Why yes, I’ll gladly run your infographic…

Via David Gerard, who links to Tom Morris’s Infographics are porn without the happy ending:

If you wanted to catalogue the shit-eating complacency and pretentiousness of Web 2.0, infographics would be right up there with the damn TED conference and people who put “rockstar” on their business card.

Did someone really sit down one day and think “you know, unless we have the market share of the iPad illustrated as a pie chart shaped as an apple, people will think this statistic is too dry”? The story of the iPad is an interesting one: much, much more interesting than can be displayed in three factoids hastily put together in a crappy infographic. You don’t need an infographic to tell the story of a computer that is the size and form of a magazine. You need a writer.

Everyone keeps telling me that infographics are fine, and that I’m just getting stuck in Sturgeon’s Law. I keep hearing infographics designers turn up at design events talking about the awesomeness of infographics. But in my day to day life, I can’t remember ever seeing a good infographic. That is, I can’t remember ever seeing an infographic that made it worth the page taking even half a second longer to load.

I get these requests to run infographics on my blog all the time. Today I actually replied to one, asking me if I’d like to post something about the rise of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields. Interesting! Especially since a number of studies show that fewer women are pursuing STEM careers and that there is a growing gender gap in computing.

So, I replied saying that I’d take a look at the infographic and consider running it on the following terms:

  1. The information is based on respected, preferably peer reviewed, studies, and provides citations.
  2. The graphical display of the information provides insight that would not have been available through text.
  3. A textual summary of the infographic is also provided, to improve accessibility for readers who have trouble interpreting a graphic.
  4. The graphic is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution or Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY or CC-BY-SA) license.

I don’t expect a reply, but I’ll let you know if I get one. Now I just need to come up with similar terms for the dozens of people who keep asking to guest-post on my blog. I suspect the top condition would be, “I get to mock you and your post.” Especially that one that emailed me the other day, saying: “When searching Google for Open Source Development, we found a post on infotrope.net.” O RLY?

Fresh links for May 31st through June 10th

  • Printfection – Looks like I've got a new favourite t-shirt supplier: Printfection has organic cotton Ts in fitted ("women's") sizes up to 54" in 13 different colours, and at $19.99 each which isn't too bad. They do zazzle/cafepress style fulfilment, though it looks like they're aiming more for a pro market than a hobbyist one. Fine by me! I think I'm about to start selling t-shirts! (I've been putting it off for years because I couldn't find tshirt stock I wanted to wear.)
  • Joshua Ellis revisits the Grim Meathook Future – This post pretty much reflects the contents of my brain when it comes to a) the fuckedness of the VC-driven tech industry, and b) dystopian futurism (or rather, presentism). Except for the bit where he blames technologists for the death of newspapers and record sales, because really, can't we share that with Murdoch and his musical equivalents? Anyway, a must-read on the subject of the grim, meathook, unevenly-distributed, venture-funded, watching-cops-assault-people-on-YouTube present and/or future.
  • Salon.com » The case for telling everyone what you make – This is something I believe in pretty strongly. I'd also love to see a buttload more salary transparency when jobs are advertised (yeah, dream on) but at least an increased culture of sharing this info should be good for websites like glassdoor where you can find salary info when you're jobhunting.
  • Popping the social media zit – sabreuse talks bucketloads of sense about those "share" buttons that are like acne all over websites.

How is story formed???

This morning in the shower (formerly my favourite place for musing about random shit, though rapidly being supplanted by my bike commute) I was pondering something a teacher said about XLR cables and gender changers, and I got to thinking about what sort of lifeform would be male at one end and female at the other, and if that existed, what role would something play that was female (or male) at both ends? Next thing I knew, I had a fairly complex society imagined, with line marriages and rites of passage and institutional oppression and all that good stuff* (* not actually good stuff). And of course I started thinking that I should write something. The problem is, I have this world but no story to go in it.

Last time this happened, it was a complex alternate history of convict-era Australia, where the French invade in 1802 and the resistance is formed of the former NSW Corps and some of my favourite bits of the Royal Navy. But, hilarious as it would be to make Macarthur and Bligh team up to fight crime the French, I don’t actually want to tell that kind of “yay! colonialism!” story, and so all my detailed worldbuilding sat and gathered dust for a good long while.

I can’t remember which of our summer house-guests it was (anatsuno?) who suggested that I simply tell another story — one that I wanted to tell — set in that world, with all the military invasion stuff as background rather than foreground. It was excellent advice, and the story that I subsequently started to write is definitely the better for it.

So, what about this world with the gender stuff I was thinking about? I’ve got the background, but what’s the actual story? I randomly wondered what a police procedural would be like, and started building something around that on the bike ride home. It’s turning out quite interesting in my head, but that was a genre chosen more or less at random, which seems like a rather hit-or-miss method.

Do any of you have this worldbuilding-first habit? If so, how do you find the damn story?

Fresh links for May 18th through May 24th

  • Plan a Trip Through History With ORBIS, a Google Maps for Ancient Rome – How come it took three weeks for me to hear about this mapping hack to help you understand travel routes and expenses in Ancient Rome? Maps, history, digital humanities — what's not to love? I only wish this existed for other time periods. Imagine how useful it would be for people writing historical fiction!
  • Criminal Creativity: Untangling Cover Song Licensing on YouTube – A few interesting things here, including the little-known fact that you need a (nearly impossible to get, if you're an ordinary person) synch license to post a cover song on YouTube, and that ContentID can now identify cover songs, up to and including drunk guys belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the back of police cars.
  • Brodustrial: WWJD? – Via jwz: an industrial music performer discovers he's booked to play alongside some really nasty bigots. Asking, "What Would Jello Biafra Do?" he ends up calling out the racism and sexism of the other bands' lyrics, videos, and album art in a PowerPoint presentation — while opening for them. It's good viewing, but NSFW.
  • bootlegMIC | Open Music Labs – A better mic for your iPhone, inspired by the crappy sound of all the concert videos on YouTube. Sold as a kit, the bootlegMIC is a small electret mic that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. Gain adjustment is done by swapping out resistors til you find one that works for your phone and use case.
  • DJ Rupture’s Sufi Plug Ins – Great post about Western assumptions built into music software such as Ableton, and some plugins that challenge those assumptions.

Fresh links for May 12th through May 13th