Usability in Everyday Life

As an account manager working in digital media, I spend a lot of time thinking about usability at work.

I’m always checking out landing pages, contact forms or different design elements, and asking myself if they make websites more or less usable. But that’s mostly just during my nine to five.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of my different day-to-day experiences through the lens of usability. An example.

I arrived at company X for a meeting and walked into the lobby. The front desk was unattended, but there was a sign-in sheet with columns for name, company, time in and time out.

I signed my name, wrote down my company name and then reached into my pocket to grab my phone. It was dead.

And I don’t wear a watch.

I looked around the room.

No clock.

Although most people carry a mobile device with them at all times, and some people wear watches, you shouldn’t ask someone to write down what time they checked in without providing a clock. A simple wall clock would have been so easy to install.

I want to give some credit to Justin Davis at Madera Labs, for hitting me over the head with the word “usability” so much in the last three years I’ve lived in Nashville via his many appearances at Podcamp, Barcamp, NSW, etc., as well as the great work he does over at Madera Labs.

iPod Touch, Web Entrepreneurship

iPod Touch is great, but…
Blogger Mark Evans describes why he opted for an iPod Touch rather than an outright iPhone.

One thing that would make the iPod Touch even greater, however, would be VoIP – or the ability to essentially use the iPod Touch as a phone via a software download from Skype. Evans makes a good point though: that would probably anger the wireless carriers a little too much for Apple right now. And a follow up comment points out that the Touch lacks a built-in microphone. Alas, technology gets us so close…

Start-Ups: Follow the Opportunity, not the Plan

Blogger Bret Terrill offers a great aphorism for those hoping to succeed online: ditch the business plan and follow the opportunity. Business plans, he argues, are useless when the whole game can change under your feet with the launch of a new platform (iPhone, Facebook) or a new technology. Click through to read his analogy; it’s too good to rip off here.

Issue with YouTube embed

First off, sorry you’re having problems. We know how frustrating that can be.

To be honest, I’m a little confused by what you mean when you say you e-mailed embed code from YouTube to your social networking site. Here’s instruction on the easiest way to get a video from YouTube up and running on your social network. If this doesn’t answer your question, there are more questions below that will help us figure out the problem.

  1. Copy the embed code from YouTube.
  2. From you network, click on “Add a Video.”
  3. Paste the embed code you copies from YouTube into the form provided.

You can also drop the embed code directly into a blog post, if that best suits what you’re going for.

If that doesn’t solve the problem, here are a few questions.

Is this a video you uploaded to YouTube? Or did someone else upload it?

Where would you like the video to appear? Simply on your site? In a blog post?

What do you mean when you say you e-mailed the embed code from YouTube to your social network?

Thanks for taking the time. We appreciate it.

Imus scandal prompts debate on “forgiveness” in the Information Age

“I would have fired Don Imus years ago. Because he’s boring. And if he should have been fired as a racist, that, also, should have occurred years ago. Howard Stern has been exposing his racism for more than a decade (odd, by the way, that few if any news reports went to Stern for this perspective). I’m no fan of Imus. I panned him in TV Guide years ago. I won’t miss him now that he’s gone. I think what he said was as stupid as it was offensive — that is, colossally on both counts.But I do think we need to stand back for a moment, just a moment, and examine the process of public scalpings in media, on the internet, and in politics today. This was Don Imus’ macaca moment and it was amplified to an 11 by the piranhaesque repetition of it on cable news (and, in this case, less so on the internet) and then by the calls for his execution from all the usual executioners.”

(Via Buzz Machine)

In response to the Imus debacle, Jeff Jarvis brings up an interesting question: how forgiving should the media be of public figures? As the 2007 State of the Media report has argued, the advent of 24/7 cable news has thus far led to much more news repetition than a real 24/7 news cycle. So when Imus (or Lott or whoever) makes such a statement, its impact is magnified one hundred fold throughout the media (make sure you watch the Daily Show’s take on Buzz Machine).

Jarvis believes the Imus remarks bring that discussion to the forefront. Imus’ remarks may reveal his true character and its treatment in the media may have been justified. But in the future, the public will have to examine very closely whether a tasteless comment is indicative of a character flaw (or, on a deeper level, a systemic problem) or if it’s just a “mistake.”

In any case, I’ve been loath to comment on the Imus debate for a variety of reasons (including that I think, on the face it, there didn’t remain much to be said) but I think Jarvis’ observation is an astute one.

White girls can skip, but black boys can’t stomp, study says

“Teachers treat African-American males differently from their white and Latino counterparts based on negative stereotypes and perceptions, according to a dissertation presented Wednesday.”

From Medill Reports,  a researcher who conducted her doctoral work jointly with the University of California Irvine and California State University Los Angeles looked at endemic racism in public schools in L.A.  (Watch her proposal here).

Her research attempts to combine qualitative and quantitaive research numbers behind the differences in how African-American males are disciplined in schools as compared to  other groups.

Planning a high school reunion, et al

I’ve been working with a committee to plan our five-year high school reunion. After setting the date for Thanksgiving, here’s a message we received via the Facebook group we set up to solicit suggestions from our classmates.

We (Jason H., Jeff M., Andy F., AJ K., Joshua S.,) would like to respectfully suggest a new reunion date. We believe that the date of the reunion is a bit too early. After 5 years of college few people have made notable changes in their lives. Nevertheless, we would be excited to attend a 5 year reunion, but feel a date some time in the summer would better fit the occasion. If our class of 02 were able to circle this weekend as a priority of their summer, we believe it would have more meaning.

Only if you knew me could you recognize the absurdity of such a formal request. (Jason, Jeff, Andy, A.J. and Josh are my best friends).

I also agreed to head up the alumni network for an internship program I participated in the summer of 2005 in Germany. It should prove to be interesting, plus it’ll give me an excuse to actually sit down and start learning Drupal, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

STA Travel Update

Quick update on my life right now:

I’ve been selected as a semi-finalist for STA Travel’s World Traveler Summer Internship. I have a phone interview on Thursday. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Screen shot of STA Travel's competition for their World Traveler Summer Internship.

I’m currently scouring the blogosphere for an invite to Joost, so if you know anyone who uses it right now, let me know.

Still waiting to hear back from the fellowship I applied for with the American Council on German Affairs. That would take place in the fall or winter. We’ll see.

And finally, still spending the vast majority of my day with 13 other Medill graduate students working on the New Media Publishing Project, advising a newspaper in Michigan on how best to explore the convergence of digital and local communities. In the next few weeks we hope to roll out a few Web experiments.

Chiditarod 2007 Video: Chicago’s urban shopping cart race;affiliateId:73270;height:392;width:480;On March 3, 2007, more than 200 people gathered in twenty-degree weather to celebrate the second annual Chiditarod (read the Metromix preview here). Chicago’s urban shopping cart race pits human ingenuity against the elements, while collecting canned goods for donation.

Central to the Chiditarod’s philosophy is a “leave no trace,” environmentally friendly orientation. Most of the people in attendance are in some way, shape or form affiliated with the regional Burning Man community, a movement that started in California in the mid-80’s.

While a host of photographers, videographers and reporters hustled from checkpoint to checkpoint, gathering as much footage as they could, I chose to embed with one team: the Corporate Dalliances. Self-described as a ragtag gang representing the mainstream, the team utilized hard work, determination, and a fair amount of dubious tactics to win this year’s Chiditarod.

This is their story. Continue reading “Chiditarod 2007 Video: Chicago’s urban shopping cart race”