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Podcast episode #2: Should you test your site for usability?

Episode #2 of the Social Signal podcast features an interview with design ethnographer Kelly Goto, who explains why testing for usability is a must in the era of the social web. We also list some of the events coming up on the Social Signal calendar.

Some of the links mentioned in the podcast:

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We're looking for a bigger office

Social Signal has been expanding quickly enough that our current digs are starting to feel a little... cramped. (Helpful business hint #73: when you have to start stacking staff to hold an all-hands meeting, it's time to crack open the classifieds.)

With Vancouver office space jumping from the midway point of our nice-to-have list to the peak of our do-it-yesterday list, we're on the market for something with...

  • about 800 square feet
  • lots of natural light
  • transit, bike lockers and parking nearby
  • modern wiring and the obligatory peppy pipeline to the Internet

We'd love to land in Gastown or Yaletown but we're open to anything west of Main and north of 16th or so.  If you have some sweet space on your hands – or want to share your current space with a charming group of people who can do cool things to your web page – let us know. Give us a ring at 778-371-5445, or email Pravin at pravin-at-socialsignal-dot-com.

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OPML for your enjoyment

I'm teaching a webinar tomorrow for NTEN on how RSS is changing how we send and receive electronic communications. As part of the webinar I want to offer participants a set of RSS feeds to get them started, and what better form to offer it in than an OPML file?

An OPML file is basically a file of RSS feed addresses that tells an RSS reader which RSS feeds to track and display. My OPML file (download by clicking the filename below) includes feeds on Blogging/Web 2.0, e-consultation, e-democracy, e-politics, e-pr, friends, general news, Internet research, nonprofit technology, political blogs, RSS, social software, and tech news.
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Vancouver types: want to be The Tyee's next webmaster?

One of the nicest, most talented folks in Vancouver’s independent media scene is leaving town. Dawn Buie is off to Toronto… which means there’s a dream job opening up at The Tyee:

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My interview with Blau Exchange

Paul DiPerna recently posted a conversation we had about social media on his Blau Exchange web site. Blau Exchange is

a web-based initiative that will be an intermediary for professional groups interested in how information and communications technologies (ICTs) affect society, with particular focus on the Internet and World Wide Web.

Paul interviewed me about my own history on the web and my perspective on what comes next. If you're interested in how Social Signal got started, where we're going, or how we see the web, please read the interview. Here's a sample tidbit:

Young organizations are no more likely to make mistakes in their community-building than are well-established organizations; if anything, they're less likely, because they're less constrained by conventional ideas about message control. But anyone who's new to the social web has certain challenges and there are certainly are some mistakes we see more often.

The most common mistake is to focus all the attention, energy and resources on building the technical structure of a community, without thinking about the social structure. I was lucky to work on telecentre.org with Mark Surman, the Managing Director of that project, who made a point of allocating several times more dollars for animating and supporting his online community than he'd allocated to actually building the web infrastructure. We encourage our clients to think about spending at least as much on supporting their community as they do on setting it up -- maybe not the first year, when your technical costs are front-loaded, but certainly over time. If you haven't got a budget to pay for site animation (aka moderation), ongoing content development, and participant incentives (like contest prizes), then you're was ting your money by building an online community. Better to take half your budget, set it aside for the support of the community itself, and build a more modest site in the first place. When we design a site we create an activity plan as well as a site architecture so that our clients think through ongoing support of the site as well as set up.

I hope folks will find the interview useful, or at least interesting -- and if you check it out, be sure to read some of Paul's other fascinating interviews with folks like Howard Rheingold and Craig Newmark.

 

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Lights out in 15 minutes

We'll be switching off the site for five minutes at 10:55 Pacific Time today. Here's why:

There's this French initiative that has caught on well beyond the country's borders: turning off our lights for five minutes in the evening on Thursday, February 1st. (That's 10:55 am to 11:00 am our time here in B.C.)

It's meant to draw attention for the need for action on climate change:

Why February 1st? Because the next day, in Paris, the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be released. This event will take place in France; we can't pass up this opportunity to focus attention on the urgency of the global climate situation. (my translation)

The idea has taken hold, passed along on blogs and email lists around the world. The idea isn't to save the world by reducing energy consumption by a tiny amount (although, hey, every bit helps) – it's to raise awareness and signal just how broad support is for urgent, coordinated action.

At a time when even the Harper Conservatives are realizing they need to make some changes, this is an opportunity to push the powers that be all the harder. So vote with your fingers: switch off the lights, shut down your laptops, turn off the radio... and let's find out just how much power there can be in powering down.

 Update at 11:01 am: And we're back!

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Linkwad

One of the newest items in my personal toolbox is the Linkwad extension for Firefox. I tend to have a whole lot of browser tabs open at once -- if you're not familiar with tabs, that's essentially a stack of open browser windows. For me this is a great way of dealing with a set of search results: just open all the results that interest me in a set of tabs, and open any other related links in additional tabs; then work my way through the tabs one after another.

That's great if you can make it through ten or twenty tabs in one session. But what if you spend an hour finding a bunch of web sites you want to browse through, and run out of time to review them? Linkwad lets you store a whole set of open tabs for later reference and retrieval.

Once you install the Linkwad extension you need to register on the Linkwad site before you can save any tab sets. Once you're registed and installed the Linkwad toolbar all you do is hit "save" to store a tab set -- you can name it and describe it for future reference, and you can even share your tab set with other Linkwad users.

Linkwad is a handy way for lateral browsers to manage a lot of related web sites across multiple browsing sessions. Well worth an install.
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Reflected glory marketing versus the heavy hand of the brand

Over at the Jackson Fish Market blog, Hillel Cooperman makes a strong case that "software is an untapped and exponentially powerful medium in which to convey messages and values for brand advertisers." He points to Burger King's videogaming endeavours, but says his argument extends to the web as well.

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Advice to social media mavens...from media pros

We're just back from two days in Houston as the guests of ttweak, a marketing, communications and design firm that shares our belief that authentic, original voices are the best way to convey a message. ttweak's best-known work is probably their Houston It's Worth It campaign, but their extensive and varied experience also includes a number of video projects that let interview subjects, rather than narrators, tell the story.

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Matters of taste: When Second Life gets too explicit

A few days ago, we received a terrific question from Jenny Edwards (ED of England's Homeless Link, a national organization of frontline agencies dealing with homelessness). She's intrigued by Second Life's potential, but...

Having joined SL mid December and spending much of the holiday season there I have been thinking about how useful and creative it would be to network those of us round the world who are working to end homelessness and to share ideas and experience. The dilemma for me in thinking of using it for work the amount of adult material and behaviour. It's fine for people privately but inviting others into the world, particularly those from faith based communities, is too problematic for me at the moment. Have you found a way of overcoming this?

It's an issue, all right - and not just for people in faith-based communities. Ask any enthusiast, employee or consultant who finally convinced a friend, parent, boss or client to check out Second Life... only to have them run into X-rated territory.

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Work Smarter with Evernote

Get more out of Evernote with Alexandra Samuel's great new ebook, the first in the Harvard Business Press Work Smarter with Social Media series!

Available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.

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