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Four Design Links: November 5, 2009

Thursday brings a fresh batch of warm pumpkin-scented Four Design Links.

1. Lying Through Visualization?

Information Aesthetics: Lying through Visualization: AT&T Sues Verizon over Coverage Maps

An interesting bit of infoviz ethics here. AT&T is suing Verizon over a commercial which features a map comparing the two companies’ 3G wireless coverage.

AT&T alleges that although the data may be accurate, the presentation is misleading. According to the complaint, although the map compares only 3G coverage (which Verizon has more of), the blank spacing in the map suggests that AT&T has no coverage of any kind in those areas.

I’m fairly certain legal action is the wrong play here. It only seems to validate Verizon’s claims that AT&T is inferior. The map may be correct, but the message is not. AT&T has data coverage in those “blank” areas, just not 3G. AT&T should turn around and make an ad with a map comparing where iPhones work. Plenty of blank space for Verizon there.

2. What ads work online and why.

I’ve been enjoying posts from Inaki Escudero’s blog Thinking Aloud lately. His recent writeup about an study of online advertising especially caught my eye. It seems that despite a push for targeting and metrics, effective ads still come down to investing in good creative: as much as 75% of a campaign’s success or failure!

Of course, we know that around here, but it’s good to have the numbers to back it up. ;)

3. CMS Politics running Drupal recently switched to Drupal, an open source content management system, in a move which could potentially save the taxpayers money and promote greater government transparency.

Of course, if you believe this bizarre article by Slate, Drupal represents everything people hate about government and ought to be replaced by something expensive and proprietary, because we all know private, closed-door business is the solution to governance.

4. The Social Games that Scam the Most, Win.

Social media game offers page
An offers page from a social media game. TechCrunch claims these offers can look harmless, but players may be signing up for more than they bargained for.

Social gaming is a multi-million dollar industry– easily one of the most successful means of monetizing social networks to date. However, in a series of articles TechCrunch alleges that much of these revenues may come from unethical practices.

In these games, players can by in-game money or items using their credit cards or by taking part in sponsored offers. It’s these offers which are the source of many complaints. Users are supposed to sign up for some “free” offer, paying shipping fees, when they later find out they’ve unwittingly purchased more items or a subscription service. It’s classic opt-out trickery.

The silver lining to all of this is that the TechCrunch story seems to have developed some major traction in the last week. Many of the companies named are coming out in public against these tactics, changing their policies, and terminating relationships with known scammers. Whether these are real changes or just rearranging the deck chairs remains to be seen…

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NickNov 5, 2009


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