phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

On faves, likes, and hearts

Filed under: Celebration
Filed under: Celebration

This week’s On the Media includes a discussion with the Tow Center’s Emily Bell, talking about a piece she wrote in The Guardian.

Yes, it’s about Twitter faves/likes/hearts. And yes, website design choices do influence user behavior!

I found myself not bookmarking, as I would have done a day earlier, a horrifying image retweeted by journalists depicting men using phones to film a woman being stoned to death for adultery. I did not “like” let alone “love” the image but wanted to note it as important. We must have a system which allows for capturing the significant as well as the appealing.

You may have experienced a version of this when a friend or loved one shares bad news on Facebook. I don’t “like” this, but I want to acknowledge it, and express my empathy. Facebook makes it easy to give that post a thumbs up. The cynical conspiracy theorist in me says this is an effort to make the site more compatible for a sale to Zuckerberg & Co.

The most baffling part is how Twitter is saying the new heart icon is “a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones.” But then in the following sentence claiming that it is “more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people.”

It may be true that newer users—from a wider range of backgrounds—may find ❤️ symbols more familiar, but the ⭐️ undoubtedly offers greater flexibility in terms of which “emotions” are being conveyed.

It’s a small change, and I understand that complaining about social media software is tedious, but it does point to how Twitter is first and foremost a profit-seeking company. This change was meant to get their monthly active users numbers up (and by extension, their stock price). And perhaps the strategy is working:

“It’s a change that’s been fantastic for the platform,” said Weil. “We see now 6% more hearts, 6% more likes on Twitter than we saw with favorites.” He also noted that new users tend to engage 9% more with this change.

Back to Emily Bell in The Guardian:

The inherent tension at the centre of all modern communication businesses—including every news organisation—is that only the likable is reliably bankable.

The relaying of trauma, devastation and cruelty is not inherently profitable in the same way that the relaying of how awesome the new Adele track is or how much we adore kittens might be.

What people like on social media has consequences; not just the marginal economic kinds, but also for how the public publics (a verb) on the network. As Zeynep Tufekci has written in The Message:

What if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure.

Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?

Anyway, here’s a small selection of the 19,500+ (!!) tweets I’ve faved so far:

Design is Capitalismcreativemornings.com

Jennifer Daniel on self-important rhetoric within the design field. I think this critique can easily be extended beyond the realm of design.

Video

Loved this quote about professional provincialism:

“When you think about it—and I mean really think about it—everything is meat distribution engineering.”
—a meat distribution engineer

Link

Dark neutralmedium.com

I am 100% in favor of “flesh tones” reflecting a broader range than the usual “pasty white.”

On August 25th, Slack unveiled a new way for developers to connect to Slack, the “Add to Slack” button. It was the culmination of a great deal of work from many Slack employees, and just the beginning of what we have in store for Slack in the near future. Today, though, I want to talk about a seemingly small detail that has been more important to me than I would have expected: the skin color of the hand in the launch graphics.

[Just Press ‘Add to Slack’](http://slackhq.com/post/127498327415/addtoslack)
“Just Press ‘Add to Slack’”

I’m also 100% in favor of writing up the thinking behind these kinds of choices.

Diógenes, Brown Person: This hand should totally be brown. I’m brown.
Diogenes, Person: I’m trying to get good design work done and get this project out, not become an activist and start a movement or something.
Diógenes, Brown Person: It’s not a big deal, you’re the designer, you get to make it brown.
Diogenes, Person: Yea but, I’m going to ask Matt to do it, that’s like, making a thing of it.

More of us should make a thing of it. Especially us pasty folk.

Link via Belong.io

A redesigned phiffer.org

I’ve been tinkering with a new design for this site for a few months and have finally gotten to the point where it feels polished enough to start using. It’s not a huge departure from what was here before, but I’ve made some structural changes to how the WordPress theme works that should make it easier for me to maintain and improve. The old theme was ambitious, I invented my own object-oriented template system that shunned the well established conventions of making WordPress themes. This is all fine and good when a site first launches, but over time I forgot how all the parts fit together and was left puzzled by my earlier choices. This new theme is much more straightforward, no PHP fanciness this time around.

phiffer.org header

I did indulge a bit in some front-end fanciness though. You may notice there’s a new header element that gradually changes in response to your mouse movement. The gradations of green squares correspond to regions of the page, but rotated 90 degrees. If you move your mouse up or down you’ll see changes in the header, only your mouse movements show up horizontal instead of vertical. So the more you browse below the fold, the more visual changes will appear in the header toward the center and right. All this is private to your browser (and saved, per-browser, using something called JavaScript localStorage), I’m not sending any of the mouse movement data to the server.

Aside from that I’ve mostly just trimmed back some text in the sidebar, added a new archives interface in the footer, and beefed up my links to projects and friends. It’s still a work in progress, but with a bit more fit and finish I could see releasing the theme for others to use.

George Lois’s Esquire coversnymag.com

George Lois on the first cover he art directed for Esquire:

Hayes mentioned that we were going to have a spread of Floyd Patterson, the boxing champion of the world, and Sonny Liston, the challenger, and Patterson was an 8–1 favorite. I knew right away what I was going to do, because I knew that Liston was going to kill him. So I called the photographer, and I said, “We’re going to get a guy with the same body as Patterson, we’re going to lay him flat on the ring, and we’re going to show him killed, knocked out by Liston. Leave him for dead.” I wanted to show a metaphor for boxing — if you’re a loser, you’re left for dead, which is also a metaphor for life. So we get the shot and I sent it to Hayes.

“George, I never saw a cover like this in my life! You’re calling the fight — suppose you’re wrong? Everybody says you’re wrong.” I told him we had a 50/50 chance of it working, but if it does, it shows we have balls. It hit the newsstand a week before the fight, and it was roundly laughed at in the sports crowd. But a week later, of course Liston kills Patterson, just like I thought. And Esquire got tons of publicity and the best sales since the start of the magazine. And Harold said to me, “You gotta keep doing my covers.”

He went on to create 92 iconic covers during the 1960s that were exhibited at MoMA and added to the permanent collection. Unfortunately only five of the covers have their image rights cleared to display online. Not many people realize that even if a work is “owned” by the museum, having the right to display it online is another matter. This is an issue the Brooklyn Museum has addressed nicely on their blog. This is why photography is usually not allowed in museums, except within the older permanent collections.

Link via Jason Kottke

A brief homage to Franklin Gothicwww.moma.org

Franklin Gothic is the basis of MoMA’s typographic identity. August Hefner found some examples of Franklin Gothic being used at the museum dating back to the 1930s. One of the signs reads:

The public is urgently requested to visit the Galleries in the morning, from 10 to 12 and evening from 8 to 10 in order to avoid congesting the elevator service. If this request is complied with, it will not be necessary to charge admission.

I didn’t realize that the museum’s adaptation of the typeface, MoMA Gothic, was created by the same type designer as the original.

Link

MoMA interview with Yugo Nakamuramoma.org

I was happily surprised to see this interview by Shannon Darrough, who I work with on MoMA.org.

Nakamura’s MONO*crafts 2.0 was also a big inspiration for me when I was first getting into web design. It feels dated now, of course, but I remember feeling thrilled to see this bold assertion in the navigation: interfaces can be impractical, users can be invited to explore and play.

Link

The Casio F91w digital watchtongodeon.livejournal.com

There is a specific model of Casio digital watches that supposedly has desirable qualities for bomb detonation. Anonymous LiveJournal user tongodeon has been following this story for over a year:

A while ago I made a big deal out of the Guantanamo detainees accused of owning Casio F91w wristwatches. In my letter to then-candidate Barack Obama I wrote that “Some have done far worse than wear a cheap digital watch. Some have done little else. In all cases the watches that they were wearing appear to have had nothing to do with anything. The tenuous link between this watch and terrorism is being used as an excuse to detain the innocent alongside the guilty; an excuse for the inexcusable.”

Of the 28 prisoners accused of owning Casio F91w wristwatches, 21 have been released, mostly under the Bush Administration. Prisoner #33, Mohammed Ahmad Said Al Edah, won his habeas petition but it doesn’t say whether he’s actually either been cleared to be released or actually been released. No info on the remaining six.

Link

International Year of Astronomy posterswww.creativereview.co.uk

Riffing off another of Jason Kottke’s linkages, these minimalist posters are at once timeless and retro looking.

Initially designed as self-promotional pieces, the posters eventually caught the eye of the IYA 09 organisation which approached him a few months ago to see if they could use them in their own promotional work.

International Year of Astronomy posters

Link