Archive for November, 2010

WikiLeaks Cable Gate: the Visualizations and the Infographics

28 Nov

There is the data, and there is the understanding. Somewhere in the middle, the communication. Also visual. See a list of current visualizations of the WikiLeaks Cable Gate data below.

Interactive Visualization
. The Guardian - US embassy cables: browse the database
. Der Spiegel - "The US Embassy Dispatches Interactive Atlas"
. WikiLeaks - "Graphics of the cablegate dataset" (scroll to bottom, created with Tableau Public)
. The New York Times - "Letters between Wikileaks and the U.S. Government" (not really visualizations)(yet?)

- The Guardian - "Where are the Wikileaks Cables From?"
. El Pais - "El intercambio de documentos y las zonas calientes del planeta"
. Jef Thorp - " Exploratory Visualization of the Wikileaks #cablegate data"

. Wikileaks
- The Guardian Data Blog

More lists of sources also at Infographics News and

Please add more sources in the comments!



28 Nov


5 of the Best New User Experiences of 2010

28 Nov

Mashable Awards Image

As part of the ongoing Mashable Awards, we’re taking a closer look at each of the nomination categories. This is “Best Website User Experience.” Be sure to nominate your favorites and join us for the Gala in Las Vegas!

When it comes to user experience, designers and developers must do much more than present their users with a “pretty face” web page.

The user experience (UX) of a site or app involves much more than looks; the UX is something that lingers on after the user has left your site. It lies in ease of use, perceived value, whether desired goals were achieved and so much more. The user interface (UI) is only part of that larger experience, but it can contribute much to a user’s impression of the app.

In writing about the best web designs of 2010, form and function each played a large role in determining our choices. But when we think about user experience, function takes absolute precedence.

What sites and apps were the most interesting, the most useful, the most innovative of the past year? In this post, we examine five groundbreaking new UX/UIs from 2010 and discuss how each one expands our expectations of the user experience.

1. Quora

One of the earlier launches this year, Quora was a buzz-heavy private beta service in 2009. As a product of some of the best design minds at Facebook, the site was almost guaranteed to have an excellent UX from the start.

We love Quora’s elegant interactions. It looks simple; it prompts instant and easy engagement; and it takes the hide-and-seek elements of a Q&A site away, leaving the user with a trove of relevant information at his or her fingertips.

We’re not the only ones who love Quora’s design. For a bit of meta navel-gazing, read this Quora Q&A on why people like Quora’s design.

Initially, another thing that made Quora’s UX so excellent was the quality of its membership. Have a question about Facebook? A Facebooker would likely answer it. Questions about venture capital? Here are some actual investors to talk to you. Marketing? Ad execs were on the site, too.

2. Hipmunk

One thing we loved about Hipmunk from the start is that it took a traditionally bad user experience — airline flight search — and made it into a good one.

This startup reimagined the most important element of online flight search: how results are displayed. It took a convoluted, multi-entry/multi-exit process and made it simple to behold and linear to walk through, creating a user experience that is far from the stress-inducing nightmare flight search once was.

The company has also hinted it will be turning its eyes toward other types of travel services soon, possibly hotel search. We can’t wait.

To get the big picture, check out the video above, and the excellent interview blogger Robert Scoble conducted with Hipmunk co-founder Steve Huffman.

3. Seesmic Desktop 2

Seesmic launched a new iteration of its popular desktop app just a couple months ago. Dubbed Seesmic Desktop 2, the application also included an entire marketplace of plugins, making SD2 an all-in-one social media access point — a great set of features for run-of-the-mill social media narcissists, as well as businesses that need more control and monitoring tools for their web efforts.

Seesmic’s Silverlight-built, Mac- and Windows-compatible product also came wrapped in a gorgeous and functional UI with elegant and subtle details, making it a joy to behold as well as a pleasure to use.

During some turbulent times for third-party applications, Seesmic founder Loic LeMeur proved his very salient point: If you make a great product, build in great functionality, and give users a great experience, you can still build a business on someone else’s platform.

4. Flipboard

Flipboard launched this year as one of the first iPad apps that sought to reimagine social media for a new form factor.

The tablet gave designers and developers a chance to think about lean-back, glossy, high-end design experiences. Of course, magazines had a heyday; their content is already almost a perfect fit for the iPad. But when you think about social media content — those messy, spaghetti-like, intertwining and overlapping feeds of drama, irrelevance and the occasional gem — you begin to see what a challenge the makers of Flipboard had on their hands. Could social media be both beautiful and functional on a tablet?

Flipboard integrates personalized Twitter and Facebook feeds to build a social magazine for each user. In an initial review we called it “gorgeous and a pleasure to use,” and the app has continued to rack up the platitudes from social media junkies around the web. Its core value proposition is more than just its beautiful, mag-like design; it makes the experience of reading social feeds simpler, faster and better.

5. Roku

Without a doubt, 2010 has been the first big year for Internet-connected living room devices. We’ve seen cool things in the past from PlayStation, Xbox and Boxee; however, 2010 brought something new: affordability and ease of entry.

Roku’s set-top boxes start at just $60; already priced to win. Each model also comes with built-in WiFi and they are easy to install — they practically set themselves up. They connect to some of the most popular Internet content providers, including Netflix, and now Hulu, as well.

The Roku UI is simple, clean, bright and intuitive; it reminds us of the more user-friendly gaming interfaces, like that of Nintendo’s Wii. It’s a design language that says, “I’m not technical; I’m fun.” Very quickly, the design itself fades into the background and the content becomes all the user notices.

In a word, Roku’s UX is amazing because it makes something that was supposed to be complicated and scary (bringing Internet content to the living room) inexpensive, easy and a pleasure to use.

What Are Your Picks?

Those are five of our favorite user experiences from 2010; we’d love to know what impressed you this year. In the comments, tell us about the apps, devices and websites that you’ve loved using throughout 2010 or nominate them for a Mashable Award.

The Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity (Vegas)

In partnership with Cirque du Soleil, The Mashable Awards Gala event will bring together the winners and nominees, the Mashable community, partners, media, the marketing community, consumer electronics and technology brands and attendees from the 2011 International CES Convention to Las Vegas on Thursday, January 6, 2011. Together, we will celebrate the winners and the community of the Mashable Awards at the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage in the beautiful New York New York Hotel. The event will include acts and performances from our partner Cirque du Soleil Zumanity. In addition, there will be special guest presenters and appearances.

Date: Thursday, January 6th, 2011 (during International CES Convention week)
Time: 7:00 – 10:00 pm PT
Location: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity, New York New York Hotel, Las Vegas
Agenda: Networking, Open Bars, Acts, Surprises and the Mashable Awards Gala presentations
Socialize: Facebook, Foursquare, Meetup, Plancast, Twitter (Hashtag: #MashableAwards)

Sponsorships are available. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Register for Mashable Awards Gala at Cirque du Soleil Zumanity stage (Las Vegas - 2011 International CES convention) [Ticketed Event] in Las Vegas, NV  on Eventbrite

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cirque logo From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now a global entertainment organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has over 5,000 employees, including more than 1,200 artists from close to 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to nearly 100 million spectators in 300 cities on five continents. In 2010 Cirque du Soleil, will present 21 shows simultaneously throughout the world, including seven in Las Vegas.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit

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The Fresh Diet is like having a Cordon Bleu chef prepare your meals in your own kitchen. There’s no cooking, cleaning, shopping – just fresh prepared delicious meals, hand delivered to your door daily! Whether you want to lose weight or just want to eat healthy, The Fresh Diet can help you meet your goals. The best news, we’re giving away a FREE week of The Fresh Diet every day on our Facebook page. Just click here to become a fan and you could be the next winner. Join now!

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Join us at the 2011 International CES®, the global platform for inspired ideas and innovation. With 2,500 exhibitors, CES continues to be the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow and always reflects the dynamic consumer electronics industry. The International CES is not open to the general public and all attendees must be in the CE industry to be eligible to attend the show. Register FREE for the 2011 CES with priority code MSHB, an exclusive promotion for Mashable Readers.

Mashable Awards Category Sponsor:

Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.

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Mobile Future is a broad-based coalition of businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals interested in and dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. Our mission is to educate the public and key decision makers on innovations in the wireless industry that have transformed the way Americans work and play and to advocate continued investment in wireless technologies.

Our “Mobile Year in Review 2010” animation proves a glimpse into the most notable breakthroughs in the wireless industry this year.

Yahoo! is an innovative technology company that operates the largest digital media, content, and communications business in the world. Yahoo! keeps more than half a billion consumers worldwide connected to what matters to them most, and delivers powerful audience solutions to advertisers through its unique combination of Science + Art + Scale. Yahoo! is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. For more information, visit the company’s blog, Yodel Anecdotal.

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Aro Mobile is an intelligent mobile experience that includes better email, connected contacts, smarter calendar and improved browsing.

The Aro system automatically learns what’s important in your life—the people, places, dates and organizations you care about most. In your communications, Aro automatically identifies people, places, events, dates,organizations and locations. From any recognized term, Aro offers quick action menus to speed up your day.

The unique Aro experience is powered by advanced web services: next generation natural language processing and semantic data analytics services. Aro gives you the power to see through the clutter and focus your mobile life.

Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.

Mashable Awards Gala VIP Lounge sponsor:

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Influxis specializes in the deployment of creative streaming solutions. Services include large scale deployment, mobile streaming, turn-key applications, and enterprise support with custom network options. With the unique combination of a worldwide network, knowledgeable developer support and nearly a decade of streaming media experience, Influxis is an essential partner to businesses, advertisers, developers, educators, and others who seek expertise in innovative streaming.

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Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of innovative wireless solutions for the worldwide mobile communications market. Through the development of integrated hardware, software and services that support multiple wireless network standards, RIM provides platforms and solutions for seamless access to time-sensitive information including email, phone, SMS messaging, Internet and intranet-based applications including the BlackBerry® wireless platform and the new BlackBerry PlayBook. For the latest on the BlackBerry PlayBook visit the Inside BlackBerry Blog.

Reviews: Boxee, Facebook, Foursquare, Hulu, Internet, Mashable, Seesmic, Twitter, Windows

More About: best user experience, best ux, Flipboard, hipmunk, ix, mashable awards, mashable awards 2010, quora, UI, user experience, ux/ui

For more Dev & Design coverage:


Delightful science fiction story in review of $6800 speaker cable

27 Nov
Nestled amongst the many funny and delightful reviews for the AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cable, an 8-foot audio cable that sells for $6,800.00 (a $1,650.00 savings!) is this wonderful short science fiction story by Whisper, an Amazon customer in California:
We live underground. We speak with our hands. We wear the earplugs all our lives.

PLEASE! You must listen! We cannot maintain the link for long... I will type as fast as I can.


We were fools, fools to develop such a thing! Sound was never meant to be this clear, this pure, this... accurate. For a few short days, we marveled. Then the... whispers... began.

Were they Aramaic? Hyperborean? Some even more ancient tongue, first spoken by elder races under the red light of dying suns far from here? We do not know, but somehow, slowly... we began to UNDERSTAND.

No, no, please! I don't want to remember! YOU WILL NOT MAKE ME REMEMBER!

Click through for the exciting finale!

I have only a little time..., (via Making Light)


4 Misconceptions About Marketing in Social Games

27 Nov

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Social games, like FarmVille, Mafia Wars and MyTown, racked up a number of high-value brand partnerships during the past year, and the social gaming industry in general is seeing huge interest from investors and consumers.

The top 10 Facebook games, for example, all have more than 10 million monthly active users each, with FarmVille leading at 62 million monthly active users, followed by FrontierVille at nearly 37 million and Zynga Poker with nearly 33 million. Granted, these are small portions of Facebook’s total network of more than 500 million users. But with a budding industry like social gaming, these are still impressive numbers, especially given the growth that these games are experiencing — all of the top 10 games were launched after 2008, with the top three games being launched after mid-2009.

The U.S. population alone is also a good indicator of user adoption — one in five Americans over the age of six have played an online social game, according to a recent study.

Increased user activity has spurred attention from investors. From an acquisition point of view, we witnesed Disney’s $763.2 million acquisition of Playdom, Electronic Arts’s $400 million acquisition of Playfish, and Google’s acquisition of Slide. Regarding investment, the big winner this year is Zynga, having now raised a total of $366 million.

Brands are taking notice and acting quickly, implementing innovative ways to advertise in social games and capitalize on the rise of virtual gaming.

Carree Syrek, a partner in social media strategy at Mindshare, a global media and marketing services company, recently spoke at ad:tech on the common misconceptions that companies have about marketing in social games. Here’s are the four concerns she discussed.

1. My Audience Doesn’t Play Social Games

Brands often look at social gaming as something that only a niche group of gamers partake in, but multiple surveys show that social gaming actually appeals to a much broader audience than most would expect. One early 2010 survey found that the average social gamer was a 43-year-old female.

“One of the biggest things that I hear when I talk to brands is ’social gamers are moms. They’re middle-aged moms,’” said Syrek. “But actually, this is not the case. Each of the games or the worlds that you’re in have very specific audiences that you wouldn’t necessarily see unless you dug a little bit deeper.”

Syrek pointed to the disparity between FarmVille and Mafia Wars demographics as an example of diversity among social gamers, as presented in the 2010 PopCap Social Gaming Research Results.

  • FarmVille pulls an audience that is 62% female, 33% of its audience is between 18 and 34 years old, and the average income is between $60,000 and $100,000. The FarmVille audience is also 84% caucasian and 7% Hispanic.
  • Mafia Wars’s audience, on the other hand, is 51% female, with 28% of the audience between 18 and 34 years old, and the average income falling below $30,000. Seventy-one percent of Mafia Wars users are caucasian, while 17% are African American.

Syrek clarified that raw numbers don’t explain the full story, pointing to index numbers as a way to better understand an audience. Index numbers are used in marketing research and indicate the strength to which a certain demographic is represented on a site or service, generally with a weighted base number of 100 representing the average Internet user.

“There are different ways to segment for ethnicity if you’re going after specific markets,” she stated. “The numbers in parentheses [as pictured above] are index numbers. So, you can see that even though, say in Mafia Wars, the African American segment is only 17% of the people who play that, their index is 198. So, you’ve got a really receptive market there that you can tap into.”

“The point is that you can actually dig deep, and you can find the proper environment for your target demographic,” stated Syrek.

Before writing off social gamers as middle-aged moms or male teenagers, be sure to look at the types of games out there and learn about their audiences — you may find that your audience is present on a few niche social games.

2. Virtual Worlds Are Not for “Serious” Companies

“I think it’s important to note that there’s a place here for everyone. It’s not just about the Jolly Green Giant being in FarmVille… it doesn’t have to be that literal, and there are spots for everyone here to play,” said Syrek.

It is a misconception that advertising in social games is only territory for entertainment brands or brands that want to be seen as “fun.” On the contrary, many serious brands were discussed during Syrek’sad:tech session.

Linda Gangeri, manager of national advertising for Volvo Cars of North America, discussed Volvo’s recent campaign on MyTown, in which Volvo’s strategy was to “leverage location-based services to deliver Volvo-branded messaging and virtual goods to people checking in to competing dealerships.”

Upon launching the Volvo S60, the Volvo marketing team decided to test virtual goods as a way to build awareness for the new vehicle.

“It was a 30-day campaign from September 1 to September 30,” explained Gangeri. During the 30-day period, 5.3 million Volvo-branded checkins were reached, 1.3 million Volvo-branded virtual goods (including a steering wheel, a wheel, the Volvo iron mark and the S60 vehicle) were delivered, and 20,000 clicks to “See the S60 in Action” were logged, for a click-through rate (CTR) of 1.5%, which is much higher than the CTRs that the rest of the marketing industry is accustomed to.

“It gave us the opportunity to dig deeper, to immerse ourselves in an environment where people are having fun [and are] engaged, and then to take branded items, embed them and expose them to this huge audience of people,” said Gangeri, happy with the results of the campaign.

3. It’s Always About Capitalism

Within social gaming, the virtual goods market is the top revenue driver for social game creators — virtual goods makes up 90% of Zynga’s revenue, for example. Social gamers are willing to buy digital goods in order to improve their positions in the games. This is great for game creators, obviously, as they are technically selling nothing. Users buy fake shovels and tractors to tend to their fake fields. There’s a lot of money in that — the U.S. virtual goods market is predicted to pass $2 billion in 2011.

While the money is certainly there, social gaming and the virtual goods market aren’t always about capitalism. In fact, Syrek mentioned four examples of social good on social gaming platforms:

  • Pet adoptions in YoVille raised $90,000 for SF/SPCA during the spring of 2009.
  • Teddy bear purchases in Mafia Wars raised more than $100,000 for Coalition for the Cure (Huntington’s Disease) in March 2010.
  • The Pandaren Monk pet in World of Warcraft generated $1.1 million in donations for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
  • To date, Zynga players have raised more than $3 million in connection with social partnerships, the majority of which has been directed to the welfare of women and children in Haiti.

These cases illustrate that social games could be a good route for for-profit or non-profit businesses hoping to raise a little awareness for social good projects.

4. Social Games Are a Fad

Social networking dominates most people’s time spent online, but next in line is online gaming, Nielsen reported in August. Of course, social gaming only accounts for a portion of that sector, but still, the fact that social networking and online gaming dominate online activity is a nod to the growing importance of social gaming.

Syrek pointed to the 2010 PopCap Social Gaming Research Results to validate her argument that social gaming isn’t a fad. The study found that 24% of U.S. and UK Internet users play social games at least once a week, and that most social gamers play other genres of games, including casual and hardcore games.

In another portion of the session, Manny Anekal, director of brand advertising at Zynga, illustrated that users are spending a lot of time playing social games. FarmVille users average a whopping 68 minutes of FarmVille play per day and Mafia Wars users average 52 minutes per day on the game, according to April 2010 Cisco Security Intelligence Operation data, for example. It’s no secret that social games are engaging (and addictive), but who knew users were spending so much time tending to virtual farms and brawls?

While it is admittedly difficult to decide if social gaming is truly a fad or not, data points toward its continued and growing popularity.

What are your thoughts on marketing in social games? Let us know in the comments below.

Reviews: Facebook, Internet, Yoville, zynga poker

More About: Branded Virtual Goods, business, facebook, farmville, frontierville, social game, social games, social gaming, virtual goods, virtual world, Zynga, zynga poker

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Saturn’s moon Rhea may have a breathable atmosphere [Future Space Colony]

25 Nov
Saturn's icy moon Rhea has an oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere that is very similar to Earth's. Even better, the carbon dioxide suggests there's life - and that possibly humans could breathe the air. More »

15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics

25 Nov


Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you. You have fifteen minutes. It could change your life.

This simple writing exercise may not seem like anything ground-breaking, but its effects speak for themselves. In a university physics class, Akira Miyake from the University of Colorado used it to close the gap between male and female performance. In the university’s physics course, men typically do better than women but Miyake’s study shows that this has nothing to do with innate ability. With nothing but his fifteen-minute exercise, performed twice at the beginning of the year, he virtually abolished the gender divide and allowed the female physicists to challenge their male peers.

The exercise is designed to affirm a person’s values, boosting their sense of self-worth and integrity, and reinforcing their belief in themselves. For people who suffer from negative stereotypes, this can make all the difference between success and failure.

Aspiring female scientists and mathematicians still have to contend with the inaccurate stereotype that men are innately better at them in their chosen fields. On top of the challenging nature of their subject, they also have to deal with the dispiriting nature of the stereotype, and the fear that they might live up to it. This problem of “stereotype threat” is well known. It catches people in a vicious cycle, where poor performance leads to greater stress, which leads to poorer performance and even greater stress, and so on. Miyake’s exercise is designed to break that cycle.

This isn’t the first time it has worked either. It was first used by Geoffrey Cohen (who Miyake works with) to turn the fortunes of black students in American high schools. They too face the problem of stereotype threat. In 2007, Cohen showed that his writing drill boosted the grades of black students, who still benefited even two years later. The gap between them and their white classmates narrowed and their grade point averages increased, particularly among the weakest students.

It was a sensational result and the team wanted to see if it could work in other areas. The issue of women in science was an obvious choice. Women still make up a minorityof PhD students in physical sciences, maths, engineering and computer sciences. Those that do take up these subjects tend to get lower grades during university courses.

To see if their task could help, Miyake recruited 283 men and 116 women who were taking part in the university’s 15-week introductory course to physics. He randomly divided them into two groups. One group picked their most important values from a list and wrote about why these mattered to them. The other group – the controls – picked their least important values and wrote about why these might matter to other people.

This happened twice at the start of the course, and the whole thing was led by teaching assistants who didn’t know what was going on (it was a “double-blind” experiment). They, and the students, were all told that the exercise was meant to improve writing skills.

The task worked. During the rest of the semester, the students sat for four exams that made up most of their final grade. Among the control group, who wrote about other people’s values, men outperformed women by an average of ten percentage points. But among the students who affirmed their own values, the gender gap largely disappeared. Their final grades reflected this shrunken divide: if the women took Miyake’s exercise, far more got Bs and far fewer got Cs.

Miyake also gave the students a standard test called the Force and Motion Conceptual Evaluation (FMCE), which checks their understanding of basic physics concepts. In Miyake’s control group, the men outscored the women, as they usually do. But the women who wrote about their values closed the gap entirely.


In both cases, the exercise was especially beneficial for women who actually believed that they aren’t as good as men at physics. If they boguht into the stereotype, even slightly, it cost them dearly in terms of their scores. Miyake’s task provided them with a psychological shield against this threat, allowing them to achieve results on a par with their male classmates.

Like the study with black students, this one shows how pernicious the problem of stereotype threat can be, even among educated, intelligent women who are strongly motivated to learn about their chosen field. It also tells us how easy the threat is to fight.

Miyake’s achievement is doubly impressive because the physics course had already tried to introduce ways of reducing the gender gap, including extra tutorials. But all of these methods involved more of the same – more teaching, or more problems to solve. Miyake’s exercise, by contrast, had nothing whatsoever to do with physics; it worked because it improved the environment in which women learn physics. Put it this way: if someone can’t hammer in a tricky nail, it might not be because their arm isn’t strong enough. It might be that they constantly have to look over their shoulders while they work.

The trick is to intervene at the right time. A scientific education builds on itself, and you need strong foundations to succeed at later levels. In this respect, Miyake thinks that his value-affirming exercise has two benefits: it break the vicious cycle of stereotype threat, but it also sets up a positive cycle too.

Women who are more confident in their own identity do better on the university course, which would boost their confidence further, allowing them to excel at a higher level, and so on. As Miyake says, “Reducing the gender gap at gateways could not only benefit women’s performance in the short term but also encourage themto choose and persist in a scientific major and career path in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] disciplines.”

Reference: Science

Images: Selected female physicists, clockwise from top-left: Rosalind Franklin, Sarah Kavassalis, Lise Meitner, Lisa Randall, Caroline Herschel, Reva K. Williams, Maria Mayer, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Marie Curie and Jennifer Ouellette.

The original use of the values exercise: Simple writing exercise helps break vicious cycle that holds back black students

And more on gender equality:

If the citation link isn’t working, read why here

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4th Amendment Wear

25 Nov


Now there’s a way to protest those intrusive TSA X-ray scanners without saying a word. Announcing 4th Amendment Metallic ink-printed undershirts and underwear! Via Fubiz


Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

25 Nov

Advertisement in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites
 in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites  in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites  in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

“Form follows function” is a widely accepted — albeit controversial — principle that most designers in a variety of disciplines have adopted since its inception at the turn of the 20th century. On the web, we commonly refer to function as usability which is the ease of use and navigation of a website in order to achieve user’s goals.

In this showcase we present websites that sacrifice usability for beauty and present issues related to clutter, loading, navigation, archiving or visibility. Unfortunately, although the sites featured in this showcase are visually appealing, they are quite difficult to use. By studying such examples, we can learn what mistakes we can avoid in our designs and how not to strive for strong aesthetic appearances on the account of usability.

You may be interested in the showcase of Bizarre Websites On Which You Can Kill Time With Style as well.

Visual Clutter

Where do I look? Where do I click? What do I do? Visual clutter is one of the most serious issues a designer can present to an audience. Not only is the user unlikely to achieve the desired goals (because it’s hidden in the clutter), chances are they’ll just leave out of frustration before they do anything.

Creative With aK
Navigation overload! Not only are we unsure of where to look, we’re unsure of what’s clickable! Having to scan around the design with the mouse is not helpful for usability. And that’s if, and only if, you get past the load screen with no load progress bar. In addition to that, it takes a while until one has figured out that the welcome screen has to be closed to enable the actual in-site navigation. The inexistant scroll finally lets potentially interesting content disappear under the frame of the browser window.

Creativewithak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Marc Ecko
Marc Ecko is an extremely successful businessman with countless ventures and he definitely wants us to know it. The problem is, he’s got so much business we don’t know where to start, provided you get used to the almost erratic horizontal scrolling feature! Getting the information you are looking for will take quite some time.

Markecko in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Content Of
Even after reading the “About” page and randomly clicking links, we’re still not sure what this page actually is about. Our best guess is a portfolio, but due to link clutter and no solid explanation of what the navigation does, we’re left confused.

Content-of in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

There Studio
Half of the circles that look clickable aren’t; the other half jumble into a new rotation if you drag and drop them. Granted, the movement makes sense for the philosophy of the company, and there isn’t too much clutter, but it took us a minute to figure it all out and that’s 58 seconds too long. If you feel the need for more bubbles, click and drag on the empty space to add more to the confusion.

There-studio in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Loading Issues

As bounce rates increase, and time-on-sites decreases web-wide, it is becoming increasingly important to grab people’s attention immediately. By the time all of your effects load, chances are your user is back on Google or Facebook looking for the next cool site. Loading times, skip buttons, missing instructions on navigation and many other issues are all subject of considerations here.

Coke Light
One of the worst things you can do as a Flash designer is force an introduction on your audience. A long intro and no skip button means this site is likely to be abandoned by most of its visitors before they get in. Add an unclear “Call to Action” and no visual navigation indicators and most people will never encounter the beauty this site has to offer. Long transitions back to the home screen waste time the visitior could have spent successfully “travelling the world”, searching for the numerous balloons hidden within the map.

Gringo in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Design Sul
We’ve never seen so many load issues on one site. Multiple load times for different elements, re-loads once you’re in to the site core, and no clear indication that loading is finished make for an extremely confusing and difficult to use website. Actually, discovering how to reach the content takes some time, what it all has to do with milk cartons is a different question.

Designsul in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Nicola Walbeck
A big loading wait-time at the beginning of the site is excruciating, but sometimes manageable once you enter a beautiful, usable website. Scratch that here, because once you get in, you’ll have to wait again and again for each individual image, forcing you to stare at blurred photographs. A better idea would be to use loading bars on the image to indicate that the image is loading. If you are on a broadband connection, then it’s fine, but if you are not, you start to get nervous very quickly. Add the fact that there’s no prominent back button and the experience could be a bit frustrating.

Nicolawalbeck in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Navigation Issues

For content/category heavy sites especially, navigation is extremely important. Imagine driving without a map, or the grocery store with no aisle indicators. Navigation tells us where to go and how, or — in these cases — tells us very little. You might consider taking a compass with you, these examples make getting lost easy.

After quite a long load, this site requires the user to click “enter”. Okay, we’re in. Unfortunately, although there is a quick-menu, it does not draw attention and the user is required to blindly scroll over images to see categories. Navigate with caution and carefully look out for navigation buttons!

Econtent in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Prism Girl
Unusable sites have actually developed conventions. When we don’t see clear category navigation on a beautiful site, we poke around with our mouse looking for the category links. This site is beautiful (and complex) enough to poke around for an hour, but you’ll probably never guess you have to click on the mouse trailing icon to enter. Other than impressive design work, this site does not have much to offer.

Prismgirl in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

On Toyota’s Mind
Slow load time leads to an unclear ‘Call to Action’, no visually clear navigation as well as a hard-to-find back action. Our question: What crossed Toyota’s mind when conceptualising this site?

Northkingdom in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

No button to skip intro. No visually clear navigation. Slow transitions. And here’s the kicker, a separate page to mute the music player. When visiting the site using a fast connection, the animations make the visit even less enjoyable.

Theologos in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Archiving/Category Issues

Your site loaded fine, it’s clear what you want people to do, you have a solid navigation, but once the user begins moving around, they can’t figure out your category structure. When you want meat, you go to the deli, not the dairy aisle. Some sites, unfortunately, get it wrong.

Self Titled
A hidden quick menu and unclear category organization make this site difficult to navigate. The actual information one gets when entering a category is rather scarce.

Selftitled in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Image slivers make-up the category composition on this site, giving us very little information as to where/what to click on. If you’re new to the site, you are likely to spend a while until you find what you were looking for.

Vanalen in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Grip Limited
The website does tell you to “click and drag” but finding this instruction amidst what looks like a typographic poster is something we suspect many people weren’t able to do. Realizing this might be a problem, Grip did create an “Open Menu” bar at the top of the page, but what are the chances you’re going to look there?

Grip-limited in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Kyle Tezak
Another example of an extremely talented visual artist who has great design work, but a small usability problem makes the user experience less enjoyable. There is no actual navigation on this page, just a floating header and illustrations of Kyle’s work. To find the designer’s contact information, you need to click on the “Information” link in the upper right corner. Using more traditional wording would improve usability: e.g. putting an e-mail right there or naming it “Contact information” or adding contact information at the bottom of the page would help. A nice example of how one little detail can improve site’s usability.

Tezak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Visibility/Scrolling Issues

A site may be uncluttered and have great navigation, but if the magnification is off, or scrolling is dysfunctional, no one is going to see it. Visibility issues can quickly turn to invisibility issues as users navigate away from your site.

Real Casual
This site is invisible until you start hunting with your mouse, at which point different areas of the screen appear. A long roll-over hunt is followed by long load times, during which fade effects additionally take your chance to get a good look at content.

Realcasual in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Lego Click
Scrolling is conventionally top to bottom or left to right, but this site starts at the bottom which is confusing. Add to that an inability to retrieve closed elements, and several other minor issues, and you get an extremely frustrating (but beautiful) website from Lego.

Legoclick in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Journey to Zero
This site is rather large, but you wouldn’t know it. It starts magnified with no suggestion to drag scroll, leaving the user wondering where all the content is. If you scroll too far on the other hand, you might end up in empty regions of the site, making it hard to get back to the content. Very beautiful website that is difficult to use.

Journeytozero in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Faub (currently offline)
Another beautiful site that starts magnified and does not let you decrease the magnification, or suggest dragging for navigation.

Faub in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Uniqlo presents what looks like a beautiful and usable online store. That is, until you’ve added 10 items to your cart only to find out there is no check-out. Turns out it’s not a store at all, just a wishlist! A truely frustrating experience for every consumer willing to spend!

Uniqlo in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites

Bio Bak
Another drag navigation site that’s just too big for its own good. This is one of our favorite sites from a beauty/having fun perspective, but it does an awful job of presenting the design agency from a usability perspective. Using the mouse wheel by chance let us discover that the site has more to offer than what is visible on the first glace.

Biobak in Showcase Of Beautiful But Unusable Websites


Design for function and communication. If your website ends up beautiful in the process, you kill two birds. Design for beauty only if the primary function of your site is to convey beauty.

Be wary of visual clutter, especially in navigation and on landing pages. Designing with too much clutter can make an audience unsure of how to use your site. In the worst case users won’t be able to load your page in the first place. Web customers don’t like to wait. Ensure that your site has a fast, clear load that conveys an easy understanding of how long it will take and when it is finished. This minimizes your risk of losing visitors to other sites in the meanwhile, keeping them occupied with joyous anticipation.

Once users arrive, you want to direct them to certain pages on your site. Always make clear what and where your navigation is, and what each element of your navigation does. Don’t make users guess or poke around to find an answer. On big sites, with lots of content, archiving and categorization is especially important. Make sure people can effectively navigate your archives. Try to make your menus self-explanatory, saving the users time, letting them invest it in effective exploration of your site.

Visibility is a huge issue most people don’t consider. In addition to designing for minimum resolutions, make sure your audience can clearly see the content you want them to at all times. If you’re designing to sell, make sure you’re designing to sell. This is especially important as your goal is to promote purchases. The more difficult you make it to buy your product, the less likely you’ll make money.

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© Daniel Eckler, Glenn Manucdoc for Smashing Magazine, 2010. | Permalink | Post a comment | Add to | Digg this | Stumble on StumbleUpon! | Tweet it! | Submit to Reddit | Forum Smashing Magazine
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Winnie the Pooh Mental Disorders gifs

25 Nov

Mental disorders by Matthew Wilkinson. These gifs are brilliant and unbearably sad at the same time…

[via dangerousminds]