QR Codes

QR Codes are hot!

I’ve been watching my Google Analytics and I’ve seen a huge spike in traffic from folks searching for information on QR codes. I’m happy to see so many people interested in using QR codes in graphic design applications, on business cards, and on products (like they are doing on plants at Home Depot now). The reason that QR codes are so cool is because we can store so much information in those links plus we can save so much paper as an added bonus.

So with so much interest in QR codes I thought I’d post some links to sites where you can create your own QR codes:

  • QR Stuff – this is the site that I use to create codes – it’s a great site with lots of options.
  • QR Code Generator – I’ve used this site one or twice, no real opinion either way on it.
  • Kerem Erkan’s Generator – I’ve never used this but the reviews are really good.
  • Good Survey’s Generator – Good site with free tracking and analytics built-in.
  • BeQrious – interesting product that give you some options to control the look of the QR code.
  • Paperlinks – Allows you to create 1 free QR code but they are much more customizable and can be branded which may make paying for the extras worth it.

So there you have it  -there are a billion more QR code generating sites out there if you Google them. For the most part you probably will get everything you need out of one of the generators listed above but if you have a special need you can find many more QR code generators out there on the web.

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The Changing Face of Media

We all can see that the media game has changed so why are so many people still trying to play by the same rules? Can we measure how much the game has really changed? Have those massive changes affected everyone equally? By everyone I mean the owners, workers, and consumers.

I was at a photography seminar yesterday watching two of the most amazing photographers alive today tell stories, teach, and do demonstrations and I came away having learned something kind of photo related but more-or-less related to media and information in general. What I leaned came from David Hobby – new media world shaper extraordinaire.

We’ve all been told that newspapers, magazines, and other such printed media are going away and that a brave new world awaits us. It seems to me that much of that change has occurred at the top and middle but what comes out in the end – what the consumer gets is not and will not change much if at all. Sure there will be changes to how they consume, (on phones, computers, and digital paper), but not WHAT they consume.

Personally I think most of it is hype driven by the people who have the most to loose which is why the average consumer has been all by totally silent throughout the past decade as circulations have swirled around the drain.

David Hobby

David Hobby, (aka Strobist), is not listening to the old rules. David has built his Strobist blog into a hugely successful enterprise, (keep in mind that success doesn’t equal money). In the photography community the Strobist brand is as well known and well respected as Nikon or Canon.

While blogging didn’t make him rich it did provide him with a platform that has allowed him to see the world of media from a different viewpoint. No longer confined by the chains of advertising supported, high-overhead, generalistic news world of old media David has started a quiet revolution in the suburbs of greater-Baltimore. Working away David has managed to shift the future of media into what he wants it to be.

How has he shifted the entire world of media? There are already others who are doing similar or slightly different projects, projects that are compatible and comparable. What is it then that he is doing? David has shifted the world of media by making incremental changes, small changes, to the way media is gathered and shared and it looks like this: hoco360.blogspot.com

HOCO360

David is providing a visual documentation of his community with very little overhead, no editorial bias, and a visual focus on his community. Free from the bonds of the old world. He is now working on what he wants to do in a way that can be made profitable. Has he started to monetize it yet? No, but that will come.

The beauty of his method is it’s simplicity. Everyone is talking about the new world of media being so different. Whereas David Hobby, former staff photographer from the Baltimore Sun has walked over, unplugged this part, hot-wired that part and cut off all the parts he doesn’t need. No longer is David working as part of a tank or 18-wheeler. He’s broken off a chunk of that old machine and fashioned himself a bicycle that is nimble, light-weight, and able to do just what he needs it to do.

What is David Hobby Doing?

What is he doing that is so very slightly different?

David is visually recording his very local community of Howard County, MD – just like a newspaper would or at-least just like the non-hard news parts of a paper would. He is talking about arts and culture and business, and uncovering things that are of interest to the locals. He is delivering content to his readers purely online at hoco360.blogspot.com. The content he is sharing is visual. It’s not weighty and wordy, he doesn’t tackle the local school budget, or the council’s plan to allow solid waste dumping on playgrounds – he has loosened the chains.

There still are restrictions sure but they are less and they are different. One big difference in breaking the machine into smaller parts is that the market can now dictate what the consumers can consume. The gatekeeper has been removed.

Free Market Content

I recently read a post, I think if was by Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com), where he talks about the free market and how those that benefit from the free market the most are the ones that want to prevent it from being free most often (through patents, monopolies, and so on). The reason that you can’t choose every article that you get in the paper (or at least every subject) is because the generalism of the paper maintains the ideals of it’s owner. While many readers might not care about a particular subject covered by the paper they still get articles written on that subject because the editor likes to read about it or they like to read about it with the slant that the writer they hired puts on it.

With what David and others are doing they are ultimately creating a pure and free market for news content. If his photos of his community are worth the cost to make them then he will succeed. If there are enough consumers to support someone writing about the flowers and garden clubs and such in and around Howard County then a writer writing about them will succeed (assuming they understand the business end enough).

This is all revolutionary in it’s simplicity. Everyone keeps talking about the new face of media and what a vastly different media world we are driving headlong into but David Hobby has shown that through small tweaks the new world won’t be so new to most people – it will simply be a world free of middle-men.

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Square Up Credit Card Payments

Tell us how you really feel Don

I’ve told people over at Facebook about Square but I’ve got to post a blog about it because it’s just freaking awesome. Before you get into the bulk of the post please note that I am not being paid to post this. I’ve got to say it up front because I’ve read through what I wrote and some of it sounds like it was written by a paid spokesperson. I promise you that I genuinely LOVE this idea and their execution and that I am not in any way being compensated for writing this.

What is Square

If you have not heard about it Square is a credit card payment acceptance system. There are a few other systems out there – Intuit (the people who make Turbo Tax and Quicken) have a similar app and doggle for your smart phone but I’ve not tried it. Mostly I didn’t try it because at first it only worked with iPhones and I’m an Android user.

I keep seeing them advertise their version but I’m honestly not even interested in checking other options (beyond looking at the price points) because I really like Square so much. That’s not to say that I’m not a fan of Intuit. I use a lot of their products and like them a lot. I know there are a few more out there too and I’m sure PayPal will likely get into the game soon but as long as the price is right I’ll stick with Square and since they are already cheaper than PayPal I’m saying good bye to them.

Where did you hear about Square?

So I still have not seen any ads for Square but I heard a report about it on NPR which prompted me to look into it and I keep hearing about it via word-of-mouth. To me both of those are much better than an annoying TV ad any day. When I heard the report on NPR and then found out that it was cheaper than PayPal I signed up.

It was really easy, they do the micro-deposits to verify your checking account and they send you a free card reader that plugs into your headphone jack on the phone. That means that it works with any smart-phone that can have the app installed on it. You can accept cards without the reader too (it just costs a bit more) which is cool because when getting ready for a shoot I am usually focused on packing gear for the shoot, not on remembering a hardware plug-in for my phone.

Why is Square different?

I still get a lot of checks so accepting credit cards was something that I’ve always been a bit hesitant of (due to cost and volume). Most of the time companies charge you a monthly fee on top of taking a cut on each transaction. Square doesn’t do that. It was made with small businesses in mind – photographers, landscapers, and so on (per the report on NPR) so they don’t charge a monthly fee since the people it’s made for may only accept one credit card payment a month. I’m in that boat and since it still costs me money per transaction I’d prefer to keep taking checks as much as possible. That being said when a customer would rather pay by card I don’t need to send them to my website to use PayPal or to write down all of their info and then double shred it when I’m done.

Why wait until today to tell everyone?

I decided to say something today because I got this email from them that made me like them even more than I already do:

Hi WDO,

Starting today, Square has dropped the 15¢ fixed fee on payments you accept using your Square card reader. Now you’ll simply pay 2.75% per transaction, no matter what you sell.

Why are we simplifying our pricing? Learn more.

How freaking cool are these people! They’re making their service cheaper! That is just awesome.

Check them out and sign up to accept credit cards on your smart phone cheaper than any other service that I know of right: here.

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Facebook Only Specials

Special Offers on Facebook

I’ve ran special offers on my Facebook page for some time and I’ve received very good response to them from my Facebook fans but I wanted to make sure that anyone who comes to the website is aware that they can find those specials and take advantage of them by becoming fans of WDO Photography on Facebook. I won’t tell you what those deals are here – you’ve got to become a fan on Facebook to take advantage of them anyhow but recently we’ve offered deals for everything from portrait packages to special event photography discounts that can be applied to wedding packages as well as corporate events or even family reunions. Check out what we have posted now and check back regularly for new offers.

Click here to become a fan and to take advantage of the Facebook only special offers.

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Knowing your market

Google Search Insights

Every month I run reports from Google Analytics and several other sources to see how my websites are doing. Knowing how many hits your website has gotten is important but how do you know how many hits your website could have potentially had?

Keyword Analysis: Pittsburgh photographer

The first step to finding the answer to that question is knowing what keyword(s) you’re trying to use to bring people to your site. For me the keywords Pittsburgh photographer and event photography are very important. Google sent me 116 visitors last month for the keyword Pittsburgh photographer. I know that from looking at my Google Analytics but how do I know how many I could have gotten? For that I need to check Google’s search-based keyword tool. On average there are 200 local searches per month for the keyword Pittsburgh photographer. So that means that last month I received 116 visits out of (an average) of 200 possible visits. That’s 58% of the possible visits. What does this mean though?

It means that not only is my website web positioned for this keyword (in that it shows up in search results) but also that when it comes to searches for Pittsburgh photographers my website receives visits from over 1/2 of the people searching for photographers in Pittsburgh.

The lesson is as follows – knowing how many hits you’re getting is great but knowing those numbers compared to the potential number of hits gives you a better picture. Why spend money on expensive SEO services if you don’t know how many possible hits they can generate? Budgets are tight, don’t spend hundreds of dollars a month chasing after low numbers. Use Google’s search based keyword tool to find keywords that both relate to your business and that generate a fair amount of searches each month. Use these keywords on your website, in your content and in meta tags. Write blog posts about those keywords – like I’m doing here with the keywords Pittsburgh photographer. If you do these things you can manage your own SEO and keep the money you may otherwise be wasting paying an SEO company.

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Spec Work is bad for design

Why I am again writing about the evils of crowd-sourcing and spec work

So I’ve been asked to be interviewed by an EDMC employee based on what I’ve written before about crowdsourcing and spec-work. She says she will attempt to explain both sides. Clearly EDMC is a poor source for any unbiased information because they will always fall into line with the idea that the buyer must beware (even when being lied to) and that companies should have the right to make money unfettered by regulations, morals, and/or regardless of any serious damage it causes to others. One must understand that this company, (EDMC), makes the Barbary pirates look like amateurs through their ability to profit and plunder. I don’t know the author or know how she could bring herself to write copy that not only defends the actions of thieves and profiteers but also seeks to promote their evils but I suspect that she’ll downplay the serious impact that crowdsourcing has on design and will take the tainted money of these profiteers while excusing herself from any moral obligation to warn people away from such disgusting inhuman filth that she, through her writing, helps to rape students and taxpayers alike.

Why you should never do spec work

If anyone out there has any question about how bad spec work is below, as clearly as I can put it, is an explanation of why you should NEVER DO SPEC WORK.

While there are a myriad of ways to become successful in a creative field doing spec work or as it’s now called crowdsourcing is a particularly problematic way of seeking success. Don’t be fooled by the name change crowdsourcing is spec-work. It might be wrapped up in a fun buzz word but it is still a terrible method that is now employed not just by design clients but also by 3rd parties to squeeze money from a field that already has very tight profit margins.

Lets look at CrowdSpring.com – as of Feb 09, 2011 they list 1,629,529 entries. If each of those entries took 1 hour to do that  equals over 186 YEARS worth of round-the-clock work. Only a little more than 2 years worth of that design work has been paid for – that’s nearly 184 years worth of work completed that has not been paid for. Being paid for your work is vital to survival.

When you factor in the fact that many of these designs are likely to have taken more than an hour. If we place the average closer to 2 or 3 hours per entry that means we can double or even triple those numbers. As much as 500 years worth of round-the-clock work not being paid for. Not only is this not right but that is the figure from only 1 spec-work recruiting site. How many designers are being robbed of a means of making a living by all of these companies?

One can argue that that lack of payment is spread out among a huge number of designers but it is still unbelievable when you add in the fact that many designers who do get selected are paid far less than a designer working for a client in a more traditional setting. So even when you win, you loose.

Spec work is a gamble – literally

Companies like CrowdSpring are full of smart people. These people know a little something about human nature. Nearly all mammals can be trained to do something over and over for reward even if that reward doesn’t come each time. When rewards appear to be random people and other animals will work hard for that reward even at times when they won’t receive it. This is how reward based animals training works it’s also how gambling works.

CrowdSpring and other design-extortionist companies use this to keep designers coming back. They work like a slot machine, eventually a designer might win. When they do they get a pay-off. Those that don’t eventually win stop playing but there a lots of others waiting to take their place. Those designers who have an entry selected are very likely to keep coming back just as flocks of people visit casinos or bingo-halls over and over.

These companies employ the same tactics that drive people to play slots or buy scratch-off tickets.

Spec-work is a game of chance and should probably be regulated as such especially when you account for the fact that cost to play is disguised. These companies advertise the prize upfront that the winning gambler will receive no matter how hard they work, how good their work is, or how little research into the project, the client, the industry, and the end-audience they’ve done.

Lack of research and knowledge of the project is another problem of spec-work. When a designer works with a client to create a logo, visual-branding, or so on they get to ask questions of the client, they get to see marketing research or work with an internal or external marketing team to make their design match the goals of the brand, the project, and the target audience. By removing this essential piece from the design process the designer is now working without direction, their end design might look good to the client but it’s highly unlikely that the design will meet the actual marketing goals and/or message therefore it will likely not meet the needs of the client.

The companies that seek spec-work typically have little future use for design. Even if they do purchase a good deal of creative work they likely don’t see much true value in it otherwise they’d pay a fair price for it and would ensure that it fits in with their other branding and marketing. No matter what these companies are unlikely to come back to the same designer. This only helps to discourage research, knowledge of the target audience, and understanding of the clients needs. If the client doesn’t care about their needs why should the designer.

It’s no secret that it’s easier to maintain client relationships than it is to find new clients. When one does spec-work not only are they providing work for free they are also forcing themselves to work harder to keep finding new clients because those they have already found have no loyalty and see no value in their work.

A study done by the logofactory.com showed that even the top five designers at 5 of the most popular crowdsourcing sites win on average less than 10% of the “contests” that they enter. So even if you are a top performer your still only being paid for less than 1 in 10 of your designs. If we go back to our average of 2-3 hours of design per 20-30 hours. If we assume 2 hours per design (to make the math easy) that means in a 40 hour work week you’d be paid for 4 of those hours. If you’re a designer reading this picture yourself sitting in a cubical for 40 hours a week and each payday, every two week you get a check for 1 days worth of that work. So every month you work 20 days or 160 hours but get paid for only 16 hours or 4 days. Add to that the fact that the pay you are earning is less than what your potential is, less than what the average pay is for the same work in your area and clearly spec-work makes no sense.

Now lets think about this – not only are you being paid less than what you’re worth, not only are you working 20 days per month and being paid for only 4 of them but you are also having to pay your boss for the privilege of providing you with work. Keep in mind while picturing yourself in this position that you’re on the top, your one of the 5 most successful people in your company.

Spec-work in and of itself was bad enough when companies were seeking spec-work on their own but if there is one difference between spec-work and crowdsourcing it’s that the later is far worse in that it allows a 3rd party to set a low-price for your work and then take a significant piece of the money that you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Clearly spec-work and it’s evil sibling crowdsourcing is never a good way to break into a creative field. Being paid poorly for less than 1/10th of your work, having to pay for the privilege of having your work selected, having the same tactics employed against you that are used by casinos to keep people gambling, being forced to continually look for new clients, and disrupting the process of design are all the downside of spec-work and these problems far out-weigh the supposed benefits of “democratizing design” which is hardly what crowdsourcing companies are doing. They are really simply making money by providing what is purely a disservice. They’ve not democratized design they’ve turned it into a contest which is more about competition and the free-market than design has ever been. Whereas design, like all business, is partially about networking and getting to know clients crowdsourcing is purely about the whims of the client.

Speaking of clients … Time is money and spec-work wastes not just client money (by providing them with sub-par designs) but also wastes their time because they often must wade through so many designs. Worse yet contracted designers can revise and refine their work while spec-workers are often hired with the understanding that their work is finished or is sold as-is.

Not only is it hard on designers when they have to continually find new clients but it is also hard on companies when they are loosing out on the potential to hire a designer long-term which is exactly what happens when they turn to spec-workers.

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Student Loan Injustice

Sallie Mae: Predatory Lender

It’s taken me nearly a decade of fighting to get a payment that I can afford. During this decade my student loan debt has gone up excessively. I’ve had “legal fees” and “late fees” and “just because we can fees” tacked onto my loans that have been rolled in with them so that I’m not only paying the fees but also paying interest on those fees. So while I’ve finally got a payment that I can make on a bill that is as much as four times the amount that I actually borrowed, this fight is not over for me. It’s not over because my story is all to familiar. I’ve come home from this war wounded but alive. Others have not been so lucky. Besides the war continues to rage on even now.

I received the attached appeal from StudentLoanJustice.org urging me to get the word out and that is what this post is for. I encourage you to read the information below from Student Loan Justice and I encourage you to act on it – demand that this be changed. It’s not about my future, it’s not about some retired parent or uncle who’s credit has been obliterated so that the executives at Sallie Mae can buy a new private jet – it’s about all of us because like the housing bubble higher education is heading for a bust and when that happens the United States will be in a world of hurt. We’ll loose the tech-race, we’ll fall behind other developed countries, and we’ll loose our status as a world leader and innovator.

It’s time we put aside politics and focus on what is best for our country. They’ve made gross fortunes off of the defaults of people who were and are just trying to get an education. We’re not asking for reparations, we’re just asking that the injustice that is being done be stopped. I’m writing my representatives and I urge you to do the same.

Thank you. Here is the appeal:

Protection for College Students Needed Now

December 20,2010

In 2005, language was slipped into the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act which effectively removed bankruptcy protections from private student loans. The brazenness of this action shocked even the most jaded experts on the Hill (when it was discovered). After all, this amounts to the same thing as stripping bankruptcy protections from credit cards, or any other type of unsecured, free-market debt. Make no mistake: there are large injustices with the student lending system generally, but this move set a new low.

The banking industry and their lobbyists promised increased loan availability to disadvantaged students in return for the wholesale removal of this critical, free-market mechanism, but never delivered, the record now clearly shows. What they did deliver were tens of billions of dollars in outrageous loans that would make a subprime mortgage broker blush, with APRs as high as 28%, dropped onto the backs of unsuspecting students through deceptive and corrupt marketing techniques for which there simply is no comparison (consider that often, students would call their school’s financial aid offices, and unbeknownst to them, at the other end of the line was a student loan marketer pretending to be a university employee, and this point is proven, but we could go on at length here).

It was assumed by all that at the first possibility (i.e. when the democrats recaptured one or both houses of Congress), this grave injustice would be quickly righted. So in 2007, when Democrats swept both Houses, this painful period for the citizens was clearly at an end. Or was it? The democrats, to their credit, did introduce legislation to reverse this robbery, but didn’t put their back into it, evidently. The first attempt the legislation was quietly killed. A second attempt was narrowly defeated in a House vote thanks to the Blue Dogs cooperation with republicans like Howard “Buck” McKeon, and others. The third attempt, introduced last Spring, was on a slow road to passage, and would have been fine, but for an inconvenient election in November.

Surely the banking lobbyists charged with keeping this beach head were richly rewarded for their efforts. After all, a leaked Sallie Mae strategy memo that surfaced around the time the Democrats took power in Congress put preserving the current bankruptcy laws as the 2nd highest priority. And over four years, the record is clear that this mission was accomplished.

Consider, however, what is lost to this dangerous and predatory lending system. While we won’t be seeing them marching on Washington anytime soon, former students by the hundreds of thousands are currently reeling, devastated by this toxic debt. Their cosigning parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who wanted only for their loved one to get a college education now face financial ruin, and that is absolutely not in any way an exaggeration. And for what? So Sallie Mae can reap excessive profits from predatory loans made on a hyper-inflated commodity, which is higher education?

Ironically, the entities who so cleverly led the students into these monstrous debt situation are the same people now chastising the students about not reading the fine print. They now dispense belated words of wisdom on borrower responsibility from on high, effectively insulating themselves from all blame. But the ironies do not end there…the democrats who were so quick to rush to the financial aid of the financial industry (including Sallie Mae, and the other student lenders), have gone quiet on this final attempt at returning the bankruptcy protections that should have never been taken away, it seems. And where are the beltway advocates? It seems, that the only ones left in this fight are the citizens, and the Congress elected to represent them. Oh..and of course the banks with their money, expert advice, and threats designed to protect their profits no matter the public cost.

Democrats: Do what is critically needed right now, and return at least this obvious critical protection to the consumers before this term expires.

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Information Overload

Too Much Information

Are we really at the point of total information overload?

How we got here

Let’s stand back and view the expansion and dissemination of information over the past 30 years since the advent of mass user networking. Even before the internet and hypertext protocol were developed  as a means to share information more easily the groundwork was laid for the ever expanding mess of data that we have available today. It crept out of universities in the 70s through home consumer networks and Listservs in the 80s and exploded with the birth of the web in the 90s.

As the number of websites grew and came to be indexed, (as we all probably know), search was developed and marketed as a means to find the information we wished to consume. Now the information was out there and we just needed to know how to look for it. This passive means of data interaction works great assuming you know how to look for what it is that you want to know but what if you don’t know what it is you want to know? You know? That’s when the technology of information consumption made it’s next leap …

Stop! I think it’s happening again

Along comes RSS that offers to feed us information without us needing to lift a finger to search for it. Sure you initially have some limited activity in setting up an RSS reader but with tools like Google Reader and Google Alert we no longer need to hunt for information, we just need to sit back and consume it.

We can think of this process like the chocolate production line episode from I Love Lucy. If you’ve never seen the episode or the show for that matter, GOOGLE IT. If you’ve honestly never seen it Lucy and Ethel have no issues at first with the trickle of candy (information) but it quickly overwhelmed them and they have a hard time reacting to it, comedy ensues, and the candy speeds up even more before the scene ends.

As a more personal example in my Google Reader I subscribe to more than 70 RSS feeds. Some of those are aggregators so the number of posts I get each day is often over 150. I have them categorized by subject but at times it still is overload and my retention is probably very low.

In fact I decided to write this post only after seeing this in my Google Reader:

From: http://thxthxthx.com/?p=752

That’s from the website: thxthxthx.com which shows a thank you note everyday. Now, this isn’t off of one of the 70+ RSS Feeds I get. It was from another section in my Google Reader where I can see things that my friends who also use Google Reader want to share but it makes a great and very true statement. By the time I get done reading all the new posts in Google Reader there are more of them there.

The Answer

There are already books published about the effects of this kind of information overload on our brains. It’s frightening to me at least that there are serious physiological changes that have been observed and documented that can scientifically be traced to our changing means of information consumption.

So how do we combat these changes?

The truth is that there is little chance that people are going to slow their consumption. We’re not going to go back to 3 TV channels and no internet. True there are those that limit their exposure but does this actually have a positive effect or do they just read and consume things at an even higher rate because they know they have a time limit? Can their activities be equated to the use of filters on cigarettes? A means that only purports to have a health benefit when in actuality the smokers just suck harder.

I can come up with two ideas on my own though I can’t actually develop either myself.

One idea is to create a more targeted flow of information. RSS is great but when we add key-wording in no longer am I getting each post from a photo-blog that often features mediocre nudes, lackluster portraits, boring “art photography”, and amazing architectural photos. If I add in the keyword restriction or only subscribe to posts that are from the architectural category then I get to see what I want and the signal comes through the noise a little stronger. I also see a lower number of total unread posts in my Google Reader which doesn’t make me think – crap, I can’t look at all of these, I’ve only got 20 minutes before I need to leave.

So idea one is to add a new layer to RSS would be beneficial and really already exists. It’s category based RSS and some sites do offer it – it just needs to be more widespread.

The second idea is to stop beaming bright light directly into our eyes.

These new tablets and iPads and things are really cool but when are the even cooler thin, readable in all light, vivid color, electronic ink devices going to get here? Right now we are bombarding our eyes with the lights from our computers and that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) but we don’t fight or flee, we just keep reading or watching.

Maybe someday soon there will be a device that works more like a newspaper with full color vibrant photos, that is small, flexible, and doesn’t require back-lighting to be read. They’re working on this stuff but when will it get here?

I know that the Kindle has an e-ink display but it doesn’t have color and that’s going to keep it from being able to replace newspapers and magazines. Not so much because they include images in stories but because they do so in ads. For them (so far) it’s the web, these tablets, or nothing.

So really I don’t have all the answers and those I have I can’t implement alone but I think we need to start to critically think about ways to adapt the consumption to the consumer because they’re not going to stop consuming or even slow down until they are forced to. I know I’m not.

Do you have any ideas how to do that? If so leave them in the comments or better yet start a tech company that changes the world.

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WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0

Wordpress 3.0If I or someone else has built a website for you on WordPress and you’ve logged in within the past few days you should see a notice under the header that looks like the image on the left. It’s letting you know that WordPress 3.0 is out. Does that mean you should update? Maybe.

Who should update

If somebody else built your site you should ask them if it’s alright to update your WordPress. If I’ve designed your site please sit tight as I’ll be updating you very soon. All of my sites should be updated but I’ll need to make sure your site will update without issue first. That means that I have to make sure your plug-ins and add-ons are working.

Why Update to WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 has a ton of great new features, many of which existing customers may not use but there are a few that can help make your site more useful like the new menu module which allows for multiple menus. I don’t have any clients on WordPress with multiple menus (because before it wasn’t possible) but if you’re an existing customer who is interested in adding additional menus or are a new customer looking for a designer who can build you a site on a reliable platform such as WordPress that needs multiple menus shoot me an email and we can talk about your needs.

For more info on the changes made to WordPress in the 3.0 release please check the codex page here or watch this video:

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Search optimization for your mail box

Efficiency Fetish

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a geek but what you might not know about me is that I have a serious efficiency fetish. That doesn’t sound right exactly but what I mean is I really need things to work efficiently. I can’t stand extra steps and time wasting. When a client or a friend asks me to email them something that I’ve already sent I find it very annoying. It’s especially bothersome when they want something I sent them within the last few days – stop that.

Did you even try to find it?

Now I understand that a lot of people are very busy and that they get a ton of email and I can even look past the fact that some folks maintain somewhat disorganized inboxes. That being said sometime I want to scream, “did you even seriously try to look for it?!?!”

What I’m really asking is did they bother to use the search function in their mail client? Did you even know that Microsoft Outlook has a search function? It does as does every free web-based email service.

Why don’t people search?

It may be because on the rare occasion that one does run a search most of the time they don’t find what they are looking for. Why is this?

I assume that it is because most people don’t create email messages that are meant to be searched for. That is that they are not formatted to be easily retrieved by a search engine. Clearly Google’s search technology is not the reason that one can’t find a message sent to their gmail account. The reason they can’t find it probably has more to do with the fact that the sender wrote a poor subject and the content is likely to be equally poor in it’s ability to be searched.

How can we fix this?

The Wrong Way:

I think the wrong way is to outsource the problem. There is an entire industry that has grown up around the idea of creating easier to search email archives.  That is an industry that is trying to devise a more accurate search but the problem is so rarely the search algorithms or even the search parameters.

My opposition to this  goes back to my hatred of inefficiency. Here we have people capitalizing on a problem rather than solving it. I’m in no way opposed to people making money – I’m opposed to people doing so without providing a truly valuable service.

My Observations

The problem, as I see it, is that we send email willy-nilly without so much as a thought about it being found later. Email, like their younger cousin the tweet, are put out and forgot about, in abundance. In fact more and more of them are being put out without any thought.

For several years now there has been a small dedicated, (some would say crazy), group of people that have pushed for some sort of formal guide to email writing. They want people to think about what they are writing and to only send emails that are necessary. Some go as far as to say – unless you’d send it in a postal letter don’t send it in an email. I’m not behind that idea, in fact I prefer email to phone calls, (for business), because you have a written record of the conversation. It also saves me time because if I’m on the phone I’ve got to write down what they are saying anyhow.

Teach Our Children

Here is a thought – when I was in school we were taught how to properly format and write business letters and the difference between them and less formal letters. Why not teach kids how to write a proper email? I’m sure that in some more progressive school districts this has already begun but I’m just as sure that they are not teaching searchability. If we learned how to write searchable emails we’ll end up with more thoughtful, better structured, and more worthwhile communications. The best part is we’ll also be able to search through our inbox or archive and find what we are looking for.

What about the old people?

When one is trained to work at an office they are asked if they know MS Office and how to use a multi-line phone why not ask if they know how to write a searchable email? If they don’t train them. If you’ve got to train someone to use your system why not make searchable email part of your system?

SEO and SEOM

Subject Matters

Searchable mail is just as simple as the searchable web – create an informative subject that matches the content. If your content is time specific, say it’s about an event, place the date of the event in the subject. A good example of this is when I book a photo job I send an email with the date of the job in the subject.

The Content

What you put in the body should always be informative too. As a gmail user I have conversation threads, that is emails that are back and forth replies about the same subject. Google groups these for me and that’s one of the functions I love the most about gmail. Even when email clients don’t do this they usually append previous messages to the body of an email (gmail does both) which means you have a continual record with the latest additions on the top. The benefit of this is that by adding content you’re creating more stuff that can be searched which is great because you end up with a more searchable file most of the time. The downside is that if someone changes the subject but not the thread you end up with conflicting data and less searchability.

So when writing an email we should all be aware that if we’re changing the subject we should create a new email to address that subject.

Ambiguity is ugly

Just because you anticipate a long thread with lots of back and forth, there is still no excuse for ambiguity in emails. If you just physically talked to a coworker about a subject that doesn’t mean that you should ever send an email that doesn’t address what you were talking about or that refers to discussion without putting into the body of the email what was said. Is that a pain in the ass? Sure but what happens in 3 months or 4 years when you don’t remember what was said and are trying to piece together what an email means? All of a sudden your minor pain in the ass is a huge problem either because of a he-said-she-said situation of because your memory has failed and you don’t remember if it your coworker told you it was the red wire that needs cut or the black one.

Give Searchability a Try

So now that you are aware of the issue will you try to make your emails more searchable? I’m sure that if you do you’ll find you get fewer requests for you to resend the same email you sent the day before. Give it a try, spread the word, and let’s make the world a better, (more searchable), place.

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