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February 22, 2009

How do you use (navigate) blogs?

I've been working for awhile on giving my blog design a facelift. As tends to happen with design projects that are drawn out at length (as is the case when it's not my full-time work), I know more at the end than I did at the beginning. I mean, yeah, that's supposed to happen, naturally, with any project, but these ones that would otherwise be condensed into a short time frame take place over the course of months that are packed with learning that occurs outside their context. That learning tends to fall into either design (look at how much better I've become!) or programming (look at what I've learned how to do!). Sometimes it's outside influences like new technology that didn't exist before, or of which I did not know. Well, this time around, it's not so much my visual skills or my technological skills, but my thinking that has changed and grown since I embarked on this miniature quest. And it's quite, quite recent.

Blogs and websites are constantly evolving. As a result one can probably expect users to be evolving too — in fact, with the presence of RSS readers, we hardly need spend time on people's blogs in our web browsers save to comment. User behaviour changes with technology. This is clear. So when I have a model for my blog that is almost 3 years old, I have to wonder... what is still relevant? What features do users actually use and how do they find information?

I googled this already but Google help me I didn't find an answer. That, therefore, is where you come in. The question I pose you is: how do you use blogs? When you arrive at a post, what helps you move on to another post (assuming you enjoyed the content or found it helpful)? How do you navigate the information — through tag clouds, categories, recent comments? Are lists overwhelming or redundant?

Your feedback will help me determine what features are of most use to you when you read my blog. Thanks in advance for helping me out.

A side note: in its next incarnation, I expect comments to appear immediately on thirteen cent pinball. Hooray! The facelift is a modernization, rather than a redesign, so the overall visual "flavour" of the blog, if you will, shall remain the same.

March 16, 2007

Second Life?

I used to despise the word "blogging." I suppose one tiny particle in my brain still winces at the word (I've been known to avoid "fads" or anything with a lot of hype, like Harry Potter... don't ask), but I've succumbed to doing it, anyway. Let's face it, it's the writer in me, and it allows me to write plotless things because I'm not good at plot.

So right now I'm not enjoying the phrase "Second Life." Be it a craze, something I roll my eyes at, or something I'm maybe afraid of, it's got that edge that just irks me. I'd compare it to MySpace or YouTube, although I signed up for MySpace just over a year ago. It brought me something wonderful that changed my life (call it luck or fate), which I won't discuss here, but I've sort of dropped off the face of the MySpace non-planet since — I do have a first life, and it's called SCHOOL.

I'm taking a social sciences/studies course about blogging, confession, user-generated content and YouTube. Our discussions cover a wide variety of interesting things, and it seems we tend to agree. Then again, we're all around the same age, we go to a smallish school with a specific range of creative types, and we all live in Vancouver. Not everyone is from Vancouver, or even Canada for that matter, but somehow our ideas seem to fit. Either that, or the people who disagree aren't speaking up.

Continue reading "Second Life?" »

August 30, 2006

"Star Burst Caught in Real Time"

While some of us are busy gawking about who's next to be booted from Rockstar: Supernova, scientists have been writing papers to be published tomorrow in Nature about a supernova that "happened in February, 2006." (Why didn't I hear about this in February?) At any rate, the star's death lasted nearly 40 minutes, extraordinarily long, and as such, telescopes were able to capture the event. No, we don't get to see it, but you can read about the phenomenon and the theories it has sparked.

The funny thing is, the star is about 440 million light years away, yet the writer says it happened in February. Rather, we witnessed it in February, because it actually happened 440 million years ago (give or take a few months). It's so incredibly fascinating, though, to realise one can see back in time millions of years. I wonder what our part of the universe looked like back then?

July 19, 2006

more on Net Neutrality, other political interference, and the environment

Stopping the Big Giveaway, by John Kerry.

Wyden to Block Telecom Bill Without Net Neutrality


Ads promote pollution, article by David Suzuki in Common Ground. (By the way, Suzuki is pronounced "SU-zu-ki" not "su-ZU-ki".)

This article is about ads promoting carbon dioxide and how it's not a pollutant.. yeah right. It's also about WHY they are present and the effects this propaganda could have. I read in National Geographic that higher temperatures and higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide cause ragweed to grow faster and more potent. That causes some pretty bad allergies for people sensitive to it. The other thing is (and this is not surprising, really), people in developed/industrialized nations are more likely to have allergies than in non-industrialized nations, and those becoming more industrialized are finding this problem to be increasing. Suzuki quotes one of the ads, "There's something in these pictures you can't see. It's essential to life... The fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of backbreaking labour. Now, some politicians want to label carbon dioxide a pollutant. Imagine if they succeed. What would our lives be like then?" What would our lives be like? Well maybe there would be less children on inhalers, for one.

Consider the record-breaking and near record-breaking temperatures sweeping across North America right now. Is that not an indication that something's wrong? Stop denying it, people. Why doesn't it make sense? Why do we destroy without considering the long-term consequences? (Clear-cutting/mass logging, dumping waste, excavation, burning, controlling natural forest fires so they're now beyond our control, etc.)


And FINALLY...
If any of you are musicians or aspiring musicians playing guitar, bass, or drums, or just like to dabble at it every so often, you may have made use of free online tablature. I have just learned that due to copyright infringement, my favourite guitar tab websites have been shut down or crippled. I understand to some extent where the MPA is coming from, but what are young musicians to do? What if there's some underground band whose official sheet music doesn't exist or is impossible to find? What will happen to budding talent? This is all about money in the end, isn't it, not about people.

I played piano for over a decade and never ONCE bought sheet music myself. It was always gifts because I couldn't afford it. I also didn't usually like the arrangements, especially for pop songs and ones with vocals. Sheet music for piano is IMPOSSIBLE to find online, and chances are what you're looking for in paper isn't even there or doesn't exist. I still won't buy it; I'll just go without. I'll just figure it out myself. If I can't get guitar tabs for free, I'll try by ear. The tabs are the INTERPRETATIONS of listeners, where if one doesn't want to tune down to sharps or doesn't own a capo, one can often find an INTERPRETATION that suits one's preference. That's unlikely to happen in official books. (Sometimes those aren't even published in the correct key, period, just to make it easier for players.)

If it's really such an issue, if it's not money but ethics, why has this taken so long?

July 11, 2006

The next Web is the human Web

Thanks to my mom for sending me this interesting post about the importance of human engagement between businesses and customers/potential customers.

It reminded me of the "death of the internet" article I read (see my original post about this), and how companies would be paying to be first in line, essentially. Well the article linked above seems to suggest to me that the real deal is in engaging with your audience, and having people interested enough to write about you in their blogs. What happens if blogging is shut up by the slow lane of people who can't pay to have their site given priority bandwidth? Companies lose a good deal of their network, their word of mouth promotion.

So I ask you, governments, companies, internet service providers... what good would you be doing yourselves?

Bell's move to monitor us an ominous portent

From The Vancouver Sun on Canada.com

Bell's move to monitor us an ominous portent
Fears of corporate information fishing arise as Internet providers take steps to monitor users' online activity

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, July 10, 2006

We should be concerned about the erosion of our civil liberties in the post-9/11 world and the very real Big Brother-style monitoring of our Internet activities.

The Canadian Bar Association has long argued lawmakers went too far in the wake of the World Trade Centre strikes and did not build in enough checks when they gave law-enforcement agencies greater powers ostensibly to combat terrorism.

Still, when Canada's largest Internet service provider, Bell Sympatico, amends its service agreement with customers to create an environment of institutionalized cyberspying on behalf of the government, we're entering a whole other realm.

Bell three weeks ago told its customers it's reserving the right to monitor, collect and on request provide to police a list of every site you visit and every keystroke you type while connected.

Other ISPs have or are expected to follow suit.

Please read the rest. It will only take you a few minutes.

June 24, 2006

World Urban Forum + earthblog.ca

The 3rd World Urban Forum just ended in Vancouver yesterday.

Bloggers may be interested in earthblog.ca, which is "a two-week discussion about the future of our region." It runs until June 30.
(If you're on a Mac, use Firefox as Safari is not entirely supported. Commenting doesn't quite work in Safari.)

Description from their website:

"From June 15 to June 30, 2006, Earthblog features the daily writings of four opinionated bloggers, two provocative moderators, dozens of passionate community groups and thousands of local residents and visitors from around the world.

Earthblog.ca takes its inspiration from the 1976 UN Habitat Conference, an event that sparked discussion and debate on the state and form of cities. The occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Habitat Conference, the World Urban Forum, propels this discussion forward. Earthblog.ca is intended to provide a local perspective on the issues discussed at the WUF and includes themes brought to the fore by parallel events, such as the World Planners Congress, the World Peace Forum, EARTH: The World Urban Festival, and the World Youth Forum. Earthblog brings forward the perspectives of multiple voices on the social, cultural, environmental and economic issues that are relevant to the development of the region."

I wish it were running indefinitely!

On their Sustainable Vision Wiki, I responded to this question:
Is "sustainability" anything more than just a buzz word?

My response:

"To sustain" has many relevant definitions. "Sustainability," though tossed around until it seems like a fad, is a meaningful direction and goal for any city to prolong the health and lives of its citizens, infrastructure, economies, ecologies, etc. It is also about reducing a city' and a city's people's ecological footprint, globally. Vancouver has an enormous global impact, and is never independent of the rest of the world for survival. Its ability to maintain itself with the least global impact, such as growing its own food and producing its own products with local materials, is what sustainability is all about.

June 23, 2006

the death of the internet

This is a serious issue. From what I learned tonight (and I have heard similar topics before in a webdesign class), the US Government is in the process of passing a bill that would eliminate Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality means that all websites are equal. What is on the verge of happening is that internet service providers will be allowed to control what sites their users get to view, and how fast those sites appear. Basically if a corporation has enough money, they can buy from the provider a privilege of having the users access their sites faster. Anyone who cannot pay for this privilege will have to suffer with their website being on a slower connection. The analogy I would offer is this: let's say there's a priority lane similar to an HOV lane in a busy city such as Vancouver or San Francisco, and it cost $3 million to be able to use it. Most people are going to be stuck in the regular lanes. A select few rich people will zoom past everyone else in the special lane. Big companies' content will be in the special lane, and the content of everyone else's sites will be stuck in the slow lane. That's if it's not blocked entirely.

This is a capitalist movement with an alterior motive to end freedom of speech on the internet.
I've had enough with politicians thinking they're representing the people, and corporations pretending they're all about serving the customer.

DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.
If you are in the United States, PLEASE contact your senator and urge them not to pass this bill. Its effects will be global.

See video at coanews.org

According to this video, the anti-Net Neutrality bill has gone through. Senators have a chance to veto it.

Visit coanews.org, and Save the Internet where you can sign a petition and fight for our rights.

Bloggers, add your blog to the SavetheInternet bloggers list

There are some interesting claims about Telus and Shaw I didn't know about, here.

This is from an interesting article at Freepress.net:
"In Canada, cable TV company Shaw Communications Inc., which is rolling out phone service, is charging its customers $10 a month extra if they want to "improve the quality and reliability of Internet telephony services" they get from other phone service companies. Internet calling company Vonage Holdings Corp. has protested to Canadian regulators."
As far as I'm aware, the only $10/month extra is an optional thing for hi-speed "extreme" which may not even be that much faster, if at all. So I'm not sure of the legitimacy of that claim, or the rest of the article, but it's a good read.

June 16, 2006

movable type

as much as i like blogger's ease of use, and the fact that i could be a lazy bum and do very little designing of this pretty template (designed by Douglas Bowman), i was convinced by an intelligently designed blog at Textura Design to see about making my own blog with Movable Type.

it's going to take awhile.
especially because i'm doing one for a client, too, and that's sort of also what got me going. i got the files installed on my server much faster than on theirs thanks to cPanel. (that means i can learn some things about it before i go forth with theirs.) i've had a bit of experience using the MT interface and customizing stuff in helping my mom with coding and my sister a little with her husband's business blog customization.

i hope i can smoothly transfer over entries when the time comes. any advice? anyone who's done it?
i'm going to have to let go of the orange and white look and other things, sigh, but oh well. it's not like i won't ever see it on someone else's page.

June 14, 2006

Photo in the News: Mini Solar Systems Could Form Around Planetary Objects

From National Geographic News. See that page for illustration.

June 6, 2006--Our solar system could have its own "mini-me" floating in the vast reaches of space.

That's the theory being proposed by a team led by a University of Toronto astronomer, whose latest research reveals that planetary nurseries could exist not only around stars, but also around planet-size objects about a hundred times less massive than our sun.

The work focused on newly formed planetary mass objects, or planemos--objects with about the same masses as planets that do not orbit stars--as envisioned by this artist's conception.

Young planemos are similar to stars in that they are still very hot from the energy it takes to form and are surrounded by disks of debris. The disks contain the raw materials for planet-making, suggesting to scientists that miniature versions of the solar system could orbit planemos that are not much larger than Jupiter.

The finding complements previous research showing a potentially planet-forming disk around a brown dwarf--a star that didn't grow large enough to ignite. (Read "'Diamond Planets' Hint at Dazzling Promise of Other Worlds.")

But the researchers note that as planemos age and cool, prospects for life on the objects' tiny progeny would be dim.

Without the heat radiated by a fully formed star, "any kind of planet that forms around them is committed to an eternal freeze," lead author Ray Jayawardhana told the Reuters news agency.

--Victoria Gilman

June 3, 2006

apple and quark

articles at macworld uk online:

Quark pricing RIPs off Britain
at the bottom there is a comparison of international prices between quark xpress 7 and adobe creative suite 2.
"Adobe's pricing isn't a lot better. A standard version of Adobe's Creative Suite 2 costs £809 in the UK (excluding VAT). It's $899.95 in the US and €1,699 in Europe."
it makes quark xpress 7 look cheap in comparison, but it's a moot point because xpress 7 is (in terms of purpose) basically equivalent to adobe indesign cs2. the CS2 suite also includes photoshop, imageready, illustrator, and golive. now who offers the better deal? (CS2 is still hideously expensive.) so in terms of VALUE and "bang for your buck," adobe's the clear choice.
in terms of the pricing rip off... GO FIGURE! they're obviously trying to take advantage of their international consumers... shame on you, quark and adobe, both.


Guitar lessons for iPod ship
(meaning a guitar lesson program for the iPod is being shipped... as far as i know there is no iPod ship, but that would be cool. hey, it's a boat!)

"iPlayMusic has introduced Beginner Guitar Lessons for the Mac, a guitar learning application for Macs and video-enabled iPods.

The guitar lessons integrate with iLife applications, including GarageBand, iTunes and iWeb. Students will learn a little guitar, including how to play and sing popular songs. Users can view lessons or listen to their new performances in iTunes or on their iPod."

cool.

May 26, 2006

say goodbye to elmer?

CBC.ca posted a story yesterday (here) about an incredible discovery by a Canadian scientist in the US. he "has discovered bacteria that produce the world's strongest glue."

"Bacteria covering a quarter are able to hold the weight equivalent of an elephant, Brun said."

you might be saying goodbye to Elmer in a couple of years:
"Caulobacter crescentus bacteria produce the adhesive substance, which researchers believe could replace dozens of glues currently on the market."

but then again, sometimes one doesn't want something THAT strong for daily practical purposes. i seem to remember my godfather repairing my broken sandal with Goop. goodbye goop? i guess we'll find out. it could be a very environmentally-friendly alternative to chemicals.

May 25, 2006

internet explorer is the root of all evil

i was reading a page about new (old) CSS3 propositions and the support different browsers offer. any surprise as to what supported the least? (none, in fact) internet explorer. of course.

internet explorer is the bane of my existence as a designer. because i don't have to put up with it on a day-to-day basis, i'm not forced to put up with its crap. lately because i've had the opportunity to check my designs on a pc while i'm working on them on my mac, i'm discovering IE's odd quirks. what renders beautifully in Safari, will look the same 97% of the time in Firefox on PC, and maybe 85% in IE. i'm surprised that number is so high, but i've been careful and have learned a few solutions that i've kept on hand to avoid tearing my hair out. there remained one puzzle though:

WHY was there a gap under my images?

solution? i googled my problem (turns out this is a good alternative to D.I.Y.) and found an easy solution: display:block. ta-da! here's an easy read about it and some more standards-compatibility charts. the funny thing is that i've never noticed this before.

other problems: dimensions of boxes are wonky, positioning text within those boxes and having the padding being off, things difficult to get centered. maybe i still have more learning to do, but why should it have to be this difficult when it works perfectly in two browsers? because they're DESIGNED BETTER?

i still don't understand why people even use IE for Mac anymore, because it's obsolete. poof. bye-bye. microsoft no longer makes it because safari showed up. DON'T USE IT. it simply does not support new standards, which makes sense. parents don't speak the same slang as their kids. it's the same with IE. it stopped keeping up with changing technology and thus gets just a tad confused when you throw the latest language at it.

IE is still the most popular browser, but firefox is smarter and IE is being... outfoxed.