An Actionscript (Flash) programmer who has a blog called ‘PixelBreaker‘ has built a very clever clock that uses a polar plot to show the passing of time. Here’s a capture, with a link to the real thing:
A great example of good information design, if there ever was one. I’m thinking that it might be easy to read, once you get used to it. And pretty, too. Will make a nice screen saver.
A web site called Common Craft has been doing a nice service for us techie types by producing clever little videos that explain some rather arcane subjects like RSS:
And now they have a new video that explains the concept of Wikis and why you would use one:
They are well done, and charming the way that they employ old fashioned stop-motion technique to create a sort of animated white board. My only negative comment is that I wouldn’t mind them using a different voice without the twang (just a personal thing I have with accents). On the other hand, some would probably say that using an amateur voice helps to suggest a non-professional feel for the presentation, which makes the subject less threatening.
It’s only a matter of time before some advertising exec sees one of these and rips off the technique for a ‘hip’ spot about a car or razor. In the meantime, I’m pleased to be able to point people to these videos when they need a quick (and are done at breakneck speed) tutorial on a few new concepts and technologies that are very popular these days. If you don’t quite get the concept of each the first time through, try once more through. It won’t take long.
Here’s an issue that both touches on usability, as well as this blog itself:
A visitor to this blog noted the lack of contact information (such as my email address) in plain view. My answer to him was that this is partly on purpose. As many people know, when you leave your email address on a web page, software that is designed to harvest email addresses can easily grab that address and put it in SPAM databases. I learned from my Kendall Group web site that doing this resulted in a nearly unusable email address (ddrucker@ that address is constantly inundated with hundreds of SPAM a day, and only after I completely removed it and put up a ‘closed for business’ page up has this begun to let up , but not entirely).
There are some solutions for this problem, but I’m not sure which to adopt. Here are the ones I know of:
List my address as ‘name “at” domain name’ , rather than an address that is actually written out. This is inconvenient, and relies on the ability of people to figure it out (and machines to be unable to – I’m not sure if they have improved the SPAMbots so that they can get around this). It’s a relatively simple but user unfriendly solution, that is potentially useless if the software has been made more ‘intelligent’ to get around this subterfuge.
Create a ‘Contact Me’ form for the initial email, much like a comment, but on it’s own page and with a simple mailto form script. While it’s not particularly elegant (and mailto scripts have their own security problems), it might do the trick. Again, there’s no guarantee that SPAMers might find a way around this one.
Include the text “To contact me, please use a comment.” somewhere on the home page. This is easiest, and would have a pretty good chance of getting by the SPAMbots. It is, however, less ‘friendly’, since initial communications would be public and not everyone likes having their opening communication visible to all (even though I can actually choose to not publish the comment and still respond via email).
Years ago I’d heard of services where email sent to an address for the first time required the sender to validate themselves (essentially respond to a link in an automatic responder email). I’ve forgotten what it was called, but it sounds good in this case, but I’m not sure what kind of reaction it might cause (since it puts most of the responsibility upon the person who is initially trying to get in touch to verify that they are not a SPAMer)
So, there is my quandary: How to make myself more ‘contactable’ without opening up the door to the inevitable flood of SPAM. I already receive about 2-300 SPAMs a day from my old address, so this is no small issue. I know that there are probably some other solutions, but I do not want to run extra SPAM software on my Mac, and do not want to have to buy a PC to run SPAM software either. I want to stop or discourage these emails before they are sent, not have something sift through my mail to remove them afterward. I sometimes access my email from the road via webmail, so extra SPAM-filtering software doesn’t help there.