Category: People

Al Gore Wins The Nobel *Presentation* Prize...?

October 12th, 2007 — 4:14pm

For­mer U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore and the United Nations Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Pre­sen­ta­tion Prize today.
Al Gore
Though I’m sad to say it, this lat­est round of Celebrity Infor­ma­tion Design Death Match, pit­ting Infor­ma­tion Visu­al­iza­tion Guru Dr. Edward Tufte vs. pre­sen­ta­tion tools and their legions of dron­ing slide shuf­flers goes too -
Pre­sen­ta­tion soft­ware (at least it’s Keynote)…
<announcer voice>
Gore’s Nobel Prize must truly be a bit­ter pill for the esteemed Dr. Tufte, whose exten­sive decla­ma­tions on the evils of Pow­er­Point remain insight­ful and even amus­ing, but have been out­flanked by Gore’s com­bi­na­tion of savvy pre­sen­ta­tion tech­niques, and repeated use of the famous “Earth’s Envi­ron­ment Is About to Per­ish” fly­ing scis­sor­kick move.
</announcer voice>
Seri­ously: Aside from the envi­ron­ment (we fer­vently hope), the real win­ner of this year’s Nobel Peace prize is effec­tive sto­ry­telling that blends qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive mes­sages to cre­ate a com­pelling visu­ally sup­ported nar­ra­tive expe­ri­ence that clearly com­mu­ni­cates com­plex ideas in an emo­tion­ally com­pelling pack­age.

The sci­en­tists and Mr. Gore take quite dif­fer­ent approaches to the cli­mate changes. The com­mit­tee has been a mea­sured, peer-reviewed, government-approved state­ment focused on the most non-controversial find­ings, whereas Mr. Gore rails against a “plan­e­tary emer­gency.“

Both mes­sages — how­ever imper­fect — play their part, sci­en­tists said on Fri­day. The Nobel Prize “is hon­or­ing the sci­ence and the pub­lic­ity, and they’re nec­es­sar­ily dif­fer­ent,” said Spencer A. Weart, a his­to­rian at the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Physics and author of The Dis­cov­ery of Global Warm­ing, a recent book.

From Gore and U.N. Panel Win Peace Prize for Cli­mate Work
Dr. Tufte says, “Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tions too often resem­ble a school play — very loud, very slow, and very sim­ple.” Too often, Dr. Tufte is right: think about how many times in the last five years you’ve con­sid­ered feign­ing a seizure or gastro-intestinal dis­tress to escape a truly awful pre­sen­ta­tion.
Yet for some ideas — and per­haps the very biggest of audi­ences — ‘the [school] play’s the thing’. Loud, slow, and sim­ple might be just the right rhetor­i­cal style for com­plex mes­sages that require the broad­est kinds of con­sen­sus. (If Gore had fig­ured this out dur­ing the cam­paign in 2000, the world would cer­tainly be a very dif­fer­ent place today…)
And yet, despite Gore’s piv­otal role in shap­ing the Inter­net, a search for “al gore incon­ve­nient truth” on the Slideshare web­site turns up — well — noth­ing that seems rel­e­vant in the first 10 results. There’s like­wise no slide­ware to be had at the offi­cial site for the movie. But rest assured Mr. Gore, we know the hum­ble ori­gins of your Nobel Prize and Oscar win­ning doc­u­men­tary An Incon­ve­nient Truth lie in a mere slide show.

Comment » | People, Tools

NYC Information Architecture Meetup

February 7th, 2005 — 9:49am

Two thumbs up to Anders Ram­say for orga­niz­ing IA mee­tups down in NYC. I had the chance to come to one of these reg­u­lar get-togethers in Jan­u­ary, and meet Anders, Lou Rosen­feld, Liz Danz­ico, Peter Van Dijk, and quite a few oth­ers while in town to see clients. After some refresh­ing bev­er­ages at Vig Bar, we moved on to the Mer­cer Kitchen for a swanky, tasty din­ner. Word of mouth has it that the duck at is a reli­gious expe­ri­ence. And it’s always nice to put faces to a great many blog posts.
Anders posted some pho­tos here:
I don’t see any of the umbrel­las dec­o­rat­ing the inte­rior of the main din­ing area in the pho­tos — but you had to look up to see them hang­ing from the ceil­ing in the first place.
Visual Puz­zler Chal­lenge: some­one in these pho­tos is a Sys­tem Archi­tect maque­rad­ing as an IA — can you spot the imposter?

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Revisiting Tufte - 5 Years On

August 10th, 2004 — 7:23pm

I first saw Edward Tufte deliver his well-known sem­i­nar Pre­sent­ing Data and Infor­ma­tion in the heady sum­mer days of ’99. At the time, I was work­ing for a small inter­ac­tive agency in down­town Boston. I’d heard about Tufte’s sem­i­nar from a for­mer col­league, and was eager to learn more about Infor­ma­tion Design, user inter­faces, and what­ever else was rel­e­vant to cre­at­ing user expe­ri­ences and infor­ma­tion spaces. Tufte’s sem­i­nars also seemed to tap into some sort of trans­for­ma­tional mojo; the per­son I was work­ing with went in as a Web Devel­oper, and came back a Usabil­ity Spe­cial­ist. The logic of this still escapes me, since I haven’t heard the esteemed Pro­fes­sor men­tion usabil­ity, let alone lec­ture on it yet: I think it’s more a good les­son in how des­per­ate Seth was to escape writ­ing HTML.
But I’m get­ting away from the point.
In ’99, Tufte deliv­ered a solid and suc­cinct ground­ing in Infor­ma­tion Design his­tory and prin­ci­ples, sup­ported by fre­quent ref­er­ences to his gor­geous self-published titles. Bravo.
He promptly fol­lowed this with a short seg­ment on “The Web”, which was mostly irrel­e­vant, and wholly behind the times. Pro­fes­sor Tufte’s chief gripes at the time included exces­sive use of chrome on but­tons, bul­leted lists, and unfor­mat­ted tables. He was mired in recount­ing the fail­ings of HTML 2.0. Out­side, it was 1999. But in the lec­ture hall, it felt more like 1996… I was embar­rassed to see an old mas­ter danc­ing poorly to new music.
For­ward five years, and now clients are ask­ing me to attend Pro­fes­sor Tufte’s pre­sen­ta­tion in New York, again in the sum­mer. I expected to be severely dis­ap­pointed; if Tufte was this far behind when there wasn’t much his­tory in the first place, then it could only have got­ten worse.
And so I was pleas­antly sur­prised. The Infor­ma­tion Design show­case was like refresh­ing cool rain after too much time using low-fidelity chart­ing appli­ca­tions. But what really caught my ears was his ready embrace of core Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture lan­guage and out­look. Dr. Tufte is hip to IA now. He even gave us some good home­work: the ses­sion hand­out lists 11 clas­sics of 20th cen­tury Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture — on page 2, right after the day’s agenda.
Yes, his piece on the Web was still a bit behind — sta­tic nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems and generic cor­po­rate mar­ket­ing site IA aren’t exactly cut­ting edge top­ics, and it’s hardly open-minded to say that there’s no rea­son for hav­ing more than a sin­gle nav­i­ga­tion bar at the top of a page — but at least it was behind in the right direc­tion.
And it was still nice out­side.
Kudos to the old mas­ter for pick­ing bet­ter music.
And for being canny enough to know that it’s good for busi­ness to encour­age evey­rone to take notes, but not pro­vide note paper in the regstra­tion packet — its for sale of course at the back of the hall…

1 comment » | Information Architecture, People

The Voice of God?

May 26th, 2004 — 2:48pm

Seen a lot of movie trail­ers? Always been curi­ous about who owns the voice?
Thanks to JV for the answer:
”…Don LaFontaine, who is lov­ingly referred to in trailer cir­cles as the ‘Voice of God.’ A vet­eran of 40 years and more than 4,000 trail­ers, his rum­bling basso has enticed mil­lions with dra­matic into­na­tions like “In a world where …’”
Here’s the full arti­cle, from the WSJ.

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Simmons College Panel on IA as a Career for LIS Grads

May 3rd, 2004 — 11:39am

Thanks to Beat­rice Pul­liam and Caryn Ander­son for the the chance to talk about Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture at a Sim­mons Col­lege panel on careers for LIS grad­u­ate stu­dents. The event — Infor­ma­tion Pro­fes­sion­als In and Out of the Box: An ASIS&T Alter­na­tive Career Panel — brought four GSLIS grad­u­ates and myself back to talk about poten­tial careers related to LIS. I was the only non-graduate and the only IA on the panel. Titles for the other speak­ers included Man­ager, Data Ser­vices and Qual­ity Prod­uct Man­ager, Meta­data Spe­cial­ist, and Data­base Man­ager — all roles that I’ve worked closely with or in some way per­formed under the head­ing of Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture.
It was a gen­uine plea­sure to talk to a group of inter­ested stu­dents, and also my first win­dow into the early acad­mic cod­i­fi­ca­tion that’s hap­pen­ing in and around the realm of IA.
After the ses­sion, I was intro­duced to some of the Sim­mons fac­ulty; Candy Schwartz (also here), who taught the first ded­i­cated course on IA offered at Sim­mons, and Gerry Benoit the cur­rent instruc­tor. Dr. Benoit works in many areas, includ­ing Sys­tems The­ory — which is one of the sub­jects I’d like to explore more, since it seems very rel­e­vant to some of the core con­cepts of IA.
Fol­low­ing up, I learned that Caryn is
”…work­ing with a Har­vard research fel­low and Ful­bright scholar on the emerg­ing spe­cial­iza­tion of Inte­gra­tion & Imple­men­ta­tion Sci­ences which is coör­di­nat­ing research and devel­op­ment in the areas of com­plex­ity sci­ence, sys­tems think­ing, par­tic­i­pa­tory meth­ods, diverse epis­te­molo­gies, inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­ity and knowl­edge man­age­ment for appli­ca­tion to com­plex, large scale prob­lems. One of the key chal­lenges of inte­grat­ing research from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines is facil­i­tat­ing the var­i­ous per­son­al­i­ties, pri­or­i­ties and lan­guages of the folks involved.“
Aside from sound­ing very inter­est­ing, this is a good sum­ma­tion of my cur­rent con­sult­ing role, minus the oblig­a­tion to cre­ate too many Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tions. I’ll try to find out a bit more, and put out an update on what I learn.
Here’s a recap of the ses­sion, com­plete with some zesty live-action photos.

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