Categorydesign-of-things

fuck you, american express.

It’s not just for foie fucking gras, it can pay for the cheaper shit, too!

If, by error, my dear, you happen to stumble upon one of the run down lower class stores, you can still use the American Express card.

Rejoice, poor people of the world, American Express is available to you! Poor people and places are no limit for AmEx.

Fuck you, American Express.

banners of old

The banners on the blog used to rotate. I took a bunch of pictures back in January/February 08 and figured I’d set one of them as the site banner. But then I realized it would be neat if every so often the banner automatically changed. When I converted to this minimal design the banners disappeared.

torn card

I really like this. When I moved the site to jaaduhai.com the blog had a default banner with the template I chose. Eventually I decided to change it. So I started to think of “magic” related banners. I pulled out a card, put it on the carpet and took a couple of shots. Then it sort of hit me, that I could tear the card and that would possibly create a powerful image. At first the torn pieces were aligned, and then I turned one slightly.

This misalignment – I like it.

all but a butterfly

This picture has a story. I was walking to get lunch one day and a white butterfly started to fly alongside me. It then came in front of me, did a 360º around me and then flew away. Somewhere along the way I also turned 360º with it. This made me smile a lot.

I found this butterfly floating around a few days later. It’s a shame that I didn’t know how to work the controls on my camera to get a better picture.

I absolutely love how this is such a strong contrast to “torn card”. Card on the right vs butterfly on the left. Dark vs light. Carpet vs grass. There is so much more you can pull out. I love it.

coca cola – open happiness

Really? Open happiness? Fuck you, Coke.

open-source textbooks – connexion

This is absolutely brilliant. It is brilliant to the point that it excites me. Open source textbooks. Books that are open to everyone, and books that can be freely shared, modified, copied, reprinted etc etc etc. Brilliant.

As Richard Baraniuk says in his TED talk (please watch it below), this allows knowledge to be contextualized for the cultural and social regions it will be used in. That is not only brilliant but necessary. Not only that, but this allows knowledge to be customized and specialized per student. Ideas are good alone, but they are better when they are shared.

Textbooks should be free. But they will not be free if students keep paying absurd amounts for them. Knowledge should be free. Free to access, free to share, free to use. If students were to stop buying textbooks they could change the way universities do business. Hah, that won’t happen anytime soon. But in the meanwhile, we have the opportunity to spread the word and contribute.

This is why technologies like the Internet are so important. They allow for things like this to happen, the Internet makes this easier. And that is awesome.

design

I don’t think I’ve commented at all on the new design. I’ll do that now.

I like it a lot. I’m very comfortable with it, yet there’s still a certain level of discomfort. And that’s fine. I love the design. The essence of it.

It’s a lot, in nature, like my best design. I made that up in 2003. The date and the content and nothing much else. The design is very bare bones and simple, I like that. This design is very bare bones and simple also, I like that as well.

This design didn’t have a link to the comments initially, so I added that. I increased the font size. Which is very different from the 2003 design where the text is so small. I don’t know what I was thinking back then, but at the same time, monitor sizes and resolutions were a lot smaller back then. I like the large font size. I find it easier to read. Though, I suppose, some may find it annoying.

I really like the way it lists the archives, although it’s not immediately obvious how to get there. The archives page could be improved by using AJAX to fetch a post when you click the title and display it immediately with you having to leave that page, and also allow commenting from that same spot. I will play with that sometime. I already pull in contents of all single line posts to display immediately, no point in making a person click just to see one line.

There are no sidebars. Apart from that 2003 design, I’ve always had sidebars even if they were empty. Most of the things I had in the sidebar were fairly useless. Like search for example. Seriously, who really comes here to search for things? I do, but I’m sure for everyone else that’s a fairly pointless feature. The “I’m currently reading” and “My Flickr” areas in the sidebar felt way to self-promotional for my likings. I mean, yes, this is my personal blog and naturally you will get information about me. But it’s not important enough to be on every single page. Maybe just the first page? Maybe not even there? I’ll have to figure that out.

I miss having the blogroll, I think that’s a key component toward developing some sort of a community and encouraging collaboration to some degree. I need to find a clean way of bringing that back. I like the idea of having a “quick links” type feature.

Categories and archives in the sidebar? What good are those? No use showing a huge list of archive page links from 2002 to 2008. That’s just information clutter. Likewise with the categories/tags. But all this information is cleverly embedded into the post data. So you still have access to it without generating sidebar clutter.

I’m not saying all this stuff is necessarily bad. I may not like it now but then like it tomorrow. But I think there need to be better ways of presenting this information.

Speaking about design and better ways of presenting information, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Fathima’s new site design and her new blog design. I think she has awesome design and HTML/CSS coding skills and you should hire her.

So I’ll play around with this design, tweak things and over time figure things out.

Also, the design was made by Jonas Arnfred from ifany.org.

search is where it’s at

The new Firefox 3 browser is out! You should go download it.

It has a slightly new look and feel, it also uses a lot less memory. I really like how when you’re on a page where you enter a password, it doesn’t popup a window anymore asking you if you want to remember your password. Instead it will continue to the next page, and ask you in a bar if you want to remember the password. This makes things flow smoother and faster. I’ll find out the other changes/features as I use the browser more and more.

The most noticeable change is the address bar, it now uses search to show you the most relevant URL. This means you can type in any portion of a URL and the address bar will show you the matching URLs. In fact, you can even type on the title of a page (that’s not part of the URL) and it will still show you the proper URL matches. This is great for moments where you don’t remember the exact domain name or URL but remember only portions of it. The ability to search is awesome.

This takes us to Google Desktop. This program indexes all the files on your computer and even the web pages you’ve visited. So now, if you forget the domain name and URL, but you remember some of the content on the page, Google Desktop will search amongst the pages that you’ve visited. If you download a file and forget where you saved it, or you forget the exact name, no problem. Just press the CTRL button twice, the search prompt makes itself available, type in your search query and you’re good to go.

You know how when you’ve installed hundreds of programs on your computer and Window’s Start Menu becomes huge! Well now, instead of looking through the menu to launch your program, you can just search for it. This makes life a lot easier.

Addendum
Google Desktop also indexes your email (Gmail email). Which means that you can search for your email even when you’re not connected to the intertubes. It doesn’t index Gtalk though.
End Addendum

Some of you may be concerned about Google indexing everything that’s on your computer and then transferring that data to their grand central database. This is a valid concern, though they say that they don’t do this. But Google already knows everything. Google knows what you want (because you use Google to search for it), Google knows who you talk to (because you use Gmail and Gtalk), Google also knows what you say to the people you talk to, Google knows where you live (because you use Google Maps), Google knows what data you pull in (because you use Google Reader), Google knows what you’re doing on the certain day (because you use Google Calendar), Google knows what videos you watch (because you use Google’s YouTube), Google even knows what blog posts you have in draft mode (because you use Google’s Blogger (though WordPress has but a huge dent here, but Google still has all of those indexed in their search anyway)). Google just knows. Google knows. Google.

Try out Google Desktop (which interestingly and surprisingly comes in Linux and Mac versions as well), it will make things faster to look for. Just give in… to Google. You already have.

sunday ted: amazing underwater animals

This is an absolute must watch! absolutely positively amazing! It’s only 5 minutes long, so it won’t take up too much of your time. If you’ve ever thought, “this is the way God made me”, watch this video!

The best is saved for last: [direct link to amazing underwater animals video at ted]


sunday ted: rives poem

I bumped into TED and Def Poetry when I was in India last May. Now I don’t remember whether TED got me to Def Poetry or whether Def Poetry got me to TED, it’s all fuzzy. But either way, there’s awesome clips in both.

This is something that bridges the gap: [direct link for you rss feed folk]


Sunday TED: Juggling

So I figure I will start sharing a TED video every so often. or so often every. or often every so. whichever comes first.

This one is approx 15 minutes long. But well worth watching the entire thing, well worth the standing ovation at the end. It is also extremely funny. If it doesn’t make you laugh, I’ll give you your time back, with interest.

This reminds me of contact juggling and how I should continue to learn that. Contact juggling is much harder than it looks.


Feeds

hungry. eat. feed.

Feeds have changed the way we use the internet. They fit right into that Web 2.0 turn table where instead of going to the content, people fetch the content. RSS, Atom, microformats or whatever works for you, they all feed.

Google Reader is my kitchen, it is where I see what is being served and what others are cooking. The Kitchen satisfies my hunger. Content was, and is still, king.

This Kitchen is a place where I can cook my food for thought, the content delivered to me comes in various forms: appetizers, main courses, deserts… sometimes certain bits are just ingredients that I survey and choose to include in what I will make. You can even freeze (store for later) content.

Interestingly enough, I had heard about google reader before, but only started using it after yasmine blogged about it. Sometimes I can’t keep up, just a few days ago I had to mark everything as read because I had fallen behind for a few weeks and had over 2000 unread items.

Feeds are fascinating, because not only do they distribute individualized content, they allow for mashups. There are plenty of good mashups out there, one of my favourites now is : TTC Google Maps.

Some folk may not like the idea of distributing content as that may mean losing traffic to their site. I think that’s just silly. Distributing good content will generate both interest and traffic. And the more channels you can use to distribute content, the better.

Feeds are good, because they’re changing the world.

wikipedia

Unbelievable, the power of collective collaboration.

Go now and search for something common on Google, first page of results has to have the wikipedia article.

The fact that wikipedia even exists and works is unreal. Anyone can add or change any article, opening itself to mischief from the unforgiving world, and yet it works. I love its self-healing nature. I like self-healing systems.

This is an open, free, social self-healing system. Even better. This is good design.

I was browsing edge.org’s world question, “what have you changed your mind about?”, Kevin Kelly’s response was wikipedia, one particular run of sentences I found interesting:

The Wikipedia is impossible, but here it is. It is one of those things impossible in theory, but possible in practice. Once you confront the fact that it works, you have to shift your expectation of what else that is impossible in theory might work in practice.

I am not the only one who has had his mind changed about this. The reality of a working Wikipedia has made a type of communitarian socialism not only thinkable, but desirable. Along with other tools such as open-source software and open-source everything, this communitarian bias runs deep in the online world.”

sudoku

Sudoku is for people with crossword puzzle envy.

Wikipedia will tell you about the history of the game and the rules. I will tell you why I like it.

I like sudoku because it’s a simple game. You don’t have to know a thousand words and their quirky meanings. You simply need to know:

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

Not even zero. You think in horizontal, vertical and box. Here, you must think inside, outside and yes even around the box. 🙂

The easy ones can be done within 5 minutes, most of them within 12 minutes, and then there are challenging ones that are nearly impossible to get.

I, personally, use the dot notation and it seems to be working well for me. I don’t like guessing, so if I have exhausted all options and have to guess a number for a box, I won’t bother completing the puzzle, will move on to the next one.

Simple is good. Sudoku is good.

designing for debt

The TTC is currently (and has been for a while) running ads for debt management. There are two companies that are running their ads, CreditCanada.com and InChargeCanada.ca. Let’s compare.

Starting with the subway adverts:

Credit Canada

Credit Canada Subway Advertisement

This is an awesome ad. Large clear font, extremely legible, perfect spacing. The hook is the ad copy, “like hell money doesn’t buy happiness”. This literally compels you to look below and get more details. The details are also clear. Motto/slogan, followed by website, followed by phone number. Done. Message sent, message understood.

They have a number of these on the subway cars, and each one had a different ad copy, one of them reads, “Rags to?” . It’s clever, it makes you think, and once you have, you know someone else put thought into it.

In Charge Canada

*apologies for the picture below, it was taken by my phone camera. I need a spiffy camera like the one that was used to take the picture above.

In Charge Canada Subway Advert

There is so much that is wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin.

Let’s start with the distribution of information. It’s all crammed in. The spacing is awful, there is no breathing room. The mini paragraph is useless, because it’s small and hard to read. Also because it has no flow, the capitalized and bold words are used way too much, breaking the rhythm of the sentences. If your sentences require this much emphasis, they’re probably wrong.

The background color is too close to the empty lighting cover in the back, this doesn’t help draw any attention to the ad.

There are pictures of people. Big Mistake. At least in my opinion. Because I’m thinking, “ah so that’s what people who were in debt look like”. And if they are the same race or the same type of person as me, I wouldn’t be too pleased. Who do you put there? White people? Black people? Brown people? seriously, keep people pictures out of debt ads, or at the very least cleverly cover their identities.

The next part I really really hate. There are mini-flyers hanging off the ad that people are supposed to rip off so they can remember the phone number and the website and other details. First of all, the ad is so bad that they realized they should probably have some physical take away for people. Thanks, but do you really want me to get up, walk up to a terrible debt management ad and rip off your mini-flyer in front of all these people?

“Oh haha, yes, this isn’t for me, oh no no, this is for a friend, she’s addicted to gambling”.

Ummm… no. Get a better ad copy so that people remember your ad without having to exert too much effort, not to mention face possible public embarrassment. You should be grateful that someone even bothered to look at your ad.

Slogans

InCharge: Debt Solutions

CreditCanada: Debt is Manageable

Sigh, yet once again. CreditCanada completely nailed it, their slogan gives you hope, it’s as if someone is talking directly to you. InCharge’s sounds like corporate drivel, like “Web-based Solutions” what does that even mean?

Websites

It’s interesting how the design philosophies of each company is not only reflected in their subway advertisements, but also in the design of their website. InCharge is all crammed up as well, while CreditCanada is lean, clean and very well spaced out.

I land on the InCharge website and I think to myself, “what? what should I do next?”. When I land on the CreditCanada website I think, “hmmm… I want to find out more about X, and gee look, I know exactly where to click to find it”.

InCharge is too image heavy, while CreditCanada is text heavy, which is great for search engines. Taking a look at the code, InCharge is table based, while CreditCanada is using proper CSS based layouts. HTML validation shows CreditCanada to have 5 errors (minor things, really), InCharge has over 60 errors.

InCharge was way too many menu options, and the side bar on the right distracts from the content. CreditCanada has excellent consistency in the pages, and has a simple side menu.

Think about it, if you’re in debt and you visit one of these sites. If you visit CreditCanada, it seems open, lots of room to relax and breathe, and you can use that since you’re in debt and all. InCharge, however, you feel more cramped and uneasy.

If you had to choose a company to help you get out of debt, who would you choose?

the design of things

I love good design, good design makes me happy. Design encompasses a whole lot though. There is graphic design, costume design, software design. etc… Pretty much everything is designed in some form or another. There’s aesthetic design and there’s design for usability. Take craigslist.org for example, not so good in the aesthetic department, but it serves its purpose so well and is very usable, information is well organized (this is also design) and easy to find.

Great design requires great thought. So much work, planning, constraints and issues. Colors, spacing, font, words, flow, patterns… so much.
Overall, I’m not too great a designer (hopefully except for software design), but I admire good design. But most important of all, I consume design.  When I see something, I’ll quickly develop an opinion about its design.

I’ll use this ‘design of things’ category to comment on… wait for it… the design of things. All sorts of things: physical products (e.g. mp3 players), tv commercials, ad copies, logos, websites etc.

Should be fun.

free to suffer

It is as if our society is structured so that we are free and often encouraged to suffer.

Clearly, the system is broken.

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