Two recent site launches.
David Harding | Violist, Professor, Chamber Musician
SOUTHPIER CAPTIAL INC – A Venture Capital Firm in Toronto/Oakville, Ontario.
Two recent site launches.
David Harding | Violist, Professor, Chamber Musician
SOUTHPIER CAPTIAL INC – A Venture Capital Firm in Toronto/Oakville, Ontario.
My mother always made lists. I remember seeing them on the glass top of the side table beside the ashtray and coffee cup. They were lists for what you might expect — groceries, chores, events planning— and there were also more obscure lists, that might not have computed in my 6 year old brain, but their quixotic meanings do resonate now, as I make lists about the same mundane things and also more random notes that help me remember things at 4am. They are obscure and yet the writing down of the words —enchantress, mountain, yellow— while meaningless at a casual glance, they will help me remember in the morning to research more about Ada Lovelace, to finish the concept proposal I’m working on and to look for a yellow scarf. I saw a woman with my skin tone wearing a yellow scarf, and the lust for the perfect yellow accessory was born. Perhaps Santa will oblige.
I’m a big fan of lists. Written in pen. On anything, the back of an envelope, a bill, recycled, reused, you name it. Digital lists are important (we use basecamp as software of choice for project management) and yet the pen in hand has a kind of transmission to the brain that feels more solid. Not just an illusion, cognitive science studies endorse this perspective.1
The activity in the North Pole is almost at peak energy, and the nice and naughty lists are no doubt done. But there’s still time for some lists.
Here are 2 of my lists for the end of the year:
And to contrast the practical to-dos, here’s a deceptively simple and yet ingenious way to consider planning et al.
Christine Kane2 is one of several, but I believe the first, to introduce this concept. Instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, which are usually too big and rarely kept, choose one word to guide you for the year. The first time I tried this I chose “balance” and coincidentally ended up with a flu that gave me an inner ear thing and I had dizziness for months. It almost threw me off the pursuit, but in the end the word did help me prioritize my life in ways that felt more in balance. This year (2015) is was Value. Hence I did willingly part with the dough to renew a domain name for my artwork, as I decided it was valuable on so many levels.
I was thinking about women in tech, it being December and as I write this draft, one day post the anniversary of the Montreal massacre at École Polytechnique.1 14 women engineering students gone. RIP.
There was also the very recent and unfortunate (to put it mildly) IBM ‘s hairdryer hackathon blunder, 2 serving as a reminder that women still ain’t got no respect.
So I thought to write a tribute post to Ada Lovelace, born exactly two hundred years ago on December 10th, 1815. Daughter of poet Lord Byron and arguably, the first computer programmer, she was—in a word—brilliant. Her parents split up when she was a baby, and her mother seems to have not regarded her ex the poet in the best light, and so encouraged Ada to study mathematics, so as to not follow in her father’s romantic (and insane3) footsteps.
She took to it well, eventually collaborating with Charles Babbage (mathematician, philosopher and inventor). In 1842 she translated from French L.F. Menabrea’s paper about Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine (an “early mechanical general-purpose computer”). Her own notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer “The paper ends with the famous “Note G”, in which she analyzes an algorithm for calculating Bernoulli numbers and shows the code for it on the (never built) machine”.4
Which is all to say, she was no slouch in the brains department.
If we think that the STEM community (Science, Technology, Engineering , Math) hasn’t yet caught up with the face that woman are essential and critical members of the technosphere and beyond, then one wonders what it must have been like Ada her back in the day. I searched through the Library of Congress American newspaper archives and all I could find was one(!) reference to her. And it’s not about her mathemtical achievement. The Daily Union from 1845, a few years after her collaboration with Charles Babbage, reports her (at 29 years old) as being a “fine, buxom girl, with a good-humoured, but not overly intellectual countenance”.
I’ve only done preliminary research into her life, but she apparently was following her father’s footsteps in at least one sense — she gives a poetic slant to how the engine might compose music.
“Again, it [the Analytical Engine] might act upon other things besides number, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine . . . Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”5
She died young, at 36, and requested to be buried next to her father.
I bumped into a friend/colleague the other day on the street and had a great chat about public art and whatnot. Later, I received an email from him, but didn’t get it right away because my email forwarding wasn’t working. When I did finally open it, rather than reply right away, I had seen something on twitter he might appreciate, so I immediately jumped on twitter to mention it to him.
And … crickets.
He wasn’t there.
I couldn’t quite grasp this, thinking he must have changed his profile or something. I have known him as an extremely prolific tweeter. So I emailed and he confirmed that he had left twitter. And, even more dramatic, deleted all his social media profiles. Gasp!
I confess, one of my first thoughts was, “Aaack — but you had so many followers (in the thousands) and “you only followed a few hundred” – your follower/followee ratio* was fantastic! “….
I admired his decisive move to cut the ties to the hive mind and lose the what he called “junk language” to focus on his own work and keep critical thinking free from the sometimes banal or trivial tone of these spaces.
He is not alone in his flight from social media. In the last couple of weeks, 2 other people that I know have also dropped off the airwaves. I also deleted that you-know-who app from my phone, and after a few days of withdrawal noticed I hardly ever go there anymore. And generally get a bit of the doldrums when I do. I wrote about social media fatigue in the spring.
So if you’re considering leaving the hive mind, here are some tips for off-roading:
If you want to disappear completely, well good luck with that. It’s a challenge to wipe away all traces, but I’m sure it can be done.
For a while now the design trend has been to kill the sidebar, present your content lean and mean, no distractions and so on.
That is all wonderful if you’re a writer and you’re telling a story, and the viewer only needs to read that one story, then that minimalist approach probably works for you.
But, if you’re in the situation where your blog might also have a more nefarious purpose … having folks opt-in to your newsletter ; offering something for sale, or a deal (horrors); or even the old chestnut – showing your archives and
tag cloud (kill that feature – it’s probably obsolete)—then maybe you do need one, particularly if it is converting well for you.
Mobile Caveat —Keep in mind that it will be pushed down to the bottom of the page when viewed on a mobile device . Provided your design is responsive or mobile friendly – if not…what’s the delay?
The 2nd one, the list of posts, would be dependent on where you’re at in your blogging volume and what type of blog you have. Obviously, if fairly new, or (ahem) you don’t have a ton of posts, then popular posts doesn’t apply. If there is a lot of content and I really like the blog, I find it irksome if I can’t easily navigate through the archives, so it’s always nice to see a link to them somewhere.
Use your own judgement about what should stay and what should-go, but it’s a good idea to remember less is usually more. And…
And then track the conversion rate with analytics. And then you’ll know what works for you, which is really what counts.
You may notice we’re not following our basic advice to lead with an opt-in offer on our own (still existing for now) sidebar. Why’s that you say?
Well, in a nutshell, the newsletter, e-book, free monthly nifty calendar design download is on the back-burner as we revise our internal goals. Soon come. Soon come.
How will we evolve?
I imagine there has been a rise in massage therapist, physios, chiros, and other practictioners in treating folks with neck issues. I blame it all on the smartphone.
My monitor recently got fried. There was an electrical failure in the building, which is a designated heritage building (code for old and wonky) and right in the middle of a deadline….
[a post about leaving things too close to the deadline is for another moment]
Blink. No Fade. Just Black.
I had to adjust. There was a deadline. So I had to, gasp, use only my laptop.
My programmer tells me that what’s happened in an old and wonky electrical is that there are frequent minor power surges, and that zaps my fancy schmancy power surge protector, and gradually over time, it depletes the protector, until one day, kaput.
I haven’t yet purchased a new monitor.
Why? Besides time, research and all that jazz. Primarily because I’ve enjoyed experimenting with only using the relatively small screen, (a macbook pro retina) and adjusting the position depending on where I’m working. So at the studio it’s perched upon a clear stand, with and external keyboard plugged in, and here, at the pseudo-office, it’s on a bright pink laptop stand.
What I’ve noticed is three things:
I’m not going to delay the purchase of a big screen forever, it’s pretty much essential for coping with 156 layers in photoshop, etc etc. But for now it’s been a surprisingly welcome shift in my viewpoint. Also, it’s a good reminder to step back, raise my head up high and look at things with a fresh perspective, with less noise.
I’m welcoming fresh perspectives lately, in order to change, to be bored, to be un-bored, to shift, to develop better habits, or even to embrace some bad habits—it’s all about making, not judging.
“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.” —Corita Kent
(also attributed to John Cage, but he has enough press.) From “A List of Rules for Art Students”. Sister Corita Kenta, circa 1968
[P.S. I’ve done it too, texting while walking down the street, being mesmerized by the little screen. It’s a habit I’ve broken. I encourage you to do the same. And, it goes without saying, biking and texting (WTF?). Driving & texting is for _________< /endrant>]
Daylight Savings Time has rolled around again, and I’m feeling ranty.
Okay – so I gather some studies suggest that email overlays (a pop-up box that takes over the content, which darkens to help focus on pop up area) are effective in generating more leads.
I’m not a statistician, though I love statistics, so I don’t know how accurate said studies are. What I do know, is what Mark Twain said “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”…
It would seem that pop-up overlays have become a go-to marketing feature on numerous websites, where you want users to subscribe to your newsletter, gather emails, give them a “Free Gift” and so on.
Top irritating factors with pop-up overlays.
Thought these died off years ago.
If you must use them, are you seriously thinking 1.5 seconds is enough time to “engage” me as a viewer and thus want to subscribe to your newsletter/offer? At least let me read a few sentences, if not a few paragraphs—then you might, perhaps—just perhaps, infer I’m interested and then you can let your pop-up hi-jack my screen.
If I’ve clicked on a link from within your e-blast, (which is tracked up the yin-yang by whatever opt-in software you use), why, oh why, must you insist on asking me for my email address again? I’ve seen this way too often. Just stop. It has a repellent effect, not an attracting one.
Non mobile-friendly overlays are a sure sign that not only will I go running in the opposite direction, but I will think of you with daggers in my eyes, especially if you are witholding content until I click that “x” in the corner, which if it isn’t mobile friendly, I can’t. So I leave your site, and if you’re lucky I don’t say anything bad about you on ye old social media.
Note, you might think your pop-up is mobile friendly because the fonts shrink down and all seems to behave nicely, but if you leave only the teeniest margin between the overlay and the frame of the smartphone, that little close “x” in the corner is exceedingly difficult to click, and my even with long, slender fingers (ahem) I’m still suffering from fat finger syndrome when it comes to clicking.
If I decide I don’t want to give you my email address (either for the first or the 20th time) or that I’m not interested in your “Free gift” that will magically explode my business, my career, or make my hair really shiny, please don’t insult me with some cutesy, kooky askance negative comment like “No, I really don’t want to grow by business” or “No I really don’t want to succeed” etc. Keep it in your pants.
One of the biggest obstacles I face with blogging is wrestling with time. Perhaps quantum physicists or master yogis have figured out that time is an illusion, and even have wonderful equations or quotes to relay this concept, but for the rest of us mere mortals, time pretty much goes by the clock, and lately, it seems like it zips by at the speed of light.
Getting around to blogging, as important as everyone knows it is – to growing your website presence, conveying your expertise and values…:) – can be tough in that it’s hard to carve out the time.
In X-Men Days of Future Past, in arguably the best scene of the film, Quicksilver is shown running through the kitchen of the Pentagon in uber slow-mo motion. Jim Croce’s “If I Could Save Time in Bottle” song plays at normal speed as Quicksilver dashes about. It was brilliant, funny and sad at the same time.
It inspired me to re-consider time and some techniques for putting it in a bottle.
Even though the heat is on, bullets are firing, Quicksilver is taking time to do kooky, goofy things, like taste a spoon of sauce.Instead of thinking of blogging as a must-do, high-pressure, homework kind of task, start re-framing it as time to brainstorm a few ideas, be a little goofy, have a little fun.
Peter (Quicksilver) wears (swimming?) goggles as he prances around the kitchen to protect his eyes from debris. I like the the gesture. Donning these goggles signfies he’s about to take action. Lesson – put on the goggles, keep yourself protected from distractions and get going.
The details are important – Peter makes sure to cross the arms of the security guards in just the right way so that the bullets fall away harmlessly.
I agree and must write for 30/45/60minutes, or 3 minutes, if you’re Quicksilver and can get the job done—micro-blogging anyone? Then I can go do all that other “important stuff.”
I love the last bit is him picking the bullets out of the air and moving them methodically to the right or left, and then he grins.
This task is blogging, I’m sitting in a chair (oh – Terra standing desk, wherefore art thou?), my feet planted on the ground, I’m not in a high-adrenaline, sci-fi scene, so if Peter can smile, I can smile too.
I was feeling the (self-imposed) pressure to blog and rather than choose from a list of “7 Tips for ……” subjects, I thought about what had recently left an impression on me. Netflix (Canada’s) release of the X-Men film and that scene had done just that. I decided to use that scene to frame or anchor this post.
What inspires you?
Be ambitious but realistic.
eg: 2 x / month – not 2 x week. My last post was in March 2015, so twice a month is already double the volume. Once every 2 weeks is a stretch goal. Once I get there, I can revisit the goal.
Begin with draft posts that lay out ideas in bullet points. This is less overwhelming than having to flush out a full idea in whole sentences and long paragraphs.
Or the incessant nagging of social media and how to resist its petulant demands.
A few days ago, the news spread that Google+ is on its last legs, as the G giant re-structures and puts ‘Google’s Photos and Stream products’ on the front burner. I will not miss the product, as my primary interactions were half-hearted attempts to engage in a space that I couldn’t quite figure out how public it was. FB is clearly for “friends”, Twitter is public (sure you can make it private, but what’s the point?) and G+ was a too many options with confusing circles type of place. I helped set up a number of client’s business pages and that was about the size of it.
And yet even as its passing is widely pronounced there are pundits who are still assured of its G for giant status.
This leads me to let out a big sigh and slump my shoulders.
I’ve developed social media fatigue —keeping up with the tweets— how much to tune in, how much to tune out, this new product, that new app. It’s a jungle out there.
I’ve noticed symptoms of social media fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, anxious or just plain ol’ bored.
When Twitter first came online in 2008, I started to notice all my favourite bloggers using this new platform. It seemed fun , but I held out till 2009;) opening two accounts, one for business one for personal needs.
At first it was always fun. Everyone was so pithy and content so curated I felt like I as at the office water-cooler and the latest greatest conference at the same time. After a while it became a kind of chore. Then, something might happen — this news event, that conference, this conference, and I was hooked in again.
It’s a see saw.
I totally see the value of social media and yet I see its tendency to be a beautiful countryside road overblown with billboards. Yuck.
So what’s a poor girl to do in the face of a behemoth.
You can find me on twitter @diamedia or @deanneachong. There’s a whole bunch of other accounts that are wasteland and I’ll follow my own advice soon and update them with where to find me. Soon come. Soon come.
That was my choice for my annual #WordOfTheYear . It’s basically the last quarter of the year, and it’s time to review how the word is fitting in, so to speak:)
The concept behind this* is that when the New Year begins, rather than make a resolution (or several) that are proverbially doomed to fail come February 1st, you select one word that sums up the tone/intention you want to set for the year. Fit felt right for the usual suspect (wanting to get in better shape etc) and, equally so, to be a gauge word for helping me (or us as company) decide what projects to take on, where to place creative efforts and so on.
So far, it’s been a year whereby a long-standing art project has eaten up a huge amount of time. The app “soft-launch” was just this weekend past (see lulusuite.ca), and as this project comes to an end, other client projects still need tending and cultivating. So the luxury of choosing what projects might be a good fit still feels a bit in the future. That said, part of FIT is to eventually re-design so that our values (aesthetic, business, technical, quirks and quarks…) shine through and attract the right clients and projects that are the best fit for us and the client.
Soon come. Soon come.
First of all Why do you want / need a re-design?
You might say, “well, our site is not mobile-responsive (if you know what that means) or it needs to be mobile-friendly”. But perhaps what you really mean, is you are losing customers, because a huge proportion of your visitors (you’re tracking them right?) are on mobile devices, and when they land on your site they can’t read anything, so off they go, to another site.
Another Why might be that your business has changed in some fundamental way – from services to products, from offering workshops to selling e-books – you get the picture. If the content is so out of date (especially if you can’t edit that content) that it no longer reflects your core business, that’s a fairly compelling Why.
What materials do I need to get ready? Which might include: New larger, magnificent photographs of us, our products, our zeitgest….
Photographs do have a higher conversion rate than plain text, which is not to say, copy ain’t crucial. That’s also no doubt on your list. Copy. Hire a writer. Hire a translator. Hire us.
Which is really still WHY. Can people find your site? Maybe it doesn’t matter. You’re a small business and you only need your site to support those business cards you hand out. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if a local search, using the terms that fit your business, turned up your site in the results?
Who are doing this for?
Who is your target audience? Not just a 18-34 man, or 44-53 woman, or an 81-89 senior. What are their values, their habits, their raison d’etre?
When was the last time your site was updated? 2011? 2007? If it’s been a few years, it probably needs a re-do for reasons like the first – WHY > Answer > Mobile technology has changed they way most of our customers view our website.
Also – when do you want this to be done. Map out a timeline.
(Art is Long – Life is Short)
*(inspired by singer/songwriter Christine Kane and others)