Information Design Watch

May 31, 2011, 9:37 am

Twitter vs. the Academy

By Henry Woodbury

For some reason I was looking for examples of 19th century correspondent abbreviations. A search for “yr obt svt” called up an entertaining essay by Len Cassamas  titled, fittingly, “Yr Obt Svt”. This essay is a year old and hinges on a piece of old news (are folks still arguing about an Academy of English?) but speaks to the molding of language by media that is always current. Cassamas writes:

Much of the [Academy of English] fiasco seems to have been inspired by the various abbreviations that people use while texting or tweeting.  “You” becomes “u.”  “To” and “too” become “2.”  (We will assume that “two” becoming “2″ is acceptable to all.)  Now, I am speaking as someone who quite purposely avoids such abbreviations.  I also avoid using emoticons in the hope that the person on the other end of the communication can understand when I intend to be humorous or something of a scamp simply from the way that I string words together.  Perhaps I am deluding myself or overestimating my abilities, but I am willing to live with the consequences involved.

But, Cassamas adds, “the making of abbreviations is nothing new”. Here he brings up yr obt svt. And he links to a video clip of Stephen Fry talking about language with Craig Ferguson. Link through to view it.

By the way, Cassamas tweets at @rudyvalue.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Language, Technology

May 23, 2011, 2:02 pm

Small Uniform Multiples

By Henry Woodbury

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s Uniform Database offers an elegant showcase of the power of small multiples. Here is a simple example:

Brooklyn Dodgers Uniforms, 1935, 1936, 1937

The database output, by year or team, shows the remarkable variety in baseball uniform design, within the simple confines of cap, jersey, pants, and socks. The outline style shown above was created by Marc Okkonen for his book Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century which concludes in 1994. Post-1994 slightly more naturalistic — and uglier — images are provided by Major League Baseball Properties.

Sadly, where this online exhibit succeeds as information design it fails as information architecture. The search engine is very clumsy. One cannot compare specific teams or specific years. For example, earlier this season the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs played in throwback 1918 uniforms. There is no way to compare Red Sox / Cubs / 1918 / 2011. For larger searches, one cannot show more than three images in a row, or more than eighteen in a page. Please, BBHOF, publish an API.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Illustration, Information Architecture, Information Design, Sports, Visual Explanation, Web Interface Design

May 20, 2011, 5:07 pm

Louisiana Economic Development on YouTube

By Henry Woodbury

Louisiana Economic Development has a YouTube channel. Among its interviews and news clips is an animated presentation we created to explain their Digital Media and Software Development Incentive. Based on an executive PowerPoint deck we created for LED representatives to present in person, the movie is a self-running alternative suitable for trade show or web presentation. Enjoy!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Business, Charts and Graphs, Information Design, PowerPoint, Visual Explanation

May 17, 2011, 8:48 pm

Name That Type

By Henry Woodbury

Not likely to be a game show anytime soon, but still fun for design geeks: It’s Type War! (Via commenter tmarthal on the Arial vs. Helvetica post.)

Type War Example

Nice UI as well.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Typography, Web Interface Design

May 13, 2011, 3:50 pm

Let’s Go British

By Henry Woodbury

United States’ grammarians place commas and periods inside quote marks. The British style is to place them outside. The British have it right. According to Ben Yagoda at Slate, the practice is spreading:

…in copy-editor-free zones—the Web and emails, student papers, business memos—with increasing frequency, commas and periods find themselves on the outside of quotation marks, looking in. A punctuation paradigm is shifting.

Yagoda isn’t ready to credit the internet for this shift. He writes, “I spotlight the Web not because it brings out any special proclivities but because it displays in a clear light the way we write now.” But he does point out several ways in which the digital age affects usage. One that is embedded in my psyche is the logic of computer programming and markup language authoring. You don’t let stray characters inside your quotation marks. Period.

Another is the logic of international readership:

By far the biggest fount of logical punctuation today is Wikipedia, which was started by two Americans but whose English-language edition is by and for all English-speaking countries.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (2) | Filed under: Language, Technology

May 10, 2011, 10:31 am

“The Dynamics of Rumor Creation”

By Henry Woodbury

SocialFlow, a Twitter-marketing-optimization company has created a striking visualization on the tweets that broke the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death:

At SocialFlow we analyzed 14.8 million public Tweets, and bitly links, posted between news about an unplanned presidential address (9:46 p.m. EST) and Obama’s address (11:30 p.m. EST) to see how dynamics of rumor creation played out during those critical hours on Twitter. Out of the dominant information flows observed in the data, we focus on the largest flow, engaging tens of thousands of users, validating speculation around Bin Laden’s death.

Keith Urban Tweet Flow

This jellyfish star chart presents a lot of data, but as best as I can guess, there is no coordinate system. It shows us constellations, not distance nor direction. There is no depth to it.

Still, hubs are interesting. Click through to see zoomed views.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Current Events, Information Design, Maps, Social Media, Visual Explanation

May 9, 2011, 10:40 pm

Feelings Interactive

By Henry Woodbury

Columbia Journalism Review writes about one of The New York Times recent features:

…a new interactive graph on The New York Times website invites readers to plot their reactions to two questions: How much of a turning point in the war on terror will Bin Laden’s death represent? (significant to insignificant), and What is your emotional response? (positive to negative).

The format is useful for commenters because they can easily click a square and answer two questions at once, and it’s useful for the casual reader, who can measure the feelings of the crowd at a glance. When you first visit the page, you can click on any square to see others’ comments or to plot your own—or, you can just watch for a few minutes, as I did, as random comments slowly float up and fade out from the mosaic.

To me the format is far more interesting than the opinions. The format shapes the aggregate results.

Given quadrants, there is bias toward adhering to a quadrant.

Given edges there is bias toward approaching the edges.

Given existing dots, I strongly suspect there is bias toward clumping.

The Death of a Terrorist: A Turning Point?

Now that I’ve looked at this interactive a few times the other thing that interests me is how it would look as an animation. The Columbia Journalism Review article offers a screen shot taken much earlier than the one above. The patterns are already taking shape.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon

Comments (0) | Filed under: Charts and Graphs, Cognitive Bias, Current Events, Diagrams, Information Design, Social Media, Visual Explanation