My Blog Mentioned at Vancouver ChangeCamp

June 20, 2009

Though I don’t always tend to this space as much lately–mostly thanks to Twitter, which has stolen away most of the precious few moments that I devote to this sort of thing–it was a nice surprise to hear that at today’s Vancouver ChangeCamp a post from my blog was referenced during one of the sessions. Very cool.

The post was one about the BC Government’s new Spark! collaboration site.

Sounds like it was a good day in Vancouver. Would have been great to be there, but instead I followed along via–what else?–Twitter. The hashtags #vcc09 and #vanchangecamp kept me informed and up-to-date.


Three Social Media eBooks Worth Reading

June 20, 2009

I tweeted this yesterday, but I wanted to mention here that Amy Mengel at Mengel Musings has a good post linking to three social media ebooks. My favourite so far–though I’m not yet done them all–is Brink. They all are valuable, and Amy provides a useful quick rundown on each of the books. Well worth a look.

YouTube Remixed Thru You

March 5, 2009

Yesterday on Twitter I received a tweet from crushlovely saying that they were “Enjoying the mix at” Well, Thru You is the most fantastic and talented example of remixing I’ve come across online. The artist, Kutiman, has taken a variety of YouTube video clips and pieced them together to create original music that is, frankly, incredible. Now, the style might not suit everyone–I personally love it–but the effort and talent is unmistakable.

What’s wonderful about this effort is how it illustrates what’s possible today. The web becomes this massive repository of user-generated content–which is itself a huge shift from previous modes of mass communication–and then artists take this a step further, remixing and reinventing, along the way creating original content that, in this case in particular, far exceeds the quality of any one individual piece.

Thru You is inspiring. I can’t remember that last time I was so blown away by something I experienced online, so taken aback that I could feel my pulse quicken and excitement and wonder flow throughout my being. This is creativity, vision and execution perfected. Riveting. Beautiful. Genius.

Do yourself a favour: Check it out.

BC Government Tries to Ignite a Spark with Staff

December 8, 2008
Hompage of Spark

Homepage of Spark

The BC Government launched a new social media Intranet site last week called Spark. The site is meant as a place for staff to share ideas with colleagues which can then be voted on by other users of the site. Of course comments are enabled, allowing for some development of a particular idea within the context of its post.

While I’m actively participating in the site I’m left wondering how effective it will be in the long term. It’s being pitched as a Web 2.0 site for government employees, and it’s an encouraging step in that direction. But in my use so far, I’m not sure there’s enough there to get users coming back and continually participating. Possibly out of pure curiosity staff might return to check in on what ideas are being posted. But it’s lacking a mechanism for building community.

For example, I posted an idea about trying to get similar-minded communications and web workers in government to

Spark post page

Spark post page

come together to share ideas, best practices, etc. My idea was “voted” a few times and garnered a few comments. Okay, not bad. Then today I noticed that my idea had been given the status of “Run with it,” which, in the scheme of the Spark site means the administrators have looked at my idea and have given me the go-ahead to move forward since it doesn’t technically require any input or immediate support from them for me to make it a reality (it’s not like I’m suggesting government change a financial policy or something).

But now I feel suddenly alone. There’s no mechanism–at least from what I’ve been able to discover–for me to use the Spark site, or even the broader government intranet site in general, to move forward with my idea. If I’m interested in pursuing things, I need to go back to more traditional means, like email, to setup a connection with the people who commented on my idea. This seems like a big flaw in the system.

If an idea gets the go-ahead, it would be great to suddenly be given a space within the Spark site to collaborate. Possibly a wiki tool, for example, so that interested parties can begin sharing ideas in a centralized collaborative space. This is especially important given the government’s broad user base. Users could be anywhere in the province of British Columbia! I’m assuming those who commented on my idea are in Victoria, but they may not necessarily be here. And even if they are, my physical office is located out at the relatively remote Selkirk Waterfront, far enough from the hub of downtown Victoria to make quick meetings impractical.

So extending the purely idea-based structure of Spark into a place where the ideas themselves can begin to take form would make it much more useful, and give it more of the Web 2.0 credibility I think the site creators might have been shooting for.

However, I’m encouraged by this development, and will continue to follow it to see just how far one good idea can go.

Designing for Your Audience

November 24, 2008

I’ve been spending a large portion of my work life lately working on a redesign of website for my organization’s largest client. Well, not exactly a redesign–originally the scale was smaller, but it’s become apparent that what we’re actually working on is essentially a phased redesign. As a colleague and I work through the process of squeezing the most out of the old site as we can while trying to reorganize the new site, I keep thinking about how a user might interact with our site and who we are designing for.

We have a lot of information on the website for basically three different audiences. A quick spin through the current site reveals that there are a lot of areas that could be improved. So we’re making design decisions based on what we think needs help and where the site’s greatest weaknesses are. This is a worthwhile exercise, but ultimately without testing our assumptions, we’re just guessing. The guesses are educated and are informed by a combined 20 years of web design experience, but they are guesses nonetheless. That’s why I’ve been advocating usability testing. Usability tests would provide us with the data we need to be confident we’re hitting the mark in terms of what our audiences need. And if you’ve read Steve Krug‘s “Don’t Make Me Think,” you’ll know that usability testing doesn’t have to be overly complicated to be effective.

In any organization there are competing interests and of course stakeholders who hold more sway than others. And when it comes to design–or communications in general–everyone believes he’s an expert. But designers, particularly of user interfaces, need to champion the needs of the audience. They, ultimately, are the only ones who matter. If the design suits a board member or your CEO, that’s nice, but if it doesn’t serve your intended audience, well, it doesn’t much matter what your stakeholders thought because, unfortunately, the design has failed.

March of Dimes Baby

January 28, 2008

This interface is fantastic. Beautifully executed, impossible not to watch. Great use of Flash. Wow.

HD Video Online

November 28, 2007

I’ve seen the future of online video, and it’s gorgeous. Vimeo hosts HD video, which looks fantastic and streams smoothly. Never mind poking around YouTube watching grainy, pixelated teens falling off rooftops. On Vimeo you can see detailed, crisp images, in full-screen HD.

Now, so far there’s nothing like the selection on YouTube, but what’s fascinating about Vimeo and its HD fans is the passion for video and for wringing the most out of the cameras. Canon’s HV20 has a loyal following on this site and it’s great to see not only what the camera is capable of out of the box, but also what creative DIYers are able to achieve with some add-ons. The current item of technolust is the 35mm adapter that allows you to take your 35mm lens from your still camera and connect to your camcorder. The idea is simple enough–and for the handy, tutorials for creating your own are posted and freely available–but the results are stunning.

For a great example of what people are doing, check out this video by a user named twoneil. Watching his samples I was truly blown away by the quality of the video. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen video come to film, and in fact, I think it would be tough for a casual viewer to really tell the difference, at least online.

What this does, of course, is completely open the realm of high-quality movie-making to almost anyone. The look of video, while becoming more accepted every day, still represents a barrier to an independent filmmaker. Film is obviously the gold standard and if it looks like video your work is immediately–if not consciously–taken a little less seriously. Video folks are always looking for ways to make their video appear more like film. And now, with the advent of reasonably affordable HD equipment and a little ingenuity, this goal is within reach.

Of course, just having the “look” of film doesn’t make someone’s short- or feature-film great. But if the raw materials are worthy–script, cast, director, etc.–there’s one less hurdle to clear towards the goal of making something great.