Category Archives: User-Centred

NIDA Teaching Session

Updated: 05/9/09

Cultural Antropology

An antropological introduction to YouTube

mwesch you tube channel

Copyright and Neworking

Creative Commons Australia

Free technologies

WordPress resources:

Slideshow plugins

shadowbox JS

Free wordpress themes

Some Photo-blogging themes

Standards compliance

Domain registrars

Hosting companies

Coders, Templates, HTML from PSD

Money where your site is

The web began as a communication and collaboration tool but soon evolved into much more when someone sorted out how to pay for stuff through it. A secure protocol and security certificates helped make it happen but ultimately it was coders and credit card companies who put payment processes online.

Today the most well known payment process is undeniably PayPal, helped in no small part by the boom of eBay a few years back. I generally had no problem with paypal so long as I kept feeding it money to use for me and people happily paid for my eBay stuff through it. However, problems started when I migrated to Australia from the UK and both eBay and Paypal failed to move with me. Perhaps because Americans think no-one leaves the USA by choice, to move countries permanently, and their view is a world view, that this was not something worth catering for. I have to say it was easier to open a new bank account in my adopted country than to get paypal or eBay to acknowledge my move. I was told that i could change my address, of course, just not to another country.  Neither would accept that I should be able to keep my account open but update it with new address and payment information for another country.

The only answer was to open up a new account in my new country (with a new email address I might add since email is a unique identifier, of course). So goodbye eBay history and PayPay previous payments, and hello newborn newbie accounts. I suffered through the awkward separation and divorce and settled into newly-wedded bliss. Problem was though, my old relationships kept popping out through the cracks like a horror film zombie, to haunt my new babe with my past discretions.

This manifested itself in occasional top level domain redirection ( from the .com or I originally typed) or the refusal to buy an item restricted to aus addresses, even though my address and ip address clearly show Aussie-ness.

It would have been OK if the excuse I received made any sense, that it is to avoid international money laundering. That would suggest the system is incapable of managing a decent log of transactions or monitor accounts opening and closing rapidly. But confusingly for me, I don’t understand why it is incapable of understanding a person’s history online is important to them and in many ways, their own property.

Hopefully it’s not an excuse to increase the account count.

So even though it may be off topic, these are the kinds of questions I will be asking at the PayPal Developer Day in Sydney on Monday.

Basically, what is changing in the pay pal interface to make it easier and better for humans to get their tasks done?

If you have to blame someone, why not Drew’s cancer?

Just a short note today to talk about Drew’s Cancer. ( I know, not a good plan to start a blog with an external link, but bear with me. All these links will open in a new browser window, if that’s any consolation.)

A few weeks ago Drew Olanoff was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. You can read all about the experience on his Tumblr page. So now he’s facing 6 months of chemo, but since the cancer has a record of being 90% curable, he has a good chance of beating it. He decided he needed to attack it mentally as well as medically so he started blaming the cancer for things happening in his life, losing his keys, his team losing a game, stuff like that. A way of berating and offending the cancer. It is a common suggested treatment to visualise an affliction and imagine physically beating it to help contribute to recovery.

He got together with some friends to take the battle with his cancer to the streets, or in this case, to the interwebs, in case others needed someone/something to take the rap for things happening in their lives.  He invites you to give his cancer a swift kick, in the easiest way possible.  He created a hashtag for the cancer and anyone on twitter can have a whack at his cancer for anything not going right in their day. Something like: I #blamedrewscancer for inspiring me to keep plugging on but also #blamedrewscancer for the current Sydney cold snap! Double-whammy!

He’s teamed up with sponsors who will donate a dollar to two prominent American cancer charities for every participant who tweets with that hashtag in it. The site has been brilliantly designed by 9Astronauts in just a few weeks, maybe only a few days, to great effect. It works well, doesn’t require flash, is very Web 2.0 and is fun. A few minutes after you post your twitter with the hashtag, it pops it onto a placard as if you were at a public demonstration.blamedrewscancer

It’s great to be able to help Drew feel surrounded by people berating his cancer, but it also is a great view of community and social media in action. The spectrum of tweets are anything from people sincerely wanting to make Drew feel better, not alone, to people pimping their own blogs, events, sites, etc. Although the same person posting repeatedly does not contribute to the charity coffers, it does help spread the word, and add to Drew’s sense of not being alone.

This is what makes open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) so powerful and exciting. The Twitter API lets anyone tap into the stream of public Twitter messages and find things of interest or collate research about your brand, company, location, interests or pastimes. And not only that but collate it against something else, like how Jonathan Harris did with blogs for We Feel Fine. You are probably familiar with the example of the Google API where you get to collate maps of things of interest to you using their pool of information about the world… or the moon, ..or Mars… Open APIs are one of the knowledge-sharing elements of Web 2.0.

So if you twitter, take a moment today to blame something in your day on Drew’s cancer by using the hashtag #blamedrewscancer.

Oh, BTW: my WordPress threw away my posting this morning so I had to completely rewrite this, and I frikkin’ well blame Drew’s cancer for that too! i.e.:

I #blamedrewscancer for WordPress not saving my post while I was writing this today!

The site: Blame Drews Cancer

The hashtags showing recent posts: #blamedrewscancer

A taste of something better

After my rant last week about restaurant sites that don’t take users into account, just like London busses, three good ones come along at once! I didn’t want to leave you thinking I was all whinge and no praise so decided to write about them here.

We were looking for a good Indian food or African food delivery in the neighbourhood and did the searching in my usual way; online.

The first happy discovery was the African Feeling restaurant,which surprised me because, for such a modest and unassuming place, it felt like a very well thought out and professional site. Not perfect, but well ahead of the more expensive and hip competition, I must say. It has room for improvement, but is a very good effort and answers the visitors questions.

Location, menu examples and prices and atmosphere images were easy to find, even if not optimally formatted (menu was a JPEG, not in searchable and SEO friendly text). Nice touches were the great portraits of staff, food, dining room and examples of how a dinner party might look. You can even book a table through the site and get an email confirmation.

My favourite though was the honesty and confidence of linking directly to published food reviews, from notable publications like the SMH, as well as including user reviews.

Nice touch!

But they didn’t deliver, we felt lazy that night, so shelved it for a dinner plan later in the month.

The next one had a name I didn’t like but understood the reasoning for. I was led to Posh Spice through the positive reviews but stayed because of the menu and ordering system which, quite clearly, had been thought about and tested by the providers, Menu Log.

The delivery prices were the same as the restaurant prices, not more than, which is what some third party delivery services charge. The entire process thought about retaining my trust, from the AJAX shopping cart system, through to the email and SMS confirmations and 15% first order discount.

Interestingly, it created confidence in both the restaurant as well as the delivery ordering experience,. difficult to do in one hit.

What pleased me was the recognition of how to speak to people in an online environment, and how to cater to letting them discover their needs. Posh Spice, with their partner MenuLog,. clearly want to help you make your decision eaily.

Oh, and yes, the food was most excellent, (I reccommend the fish with coconut and the “osso-bucco” style lamb shank!) delivered with a smile.

Style over substance

Let’s cut to the chase!

Who is advising restaurants, bars and clubs that what their visitors want is a Flash(tm) animated brochure?

When I look up a bar, restaurant or club / music venue, I’m usually after a few basic slices of information, like where it is located, what the food is like or what’s on tonight or this weekend. Of course there is a lot more you’d want to know about  a venue, but these are what I would think are core pieces of information many people would be wanting from a venue’s website. Unfortunately many venues have been advised by their “web people” to publish a set of slick, glossy pictures of the venue, in a Flash slideshow/animation sequence, utilising Flash navigation, and not a great deal more.

Can anyone explain to me why these bars, restaurants and clubs don’t bother looking at what visitors want from websites and help these same prospective clients find it on their websites? Is it really in a venue’s interest to hide the location map somewhere unexpected or provide their menu as a downloadable PDF? And music venues and dance clubs: Thanks for the pictures of the pretty people who cone to your place, specially the hot babes! but since I came to your site to find out more about a night out at your venue from a flyer someone handed me, can you provide more information besides re-presenting the flyer I already have a copy of? Or did you think the babes were enough? hmm, I thought so.

Can you not tell me about the artists who will be playing, DJing there, any reviews of past gigs, what the drinks cost, whether you also have snacks, what time the club closes, when it’s not available due to a “private party” and any other thing that would make me interested in coming to your venue, instead of what YOU want to tell me?

Have you a Facebook group? A mySpace page? A twitter stream? If so, can you tie them together so I can find the others through any one of them?

If not, can you spare a couple hours a week to connect with your people out there? There’s plenty of excelent on-line tools and APIs to help you do this.

Oh, and if you want to be found through popular searches, just make sure there is something serachable and index-able on your site.

… just sayin!