good news for people with 8.29 years of schooling

Here's a fun little tool that allows you to test any website for readability. So I checked our latest posts out vs. the Decision Science News site, which definitely leans a little more academic, and the results came out as expected. My understanding of the system is that the Gunning Fog is the most telling number -- a rough estimate of the years of schooling a reader would need to understand. Someone needs 8.29 years of school to read and understand this site in its current form.

I've also taken the advice of reading weird shit from Richard H. to heart. This short story caught my eye at the library and it was well worth the read. It's an incredibly engaging tale about the love affair people have with books.

Here's a page from The House of Paper on pathways in books... a concept built around readability and the advantage of keeping it simple (like when writing a brief):

"'...a printed page is also a complicated drawing. It's a play of lines and tiny figures that flows from vowel to consonant, obeying its own laws of rhythm and composition, all based on the type size, the chosen font... candlelight lends a book an extra luster that brings out values and subtleties in a magical way. And the pathways become a delight.'

'What are pathways?' I asked...

'Well, that's an age-old discussion... nobody can be really sure whether it's the author's genius or the skill of the printer... for many readers, it's enough for them to look at the pathways to know whether a book is good and should be read.'

Delgado went over to one of his bookcases, took out an antique edition of Eugenie Grandet, and handed it to me. He told me to open it at any page and to look for vertical or diagonal channels created by the spaces between words. And it was true, I could see long pathways that led from line to line, crossed paragraphs, occasionally came to a halt, then branched off diagonally, from right to left or left to right, or cascaded vertically down.

'A writer who has no rhythm to his sentences cannt create that. If he mangles the language by putting two or three words with more than four syllables in a single sentence, he is bound to block the pathway and destroy the rhythm...'"

The readability numbers and the idea of pathways get at the same idea, but thinking about readability in terms of pathways is so much more engaging than looking at readability numbers or scores.

If I had to improve readability as an author or publisher, I'd much rather read about pathways as a way of framing the problem. All this makes me think twice about some recent briefs I've written that have framed communications problems... they've ended up somewhere more towards the numbers, when the briefs could have been more pathway-like.


It's funny how a stroller can say so much about parent and child. Keep in mind this is coming from someone with limited interaction with strollers and the like... but it seems the tricked out one on the top more often goes hand-in-hand with a Suburban/Tahoe-type car and borderline-spoling parents, while the simple stroller goes with a Honda/Mini kind of car and the kind of parents that are a little more relaxed.

And I love this quote on gender stereotyping dug out by Iconoculture:

"Women are interested in me ... because I'm a man pushing a stroller. This simple act, I've discovered, transforms me into a near saint in the eyes of society. Grandparents, young couples, moms - it seems the entire population cannot pass by without complimenting me, or at least smiling." - Bill Eville on "baby-carriage bliss," Parents 6.06


3D font

This font is incredible. It's ideal for writing a brief on a donut store or sandwich shop (for some reason, they all look like they could be eaten to me).


is ted really that happy to see me

I took this pic just before getting on a plane down to Miami for the planning conference last week. I was not happy to see these over and over while sitting there waiting for the plane to arrive from wherever it was, for about 5 hours (you know it's bad when they take down your flight info and orig. takeoff time down from the sign in the background).

In an effort to stay away from angry-bloggerness, I sat on this for awhile. Stuff like this that tries to be cute during the good times becomes annoying when things go wrong. It's the antithesis of YouTube and flickr downtime messages/coloring contests. Life will be better once the flickr/YouTube way of dealing with problems enters into bricks-and-mortar businesses. How hard would it be to change out the text on the signs when a plane is delayed - "Ted is sorry you have to wait forever and a day."


should advertising mirror reality?

The ad above, which is part of Ford's new "Bold Moves" campaign, starts out very formulaic, with the picture-perfect family-- two parents, two kids, and a dog-- spending a leisurely day together, but what is particularly salient is the ending. The father is dropped off at his apartment after thanking his apparent ex-wife for letting him spend the day with them. Hmm...

Why was this surprising? With divorce such a common occurrence in society, one would think that marketers would not feel the need to shy away from the issue. However, an article last week in The New York Times, which highlighted Ford's treatment of the subject, suggests that perceptions are changing and many companies are becoming more comfortable reflecting the once stigmatized issue in their advertisements.

“Divorce is so common that I don’t think people view it as sad and depressing anymore,” said Allen P. Adamson, managing director at the New York office of Landor Associates, a corporate identity consulting company owned by the WPP Group. “It’s on every movie, every TV show. There aren’t any more ‘Leave It to Beaver’ families around.”

On one hand, it is admirable that Ford and others are attempting to more accurately reflect the realities of their customers' lives, but the question then becomes-- is this really what people want? Mr. Adamson says there aren't any more 'Leave It to Beaver' families, and he may be right. That actual dynamic may be waning, but what about the idea of the family archetype. After all, aspiration is the bedrock on which the majority of advertising is built. Any thoughts?


vanity plates

Up here in the traffic that is Northern Virginia and DC, we can pass the time wondering what people are thinking putting vanity plates on their cars... most of the time it's trying to figure out what they mean. Design Observer has a wonderful rant on the situation:

The ubiquity of the vanity plate makes for a discordant kind of poetry: it’s a function of brevity and bad spelling, a terse kind of haiku that’s oddly self-referential. Sometimes, the message being transmitted is merely a reflection of the car itself: “ITS EASY” for a Porsche Boxster or “BIG ENOF” for a Ford Explorer or “DEAD LEG” for a 1973 Wolkswagon minibus. Yet this is just the tip of the vanity-plate phenomenon — a custom that, come to think of it, seems ideally poised for the short attention span of the American public.

(I really have no idea what the above IRPOSTL plate means... things like this haunt my drive every day, but it does make the time go by)

yuppie rap meets YouTube

This viral ad created by BBH for Smirnoff's new Raw Tea has been bouncing around on YouTube for well-over a week now, and according to Adweek has garnered more than 350,000 views (and that was as of 8/9). I suppose it is debatable whether or not it is a "good ad," but it is certainly an excellent use of an increasingly powerful medium.

Speaking of... Frank Barnako had a interesting post on his MarketWatch Media Blog about how the introduction of IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) from major telcos like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) could create a major paradigm shift, from which YouTube and other non-traditional content providers could emerge as the biggest winners.


long awkward pose

I just discovered this lovely experiment in human behavior - Long Awkward Pose.

It's simple, really. People look foolish when posing for a picture. So tell your loved ones you would like to take their photo... then secretly videotape them the whole time.

Hat tip to Photojojo.


designer dogs

We're going to do our best Cute Overload! impression for this post. Designer, hybrid, mashup, whatever you want to call them, dogs are all over the place around Washington. Labradoodles are by far the most popular ones, and I just saw a Huskie/Australian Shepherd mix at the pet store going for $400.

It seems like a few years back the breeders got together and decided to take a dog of 2 breeds and repackage it as a hybrid dog. It's funny what dropping a word like designer or hybrid in there can do.


del.icio.us motivations

I was doing some research on del.icio.us for a presentation and found this gem over on Bokardo exploring the motivations for people using tags on all the tagging types of sites. His theory is that it's probably not for the altruistic reasons that everyone thinking and writing about all this community web stuff believes (or appears to buy into), but it's really just about saving bookmarks... not sharing, adding to the whole community, or anything bigger than that.

"The one major idea behind the Del.icio.us Lesson is that personal value precedes network value. What this means is that if we are to build networks of value, then each person on the network needs to find value for themselves before they can contribute value to the network. In the case of Del.icio.us, people find value saving their personal bookmarks first and foremost. All other usage is secondary.

As people use Del.icio.us more, and in order to gain more personal value, they use tags to be able to find their bookmarks later. Tagging isn’t even the primary function of Del.icio.us. Most of the tagging done on Del.icio.us is done secondarily, and for personal use.

The social value of tags on Del.icio.us is only a happy side-effect. Even though most of the ink spilled about Del.icio.us is about the social value, it’s really not the reason why people use it."


firefox day

This is a brilliant example of rewarding users for spreading the word and building excitement around an upcoming software launch, which can be pretty clunky.

World Firefox Day gives everyone who uses and loves Firefox the chance to introduce Firefox to one other person they care about. If your friend starts using Firefox on or before September 15, 2006, both of you will be recognized on the Firefox Friends Wall, and in Firefox 2.


i don't know

Our love of 80s music continues here at plannerliness.

The ending is worth the wait.


clarissa nantz

Another instant classic from the Onion:

Woman In Coffee Shop Judges A Record 147 People

PORTLAND, OR—Clarissa Nantz, a clothing buyer for Nordstrom's and a coffee-shop regular, broke her own record for judgmental behavior when she judged 147 fellow customers, passersby, and motorists in an almost constant stream of criticism during the 25 minutes it took her to enjoy a soy-mocha frappachesso at Portland's Eagle's Roast Monday. "Oh, God, lady, who cuts your hair—you? And nice laugh, by the way. That must really get them rolling back at the barnyard," said Nantz, whose previous under-her-breath-judgments record was 134. A young man dressed in a secondhand bowling shirt, a woman who poured several Splendas into her fat-free latte, and an elderly man with a broken leg were similarly unspared. Nantz is poised to break her record Sunday at her husband's family reunion.

If she existed, she'd have a field day with some of the places we go.

you put my picture in a frame

The science/psychology of decision-making is one of the more applicable areas to what we do coming out of academia. These 2 pages on framing were scanned in from an old cognitive psych textbook awhile back for a presentation, and I thought they'd be fun to post.

It serves as a generic, but still good, reminder that the way we ask questions impacts the way they're answered.


get a human

Just came across this site with some cool tips for skipping through all those automated menus and get you talking with a human asap. Check out the database, it's already helped me out tonight.

And the mountain of evidence showing the power shift away from companies continues to grow...

thanks to flickr user splorp for the photo