“Reality is Interesting to Us”

The fine folks at Frank just released a short, 7 minute documentary about the guys who designed and built my house: Kevin Eckert, Andrew Van Leeuwen, and the rest of Build LLC. It’s a really well done piece and captures what I liked best about working with Build: they design for how you will actually live; not how some architecture magazine thinks you should live (pop it full-screen so you can concentrate):

Favorite quote:

“We spend so much time in fantasy and ways that people aren’t actually living but how they picture that they would like to be living… and so, reality is interesting to us. What is physically and naturally occurring is better than any fictional, fantasy based thing that could be occurring.”

Incidentally, I find myself picturing Kevin and Andrew doing this video in white tank tops and plaid golf shorts and coming away with another impression entirely. Dressing the part is key. Well played, fellas.

Mind Your MeTweets

You know how when someone compliments you, the first thing you do is e-mail everyone you know to tell them about the compliment?

No, you probably don’t, because you have the good sense not to do something like that.

Why then do so many people feel no shame in rampantly retweeting compliments they receive on Twitter? Some examples, with names changed to protect the guilty:

“RT @joesmith I just heard the most wonderful speech from @lisafrench. That girl is a genius.” (retweeted by @lisafrench)

“RT @fred24 Just saw @jasongotham’s redesign. So good. So jealous!” (retweeted by @jasongotham)

“RT @cakester Scrummify’s sign-up process is a thing of beauty.” (retweeted by @scrummify or an employee of Scrummify)

Let’s count the number of things wrong with this practice:

  1. In real life, it’s considered impolite to brag. Unless you are authoring an anonymous satirical account on Twitter, this is your real life.
  2. If your intent is to spread a compliment your product received, you’re spreading it to people who are already believers, or at the very least, already aware of your product. You want other people to spread it. Oh wait, they already are.
  3. You’re filling your followers’ Twitter feeds not with your own thoughts, but with other people’s thoughts… thoughts about you. The practice of retweeting insults about you on Twitter can also be controversial, but that’s a different beast altogether; one that aims to dismantle trollery by elevating it ironically.

I know many people view Twitter as a medium that can be used by anyone in any manner they see fit — without regard to how other people use it or how other people think it should be used — but I’m not really talking about Twitter here. I’m talking about basic manners. Your mom taught you them when you were young. They haven’t changed that much.

Try not to forget them.

The Most Important Company of This Year’s SXSW Is: SXSW

Every year, the technology and business press wait anxiously to see who the breakout star of SXSW is going to be. The conference is often credited with helping companies like Twitter and Foursquare cross the chasm, and everyone wants to know what the next trend to chase is going to be.

In powering my way through the ridiculous pile of panels for SXSW 2011, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that the state of the industry is now best represented by the state of the conference itself: unfiltered, unabashed information overload.

Before I continue, a few disclaimers:

  1. Yes, I know the non-conference activities have always been the best part of SXSW… shouldn’t the conference organizers be a bit embarrassed by this though?
  2. Yes, I know I’m free to vote with my feet and not go. I exercise this freedom from time to time.
  3. Yes, I know a lot of the people putting on the conference and speaking at the conference are great people and do a great job.
  4. Yes, I know people have been complaining about this stuff for years already.

That said…

This isn’t even a conference anymore. It is clearly a commercial endeavor first, a networking event second, and a conference where you learn stuff third. In my view, the best conferences go in the exact opposite order. The making money part should be a natural consequence of fulfilling the first and subsequently the second.

When I started going to SXSW in 2005, there were maybe 8 or so presentations and panels going on during each time slot. I prefer single track conferences like Webstock and An Event Apart, but at least with 8, you usually only have 1 or 2 you really want to attend so the conflict rate is low. Fast forward to this year and there are 45 THINGS GOING ON during many slots. That is not an exaggeration. 45 panels. Here are the problems this causes:

  1. The whopping 1006 panels makes trying to plan your schedule an absolute, fucking nightmare. It’s painful. I’m not a very fast reader so I take longer than most, but each day is taking me over an hour to get through. I already want to just return my ticket, if that were possible.
  2. With 45 panels per time slot, you’re going to have somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 15 panels in each timeslot that you would have liked to attend but can’t. This creates an annoying feeling in you that you are missing more good stuff than you are actually seeing. It’s a terrible incarnation of The Paradox of Choice.
  3. Because there are now an astounding 1822 speakers at this conference, the chances of them sucking royally are even higher than they were before. I remember thinking to myself in 2005 that about 25% of the speakers were great, 25% were good, and most of the rest were just so-so. With each passing year, those numbers have shifted steadily downward. It’s now more like 10% great, 20% good, 50% so-so, and 20% having absolutely no business speaking publicly at an event people pay good money for.
  4. As if the daytime effects weren’t bad enough, the overpopulating of Austin is now reaching into the evening activities as well. I skipped most of the conference itself last year but even getting a beer at a bar grew tedious during the peak of the conference. This may not seem like a big deal, but meeting up with our friends and colleagues at night is the primary reason why a lot of us still make this trip.
  5. Hundreds of these presenters are getting stuck at places like the AT&T Conference Center or the Sheraton which are a mile away from the Convention Center. Audiences are fickle, and when given the chance to either walk a mile to your speech or walk a few steps to the 44 other speeches going on, chances are your session is going to be empty. I’m curious to see how this goes, and I feel terrible for any really good speakers who have been placed so inconsiderately.

So… what’s my point. My point is that during these past few years SXSW Interactive has taken on some of the worst elements of the industry it is suppose to serve.

It’s too many people saying too much about too little.

116 panels about social media? 19 panels about Facebook? Panels that are clearly only there because of the company that sponsored them? A panel about how to do a panel?

Who on earth would think this is a good thing? There’s only one group I can think of: the people profiting from the conference. It’s like selling out Woodstock and then hiring 500 more filler bands so you can sell 100,000 more tickets. Great for the conference organizers, probably great for the city, but not so great for the people who just want to see a good show.

What SXSW has become is in many ways what our industry has become: a giant facilitator of information overload. The next great company to arise from it will be the company that offers an antidote; a way to enrich our lives by letting us unplug. I don’t want to know what everyone is thinking. I don’t want to know where everyone is checking in. I just want to know the bare minimum of what it takes to remain happy, and then maybe a little extra if I have time. Whatever company creates a filter that enables this will become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Alright, I’m done ranting now, so I’ll close with a few conference tips:

  1. Never speak at a conference in order to get a free ticket somewhere. I feel like this is common at SXSW. If you wouldn’t present without the free ticket, don’t present at all. You’re just adding to the noise.
  2. If you’re at a conference with interesting people, make the most of your opportunity to meet everyone you want to meet. Often you’ll get more out of a one hour Jager session with someone than you will out of the entire conference.
  3. If you’re presenting, strive to be one of the most entertaining presenters at the conference. The best combination in a speaker is smart and entertaining, but if you take the entertaining part away, you might as well be dumb too, because people aren’t going to enjoy listening to you. One of the best conferences I’ve ever spoken at or attended was Webstock 2010 in New Zealand, and there was one guy there, Rives, who just blew everyone away. Here’s his presentation. If that doesn’t make you want to try harder, I don’t know what will.

Thanks for listening. Bonus points if you can identify the photo at the top of this post!

Pine Brothers Cough Drops are back!

Some of the most fulfilling posts to write are the ones dedicated to micro niche topics that no one else is talking about. Through the magic of the Google, your silly little post about obsolete technology X or discontinued product Y can gather visitors over the course of several years, and if you’re lucky enough, you can grow little micro-communities inside of each post. It’s amazing. A few posts Mike Industries posts that created such flash communities are:

  • Too Much Cream of Wheat? — A ridiculous little two minute post I wrote after being surprised at how many Cream of Wheat varieties were sold. Five years and 251 comments later, people are still telling Cream of Wheat stories from their childhood and sharing recipes.
  • Wither the Halogen Torchiere — A post I wrote lamenting the death of everyone’s favorite college dorm lamp. These lamps put off incredibly warm, indirect light but were eventually taken off the market because idiots who threw clothing and other materials on top of them burned their houses down. This one has 315 comments ranging from suggestions on where to purchase replacement parts to ideas on how to make your own lamps (seems like a bad idea).
  • How to Snatch an Expiring Domain — I’m not sure if this is the most popular post I’ve ever written or if the MySpace one is, but this story of how I bought newsvine.com is up to 862 comments now. Unfortunately, I’ve had to delete hundreds more because let’s just say the “community” that cares about expiring domains is usually made of SEO monkeys and likes to use my post as a way to get link juice back to their own cesspools. I actually created a special rule in WordPress specifically for this post that doesn’t allow link juice.
  • Desperately Seeking Pine Bros — Finally, this is the one I’m most proud of. If you grew up in the 1980s, you probably remember a “softish” cough drop by the name of Pine Bros. that came in Honey and Cherry. It was more candy than medication but damn was it good. Some time in the 90s, the company shut down and without any warning, Pine Bros. disappeared from the face of the earth. I wrote a post about it and thousands of Pine Bros. fans have visited to express their support for the product.

Something great happened in the Pine Bros. thread several months ago: a woman chimed in to say that her family had bought the rights to the Pine Bros. name and was hard at work recreating the formula in order to bring them back to market. It seemed too good to be true, but I’m happy to say that as of right now, this great product is once again available! They plan on releasing four flavors for distribution nationwide, but for now, you can just get the Honey flavor at the Vermont Country Store. I ordered three tins. They were predictably gone in less than three days and now I’m ordering more.

Since I had purchased a box of 50-year old Pine Bros. cough drops on eBay a few years ago, I have tested the new drops against the old. The bad news is that they seem to taste just a tad more mild than the originals, but the good news is that it’s very, very close.

If you miss Pine Bros. cough drops as much as I did, quit reading this and get on over to Vermont Country Store already. They’ve already sold out at least once.

5 Ways to Improve the new Twitter App

It is with great interest that I watch the evolution of Twitter, from a quirky niche service of questionable worth four years ago to a mainstream phenomenon that has disrupted everything from tiny blogs to big media. It’s really coming into its own, and with every new feature or product release, I find myself nodding in agreement at the improvements. The new Twitter for Mac app, however, remains an odd duck for me, even a month after its debut. Its release seemed rushed and incomplete, probably in order to debut alongside the new Mac App Store. A big clue to that is that there is no Windows version yet. If I had to guess, I would say the Twitter team decided they needed new desktop clients, they knew they could probably get something out on one platform in time to get a high position in the App Store, and so they did, releasing an impressive but ultimately incomplete product, figuring they would improve it later, as well as release a Windows version.

That strategy is understandable to me, and I certainly don’t think they’ve made the product worse than the last revision, but there are several features I’d like to see added which would make the native Twitter app better than its competitors, which it currently isn’t.

Let me also say that I’ve always watched everything Doug Bowman designs or directs with great interest and admiration. Doug is probably the second best interactive designer in the world, behind only me, so I always study his work very closely. He has no real weaknesses that I know of, and he has a great team working at Twitter. Doug’s great with interfaces, great with typography, great at expressing his thoughts, great at maintaining a product-centric view with everything he creates, and just a great guy in general. In short, Twitter could not have hired a better person to lead the Photoshop department.

That said, here are my suggestions for the Twitter team (feel free to pay me in Twitter stock, @dickc and @ev):

1. Inline retweet, fave, and follow notifications

This is easily Echofon’s best feature, and I can’t believe they are still the only ones offering it. Essentially, when someone faves a tweet of yours or starts following you, Echofon inserts a small notification for you inside your tweet stream. It’s a powerful piece of positive feedback that has increased my enjoyment of Twitter at least 10x. I’m not one of those “I tweet for me, not for you” people. Everything I tweet, however intelligent, is aimed at people, and when people like a tweet enough to fave it, that’s great feedback. It’s one thing to tweet something you think is good, but another thing to get 20 faves within a minute telling you your suspicion was correct. I call this a fave parade. Echofon doesn’t do this with retweets yet, but they should. And so should Twitter. This should be the first feature addition they work on.

2. Visible, persistent tweeting area

The lack of a text field in which to tweet is, according to Doug, a deliberate decision. Doug told me the rationale behind this is that the focus of the app is on “consumption over production” and since people spend so much more time reading than writing on Twitter, the element should remain hidden until needed. I respectfully disagree with this rationale. Optimizing for consumption is not necessarily helped by de-optimizing the production process. Here is the production process on Twitter vs. Echofon:

With keystrokes (power users):

Twitter:

  1. Control-Tab to app (2 keystrokes)
  2. Control-N (2 keystrokes)

Total: 4 keystrokes

Echofon:

  1. Control-Tab to app (2 keystrokes)

Total: 2 keystrokes

With mouse (most users):

Twitter:

  1. Click on app
  2. Click on lower left icon
  3. Move mouse to “New Tweet”
  4. Click on “New Tweet”

Total: Three clicks and a mouse move

Echofon:

  1. Click on tweet field.

Total: One click

Twitter loses handily in both situations.

It is possible that Twitter is actually trying to get people to tweet less. Doug seemed to hint as much in our conversation about this. If this is a goal of Twitter — which I think is fine — I’d rather see it done via more creative means than obfuscating the interface though.

3. Better content suggestions

Building on the previous suggestion, if Twitter really wants more people to think of it as an information consumption service rather than a microblogging service, how about making it easier for (especially new) people to tune their streams? The “who to follow” feature is really well done, and I like it, but what about a Clippy-like presence in my tweet stream using a bit of artificial intelligence to suggest more people to follow? You could easily unfollow Clippy if you found him annoying, but for new users, an initial message like “Hey Mike, have you seen the new @live_from_egypt account? Live reporting from a news crew in Cairo. Follow it for updates.”

This AI-bot idea needs some further thinking, but the main point is, improve the consumption experience by improving the consumption experience… not by degrading the production experience.

4. Syncing

Echofon syncs your unread counts between multiple desktop clients and the phone client. Twitter does not. In fact, the Twitter iPhone client doesn’t even sync properly with itself sometimes. I get direct messages showing up as unread for days in a row sometimes, even after laboriously going through and “re-reading” them all. With more and more people using Twitter from multiple locations, syncing will become more and more of a necessity.

5. A configurable links-only view

This is a huge one. I actually wanted to build a company around this, but it seems like something Twitter or someone else should do. Here’s the concept: shield me from all information except links that have been tweeted/faved/retweeted by X or more of the people I follow. This builds on a concept I am using in my life more and more these days: I don’t want to hear about anything unless and until at least 2 people I know think it’s important. There’s just too much out there.

With a client that allows me to filter for links that have been tweeted at least twice, I might follow 1000 people instead of 100… or I might finally make use of lists. Imagine using this filter on a “list of tech CEOs”. I couldn’t care less what 2000 tech CEOs have to say, but I would like to know if at least 10 of them referenced the same link one day. It’s a very powerful concept, and one that encourages people to add more inputs instead of removing them.

General design notes

As with everything Doug designs or directs, the Twitter client is a beautiful work of art. From an esthetic standpoint, it’s really pretty to look at. I wish it had bigger edges to grab onto, followed the HIG more closely, and a few other minor things, but overall, I’m happy enough with the way it looks. I just don’t love the way it works. Hopefully if the excellent design team at Twitter agrees with some of the points above, we’ll see a more useful client released with the next revision. For now, however, I’m sticking with the client that makes up for its looks with its great personality: Echofon.

Reducing your DirecTV channels down to something reasonable

If you don’t have DirecTV, you can go ahead and skip this post. Just thought I’d post this list of non-shopping, non-religious, non-infomercial, non-stupid channels in the DirecTV channel lineup. When you sign up for DirecTV, you have somewhere between 200 and 900 channels and navigating through them via the guide takes 15 minutes per rotation.

To make your life a lot easier, you should delete all of these unnecessary channels off of your receiver as soon as you can. Since I’ve been through this process several times, I thought I’d publish my list of channels to keep, in order to give others a head start. Here they are:

4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22, 28, 101, 202, 206-209, 212, 229, 231, 232, 235-237, 241, 242, 244, 245, 247-249, 251-254, 256, 258, 264-267, 271, 276-278, 280-286, 304, 306-308, 335, 337, 355, 356, 501-505, 507-509, 515-517, 525-531, 535-542, 545-552, 554-559, 603, 614, 687, 688-1

Note that this is from the Seattle channel lineup so your mileage under channel 100 may vary. Happy deleting!

The Eagle Project

Now that it’s 2011 and the house blog is complete, it’s time to start writing on Mike Industries again. While one could argue this is a better post for the house blog, it’s really an independent design project so I’m posting it here.

In a nutshell, I want to build some sort of structure that will encourage eagles to land on it. I know very little about eagles, but I do know that before the top of a giant dead tree in my neighbor’s yard snapped off last year, we had eagles landing on it almost every week. Now, they just occasionally fly by and never seem to hang out. So the thought is, if I can build some sort of structure that has similar perching qualities to that dead tree, eagles should theoretically start landing on it.

Here is what I think I know about those qualities:

  • The structure must be one of the tallest things in the immediate vicinity, although not necessarily the tallest
  • It should have some sort of horizontal bar of a particular gauge on top of it for the eagles to wrap their claws around
  • The perching area should be sparse. Eagles like having an unobstructed view of the territory below them.
  • It does not seem necessary for the structure to actually look like a tree, as eagles perch on inorganic structures like street lights all the time.
  • Should there be a good areas to build a nest near the top? I don’t know.

So far, I’ve thought of four different types of structures to build/commission/procure: a wooden totem pole, a rustic weathervane looking thing, a vertical rusty iron sculpture, and a temped-up PVC pole.

The totem pole

Installing an unpainted totem pole would work well because it eliminates the “what the fuck is that thing in your yard” factor. Everyone knows what totem poles are and it would fit well with the Native American culture that pervades the Pacific Northwest. The downside, however, is that I certainly couldn’t make it myself and it may be hard to find the right one. It would need to be maybe 50 feet tall, would be extremely heavy, and would be very permanent once installed. If eagles decided they didn’t like it, I’d be stuck removing it, which seems like a chore and a half.

Weathervane

For the weathervane, I’m envisioning as skinny of a metal pole as possible (maybe something like rebar) and then some sort of sculpture at the top of it that looks like a weathervane. It’s not even essential that it’s operational… just that it answers the question “what the fuck is that thing in your yard”. I like this idea because it’s potentially very adjustable after it goes up. If birds aren’t landing on it, I might be able to take it down and change what the top of it looks like.

Vertical rusty iron sculpture

There are some really good metal artists around, and it might be cool to just tell one of them my goals and have them propose something. The upside here is I’d get a nice, professional piece of art out of it, but the downside is that it’s likely people wouldn’t really know what it was… which isn’t a dealkiller. Also, depending on the design of the sculpture, it may or may not be adjustable after the fact.

The temped-up PVC jobbie

With one trip to Home Depot, I could probably get 50 feet of PVC pipe which I could anchor into the ground and just see what happens for a little while. It’s still a bit of a project as I don’t want the thing falling onto my house, but it’s doable for less than $100. It would no doubt look hideous, but it might be a good proof-of-concept before doing something more permanent and expensive.

Other ideas?

If anyone has any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Cognition Comments Considered Harmful

I was looking forward to writing a post this weekend about Happy Cog’s new commenting system on their otherwise excellent new blog, but the sage minds at Full Stop interactive beat me to it. You should read Nate’s whole post. It’s spot-on.

It’s interesting to me that Happy Cog is trying to eliminate the negative things associated with commenting by encouraging brevity, while for several years, the secret sauce I’ve cooked up to prevent comment spam has involved just the opposite: measuring the amount of time you spend typing and only entering your comment into the database if you spend more than a few seconds on it. It works like a charm and eliminates 99.9% of comment spam before it even gets in the front door.

In my opinion, what Happy Cog has created is useful. Let’s just not confuse it with a commenting system for a blog.

It doesn’t encourage community, it doesn’t encourage conversation, and for the most part, it’s not accretive in any way. What it does do is create a lot of linkbacks to your blog on Twitter. Is this valuable? Sure. But is it as valuable as free-flowing, insightful, conversations which elevate ordinary posts into conversation pieces?

Not for me it’s not.

For all the great things about Twitter — and there are many — one of the worst things about it is that it’s making us lazy ambassadors of our thoughts. Why spend an hour on a blog post when we can tweet out our main thesis in ten seconds? Why allow conversations on our blogs when we can just hear the first 140 characters of our readers’ opinions?

We know short attention spans are bad for our intellectual development. We should be creating solutions that fight against this threat… not feed into it.

How To Properly Apply for a Design Position

Back in 2004, I wrote an article called “How to Make Friends and Influence Art Directors” that continues to get a surprising amount of traffic. In the course of opening up a new design position at Newsvine/msnbc.com and seeing the applications, however, I feel like I need to update the article for 2010.

We’ve gotten so many poor applications for this position that it really makes me wonder if designers today are aware of how art directors actually hire people.

If you’re a designer and you’ll ever be looking for a new job in your life, you should read this.

First, let’s start with what matters and what doesn’t. There are exactly three things that matter to me when I evaluate you as an applicant:

  • Is the stuff in your portfolio well designed and in keeping with the creative style I’m looking for? Note, “stuff” could be your blog, your personal site, or even fake clients you’ve done fake work for. It does not mean how big your clients are or how many projects you’ve worked on. As far as evaluating your design work itself, all that matters is how your stuff looks and feels.
  • Are you a cool person to work with? This sort of thing can come out in a personal interview but it can also come through blog entries, tweets, or anything else that shows your personality off. It generally does not come from a cover letter though as I know you’re specifically crafting those words with the intent of landing a certain position.
  • Do I know anyone personally or professionally who can vouch for you being a cool person to work with? The answer to this question does not need to be yes, but it of course always helps to know someone who knows someone. This is why.

Everything else? Doesn’t matter.

Résumé? Doesn’t matter. Where you went to school? Doesn’t matter. What societies you are a part of? Doesn’t matter. None of this sort of stuff matters unless and until you make it past the big three tests above… or at least the first two. Does that mean you shouldn’t spend time on your résumé? Of course you should, because if you get past the first stage, someone will probably look at it. Just don’t think it’s going to be your ticket towards getting noticed or getting in the door. I’ve seen résumés of design instructors with 10 years teaching experience and masters degrees in design who have the portfolios of junior high school kids. This is why we pay little attention to résumés.

How should I apply then?

The following, in my mind, is the perfect job application:

Dear ______,

I’m very interested in the ______ position at ______. I’ve used/admired the service for _____ and would love an opportunity to be part of its design team (you can substitute this sentence with anything that makes you sound uncommonly qualified or excited for this position). My stuff can be viewed here:

Blog/Personal Site: http://____
Portfolio with samples: http://____
Twitter account: http://____
Favorite thing I’ve done recently: http://____

I’ve attached my résumé as well if you’re interested in my background or who I’ve worked with. Look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks,

________

That’s it. No long preamble. No links buried in a PDF or Word document. No hoops for the art director or HR person to jump through in order to see your stuff. If you want to add some more flavor towards the end, go ahead, but that’s the general recipe.

Almost none of the applications I have received follow anything close to this form, so I can only assume most people simply don’t know how they are being judged. Other professions are undoubtedly different, but in design, it’s simply a question of how sick your stuff is and how easy you are to work with. Give a hiring manager a good impression immediately on both of those fronts and you’re going to get an interview.

P.S. If you’ve already applied for the position mentioned above and haven’t heard back, it’s likely your style might not fit with what we’re looking for. It doesn’t mean we don’t admire your design skills.

P.P.S. If you haven’t applied for the position above and would like to, please do! We’re looking to hire the right person immediately.

P.P.P.S. On a related subject, besides Authentic Jobs and 37signals, are there any other great places to post design-related job listings these days? If you know of any, please let me know.

Another Nail in the Pageview Coffin

This weekend, msnbc.com launched a sweeping redesign of the most important part of their site: the story page. The result is something unlike anything any other major news site is offering and is a bold step in a direction no competitor has gone down (yet): the elimination of pageviews as a primary metric.

For many years, I’ve railed against tricks like pagination and “jump pages” as a means to goose pageviews. Honest people in the industry will tell you these are simply acceptable tricks to bump revenue a bit, while disingenuous or uninformed people will use “readability” as an excuse to make users click ten times to read ten parts of a single story. For this latest redesign, msnbc.com has decided to de-emphasize page views entirely and present stories in a manner that maximizes enjoyment and as a result, total time on site.

What do I mean by this?

Think of how a typical user session works on most news sites these days. A user loads an article (1 pageview), pops open a slideshow (1 pageview), flips through 30 slides of an HTML-based slideshow (30 pageviews). That’s 32 pageviews and a lot of extraneous downloading and page refreshing.

On new msnbc.com story pages, the above sequence would register one pageview: the initial one. The rest of the interactions occur within the page itself. Can msnbc.com serve ad impressions against in-page interactions? Sure, and that’s key to the strategy, but as a user, your experience is much smoother, and as an advertiser, the impressions you purchase are almost guaranteed to come across human eyes since your ads are only loaded upon user interaction.

This is the first time (to my knowledge) this sort of model has been deployed on a major media site with over a billion pageviews a month, and it has the potential to change the entire industry if it works. It’s also a big risk, as most advertisers are not used to thinking of inventory this way. We like big risks with big payoffs though and we feel that when you take care of the user and the advertiser at the same time, you’re probably onto something.

Ad model aside, there are also tons of other interesting things about the new msnbc.com story pages:

  • Every form of storytelling (text, video, audio, slideshows, discussion, voting, and more) is now available right within each story page itself.
  • The top navigation (nicknamed “the upscroll”) contains all basic elements when a page loads but if you scroll the page upward past its initial position, you get more interesting stories to read. It’s a great way of presenting a content-packed header without sacrificing screen real estate.
  • A social bar at the bottom of the screen, powered by Newsvine, which lets you easier share content via Newsvine, Facebook, Twitter, and other services.
  • An “annotated scrollbar” down the right side of the screen capable of teleporting you to any section of the page you desire.
  • Bigger, easier to read text. Goodbye Arial, once and for all!

To be clear, the msnbc.com team is very proud of what’s been launched so far, but is under no illusions that things are perfect yet. Everyone involved in creating these new story pages is monitoring reaction closely and ready to modify anything that needs improvement. Since we have plenty of thoughtful design and development voices here on Mike Industries, I’d love to open this thread up for some reactions. What is working for you, and what, if anything, would you change? The team is listening.