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Posts with observations about visual communications, video, good writing, great design and more than a few technical notes. 

The Most Common Lie: US Map Visuals In Election Years

Matthew Dunn

Some years ago I spent a bunch of cycles tinkering with US map visuals, trying different methods to represent population more accurately. It irked me - and still irks me - to see important measures like votes distorted and mis-represented by organizations whose job it is to convey accurate representation.  Even FiveThirtyEight.com - by far the most accurate-numbers news source I know - still has a damn red-state-blue-state GEOGRAPHY map on their home page.

Painting the Montana and Wyoming land mass red, or those of Oregon and Washington blue, is a visual distortion equivalent to giving them 2x-8x their actual number of people (or electoral votes).  Likewise, coloring in Massachusetts whatever you shade you like understates their numbers at least 2x.

I've had smart people say "Oh, but I know that Wyoming doesn't have that many people."  Bah. Baloney. One, nobody does that math in their head except Josh on the West Wing (and he's a fictional character like Wyoming's extra electors.) Two, that's a rational response - your limbic system already went into a panic over all the red (or all the blue) that's on the screen lying to you about the race.

This is just one solution - not nearly as elegant as the NY Times rectangle map described in this video, but this one is free. (Here's the Illustrator file - someone send it to CNN please.)

Thanks to Vox for a great video on the issue.  

These issues are too important for such poor communication; a journalist making the same distortions with numbers would be called on the carpet. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than words - people get them first & faster, and if they read at all, will likely be interpreting what they read based on what they've already concluded from the visuals.

See earlier blog post.  Pity nothing's changed.

Adobe Creative Cloud - Good, But... (UPDATE: Wow)

Matthew Dunn

UPDATE

A customer wrote me late last night to say "hey, I cancelled and you're still charging me."  I looked up the records...nope...sent him the screen shot and asked him to send transaction details so I could investigate. He wrote back to say "Ooops, no, it wasn't you."  We both agreed that keeping track of these seemingly miniscule subscriptions is a real challenge for small-to-medium businesses. 

OK - fast forward about 12 hours. I got a call out of the blue from Adobe.

"We understand you're not happy with your Team subscription."

I explained the situation; they resolved it.  (Team subscription cancelled, replaced with the 1 individual seat we need.)

Was that driven by the support interaction? The original blog post below?  "Reputation management" monitoring?  All of the above?  Doesn't matter, really.  My hat's off to Adobe for acting, regardless of what triggered the action. They could have taken the neener-neener contract defense, and as I said...my fault for not monitoring dates/terms.

Adobe did the right thing for us. I also think they did the right thing for Adobe.  Elephants have long memories; I still avoid one of the major US air carriers because of a cranky flight attendant @25 years ago.  But I'll happily trumpet my pleasure at Adobe's approach (elephant joke there...) and continue doing business with them.  I like the products, yeah, but liking the company is much better karma all around.

Adobe gets that "...as a service" ends with "service."  Kudos.


ORIGINAL POST

I saw a headline recently that basically said Adobe revenue has gone up with their shift to a subscription model.  I think Creative Cloud is fantastic - as a friend of mine said, $10K in software for $50/month.  No objection to the software.

Yeah...but...

Just keep an eye on that renewal date, kids, because the renewal and rollover doesn't just apply to the month. If you're planning to keep using Creative Cloud, and you renew in Month 13, you've just signed up for another year.  Want to drop a seat?  You'll pay a 50%-of-time-left penalty to do that.

I have no objection to subscription businesses - we run one. 

I have no objection to annual contracts either.

But I think companies should state renewal terms explicitly, not with sneaky "it's in the terms" implicit references. The monthly price was in the email - the actual commitment for the year wasn't. 

My fault, my bad, fine, we'll pay the seats.  We'll cancel when it makes mathematical sense.

Really, this is an email and attention problem.  Did I read the renewal email, follow the links and review the contract?  No. Should I have? Yes.  Will I watch the renewal dates in the future?  Yes.  Will I automatically re-subscribe with the same email address?  Hmm.  Well, that's an email and attention problem.  Maybe I should create an email alias called "Adobe2015Subscription" and sign that guy up for the year.  Just to help me remember about those renewal terms, of course.

Support transcript - start time 10:15 end time 11:45!

info: You are now chatting with 'Anonymous One'
Anonymous One: Hello! Welcome to Adobe support.
Anonymous One: Please allow me 1-2 minute(s) to review your account details.
Anonymous One: Thanks for waiting
Me: yup. Actually, I looked as well while you were looking :-)
Anonymous One: great
Me: We don't use the extras in the Team subscription, and until I hire a replacement...we're down to just one license.
Anonymous One: So I assume that you want to remove the one unassigned seat/license from the Creative Cloud team subscription
Me: So it would make more sense to cancel & just set up an Individual subscription for my continued use for now. 
Me: How does the timing of that work - should I wait until this month is elapsed, then cancel / re-enroll ?
Anonymous One: So it's your choice if you want to cancel one seat it can be cancelled and if you want to wait for the renewal date you can
Me: does cancelled = refunded ?
Anonymous One: no cancel = removing the one unassigned license from the subscription
Anonymous One: and in future if you keep the team subscription you can add one more seat when you hire one more employee
Me: What's the renewal date on that team subscription - might as well let her use the license until then...
Anonymous One: 7/15/2016 is the renewal date of subscription
Anonymous One: So do you want to cancel the one unassigned license ?
Me: I don't understand - we're not committed to 2 seats until July...?
Anonymous One: yes you are , as you have two seats in the current subscription and one seat/license is assigned to a user and one seat is not
Me: OK - let's restate that in English. How do I cancel this team subscription entirely?
Anonymous One: So I will connect the chat to the cancellation team , they will help you in the cancellation, If you want to cancel whole subscription or only one license/seat
Anonymous One: Please stay connected while I transfer the chat to the concern team, Thanks for choosing Adobe.
info: Please wait while I transfer the chat to the appropriate group.

NOTE: 10:34
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to matthew@sayitvisually.com at the end of your chat.
info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

info: We are still assisting other customers, thank you for your patience. You can also try our community forums, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

NOTE: 11:02

info: You are now chatting with Anonymous Two. 
Anonymous Two: “Hello! Thank you for contacting Adobe Membership Services, my name is Anonymous Two. How can I help you today?”
Me: Hi Anonymous Two
Me: Did you read the transcript or are we starting over ?
Anonymous Two: I have received your query. Please allow me a moment to verify your account and to review the details of your request.
Anonymous Two: I can see you are looking to cancel the team membership.
Me: Yes. We're down to 1 seat for at least 90 days, and don't use the extra team functions.
Anonymous Two: Are you looking to remove one license from the account or the complete team membership
Me: complete team membership
Anonymous Two: I can see that the license on the account are under an annual plan and to cancel there is fee to terminate it
Me: We've had this team plan for well over a year. When did we agree to an annual renew with a cancellation fee?
Anonymous Two: You can refer to the commitment term http://www.adobe.com/misc/subscription_terms.html for the membership that you have
Me: That's a really offensive and stupid lock-in policy. Good way to lose customers.
Anonymous Two: This is very clear when you place the order
Me: I don't agree, but that will make an interesting anti-Adobe blog post.
Me: So state the price for cancellation for the record, please.
Anonymous Two: All the details of the membership is very clear, I have shared the commitment terms as well for the membership.
Me: waiting...
Anonymous Two: I am waiting for your response ,
Anonymous Two: If you wish to cancel it or not
Me: I'd asked for the cancellation fee (price) - DO NOT cancel at this time.
Anonymous Two: In order to remove both the license the fee is $629.91+tax.
Me: And to remove one, half of that?
Anonymous Two: calculated as 50% of the remaining commitment oblidation
Anonymous Two: Yes
Anonymous Two: It will be $315+tax
Anonymous Two: for one license
Anonymous Two: Are we connected?
Me: OK. Your renewal mail mentions the monthly rate but doesn't state that the 1-year lock-in and cancellation fees renew/apply. DO NOT cancel this subscription. 

Telling A Story Visually: Tsunami of 1896

Matthew Dunn

I'm staggered on a near-daily basis at the intellectual resources the net puts at our fingertips.  Flickr has a collection called The Commons - "help us catalog the world's public photo archives." Museums, NASA, libraries, government entities - don't click that link if you want to get much work done.

Since we're not far from Vancouver B.C., I was curious to see what the University of British Columbia had put into the mix. 

Wow.

Maps from 17th century.

Prints from the 18th century.

Photos from the 19th century.

And everything in between.  

Here's the link:  UBC Library Digitization Centre.

The historical materials from Japan, in particular, are phenomenal.  Letters, maps, prints, battle maps - artifact after artifact. I'll limit myself to one example, because it's so beautifully done. The tsunami in Japan four years ago was horrifying, of course.  It's happened before.  This  visual story about the Tsunami of 1896 packs so much drama in one visual. (Click for large image).

Source here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/ubclibrary_digicentre/13720269294/

Isn't that just terrific?

I don't read Japanese; drop me a line if you care to translate any of the language.  I'll add the translations here.

Cyber Risk Summit - Oct 30, 2014

Matthew Dunn

HEAR FROM NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY EXPERTS

"The Cyber Risk Summit brings together cyber security specialists, technologists, entrepreneurs, industry experts and business leaders to tackle the challenges and opportunities that come with cyber security strategies. Featuring break out sessions keyed in for your needs connecting with peers and strategic insights, this is a day you can't afford to miss.

Attendees from Human Resources, Accounting, and Legal departments can receive continuing education credit for attending and following a discipline specific curriculum."

If you're in Washington State or B.C., you'll want to be here.  This is cutting-edge stuff, and the indefatigable TAG org has pulled in a who's-who of speakers.  Mark R. Anderson (SNS), in person - I'd drive across the state to hear him talk, any day.  Mark Wallach of the FBI, Michael Cockrill of Office of the CIO for Washington State - zowie!

We explained some really arcane cybersecurity stuff a few years ago - bringing topics that abstract to life is very challenging. I'm the caboose for the day, trying to summarize on the fly. 

It's going to be intense and interesting - and probably a bit unnerving.  See ya there.

--Matthew

The New White Paper?

Matthew Dunn

True confession - I've written quite a few white papers.  If you're not familiar with the format - white papers are:

"A white paper is a persuasive essay sponsored as a piece of marketing content by an organization. - See more at: http://www.thatwhitepaperguy.com/white-paper-faq.html#sthash.F4oHeZ7f.dpuf"

I was amused to see what the white paper expert had to say about white papers.

  • Who publishes white papers?  "Any B2B vendor selling anything relatively new, relatively complex or relatively expensive could likely benefit from a white paper."
  • Who reads them?  "White papers are read by almost anyone contemplating the purchase of a relatively new, relatively complex, or relatively high-priced product or service for their business."
  • How do people read white papers?  "...they tend to skim, scan and skip... especially if they're reading off the screen. Don't you?"
  • How much does a white paper cost? "In 2005, executives from the white paper syndicates told me that medium-sized technology firms can expect to spend $3,000 to $5,000 to have a white paper written and illustrated. Five years later, that still sounds close to the ballpark...At the high end...$5,000 - $10,000."
  • How long does a white paper take? "In my experience, after working on more than 100 white papers, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to get from the first interview to an approved white paper draft."  Seriously?  I could kiss the screen.  Yes, it takes time to be clear!

There are topics where white papers - in other words, language - is better-suited to the job than the mix of visual communication, narrative and language that goes into explanation video. Yeah, surprise - I really don't think video is the right tool for every job!

That being said, in most cases, video is a better tool for many of the business goals and subjects traditionally addressed with white papers:

I quote the white paper guy at some length:

 

"Why do companies do white papers?

In general, vendors publish white papers for two main reasons: either to gather leads, or to stake out a position as a leader in their market space.

According to one study, vendors publish white papers for all these reasons:

  • Gather leads for the sales force
  • Educate potential customers
  • Influence a selection committee
  • Educate the sales force or channel partners
  • Educate the media
  • Send to a trade publication or website
  • Redefine a market space
  • Build credibility or mind share
  • Keep up with competitors that have white papers.

On a strategic level, white papers fit into the widespread trend of "marketing with content."

 

All things being equal, I'd bet the house on a well-crafted explanation video bringing 5-10x the ROI against these goals, over a white paper.  It's partially math. White papers tend to be about 2,500 words long. Forrester's Dr. James McQuivey is frequently quoted by the video folks for having said that 1 minute of video conveys as much information as 1.8 million words.  

It's also behavior.  I've looked at the detailed viewing data on (literally) thousands of explanation videos. People don't tend to skim/scan/skip.  For the most part, they watch, then they stop.  They may stop before the end, but they don't skim/scan/skip very much.  It's in the nature of the form (chronological medium).

If you want a white paper, go see ThatWhitePaperGuy.  He clearly knows what he's doing.  Give us a call to talk video though.  (888) 618-9088.   

carpe diem

Matthew

 

 

 

 


 

A Video About Irony

SIV Squarespace Admin

Apple's 2013 holiday commercial:

Think about this one for a sec.

You think they shot & edited that video, about video-making with an iPhone, on an iPhone?

I don't know the answer, just struck by the possible irony.