(IMHO, we’ve tried many of these grid generators, and while they all have excellent qualities, the Netprotozo grid generator has many intrinsic advantages, namely the flexibility and robustness that comes from having been empoyed in many real-world projects. Karl’s really done a great job of incorporating some critical elements which allow things like inter-column padding, and an underlying base unit which is an incredibly powerful concept not present in many other CSS grid systems.)
So I tried. My little experiment in trying to tame my attention deficit by limiting the number of tabs I would allow open at one time — FAIL. I suppose it was doomed to failure from the outset, but I learned a few things along the way about attention and how we browse:
Hyperlinking is the life-blood of the Internet. Emphasis on the “hyper.”
95% of the content you encounter on the web is about 25% as interesting as you hoped it might be. Which is why there are so many things crammed around the content itself — things like banner ads and links to other content some algorithm written by some programmer came up with. It shouldn’t be a crime to be interested enough to open up a link that intrigues you. Either we have to develop a better instinct (either from experience or some magical ESP) about what these links will lead to or we have to rely on filters to determine what links have a higher probability of being very, very interesting and valuable so as to be worth opening a new tab.
Web apps have a significant browser footprint. By default I tend to leave open tabs for webmail (Gmail), social networking (Facebook), and news (Nytimes). That’s at least 3 out of 7 already (if we’re trying to keep it below 7). I’ve heard productivity strategies that tell you to check these sites only twice a day or something crazy like that. Yeah, right.
Tabs = cognitive real estate. Throughout the day, you get links sent to you via email, or you stumble upon them or you see them on Facebook, and occasionally, you pop one open. And another. And another. And you forget to close them. Or some of them, you decide to leave open, because you want to re-tweet it, save it in delicious, or finish reading it later but you don’t want to go hunting for it again (where did I see that link?). Or sometimes you want them there as research for a blog post, and you want to refer back to it. You start your blog post, but you haven’t quite figured out what you want to say…
I used to doubt the hype about Twitter, until last week. When Alex and Adam posted a tweet (at 5am no less) looking for a presentation whiz to visualize balance sheets and the economic situation, I almost fell out of my chair, because as it happened, when they made their amazing episode on This American Life back in February called “Bad Bank”, I had started doodling (first on paper, then moved to the computer) as they were talking in an effort to try to understand what was going on visually. OK, I admit, I listened to it about 5 times, and eventually I ended up with a series of slides that I posted to them last week (I think it was 7am) via Twitter.
Turns out they were making a live presentation in LA a week later, and with Ryan Lauer, who was also a huge fan of the show (we listen to it in the office), we expanded it into a longer slideshow in Keynote ’09, which, by the way, kicks serious ass once you get to know how to use it. Anyways, I cannot tell you how amazing this experience was working with them and how much fun we had working on this. They are my heroes.
Plus, I’ve gotten an invaluable crash course in economics and I can’t wait to do more with them. They actually make this incredibly complex and crucial stuff understandable in human terms, which is exactly what Redub does with creative visualizations of data.
If you’re an information architect or user experience designer, or even if you’re not, you’ve probably heard the “Rule of Seven” axiom. That is, Seven (plus or minus 2) is the magical number of things your brain can comfortably hold in working memory before it freaks out and either shuts down or needs help. Call it “channel capacity” or “user-friendliness”(why does that term seem so antiquated?), call it what you will. Information architects know that chunking things into seven or less items or categories in a navigation bar is just a good, humane thing to do. It has been posited that a tightly-knit group of seven people is an optimal community size, because above that number communication tends to break down and not everyone interacts naturally with each other and cliques begin forming. Seven digit phone numbers, seven days of the week, seven wonders of the world, the seven seas, the seven deadly sins, the Magnificent Seven…the list goes on and on if you want to look for it. You can speculate as to why there is this natural limit on our perceptual machinery (my tongue-in-cheek hypothesis is that it’s the average of the number of fingers on one hand and the total number of fingers) but whatever the real reason, I accept it as a nice and useful constraint.
Recently, I started thinking about applying the Rule of Sevens (plus or minus two) to my own version of “Getting Things Done”. You see, I am a tab-slut.
If you walked by my monitor at any point in the day (or night) you would probably be astounded at the sheer number of tabs I have open at one time in my browser. On average I’d say I have at least 20 to 30 tabs open. And one day I asked myself, Why? Why does each and every one of these different websites need to be open? Is this a symptom of ADD? Or am I just lazy? I mean, you could say the same thing when you see the stack of dirty dishes in my sink (though I’m not as bad about that).
So as an experiment in productivity, I decided to impose the following rule on my browsing:
Thou shalt not have more than 7 browser tabs open at any given time.
Of course this also implies that Thou shalt not have multiple browser windows open (if you can help it).
I welcome anyone else to try this experiment with me and share your discoveries. I promise to post my thoughts at the end of today, because after tomorrow, I will leaving for my honeymoon, where I have decided to take things a step further and go completely off the grid. Wish me luck! (I’m gonna need it! Bad!)
That which Facebook calls “like” by any other name would be called “disgust”, or “approval”. Ay, there’s the rub. (Apologies to dear Bill.)
Ever since Facebook started pushing activity of people/organizations you are “fans” of into your news feed, it has become clear that their nomenclature for certain events/actions needs some work. Just as “friending” is a meh blanket term for a bi-directional affinity relationship, “becoming a fan of” is an expression of uni-directional affinity, what we need is some kind uni-directional gesture of recognition or attention. Maybe it’s as simple as “I am paying attention to this” or “I have paid some attention to this”. The question is whether we need a multi-faceted metric here, because you can pay attention because you think it’s cool, witty, funny, or smart, or something can catch your eye because it’s horrific, crazy, sad, or sick.
At the end of the day, I am pretty sure Facebook’s intention behind introducing this feature (rather hastily) is because it wants some kind of simple way to measure influence (ie, how many people [insert term here] your stuff/thoughts/updates) or attention.