Sunday, June 8, 2008

WriteColor(sm): MultiColoring for HighLighting/Rating Text


The Time Has Come To Open Our Eyes And Realize That The World Is A Carousel of Color


Here-WithIn-I-Offer-A-Proposal-That-I-Believe-ALL-Will-Recognize-As-The-Next-Logical-Step-In-How-We-Write-Read-Assess-Interpret-Text: The World-Is-No-Longer-Black-Or-White.

I Propose That All Give Serious Consideration To Writing-In-Color(s) , With Each Color Representing A Respective Level of Significance Within A Text.

The Visible Spectrum Would Be The Basis For The Relative Levels Of Significance Of Given Text WHERE

  • Text of Least Importance Would Be Highlighted In RED;
  • Text of Intermediate Importance Highlighted In GREEN;
  • Text of Greatest Importance Highlighted in VIOLET, and
  • Text of In-Between Importance Highlighted in Appropriate Colors: ORANGE, BLUE, INDIGO
Initially, TEXT would be COLORED at the PARAGRAPH LEVEL By The Author(s).

Adjoining OR Disjunct Sections of Text Could Have The SAME COLOR.

Upon Publication, The Reader Would Have The Ability To ReCOLOR The TEXT To
Reflect His/Her View On The Relative Significant Of Text In His/Her Opinion And/Or Relative To A Particular Purpose.

I also envision a feature by which
The Reader would be able to colorlight individual terms and/or phrases.

Readers would also have the ability to assess the value of The Overall TEXT by LABELING THE TEXT with One Color (Color Digg).


The Higher The Color, The More Significant The Text.

Any AND All Reactions To This Proposal Are Strongly Encouraged By Posting A Comment On This Entry.

BTW: Don't Even Think of Patenting This Idea - My Lawyers Are Bigger Than Yours [:-)


WriteColor(sm): Where Color is Primary(sm)

Purple Rules(sm)


Gordon, University of Illinois at Chicago said...

Philosophically I like the color ordering you propose, but there is a long history of culturally, socially, and functionally dictated rules. Most important to me, RED is seen as a universal (I speak for the US and western Europe here) signifier of important information. This is the opposite of your proposal.

Is there a compelling argument for bucking a very common convention to adopt the spectrum approach?

Gerry said...


I thought about this and related issues.

Certainly practices have to be taken into account, but ... standards may be one way of creating universal acceptance [?]



Kafkaz said...

Actually, lots of elementary students across the country are routinely required to colorize their essays, using highlighters of various colors to indicate topic sentences, examples, organizing statements, etc.

I always think of these essays as prisoners forced to wear pastel striped uniforms.

gabunt said...

Kafkaz's (is that the plural?)comment I think gets to the heart of the matter. Is our goal really to reach the level of elementary students? At some point we who supposed have some expertise as well as some wisdom need to distinguish between that which is "cool" and that which is actually useful. The meaning and significance of colors are culturally unique and therefore fundamentally non-universal in interpretation. Colors also presuppose a visual activity, ignoring a vast population of users for whom the visual is not the primary means of "reading".

Maybe instead of focusing so much on the visual presentation of written content we should focus on improving the actual quality of that content.

Herbert said...

Typographycal contrast is a key issue your're totally missing here. Also, using color (which is multidimentional) to address importance (as a unidenmentional matter) is just a waste.

Julia Bolton Holloway said...

Medieval manuscripts certainly used colour coding, as in fact had far more ancient texts, for instance the papyri of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where red is for divine locutions, etc. Early medieval texts alternated reds and greens, later ones, reds and blues, as a memory system for the reader. I replicate these already on my websites, and Why re-invent the wheel? This other system is based upon millennia of usage, only dropping out of practice because of printing's cost effectivness. Colour on the web is free!
Julia Bolton Holloway

Demeter said...

Did you consider people who are colour-blind?
I think colours are very culturally-sensitive; for example, red can mean danger or luck.
An interesting idea though.

Danielle said...

Obviously an interesting idea, however, as you seem to suggest, this is highly subjective--both what constitutes 'important' from one person to the next, and which colour would signal 'importance'. Then there are practical considerations--black print on a which background is certainly clearer than red print on white--accessibility should be an important consideration. I do not understand why red should be a universal for signifying importance either.

Anyway, the sort of scheme you suggest is probably in use, perhaps in a different form, in helping researchers categorise and determine which papers are more relevant or less relevant when screening through them.

Gary said...

Gordon's right: it's almost impossible to read a sentence with red in it without that drawing your attention first and appearing to be the most important statement. I'm not sure simply creating a 'standard' will remedy this.

How about inverting the order such that the colors nearest to black (and what we typically take as default/normal text now) would be least important?

Of course, one of the first questions I think of is why not just delete all the text of least importance? Save us all the time!

Presumably the color blind will have problems with this unless there are other markers as well.

There's also a part of me that worries that this removes much of the 'work' of reading that makes reading rewarding - as you consider what the author's written and how important it is.

Anonymous said...

what about all the folks who are color blind or color-challenged?

Mosby said...

Interesting theory, but totally inaccessible according to the WAI conventions on web accessibility:
"2.1 Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup." (from Anyone who is blind or color blind will not get what you're really saying.

Mark said...

What about people with visual impairments? A faculty member at my institution is 100% blind and relies on reading software for all web activity, including reading email.


Chris said...

So long as everybody can agree what the concept of "color" is.
Black and white can be thought of as universal because they express absolute lightness and absolute darkness. But the concept of what constitutes "Indigo" and what constitutes "Purple" is both personally and culturally subjective. It frequently breaks down over the natural environment: indigo is indigo because of the plant. The same color in Bengal is "eggplant," and I'm sure that in places where the periwinkle snail is unknown, the color is not thought of as periwinkle!
One other issue will be color blindness, which is a very real and very common condition. Alt tags anyone?

Library Blogger said...

I've been wondering for a while why you were doing this. I find it quite distracting. So much so that I don't read the post.



Anonymous said...

An obvious observation, I know, but those of us that are color blind find it difficult to view certain pages where colors are used in certain combinations.


Douglas said...

Maybe I'm just an old fogey, but I find the cacophony of colors VERY difficult to read smoothly.

-- Doug

Anonymous said...

You need to look into the accessibility laws covering the use of colors to convey meaning--I tested your page and differences you are wishing to communicate would be lost to individuals with various types of color blindness, or blindness in general.

If you are targeting education, or government, this approach could not be accepted.

tfeddern said...

Interesting idea, but what about the 9% of the world-wide population who are colorblind?

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Umm... You're joking, right. Red is the color of least importance? Did you notice that it stands out from the rest of the text in your post.

On Star Trek, did "Red Alert" mean, "Everyone take a coffee break now, the Klingons are in make-up."

Anyhow, the idea is just silly. Everyone is supposed to standardize around some arbitrary color pallet and decide what parts of what we're saying aren't important. For what? So that people can skim more easily? Give me a break.

JustMe said...

The idea of highlighting / signposting a document to make it's key messages stand out is not a new one. And I'll admit to being someone that likes to play with the colour options too. But I think that the CONTENT of the document needs to be the focus of attention, not the formatting.

Howabout using a journalist style of writing, so that the most important messages are at the top of the document, and the less important details are at the bottom. Written like a newspaper article, the reader could then stop at the point where they have enough information for their own needs - whether that's one paragraph in, or one paragraph from the end. I think Adrian Dale (TFPL) has talked about the style of writing.

And I've totally ignored that convetion in writing this entry!

Anonymous said...

I can't see it happening as significance is already denoted by the page and paragraph structure.

Murray Turoff said...

There was a good reason why on typewriter ribbons RED was the other color. It is central focus and makes a psychological impression on humans because it is startling and the color of blood. The artists through the color wheel understand color and humans can learn like a 7 +-2 category structure so the approach to a standard in a semi scientific manner would be the choice of the seven colors on the artist wheel by
inserting a seven side equal lateral figure one on point on the intense blood red position. something like this in child's coding for a set of compatible colors for art work (ROY BIV ...or something like that, that i forgot).

The current scheme is really the reverse start of what it should be.

Anonymous said...


you are missing out on the real direction of the future: Fontics (sm and Patent Pending). Yes, by using different fonts you can indicate the importance of each word, no, each character of a textual item. This system organizes the importance of text using the alphabetical order of the text fonts loaded on a computer, from Abadi MT Condensed Extra Bold to Wingdings 3. This completely eliminates the problem of differing color vision among individuals. Not only this but it brings back recognizable techniques from the early days of desktop publishing. Yes, once again we can mix together fifty different fonts in one document just like the pioneer days of personal computing only this time we can tell people there is true significance in choosing Lucida Sans over Trebuchet MS and maybe they "just "don't get it." So, there is a real advantage to Fontics(sm) over WriteColor(sm) which only makes a document look like an average MindSpace page..

But I have an offer for you: in partnership our two systems can take over the print and online world through the use of both the visible and nonvisible parts of the spectrum. Yes, why settle for the visible parts of the spectrum when there is so much more out there. In fact, let me illustrate by continuing my discussion through my newly patented nonvisible light online technology: ...
So there you have it. Refute that ! And don't attempt to use the technology because I have more money in my legal fund than Google earned on the first day they went public.


Anonymous said...

1.)Coloring the written content on a web page or a power point presentation does not always work.

There have been a number of presentations I have attended where you could not read what was on the powerpoint because of the color of the font and the lighting in the room.

2.)I have enough to do at work without adding the job of having to color the documents I create.

3.) What about professionalism?

Anonymous said...

forgot the most important point.
The spectrum is how physicists measure color based upon physics
It is one dimensional

The artist color wheel is how the human eye perceives color and it is two dimensional. The artists going back to the 19 century discovered it by perception experiments. It is only when we were able to do multidimensional analysis with computers to ask people to judge the similarity among colors that we found the resulting figure was the artist color wheel and was also a method to measure different forms of color blindness. One needs to know this for designing interfaces and not make the mistake of using the physical spectrum from physics.
I have been teaching interfaces for a long time and i have a write up on this area in a chapter of a never finished book under IS 732 course on my website.

FROM Murray Turoff

Anonymous said...

So much work, so little time, black & white is fine.


FROM Kathy

Anonymous said...

Can't help but notice that now the blog is written with this new WriteColor(sm) technique....and now I can't focus on the content. I'm just looking at the colours and trying to figure out whether I'm reading the article in the right flipping order. Richard Of York Gave Battle...

Janine said...

Interesting idea but turning it into practice may not be as simple as one would think.

There are certainly some very important aspects to be considered in this matter.

One is the meaning of color in different cultures which was mentioned before.

Another one is the multicolor text and the difficulty to actually read the text highlited in so many colors (some color are even too dark to allow for reading the text under it).

But there is a third issue: context. Depending on the purpose and context of reading or re-reading a book, the importance of the parts may change according to the subject of my interest at the time.

Unless it is an eBook and I can save it in different "versions of highlighting", once I read a book and colorcode it, it will be difficult to read it again and maybe even to make meaning out of used printed books that were highlighted by someone else, under a different light.


hopegreenberg said...

1) Colors? don't show up in my eReaders.
2)the order? if you are using the light spectrum then one would expect the order to have some meaning, i.e one end of the spectrum means more important, one means less important. For example, red is most important, orange slightly less so, while violet is least. But your order rather jumps around. If you want to use the colors as listed you will have to provide the key to what they mean on all docs at least until such time as the world sees it your way.
3) think of all those poor web designers, or art book creators, who have put so much time into their color choices only to be told that their choices are wrong and yours are right...

Silwni said...

I always use colour to annotate everything. In study units I use green for background reading, Purple for headings, dark blue for sub-headings, yellow for positive material, orange for negative etc. Many people do similar I am sure. But you have to consider colour-blind people and those who have sight/colour disabilites. No good having red highlight if people cannot see it for example. Colour is also a matter of taste - so red might mean good for someone but indicate a bad point for someone else.