Archived entries for Search

Information Esthetics (i.e.)

Lecture Series One: March–July, 2005

If I was in New York this spring, I’d definitely check out some of these lectures. Looks excellent, and these topics and critical as unfathomable amounts of information continue to be made available to the world.

Making data meaningful—this phrase could describe what dozens of professions strive for: Wall Street systems designers, fine artists, advertising creatives, computer interface researchers, and many others. Occasionally something important happens in these practices: a data representation is created that reveals the subject’s nature with such clarity and grace that it both informs and moves the viewer. We both understand and care. This is the focus of Information Esthetics.

Information Esthetics, a recently formed not-for-profit organization, has organized a lecture series dedicated to helping this happen more often. World leaders in seven different aspects of sense-making have been invited to speak on topics from typography to visual perception, from charting to electro-mechanical engineering. The goal: to help expose the beauty experts see in their databases, better engaging their whole minds in interpretation; to help inspire art that’s not just decorated with data but makes the data readable, satisfying viewers’ minds as much as their eyes and hearts.

The format of the talks lets us explore more deeply than a typical panel or academic paper presentation. Each speaker will talk for a full hour, we’ll break for a half hour of fine spirits and snacks, then sit down again for an interview/chat led by series organizer and interaction designer W. Bradford Paley. The intent throughout is to delve into the implications these profound ideas have for human communication in general—but also to share some simple techniques that people can immediately put to use in their own projects.

The lectures will take place Thursday evenings in the Chelsea Art Museum at 565 West 22nd street in Manhattan. They are free with the discounted $3 museum admission, and start promptly at 6:00pm on these dates:

  • Robert Bringhurst, March 31 · Typography and layout

    The distinguished Mr. Bringhurst is perhaps the most recognized typographer, a published poet, and the author of the fundamental contemporary work on typography: “Elements of Typographic Style.” http://www.typebooks.org/i-r_bringhurst.htm

  • Judith Donath, April 21 · Social computing

    Dr. Donath’s group at the MIT Media Lab studies intriguing social interactions and produces some of the loveliest and clearest visual representations of these complex systems. She is a well-read and careful observer of fine art. http://smg.media.mit.edu/people/Judith

  • Ted Selker, May 12 · Situated devices

    Dr. Selker focuses on putting intelligence into everyday objects: his invention of the eraser-like IBM Trackpoint device transformed laptop keyboards throughout the industry. His MIT media Lab group continues to expand those explorations. http://web.media.mit.edu/~selker

  • Lisa Strausfeld, May 26 · Real-time charting

    Ms. Strausfeld is a partner in Pentagram, the respected New York design firm. Her dense, readable information displays are well structured, visually rich, and intellectually satisfying. http://www.pentagram.com/people-strausfeld.htm

  • Bill Buxton, June 16 · Supporting creative analysis

    Mr. Buxton is a musician, mountain climber, and interaction designer; former Chief Scientist of Silicon Graphics; and a well-known and controversial computer interface expert. He owns an art gallery in Toronto with his wife and has been developing user interfaces explicitly for designers for over a decade. http://www.billbuxton.com

  • Ron Rensink, June 30 · Visual perception

    Dr. Rensink is one of the world’s experts on “Change Blindness” a feature of the human visual system that allows major changes to happen unnoticed right in front of one’s eyes, allowing (among other things) magic performances to work. He studies human perception, discovering and sharing principles useful in design. http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~rensink

  • Tamara Munzner, July 14 · Large data sets

    Dr. Munzner specializes in information visualization: showing complexities in subjects that range from genetically-determined phylogenetic evolutionary trees to environmental sustainability. Her work is informed by an eye developed under her art-teacher father, and often reveals structure more clearly as a result. http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~tmm

This lecture series is an Information Esthetics production, made possible by a project of Digital Image Design Incorporated. The talks are presented by The Project Room at Chelsea Art Museum by producer/curator Nina Colosi, and are supported in part by the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University.

Generous volunteer efforts support Information Esthetics, including high-reliability Web site hosting by Michael Rosenthal, Web site supervision by Perry Metzger, and (soon) graphic design by Warren Kemp. Please contact i.e.director W. Bradford Paley if you would like to volunteer, be put on our mailing list, or otherwise participate.

If you go, please point me to your notes!

[Invites] Filangy – Your Personal Search Engine

Filangy is a personal search engine. There are a few startups and companies playing in this space right now, but Filangy is my early favorite. Other’s have written about it, including John Battelle’s Search Blog, Larry Borsato, and a thorough write-up on Rob’s Blog. (You can always check the latest murmurings by running a Technorati search.

Filangy is an intelligent search tool integrated with a search engine to make searching productive. We offer features that allow users to personalize their search experience. Two of the features that we have launched in our beta products are WebMarks and WebCache.

WebCache
This is a secure, web-enabled archive of all your visited webpages.
WebMarks
These are your portable favorites that are accessible from anywhere.

In other words, Filangy captures every page you visit (while it’s enabled — its’ easy to pause it if you’re feeling secretive), and also allows for instantaneous bookmarking while you’re on a page. When you use Filangy to search, you can limit it to either of these groups: pages you’ve been on before; pages you’ve bookmarked.

I’ve got a few extra invites. Leave a comment or send me an email if you’d like one of them. Please include a sentence or two on the root of your curiosity and why you’ll be a good recipient. (I just want to make sure that, like extra pets, they’re going to good homes.)

Like most of my favorite apps these days, the value of the services is only slowly revealed. The more you use it, the more help it’s able to provide. The more you use it, the more advanced features on the interface become visible… While it’s somewhat counter-intuitive to hide value initially, this wonder and dare-i-say glee of discovery pays huge dividends. Anyways, let me know what you think if you’ve been using it, and like I said, let me know if you need an invite.

Total Recall — Desktop Search Products Reviewed

PC Magazine has a nice review of the desktop search space.

Desktop search tools really can make our lives easier, and since so many of them are free, there’s little reason not to give one a try. Your mailbox isn’t getting any more manageable, your hard drive isn’t getting emptier, and after all, finding something on the PC right in front of you should be as easy as finding something on the Web.

And, I’m happy to spoil with their conclusion: “Our favorite, Yahoo! Desktop Search, is actually based on the same core software as the $75 X1 Desktop Search, and it offers almost all the same features.” (The main feature that Yahoo! didn’t pick up in their free version of X1 is the ability to index email outside of Outlook, specifically Eudora and Mozilla/Thunderbird.)

Yahoo! Research Labs Buzz Game

Yahoo! Research Labs and O’Reilly Media Collaborate to Introduce Tech Buzz Game, Inviting Participants to Predict Future Technology Trends Based on Popularity of Yahoo! Search Terms

The Tech Buzz Game is a fantasy prediction market for high-tech products, concepts, and trends. As a player, your goal is to predict how popular various technologies will be in the future. Popularity or buzz is measured by Yahoo! Search frequency over time. Predictions are made by buying virtual stock in the products or technologies you believe will succeed, and selling stock in the technologies you think will flop. In other words, you “put your play money where your mouth is.

At the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference today, Yahoo’s principal scientist Dr Gary Flake announced, among other things, the Tech Buzz Game, which “leverages search query volume and frequency on Yahoo! Search” and puts that “buzz” in play in a stock market model. Using the 10,000 in play money that you get with a free game username, you can buy and sell shares of technology concepts like “bittorrent”, “podcasting”, “Macintosh Tiger”, “yahoo photos” and other things. Things terms are broken down into markets, which as each zero-sum-game distinct markets “Browser Wars”, “Mobile Development Environments “, and “Rumor Mill”.

Check out this and more at the new Yahoo Research Labs site that launched in conjunction with the ETech conference. You can also read up on this year’s ETech Conference, or read the Tech Buzz Game’s press release.

(By the way, as of this writing I’m in 9th place on the game’s leaderboard – out of 697 currently. We’ll see if my beginner’s luck holds out.)

buzz-game-2005031601-9th

Send driving direction to your phone on Yahoo

Send driving direction to your phone on Yahoo
Originally uploaded by natekoechley.

Following quickly on the SMS Clipping feature, Yahoo! Maps this week quietly launched a new feature that lets you quickly send driving directions to your mobile phone via SMS text message.

Brilliant. Give it a test drive.


Semantic Markup – Create, Support and Extract

Semantic Data Extractor

As Kevin Ryan pointed out at work yesterday, the W3’s Semantic Data Extractor is a pretty sweet tool. I’ve been steadily promoting Layered Semantic Markup at work — the importance of meaningful markup as the core of web development. This is a great tool to show that value, and remind that the reason you put meaning in is to get meaning out.

The tool tries to extract information from a semantically-rich HTML document. It only uses information available through the good usage of the semantics provided by HTML. “The aim is to show that providing semantically rich HTML gives much more value to your code: using semantically rich HTML allows a better use of CSS, and makes your HTML intelligible to a wider range of user agents (especially search engines bots).”

To see it in action, check out the new next.yahoo.com page. The Extractor handles it pretty well, showing a clear document hierarchy.

What is Layered Semantic Markup?

Today’s Wrong Solution is Tomorrow’s Constraint

Layered Semantic Markup (LSM) is not a technology, but a framework comprised of HTML, XHTML, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Javascript, DOM and other Web technologies. LSM allows for appropriately implemented principles and standards.

LSM is a development framework for creating Web documents and experiences. LSM builds for the least capable devices first, then enhances those documents with separate logic for presentation, in ways that do not place an undue burden on baseline devices but which allow a richer experience for those users with modern graphical browser software. LSM supports all user agents, and is inclusive by design. (Progressive EnhancementUnobtrusive Javascript)

LSM has structural semantic markup at its core, which provides lean, meaningful, accessible pages. This well-built core and the clear separation of structural, presentational and behavioral layers make this development philosophy superior to many short-sighted approaches.

Today’s wrong solution is tomorrow’s constraint. A holistic vision – an underlying philosophy – must guide technical decisions. LSM provides the strategy for a sound and future-ready approach.

LSM embraces Graded Browser Support by using one markup document, subsequently layered with stylesheets and scripts that provide a gradually enhanced experience across a wide variety of browsers and devices.

This approach has profound advantages over other browser support approaches such as graceful degradation. Graded Browser Support recognizes that advanced technology support is not a guarantee of the future, and that legacy software as well as alternative devices (mobile) must always be considered. Graded Browser Support defines support in terms of current capabilities, not in terms of legacy or obsolete software; it embraces accessibility, universality, and peaceful coexistence with more feature-rich browsers/devices; and it allows for adoption of new technology and strategies without leaving any browser/device behind.

Credits

This work is heavily influenced and contains directly passages from Debra Chamra’s “Progressive Enhancement: Paving the Way for Future Web Design“, Steven Champeon and Nick Finck’s presentation “Inclusive Web Design For the Future with Progressive Enhancement“, and Steven Champeon’s “Progressive Enhancement and the Future of Web Design“, all of which may be found here.

Thanks also to the great people who have endlessly debated and developed these topics with me: James Berry, Sean Imler, Todd Kloots, Jon Koshi, Mike Lee, Thomas Sha, Matt Sweeney, Chanel Wheeler, and Christina Wodtke; and everybody else; and to everybody who puts their ideas online so that others may be inspired. Thanks.



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