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A Day in the Life of a Media-Junkie

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Media Diary – Thursday 3rd March 2011

media usage chart

Summary:

I am a self-confessed Media Junkie. I love it, I live it. I can’t even eat without reading or watching something. At over 11 hours, music is my primary means of relaxation. Typically, it plays all day while I work. Thursday was also a heavy day for TV at 5:10hrs. DVDs, PVR and time-shifting mean all my shows are set to recorded between Sunday and Wednesday, ready for viewing, by Thursday. My bills, banking and shopping research is done online and I rarely watch live television or TV advertisements. I don’t listen to the radio or buy newspapers or magazines and the Internet has now become my main source of information, news and current events. In particular News.com.au (3:06hrs) allows me to access the latest news, as they happen. I’m not a big user of social media and I don’t use Facebook; however, I do use Twitter (42min) although mainly as an aggregator to share and keep track of my favourite blogs, post articles and follow current events. At the moment, other interests include exploring Flikr (1:20hrs) and browsing the Mac AppStore (33mins).

Diary:

6:10am Wake up to the sound of silence. I do have a clock radio but I don’t like the radio or alarms so I only use it to tell time.

6:31am Get up and go to living room/study and put some music on. The first song is “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. Today I am using the DJ feature in iTunes to automatically generate a continuously updated playlist of randomly selected songs. All songs are sourced from my personal file of ripped, purchased and downloaded music. I don’t listen to the radio any more (who does?) Instead, I use an old iMac PowerPC G5 as a ‘jukebox’ by connecting it directly to the TV sound system.

*iTunes DJ is a set-and-forget feature, similar to the shuffle found on iPods and nanos, which allows me to play music in the background as I work.

6:32am Prepare and eat breakfast while listening to music. I also check my email on the laptop. Most emails are deleted (I also use the iMac for email storage and file back-up).

7:06am Arrange and sort back-log of emails on the iMac. Save and sort some and delete the rest. I do this about once or twice a week.

7:14am Recheck laptop email and delete annoying spam. I boot up my main browser Safari and go to my favourite news site News.com.au. *Since updated to 5.0.4. I have several different browsers, on my computer, including Firefox and Chrome, mostly kept for web testing purposes. Checking over the main headlines, a story about the release of the iPad2 catches my attention. I read the article but it is mostly about Steve Jobs health.

7:18am I look at an iPad2 photo gallery and then move on to search for other iPad2 related articles from various news sites. I settle on an article in The Australian.

7:30am First tweet of the day. A retweet about iPad2 using Tweetmeme.

7:33am Return to News.com.au to look for other interesting articles.

7:36am Read and Retweet an article about banking and social media and an amusing article about the Pope announcing the Jews were not responsible for the crucifixion.

8am Read a blog post about smoking in public places. Read comments.

8:12am Check Mac App store for updates and browse for cool free apps. Download Opus Domini, a free diary/planner app.

8:21am Take Opus Domini for a test drive but find it buggy and confusing. Set it aside to await an update and bug fixes. Write a review for the Mac AppStore. I love the little “puff of smoke” thing the Mac does when I drag Apps off the dock.

8:40am Submit review at the Mac AppStore for Opus Domini. In the end I gave it 3 stars. Promising, but needs work.
*Update: as of the 10 March 7 out of 7 users found my review useful.

8:45am Open Tweetdeck to check for new tweets. I mostly use twitter as an aggregator to gather and share information. Not surprisingly, today’s thread is mostly to do with the iPad2 launch. I tend to follow tech stuff: Wired, Mashable, Ars Technica and Smashing Magazine. By following tweets I can keep track of the latest news and events, share and read articles and view linked images and videos.

8:55am Email a blog link (from twitter) to a ‘non-tweeting’ client. The article is on why long sales letters are more affective.

8:57am Back to Tweetdeck to finish scanning the tweets and articles.

9:15am Transfer copy of a song to the iMac via the iTunes home share feature. Played the track on iMac twice. The song, “Shipwrecked” by Shane Alexander) was purchased yesterday from iTunes Store. I heard it on an old episode of Bones I have on DVD and ran a couple of lines through LyricSearch.com to find the name of the song and the artist. The rest was easy.
I use the iMac to play music but use the laptop to download as it is faster and has the latest software. I don’t yet play or store music on a media server or external hard drive as I only have the two computers and it doesn’t seem worth it.

9:23amGo back to Safari to check the prices for online DVD rentals. I also visit eStore.com.au an online computer retailer, to check software prices for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011.
I also go back to iTunes/iMac) and switch the music back to iTunes DJ. After playing the new song it automatically continues on with the rest of the ‘Purchased’ playlist.

9:33am Go back to read News.com.au again. I look over a number of articles on various topics including sex addiction, racism, crime,religion, technology, and animals. 1xRetweet.

9:55am Switch to Firefox for Internet banking. I started using Firefox for banking as there was a bug on the bank’s website that didn’t allow me to print PDF payment receipts while using Safari. The bank suggested I use Firefox until they fixed the problem.

10:04am Download mobile phone bill from Vodafone site and pay rent and bills online. I then download receipts as PDFs from my records. I pay rent and receive all my bills as PDF downloads. I don’t print anything out as hardcopy as I don’t really like dead-tree-editions for everyday things and digital filing is quicker, easier and takes up less space. PDFs are easier to email to my landlord than a scan.

10:13am Email rent receipt to landlord’s email. She replies via email at 10:24am.

10:15am Open Mashable App for Mac and trawl through articles. Many of these I’ve already seen on Twitter. Read a few but mark the rest as “read”.

10:22am Return to Safari and News.com.au

10:38am Read and post a comment on a cute cat story in The Courier.

10:51am Check new email and recheck for Twitter updates on Tweetdeck.

10:56am Sync iPod (AKA: “the Relic”) to the Laptop and transfer new music. While iTunes does that I file the paid invoices and receipts from the desktop to my records.

11am Attempt to login to Oasis. Retry 5 times finally get in but then Blackboard fails another 3 times.

11:26am After much frustration Blackboard finally loads.

11:33am I turn off music on iMac and go to web507 and click on YouTube video “Future of TV”. No one has any business being that chirpy!

11:38am Return to Blackboard to check reading lists, assignments and discussion boards.

11:47am Turn iMac music back on and open and read the Mittel article.

I download/print all the readings for Uni as PDFs and read them onscreen using Adobe Acrobat Pro. By running the article through the OCR, I can highlight passages and attach notes without needing to print them out first. By keeping all readings on the laptop, I can quickly access a reading whenever I need it and don’t need to carry around huge files.

Safari 5 enables me to download and convert pages to PDF automatically. Some online and HTML articles, such as those from First Monday, I need convert using the “Reader” feature first. Similar to Readibility, it complies the whole article into a single feed, including all linked pages*. I can then download and print it as a PDF document.

* Last time I used Readibility it only did one page at a time, meaning I ended up with 4 or 5 separate PDFs that I needed to compile into a single document manually.

13.04pm Finish reading and notes and return to news.com.au. Check new email and delete spam. Check Tweetdeck for new tweets.

13:10pm Login to Flikr [link] to check response. I reset licenses to Creative Commons (attribution only) on most viewed images.

This is part of an ongoing personal experiment to see using Flikr will increase traffic and if Creative Commons will increase the response rate and get more views than the Copyright ones.

13:30pm Plug in mobile phone to laptop and import new photos from the phone to iPhoto.
The phone is a Nokia X6 so I use the special media sync tool from the Nokia site.
Once the photos are in iPhoto I then select and export a handful to the desktop to prepare them to upload to Flikr. I then open the images in Photoshop and crop where necessary and save back to the desktop giving each image a descriptive name rather than the numbers iPhoto likes to use.

* I don’t upload to Flikr directly from iPhoto as the resulting resolution is too low for print (see below).

2pm Upload new photos to Flikr. Once they are uploaded, I then add tags and brief descriptions and set licenses to CC for selected images, again to gauge the response.

I mostly upload images of the skies in various weathers. I don’t upload images of people without their permission and I feel skies are colourful and make good wallpapers.
My motivation for choosing these images come back to my work as a graphic designer. Working in advertising, I have seen the difference replacing a miserable overcast day with a sunny blue sky can make to an outdoor product shot. My aim is make useful ‘background images’ available to other artists and designers to use for their own work.

2:37pm Log out of Flikr and check Tweetdeck and new emails then I revisit news.com.au for updated news.

3:36pm Shut down internet and listen to music.

5:49pm Log back on check Tweetdeck and check the latest news.

6:20pmTurn off iTunes and put both computers to sleep. I then turn on the TV put on a DVD (Bones Season 3 disc 2) and turn on the subtitles as I am a little hard-of-hearing.

My TV only has one set of component inputs so I use a RCA switch box to switch between the PVR and DVD player. Technically the RCA switch is for composite inputs (Yellow for video and red and white for sound). I was going to buy a proper component switch box but the guy at Dick Smith told me as RCA is only analogue, the cables and switches are the same and can’t tell the difference between sound and video. So I went for the cheap one and so far he’s been right and saved me a bundle.

7:10pm I leave the DVD Playing while I prepare and eat dinner and do the dishes etc. After Dinner, I sit down to watch the rest of the disc.

9:10pm Once the DVD has finished, I turn it off and switch over to the Beyonwiz to watch some prerecorded episodes of my favourite TV shows. My TV is analogue so, the PVR also functions as a set top box. I watch time-shifted episodes of Bones I recorded on Sunday and Monday plus an episode of NCIS, I recorded on Tuesday.

I rarely watch anything live as I find adverts annoying and off-putting. Luckily, Time-shifting digital TV also records the closed captions as well, which is very useful if you’re hard-of-hearing, like me. It was something the VCR never did. In the analogue TV days I had Teletext, which was complicated and fiddly and meant I had to turn it off and on again every time I changed the channel.

These days I always skip the adverts. The Beyonwiz has programmable skip functions, which allow me to set the arrow keys on the remote as skips. I’ve set UP to 3 minutes (enough for most ad breaks, according to the Beyonwiz forum). DOWN is 1 minute backwards while RIGHT is 30 secs forward and LEFT is 10secs backward.

11:30pm I turn off TV and everything else and go to bed.

Death of the Website: The Problem with Social Media Marketing.

In Uncategorized, Web Design on October 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Are web designers obsolete?

This is what happens when you let content loose on its own

Recently Smashing Magazine ran an article by Cameron Chapman. The reaction was immediate and the editors quickly found themselves under fire from hundreds of designers who felt they’d been crudely misrepresented. Many felt magazines editors were essentially of ‘biting the hand that feeds them’.

So vehement was the reaction editors were forced to post rebuttals including an interesting response by Michael Aleo along with an apology (see Cameron update, above). However, the anger remains and the discussion continues.

It’s easy for writers and content providers to overlook the design aspect and concentrate on function over form but as any designer knows, good design is supposed to be invisible. No matter, if it’s in print, on the Web, or a really cool App, a designer’s job is making sure content is the king. That’s what design is supposed to be. So, is Cameron paying us a compliment?

No, I didn’t think so either. While many of Cameron’s arguments are flawed, and they do perhaps paint a rather old fashioned, simplistic picture of the work of web designer, the article poses an interesting question about the shifting relationship between form and function on the Web. In this age of social media and RSS feeds what will become of the traditional website?

The question is not a new one, critics have been predicting the death of the website since Web 2.0 was a twinkle in O’Reilly’s eye. Despite this, the traditional website has continued to exist. A domain name is basically a brand name and, as Aleo points out, few businesses are going to willingly give up the power and control of a domain for the promise of a subdomain on Facebook.

So, What’s the problem with Social Media?

As any designer and web marketer will tell you, the key to an effective web presence is branding. A brand is about creating a consistent message, throughout your company’s online and offline material. From a branding perspective, the problem with Facebook and Twitter and so on, is that everybody’s pages, walls and whatever, basically look the same. No matter where you go, Facebook looks like Facebook, WordPress blogs look like WordPress blogs and Bloggers look like, well blogs. Even a DIY blog, still looks like a blog, largely thanks to its functionality. It’s not too hard to see why, Social Media Sites are in the business of selling themselves, they’re in business to sell your data, not your business.

Another problem with relying on Facebook or Twitter for branding, is that it requires a pre-sold audience. You can’t just join Facebook and expect to get thousands of friends. That requires work. You need to find a clever way to bring your audience to you. Sound familiar? It Should. After all no one joins Facebook for the marketing opportunities, except for media companies and their clients. Frankly, we get enough of that in our inboxes already. People join social media sites to be heard and to stay in touch with their friends. Chances are, that doesn’t include you, or your clients.

If you have to ask, it’s not you.

Another point to keep in mind, about the Web, is fashion. Nothing goes out of date faster than the Web, particularly for the young. As saying goes: anything can be cool until your parents find out. As more and more older people head for Facebook country, the younger crowd are already looking for an exit. What could be less cool than chillin’ with the olds on Facebook? Unless, of course, its chilling with some faceless corporation on Facebook.

What does this mean for Social Media Marketing. Well, it’s like those scooters that were all the rage a few years back. They were cool for about 5 minutes, until you until saw some random corporate suit riding one and then you knew the fad was over. Remember, when iPods used to be cool? Well, now everybody and their mother has got one. The marketing people are telling us the cool people are buying iPads and smart phones but for how long? 18 months ago, not having a Facebook page meant being social outcast, now, with recent privacy issues still largely unresolved, Facebookers are starting to wonder why they ever bothered.

For these reasons, Social Media, no matter how cleverly designed, won’t replace a properly designed branded website. It’s simply not designed to. Just as you need amazing content to convince your audience to listen, you also need amazing design and functionality to convince them to stay. That’s the simple reason Websites are still the grandfather of the web; it’s because a website always was, and still is, the easiest way to create lasting impression on the Web.

The New Browser War.

In Uncategorized, Web Design on September 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Internet Explorer may have beaten Netscape in the First Browser War but IE9 faces an increasingly uphill battle if it hopes to overcome its own legacy and compete with the latest modern browsers.

In recent days, the media has been teaming with reports that Microsoft is finally coming out of its cave and dragging Internet Explorer kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. According to reports millions have already downloaded the latest version of Internet Explorer, dubbed IE9.

Thanks largely to IE6, for the last few years, IE has been considered the joke of the Browser world. After resting on its laurels and relying on the ubiquity of Windows to see them through, IE has fallen from 90% to somewhere above 50%. Meanwhile, the new darlings of the Internet, namely Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are continuing to increase their marketshare month by month.

Now, armed with their new fishdemo and a whole raft of visual and technical improvements, including the long-awaited support for HTML5 and CSS3, IE9 promises to be Microsoft’s answer to falling marketshare; that is, if it ever gets out of Beta.

What does IE9 mean for the rest us?

If you are a designer, developer or one of the growing number of internet users using Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Camino, Safari or any of the growing number of browsers now available … the answer is: not much…yet.

The problem is even if IE9 is finalised and released next year, HTML5 will still be a working draft. Even with the backing of Microsoft and Apple, there’s still no chance HTML5 will replace Flash anytime soon. Eventually, it is hoped, HTML5 will replace the ageing HTML 4.0 and reduce the complexity of XHTML, allowing web designers to more easily incorporate dynamic web 2.0 technologies such as video and sound into their websites.

As things currently stand, HTML5 won’t work in any version of Internet Explorer below IE8. The only way to get around this problem is with ugly complicated scripts that only a Javascript guru could love. So much for clean code.

If history is any guide, even if IE9 becomes the standard browser, designers will still be lumbered with legacy support for IE6, 7 & now IE8 and, unless something convinces IE users to upgrade, this isn’t likely to change, unless IE9 can first overcome its own legacy and win over their own users.

So, here’s to IE9. The King is not dead! Long live the king.

Web Design is not an oxymoron

In Uncategorized, Web Design on September 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Design has always been a vital part of the web. Even with all the knowledge of code in the world, a basic lack of design and layout skill can result in websites which are confusing, ugly, dysfunctional and boring.

There is much more to web design than code and markup. As we stare down the barrel at an uncertain future, web design continues to throw up new challenges. As the browser wars continue and the battle for Flash heats up, HTML5 and CSS3 are being heralded as next phase in web development, web designers are losing sight of the fact that creating websites and is not just about the science, it’s also an art.

Often when people talk about web design, they are really talking about web development. As a result, the design aspect gets pushed aside and tucked away as a subheading under usability. There are hundreds of books and articles on the web written about every aspect of web development, from plain old HTML to server side scripting, Java, PHP and Flash and the rest and much has been said about the code, markup and web development; however very little is said about the design process and even less is said about web design from the designer’s point of view.

Much of this is our own fault. We have long held on to the notion that design should be treated with respect and mystery. So much of what we do is based on our own design sense and subjective aesthetics that it becomes difficult to justify our design decisions to others. As many print-based designers now turn to the web, we are faced with a whole new way of approaching design.

Without a sound knowledge of the technical side of web design, it is impossible to communicate our ideas to others effectively. Learning web markup can be a time-consuming and difficult process but designers shouldn’t be deterred by an often impenetrable wall of geek-speak. After all, Web markup was created with designers in mind.

As designers, we need to discuss and find ways to adapt our unique understanding of layout and design to the web. The same way print designers don’t need to know how to fix a Heidelburg Printing Press to know how printing works, so designers just need to build on existing design skills and knowledge of webcraft in order to create truly beautiful, memorable web designs.

The Spaghetti Monster that ate your website.

In Uncategorized, Web Design on September 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Beware of the Spaghetti Website.

This diagram is the result of a bunch of DoD graduates set loose with a PowerPoint presentation. If you’re already redesigning it your head, welcome to the club, you’re a designer.

There are no shortage of ‘spaghetti monsters’ on the web. It’s a common problem when inexperienced clients and designers get bogged down in the details and ‘design-by-committee’ takes over. Your site might start off fairly simple but then the brief takes over and suddenly you’ve got fourteen people looking over your shoulder and an anxious client who thinks he’s bleeding money and before you know it, the Spaghetti Monster has eaten your website and your left with a feature bloated, ugly, indecipherable mess, which is impossible to navigate and could end up a major headache for you, the client and the poor slob that has to use it.

It’s all too easy for a website project to turn sour and sink under its own weight. The trick is knowing how to keep it all together. As designers, our job is to organise information, not just make it look good. It’s got to be easy to find and easy to understand. Web gurus call it ‘usability’ and it’s big bikkies in webland and very costly if you get it wrong.

Here are a few simple rules to help you avoid the Spaghetti Monster:

1. K.I.S.S.
It’s Keep It Simple Stupid and it’s a basic first-rule no good designer is ever without.

2. Aim to design a website your mother can use.
As the saying goes, if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. The same goes for websites. If a site needs a flowchart and an Engineering Degree to decipher, chances are, your mother isn’t going to stick around for rule three and neither will anyone else.

3. What’s it for?
Don’t lose sight of the goal of the website. Decide what the site needs to do and stick to it. If it’s a shopping cart, let it be a shopping cart and if it is, don’t forget to put the prices in. It’s really annoying having the look for them.

4. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
The toys are fun to play with but ask yourself if it adds anything to the usability of the site. If it doesn’t help, it certainly shouldn’t hinder.