The last week..

21 05 2009

I’ve just been doing the readings for week 12.

I know the first reading, the ‘Day In The Life’ was written in 2006 and based on a 2005 study, but it seems rather obvious to me. I’m not sure if that’s how much the web has infiltrated our lives in the last 3 years, but none of the information presented in this report was really surprising.

Like the man who was the case study in this article, I also go immediately to the web for extra information on anything that interests me. Tickets for concerts that I’ve seen advertised, more information on news stories, information in a format that I appreciate. It just makes sense. Where I differ from this man, though, is that I could certainly go a week without internet (and intend to, starting this weekend!).

I found all the stuff about online advertising interesting, because although the research in the report shows that just seeing an ad online increases a customer’s chances of purchasing goods from the advertiser, I really don’t think that’s the case for me. I mean, maybe it is and I just don’t know it..

I tend to completely ignore online ads, so much so that I couldn’t even tell you what the last one I saw was for. I also have disdain for them, so I think that any company I see online might be lowered in my estimation. But am I just being naive? Have I actually received subliminal messages that have affected my purchases? I don’t know. But I don’t think so.

There are a couple of interesting articles about the effectiveness of online advertising at dynamic logic, and there’s an interesting Reuters article from last year regarding online advertising.

A few things from this week.

Firstly, a couple of blogs that are Australian and that I love – because they’re weird and geeky – Organic Defect and Clyde the Penguin. Both absolutely brilliant!

Also, I’ve updated the group project page with a couple of things that I’ve discovered you can do with WordPress, like the widgets and how to create a page that’s hidden in the navigation bar.

Also – I’m getting married on Saturday and today I feel like CRAP. Damn flu. But my fiance’s brother arrived last night with his wife, who is a nurse, and she’s assured me that I’ll be better by Saturday.

I’m going to go have a lie down now 🙂


So close..

17 05 2009

So, I’ve just had a look at the readings for this week, and I can see that they’re useful for people who are creating functional websites from scratch. I, however, still don’t really know how to write HTML (though I did learn about HTML colour values so that I could change the colours etc of our group project to suit the look that we wanted to go for – see my group project page for updates).

Sometimes I have a look at the HTML viewer for this site, just to see if I can figure the HTML out, but it’s really beyond me at this stage. Must do some more research!

In terms of error messages – gee they bug me! Some sites don’t even have error messages – they just keep taking you back to the screen where you’ve made an error, and making you guess to see what you’ve done wrong.

Others ask you for information you can’t give, and some just make the whole process a nightmare.

Gmail has a really annoying message that says ‘Some Gmail features failed to load’, but it won’t tell you what they are or how to fix them.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox also gives some good examples of error message etiquette, not unlike Duyne, Landay and Hong.

There’re also a couple of funny examples on this blog, and here‘s a geeky list of the thirteen best ever error messages.

Not much else happening, except the crazy wedding planning and trying to get everything else done. But that’s old news, really, isn’t it? The good news is that I think everything will be done in time.

Just heading over to my Group Project page now to do a bit of an update on what’s been happening.

Distractions, distractions

12 05 2009

As if it’s not enough to have all of the end-of-semester stuff due, I’m also planning my wedding, which is to take place in 11 days. Holy moly!

I seem to be getting distracted from my schoolwork by wedding planning, and distracted from the wedding planning by the schoolwork, so I’m kind of beginning to feel like I’m getting nothing done at all! Argh!

Anyway, having said that, I have read last week’s and this week’s readings, so I’m thinking this might be quite a long blog post.. steel yourself.

Firstly, I think it’s completely ridiculous of Fairfax to try and protect their headlines with copyright – really, as the article points out, stating the facts can hardly be considered an original literary work. What will we do if we can no longer write ‘Sam Newman is a tool‘, or ‘Swine Flu panic more dangerous than flu itself‘? It’s a ridiculous idea, as these themes are likely to come up quite often. This exact issue is why we have the fair use policy in place – so people can report on current issues without having to check every single word for originality (good luck with that, I say!).

The second article from week 9, ‘The Poachers and Stormtroopers’, raises some good points about cultural appropriation, and to be honest it’s not an issue that I can comment on particularly confidently. Being a (sometime) writer myself, censorship is something that I disagree with quite strongly, and the fans who appropriate certain material to create something new are surely benefiting personally from the process of creation, as are the people who read and enjoy the new material.

Having said that, I understand that the issue of poaching and misrepresentation of a brand or product is something that needs to be monitored in terms of a company or franchise’s reputation. Even though Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy had a romantic relationship on a PG show, we wouldn’t want to see them in a sexual clinch, would we? That’s not how they exist in the minds of the purist fans.

To sum up, I’m not sure where I stand. It’s a tricky one, but I’d say that in the end it should come down to whether the original artist/producer feels that the misrepresentation of their product will be detrimental to the company as a whole.

I guess Lessig is of the opinion that creativity is the most important aspect of cultural commentary and creation, and demonstrates this by making his book free for all to appropriate to their hearts’ content. And this is really the crux of it – he issues prior consent, and although it works for him, I doubt that it will be  a concept that takes off within the creative industries. He makes a good point, but a lonely one.

I also had a read of week ten’s articles, and have been trying to think about how best to apply them to our chocolate website. See my ‘Project’ link for more details.

I also found a great design blog called Vandelay Design that lists 50 websites with ‘gorgeous naviation menus’. It’s worth a look! There’s also a list of sites that display creative navigation. The examples are really cool, but I think it might be a bit much for my simple tech-brain to figure out for our site.

Finally, I found the article about writing headlines to be pretty useful, because I write articles for a few of our magazines at work, and the headline is always the part that I struggle with the most. I tend to fall into puns very very easily (I attribute this to my awesome sense of humour, naturally).

Well, that’s it for me for now. Off to plan some essays/last minute dress fittings/class presentations/paper lanterns and alcohol delivery.

A chain is only as strong as its..

29 04 2009

I think this saying is quite apt in light of the readings for this week.

If the links on your page are either weak or non-existent, then the chain of communication (or web, as Rosen puts it) will be broken. Weak links (like those that direct you to pages that aren’t there, or types of files that won’t load) are severely detrimental to your web page, effectively rendering your page the weak link in the chain of communication.

If I visit a page without links, I might look around for a bit, leave, and not go back. A lack of links gives the visitor an impression of a stagnant website that doesn’t draw from external sources, doesn’t want to share its knowledge, and doesn’t refer to anything other than itself. It’s a dead-end. In short, the message is to love the link.

Gradual engagement kind of reminds me of meeting someone for the first time. You don’t say to them, ‘Well, before I get to know you I’d like to know your home phone number, how much money you make and why you’re at this party.’ You shoot the breeze for a bit, and then if you get along, you might possibly exchange some more information, some contact details etc. Nobody wants to put themselves out there all at once – you want to suss things out first, just as you want to suss out a web page’s services before you actually let them have you as a member.

Websites: make friends with your users!

In other news, as I sit here adding albums to my iPod on iTunes, Apple is being sued for shutting down an online discussion about how to use iPods without iTunes. Seems Apple is a bit miffed that their stranglehold on the mp3 market is being loosened.

Google has also launched an information-finding network to rival Wolfram Alpha. On the official Google Blog, a blogger writes:

Since Google’s acquisition of Trendalyzer two years ago, we have been working on creating a new service that make lots of data instantly available for intuitive, visual exploration. Today’s launch is a first step in that direction. We hope people will find this search feature helpful, whether it’s used in the classroom, the boardroom or around the kitchen table. We also hope that this will pave the way for public data to take a more central role in informed public conversations.

This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more.

With Wolfram Alpha’s launch looming, it will be interesting to see what happens.

A new study has also shown that a large percentage of people who sign up to Twitter lost interest after a month. Facebook and MySpace apparently have a much higher user retention rate. I only signed up today, because I’m always behind the trends. I can see the appeal of Twitter, but I think if I were faced with a block of spare time, I’d probably find other things to do.

Like write an essay. See you tonight!


1 04 2009

I just watched EPIC 2014 for the second time. It’s an interesting take on the world of journalism, both print and online. I found the doomsday tone of voice and the sombre music to be a little off-putting, but I suppose what Sloan and Thompson were trying to do was posit the world of journalism in a post-apocalyptic type setting, and to that end their presentation is quite effective.

I also found the newer version of this video here – named EPIC 2015. It’s been updated to include things like iPods and GPS positioning. It’s still pretty much the same premise, though.

As for the idea of EPIC itself, it doesn’t seem wildly far-fetched (perhaps just a smidge dramatic!). Such an information network is probably inevitable, it’s just that the effects of such a system don’t necessarily have to be as intense as portrayed here.

Judging from the past week, which brought the cessation of print runs for several long-running newspapers and magazines in favour of online versions, we’re heading towards tough times for print media. This means that the existing print media companies need to really focus on how to stay current in the digital age.

The idea of the New York Times being a newsletter for the elite and elderly is a little scary, but personally, I don’t think that such an iconic pillar of the media will be taken down so easily.

I also can’t imagine that an all-encompassing online world information system will necessarily phase out the existing (highly regarded) news services.  With no journalists, and the majority of the editing being done by computers, it seems that a system such as EPIC wouldn’t be a particularly reliable source of information. Much as Wikipedia’s content is user-based and not always fact, EPIC would struggle without proper research and editorial processes.

Sloan doesn’t think that this view of the future is a prophecy either, saying that all he was hoping to acheive with this presentation was “to illustrate the fact that the various monopolies of the large media organizations are currently being threatened by many of the new online services.” He adds that if there were to be such a “crazy integrated suite of Google services that will rule the world”, it wouldn’t be too big a deal.

Yesterday I posted a link to a blog about preparing for the onset of online news monopoly, by Patrick Kuras. I see EPIC 2014 as a similar sort of commentary, portentous for the purpose of making the news conglomerates aware that they have to diversify if they’re to ward off obsolescence.

Check out my Blogwatch for updates on GrammarBlog.

Away from the sunshine.

31 03 2009

Today has been a long day. Plenty of procrastination (oh what a clean bedroom I have!), eating, exercise, and a fair amount of internet trawling.

So, it looks like the Ann Arbor News will be following in the footsteps of Seattle’s Post-Intellegencer, and only publishing online, and there are others – Blender will now only be found online, and Maxim will be amalgamating its online and print versions.

Patrick Kuras has some interesting ideas about how we might approach publishing (particulary of newspapers) in his blog post ‘How to Save the Newspaper’. It’s not so much a guide to navigating the impending shift from print to digital, but the prompting of a discussion regarding how we can be best prepared for the change.

In other news, Hewlett Packard have started a web publishing venture called MagCloud, that allows consumers to publish their own magazines for 20c per page. HP are hoping that subverting the skyrocketing prices of bulk publishing will make this venture instantly successful. I can’t help but think, however, that in this age of blogging and self-publishing online, it might quickly lose its novelty value, and those who can write will do so for free online, and save themselves 20c a page.

Nelson Yee has also written an interesting blog post about our progression from web users to those who are used by the web, or use it in a new, more commercial sense. It’s a pretty interesting examination of how we’ve adapted to the web, and how the public perception of the web and its content has also altered.

Well, I think that’s it from me for now. I can see the backyard, and the sunshine, and it’s just too tempting. I’ll try to write more tomorrow, after finishing the readings. Have put a bit more on the Blogwatch page – have a look.

Til later!

Neville, new readings, and a love of the cold.

17 03 2009

Guess what? You know how last week I was thinking of calling my blog Neville? Well, over the weekend I actually met someone called Neville at a karaoke place. Amazing, right? No? Well I thought it was pretty incredible.

Also, I’m loving the cold weather. I am sitting here with slippered feet as I type. Goodbye, excessive heat. Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

I’ve just been looking at this week’s readings. The Dung Beatles. Hilarious! AND – wonder of wonders – there’s actually a faeces-themed Beatles tribute band with that name. You can find more about them and their brilliant scatological song names here. ‘Hard Day’s Shite’ is a highlight of their tracklist.

Anyway, let’s get to the info in the readings, which I really enjoyed this week. It drives me crazy when websites are really badly designed and put together, because – as I’ve mentioned before – I’m not the sharpest knife in the web drawer, if you know what I mean, so I need things on the www to be as simple as possible.

There’s a website called Web Pages That Suck (can you guess what’s coming?) that lists websites that are really poorly designed. Have a look – some of them really are staggeringly bad! This one is the number one site for terrible navigation, but this one really takes the cake – voted worst site overall in 2008. It’s so bad it almost caused me severe internal contusions, such was my shock.

These are some stellar examples of how not to design a web page. There are also articles to help you assess your own website’s suckiness. The funny thing is that Web Pages That Suck isn’t designed overly well. It’s aesthetically unappealing, difficult to navigate from the homepage, and full of poorly placed ads that flood the actual content. Go figure.

There’s also a great website called The World’s Worst Website that was created as badly as possible to show you what to avoid. It’s pretty effective – it’s absolutely horrible! There are some really good points on there, too.

I thought that the principles of web design as outlined in Jonathan Lane’s article would have been fairly evident (ie. simplicity and functionality), but it seems that this is not the case out there on the web. So, I’m kind of excited to work on my own (with my group, of course) because, being the kind of person that I am, I think I could come up with something that looks a whole lot better than a great deal of existing websites.

I’ve done a little bit of Dreamweaver stuff, but not heaps and I wouldn’t say I’m overly comfortable with it, so I’m off to do the tutorials. Oh World Wide Web, I’ll conquer you yet!