Really Simple Gallery

Really Simple Gallery is a really simple gallery which I built using jQuery. Take it, tweak it, whatever. The port from Flash’s hitTest() is the only feature you can’t get elsewhere… basically it detects if the user’s mouse is over the parent div, regardless of how many divs are above it.

link

be proactive

When you hire young, talented people their skillsets should dictate your business, not the other way around. Countless times I’ve seen digital staff with skills which aren’t being utilized because of archaic focuses among senior management. Learn what your employees have to offer and write a proposal around those skills. Don’t sit around and wait for a client to ask for something and then get yourself into a panic because you cannot immediately offer everything the client is asking for. Be proactive. Allow your tech staff to work on side projects and ask them what they’re working on. Don’t assume that there is even one employee who has nothing to offer. Don’t hold large, think tank type meetings… nothing ever comes out of them. You can say there’s no such thing as a stupid question or that all ideas are welcome but there are all sorts of forces at work which hinder what could come out of meetings. Your project managers should talk with your tech staff one-on-one so as to learn what they’re capable of.

chrome ahead of firefox

thankfully.

googlebot-mobile

found a new visitor on my website today.

The content crawled by smartphone Googlebot-Mobile will be used primarily to improve the user experience on mobile search. For example, the new crawler may discover content specifically optimized to be browsed on smartphones as well as smartphone-specific redirects.

Interactive must be part of the Ideation Process

In my years of working in and with advertising agencies I have heard clients on more than one occasion assert that “print is dead.” One copywriter I once worked with realized that the possibilities of interactive were more restrictive than print and suggested that web be the first part of any marketing campaign and not the last. While I don’t think it is necessary to place web projects first (an agency should get the GENERAL creative thinking out of the way before process-heavy projects such as web or mobile are tackled), there is a strong possibility that agencies which continue to leave their web designers and web developers out of the ideation process will produce a predicable anti-climactic ending to every campaign of which digital is a part.

Forget about the old frustration of art staff choosing a non-standard font… When does social media exist outside of a web page? Or an online video? Or SEM? Traditional agencies need to stop treating these projects like the standalone artifacts of old media and accept the fact that they are not only part of the whole, but in fact, the largest part.

A little background is in order here. Just twenty years ago the internet was about liberating people from the confining hours of their local libraries. The internet was one-way… presentational. Business websites amounted to “here’s what we do, and here’s our phone number.” This has been retroactively termed Web 1.0. In 1994 when the first web form was introduced, making it possible for people to submit information to a website, everything changed. Darcy DiNucci, an information architect, coined the term Web 2.0 in an article in which she wrote that the internet would soon become “the ether through which interactivity happens.”

It has been said before that the internet has changed the way people think, and, that includes how people respond to internet advertising. Websites and ads must be interactive (two-way) or they are ignored. People especially under the age of twenty-five, who will soon be decision-makers, make no distinction between their online and offline lives. This age group innately disregards one-way communications on the internet. Those of that age group (and a good number of those older) who think about these things see such presentational information as garbage left over from the early days (even though it may be completely new). But most simply disregard it without any thought whatsoever. For an increasing number of people, one-way communications on the internet amount to nothing more than background noise, no more relevant than the sound of traffic or an air conditioner.

A first step for traditional agencies trying to effectively make their mark in digital should be the creation of a line item at the top of the schedule for digital jobs entitled “technical evaluation.” This is something which no one at your agency should have reason to object to. This will prompt some communication between the web designers and web developers and the traditional art directors and copywriters. In time this communication will create a pattern where the web staff are consulted at the beginning of a project or campaign and not seen as simply the last in a line of production workers.

A second step is to be serious about web management and project management in general. Traditional advertising was a factory… A place where the production staff could escape into their minds, tune out the rest of the world, and go through the motions. There is no place for that conveyor belt mindset in modern advertising. No two digital projects are alike and so the formulaic thinking of the past must be vanquished. Your agency is going to need trained project managers. Mere scheduling is not enough.

Finally, as with many things anywhere and most things in advertising, success depends upon perceptions. Middle management must be on board with the idea of letting go of their control over some of the staff. They certainly cannot be allowed to give the impression that they are holding a grudge over the new restructuring. Web designers and web developers, especially, need to be empowered to take the lead in the projects with which they are the most qualified. This will translate into having to promote some (younger) digital people faster than your traditional staff. Are you ready for the effects that might have on your agency? Is your Human Resources manager empowered to pull aside anyone, including senior management, should they have problems adjusting? Have you considered hiring a Change Manager to help staff adjust to the new conditions and provide counseling to staff with change-related fears?

If you can’t take the heat…

VMware View delivers virtual Windows machines on Linux, OS X and Kindle Fire

link.

when will adobe port creative suite to ubuntu? we won’t need things like this anymore. still gonna download it though.

The need for project specs

Advertising agencies operating without a project specification risk generating a gap between what a client thinks is going to happen and the reality of what the technology involved can support coupled with the budget at hand. When you begin to use project specifications you will see this gap closing with every web project. With a detailed project specification the client knows exactly what he is going to get ahead of time. (Some agencies actually make clients sign the project specification which serves as a form of binding contract.)

Unfortunately, many trad ad agencies typically still have some poorly-defined line item in their schedules for “client testing,” and it is usually some ridiculously large amount of time such as two to four weeks. If a web project is handled correctly there is no need for this. When a client is made to spend hours, days or perhaps even weeks planning with the agency, then sign off on a project spec, then sign off on a wireframe, then sign off on a design concept, the client knows exactly what they are going to get, down to the pixel. There is no disappointment. There is no need for “testing” on the client’s end. Most importantly this eliminates the opening for non-stakeholders on the client’s end to get involved and sidetrack your agency’s hard work.

Project specifications should be free. Countless times I have seen situations where what the client contact thought he was communicating and what the agency thought they were hearing didn’t match. Technical plannning is the cheapest thing an agency can do with their interactive projects since it generally requires one person. Unless the project, and hence the specification, is gigantic and requires more than a few days of planning, project specs should be free as they save the agency many man-hours and the agency always produces a better project.

Project specifications also bring in more money in that they lay the groundwork for additional work: If it isn’t in the scope document, then it is out of scope, and therefore an add-on. Before the use of a project specification advertising agencies would have been forced to throw in all sorts of work for free until the client was satisfied or motivated by other factors to end the project. Put simply, project specifications provide a definition of success.

Project specifications require training and experience. There is a sort of ability to forecast problems that comes from years of writing code. Writing a technical project specification is not something which can be performed by non-tech staff. This is where even a PMP certified project manager is not sufficient. You need a web manager… someone who comes from a technical background and is deeply interested in project management.

New: mobile application relay

The problem with building mobile apps is that it really is the wild west of technology right now. Much like web browsers in the 1990s everything is still platform-dependent. The usefulness and long term stability is also a problem in that no one knows if any mobile device manufacturer will drastically overhaul their systems in the future. Mobile device manufacturers are still in competition and so the notion of establishing a standard or convention is out of the question. If you go to Amazon and read the reviews you’ll discover that just about every book on iPhone development is replete with errors. Publishers themselves are in such a rush to capitalize on this boom town that they have foregone all proofreading and developers who have figured it out, like the prospectors of old, aren’t talking.

With the relationship of Adobe and Apple corporations existing somewhere between unpredictable and hostile no company should rely upon the availability of Adobe’s Packager for CS5 when considering the creation of an iPhone or iPad application. Apple desperately needs to make their Objective-C language acceptable to programmers, yet continues to have a hard time promoting it. Their only recourse has been to strong-arm the submission process. Several times within the last two years Apple has placed bans on Flash-generated IPAs (iPhone applications) then loosened those restrictions shortly thereafter. No one knows at any given point if a non-Objective-C application will be accepted by the App Store. In other words, the process of building an iPhone application is a big investment followed by a gamble. Developing mobile apps for Android or Blackberry is actually harder as they are still steeped in hardcore Java development, and so the progenitors of app development for those devices have built their libraries around Eclipse, which is probably the least intuitive IDE ever created.

Mobile App Relay

Mobile App Relay

This is where (the now defunct) Dashcode and frameworks such as PhoneGap and Appcelerator have come in. With Appcelerator you write an application using JavaScript and a heavy understanding of the target mobile device’s API. The IDE then translates that JavaScript into either iPhone, iPad or Blackberry code. With PhoneGap you build a webpage or pages and launch them from a pre-built container. PhoneGap has produced containers for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile and a number of others. The PhoneGap route is obviously the better solution, however, updating such a container mobile app is still problematic for a number of digital media agencies and such.

And so I’ve created a mobile application relay service. My mobile app relay allows me to build web-based smartphone apps for my clients and provides me with the ability to more effectively deploy updates without going through the lengthy Apple submission process or recompiling. The only thing right now which is hard-coded are the app icons and splash screens… Although I believe I may be able to update those remotely as well.

Since my system relays requests through a web server the target files could be anywhere thereby allowing clients to host and ultimately take over their own apps. It is essentially an MVC way of looking at how apps get built, deployed and used; the app is the view, the relay service is the controller, and the hosting server is the model.

Got questions? Send me an email.

master a handful of skills

It has been stated before that the reason the Romans could not maintain their empire was due largely to a problem of scale… that the sheer size of the empire was too much for any centralized goverment to maintain and that eventually regional power centers would, through necessity, replace the centrality of Rome. The same is true of digital advertising agencies. Sooner or later all systems go down. Would you rather have your developers build things you can sell or have them spend non-billable hours on the phone with technical support staff at some hosting company?

The majority of what constitutes the internet is still suspended by telephone polls. It is inevitable that sooner or later the cost of troubleshooting downtime among various systems will outweigh the revenue from clients. There is also the threat of clients losing faith in the abilities of the agency due to not understanding the problems inherent in hosting and outdated systems. Any worthy digital advertising agency must come to the realization that it is very important to master a handful of skills and only a handful. Should your agency go down the path of providing any service at some point your agency’s interactive department will become less and less productive. Miscellaneous services will require a large staff of technicians who do nothing but troubleshoot systems which ultimately do not impress anyone. (Furthermore, there is such a thing as password fatigue.) Clients generally cannot be charged for downtime and so any advertising agency which is serious about the digital revolution should streamline, consolidate and eliminate needless systems and services. The notion of “full-service” hasn’t impressed clients since the segmentation of cable television set in (so just forget about it). Hosting and miscellaneous services such as pulling search engine reports are the dream of small agencies who see these services as a reliable stream of revenue. If you have to rely on web hosting for revenue then you’re not really an advertising agency are you?

It is sad but true that very often web developers and software programmers in ad agencies double as technical support staff for the rest of the agency and so the need for streamlining applies to the day-to-day tasks of all employees as well. Your technical staff can be much more productive and focus on client objectives if they do not have to double as support technicians. It is unfortunate that many, if not most, of the American workforce lack basic computer skills and so for the time being it is important to maintain some sort of general purpose system administrator. But there are things you can do to improve your agency’s overall digital value to clients. First, there should be a policy of ensuring that all staff members have a basic aptitude with the operating system in use (switching your workforce to Ubuntu is a real option here). Second, your staff should use cloud computing and services. For instance, Google Docs allows staff members to create business-type documents on the web. You can export your Google Doc to a PDF or spreadsheet, but the “master file” stays on the web. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to inform a co-worker that nothing could be done after he or she accidentally deleted a file sitting on a common server. Not to mention the amount of hours wasted on version control problems could be eliminated with the ability for collaboration with systems such as Google Docs.

I began this post by talking about scale, so how does that fit in? Scalability is the ability to become larger to support growth. Ask yourself, “what do we do if our web department becomes successful?” Can the department grow? Who heads the department? Is that person committed to growing the department or just filling a role? Is your web department liberated from the confines of some other department or is it still mistakenly labeled under “production”?

Time to forget the search engines?

The internet’s age of discovery is coming to an end along with the notion of Google-as-phonebook. That behavior places the burden on the user. In 2007 Google and MSN stopped reading meta tag keywords and began reading right into the page content (Matt Cutts – Google Software Engineer). Since 2008 Google (the only search engine that matters) has allowed for custom algorithms (personalized search) for each user so that search results may vary from person to person based upon his or her previous searches. Google seems to be moving away from its search engine and focusing on outlets such as the new Google Catalogs – an app where the user is presented with predefined choices. Because SEO and SEM are about obtaining a better listing on the search engines, they put less value on what actually matters, on what actually results in a purchase decision, which is content. The “findability” of a facebook page or other social network presence is quickly surpassing index searching. The Google-owned YouTube is number 2 after Google itself when it comes to searching, according to ComScore. Not to mention half of all internet connections take place on a mobile device and mobile users typically perform only 1% of the searches which desktop users perform (Roger McNamee from Elevation Partners). They just don’t teach kids to type with their thumbs in school.

What I’m trying to say here is that people have changed how they use interactive and that they’re just not searching as much as they used to. Web users, and people in general, increasingly expect information to be delivered to them through whatever channels they normally use.

The internet has changed everything, including itself. The longterm objective of any digital advertising agency should be to pull rather than push, i.e. – to blog and tweet constantly and to establish “social currency” on the networks where decisions are increasingly being made, and finally, to build systems in which users don’t have to type anymore.

As a freelancer I avoid doing SEO and especially SEM for indecisive clients… those which cannot make up their minds who they are or how they want to position themselves. SEO is very problematic for old websites which have already been monitized around particular search terms. SEM can kill the client-agency relationship since clients never get the ROI they think they will. And so taking all of this into consideration isn’t it time for advertising agencies to forget the search engines?