Roll Your Own Political Commercial

As we roll into another US presidential election year, I am cringing at the thought of another tedious onslaught of slick, scientifically formulated and edited political TV ads.

If you feel the same way, you might want to check out a new contest organized by MoveOn, a left-leaning online political activism forum. (I’m serious, even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, this could be fun, bear with me.) The BushIn30Seconds ad contest invites anyone, regardless of experience, to create their own 30-second anti-Bush TV ad. The winning ad idea will be broadcast on television during the week of Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address.
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Usability and Content

Most Web site owners seem more willing to spend money on usability than content – maybe because it’s generally much easier to quantify the impact of usability improvements than content improvements.

However, the secret is that many usability concerns are also content concerns. This is especially with regard to microcontent (all the short bits of content on the site, such as link text, and page titles; as well as information-bearing images).

A Nov. 10, 2003 article from Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen lists his Top Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines. More than half of these usability/design issues overlap with content or microcontent issues…
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More on Notetaking

In a comment to my recent article, “Notetaking Wonders and Woes,” CONTENTIOUS reader Kathy asked:

“I am a full time telecommuter and manage content on several Intranet sites. All of my meetings are via conference call. I always struggle with how to take good notes from the calls. I try to have printed pages of the web content to make notes on, but that isn’t always practical — especially with new content. Many of the calls are focused on strategy and processes, not directly to content. Any suggestions?”

…Well, yes, actually I do have lots of suggestions for people who are struggling to take good notes.

The first decision to make is whether written notes alone generally suffice, or whether you should be making recordings, too…
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Microsoft Backing RSS? We’ll See…

If you can’t innovate, jump in front and pretend it’s your parade. Microsoft may be doing that for RSS feeds.

(Not sure what RSS is? Read my RSS backgrounder. If you get the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed, you might want to take my quick RSS survey.)

On Oct. 27, 2003, CNet reported that one of the features demonstrated in a not-so-secret “sneak preview” of the next Microsoft operating system, Longhorn, was “news and other information streamed onto the desktop via RSS feed.”

That’s right – a feed reader built right into the operating system. Some eager-beaver developers are already playing around with this feature.

Cool – maybe.

Reality-check: We are talking about Microsoft, after all…
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Your Site: Get with the Plan

Lack of planning – especially content planning – is what keeps many Web sites from success. That’s what a recent article contends, and I couldn’t agree more!

Writer Gerry McGovern urges executives and marketers to “Develop a Five-Year Plan for Your Site.” I’d encourage anyone involved with site planning or content development, corporate or otherwise, to read this article. It’s a fabulous reality check.

This article sparked several thoughts, which I’d like to share…
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SURVEY: How’s My RSS Feed?

The new Managing Editor of CONTENTIOUS, Wasabi the Fierce, has commanded that I gather some sort of information about the utilization of this weblog’s RSS feed.


…It’s very short (just five questions) and will only take you a few moments to complete. I will be summarizing results later in CONTENTIOUS.

NOTE: Please respond to the survey ONLY if you subscribe to (or have tried out) the CONTENTIOUS RSS feed. I’ll be conducting other surveys later to check utilization of my e-mail alerts, the format and content of this weblog, etc.

RESPOND NOW TO CAST YOUR VOTE! I’m trying out the free demo of the SurveyMonkey online survey tool (which looks great so far), and this demo version only allows me to collect 100 responses per survey. That should be enough for me to get a basic idea of how you like and use my RSS feed.

Why am I doing this? Measuring use of an RSS feed is a tricky matter – and that’s a key concern to online publishers, such as myself. There’s no way to tell how many people subscribe to an RSS feed. And if you watch traffic stats for your site, you can’t really tell how many people are using your feed by counting hits to the page that contains your feed (your RDF file), because a given feed reader or other content aggregator may check that file several times a day, yielding a vastly inflated impression of use.

Other RSS comments/questions? Please e-mail me or post a comment here.


Notetaking Wonders & Woes

What’s the most efficient and effective way to capture information from discussions, interviews, presentations, and other real-life events? Journalists, students, researchers, and others often rely on taking handwritten notes, or sometimes by making audio recordings. However, some notetaking practices tend to work better than others.

(UPDATE: After you read this article, you might want to check out my Nov. 10, 2003 followup which offers more notetaking tips.)

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Bluetooth Spam (Oh, Great…)

Like cockroaches and mice, spammers manage to creatively infest virtually every niche in the ecology of electronic communications. BBC News reports today on the latest spam craze: bluejacking.

Bluejacking capitalizes on Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. (Bluetooth is a technology that allows wireless connectivity between a wide ranges of electronic devices, including cell phones, PDAs, laptops, and much more.) Basically, bluejacking is a way to send anonymous text messages to nearby cell phones that have Bluetooth turned on. Currently it’s much more prevalent in Europe than in the US, but just give it time…
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