Monday, August 20, 2007

Random Gratuitous Images Are Awesome

Jeff Atwood's blog is one of the best out there. But he says you don't need random gratuitous images, and they're actively counterproductive. I absolutely disagree.

Jeff's a smart guy, but he also uses Windows. You can respect his intelligence and still disagree with his conclusions from time to time.

First of all, what random images do in a blog is the same thing "random" facial expressions and gestures do in a conversation - they contextualize what the person is saying.

Context matters. Context matters immensely.

The idea that technical materials should be dry and devoid of personality is old-school bullshit.

Read up on Kathy Sierra's Head First series and you'll discover that actively engaging the part of the brain which recognizes facial expressions is the easiest and most powerful way to accelerate learning.

Do you want to learn fast? I do.


  1. I thought of you when I read Jeff's post. And I couldn't have imagined a better reply to it!

    I think the number of blogs that use too few images is much greater than the number that use too many.

  2. I agree with you that images can help, however I think you're totally overdoing it. One or two to accompany your main points would be nice, but after every sentence is way too much.

    The thing with Kathy Sierra is that the images she used, you could actually understand the link with the text. I'm still not sure if there are any with most of the images you used in this post.

    You might also want to change the layout a bit to make it clearer if the images go with the text above or under it.

  3. Have you seen a picture of Jeff Atwood? He *looks* uber-serious. I think that explains a *TON*!

  4. Giles,

    Small relevant images along with the text might help set some context. But I agree with jean-francois that you are overdoing it. And as ben mentioned above, when I first read Atwood's post I instantly thought about you :-)

    You often post largish images which are not embedded in the text, but stand in their own horizontal line. By the time the reader scrolls past the image, the context set by the text before the image might be lost. I say "might" because I can't put a finger on what is it that irritates me about these images; I just know that they are irritating. :-)

    Taking Sierra's books as an example is not appropriate - the images there are small and do not interfere with the "flow" of the text.

    Nonetheless, I really think you will likely have something important to say. Hence I am still subscribed to this blog. :-)


  5. Needs. More. Random. Images!

    Joel of Joel on Software has a tendency to do this as well in some of his posts, although he does it much less in the last year or two. There will be a random image in there, some random picture of NYC, with no relationship to the text.

    While we're criticizing the head first books, I think the use of many, many stock images in Head First Design Patterns (the only book in the series I own) quickly becomes tedious and cliche. It's fun for the first few chapters, then you tune it out as noise.

    I'm all for images in posts, but images that contextualize and enhance the text, not images that distract and annoy. For an example of how to pack a book with tons of relevant images, take a look at any of Edward Tufte's books.

  6. Well, it's true I'm not Edward Tufte, but I'm probably going to keep the images.

    I admit the content is not always pedagogically valuable, but you pays your money and you takes your chances.


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