Archive for March, 2010

Dan Ariely’s SXSW® talk and the responsibility of form design

Published by | Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I’m just back from the whirlwind that is the Interactive Media track at the SXSW® (South by Southwest) conference, and I’ve got a lot on my mind. One special highlight for me was the opportunity to hear Duke University professor Dan Ariely speak. I am so intrigued by his work. He wrote the book Predictably Irrational, which takes a look at non-rational forces at work on decision-making.

What really got to me was his illustration of the important role of designers. His main point was that defaults matter because when faced with complex decisions, people do nothing. Even when it comes to decisions that will have significant impact, people tend to decide based on how the choice is presented rather than the consequences of the choice.

The result is that whoever designs the interface, in effect, makes the choice for a large number of people. That’s a lot of power.

This is a re-creation of the chart Dan Ariely showed at SXSW to demonstrate the power of default form design. Click on the image to see it full size.

For example, Ariely showed a bar chart comparing organ donation across several counties. On the left was a series of countries with donation rates from 0 to 28 percent. On the right was a series of countries with near 100 percent donation rates. One assumption might be to explain this by looking at cultural differences. However, it was easy to see pairs of culturally-similar countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) with opposite donation styles.

It turned out that the driving difference was the default form design. For the countries with low donation rates, the donation form asked them to opt-in. For the countries with high donation rates, the donation form asked them to opt-out. That’s it. That default design difference has been steering people to make a choice that has had a huge impact on their loved ones, their country’s medical system, on other people’s survival rate, and on other people’s families and futures.

It is surprising to think that something so personal, and with so much impact, could be driven by form design. Ariely pointed out that people like to think that they have agency over their lives, especially regarding deep issues that matter a lot. But his research shows that, at even a low threshold of complexity, people tend to go with the default option. He backed up his assertion with multiple examples from the seemingly insignificant, such as what kind of jam to buy, to the hugely significant, such as whether and how to participate in a 401 (k) plan.

For me, the value of Ariely’s discoveries is to 1) be more aware of my own decisions and how they are shaped by default options, and 2) to realize and embrace the responsibility that designers have in creating the future.

Whose work is inspiring you?

New site feature: Improved Search

Published by | Friday, March 19th, 2010

Our improved site search feature makes it easier than ever to find the video training you are looking for. Begin by typing a term into the search bar. Press Enter or Return, or click the search button. Our search engine looks through every course name, movie name, description, and transcript to find your search term. By default, search results are sorted by movie name. Narrow down the list of movies by clicking filter terms under the Category, Software, Vendor, and Author headings.

Under each heading, you will see terms listed in order of how many matches there are. Click on view more to see a full list of results, and click on any term to narrow down your results. You can then further refine your results by clicking on another term, or if you are looking for results from a particular year, you can click on an option under Release Year. You can also choose Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and/or Appropriate for All under Learning Level. Remove any filter by clicking on the X next to it.

You also have the option of only showing results for courses with a DVD version or with Closed Captioning, indicated by the icons next to the movie name. Click any of the column headings to sort the results by that heading, or use the sort by drop-down menu. If you’re currently signed in to your account, clicking a movie name will immediately open and play the movie. Click on the Courses tab to display search results by course name, or click on the Site tab to show results for other pages, such as author bios and blog entries. We hope the improved search function enhances your learning experience at

Author exhibitions at MoMA, new books, and upcoming events

Published by | Friday, March 19th, 2010

Currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is the work of author and interactive designer Brendan Dawes. The Cinema Redux project is part of the Action! Design over Time exhibition. This is Brendan’s second time exhibiting at MoMA. In 2008, Cinema Redux was featured in the groundbreaking exhibition Design and the Elastic Mind at MoMA. Two Cinema Redux pieces have since been acquired for the MoMA collection. A limited edition print from Cinema Redux is available from Coudal.

Cinema Redux of Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock), by Brendan Dawes.

An excerpt from the new book from James Ball and Matt Gottshalk, and authors Robbie Carman and Richard Harrington, From Still to Motion is available for a sneak peek. author Ian Robinson and his wife Lisa shot most of the photography for this fascinating book on creating video with your Digital SLR. This book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Drupal instructor Tom Geller is giving an online, all-day Drupal workshop on March 29th from 9am-5PM (CT). For more information, check out Tom’s blog, or sign up here— blog readers get 10% off!

Join Anne Marie Concepcion for her InDesignSecrets seminar on Thursday March 25th in Secaucus, NJ at 9am (EST). If you can’t make the New Jersey date, check out the rest of the North American tour dates.

The CMS Expo in Chicago is coming up on May 3-5, and Joomla! Expert Jen Kramer is a featured speaker, and Core CMS Track Leader at the 2010 CMS Expo. Details and registration information available here.

The story: Making the logo

Published by | Thursday, March 18th, 2010

When he first created it, Lynda initially thought Bruce’s illustration for the logo made her look like Mary See, the elderly lady who graces every box from the well-known West coast confectioner, See’s Candy. Bruce sought to embody the company’s essence in his hand-drawn logo design: Education, instruction, and learning. Has Lynda come to love it?

Digital SLR trends and the convergence of photography, video, and audio

Published by | Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I shot this with my new Nikon D3S using an ISO speed of 8000. Shooting with high ISO speeds puts photos at risk for a bit of digital noise, but they allowed me to capture this fast-moving performer without blur, without flash, and without a tripod. Dreamy.

I bought a new camera recently: a Nikon D3S. I’d been reading all about the D3S and similar cameras, and decided that I had to experience their capabilities for myself. It would be good for my job as a photography content manager here at, I reasoned, and it would be more fun than paying my mortgage.

It turns out I was right on both counts, though my mortgage holder has yet to weigh in.

Photoshop Top 40 Countdown with Deke McClelland: #5 – The Sharpen Filters

Published by | Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Photoshop doesn’t sharpen focus, it sharpens detail using any of three remarkable filters: Unsharp Mask, Smart Sharpen, and High Pass. Apply them as smart filters, and you’re ready for any output scenario. author events all week

Published by | Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

For those of you in the Washington DC area today, author Robbie Carman will be speaking at the Washington DC Final Cut User Group meeting at 6:30 pm. The Final Cut Pro and Color expert will be talking about his recent book Video on a Mac, and demonstrate Color Grading techniques. Details available on the DCFCPUG site.

This Wednesday, author and Google expert, Susan Cline is offering a free one-hour webinar on Google Forms on behalf of the Google apps solutions company Dito. Topics will include creating new forms, designing form questions, analyzing responses with Google Spreadsheets and more. Register today.

In honor of St. Patrick’s day, author Jeff Foster has released a sneak peak video promo of his book, The Green Screen Handbook. Green indeed! Check out his trailer.

Join author Mordy Golding weekly for his new Adobe Illustrator webinar series, Fridays with Mordy. Each week Mordy will pick a different topic based on the user feedback he receives through his Twitter account. At 2 pm Eastern, each Friday, you can sit in and watch Mordy demo various Illustrator topics, and answer questions in a live webinar. For more information, and to check out his new weekly seminar, check out his blog. at Microsoft MIX this week

Published by | Monday, March 15th, 2010

Are you attending Microsoft MIX in Las Vegas this week (March 15-17, 2010)? So is! Stop by our booth in the Commons at Mandalay Bay and say hello, and let us know what you love about and what you’re hoping for in our future training titles. I’ll be onsite for the entire event (as the author of ASP.NET Essential Training), and so will these top authors: Molly Holzschlag (CSS, Blogger), Joe Marini (jQuery, XML, JavaScript), and Walt Ritscher (Silverlight) will all be either speaking or attending the conference.