30 June 2022

Link round-up for June 2022

Diego Salvatierra analyzes a trend in web design, “Boxmoji” ๐Ÿ“ฆ๐Ÿ˜€. The two key components of the style are emojis everywhere and thick black lines. He writes:

The flat colors, no outlines, and fullwidth photos of the 2010s now feel too adult for a new decade that has become all too dreary in its headlines. We want playfulness and whimsy, and a certain simplicity. The retro return to nerdy, boxy, early Internet aesthetics gives us just that.

As emojis have gotten ever easier to add to documents (the built-in Windows emoji menu has become a routine part of my social media use), remains to be seen if conference posters might start to adopt this visual style. Or parts of it, anyway.

• • • • •

Michael Correll runs through several bad ideas in data visulization. For example:

Glyphs are so bad at communication and so reliant on poring over the legend that they are mostly used for designers to show off rather than actually solve any real problems.

Warning: Contains parody.

• • • • •

I want to understand this paper about online poster sessions, but the abstract is not helping me.

The poster session succeeded at creating a virtual space for social learning, reflecting on social norms in science, and for asking questions about research through a cognitive apprenticeship model.

It looks like: We did a poster session, looked at who talked to who, and asked students what they thought.

• • • • •

We have uppercase and lowercase letters, but we also have uppercase and lowercase numbers – though they aren’t called that much today.

We also have numbers specifically for tables.

Examples of lining numbers and tabular numbers. WIth tabular number, decimal places always aling because numbers and decimals are all equal in width.

 MyFonts walks you through the helpful varieties of number forms.

• • • • •

This abstract looks at people who authored oral presentations at an oncology conference. I think it shows that people who present posters are more likely to keep presenting at the meeting for five consecutive years than people who gave an oral presentation? But I find the way things are described a little confusing.

• • • • •

A compilation of ways that data visualizations can be misleading. Hat tip to Alberto Cairo.

And that’s all for this month!

28 June 2022

Public health in poster sessions

I have been freaking out a little over seeing people posting pictures from in person conferences and seeing very few masks.

I got thinking about this, and realized that good design can not only help address public health concerns, but will make things better in many other ways.

For poster presenters

Using very big text on your poster so that it can be read from two to three meters away:
  • Forces you to focus on using only your key content.
  • Makes your work more accessible to people with low vision. ๐Ÿ‘“
  • Lets people socially distance and helps to keep everyone from getting sick with an airborne infectious disease! ๐Ÿฆ 
 Being able to give a concise summary of your poster:
  • Respects other peoples’ time. ⌚
  • Allows more time for questions and conversations.
  • Reduces potential pathogen exposure time and helps to keep everyone from getting sick with an airborne infectious disease! ๐Ÿฆ 

If you want to take a picture of yourself by your poster, take two. 

Take one without a mask ๐Ÿ˜€ that you can share with friends and family and put in your personal scrapbook.

Take one with a mask ๐Ÿ˜ท that you post on social media to show that you publicly that you are a classy person who cares about the health and well being of your colleagues. 

For conference organizers

Using one poster per board instead of two per board, using larger poster boards, and increasing the distance between rows of poster boards:

  • Makes the poster session more accessible for wheelchair users.๐Ÿง‘‍๐Ÿฆฝ
  • Makes the poster session more accessible for people with service animals. ๐Ÿ•‍๐Ÿฆบ 
  • Lets people socially distance and helps to keep everyone from getting sick with an airborne infectious disease! ๐Ÿฆ 
Asking participants to hang posters early and scheduling more poster viewing time:
  • Give people more opportunities to see all the posters they want.
  • Gives more time for people to think of questions and have deeper conversations.
  • Reduces number of people in poster session room at any time, lets people socially distance and helps to keep everyone from getting sick with an airborne infectious disease! ๐Ÿฆ 

Final thought...

What you take away from a conference should be new ideas, plans for projects, a renewed excitement about your research field, and maybe a few business cards. ๐Ÿ“‡

What you take from a conference should not be an infectious disease with a one in 20 chance of long term health problems. ๐Ÿคง

24 June 2022

Better Posters email newsletter

I hear old email newsletters are the new hot thing again. If, like nobody else, you don’t get enough emails and would like even more email, you can subscribe to Better Posters on Substack. There s no exclusive content planned for the newsletter. The newsletter is just a way for people to read the blog if they find remembering to visit the blog too annoying.

No subscription charged, in keeping with the ethos that the ideas are free.

23 June 2022

The TikTok test for poster talks

TikTok logo
Try making a TikTok video of yourself presenting your poster. It doesn’t matter if the poster isn’t done yet. This is purely a tool for you, so it’s okay.

TikTok, the world’s most popular website, now lets people upload videos up to ten minutes long.

Most people want to spend about five minutes at a poster.

So if you couldn’t walk through your poster in one TikTok video, you’re talking too much. Way too much. You’ve either:

  1. Got too much stuff (likely) or,
  2. Not rehearsed your presentation of the poster enough.

16 June 2022

Eye tracking

Webpage selling shoes with superimposed heatmap showing time spent looking at parts of the image
Eye tracking is a research tool that has not, as far as I know, been applied to conference posters yet.

In the past, this required some specialized, expensive equipment like custom glasses. But as with so many things, the increased access to laptop computers and high resolution digital cameras means that this is now within reach of many more people.

This blog post from a company that produces eye tracking software (iMotion) compiles and assesses ten free eye tracking tools. Unsurprisingly, it points out that the free stuff is more limited than the commercial stuff. Some of the links are already rotted out, but this is not a bad place to start.

Some other eye tracking options that only require webcams include:

Eye tracking might provide a way for you to do a quick internal test of whether people are looking at what you think they are looking at on your poster.

And I’m sure there are some eye tracking research waiting to be done on conference posters. 

External links

10 free eye tracking software programs [Pros and Cons]

Eye tracking and usability: How does it work?

09 June 2022

Hung punctuation

Below is a recent cover of The Lancet.

Lancet cover that reads, "if the US Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die. The Justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion, they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women's blood on their hands."

The Lancet does a pull quote (an excerpt from an article inside) on every cover. I just wanted to draw your attention to a little detail that shows this is done by pros.

The opening quotation mark. Look at how it’s placed compared to the text below it. It pokes out a bit compared to the lines below.

Text with line showing the placement of the opening quote to the left of the text.

This is “hung punctuation.” The idea is that is enhances the sense of alignment and prevents unwanted spacing at the start of a line. This is one of those little details that professionals do, but that isn’t built into apps like Microsoft Office.

Here’s part of the quote done in PowerPoint so you can see where the opening quotation mark sits.

Text block reading, "“If the Supreme Court confirms itsdraft decision, women will die. TheJustices who vote to strike down Roewill not succeed in ending abortion," with the opening quote in alignment with other letters below it rather than the first letter of the quote.

While it’s probably not all that critical for body text, it is a nice little thing to keep in mind if you are ever using a pull quote.

External links

Type talk: To hang or not to hang...

06 June 2022

Listen to the ABT Time podcast

ABT Time podcast. The world never has to be boring.
The most recent podcast interview to cover the Better Posters book is on the ABT Time podcast, episode 39, hosted by Randy Olson.

“ABT” in ABT Time is the abbreviation for “And, but, therefore” – the key words for making a concise narrative.

The ABT structure features prominently in Better Posters because it is an powerful tool for encapsulating a project in a sentence. It’s often hard at the start of a project to know what the most important thing will be, and you have a lot of narrative chaff at first. An ABT sentence just cuts away the chaff.

As with some of the other podcasts, this one is more wide ranging than just posters and just narrative. I’ve crossed paths with Randy a few times, so we got to have a little fun in the conversation.

The ABT Time podcast should be available wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Spotify, YouTube, etc.).

External Links

ABT Time #39 on ABT Agenda

02 June 2022

“Rage quit” and poster designs

In an upcoming interview for the Scholarly Communications podcast, I was reminded of an argument I made in the Better Posters book about relevance.

What someone thinks is “relevant” to them isn’t fixed, but varies.

"Rage quit" over image of person throwing game controller at screen.

But I didn’t have an example in the book, so here’s a concrete example of this principle. It’s a well known phenomenon among video game players: the rage quit.

When someone starts playing a video game, you have to think that they are pretty invested in that process. Games are expensive, complex, and take a long time to complete. Players want to work through the game.

Some people try a game, decide quickly that this isn’t for them, and stop.

But many players invest a lot of time playing the game. Then, they reach a point where the game suddenly gets harder. A lot harder.

Players know that games are not supposed to be easy. Part of the fun is overcoming challenges and obstacles. But there is a big difference between feeling, “This is hard” and “This is impossible.”

When players feel it is impossible to continue in the game, they’ll quit. And this is rarely a detached, emotional decision of, “I have reached my peak skill level, therefore it is pointless to continue.” No, that decision comes after long hours of frustration, trying to do the same thing repeatedly and failing. 

So when people quit, they don’t go quietly. They are full on mad.

That’s a rage quit. (There are compilations of these moments on YouTube if you have a few minutes to kill watching other people be mad. Which can be strangely satisfying to watch.)

Even someone who is deeply motivated to do something like understand the scientific or academic content of your poster, will only take so much frustration. Everyone has a limit.

So making your poster easier for a reader, faster to grasp, more accessible, is going to help more viewers find your work relevant to them.

P.S.—If you have never completed a big adventure video game that takes dozens of hours... let me tell you, you’re missing out. It’s a very satisfying feeling of achievement.