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Deliberatepixel / tag

Selfishness, Ruthlessness, and the Web

So Mr. Nielsen, who is evidently officially now a "guru," has some new things to say about web users and usability:

Web users have always been ruthless and now are even more so.... People want sites to get to the point, they have very little patience.... I do not think sites appreciate that yet. They still feel that their site is interesting and special and people will be happy about what they are throwing at them.

As usual, I agree with him in his assessment, and disagree with him when it comes to proposed solutions. Web users are absolutely becoming more selfish, and, from a design perspective, it is of course extremely important to understand how to make information on the web accessible and available.

However.

I don't think web producers should immediately bow to the demands of selfish users. I don't think web production should be distilled down to a handful of design and content standards from which we never deviate. Granted, if your particular web production is a wide-reaching corporate effort, then user demands have more weight. But filter that down to smaller businesses, or independent artistic efforts (believe it or not, I put blogs in that latter category), and the rules can, and should, be more flexible.

Think of web services as similar to food services - if you want something expected, fast, and cheap, you go to McDonald's. If you're more concerned with quality, experience, and originality, you find a smaller, local restaurant. You're taking a risk with the second option - you might not like what you get, and it may be a waste of time and money. But, if you don't want to subsist on McDonald's fare, those risks are reasonable, even necessary, to take.

When I want to find something specific, I want everything to work quickly and perfectly, too. And when web producers don't take the time to solve simple mistakes like basic functionality and navigation, they might lose me. But I'm also willing to admit that a gentle reminder, deliberate or not, to slow the hell down from time to time, and think a bit more about what I'm doing, or a bit more about the content with which I'm interacting, is not a bad thing at all.

Women and Social Networks

If you are creating a new Web 2.0 site and you want to go viral, you target women. Young women drive virality and so all the new innovation is targeted towards them. That means that the gender gap on social networks (and increasingly in all of social media) is only going to widen. More and more innovation will be targeted towards women and they will continue to get more engaged. And while we expect men’s adoption to social media to continue to increase, it will likely be slower than the rate of adoption by women.

A Rapleaf study concludes women care more about social networks.

(Hat tip: Christine.)

CSS Naked Day

Just so you know, we will be going naked here on Wednesday.

Design Police

Design Police

So, can you make a citizen's arrest on the web?

Mister Splashy Pants

So, have you heard the saga of Mister Splashy Pants yet? The short version is that Greenpeace hosted a poll to name a whale as the focus of a campaign to stop Japanese whaling ships, the name suggestion "Mister Splashy Pants" was kept in the running as a joke, and once the internet got a hold of it, they made it the winner. The moral: never underestimate the power (and available time, and inexplicable stubbornness) of geeks on the internet.

Recently Discovered Blogs

Some blogs I've recently come across that seem worth mentioning:

  • Repackaging Girlhood - "Rescuing our daughters from marketers' schemes."
  • Noir of the Week - Apparently it's not a new idea. More noir for everyone! Weekly!
  • The Beauty Brains - Cosmetic scientists give some straight talk about what's in your beauty products.
  • Diana Eng - This is more of a rediscovery, but the lovely, geeky Diana from Project Runway is blogging with more regularity now.

I'm also a bit curious to see the forthcoming futurism/scifi Gawker Media blog edited by Annalee Newitz, which is supposed to drop any day now. I'm hoping it turns out to be worthwhile.

The Megan Meier Case

You probably have heard by now about the saga of Megan Meier, the teenager who was prompted to suicide by the MySpace machinations of several members of her neighborhood, including grown adults. Yesterday, expert on youth and the internet, danah boyd, took a look at the story.

Megan's case leaves me with one major thought: what happens online is real, and just as consequential as what happens in "real life." I wonder, as we progress with this type of technology, if the division we place between our online persona and our RL persona will become greater or, eventually, nothing at all. And which one we should be working towards.

iGoogle Says ...

How to Make a Coffin, How To Become a Hobo

If this were any other season than Halloween, these offered how-tos on the Google home page might be a bit odd. At least, Halloween is what I hope they're referring to.

The Life and Death of Jesse James

An internet love mystery. The screenwriter of A History of Violence tells the tale of how love and deception has changed in the internet age.

Robin McKinley & Author Blogs

I recently finished re-reading Sunshine by one of my favorite authors, Robin McKinley. She's one of those authors that, happily, has stayed a favorite author as I grew out of adolescence and into adulthood. Since I hadn't read any of her books in a while, I decided to do some Googling to see if I had missed any McKinley-related breaking news. Lo and behold, here she is blogging.

I really love to read my favorite authors blogging. Sometimes, I even love to read blogs by authors I'm not crazy about. Because they're still writers, and their blogs generally have an extra something special other professionals-turned-bloggers don't. Neil Gaiman's journal was one of the very first blogs I kept up with regularly. Sometimes, author blogs proved unique opportunities for me to see currents events as filtered through a talented voice, as was Poppy Z. Brite's journal during Katrina.

I think I'll now have to search out all of the other author blogs I'm missing in a new mass RSS-feed adding. If you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Back to McKinley, though - I recommend picking up one of her books if you haven't already and have any leanings towards fantasy material. Her books are consistently notable for strong, intelligent, complex heroines, and a beautiful, rich vocabulary and tone. Highlights:

  • Beauty - A lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I have large portions of this book completely committed to memory.
  • The Blue Sword - A classic girl-hero fantasy story. There's an extensive preview of this at Google Books.
  • Deerskin - A little intense, since it retells an old fairy tale that involves incest and rape. But it's very well retold.

Marry Our Daughter

Marry Our Daughter

Have you fallen for MarryOurDaughter yet?

The person I first got the link from did. And while I think I've learned my lesson of taking seemingly whacked religious websites seriously, it has to be admitted that sometimes serious religious websites are kind of whacked.

But this particular website, which advertises teen daughters for marriage sale, is in fact a parody, as confirmed by the NY Times. The perpetrator has played the part on various radio shows recently, and reportedly is getting a ton of irate feedback. Which in itself is basically a good thing. I mean, if there weren't a huge backlash against a service that justifies the selling of daughters into marriage by their parents, I would be more concerned.

Taking MarryOurDaughter on face value, however, misses the underlying point of the site - which is, namely, the possible danger the existing American state laws that allows parents to consent to the marriage of children as young as 12 can cause. Site owner Ordover says in the NYT article: "As far as I can tell, in every state but Oregon, parents can marry off their children." The article points also to the Cornell Law School's table of state marriage laws, which backs up his words. Looking through the table, I noticed that quite a few states - including my own, Ohio - has different ages of consent for males and females, and, without exception, the girls can be married younger.

Maybe the amount of outrage at this site proves that the majority of Americans are horrified at the notion of selling off daughters for a Biblically-based "bride price". But considering this week has marked the beginning of the trial of Warren Jeffs for the alleged coercing of a 14-year-old girl into sex with her 19-year-old cousin and later marriage, maybe it also isn't so incredible to imagine such a thing actually happening. So - is MarryOurDaughter just another tasteless internet prank or a new possible way to build support for a social cause?

My 'Dear John' Letter to Digg

Dear Digg,

We've been on-again/off-again for a while now. I think it's about time we sat down and talked about our relationship, don't you?

You know, I had heard a lot about you before we actually met. We ran in similar circles, were connected to the same blogs, that type of thing. When I finally checked you out, I was pretty impressed. Slick, well-put-together, and (the clincher) useful. So there naturally came a time when I figured you and I should give it a shot.

But, well, we just haven't been able to make it consistently work. I don't think it's you, at least not completely. More to the point, I think it's the company you keep. You see, many of the people that associate with you are smart, funny, and polite. Others, however, are not. Others are immature, sexist, and offensive. And, frankly, it's putting a strain on you and me. Almost always, when I try to join in a conversation with you and these friends, it turns into either a shouting match or swapping of nasty insults. Other times the conversation goes on as if I'm not even there. Now, I know your crowd is mostly guys and not a lot of girls hang around you - but, from this girl's perspective, it's just not fun.

I'm a little tired of the seemingly endless comments about women being "golddiggers" (I work full-time to be the breadwinner for my family), not being able to understand or operate technology (that work I do - it's in tech support and web design, and I have a computer science education), and only interested in shopping, jewelry, and clothes (I'm also a mom, and most of my extra money goes to things for my daughter - I haven't bought new clothes in over a year). Those are all things I've heard at some point when I'm with you, Digg. If it were once in a while, I'd ignore it and move on. But it's a regular occurrence. Even after I take a break from you for a while, I come back to find the same thing happening, over and over again.

Look - I really like you. You have great principles and are into things I want to know and talk about. But the mob that surrounds you too often drowns everything else out. And I don't think I can do it anymore.

Sure, I think we can still be friends. I'll still stop by to check out how you are, what's going on. Don't think I'm being rude by holding myself away from the crowd. It's just not my crowd, and I think I'm better off on my own.

Lots of love,

Jen

The Tyranny of the RSS Feed

For a long time, I avoided RSS feeds, both reading others' and publishing my own. I think I was it was my interest in design. What was the point, I thought, of putting all the time and effort into creating and coding website designs if you just regularly culled the content from websites style-free? But I began to publish my own feed some time ago, because I wanted people to read my blog in whichever way they preferred. Plus, I came to realize that it really is the content that makes a website. The flashiest design in the world won't make up for the fact the content is weak, or nonexistent. And strong content is best served by a design that simply, effectively, presents that content. So, syndicate away!

Recently, I also gave in to the ever-increasing amount of websites I want to keep up with, and spent some time plugging them all into Google Reader. Now I'm obsessed. It could be a full-time job, just reading all new feeds posts as they pop up. Although Gmail's storage has trained me out of my compulsion to have a completely empty email inbox, I've now discovered this does not transfer over to RSS feeds. I find myself checking back in to catch any new posts as if I'm swatting flies, unable to let one get past me. No sooner do I mark all as read then twenty more unread come around.

Anyway, I've concluded I need to go and do something else with my vacation. Like clean the house, or look for more job leads. No one post anything important while I'm away, okay?

What Am I Doing? A Consideration of Twitter

I'm trying hard to do this Twitter thing. I'm not sure quite why. I'm still teetering on the edge of the "it's useless/it's awesome" debate. I can't really decide which it is, and somehow I've also determined that I can't decide until I've at least tried to utilize it as fully as possible.

So I stubbornly press on. I've been managing to update it mostly every day. But my life isn't all that exciting. I go to work full-time. I take care of my daughter most of the rest of the time. I work on my computer at home whatever time is left over. In the tiny spaces in between, I run, I do necessary shopping and cleaning, I keep up with family and friends. Sometimes I take a break to watch good movies. And there's a few other regular, slightly amusing activities. Repeat ad infinitum. It's not bad. In fact, it's great for right now. But it doesn't really make thrilling Twitter posts.

(Just for the record, example thrilling Twitter posts might include: Squashed the sea monkey uprising this morning, made the world as we know it safe for yet another day. Or, Lunch with Prince today. Must remember to bring that cheesecake recipe he asked for.)

Twitter is essentially a micro-blogging platform, which is another reason I'm probably having a hard time getting into the habit. I like to write more than one-hundred-forty characters. (Obviously.) And I like to write about my ideas and opinions more than I do about myself and my daily doings. But it's also exactly for those reasons, I see a use for a quick micro-blog update on real-world Jen stuff.

Like many Web 2.0 applications, Twitter works best with a large group of users. Unlike other apps, though, Twitter also works best with a group of users you already know. That way you can keep up with them in these rather context-less news bursts. I know that is something which can be useful to me, because I've experienced it in the form of status changes on Facebook, which many of my real-world friends do use. But Twitter allows so much more flexibility and control than Facebook statuses do.

What's the real message I'm sending here? Basically, everyone, join Twitter and justify my Twitter existence. And in order to justify your Twitter existence, I'll either work on leading a more exciting life or making better things up.