tom haynes

Firefox usage visualization

Firefox released data from Test Pilot — their framework for collecting Firefox usage data from users that opt-in and install it — and asked people to visualize it. The data represents one week of Firefox usage for ~270,000 people, and ~4,000 of them also filled out a survey with basic demographic information. I was interested in what usage looked like over time and by age group, so I pulled out Python, sqlite, and R for exploration and used Illustrator to clean it up.

Here’s the final version:

And here’s a version with my annotations:

How?

I used SQL to grab all the STARTUP, ACTIVATE, SHUTDOWN, and INACTIVE events from the ~4,000 users that filled out the survey. Then I parsed that with a Python script that computed how many users in each age group were online every ten minutes. I plotted that data with R (using LOESS for smoothing) and then tidied it up with Illustrator.

Update: I was selected as a finalist and won a set of four Edward Tufte books!

Code and images are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.

Usership > ownership

A video that Jane and I made for the Interaction ’11 student competition. The theme is “Use not own,” and our idea is a system that helps people who live in apartments share things with their neighbors.

Duplicate, again

I posted the other day about a multi-touch gesture for duplicating an object, and Debra linked me to this Gesture Reference Guide. There’s a duplicate gesture described in the PDF but I’m not sure I understand or agree with the way it would work. Here it is:

My issues with this idea are that a) it doesn’t seem natural and b) it sounds like it would interfere with other gestures, like selecting more than one object, or even tapping two things sequentially — the tapper shouldn’t have to worry about releasing her first finger before tapping something else. I don’t see it listed as being implemented on any of the devices, so I guess it’s just Luke’s idea for the gesture.

Multi-touch "duplicate"

Are there any standards out there for creating a copy (eg. duplicating) of an object using multi-touch? I couldn’t find any with a quick search, so I mocked up a possibility.

The first one is for when you simply want to create a copy of an object. This is analogous to right clicking and choosing “Duplicate” (in OS X).

The second is the same as dragging and object and holding the option key, which creates a duplicate in the drag location (either elsewhere on the desktop, or into a new folder). The first steps are the same (press for a second to get the plus circle), but then instead of tapping the circle, the user drags it and it morphs into a shadow of the object.

Is this natural? Discoverable? Unobtrusive? Does it conflict with other gestures?

Next?

Made this the other week. Maybe you can help me complete it?

Calendars, online and otherwise

I went to a Google info session today and we talked about calendars for part of it. Specifically, we talked about getting people to switch from a paper calendar to an online one (like Google Calendar but the exact variant isn’t really important). While my main calendar is online, there are some affordances of a physical calendar that I miss.

One is being able to track things on a calendar, simply by making little marks in the corners. Maybe I’ll put a “W” in the corner for days I work out, or jot my weight next to days I weigh myself, or put stars on days that were really good. My calendar becomes a sort of personal history for me. This also works for days in the future; sometimes I don’t need an entire rectangle and text to remind myself of something, I just want to draw a red box around the day or highlight days that I’m excited for.

Speaking of excitement: I can’t express any sort of emotion or priority in my events online. My personal events are green and my classes are blue, but that’s as much as a difference as I can have. On paper I can make things bold or big or draw stars around them; I can express and embed myself in the calendar. Then I can see at a glance what is important to me alongside my recurring and less exciting events simply pencilled in each square.

But what about things that don’t fit in a single square? My friend is visiting for a few days, or even a few weeks. Should I make an event that spans the whole period and be reminded that it’s happening at the top of each box every day? On my physical calendar I can write on the day he’s coming and draw a thin line at the bottom until the day he leaves. It’s my custom solution that doesn’t fit neatly into the boxes and text fields of my web browser.

I imagine that these shortcomings of online calendars are limiting their usefulness and preventing those who use paper from making the switch.

Do you calendar online? On paper? What differences do you see?

Idea: News site

Idea for a website:

Links to news stories for the day. Aggregated either automatically or by an editor. Sounds boring. The difference is that only news that meets a certain criteria is printed. This could be criteria based on cultural relevance, geographic importance, or just general newsworthiness. So sometimes the site will just say “no news” and people can go about their days. Which contrasts with the CNN.com-type model, where there is always a breaking story, even if it isn’t relevant or even all that newsworthy. “Breaking news, posted 18 minutes ago! The head of state of Myanmar had an affair! Keep refreshing while we update with video!”

Version 2 would be more customized and probably have to be all automatic. You tell the site exactly what you’re interested in and what tolerance you have for minor stories and it will give you what you want to see. For example, I want to see only super important pop culture stories and those that are relevant to where I live: like Michael Jackson’s death or if the Grateful Dead is playing in Detroit. But I want all stories about Apple. Maybe it would make sense to make the algorithm learn, so I train the site as we go.

Bottom line, I want to go to a news site and see “you’re all caught up” and then I can do something productive with my next hour, like write about an idea for a website.

Idea: super-live blogging

Imagine: you visit a blog and see that the most recent entry is only half-written. In fact, it’s being typed before your eyes!

Obviously wouldn’t work for all blogs, like those where entries are edited several times before being posted, or are set to be posted on a schedule. But it would certainly be a unique touch and turn some heads. What if you got comments on your post before even finishing it?

Idea: hands-free sink

When I’m shaving I don’t want to keep the water on the whole time – that’s wasteful. But it’s inefficient to turn two dials every thirty seconds to clean the razor (and then turn them again to stop the flow). Why not give the sink a foot pedal?

Actually, I’m sure this exists. In that case, I want one.