Employees and Web 2.0

May 21, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Reading | 2 Comments

The timing on this couldn’t have been better.  I’ve been engaged in a conversation with my boss about the very flat nature of our news center website and the need to give it more of a social media look for reporters and others.  After all, reporters in print media are moving to blogs on a pretty regular basis.

More importantly, I noted – and my boss agreed – that the employee comm group was adding some zip to their communications – not full-on social media – but at least, from a design point of view, getting it more user-friendly.

I think both articles make a couple of points that have been running around in my mind – and likely obvious to all of us in 586 – that companies need to consider.

First, millenial employees are coming into the workplace expecting to interact in the same ways they do on their own time – through social media.   Last Thursday I was on a call for a briefing by a company called Fast Pitch.   Essentially, it was bringing a powerful set of social media tools to small businesses and individuals who wanted to be more part of a referral network, rather than just using Plaxo or LinkedIn for addressbook contacts or resume sharing.

The important part of the network and the presentation I participated in is that it provides full integration of social media for the members.  Of course, there is a cost to this, but that isn’t what caught my attention.   I began to think both for internal and external communication purposes that Verizon needs to begin to give its employees and customers some ability to interact with a number of different Web 2.0 options.

As was pointed out in Naked Conversations, Scoble’s development of Channel 9 at Microsoft (vlogging) began to humanize the company at a time it needed it.  It showed employees in their daily work, captured their opinions and discussions about the work for the outside world to see.

IBM, likewise, moved early on to encourage blogging among its employees and now has taken the next step – formalizing it in corporate communications.  The end game for this strategy at IBM from a certain point of view may be to encourage new ideas – innovation; it also may improve employees job satisfaction.

Friday, I was at a PRSA conference in San Francisco and heard from a number of speakers, including the director of corporate communications from Hewlett-Packard who focused primarily on the fallout that he was dealing with daily during the HP board leak scandal.  However, he also mentioned that the employees – HP encourages blogging, too – weren’t focused on what the outside world was concerned about but rather on working.   Their high level of trust and faith in the company may have been engendered by its history, as well as its employee-friendly communications.

In fact, their principal concern during this period of time, was what kind of discount they could get on the new line of notebook PCs coming out.  Of course, there was an integrated employee communication update that followed what was occurring in the outside news media.

The point here is simply that – as noted in the one article – blogging may be good for your employees, as might other social media, but you have to think about this in the context of your own company. 

Sure, things can go wrong with new media, just like they do with rumours started in the elevator or at the water cooler.  Most employee communications programs in companies where management communication to the troops is perceived to be untrustworthy in the past might have dealt with so-called ‘pirate’ publications, i.e., ones not sanctioned by official employee communication channels before the advent of e-mail and the blogosphere.


1.   Will blogs and wikis replace traditional print, electronic and related media as the principal vehicle for employee communications in 5 years?

2.  Does the flattening of an organization via technology impose a greater responsibility on each employee to participate and take ownership of projects and ‘official’ communication about them?

3.  Does the adoption of social media tools change the business organization model itself?


Website Credibility – How Does Form Impact Substance?

May 14, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Reading | 3 Comments

I think both readings hit home on important elements in the credibility of a website.  Some of it is fundamental – the reputation of the site’s authoring organization or individual, the ability to navigate the site, the perceived risk associated with the site’s functionality, etc..

However, this review raises another question here that goes to credibility and may not have been researched directly – the search engine optimization for a site.  If a site’s URL comes back to me in the top 10, or maybe 15, links after doing a search , I begin to think that the site has credibility.

This is simply because the many who traverse the virtual world have found it of value. Also, within the same search, if an ‘anti-site’ is returned in an equivalent fashion,  this tells me that all may not be right about the intial site. Of course, it still requires a critical eye to evaluate any search list return.

I think we also need to question how style tops substance – in other words, is the layout, fluidity, graphic design and attractiveness something that goes to credibility or simply what we might describe as ‘slickness’?   I am reminded of how I was approached by followers of the Rev. Sun Yung Moon, so-called Moonies when I was in my 20s – the people appeared to be very nice and appealed to my idealistic sensibilities or, more recently, a few years ago at a school board conference where there was a booth with books on something called Intelligent Design.  The people were nice, approachable and had a well-written, graphically aesthetic book they would give me in exchange for a lot of background information from me.  Perusing the well-written book, one would think these were a laidback group of intellects suggesting something totally reasonable.

So, I raise a similar question here – is a tightly laid out, esthetically pleasing site with .edu as the URL extension an indication that what I see on the site is credible?  Maybe; maybe not.

When Hanson Hosein was in class and I asked the question about the the GE-NBC-BOEING relationship, he described how cynics might see it.  I took the view that given that Boeing is only one of two commercial airline makers of any consequence in the world, an American business with some cache and history grounded in the country’s economy, why wouldn’t Matt Lauer want to come here?  I suppose if he’d gone to Bentonville, Arkansas, the home of Wal-Mart, the cyncism would’ve run similarly deep, but for other reasons.

My point here is simply that when an organization has a history, a substance, a reputation of sorts, how important does form become?  Realistically, if website design and planning are absent, then it really doesn’t matter how credible you are in the real world.  An entity’s Internet site becomes a version of the Firesign Theater’s 40-year-0ld album,  “I Think We’re All Bozos on this Bus!”  By all means, listen to the mp3 file for a taste of inanity.

 Questions for consideration:

1.   What role does search engine optimization play – if any – in creating website credibility?

2.  Are trust antecedents the primary measuring stick for risk?

3. Can ease of use make up for other deficiencies in a website, including its underlying credibility?

Appercline’s Applet

May 1, 2007 at 11:00 am | Posted in Reading | 2 Comments


Yes, I do make a play on words here – that an Applet is similar to Appercline’s recount of th universal elements of storytelling.   We might view Appercline’s succinct treatment of the elements as something we can inject in any story we tell so that the audience can appreciate the visual creation we make in our minds.

I think it’s fair to say that she puts this information out directly in an easily assimilable fashion.  For me, it is a reminder of a book I read oh so long ago – more directed at children and the relationship between the struggles of life and fairy tales by noted child psychiatrist Bruno Bettelheim – “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.”

The point of the book here and, arguably, that of the oral tradition is pedagogical – to teach.  I believe that Appercline’s straightforward description of the elements of storytelling, while universal, lead me back to thinking if one’s self expression isn’t – in some way – instructive to the audience. 

If I describe the blossoms of an apple tree unfolding against the weight of a spring rain, am I merely creating pleasure for the reader, or am I being instructive?  I think it depends on the way the story evolves – if I allude to the competing forces of nature with the blossom eventually pollinated by a bee to bring forth the late summer fruit that satiates my parched lips with a pressed nectar drizzling down my throat have I, in the end, ‘taught’ the reader something?  Bettleheim would say yes.

In any event, the elements described by Appercline are a great reference for all of us as we develop our stories.

Visual Design Methods for Interactive Apps

April 21, 2007 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Reading | 2 Comments

Vanderdonckt’s reading is filled with numerous considerations for website development – all ultimately geared to usability.  The guidelines are simply there for the reader to absorb and consider when displaying information on the Web.

Given that he holds degrees in mathematics and computer science I am reminded of TC 502 (now supplanted by TC 511) – a graduate course I took more than two years ago here.  In that course, the focus was how the user interacts with both text and visual displays.  There the focus was on cognitive psychology and how the mind responds to structure through text and visuals. 

While there may be traditional and non-traditional audiences as noted by Vanderdonckt, there is enough research on the topic of visual design to suggest that unity, from the designer’s perspective, implies consistency and offers the predictability a user expects.  Our exercise last week reviewing different websites brought that home.

As we looked at Sideways, Grey’s Anatomy and IMDB, we all reached varying conclusions, depending on our familiarity with the site or the subject matter.  There was dead space, clutter and distraction IMO on different sites and, perhaps, a difference in audience – i.e., traditional v. non-traditional in Vanderdonckt’s terms, but when consistency and predictability are lacking for a user, the purpose of the site can be lost.  I guess we’re back to journalistic style – if you can’t capture the attention of the reader with the headline, maybe photo and cutline, and the first few sentences, the reader moves on.

Selecting the right visual objects, the layout and the purpose of the site are the ultimate goal of a web designer – to entice those who either seek out or happen upon a site to spend more time and learn about the content.


1. If dissociation is a visual technique for web design, doesn’t it ultimately rely on the user’s ability to associate the various visual elements to create comprehension, and therefore, unity of design is the overriding consideration?

2. Should visual patterns within a site reflect the logic of the site since users attach meaning to the visual patterns they detect?

3.  What can we say about the layout design for the best cheeseburgers?  Yes, Dick’s is on the list. . .

Content Management

April 17, 2007 at 10:28 am | Posted in Reading | 1 Comment

I’m late with this due to travel. . .  Met an interesting guy as part of a technology tour at Galileo High School in San Francisco yesterday.  More on that in another post.

Like Barrie, I hope that the article by Megan Santosus in CIO was the correct one.  It brought home the absolute value of an automated content management system in spades.  Imagine that BCBSRI is updating 3,000 articles monthly from the renowned Mayo Clinic alone!

The salient point of the article is that the various business units take more responsibility for their content and the process of publishing.  Through the use of ECM, they are able to turn around new or revised content more quickly; at the sametime the IT staff fills more of a role as guide-on-the-side or helping to troubleshoot any hardware or software interface issues.

More and more, business is putting the tools of communication management in the hands of those closest to the topic, thus eliminating more of the “information passing” role that is found in traditionally hierarchical organizations.

Looking at “Manage, Don’t Mangle. . .,”  I drilled down on the HBO DAM process and found that they use Interwoven software just like BCBSRI does for management, though in a different fashion – one for content generators and one for consumers of content; however, to the multi-point suggestions made by Coursey, by-and-large they’re good guidance.  The notion that more and more information is free, of course, hits the nail on the head.

However, I’m not certain that I agree paid content is more difficult to search. . .  I currently have an annual online subscription to Consumer Reports and I find it very easy to search and locate articles/content.  On the other hand, the Verizon corporate intranet leaves something to be desired in that arena, but that’s a different product than a paid internet-based content system.

I also like the point about ‘secret shoppers’ – those who work in your company and go to your website and  pretend to be users or hiring or asking others who do this to visit your site and give feedback.  It is so easy to overlook the limitations of your site just like in writing – you rewrite something so many times that you are blind to whether it ultimately says what you wanted it to say in the first place.  A fresh pair of eyes always helps you refine your message! 

Reading Demands Rereading

April 9, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Posted in Reading | 1 Comment

 NOTE:  Luckily I read this yesterday and put a few notes in here for the blog.  Today the server is wreaking havoc with all attempts to get into e-reserve.  Hope this makes some sense to you. . .

 This read brought some Greek into my vocabulary – understanding the patterns of hypertext, like some literature, isn’t intuitive.  When we wander off into various permutations of hypertext and how it may function, a brave new world is opened.  I think Bernstein may be arguing that the various patterns for hypertext links he describes are beyond the linear text of literature; however, the various forms that literature or other art forms – e.g., movies like Memento  – take aren’t that far afield from the capabilities of hypertext.

The idea of robotic hypertext is intriguing – the notion that the logic of the hypertext trumps the logic of the reader.  A reminder to us that in any website design it is the ‘logic’ of the user that trumps that of hypertext – otherwise the information doesn’t serve its intended purpose.

I think there’s some truth and value to considering Neighborhoods as laid out by Bernstein.  His example of the Musee d’Orsay helps bring home how a site’s visual coherence and reliance on a certain minimal visual structure, can continue to keep the user oriented in the site despite any possible disparate elements on subsites/pages.  It brings me back to the basic statement that form follows function(ality) but with Bernstein, it’s not clear to me that this is the underlying insight or approach he’s sharing.

 Like Luke, I’m looking forward to discussion in class on this.  It’s a little too dense for me to get in a single reading.  Next time I’ll download it.

The Readabout

April 2, 2007 at 3:54 am | Posted in Reading | 2 Comments

Digital Contemplation

Like Sister Mary Surfer, there are a broad range of us who are attracted to the Internet and, if you believe what some have to say like Ian Jukes, then our brains are wired somewhat differently. . . at least generationally.

Most of our readings were on point about how to use readability to attract and retain ‘users’ on a site.  I particlarly think that using a short story format as evinced by Edgar Alan Poe in the Cask of Amontillado  – oh yes, and a YouTube version – as a counterpoint to the inverted pyramid is worth considering. . . However, to keep the user in play, readability or, in the case of younger users, interactive capability may be an overriding consideration for web designers and blogsters.

There is neuroscience research that establishes a few key points, according to Jukes:

  • Our parents (for some reading this that would be grandparents), 90% of how and what they learned was audio or reading and, therefore, READABILITY is of huge significance to that generation.
  • Research from 3M demonstrates that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does words because our brains are better suited to processing visual information than anything else! (the reason for this is that 30% of the brain’s cortex is used for processing visual info v. 8% for touch and 3% for hearing).
  • Those of us, like the good sister and myself, who are digital immigrants do not interpret information in the same way that digital natives (i.e., the young who have grown up with digital media) do.

Per Jukes:

Their eyes skim the bottom and edges before they focus on the center.  And while we find it distracting to read text of different colors, specific colors attract and repel digital natives when they’re reading – blood red draws attention first, then neon green and burnt orange are skimmed – and black is ignored completely.

�And this brings us back to the readings and Klare’s point that the web is a user-driven medium “with competing information one finger click away.”   Thus, the goals of the website must be clear to the user and, therefore, the web designer. Breaking the information up into small manageable tasks seems logical.

I recall blogging on this last quarter and mentioning what USA Today was in its beginning  and how it was perceived by traditional publishers, journalists and some readers – too much like TV:  Bite-size stories with no ‘depth’ (must have been a comparison to a New York Times feature, I guess).  But this was the beginning of the MTV generation and the migration from black and white newspapers to color which, at the time, was still only reflected on TV screens and in magazines.

Now, as we look out on the world of storytelling in the digital age, websites must be concise, chunked bits of information and, ultimately, attuned to our brain/eye scans that will take an image, interpret it and file it in an almost literal nanosecond.  The “F” factor if you will. . .

I suppose Plato was right that writing would be the end of the oral tradition and memory.   Now, if we update this, visual processing (initially a survival skill for human evolution) will be the death of text-based information.   Perhaps we’re moving toward a telepathic form of communication – mayhaps the intuition we hear so much about that ‘tells’ us what to do before we understand it.   In the meantime, these readings make a dent in how to highlight and organize text to make the website user more satisfied – that is, effectively getting what is needed out of each view/visit.

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