histograms be damned
If there is an ultimate irony in my personal universe, it is discovering a post by someone I've never met entitled Freitas on Civility.
Yes, the post was in reference to something I wrote previously on Jimmy Wales and steak knives and blahblahblah… but, man. I should just frame that and give it to my long-suffering parents; they have forever fretted that I'd not learned "the two Ts" (as they called them): Tact and Tolerance. I have managed to make it to adulthood without mastery of either, but at least people are quoting me when I write about civility and social software.
Elsewhere in writings online…
Sphere has been released for a bit now, and its gotten some decent reviews [here's one, thanks Jack], and some well considered criticism as well. Dan [read his book excerpt!] brought a particular post to my attention, so I'll point you to it.
I like what it says, for the most part (there's a bit of confusion between stylistic and interface concerns throughout), though I do feel I should respond to the comments regarding how hard it is to find the histogram date feature that's spotlighted on every Sphere screenshot that's getting passed around:
How hard was *this* to find!! Very. And I was looking for it!
I’d seen their ‘nifty interactive graph’ from screenshots all over the blogosphere, but couldn’t for the *life* of me find it on Sphere. Even after I’d gone and read the instructions.Eventually, there it was. Hidden down the bottom of the dropdown.
Let's be upfront about the MeasureMap histogram that got baked into Sphere: it is not easy to discover. Yes, I did that on purpose. Hell, it's as far out of the way as I could convincingly argue Tony and his team to put it. So you know, I'll never apologize for not giving it a button in the primary search nav. I'd have buried it in an "advanced search" cul de sac if they'd gone for it.
Know why? Because it's eyecandy for Web2.0 retards.
It's novel and nifty and wholly unnecessary if the results are half as good as the Sphere team are commited to making them. I know these guys – I spent too many days in front of whiteboards with them figuring out what I was building to not understand that they are attempting to get the user off the results page and to the posts they're looking for. They're very interested in you finding what you're looking for. Really. The sentence-filter, the stripping down of the T'rati clusterfuck-as-interface model… behind all of that, the point was to get people to good results.
[update 5/10 8:33 AM PST]: Yes, the histogram has a purpose, and value, to users who wish to know the volume of conversation on a certain meme over time. I agreed to it's presence entirely for that reason. The point is not that the histogram has no value, or that it was included as a craven attempt to exploit web2.0 buzziness – the point is that the design decision to obscure it was intentional, and made because the users who will need access to that widget day-in/day-out are an edge case. And the easiest way to crowd anything simple and elegant is to start designing to edge cases.
Designing for the TechCrunch crowd is a mook's game. Designing for users means making things straightforward, lightweight, and uncluttered.
And if a few people question why I'm tying a novel event to a pull-down, at least I'll know in my heart that they are echoing the notation I put in the wireframe when I designed the thing in the first place. Good catch is what's in my head when I read those comments. That and ain't client work a conundrum sometimes?
Sphere wouldn't be half as good as it is without the dedication of a group of guys who're committed to making the algorithm behind it way more impressive than the front end Adaptive Path helped them build. The whole interface was built to be flexible as user behavior, system capability and advertiser demands evolved. If the histogram got your attention, great.
I'm hoping you'll stick around to see if the search actually takes you where you were looking to go.