Monday, July 28, 2008

Posted on 28 Jul 2008 at 16:55 UTC

So, what's good about posting from your phone? That remains to be seen. The iPhone, while a great device, still suffers from a bad keyboard. I'd love to have it pair with a small Bluetooth unit. That would be a game-changer.

[The above was posted from my iPhone using CellSpin, a new blogging service/application. While I think it's nice and all, I was irritated that I could not send my post here without also sending a duplicate to the CellSpin website. They use ads effectively within the application - why do they also need me to build content for them? If there's no way to turn that off, it will end my use of the service.]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Design versus information

I am increasingly irritated by websites that force a PDF down your throat because they want to "preserve the look of their design." Here's a great case in point. Our State magazine, a beautiful, photo-heavy monthly about North Carolina, used to publish a web-based, constantly updated listing of editorial plans and photography needs. I would pop it up on occasion, to see if I was interested in trying to shoot something worth submitting. (This is megalomania, but I enjoy my fantasies. Move along.) Here's the former link - a nice, clean web page.

Now, however, for no apparent reason, it's done in .pdf - which means I have to download a file, (cleverly named "photo.pdf"), hunt it down, open it and read it to find the same information. Maybe this is being done to act as gatekeeper - only the truly dedicated will stay with it. I fear, however, that it's likely either one of two things, both of which, as with all things not good, point back to Microsoft. Like the idiots control freaks who cannot deliver a message in email, but insist on sending it as an attachment, they are more concerned with the design of their message than with getting it heard by their audience. So those who get press releases or memos are left with dozens of files (usually Word, but, increasingly .pdf) in their downloads folder. Gah!

Or it’s due to people using Word to compose their email and sending it from there, so that anyone using any other system (ie - not Windows) will get it as a Word attachment. Is the content of your message really that dependent on your font choices and design? Can it not stand alone within the email program or web browser of your reader? That says something slightly negative about your abilities as a writer. (I know, I’m going to hear form designers who say the whole of the message, the gestalt, includes typeface, font size, column width, spacing and color, but really - do you need to force me to read your PR piece in your paragraph stylings? Usually these things are in fairly standard formats, but they have the company logo above the text.) And putting your data into pdf without an index effectively removes it from being read by anyone using a screen reader.

OK, I feel better now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Order v. Chaos

I just spent a week and a few days traveling. While I love being away, seeing new places, meeting new people and such, I also like being at home, in my bed, with my dogs on the floor to each side, hearing the breathing of my Lovely Bride on her pillow beside me. I hate having to fill out reports for the expenses those trips cause, but I adore the security of seeing clean clothes in the closet, knowing that I don't have to worry if my luggage will be lost, or what time is checkout, or my next train.

I think there is some of that in all of us: a love for the security of routine, but a longing for just a touch of mystery, chance, or adventure to spice up life. Once the ability to meld with travel gets into your psyche, though, it's tough to get out. My dad traveled for much of the thirty-odd years of my life. He was almost always home for weekends, but would leave most weeks on Monday or Tuesday for a few days of visiting customers. While I understand this now as a businessman, I remember missing him being there, yet enjoying hearing about the places he went.

The iPhone 2.0 phenomena that is currently raging has this same duality. There are those who are excited about the changes, glad of the new features and tools, longing for more, and there are those who are sad that they have lost the security of knowing exactly where the icon for each application would be. This is but the newest disruption to the lives of technology users, as sure as the changes of RSS, IM, and that mysterious Web 2.0 we hear so much about.

I presented to a group this week on these new technologies, and the powerful changes this can make to your interface with information and people via the internet. I forget that I work with a technology company and we expect everyone to use these things. Many people in the group, peers of mine, have companies that filter IM traffic, do not allow "unauthorized" web access, and generally treat their employees like children being held after school for detention.

While I'm sure there are abuses of the lax attitude we have toward these factors, I'm also sure that my colleagues bring in more varied and useful information from these explorations than they would with limited access, and we are able to share and discuss that information more freely and fully as a result.

While reading this article, I was wondering about the future of those companies my friends work for. Would they eventually have IT departments that crumbled under pressure from their workers insistence on newer tech, or would they wither and die, due to employees who left to work in better places? Maybe that's research that needs to be done. As we (the company I now work for) grow, will we have larger IT structures that grow to contain and control us more, until the creative innovators all leave? Who knows?

Meanwhile, I have to re-do my expense report with daily exchange rates from an official source, in exact week increments. ::Sigh::

from dusty archives - Largo Lodge

[ed. This piece was written some time ago, but I found it recently while moving hard drives on a computer. I thought some folks may find it ...