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Note to Online Publishers: STOP THE AUTOPLAY VIDEOS AND BLARING AUDIO!!

Ever been in a public place, go to a web article in your browser, and suddenly AUDIO STARTS BLARING FROM AN AUTOPLAY VIDEO!?!

Me too. All it does is PISS ME OFF so I will immediately tweet to leadership of whatever publication is the offending one. They never reply. As it turns out, the tech industry is doing something about it as is a new Coalition for Better Ads.

Hopefully publishers will wake up and realize that if they make the experience all about them and their advertisers WE, the readers, won’t come back….ever.

I don’t use ad blockers in my main browser as it interferes with web work I do. Sometimes I forget to mute my audio which, of course, I don’t want to do since I might miss notifications on my work machine.

How to stop this autoplay and unable-to-exit popups crap? There are a few ways suggested in this article:

The interesting thing is that advertising groups are furious at Apple for blocking ad-trackers and Google has warned the industry that they’re going to be adding an ad-blocker next year in their Chrome browser.

Again, publishers are their own worst enemy and unless they wake up and change their approach, the tech industry will do it for them.

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What!?! You Don't Know How to Use a Web Browser?

confused

Confused about how to use a website?
IT’S 2016 PEOPLE…CLICK SOMETHING!

On a daily basis I am just astounded that people don’t know absolute basics about how to use a web browser, download a PDF from a website, use the “Lost your password?” link to reset their password if they forgot it or it didn’t work, and a myriad of other stupid-simple tasks.

While I admit that there are a host of non-intuitive design paradigms out there for websites, basic things are basic: People should know (by now) how to do the items I mentioned above at the very least.

I’ll give you one example from today. I had a client from our website development company (Innov8Press) reach out to me since a user tried her password that was sent to her but it didn’t work. Rather than click the “Lost your password?” link under the login box, she went to the website’s contact form and sent in a note.

So I tried her username and password combination originally sent and they worked. I informed my client to have her use the lost-your-password process since we’d taken great pains to build out one that is incredibly intuitive and nicely designed. I haven’t heard back from anyone yet, but am not holding out hope that we won’t be “helping” this person again. (UPDATE: Client just said this: “She said she tried again and couldn’t get it to work, so she is going to send in a paper registration.“).

pdf-iconIn one of our other businesses we offer PDF reports that people buy. Though we have set up force-downloads on our server, some browsers ignore that and load the PDF inside the browser (e.g., Safari on Mac and Chrome if set up to display PDFs in-browser, which many corporations do for their users).

It turns out that many people simply didn’t know that they couldn’t come back to their account on our site again-and-again to download the report whenever they want to view it. Most importantly they didn’t know to do a “Save as…” in their browser to save the report out to their downloads folder or desktop.

So here’s a question for you: Am I being a cranky old man or should basic, stupid-simple web browsing tasks be something that people should know how to do in 2016?

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A Story About Genomics & 'Precision Medicine'

genestoryWhat if you could get a free eBook* that would help you understand a lot more about a field that has already made a big impact on the human race, and is one that is accelerating toward a revolution in precision medicine? A woman uniquely suited to telling this story has already created the eBook prototype and needs your help in getting it to the point of launching.

You’ve heard about DNA, right? How about the term “genomics”? Of course you have since you’re living in 2015 and watch CSI, Sherlock and other shows where they use this field to catch murderers, rapists and those who shed their cells at crime scenes. It’s likely you’ve also read about almost-weekly major breakthroughs in medicine—especially those enabling precision medicine which target treatments at an individual’s unique genetic makeup—but probably thought like I have, “Sounds cool but I kinda, sorta don’t really get the whole genomics thing.

If you help this woman get the story out, you will be able to “get it” with genomics in an entertaining way (plus I’m going to connect with an education technology leader in my local school district since it will be perfect for school kids).

lynnAn artist I’ve known for 25 years, Lynn Fellman, has done amazing work for the last decade on interpreting DNA in to various forms of media, including interactive multimedia back in the 1990s to print, textiles and more today.

She doesn’t toot her own horn enough (which I’m trying to get her to do more of) but she’s been on NPR Science Friday multiple times (and Ira Flatow is a huge, and supportive, fan); a Fulbright scholar within evolutionary genomic research at Ben-Gurion University; and has worked with genomic scientists at Baylor in Texas and at the University of Minnesota.

During a personal healthcare experience she became very frustrated at the lack of DNA knowledge out there and knew she was uniquely suited to do something about it…so she is.

In a few short months she’s built a prototype and just began this crowdfunding campaign to complete her illustrated, interactive eBook. It’s premise is a character looking for precision medicine for herself and for everyone. It is designed for a general audience and its focus is as a guide to understanding our genome.

She asked me for my opinion on her initial beta version of the eBook and I was so surprised and delighted that I encouraged her to move ahead and immediately. When she did I offered to help get the word out and that is why I’m writing this post.

Check it out and please support her so this eBook can get out in to the world. When you go to her crowdfunding page, scroll down and see the incredible gifts you can receive for the various funding levels.

Here is Lynn’s crowdfunding page for the eBook

Learn more about Lynn, her work, & Fellman Studio

*In order to fully deliver on the interactivity, she’s creating it in Apple’s iBook Author (which is the best possible way to deliver interactive eBooks, by the way) and the eBook will be available for free to anyone with a Macintosh computer, iPad, or iPhone.

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My Apple Watch & Dick Tracy

dtwtchAs a kid, I was always fascinated by Dick Tracy and his gadgets. Add to that my interest in mystery novels—especially ones like Mike Hammer when I got older—buying a smartwatch has been in the back of my mind but I didn’t like any of the current ones. Getting the functionality promised in my soon-to-arrive Apple Watch, however, is something I’m looking forward to not as a gadget guy, but as that little kid who wanted a wrist-radio-watch.

Now I kinda, sorta regret not building my “private detective office” when my wife and I were constructing our current house back in the early 1990s since having my wrist-radio-watch would have fit in perfectly.

My home office space would have been awesome as a “private eye’s” office. With french doors that swing open to the office space, I thought I’d make something that looked somewhat like this 1930s-era private eye’s office:

pdoff

20-inch-monitor-on-deskBut it wouldn’t have made sense, especially since I had a HUGE computer display, Mac tower, VoIP digital phone with headset and a Powerbook laptop on my desk! As you can see from the photo on the left, that enormous display and other technology would have looked very weird in a 1930s-era private eye’s office.

Still, I was able to get my “private detective fix” by getting my kids in on the action. They, too, were enthusiastic about kids being resourceful or as private detectives in movies such as Home Alone, Harriet the Spy, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. My son and I would read my old Hardy Boys books together as well, and he became an avid reader of those and hundreds of other fantasy, science fiction and mystery genres.

kids-as-detectivesIn the photo on the right, taken one very cold and bleak winter-weekend day, I’ve hidden my pager (yes, I carried a pager in the 90s!) and it has been stolen and the country’s two best detectives, Alex and Biz, are on the case. I made fake fingerprints and put them around the house and they set about solving the mystery.

Only one fingerprint was different and, of course, it had a matching one on the pager itself (which was stuck in a drawer). There were a bunch of other clues and the kids had to investigate and figure out where the pager had been placed. It was fun and they solved the mystery, albeit too fast so we had to find other stuff to do that day.  😉

dtwbDid you order an Apple Watch? It’s highly unlikely that anyone under 40 years of age—and especially my own kids—won’t have a lot of context for Dick Tracy and probably won’t even think about how awesome and cool the technology really is with a wearable device like this one. My kids don’t seem to ache for future technology like I did as a child. They just expect that new technology will appear, be awesome, and enable them to do things better, cheaper and faster.

By the way, if you happen to bump in to me after my Apple Watch arrives, and I’m dressed like Warren Beatty in the Dick Tracy movie, please do not just walk up and say, “Hi Steve!” since I might be on an important case.

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Napkin: A Surprisingly Powerful Communication Tool

napkin-logoGoing through my news reader early this morning I came across this one sentence post by John Gruber at Daring Fireball. It referenced a Mac app called “Napkin” and Gruber said that it’s a “great update” so I thought I’d check it out.

Wow. How did I not know about this app? Napkin allows you to essentially create a mashup of media that you can annotate and quickly share.

Huh?” you may ask. What do you mean by “annotate and quickly share” Borsch?

napkin-pip

An example of a screenshot annotated in Napkin and immediately exported to my desktop and imported in to this post. Time to create was about 1 minute.

My workflow consists of communicating with people every single day that are not in my office and some I’ve never even met personally. I have to communicate concepts to people at our clients, on my team, to subcontractors, and to friends and family. If I write up a bunch of text about a concept, often people just don’t get it. Creating a quick screencast is very time consuming so I only do that when my communication to one or more people absolutely requires it.

For my high value concept communications, let me tell you about the steps I went through before, and then after, I used Napkin.

[Read more…]

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One Word Describes the Retina iMac with an SSD: Wow!

retina-imac

Yesterday I picked up a 27″ iMac with Retina display that I’d ordered in December with some end-of-year money. The machine has so stunned me with its display, thin design, and super-fast solid state drive (SSD), that it has almost instantly changed my relationship with my Mac.

huggingYou may ask, “What…are you in love with your Mac, Borsch? Do you hug it?” (That came from a buddy in an email, who thinks I have far too much affection for technology!). 😉

The answer is “yes” since my face is in front of this machine for hours each day. I use it for photo work, video editing, podcasting, writing, finance work, and a bunch of other tasks. I’d played with one in the store, but until I got it home, migrated my previous 27″ iMac’s files and settings to this new one and started to use it, did I realize why and how that relationship has shifted with just a couple of hours of use.

In no particular order, here are a few impressions with only a few hours usage:

[Read more…]

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Publishing Fail: Inhabitat

This is a post about a site I’m not going to anymore and I’m writing this because I tried to connect with them on their contact form. But I was stunned to see that one has to have a username and password to use the form. Really? So they don’t care to hear from anyone else?

Inhabitat is a site I’ve read for several years because I’m interested in their focus: Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.

That should probably instead say: Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to making as much money as we possibly can off of you. We do that by packing in so many ad-trackers, audience identifiers, and advertisements, so only 30% of your screen real estate is actual content while the other 70% is either visual noise or ways for us to make you click on stuff so we make money.

Unfortunately they are making the #1 small publisher mistake which is driving me away: Instead of making the visit to their site a great experience, instead it is crystal clear it’s all about providing them with an opportunity to monetize.

inhabitat-noisy

Would you believe that, if you go to their site, they use 78 advertising-related services and 35 analytics and tracking ones? Holy shit…see for yourself. While many of them might not be active (you have to subscribe to BuiltWith to get deep analysis), the site has so much going on when you visit (and a WordPress mobile plugin I detest: OnSwipe) that it’s more bother than it’s worth. I have a 75mbps download speed on my broadband connection and it takes 30-45 seconds to completely load their homepage!

So publishers, or anyone who creates and delivers anything to customers, FIRST focus on your visitor and their experience and THEN on yourself. If you reverse that you will fail…just like Inhabitat has done.

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Stratasys Goes Far Beyond With 3D Printed Clothes

If you think that 3D printing is only for making prototypes, then you’re undoubtedly not seeing the exponential increase in its use. Sites like Mashable have this 3D printing category with lots of stories, MAKE magazine has their Ultimate 3D Printing Guide, and there are even videos about this printing revolution like this one from Christopher Barnatt, a futurist in the UK.

But it wasn’t until this morning’s news feed that I first realized that 3D printing has gone far beyond typical object creation and now toward flexible, wearable, 3D printed clothes!

Click to view larger images:

Stratasys is the world’s leading 3D printing technology company behind this new wearable 3D printed clothes proof-of-concept. They are right in my back yard here in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and is one I’ve kept a close eye on for some time. 

Stratasys completed their merger in December of 2012 with Objet, Ltd., a company that provides, “…3D printing systems, resin consumables, and services worldwide. The company’s printers use its proprietary PolyJet inkjet-based technology, resin consumables, and integrated software to create 3D models directly from computer data, such as 3D CAD files.” Basically they had an industrial-strength, world-class capability to deliver 3D printing at scale.

Of course, the next phase of this 3D printing revolution is for designers and creatives to build products, prototype them on desktop 3D printers, and send the files to a service bureau…just like the “old days” of desktop publishing where files ended up at a printer who would print, bind and box publications by the thousands or millions. Same concept here: if Stratasys can turn their 3D printing process from design-to-prototype-to-manufacturing (with full service and support Objet offers) then they will “own” the process like Heidelberg did for hundreds of years with printing presses.

Press release about this wearable fashion is next. [Read more…]

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The Essence of Value

Chip Kidd, an author, editor, and graphic designer, is best known for his book covers but this TED 2012 talk he gave on “Designing books is no laughing matter. OK, it is” was very enjoyable for quite another reason. If you watch it, like I did, for how it informs what I do in so many other areas, it will undoubtedly give you much more than your investment of 17 minutes. For me it turned out to be another learning point on my journey toward understanding how to get to the essence of value and of success itself.

Thought others might like to view it too so am posting it (and, if nothing else, so you can watch him in his amazing fashion statement!):