September 29, 2003
So many associations, so little time
The interaction design folk have released the results of their first survey to gauge the needs of their membership. I'm peripherally following this, as I'm still interested in the big picture that might unite all these separate specific organizations.
Anyways, questions like "Do you feel there is a need for a new professional home for interaction designers either within an existing organization or as a new stand alone organization?" got the responses you'd expect. Lots of folks who wanted a new home and lots of folks who wanted to work with an existing organization (particularly since it is very pricy to belong to a bunch).
Here's the breakdown of organizations that survey respondents belonged to:
Slightly more interesting was the relative proportion of AIfIA members to SIGCHI members. I'm surprised there were so many more of the latter compared to the former. I'm not sure if there is really that big of a difference between your garden variety interaction designer and your West Coast information architect. Alas, labels come back to haunt again. Since the hard-core HCI-oriented interaction designers have so little in common with the polar bear-oriented information architects, trying to find a middle ground would seem challenging.
There may be more hope for a collaboration with the UPA folks, especially if UPA and SIGCHI might join forces on providing a place for these folks--each bringing their own assets to the partnership.
Geek Eye for the Luddite Guys
Let the spin-offs begin! From Fortune, it's Geek Eye for the Luddite Guys:
This is no ordinary reunion of the nerds. These geeks—as different from nerds as orcs are from trolls—have been assembled as part of an audacious experiment: Can they deliver digital happiness to a small part of America and enable FORTUNE to ride the success of the hit reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?
Alas, it seems that the experience is not unlike at the end of Queer Eye, when the hapless straight guy just doesn't know what to do with all the changes after the Fab 5 leave. Tech nirvana is fine, as long as you've got in-home tech support!
September 28, 2003
Where do bullets belong?
Speaking of PowerPoint, just what is the deal with outdented bullets? I think they are wacky. Maybe my problem with them is that setting something outside the primary left margin would seem to indicate that the object deserves more emphasis than the primary text--which is typically not the case with your average bulleted text. Or maybe it's some psychological need (read: Catholic guilt) from my youth, and the idea of going "outside" the boundary of the primary text is something you just don't do.
I'd love to hear two cents (or more) from the typography crowd.
NYTimes on PowerPoint
The recent media fascination with PowerPoint continues, with the latest coming from the New York Times (free, registration required):
Is there anything so deadening to the soul as a PowerPoint presentation?
The article goes on to rather superficially deal with the question of whether "PowerPoint-muffled messages have real consequences, perhaps even of life or death." The article summarized Tufte's analysis of one of the slides Boeing assembled related to the recent Columbia disaster this way:
Among other problems, Mr. Tufte said, a crucial piece of information that the chunk of foam was hundreds of times larger than anything that had ever been tested was relegated to the last point on the slide, squeezed into insignificance on a frame that suggested damage to the wing was minor.
As I just commented on the ID-Cafe list, I wonder if his analysis isn't really a bigger indictment of a human (or business?) tendency to either avoid saying something your superiors don't want to hear or the inability to actually find the relevant facts in a sea of data.
With all its faults, is PowerPoint really the reason that this key piece of evidence was buried where it was?
Ah, my movie buddy Margott has redesigned her website, Weltin Design. Very slick! Obviously I'm a fan of her color palette :), but I also like the simple way she's handled her portfolio.
BTW, just today we saw Secondhand Lions. I thought the fantasy took a bit away from the strong relationship story, but I guess the point was to make the early story a bit beyond belief. All in all, a very sweet film.
September 25, 2003
The people vs the judiciary
I have no idea why I was listening to Bill O'Reilly on his radio show last week. But one of his topics was what he called a Judicial Coup d'Etat, where the "ACLU is hooking up with a number of liberal judges to declare things that they don't like as unconstitutional." I found it a bit hard to get worked up, particularly as I tend to agree with the ACLU and liberal judges more often than not. But Bill goes on to say:
It is obvious, ladies and gentlemen, that we the people are being directly attacked by secularists who want to change this country. They know they can't do it in the voting booth, so they are going to do it using the courts.
What bizarre timing that this issue re the no-call lists should hit the US national press less than a week later:
A federal judge in Denver late today ruled that the government's plan to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls was unconstitutional, another blow to plans to implement a national do-not-call list next week. ... News of today's court decision came after the Senate voted 95 to 0 for legislation that would overturn a decision by U.S. District Judge Lee R. West in Oklahoma City blocking the government's do-not-call plan.
Boy, every time I think I'm going to be able to do something design-related for my degree project, things get really "interesting" regarding technology and policy. On the one hand, I've not bothered to sign up for the do-not-call list. For me, caller ID works perfectly fine. On the other, this may be a harbinger of things to come re Internet policy. If history is any clue, this is a pretty darn critical time for the Internet, and even if there are some Chicken Littles out there, it certainly seems that now is the time to determine whether the Internet or WWW will go the way of radio (and be subject to the whims of commercial interest) or retain most of its anarchical features. Some think we may have already lost.
To caption or not to caption?
This recent First Monday article on the writing photo captions for the web is an interesting counterpoint to nowords.org, a photo gallery of satellite images and illustrations (the latter almost look like they could have been microscopic images). At least in the case of the satellite imagery, I would have loved to have known what I was looking at. Alas, no clue, not even ALT text.
CFP: UPA 2004, Connecting Communities
The Usability Professionals Association (UPA) has announced the call for papers for their next annual conference in Minneapolis, June 7-11, 2004. A highlight from the call:
Communities are changing in ways unimagined a generation ago. More and more, people work and play together for years without meeting face-to-face. While technology may undercut and fragments traditional communities, it also opens us up to broad new possibilities.
I was last in Minneapolis for the 1995 Masters Rowing Championships (which were actually in St. Paul). The only touristy thing I did was to check out the Mall of America (technically in Bloomington), which is amazingly "the nation's #1 visited attraction."
September 22, 2003
We had a school reception yesterday, and one of my classmates (Yoram, who has neglected his weblog or I'd link to it) and I were talking about the issue of IT and the diffusion of innovation. He recommended two books that look very promising if you're into this space: The Innovator's Dilemma and Weird Ideas That Work.
Writing first for the web
We're fortunate to have Ginny Redish as a usability consultant (ah, one of the perks of living where we do :). I was poking around her website this morning and noticed that she had a handout online (PDF) that was a slightly updated version of her popular "Writing for the Web" presentation.
I must admit to having a bit of an "a ha" when I came across a point I think was relatively new. She wrote:
In the future, organize and write for the web first. If it is easy to use on the web, it will almost certainly make a great paper document.
In retrospect, it's kind of a "why didn't I think of that?" But if organizations could put it in place as a process, I think it might well improve both our online and print documents!
CFP: IA Summit 2004
Keeping with my practice of attending every other IA Summit, I sure hope to attend in 2004 in Austin (did Boston and Baltimore, missed San Fran and Portland). The call for papers has been posted. Here's a bit o' promo:
Some of us in the IA field are solidifying the IA foundation, digging deeper, while others are pushing the boundaries working with other fields and platforms. In both cases, we are breaking new ground. The ASIS&T IA Summit 2004 is seeking submissions from information architecture practitioners and researchers that support this theme.
If you haven't been, Austin is a fab conference town. Alas, it may be too early for the bats, but I'm sure it will be a good time of year for hanging out at a place like the Oasis, one of the more infamous bars/restaurants overlooking Lake Travis. Austin is green and hilly (reminded me of Pennsylvania), and has a great music scene. Other than our little May event in Baltimore (also a great city), I think it will be one of the hot conference destinations!
Oh, and I bet the conference will be good too :).
September 21, 2003
I've just ordered this based on an email recommendation. It's Henry Petroski's Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design. Publishers Weekly writes:
"Design can be easy and difficult at the same time, but in the end, it is mostly difficult." So writes engineering professor Petroski (The Evolution of Useful Things, etc.) in his latest effort, a wide-ranging exploration of the history and design of the everyday technologies like supermarket aisles and telephone keypads that are practically invisible in their ubiquity. Petroski emphasizes that these "small things" aren't in fact the results of a smooth and simple design process, but are rather the products of a constellation of oft-conflicting constraints, frequently with unintended consequences (consider the recently redesigned, fat-handled toothbrushes that, while more ergonomic, have rendered millions of traditional toothbrush holders useless).
Petroski is faculty at Duke University in North Carolina. Looks like a promising read.
September 19, 2003
Linguistics parlor trick
Well, we managed thru the storm fairly well, tho my sister is still without water. Gee, with all the TV coverage, too bad no one reminded us to fill up a bathtup (to take care of potty needs).
Anyways, here's an entry befitting the out-of-the-norm circumstances. You've probably seen this email at least once...it's in the vein of "if u cn rd ths, u cn gt a gd jb" ad. It goes:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
The folks at Snopes have determined that the status of this potential urban legend is undetermined. I've read that this paper may be the origin, though a quick read doesn't suggest obvious connections. Here's the languagehat post that supposedly kicked off the whole thing.
Bglegos the mnid?
September 18, 2003
Eye of the storm
Here's an interesting perspective from the Washington Post; I've added the dot for DC's location. They've got some nice Flash pieces online that tell more of the story.
The building I live in is giving glow sticks to residents...smart idea (better than candles). Since the drug stores are gearing up for Halloween, I was able to get a bunch for my nieces...they'll get a kick out of it.
And I see that Mike's getting ready as well :).
September 17, 2003
My employer follows the government, so I'll be off tomorrow. I've got plenty to keep me busy, but the important task will be to help my sister--her hubby is off on a business trip, and my two 8-yr-old nieces are a bit nervous about the storm. So Auntie Beth will be sleeping over!
Anyone for a game of Scooby Doo Monopoly?
Microsoft and plug-ins
I'm not sure what to think about Microsoft's losing their case re plug-ins (best summarized by Zeldman). But per Zeldman, there's some "coming for the gypsies" foreshadowing here which is very plausible given the whole Microsoft IE situation.
I liked David Berlind's suggestion on ZDNet:
Rather than allow the litigation and deliberations to drag out for years, dragging the Web and every user who's on it through the mud, this is a chance for Microsoft to do something that no one would expect.
Note to self: see what the folks on Slashdot have to say.
Chalk one up for Playboy
Actually, this seems pretty damn smart. It's in the Al Franken/Fox category of win/win...if they can do the issue, they win (a bit of humor at Wal-Mart's expense). If they can't do the issue, it will be because Wal-Mart (a la Fox) drags Playboy into court and gets tons of publicity for them. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
September 16, 2003
Usability and voting
This morning on the AIGA Experience Design list, Whitney pointed to a great resource on the UPA website. It's their voting and usability project. Fans of recent events (or California residents) may want to check out their section on the California recall election.
September 15, 2003
Innovation and design
This is worth moving up from comment status. Avi Solomon has pointed to a great resource in the innovation and design space: Andrew Hargadon has very interesting research available based on his work at/study of IDEO and a presentation he did based on it called When Innovations Meet Institutions.
Go where the food is
I sent Mike Lee, veteran wi-fier, a link for jiwire, a site with a pretty nice resource for finding wi-fi spots. If you're a newbie like I am, there are also tips for setting up wi-fi at home and on your laptop.
In drilling down on their interactive map (at right), I was struck by the difference in accessibility between our two cities. Perhaps Mike will enjoy being down here "where the food is" when baby Lee arrives and he goes back to the daily grind :).
September 14, 2003
Ah, now we're getting somewhere! My idea of doing the second blog is looking very promising now that Donna has pointed me to the OtherBlog plug-in for MT. This way I can set up a second blog that incorporates the useful templated stuff (like the category and monthly archives) of IDblog. Neat!
Facets in MT
Note to self...not sure if I will use pixelcharmer's note on the faceted Moveable Type (which appeared on the blog scene a month ago), but I should bookmark it just in case. I looked it up as I'd like to add a booklist feature to IDblog, and haven't exactly seen a good way to do this.
Over on Asterisk*, Keith discusses how he's approaching this. Seems closer, but looks like a heck more hacking than I'd like to do. Given this, I'm actually thinking an easier way to do something close to what I'd like is creating a second weblog and then just using a version of IDblog's templates! Then I can have categories that map to my existing categories, with the entries for each corresponding to a single book (which makes it easy to support comments for each book, so other folks can share their two cents about the titles).
The only real question is whether I can refer to IDblog's category or date archives (your standard right-nav fodder) from this second blog using MT, or whether I have to hard-code 'em. Another question (that isn't as important) is whether it's worth using the MTAmazon plug-in. Stay tuned!
September 12, 2003
Early social marketing
I'm not really up on my social marketing history, but these are certainly examples of this field. The one shown here from 1918 (click the image for a larger version) is particularly interesting. The caption reads "Is your mind diseased?" and the (blindfolded) man's brain is illustrated with images of naked women and men and women in apparently "compromising" positions.
A hundred years later, and we have Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on network television. Civilization gone to hell in a handbasket!
BTW, according to this quiz, Kyan is my "type" (he is my fave for sure :).
BBC Creative Archive
Speaking of a great resource, the BBC has announced it will make the BBC Creative Archive available to the public for non-commercial use. This archive will include Internet access to all of the BBC's radio and television programs.
On the other side of the Atlantic there is little evidence of similarly creative thought. Instead, the US government remains captured by the extremists. The very same week that the Creative Archive was born in Britain, it was exercising its power to kill a planned meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (Wipo), the United Nations' intellectual property agency, to consider "open and collaborative projects to create public goods."
Check out the latter if you're into the various arguments about copyright, open source, and intellectual property.
Public domain images
Here's something that's worth bookmarking (gotta love wikipedia!). It's a list of public domain image resources. Do note the caveat:
The presence of a resource on this list does not guarantee that all or any of the images in it are in the public domain: you are still responsible for checking the copyright status of images before you submit them to Wikipedia.
Thanks to xblog for the pointer.
September 10, 2003
Page weight paradox
Well, I'm back in town and trying to catch up! I'm sorry I couldn't accept Joe's invite to catch some blues on Friday (gotta love the blues!), but Saturday was our big day and I was being a good do bee and staying close to home.
Two funny comments from the audience at the panel: first, there was the 81-year-old lady who wanted a simple word processor and who once "had a big Wang" (and had visited their headquarters in the 80s). There was also the gentleman whose son had tried to entice him into fantasy football at ESPN.com...after much frustration, he told his son to "go play with himself, just as he'd done all his life."
Seriously though, the audience at the session shared some very legitimate complaints, and Don Norman shared their pain...and their responsibility. He noted that, to some extent, it was our insistence on new features that was one of the factors that led to horribly complicated software. (Lucky for us, Don decided that he'd rather do dinner wiith a bunch of web geeks rather than Jay Leno...go figure!).
One thing that I'm really curious about is that the panel didn't hear about page weight as an issue. You hear that keeping pages light is important, because so many people aren't doing broadband (one estimate has nearly two-thirds of homes in the US connecting at 56K or less).
So how do these page weights fit into this equation?
According to WebSiteOptimization.com (thanks to LOGos for the pointer), it would take your average 56K modem user (who probably gets 33K in throughput) over 90 seconds to download the USA Today home page!
But they aren't the only ones with the heavy home page. I don't know if some of these "heavy sites" use sniffers to serve up heavier pages if they sense a fast connection, but I find these page weights coupled with the still fairly wide use of dial-up somewhat mind-boggling. Are all these folks with dial-up surfing a different web than those of us with broadband are? Are they just used to clicking on text links long before the graphics appear? Who would wait a minute and a half to see a site's home page?
Bye bye e-books?
September 05, 2003
Sorry for the quiet here after just having been on vacation, but I'm in Chicago for AARP's National Event. Up until the last minute, I waffled on whether to bring the iBook, but finally decided to go without. I experimented Wednesday with the hotel's WebTV interface (bandwidth was good, but the resolution sucked...try doing anything useful--like email--with an effective resolution of about 400x300 and a keyboard that can handle about 10wpm). Today I'm at McCormick, and enjoying sole access to Gateway's setup in the exhibit hall...at least until it opens in two hours!
Last night Amy Lee and I had a great time with about 25 folks from the local UPA chapter (see her hubby Mike's moblog post). She did the formal presentation, and afterwards we had a rousing panel discussion. Thanks to Joi and friends for the warm welcome and to Susan Feinberg for hosting us at IIT!
Our big event will be a panel Saturday afternoon on computers and older adults. Our guest panelists are Don Norman, Ann Wrixon (president of SeniorNet), Don Jones (VP of Gateway), and Sandy Berger (host of AARP's Computers and Technology area). If you're in the area, stop by! Registration is only $15 for the three-day event, and you can collect that much in tchotchkes :).
September 01, 2003
Umm, not exactly?
I suppose it's me, but it seems to me that MIT is confused about information architecture and information design:
Information design can be defined as the art and science of structuring and classifying web sites and intranets to help people find and manage information. Information Architecture is the process or organizing and labeling content in a way your audience will understand.
I still haven't got past the (to me, compelling) idea that IA is about finding information in a site or info product and ID is about using information once it is found.
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 email@example.com.
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