Archive for the ‘reader’ Category

Irwin redubs reading at Pecha Kucha NY

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

I know, I know, it’s taken me this long to post my video from PKNY7? Yes, the shoemaker’s children etc. Anyhow, this presentation and the strict format forced me to distill my ideas into a frustratingly succinct argument (which sidesteps the more interesting parts about the cognitive attention mechanism and information foraging talent of the brain). I’ll be posting the “Director’s Cut” version here at some point.

My presentation on the future of reading, long-form journalism and publishing (plus some screenshots of the Redub Reader) in 20 slides (20 seconds each slide) at Pecha Kucha NY, 9/14/09 at Solar1.

Thanks to Ayagwa for filming and editing!

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Don’t Make Me Scroll

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

This is the short version of a presentation on online magazines we’ve been working on here at Redub. It ends with a link to an in-development demo that features content from GOOD’s Transportation Issue 015. Casey Caplowe (GOOD’s Creative Director) generously gave us the InDesign files for the entire issue and we re-figured some of the content so it fit on the screen natively. We even had to re-imagine the Transparencies because they just didn’t work just throwing the original (for-print) image up on the screen (which is what most publishers do sadly) — since we didn’t have the high resolution of print, we took advantage of the screen’s native attributes, namely, animation. I’d even posit that what the screen lacks in dots per inch it more than makes up for in dots per inch per second.

There are still features we are hinting at but that we’re still working on adding, like annotation (which is the biggie). We’re laying in the sharing stuff now.

Oh, and as far as search engine optimization is concerned, we’re working on a solution for that. Right now all of the content is stored as XML in a database (modeled on WordPress). We just have to build a front-end for it that spiders can crawl all over.

And feedback is welcome!

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The Rule of Sevens, or, Taming the Tab-Slut

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

se7en
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!)

Related Posts: Reflections of a tab-a-holic, Stuffing our faces with information

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Why I don’t read on my iPhone

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

stanza

Stanza‘s great. So’s Instapaper and the Kindle iPhone app. But let’s be honest here. If I look at my real app usage (this is my own personal reckoning, since I don’t have RescueTime or Google Trends for my iPhone) here’s my top 5 in terms of actual usage:

  1. Drop7
  2. Facebook
  3. Mail
  4. Twitterific
  5. NYTimes

One game, a social networking app, email, microblogging, and the news. Do you see an actual reading app here anywhere?

But what about the news, you ask? That’s reading, no?

No. Well, let’s be more specific. It’s short reading, browsing, scanning. News stories are generally around 600 words or less. Anything longer and I’m going to be worrying about my battery life or waiting to get to my computer. I’m going to generalize here and say that my app usage is for short, bite-sized activities. Small, just like the iPhone’s screen.

Now, I’m sure there are people out there who actually do slog through long reads on their iPhones (using the aforementioned apps). For some, I’m sure it’s a point of nerdy pride (“Look! I can read a free sci-fi eBook on my handheld device!”) and for others it is an occasional convenience (“Bored. Stuck here without any reading material. Oh yeah, I can use my iPhone to read that article I saved to instapaper 3 weeks ago!”).

But let’s be honest: reading on the iPhone is sub-optimal at best.

Why? Because reading, the long, focused trance of real reading is, and should be, a pleasure, not a convenience. To be able to sink into a well-wrought text requires an environment relatively free of distraction — and that includes the reading surface itself — because following complex thoughts and detailed verbal description is like walking a tightrope. Any little lapse in concentration — an inconsistent scrolling of the text, finding the pagination, targeting the next page button, waiting more than a second for it to load, an accidental tap or swipe that jogs the interface, a new message — breaks the spell, and the words go back to being mere words and the world your imagination has been constructing burns away like a fog.

It’s the difference between watching a movie on YouTube versus going into a dark theater with comfortable seats, immense screen, and surround sound. People will continue to pay (the price of a paperback) for that experience, just as they will continue to pay for well-set, well-edited books on good paper.

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Post-Print

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I happened to pick up a complete issue of the New York Times paper edition yesterday and I had a strange, disconcerting experience. I suppose you could call it déjà vu, but I think it’s slightly different, slightly more explicable than that…

I had given up my daily subscription to the Times two years ago, subsisting now as a “Weekender” and the truth is, I am paying $3.45 a week for the New York Times Magazine, since that’s the only section I really read. The rest, as they say, is “fish wrap.”

All other days, and even weekends, therefore, my daily experience with the Times is through its superb digital online product. So there I was, waiting in the hallway of my office, waiting for Ryan to come in since I had left my keys inside in my rush to leave the day before, and, bored, I picked up the newspaper someone had left for recycling, fully intact. After scanning the front page for a second, I realized that I had seen each of these headlines the day before online.

I hadn’t read each article, of course, but as I flipped further, I thought to myself, “So that’s where they put that article, and oh, I didn’t realize that one got the entire front page of the business section!” It was like someone had come in and re-arranged all of the furniture in my apartment, with different priorities and a different sense of order.

And one of the beauties of this post-digital encounter was that I stumbled on a fascinating article which hadn’t been on the “most e-mailed” list and it was a blip in the parade of articles on the homepage that day. But there it was, front and center on the business section:

googlepaper

Google in the paper

Google, the online giant, had been sued in federal court by a large group of authors and publishers who claimed that its plan to scan all the books in the world violated their copyrights.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found.

The article was about Google’s campaign to satisfy the terms of this class-action settlement, payback, if you will, for attempting to scan and offer digitally every book in the universe, to compensate the authors and copyright holders for this use of their “property”. The irony was that, in order to achieve this, Google was taking out half page ads in newspapers all over the world, an undertaking only Google could pull off.

Fancy, that: Google having to use paper to distribute information.

It just goes to show: print is going to recalibrate itself from what it used to do (everything from phone books to news to long texts to novels) to focus on what it does really well in a digital, networked world (not hyper-fresh news, not phone books, on-demand magazines and books, and information distribution off the grid).

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