Hi, I'm Fred L., and I... am a backspace-aholic.
(All: Hi Fred.)
For someone in this line of work, I have a somewhat odd affliction: I can't stand the sound of people typing. It drives me up the wall.
I've tried my best to try and live life under the protective cover of headphones, but socially that really isn't healthy. When my headphones aren't hiding me, I can hear the typing; the clickity-clackity sounds rattling all around me. Every key produces a different noise, like a tiny piano of crackling cacophony.
I can pick out your space bar, I can pick our your "enter" key, but more often than not, I can pick out your backspace key.
And that's when it occurred to me that I too am in the same boat. We're all backspace reliant.
One of my favorite books, Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think, talks of the ways that most users surf the web. He uses the word "satisficing," which is when users don't necessarily take the best option available, but take the first reasonable plan and go from there.
There's not much of a penalty for guessing wrong... [the] penalty for guessing wrong on a Web site is usually only a click or two of the Back button, making satisficing an effective strategy.
This approach seems to be the same way we all approach typing. When I actually thought about it and studied it, it turned out that I hit the backspace key an average of five times per line. This figure probably seems a bit off, but there are times when I'll change entire words, and there are times when (in development) when a line will only consist of a couple characters. Either way that's a lot of erasing.
And I'm not the only one. The second-most common noise that I hear echoing through my inner ear (second to the loose slap of the space bar) is the higher-pitched crinkle of the backspace key. We safisfice too much.
After finding the problem, I thought about the reasons of why it's happening. The answer isn't completely that the penalty is minor, the other half of things is that we're in too much of a hurry. I make many more mistakes when the pressure is on and I'm trying to get things done as quickly as possible. This is another drawback because while I'm hitting the backspace key probably twice as often as normal, the typos I don't catch on the first pass are going to need correcting later on: either after viewing what I've done right after typing, or for less severe errors when site-testing comes around. This just means more time fixing silly mistakes that shouldn't have happened to begin with.
The hopeful solution: slow things down a bit.
Instead of thrashing through the forest wildly with a machete in one hand and backspace-Band-aids in the other, I'm going to try and think about the keys I need to hit when I'm not positive as to where my fingers should go. This will force things to slow down at first, with the hope that eventually the thinking will decrease along with the mistakes (which in turn increases speed).
As that old saying goes: it's best to learn from your mistakes. Making an average of five per line means I've got plenty of opportunities to do so.
And from the sound of it, so do you.
One of my least favorite challenges is getting the servicemark to display on a web site. The servicemark is "A word, phrase, logo, symbol, color, sound or smell used by a business to identify a service and distinguish it from those of its competitors." (www.leanlegal.com) So pretty much if you name a service you provide, you'll want to throw a servicemark after the name to prevent other people from using the same name.
With a little Googling, you are sure to find that the servicemark is the unicode character U+2120. So logically you would think, "Hey, there must be an html entity for that!" Right you are! The servicemark can be displayed as ℠ or ℠. However, there is very poor support for this character. I am sure part of it has to do with the fact that not every font has that glyph defined, but it goes beyond that. For instance, with Verdana, the servicemark will show properly in Firefox, but not in the HTML title. In IE 6 on the PC, it shows up as a broken character (empty box) in both the HTML title and the body of the page. Since 80% of the world views the web through IE 6 on a PC, you pretty much can't use the html entities.
Ok, so we are going to have to another way to do this. The <sup> tag comes to mind as a way to produce the superscript needed for SM. So you go ahead and create the SM like <sup>SM</sup>.
Cool. But now we view that in a browser – SM – The font is still the same size as the rest of the text. Ok, so we redefine our sup tag to be a smaller font size. This poses a few problems. If you are using a font size around 11 - 12px, the SM should probably be around 7px. Unfortunately we are working with a pixel font, so the rendering looks kinda crappy, whatever. But then you look at it in IE, and the superscript nature of the text is altered by changing the size. Now IE shows SM as a tiny font, vertically aligned in the middle of the regular text. That just looks terrible.
In the end, we pretty much only have the option to have a big huge superscript SM, or to put the SM inline, like this: My Service(SM). Looks like it is a lose-lose situation. If only there was a win-win-win scenario! Where is the outrage, web community?
Just yesterday Blue Security closed up shop, ending one of the most successful campaigns against spammers ever. While Blue Security did prove that spammers can be effectively stopped, they failed to follow through. As a result it is likely the 450,000 users of the service will now be bombarded with even more spam. So, while I am disappointed with the recent turn of events, I think Blue Security really should be commended for their contributions. In addition their model should be adopted and improved upon to help eliminate the scourge spam.
Here is a overview of Blue Security's approach. According to the Can-Spam Act, a user must be able to unsubscribe from a bulk email list. Of course most spam emails do not contain a link to unsubscribe, and those that do more often verify your email as a "good" address. Blue Security's approach was to use a team of people to visit the websites selling items advertised in the spam emails, and to find a form to send an unsubscribe request through. Often times this would be a contact form, though sometimes an order form would be used. Once the unsubscribe method was established, it was scripted, and then triggered once for each spam received. Let's say 20,000 people received a spam advertisement. The Blue Security servers would then send 20,000 individual unsubscribe requests to the merchant's web server. This would not only create a headache for the merchants having to wade through the requests, but would often time act like a denial of service attack. This likeness to a DoS attack was probably the most controversial aspect of Blue Security's method.
Blue Security did manage to get six of the world's top ten spammers to stop sending spam to their users. That is an extremely impressive feat. However, on May 2nd a spammer know as PharmaMaster started an attack on the Blue Security web servers. His first step was to blackhole filter the Blue Security web server at the router level. When Blue Security redirected their web site to an old blog run at Typepad, PharmaMaster used a bot-net of zombie computers to launch a distributed DoS attack against the Typepad servers. Next, PharmaMaster launched a distributed DoS attack against the Tocows DNS servers that served as the name servers for Blue Security. In the end, PharmaMaster managed to take down thousands of web sites and blogs between the Tucows DNS servers and Typepad servers.
It is because of these outages that Blue Security has decided to shut down operations. The CEO of Blue Security does not want to be responsible for a large internet "war." I think this sends the message to spammers that they can continue to strong-arm the internet for their own benefit. Rather than the whole internet bowing to the illegal activities of spammers there needs to be a concerted effort to hunt down those responsible. If all of the big ISPs would pool together some resources we could stop this nonsense once and for all. Rather than placing the burden on a single company (Blue Security), the effort should be distributed among bigger players. This way, there wouldn't be a single point of failure, but an effective and redundant system.
You would think ISPs would jump on this bandwagon. How many resources are spent each and every day dealing with spam? Supposedly around 40% of all email is spam. That is quite a bit of wasted bandwidth and storage space.
I was never actually able to contribute to Blue Security since their activation servers never came back online after the DDoS attacks, but I know I would jump on the opportunity if another such effort was mounted. From all of the buzz about this on the internet, it would seem that there are many thousands like myself. It would be awesome to eliminate spam at the source rather than wasting time with spam filters, approved emails lists and whatnot.
I think the time has come for us to officially blow the whistle, for the general threat of the embedded MIDI file has been eradicated.
Sure, it pops up now and then where it shouldn't, what good virus doesn't? But mostly it has been contained to the uber-beginner, fresh off the htmlgoodies train and comfortably declaring themselves 'under construction' over on Angelfire. (which by the way, is now owned by Lycos. And I can't tell if the girl on the front page is excited, or having the worst migraine ever.)
Yes, the MIDI, a format first proposed in the early 80s so synthesizers could talk to computers is now mostly confined to recording studios and cell phones.
It wasn't always like that...
For those that may not have been into MIDI at all, it was the MP3 of 1992. You could download any song to hit the top 40 at about 50 to 100k each, a lot of which were horribly transcribed by Joe "I have no musical talent". Also, trying to organize them with the 8 character filename size limit at the time was impossible. you also needed a top of the line sound card if you didn't want your MIDI's to sound like a nintendo game. As much as MP3 completely destroyed most of the underground MIDI market (starting around 1995), it was hard for anyone interested in the format to switch, as 100k on a 56k connection seemed reasonable, while 3MB on the same connection did not, especially for one song.
Seriously though, the MIDI has it's time and place. It's still a popular and excellent tool to help young musicians learn through example. You could even say that it makes learning some songs a 'cakewalk'. /hahahah *tears*
But please, for everyone's sake, keep MIDI off your awesome web page.
I hear so many people these days speaking keywords other than just the "Web 2.0 jargon." These include words like "SEO" and "PageRank", and while I'm sure people have a relative idea of what these terms means, I'm sure a lot of the push is really just because they were told to ask about it.
So what is SEO? We've gone over this before, had a couple discussions about it, and I think we've made a vague point as to what it is. Essentially, it's readying your site for Google's onslaught of rules and regulations to move up in the list of sites they'll return when people type in certain key phrases. I've always been a big believer that you shouldn't have to follow these rules, and that making a good and usable website should automatically rank nicely in Google. If you can get around it without the stylesheets on, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.
But it goes beyond just simply getting your site to be number one on Google. I've noticed that in my own browsing habits, I never choose the first listing just because it's first (meaning I never use the "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature). I read the title of the website to judge how serious the site is. Sites that jam keywords into the title are just looking for my attention, trying to grab any user they can. I don't need sites like that, and usually the information there just isn't worth the click in and back. I like sites that have a title telling me what the page topic is and a mention of what site I'm looking at, and that's it.
Secondly, I read the description underneath the title. This is generally a meta tag that the site supplies, or where the keyword is found on the page. This is the real deciding factor in my clicking on a link or not. If a link seems to be using what I'm talking about in the same context as how I want it, I'll consider it, otherwise I'll keep looking. I also check for grammar and spelling because people that really have something to say take the time to say it. (This isn't make or break, but if things are on the fence it might make a difference.)
My own browsing habits lead me to believe that getting your page to the top of Google isn't really as important as the "experts" claim. Of course it's great to be on the front page, but it's more important to have relevant and specific content that gets to the point and leaves out the fluff so you'll catch my attention with your site's blurb. I'm not going to stick on the front page of the search results if I don't find what I'm looking for, and in fact I'll probably go at least ten pages deep.
This means that it's better to have tightly worded content that's informative and helpful than any of those tricks on getting people to stumble upon your site. As said in the ever popular Don't Make Me Think, once you write your content, you should cut it in half and then cut that in half, and you'll probably have a good chunk of website text. This saves people time from reading the stuff they don't need, and as another thing I believe in: when people find your site useful once, they'll probably trust your links more in the future.
So next time someone comes to you about SEO, don't overestimate the power of getting your site to number one. Focus on making your sites useable, helpful and inviting. Don't try to grab all of the users you don't have, instead provide worthwhile content for the ones that you do. By doing this, those other users will find their way. Why? Because you're giving them what they're really looking for, and they'll come back over and over again.
iMarc recently overhauled the Starwood Archive, an online, searchable repository of images, logos, standards and multimedia files for Starwood Hotels.
Staying connected to important data, information and materials for the hotel or resort is as easy as logging in to the new web application. Each user is greeted with a unique homepage based on their profile and needs. Thanks to the latest database code and management technologies, associates can log in and link directly to their digital marketing assets as well as standards, brand communications and marketing news.
iMarc's updated codebase runs on a PHP 5.x/Apache 2.x backend, which is 100% object-based, making updates, future enhancements, and maintenance easier than traditional PHP-based applications. The website is driven by the powerful, PostgreSQL database.
An updated search engine helps users find the ever-growing list of assets, including logos, photgraphy, templates, and video. A small group of Starwood administrators, can now log into a private section of the site and manage tens of thousands of corporate assets for multiple brands including Westin, W, Four Points, and St. Regis.
Thousands of Starwood employees and their vendors are notified when their brand or hotel updates it's logo or fonts, or adds photography assets to the archive. Storing corporate assets and media in a central location means employees always know where to go to download the latest approved collateral.
With NeXtGen LightBox, users can share asset collections with other archive users and compose a 'message board' dialogue.
Another great new feature is a Multimedia section. Here, videos can be ordered and tours, Flash media, and more can be downloaded through the archive. The addition of new communications tools provides all new functionality and support as well. News, information and alerts will be delivered to users on login, in addition to relevant standards and guidelines.
Lead Developer, William Bond says of the new archive, "the clean, CSS-driven interface and robust, object-oriented backend are synergystic. It's incredibly easy to find exactly what you're looking for."
The Starwood Archive is located at www.starwoodarchive.com.