Creating “Acceptably Bad PowerPoint”

I absolutely love this! I just stumbled across an entry titled Three Tips for Acceptably Bad PowerPoint in Gene Smith’s weblog Writing the Web (Nov. 25, 2003).

Gene was intrigued by my earlier plea for people to stop putting PowerPoint presentations online. He agrees with that general advice, but noted,

“I also try – as much as possible – to live in the real world, and I have a couple of clients now who won’t stop putting PowerPoints on their intranets. No matter what I recommend, they’re going to keep on doing it. They just don’t have time to repurpose the presentation content so it works on the web. To make the best of that bad situation, I have three tips for turning Really Bad PowerPoint into Acceptably Bad PowerPoint.”

Fair enough – since I live in Boulder, Colorado, it’s an open question as to whether I live “in the real world.” (Geographically, folks, not editorially!)

…Anyway, Gene’s advice is well worth reading. If you absolutely MUST put a PowerPoint presentation online, if you can’t be dissuaded from that practice no matter how much I beg, then please read Gene’s article and do what he says.

But especially heed his closing comments:

“Remember, these are just tips to mitigate the essential awfulness of putting PowerPoint online. If your content is really important to your readers, you owe it to them to put it up in an accessible, readable, Web-friendly format.”

Amen, Brother Gene, Amen!

Comment Spam and Blog Content: Tradeoffs

I’ve written before here about comment spam (when spammers use automated systems to create bogus comments in Weblogs in order to spread their links). Spammers do this to improve their site ranking in search engines like Google, and also to get direct clickthroughs from blog readers.

Of course, the harm is that comment spam diminishes the quality and usefulness of weblogs and search engine results, and it also creates more work for bloggers (who have to comb through new comments and delete the spam).

A recent entry in Simon Willison’s weblog, Solving Comment Spam, notes one possible strategy to combat comment spam, as well as its possible effects on the quality of discourse in weblogs…
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Most Popular CONTENTIOUS Entries

I was just reviewing statistics for this weblog, which has been operating for about five months now. Just for kicks, here’s a list of the most popular CONTENTIOUS entries so far:

  1. What Is RSS, and Why Should You Care?, Oct. 18, 2003.
  2. Persuading Bosses to Allow Blogs, Nov. 26, 2003
  3. Notetaking Wonders and Woes, Nov. 4, 2003
  4. Powerpoint Presentations Online: No! Stop! Don’t!!!, Nov. 18, 2003
  5. What’s in a Name? RSS and Attitude, Dec. 9, 2003
  6. Usability and Content, Nov. 12, 2003
  7. Bloglines: An Entry-Level Option for RSS Users, Oct. 20, 2003
  8. Overlooked RSS Opportunities, Oct. 15, 2003
  9. How Not to Do An Online Pressroom, Jan. 5, 2004
  10. More on Notetaking, Nov. 10, 2003

Also, based on the statistics of the last two days, it looks like my new article Strong Finish: Writing Effective Conclusions is likely to be VERY popular.

Meanwhile, a lot of people still visit the archives of the original version of CONTENTIOUS (from before I revived it as a weblog). Here are the most popular articles from those archives (for statistics collected over the past 5 months)…
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Jakob Nielsen on Online Press Rooms

Earlier this month I commented on how many online press rooms fail. Well, according to noted Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, the news is even worse.

In NNG’s 2003 usability study of how journalists use online press rooms, at some point in every single test session journalists said that they would have to leave the online pressroom they were in because it failed to deliver what they needed. I realize this study is nearly a year old, but I think it’s worth mentioning in any discussion of online press rooms.

The page offering this study (cost: $248) includes some frank comments from journalists in the study, such as this:
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Even Tim Berners-Lee Prefers Catchy Names

Amid the controversy my Rename RSS contest has generated, this tidbit of Web history came to my attention. (Courtesty of my colleague Steve Outing of the Poynter Inst., who in turn got it from Univ. of FL professor David Carlson):

Apparently, back in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of hypertext markup language, realized that his global hypertext system needed a compelling name that would effectively communicate its core essence and impact to a broad audience. So he coined the term “World Wide Web” – although he first seriously considered calling it “The Information Mine.”

Here’s what Berners-Lee himself had to say on this point:

“Looking for a name for a global hypertext system, an essential element I wanted to stress was its decentralized form allowing anything to link to anything. This form is mathematically a graph, or web. It was designed to be global of course. … Alternatives I considered were “Mine of information” (“MOI”, c’est un peu egoiste) and “The Information Mine (“Tim”, even more egocentric!), and “Information Mesh” (too like “Mess” though its ability to describe a mess was a requirement!).”

On a related note…
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Government Gets Creative with RSS

While RSS feeds currently are offered mainly by weblogs and news sites, there are lots of other uses for this new media channel. Some of the more interesting ones are being explored by governments around the world.

The RSS in Government weblog offers a great roundup of what national, state/provincial, and local governments are doing with RSS.

Some particularly interesting items recently highlighted in that weblog…
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Strong Finish: Writing Effective Conclusions

If you’re writing a white paper, issue brief, article, analysis, or report, what’s the best way to conclude that document?

In my work as a writing coach, I’ve seen many clients struggle with writing conclusions. Usually, this struggle happens because people are missing the point about what a conclusion is actually supposed to do. Once you understand this, good conclusions practically write themselves.

Here’s the secret of writing effective conclusions…
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Sorry About the Gap…

Hi, all. I’m back

Sorry about the gap in publishing CONTENTIOUS over the last month or so. I was pretty ill for a while. Thought it was the flu the first week or so, but it turned out to be a nasty dose of mononucleosis. It was all I could do to keep my head above water with my paying work, so the blog had to take a backseat temporarily.

Now I’m well and reasonably caught up, so CONTENTIOUS is back in action! Enjoy!

Amy Gahran

How Not to Do an Online Press Room

An online press room is a must for the Web site of virtually any organization. But, like any other type of Web content, if it doesn’t deliver what the target audience wants, it probably won’t succeed. Consequently, many organizations are missing opportunities for the press coverage they want.

Journalists increasingly turn to online press rooms because a well-done online press room can save a lot of time. Time is critical to journalists, because of deadline pressures. If they can’t find exactly what they seek, immediately, they’ll turn elsewhere.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen recently of online press rooms that don’t deliver what journalists need…
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