Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson

Chance favors the connected mind.

I just picked up Steven Berlin Johnson's Where Good Ideas Come From after watching this sketch-note summarization of the ideas in the book.

I became a fan of Steven's after reading the New Yorker article "Watching TV Makes you Smarter" and his book, Everything Bad is Good for You. This one looks like it will be an interesting read. I'm hoping it's full of stories of long drawn out infancy of ideas, and the collisions and connections that make ideas succeed.

Found via Caterino's Deli


POTD: J.K. Rowlings Plot Spreadsheet for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Love this post on /Film showing a few artifacts from J.K. Rowling’s creative process. Rowling uses spreadsheets she draws by making grid lines on plain paper, creating columns to outline a book’s plot along a timeline, with months progressing downward. The initial columns contains a title and blurb about the plot, and further columns contain info about sub-plots. The excerpt below describes this in detail:

Rowling outlines each chapter in detail including which month of the school year it takes place in, the title and the plot. All of that seems standard. But it’s the next few columns where things get really good.

She keeps track of all the book’s subplots in every chapter and how they are developing in the real world of the book, even if they aren’t mentioned on the page. So, there’s a full column on “The Prophecy” which is the main subplot Harry is worried about throughout the book. Then there’s a column for the romantic subplot, titled “Cho/Ginny” followed by “D.A.” which follows what’s going on with Harry, Ron and Hermione’s resistance group “Dumbledore’s Army,” one called “O of P,” a column about what’s the latest with the “Order of the Phoenix,” a.k.a, the people who believe Voldemort is still alive, then separate columns for Snape (and others, I can’t read Rowlings writing) and the Hagrid and Grawp story.

Read more on /Film.

Via +Subtraction


1st Interaction Design Contest | Building the Internet of Things

IDAT, the Institute of Design, Art and Technology of Barcelona is holding its 1st Interaction Design Competition based on the theme of designing applications for the next generation Internet of Things.

The competition calls for ideas of interfaces, interactions, and applications that can be designed with technologies such as embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), short-range wireless communication, ubiquitous data networks, mobile devices, hardware prototyping tools and digital fabrication.

The deadline to submit projects is December 15, 2010, and the award is 16.000 euro. If you haven't already started tinkering with physical computing, this may be a good opportunity to start. ;) Find out more about entry details.


Overhauling Balsamiq.com

We launched an overhauled Balsamiq.com this week and I wrote about the effort. In addition to doing interface design on the product (myBalsamiq mostly up to now) I also get to be the "webmaster." :) What that means in our small startup is doing the user research, interface design, visual design, and front end development. If you know me, you know that I dig getting to do more than one thing, so that’s a win.

In any case, take a look and see how we evolved our little site. I'm planning to do another article on some the CSS 3 techniques I learned, but this high level blog entry will give you an idea of what I learned doing this project.



Visualizing.org looks like an exciting new community devoted to information design and sensemaking–making sense of complex issues through data and design. An excerpt from their about page describes the site:

It's a place to showcase work, get feedback, ensure that your work is seen by lots of people and gets used by teachers, journalists, and conference organizers to help educate the public about various world issues. Visualizing is also a free resource to search for data. Use Visualizing to keep up with and be inspired by the latest work from other designers and design schools. You can learn about new visualization tools, blogs, books and other resources here.

Visit visualizing.org and share your work or get data to start participating.


Dark Patterns

Harry Brignull’s Dark Patterns is a pattern library dedicated to user interfaces that have been designed to trick users into doing things they wouldn’t otherwise have done. He describes the site he created to address this issue:

Dark Patterns … are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind. The purpose of this site is to catalogue various common types of Dark Pattern, and to name and shame organizations that use them.

Harry’s talk at UX Brighton 2010 illustrates examples of brands that are using dark patterns including opting customers in to options they didn’t explicitly choose, and adding items to their shopping carts. The talk calls for a code of ethics among professionals in the user interface design industries, and for professional associations to acknowledge that these practices are unethical. This does seem to me as simple a principle as a professional and professional association could adopt, in keeping with the familiar phrase from the principle of ethics for Medicine, “First, do no harm.”