1. Harry Brignull on how to get hired in UX

    Posted May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized  |  No Comments so far

    In my last job I spent a lot of time interviewing candidates for UX jobs and running design exercises. So I can recommend reading Harry Brignull’s tips for anyone looking to get hired in UX – they all ring true.

    And in fact they’re still worth reading even if you’re not looking to get hired but are the person doing the hiring. If you’re not already  looking for the red flags he mentions, you should be.

    I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve asked people about surprises or unexpected results from user research only to receive a content-free response. One UX designer even said, “I’ve always been right.” Needless to say, that person didn’t get the job.

  2. A snapshot of modern human life

    Posted April 26, 2013 in visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    I enjoyed reading Stephen Wolfram summarising his team’s analysis of Facebook data. The infographics aren’t just neat and easy on the eye, they offer up their insights without fuss or clutter. The writing is pitched well, informative without being intimidating or patronising. And among the graphs and the science you can detect something organic, something messy, something that can be faintly painful if you think about it too much.

    Relationship status by age, taken from Wolfram's analysis of Facebook data

    Relationship status by age, taken from Wolfram’s analysis of Facebook data

    For me, it comes out most strongly when I look at the greyish sliver that opens up towards the top-right of the above graph, which represents the proportion of people whose relationship status is “widowed”.

    This isn’t the most interesting or surprising piece of information on the page, nor is it the most novel or engaging graphic, but it’s the one that most brought home to me that beneath this sea of data, and beneath the sterile light-blue facade of Facebook, there’s something else going on: real, human, life.

  3. Another Twitter visualisation

    Posted February 3, 2009 in social media, visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    I promise I’ll stop posting links to these one day. Anyway, this is from a series of Superbowl-related interactive visualisations produced by the New York Times:

    Screenshot of NYT Twitter visualisation

    Unlike the visualisation of #inauguration posts I linked to recently, this isn’t based on hash tags but instead uses moving tag clouds to illustrate the volume of Twitter posts on various subjects during the Super Bowl.

    Examples include “Cardinals vs Steelers” (I know the Steelers are from Pittsburgh but from this animation I’d guess the Cardinals are from… Las Vegas? San Diego?), “talking about ads” (it’s vaguely depressing to see how much conversation the ads inspire) and player names (a guy called Fitzgerald obviously does something notable in the fourth quarter).

    This is maybe the most effective use of Twitter data I’ve seen so far, as it is centred around a single event but tracks various subjects of conversation related to that event. A far simpler and less interesting animation would have simply flagged every post with the hash tag #superbowl.

  4. Infographics at work

    Posted November 26, 2008 in media, visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    Last night I watched IOUSA on the BBC iPlayer (unfortunately this was over cable TV – I can’t find it on the web iPlayer). It’s a film made by the former US Comptroller General, David Walker, which attempts to convince the viewer of the seriousness of America’s national debt problem.

    …and it worked on me. The most effective aspect of the film was its use of infographics to convey a sense of historical scale. At its core was a recurring animated graphic showing the national debt from America’s inception through to the end of the George W Bush era in 2008.


    Early on in the film you see the rises in the national debt from $0 in 1835 (the only point in history when it hit zero) up until the start of World War One. After that the graphic has to keep zooming out to fit in the subsequent growth. The Great Depression sees a quite unnerving hike – but as the World War Two period looms into view, it looks like a sheer cliff face. This is a shot of the graphic running up until 1988:

    US national debt through to 1988

    In the Clinton era the debt comes down, but then Bush takes charge in 2000 and things go through the roof, rocketing past WW2’s peak. The final sequence involving this graphic displays a projection for debt growth through to 2040. Baby boomers are set to retire en masse shortly and the effect on Social Security and Medicare spending will not be good. The effect this has on the infographic – the drastic zoom needed to chart the debt up to 2040 – almost gave me a sense of vertigo. It paints a pretty dystopian vision of the future.

    Pie chart

    Even though the film is unlikely to contain any new information for someone with more than an advanced lay knowledge of the current economic situation, I’d strongly recommend watching it. As well as the extremely well designed and animated graphics, it does a remarkably effective job of communicating the seriousness of the situation even to viewers who are already aware of most of the facts.

  5. Monday morning links

    Posted September 15, 2008 in links  |  No Comments so far

    This weekend everything here was moved from brelson.com/blog to brelson.com, and a couple of links summaries were missed as a result. So I’ve decided to post them manually instead…

    Planet of the Lemur: 10 Beautiful Little-Known Species
    Here are some excellent pictures of lemurs. My favourite is the crowned lemur.

    Thoughts for an eleventh September: Alvin Toffler, Hirohito, Sarah Palin « Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird
    The titular concept of sociologist Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock” was a predicted social reaction against a period of accelerated technological change. Or, in other words, social and technological change leading to a large section of society with a feeling of disconnection and disorientation. The author of this article, Adam Greenfield, had always imagined ‘future shock’ as a sudden outbreak, like a flu epidemic, but in this article, whose sentiments I wholly sympathise with, he speculates that this condition may have been slowly starting to manifest itself for several years now, and that Sarah Palin is among its prime exemplars.

    BBC NEWS | Magazine | Compact and bijou – the slums of tomorrow?
    The shiny, aspirational and modern-looking blocks of flats dotting the modern skylines of suburban London are, once you’re inside, cramped and claustrophic, and have strong potential as the cornerstones of future slums. JG Ballard was right, etc.

    Local paper ‘tweets’ the funeral of 3-year old boy killed in ice cream shop
    “When Twitter goes wrong” – a bizarre case involving a reporter posting updates from the funeral of a 3-year-old. There’s something intrinsically trivial and quotidian about microblogging in the same way as there is about text messaging, which is possibly the reason why the headline of this feature alone triggered a confused/repulsed response on my part. I should add though that I’m also faintly repulsed by the tone this article takes in its final paragraph.

    Social Networking Watch: Friendster, Kent Lindstrom – CEO Interview
    To be honest I’d assumed Friendster must have died a death after its explosive growth in 2004-2005 was bogged down by general infrastructural fail. But in fact Friendster lives on and is the number one social network in Asia, with loads of users in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and so on. A happy ending!

    The end of the beginning of Web 2.0 – broadstuff
    “In other words, the current generation of ‘2.0’ technology is becoming settled – reliable, predictable etc – and, well, boring. That layer of bedrock is done, and people are using it for the next layer…”

  6. The 2008 US box office visualised

    Posted August 29, 2008 in visualisation  |  1 Comment so far

    A nice week-by-week visualisation of the US box office takings throughout 2008. It gives you a good sense of how quickly many films drop off the radar, and also of the size of the gap between successful movies and (comparative) flops.


    As you scroll along to the right, for example, you’ll find yourself thinking that Iron Man looks pretty impressive. Then you’ll get to The Dark Knight…

  7. Why you should work from home more often

    Posted July 28, 2008 in work  |  No Comments so far

    I’m lucky to have an employer with a sensible telecommuting policy – all of our staff are entitled to spend one day per week working from home.

    If this isn’t something your company does, this column from the Economist provides a useful summary of the reasons why they should.

    The benefits of telecommuting are realised in the following areas:

    • Personal productivity – the telecommuter gains on average two hours of time normally lost to the commute
    • Environmental impact – avoiding the commute means a drop in personal CO2 emissions; if enough people did this, the global drop in energy consumption could be huge
    • Business benefits – it’s increasingly recognised that working from home can lead to productivity gains and cost reductions for the business; see the link above for a discussion of these.

    However, it’s going to take some time for working from home to break into the mainstream. Working practises will need to change quite fundamentally in order for less technology-centric workplaces to move to a telecommuting model. But companies should start to move in this direction sooner rather than later.

  8. Tweeting on the bus

    Posted July 26, 2008 in social media  |  1 Comment so far

    Earlier this afternoon, as I was passing Angel station on a bus, I posted to Twitter. I’ve subsequently discovered my ‘tweet’ turning up at this site – Tweets on the bus.

    The concept is simple – it collects Twitter posts containing the term “on the bus”, and presents them all on one web page. It’s got an RSS feed, and provides automatic links to possibly related tweets.

    OK, so it’s not going to change the world. But if you’re as keen an observer of the banal as I am, it’s as good an answer as any to the important question of what’s currently on the minds of random strangers on the bus.

  9. Pubs, epidemiology and geo-mashups

    Posted July 23, 2008 in visualisation  |  No Comments so far

    I recommend reading this blog post from Jeffrey Veen, author of “The Art & Science of Web Design”.

    You may be familiar with Dr John Snow as the man who successfully traced the source of London’s 1854 cholera outbreak. A pub on Broadwick Street in Soho is named after him, and the water-pump that started it all is preserved outside as a monument.

    This post discusses the way the in which Dr Snow helped to ‘sell’ the results of his research, adapting an existing visualisation to create an overlaid map which communicated, in a far more immediate way than raw data or polemic might have done, the central thrust of his argument.

    It’s an interesting and early example of how well-designed data visualisations can quickly convey information which could otherwise be comprehensible only to experts and adepts.

  10. Twitter in plain English

    Posted July 17, 2008 in social media  |  No Comments so far

    After my previous post on not “getting” Twitter, I’ve spent a fair bit of time getting to grips with it and have been sucked in to a considerable extent.

    I’ll post more about my road-to-Damascus Twitter conversion in the next couple of days, but in the meantime I’d refer any interested readers to this video, “Twitter in Plain English”:

    What I’d say about it though is that it focuses unduly on the “social” aspects of Twitter, e.g. using it to stay in touch with your real life friends and family. I don’t think that tells the whole picture, however… and I’ll explain why later!