Garbage in, garbage out

22 10 2008

Years ago, way back in 1992 I believe, when I built my first FileMaker data base, a programmer friend of mind told me to be sure the field I was creating would be ones I’d use and relevant to what I’d be looking for later on. Why? Because…”Garbage in, garbage out.”

I’ve built and architected numerous databases since then and this message has been the baseline for each and everyone. The closer I toe the line on what can be garbage, the more successful the end result. At the same time, training people to use the database once it’s built, is the second key to keeping it out of the grabage heap.

So why am I talking about such old technology today?

Well, today so much content on the web is “User Generated”. Yes, we’re all users, but UGC comes mostly from people who are not professional data gatheres and don’t understand the implications of mis-labelling or omitting a label on something. That’s fine, why should we expect everyone to know this about data?

BUT… but I just got a reminder of why it is important. Search. A new serach tool just brought me back to web serach as it was 10 years ago. OK, so it’s really nothing more than a gimick. However, the results this engine delivers are pretty bad. Junk, garbage, call it what you will but I only got a 10th of the results one should expect.

School classes on tagging and content labeling? Facebook cources maybe? It sure would be sad to turn back the clock here.





Latest Trend in Social Networking … ads!

13 10 2008

So this is good news for me I suppose. My clients have forever been asking how to leverage social media for business purposes. Now the answer just got a little easier, or at least we’ve gotten to something they can understand – ads.

It’s far more difficult to convince companies that just having a conversation or engaging interaction with their customers is a good thing. They want to see the money not the feel good intangible. Well, not all agree on this point, there are many companies who understand that good communication with their customers builds strong relationships. But the thing is in economically strained times, the number crunchers tend to opt for the measurable.

The business world has been asking how these sites could sustain themselves and of course it was only a matter of time before the obvious came true. MySpaceAds announced October 12, Twittads still new, Facebook ads gaining ground, YouTube sponsored videos… the list grows daily.

This reminds me of my days at Concordia University, debating the evils of advertising as a means of sustaining news papers. The good, the bad and the evil but at the end of the day we all pay for the services we like to use.





Facebook’s new ad network is it spywear?

8 11 2007

If Facebook is going to be pimping my profile page, going to use their knowledge of what I’m doing on the site to place ads for partners, shouldn’t I get a cut of the revenue? Why am I feeling very wary of this development? I understand behavioral marketing. But this project is setting off alarm bells for me – me as a user of FB that is.

The Beacon Project as it is known, aims to leverage the way social networks work in a new and potentially revolutionary way by extending the reach of social networks into consumers’ daily Web-based lives. Facebook Ads launched with three parts:

  1. a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences;
  2. an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads™;
  3. and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.

The first part is logical and I have no problem with this at all. I like to know when I’m interacting with a company. It’s at point 2 that things start to get a little murky. Sure being a “fan-sumer” for brands that I have a good relationship with is not a problem… but will all the ads look like ads and how exactly will my behavioral information be used. I don’t really want to know everything that all my “friends” are doing as they interact with advertisers.





Finding Inspiration & Fighting Stagnation

7 11 2007

It’s all well and good to be a creative sort but every now and again inspiration is difficult to find & we get caught up in old unproductive habits. One of the wonderful things about Web 2.0 is that you can find others living the same thing as you… and together find ways to inspire and advance your art, hobby and well… have fun.

Strictly speaking, a message board or forum is not a Web 2.0 site but there is certainly plenty of social networking going on. In fact, the forums show only a small portion of what’s actually happening on a given site. Personal messaging and profile pages are the source of many a new social connection.

When it comes to photography my preferred inspiration site is FredMiranda.com. The mix of professionals and complete newbies on that site and the atmosphere whereby each and everyone is treated with respect is at the heart of this site’s success. The weekly assignment section receives, on average, 20+ submissions each week. It’s a treat to see someone post there for the first time – I have yet to take the plunge – the constructive criticism and support are well… inspiring.





Do You Microblog?

1 11 2007

Do you even know what it is? Yes, yet another buzzword to add to your day. While you may not have heard of microblogging, you’ve probably come across Twitter. Yes, I Twitter – but in a very limited manner. If it didn’t have so many wonderful benefits and applications I’d hang my head in shame but it’s a great little tool to have in the mix.

So you’ve mastered the art of placing your daily thought/message/status in your IM program and your friends and colleagues enjoy knowing what’s going on with you everyday. Great! You’ve started doing this from time-to-time on your Facebook page. Now comes the ultimate in keeping folks up-to-date with your life/work. Yup… microblogging. Just a line, hardly enough characters to offer a complete thought… and even strangers can follow your feed. Your lifestream, stream of consciousness in brief little snippets for the world to enjoy.

While Twitter is the leader of the pack, there are a couple of runners-up: Jaiku, Tumblr, Pownce and Soup.io

Now if you think that these platforms are only for the teenage crowd, think again. There are multiple benefits for business applications and those applications are vast. The top of the list comes with SEO. This is a great tool for that effort and it works. Several analysts have made recent comments that this is the next big thing and I’m on that bandwagon. After all, anything that can be done in 140 character spaces… well, that’s got to be efficient!





Cool tool of the trade

30 10 2007

I’ve used many presentation tools (software) over the last 15 years, but I have to say that I really like the ease-of-use and transportability of Jing Project from Techsmith Corporation. In just a few minutes you can have a simple presentation together – voice over included – and it’s available anywhere on the Web if you wish.

For now the project is running as a free service and Techsmith is asking for feedback from users. While not opensource, the project is collecting plenty of comments from users with the intention of further defining the product. Eventually, we’ll have to pay to use Jing but the price will certainly be worth it.

I find it very useful for projects where the team is spread out in multiple locations. I can flip through my ideas on screen and record my comments as I click through the windows. Really, I can set up a meeting in minutes. My colleagues can see what I’m talking about and I haven’t had to type a word.

I’ll post a couple of examples here soon.





Microstock Shooting Professional Photography in the Foot?

18 10 2007

Amateur photographers are stepping into the territory of the professionals and that’s mostly a good thing. Prosumer cameras and the digital darkroom make it possible for the multitudes, if not the masses, to improve the quality and certainly the quantity of images they take. Many are taking advantage of microstock websites to monetize the expensive equipment and these sites are only too happy to pocket a large percentage of each sale.

Agencies are delighted to have a wider selection and certainly the ridiculously low prices. Ah the economy of scale. Sure some of the photographers are actually pretty good and more than worthy of being a stock photographer. One would expect that they will eventually migrate that way. Or perhaps the microstock agencies are hoping to grow large enough to take on the big guns out there. With so much of the established stock agencies power aligned to the vastness of  their libraries then this seems unlikely.

However, the issue is quality and I suppose the Long Tail.

There is little question that the depth of quality is not available on microstock sites. However, if you agree with the Long Tail theory, then one would believe that there is a place for the lesser quality images finding buyers – I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that.

Still what does this say for the quality of visual communication we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Is this like the “junk foodinization” of photography. We’ll take what we’re served because it’s acceptable and cheap? Will kids of today think that great photography only requires a vast number of pixels in the same way as kids today think home cooking is putting something in a microwave?