Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Danny Choo

To add to the collection of photo blogs reviewed so far, I would like to do a short review on dannychoo.com, a multi-media blog about Japan, Japanese sub-culture, and the excursions of Danny Choo as he strolls through Tokyo or travels the globe. The blog also supports a large web community of people around the globe and includes features that allow for these users to interact beyond the traditional post and thread of replies.

Although there are a few usability concerns with the site, the site is still a constant work-in-progress and tends to change as the author adopts new technologies and integrates them with his blog. Part of the fun of following this blog is watching the experimentation the author puts into displaying and placing information on his site.

Upon first loading the website, users are prompted if they are new guests or current users if their browser's cache is empty. New guests are generally greeted with links to posts that resemble scattered pictures when rendering in the browser, which eventually organize into a stream of click-able photos. These photos are appended with the title of a blog post, the date posted, the number of views and the number of replies. Clicking on a photo will bring the user to the associated blog post that contains the traditional reply thread as well as an assortment of media features including a detailed gallery of photos of the covered event and embedded Youtube links. This presentation is relatively new to the blog and is also rather slow to load: regular users are recommended to follow the "current reader" link which directs readers to a portal page that loads faster and gives users quicker access to the latest posts to the blog. The first visit to the "current reader" page is stored in the browser cache, thus setting the page as the default landing page so that returning readers can access information faster.

The current user's portal page organizes posts into 3 areas:
1. The right-hand column is an optimized version of the aforementioned
photo roll with category filter functionality. The visualization of the blog
post stats appended onto the picture is still available in this scaled down
2. The left-hand column is reserved for the last 10 blog posts at a glance
with a thumbnail and text summary.
3. The top of the page contains a line-up of thumbnails that represent as well as link
to mobile blog posts created from the author's iPhone.

It should be noted that blog posts are usually posted in both Japanese and English: language change can be toggled by clicking the appropriate flag icon within the title bar of a selected post. In some cases, there are posts that are made in more than 2 languages.

Perhaps one of my favorite recent features implemented is the functionality that allows users to generate a selection box and write corresponding comments directly on the pictures in each blog post. Pictured below is an example:

These comments and associated boxes appear when a reader does a mouse-over on that picture: they gracefully fade away when the mouse is moved away. This type of interaction is sometimes used to augment information onto the photo and is also used to point out particular details or specifically point out curiosities. It can be interesting to see what conversations actually happen "within" the pictures themselves than in the reply thread.
The interaction illustrated in the above photo (as well as the photo itself) can be found at this link.

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