Friday, October 13, 2006

"A well-crafted instruction is a gift - both to the giver and to the taker. It can connect us to information, technology, and knowledge itself. A successful instruction permits high performance by inspiring attention and sparking understanding. Giving instructions that perform is a craft and needs to be recognized as such. The ability to give and follow them offers boundless rewards. With it, you can master machines, increase productivity, and inspire others to action." Richard Saul Wurman

Image, UW Madison's Camp Randall, a tribute to this weekend's homecoming. Thanks to Tierney100 via The Isthmus Pool @ Flickr

Edward Tufte
has produced another brilliant work. Beautiful Evidence is the fourth work in his expected quintet. From his introduction...

"Evidence that bears on questons of any complexity typically involves multiple forms of discourse. Evidence is evidence, whether words, numbers, images, diagrams, still or moving. The intellectual tasks remain constant regardless of the mode of evidence; to understand and to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity."

"Beautiful Evidence is about how seeing turns into showing, how empirical observations turn into explanations and evidence."

"Making an evidence presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity. To maintain standards of quality, relevance, and integrity for evidence, consumers of presentations should insist that presenters be held intellectually and ethically responsible for what they show and tell. Thus consuming a presentation is also an intellectual and a moral activity."

Reading Tufte reminded me a bit of Wurman. Specifically, Wurman's Follow the Yellow Brick Road. One of the major challenges in writing good copy is providing good instructions. The same is true in the design of collateral, the design of web pages, the design of attended telephone prompts. Which led me back to Roman and Raphaelson - Writing that works:
Chapter 2 - Don't mumble and other principles of effectve writing...

  1. Don't mumble
  2. Make the organization of your writing clear
  3. Use short paragraphs, short sentences - and short words
  4. Make your writing vigorous, direct - and personal
  5. Avoid vague modifiers
  6. Use specific concrete language
  7. Choose the right word
  8. Make it perfect
  9. Come to the point
  10. Write simply and naturally - the way you talk
  11. Strike out words you don't need
  12. Use current standard English
  13. Don't write like a lawyer or a bureaucrat
  14. Keep in mind what your reader doesn't know
  15. Punctuate carefully
  16. Use facts (and numbers) with restraint
  17. Write so that you cannot be misunderstood
Wanna play? Some puzzles for you to think about, solutions in the next post. Give it a go!

  1. If 29 frogs catch 29 flies in 29 minutes, how many frogs are needed to catch 87 flies in 87 minutes?
  2. At the zoo there are penguins and huskies. In total, there are 72 creatures and 200 legs. How many penguins are there?
  3. I am four times as old as my daughter. In twenty years, I will be twice as old as she. How old are we today?
And the all-time favorite from my 2006 tour...

Three boxes are marked "Apples," "Oranges," and "Apples and Oranges." Each marking is not correct. You may select only one item from one box - no feeling or peeking allowed. How can you correctly ascertain the contents of each box from that single selection?

SEO rocks! Gratuitous self-promotion dept. Our clients are ranked not less than third in search results on Google, Yahoo and MSN. Yeah, us! Hint: Should you not be ranked on the first page of search you have a problem.

Air America - banko - announcement later today.

Have a wonderful weekend.