Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Higgs Live!

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  • Tom Beard, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    here is also a study that recently showed that people asked to read a paragraph written in ALLCAPS were less likely to accept dogma or were more critical in their thinking than people who read the same paragraph in normal font.
    Again the inference drawn was that the effort required to read the more difficult font stimulated their critical thinking.

    Either that, or they assumed that the author was an angry nutter.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Marketing team would focus on making it look pretty. I was thinking more of a minimally-design-competent team member or shared PA if such roles still exist in such orgs. Someone in CERN's vast staff must know how to lay out a readable document on screen?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But at tea break and in the weeks after a conference nobody talks about the gorgeous colour palette, or the great use of a theme on the poster and how they stayed under the ideal 200 word limit for text that the marketing dept recommends.

    Exactly: this is one case where design should be invisible. It should be clear and legible and let the science come through. If this were a case of a scientist bashing something out on her computer without really thinking about it, then it wouldn't matter. But it seems that they made an active design decision to put in cheesy clip art and choose a font that is the typographic equivalent of baby talk. It's jarring, especially when combined with all the boxes and colours, and gets in the way of the message.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    and see simply superb visual presentations of technical content.

    And there are folks in science who are very good at presenting their data.

    I'm not bad with parts of photoshop myself and learned to use Pagemaker and its bastard child InDesign. I've seen science talks that have included paintings by the scientists themselves and I've seen images that were composed so beautifully they could have been in any art gallery (and sometime were) and just happened to convey an important piece of data as well.

    And despite my rant I've worked with some really good marketing people who have added their skills to mine to make my work look better.

    It's just that when someone gets the design or presentation wrong, in the end most scientists don't really care. If they get the data wrong though ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    there is also a study that recently showed that people asked to read a paragraph written in ALLCAPS were less likely to accept dogma or were more critical in their thinking than people who read the same paragraph in normal font.

    You mean forced to read, right? Because most people will simply not read the ALLCAPS. Which of course is the main effect of making something "harder to read".

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Yet look at how many advertisements, signs and suchlike are still laid out in ALL CAPS because their designers prioritise the blockier layout over actual readability?

    Same with the rash of documents with full-page flush right margins, even though it makes their contents harder to read.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tom Beard,

    But it seems that they made an active design decision to put in cheesy clip art and choose a font that is the typographic equivalent of baby talk.

    Sure. But that’s because they were not good at design. They thought it would look cool and it didn’t.

    So what.

    They conveyed their data in a form that those with the background knowledge to understand it could do so. Those without that background knowledge (like me) just look at the graphics and nod.

    To me it’s like criticizing an artist for bad grammar in the gallery programme.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    You mean forced to read

    I wasn't going to mention the electrodes...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Sacha,

    I was thinking more of a minimally-design-competent team member or shared PA if such roles still exist in such orgs.

    Given the importance of data visualisation in most science, and the role of graphs, charts and maps in not just presenting final results but intepreting data and prompting insights, I'd go so far as to say that a modicum of visual literacy should be a prerequisite for scientists.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I wasn't going to mention the electrodes...

    Oh darling, I think they go without saying by now...

    To me it’s like criticizing an artist for bad grammar in the gallery programme.

    *twitch*

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    To me it’s like criticizing an artist for bad grammar in the gallery programme.

    more like for supplying fogged googles before you enter the exhibit

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16270 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    To me it’s like criticizing an artist for bad grammar in the gallery programme.

    Although the programme would presumably be written by a curator or critic, from whom one would reasonably expect good grammar.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Tom Beard,

    I’d go so far as to say that a modicum of visual literacy should be a prerequisite for scientists.

    Nope. Yes it is nice, but you want a scientist because they have knowledge and skills and yes intellect that can advance science. There have been some amazing scientists who've struggled to communicate with anyone yet have contributed to the human condition. I think of communication skills as a bonus not a prerequisite.

    When you ask for all sorts of other skills as well you risk losing appropriate value on the real skill they bring to the table.

    That said, interpersonal skills so bad they disrupt the ability of colleagues to perform are kind of derailing (much like my contribution to this thread :)).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    richard, is there any implication for cosmology in this confirmation that could be understood by anyone with only high school physics, and no interest whatsoever in fonts? Did the universe get older, or bigger, or darker, or curvier, or something? Or, being a confirmation, does it actually lead to nothing at all that isn't already mostly believed to be the case (by physicists), other than a reduction of discussion of the alternatives? A discussion point time saver, in effect? Trying to get a feel for how huge this is.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8305 posts Report Reply

  • st ephen,

    Yeah. Communicating science is important. Accountability is important. Budget forecasting is important. Stakeholder engagement is important. Quality science is important. And human nature being what it is, within our CRI's each little group of experts think they're at least as important as the others, if not more so.
    NZ could be doing so much more science , dammit!

    (Or maybe - given that slick marketing actually trumps all - we could just close up shop and hand the budget over to Saatchis et al?).

    dunedin • Since Jul 2008 • 193 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Although the programme would presumably be written by a curator or critic, from whom one would reasonably expect good grammar.

    Don't be silly, it's only comms. Anyone can do comms. It's just words, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4327 posts Report Reply

  • Jarno van der Linden,

    I believe these types of presentations also tend to get re-used a lot for different conferences, each with their different emphasis. So you just throw absolutely everything in there, and update it with new results as they come in. And if someone asks a question about some obscure detail of the research, you can be pretty sure you have the answer somewhere in the slides.

    I was more upset whenever the livestream cut to showing crowd shots instead of the presentation. Show me the error bars, not the glowing backs of 200 Macbooks dammit!

    Nelson • Since Oct 2007 • 67 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Yes it is nice, but you want a scientist because they have knowledge and skills and yes intellect that can advance science.

    Knowing when a graph is misleading, or how to design one so that the salient information isn't cluttered by extraneous elements to a point where it stops you seeing the underlying patterns, are pretty vital skills for the advancement of science. Presenting information with clarity and concision isn't as crucial, but still very useful for a publishing scientist.

    Making type choices that don't seem amateurish at best and condescending at worst? Well, that's a nice-to-have, but you'd have thought that someone on a large, well-funded, high-profile team would be able to do it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Marketing team would focus on making it look pretty. I was thinking more of a minimally-design-competent team member or shared PA if such roles still exist in such orgs

    I reckon. Not a marketing person.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18508 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Actually, NASA has a reputation for "managing" news releases for maximum impact, and sometimes distorts the science in doing so, even if their graphics people will deliver slick images. CERN is run by scientists to a much greater extent than NASA, and there is a lot to be said for the latter approach.

    The stuff produced by CERN's public affairs people is very slick.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Actually, NASA has a reputation for “managing” news releases for maximum impact, and sometimes distorts the science in doing so

    Exhibit A (and the resulting Stuff article).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to richard,

    CERN is run by scientists to a much greater extent than NASA, and there is a lot to be said for the latter approach.

    I could not agree more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18508 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Repeating while trying to summarise: The design issue is not about pretty. It is about conveying the information - making it easy to get at quickly (or whatever you want from information on a presentation slide). Functionality. Sure, a pot "works" for boiling water for tea, but it's not as good as a kettle and occasionally you burn yourself.

    Comic sans itself isn't a huge problem in that regard but it is a sign of someone likely to go wrong.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Lyndon Hood,

    Functionality. Sure, a pot “works” for boiling water for tea, but it’s not as good as a kettle and occasionally you burn yourself.

    Comic sans itself isn’t a huge problem in that regard but it is a sign of someone likely to go wrong.

    I agree. Although FWIW, the “functionality” of those slides is probably very different to a specialist – to the non-specialist, the physics content might almost be “Lorem ipsum” but I had no trouble reading the slides, or following the presentations. And it was primarily a technical presentation.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 256 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Grevers,

    Dear world media, this is CERN. We're terribly sorry but there was a mix-up in our communications department and we need to retract yesterday's press release. Unfortunately, dear old Mrs Spooner, the receptionist, is getting a little hard of hearing. The actual message she received from operations was that they had found a plumber to fix Dr Biggs' hose on.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 118 posts Report Reply

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