[FPSPACE] Edward Tufte at NASA HQ
zirconic1 at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 3 23:51:17 EDT 2004
Edward Tufte was at NASA Headquarters on Thursday, where he essentially "held court" in the words of a friend of mine who was there. Tufte, for those of you who don't know, is the author of numerous books and booklets on effective visual communications, including "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint," which is cited in the CAIB report. (You can find his homepage at: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/ It is apparent from his website that he's a little odd.)
Apparently anybody at HQ could bring Tufte examples of NASA communications for him to comment on. This primarily consisted of Tufte critiquing NASA websites--harshly. As one attendee put it, it was like watching American Idol and the only thing Tufte didn't say was "you're also ugly and you can't sing." Tufte's biggest complaint was that they have limited content and many of them either spend half the page providing links and menus for information on other pages, or resort to flashy gimmics rather than useful content. He apparently singled out two in particular.
Tufte totally ripped apart http://www.m2k4.com/ which is NASA's Mars exploration website. He suggested that the entire thing be shelved and that they start over, and this time provide real content instead of flashy graphics for kids.
The one site that he absolutely loved was http://science.nasa.gov/
Apparently Tufte had as much praise for the latter site as he had criticism for the former. But websites are not safety critical information, so it seems unlikely that anybody is going to take much notice. After all, there are no immediate penalties for failing to provide information via a website.
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