As part of trying out this digital cleanse I needed to know what exactly I don’t need, if that makes sense.
So breaking out my handy moleskine I’ve started to split the day into spaces/modes to match up with the settings in Cover and Aviate.
I also wanted to see when, and where, I wanted to have the ringer/alert silent.
I used the hashtag #DigitalCleanse on Twitter as I started listing the steps I’ve been taking:
- Leaving LinkedIn groups – I’ve never got into using LinkedIn as a social network to discuss topics and “share”. The few groups I did join seemed to spend as much time getting rid of overzealous recruiters as it did posting about the topics. I cut the email down to digests, but even that just clogged up my inbox. So I’ve left them all.
- Closing “alternate” accounts – Over the years I’ve opened a lot of accounts on (then) new services. Sometimes multiple accounts for businesses, groups, or just for a laugh. Time to shut these down, or pass them on to others. This also enables me to consolidate and focus my content.
- Turn off notifications – Now with multiple devices, every time an email or social network updates they’d both ping and chirp, demanding my attention during the day. To what end? Most of the time it wasn’t something that needed a reply, but my focus had been broken and shifted. So the only things that make noise or display an alert are phone calls & text messages.
So Christmas and my birthday have now passed and we’re fully into 2014. But what felt like a fairly stable life online , now has the exciting tremors of instability once again.
So far this year quite a few services/site I use(d) are closing or switching business models. I don’t think I’ve ever downloaded so much of ‘my’ content in one month.
- Viddler - an excellent video platform, has decided to move away from its free community model and concentrate more on its paying business side. I can’t argue with that and wish them every success, but it does mean I have to pull down all my uploads in .FLV format.
- Zootool – This was the online bookmarking service I opted for when Delicious had all those issues. Now I’m exporting them all again. Reminds me off when Ma.gnolia disappeared.
- ClaimID – For over 7½ years ClaimID served as my online reputation repository. Every profile, site, or post that was to do with me had a link here. Then it suddenly disappeared. I reached out to them and Fred Stutzman was nice enough to reply, as they had “experienced a catastrophic systems failure which left us unable to bring the service back online”. Shame.
- MyOpenID – Created by Janrain to make “registration and login easier on the web for people” it worked great, but never really saw wide adoption. Then Facebook & Twitter started offering using them as login credentials, and I guess it’s time came. But having authentication that isn’t reliant on one of the big boys is still appealing, so I’m happy Aaron Parecki reached out and is offering it as part of #IndieWeb (maybe more soon on this).
- Editorially – An online tool that I tried out. Didn’t use it too much, but a good idea well executed.
- Qik – Video messaging service. Features being incorporated into Skype.
These were things I had running in the background of my life. Things I’d visit and update every so often, but not pay them too much mind. With them gone it’s made me look again at my content, my choice of channels, my digital footprint.
The next few posts I’ll jot down some ideas from my own #DigitalCleanse, the decisions I’m looking at and the apps & services I’m using to sort it out.
Also, I’m turning off comments and pingbacks etc. for this blog. Probably going to start looking implementing WebMentions very soon.
Origami announces itself as a “permanent, living monument to your family.” I signed up a few months ago and got the beta invite about a week ago. It’s an interesting alternative to spreading your family updates, photos etc. through disparate social networks or building a “family blog”. They pitch it as “Family sharing made easy”. I really like the idea of a central family hub (that I don’t have to host & maintain) that isn’t reliant on having an a Facebook or Twitter account.
The set up was really easy – Fill in some basic personal details, choose a sub-domain for your family, then invite family members by email. As my Mum (in her 60′s) responded and joined a couple of days after sending the invite I’d say it passes the ‘easy-to-use’ test.
Once in you can add your birthday, phone number, and home address. You can also add a profile image. As the main account I can edit each member profile too.
The design is nice and clean and carries through from the website to the app. The ‘moments’ you post are presented in a timeline, with the options to ‘love’ it or add a note to it. You can also create ‘albums’ to store collective memories in, which in turn can be shared by email, Facebook or Twitter.
It also has a nice option (website) of showing a slide-show of photos from your albums if the site is open, but you haven’t clicked on it for a while.
The app (I’m using the Android version on a Nexus 4) has all the same options for posting, but the album creation isn’t live yet. Photo’s and videos can be taken right within the app, or you can choose them from the gallery.
When a family member joins or adds/comments on a moment, you get a notification on the phone. You can also get a daily or weekly digest emailed to you, which is great for my Mum who doesn’t have a smart phone. She also won’t be logging into the site a whole lot either.
Still a beta
There are still things to work out, but that’s why I love playing around in the beta sandbox.
I quickly learned that you can’t make an album after the fact. Meaning, once I posted photo’s of Josh & I building a tin can robot I couldn’t then add them into an album from the timeline. I have to create the album first and pull in photos and videos from the desktop or one of the many online photo services it supports. And you can only create albums on the website presently.
When you create a ‘moment’ in the app you have the options to share on Twitter and Facebook, checking these does nothing and there was nowhere I could find to link your social accounts presently.
I would also like to see the ability to denote the relationship of the family members, maybe using XFN, or add the hCard microformat to profiles. The addition of important dates such as anniversaries would be nice too.
Also, I know this is being presented as a “permanent” place, but I’d still like to see the option of exporting the information ala Google Takeout. That kind of option builds a lot of trust.
I like Origami
Overall, for the past week, using Origami has been a nice experience. My wife has already added a couple of moments and I’m looking forwarding to hearing what my Mum back in England thinks of it.
I really like the idea behind Origami. I’m definitely going to keep using it and see what the coming months bring.
You can see more screen shots in my Flickr stream #origami.
Working on the web, especially on large projects, there’s always an expectancy of comprise during the project. Most of the time it’s a feature that either the back-end can’t handle, or that the design didn’t foresee. Maybe the company’s objectives change, or the product evolves.
It happens. And as an experienced Architect/Developer/Designer you can usually reach back into your past and find a solution that’ll suffice, or at the very least, make that particular deliverable suck less.
Compromise is a happy-ish place where neither party gets exactly what it wanted, but the goals of the project are still met.
The worst-case scenario for me is when the project becomes the deliverable. What do I mean by this? Well, it’s:
- When decisions are being made on the feedback of people outside of the project
- When designs and features are argued over until you reach a point of capitulation, not compromise, and deliverables are scrapped
- When budget & time become high concerns, before anything has really been started
- When the project stops being a collection of deliverables to the stated goal
And the earlier these little knives start to appear in the project, the earlier the despondency sets in.
One way to counter this is to make sure the project has set out its goals in plain English.
Our newsletter sign-up will increase after implementing this.
Customer complaints will decrease after elevating this.
Users will be able to share our content easier than before.
Especially if this is what you based your initial research and design on solving. Re-iterating this can, sometimes, push past these little knives and get you to a place where comprise can be found.
With the amount of content that is now engulfing our every online nook-and-cranny, I feel the time seems ripe to take another look at ”lifestreams‘. Remember them? It was a way of trying to make sense of all the “content” you were producing/consuming. Only thing was, I don’t think there was really that much when they rose to prominence. I could still comfortably clear my Bloglines feed, hit F5 on Twitter to see if anyone had posted anything, and still declare ‘Inbox Zero’ at the end of the day.
Now I can never get under 1000 unread blog posts sitting in Google Reader, Twitter has exploded, and so has Tumblr. Add to that mix, services like Dropbox or iCloud, Google+ and Facebook and you have no hope of “catching up”.
Merlin Mann, the voice behind ‘Inbox Zero‘, mentioned something on the ever excellent Back To Work podcast that got me thinking. I can’t remember the exact quote, but he mentioned having an ‘Inbox One’. A place where everything comes in (I think this was in a GTD episode) and can be handled.
But can that be another purely online service? I think not.
Both Twitter and Instagram have shown recently that they can pull the rug from under one another and, ultimately, they’re in it for the money. Now this isn’t a bad thing. They are businesses after all, and if I worked for one of them I’d sure like to know I’m getting a paycheck. I just don’t think we can rely on the services they supply to be there all the time, at least in the same way they are now for a 3rd party (such as IFTTT).
So what does that leave us? Well I think this is where hardware comes to play. Maybe its a version of Berg’s Little Printer. I’ve been looking at my smartphone as this Inbox One – Selecting and pruning the services I pull in and confining the consumption onto that device.
We’ll see how that goes.
So the more we sat through a day of usability sessions, the more this came to me and I just wanted to jot down some quick notes here.
Perception, location, proximity.
I had some new screen designs to run through, but instead of the normal usability session of getting the participant to try the design on a specific device, we tried something new.
We’d already pre-screened for iOS and Android smartphone users. But instead of diving straight in we talked to each one as they arrived, asking questions about their usage of any device they had:
- What devices do you have in the home? (including desktop/laptop and land-line telephones)
- Which ones move around with you and which pretty much stay where they are?
- What’s your primary email checking device?
Only after 10 or so of these conversational probes did we ask them to read the first scenario, tell us which of their devices would they use to perform it, and tell us why. Then we gave them that device and watched them run through the screens, gathering feedback as we went.
Afterwards we repeated the conversation, reading the next scenario, and then choosing a device to try it on. It didn’t have to be the same one.
Over & over I noticed that the first choice for one task was not to use any of their ‘electronic’ devices. I felt this was to do with perception, location, proximity.
Does it sound hard/complicated? Previous experiences?
Where am I when looking to complete the task?
What device do I have to hand? Is it the “right device” based on Perception & Location?
I have more notes to go through, and maybe everybody already “sees” this and it took me these sessions to figure it out, but it’s certainly coloured the way I’m approaching creating experiences across devices now.
Love to hear anyone else’s thoughts.
This past weekend I took part in this year’s Cleveland Give Camp. 3 days of helping out local charities and non-profits with their web presences.
Lean Dog opened their office (a converted boat) and we also had the run of Burke Lakefront Airport too. Though hot, it was great catching up with some local web folk I hadn’t seen in a little while, as well as meeting the new people on my team; Roger, Joe, and Joann.
We helped out Long Term Care Ombudsman, an interesting and vital service, with their website. Where some teams could do a new website, LTCO had to stick with the current hosted solution.
While it did offer them some useful tools, it limited the amount of “design” we could do for them.
- We had to use one of the stock templates
- We couldn’t change any of that templates CSS or HTML
- We couldn’t add “style” or “code snippets” to that template
We decided early on to focus on two objectives:
- Write new content to help educate visitors, and to improve search engine results
- Change the site architecture to make it easier to navigate
Joe Zitt did a great job, working with the client and writing new content to explain what the LTCO does and how volunteers can help.
My challenge was to put that content onto the site. My nemesis for three days was the CMS (deserves a separate post).
I worked in the HTML view, marking up the content semantically, but I had to remember that our client would not be comfortable using that view. In fact they had been frustrated that the formatting was not consistent and hard to implement using this. So I created a
<style> block that I pasted in the HTML view at the top of every page. This way they could just use the “normal” view to enter content and choose they type of tag (
<p>, etc.) and not have to use the color picker and text size options. Using these results in a ton of
<span> wrapping around everything.
Though not a wholly new site, at the end of the weekend they had new, topic-specific content, semantically marked-up & styled, with a better site structure. We also gave them some documentation for a strategy including blogging & social media, as well as instructions on how to paste in and use the
<style> block and address using hCard.
Our clients, Susan & Lauri, were great to work with, happy with the work done and excited to start using their site again.
All the volunteers kept us fed, LeanDog kept 200 people on WiFi, and it was well-run 3 days. I’d recommend anyone who works on the web, and is interested in helping out local charities, to check out the next Cleveland Give Camp (or find one in your area).
I was lucky enough to attend the excellent 2012 IA Summit in New Orleans last month. Now, when I go to a conference I’ve got in the habit of creating a new blog on Tumblr just for that event. This being no exception.
There’s a few entries over at ias12-davidmead.tumblr.com, but not many. The reason for this is that the one electronic device I took, my phone, died on me.
The galling thing was that it electronically it still worked, but the touch screen was completely unresponsive. So, only a day into it, and I was completely disconnected (in a way) from the other 649 attendees.
As the conference proceeded I tended to notice a lot more people interacting with their devices than being completely engaged with the subject of the talk, or even the people they were talking to during the breaks.
So without my phone I found I was more focused, but also adrift. Not being able to arrange to meet in the breaks, or for dinner was…uncomfortable. Being completely reliant on the phone in my hotel room or the internet on the rooms TV was jarring, and that loss of immediacy was quite odd.
When I ventured out to wander around the French Quarter I found this to be the case too. It felt like that bit in a sci-fi film when the protagonist realized everyone around him is “one of them”!
My replacement phone arrived the day after I got back. I think I’ll try and get into the habit of switching my phone into ‘Airplane mode’ while I’m in meetings/talks. Remove the temptation. But maybe take a back-up (like an iPod Touch or a Netbook) just in case.
Now all I have to to is transcribe my notes over to Tumblr and I’ll be good to go.