Issuu – Publications Online

I forget how, but I came across Issuu the other day, an online document publishing web service, mainly aimed at magazines. Now, I now Scribd is all the rage these days, but for me its interface takes a lot of the joy of out of casual reading. I’m not saying that’s bad, I think Scribd does a really good job at technical or cover-to-cover reading where your primary experience is to search for a specific topic or start on page 1 and continue to page 2, 3, and so on.

App Store Hyperwall @ WWDC

Amazing! At WWDC this year, Apple is showing a wall of app store icons which pulsate whenever one is downloaded. Great promotional info viz for someone casually walking by at a conference. The pulsating effect is done very, very well– see the video at AppleInsider Read more

GraphJam: Hilarious commentary meets graphs

GraphJam is sort of like LOLcats for excel charts. Probably the best use of Excel charts I’ve ever seen. In fact, I wish more Power Point presentations had graphs along these lines! It’s a poignant way to get across a nuanced idea. In fact, it makes me wonder if having numbers in any sort of non-scientific graph is a good idea. Read more

7 universal signs of interaction

While doing some research the other day, I came across a very interesting paper on recognizing facial expressions. The authors state:

On the other hand, there are a limited number of distinct facial expressions of emotion that appear to be biologically wired, produced involuntarily, and whose meanings are similar across all cultures; for example, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise
–P. Ekman. The argument and evidence about universals in facial expressions of emotion. In D.C. Raskin, editor, Psychological methods in criminal investigation and evidence, pages 297–332. Springer Publishing Co, Inc., New York, 1989.

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Let’s turn 1 Step into 3!

I’m always frustrated when the UI gets in the way of the user’s experience. As an anectdote, let’s talk about how a UI I use which has this very problem, and in the process has increased the number of steps in it from just one into three separate steps!

The Culprit

If you’re at MIT and you want to use software like Matlab or online journals off campus, you need to use a VPN to get access to these resources. Fortunately, MIT provides some software, Cisco’s VPN Client, and its already pre-configured with everything you need.

So here you are with what I’ll call a secondary application- you essentially never use it directly, it just does stuff for you in the background. Antivirus software is another good example of a secondary application. Since these apps are more about supporting some existing workflow (getting into MIT’s network, making sure your computer keeps functioning and virus-free), you really want your interaction with them to be at an absolute minimum.

Somebody at Cisco didn’t get the memo and clearly thought that it would be a joy for users to start a 3-step process everytime they want to use a VPN. Read more

Art and Info Viz are not the same

I was talking with a labmate yesterday about the sorry state of information visualization, a topic we’re both very, very enthusiastic about. There have been great strides over the last few years in making data look great. For examples, just peruse the Infoshetics Blog. The problem, though, is that our understanding in how to make info visualizations which actually convey useful information and aide the viewer in making good decisions has not kept pace with the Art often called Information Visualization. It boils down to one thing: Art and Information Visualization are not the same. Read more

Facebook’s Implicit Lesson? Don’t listen to the user

Newsfeed Hate GroupsThings aren’t always rosy in Facebook’s user experience, even before the debacle with Beacon, Facebook faced a similiar backlash over the Newsfeed when it was introduced. People were concerned that Facebook stalking was going to be elevated to a whole new level.  Read more