Virtuality

Just finished watching the commercial for Cisco’s Virtual Changing Room (http://www.inspiredm.com/2009/10/12/virtual-reality-is-now-more-real-than-virtual/).

I don’t know how close to being complete that really is, or if it’s not something that will actually happen, but… they should realize how life changing that would be for so many people that really, truly loathe changing rooms. The horrible lighting, the tiny space, the pressure to wonder why the last nine outfits we’ve tried on sorta fit in one place but not in another… all of it. Plus you don’t even mess up your hair.

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If It Ain’t Broke…

Courtesy AdAge.com – Twitter is raising a massive $100 million round of funding from seven sources, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Twitter, which has already raised $55 million, has become a valuable resource for brands, both big, national ones and local ones, and can act as both a broadcast and a listening tool.
View the full article at: http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=139265

My response (in apropos tweet format) is twofold:

What should Twitter do with $100M? http://bit.ly/F6MMX Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
http://twitter.com/larissayoung/status/4375704644

Twitter is a word-of-mouth communications tool & is fine as-is. You know who needs $100M? Poor/starving/sick people. NOT TWITTER.
http://twitter.com/larissayoung/status/4375730813

I realize that they are a business, and will need constant revenue. Let’s look at the basics.
First, on their website, they say, “Twitter has many appealing opportunities for generating revenue but we are holding off on implementation for now because we don’t want to distract ourselves from the more important work at hand which is to create a compelling service and great user experience for millions of people around the world. While our business model is in a research phase, we spend more money than we make.”

Compelling service? Yes, Twitter can be habit-forming. This is why celebs are tweeting about nothing (SOMETIMES IN ALL CAPS), pseudo-celebs are tweeting for stardom, marketing folk & social media gurus are tweeting about tweeting, and bored teens are tweeting horribly misspelled past lunch experiences. This is why iPhones and Blackberries mention Twitter in their 30 second ad spot. This is why businesses are creating Twitter accounts, this is why spammers are getting banned as fast as they appear, and this is why everyone thinks life is described 140 characters at a time.

This ties in with Marketing, which is pretty straightforward at the moment: Twitter (along with the various monikers of it) is a near-household name. People mock it, enjoy it, hate it, love it, but the popularity has skyrocketed.

Great customer experience? It’s a simple yet powerful platform for many types of people, so overall, yes. Except for when the Fail Whale appears.

Server/bandwith/hosting costs? Okay, that will need to be paid for. The service is currently not ad-supported, so perhaps small ads built into the web browsers could be something new, which might cover their cost on that if they cap it at 10 advertisers a year (for example). These would be prime/coveted positions, and also manage to be unobtrusive.

Employee pay? They have a small crew that seems to be productive and happy. Location, perks, benefits all seem to be good. It’s about what you’d expect from a small company, except that they have almost entirely changed the world of communication as we know it. (Hit up http://twitter.com/jobs for more info.) These guys came from Google, Blogger, Xanga, CNET, AOL, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and more, so you know they know what’s up – and expect/deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Looking past all that, Twitter is a small business with a huge current-event megaphone, and they’re doing well, so they do need revenue to keep going. That, I understand.

But $100 million? What are they planning on doing? I honestly hope it doesn’t involve trying to fix what isn’t broken. As much as all the social media folks, marketing directors, Google Gurus and trendy people want the extra bells and whistles, do we, the Normal People, the ones who helped make it what it is, really need all that?

Just leave it alone, Twitter. It’s fine. (Except maybe you could build a little habitat for the fail whale to hang out in, because he really doesn’t need to show up quite so often.)

The Kindle

So.

Kindle.

I am not familiar with the history behind that name, or much else with that product besides it being an e-book reader. (Researching it will make me want one even more.) The response to this product has reminded me greatly of the thoughts from when mp3 players started to arrive on the scene. People really enjoyed the fact that they could carry their whole music library on a tiny portable machine and listen at their leisure. They kept buying CDs (many people still do), but mp3 players offered convenience.

The Kindle will never replace the feel of an actual library. Growing up, I had the pleasure of living nearby several libraries – beautiful architecture, high ceilings, a silence that was almost holy, and the calming sensation that only libraries can produce. There was something about all those books waiting quietly, sitting for years in sunlight and dust motes. The atmosphere bled knowledge, a pure sense of entertainment, and an almost Gothic tranquility.

These days, libraries are still pleasant places to spend hours browsing or studying, but the ones I’ve visited in California have lost something in translation. That sense of calm is still there, along with the nice touch of being able to read for free, but there is a definite lean towards a modern and more digital route. As nice as the Internet is, I honestly wish today’s youth was a little less technologically inclined.

For those of you who love books and libraries as much as I do, the Kindle appears to be able to bring the sensations home in a semi-convenient package. This would work very well for those with lengthy commutes (who are able to read and not get motion-sick), or those with casual desk jobs that want to catch up on their reading without having to always carry various books around. Yes, I understand you’ll still be physically holding something, but it’s different.

The only thing that worries me is the potential for ad intrusion. Once we move into territory where Kindle downloads are highly popularized we may start seeing things along the lines of “Download this free e-book, paid for by our sponsors”, and then have the print (on your screen) reformatted to fit various ads. Perhaps add in an extra page here and there that is a full-page ad. I know you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for), but these sorts of things seem to be always out there.

What prompted my entry was the following article on the NYTimes blog, “The Kindle Lets Amazon Make a Lot From the Few”.

They’re right: this definitely won’t overtake physical book buying, and I doubt libraries have much to worry about, it’s just – as they put it – the right product for the right customers. Now if only someone would buy me one so I can test and review it properly!

Bookmarks and coffee

Cereal.
Coffee.

At work, consuming both, and taking a moment to myself before heading into the plethora of tasks ahead of me. Though I enjoy my Sundays off – allowing myself to overindulge on laziness, cuddling, and day-long brunch – being in the office isn’t bad either. It’s usually quiet enough to get real work done and consider a Plan Of Action for various projects. That doesn’t mean I want to spend all my Sundays here, it means that the rare times I have to come into the office aren’t completely horrendous.

Plus I get Monday & Tuesday off.

iGoogle is my homepage here, and one of my favorite widgets is the “Most Recent Public Bookmarks” provided by del.icio.us. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) it tosses up a great one, and today was no exception.

Here it is.

Booooooom.com gives you 17 Creative Websites To Bookmark (Unless You Are Dumb).

Just like it says – unless you are dumb. Mimes are excluded in this case.

I skimmed the list, got about a page deep into Meathaus and immediately closed my browser because it was causing me to go into Artsy Mind Convulsions. A quick scan of the other sites proved much of the same.

Give yourself some awesome – GO TO THESE SITES.

Anyway, back to Cup 2 of coffee, and using my destruct-o rays on the disaster that is my inbox. Happy Sunday, kids.

Parasitic Telepathic Octopii

Just wanted to let you all know that a coworker let me borrow Stephenie Meyer’s new book, “The Host”.

I’m about 2 chapters in, and my subject line seems to sum it up accurately so far.

It is late, and that is all. Tomorrow: more.

Pending, Indeed.

1. The American economy is indescribable.
2. I suppose Chris & Rihanna are relevant because if we take our minds of the insane economy, we need to look at someone else’s relationship instead of our own.
3. 1. Jessica Simpson isn’t fat, can everyone just shut up now?
4. Not just poor people should experience this.
5. Can I have a Kindle, but maybe not the super-expensive one that does the same thing but is a little less shiny? I’m okay with that.

In summation, the economy is insane (even though it really doesn’t feel like it to a lot of people), 15 minutes of fame is can sometimes be extended to 20, technology is advancing to a remarkable state, and the reason I haven’t blogged anything of worth in the past couple weeks is because searching for a house makes me CRAZY.

The Struggles of a New Year

Over the past few months I’ve been working on my company’s website. Essentially what they had going on was the same content (and layout) they’d had for the past six years, and in those six years there were only a handful of changes made. The webmaster had built a somewhat user-friendly access portal that allowed the employees here to make very minor changes when necessary (mostly consisting of changing some text on the main page), but for the most part all other updates would be done by him. If they needed new pricing online, they’d send him that and he’d put it up. It was an easy & convenient solution for everyone and really required no effort on their part.

After writing, re-re-revising and finally deleting most of a large pseudo-rant, I’ll just go on with saying that I am relearning web design and development.

To make a long story short, it’s like discovering Internet2. It’s the same feeling as when I first figured out not just how to upload photos in 1996; but why I was doing it and what the difference was between live and local links.

In college my focus was on design for the multimedia world, something that was just coming into being when we finished up in 2001. Our class finished with less than 20 students – mostly guinea pigs for this new Web Design & Multimedia program. We learned the basics of developing websites; JavaScript, Flash, Dreamweaver, Director, those were all in there, but nobody considered us pioneer developers by any means. I suppose we were digital artists more than anything – not saying coders today don’t make works of art in their own right, but it’s different. The majority of us came out of non-digital graphic design backgrounds and moved over to the multimedia sector where we tried to incorporate both worlds.

Skip past a lot of failed website attempts, most made with image maps and crazy Photoshoppery, and step to the world out there today. I don’t think CSS was something we even talked about conversationally during my two year tenure, which might explain where I’m at.

So now we’re at that point where I still love illustration and typography and good design, but am now trying to self-instruct myself on the industry standards for design (and do things the easy way as well). It’s a good pain, much the way an intermediate workout feels when you haven’t moved off the couch all winter. Mostly it’s frustrating because the people I’m asking for help are advanced to the point where it’s difficult to tutor me. It’s not that they can’t, but explaining your second nature to someone isn’t the easiest task in the world. I liken this to trying to teach someone to drive that’s never seen a car before.

Now for some linkage, and don’t laugh if it seems outdated. We all have to start somewhere, even if it’s for the second time.

http://www.csszengarden.com/
http://www.cssnewbie.com/
http://delicious.com/popular/css
http://elementiks.com/web_resources.php
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/01/14/web-design-trends-for-2009/

To me, this feels as if I’m on the fringe of some giant inside joke. Here is my state of mind at the moment:
-I know if I like a site aesthetically when it shows up on my screen
-A lot of the sites I like aesthetically are made with CSS
-I know that not all browsers are created equal, but there are things you can do to make it so the users don’t notice
-I know you have to design for EVERYONE, even when you don’t want to
-Designing with SEO in mind is a good thing
-My main tools for building a site are Dreamweaver & Photoshop. I’ve got DW CS4 at work and DW8 at home, which makes for interesting results because you build differently.

My biggest hurdle right now is being able to build without fully understanding the process behind it. I can snag bits and pieces of other code and edit them somewhat (ex: if I need a photo gallery to work a certain way, I’ll find a template or tutorial to help me achieve results), but I can’t build things from scratch yet.

That ‘yet’ is a huge deal for me. It’s not enough that I get ‘square block goes into square space’, but I need to know why. So…

A) Do any of you novice designers have similar problems?
B) What tools/sites/resources are you using to help get through your hurdles?