Library Fair 2013

This past Wednesday, April 17th, was the most recent UT Libraries Library Fair on the Perry-Castañeda Library pavilion.  TIS, giving a bit of a test run to some potential public rebranding, joined in the fun by exhibiting a multi-player experience we “creatively” dubbed Fruit Tetris.  This involved a large screen TV in portrait mode displaying a custom website in a full screen browser window, a MaKey MaKey computer interface device, and a handful of fruit.

Fruit Tetris at the Library Fair
Banana, banana, banana!

We had a few dozen brave students try their hand at the game, using the banana to move pieces left, the orange to move right and the apple to rotate the bricks.  A tap on the binder clip ring would drop the piece to the bottom very (very) quickly, much to many players chagrin.  We hope to bring this system back in a version 2.0 later in the semester, so keep your eyes (pardon the pun) peeled!

Infographics and Data Visualizations

Two of the most effective and difficult to master forms of communication are the infographic and the data visualization.

Each of these can be thought of as a tool in a communication toolbox.  And like any other kind of toolbox in the real world, it should have more than just two tools within it.  Infographics and data visualizations are just parts of the Marketing Mix or of the Communications Plan.  They must be supported by other tools such as a Mission or Marketing Statement, a Creative Statement, and a circular Product Life Cycle plan whose last step is always to “Re-evaluate Step One and begin again”.

With the access of data from around the world at our keyboard, the danger of information overload is an often encountered problem.  And as the number of people accessing this information increases, so does the number of people creating even more information.

At times, the vast amount of information on a given subject can be useless. However, at other times, the vast amount of information on a given subject can be priceless and valuable.

An infographic is the graphic presentation and communication of data that has been found, researched and analyzed (usually by an entity other than the one creating the infographic).  Most infographics are created and presented in large format print, generally poster size.  An infographic allows the message conveyed by the data to be displayed in a rich variety of executions – from fun and unique, to straightforward and formal.

Is this a humorous infographic? Or is it just a cute poster?

Infographic of Geeks versus Nerds.
Graphic courtesy of

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The CAPTCHA debate

ReCAPTCHA, a specific type of CAPTCHA which uses human-inputs to decipher text unrecognized by OCR software and helps digitize books and newspapers.

CAPTCHA or Completely Automated Public Turing Test is a challenge-response test used to prevent bot abuse and eliminate spam. If you’ve been on the internet anytime in the past decade, you’ve most likely come into contact with (and perhaps been frustrated by) a CAPTCHA. You’ve probably even used a CAPTCHA within the past few days – statistics show that 200 million reCAPTCHAS (a specific type of CAPTCHA) are completed daily.

The most common CAPTCHA looks something like the image above. A couple of distorted words are presented to the user. Bots, unable to comprehend the warped text, cannot break the CAPTCHA and are thwarted. There are many kinds of CAPTCHAs, ranging from the classic text recognition and image recognition to logic questions and interactive tasks.Several CAPTCHA alternatives have also been developed. One particularly interesting alternative is the honeypot method which uses a hidden HTML field to trick bots. Because humans cannot see this field, they leave it blank. However, bots who interact with the “raw HTML,” and are unable to tell that the field is hidden, will insert data and consequently reveal their bot identities.

For explanations and examples about these specific types of CAPTCHAs, David Pogue’s article, “Use it Better: 8 Alternatives to the Hated Captcha,” is a great starter. However, none of these CAPTCHA variations are foolproof and each creates accessibility issues.“In Search of the Perfect CAPTCHA,” is another useful article which covers much of the same information as Pogue’s, but suggests that perhaps the burden of preventing spam should not be placed on the user; if web developers can eradicate the incentives to spam, then the problem will solve itself and the need for CAPTCHAS will disappear.

However, no single solution to the spam problem has been unanimously championed. The fate of the CAPTCHA continues to be a much mulled over topic in the web securities realm – some wish to abolish CAPTCHAs altogether, some concede they are a necessary evil and others are searching for creative ways to increase web security without testing the patience of users and creating web accessibility barriers.