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Comment of the Fortnight
8 November 2000
The U.S. Presidential Election

The voting day for the U.S. Presidential election is over; the election itself isn't, as no winner has been determined as of 8 November 2000. Both the electoral college and popular vote are extremely close. This means that at least half of my fearless prediction is wrong -- whoever wins will not have won by a comfortable margin. So much for my crystal ball.

The newspapers and magazines will be bleeding ink, and the political websites will be bleeding electrons, all over this for the next few weeks. After a winner is determined I'll give you my opinions of the result. In the meantime, let me give you a really horrible thought: what if the Florida recount ends up in a tie? (There. I feel much better now.)

In a non-political vein, here are two techno-geek-oriented comments about the election:

User Interface Really Is Important

Apparently the folks in Palm Beach County were confronted by an incredibly poorly designed ballot. Here's a picture of it. I can see how some of the elderly residents of that county might have been confused. My mom, who is in her late 70s and lives in a different Florida county, didn't even see the names of the candidates other than Bush and Gore on her ballot. I herewith propose that we draft Jakob Nielsen as commissioner of elections for the state of Florida.

When Typesetters Attack

In the world of typesetting, kerning refers to the spacing between letters. If you look closely at the word “Vote” in a book or magazine, you'll notice that the “o” is actually partially underneath the “V.” When done correctly, kerning makes the text look subtly better. When done incorrectly, as in the word “NATION” in this headline from the San Jose Mercury News, the effect is neither subtle nor better.

Click picture for closeup of kerning error

Let me know what you think.

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