Sunspots: The full moon in the Trades edition 37signals 18 Apr 2006

17 comments Latest by SI

Interesting presentation restraints at Pecha Kucha
Pecha Kucha -- Japanese for "chit-chat" -- brings together 15 presenters from different industries. Each one shows 20 slides for 20 seconds each. Sounds like a neat way to get people out of canned presentation mode.
Designers must write
"This is part of our evolution as an industry. If we want to be taken seriously, we had best approach all forms of language with the same reverence we bring to visual literacy."
Pro-hybrid laws miss the point according to Automobile Magazine bureau chief
"They might just end up subsidizing companies that have failed to develop truly fuel-efficient vehicles at the expense of those that have had the foresight to design their cars right in the first place."
Video: Goldberging
A 12 minute collection of Rube Goldberg inventions from a Japanese TV show. Which begs the question: Just who was Rube Goldberg? Answer: An American cartoonist and sculptor known for his drawings of ludicrously intricate machinery meant to perform simple operations.
Anti-Organization Men are "viscerally hostile to organizational inertia"
One of the key traits Anti-Organization Men value is "a willingness to stir up opposition and to be unmoved in the face of it (on the contrary, to see it as the inevitable byproduct of success)."
The web's blind spot = bottom right
Jakob Nielsen's heatmaps show an F-shaped reading patterns at sites. People first read in a horizontal movement then move down the page a bit and read across in a second horizontal movement. Finally, users scan the content's left side in a vertical movement. (Q: Did we really need a heatmap to show us that?)
Deliberation Day: "A radical proposal to help voters make better decisions"
Registered voters would be called together in neighborhood meeting places to discuss the central issues raised by the campaign. Each deliberator would be paid $150.
Ric Burns' documentary on Eugene O'Neill
Riveting PBS documentary with great readings by Christopher Plummer, Al Pacino, and others. Playwright Tony Kushner: "In O'Neill, there's this absolute, sort of God-ordained mission, which is to keep searching, even if in the process he discovers that there is no God. It's a terrifying sort of mandate, but it also I think should be the mandate of all artists, and in a way, of all people." Here's a monologue from "Long Day's Journey Into Night" by O'Neill:

(Edmund): I was on The Squarehead, square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself, actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way. And several other times in my life, when I was swimming far out, or lying alone on a beach, I have had the same experience, became the sun, the hot sand, green seaweed anchored to a rock, swaying in the tide. Like a saint's vision of beatitude. Like the veil of things as they seem drawn back by an unseen hand. For a second you see, and seeing the secret, you are the secret. For a second there is meaning! Then the hand lets the veil fall and you are alone, lost in the fog again, and you stumble on towards nowhere for no good reason. It was a great mistake, my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a sea gull or a fish. As it is, I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong, who must always be a little in love with death.

17 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Noah Daniels 18 Apr 06

Regarding the Web’s Blindspot - I’m surprised this is news. Human interface studies have shown this for a while, and it’s why the Mac trash can has always been on the lower right of the screen.

John 18 Apr 06

I wonder if anyone has ever bothered explaining the basics of typography to Jakob Nielsen?

I’m sure his site is browser-friendly, but *man* is it a pain in the neck to read. So much for the 66 character column width.

Kyle Posey 18 Apr 06

Nielson’s 3 examples were of sites that had no content in the lower right. It would then seem quite obvious that people woudn’t fixate there for any amount of time. I’d like to see some heat maps of sites that have alternative navigation placement (like this blog).

The only thing I got from his study is that websites that have content structured in an F or E pattern, will receive the most *heat* in those areas. Aka, your visitors will look wherever the information is. And of course the left hand side will be a hotter zone due to text reading from left to right.

Rob Cameron 18 Apr 06

Great point Kyle — there’s no content down there to look at! Of course a person isn’t going to fixate on a blank area of the screen. Jakob had a good run but it looks like his time is coming to an end.

Ed 18 Apr 06

The screenshot in the middle does show content at the bottom of the screen. Basically people will fixate on the left side of the screen more than on the right side, including their subsections like paragraphs of text.

And yeah, I do think it’s kind of ironic that JN’s site streches the text to 100% browser width. Kind of makes my eyes tired.

I’m sure that in non-western countries it’s at least a reverse F. I wonder if websites like this blog should have a reverse placement in places where they read right-to-left…

dave rau 18 Apr 06

Hahaha, when ideasonideas loaded up my first reaction was to hit apple+r to “hide rulers.” Funny.

Drew Pickard 18 Apr 06

Funny - Jakob’s ‘heat’ maps align perfectly with content.

Apparently people don’t read empty space!

Mark 18 Apr 06

Re: Pro-Hybrid laws…How about the proposal to grant free parking in Boston to hybrid owners. Let’s see, the cost and lack of parking in Boston deters people from driving in, encouraging use of mass transportation. But if people buy a hybrid that gets decent gas mileage, we’ll give them free parking for their good deed and add their new Prius to the highways into the city, creating more congestion and more idling vehicles! Yes, citizenry, we’re progressive politicians and we support you buying hybrids!

Dave 18 Apr 06

Ok, so users on the web read from bottom to top, left to right, and don’t look at whitespace often. That is one great study! I’m with Rob; Nielson’s had a nice run, but his time as “king of usability” is over.

kareem 18 Apr 06

Anti-Organization Men are “viscerally hostile to organizational inertia” One of the key traits Anti-Organization Men value is “a willingness to stir up opposition and to be unmoved in the face of it (on the contrary, to see it as the inevitable byproduct of success).”

This goes to a TimesSelect article on Rumsfeld… is that what you meant to link to?

ML 18 Apr 06

Kareem: Yes, that’s the right article…updated the link to a free copy of story.

kareem 18 Apr 06


Natalie Ferguson 18 Apr 06

Hybrids: Tis crazy that we forget the actual results of something after it’s given a buzzword. If the idea is to consume less petrol, I’m not sure how anyone would be inspired to leap into an SUV hybrid or not - smaller, more efficient cars, of which some hybrids are, is an excellent way to do this. So is running your diesal car of vegetable oil, or catching public transport. In saying so, I am instantly wary of mainstream media finding the downfall in such an overall awsome technology..

Daniel 19 Apr 06

The bashing of Jakob’s heat map analysis shows that SvN readers scans pages in this order:

Text in link to page.

Headings and text are skipped all together.

Everyone who took their time to either read the heading or actually scan the article content would notice that the F-shape is found in the content area. There is text in the lower right part of this area in all screens, which the users obviously ignore. The analysis and the implications Jakob argues from the study says nothing about navigation but of content writing.

Ofcourse this is not a new idea, and follows quite logically from our text direction, but being able to measure it turns this speculation into a fact.

As for his 100% width, I think he is fighting a battle with windmills, but the original reason is valid. If all web pages where designed this way, the user would have control over the flow and been able to adjust it to his likning. Since most designers think they know better than the user what line width (and text size) the user likes, most people don’t bother to adjust their web browser to a width that fits them.

David Patrick 19 Apr 06

Oh Man! All this time I was sure that *that* Honda Ad was a unique work of genius - only to find that they copied an idea from Rube Goldberg….

But that is definitely a good way to pass an afternoon - now where is my little rubber ball, paper plate and vacuum cleaner hose?

George Hotelling 19 Apr 06

Regarding Deliberation Day, I’d rather see the country do the simplest thing possible, which isn’t to pay $150 to millions of people (although I realize that’s just a drop in the bucket of the federal budget). Instead of coordinating this massive effort, how about we start by making election day a national holiday?

There have been bills to create a Democracy Day in the past, but they all seem to die in committee. I don’t understand why we celebrate our flag, but not the democracy it represents.

SI 20 Apr 06

Re: The web’s blind spot / Jakob Nielsen


“…it seems like Nielsen is trying to pass off discovery of the ‘F’ shape as his own, when in fact, this pattern was first noted by Enquiro in a report published last year about Google’s ‘Golden Triangle’…”

“…Suggesting that F-shaped scanning is [an] innate [human behaviour] seems to push a very specific agenda - an agenda that sees users’ behaviour (and ultimately usability gurus like Nielsen) driving design. Yet it seems to me that, in this particular instance, it is design that is driving users’ behaviour.”