Readership poll results

Last summer, at the 5 year anniversary of the blog, I ran a readership poll. Thanks to everyone who took a few minutes back then to answer it (now closed). I know when I answer a poll I’m always curious about the results. So I presume you are, too. Here ya go.


First apologies on some aspects of the poll. I should have made some things multiple-choice, but by the time I caught it was too late. Shifting midway through the poll would mean I’d have to divide the results between radio-button and checkbox responses, and that would have been headachey. Next time, next time.


There were a total of 51 responses.

Overall, looks like me and the other authors are doing pretty good. 8 out of 10. Personally, I’ve always been a solid B+/A- student, so this plays out. 5 responders think the site is near god-like (that or they’re prone to hyperbole) and a couple of folks said we’re doing below average. Sorry, you two. Thanks for sticking with it.

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The Readership: Who are you people?

I only asked after time zone, rather than location, which in retrospect was not smart. I was trying to figure when the best time to post was, but now I realize that wasn’t the only use of such information. Too late now. Maybe next year.

Looks like you’re concentrated in the middle of the Americas, and Lisbon/UK time zones. But there’s also readers on the continental-American coasts, Alaska(!), Europe, Southeast Asia, and what I suspect is Melbourne/Sydney. Hey look a chart.


WordPress gives me stats about the readership, too, but only down to the country. It largely agrees with the poll results, but I see that Japan may be happy reading but not so happy responding to polls. (A poll which was, admittedly, written in English.) If I crudely overlay the WordPress map to this map, looks like my anchors are North America, UK & Europe, and Eastern Australia. No surprise. English speaking worlds. (Though, I miss you, Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand.)


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Using the Site

Most readers see the site as a fun distraction, but nearly a third use it as inspiration for their design or sci-fi work. Around 16% just love getting more into the sci-fi they love. Fist bumps, fanpeeps.



Seems like half of you subscribe by RSS, 16% by Facebook and 16% by tweet. The RSS news came as lots of added answers, so is that choppy chunk on top.  One enterprising reader has set up an IFTTT alert. (Sweet.) The RSS news was an informative surprise. I presumed most folks were receiving alerts via Twitter and Facebook, and click through to the blog. I now should start thinking about the fact that many articles are read without the “chrome” of the blog ever been seen.


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The Content

Props be unto us

33% of readers like that this is content that can’t be found anywhere else.

20% like learning more about interfaces in their favorite shows.

10% like how it sharpens their thinking around interaction design.

20% of people added a response of “all of the above” (the many slices) which is just awesome.


Your wish list

Many people asked for more frequent posts, and I wholly agree, but can’t do much about it. This is a labor of love, not a job, and I’m fitting it in to my schedule amongst work, marketing my new book, working on new stuff, and being a dad. (Wait. You know that I see maybe $5/month from this, right?)

I’d put the amount of work to review an average movie at 60 hours of work between screen cap, writing, formatting, and social medializing. The only chance I have of upping the frequency is to have more time (unlikely) or more authors, and while I have worked with a great team of them, none of them seem to have the time to do more than they already are/have. So, yeah, once/week is about as much as I can wrangle. Glad to know there’s demand?


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Reader wish: Video games, space combat simulators in particular. :-)

[This is a one-off request from the most recent readership poll.]

I’m a gamer myself, so I’m tempted to venture out. But there’s some stuff to discuss.

Let’s first distinguish between interfaces in cut-scenes, which are very much like the sci-fi interfaces I review here, and the interfaces of the games themselves.

Cut-scene interfaces are very much like the sci-fi interfaces reviewed on this blog. They might be a candidate for reviews. Except they don’t exit in isolation, they’re most often quite tied in with the game-itself interfaces, and those are entirely different beasts. The rest of this post discusses how different those beasts are.

Game-itself interfaces answer to different masters than sci-fi interfaces, even if on the surface they share surface similarities.

  • They are subject to pressures of usability, but the game is not meant to be perfectly usable. (That would be a button saying “win game.”)
  • They have to work exhaustively, meaning that if there’s a button it has to do something. sci-fi interfaces often have parts which actors are told work and parts they’re warned won’t.
  • Makers of sci-fi interfaces often tell the actor to just do their acting thing, and the makers will go back in later and backfill the interface around the actor’s motions. This of course affects the interface. Game-itself interfaces never backfill around users.
  • Sci-fi interface designers may have had no formal training in interaction design, and more around art and motion graphics. This makes those interfaces a kind of outsider art, which is kind of why they are sometimes brilliant and sometimes shite. (Even as more and more sci-fi interface studios are also doing real-world projects, they are clear about which one they’re working on.)
  • Game-itself interfaces are limited by the inputs of the gaming system: Keyboard or handheld controller. Sci-fi interfaces have little restrictions.
  • Sci-fi interfaces only occupy the full screen for at most seconds at a time. Game-itself interfaces are up the whole time during gameplay.
  • Sci-fi interfaces just always work. Even if the actor does something wrong, the effect that the story needs still happens.
  • Game-itself interfaces are customizable, so different people will be using different instantiations of the same thing.
  • Sci-fi interfaces have as their goal to tell the audience something, and can fudge most of the other semiotic layers beneath in the service of that. They mostly convey narrative information. A caused B change. C is happening. D is the intended plan. E is how F is doing this cool thing. The audience never has to use that information except in the service of understanding the story. Game-itself interfaces are about both the knowing and using that information directly.
  • The reviews would be different: we want to evaluate sci-fi interfaces for being believable, for how they contribute to the narrative, and what we can learn from them. game-itself interfaces would be reviewed for usability, for they equipped you to play the game. Just not the same thing.

So it’s because they are such different beasts, requiring a whole different conceptual framework, that I don’t think it’s right to include them here on this blog. There was a fellow a few years ago who started his own blog about game interface reviews, but I can’t find the blog URL in my inbox, or via search, but anyway I don’t think he was able to keep it up. Maybe he or someone else will be able to pick it up sometime.

But if someone started a blog on this topic (or wrote a nice in-depth article about it), I think it would be informative to analyses here. And heck, space agencies and sci-fi makers should pay attention to the lessons learned there.

Also I’m loathe to give too much attention to reviewing warfare and weapons interfaces. Hollywood already glamorizes war a little too much.

Reader wish: I’d really like a better WordPress theme. This one is tricky to navigate at times

[This is a one-off request from the most recent readership poll.]

Yes, yes, yes! I agree. Way back when I started the blog, I modified a default WordPress theme and even I get frustrated with it sometimes. But I’m better at content than I am at WordPress design, and honestly would rather spend my time doing more writing and creating more reviews than selecting and modifying another template. Is there anyone who wants to volunteer to improve the template or suggest a new one? I’d love it. Email me at if so.

Alternatively I might could run a kickstarter to see if we can raise the money for a professional WordPress developer to improve things. (This is an idea from another commenter, which I found awesome.) Until then, please comment with the particular problems you find frustrating, and I’ll see if I can incrementally improve those things in the meantime.

Reader free-form comment: Would be cool to know how (and if) do you apply these reviews to your design work

[This is a one-off request from the most recent readership poll.]

Short answer: Yes, through critique practice and design patterns. Longer answer follows.


Exactly like this.

Generally, improving my thinking

This is broad, but quite true. After making a practice of looking at interfaces systematically, and putting that critique into words that I can read, and vet, and feel comfortable posting on the frakking internet for anyone to read, I’ve gotten better at it. As a design manager, learning to quickly critique other’s work is invaluable. As a direct contributor, I can bring a more sophisticated real-time critique of my own ideas, which makes the design that much better, even doing pair design.


It would be easy to just rag on sci-fi interfaces. But having to put critiques of them out in the world, I have to understand that they’re created by talented (or at least well-meaning) people and I should seek to understand what they were doing, and even give an interface a thought pass, imagining that they’re not broken, but brilliant. That doesn’t always pay off, but when it does the results are golden. Deep insight that is shareable in fun memetic stories. So I’ve developed apologetics as part of my critiques, and it allows me to see the good in a design rather than just trashing them. Which is a lesson the whole Internet could take to heart, n’est-ce pas? Continue reading