Websites ‘suck’ today because of the ‘hippo’

These comments by Avinash Kaushik, Google’s analytics guru, are true for many corporate websites. He “thinks one of the reasons why so many websites ‘suck’ today is because of the hippo – as in the ‘highest paid person’s opinion.’

And, yes, you’re likely a hippo – a successful advertising executive, CMO or brand manager, pulling in a six-figure income, often found pontificating about what does and doesn’t work online. You use tried-and-true metrics such as unique visitors and click-through rates to decide on the best design for your landing page or what content is best suited on your product site. ”
[Source: AdAge]

In my experience it is often the least qualified person in the building who gets to decide the design and functionality for the company website.

This is a a fascinating phenomenon. In many other industries people actually take notice of their domain knowledge specialists. You don’t find people telling the bridge engineers to move this pillar over 3 metres to suit a personal aesthetic. But in web everyone is an expert and can tell you how to do your job.

Many people working in advertising and marketing are steeped in print media tradition and knowledge and have little understanding of what the web is like and how people consume that media. I do wonder if this will change with a new generation coming through or not?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire
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FITT Sydney lunch May 2005

At the FITT lunch in iMAX Theatre. The topic is womens’ communication needs and how new technology like unified communications can help us. The panel members are:

  • Patricia Scott, Secretary of the Federal Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • Holly Kramer, Group Managing Director, Product Management, Telstra
  • Adele Whish-Wilson, CEO Momentum Technologies (Australian Innovator of mobile video streaming technology)
  • Dr Anna Liu, Group Manager, Emerging Technologies, Microsoft Australia

Panel Moderator: Beverley Head

Interesting takeaways …

Patricia – spoke about how the debate has been focused on telecommunications issues like Telstra ownership & broadband. The challenge now is to actually get broadband out to all of Australia, need to get basic infrastructure right. But womens’ participation in IT/engineering education is falling.

Holly mentioned that Telstra is passionate about usability and user experience

Adele talked about work-life balance and how we need to set boundaries between work and personal life. Don’t be afraid to use the off button.

Anna spoke about demands of young family and about being connected via social networking (like Twitter). How she tried out the new technologies and found out some interesting stuff. But you need to have some time off and we have the ability to choose how we interact, interconnect & contribute. Also spoke about our leadership role in setting example for next generation of women to join the IT industry.

I know I said not going to CeBIT but …

actually CeBIT is a great place to catch up with people in the IT industry in Sydney. Many people go, after all it’s an afternoon out of the office. And even if you’re not interested in the content, the social side of things can be good.

Here’s an action shot of me & a friend discussing a little start-up thingy we’re planning (that’s brainstorming in action in the Bloggerzone at CeBIT). There’s even coffee available. But it is far away from the Bloggerzone so get someone else to fetch it if at all possible.

Thoughts on CeBIT Sydney 2008

Dropped in at CeBIT for while today. Was at the Bloggerzone for the royal visit of uber blogger and web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis and his entourage of men in suits, then wandered about checking out the exhibits and running into various friends and acquaintances.

It’s a pity the wi-fi connection in the Bloggerzone was so flaky, made blogging from there a challenge. I know I could do it from my phone, but the keyboard is too small for anything longer than a microblog post.

One thing that struck me this year was the increased number of consumer and retail focused stands; also many more exhibitors from Asia.

It seems to me that CeBIT is a workmanlike event that provides a platform for exhibitors to show there wares. But the funk factor is almost entirely absent. There were not many cool things that grabbed my attention.

There was one cool thing that I really liked – a portable pocket projector that is due to hit the streets later this year.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire
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Cool Crows at TED

I’ve always had a fondness for crows – perhaps because they wear black? Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows too. He’s made an amateur study of corvid behavior, and has come up with a vending machine that sparks ideas that may enable new relationships between animals and human. Here’s his TED talk, it’s very cool …

http://static.videoegg.com/ted2/flash/loader.swf

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

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Generation or perception gap – the ADHD kids and the grown-ups?

A few people mentioned that they really hated the live blogging that went on during Interesting South the other night. From their perspective it seemed rude that the audience was not totally focused on the speakers and ‘in-the-moment’ and visibly paying attention.

I found this interesting because I cannot really just sit there and listen to someone without doing something else. For me to take in audio content I need to do some other physical activity (doodling or driving are great). So for me, live blogging an event is really helping me to lock into what the speaking is saying in a kinaesthetic way. Note: I have been diagnosed with ADHD and am advised that this kind of behaviour is quite ‘normal’. Also many of my friends display the same kind of behaviour – they are also into live blogging stuff.

But these comments made me realise that there is (perhaps) a new kind of gap rather than the old style generation gap. This new gap is between the parallel processor people and serial processor people – a gap between styles of attention and perspective.

Realistically each group is going to drive the other nuts – should be interesting to watch!

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire
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IT Project Failures?

My buddy Alec the Geek often makes very sensible and considered posts that get me thinking. Other times he just says stuff that I agree with because it is so simply obvious (and thus it is ridiculous that there should exist a need to comment at all).

Thus Alec’s recent post on Software development the Gordon Ramsay way got my head nodding in agreement and then got me cross that such basic concepts still seem so foreign to builders of software.

I continue to be amazed of how many places just do not have the basic principles and practices of software development in place.

Collectively we have killed forests of trees and wasted centuries of time writing systems development methodologies, software engineering standards, even a Software Engineering Body of Knowledge. Yet still we have the same poor practices and lack of discipline that often makes our industry look like a badly organised team of chimpanzees.

Michael Krigsman cites a litany of examples over at his IT Project Failures blog. Almost without exception, each example shows how the failed project did not follow accepted and documented best practice.

It is very strange to me that one definition of insanity (attributed to Albert Einstein) is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. What does this say about the IT industry?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire
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Mental Detox = FAIL, what did I learn?

Well I lasted one whole day without using Twitter or blogging. And I came to the realisation that my personal and business lives are so completely intertwined with each other and with technology that is not feasible to disconnect from them and still work. The only way to truly disconnect is to go on a holiday.

Yesterday while disconnected from Twitter I missed out on hearing a friend’s good news (he’s off to a glam geek job in San Fransisco – tweet him with any good drinking holes there). And from reading the logs there was a lot of relevant business discussions I missed out on as well. Not to mention not live tweeting Interesting South last night.

The other realisation is that, much Pepys, I do like to keep a diary and this blog is it. Also I discovered that I think much better without a pen in my hand. The words flow more readily from my keyboard onto a screen than in longhand onto a page.

Another discovery is that I don’t have a lot of my friend’s phone numbers stored in my mobile phone. This is because we tend to communicate via a mesh of social networking platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pownce, Jaiku, Brightkite, FriendFeed, Ustream, our blogs, etc. Thus we rarely actually talk on a mobile phone, we merely use it to connect via those other channels.

So the big question now, after this FAIL for my Mental Detox Week, is what to do next? I think the answer is to be more mindful of my use of technology and to try and connect more into the physical world. To that end it’s time to walk the dog.

PS: for the record Steve had a FAIL early morning yesterday and Hissohathair is still hanging in there but missing his iPod on the bus.