Wednesday, March 14, 2007

eyetracking to detect 'usability'

Following one of those late-night conversations with tech-writer buddy Benny Joseph, I've been thinking about how best to divide up document review, editing, and proofing among ourselves at work. A related set of thoughts has been around how to impart skills in producing good documents, whether they be monthly technical reports, event summaries, or research results, as this is something on which we're hoping to train NGOs and CBOs working on HIV/AIDS.

These thoughts and accompanying googling led me to interesting work summarized in Online Journalism Review, in which are suggested ways to make online and print material easier to read and recall. These are based on eyetracking research, and the article has cool graphics showing which areas of a page/screen receive more intense scrutiny before and after revision:

While I'll refer the interested reader to the OJR article for key recommendations, one couldn't help but snicker at the following tidbit on how men and women (ostensibly randomized with respect to sexual orientation) differ among themselves in the way they view photos:

"When photos do contain people related to the task at hand, or the content users are exploring, they do get fixations. However, gender makes a distinct difference on what parts of the photo are stared at the longest... [a]lthough both men and women look at the image of George Brett when directed to find out information about his sport and position, men tend to focus on private anatomy as well as the face. For the women, the face is the only place they viewed. Coyne adds that this difference doesn’t just occur with images of people. Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site." [emphasis mine]

While blogger Jason Kottke wonders about the evolutionary interpretation of such gender differences, what I want to know is: what were the researchers thinking when they planned to include the AKC treatment in their experimental design?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

puliyogare 2.0

Whether this is considered an enhanced version or not depends on culinary conservatism of the reader, but I'd like to think it tastes way better than the standard preparation...

Locally available ingredients here in Chennai, apart from the predictable rice (the Ponni Raw variety that grows on Foodworld shelves) and MTR Puliogare mix, are soya chunks from Soy Day, shelled peas, garlic-chilli sauce from Asian Home Gourmet and gram-daal mixture. Variants on this theme include firm tofu instead of soya chunks, and spinach/keerai mixed in with the rice - my recipe from bygone Austin potluck days.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

cousins, babies, and blogposts

It has always been a peeve of mine that so many people leap into parenthood without thinking twice about what it entails. There is conspicuous absence, in the dizzying world of standardized tests, of a PAT - Parental Aptitude Test.

I was, therefore, quite happy to read my (photo below) cousin Manohar's reflections on impending fatherhood. Here's wishing him and Meera all the very best.

Related note #1 re: cousins+babies -> congratulations to Malini and Avnash on their second baby, born this past week; and best wishes to Vidya and Shiva who're expecting their arrival soon...

Related note #2 re: cousins+blogposts -> inveterate bibliophile Lavanya brings literature and history to bear on her thoughtful piece on Women's Day.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

count 'em calories

Not one to be particularly subtle, my housemate Jacob gifted me a bathroom scale (purchased ostensibly to weigh his luggage) before leaving for Kenya yesterday. Now I find myself weighing myself twice a day, and thinking actively of downsizing from 70 to 65 kg.

In the meanwhile, Civitarese and colleagues, writing in PLOS Medicine yesterday, report that caloric restriction leads to increase in muscle mitochondrial DNA, and decrease in whole body oxygen consumption and DNA damage. Efficient mitochondria -> lowered free-radical production -> slowed aging.

Ref: Civitarese AE, Carling S, Heilbronn LK, Hulver MH, Ukropcova B, et al. (2007) Calorie restriction increases muscle mitochondrial biogenesis in healthy humans. PLoS Med 4(3): e76. Read article here.

Coverage from the Telegraph, UK, is here.