All posts by Katigori

Project manager at Harmony Internet Ltd [http://www.harmony.co.uk] self confessed geek, Guide leader and choir member.

How to Exterminate Customers

I am toying about putting together content for a comic, yet lessons learnt article. So this is a bullet list of ideas for an article entitled “How to Exterminate Customers”.

Any ideas of what to add are welcomed.

  • Inconsistent site structure.
    Yeah, the home page link was there a minute ago, but its over there now.
  • Broken site
    Broken images, broken links, designed for IE4, huge error messages, crashes your browser
  • Slow to load
    You could have a cup of tea before this loads.
  • Low quality photos
    Images of products that are itty bitty small and really don’t help or detract from the product
  • Excessive adverts
    Google ads plastered left right and center, and worst of all, inline with the content. Particularly bad when you’re in the checkout.
  • Using a tiiiiiiiny font
    Where’s my magnifying glass?
  • Using horrible colours
    Red text on green, or on very stripy background anyone?
  • Out of date, incorrect advice or information
    Bad advice is worse than no advice?
  • Flash loading screens
    Where’s the skip…
  • Breaking content into lots of needless pages
    Just let me read the article, don’t split it into lots of two paragraph pages so I have to keep clicking
  • Only works in one browser
    So I want to book my cinema tickets… in firefox. What do you mean I have to use Internet Explorer?!
  • Using massive forms
    I don’t want to tell you my life story, all I wanted was to register with an email and password.
  • Don’t display contact details
    I want to phone you, where’s your number, where’s your email?!
  • Sending Spam
    I just wanted to use your site, you made me log in to use the forum, now what is all this SPAM you are sending me?!
  • Large blocks of copy
    Paragraphs, quotes, formatting
  • Bad spelling
    American spellings exempt, but if you can’t spell your company name, you fail.

What puts you off from using a site, or shopping on it?

Kinetic Typography

I’m in no way as big a typography buff as some designers I know are. But it doesn’t stop me loving Ronnie Bruce’s Typography.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

I’ve noticed typography more and more in advertising lately. I hadn’t really realised that this typography had its on subcategory, with a huge number of videos flooding art video sites, or students at university posting the lines to Fight Club in. So, after a while of being sucked into the “Kinetic Typography” Channel on Vimeo, here are two of my favourites:

The Duke from Lauren Fundora on Vimeo.

Eric Hutchinson “Ok It’s Alright With Me” from Chris Marrs Piliero on Vimeo.

Hand Drawn Map Concept

coloured-map-with-labels-and-title

 

Hand dawn map concept, coloured by hand with some light Photoshop editing. For a fantasy university world setting, which remained just a concept in the end. Still, a pleasant deviation and a moment to formalise the structure of a set of buildings roughly.

Drawn early November 2009, free hand, pencil and then ink pen. I confess I’m no artist, so this was more for personal reference.

7 Firefox Add-ons I can’t live without

1. Firebug

I used Firebug for the first time at university, and found it a bit confusing at first. However, since using it professionally and it upgrading, I now find myself clicking my little bug at the bottom of the screen to debug all sorts of odd quirks in the browser. My only sadness is that its in Firefox, when having one in IE would be glorious, but unrealistic in dream.

Firebug is used to pick apart code, it collapses and opens divs and other elements of your code, drawing in other elements like the css, and allows you to make edit tweaks to your code so you can see the results on screen, like a styling override. I do find it fiddly still as its a bit pedantic about how it adds things, but I doubt I use it enough really to be overly friendly with it.

There are additional plug ins and sister/brother addons for it, to allow you to use different mediums, but I admit I’ve not got into it far enough yet to warrant the use!

Get Firebug for Firefox

2. Web Developer Toolbar

Owch, so it does take up a bit of space at the top of my Firefox, which is a little mean of it on a 1024×768 screen at home (yes, gaspeth, I haven’t shelled out for a new screen in 5 years or more, and use single screen domestically), but web dev toolbar is worth it.

With little menus you can switch off javascript on your page to identify if your page is accessible to that minority of users, change cookies or delete them on another menu, do things with forms, images, have a ruler, resize your window to preset settings, validate your code, view different types of source, set options to test with, and my most favourite of all – the css menu, and “view style information”. Click this, and you can hover over elements on your page, which are outlined by a red border when you are over them. One click brings up a little pane at the bottom that gives you all the css stylings related to that object. GLORIOUS. I couldn’t do my job without it, and Firefox seems very naked without it.

Get Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox

3. Delicious

I didn’t begin using Delicious as an addon, but of late its become more useful as one. I joined Delicious earlier this year because I had bookmarks at work, bookmarks on my desktop and bookmarks on my laptop, and I’d forget the urls of something in between places. So, I joined, then discovered the functionality within the browsers. Delicious is something that will work with IE which is nice – though it horrifically caused problems with IE6 standalone installation at work and made it go bonkers.

Its really come into its own since I reinstalled the OS on my desktop, as I haven’t reinstated my Firefox bookmarks since reinstallation. Instead, I’m using Delicious, and trying to get myself into the habit entirely. So far, its working, but I’ve got far too many tags to sort through!

Get the Delicious Toolbar for Firefox

4. Colorzilla

Beautiful little thing is Colorzilla. I used to take a screen grab, dump it in photoshop and use the eyedropper tool to get a colour. No more! Colorzilla has its own eyedropper for anywhere on your screen and it’ll tell you the different colour identifier formats so you can stick it in your css, or photoshop easily.

Get Colorzilla for Firefox

5. Download Statusbar

When I switched to Firefox all those years ago, the thing that most irritated me was the little twitty download window that would pop up when I was doing downloads. Argh! Download statusbar was the first addon I installed, even before English dictionary, and remains the first addon I suggest to people. No more idiotic little window, hello neat bar at the bottom of the screen to manage downloads in. Sexy.

Get Download Statusbar for Firefox

6. IE Tab

Finally, IE Tab. Initially the wonders of windows update was the main reason for having this little switch in Firefox, but its invaluable for switching back and forth within Firefox for testing layouts for bugs, or even being signed in twice. Open an IE tab and you’ve got a new set of cookies to play with. Yey!

In searching for the link, I realised there’s more than one type now, as its become so popular its been worked on to fit with other addons. This is good news, because I often find myself using the css function in the web dev toolbar over the IE tab by accident, and it doesn’t work.

Get IE tab for Firefox

7. Webmail Notifier

My favourite, and most used add on is the Webmail Notifier. This beautiful little addition to Firefox sits in the very bottom right hand corner and displays either a white envelope or a yellow one with a number beside to indicate if one of my many legacy email accounts has some junk. Its invaluable. I have several old hotmail accounts I use for logins to sites I do not trust not to share my details, yet still want to access, and it will check them all, while also checking my Yahoo email, and a Gmail account. There’s even more providers it can check.

One right click, and it lists all my accounts, and I get to pick the default one for each provider. If I have more than one, it will list the email beside it so I don’t get the wrong one. One right click, one left click to switch between all these accounts without having to log in, log out or anything. Pure bliss. I can leave Outlook at work, and never have to download emails to my computer, risking losing them or having to wait for huge attachments I don’t actually want to download like I used to.

Thoroughly recommend it.

Get Webmail Notifier for Firefox

Reviews: Kaushik, Moll

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, Avinash Kaushik

I’m still reading Kaushik, though he’s been invaluable to dip in and out of to read up on subjects. We freecycled a lot of books recently from work as part of our clear out to move upstairs, and this book singularly replaced all the ones in the collection. It not only deals with commerce, it discusses SEO for blogs amongst other things which was different to other books.

Yes, it was cursed with being a little behind with things because of publishing and the time it takes to write books (hence my supreme lack of purchasing IT course books during my final years at university, because they got out of date so quickly for their expense). It not only discusses the previous version of Google Analytics, but Overture and other enterprise implementations that I’ve not met yet – GA does the job for us, and our previous stats provider which Microsoft bought and terminated isn’t a patch on it.

I wouldn’t go as far as saying you couldn’t find the information in this publication elsewhere – it has revised a fair deal for me and can sometimes be heavy going. However, because I dip in and out of it as I need or have time for, its a little more manageable in smaller chunks.

Recommend it for someone with a basic knowledge in the stats, who wants to take it further than visits and top pages, or a non IT person who has business knowledge instead and wants to get a grip on it for their company. I wouldn’t recommend it for a beginner, there are plenty of web resources for that.

Mobile Web Design, Cameron Moll

Read in an hour or so (hah, that’s what education does, makes you into a skim reader) the book was written on the cusp of the iphone’s entrance to the marketplace. Moll is a very respected writer in the field, and I picked the book out because of this – and because the marketplace was full of books due to be published, or with little reviews or discussion on them, which makes me weary.

The most useful thing Moll does is discuss the different tactics one can take with making a website web compatible and their drawbacks – from leaving it and hoping it will just render, to the lack of support for mobile specific stylesheets, maintaining a second set of html or sniffing. He highlights even further how many different and non standard browsers there are.

The book left me feeling even more confused on where to start with mobile sites! Then, I drew out a diagram of the different techniques to more accurately weigh out the pros and cons while summarising it to colleagues. We all had differening experiences of web browsing on phones, and indeed in the past month, I’ve upgraded to the same handset as a colleague (see previous Katigori entry), while another has a jailbreak iphone and a third an android OS phone. The last two can connect to a local wireless network, support much more rich content.

We were amused when comparing the supported content of a colleague’s personal DJing website on each of the phones. Mine refused to display at all, and the other two did, with varying success. Incidentally, the site’s not complete yet.

Sony Ericsson C902

I’ve made a new phone purchase, defecting from Nokias (I did have the 6230i, with the 1.3mp camera) to the C902, which is a Sony Ericsson. It had great reviews, and also has a 5mp camera, which was the sort of level I was looking for in a pay as you go phone, since I’m not the sort to use my mobile extensively, it was not cost efficient for me to pay out a contract for the sake of a phone for ‘free’.

Anyhow, its working out ok, even if the old Nokia sits weeping after 4 solid years of sterling work for me. Only its camera is becoming silly, and its started turning itself off while I’m browsing the web, and if I leave it on at work on silent, I have almost a flat battery by the end of the day because of the poor signal out there. Yes, I really do work in the middle of nowhere – we call our internet line the “Global Footpath”.

The camera’s great, and not slow, and I love the fact you can copy, paste, switch between applications and such. The lens keeps clean as it slides out when you need it and tucks away otherwise. Its lovely and slim too. The Internet is different in that I have a mouse! I used to just be able to hop between links, text boxes and buttons by scrolling on the Nokia.

Photos CC from Irish Eyes/Irish Typepad on Flickr.

Video Blogging, Rebranding, Book Purchases

Why is it that youtube and your video editing software always manages to thumbnail your videos when you are pulling an unfortunate face or have your eyes shut?

Video Clip Captures - Me at my best...?
Video Clip Captures – Me at my best…?

007 has to be my favourite.

I have been a bit sporadic in fiddling with video editing. I’m a novice at this, so it is a little bit hit and miss. Doesn’t help that I only have windows movie maker to use, after a favoured open source editor I tried royally fell over. If I could recall the name, I’d mention it.

WMM falls over on export, and gets out of sync quite often which infuriates me. Today’s two video logs which are part of a project I am undertaking to try and record 100 Guide songs for the centenary (Edit: sadly abandoned due to time) were just shot in one take and uploaded. I got a good quality – the 4-5 minute file was over 100mb, which I stupidly hadn’t realised until I came to upping them on YouTube. Pity about the sound, though it is just a handheld photo camera, rather than camcorder.

I’ve also just made some geeky book purchases. Firstly, Web Analytics: An Hour a Day, Avinash Kaushik and Mobile Web Design, Cameron Moll.

The recommended product that keeps coming up is The Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design: The Ultimate Guide to Themes, Trends and Styles in Website Design which we have two copies of at work now, and I feel a waste of money when you have so many directories and showcases on the web.

I will aim to review these and write about them here, so remind me if I don’t.

We’re currently rebranding our company, as its 13 years old and needs to be future looking right now. So on Monday, we have an afternoon of rebranding round the boardroom table, which the boss has been getting very excited about. Looking through all the various vector and non vector logos and styles out there inspired me to play with vectors again soon.

Terms of Service Observations

A little forum I frequent of late, has a little rant area. One about Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS) caught my eye and I was intrigued to see they were ranting about a recent change. There’s been a flurry of internet discussion on the subject, with everyone jumping on the “Facebook is evil” bandwagon. As the ‘evil’ social network is my preference over the likes of Bebo or MySpace for its clutter free interface and general honest representation of my contacts (in that they’re not babygirl1969 or evildemon, but Joe Bloggs and Mary Sue), I decided to do a little reading around.

First of all, I must claim two things:
1. I have no legal background and you should not base any legal decision on this discussion.
2. I am fence sitting and observing. People often assume because I look from both sides I agree with the side against their opinion.

You are solely responsible for the User Content that you Post on or through the Facebook Service. You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.

Here is the statement everyone is in a flap about. The explanation being that it is to allow FB to function with sharing and networking.

So, first of all, I decided to find out what competitors MySpace and Bebo do for their users. Interesting findings.

By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace a limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on or through the MySpace Services, including without limitation distributing part or all of the MySpace Website in any media formats and through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the MySpace Website.

and Bebo:

Bebo does not claim any ownership rights in any Materials that you submit, post, or display on or through the Bebo Service. After submitting, posting or displaying Materials on or through Bebo or the Bebo Service, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Materials, and you continue to have the right to use your Materials in any way you choose. By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the Bebo Service, you hereby grant to Bebo and its agents and assigns a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Materials solely in connection with the Bebo Service or the promotion thereof.

Neither claim such aggressive rights, though Bebo does go on to explain their reasons in the same way as Facebook has recently defended itself.

I looked to Photobucket:

Photobucket does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) that you post on or through the Photobucket Services. By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content on or through the Photobucket Services, you hereby grant to Photobucket and other users a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content marked “private” will not be distributed outside the Photobucket Services. Photobucket and/or other Users may copy, print or display publicly available Content outside of the Photobucket Services, including without limitation, via the Site or third party websites or applications (for example, services allowing Users to order prints of Content or t-shirts and similar items containing Content).

Since Photobucket is almost entirely about sharing and storing media created, they’d have it on the mind. Especially as most of the people worried about FB have posted creations whether fiction, poetry or graphic art.

There is a reoccuring theme about the marked as “private” reference, which is rarely clarified. FB has complex security settings. Surely private would refer to something that couldn’t be shared with anyone – which most people wouldn’t even bother to post with FB where the essence is to share. Photobucket is different, I may post items that I do not wish to share necessarily.

So is FB just taking a more agressive stance? But are they the first? No, they’re not. Google’s been there first, and actually they were pre-empted by a decade it seems. Here’s Picasa…

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this licence shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licence.

Aha, so they’re indeed not the first and it appears not the last too. But there are a couple of interesting comments from previous outbursts about similar changes:

Royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable licenses references back ten years to when Yahoo took over Geocities and this happened.

Data Tapes from History

After a visit to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park for the first time, I should really have updated the Katigori blog. But, after being sent this super geeky link about an Apple I’s data tape, I had to share.

I can remember my first computer, a TI 994A, which my brother would happily program in BASIC, though I was too young to grasp the concept, and generally used the computer to play games which slotted in. The link will illustrate this further, and scrolling down the page brings back vivid memories of it. Texas Instruments equipment was there for much of my early childhood, and it was second nature to pull out a hot cartridge to blow on it to cool it down before reinserting it, or playing Avalanche with the classic music and yetis.

The relation this has to the Apple I however, is the tape. I can remember loading one program into the computer from a tape. You’d leave it to run its course before you could use the program. Tapes were also used of course for backups of data, which seems alien now, as I’ve just backed up a collection of files on a 4.7GB DVD. Giga what? A Megabyte seemed impossibly huge then.

So yes, if you feel the need to be suitably geeky, download the data remix as a ringtone, and achieve new levels of geekdom.

Printed Music

Sticking with the bizarre, which has been a theme for Katigori thus far, I was mulling over the thoughts of the unusual sounds printers make while they print. Their rhythmical printing, from the screech of a dot matrix printer (I remember the tractor paper of my Brother printer attached to my Archimedes fondly) to the modern day inkjet and laser.

Clearly a strange child, I would hum along to the likes of this, and the modem sound, when I wasn’t singing the harmonics of the washing machine spin cycle. However, it appears I was not alone. Younnat presents the Dot Matrix Printer Etude for your delectation.

It appears that experimental musician, Sue Harding took it a step further with her dot matrix printers, and made them into an orchestra. It is a “mixture of good luck and control”, she says, more or less, on the video below, which is an excerpt of the first of six episodes of the television documentary Subsonics.

(I wonder if the expressions of the faces of the audience is that of willing to understand, or pain from their ears?)

But if we’re going to be truly retro, and this was almost too amusing, the floppy disk drive is king. It was a natural musician while the floppy was an integral part of a system. So if you’ve wondered what to do with that spare drive and 1.4mb floppy disks you may still have, the answer is here.

If you find anything to better these, do share the link in the comments, to spread the geeky joy.

Music of Epic Geekness

The last.fm blog has the tag line “Music and web geekery from East London.” which sets the tone for this katigori entry. With the wonders of scrobbling your listening information to the last.fm system from all multitude of media players, it appears that a few unusual listening statistics will fall through.

Erik Frey posted to last.fm last September on such “Edge Cases” which are anomalous tracks that confuse the last.fm fingerprinting system. The unusual link to “Burglar Alarm” drew my attention, and to quench my curiosity, I had to click. Yes, you can indeed listen to half a minute or so of burglar alarm sound, which one shoutbox commenter suggests is a good way to end a party. I guess, if you want your guests to leave in panic and a headache, then fair enough.

However, burglar alarm isn’t the only ‘non musical’ entry into the last.fm statistics, and a few clicks through the similar artists reveals more and more of the sound effect recordings that have been uploaded. Just when I thought this was as odd as I wanted, I stumbled across the related videos and had a look at this video:

There’s been many a youtube video of teens playing out the Nintendo or Mario themes, and even Nokia themselves have taken their iconic catch from the crude electronic tones of mobile phones of Y2K onwards, and I admit I couldn’t identify many of the other melodies. But what really took the electronic cookie, was the careful and obsessive pitching of this video:

But, like the Internet always is, the madness and sheer geeky outcomes rarely stop when you think it just can’t go on. No, of course, it had to be taken one step further, and present to you a windows XP song:

Even the mac doesn’t escape…

If you feel entirely geeky, browse the many other remixes, and comment with your favourites. I’m sure there must be more – its the Internet – what you think isn’t possible, usually is.