Monthly Archive for May, 2006

Photoshop goodness

I gots me some new Photoshop filter/rendering tools via the FilterForge beta. Its HDMI lighting engine is spectacular.

I based the water part of this painting on a couple of Vladimir Golovin’s textures, which I modified through FilterForge. The planets and stars were created using my own process.

If you want the image for desktop wallpaper, choose your size and download:

Note: to find out which version to use, right-click on your desktop and select Properties. Click the Settings tab, and note the setting in the Screen Resolution box.

If you are using Internet Explorer, once the image appears, you must mouse off of the image. When you mouse back over the image, an Expand box will appear in the lower-right corner of the screen. Click it. After the image returns to 100%, right-click the image, and select Set as Background.

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What’s in my brain

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Iconic acrobats

How people icons amuse themselves while waiting for visual communicators to use them:

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Rocket science

I’ve been wondering…

You’ll often hear people say, “it’s not like rocket science or anything.”

I wonder… what do rocket scientists say?

I’ll bet that they say “It’s not like talking to girls or anything.”

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Fixation vs. attention

Eye tracking studies are all the rage today, in part because of the increasing sophistication of the technology involved. A few years ago, eye tracking was cumbersome and annoying. Subjects had to insert clear contact lenses, with wires spiraling out of them, and struggle to interact with documentation “normally while the test was taking place. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to behave “normally with spiral wires hanging out of my eyes.

But recent advances in technology have allowed eye tracking systems to be priced within the reach of almost any commercial enterprise. If you are a technical communicator (or information designer, user experience developer, etc., etc.), chances are that within the next five years, eye tracking studies will become part of your regular routine.

With that in mind, it pays to be cautious. Eye tracking studies can be useful, but it’s tempting to draw conclusions that aren’t valid. One of the biggest mistakes people make is confusing fixation and attention. Just because your studies reveal that a subject’s eyes are drawn to a specific spot on the page, it doesn’t mean that the person is actually processing (or will retain) what he is looking at!

The human eye can take in quite a bit of different information at once. However, the brain can only process one “visual scene at a time. Don’t believe me? Consider the following example.

Below is a link to a movie. Don’t open it yet. The movie shows six people passing basketballs around. One group of three is wearing black, the other group of three is wearing white. When you watch the movie, your instructions are to count the number of chest passes and bounce passes that the WHITE team makes. Do nothing else. If you see four chest passes and two bounce passes, then your answer would be “4 and “2.

Got it? When you’re comfortable with the instructions above, click the link below and watch the movie. Then return here and click Read the Rest of this Entry to determine what your results mean.

Watch Movie(7mb movie, wait for it to load and click Play)

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A quiet game

Late summer 1985, and I’ve been told to get to bed. I’m just beginning the seventh grade, and Mom and Dad are enforcing the bedtime rules. Lying in bed, I struggle to fall asleep, even though the room isn’t quite dark yet. I can hear the sounds of a late summer night though my open bedroom window: a dog barking; an occasional car whooshing down the street, temporarily drowning out the mad cacophony of frogs and insects; the neighbor’s sprinkler swishing in his front yard, striking our aluminum siding every 43 seconds.

I hear Daddy’s footsteps pounding up the stairs. He opens the door gently, and pokes his head in. I’m pretending to be asleep. “Psst. Hey. Get up. He’s about to do it, he whispers.
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A nose ahead of the rest

It has been thirty years since California established itself as an authentic wine region. The “Judgment of Paris,” as the event was nicknamed, occurred when a French wine merchant organized a blind wine tasting that included the most prestigious oenophiles in the world. When the results of the experts’ ratings were revealed, they were quite shocked to learn they had rated California wines at the top of the list, and placed their own beloved French wines at the bottom.

Yesterday, the tasting was re-enacted in honor of the 30th anniversary of the event. American, British, and French experts once again subjected themselves to a blind tasting, to see if this shocking defeat could be reversed.

It wasn’t. California won again.

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