Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Video Project

The following is a compilation of video taken with our camera of a Segway tour we took in 2007 at Walt Disney World.

I started off with Windows MovieMaker for Windows XP. At first I thought it was great, but then it started crashing every three clicks. I tried to look up a newer version of the one I had, but all the comments said that Windows MovieMaker would continue to crash so I abandoned it. I then found a free 30-day download of Corel VideoStudio. It took a little while to get the hang of the program, I’m sure it would have been faster if I had looked up some tutorials, but instructions, schmuctions – I figured I could figure it out for myself. I spent several hours on this video, getting all the clips and music in and then working on the fades and titles. I was finally getting the hang of it and I might go ahead and pay the $100 for the full version – we have a lot of video to process and make into a pleasant format. (Actually, when I went to embed the link to Corel, I found they had the software on sale for $39.99 – I bought it.) Also, the best part of the Corel VideoStudio for this project was that it has a YouTube button, which renders the video directly for YouTube. Sweet!

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Web Standards

As I researched this week’s topic of Web Standards I was struck by how important they are going to be to me in my future of interactive media and web design.

Designing with Web Standards is going to separate the true professionals from the friend of a friend who knows a bit of HTML. Web Standards are definitely going to be in our future as web designers, I can see the handwriting on the wall. So, I better take control of my learning and make sure that I become very familiar with the Web Standards.

Web Standards are vital to your design for the following reasons:

1. Findability – can a search engine parse your whole site and can consumers find your site? If your design is having to rely on the error correction of a web browser, how much information is lost or hidden from the search engines? Instead of spending tons of money on Search Engine Optimization, why not a least start-off with a site that the search engines can parse.

2. Interoperability – can your website be translated to different platforms seamlessly? Can your design go from the web to mobile to printer effortlessly?

3. Longevity of your design – by using Web Standards, a designer insures the longest possible life for that particular web site. As technology changes, many of the older formats or pieced together formats will no longer be able to be accessed. This trend is only going to accelerate.

4. Legacy – even after the designer is gone, maintenance and alterations to the system will be less time consuming and less costly to the business if the design adheres to Web Standards.

5. Accessibility – by designing with Web Standards, the designer is at least headed in the right direction with web accessibility. While the W3C admits that Web Standards are not a guarantee of accessibility to those with disabilities, it is a great start. Already there are laws on the books about making your site accessible to disabled persons here and in Australia, (with Europe not far behind.) The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is about to be re-released and I am sure that there will be a section in there about web sites. From my understanding of the revisions to the ADA – everything is being thrown in there, including the kitchen sink – but I digress…

I now realize from my research that I will need to know and practice the web standards in my design. I might as well learn the correct way to design right from the start and then it will become ingrained and I will always use the standards without thinking. Learning something the correct way the first time saves a lot of frustration down the road. If I don’t learn the standards now, I will only have to constantly stop and rethink everything instead of just automatically doing the design.
An example of this is my fellow handbell ringer, we will call him “Bob.” Bob started in our handbell choir 10 years ago in the very deep bass. Our conductor is very treble-focused so she pretty much ignored Bob and let him figure out how to ring on his own. Needless to say Bob picked up a lot of BAD habits – he didn’t know any better, Bob did what he could figure out how to play. Contrary to what it looks like, there is an art to ringing a handbell and there are also many things you just don’t do as it looks bad (handbell ringing is very visual) and it can make the bell sound weird. Two years ago, Bob was moved “up” the bell table to play next to me. Now he is in “sight” of our conductor who is now correcting Bob left and right. Bob is really irritated and frustrated at the constant correction, and many times he falls back on his bad habits instead of playing correctly – it is just human. He is slowly getting better, but I think he would be enjoying the new position a whole lot more if he knew how to play correctly in the first place – again I digress…
I know that I may run into a legacy situation or the oddball problem that may require a unique work around, but if the foundation of what I do is always grounded in Web Standards, then I know that I will be creating the most professional and, in the long run, cost effective design for my client. This is one of the major factors in setting me apart from the mediocre web designers out there.

Comments, questions, tips on playing handbells? Please let me know…

Resources:
The Future of Web Standards – This is a chapter from Jeffrey Zeldman’s book, Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition. I got a lot of my information from this chapter and I think this book is definitely going to end up in my library – especially since it was just updated this year.

The Web Standards Project – again a very good article.

W3C QA – How to Achieve Web Standards – interesting Q and A about web standards from the W3C.

Why Should a Web Site by Compliant with Standards? – lightweight blog about Web Standardsow

Twitter

I think the real issue with Twitter is this: people need at least two or more accounts targeted to different aspects of their life. For instance, if you are a professional, a person representing a business, or an “expert” in your field, then you need one Twitter account for your business and for passing on interesting and relevant information. Then that same person needs to have a personal Twitter account where their “followers” can stalk them as they publish such inane comments as “my toast is burnt, “ “my plane is delayed,” “I have jetlag,” and my personal favorite, “my cat just sneezed.”

Until this concept of having separate accounts for personal versus professional tweets catches on (and I have seen several people who do have two or more accounts) then I think Twitter will continue to turn off many people.

I have been following several people who supposedly are experts in web design or they represent a web design company. Yes, there are the occasional great tweets regarding a blog or article that is of interest to me. But I don’t know these people personally and I really don’t care that they are stuck in an airport in Singapore or that their hotel bed is lumpy. I have had to un-follow them because there are too many inane comments to wade through to get to the good information.

What impact does Twitter have? According to the first YouTube tutorial on this blog, Twitter’s impact is to allow people to connect to their friends in a unique way – small bit-sized pieces of life that happens between blog entries or phone calls. I disagree. I think the format invites people to publish “my bread is moldy” or “I think I lost a contact” to an audience (very narcissistic in my opinion). Because an entry can only be 140 characters long, Twitter only allows for one or two sentence updates that are usually absurd and of little quality. It feels almost like you are stalking who you are “following” and they are allowing you do so by publishing their every movement.

Other Uses for Twitter:

I have found several other uses for Twitter in my research:

Affiliate Marketer

By finding innovative ways to get people to pass information via Twitter or Facebook, companies can use each one of us as affiliate marketers to their products and services. How many times have you recommended a restaurant to someone and wish you could get something back in return for that referral from the restaurant – like free food? By giving me a kick back of some kind for microblogging about a favorite restaurant, I might be more inclined to answer someone’s query about where is a good place to eat east of 75 in Richardson.

Twitter as Search Tool

I have found out how to mine Twitter for information to a certain degree. One is by using search.twitter.com. The other key is in hashtags. By effectively searching on key hashtags, you can find information on general topics like #marketing, #media, etc. I can see how this would be very useful tool for keeping all of the tweets at a particular conference together. Also, you can search on particular hashtags.

Latest and Greatest Information on Breaking News

Twitter (and Facebook) are gaining great ground on being the source of information first. People are going to their Twitter accounts first to find out what is going on with a news story that is happening now. Twitter can be used to get information out quickly to a group of people, like firefighters or emergency personnel. I had a friend who went to the Tea Party March on Washington, D.C. in September. The Parks Service severely underestimated the crowd, so even though the original plan was to have everyone gather in one place, listen to speakers, and then go to the mall, the Parks Service needed everyone to go to the mall to listen to speakers. The organizers of the march were able to inform a good percentage of the attendees of the change of plans by Twitter. Twitter can be a very effective tool for crowd maneuvering and control.

Twitter as a Marketing Tool

There is a fine line between marketing on Twitter and it becoming spam. Using Twitter to market your product or service is going to be a delicate process. In the above article, a marketing gimmick with Moonshot turned attention to when is it considered advertising and when is it considered spam when it comes to Twitter. I know that I am very turned off when my friends on Facebook publish something about their company constantly. For example, I know a couple who are in some kind of travel network marketing company. If they had posted something once a month, I would have been fine with it, but they were publishing travel deals multiple times every day. When it becomes very obvious and in your face – it is spam.

From all the articles I have read, I do think that Twitter has great potential, but as I said at the beginning of this blog, people really need to get the concept of having two or more accounts and they really need to stop mixing personal comments with professional ones. I believe this alone is why so many people are turned off of Twitter when they first encounter it, they cannot see beyond the inane chatter.

Mashups

Open Mashup Alliance (OMA)

The Open Mashup Alliance is a consortium “that promotes the adoption of mashup solutions in the enterprise through the evolution of enterprise mashup standards like EMML.” Through the support of open source code and the use of EMML, the OMA hopes to eliminate vendor lock-in and make the development of enterprise mashups more lucrative and viable. I think that without the standardization of EMML and the move toward open source code under a Creative Common License propelled and supported by the OMA, the usage of enterprise mashups will not reach its expected increase of tenfold by 2015. The future of computing for business is going to include mashups and just like web standards set by the W3C, hopefully the OMA will be able to influence companies to join the proposed mashup standards. Companies like HP, Intel and Adobe have already signed to support the OMA, but many more companies are going to have to join before standardization becomes a reality. And as we all know, there will always be the hold outs that want to keep their developments proprietary, but I don’t think that mindset is really going to work for companies in the world going forward.

Business Intelligence and Mashups

In this article, Lorraine Lawson brings up the issue with mashups and business. Many businesses have invested in Business Intelligence mashups and are not happy with the results. The issue seems to be the user not the technology. In a quote from IDC analyst, Dan Vessett, “The core issue here is not one of BI failing. Technology is almost never the issue. It’s the ability for IT to create and/or align the right technology for the needs of the business users.” I agree. This comes back to something we discussed in class, the need to know your client’s users and know them very well. What information do they want and what is the best solution to get the user the required information? Lawson also brings up the idea of delighting you users by going above and beyond. I agree with this philosophy 100%, probably from my many years of working for Disney where we were taught to exceed guest expectations. This is one reason the Disney Parks stand out from other theme parks, the exceeding of guest expectations. I think we need to take this philosophy into the design industry with us, whether we are designing mashups, web sites, or apps for the iPhone. Ultimately when we exceed the user’s expectations, we will most assuredly exceed our client’s expectations.

Enterprise Mashups

This article brought up to me the potential for conflict between the non-developer who goes off and makes a mashup and the IT department. While the non-developer is quickly solving a business need, without taking up valuable resources of the company and by-passing the bureaucracy of getting a project prioritized and funded, they could be attempting to access data that needs to be secure. The IT department needs to have some governance over the mashup to insure security of the data and also to insure legacy. There will need to be some sort of documentation of what was created so if that employee leaves the company, other people can improve or revise the existing mashup as new information and technology is created. I could also see the potential , depending on the corporate culture for a particular company, for the IT department to feel threatened by the non-developer’s creation of a mashup and for there to be “turf wars” in the world of corporate politics

Widgetbox
This is a site to create and find widgets.

Programmable Web
Great inventory list of APIs with reviews.

Podcasting and Vodcasting

Podcasting versus Radio

In this blog by Tim “Gonzo” Gordon, he brings up the differences in radio versus podcasts. This blog pointed out the trend of radio stations to be very homogenized by the virtue off being owned by large corporations, and therefore they do not have any personality. I hadn’t really noticed this, but now that I think about it, it is true. The style of radio that I listened to when I was a teen is really a thing of the past. I have also noticed that the three stations I predominately listen to now are locally owned and the deejays are actually personable. Podcasts on the other hand do have personality and allows the listener to find a topic they actually want to listen to. Radio is like Web 1.0 – a totally push medium. You take what they dish out. But podcasts, while not interactive, do allow the listener the freedom of choice, and there is quite the variety of topics out there for choosing. Also, I can see the advantage of podcasts over radio in situations, like flying, where you cannot get a radio station.
I do think that as more people become comfortable with iPods and MP3 players (and of course the iPhone) that podcasts are going to make serious inroads into the listening audience for radio. It already has for talk radio. Most major programs have podcast archives of their shows. I don’t think radio will ever go away totally, but I do think the advent of the podcast is going to have a big impact on radio. Gordon seems to think that it will cause stations to have deejays with more personality. I think it is going to change the radio industry more than that. In what ways, I’m not sure, but I do think that the radio industry will look completely different 5 to 10 years from now. Will we even recognize it?

Podcasts and Business

In this article, the author, Matt Jostal writes about the importance of business using podcasts (and I would imagine eventually vodcasts) in reaching existing customers and potential customers. As Jostal points out, the influx of email that a person gets everyday relegates a company’s attempts at e-mail communication to spam. It is very often ignored and deleted. I liked his point about the fact that most people are actively looking for a podcast which means that they are already interested in your company or product. It is a much more effective way of marketing when your potential client is already “warm.” Also people are more likely to sit through several minutes of listening or viewing as opposed to reading a long page of copy – therefore the retention is also going to be higher.
I also liked the point about the demographics of those with iPods and MP3 players and that a company could very easily target that younger group of potential customers. BUT, I think that the demographics are quickly going to change in the next few years as older generations finally embrace the technology. Businesses will have to monitor the demographics closely and modify their message to reflect the change.
I think this is the next step in effective advertising. We are going to see more and more pod and vodcasts that are able to get a company’s message or information across to a more targeted audience. This is going to open up the market for the production of good quality pod and vodcasts tremendously and those wishing to get into advertising should take heed of this trend.

Podcasting and Politics

In this article, Kate Lundy, a Senator in Australia, shares her first impressions of the impact vodcasting can have on her communications with her constituents. In an experiment run in August, it showed that the time spent at Senator Lundy’s website increased by 45% after adopting vodcasting as a form of communications. It also appears to have driven more activity on her blogs, Twitter and other channels of feedback from her constituents.
I believe this is due to the fact that video helps people “see” more of the political process and get a better feel for who their representatives really are. As constituents feel more “tied in” they will tend to voice their opinions more readily and also hopefully get more involved at their local levels. I think we are only beginning to scratch the surface right now with the impact that technology can have on an electorate. Here in our country the Tea Party movement has been largely driven by immerging technologies like pod and vodcasting as well as other Web 2.0 innovations.

MixCloud

What is MixCloud. Well they claim they are going to be the YouTube of radio. I agree with this blogger – I don’t think so. The site is worth checking out though. I dug around a little bit. It combines social media and podcasts to create a site for people to post both professional and amateur mixes of mostly music. There are a few talk podcasts but the ones I found were about 2-3 years old. I did not spend a lot of time on MixCloud, but you might want to give it a spin.

Mobile Web Design

Rethinking the iPhone’s Role in Computing

This article raises an interesting question about the iPhone. Is the iPhone a computer that happens to make phone calls or is it a phone that has huge computing capabilities. Tim Bajarin compares the iPhone to the Palm Pre and the Blackberry in this article and points out the huge gap between the iPhone and other PDAs. I think that Apple’s decision to go more toward a computer that happens to make phone calls is going to revolutionize the telephony, computer, and design industries. I believe that eventually, the iPhone will be your “pocket” computer and when you get home, you will put it in some sort of docking station where it will be hooked up to a monitor, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals and people will no longer need to have a laptop or a desktop unit. Just as many people are getting rid of their landlines in favor of just using their cell phones, mobile users will just have their “pocket” computer. Especially in light of all of the cloud computing options available as well as the many ways to have all of your documents and files to be web-based, these factors will only accelerate the move toward the handheld computer, in my opinion. The question then becomes, will the other companies continue to add computing features to a phone or will they follow the Apple path?

Designing for the Mobile Web

This is a fabulous article that goes through seven steps that a mobile web designer needs to think about and various aspects to be aware of as they design for the ever increasing mobile web market. Brian Suda takes you step by step through the initial considerations a designer must take. A couple of things struck me as I was reading this article. One, the decision whether or not to have a separate mobile web URL, a subdomain, or allowing the server to detect the device you are using is a really important decision for the designer. I personally would design a subdomain. I cannot tell you how many times (borrowing my husband’s iPhone) that I go to the mobile web site or it is a case of the server detecting the device, and the site provided does not contain the information or the capabilities that I need. I get incredibly frustrated that I cannot go to the “original” website to get to what I need. Secondly, this also leads into the very important aspect of knowing your visitor and providing the correct mobile web content for them. As designers, are we providing the access the visitor wants in an easily attained manner or does the visitor have to go through ten clicks to get to their desired destination? Lastly, this then brings up designing for the “stubby, fat finger” that is the new stylus. The iPhone has created an environment with only one button and your finger. Are the menus too close together, is it too difficult to log-in, or do you try to click one thing and get another? I liked how Suda points out that iTunes allows the user to set up a mobile profile that already has their log-in information and settings and then gives the user a unique URL to connect to via their mobile device. I think that Apple again is leading the way in how we will eventually be designing this capability into a good majority of our websites, especially if the website contains e-commerce.

The App Gold Rush

This blog discusses the boom in app production and as designers we need to be aware of this blossoming industry. As another career path, we may be designing apps to be used in mobile computing. The blog discusses Zinga, Yahoo, and the big daddy of them all, the Apple App Store. The statistics are incredible and I can easily see myself in this career, in fact it holds quite the appeal to me. I believe that this industry spin off of the mobile web design phenomenon is only going boom as the iPhone leads the pack and the other manufacturers try to catch up. App design is something that even web designers need to be aware of as they design a site. Would it be advantageous to the company that you are designing a website for to have an app that would lead customers to their door or add revenue to their bottom line? For example, let’s say The Cheesecake Factory had an app for the iPhone where you threw cheesecakes at targets for points. If your High Score reaches a certain level for the week or the month, then the user receives a $5 gift card from The Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory can then imbed ads and gift card purchase opportunities within the app. So besides the advertisement value, the app could also be a profit center for the restaurant chain. I think we are only beginning to grasp the design potential of the app boom.

On the Clock

This article is pretty silly, but it does bring up the potential of always being on the clock with your employer, especially if your mobile device is provided by the company. I believe that the web design work environment is going to change in the next few years to more designers working from home or at least not in a brick and mortar office. Therefore, your mobile device, whether it is an iPhone or other cell phone, will be an integral part of your career. I have too many friends that are “on call” 24/7 because of this mobile age, especially if the phone is company owned. As future employees, we will need to be aware of this phenomenon and be prepared to take a stance on whether being always available is part of the job or just a boss taking advantage of your time. Time is our most precious commodity and if I am available 24/7, then I have just taken a HUGE pay cut.

Fun Theory

Okay, so this is a VW ad on YouTube, (Thanks to StumbleUpon) but it does point out that as designers we need to think about the visitor having fun on our sites or with our apps. The more fun and appealing we make our sites and apps, the more we stand out from the competition and this translates to more hits and downloads. So, as designers we can no longer just have informative or pretty sites or apps, people want to be entertained. Apple has definitely raised the bar with the iPhone and its capabilities and we need to take design to the next level and make websites and apps appealing on a whole new level – fun.

Collective Intelligence

Wisdom of the Crowd
I really liked this article and the accompanying video by Michael Krigsman. It brought up some very good points about collective intelligence and four elements are needed for it to work and if one of the four items is missing, the whole collective intelligence gathering falls apart. These are definitely things to consider as I move forward in my design career.
As a side note, it was brought up that the designer needs to take into consideration how questions are asked or phrased, because it will influence the information you receive back. In the future, as I help my clients mine for information from the collective intelligence of their particular audience, I will certainly have to take this into consideration. A carelessly phrased question or a badly worded task description will not produce valuable responses, but instead will produce answers that are biased by my poor construction. Definitely this is something to keep in the back of my mind.

Marketing
This article by Daniel Nations brings up the important point that in today’s world, you need people to submit content to your site even before the site is “open for business.” Marketing plays an important role in the success of the launch of a new web site. In the past a site would be launched and then slowly users would come. This paradigm is shifting to where you must market your site so that you have users prior to launch so that content is already there. Without said content, new users will not be attracted to your site. It is quite the paradox.
This made me think that besides good marketing and issuing a beta version to peak interest what other ways can a designer and marketing team use to get users to contribute content? The Michael Krigsman article above mentioned getting users to want to contribute for “selfish reasons.” How do you go about that exactly? The desire to make something better, fame, or what? I can see that I will be pondering this topic for awhile. I would appreciate any feedback on this.

Project Management
The now available Web 2.0 tools are radically changing project management in the business world, not only in how projects are run and how the members of the team interact, but it is also changing the management style of the project leader. Andrew Filev wrote in a 2007 blog about his anticipation of the changes from both inside the company and outside the company with regards to harnessing of the collective intelligence of the team members and the outside users. In this more current blog, Filev gives his current perception of the role of a project manager and what they will have to do differently to “control” the group.
I can definitely see the advantages of using collective intelligence tools to enhance the work environment. In the last company I worked for there was such a disconnect between departments, one would find out a key piece of information, but it would only be disseminated by “accident.” So many times two or three departments would be doing the same tasks with only slight variations. Or better yet, one department would continue to put man hours into a project that other departments knew was dead.
In order to compete financially in the information age, I predict that companies will have to adopt collective intelligence tools to effectively use fewer people to do less work. This is also going to have a huge impact on where employees are located. In the future, I could foresee that many companies may not have a “brick and mortar” location. Their employees could easily be scattered across the globe and the need for an actual worksite would be a waste of money.

Also as a side note, I found a little site that would be fun to put on your Netvibes account; WordSpy. It looks for new and emerging words and phrases that are being used on the web. Be the first kid on the block to know what peep culture, digital nomad, and bleachorexia means.