Thinking Allowed

A blog to detail my work at QU.

The Upside of Viral Videos

Posted By admin on November 6, 2009

By now you probably have seen the video of the two Yale students who created a Michael Jackson medley that went viral on You Tube. They spoke with the WSJ’s Marketwatch about the experience of having a video go viral and how they plan to try and cash in on the new found fame.

You can view the original Youtube video here.

Hey June, How’d You Make That?

Posted By admin on November 3, 2009

I am going to expand a little on our users’ needs for the snactivitymom.com website project.  The World Through My Eyes has posted about some of the needs that we, along with my teammate WellComm, had discussed this weekend.  It seems that there are even more user needs to consider, and I will now attempt to respond to the questions raised in Professor Halavais’ latest blog post.

I envision that the largest base of users for our website would be mothers who catch the morning programs while getting their kids out the door for school or stay at home moms who watch Regis and Kelly as part of their morning routine.   These are the same moms looking for creative and healthy things to do with their kids.  Let’s call the stay at home mom June.  June needs to bring cupcakes to her kids class for a birthday this week.  She doesn’t want to just bring regular cupcakes. That morning she is watching the Today Show and sees the Snacktivator making Panda Mini Cupcakes.  She picks up a pen and jots down the website information.  Later that morning she heads there for more information.  Once on the website she finds that we have a printable shopping list for each recipe and suggested ways to make things healthy.  She also sees that we encourage kids involvement.  Great!  She can have little Jimmy and Sue help with the cupcake project.  Also, since the school discourages nut products, she will use m and m’s instead of peanuts for eyes.  She got that tip from the snacktivator.

That night June and her two kids make the cupcakes.  Wow, was that a blast.  And they are tasty!  As she carries them into class other mothers dropping of their kids see the treats.  “How did you make those” asks Kimberly’s mom Karen.  “I found this recipe on “snacktivitymom.com” and it was easy enough for Jimmy and Sue help,” June says.  Later that day at work, busy mom Karen Googles snactivity and finds our website pop up as the top in the search engine.  She is impressed by the 30-minutes or less recipes, the healthy ingredients used, and the clever and fun snacks.  She too prints out a shopping list for some snack she and Kimberly will prepare over the weekend, which is supposed to be rainy.

Generally I think we are going to gear this site towards moms.  Other adults with kids will find projects here too but since the Snactivator, Deb, is a Mom, I think the snacktivitymom.com’s fan base will be other mothers.  We are planning to make this website also accessible and interesting for older children to navigate as well, perhaps planning for a Mother’s Day surprise breakfast/snack for mom.

Hopefully we will get the word out as moms use these snacks at parties and for school treats.  With our Snacktivator doing a publicity tour once the site launches, we will get the word out.  Hopefully she will be asked back for other appearances throughout the year, hopefully gaining a following online.  We will hopefully add a facebook page where Deb can answer people’s questions and people can hopefully post images of the snacks that they created from our recipes. Please read this blog post for more of our thoughts on how our website will meet user needs.

A Nook Book

Posted By admin on November 2, 2009

I used to own an Amazon Kindle. This device appealed to me because (at times) I am an avid reader. The thought of being able to shop for books from the comfort of my living room and have them delivered right then appealed to me. It also would cut down on book clutter. A big drawback was the fact that you cannot lend books purchased from Amazon with the Kindle to friends.

Barnes and Noble’s new e-reader, the Nook, has taken care of that problem with a 14-day free lending system to friends. This makes me wonder, will the Nook (and other e-readers) kill the printed book?

The Nook

The Nook isn’t on the market yet. The first ones are expected to be shipped at the end of November and already this device is creating a buzz.

The Nook will be competing in the marketplace with Kindle and Sony’s Reader. Apple is also rumored to have an e-reader in the works. As stated in the blog, “It’s fascinating to watch these three powerful companies–the dominant bricks-and-mortar bookseller, the dominant online bookseller, and a long-dominate electronic industry player – compete in this new arena. “

Barnes and Noble is keeping with the general price point of under $10, which consumers appear to be willing to pay for ebooks.  As posted in the New York Times article, “Publishers are caught between authors who want to be paid high advances and consumers who believe they should pay less for a digital edition, largely because the publishers save on printing and shipping costs. But publishers argue that those costs, which generally run about 12.5 percent of the average hardcover retail list price, do not entirely disappear with e-books. What’s more, the costs of writing, editing and marketing remain the same.”

A Reuters article, “E-readers may not solve publisher woes yet,” states that publishers are hoping electronic reading devices will help halt their slide in sales.  “Content needs to expand beyond bestsellers,” said Ross Rubin at the NPD group.”Text books are a very good direction.”  However, the usability of the e-readers is still lacking. “But while most experts praise e-ink, a display technology that strives to mimic printed text, the capacity for colors, embedded links, search options and video is still lacking.”  These devices are “technologically not advanced enough for most content,” said Paul DeHart, president of BlueToad Inc, a digital publishing company, and do not yet make it worth the effort of lugging around another gadget.”

Headed to Class

At Ashburnham, Massachusetts Cushing Academy, headmaster Jim Tracy has replaced library books with Kindles in an effort to get kids reading again. The article “School chooses Kindle; are libraries for the history ‘books’?” printed in USA Today says that the school’s Library collection was barely being used. Now with the digital devices the “tiny school’s collection is growing from 20,000 books to millions”. Tracy says “he has hired more librarians to help students navigate the electronic stacks.”

“It was really to save libraries five, 10, 15 years down the road,” he says. “What the students are telling us is: ‘We’re not using the print books. You can keep giving them to us, but they’re just going to collect dust.’

The Impact of the Nook

There has been speculation for a while that digital books will hurt bookstores, but now consumer watchers are questioning whether the Nook will impact Amazon.com or coffee shops like Starbucks more.

According to the Barnes and Noble website “When you use your nook in a Barnes & Noble Bookstore, you can access exclusive content and special offers. “

According to a Blogging Innovation Blog by Steve McKee, Barnes and Noble may soon offer entire free ebooks while inside the physical store. He speculates “by offering free in-store content with the Nook, Barnes & Noble seems to clearly be saying that this is they place they want people to linger. And Since none of us can be in two places at one time, Starbucks and Barnes & Noble may increasingly butt heads.”

Usability Issues

As stated in our readings and videos this Module, interactive designers on the ebooks still need to improve usability and features of the products. In Designing for Interaction by D. Saffer we learn that there are four approaches to interactive design – User-centered design, activity-centered design, systems design and genius design.  Saffer states,” The best designers are those who can move between approaches, applying the best approach to the situaion, and sometimes applying multiple approaches even within a single project.”

I think the e-readers have addressed many of the system and user-centered designs issues.  The readers are able to deliver readable books in a device that is definitely manageable.  Maybe a tad too fragile, but definitely the Kindle 2 was an improvement over the original.  I think they need to now address the activity needs of the users such as the demand for color, video capability, better internet browsing capability, and book sharing in all the e-reading devices.

I personally returned my Kindle within the first month trial since I didn’t think that the money I spent ($359 at the time) was worth the features that the Kindle offered.  I put the money I saved into a Mac and an Ipod Touch, which allows me to access the books I bought on the Kindle through an application.  I look forward to seeing the path and advancements that happen to the e-readers in the future.

Barley’s Bark and Roll

Posted By admin on November 1, 2009

A New Way of Thinking

Posted By admin on October 30, 2009

When I started this journey for a master’s degree I had some doubts about whether I would enjoy being back in school. I loved college the first time around, but working full time and going to school? That is a whole different animal.

I am thankful I decided to only take two courses (I was considering three). With the reading for 501 and the hands on assignments for 502, anything more would have been a struggle (for me).

But I will admit I love being back in school!  It is extremely fun for me to discuss my 501 project with my partners or even talk about 502 homework while waiting for the 501 class to start!  It is interesting hearing what people are saying about professors and classes, and actually caring since I will be taking these courses in the near future.

officeAlso surprising is how I am beginning to look at the world differently. From my office I can see a pretty busy street in New Haven.  This morning I saw a van pass by (not in this picture) and I thought “What a lovely font they have for their logo.”  Where did that come from?!?!  One week ago I couldn’t tell a serif from a sans-serif (thinks Ally and Jess!) I am now realizing I am living what I am learning.  And, the more I learn, the more I will see things in my everyday life that can be influences on my future work.

When I first listened to Professor Halavais’ lecture in which he mentions to keep a record somewhere of inspirational articles, designs, buildings, etc., I wondered, “why?”.  Now I think I am getting why.  I think I will consider this my first “ah ha!” moment.  Had I had a camera handy, I might have snapped a picture of that great font!

One Step Closer

Posted By admin on October 27, 2009

My teammates – The World Through My Eyes and Well Comm – spent several hours Saturday discussing the benchmark assignment for our project. It was a rather interesting meeting as we worked through the tools that Professor Halavais suggested to use in his blog post.

Some of the competitive research sites did not seem appropriate for our site since initially we don’t expect to pull in any revenue. Perhaps down the road if we get a sponsor, but money-making is not the purpose of our site.

We tried to use many of the sites, but some were bears to figure out. Finally we landed upon Compete.com and were pleased with the information AND the results that were generated about traffic to the site.

Websitegrader.com was also very helpful in determining links to the site, del.icio.us bookmarks, traffic rank, and inbound links.

One site that we initially thought helpful until we realized that they just regurgitated the results from our google search was nichewatch.com. I am not sure if our search results were typical, but for us this site ended up not being useful.

This exercise was very interesting to determine different tools out there that help determine the competitors for your website concept. I definitely have a couple more tools added to my arsenal.

The Political Power of the Internet

Posted By admin on October 19, 2009

“Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee,” said Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

While Barack Obama’s campaign for the Presidency of the United States may not have been the first time the Internet was used in a campaign, it was the first successful campaign run in large part over the Internet. The Obama Campaign used the Internet and specifically social networks to bring its message to the public, build relationships with potential voters, and urge supporters to take action by encouraging their friends to support Obama financially and to get out and vote.

“When Senator Obama announced his campaign, his internet site was already fully developed and ready to go – with a set of tools which allowed supporters to meet and organise as well as contribute money,” according to BBC news.

The Man Behind the New Media Curtain

Joe Rospars was the new media director for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and founding partner of Blue State Digital which managed “the online fundraising, constituency-building, issue advocacy, and peer-to-peer online networking aspects of his 2008 Presidential primary campaign.” Rospars was also involved in Howard Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign, including the Blog for America.

In Naked Conversations (2006), R. Scoble & S. Israel state, “Dean’s passionate supporters never managed to cross the traditional chasm between early enthusiasts and mainstream voters who generally had not yet turned to blogs for information and conversation. While they thought blogs were amplifying their voices, they were in fact merely talking to each other.”

Here is a very interesting interview of Rospars with Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN discussing the Obama Campaign.

“We got into the content business in a way that was bigger, that was different from advertising. Advertising is necessarily, no matter how good your ads are, is necessarily an interruption of the thing that people actually want to watch. We tried to create content that was in and of itself attractive to watch, and would be worthy of advertising in it,” Rospars said in the above NDN interview about how the Obama campaign used Youtube.com to get out their message.

As Dan Ackerman Greenburg posted in the TechCrunch blog (2007), The secret strategies many “viral” videos, “Generally, a concept should not be forced because it fits a brand. Rather, a brand should be fit into a great concept.”

Bluestatedigital.com posts that, “People spent more than 14 million hours watching over 1,800 Obama campaign-related videos on YouTube that garnered more than 50 million views. All of this content taken together created a healthy positive feedback loop for the campaign.”

The Local Connection

On the local front, we are now seeing politicians reaching online to voters. For instance, in Stamford, Democratic and Republican politicians are using their websites, Facebook, and Twitter to fundraise and reach out to voters. A New Haven Register article recently took a look at how social networks are transforming local campaigns.

In the article, Quinnipiac University’s Assistant Professor of Journalism Richard Hanley said political candidates ”need to be everywhere where eyeballs are.” He says social networks are, “a very cheap and an efficient way to get information to voters engaged in that space.”

As for national elections, I think we are in for some more interesting developments in 2012. As Rospars said in his NDN interview, ”If we had a list of 100 things we wanted to do with the technology, or to try, or to test, we probably got to do or try 15 of them. So that is part of the challenge for Organizing for America and also for whatever the next campaign looks like to keep going down that list and to add more things to that list.“

Fun With Food

Posted By admin on October 14, 2009

My esteemed classmate Well Comm posted the abstract of our final project for 501a on his blog. We will be working with The World Through My Eyes. As you can read on Well Comm’s site, the website we are proposing is snacktivitymom.com. It is a sister-site to familyadventuremom.com. How cute is this family???

I am excited to get this project underway and continuing it in 505 next semester. I think we could possibly have a nice “mom” series in the works. :)

I have a 5 month old nephew and I could imaging doing many of these snacktivities with him when he gets a little older. Growing up my family used to spend time baking for the holidays or special occasions (one time we made and frosted hundreds of Italian cookies for my uncle’s wedding. I was 7.) When my maternal grandmother was alive I would go with her to the church to help make pierogis with the women’s group. Those are bonding experiences I remember fondly.

So, creating a site which encourages parents to spend time with their children while creating something yummy is wonderful! Even better, these will be healthy snacks for kids.

I look forward to seeing where this project leads.

My Second Life Experience

Posted By admin on October 7, 2009

Meeting in Second Life was more interested than I expected. The scavenger hunt was a good way to get acclimated to the game. Much more so than when I logged on to create my character and to make my way to the meeting spot.

My partners for this were Wellcomm and m8rxgrl. It took us a couple minutes to get started, but soon enough we found our way around. I won’t repost what Wellcomm posted or the images I saw from m8rxgrl, but here are a few more of the screen captures I took.

(l-r) Girls dancing, another nightclub, Eiffel Tower on a ledge (see Wellcomm’s for the other view of top), Eiffel Tower at the bottom, Linden Village, and the nonprofit Garden for the Missing. Here is the link to m8rxgrl’s post. She has some great photos!

dancing_001Club_001eiffel tower_002

eiffel tower_001Linden Village_001garden for the missing nonprofit_001

I was telling a friend of mine about my experience in Second Life and he mentioned that some people make money there. A quick google search came up with this article “How To Make Money Selling Art on Second Life.” What a thought.

A Nice Resource

Posted By admin on October 7, 2009

Since we are all going to begin working on our website proposals in this class and if you are in 502a for Visual Aesthetics, I thought I would share this nice little website I found for creating sitemaps and flowcharts.

It is called SlickPlan. This free site actually makes planning out a website fun (at least for me!)