Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Too much of a good thing is still too much

Life After Web is moving. As I’ve struggled to balance work, family, personal web projects, and life in general, I’ve decided to simplify.

I have been maintaining two blogs, Life After Web and On a lighter note…, and I love them both. The problem is, it’s too much. When I don’t have a new post, my guilt is compounded doubly. The time has come to consolidate.

After weighing the pros and cons of each blog, the software behind it, and my plans for the future, I’ve decided to stick with the URL I used for On a lighter note… . (Please take a moment to bookmark it at: http://sherrileigh.wordpress.com.) However, the title will still be Life After Web. After all, both sites are about life and the web. The two terms are rather intertwined for me, a web project manager.

I will be importing all of the content from this site over to the new URL, so you won’t miss out on any of the old posts. There is also an RSS feed there to keep you current.

Thank you for supporting this little blog. It’s quite a fun experience and I can’t wait to continue it at the new Life After Web. See you there!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Create an Effective Web Site, Part 3 of 3: You have a site, now what?

This is part 3 of 3 in a series about creating effective Web sites. In part 1, we discussed planning that should take place before you even begin building your site. In part 2, we talked about drafting your content. Today in part 3, we tackle what to do when you have a site.

Just because you have a Web site doesn’t mean you’re done. This is no time to sit back and relax. Users will not find you just because you bought a URL and slapped up a few pages. You have to promote it and you have to think about the search engines.

Think local: There are many ways to promote your Web site. Start by including your URL on all of your marketing pieces, such as business cards, brochures, and mailers. Ask your customers if you can have their email address to notify them when your site goes live.

Think larger: Join online discussions about your area of expertise. Blogs and forums abound. Undoubtedly, someone has posted a question that you can answer.

Don’t forget those search engines: First, search engines will only find you if they know about you, so submit your site addresses to all major search engines. Most likely, the majority of your traffic will come from search engines, so you will want to make sure that you have the right keywords to help people find you. The search engines will regularly "crawl" your site to find out what is on it. They will look for the keywords and phrases you used to determine what your site is about. To make sure you come up in the listings, be sure to include terms that your customers and prospective clients will be looking for.

For more information about search engines, I highly recommend Search Engine Guide. That Jennifer Laycock is one smart woman.

If you did your planning, you should have a great site which will travel by word of mouth. Visit your own Web site frequently to make sure that your content is still relevant and to add new content where it makes sense.

Above all, enjoy it! The Web is a fascinating world.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Create an effective Web site, Part 2 of 3: Drafting your content

This is part 2 of 3 in a series about creating effective Web sites. In part 1, we discussed planning that should take place before you even begin building your site. Today in part 2, we will talk about content.

Your customers will learn a lot about your business from the content of your site. Not only will the content you select be important, but the presentation and organization of that content will leave an impression as well. An organized, well laid-out site with just the right information will make your prospective customer more likely to feel comfortable doing business with you. In contrast, a disorganized site with too little or too much information may send your prospective customer running to a competitor. Content can make or break your credibility.

When it’s time to write your content, it is critical to keep your message clear. You never want to confuse your customers. Keep it simple and make sure to include the information your customer needs to know. Here are some ideas to help make sure your content is clear:

  1. Use simple words. Avoid fancy words and jargon that may confuse your customers.
  2. Avoid acronyms. Your customer may be unfamiliar with the acronym and, therefore, may not understand what you are saying. If you do use acronyms, make sure to spell it out at least once on each page. (Why each page? If you only define it on one page, and your user doesn’t read that page, they will miss it.)
  3. Use short sentences and short paragraphs. Breaking your information up in to small chunks greatly increases the clarity of your message.
  4. Use bullets and lists. Information in list form is easier to comprehend.
  5. Write in a conversational, yet professional style. A conversational style helps you keep your language simple and clean.

Tomorrow in part 3, you have a site, now what?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Create an effective Web site, Part 1 of 3: Planning your site

Planning is an important, yet often underserved step in building a Web site. Too often sites are started for the sake of having a site and then the owners do not see a return on their investment. This can be avoided by planning up front. By identifying your objective, goals, and what differentiates you from the competition, your site can be a great asset to your business.

Identify your Web goals

Determining specific goals is arguably the single most important step in creating your Web site. Without a clear objective you may find that your Web site is not adding value to your business or your mission. Your goal might be something like:

  • Increasing revenue
  • Attracting new customers
  • Reducing the number of phone calls you get for basic information like hours and location

Identify your Web audience

It is important to know who the audience is for your Web site. Your Web audience may differ from your local customer base. Knowing this will help you create content that is valuable to your audience. Before preparing your content, think about these questions:
  • Who is your Web audience?
  • Why do they need your Web site?
  • How will your Web site make their life easier?

Know your competition

Let’s face it. You have competition. You may like to forget about them, but knowing what makes your site different from your competitor’s site is important. Consider the competitors you already have identified in your daily business, but also consider what other competitors you may have on the Web. Because the internet makes this world a much smaller place, you may have a competitor for Web customers that is not a competitor in your physical location. Know what other businesses are doing on the Web.

If you're starting out with a new Web site, or if you just need to learn how to improve your site, June Cohen’s book, The Unusually Useful Web Book is a great resource. It will tell you everything you need to know to start your Web site, in plain English and short bursts of information. It is chock full of easy to understand tips and worksheets. (And I mean full- even the inside covers.) I love this book.

Tomorrow in part 2 of this series: drafting your content.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Green Web Sites Flourish

greenguidance_headeronly.jpgIn an ever-growing trend (no pun intended), I have noticed an emphasis on “green” lately that has taken root (oops) on the web. One example is sprig.com, launched by The Washington Post earlier this year. It’s sort of an online woman’s magazine with a special focus on environmentally friendly fashion, food, home, and beauty.

We live in a special time where people can explore all sorts of things on the Internet, including the environment. I’m by no means an activist or even erudite on the subject, but I do like nature and I like to think that little shifts here and there can add up to good results. The Green Guide, by National Geographic, is filled with great tips and references. I have added their Green Guidance box to this site to give you a glimpse of what their site has to offer, as well as to simply remind myself to visit their site from time to time.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Life After Web Gets A Fresh Look

Aaahhh… that’s better. Sometimes you need a change. I initially started Life After Web in February of this year to learn about blogs in the best way I know how: by doing. During this short time I realized, people really are finding my blog and, in fact, reading it. What an exciting (or frightening?) experience. It seemed like it was time to take this blog and "kick it up a notch" as Emeril would say.

What do you think of the new look? While I enjoyed the earth tones of my previous template, I was not fond of the colored background behind the body text. I prefer something a little easier on the eyes. I think this new template is crisper, cleaner, and easier to read. Hopefully, you’ll agree.

With summer drawing to a close (though work maintaining a fast pace), I plan on getting back in the swing of things with my post. My goal is three posts per week on topics such as:
• How does the Internet affect society?
• On the flip side, how does society affect the Internet?
• What can you do to make your website more effective?
• What are other people/companies doing on their websites?
• and, a sprinkling of other random musings surrounding other forms of technology.

Thank you for joining me for the first part of this journey. Enjoy the ride as Life After Web continues to grow.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

8 Random Things About Me

Deb Owen over at 8 hours & a lunch has tagged me to list 8 random things about me. This is the first time I’ve been tagged for anything, but I’m excited and ready for the challenge, so here we go.

First, the rules:

  1. Post these rules before you give your facts.
  2. List 8 random facts about yourself.
  3. At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names (linking to them)
  4. Leave them a comment on their blog letting them know they've been tagged!

Eight random things about me:
  1. I love random! I am good at random. My train of thought may jump the tracks sometimes, but there is almost always a method to my madness.

  2. I love language. I like beautifully written prose, descriptions that transport readers, puns, and plays on words. A professor once marked my paper down for using “maybe,” when “perhaps is so much better.” You know what? Sometimes it is better. And sometimes, it really is maybe.

  3. I am not a chef, however I sometimes make great meals by accident. Last week’s accident was chicken stirfry in a spicy peanut sauce.

  4. I was an engineering major for a year-and-a-half in college. I did the calculus, programming, computer science, more calculus, chemistry, all of it. Then, I graduated with a degree in English. No, not because it was next alphabetically. I enjoyed written communications better. All of this brought me to web project management which I’ve been doing for almost 7 years now.

  5. I understand why my dad once said, “I’m 50 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” I would like to be a web editor. Admitting it is the first step.

  6. I have a Webkinz, and I try to visit her for at least 5 minutes every day. Sure it may sound silly, but my inner child is delighted.

  7. I like the super heroines and villainesses of DC Comics: Batgirl, Catwoman, Harley Quinn, Supergirl. And why not? They’re strong, sassy, and, well… comical.

  8. On her list, deb owen said, “i have, without a doubt, the most awesome friends and family on the entire planet.” So I reply… you know my friends and family? Neat! ;)

Now, I tag:
  1. Dr. Lisa Tomaszewski of Physician’s Money Digest, a site which is teaching me a lot about my personal finances (even though I’m not a doctor
  2. Papa Ceph, whose loved ones might enjoy 8 random facts about Lil’ Karl
  3. J. de Vrede at J., a faithful reader
  4. Farrell Kramer at .kramer- we want to know more about the man behind the communications company
  5. Steve J, a former colleague also really good at random
  6. Pepita at ThinkingSparks, who has interesting thoughts on business
  7. Lynne Demmer at Everything’s Green who has been a little scarce lately, but hopefully she’s not gone for good
  8. Nicolae Rusan of Foresighter, another quiet one lately

Monday, July 30, 2007

Life Without iPod

I spent most of last week without my iPod in my car after previously taking it in the house and forgetting to replace it. This may not sound horrible, or maybe it does to some of you, but it made me acutely aware of how much I miss when I'm behind the iPod.

My commute is close to one hour each way, so having my music or podcasts with the ability to play what I want, when I want, without commercials is important to me. Without my iPod last week, I was forced (gasp) to listen to the radio. I heard new songs and played along as contestants tried to win exciting prizes like... t-shirts. Congratulations to them. I was also brought up to speed on current events like Britney’s photo shoot fiasco and the breaking news of Lindsay Lohan’s arrest. Just think, I may have gone the entire day, or worse, my whole life without learning of these important news stories if I had been listening to my iPod.

Needless to say, my iPod is back in my car.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Human Interaction: A thing of the past or future?

Internet café: a place where you will be in the presence of others, with whom you will not communicate, while you use your computer to communicate with people who are not there

This was the definition given by the Blue Man Group at a show last week. Roughly. I wasn't taking notes.

By the way, I highly recommend their show. It was, as the critics say, entertaining, thought-provoking (who knew?), and surprising. But I digress.

In a seemingly odd phenomenon, it's not uncommon to see users engrossed in their computer at a coffee house or book store. One could argue that they are missing out on human interaction. If we think about it though, absent of computers, those patrons likely would not have spoken to their fellow strangers anyhow. In fact, some of them may even be interacting with humans on the other end of those computer lines in book stores across the country.

The Internet has changed human interaction, whether for better or worse is in the hands of each user.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Digital Magazine Appeals to Senses

Smart magazine publishers realize that they can no longer be solely focused on print issues, they must explore multiple media formats to reach their audience. Obviously People magazine understands this. They have put together a digital magazine filled with fantastic displays of technology (or for you non-technical folks… lots of fun stuff to see, hear, and click). See that dolphin in the background of the cover shot? Go to People Digital Magazine and that dolphin is actually jumping out of the water and diving back in.

In this issue, you can see video of the latest roller coaster to be built at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA. You can watch the Harry Potter cast age through photos and test your knowledge of the stories: choose your answer and a clip from one of the movies will play to show you the right answer. A sizzling barbecue spread gives recipes and playlists for your summer feast. Concert previews, a live penguin camera, dunking American Idol contestants… what more can you ask for?

Movement, sound, and interactivity make this magazine exciting. While People magazine is not among my normal reads, I was hooked on playing with this digital issue. There are some great ideas to take from this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fashion, Phones Send Virtual Hugs

So there's this shirt. You put it on and hug yourself. Sensors in the shirt record the data about your embrace, then send it to your cell phone. From your phone, you open a "Hug Me" application and send a message to someone you want to hug. They accept your message and put on their Hug Shirt. Their hug shirt recreates the sensation of your hug.

I bet it's just as good as the real thing. Has anyone out there actually added this high fashion item to their wardrobe?

At least we're putting our scientific research to good use.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Brad Paisley Shows Us Our Own Ridiculousness, Again

Brad Paisley's latest music video humorously depicts internet behavior. In "Online" he discussed the persona shifts that sometimes come along with online interaction when a user portrays themselves in a stronger, more confident way.

I discussed social networking the other day and, while I think online interaction serves some purposes, it can not replace face-to-face interaction. Our lives are different online than they are in the real world. As I write this, I am wearing a faded 15 year old t-shirt and baggy cotton pants, yet I could present myself as a cutthroat business person if I so chose. I could not, however, walk out my front door in these clothes and elicit the same response. Don't misunderstand me; I don't mean to imply that one of these is the right way, the other wrong. I think both real world and online interactions can be enlightening, educational, even empowering.

Brad Paisley has yet again analyzed our society at a wonderfully basic level. See some of his other observations in "Celebrity" or "Alcohol." Reality is always entertaining.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Join a Social Network, Or Else

"If you don't belong to some kind of social network, you soon may not belong anywhere." So claims Daniel Tynan of US Airways magazine's "Our Digital Life."

Social networks come in all shapes and sizes. You can find one for almost any interest you have. Socializing online carries a number of conveneniences. Many networks involve leaving messages for others, which means you can squeeze it in whenever you have time. Chances are low that you'll experience that so-what-do-we-talk-about-now awkward silence that often occurs when meeting new people in the real world. It's a great way to have your questions answered, or learn how others have succeeded in a project you are currently facing.

Online social networks aren't exactly new, they've just evolved. I agree with Tynan that they can be valuable resources, but don't go just for the popularity factor, go for the experience.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Social Networking for Kids

The adults that haven't picked up on Second Life may now be invading the kids online virtual world, Webkinz.

I just learned of this new hit from a friend of mine who saw patrons of all sizes carrying small stuffed animals in the mall. The way it works is you purchase a Webkinz stuffed animal, then go online to adopt your new pet. Upon adoption, you are given a room, food, and KinzCash to be spent on more food, adornments for your room, or even more rooms. Your goal is to keep you pet happy, healthy, and fed.

In Webkinz you can play games at the arcade (and earn more KinzCash), speak to your pet through a menu of phrases, or interact with other Webkinz. It's social networking for a littler crowd, except, like Beanie Babies and Harry Potter, the adults are taking this fad over. With parental monitoring, however, this could be a fun way for kids to interact with a computer.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I've Missed My Blog

I've written in earlier posts about the amount of time many of us spend on our computer and how this affects our personal relationships. I am generally in favor of stepping away from the computer.

Odd phenomenon, though. I've actually felt guilty for neglecting my blogs lately. I've been traveling, working long hours, cheering on little league games, and otherwise ignoring my computer for weeks. I became anxious to write again.

With those that have left comments here, I feel a certain camaraderie. For all of the readers that have taken the time to find this little blog, I feel an obligation. This is part of my social life.

The internet is a remarkably significant part of my life. I've missed my blogs. It's good to know they've been here patiently waiting for me.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Users Choose TV Shows

What do you want to watch on television? Networks have spent decades trying to push shows on to the viewers through pilots and short series in hopes of creating a winner. Now, some networks are finding value in trying new shows out on the Internet in specially formatted "webisodes." Consider it the new pilot. The network can monitor feedback on the web. We all know news, good or bad, travels fast through blogs. If the buzz looks positive, the network may choose to air a few episodes. If not, they may scrap it altogether.

Jordan Levin, former CEO of the WB network explained, "we're shifting to a user-empowered era in which audiences take ownership of content." (See article: TV Pilots Crash, Fans Race to the Web for the Next Viral Hit .)

Consumers have always been savvy. The Internet places more control in the consumers' hands, giving the users a venue to voice opinions on everything from television shows to politics. If the television networks can utilize the Internet to better viewer experiences, then why not try an online sneak peak?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Living a Web Life

You’ve probably noticed my lack of posts in recent weeks. I’ve been noticing the same phenomenon on other blogs as well. Must be Spring fever. I would say that life got in the way, but that sounds like life is a bad thing, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In the past month my non-work time has been consumed by hosting guests, moving, going to baseball games, and spending time with my family.

I am now caught up on my news feeds and it looks like the Internet is still the way of the world. People are still blogging and twittering and networking online. One guy (though I presume there are others) has managed to maintain an online presence while still living his life. Justin.tv is a perpetual video account of Justin Kan’s life as viewed from a camera strapped to his head. Interesting idea. It’s not for everyone. I’m pretty sure no one needs or wants to see my life in that much detail. It just goes to show that voyeurism will always provide some people entertainment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

1.8 Million Species, 1 Site

I have a lot of web projects going on at work right now that range in scope and scale. All of it, however, pales in comparison to an upcoming undertaking called the Encyclopedia of Life.

Over the course of the next decade, the Encyclopedia of Life will be loaded with all known information about every species on the planet- all 1.8 million of them. Rather than appealing to a niche audience, it is aiming to be accessible by the masses. Information will be accessible at a level for scientists and six-year-old children, educators and those that are simply curious. According to their website, EOL’s goal “is to create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike.”

We’ve changed a lot since the days of the door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. Here’s a video to whet your appetite.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Travel to Galapagos Without Jet Lag

Traveling to Galapagos is on my “someday” wishlist. I’ve heard the wildlife and environment there are spellbinding. The travel, however, is long, expensive, and requires special permits.

Annie Ok offers an alternative, however, through her environmental design where she has created a virtual Galapagos in Second Life. Annie’s creations may not be enough to appease those of us that want to visit Galapagos, but they are quite breathtaking in their own digital right. You can see a full set of images on Flickr or visit Galapagos in Haenim, Second Life. Otherwise, maybe I’ll see you in the real Galapagos someday.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Staying Connected At All Times

Many people, particularly the younger crowd, have immersed themselves in online social networking. New sites are continually popping up for sharing details about your life and many of the newer sites are allowing you to do so from your mobile phone.

In Social Networking Leaves Confines of the Computer, one creator of the technology explains, ”exhibitionism will exist as long as there is voyeurism, but we are in the business of helping people stay in touch with the people who are close to them.”

Fans of the technology use it to update their friends, family, or complete strangers on their daily lives. Some use it to share their travel experiences, like Walter Zai, who captured his African safari via his mobile phone for instant online sharing.

Services like Twitter provide continual messages from users answering the question, what are you doing right now? At the time I wrote this, problemboard was “feeling raindrops despite no clouds. I hope those are raindrops...,” while anjibee was “wearing my pink eskimo joe's tee that ronnoc sent me and pink jammie bottoms. might just wear them all day... .” Interesting.

Whatever the venue, social networking is will definitely be around for a while. New technology will continue to tweak the playing field. So, what am I doing right now? Walking away from the computer.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Office Hallways Growing Longer

First technology brought us telecommuting. Now some companies have opted to go virtual. Virtual companies seek the skills they need, at a price they can afford, without worrying about locale. The Internet, email, and other technologies allow individuals to work together from miles apart. In The Long Hallway on A List Apart, Jonathan Follett offers some important advice to anyone considering a virtual company.

His advice is easily transferrable to most businesses. To be successful virtual (or non-virtual) employees should:

  • Understand the importance of a solid process

  • Know how to network

  • Have strong written communication skills

  • Set boundaries on how and when to communicate with other team members

  • Trust in their team members

With the amount of virtual communication in today's world, it's good to know that some of the same old rules, not to mention a little common sense, still apply.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Green Issue for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and to show its eco-friendly side, The Week magazine launched its first ever green issue on Friday. Rather than distributing a printed version, this issue, sponsored by Lexus, will run for one week on The Week’s website. Along with the usual features, special focus has been placed on environmental concerns like global warming and what it means to “go green.”

Don’t be mistaken. The Week has not moved its publication to the web for good. They are still dedicated to their print magazine, but they understand that in this changing world, consumers get their information from a variety of sources. What better way to spotlight the environment, than to save a few trees?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maybe Dogs Can Keep Up

"They say a year in the Internet business is like a dog year... equivalent to seven years in a regular person's life. In other words, it's evolving fast and faster." -Vinton Cerf

The Internet, as with most technology, evolves quickly. Is it possible to keep up? I spend far too much time on the web. Between my job, my personal errands, and my blogs, it's a wonder I still find the time to cook, clean, and spend time with family and friends.

Despite that "quality" time with my computer, I still find myself behind the curve sometimes. For example, I just joined the blogosphere this year after roughly 70 million other blogs came to existence. I now find myself playing catch-up. So while it may be tricky keeping stride, isn't that what makes technology so exciting?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Second Lifer’s Real Life Slips Away

This clever video narrates the story of Molotov Alva who “disappeared from his California home,” and reappeared in Second Life, an online virtual world. Alva describes how he came to existence in Second Life, trying on various clothing styles and even body shapes, before resting on one closely resembling his real life appearance. He has created a garden of photographs from his life before the virtual world to help him remember where he came from.

Whether taken seriously or tongue-in-cheek, this video shows how quickly one is able to shift their existence. Are those that immerse themselves in Second Life, removing themselves from real life? How are their relationships being affected? Since the video is titled “Episode 1,” I eagerly await the subsequent editions. This looks like a story worth watching to see if Alva returns to California.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sanjaya. Need I Say More?

American Idol always has the country abuzz. As with most trends, I joined late. This is the first season I decided to actually try watching it to see what the hype is all about. And they gave me Sanjaya, so the “idol” part still has me a bit baffled.

While I can’t say he is something to be worshipped, he has caused quite a stir on the Internet. Nielson Buzz Metrics said in a press release yesterday, “public captivation over American Idol contestant Sanjaya Malakar is massive and reflected deeply in the blogosphere.” His name is most closely linked with Howard Stern and Vote for the Worst, he is commonly noted as unworthy of top 10 status, and beauty care companies are getting an extra boost thanks to Sanjaya’s ever-changing coiffure.

Vote for the Worst is proving it is a force to be reckoned with. There is plenty of speculation that the reason Sanjaya survives from week to week is due to this campaign. Here is a case of the Internet being used to cause movement among the masses. What a powerful vehicle. No wonder the presidential candidates are making such strong web presences. There is definitely a subset of population entrenched in it.

Thank goodness the Internet is finally being put to good use. It’s nice to feel you have a voice on the bigger issues.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Television More Exciting Than Real Life?

At Easter brunch yesterday, the conversation passed quickly through the usual family updates and comments about the restaurant of choice. With the trivialities out of the way, the discussion turned into a detailed exchange about The Sopranos. I was amazed to find that a table full of grown-ups was animatedly analyzing the lives of fictional characters. Are our own lives that boring, that we look to television for dialogue? Did I just miss the point since I have never seen even one episode of The Sopranos and generally try to limit my television viewing in favor of more appealing activities?

Somewhere along the line, TV went from being merely a source of entertainment to being a deeply ingrained part of life. The same is true of online social networking. In fact, I would venture a guess that many people accomplish their social networking while watching television. They probably feel accomplished- look at me, I’m multi-tasking! I’d put some clever reference here about the characters or last night’s plot, but, alas I was drawing and missed the season’s first episode.

Perhaps one day we will realize that there are plenty of stories from our day-to-day life worth sharing with others. Perhaps we will all become characters on some worldwide internet-based reality TV show. Perhaps we will someday realize that the person whose blog we read lives right down the street. Until then, any one care to discuss The Apprentice?

Friday, April 6, 2007

Worth a Read: Created Personas

Yesterday Foresighter posted an entry called The Artist's Staircase. It discusses the premeditated personas that are placed on social networking sites and begs the question of how real the personas are. Now that we can actually create our "selves" rather easily, will these creations enter in to our face-to-face interactions as well?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Magazine's Special Issue to Hit Web, Not Newsstand

The Week, a weekly news magazine, is issuing a special edition about the environment. Rather than printing the special issue and distributing it via mail and newsstands, it will be posting the issue on its website for one week beginning April 20.

Because trees will not be as endangered by the online posting, this method fits nicely with their environmental theme. Furthermore, The Week hopes that this will help expand their online presence in a world that is shifting to mixed media.

The idea has also proven enticing to advertisers. Lexus will be the sole sponsor for the special issue, for which they will also receive a series of print ads after the special edition.

The Week says, “ we’re trying to be as agnostic as possible about serving our readers in all the different media.” Consumers are becoming more finicky about how they want content and magazines like The Week that want to accommodate are presenting in multiple formats.

Despite the plethora of media formats available today, I’m still skeptical that print will ever go away completely. There are still a number of places where it makes sense to leverage print, at least for now.

Related Articles:
Online Experiment for Print Magazine

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Anonymity on the Web

Interaction on the Internet is, no doubt, different than in real life. One such example is the ability to remain anonymous which can leave some users with a feeling of power and abandon.

When they know their face cannot be seen and, in turn, they can’t see the face of anyone else on the web, some users see the opportunity to hurt other people. Seth Godin originally wrote about the problem with anonymity on the Internet in 2004 saying:

“It’s ironic that we’ve set up two very different standards for our trust. In the real world, we’re skeptical of strangers. At the supermarket the other day, someone picked up my favorite brand of olive oil. I waxed on about how great it was, and of course, the shopper put it back and bought something else instead. Online, however, we’re happy to believe whatever image someone sends along, or buy something from a spammer.”

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the last sentence since many users these days glance right past ads and delete unread emails from people I don’t know. Then again, online purchases account for a large share of transactions, so we have become comfortable forking over money to companies whose faces we cannot see. Either way, it’s an interesting commentary on our society that we are fairly comfortable online and often not as comfortable in the physical presence of strangers.

Seth revisited this topic last week adding, “Anonymity hasn't made the web a better place. Instead, it has allowed some of the worst ideas ever to get published.” He suggests that eliminating anonymity on the Internet would go a long way towards banishing hurtful commentary and reducing spam.

I’d like to believe that it is that simple, but how would it be regulated? What sort of consequences would be set? Wouldn’t it just keep the honest, honest?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Moving From Online to Real World Disorienting

Switching from the online world to the real world can be jarring. When your mind has been so focused on the computer screen and typed interactions, it can be disorienting to “re-enter” the real world and conduct normal activity. After tuning out the world around you, it can sometimes take seconds or even minutes to adjust to a different way of functioning. If you have been working on the Internet for a long stretch of time, then find yourself interacting with a human face-to-face, it may even feel awkward for a moment to remember that you actually can use your facial expressions; you don’t have to rely on emoticons. Your phraseology may even change. Such are the dangers of living a virtual life. Interactions may become more difficult. Isolation may grow to be comfortable.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hello… My Name Is WWW

Thank goodness Coldwell Banker has decided to sell real estate in virtual world Second Life. I guess I can cancel that benefit concert for avatar homelessness.
Coldwell’s virtual properties will sell for about $20 U.S., but they aren’t looking to make money on it. Like most businesses venturing in to Second Life, they are hoping to get attention online from a new market segment that can be converted to real world customers.

Are we becoming a society that is online first, real world second? Many companies have made big names for themselves through ecommerce (think Amazon, eBay, Expedia), and the past few years have seen a surge in online socialization (think MySpace, Facebook, Second Life).

Most actions that would have previously caused us to interact face-to-face are now being automated online. Highly targeted online advertising is all the rage.
As our real and virtual lives become more intertwined, will we still be active in the real world? Likewise, as electronic advertising takes over, will the real world be less cluttered with “clever” messaging? I, for one, would just like to be human again.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Attention Spans Shorten on the Web

We are a society with a short attention span. The Web fits right in with that trait because it is a source of immediate information. With high-speed Internet, we can quickly get online, find the answer to our question, and be on to the next task in seconds flat.

Web statistics can attest that users generally look at only 2 to 3 web pages on any given site, and 30 seconds on any given page. This indicates they look for exactly what they want and either find it quickly or give up and move on to the next site (hopefully the former, rather than the latter). We want information quick, we want it now, and we have little tolerance for websites that don’t clearly tell us where to find what we want.

So which came first- the short attention span or the Internet? Either way, the two feed off of one another. Those with short attention spans can go to the Web for quick information keep moving to the next thing.

That’s all I have to say on this subject. On to the next thing… .

Monday, March 26, 2007

Video Awards Not Just for Celebrities Anymore

With more and more entertainment being supplied via the Internet, recognition is moving online as well. YouTube announced today the winners of the first YouTube Video Awards, recognizing the most popular original videos of 2006.

Users have flocked to YouTube to watch all sorts of self-created videos, proving that it is now quick and easy to watch videos over the Internet. So much for cuddling on the couch. As I mentioned last week, online video sites like YouTube allow us to share in a collective experience. On top of that, some people are able to stretch their fifteen minutes of fame. Look at the winning videos and you will see that average non-celebrities are gaining celebrity status because of their homemade creations. Anyone can become famous on the Internet with a little creativity and PR.

My favorite new celebrities are Ok Go with their nimble choreography:

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Knowing Your Website's Purpose

Setting up websites has become rather easy thanks to free hosting sites and templates. This weekend I set up a website for the local youth baseball team in a matter of hours. The team's parents will be able to see announcements, schedules, rules, and practice tips. The purpose is to aid communication.

It surprises me that more people don't take advantage of web communication. Sure many have websites, but how often have you been unable to find what you need on a site? Sometimes their intentions are unclear. Sometimes their information is incomplete.

A few things to consider if you have a website are:

  • Why do you have a site?

  • What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Does your home page tell users what they need to know and what to do next?

  • Every website can gain from a periodic review to make sure it is still on track.

    Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    Impact of MySpace on Presidential Election

    MySpace is joining in on the political fun of the 2008 presidential election with the Impact channel.

    The New York Times describes it as, "an online version of a town square, a collection of links to political MySpace pages that will make it easier for the site's 60 million American users per month -- many of them from the traditionally elusive and apathetic youth demographic -- to peruse the personal MySpace pages of, so far, 10 presidential candidates," (see The Future President, on Your Friends List).

    Here users will find candidate blogs, videos, photos, and links. They can even add candidates to their friends list. The Impact channel will provide voter registration tools and an easy payment method for campaign contributions. MySpace hopes that they will be able to play a strong role in online campaign strategies by "reaching people who are historically not interested in voting," according to MySpace founder Tom Anderson.

    With these efforts and others, like TechPresident.com, the United States public will be able to follow the candidates and the election in brand new ways.

    On the flip side, candidates are readily building Internet campaign strategies as a means of reaching young voters.

    All that's left now is to see how it is received. Do users want politicians on their friends list and "digital yard signs" on their sites, or will this be a case of the parent trying unsuccessfully to portray cool.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Panda Sneeze

    Online Videos Make the World Smaller

    Online videos are exploding in popularity thanks to sites like YouTube. CacheLogic of Cambridge, England says, “TV shows, YouTube clips, animations, and other video applications already account for more than 60 percent of Internet traffic,” (see TR10: Peering into Video’s Future on Technology Review).

    Who would have thought we would flock to the Internet to watch clips of grown men dancing on treadmills or homemade Lego Gatling guns propelling rubber bands at dominoes with remarkable speed? A friend of mind told me traffic surged on YouTube after the above Panda Sneeze video was mentioned on a television show.

    Movies and television shows have long been distributed across different countries, exposing diverse audiences to similar experiences. Online videos are allowing the human race to further share experiences. Many of these short films can easily cross cultures, relying on visuals rather than language to tell a story.

    With ever-improving technology, social networking on the Internet continues to prove that it’s a small world after all.

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    Blog Video Collage on YouTube

    Check out this video collage of blogs on YouTube. The video was created by Darren of Blogged Out. You may find some new favorites for your blog roll.

    As a reminder, the Blogged Out project starts tomorrow. Visit Blogged Out to find out more.

    More Choices Than Ever

    Information overload is a term commonly thrown around these days with the Internet being a large source of information. With information comes choice. We must choose what to do with the information we find, decide whether it is credible, and opt for the appropriate action.

    In his post on Choice, Seth Godin points out that we have many more choices than we did several hundred years ago. I know that I turn to the Internet frequently to choose products, services, and sometimes even personal decisions. It is usually my starting point for research, from which I determine the remainder of my research.

    We make choices every day on whether or not to get out of bed, what needs to be done that day, and how we will act. We choose what food to consume, which products to purchase, and where to spend our time.

    Has the Internet made our copious choices easier or more difficult?

    Saturday, March 17, 2007

    Media Loves Second Life

    I admit it. I’m obsessed with Second Life. Not as a participant, mind you. I’ve spent very little time in its virtual world. Rather I am boggled by the concept and its media attention. Here are just a few of the latest headlines:

    Second Life's looming tax threat

    Does Your Business Need a Second Life?

    How I Did It: Philip Rosedale, CEO, Linden Lab

    In a virtual world, an actual job may be waiting (see my post entitled Job Seekers Need Not Leave Second Life)

    New Portal to Second Life: Your Phone

    That’s quite a buzz. The first article, Second Life's looming tax threat, discusses the possibility of government taxing on money earned in Second Life, which has quite a bustling economy. Among the ideas for taxing is leaving Linden dollars untaxed, but taxing the U.S. dollars equivalent when cashed out. I have little doubt that taxation will occur in the future. Income earned on the Internet is still income. Earnings from eBay must be reported to the government; Second Life will follow.

    Visitors are doing more than just socializing in Second Life, or at least businesses hope they are. Companies are setting up virtual shops, including Second Life as part of their marketing strategy. An auto company lets avatars test drive cars. Recruiting firms are conducting virtual job interviews. These businesses are hoping to create enough buzz in the virtual world to increase their reach in the real world.

    What is it about Second Life that has made it so popular and, for some, lucrative? What is the draw for consumers to spend time in Second Life?

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    Subscribe to Life After Web

    Just a quick note: You can now subscribe to Life After Web using Feedburner. Look for the RSS symbol in the right column. You'll have the option to get this content in a variety of feeds. Thanks for reading!

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Blogged-Out Serves Bloggers and Charity

    In the blog realm, there are many blogs about blogs. A gentleman named Darren has started a new project called Blogged-Out. Here he will divulge visitor stats, income generated, and the techniques he used to in order to help other bloggers. Is it all in the name of adding money to Darren’s wallet? Nope. He will donate 40% of the gross income generated during the three month project to a charity voted on by the participants. I told you he was a gentleman.

    Sign up for the newsletter or RSS feed and get involved. You’ll be helping Darren, yourself, and a worthy cause. The Blogged-Out Project officially launches on Monday, March 19.

    Fight Tech Crime With Tech

    The human species has a way with crime. If a human can invent something, another human is already figuring out how to exploit it. In true cycle, with the Internet, comes cybercrime. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, enter cybersleuths.

    In Smart technology fights online fakes, Deborah Kong says, "new tech firms are arming brand holders with a smart solution: Web-crawling software that detects fraud and sends warnings to apparent violators, often with minimal human interaction."

    As more and more transactions occur on the Internet, it makes sense to police these events with software. After all, it's difficult to patrol the Web by squad car.

    I fear, however, it won't take long for the offender to find a workaround. Thus continues the vicious cycle.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Personalizing the World

    While adjusting my half of the dual climate control in the new car to a toasty 75 degrees, I was struck by how much we customize our experiences. If I were a coffee drinker, I could order precisely the right flavor, with just the right amount of foam, and my choice of lactose source.

    On the web, I have an RSS feed that gives me only the headlines I want to see based on my keywords and publication preferences. My web browser loads exactly the page I want to see upon opening the window. Even Blogger lets me choose the template I like for this blog and pick the information I want to present.

    We are trying desperately to feel special in a highly populated world. Customization lets us feel like we are getting special treatment, even if our preferences are being fed to us by a computer.

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Expression and Perception on the Web

    It seems like everyone has a website these days, whether a blog, a social networking space, or a business site. Websites express their owners’ personalities through color choices, featured content, and design, all of which are used by visitors to understand more about the site and its creator.

    Websites are increasingly being used for self-expression. In a way we are branding ourselves, much like we do with clothing or cars. While brands used to be reserved for businesses, now everyone wants to show their “individuality.” Customized web spaces make it easy for people to declare their personality, but if you think about it, we are truly declaring a demographic.

    Colors, language patterns, layout, and content merge in to a full presentation. Consciously or subconsciously, visitors will draw a conclusion about the site and its creator. The visitor will use their perceived categorization to determine whether or not they believe the source to be credible.

    There is no one size fits all. What appears credible to one visitor may seem ridiculous to another. The best you can hope for is to be true to yourself or your brand, which in turn should attract the right visitors.

    What does your website say about you? What perceptions do you think your visitors glean?

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Speaking of being able to buy anything on the Internet…

    It’s amazing what you can find for sale on the Internet when you’re not even looking. Even more amazing is the way technology is applied to every aspect of human existence.

    Apparently there is a piece of software that helps women track their menstruation cycles and recommends the best times to try for a baby. The iOvulate Calculator even claims the ability to help choose gender, “although the success average is lower.” Let me know how that goes if you try it.

    The Internet gives us access to all sorts of tools to enhance our lives. Though some may seem absurd to me, they no doubt serve a purpose to someone else. Perhaps it’s not even that the tools themselves seem absurd, just the method of distribution. People are willing to search impersonal sources for intimate information. We’ve succumbed to the world of technology and many wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Saturday, March 10, 2007

    Buying a Car Online

    Today my boyfriend picked up a new car which he purchased online. Though I've always researched auto purchases online, it wouldn't have dawned on me to actually purchase on the web. After all, what about the test drive? At any rate, he built the car he wanted on the brand's website, visited one dealer, then decided to cut to the chase with CarsDirect. One week after entering his desired features, his car was ready for pick-up with all the options, but thousands cheaper.

    I guess you can buy anything on the Internet these days. Sometimes it is more convenient to do so. If you need that test drive, I hear that Toyota has built a virtual test drive race track in Second Life. Local traffic laws may apply.

    Wednesday, March 7, 2007

    Popularity on the Web

    Social networks abound on the Internet. Between MySpace, Second Life, and personal blogs, it’s easy to make “friends” on the Web. Enter popularity contests. Users can gauge “worthiness” by seeing how many friends or comments or Diggs a site rates. As Seth Godin noted, “There’s really very little point in trying to have more friends than anyone else at MySpace.” I read recently, though, that one can buy MySpace friends, which would indicate that someone must think there is a point, even of some of us don’t see it.

    Tuesday, March 6, 2007

    Choose Your Own Identity

    Pseudonyms are common on the web. People use false names for email accounts, websites, social interactions, nearly anywhere that a name is required on the Internet. Identity is easier to proclaim on the Internet than in real life. In life you must be able to prove that you are accomplished where you say and earn your identity. On the Internet, it is slightly easier to declare your talents. It is thought that in many cases on the Internet, people choose to be their ideal selves. From behind the computer they feel more confident.

    Identity will probably become a prominent issue in the future. Some European countries are already considering laws that make creating email accounts with pseudonyms illegal. Wikipedia asked for an editor's resignation upon learning that his credentials were false (see Wikipedia disowns an editor). In a world that is becoming increasingly more reliant on technology, watch for rules to be established surrounding identity.

    Where should identity be policed and by whom?

    Thursday, March 1, 2007

    With Globalization Comes Isolation

    In the past week, I interacted with people from around the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe. We shared ideas, advice, instructions, and laughter. I facilitated events with hundreds of attendees and watched as they learned and asked questions. How global of me. Did I mention I didn’t have to leave my chair?

    Think about how small this world has become through blogs, email, instant messenger, and web seminars. Before the Internet, how long would it have taken you to interact with hundreds of people from distant lands?

    The Internet, among other technologies, has brought people closer to one another, yet our society is spending more time with technology and less time with other humans. It is great that I can order books online and have them shipped directly to my home, but there is a comforting buzz of energy in bookstore. I love that I don’t have to go to the bank, but I miss out on the chance of seeing a neighbor in line.

    Technology has, arguably, made our lives easier. Many businesses are becoming global that never would have considered it ten short years ago. People are befriending others across oceans through socialization on the Internet.

    With all of this globalization, however, we are also isolating ourselves from our immediate surroundings. The art of conversation is truly an art now that we have succumbed to the immediate transfer of short phrases and acronyms.

    Look up from your computer. Look at your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? Are there other people in the room? I dare you to speak to one of them. After their initial shock, they might start speaking back. In seconds you could be having a quick exchange of information with an actual, living, breathing soul, right there in the room.

    Wednesday, February 28, 2007

    Finding Quiet in a Loud, Busy World

    The Internet is one of many distractions we have today. It is rare to see someone sitting still without taking in information through the TV or the Internet, both of which are literally and figuratively noisy.

    Paradoxically, that’s part of what I like about being behind a blog. Writing, for me, is a quiet activity. It helps me tune out the rest of the noise and indulge my own thoughts. During the moments I work on Life After Web, I am wholly focused. Even though it is time spent on the Internet, it is not time spent absorbing information. Sometimes I start on paper before nearing my computer. My time is spent thinking, crafting, and sharing my own voice with the world (at least, anyone that happens to find me).

    In his essay “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz,” Bill McKibben discusses the effects of technology on our society. He says, “Quiet, solitude, calm: These are no longer automatic parts of the human experience. You have to fight…hard for them,” (p. 161). Humans are losing the ability to experience the natural world around them. We are tied to cell phones, laptops, iPods, anything that keeps us “in touch.” In actuality, the drive to stay connected is isolating.

    McKibben later says, “We live in the first moment when humans receive more of their information secondhand than first; instead of relying primarily on contact with nature and with each other, we rely primarily on the prechewed, on someone else’s experience,” (p. 161). Writing forces me to think about the topic at hand, decide how I feel about it, and what emotions, if any, it stirs within.

    Since we are surrounded by technology, we must fight for quiet moments in new ways. While my blog still connects me to the virtual world, the act of writing for my blog keeps me grounded in my own thoughts.

    McKibben, Bill. “Out There in the Middle of the Buzz.” The Wired Society. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1999.

    Monday, February 26, 2007

    and the Oscar goes to… Al Gore?

    First Ronald Reagan went from actor to politician, then Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Jesse Ventura. Perhaps Al didn’t get the memo. He went from politician to working on a now Oscar-winning documentary.

    In a world where crossover is becoming the norm, country singers turn pop, musicians become actors, actors become politicians. Is our society becoming more well-rounded, or are we trying to be jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none?

    I realize this has nothing to do with the Internet, but it does seem to say something about our society. Perhaps people are becoming more comfortable with stepping outside their traditional roles to try something new. Perhaps, too, we are becoming more accepting of those role changes.

    Sunday, February 25, 2007

    Why Blog?

    Blogs fascinate me. As yet another interesting commentary on our society, many employ blogs as a means to express themselves. There is no consistency. Some blogs are filled with facts and research, some are personal diatribes, some are strictly business.

    In Seth Godin’s recent post, If no one reads your post, does it exist?, he argues “the act of writing a blog changes people.” While I’m new at this, I agree with his point. Having a blog means you must have something to say, and you must say it well. What better way to learn about yourself?

    Nowhere to Hide: Europe May Ban False Web Identities

    Europeans may lose the right to create Web and email accounts under false names according to a New York Times article last week (Europe’s Plan to Track Phone and Net Use).

    Creating an email account under a pseudonym is common practice, particularly for creating a catch-all for junk email. Several European countries are considering making this practice illegal in response to the terrorist bombings in Spain and England. Some of the possible laws would require all email addresses be traceable to a real name.

    What effect does this have on Internet users? Should users be required to divulge their real names for email accounts?

    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    Internet Helps Post-Traumatic Stress Sufferers?

    The Associated Press reported on February 19 that a former employee of IBM was suing the company for firing him due to participating in chat rooms while at work. (See article,
    Man Sues IBM Over Adult Chat Room Firing

    The man claims that he visits the chat rooms to help relieve post-traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam. He says that the stress caused him to become "'a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict'" and believes he should be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Read the article, it's entertaining, but is Internet addiction a reality? Psych Central looks at the issue from several angles on its website at PsychCentral.com/netaddiction.

    It points out that the Internet itself isn't addictive, but that some people may exhibit addictive behavior when it comes to Internet use. Technology is merely one more way for a person to avoid their family or problems they may be having. They could just as easily retreat to other activities, such as reading, which may or may not be recognized as addictive.

    They also note that a good deal of time spent on the Internet is spent socializing through activities like checking email, chatting, or gaming. Whereas teenagers used to spend hours on the phone, perhaps they are migrating to the Internet to socialize.

    As a society, we are quick to find something or someone to blame for any problem. I think the Internet cannot be blamed for addiction. If there is, in fact, a problem with Internet addiction, I think the real problem lies in the user's subject of avoidance.

    If you aren't convinced and think you, or someone you know, may have an Internet addiction, try a quiz like the one by Net Addiction.

    If all else fails, find an attorney that lets clients sue the sky for being blue.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Careful, Flames Can Burn (Relationships, that is)

    Social interaction has certainly changed over the years. Sarcasm, for instance, is commonplace in many conversations, but this wasn’t always the case. Now that the Internet provides a way to communicate by typing, all of the cues provided in speech and body language are lost.

    One commonly used statistic is that in communication only 7 percent of the meaning is gained from the actual words. Roughly 38 percent comes from vocal cues and the remaining 55 percent from facial expressions. This implies that only very basic literal meaning can be gleaned from a typed message.

    Who cares? Well, the person you just emailed might. In a New York Times essay, Daniel Goleman explains, “if we are typing while agitated, the absence of information on how the other person is responding makes the prefrontal circuitry for discretion more likely to fail” (Flame First, Think Later: New Clues to E-Mail Misbehavior, February 20). This means your message may be interpreted differently than you intended. You may have inadvertently offended the recipient because you were unable to alter your speech based on their reactions.

    Routine communications have changed with technology. Take the absence of nonverbal cues and add the factor of people feeling less inhibited behind their computers, then there is a whole new dynamic to human interaction.

    Before you hit send, read your message to make certain it is clear. It’s just good practice anyway.

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    How Technology Has Ruined Candy Hearts

    With Valentine’s Day in the rearview mirror, I’ve been working my way through candy hearts as a mid-afternoon snack. You know the ones- little, colored, sugary hearts with red lettered endearments like “sweetie” or “my girl.”

    At least, that’s what they used to say. Now they say, “Email Me,” “URA Tiger,” “ILU,” and “Fax Me.” Fax me? Even the candy heart has not been able to ignore technology. What I assume is “I Love You” has been shortened to a brief three-letter acronym, and while I’m ever so pleased to know IMA tiger, did we really need to replace the bygone sentiments of candy hearts? Perhaps society no longer understands phrases like “Be Mine” or “Call Me.” You can call me old-fashioned, but I think abbreviations should be reserved for text messages, not invading the food industry.

    I wouldn’t have bothered to mention any of this, however, my last morsel this afternoon beckoned me to “Go Girl.” So there you have it.

    TechPresident.com One of Many Ways to See Presidential Candidates Online

    They all have their own websites. They are announcing their intentions through YouTube. They are making a presence in Second Life (unofficially). No, I’m not speaking of your local teens. These are your 2008 presidential candidates.

    As the Internet has become a popular means of communication, politicians are taking advantage. There will, no doubt, be more information about the candidates available to Internet users than they ever cared to know.

    A site to watch is TechPresident.com, which will follow the Internet’s impact on the upcoming election. According to an InformationWeek article last week, TechPresident to Cover How Internet and Candidates Mix, topics will include how the candidates are using the Internet, how the public’s Internet activities will affect the campaign, and investigative blogs.

    TechPresident.com’s blog is already in full force along with amateur photographs and links to each candidate’s website. As I follow the election on the Internet, I’m left with just one question: will my television still be overtaken?

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    Web 2.0: Information/Interaction On Demand

    My first exposure to the Internet was in 1995 when a friend of mine said, "this is soooo cool" and proceeded to summon a description for that night's episode of Friends. She was right- it was cool, but it also seemed horribly pointless. That information was both useless to me and, had I needed it, readily available in the newspaper and in TV commercials.

    Of course, since then I've turned to the Internet for research on many occasions. In fact, being able to find the information I need at any time from my home proves quite useful.

    Web 2.0 brings users to the forefront of this information hub by putting web content in the users hands.

    A WTF (Where’s the Fire?) entry on Technorati explains Web 2.0 as being filled with user generated content. “[T]he owners of the website have simply provided a platform for us, the users to add content from our side,” it says. This brings a wealth of possibilities (and arguably junk) as you can find both facts and commentary on any given topic, provided you are able to discern the difference.

    More than merely information on demand, the Internet has shifted to interaction on demand. Between MySpace, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and all variations thereof, users can find myriad ways to commune with others around the globe.

    While this may have advantages, has it contributed to the demise of casual conversations in public spaces? After all, forward thinking elevators in Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe eradicated "all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do while waiting for elevators."

    The full effects of the Internet on human interaction remain to be seen. It will certainly make for an interesting sociological study.

    For more on Web 2.0:
    Wikipedia entry
    Video from Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Job Seekers Need Not Leave Second Life

    An advertising agency plans to recruit employees through Second Life according to In a Virtual World, an Actual Job May Be Waiting, an article posted by Reuters yesterday. I’ll wait while you re-read that.

    Ready to continue? Okay.

    For quite a while job seekers have enjoyed the ability to search and apply for jobs via the Internet thanks to sites like Careerbuilder and Monster. TMP Worldwide is going further by planning job fairs in a virtual world called Second Life.

    The idea is that the recruiter will use an avatar to interview job candidates through their avatars. (For those unfamiliar with Second Life, an avatar is the virtual character created by a user- kind of like playing dolls, but for grown-ups with computers and evidently too much time on their hands.)

    Avatar-to-avatar interviewing spawns a slew of questions: Does standard interview attire still apply? Will there be a specialty Second Life clothing store for navy blue pinstripe suits and pearls?

    More importantly, can the recruiter get a good sense of the interviewee’s real life personality and skills through a Second Life avatar? Assuming the interviewee must reveal their true identity as the interview process progresses, how do they separate their real life from their Second Life?

    If you partake in a Second Life interview, please let me know how it works. As for me, I’m still here in my chair and there is mounting evidence that I can stay here for a very long time.

    Related Links:
    In a Virtual World, an Actual Job May Be Waiting
    Second Life

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    The Internet: From Resource to Pastime

    I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. I love the quick information; I hate the amount of time I spend glued to my computer screen.

    Yet here I am, day-after-day, using the Web and email to conduct most of my professional business. Then I go home and, you guessed it, get on the computer to pay bills, check email, or enjoy my friends’ and family’s latest adventures as posted on their Web sites.

    When did the Internet change from resource to pastime? Why do people choose to socialize on the Internet, rather than in person? I send emails to colleagues, some of whom are mere steps away. Equally shocking, they email me back. Are we avoiding the exercise of leaving our chairs? Perhaps we are worried that the walk will take so much time we won’t possibly be able to finish our work.

    The Internet allows us to avoid nearly anything. We can avoid standing in lines by shopping online. We can avoid calling “loved ones” by posting an online photo album. We can avoid the brisk morning walk down the driveway in our robes by checking our RSS feeds.

    Where the Internet used to be a convenience, it is now a vehicle for avoidance. Presumably as innovation continues, I may never have to leave my office-issued chair. Lucky me.