I’m at the WebVisions 2006 event right now, and the first day went very well. Here are my notes from the seminars I attended. At the end of each seminar, I have added a tidbit of how each seminar relates to my work at Aptima (since they’re paying for me to go).
Speaker: David MacFarland
This seminar lasted the first half-day of the event. I didn’t know David MacFarland before today, but he was a great presenter. The seminar was a mix of things I’ve recently learned, a refresh of things I’ve known for a while, and some new things I look forward to adding to my arsenal. One thing worth noting is the fact that the last hour of the seminar was devoted to bugs with Internet Explorer. Why this browser has so much of a market share, I’ll never understand.
Some other tidbits I took from this seminar is not to put your site’s title (or company name) within an
h1 tag. The reasoning is that search engines LOVE pages developed in standards, because the code is so semantic. Engines pay special attention to what is in that
h1 tag, so it makes sense to put the title of that page in there. For example, a blog page would have the post’s title as the
h1. A company’s web site would have something like “About Us” in the
I never paid a whole lot of attention to the “active” state of an HTML link… I usually just style it the same as the plain link. The only time I’ve ever seen the active state is that brief split second that I’m clicking on a link. Well, I neglected to remember that some people tab through elements of a page. And when the user tabs through these links, the currently selected (active) link is styled with the a:active selector. So, that’s something I’ll take into consideration in the future.
I also learned a bit more about floats (allows you to use CSS layout instead of table layout), learned that there’s actually an
address tag in HTML (who knew?), and that David calls a style that is the product of many different cascaded styles a “Frankenstyle.”
For Aptima: Well, this seminar means a lot for Aptima. I’m currently developing my first true web standards site (not the one I originally though I would be developing… unfortunately—another project jumped in the lead to become the first). HOwever, the original site should be right behind it, making another project I will need this stuff for. Plus, Aptima.com was developed with a good amount of CSS in there, but it’s still table-based and I’d like to fix this at some point.
The first slide of this combination presentation read “Embrace Intelligent customers.” Each member of the panel then took a turn with some opening remarks:
- We (the users) have attention scarcity.
- Marketers are no longer in control (We filter advertising with ad blockers, Tivo, etc.).
- Our best tools are not technological.
- head (thoughts) and heart (committment)
- Recommended book: Brand Hijacking
- Letting go does not mean laissez-faire.
- Avoid advertising by other means (no trickery).
- Flickr has great brand persona.
- Downtime message turns into a user activity.
- Got Hitachi’s CTO blogging
- Toughest part was getting him to open up
- No problems with him being public face of company
- Started industry wide wiki (for storage community)
- let go, link to competitors, take control of industry
- Companies want more customer participations.
- Power Law of Participation
- Different types of users will display different participation behaviors
- You can design for them all
- The simple act of reading a news story can contribute to the community by providing input to a “Most Popular” list
Then, some other topics were discussed by the whole panel:
- Who would make the best corporate blogger (for your company)?
- Are you afraid of what your customers might say?
- The future is building products together with customers
- Audience communicates with each other (not dialogue, triologue).
- Executives are message holders and message controllers
- Companies feel comment moderation is a giant suck of time
- Give users moderation tools
- onus not completely on the company
- There is a mistrust of amateurs among professionals.
- Does citizen journalism dilute the brand?
- For example, when users upload photos incorrectly to a news site.
I asked a question:
I work for an R&D company that is currently moving towards productizing our offerings. I am interested in getting the bright company executives blogging. How do you deal with the line between trying to spark discussion in the communty vs. looking like you’re just trying to pitch your products. For example, Ryan Carson takes flack every time he mentions DropSend.
- Gear your posting towards problem solving and best practices.
- Don’t even mention the product if you don’t have to.
- If you do talk about it, don’t link to it. If they want, they can find it.
- Some of the best blog posts can be:
- What do we need to improve…
- We’re not very good at…
- People will tell you if you’re talking about your projects too much.
- Keep it conversational – conversations cannot be one-sided or the other person will just be annoyed.
For Aptima: Obviously, even though I went into this seminar for one project, I came out with more of an attack plan to get Aptima’s brilliant minds blogging and sharing with the community. My current project work doesn’t have as much of a marketing aspect because it isn’t really selling a product, per se. But a lot of this still applies to retaining the user base.
Speaker: Andy Baio
Andy talked about when online communities meet offline.
- First “meetups” — HAM radio (amateur radio)
- Geeks with funny handles chatting over long distances without meeting.
- Referred to people they met as “Eyeball Contacts”
- 1947 first HAMfest in Atlantic City
- Meeting BBS people in person was defining moment of Andy’s life
- Why go offline? What does meeting face to face fill in?
- Face to face is high fidelity
- No subtleties and tones online (emoticons half assed approach)
- Andy’s Half-baked Unified Theory of Meeting Offline
- need a way to express who you are
- makes people want to meet in person
- tons of info asked on MySpace
- Group Identity
- Are you emotionally invested in the community
- If not, won’t be motivated to self-organize
- The Commons
- Public space for people to self-organize
- Digg has no form of commons
I actually had a “meetup” while I was here in Portland. I run a community web site of my own. It’s centered around a baseball simulation league, the Ted Williams Memorial League. We have 24 guys across the U.S. and Canada, and I’ve met about half of them face to face. Wednesday night, Mark (who lives 45 minutes north of Portland) came down and we hung out. It was the first time we had met face to face. While Mark was here, we recorded a podcast, so it was good fun. But I could certainly relate to what Andy was talking about today.
For Aptima: My Aptima tie-in for this one was in the event that we develop a community site that is wildly successful, who’s to say we won’t one day have a small (or large?) conference based on the community? Even before we get to that point, “meetups” among users could certainly be possible.
Speaker: Derek Powazek
I first heard of Derek through an article he did for Vitamin. I also recently heard an interview with his wife, Heather Champ of Flickr, on the Web 2.0 Show. They both just seem like very fun people, and Derek was a great presenter.
- In 2000, wrote the book Design for Community
- 4 pages devoted to “new thing called blogging
- Communities happen when people have the ability to use their voice in a public and immediate way.
- Web 1.0 – Community sites were company towns.
- Web 2.0 – Increasingly self-powered and independent.
- Connective Tissue – technologies power distributed community: blogs, commenting, tags, APIs, etc.
- Decentralizing: Commenting through your own blog makes for less flaming.
- Memes – proof of life
- Pros & Cons of decentralized community:
- PROs: Self-ownership, nobody can turn you off
- CONSs: Nobody is in charge, hard to converge, difficult tools
- Modern Company Towns:
- Flickr, You Tube, MySpace (Frindster/LiveJournal/VOX), TypePad, Last.FM
- Now, we wear different hats.
- Current: blog posts, everyone can read.
- Future: Able to talk to specific groups
- Treat your community well – if you don’t they’ll leave.
- Go to where your community is – you cannot create community
- Best you can do is create tools that people like to use, then they’ll hang out and end up making a community.
- Decentralized community better mirrors “real” community (for better or worse)
- Blogs have forced Company Towns to interact with the rest of the world.
For Aptima: This relates more to project work than it does to Aptima.com in the respect that I see a particular project as one of these mashup kind of sites that combines all sorts of different content types to educate the user base. They will have tools for collaboration and communication within the site. The other site that I’m working on (that is already in development) is based on a similar framework, but the user base isn’t quite as collaborative. It is more of an instructor/student relationship.
Tomorrow will be a super cool day for me. WebVisions is touting their speakers as “rock stars” and tomorrow I will meet the supreme rocker of the mall, Dan Cederholm. He’s giving a seminar on his book Bulletproof Web Design and is also taking part in a Design panel. Plus, he’s got a book signing, and I just happen to have a copy of Bulletproof right next to me.
His first book, Web Standards Solutions is absolutely fantastic. I’m so glad I picked that book as my first foray into Web Standards (well, after reading Dan’s blog—and others—for months). Anyway, Dan is one of the many great designers out there that have really influence the way I’m looking at my work—and my career path—lately. He is a pioneer in modern content delivery.
I haven’t decided what I’m seeing during the second slot yet… perhaps About Interface: Designing for Lifestyle (presented by Kelly Goto). Kelly appears to be a rock star herself, but I’m not familiar with her yet. After lunch, I’m wrestling between three good ones, but I’ll have to choose between Tagging in the Real Web World (very relevant to proejct work as more and more content populates the sites) and Beyond Just Content: Websites as Interactive Applications. That’s the next step to a lot of this web standards stuff… throwing a layer of AJAX on top of it to make it behave like a desktop application.
(Note: AJAX comes LAST though… you have to put it as a layer on top of everything else. That way, you have a web app that degrades nicely to standards compliant HTML on whatever device the user is using.)
Social Metadata and the Relevance Revolution (at 2:15) is also very project-relevant, but it competes against Scaling for Your First 100k Users. Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself on getting 100k users.
Finally, we end with a keynote by Jared Spool, anther rock star I need to familiarize myself with. All in all, it looks like it’s going to be an awesome second day. This is looking like the type of conference that was made for me.
- Ryan’s Notes
- Brian’s Notes (on Stepping Away From the Computer)
- Brian’s Notes (on The New Community)
- Jeremiah’s Notes