Category: tech

Sketch Notes on Design / UX

I love the series of sketch notes from Eva-Lotta Lamm, someone who attends a lot of conferences and makes notes with amazing visual impact.

I could have chosen one of many different images that she has uploaded, but this one is recent, colourful and contains perhaps a few things that are less technical – though you probably need to work in a company with an active website to really “get” the overall message. I’d love to know if you get anything out of reading them if you’re completely outside of web marketing / user experience / web project management.

They’re available as a book and there is a fantastic presentation on how sketch notes work

Do you sketch in meetings while taking notes? Did you realise that it’s a good thing to maintain your attention span? Or that it helps you to memorise what you hear?

User centred Design at XING @ UX Camp Europe
Originally uploaded by evalottchen

Improving Ways to Read While Writing

flickr typewriter typo?!

I have been doing a bit of writing lately, and might even get an article or two published in an online technical publication. Which led me to thinking about the separation between technical stuff I write, often close to my profession, and the more personal items I write at other times. There are bits of photography and music in here too.

Many successful blogs stick to one subject, and treat it well. Some bloggers who want to scratch several itches therefore launch several blogs. I’ve always preferred one place to do everything, especially given that I don’t create anything like a useful volume of work to really get a following going anywhere in a given niche subject. I quite like the notion of an eclectic mix, and that has been my sub-heading ever since this blog was launched.

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Why I Won’t Read Your Blog

Expose Your Blog

I surf around quite a lot of blogs, thanks mainly to blog exchanges like Expose Your Blog which are like StumbleUpon but based only on blogs, and have the added bonus of gaining you reciprocal traffic. I used to surf on other exchanges too, but they are all losing traffic and are poorly maintained. Expose Your Blog is relatively new and quite a small but vibrant community of those enthusiasts of personal blogging that haven’t defected to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and others.

I thought I’d share a few reasons why I might be put off by blogs, and tune out if I land on them again. If you can think of anything else, I’d be pleased to hear it in the comments. Feel free to share your pet peeves too :).

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Installed W3 Total Cache

I have added a new plugin, W3 Total Cache, to improve performance on this blog. It seemed that pages were taking a bit too long to load according to Google webmaster tools. Solutions for caching nearly always make a difference, but you have to be careful about the parameters you set. However, with minimal adjustment to the defaults on this plugin, I now have a working configuration. There are plenty of options as you can see with the whole new “performance” panel in my WordPress admin screen.

Slow loading pages can really turn visitors off. Most surfers have a very low attention span – until they’re captivated by something of course. Improvements in page loading speed have been shown to improve user engagement and site traffic on sites as diverse as Amazon, Google and travel websites. Blogs are probably not as important, but that only means that tolerances are wider. Just because everyone has higher speed internet access, doesn’t mean they want to wait any more than a second for a page to start displaying. I’ve seen a few blogs on rotation that are a bit slower than that. Make sure your blog loads progressively if you can’t reduce overall page elements easily.

Troubleshooting WordPress Canonical

I have been wondering for a while why my jokes pages don’t list in search engines. They are WordPress pages which have some PHP in them to read from a separate database table containing my jokes. Every now and then I’ve tried to fix the problem, and I think I’ve finally found the issue. I’d like to explain how I didn’t solve the problem too, so you can see the troubleshooting steps I took.

First of all, I wondered if the content on the pages was too similar. I have a page that lists the categories for jokes, and for each link on that there is a page with a list of jokes in that category. I thought maybe the list of links wasn’t search engine friendly enough. So I added a bit of introductory text, and changed the <title> of each category list page to include the name of the category. I also added links to the next joke in the category on each joke page and changed the position of the breadcrumbs (e.g. Jokes by Category > True Stories jokes) to after the joke so the top of the page wouldn’t always contain very similar data. That didn’t work, but the pages are now a bit better to read and each joke in a category links to another joke which allows for better navigation. Perhaps people will read two or three jokes rather than being stuck in a dead end especially if they land on the site on a specific joke page.

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Take the Kitchen Sink

Folding Camping Kitchen Sink

Now you can really take the kitchen sink with you. This amazing folding kitchen sink is from Sea to Summit, a camping and outdoor equipment supplier. It comes in 5, 10 and 20 litre sizes and can hold hot water and detergent. Full marks to Sea to Summit for the segue between a sink and “small size makes a great dog bowl!”

It’s actually easier to pack than most other things you might take when travelling. Perhaps the good old English expression “taking everything but the kitchen sink” could be endangered. Just like the expressions “I’ll lend you the CD” or “I’ll call you when I get home”.

Bringing it all Together

Twitter + Facebook + Netvibes = fruey 2009

On Facebook, you have a status which is limited to something along the lines of 140 characters, rather like a tweet in Twitter, which has a similar character limit. I often update this with a link, a story I have read in the press, or a mundane observation about how awful the weather is lately. Having already linked Facebook and Twitter with the official Twitter Facebook app, anything I post to Twitter (a “tweet”) is now published to my Facebook status and will also appear in the sidebar of this blog.

I spend most of my spare minutes on Netvibes and Facebook these days. Netvibes allows me to follow – in one place – the news (The Guardian, BBC News, New Scientist…), Geek sites (Slashdot, Metafilter…), French bloggers (Fred Cavazza, Stratégie Interactive…), podcasts (Guardian Science Weekly, BBC Material World), comments on my stuff (Flickr, Twitter, this blog…) and my own work projects (Basecamp RSS feed). From a total of 44 feeds loaded on there I may go off to different sites, or spot posts in blogs that I otherwise would never have the time to visit. Facebook allows me to keep in touch with friends – at least those that actualy use Facebook to publish and share things – and its value is in the ease with which you can react to news by commenting on things whether they be status updates, photos, videos or posted links.

While surfing around I used to find more time to post fully here, perhaps with an article on Flickr or something I had heard on a podcast. That being said it’s not like blog posts have ever come thick and fast.

So I’ve decided to activate a weekly tweet digest, which means there should be something going on here most weeks. Visitors may have noticed that updates have dried up in 2009, mainly because it’s just so hard to find time to write a good article. There’s stuff worth reading in the archives though, but it doesn’t always get the exposure it should. So now by combining the blog with the latest internet fads, I should be able to keep things up to date a bit more often just by having Twitter radiate out my comments to all the places people catch up with me :-).

p.s. Sorry for the awful diagram.

Follow the Twitter Feed

Lately, I have been mostly microblogging via Twitter. It updates my blog (see the sidebar on the right), my Twitter followers (all two of them) and my Facebook status. Having changed job recently I have precious little free time to write full blog articles.

I’m thinking about directly adding my tweets to the blog as articles – it may make more sense that way as updates will be more regular. Happy to hear your thoughts.