Sep
27
2009
1

ThinkVisibility 2 – my review

guy-chainsawA few weekends ago I attended the second ThinkVisibility Conference, organised by Dom at Build Events and sponsored by Al Carlton at Conference Calendar. I spoke at the first conference in March 2009, so it was nice to attend without the pressure of being on stage soon. I’m not a huge conference follower, but ThinkVisibility is a unique format that ticks enough boxes for me to attend. It’s hosted on a weekend, so it’s pretty much frequented by those that have a deep interest in the area – no corporate day trippers. Once again, Dom managed to pull together a collection of speakers that, once into the afternoon streams, made it difficult to choose from – all good speakers, with different things to say. The main differentiator that ThinkVisibility has over other conferences is the attitude of attendees and their desire to share more than they normally would. Some speakers embraced this unwritten concept more than others.

venueThere were some big changes when comparing this ThinkVisibility to the first one. The new venue was a huge improvement; it reflected the high quality of talks been given and the layout encouraged some good informal networking. The PA system worked flawlessly and having three theatres in the afternoon was a stroke of genius.

Friday afternoon
domI attended the complimentary talk on Friday given by Tim Nash on behavioural targeting. Once attendees had turned up, Tim delivered a buoyant introduction to user segmentation based on their behaviour. It was interesting to watch how the room got to grips with the concept and then Tim showed us some examples of how people are using this on sites through a feature of CSS. In a nutshell, there’s some code that uses the colour of visited links to understand if a user has visited a site before. From this, you can infer many things, like if a visitor has a PayPal account or guess their gender. I scored a 53% chance of being male based on my history – but I’m fairly careful with the browser history on a work pc. There was a quick discussion about whether the colour of buttons has an impact on the effectiveness of a site. Some people had tested different colours and felt that some colours performed better than others. I feel it’s a lot more complex than single colours outperforming others, with contrast and context being key considerations. There’s a growing amount of info available on persuasion architecture, and I’m lucky enough to be working at the cutting edge with our behavioural research at SimpleUsability. It was a good start to the conference.

Friday night
Al CarltonI had the pleasure of sitting with Julian Shambles from the telegraph and Al Carlton of Conference Calendar. Julian kept us entertained with some informal banter about user generated content on the telegraph website. We adjourned upstairs to the Skylounge at City Inn for a few beers where I chatted with a few new and familiar faces. Highlight of the evening was chatting about the gold recycling industry.

Saturday
yoastI’d never heard of Joost de Valk – so I didn’t know what to expect. His talk was fab. He rattled through his views and understandings on some pretty heavy subjects like page caching and content delivery networks. His style was great. It was like listening to somebody from Nasa just chatting generally about the issues we all face when building rockets and flying to the moon, in a way that made you realise we are all building rockets. Really useful stuff delivered in a very humble manner. Possibly the highlight of my day.

Next up was Julian from the Telegraph, who gave a more formal overview of how the telegraph is growing, playing catch up to the more established online players. Julian offered us all an open invitation to pop in next time we’re down in London, which is pretty cool.

Judith Lewis then gave a talk on Maximising Universal Search. Another speaker I had no real former knowledge of, apart from her pre-conference tweets about not wanting to share slides. I was expecting some real gems of knowledge to be shared, as previous speakers like Dave Naylor had done. This was not the case and Judith delivered a very good SEO training presentation which was well received by the floor – but was not really why I attend ThinkVisibility. Judith also presented a few slides with the infamous (and flawed) eye tracking F-pattern on it. I hate the f-pattern and smiled as Fiona was next on, ‘de-bunking the f-pattern’.

Over lunch there was a candid ‘ask the panel’ session which was really entertaining.

fionaLunch was followed by my colleague, Fiona talking about the behavioural research we carry out at SimpleUsability. This was my biggest dilemma of the day – I also wanted to watch Elaine and Dave from All Kids in another theatre, but Fiona won my eyes and ears. As ever, Fiona confidently presented to a busy room of people, sharing her enthusiasm for eye tracking. Fiona shared some footage from the research we carry out, giving the audience access to some major insights about how the F-pattern doesn’t really exist and the truth about how people really engage with websites.

I then went to watch Chris Clarkson lead us through his wild journey as a successful affiliate. Chris’s talk, in my eyes, was pretty much what ThinkVisbility is about for me. He shared a lot of experiences, some of them quite sobering, in a casually confident manner. I learnt some really cool stuff.

The penultimate talk was from Karyn Fleeting on corporate blogging. Her talk was good and my second Prezi presentation of the day. She was a little uncomfortable with the video camera recording but kept the pace up and shared many insights. It was refreshing to hear somebody in Karyn’s space actually understanding the medium of blog.

arturLast talk of the day was from Artur Ortega about how accessibility has driven innovation in everyday items we take for granted. Artur’s a great presenter and the topic was interesting. I was hoping that Artur was going to demonstrate some of the tech he uses, as at previous events, some of the audience had queried the business case for accessible code and I’ve always found that watching somebody use assistive technology makes it more real to the doubters.

benny-to-yorkAt the end of the conference, we lead a human train back across Leeds to the City Inn. After completing an hour of work with Fiona in the reception, we had a few drinks with conference attendees. Whilst I could have drunk all night, I had to leave early. Sunday morning saw me heading down south to pick up a new husky puppy to add to our gang.

A big thank you to Dom and the team and the sponsors for another ThinkVisbility. Credit goes to sk8geek for some great photos. 

I just wish the Eye Tracking conferences we attend were that insightful.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic | Tags: , , , ,
Jan
01
2009
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A fabulous start to 2009

I woke this morning to a text message from a dear friend.

Have a fantastic 2009 darling and go nowhere other than where your dreams take you. You are special.

Indeed.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Dec
24
2008
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Iphone email footer

All emails sent from my iPhone get a signature attached that says ‘sent from my 3g iPhone’. This is just a slightly modified default signature which I’ve never changed. I was asked about this recently and thought I’d share it here.

The signature serves a few purposes. Recipients need to know the email came from the iPhone because:
Emails are shorter and more focused due to the lack of proper keyboard.
Emails will have typos in them for the same reason
Emails may also have strange words in them due to the auto spell checking.

It’s my way of saying ‘here’s my quick response, reader be aware’

Written by Guy in: Cosmic | Tags:
Dec
16
2008
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Accountable Marketing

Taken from Sally McKenzie – as I added her to my twitter feed.

….companies and clients, large and small who have made the successful transition to marketing accountability, they have some important things in common:

They view marketing as a strategic function vs. a discreet set of tasks
They identify success metrics up front before they “test” anything. After all, what are you testing if you don’t know what you’re measuring?

They align the organization around common metrics and communicate progress regularly. Marketing accountability requires that you work across the entire organization: finance, sales, operations, customer service, IT, etc. in order to be successful. Example: you can buy keywords and put up web pages all day long, but if the person answering the phone or processing orders isn’t aware or on board, your ROI will plummet.

They take the long view, starting at a level realistic for their company’s size and resources and build from there. They watch metrics to get early benchmarks and then seek ongoing improvements vs. overnight fireworks. They stick with it vs. hopping across trial and error tactics. They understand that integration of customer data and automation of measurement processes will be a lengthy but worthwhile.

They focus on progress, not perfection. Getting all of the numbers and data sources to line up, getting every program to execute perfectly, it just doesn’t happen But that’s not a reason to scrap your quest to accountable marketing. In fact, it’s the reason to keep going, keep pushing, keep moving forward. Evolution, like momentum is a hard thing to break once it’s started.

full article

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,marketing |
Nov
09
2008
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Projected interface

mini projectors are becoming more popular and this demo maybe closer to mainstream than you’d think. with a new generation gps device – you could mark up the world and subscribe to your prefered publisher of world notes/graffiti.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic | Tags:
Nov
08
2008
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Excluding females?

December sees the second girl geek dinner in Leeds. As someone schooled in a range of inner-city schools, some of them quite hard, I’m not a fan of exclusion. In it’s extreme, it can be fatal.

Creating an event that’s in a universal domain, and then telling people they’re not eligible to attend, because of their sex, is counter productive.

Do women in technology need special treatment?

Which then leads onto the flipside, what would a boy geek dinner look like?

To be honest I don’t care, gender shouldn’t exclude.

If you want to understand gender – go speak to Rikki.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic | Tags: , ,
Aug
22
2008
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Enterprising Island

Guy and panelists outside the Midnight BellPhotographic evidence of me helping out on the panel at Enterprise Island in Leeds.

It was a fun day, giving me the opportunity to advise local budding entrepreneurs and meet some new faces (to me) from the leeds business community. In some ways the format was similar to Dragon’s Den – but we were there to spark up a conversation to offer encouragement and advice.

A fabulous day, making a real difference to some very nice people, in a very nice pub. Shame I was driving and a real shame Michael was away – otherwise things may have gone on a little later.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Jan
08
2008
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Good bye Pandora

Letter from a founder says it all.

hi, it’s Tim, 

This is an email I hoped I would never have to send. 

As you probably know, in July of 2007 we had to block usage of Pandora outside the U.S. because of the lack of a viable license structure for Internet radio streaming in other countries. It was a terrible day. We did however hold out some hope that a solution might exist for the UK, so we left it unblocked as we worked diligently with the rights organizations to negotiate an economically workable license fee. After over a year of trying, this has proved impossible. Both the PPL (which represents the record labels) and the MCPS/PRS Alliance (which represents music publishers) have demanded per track performance minima rates which are far too high to allow ad supported radio to operate and so, hugely disappointing and depressing to us as it is, we have to block the last territory outside of the US. 

Based upon the IP address from which you recently visited Pandora, it appears that you are listening from the UK. If you are, in fact, listening from the US, please contact Pandora Support: pandora-support@pandora.com

It continues to astound me and the rest of the team here that the industry is not working more constructively to support the growth of services that introduce listeners to new music and that are totally supportive of paying fair royalties to the creators of music. I don’t often say such things, but the course being charted by the labels and publishers and their representative organizations is nothing short of disastrous for artists whom they purport to represent – and by that I mean both well known and indie artists. The only consequence of failing to support companies like Pandora that are attempting to build a sustainable radio business for the future will be the continued explosion of piracy, the continued constriction of opportunities for working musicians, and a worsening drought of new music for fans. As a former working musician myself, I find it very troubling. 

We have been told to sign these totally unworkable license rates or switch off, non-negotiable…so that is what we are doing. Streaming illegally is just not in our DNA, and we have to take the threats of legal action seriously. Lest you think this is solely an international problem, you should know that we are also fighting for our survival here in the US, in the face of a crushing increase in web radio royalty rates, which if left unchanged, would mean the end of Pandora. 

We know what an epicenter of musical creativity and fan support the UK has always been, which makes the prospect of not being able to launch there and having to block our first listeners all the more upsetting for us. 

We know there is a lot of support from listeners and artists in the UK for Pandora and remain hopeful that at some point we’ll get beyond this. We’re going to keep fighting for a fair and workable rate structure that will allow us to bring Pandora back to you. We’ll be sure to let you know if Pandora becomes available in the UK. There may well come a day when we need to make a direct appeal for your support to move for governmental intervention as we have in the US. In the meantime, we have no choice but to turn off service to the UK. 

Pandora will stop streaming to the UK as of January 15th, 2008. 

Again, on behalf of all of us at Pandora, I’m very, very sorry. 

tim_signature.jpg 

-Tim Westergren
(Pandora founder)
 

 

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Nov
27
2007
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Digital Shorts – NMA & Mr Jindal

Last Thursday we attended a fabulous presentation organised by New Media Age in Leeds. Ian Jindal of Internet Retailing and various other interesting ventures inspired an audience of retailers and agency people (approx 60:40 split) with a whirlwind tour of the interesting stuff that’s shaping up online retail. Ian’s style was refreshing – no hard sell trying to convince people, just stating that this is what people are doing now, evolve or die. Ian’s in the enviable position of having been involved with pulling together the new House of Fraser website, which he took great pride in demonstrating. Ian introduced us to Chris, who heads up ecommerce at Otto – a local company we’d really like to work with.
It was great to listen to somebody working so hard at raising the digital bar, when so many are happy to just get somewhere close. I understand from our new recruit, Helen, that we will be talking to Ian again in the not to distant future.
Yeah

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Oct
28
2007
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Crocus finally join the 20th Century

At long last, Crocus, the online uk garden retailer with links to a famous BBC presenter, has finally revamped their website to make it half respectable. Still has a few usability issues – but a huge step forward on the merchandising front.

Hey – it’s the first time I’ve looked at this established retailer and been tempted to engage.

If it’s an internal team that’s developed it – well done, if it’s an external agency – I’m apalled.

Guy

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Sep
19
2007
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Bloggers misleading readers with heatmaps / eye tracking

Whilst mouse tracking and eye tracking can produce heatmaps; the data they produce are very different. There is no significant relationship between the mouse movement and eye movement. We regulary demonstrate this with eye tracking session playback. Blame the wheel mouse and users’ total confidence in web.

Here’s another blogger misleading readers into thinking that click tales and crazy egg are a poorman’s alternative to eye tracking.

Watch some of the videos here and note where the eyes are and where the mouse is:
http://www.youtube.com/user/SimpleUsability

I blogged a little more about it here:
http://www.contentfairy.com/?p=89

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Aug
29
2007
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Last.fm usability – do we make them an offer?

I didn’t realise it – but Last.FM are based in the UK. yeah.

I love the concept – but get really stressed with the way it works. There seems to be so much good stuff inside – but how do I use it? I wanted to listen to a user’s radio station in my desktop player and couldn’t work out how to do it. I payed for 3 months of service to see if that improved matters. One of the fab bits about Last.FM is the wikpediaesque library of info about the artists accessed on the site, through the player. I’ve learned alot about my favourite bands recently and discovered some new stuff. Which is what it’s all about.

The main rival to Last.FM is Pandora (apparently only for users in USA, cough, cough) and it’s streets ahead when it comes down to the user experience. Pandora is simple, robust and leaves me with a smile everytime I use it.

Maybe the guys and girls at Last.FM are too close to their baby to understand how joe public use it. Maybe they are all OSX users that haven’t noticed there’s no pause button on the XP player? or tried to listed to a user’s station?

Tom loves Last.FM and has done some clever stuff with the API – but that doesn’t fix my very basic desires:

– build my very own radio station, just how I want it

– explore more music through other people

I’d love to work on the IA and Customer Journeys within Last.FM. I think it would be a pretty major gig/project – which then leads to the 64 thousand dollar question – can they afford the work they need to do? cos it’s ambitious, complex, sticky, etc. I think our heads would hurt doing the project. But hey, what a project?

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,last.fm,Noise |
Aug
24
2007
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The future of image resizing

Very clever research and demonstration of how images can be resized intelligently and also information (like ex girlfriends) can be automatically removed from photos. You have to watch this – it’s one of those things that challenges something that you thought could never change. Resizing an image is simple eh? just look at this research. 

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,Pixie Dust,Rocket Fuel |
Aug
14
2007
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Etsy Firebowl

firebowlI love fire. it’s hypnotic stuff. There’s nothing better than gazing into an open fire. hence my attaction towards these rather special firebowls on etsy.

http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6389630

I’ve not seen Etsy before but got me thinking about fellow geekup evanglist – Rob – and his Folksy project

http://www.folksy.co.uk/

coming soon :-)

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,eco |
Aug
01
2007
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Flooring Trends

Anybody that knows me, knows I’ve got a thing for using carpet tiles in the home (the nice ones from Heuga – not the old fashioned cheap stuff). We’ve had a multicolour design down in the games room for a few years now and they still look as fab as the day we laid the flooring ourselves.

funky lounge flooringThere are many benefits to using carpet tiles over traditional carpet on a roll (less waste, wine spillage is just washed off under the tap, etc) but the thing that I most love is the little known use of tiles to make flooring a lot more interesting. There’s some really cool stuff you can do in a room, once you open your mind to doing something different. The big eye opener for me is the idea of marking out the area around your sofa and coffee table with different colour/textured carpet tiles. This photo shows one idea – but go and explore – there’s lots you can do.

2 new flooring blogs from Heuga:

http://www.square-vision.blogspot.com/

http://www.unique-spaces.blogspot.com/

The photo above looks like it has the shag pile tiles that we have in our office – my favourite product they sell.

Written by Guy in: blogging,Cosmic,home flooring |
May
14
2007
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Visualising web analytics

A collection of visualisations of analytics. Different cusomters react to different visualisations of their data – so we’re always keen to learn new ways. Food for thought.

http://www.esnips.com/web/WebAnalyticsGraphs

Written by Guy in: analytics,Cosmic |
Apr
23
2007
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One more Xtracycle link

Quickly following on from my last post – I just found a presentation that pitches the product. Sit back, make sure your sound’s on and watch the slide show.

http://www.xtracycle.com/media/slide600/slideshow.html

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Apr
04
2007
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Grand Theft Auto: Lego City

If you play Grand Theft Auto on the PSP – you’ll love this spoof on you tube made with lego

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eiCLgisWSw

and along the same theme, the famous treadmill ‘ok go’ video in lego

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjCL0_0Il7w

if you search for lego, there’s plenty more stuff.

 

Written by Guy in: Cosmic |
Mar
27
2007
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Designs to inspire and guide

50 Beautiful CSS-Based Web-Designs in 2006 | Smashing Magazine

A simple collection of some pretty site desgins. Something to use when poking a client for some guidance on taste and direction. Also some great examples of shocking usability – but that’s all par for the course.

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,usability |
Mar
27
2007
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George – same space, our excuse – who else?

Monbiot.com » About George Monbiot

Whilst watching TV last night, George Monboit was introduced as an influential ‘green’ journalist at the Guardian. So this morning I fired off an email to introduce our eco-aware work hoping that George may know some more companies we could help for free.

One amazing aspect of the eco-aware work we’re doing is this huge excuse we’ve got to talk to cool people. Eco stuff is fundamentally important and that’s a core driver behind our work. But the spark that keeps the buzz around our work is that excuse to interrupt and introduce our work, our partners, our findings to lots of very interesting and influential people.

There isn’t a week that goes by without remembering the day that Seth Godin blogged about us. The big grin came from the fact that he totally got what our pledge to help fair trade and eco companies was about. The simple fact that it’s all about ‘because we can‘.

So who else should we talk to?

Written by Guy in: Cosmic,eco,fair trade,mentor,sustainability |