Useful Links: Drive Me Crazy, Community Building, Mobile Design, Best Job

Links to top notch articles about what not to do on the web, how to build community, designing for mobiles, and finding the best job in the world.
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Drive me Crazy: The Web 15 from Reviewer X is spot on with things that drive user’s crazy. High school kids recognize what’s wrong with the web. Jakob’s been nagging us for years. Why don’t web sites reflect these things? Oh, hell, don’t even answer, I know the stinkin’ answer.

I Can Haz Community? at Think Vitamin is from the I Can Haz Cheeseburger site that has developed such a community and huge following. Tips for building a community around your site.

Mobile Web Design Trends for 2009 at Smashing Magazine is a good guide to designing for mobiles. It says a lot of the same things as my article Make Your Site Mobile Friendly at Think Vitamin, but this new piece at Smashing Magazine contains new ideas and many very helpful screen captures of mobile sites.

Best Job in the World has gone viral. I’m fascinated by this story and will be writing about it in more detail later in the week on BlogHer. It’s interesting because it’s a blogging job, and because of the way it’s gone viral. What is it about this story that captured the imagination and made it the latest viral phenom?

Feeds switch

I’m going to try using summaries in my feeds for a while. I plan to track the stats and see if it matters in my traffic count.

I sort of resent it when I have to click through from my RSS reader to get the rest of a post. But I’m doing it to you anyway. It’s an act of desperation.

I’m going to try using summaries in my feeds for a while. I plan to track the stats and see if it matters in my traffic count.

I sort of resent it when I have to click through from my RSS reader to get the rest of a post. But I’m doing it to you anyway. It’s an act of desperation.

OK. Maybe I’m not actually desperate. I just want to try it out and see if it makes any difference. Will I lose visits? Will my visits increase?

Will YOU hate it or not even notice? If you hate it (or love it) (or don’t give a fig) (or whatever) I’d like to know. Thank you. Thank you.

Organizing topics for blog posts

I post here, I create a daily writing prompt at First 50 Words, I post twice a week at BlogHer I write a number of how-to articles each month for eHow, I come up with a weekly writing prompt for a group at Elderwoman Space and I just agreed to do a twice monthly stint as the “Elder Geek” for Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By. Good grief, no wonder I’m always in search of a topic.

I scour the news, blogs, newspapers, magazines and everything else that passes before my eyes for ideas. Once I see the germ of an idea, I need a way to save the idea for future use, and to start building resources around the idea that will help me elaborate on it when I’m ready to write a full post.

Several tools are available that can help you organize your ideas as a blogger. I have a favorite.

Many people may prefer delicious or digg for organizing links to posts of interest that you want to blog about, but I like Tumblr. With any of these, you can save a link to a post of interest and have an easy way to go back later to find the information when you are ready to write. Here’s my Tumblr page, if you want to see how I’m using it.

I used to keep a text file of ideas for various blog sites I write for, but now I keep it all on Tumblr.

The reason I like Tumblr is that I can add so much information when saving the link that will help me remember why I saved it and what I was thinking about. I leave notes for myself to document how I’m hoping to use the link and how I want to connect it to something else I’ve saved. It’s a little like commenting your code.

saving a link on Tumblr

The dialog that opens when you Share on Tumblr has all sorts of helpful options that help organize ideas and save quotes or other information about the idea.

Tumblr pages are searchable. The one feature I’d like to see at Tumblr is the addition of a tab in the Share on Tumblr dialog window for tags. I put a semblance of tags in the description because I know what I’ll want to search for later. But tags would be an improvement.

One other tool I’m beginning to explore is StumbleUpon. So far, I’m using it to save pages I think are really cool for one reason or another and I’d like to spread the link around for other people to enjoy, too. I’m not using it to collect information I might want to refer to later.

I’d like to hear about the idea saving tools you think are helpful, and why they are especially useful to you. For example, is anyone finding StumbleUpon useful for  idea collecting, or are you using it to spread the word about good sites the way I am?

Useful Links: History of HTML, end of life for print?, social media and recorded history, slowblogging, and Useful Links in general

HTML History on the ESW Wiki at the site may be useful to teachers. I can’t find any explanation of what ESW means, but the wiki purpose is

for connecting the people who make the specs with the people who build on them. Pages here have no formal status but may have WikiConsensus. Questions & answers here may be misleading, or just plain wrong. Or, they may be useful.

There’s an RSS feed.

PC Magazine Goes Web Only. It started  in 1982. The last print issue will be Jan. 09. This is on the heels of similar announcements from US News and World Report and Christian Science Monitor. The times, they are a changin’.

5 Ways Social Media Will Change Recorded History by Ben Parr at Mashable talks about how the plethora of available information created by social media will change recorded history. One of his conclusions:

It’s often said that history is recorded by the victors. Now history is recorded by computers and anybody can pick up that data and come to their own conclusion. The study of history will dramatically change as more and more people use and rely upon social media for daily interaction. No diary, history book, or recording can compare to the data available through social media. My belief is that social media may prove to be as pivotal as the printing press in the study of history.

Haste, Scorned. Blogging at a Snail’s Pace about a movement toward slowblogging. Slowbloggers post less and think more deeply. One comment really struck me as significant:

Technology is partly to blame. Two years ago, if a writer wanted to share a link or a video with friends or tell them about an upcoming event, he or she would post the information on a blog. Now it’s much faster to type 140 characters in a Twitter update (also known as a tweet), share pictures on Flickr, or use the news feed on Facebook. By comparison, a traditional blogging program like WordPress can feel downright glacial.

In evaluating my own blogging habits in light of the paragraph just quoted, I thought about my Useful Links posts. These really are a kind of mental bookmarking process for me, a way to keep what I want to remember here in one place. But I’m using Tumblr to store links I know I’ll want to return to for one reason or another. I’m using StumbleUpon to share links to pages that I think are excellent and worthy of notice by others. I’m using Twitter to share links and stay in contact with people. Should these useful links posts be retired from service? Are they at the end of life just like the print magazines mentioned earlier?

Are these posts of useful links only useful to me, or do you find them helpful as well?

Findability: Is your blog as findable as possible?

Everyone has heard of search engine optimization, right? But have you heard of findability? I hadn’t, until recently.

The term “findability” seems to originate with Peter Morville, who published a book called Ambient Findability in 2002. Blogger DonnaM wrote about it in 2004 in Usability testing for findability. Jakob Neilsen wrote about it in 2006 in Use Old Words When Writing for Findability. In 2008, I happened to read Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter and I got very excited about how simple changes to my blog might make it more successful.

In fact, when I wrote Review: Building Findable Websites on my blog, I said,

Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter (New Riders, 2008) is one of those rare books that is so full of good ideas, it makes me enthusiastic about what I can do when I put the book down and go work on my blog or website.

As Walter defines it, findability includes accessibility, usability, information architecture, development, marketing, copywriting, design, and, oh yeah, search engine optimization. Walter continues to try to popularize the concepts, and recently published Findability, Orphan of the Web Design Industry at A List Apart. He starts right off with the orphan metaphor and works it all the way through:

Once upon a time in a web design agency, there lived a sad little boy named Findability. He was a very good boy with a big heart for helping people…

* find the websites they seek,
* find content within websites, and
* rediscover valuable content they’d found.

He used his arsenal of talent for planning, writing, coding, and analysis to create websites that could connect with a target audience.

A bit later in the article he sums up findability as,

The fundamental goal of findability is to persistently connect your audience with the stuff you write, design, and build. When you create relevant and valuable content, present it in a machine readable format, and provide tools that facilitate content exchange and portability, you’ll help ensure that the folks you’re trying to reach get your message.

What are some of specific techniques for findability discussed in the book? The book talks about markup strategies, which include web standards, accessbility, and microformats.

In terms of web standards, that means to separate stucture (the (X)HTML) from presentation (the CSS) from behavior (the JavaScript) to create sites that are accessible both humans and machines. Use modern code that follows the rules and check how you’re doing with a validator. Use alt attributes with images, encode characters, use tags that communicate semantically by making page hierarchy clear. There are a number of other markup tips such as which tags are essential and whether or not to use meta tags. Regarding images, get rid of image maps, and if you replace headings with snappy looking images make sure you do it accessibly. Microformats include hCalendar, hCard, hReview, hResume and others. These are nothing more than standardized ways to present certain information with HTML and CSS that the search engines (and a lot of other apps) recognize. I’ve been using hReview on Web Teacher for some time now. I can verify that reviews I write this way make the search engines very happy.

In terms of server-side strategies, the book talks about building file structure, 404 pages, URLS, and server optimization for speed. It discusses naming everything from the domain name to files, folders, and URLs. There’s advice for moving pages or whole domains and how to use redirects and custom file-not-found pages to keep them findable in the new location.

Creating content that drives traffic is another important aspect of findability. Walter says quality content is on topic, fills a niche, conveys passionate interest, is trustworthy, appealing, original and appropriate. There are also many types of content beyond the blog post. You could consider other types of publications such as white papers or articles, links, reviews, recommendations, syndication, and user generated content in comments and forums as part of your content. You can also add RSS feeds from other sources such as, Flickr, job sites, events and other worthy feeds to your content.

Of course, most of us here are concerned with blog findability. The strategies include regular posting, linking and trackbacks, original templates, post titles, archives, topics, and special sections on the blog for things like popular posts and recent posts.

Be sure your site has a search feature. If you use Ajax, Flash, audio and video be sure you are not locking out some of your potential readers. If you have a normal web site and not a blog, try to build a mailing list so that you can contact readers and lure them back to the site regularly.

Merely summarizing the high points here created quite an imposing list of things to do. Fortunately, Walter thought through which actions are the most important and beneficial for you. The final chapter in the book tells you how to prioritize the changes you may need to make and helps you tackle them starting with the most useful first.

I happen to know Aarron Walter. We work together on a curriculum project for the Web Standards Project. I contacted him about this article and asked him to identify the two most important things a blogger could do to improve findability. Here’s his response:

1. Customize your permalink structure to include keywords in your URLs. Many blog platforms make it easy to define the structure of each blog post URL. Ideally you want each URL to contain the same keywords as those in your post title.

2. Define your update services. When you publish on your blog, it automatically notifies (called a ping) many tracking services instantly so your content gets indexed by search engines and various other services. Be sure to define which update services your blog should notify. WordPress keeps a comprehensive list of the top updates services at

Helpful resources for making your blog more findable:
Aarron Walter’s site: free download of Findability Strategy Checklist
Findability Checklist
– A Blog Not Limited: Getting Semantic With Microformats, Part 1 the first of a series on microformats by Emily Lewis
– SEO Blog: 10 Coding Guidelines for Perfect Findability and Web Standards
– SEO Blog: The 10 Worst Findability Crimes Committed by Web Designers & Developers
– BlogHer: Melanie Nelson’s Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tactics

Cross posted at BlogHer.

Related post: Review: Building Findable Websites

Blog Action Day: What is a Social Business?

I want to talk about the concept of social business in this post for Blog Action Day 2008 on the topic of poverty.

I first learned about this in Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Prize winning creator of Grameen Bank and the concept of social business. I urge you to read this book for a complete understand of what can be accomplished with social businesses.

A social business does not have profit as its objective. It has a social objective. Social business employs workers and creates goods or service. A social business is not run to create ever increasing profits for the stakeholders. A social business has the goal of creating social benefit for those whose life it touches.

Yes, a social business is a real business and must make money. The money does not go to the investors (except to repay their original investment). The money is used to sustain the business and to achieve the social objectives.

Maybe you’ve heard of the social business run by and for the “telephone ladies” in Bangladesh (where Yunus started, although his work covers the world now). But even in relatively rich countries like the U.S.A., I can envision quite a few social businesses that would help alleviate some of our problems. Two of the social businesses Yunus mentions in his book are small health clinics and small yogurt manufacturing and distribution businesses.

How about a social business that rents inexpensive solar power units to people who can’t afford solar panels, sends someone to install and maintain it, employs people, and lets people disconnect from the grid, save money, and improve the environment?

Our highway infrastructure, especially bridges, needs improvement and updating. How about a toll bridge building social business (or a bunch of such businesses)? It would employ people, improve bridge safety, and save tax money.

How about bikes? All kinds of bikes for rent everywhere, but especially in poor neighborhoods where getting to work is a problem. You could rent them with a credit card for maybe 25 cents a ride. People too poor to have a credit card could purchase prepaid cards that would let them ride for a lesser amount—maybe 10 or 20 cents a ride. I’m talking about all kinds of bikes: electric bikes, bikes with baskets on the handlebars for a purse or a lunch box, bikes with seats in the back for kids, three-wheelers with a big basket for something like a couple of grocery bags and a gallon of milk in the back. Bikes everywhere, just everywhere, so many bikes that NOT riding one would be silly. This would help people get through their day, cut down on air pollution, employ a lot of people who would take care of the bikes or sell prepaid cards, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Social business is an idea that every person needs to know more about. You can start by reading the book I mentioned in the beginning, then maybe start a social business and do something concrete to help end poverty.

In a world where the quest for quarterly profit has run a lot of the world’s economy into the cauldrons of hell, I think it’s time to add a new idea to the mix. That idea is social business. Social business is proven to work in the alleviation of poverty.

What can you do in particular? One thing is to help the students in this high poverty American school by donating a few dollars to Journalism Students Need a Computer. Visit Blog Action Day 08 for more ideas and easy ways to participate by setting up a microfinance loan through Kiva or a donation through

You can read many other Blog Action Day posts by looking at the main site. An example of another such post you may be interested in is 30 Simple Ways to Battle Poverty with Technology. Another way to track the action in the blogosphere on this topic is with Google Blogsearch. Follow BlogActionDay on Twitter.

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