Monday, March 26, 2007

Why Steph Avoids Instant Messengers

A lot of truth gets revealed here on my blog. Now y'all know why I favor drinks in person over IM. Thank you, New York Times.

Think you can juggle the phone, e-mail, instant messages and work?
New research shows the limits of multitasking.

What does this mean for all those web 2.0 'community' products that rely on messengers?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

BEWARE Work on the Web? Get Spammed!

The really sad thing is, I suspect I've been 'sold out' by a sub contractor I worked with last Fall. This person was found through a freelancing (outsourcing) website called rentacoder.com. It was my project manager's idea to use rentacoder.com, not mine. I suspect this sub contractor posted my gmail email address to a message board where con artists look for personal info. Thanks.

I get some very sophisticated spam, such as this email I just received:
- - -

Bernard Lee
show details Mar 24 (23 hours ago)

Dear Stephanie

I am Bernard Lee, a legal practitioner.Please be patient and absorb the contents of this email which I believe is a message that will be beneficial to the both of us.
I am the legal representative to Late Julius Sawchenko.who herein after shall be referred to as my late client.He died in March 2006 as a result of heart condition.

Basically,my aim of writing you is to assist me secure the funds left behind by my client before it is confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this fund valued at $4.2million dollars was deposited.

I have a mandate from the bank to present the next of kin to the deceased or the funds will be confiscated and so far, all my efforts to get hold of someone related to this man has proved abortive.

I want you to consider this proposal.If you grant your consent that I present you to the bank as the next-of-kin and beneficiary of my deceased client (since you have the same last name),so that the proceeds of this account can be transferred to you, then we can share the entire proceeds on a mutually agreed-upon percentage.

All legal documentation to back up your claim as my deceased client's next-of-kin will be provided. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable us see this transaction through.

This entire process will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law.However,if this business proposition offends your moral values,do accept my apology.Please contact me at once to indicate your interest.

Best Regards,

Bernard Lee Esq


- - -
eom
(this was sent via Yahoo mail)

I want all these spammers to know:
1. This kind of email phishing is ILLEGAL, and punishable by law.
2. This email can be tracked back to the person who wrote it.
(It is technically possible to track this email back to whatever internet cafe it came out of no matter where or when in the world it was written.)
3. I myself can see from my own site statistics where in the world they come from.
(Could be; Shulin, Ningbo, Shanghai, Calarasi, Galati, Ligetputza... )

This is the cost of being an internet professional. I get attacked (weekly) for simply having my own website and trying to market myself online.

Am I the only one?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Design Inspiration

Check out this completely inspiring presentation by Shigeru Miyamota regarding game design and the new Nintendo Wii console. There's some lessons here for all kinds of designers and developers. I especially like how Miyamoto talks about designing games with the goal of eliciting joy from people, and ways he tries to achieve joydom. There are a couple thinly veiled barbs at Sony. Excellent presentation!

GDC 2007: Nintendo Keynote Video
Wii Media (Posted: Mar 8, 2007)
Miyamoto discusses his vision of future game development.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How to Get a Website on a Low Budget

Being a web designer I think I get asked this question almost every single day, "How can I get a website...on a low budget?" Hopefully this blog will answer this question for people.

The Easy Part

Starting a website is easy, you need to do these things:
1. Register a domain name. Go out and buy "www.mywebsitename.com" I like using godaddy.com.
2. Get web hosting. You have alot of choices here. Knowing what you're going to publish, first, will help you decide.
3. Publish your content, text and photos. Literally all you have to do is put files into your web hosting.

The Hard Part

The hard part is not publishing content to the net, the hard part is what to publish? And how to publish it? As a rule, know what you're publishing, FIRST. Get your idea for your website sketched out in a notebook, Word Doc, PowerPoint, or even a napkin. Yes napkins count as work.

Planning is the Key
I believe my job as a designer is essentially helping businesses figure out the what and how, and all the subtle nuances, of putting their content online. But you don't have to hire a designer, just do your homework. The more information you find, the more ideas you gather, the clearer you get on what you want your site to be. In the design business we call this the 'research phase', and it's really the most fun part.


I have a Vision! But how do I make it real?
Simple
Decide early if you want a blog or something simple. There are some inexpensive hosted publishing options here which can work very well! Especially if you take the time to customize them. You can point your cheap domain name at your blog on Type Pad or Blogger and voila! Or point it at Google Page Creator and you can have a FREE website. You can make some really nice web pages using iweb and .Mac. I have tried all these tools and they are very easy to use but I'm warning you now, you don't get tight control over the design of your site. Did I mention that these tools are free? There are many, many other hosted publishing solutions you can try. Almost any web hosting company has some sort of tool for you to use. Unfortunately they all have really poor demo versions. I've never heard any positive feedback about these do-it-yourself tools and I would love for people to leave a comment about some of them.

Moderate
For $150.00 I recommend Adobe Contribute. You can also just try it for free for 30 days. All you need to work with Contribute is any 'basic' web hosting. You get email accounts with your web hosting. Once you sign up for web hosting somewhere, they'll give you an FTPlogin and password. Then, plug that info into Contribute and start publishing. Contribute is great, you don't need to 'code' anything, but it does takes a little fiddling to figure out how to use it. Contribute comes with pre made templates and it is fairly easy to use it to build and customize a whole site. Plus contribute is designed to work collaboratively with many other types of software, like Microsoft Word. Ah yes, Microsoft. If you are already comfortable with MS Office tools then you should check out Microsoft Office Live Small Business Center.

Time is Money

You are never trapped into using one web hosting service or one type of software to publish your site. You can ALWAYS CHANGE your site, or add to it. You can literally copy and paste whatever you make into something else if you need to. But switching anything will cost you at least some time, and probably some money. The better you plan your project the less likely you'll get sidetracked. I cant emphasize enough how important planning is.

Real World Examples:
Many of my friends websites (on the right) were created using some of these hosted publishing tools. Check out Megan Woolever for an example using Google Page Creator. Or Art Director Meg Frost who hosts her portfolio on a Type Pad blog.

More Info Coming Soon!
Of course starting a website is only the begining. Look for more blog entries on designing for the web, maintaining a site, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Monday, March 12, 2007

Alternative Offices

I was telling folks about Ritual Roasters over a year ago. Its not a coffee house, it's an alternative workspace! It feels good to be validated by the SF Chronicle, check it out:

WHERE NEO-NOMADS' IDEAS PERCOLATE
New 'bedouins' transform a laptop, cell phone and coffeehouse into their office


There are just some huge limitations to working from home. I like going to cafes because I get bored with working on my kitchen table in my tiny apartment. I cant even bring clients here it's just that lame. Besides, the coffee at Ritual is fantastic.

I've actually observed users at Ritual Roasters. OK I worked on mail.aol.com and I did a little guerrilla style research in some cafes (just glancing over some shoulders). I observed allot of email and messaging. I have also witnessed (and been party to) a few client reviews and meetings there at Ritual Roasters. I wish there more Ritual-like cafes would spring up all over the place.

What is YOUR favorite 'alternative workspace'?