Work by the way continues in its odd rhythms. I'd mentioned the discovery that Bing Maps provides not just a tolerable substitute for the private software proving so difficult but that it's also surprisingly easy to program the way we need it to work. Well, I'd spent a lot of my office time working on, essentially, making little web services which should theoretically make it easy to match aerial maps and company database information with as little interaction as possible with the aerial maps. This proved to be a really good investment of my time: when I finally had all the support tools in place, they snapped into a respectably finished product with almost no effort.
Well, except. What I have is a nice scheme where you can give the index to the database, and get maps and a brief summary of our data. The boss likes that but also wants a long-sheet demonstration of data. I pointed out, repeatedly, that I can put whatever database in whatever format he wants; I just need some guide to what the people who will someday actually use this, whom I've never met and have only a vague idea about their actual existence, expect. He's reiterated how he wants long-sheet data. I reiterated that, sure, what should go on the sheets? I finally got some demonstrations of existing long-sheet forms which he described as ``looking pretty''.
They do not. They are deeply offensive to my sense of composition and graphic design, and they would surely offend anyone who had any sense of composition or graphic design. I believe the misunderstanding here is a belief that ``many colors'' is ``looking pretty''. I suppose it's well that color is assigned apparently randomly, as that avoids the usability issues of using color for critical information. But even simple things like having any kind of line of flow for the eye to follow is ignored. And this isn't for web pages printed out, either, where less-than-tight fitting might be expected; this is for over-engineered Visual Basic-based pages where I'm forced to imagine each element was placed where it was on purpose.
I did express my distaste for the existing templates, earning a mild grin from the boss, who seems to have believed I was trying a gentle witticism. What I need to do is look through these different templates, figure out what's put in common on them, and assemble that into the long-form report which ought to have been.
Trivia: Universal Studios hired Leonarde Keeler to evaluate the polygraph response of two undergraduates to seeing Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, data which was used for publicity and to improve its shock value. Source: The Lie Detectors: The History Of An American Obsession, Ken Alder.
Currently Reading: The Reader Of Gentlemen's Mail: Herbet O Yardley and the Birth of American Codebreaking, David Kahn.