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The Best Newspaper Website Ever April 3, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in NashvillesNews.net, New York Times, newspaper websites.
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I'm looking at the newly redesigned New York Times website in near slackjawed amazement. This is the new gold standard for local newpaper websites. I'm trying to deconstruct it now but take a look for yourself.

The New New York Times.


General opinions regarding Nashville usability February 3, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in city planning, Government & Politics, nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, Urban Planning.
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I made a detailed and through study of the general opinions or user satisfaction levels with Nashvilles general user interface quality.


I’m talking about stuff like street crossings and rolling carts in airports and sidewalks. My detailed and double, no triple blind study only concerned passive structural non service related stuff . Anything to do with services and such could set off the blogosphere and I’ll find myself having to field comments in which I’m accused of being communist, socialist or worst of all an urban planning enthusiast. Aside from finding it odd that urban planning is seen in terms of left / right ideology (it cost money therefore you are pro tax — ergo — you are a liberal communist socialist urban planning drug using pro-choice pro-crime….blah blah blah ) I’m sick of reading crap written on either side of the political fence that has nothing to do with liberal or conservative. So there. Please shut up I’ve got a headache now.

Also I’m lying my ass off about the study being scientific. I’ve only asked three people and I chose them because they were in my gym and I was bored, they were there and it was a slow news day.

However I was very careful not to show any bias when I designed my questionnaire which I delivered verbally.

  • What do you think of Nashville’s general usability?
  • If you didn’t know your way around or just landed from wherever do you think there is a general sensitivity and demonstrative concern for your comfort etc. ?
  • Is this city really built in a tradition of southern hospitality or is it in fact an example of urban hell visited upon us by bureaucratic clownishness and slick bubas who are as we have seen all to often in local politics to illegally line their own pockets or get laid?

We’re still tabulating the results and massaging the numbers to come up with a reasonable cover story.

Don’t believe me huh? Then feast your doubting eyes. February 2, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in city planning, nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, trial lawyer, Urban Planning, Usability.
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Calling all trial lawyers in Nashville!!
Hey!!! You!! That’s right you there behind the ambulance…..

Over here!the sign

So its probably good I didn’t go to law school. I’m really too simple minded for the profession. Lawyers are all right handed. They would say this is a pity but not something you can sue the city over. Besides even if you could someone has to die first. I believe this kind of thing is a lawsuit waiting to happen. I mean people are sued (and found liable) because they have a swimming pool in their back yard that doesn’t have a pad lock when some wino drowns while fleeing an attempted armed robbery after drinking a bottle of tequila . MacDonald’s is liable for scalding some woman’s crotch with 8000 degree coffee even when they have a huge sign saying “This Coffee is Very HOT.”

So why is the city not liable and suable [sic] when the inevitable occurs? No doubt tragedy will stricke while a left handed person is day dreaming and gets confused by the existence of this sign and believes it has some meaning in terms of crossing the street. Is the city of Nashville not at fault when they erect THE STUPIDEST SIGN EVERY CREATED FOR THE PURPOSE OF HELPING PEOPLE CROSS THE STREET IN THE WORST TRAFFIC ON EARTH?

It gets worse.

.bank_of_nashville_sideThis is the view for pedestrians on the other side of the street.

If there was some benefit to this, the stupidest sign on Earth in the worst traffic on Earth, then it’s surely lost to people on the exact (not diagonal but directly across ) side of the street who also could derive some benefit from a sign. And indeed they do have such a sign only it is facing the WRONG WAY.

Now when I say this is the worst traffic on Earth people who’ve never driven through Green Hills probably think I’m using hyperbole or exageratting. I’m not THIS IS THE WORST, MOST HORRID, TRAFFIC IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND ITS NOT ENOUGH THAT THE EXISTENCE OF PEDESTRIANS IS ACTIVELY IGNORED IN NASHVILLE THEY’RE DIRECTING THEM INTO TRAFFIC WITH SIGNS POINTED THE WRONG WAY.

So while the city has all the legal and bungling protections the Supreme Court can bestow do all these businesses? Do they have any responsibility to at least write a letter or email someone about the stupidest sign on Earth in the worst traffic on Earth.

Nashville’s user interface part II February 1, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, Urban Planning, Usability, user interface.
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I’ve asked several level headed types — chiefly my beautiful and brilliant wife — their opinion of the signage issue which I rightly see as  left-handed  vs. right handed and oppression of the aforementioned left-handed minority. Also I’m looking to belabor a point when I don’t really care what they think and I need a way to start an argument.

“Where is it that my left-handed dyslectic logic fails?” (I forgot the part about dyslexia so add that to the list of minorities oppressed by the insensitive user interface design in Nashville.)

If you can spell you will already see something is wrong with me beyond left handedness and general lack of anything better to do than rail against poor working folks trying to make a living by showing us where to cross the street even if they sometimes break the monotony by leading left handed dyslectic types into traffic.

Marissa: “I know which side of the street is south.”

Me: “How?”

Marissa: “I’ve lived here all my life.”

Me: “Huh. What if someone just got to town.”

Marissa: “You can see the interstate sign from that corner.” (note this is typical right handed logic.)

Me: “So to cross the street here you have to look at an unreferenced sign and deduce your north south orientation? Also I lived here all my life before I moved away and couldn’t begin to tell you which direction is north, south or whatever.”

Marissa: “That was before they had interstates.”

Me: “Honey, assume you’re right. You’re not but assume. There’s no difference between the North or the south side in terms of safety. Someone decided that they’d save money by printing up these signs and slapping them on random telephone poles. One sign fits all. Use the South side of the street. Why not east?”

Marissa: “Whether the sides are the same is not relevant to how you can tell which is which. There is no east side of that street. Why would you make a sign that says to cross on a side of the street that doesn’t exist?”

Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville January 31, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in city planning, nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Pontification, Urban Planning, user interface.
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Street crossings and user interfaces in Nashville
by Pontiff
The study of user interface would I suppose date back to when woman or man first picked up a stick and attempted to beat some animal into becoming dinner. (..”all in all a good stick but could have been more responsive to wrist movements…” ) UI study was elevated to consciousness by the PC, circa 1980s, and gained respectability when the web and particularly the web browser caused blood pressures to rise in the 1990s. Now we see user interface design in virtually everything. Good user interface designers have to be part psychologist, part phsyologist, part gerontologist and often urologists and ever other kind of ologist. In all that We’ve gained some understanding or should have of how the disabled interact or interface with everyday things.

This brings me to discuss my own disability or what others consider my disability — left-handedness. Its hard for you right handed people to grasp just how serious we lefties take UI design. Try putting yourself in our shoes for just one day. You’ll find you can’t use scissors, mirrors, and try wielding an assault rifle that has not been outfitted for left handed sighting and you’ll see why the lifespan of a left handed person is almost 12 years less than that of a righty.

Till tonight I’d questioned the accuracy of the lifespan thing since my left-handed grandfather lived accident free and in good health till he was 98. Tonight I had an experience that brought it all home. I’m glad for a chance to illustrate just how difficult this has been form me and my left handed brothers and sisters. Plus I get to use Google Maps for more than just a . hey look at this..

I was walking home from the Green Hills Club or The Club in Green Hills (side note: see if you can find their website which is the subject of another lesson in real life user interface) when I came to the intersection of Crestmoor and Hillsboro here This is a particularly nasty intersection with several closely spaced traffic lights in the middle of Green Hills which has to worst traffic on Earth (parts of Bangkok and Beijing come close). In my left-handed confusion I look for an indication of where to cross, anything to help me navigate the street in a safe and orderly fashion (well that’s a lie .. I was looking to see if there were any cops who might ticket me for jay walking but it leads to the same conclusion so shut up).

That’s when I saw the sign – “Crossing on South side of street ONLY”. Here is the essential difference between left and right .. handedness. The street crossing is designed no doubt by the same fellow who oversees usability at the Nashville International Airport — a Malthusian right handed chauvinist. Nashville isn’t New York where I could always tell North and South because I knew which streets ran East to West and could work out the South part by standing with my right hand pointing west and left hand east. This left my butt pointing south btw.

I looked for further guidance thinking how in the world am I supposed to know which side of the frigging street is north or south in a city where all the streets ran wherever? There was no button to push, no white lines in the street , nothing logical . So how am I supposed to know? I know that Allan Funt is dead or I’d think they had a camera on me. (I still think that’s makes more sense than anything).That’s when it hit me that the damn street was designed for right handed people. Only right handed people would be so anal as to have a compass with them at all times? How could I be so stupid I thought. Another example of how the majority oppresses. And its wrong okay. There should be some kind of crossing for left-handed people who don’t have a compass up their butts at all times. Even some right handed elderly peoople might have a hard time seeing the little hands. Add to that the pressure of being nearly blind with onrushing traffic, (the worst on Earth as I said), no sidewalks and not having any idea what to do other than pull out the laptop and go to Google Maps to find out which direction is south and whether the sign refers to the adjacent street or the tangential one. So okay, there is a Starbucks across the street which should have wireless if it hasnt been sued by Bellsouth.

I’m sure the conservative bloggers are reading this and thinking oh no! here they go again. Will the cradle to grave socialist mentality ever stop? You want us to do what? Put up street crossings? Do you know how expensive that is? No. actually I don’t. I might just opt for the old fashioned . CROSS THE FRIGGING STREET HERE, YES HERE WHERE THIS SIGN IS and leave out the need for a guide or skills at orienteering and guessing in general.

Sometimes.. good UI design means CUT THE CRAP. And if this stems for some secret agenda by the Purcell administration to weed out the old and infirmred for budgetary reasons. well okay. I understand. But .. but it might cause a lawsuit if they are from out of town.. Some day soon a right handed person will be killed at that crossing and you’ll be sorry. Then you’ll put up a sign.

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Nashville Scene’s Source Questioned January 19, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in nashville, NashvillesNews.net, Uncategorized.
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The much improved Nashville Scene website is running a story about the …'[l]ocal assistant U.S. attorney’s explosive Justice Department allegations ‘…

The seven-page document reads like the screenplay for Scarface, had it been written by a Justice Department attorney instead of Oliver Stone. U.S. Drug Enforcement agents in Bogotá, Colombia, help local drug lords traffic narcotics.

This piece in the Narcosphere — the blog for The Narco News Bulletin — gives allot of further background if you’re interested.

It also calls into the question the believability of the unnamed source behind the allegations. Its interesting to read both the Scene’s take and that of the Narcosphere. Note that they are not questioning the Scene reporter’s, John Spragens, veracity here only the intentions and motivations behind the unnamed source. If you read the comments you’ll see Spragens writes the author to thank him for finding one error of fact (a date).

Be warned that this is complicated and I had to read it a few times to make sense of what is being said. My take it is yet again another example of the futility and morally questionable nature of our so called war on drugs.

The war is of course not against ‘drugs’ but the people who use, traffic, cultivate or are involved with any of the above This means that its a war against a sizable portion of this countries population waged by a class of ‘legal czars’ who offer up their noble purpose to justify actions that sometime don’t seem very justifiable.

I for one think most of these people are protecting their power , jobs or both and don’t think it through beyond those ends. Further a climate of fear creates an eviroment in which people are scared to question whether these ends are justifed or the purpose really noble to begin with — not to risk comming off as ‘pro drug’ which is like saying if your are against the war in Iraq you are pro terror. I don’t believe they even know what the ends are and lost sight of the purpose a long time ago.

What site? January 15, 2006

Posted by Pontiff in NashvillesNews.net, Unbundled Media, Uncategorized.
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The real change between the old web and the newly christened web 2.0 is in user perception. Internet users now see a large portion of the net as one ‘thing’ rather than allot of small sites with links to one another.

Specifically they see two large areas of the web — 1.,those individual sites that are engaged in ecommerce or selling stuff and 2.,what has become known as the blogosphere. Some users of course are aware of the technologies powering blogs and blogging software. While they understand that these things are powered by discrete servers and databases they behave as if it is one big single web applications. This behavior is translated into a general impatience with anything that has to do with re identifying themselves to individual sites.

This behavior is of course the grand design behind the blogosphere and a testament to its success. People are frustrated by having to log-in to each site and inputting their credit card information to make a small purchase.

Note too that RSS is the enabling technology here. We who work in the boiler room are focusing on the cogs and gears when in point of fact they only relevant to others in the same engine room — ie. very few. (more…)