Little Z on BigThink

BigThink is a global online forum, conducting interviews with such folk as Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics, Princeton, and Columnist, The New York Times; Jimmy Wales, Co-Founder, Wikipedia; Richard Armitage, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Wes Boyd, Co-Founder, MoveOn.org; Gerry Adams President, Sinn Fein; Moby, Kurt Andersen, and so on.

By some tragic error of judgement, they will interview me today.

When the resulting video appears on the site, you’ll be the second to know.

[tags]bigthink, interviews, zeldman[/tags]

Housing Works launch

We call ourselves web designers, but sometimes we are more than that. Sometimes we get to participate, in however small a way, in something much larger and more important than ourselves.

Started in 1990 by four members of ACT UP, Housing Works helps people who are homeless and have HIV or AIDS. Housing Works not only saves lives, it restores dignity, purpose, and hope to those whom society has cast aside. Happy Cog is honored and humbled to have worked with this amazing organization and to announce the relaunch of the Housing Works website, redesigned by Happy Cog.

Our thanks to Housing Works’s Christopher Sealey and his team—we bow endlessly in your direction, sir. And my thanks and commendation to the amazing people at Happy Cog who did the work:

[tags]Housing Works, AIDS, HIV, homeless, homelessness, advocacy, hope, happycog, work[/tags]

A modest proposal

It is illegal to make false claims in a TV or radio commercial unless you are running for political office.

If you’re selling toothpaste, your claims must be vetted by legal and medical professionals. But not if you’re selling a candidate.

If you’re selling a candidate, not only can you lie about his record, but more to the point, you can lie about his opponent.

These lies are seen and heard by millions, not only when they run as paid advertisements, but also when they are run again for free on 24-hour news networks hungry for controversy. And after they are run for free, they become talking points in an “unbiased” conversation that pretends there are two sides to every story, even when one side is lies. Two words: Swift Boat.

Lies, and a candidate’s embarrassing efforts to brush them aside, fill the news cycle and constitute the national discourse. And this terrifying and morally indefensible rupture from reality persists even when the country is on its knees.

If networks refuse to accept cigarette advertising, how can they readily approve dishonest political advertising? Cigarettes kill individuals, but lying political ads hurt the whole country. No democracy can afford this, let alone when the country is at war, and under existential threat from terrorists, and in economic free fall.

So here’s my idea. One that could actually work, if America’s networks remember they are Americans first, revenue seekers second.

Just as they once united to stamp out cigarette advertising, radio and TV stations and advertisers must get together and agree that false statements in political advertisements will not be tolerated. If you run a political ad that proves to be a lie, your network will pay a steep fine, and the advertiser will pay an even steeper one.

To avoid these crushing fines, networks will insist on proof of statements made in political advertisements, just as they demand proof of statements made in sugarless chewing gum commercials.

Political advertisers will not be able to lie about opponents. They will either have to attack opponents honestly, or talk about the actual issues facing the country, and how their candidate will solve those issues.

Imagine. We might hear ads about the banking crisis and how each candidate will address it.

Candidates might summarize their positions on Iraq and Afghanistan and end with links to more detailed positions on their websites.

The public might discuss the real issues facing us instead of manufactured Entertainment-Tonight-style “controversies.” People might even vote for candidates based on their resumes and positions on the issues.

It would be just like democracy.

[tags]advertising, political, political advertising, lies, TV, radio, politics, presidential[/tags]

Books of Luke and Aarron

In Issue No. 255 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

  • Findability, Orphan of the Web Design Industry – Aarron Walter, author of Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond (New Riders, 2008), provides an overview of this essential web discipline, explains how it is like SEO but different, and tells how every member of your team can contribute to your site’s content’s findability. (See Aarron speak about findability and web standards live and in person at An Event Apart New Orleans, April 24–25, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.)
  • Sign Up Forms Must Die – Luke Wroblewski, Senior Principal of Product Ideation and Design at Yahoo! and author of Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks (Rosenfeld Media, 2008), calls for the abolition of sign-up forms where web services are concerned. Via “gradual engagement,” says Luke, we can get people using and caring about our web services instead of frustrating them with forms. (Get more Luke live and in person at An Event Apart Boston, June 23–24, 2008 at the Boston Marriott Copley Plaza.)

As a glance at the masthead suggests, thought-provoking content about web form design and findability isn’t all that’s happening in this issue of A List Apart:

  • Deeply gifted and seriously experienced web design magazine editor Carolyn Wood finally joins the ALA staff as acquisitions editor, taking that post from …
  • … the witty and excellent Krista Stevens, who now becomes editor of the magazine.
  • For his profound contributions to branding and usability, art director Jason Santa Maria becomes creative director.
  • And after eight years at the magazine, Erin Kissane steps down as editor (but will stay with us as contributing editor). The improvements Erin has made to the magazine in her years with us cannot be counted, not even by the angels.