Friday, April 14, 2006

WAPAlerts: The Experiment

So here's my experiment.
Last year, I had this great idea for a WAP notification service. I got a domain: WAP Alerts.com. Then I did nothing. It went onto my to-do list. Everyone and their mother released services as good or better than my idea. In the last year, I've done a lot of work with phpBB. In January, I suggested putting phpBB onto a site that needed a quick and dirty forum system. They also wanted a way to automatically add available job listings. I've always been a big fan of RSS and XML. So, I worked up an RSS collection mod. Throw in sources, point the results at forum sections and tie it into a cron job. Voila: it fills up with news from the web.
In the last week, I've been all about crossing finish lines, because it started to feel like I've stopped doing that and living in a perpetual limbo of 85% done projects. So, I threw down a gaunlet: could I take a domain that I own, pop it onto an excellent web host, throw up a near base install of phpBB (e.,g I added my RSS mod), tweak a template, gather some RSS sources and let it go? Basically build an automat for the web. Why do this? Well, I have monetized the site with Google Adsense.
This site took 12hrs. of spare time to build: about 1/3 set-up, 1/3 tweaking the template and 1/3 adding the data sources. It costs $7/mo. to host. The experiment: can this site earn $8+/month? I will keep you informed. I kept notes and if this works, I will likely a) make the notes available; and b) will repeat this concept for other topics.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Web ReDesign 2.0 : Workflow That Works

Since the mid-1990s people with an inkling of computer skill and an Internet connection have hung out a shingle to ply their trade as a web designer. Then, they face all of the same problems: they made sites that only work on some browsers; clients changed their minds; they couldn’t keep the latter part of the business relationship intact. Somebody needed to write about about the web design business: not the technology but the act of keeping all of the balls in the air. “Web ReDesign 2.0 : Workflow That Works” is just that sort of a book. Websites today can be upwards of 8 years old: tired, pallid designs in need of a redesign. Arguably, there is so much redesign work out there that it forms the majority of what web designers are doing these days. This book goes through all of the phases of web development: project definition; analyzing your competition; site structure; building and integration; usability; launch. Along the way, this book covers how to survey clients, would be users and the competition. Techniques that novice designers do not clue into (like wireframes) are fully laid out. It talks about “red flag” clients (we’ve all had them). The search engine optimization section rivals some entire books on the subject. While this book is written from people with experience working on Fortune 500 websites, it can be applied to designers from all echelons, whether they’re designing a site for the local florist; or working for a million dollar company.

Several test cases display the before and after of site design. The differences are striking. Better than that, how redesign was driven is outlined in nine case studies ranging from About.com to Banana Republic. The excellent and insightful text is accompanied by full color examples of web design.

There are some seminal works in the IT field (Accidental Empires, Cathedral and the Bazaar). Web ReDesign 2.0 : Workflow That Works needs to be added to that list. If anyone tugs on my sleeve and says, “I want to be a web designer” I will thrust a copy of this book into their hands and tell them to learn it and live it.

Bookpool: cheaper than Amazon

Half Price Computer Books used to located in our area. They closed out. Long before they closed out, I got bored with their selection of mediocre books. I went to the Vancouver store last month and found computer books shared shelf space with Tolkien and guides to comic books. Will these cater to their audience? Yes. Do they have anything to do with tech? No.

Amazon's selection of tech is great and the prices are okay. If you want better prices, check out
Bookpool. I was impressed with the low prices attached to recent and hot titles.

Monday, April 03, 2006

PhotoFiltre: A Great Free Image Editor

I used to love PaintShop Pro. Then my trial period expired. Everyone else seems to love Adobe Photoshop. But it costs so damn much. What is a working alternative? Try PhotoFiltre

PhotoFiltre is free and it works great. It's small and easy to download. For further details, head on to PhotoFiltre’s web site.

How to Not Talk Like A Techie

Techies talk tech to each other and they can't understand that the language is so riddled with acronyms that what they communicate is unuseable by non-techies. Next time you draft an email to the non-tech part of your organization, remember that some terms are less likely to alienate users.

parse : split out
ADSL : Internet connection
Wifi: wireless Internet
Apache: web server software
IIS: web server software
(more to come...)