bricks and mortar bookstore to pick up the May/June Communication Arts after reading this entry from Mark Bernstein. The link to the magazine site in Mark's blog goes to the magazine TOC, which provides no links. Yesterday I assumed that meant the column wasn't online. You know what they say about assuming :)
Anyways, after a little lunchtime URL hacking, I've found that Mok's Designers: Time for Change is indeed online.
Since this is a quick lunchtime blog, I don't have time to comment extensively, but as you might imagine, I certainly found this interesting given last week's discussion on IA and ID:
Currently, we spend way too much time as professionals explaining—often in contradictory terms—what it is that we do. The value of design is defined in thousands of different conversations in as many different individual vocabularies. While these views are doubtless sincere, they would be much more valuable if they were expressed in the context of a shared professional vocabulary and ethos. If every physician made up his own set of definitions and beliefs about anatomy and disease on an improvised basis, the medical profession would still be in the Dark Ages. Yet the design profession functions as if each individual designer is selling his or her services in some sort of terminological vacuum, with nothing more substantial than his or her personal charisma and taste to serve as the foundation for vast edifices of public influence.
I'm not sure what Mok is up to next. He's finishing up his term as prez of AIGA next month, and I see from the magazine that he's no longer with Sapient. I look forward to his next adventures!
IDblog is Beth Mazur tilting at power law windmills. A little bit Internet, a little bit technology, a little bit society, and a lot about designing useful information products. Send your cards and letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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