Twitter Hashtags

I’m just coming across the idea of hashtags for creating groupings on Twitter after seeing them in factoryjoe’s tweets and following a link from merylkevans to the page Twitter Fan Wiki on hashtags. This is a great example of how new uses of an application emerge can be defined by users.

Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They’re like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol: #hashtag.

Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter, without having to change the basic service. The hash symbol is a convention borrowed primarily from IRC channels, and later from Jaiku’s channels.

brand and celeb tags

Noah Brier’s celeb tags and brand tags sites is a crowdsourced tagging game that asks participants to tag a brand or celebrity and then see how others have tagged the brand or celeb. The game can be played in reverse as well, by viewing a tag cloud and trying to guess what the brand or celeb is.

I tried to take screenshots, but the celebrities’ tag results were full of nonsensical tags. Someone decided to game the site obviously to fill it with tags that take over the results pages because of the variable font sizing of cloud tags. The brand tags site actually worked better in terms of having better tags.

Information Design Patterns

Christian Behrens’ information design pattern repository collects solutions for “…the display, behavior, and user interaction of complex infographics. The collection is available in the form of a 200-page book that additionally includes a profound historical record of information design as well as an introduction inthe research field of design patterns.”

Alessandro Pautasso Interview

abduzeedo has a brief interview with Italian illustrator Alessandro Pautasso. Pautasso illustrates his photography by creating ornate, curvilinear, and beautifully decorative overlaying lines.

In the interview he talks about his gear and his inspirations, talks about how he got started as an illustrator, and offers a peak into his toolbox. Check it out.

You can view more of Pautasso’s work at:

TwittEarth: Another globe interface

TwittEarth is another spinning earth globe interface for displaying geolocalized information that's similar to the Yahoo Newsglobe and wii news channel interfaces.

I don't care much for viewing the public twitter feed, so it's not very interesting to me. I'm still trying to imagine the context that makes these interfaces practical for everyday use. The place where it makes most sense to me is in the 10 foot experience, as with the wii news channel. I think applications like this need find more ways of taking that PC information to the big screen for casual information browsing or information delivery in the background, like screensavers for TV.

Zebra Striping: Does it Really Help?

The conclusions in this A List Apart article about zebra striping, the method of using alternating row colors in tables, strike me as odd. My first reaction to the article was, “Why do you need to study the usability of that technique?” I wonder if the issue isn’t so much a question of usability, but rather of aesthetic sensibility. Bad table row style without zebra striping can adversely affect readability as much as good zebra striping or horizontal rule style.

Personally, I’ve never questioned whether zebra striping was a waste of time or not. I usually try to use methods that skirt the issue by using adequate spacing of rows and columns, using alignment well, and when necessary designing thin, faint horizontal borders that might aid in readability in the larger tables. I then use background color where categories or layers are warranted. This practice comes to us from Tufte’s Envisioning Information in the third chapter, where he talks about freeing tables from the imprisonment of grids and using typography instead to suggest the grid.

I wonder if the author might have just been after a way to justify removing zebra striping. But the problem with the study was that the implementation of borders in combination with background colors on the tables that were tested compared bad zebra striping to non-striped tables. A better study would have added a table that was designed as I describe above.

In large tables or spreadsheets it might be difficult to follow a row across a large set of columns. In those cases, some light horizontal rules might help. When designed well, tables can go without borders and zebra striping or light horizontal rules can aid in this quick scanning across a row. More than a few times in the past, I’ve found myself working with large tables skimming across and then not knowing if I was in the right row.

The point here is, they can be helpful, so if there’s no harm in using this stylistic technique, why question whether they’re worth the trouble. You can create them with code that looks for odd/even rows and applies classes where appropriate. I don’t buy the argument that they cost us time in implementation. I just think we need to lean on better ways to style them.

Web Form Design: Filling in the blanks

Luke Wroblewski's book on form design is finally out. From the author:

Forms make or break the most crucial online interactions: checkout (commerce), registration (community), data input (participation and sharing), and any task requiring information entry. In Web Form Design, Luke Wroblewski draws on original research, his considerable experience at Yahoo! and eBay, and the perspectives of many of the field's leading designers to show you everything you need to know about designing effective and engaging Web forms.

More info and purchase options available from the book site.