When new concepts or constructs are introduced to us, we tend to quickly cement our perceptions about them into stereotypes. Over time, these stereotypes firm up and solidify. They become quite difficult to undo.
The Web today is understood to be "free" in the broadest sense. Here’s the general stereotype around the Web today:
Don’t put toll booths all over the Web. Let me go where I please and don’t charge me money to see anything I want. It’s ok to advertise because I understand you need to make money somehow, but don’t charge me for content.
At Arc90, one of our meeting rooms is proudly called the Wii Room. It’s an informal meeting space with a whiteboard, projector and…a Nintendo Wii. When we first got the Wii a couple of years ago, it was a universal hit at Arc90. The bowling and golf games in the Wii sports package were just plain fun.
Five years ago today, I launched this blog, www.basement.org. I actually can’t believe five years have passed. I’ve tried to cover the things that interest me (and hopefully interest some readers) around technology and design. Looking back, it’s been a lot of fun, if at times daunting to post something, anything. Still, no regrets.
Basement.org has often been pegged as a bitch-and-rant blog that just does a whole lot of complaining and not much doing. That’s probably true to some extent. I like to think basement.org is for bitching, while Arc90 is for doing.
Still, I’m kind of proud of some (by all means not all) of the stuff that’s made it onto this blog. It’s still a young, fumbling kindergartner today. Hopefully it’ll pay attention at school, eat its vegetables and have a generally well-adjusted childhood.
Above all else, I hope I can keep the curiosity and desire to look forward in place. In many ways, this blog is about daydreaming, as corny as that sounds. The real world gets plenty of press these days. It’s more fun to daydream.
Note: If you’d like to check out some of the more popular posts, here’s a list from 2007.
Nearly five years ago, a sort of resurgent movement was starting to take hold on the Internet. From the ashes of the dot-com apocalypse rose a new view of the Web as not only a place to serve up “Web pages” but as a platform. This was incredibly exciting to me. A series of trends seemed to all be converging at once: RSS, AJAX and the Rich Web and of course simple approachable API’s.
Beyond the technology that seemed to be materializing, a new philosophy was taking hold. This new movement was demystifying and knocking down the walls that had surrounded software building since software building began. Technology was no longer the sole domain of engineers and computer scientists. It was now capable of being exposed to good strategic thinking and thoughtful design. The walls were coming down.
So Google decided to break the Internet paradigm today by releasing a new tool called Fast Flip. It’s essentially a visual browser for news. Google apparently has far too much spare CPU time in its datacenters so they decided to take image snapshots of news pages.
This is solid evidence that Google has lost its collective mind. The Internet is about links and connecting content to content. I felt slightly stupid when I clicked on what looked like a search box in one of the snapshots only to find out it’s not a search box but an image of one.
Is there research out there that supports the theory that people want visual artifacts (in the form of snapshots, thumbnails and the like) vs. the actual content? Searchme, a cover flow-style search engine, tried to fulfill a similar phantom need. They raised a ton of venture capital to deliver this visual browse search engine. Nobody cared and now they’re gone.
What’s interesting about this tool is that it’s the anti-Readability. Instead of helping us get rid of the junk around what we’re trying to read, Google fossilized the layout – junk and all – in images.
On the Web, you (“you” being a designer or developer) can pretty much do whatever you like. Got a hankering to reinvent how a personal profile or company presence is going to look on the Web? Go nuts. Nobody’s going to stop you. Every URL is a blank canvas. There’s infinite freedom.
There is always news. Regardless of how newsworthy particular information is, newspapers have to put out the morning paper. No matter how little or no news there is, we’re still going to get “the news” every day.
Every so often, the newspapers resort to banal gossip pieces for the front cover (if they’re the New York Post) or featured investigative reporting that isn’t necessarily timely (if they’re the New York Times). This happens when there really isn’t anything major to report.
Nearly four years ago, I asked the question, and attempted to answer: “Why do we love rounded corners?” Back then it hit quite a nerve, leading to an enlightening (and entertaining!) comment thread. But alas, I’m not sure we ever really arrived at the answer…until now.
Konigi recently posted an entry entitled Realizations of Rounded Rectangles, where he points to a bit of Mac history (folklore?) on UI&us. It’s an interesting tale of how Steve Jobs demanded roundedness in everything on the interface. Still, the most illuminating thought comes from Professor Jürg Nänni, a scholar on visual cognition:
A rectangle with sharp edges takes indeed a little bit more cognitive visible effort than for example an ellipse of the same size. Our “fovea-eye” is even faster in recording a circle. Edges involve additional neuronal image tools. The process is therefore slowed down.”
Professor Nänni is saying that rounded rectangles are literally easier on the eye. Put another way, compared to square-edged rectangles, rounded rectangles are more computationally efficient for the human brain. To me, this is a revelation. An idea that at the very least demands more investigation.
Looking back, the original rationale I threw out wasn’t too far off. It’s a fascinating puzzle and speaks to the intersection between visual aesthetics and interaction design.
I’m sure this isn’t the end of the debate. Nevertheless…progress!
Know what I need? I need some way to cherry pick the 20 or so Boing Boing posts actually worth reading out of my 634 unread.
I wish I could just click a button and remove the pressure. I like Boing Boing, but I don’t like Boing Boing enough to wade through 634 posts. Then again, it would have never reached that number had I liked them more.
Hmmm, maybe I don’t like Boing Boing after all. Unsubscribe?
Y’all may have noticed that basement.org’s elsewhere links have dried up a bit these days. They actually haven’t. They’re just not happening on this blog. If you’d like to follow the links I’ve been sharing, the easiest way is to just visit (or follow me) on Twitter (@richziade). There’s also an RSS feed fed by that account.
It’s just so much easier to publish quick tidbits this way. I primarily use TBUZZ to share links out. Eventually, I’d like to let that stream show up here on basement.org as elsewhere links. As soon as some time frees up, I’ll make that update.