Maybe you haven’t always wanted to substitute your face for that of Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton, but you might soon be able to — at least digitally.

Artists Kyle McDonald and Arturo Castro have created a face-substitution program that makes it look like your face has morphed into someone else’s. Far from just pasting a static mask onto your image, the program preserves your facial and bodily movements. It looks uncanny, if not entirely real.

“It basically shows you the feed from your webcam, except it pastes a picture on top of your face in realtime, and does some smart blending to make it look more natural,” McDonald says.

Castro first came up with the idea by putting two concepts from open source code library Openframeworks together. The first was work by Kevin Atkinson that substituted one face for another on a static image. The second was a program that McDonald wrote (with the help of an open code library) to track a face’s detailed movement in real time.

When McDonald saw the first iteration of the resulting mask program, he responded with a version blending the lines between a fake and real face so they almost disappear.

Face substitution has been experimented with before, but it’s never been this creepily convincing. Right now, there’s no way for the public to use Mcdonald and Castro’s version, but eventually they hope to make it accessible through some form of exhibit.

“We’re curious to see what kind of mayhem and media skepticism results from having this technique available to everyone,” McDonald says.

More About: art, Dev & Design, Video

For more Dev & Design coverage:





The Hack of the Week Series highlights a new hackathon programming project each week.



Augmenting vision with details about whomever you’re looking at is no longer just a trick for artificially intelligent machines in a post-apocalyptic 2029.

A team at hackday.tv in New York swept both the people’s choice and first place awards Sunday with an iPhone app that gives you “terminator vision.” The app locates a person’s face through the iPhone’s camera and then reads his or her Facebook profile (you need to be Facebook friends for it to work). It uses the profile to provide you with a name, gender and birthdate on a red-tinted screen. If you want, you can hum some suspenseful music to yourself for the full effect.

Now that we’ve seen it, we’re not sure what took so long for someone to make this app. A face recognition API called Face.com has been making it easy for developers to add this capability since 2009. Isn’t this the next logical step?

“I think it’s the kind of thing that you can throw in the App Store and I will pay $1 for it,” says Reece Pacheco, co-founder of Shelby.tv, while announcing the hackathon winners. “And there are at least a million [people] like me who will do the same thing.”

Rich Cameron and Haris Amin, who both work for DailyBurn during the day, haven’t put the app on the App Store yet for potential trademark issues. “There’s going to be a cease and desist letters as soon as the story runs,” Cameron says.

But of the five hackathons that Amin has participated in this year, he says this was the most fulfilling.

“I just didn’t want to do something useful,” he says. “This was way more fun.”

More About: Gadgets, hack of the week, hackathon, hacking, iphone apps





The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off.

Writing content for web users has its challenges. Chief among them is the ease with which your content is read and understood by your visitors (i.e. its readability).

When your content is highly readable, your audience is able to quickly digest the information you share with them — a worthy goal to have for your website, whether you run a blog, an e-store or your company’s domain.

Below are a handful of dead-simple tips and techniques for enhancing the usability and readability of your website’s content.

These tips are based on research findings and suggestions by well-regarded usability experts such as Jakob Nielsen.

This list is not exhaustive, and is meant merely to arm you with a few ideas that you can implement right away. If you have additional tips to add, please share them in the comments.


General Goals of User-Friendly Web Content


Usable, readable web content is a marriage of efforts between web designers and web content writers.

Web pages must be designed to facilitate the ease of reading content through the effective use of colors, typography, spacing, etc.

In turn, the content writer must be aware of writing strategies that enable readers to quickly identify, read and internalize information.

As we go through the seven tips below, keep these three general guidelines in mind:

  • Text and typography have to be easy and pleasant to read (i.e. they must legible).
  • Content should be easy to understand.
  • Content should be skimmable because web users don’t read a lot. Studies show that in a best-case scenario, we only read 28% of the text on a web page.

What simple things can we do to achieve these goals? Read on to see.


1. Keep Content as Concise as Possible


It’s pretty well known that web users have very short attention spans and that we don’t read articles thoroughly and in their entirety. A study investigating the changes in our reading habits behaviors in the digital age concluded that we tend to skim webpages to find the information we want.

We search for keywords, read in a non-linear fashion (i.e. we skip around a webpage instead of reading it from top to bottom) and have lowered attention spans.

This idea that we’re frugal when it comes to reading stuff on the web is reinforced by a usability study conducted by Jakob Nielsen. The study claims a that a 58% increase in usability can be achieved simply by cutting roughly half the words on the webpages being studied.

Shorter articles enhance readability, so much so that many popular readability measurement formulas use the length of sentences and words as factors that influence ease of reading and comprehension.

What you can do:

  • Get to the point as quickly as possible.
  • Cut out unnecessary information.
  • Use easy-to-understand, shorter, common words and phrases.
  • Avoid long paragraphs and sentences.
  • Use time-saving and attention-grabbing writing techniques, such using numbers instead of spelling them out. Use “1,000″ as opposed to “one thousand,” which facilitates scanning and skimming.
  • Test your writing style using readability formulas that gauge how easy it is to get through your prose. The Readability Test Tool allows you to plug in a URL, then gives you scores based on popular readability formulas such as the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease.


2. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles


A usability study described in an article by web content management expert Gerry McGovern led him to the conclusion that Internet readers inspect webpages in blocks and sections, or what he calls “block reading.”

That is, when we look at a webpage, we tend to see it not as a whole, but rather as compartmentalized chunks of information. We tend to read in blocks, going directly to items that seem to match what we’re actively looking for.

An eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen revealed an eye-movement pattern that could further support this idea that web users do indeed read in chunks: We swipe our eyes from left to right, then continue on down the page in an F-shaped pattern, skipping a lot of text in between.

We can do several things to accommodate these reading patterns. One strategy is to break up long articles into sections so that users can easily skim down the page. This applies to block reading (because blocks of text are denoted by headings) as well as the F-shaped pattern, because we’re attracted to the headings as we move down the page.

Below, you’ll see the same set of text formatted without headings (version 1) and with headings (version 2). See which one helps readers quickly skip to the sections that interest them the most.

What you can do:

  • Before writing a post, consider organizing your thoughts in logical chunks by first outlining what you’ll write.
  • Use simple and concise headings.
  • Use keyword-rich headings to aid skimming, as well as those that use their browser’s search feature (Ctrl + F on Windows, Command + F on Mac).

3. Help Readers Scan Your Webpages Quickly


As indicated in the usability study by Nielsen referenced earlier, as well as the other supporting evidence that web users tend to skim content, designing and structuring your webpages with skimming in mind can improve usability (as much as 47% according to the research mentioned above).

What you can do:

  • Make the first two words count, because users tend to read the first few words of headings, titles and links when they’re scanning a webpage.
  • Front-load keywords in webpage titles, headings and links by using the passive voice as an effective writing device.
  • Use the inverted pyramid writing style to place important information at the top of your articles.


4. Use Bulleted Lists and Text Formatting


According to an eye-tracking study by ClickTale, users fixate longer on bulleted lists and text formatting (such as bolding and italics).

These text-styling tools can garner attention because of their distinctive appearance as well as help speed up reading by way of breaking down information into discrete parts and highlighting important keywords and phrases.

What you can do:

  • Consider breaking up a paragraph into bulleted points.
  • Highlight important information in bold and italics.

5. Give Text Blocks Sufficient Spacing


The spacing between characters, words, lines and paragraphs is important. How type is set on your webpages can drastically affect the legibility (and thus, reading speeds) of readers.

In a study called “Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts,” the researchers discovered that manipulating the amount of margins of a passage affected reading comprehension and speed.

What you can do:

  • Evaluate your webpages’ typography for spacing issues and then modify your site’s CSS as needed.
  • Get to know CSS properties that affect spacing in your text. The ones that will give you the most bang for your buck are margin, padding, line-height, word-spacing, letter-spacing and text-indent.

6. Make Hyperlinked Text User-Friendly


One big advantage of web-based content is our ability to use hyperlinks. The proper use of hyperlinks can aid readability.

What you can do:


7. Use Visuals Strategically


Photos, charts and graphs are worth a thousand words. Using visuals effectively can enhance readability when they replace or reinforce long blocks of textual content.

In fact, an eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen suggests that users pay “close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information.”

Users, however, also ignore certain images, particularly stock photos merely included as decorative artwork. Another eye-tracking study reported a 34% increase in memory retention when unnecessary images were removed in conjunction with other content revisions.

What you can do:

  • Make sure images you use aid or support textual content.
  • Avoid stock photos and meaningless visuals.

Series Supported by join.me


The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off. The possibilities are endless. How will you use join.me? Try it today.

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More About: web design, Web Design Usability Series




The majority of the 9/11 remembrance exhibit in the New York Times’ lobby appropriately focuses on the tragedy of 10 years ago, but one digital gallery looks forward rather than back at the site of the World Trade Center.

Three iPads loaded with an augmented reality app sit on a table next to the atrium, in a section set apart from the moving collection of historic Times coverage that makes up the rest of the gallery. The app provides an accurate digital model of the future World Trade Center site and Memorial Pools by pointing the camera at a photo of the World Trade Center construction site. Few people intuitively picked up the iPads to try out the app, but those who did seemed pleasantly surprised by the information.

“This is a wider side of the exhibit,” explains Brandon Melchior, the Times‘ creative director of marketing who designed the gallery. “It’s set aside from the heavier part.”




Graphics editor Graham Roberts worked with an architect to design the digital model, which is based on physical models and architectural plans for the office buildings, arts center, PATH/Subway hub and museum that are planned for the site. The memorial pools, which will be constructed to resemble the footprints of the twin towers, are integrated into the model.

It’s one of the first times the R&D team has worked with Augmented Reality. In the future, similar features could become a part of its storytelling platform. The iPad app might one day, for instance, have the capability to expand a photo on paper or the Times website into a 3D model telling a deeper story.

“9/11 Remembered: A Gallery of Reflection” will be on display through Monday, Sept. 12 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

More About: Augmented Reality, new york times, september 11


Where were you in 1996? If you were in cyberspace, surfing the World Wide Web, chances are you were waiting a long time for pages to load, laughing at the first Internet meme and suffering through some god-awful graphics.

My, how times have changed! While some of you weren’t even born yet, I was working on the web back then, and it certainly did feel different from today. Most comments came via email, servers were rickety and crash-prone, and even though HTML coding was a lot simpler, it still took a lot of patience to get things done.

SEE ALSO: AOL Eyes Merger With Yahoo [REPORT]

But you know what? We knew this Internet thing was going to be big. Even then, many of us were predicting that the web would soon be the home of every major publication, TV network and retailer, accompanied by services we hadn’t even imagined yet.

Did you see this coming? Let us know in the comments about your experiences in the old days on the web.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Bill Vandermark for pointing out that Go Daddy was in fact founded in 1997, and would not become Go Daddy until 1999. We regret this error and appreciate our community for letting us know when we make a mistake.




Infographic courtesy Online University

More About: 1996 vs. 2011, design, infographic, web





If you’re seeking a job in social media, we’d like to help out. For starters, Mashable‘s Job Lists section gathers together all of our resource lists, how-tos and expert guides to help you get hired. In particular, you might want to see our articles on How to Leverage Social Media for Career Success and How to Find a Job on Twitter.

But we’d like to help in a more direct way, too. Mashable‘s job boards are a place for socially savvy companies to find people like you. This week and every week, Mashable features its coveted job board listings for a variety of positions in the web, social media space and beyond. Have a look at what’s good and new on our job boards:


Mashable Job Postings


Community Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Graphic Design Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Editorial Intern at Mashable in New York, NY.


Tech Reporter at Mashable in San Francisco, CA.


Editorial Assistant at Mashable in New York, NY.


Mashable Job Board Listings


Multi-Channel Merchandising Assistant at The National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, MD.


Social Media Manager at LivingSocial in Washington, D.C.


Interactive Producer/ Daring Truth Seeker at SANBORN MEDIA FACTORY in New York, NY.


Digital Marketing Designer/Editor at xMatters, Inc. in Dublin, CA.


SEO Manager at Leading Online News Destination in Los Angeles, CA.


Senior Web Developer (Ruby on Rails) at Memory Reel in Dallas, TX.


Director, Product Marketing at New Relic in San Francisco, CA.


Jr. Interactive Digital Artist at CP+B in Boulder, CO.


Social Media Officer at Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington, D.C.


ColdFusion Application Developer at Fusionapps in Secaucus, NJ.


Associate SEO Strategist at Morpheus Media in New York, NY.


Interactive Savvy Graphic Designer/Art Director at Bill Young Productions Inc. in Houston, TX.


Paid Online Innovation Internships with MoveOn Labs at MoveOn.org in Berkeley, CA.


Developer Advocate at Atlassian in San Francisco, CA.


Online Communications Manager – South Asia Region at The World Bank in Washington, D.C.


Email Marketing Manager at Inman News in Alameda, CA.


Content and Community Development Manager at Loehmann’s in Bronx, NY.


Product Manager – Local Business Products at Yelp Inc. in San Francisco, CA.


Associate Digital Producer (emphasis on social media and gaming) at roundhouse in Seattle, WA.


Mashable‘s Job Board has a variety of web 2.0, application development, business development and social networking job opportunities available. Check them out here.

Find a Web 2.0 Job with Mashable

Got a job posting to share with our readers? Post a job to Mashable today ($99 for a 30 day listing) and get it highlighted every week on Mashable.com (in addition to exposure all day every day in the Mashable marketplace).

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, YinYang

More About: COMMUNICATIONS, design, jobs, List, Social Media





On Wednesday, The New York Times and public radio station WNYC launched SchoolBook, a website to provide news, data and discussion about New York City schools.

The site aims to increase communication and understanding among parents, teachers, administrators and students. As many school websites are rudimentary and infrequently updated, SchoolBook’s creators hope to fill a gaping hole. It creates a page for each of NYC’s 2,500 public, charter and private schools with student population information, community discussion threads and more.

“In conversations with parents, principals and teachers, we kept hearing how fragmented the conversation was,” said Tyson Evans, an assistant editor on The Times‘s interactive news desk who helped develop the project. “We’re hoping they’ll see this as kind of a place to explore.”

If it’s numbers SchoolBook users are looking to explore, they’ll have plenty to discover. The site’s extensive database is comprised of information from thousands of public records from numerous sources, including city and state departments and non-profit organizations, Evans said. Much of the information was already housed in internal search and reporting tools for Times journalists built by Robert Gebeloff, a computer assisted reporter who specializes in education.

The challenge for SchoolBook, like many numbers-driven reports, was how to present the information in a useful and easy-to-understand way. Evans said he and his team wanted the site to provide more overall context than a tool that produces charts and visualizations. They chose to standardize the data and group scores into three categories: performance, satisfaction and diversity.

SchoolBook’s developers created custom software for the site with Ruby on Rails and were ambitious about writing data validators and imports. This will help ease the process of updating the database when schools come out with new information.

Some may argue SchoolBook is ranking schools based on scores. Gebeloff wrote an extensive guide to the site’s methodology, in which he says, “What we have not done, quite purposely, is grade or rate schools.”

The numbers are only part of the story. It’s the site’s ambitions for building community around education as an entity that sets it apart. Users are asked to log in with Facebook, an experiment The Times wanted to try to out with a standalone site. “We’re curious about the next phase of web identity,” Evans said.

It will be interesting to see how this affects conversation, especially as education can be a sensitive topic. With the controversy about how students and teachers should interact on Facebook, the single sign-in method will likely see challenges and complaints.

Participants can contribute on individual school pages in three ways: ask a question, post content (photos, student newspaper articles, etc.) or suggest an idea. This could be particularly useful for parents considering a new school for their student. If the school has an active community page where the user feels comfortable contributing, it may shed light on whether it’s a good fit.

The Times and WNYC worked with a handful of schools when brainstorming for the site. Evans expects those communities will lead the charge on SchoolBook and it will grow from there.

“We have ideas for how conversations will work but we’ll ultimately be learning from how the community uses it,” Evans said. “The more activity we can see at individual schools, the more we’ll be convinced it was the right project.”

Times and WNYC education reporters will be regularly updating the site with original articles, discussion threads and aggregated news posts from local sources GothamSchools and Inside Schools. Mary Ann Giordano, the site’s editor, will manage content from contributing writers, which may include teacher diaries, Evans said. The news and community aspects of the site were built on WordPress.

Overall, SchoolBook is leading the way in building community around the topic of education. Though projects like The Opportunity Gap from ProPublica and The Washington Post‘s D.C. Schools Scorecard were pioneers in data collection and presentation, they do little to bring readers together to share content and engage in debate. As Evans said, the purpose SchoolBook provides is up to its users — but it’s the site’s empowerment of its community members that will give people a reason to visit.

More About: education, new york city, the new york times





Google will discontinue news-reading tool Fast Flip, to shift resources to its more widely used products. It will be removed from Google News and Labs in the coming days, though its approach to web content display will be integrated into other tools, Google announced on its blog.

Fast Flip, which celebrates its second birthday this month, is at the top of the list when sorting Google Labs projects by popularity. The tool aims to replicate the print-reading experience online by allowing users to browse stories more quickly. It came at a time when more news organizations were willing to experiment with web content distribution and boasted it had an impressive list of launch partners, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fast Company. These media companies share ad revenue generated through Fast Flip with Google.

Though the product didn’t show much promise from the start, it may have seen success if it had been reworked as a tablet app. As evidenced by CNN’s acquisition of Zite and AOL’s release of Editions, news organizations are shifting focus to optimize mobile reader experiences in a big way.

News aggregation apps Flipboard and Pulse are seeing growing audiences as tablets continue to prove themselves as great content consumption devices. Google may have been better off creating a feature to simplify browsing news on a tablet rather than the conventional web.

Fast Flip is one of nine in a batch of products to be discontinued from Google Labs. The company announced it would shutter Labs experiments shortly after releasing its second-quarter earnings results in mid-July.

Other Labs products Google will shut down:

  • Aardvark: Social search product that helps people answer each others’ questions.
  • Desktop: Gives instant access to data while online or offline.
  • Fast Flip: Provides a faster, richer news content browsing and reading experience.
  • Google Maps API for Flash: Allows ActionScript developers to integrate Google Maps into their applications.
  • Google Pack: Makes it easy to download and install a package of Google and third-party applications.
  • Google Web Security: Protects against web malware attacks.
  • Image Labeler: Helps people explore and label images on the web.
  • Notebook: Helps people combine clipped URLs from the web and free-form notes into documents they can share and publish.
  • Sidewiki: A browser sidebar that lets people contribute and read information alongside any web page.
  • Subscribed Links: Enables developers to create specialized search results that were added to the normal Google search results on relevant queries for subscribed users.

Would you have used Google Fast Flip on a tablet? Tell us in the comments below.

More About: google fast flip, google labs





The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off.

There are very few, if any, websites on the Internet that don’t undergo at least a minor facelift at some point in their lifecycle. If you own a business with a web presence, at some point, that site will need to be redesigned, whether it’s due to the changing nature of your business, or purely for aesthetic reasons.

Redesigning your company site can be a major undertaking, so we’ve put together a helpful list of things to keep in mind when considering a redesign.


1. Why Are You Redesigning?


This is perhaps the most deceptively complex, yet obvious question of all. Before undergoing any redesign, however, it’s important to understand what it is you wish to accomplish. Are you unhappy with the way your site functions? Do you simply want a better-looking site? Do you need to improve search engine rankings and sales conversions? Maybe the focus of your business has shifted and it’s time for new content.

SEE ALSO: 17 Web Resources for Improving Your Design Skills

These are all important factors to consider, so before you start, make a detailed list of what it is you wish to accomplish during the redesign. This will help guide you through the rest of the process and make sure you stay focused on the end goal.


2. What Type of Redesign Do You Need?


Now that you’ve decided exactly why you want to redesign your site, it’s time to decide just how far down the rabbit hole you need to go. Perhaps a small change in visuals and content is all that’s necessary. On the other hand, you may need to add new features or completely redo your underlying code base. Depending on your needs and budget, a large overhaul may be out of the question, or it may be the most cost-effective long-term solution, so take a moment to think about your needs going forward and work with your developer to strike a balance that best meets them.


3. What Does and Doesn’t Work Currently?


No matter how large or small the redesign, chances are there will be some elements of your existing site that work very well and some that don’t work at all. Now is the time to go through your site and identify these elements. Maybe your content is too verbose or your sales page isn’t very user-friendly. On the other hand, that photo gallery and the blog may be big-ticket items that do really well for your image and bring in lots of traffic. Some elements will need to remain (though possibly given a makeover), some will need to be cleaned up and some will have to go. Break your site down into its key components and then compare those with the goals you decided on in step one and the overall vision for your web site. If something doesn’t fit, it’s out.


4. How Is Your Site Being Used?


Along these same lines, don’t forget to take a look at how users are currently interacting with your site. This will help you identify great content and problem areas. Study your traffic statistics and site analytics for information on things such as entry and exit pages, sales conversions, and search engine keywords. This will help you to understand how visitors find your site and what they do once they get there. While you’re studying those statistics, also have a look at details like screen resolution and browser usage. This will help your developer determine what technical specifications your site should meet and whether a separate mobile version of your site is recommended, among other things.


5. Has Your Brand or Company Image Changed?


If you’ve undergone changes to your brand and company image, those changes need to be reflected in your site, even if the only updates are visual. Keep your logos updated and consider a color-overhaul if the corporate image or philosophy has shifted. Your website is often the first impression people get of your business, so it should grow and mature right along with the rest of your brand identity.


6. When and How Should You Launch Your Redesign?


When and how you launch your redesign can have a big impact on your traffic and in generating buzz about your new site and your product. Maybe you’re simply making improvements and want to slowly roll out changes over time and unannounced. This unobtrusive rollout won’t give you a lot of buzz, but it will still accomplish your goals of improving the site’s performance and the user’s experience. On the other hand, a big relaunch around the holidays or at the start of a big promotion, or when announcing a major change in the way your business operates can both draw traffic and generate more interest.


7. How Do I Make the Transition Smoother?


Most people are a little intimidated by change. If you have a site that gets a lot of repeat traffic, a sudden, drastic change in form and function can be a bit off-putting to some users. Further, you don’t want this drastic shift to damage search engine rankings and suddenly destroy any and all backlinks you may have gathered over the years.

Try and keep vital elements of your site similar to their existing counterparts, such as the main navigation and header. Usually, your redesign should strive to be an evolution of your existing site, not a dramatic replacement. If the change is dramatic, make sure it’s clear and give your users a blog post or news announcement discussing the changes.

Similarly, you want to make things easy for the search engine spiders, as well. Moved content should be redirected via 301 redirects, for instance, and error pages should be helpful and transmit the correct header information and meta data. For human visitors, make sure those error pages contain helpful information that is, where possible, relevant to the content the user was trying to access.


Series Supported by join.me


The Web Design Usability Series is supported by join.me, an easy way to instantly share your screen with anyone. join.me lets you collaborate on-the-fly, put your heads together super-fast and even just show off. The possibilities are endless. How will you use join.me? Try it today.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Kontrec

More About: web design, Web Design Usability Series

Patents are a source of constant lawsuits between large tech companies like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung. They’re one reason Google wants to pay $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility. And many entrepreneurs believe these documents stunt innovation rather than protect it.

Last year, 107,792 patents were issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Here are some interesting points on the history, process and recent impacts of this important component of the tech ecosystem.




Patent Wars

[via BusinessInsurance.org]

More About: patents, software patents