Keep calm and carry on

The amazing story of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster explained in a beautiful video.

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You Need to Write

Jeffrey Zeldman Avatar“I do think it’s true that designers need to write, and UX people need to write, and developers need to write. (…) I think that when you share your knowledge, there’s always people who learn from it. There’s always someone who’s going to learn from it. And I think that’s just a great way to advance your career, and -more importantly- give back, you know, and be part of the community.”

Jeffrey Zeldman on The Big Webshow, episode #53. 5by5

As often, I agree with Mr. Zeldman’s point here. It’s not always easy to find time, and even harder to find something interesting to say. This web site illustrates both issues nicely. But even more important than advancing your career or giving back to the community is the fact that writing makes you order your thoughts and really focus on your subject. Writing does many things, from introducing you to the community, to making you a better designer, to making you re-think the ‘truths’ that you live by. Writing is to a designer what going for a jog is to an athlete.

Since 1995 (!), Mr. Zeldman leads by example at Zeldman.com. Here’s a link to a blog post about this very subject: “One blog post is worth a thousand portfolio pieces”. And if you are just looking for an entertaining, well written story, check out “Cameron Diaz and Me”. There’s much more enjoyable reading to be found there, so click around, get inspired and then head over to your blog or pull out your journal and write something of your own.

Skype Spam

I’ve been a big fan and avid user of Skype. Especially since moving to the US it’s been an amazing tool to stay in touch with my friends and family at home. Not worrying about the cost of a phone call and being able to turn on the video every now and then, makes a huge difference over regular phone calls. Email is great too and I guess in a way Facebook helps me stay up to date with what’s going on back home. But it’s hard to beat the instant gratification of a quick talk with friends or hearing my parent’s or sister’s voice.

I’m still amazed by the technology behind it all. It’s pretty impressive to realize that the audio and video are rendered in real-time, broken up in to TCP/IP packets, routed halfway around the world, recompiled and played back at the other end without any delay (OK, hardly any delay). Lately however, it’s becoming more and more obvious how complicated this technology is and how hard it is to make it all work properly. We’ve all heard of the much publicized outages that have occurred the last couple of weeks. And there’s the fact that often contacts show up as ‘offline’ while they are not. Not to mention, chat messages coming through with as much as 24 hours of delay. All technical trouble, all recent issues, and all stuff that triggers obvious jokes about their recent acquisition by Microsoft.

I give Skype lots of credit, because, for years now, they have provided this amazing service to me for very little money. Today however, an entirely new issue came up. I received my first ever blatant Skype Spam call. The call came from ‘NOTIFICATIONS’ and since I recently purchased Skype Credit, I thought that maybe there was some kind of announcement regarding that. I should have known better, Skype would send me an email instead of having a robot call me. But between all the calls I get from AT&T and Time Warner robots, I’ve started to expect and accept these incredibly rude and annoying unsolicited calls. Of course, it was not Skype calling me, it was some scam to lure me into visiting a website where I can download anti-virus software. I don’t need anti-virus software on my iPhone, which is where I received this call, and that website would no doubt do much more harm than good if I decided to visit it.

I realize there is a setting in Skype that prevents anyone who’s not in my contact list from calling me. I usually have this turned on, but since I recently switched accounts it might not be properly set. In any case, these little issues and annoyances are making me reconsider my loyalty to Skype. There are many alternatives out there and it’s never a good idea to stick with anything simply because change is inconvenient. Maybe I can move some of my communication to FaceTime of Google Talk? For now, I’ll probably stick with Skype and give them another chance at addressing these issues. As long as they don’t start interrupting my calls with commercials I shouldn’t complain, right?

Social Media

“During the NCAA basketball tournament I heard announcer Jim Nantz telling viewers to go to CBSsports.com for “tournament related social media.” A week later I noticed a category at Maria Shriver’s site for “social media.”

Strange thing is I’ve never heard a non-tech person use the phrase “social media.” Normal people mention being friends on Facebook or reading someone’s tweets on Twitter. They don’t say, “I want to get some social media.”

It’s a good reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in industry jargon and how we talk instead of how they (i.e. customers) actually think/talk. The phrase you use internally isn’t necessarily the one you should use with the outside world.”
{Matt via 37Signals}

The problem here is obvious, but as you can tell from the comments to the post, the solution is not as obvious.

Further Reading: Social Media – 37Signals

 

Content should be appropriate

There’s really only one central principle of good content: it should be appropriate for your business, for your users, and for its context. Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its style and structure, and above all in its substance. Content strategy is the practice of determining what each of those things means for your project—and how to get there from where you are now.
{Erin Kissane – A Checklist for Content Work}

Further Reading: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/a-checklist-for-content-work/

Days of our connected lives

Last week I wrote on Twitter that forums and social media hurt my optimism in the future of mankind. I wrote this after wasting time reading a couple flame wars on forums and after seeing a bunch of ignorant comments on Twitter and Facebook.
Since then, things have not improved. Even in my small ‘twittersphere’ (both my followers and following list are under 150), there has been too much drama lately. To call us a bunch of high-schoolers would be an insult to adolescents world wide. There is a reason why cocktail parties end after a couple hours. Social media and internet don’t have that luxury. We’re all still around after getting drunk and too familiar with each other, and that’s when the gloves come off.
The accessibility and diversity of our online social circle provides great opportunities, but with that comes great responsibility. Which, apparently, is tough to uphold 24/7. I’m not writing this from an ivory tower, I’m just as guilty as the next guy.
Global and immediate connectivity has enabled great things, from revolutions to people just socializing with peers that live halfway around the globe. It also allows us to pick fights with strangers, spew ignorant BS and turn fiction into fact through the power of repetition. Maybe there should be an international day of on-line restraint? I guess that would just mean turning our devices off for a while. After all is said and done, were all individuals and it’s tough to be empathetic when others don’t share our beliefs. Especially in 140 characters.