Thursday, January 25, 2007

Web Celeb - something to aspire to

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Casecamp

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Forgive me my Web. 2.0 trespasses

I can't help myself but I stumbled upon this great article on Web 2.0 by Jared M. Spool called "Web 2.0: The Power Behind the Hype".

He describes the excitement Web 2.0 engenders:
The speed and ease at which these new applications were built is what is getting us very excited about the potential of the Web 2.0 world. Evocative of Dr. Frankenstein building a monster in his attic laboratory using body pieces he found lying around his neighborhood, people with a little skill can create new applications using common elements found lying around the Web in almost no time at all. As the skill requirements for building these applications are decreasing, we think this opens a whole new world of possibilities.

The article lays out the foundation technologies and principles of Web 2.0, such as:
  • open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces)
  • RSS (site syndication)
  • folksonomies (individuals classification of information based on their own words and tagging)
  • social networking
Developers not confined by having to recreate the wheel, can focus on building cool new applications. Then a community of users can help build, develop and grow these applications faster than any one programmer could even dream of.

The article closes with a caution with a reference appealing to Webslinger:

As Spiderman's Uncle Ben pointed out, "With great power comes great responsibility." Just because we can do all these things doesn't mean we should do them. In the early 1980's, the cheap availability of laser printers and digital fonts produced a plethora of documents that more resembled ransom notes than professional publications. We could easily imagine designers going wild with the capabilities of this new technology and not using the restraint necessary to ensure they produce an optimal experience.


I remember those print-outs and combined with clip art, it was a scary time indeed. Hope it doesn't ever get that bad.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Coming Soon: The Death of the Web Page

Coming Soon: The Death of the Web Page is the name of a recent article by Joseph Carrabis in iMedia Connection. I loved the provocative title so I used it.

The author notes that static webpages will continue to live a long life for new companies or companies with simple needs/messages.

Thanks to AJAX programming techniques, however, webpages are able to host various individual elements, which he calls portlets, that offer unique, rich, multi-dimensional functionality.

Homepages will have elements that are customizable, personalized and interfacing with a wide array of databases, news sources, social networks, etc.

Our entire browsing experience for some websites will change. Carrabis predicts:

The landscape is no longer flat; it now looks like a Manhattan skyline. One portlet may be a few stories tall and another several hundred. Each time you click on a portlet you're riding an elevator to another floor, and whoever owns that portlet is going to be working real hard to keep you in their building.


This is already happening to some degree and success with Yahoo (ie. MyYahoo) and Google and I can see this type of online service becoming more and more commonplace.

Once users move beyond the initial home and landing pages, however, webpages will remain largely flat, with occasional rolling hills, for a long time.

Big, cool buildings may catch our attention, and flashy, appealing decorations may lure us in - but once we're in, flat webpages let us focus and accomplish the item at hand.

The full article is a worthwhile read ...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cool website user testing

I was a guinea pig this evening for user testing for a prominent news and investor website.

They actually paid me to do the test - even though I would gladly have done it for free.

User testing is a great idea to really get an accurate idea of how your users actually use your site. People often say they use a site one way but do something else - or they say they want X feature but in reality they never use it.

What made this testing unique was that they recorded my eyeball movements and click-throughs as I scanned various news and investing pages. So it wasn't what I said I would do, but more like what I would actually do.

The only problem was that the pages I click-through on didn't actually load so in reality I would have ended up on different pages and may have then gone somewhere else. I probably wouldn't have spent as long on the homepages and landing pages as the study encouraged.

At the end of the study, they showed me my results. My web visit usage was way more erratic and frenetic than I imagined. While the standard pattern, the researcher and other studies I have read, for our culture is left to right and up and down. I was surprised by how much back-tracking I did. I did manage to deftly avoid all banners, fluff and navs. (Hope these studies don't eventually prove that there is actually no point in banner graphics and kill a lot of necessary advertising revenue.)

And yes, I sheepishly admit I "clicked" on the legitimate news item with the word porn in it. And the only ad I looked at all was the Telus adds with those irresistibly adorable monkeys.

I wasn't familiar with eye-tracking studies that were so conclusive - so I'm excited to see the results.

The research was conducted by Sensory Logic. I'm looking forward to seeing more from them - even if I don't get paid for it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's all about me!

It's my birthday today, so this blog is all about me! (Even more so than usual.)

Master of my domain
First, as my birthday gift to myself, I registered my own domain, www.glenfarrelly.com
It redirects here for the time being.

Despite being in the Internet field for about eight years now, I never registered a domain. GoDaddy.com quickly turned up as the favoured domain registrar. I wanted a Canadian company but they (eg. 10Dollar.ca) are not as cheap ($7 per year) or offered as much extras. So far, so good with Go Daddy.

glenfarrelly.com will soon be the destination - for me, my mother, and possibly my wife.

For your viewing pleasure?
In honour of my birthday, I tried out Levi's personalized ad campaign. It's creepy, but unique. But you haven't seen anything like this before and after viewing this, you won't want to.

Glen stars in Levi ad - Rated "R" (terrifying)


Even more Glen
I've been cooking up a lot of stuff lately and over the years.
Wow: this is way more than even I want to know about me.!

The Internet really does enable - even encourage - narcissism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Canadian success story fails

Toronto shopping blogger Bargainista had a post recently on the bankruptcy sale for Just White Shirts.

The only Canadian e-commerce international success story will soon be unravelling.

(Please correct me if I'm wrong and there are other e-commerce website that have success beyond Canada.)

I searched, but couldn't find any details on the reason for Just White Shirts' demise (could it be their dorky name?). Their website does state that all says are final though due to their bankruptcy as of Dec. 13, 2006.

If anyone knows any details on this company, please share them.

I never shopped at Just White Shirts, as I once bought a shirt (from Sears.ca - the website I shop at the most after Amazon.ca) and it fit poorly and the colour was quite different, in a very bad way, from the website image. That ended my online shopping for clothes.

Nonetheless, there are so few Canadian e-commerce successes that it is sad to see one go.

Friday, January 12, 2007

e-Ventful Websites

A Casecamp participant, in promoting the event, alerted me today to the free website Upcoming.org.

Upcoming.org
It's an excellent Web 2.0 example (I hate that term, but it's a useful concept) but I think its functionality far exceeds the confines of just its own website.

Upcoming.org started in 2003 (again I'm discovering these things late - I feel like I've been in a como for the past 2-3 years). Many sites have done event listings and enabled organizing and promoting personal events (evite, for instance). The problem with these is that most websites just didn't have enough event listings or they only did a certain type of event (to use Toronto as an example, Toronto.com, Now and Backbone seemed to miss a lot of significant events and never broadened listings beyond their respective focus). evite et al were great to help host and promote events but didn't offer listings.

Event listings are no easy feet to do either. There are thousands of events going on in Toronto, probably in just one month. I hate to think about a city like New York. How did websites publish this before? I take it they'd have some sort of streamlined process, but ultimately every event must have had to some sort of manual review and some level of manual coding or inputing. A ton of work and explains why so many sites did events so poorly (badly organized, missing events, outdated, etc.).

What's cool about Upcoming.org, now owned by Yahoo, is that it greatly expands the potential and amount of listings.

Upcoming puts the listing creation into the hands of users to create private events or promote public events. Events are organized by city and type (eg. music, arts, festival, commercial, arts - they actually need more types to encompass trade events as for now they all go under "other")

Judging by the number and breadth of events listed, the site has critical mass, they just need to expand beyond their comparative ghetto. That's why I think their service would be way more useful if repackaged in Toronto.com. People already go to this site for this type of information and their editorial and community can add value beyond just a listing.

Upcoming.org does encourage community by having you flagging events that you are attending or considering. You can then see which of your friends are going or share events with friends easily.

Meetup.com
Another, cool event website is Meetup.com.

Meetup seemed to take the idea and basic functionality of Yahoo Groups (which I have loved and used ever since I found others, a group even, of people as devoted and talkative about Xena, Warrior Princess as I was).

The problem with Yahoo Groups is that it is a lonely world and while it's great to post and email other Xenaphiles, it's nice to actually meet people in person some time. Meetup.com is devoted to groups that actually meet in person. Many types of groups and in your city! Even web-geeks needs some human contact every now and then - or just a beer/coffee.

While I registered with Meetup four months ago (I even joined the Toronto Web Centric Meetup Group) I haven't been able to actually been to a meeting yet.

Here's the rub... the Internet has enabled not only great social networking but also bringing unique, and yes often bizarre, groups together. It enables organizing public & private events and promoting them. But it still hasn't found a babysitter for me! Can't leave my two-year-old with Net Nanny.

The Apple of my iPhone

I'm not a Mac fan (despite the urgings by converted zealots such as Ingrid). However, I reluctantly admit I am really excited about Apple's new iPhone. I can't wait to be able to talk and surf the Net everywhere! (Okay maybe not EVERYWHERE.)

There's been a lot of media attention to this issue already, but Business 2.0 has an interesting article on the iPhone battle between Apple and Cisco.

While the actual legal trappings aren't that important, the article explains how this case is really over the future of telephony (eg. VOIP) and the Internet and how this might play out.

Read the full article:
iPhone war: more than just a name

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Google Webmaster-of-the-Universe Tools

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e-Business Buzz Words 101

Every year has it hot buzzwords and business bon mots du jour.

Globe & Mail columnist, Sean Wise outlines the key terms of last year with an e-Business bent and how they actually can mean something for a business.

I've heard several of these terms bandied about, so I found it useful to have a brief overview to clarify and demonstrate.

Here are the terms:
  1. The Long Tail
  2. The Wisdom of Crowds
  3. The Tipping Point
  4. Community is King
  5. The World is Flat
Read the full article, Wise Words

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Missing Quick Link

I’m in the midst of a site remake.

The biggest challenge I’ve encountered so far is with the navigation. How to get as much as possible to a high-level? Can’t put too much in primary navigation or it overwhelms users. But if one rolls things up too much, the resulting labels can be cryptic and things can easily get buried deep.

One feature to help users get to the crucial destinations on a site easily is the Quick Links feature. Quick Links are generally a select menu with items in the menu being links. They usually are only available on the homepage of a site.

I started seeing Quick Links about two years ago and lately it seems to be becoming common practice.

Today, while scouring the Web for inspiration for my website remake, I checked out Microsoft’s site. In my travels over the biggest and brightest websites, I hadn’t found anything innovative in overcoming the basic navigation challenge. But at Microsoft I did find an invaluable tool to bypass those problems. (The feature isn't on all MS sites, so check out Microsoft Mobile to see it.)

Their Quick Links tool improves upon the common version dramatically!

  1. It appears on every page.
  2. It appears in the top-right hand corner (opposed to the center of the page). The top-right hand corner is pretty much the standard utility bar area and it’s where users expect sitewide functionality options and search methods (eg. Search engine, site map).
  3. A mouse-over which is easy and quick to activate triggers a pop-up layer to appear with the links – this is easy to peruse and offers at-a-glance links
  4. It allows a prominent, visual way to organize the links

I intend to use this approach on the upcoming website remake. It will go a long way to solving my navigation nightmares.

So Microsoft can be innovative – maybe just not in their browsers though.

Postcrossing.com

I love the Internet and I love postcards. Recently, I found a way to marry those two loves: Postcrossing.com.

A friend, Stacy, passed this free website and service on to me last month and I’m hooked. Having collected postcards since I was a kid, in the last couple years I have become a fervent, ardent collector. (Thanks to a trip to Ikea and spotting their cobalt Emu bins - with the storage in place the collection could now flourish.)

But I don’t buy cards for my collection and my friends and family don’t travel much (except Stacy), so my collection has languished.

Then Postcrossing came along!

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
  1. Sign up and create a profile, indicated the types of postcards you’d ideally like to receive
  2. Request to send a card – the system will then draw from its database pool and give you a person and their profile
  3. Mail the postcard
  4. When the recipient receives it, they log it into the system
  5. Your name now goes into the pool to receive one

I’ve already sent and received four postcards. I love them all but two of them are really terrific! There does seem to be some idiosyncrasies as I received two on the same day that mine were received. But otherwise, it’s been great.

Check it out and you’ll love it – the Finns sure do, as you’ll soon discover.

I love how the Internet has enabled this (and the site founder too). Prior to the Net, things like this just would not have been possible!

My Emus will soon be bursting…

YouTube Puts the You in Useless

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You are the Time's person of the year!

It's been a few days, but I just found out that YOU are Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

They mean the you in the sense of Web 2.0.

The content-creating, forum-posting, avatar-living, blog-ranting, review-writing, video-producing, social-networking, online-collaborating, web-living YOU!

Along with their declaration of the role of the individual in shaping the new Internet and the resulting cultural changes, Time has put together a suite of good articles.

My favourites articles are:
  • Enough About You - how user-generated content and increasingly niche news/info sources allows people to not hear about things they need to know about
  • Andy Warhol Was Right - the Internet as the ultimate narcissist vehicle, "On the Web, everyone is famous to 15 people."
  • Web Boom 2.0 - why the build-up of Web 2.0 is not a bubble about to burst
  • My So-Called Second Life - are people's Second Life as pathetic as their first?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Online Retails Hits All-Time High in 2006

e-Marketer today reports that 2006 in the United States was a good year for e-commerce. Revenues surpassed 100 billion!

While overall retail spending was cool, online shopping was hot.

This figure doesn't include online sales of travel or I, suspect B2B purchases. Suffice to say this item gives me the warm fuzzy feeling of job security.

Read the full story at e-Marketer

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Internext

The beginning of new year always brings some predictions for the future. Globe and Mail journalist Ivor Tossel gives his five predictions in his article "What's Next on the Net".

For the time-pressed, here are his five predictions:

1) The Internet will be everywhere
2. The Internet will know where you are.
3. The Internet you know is going to look pretty quaint
4. The Internet will look back at you. (widespread videoconferencing)
5. The Internet will get a little respect.