Archive for the ‘redub’ Category

WTFJHTOE?

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

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.

UPDATE: Entire webcast embedded above! Link from Planet Money’s blog.

PS — if you’re wondering what “WTFJHTOE” stands for, check the webcast

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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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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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The New Redub Reader Site

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Well, after a flurry of slapdash HTML/CSSery done while watching the Oscars, I’ve put up the new public site for the Redub Reader. It’s at http://reader.redub.org. Totally coded by hand, though I’m sure I’ll port it over to WordPress at some point, but sometimes it’s just easier to maintain good ol’ fashioned HTML pages with TextMate.

The New Redub Reader Home

The New Redub Reader Home

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Want to take a peek at what we’re working on?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I just wanted to give you loyal Redub readers who follow my indulgent musings here on the blog (yes, all 3 of you) a little sneak peek into the in-house project that we’ve been working on for the past few months.

Thanks to the amazing skills of Ryan Lauer (with crucial assistance and input from Karl here in the office) we’re getting to a point with this project that we’d like to start getting some input from actual users.

Instead of giving you a long spiel about what it is, I offer you this dorky little video as a trailer:

You can sign up at the URL in the video, or you can just go directly to the development URL:

The Redub Reader
The name is subject to change. If you have any suggestions email me.

A couple of things:

  • This is a screen reader intended for personal use. Ie, when you run across an article that you think is waaaay to long to read (but you really really want to read it), try hitting “Publish article” and copy and pasting the text into the form. You will be able to manually remove cruft from the import (it’ll be automatically scrubbed of HTML and Javascript) and send it to the Reader. It’s like taking a long article through a car wash.
  • Hint: Don’t tell anybody…but try just importing any NYTimes URL instead of copy and pasting. Works best for long NYTimes Magazine pieces that really don’t translate well into their regular news article templates.

Enjoy!
Thanks!

Irwin

P.S. – We know there are tons of little typos and UI kinks. We’ve got a long backlog of tasks and bugs to fix so go easy on us. It’s still early yet.

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