“More than its value to business, information is also the principle component to human knowledge and progress. By experiencing information
Monthly Archives: May 2003
sampling, memory, and the semantic web
“free content fuels innovation”
– Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas
“I get asked what I think about sampling a lot, and I’ve always wanted to have a short term to describe the process. Stuff like “collective ownership”, “systems of memory”, and “database logics” never really seem to cut it on the lecture circuit, so I guess you can think of this essay as a soundbite for the sonically-perplexed. This is an essay about memory as a vast playhouse where any sound can be you.”
Link: loops of perception: sampling, memory, and the semantic web
Escaping Flatland: Towards Better Documentation for Information Architects
One of the hottest topics these days in Information Architecture circles is documentation. This is probably partly because the IA’s role is so ill defined. This presentation is representative of my first attempts on the use of visualization to communicate information architecture concepts to clients.
Presentation Link (Chinese) Original English language presentation is available in .pdf format
“Topic maps are a standard for storing metadata (similar to thesauri, or RDF). They can be used to generate navigation for a website, and lots of other metadata tasks. Topic maps are a new standard (since + 2000) and are slowly starting to be discovered.”
Mmmmm… but what ARE they? A topic map consists of a bunch of topics, and is often written in XTM. Or it can be kept in a database. Or written on paper. Or carved in stone, you get the idea. Apart from topics (like: “the play Hamlet”), it also contains associations (like: “the play Hamlet was written by the author Shakespeare.”) And a topic map also contains occurrences. (Like: “At this URL: http://hamlet.com you can find a description of the play hamlet.”)
Link: Easy Topic Maps
Life in Taiwan 9
Allot of people are speaking out about Taiwan’s seeming inability to handle the SARS outbreak. The scene here is utterly surreal. I have my temperature checked no less than 4 times a day, everyone wears masks, and everyone stays home. Personally I am concerned but am trying to avoid the hysteria and put it into perspective. This despite a government and a system that seems completely unable to managment a situation such as this. It’s amazing to me that a country full of so many intelligent and well educated people with so much money can be so inept. My God, Vietnam got it under control – have you seen their public hospitals?
Currently the crisis is more a crisis of confidence and the Taiwanese appear to have utterly failed this test. I hope I am wrong. Time will tell.
There is a rather heated discussion about the whole issue on a local community site called Forumosa.
More Powerpoint madness
Presentations.com recent review of Apples keynote reinforces my perception of how Powerpoint has created a legacy of poor visual communication. The author of the review gives Keynote 3 out of 5 stars and states that it is worth it for beginning presenters but pros will not be satisfied. Obviously the review is uninformed but it is interesting to note what these people think “pros” need. The most glaring of which were no gradient-coloring features for text, the ability to edit multimedia within the program, and the amount of the control over transitions. What is with this perception that “pro’s” want products with enormous feature sets. I thought we would assume that people don’t have time for this type of complexity.
I have been using Keynote for a couple months and it’s fairly impressive. It’s simple, displays text very well and has cut ‘n’ paste import of all my media (vector graphics and pdf look superb). It helps reinforce the point of a presentation program – to support the speaker. The downside is a natural one. No one uses keynote and as such no one can read your file. Distribution via .pdf is impractical because of the horrendous file sizes and sharing it in Powerpoint’s file format seems painful as you loose all of the reasons you use Keynote in the first place.
I certainly don’t mean to imply that I create presentations that would make Edward Tufte proud – I don’t. But I am under different constraints. The constraints of language, and lack of paper, force me to put copious amounts of text on the screen. That’s my excuse.
Link: Presentations.com – Apple Keynote review
The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint
Edward Tufte has published a essay called “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.”
“In corporate and government bureaucracies, the standard method for making a presentation is to talk about a list of points organized onto slides projected up on the wall. For many years, overhead projectors lit up transparencies, and slide projectors showed high-resolution 35mm slides. Now “slideware” computer programs for presentations are nearly everywhere. Early in the 21st century, several hundred million copies of Microsoft PowerPoint were turning out trillions of slides each year.
Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations? ”
Link:Edward Tufte: Books – Essay: The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint
Getting Creative With Specs: Usable Software Specifications
Boxes and Arrows has really been hitting it for me lately.
Six Tips for Improving Your Design Documentation
“If you are a designer or product planner, you probably create documents of some kind to capture your design decisions and solutions. Documentation is a crucial component of successful product planning and implementation, so it’s important that it communicates as effectively as possible. Good organization, complete information, and clear writing are, of course, key to the success of any design document, but there are some other, less-obvious techniques you can use to make your documents more readable and understandable.”
Special and Smart
A good quote which sums up an aspect of life here:
“In Taiwan, a guy who’s caught drunk driving will refuse the breath test and curse the policeman to the third generation,” said Loh I-cheng, a jovial former deputy ambassador to the United States. “Everyone in Taiwan thinks he’s special and smart ? Why should he observe the rules? He knows the police won’t strike him or arrest him.”
Speed where art thou
Apple does a brilliant job of integrating hardware and software to create a compelling user experience. Despite introducing a new operating system, seemingly ages ago, based on a Unix foundation, they have managed to maintain a high level of intuitively and ease of use. This coupled with a consistent and refined aesthetic across both their software and hardware products helps define a the brand Apple. But there is one thing which seems to be defining Apple more than these characteristics and that is a lack of speed.
The built in Mail client is unacceptably slow. You cannot view folders while it is downloading new mail and it frequently locks up. All of their iApps stutter when resizing windows. The operating system itself is unresponsive. .Mac their online service is pitiful when compared to services like Yahoo – when it is online. Flash sucks. Director sucks. Networking causes spinning balls and in fact that spinning ball seems to happen quite allot. Copying files take too long. Which brings me to my latest pet peeve.
I just purchased an Airport base-station. It’s beautiful and in typical Apple style a pinch to set-up. I finally get to hide all those telephone wires. But you know that something has to be wrong when you can download a folder containing 40 megs. of files faster over the internet than a local drive. I have been sitting here for 20 minutes waiting for some digital photographs to download off my network firewire drive. Yet another example of this new Apple brand.
Three Lessons From Tufte
Tools of the Trade in Comic Book Form
“What I need are highly condensed overviews, I thought, like those comic books that convert great literary works into a few illustrated pages. They condense Moby Dick down to 12 pages and provide a version of Great Expectations that can be read in 15 minutes.”
Link: Boxes and Arrows: IA Classics: Tools of the Trade in Comic Book Form
Doing The Right Thing: Apple UI history
The Register has an interview with interaction designer Gitta Soloman , who worked in Apple’s now-disbanded Human Interface Group:
“If you do this kind of work,” says interaction designer Gitta Salomon, “everything bugs you. Your car, your cordless phone, your home entertainment system – you hate everything.” Text courtesy of Macintouch
Link:Doing The Right Thing: Apple UI history
Towards a Framework of Interaction and Experience As It Relates to Product Design
“There are three ways that we describe dimensions of experience. The purest form of experience is experience, the constant stream that happens while we are conscious. Another way to talk about experience is to describe an experience, which has a beginning and an end, and changes the user and the context of use as a result. Finally, a third way to talk about experience is to describe experience as story, the way that we condense and remember experiences, and communicate them to people in a variety of contexts. ”
Link: Forlizzi: Theories of Experience
Art direction vs. design
“If you want to know what art direction is, pick up the 26 April–2 May 2003 issue of The Economist Magazine and regard its cover image. Two icons recognized around the world – one old, one new – have been merged to create an arresting visual statement. That is art direction. The design part consists of typography, color, size and placement relationships, and the design is low key compared to the image it supports.”
Link: Art direction vs. design
Towards a General Relation Browser
“The paper presents the case of ongoing efforts to develop and test generalizable user interfaces that provide interactive overviews for large-scale Web sites, portals, and other partitions of Web space. The interfaces are called Relation Browsers (RB) because they help people explore the relationships across different attribute sets, thus enabling understanding the scope and extent of the corpus through active exploration of different “slices” defined by different attribute value juxtapositions. The RB concept is illustrated through discussion of six iterations over a five year period that included laboratory usability studies, a field test, and implementations with a variety of data management problems. The current application to design concepts in a digital government setting is discussed, and the concept of the RB as the basis for an interface server is presented.”
Link: Toward a General Relation Browser: Marchionini and Brunk: JoDI