Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Writing for the Web

Ran across a fairly decent article on writing for the web. It's posted here mainly so I can go back later and read it in detail:


It isn't the best written article on this subject I've read, but it does a pretty good job summarizing the main points to remember when writing for a webpage.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pain in the Brain - Scoring and the Answers

If you haven't taken the exam yet, click here to take it!

Scoring: # of Correct Answers - Rating 12 - Cheater! 10 or 11 - Strong Thinker - You will do well. 7,8, or 9 - Normal - You could do well. 4,5, or 6 - Slow - I hope you do well! 1,2, or 3 - Bonehead - I will pray that you do well. 0 - Brain dead - we will bury you in a well!

1. There are 12 of anything in a dozen.

2. 6 outs in an inning (3 for each team).

3. If you take away two, then you have, duh, 2!

4. Of course they have a 4th of July in England. It's just no big deal there.

5. If a man has a widow, then he must be dead to begin with.

6. Everyone only has one birthday. Kinda hard to be born on 2 different days.

7. 60 minutes. You take the first one now, the 2nd one in 30 minutes.......

8. All of them. Some have MORE than 28!

9. 70. Divide by a half is the same as multiply by 2.

10. Nine still stand. Go back and reread the question.

11. None. It was Noah, not Moses. 12. Because seven ate nine!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Information Overload

Ran across this on Guy Kawasaki's blog:
Ten Questions with Seth Godin Question: Why don’t you check your Technorati ranking? Answer: Because the data won’t change my actions. Getting data for no good reason just drives you crazy. The secret is to get very flexible in the face of data you care about—changing your x every time you see y changes—and incredibly inflexible in the face of data you don’t care about.
The inside joke here is that Guy made a hobby of getting into the Technorati 500, and then the 100. He succeeded, too. In my case, doing such a thing wouldn't help pay any bills. It might have in HIS case, though. I love how Seth phrased it - "Getting data for no good reason just drives you crazy". We are bombarded with so much information that it can drive you into a state a paralysis. My personal problem - given I have a tendency to want as much information as possible before acting - is figuring how when to begin ignoring additional input, and just do something. Seems to me that you have to learn to decide when enough is enough, cultivate quality sources of information, and keep your eye on the prize - the goal.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Get A Freelancer observation

I joined getafreelancer.com a few weeks ago - I've placed a couple of bids, and have won one job so far. It has been fascinating watching the projects that come up on my 5-times-a-day emails.....and the bids that come through. Quite a few of the projects are from people who apparently think that having 1500 articles that are keyword rich will make their site successful......but they are willing to only pay $50 for 1000 articles. There are also a lot of obviously pre-fabricated bids on projects - often with terrible grammar. I wonder if those companies ever get any work. Why would anyone assume that you could get quality copywriting - articles - by paying $1 a page? I've also seen projects where someone wants a Flash intro page plus a 35-page site - and it has to be modern, high quality design, mind you - but they have a $100 budget. Maybe I should start thinking of getafreelancer as a flea market instead of a project area.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Flash and small biz websites

As a long-time web designer for small businesses in the mniddle Georgia area, I've been watching the growth of Flash (from Macromedia - oops, now Adobe).

When Flash started appearing on the scene, it was hailed as the end-all be-all, and was used for all sorts of goofy things. Then there was a backlash - search engines didn't know anything about Flash, so designers decided to use Flash for just some bells and whistles.

Now, it seems the industry has matured to the point where Flash is - as it should be - just another tool in the web designer's arsenal. (There's a corollary in music and the 12-tone music of Arnold Schoenberg, and how it started out as a musical philosophy, but has ended up as a tool in film composer's arsenal for getting a certain sound - but I digress).

I'm aware of the huge number of things Flash can do - but at this point have had no need for most of the, - especially the back-end database capability. I have been taking advantage of the new video capabilities in Flash 8 - that has been nice for a campaign website I'm webmastering (Dale Washburn for State House, Georgia district 137).

One of the things that attracted me to web design is that there is always something new to learn - and for me the key is keeping track of what the capabilites are. I can always go learn how to do something new - heavens there are tons of tutorials on the web, if you know how to search - but you've got to know something is possible first!

Well, back to the websites.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

HIPerWall - wow!

From a newsletter that just arrived from Small Dog:

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the HIPerWall is an array of no fewer than FIFTY Apple 30-inch Cinema Displays. These units are in a grid ten wide by five high. There are 25 Power Mac G5 Dual Core towers, each with two displays attached, and an extra Power Mac G5 just for coordinating the graphics and managing the high-level display functions.

The Apple 30-inch Cinema Display is a perfect fit for this application due to its extensive resolution capabilities, and narrow border design. If you haven't seen one of these brilliant displays, you need to get to an Apple location and see it in person.

The Mac platform provides the robust UNIX-based operating system that's integrated with the open source components used by so many research teams. The machines are fast, the video capabilities provided are outstanding, and the hardware is plug and play.

The goal in building the HIPerWall was to provide a tool that allows researchers to view and manipulate data sets at extremely high resolutions.

Be it terrain visualization, disaster simulations, or a large digital microscope, the HIPerWall allows researchers to seeks solutions to problems as never before.

For more information on this topic: http://www.apple.com/science/profiles/hiperwall/

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A company's online persona is important!

OK, so that title is probably an obvious statement. What may not be so obvious is that there are two basic schools of thought regarding setting one up. Think about the online versions of a particular company - there might be one or several websites, some blogs, forums, entries in a usergroup, emails - all of these work together to create the virtual company. For the virtual version to be effective - or at the very least reflective of the flesh-and-blood version - these elements need to be coordinated to some degree. This is where too many compnies, especially Small companies, miss the boat.

I have been involved with a small company where there was little recognition of the "fabric effect" created by having multiple online presences. As webmaster it was my responsibility - I thought - to make sure there was some coordination, or at least some crosslinking going on (plus a mdoicum of SEO work done). Sadly there was little recognition of the need for this, and those duties were given to some else who has few if any web skills. As a result the organization will not get the full benefit of those sites they have labored to create, and they will be of use only for those people who are already part of the oprganization.

To me this is a waste - sites should not only be sources of information for those already involved (for a business, the customers, for a nonprofit, the members), but also serve as a resource for those who stumble across it....and you increase the "stumbling odds" by cross-coordinating the virtual fabric created by these multiple threads.

There are 2 organizing principals I have seen at work in the virtual companies. The first says that everything should spring from some central location - perhaps the primary company website. The theory here is that one central location makes it easier to find, and from there a potential customer can locate just about anything.

This version requires significant search engine awareness when designing the primary website - and even much MORE awareness when looking at the online fabric that makes up the virtual version. If there is only one entry point, then there MUST be some effort and time put into making the site search engine friendly, and some effort spent marketing the site in some form.

The other school of thought what I call the "Cast your bread" model - a biblical reference that is particularly appropos. The original quote reads "Cast your bread upon many waters......". In this case I am referring to the idea of having multiple online presences, each cross-linked and referring to each other. IF all of the resources are search engine friendly, then you increase the odds of an online browser stumbling across your resources.

So what's a webmaster to do when cast aside? In my case, go find some other clients!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Ever heard of monk-e-mail? http://www.careerbuilder.com/monk-e-mail/ You can have a (customizable) monkey either read a message to a recipient (using text to speech technology), or you can record your own voice via microphone or regular land line/cell phone. A very cool technology demonstration "brought to you by careerbuilder.com"......and a potentially good marketing tool in the right circumstances.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Software Features: is a plethora a good thing?

In class today I talk about some of the collaboration features that Microsoft put into Word - specifically the change tracking options. That got me thinking about software, features, and the tree falling into a forest (does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it?) My answer to the question is yes - it makes a sound. The real question is: does it matter if no one is there to hear it? In the same way - if there is a really cool feature in software, but no one uses it, does it really matter? So the developer has to find some way of informing people about the feature (that's marketing), and training people in how to use it - or even WHY they would want to (that's training/education). Case in point: Apple, a few years back, incorporated Publish/Subscribe into Clarisworks (now called Appleworks and dying). It was a really cool feature that I used a fair amount. The idea was that you could create, say, a logo in a draw document, and publish it. Then you could subscribe to the logo in a WP doc. The logo was a live link back to the original logo - make a change, and the changes automatically propagated to the WP document. It worked much better than what Microsoft came up with (OLE), which is to say it actually worked all the time, and was really easy to use. But Apple did a lousy job of telling people about it - and teaching people how and WHY they should use it....and so the feature was dropped after a few years. That should probably start another thread about feature bloat in Microsoft Office.......but I'm tired of typing, and now have some papers to grade anyway.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

There IS hope for the future...but not from textbooks

I am again teaching a beginning computer class at Mercer University - focusing more on Office than anything else. The class gave self-designed powerpoint presentations, and I have to admit I was fairly impressed. A few students had taken my teaching to heart and had gone way beyond the builtin stuff - several didn't use a single bullet point (which was WONDERFUL). I stated that my goal for the module was to insure that none of them were responsible for any deaths by Powerpoint. The text we are using, while it is full of graphics, screenshots, and handholding - really bothers me. I don't see my purpose - or even the purpose of the class - as teaching buttons. If I teach buttons, then additional training will be needed every time a new version comes out. But if I teach concepts and paradigms, then the student has already learned how to learn, and can teach themselves. It goes back to the old homily about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish...... Is there a textbook out there that gives the underlying paradigms for the Office-type activities? I have not seen one. Perhaps it is time to write one.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The wonders of modern technology

As a kid, I dreamed of sorts of techno-toys that I'd be playing with.....mostly revolving around music and recording. I figured I'd never be able to afford anything, or ever get into a studio because of the expense. Well, as I sit here in the "outhouse" - my name for the little building out back that has my workshop and studio - I have 3 computers in the room, an 88-key synth, aKorg DW8000 that I use for analog sounds,plus some outboard gear hodge-podged together. I'm typing this on an old windows 98 laptop a friend gave me, which is hooked up tot he internet through a Mac mini,connected to the 'net via dialup. The mini is mp3-encoding a 30 minute audio file, downloading a systemupdate, sharing it's internet connection with this windows laptop, AND I'm using it to edit some audio. What have all these toys given me?No, not satisfaction, or happiness. Capabilities. They give the possibility of doing pro-level work in the outhouse. ........that is, IF I know what I'm doing, and how they should work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

People aren't as tech-savvy as the press makes them out to be

Perhaps a better title would be "The press is more gaga over new technologies than regular people are". Hmm, that would qualify as an obvious statement. My Mercer classes started today. Becuase of the research I do, and the things I read, I am very aware of many of the technology trends happening. I've read all the hype about RSS and blogs and how they are going to change the world yada yada yada yada. In my first class this morning, not a single student of the 12 present had even heard of blogging or podcasting. Interesting! So much for that urban myth that all students (i.e. teenagers) are very tech-savvy.