Lost

I got very lost in the Küttigen-Rombach-Aarau area yesterday. Google Maps sent me to the wrong place. I missed the event.

It was raining. I gave up. And walked back to Aarau.

I found a nice place to recover called Tuchlaube.

Next time I’ll try Gossip:

On my way back to the station I found a nice book store to browse thru.

Jog log: This hill in my backyard

I went for a slow run up the hill today. Two kilometres on the sawdust track and then further up the hill, all the way to the top. I don’t have any metrics to share because I haven’t jumped on the “quantified self” bandwagon. Yet.

My guess: more than 1 and a half hours and about 10 km.

Due to all the rain we had in the past week and the summer temperatures, it felt tropical. I like.

While running, my mind was busy answering emails and writing blog entries. That’s so weird. It shows: we need movement and fresh air to cope with all the data we’re consuming and processing.

A few days ago, I was searching through my blog and saw an old entry that I wrote about running in San Francisco and the advertising campaign at the time: These hills will chew you up. Run easy.

At the end, I did some stair climbing. There are many outdoor stairs along my route. Better than any gym.

#POSSE: A clickable demo of my simple #indieweb blog

Here’s a simple example how you can publish your content on your own site and syndicate elsewhere (POSSE):

  1. I posted a boring flower snapshot into my self-hosted WordPress (WP) blog.
  2. WP posted the entry to Twitter using WP plugins Hum and Publicize
  3. One of my Twitter followers replied to my tweet.
  4. Using Webmention, the tweet showed up in my WP comment moderation loop.
  5. After I approved it, the tweet shows up as a comment in the corresponding WP entry.

As you can see, there are some formatting issues with the emoticons and the image link isn’t displaying correctly.

And to begin with I had some other WP plugins interfering with the Webmention plugin and no idea why it wasn’t working.

Cycling to work is fun

For some reason. Beyond my understanding. My regular bike to work (still) draws exclamations of amazement from some work colleagues. Walking into the office on Thursday morning with my bicycle helmet in my hand, I heard the usual comments.

For the record:

Cycling to work is fun.

I don’t need to force myself to get on my bicycle. I like cycling.

I often have good ideas while cycling.

The time needed for the same route by public transport is close to identical.

The only times that I’ll take the bus or tram to work is when the road conditions are too icy and slippery, or when I don’t want to leave my bicycle over night in a dangerous place, or when I have more luggage than my bicycle can carry.

How I used to listen to music

Nostalgic moment for the 90s: Jimmy Cliff playing on the radio… reminded me of the time in my life when I used to borrow music CDs from the local library during my student years. It gave me access to the entire album, not just the hit singles. And it didn’t drain a student’s budget.

And I was able to explore lots of different kinds of music.

Before that, in Malawi, my main source of music was MBC radio, some international radio stations such as Deutsche Welle and the BBC, and school friends.

My mom will tell you that she doesn’t listen to music. But I have fond memories of MBC radio playing at full blast.

I’ve changed in my music listening habits. We all have. Now we’re all over Youtube and Spotify and iTunes and Soundcloud. Despite all the cool music gadgets that I own, I’m not buying, compiling or storing my favourite music. My main music gadget is my MacBook. And I’ve forgotten what listening to an album is like.

I still listen to a lot of radio music. Especially on the weekends.

Jog log

I went for a 40 minute run today. Only the first 5 minutes were dry. Then it started raining. Towards the end of my run, the rain became quite intense. Even my trusted rain gear was soaked through.

It was the third time I got soaked today. I guess the rainy season is back.

Running plans

Last Friday I ran 6.5 km at the annual Firmenlauf. Quite a party with over 3700 participants. Took 6 minutes before I crossed the starting line ‘cos of the huge crowd of runners and walkers. Wow. Quite impressive.

I ran slowly and steadily from start to finish. Proud to say I didn’t stop running even though my innermost really wanted to stop.

I think I like taking part in races. (How do you say “Volkslauf” in English? It’s difficult to translate). It gives me a measurable goal to train for.

Next seasonal goal is to participate in a 10 km run. I thought the Birsegg run would fit in nicely at the end of August. Or maybe the 10 km version on Basel Marathon day on 28th September?

I’ve been googling training plans. Things I’ve read:

I’ll need to train longer. 60 mins to 90 mins.

Means more commitment. Sometimes just getting out the door is so hard.

Short 10 minute runs are better than skipping a run.

Include longer, slow runs.

Cycling is good. Swimming and aqua jogging is good ‘cos there’s no impact.

sportiva

I’ve been thinking about goals and systems. The system in this particular scenario is to get out and run regularly. Even if it’s a short jog before work.

close up of my running shoes

Even though I’ve run 10 km before, I might start a jog log here or on Twitter just to keep track. Writing helps. And ‘cos all the personal blogs about everyday life are gone.

A valid question?

A tweet to keep. I stumbled across this C.S. Lewis quote:

A valid question to consider.

Sun’s shining. A beautiful day lies ahead. Will try to enjoy the moment today.

Content first

Last Saturday I attended UX camp Switzerland. A very good event to learn about user experience, human-centered design, usability testing, MVP and prototyping tools.

Talks I listened to:

Stefanie Klekamp presented lots of background info on the Think Aloud usability testing method. Which I found useful. She explained the theories behind the method and also pointed to the research and shortcomings of the test. Shortcomings such as confirmation bias and evaluator effect. She briefly touched on Hawthorne effect, Rosenthal effect, primacy recency effect, hindsight bias. Practical tips for your next Think Aloud user test:

  1. Carry out a SWOT analysis of the website or app that you are testing beforehand.
  2. Take simple notes immediately.

Overall conclusion: Think Aloud user tests are a good practical method to test websites and apps early and often.

Next, I attended a talk by Tobias Günter called “Texter sind die besseren Designer” (in English: “Copywriters are the better designers”). His message was: We spend lots of time and resources on design and programming our web apps, but the content itself is often an afterthought. It’s reflected in the words we use: “Texte abfüllen”. Often there’s no content plan to begin with. Concept work is often based on “Lorem ipsum” dummy texts. If you consider the slogan “mobile first”, it should really be “content first”. Content is the reason people visit a website, or install an app in the first place. Often, content is not developed for mobile devices. Some copywriting guidelines to consider:

  • Keep it simple – only 1 thought per sentence
  • Add sub-headings
  • Add structure
  • Add some redundancy and repetitions
  • Add a focal point for images

Some further tools mentioned to improve content development:

  1. Develop your content page as if there is no start page and no website hierarchy
  2. Develop your content as if there is no navigation, header, footer, sidebar
  3. Think of URLs as verbs
  4. Test your texts
  5. Develop your texts iteratively; continuously improve your content

A good discussion followed. Every content page should be considered as being a landing page on its own. New developments include dynamic navigation entries depending on the content page I arrive at as a reader

Some web agencies now carry out a content audit of existing and new content. I found a related presentation on Slideshare after the talk:

 

Next, Samuel Frischknecht talked about minimum viable product (MVP) and presented some real-life client examples. He referred to a book called Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf. The lean process is

  1. Declare an assumption
  2. Create a MVP
  3. Run an experiment
  4. Collect feedback and carry out research

The book looks interesting and maybe it will answer some of my open questions on Scrum and design.

 

I attended more talks in the afternoon, but my ability to take notes decreased rapidly. I was tired.

Conclusion:
UXcamp was good. Many thanks to the organisers and sponsors. A good way to catch up on new developments and learn about a topic in one day.

Disclaimer:
All mistakes are my own. Please let me know if I got something really wrong. I’m here to learn. These notes help me to reflect and learn.

Quote of the day #SEO

Social media isn’t reaching people like it used to.

via The New Emphasis On Link Building: What's Behind It And How To React.

Back to link building? Probably.

Read this advice:

The best way to have your website rank higher is to make it better for your users. Being better requires that your website is one or some of these types of things in comparison to your competitors…

  • more useful
  • more simple
  • more comprehensive
  • more funny
  • solve problems quicker or more effectively
  • more visually stunning

A backlink for today’s Smashing Magazine newsletter

I like today’s edition. I started tweeting some of the links.

Links and ideas from last week’s WordCamp in Zürich #wcch

I attended the WordCamp in Zurich last Saturday.

It’s been a while since I attended a similar geek event and I enjoyed listening to others.

It was encouraging to hear about WordPress. I’ve used WordPress since September 2004. And it’s truly a great sign of continuity that WordPress is still here. Not only that, but there’s a thriving community and a company that want to keep it that way as well.

Secondly, it was encouraging to hear from other bloggers and web developers.

Here’s a quick run through my Twitter notes and faves (like a Storify summary of Tatort on Spiegel.de ;-)).

First talk I listened to was on trends in enterprise blogs. I found this talk useful for my day job.

Large, enterprise blogs have switched off commenting and are experimenting with new forms of integrating user interaction, e.g. by using annotations, or by asking specific questions, or moving comments entirely to Facebook.

Regarding content length, short texts and long analysis articles (aka Longreads) work best. It’s the mid-length texts between 500 and 800 words that are read least frequently.

And many of the enterprise sites use extensive email marketing to bring readers to their site.

The slides are here.

Next talk that inspired me was by Vitaly Friedman. He had a fun starting point by looking at typewriter art in the late 19th century, which led to ASCI art and teletext.

If the Internet hadn’t appeared, we would all be teletext designers and developers.

I think I’ll print this tweet on dead wood and post it on my office door:

Vitaly had some excellent UX examples. His message: details matter for usability.

Another very enjoyable talk was by Paolo on virtual offices and distributed teams. First thing to note it’s not only about tools. The tools should not be the first thing you try to solve when setting up a distributed team. Three common mistakes are

  1. Trying to mimic a local office setup
  2. Measuring work based on the wrong metrics
  3. Suffering instead of embracing change

Recruiting is a very important part of distributed teams. And because your team is in different places and different timezones, managers need to empower their team members. Managers must trust team members to perform and deliver their work packages in time, in high quality.

Next talk:

I liked Christian Leu’s humorous talk about how to become a successful blogger. His point was there are tonnes of articles on successful blogging. There’s no point in repeating this.

Many long-term bloggers have moved to Twitter and are blogging less. Main reason given by many is lack of time. As a result, @leumund presented 10 simple tips to find more time for blogging.

It’s important to stay true to yourself.

In summary, it was an enjoyable day.

Videos of the talks will be published WordPress.tv at some point.

Observation:
There were several talks on maintaining multilingual sites with WordPress. For me this is a sign, that WordPress is used increasingly in a Swiss business environment. Many Swiss websites (even for SMEs) need to display in German, French, Italian and English. My humble tip: Consider using Drupal instead of WordPress for multilingual sites. Maintaining multi-language sites is part of the Drupal core.

While listening to others present, I thought of two WordPress presentations which I could present to share some of my more recent learnings and experience:

  1. Idea no. 1: POSSE and IndieWeb plugins for WordPress – Using Webmention plugin, an URL shortener and Jetpack’s Publicize (see corresponding entry)
  2. Idea no.2: Security for non-techies – Make your WordPress site less vulnerable, even if you’re a non-developer; about WordPress resources, plugins, advice, where to get help

Further links:

Storify

Blogging in an imperfectly multilingual world

Live blogging notes by Evren Kiefer

On communication within a distributed team

The end of time