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Thoughts & Articles

Filter Bubbles on the internet and why you should care.

Jim Infantino
rover

I'm a MAN not an IP address!

Not so long ago, I noticed that on my facebook account, I was only really seeing posts on my wall from a few of the 1000+ friends I currently have. I had recently had an educational and rational discussion with someone with whom I disagree on political matters, and saw that I was no longer getting updates from that person. This is a shame, because without getting differing points of view I feel like I end up in a cul-de-sac of my own opinions, which grow weaker and strager without being challenged.

Then I saw this video by Eli Pariser on TED. Seems it's not just Facebook, but Google that is showing me only what I agree with. And I understand why. If I only get search results that I "buy" or only connect to people who's opinions I "buy" then when they show my an ad for something that I find agreeable, I am more likely to "buy". It's market forces at work in our information cloud. Making it smaller, and more personalized, instead of broader and more varied.

Forgive the sci-fi reference, but I remember this great episode of Star Trek, Next Gen, when the doctor gets unknowingly trapped in something called a "warp bubble" which her subconscious mind fills with people she knows. Everything is fine for a while, until the bubble shrinks, and finally, she is left alone with Picard, who insists it has always just been the two of them on the ship. Finally, he's gone, and she asks the computer, "what is the nature of the universe" and the computer says "the universe is a sphere 800 feet across."

Okay - maybe that's a bit extreme, but I think you can see where I'm going with this. Here's the video:



Perhaps this video and blog entry will never make it to your twitter account, never show up in your google search, never make it to the wall of your facebook page. If so, send me a gmail.

Interesting Article on Web Design Mistakes

Jim Infantino
If you’re a small business owner, your website is the central hub of your company, and it’s a pivotal part of your marketing and branding. Potential customers visit your site specifically for its content, meaning its appearance and usability are critical to its success and how those users view your company. However, getting your web design wrong can have a negative impact on your business. Here are 5 common web design mistakes you must avoid to create a great user experience and grow your bottom line.
  1. Poor Navigation
  2. No Clear Calls To Action
  3. Color & Contrast
  4. Content, Content, Content
  5. Clutter

read about it mashable.com

New SLAB500 module: tMail™

Jim Infantino
Royal

a trendy new method for not so instant messaging

Watching the new trends in communication is important to us here at SLABmedia. We scrutinize each one we see, to catch which we can use to enhance our web-interface. This one is really exciting. tMail™ - is a web-application, input device & module that combines the communication functionality of e-mail, texting, twittering and blogging, but with a fully-tactile input method that essentially redefines the word "input". The user (or tMailer) first much acquire a new physical "input application module" to get started, but once acquired, it is pretty much automatic, in a "manual" sense of the word "automatic." How it works -------------- The tmail-er uses the new input device / application / module to literally tap out a message on a sheet of dried pulp in the exact same way as they would their computer keyboard. The words appear on the dried pulp by means of a technology called "i-ink" or just "ink". Once it dries, this communication method really starts to show its potential. The words - now fused to the pulp sheet, are rolled out of the device with a satisfying whoosh, and are transported by foot, or by bike to a near by person. That person reads the message just like they would a normal email or text, and can respond to you with their own application input module device pulp stainer whoosher. To get started, send $8999.99 to SLABmedia, and we will send you the application input module tapper manual return whatever in about 5 to 800,000 business days. tMail™ the future of communication. Brought to you by the brainiacs at SLABmedia.com

Password Security

Jim Infantino
Ask most people where they should be sure to use a strong password (see below) they will say "online banking", or maybe "ecommerce shop account" Very few will say: "my email account."


STRONG PASSWORD INGREDIENTS

  1. 8 or more characters
  2. upper and lower case letters,
  3. at least 1 number,
  4. at least one punctuation mark,
  5. not made up of words found in a dictionary



And yet, our email accounts are the first line of security for opening a new online account, or resetting your password. A hacker who has guessed your email account password can go to your facebook account, slab500 account, online shopping accounts, all of which are referenced in your emails, and click "reset my password." At that point, your password, or a new password is sent to your email address. The hacker checks your email, resets your passwords, and at that point, at least online, they are effectively - you.

This is why it is very important to change your email password regularly. And to use the guidelines above to create a password that is difficult to hack. The problem with these passwords, of course, is that they are very hard to remember. Luckily, there are some applications for the mac and for windows machines that keep track of your more complex passwords for you. 1Password is a good app for this purpose. You set it up, and it remembers all of your online usernames and passwords. It keeps this information encrypted on your machine, behind 1 password that you have to remember.

One method for creating a password that is more secure is to use the initials of a phrase of words. For example

One Smart Fellow, He Felt Smart, Two Smart Fellows They Felt Smart


Can be converted to the password 1sFhfS2$fTfs - or something like that. You pick a phrase, and decide how you want to add caps, letters and punctuation. The phrase sticks in your memory, and there are no dictionary words. Experiment. See if you find something more secure than your current pet name / birthday / 123456 combo.

And hey, let's be careful out there.

of Restaurants & Websites

Jim Infantino
of Restaurants amp Websites
What is it about a restaurant that, unlike a plumbing company or a hairdresser, inspires the commissioning of websites that are so unhelpful?

Many of us have had the same experience: we are out and about, and trying to get some information about a place to dine. We visit a restaurant site on our smart phone only to find that


  1. It is in flash, and as such, invisible
  2. The navigation is confusing or not navigable via a mobile device
  3. The location and phone number are hidden
  4. The menu is out of date, and only available on pdf
  5. We are welcomed by the always popular "please wait" sign as some useless animation, complete with music you can't turn off, loads

Of all businesses, restaurants are the most in need of a website with a simple hierarchical structure and with the phone number and address clearly visible to all types of devices. Yet, so many restaurant sites are created as if their sole purpose were to wow you with how smoothly the lobster bisque floats in from the left side of the page.

Restaurants depend on reservations and walk up traffic, so you could assume that their sites should be built around 4 basic needs:


  1. The site offer up the phone number and location first and foremost, just after the logo.
  2. The site be in a form visible and legible by all smartphones and tablet.
  3. The site be easily editable by staff nightly so that any menu changes and specials can be highlighted - keeping visitors returning.
  4. The site reflect the style and culture of the restaurant and be visibly pleasing to visit.

Amazingly, so many restaurants only focus on #4, to the exclusion of all the rest. Many sites have text formatted in flash so that they can use non-web-standard typefaces (see previous blog post) or even worse, they set the type all as PNG image, so that none of it is searchable. Many sites I found today have the location and telephone number set as PNG image. (!)

What causes this? Vanity? Ego? Inexperience? Perhaps a combination of all three. Many businesses don't think that although that flash animation introduction they spent $3000 on looks beautiful, and clearly articulates the culture of their establishment, it only wows the visitor 1 or 2 times, if ever. After that, the visitor becomes increasingly annoyed with your site, and, more importantly, your brand. Sites built this way are there to please the owner of the restaurant, not the customer.

What we donate to an establishment when we visit their self-promoting site, is our time. We don't like to have it wasted. What we want is information and we want it immediately. If a site can get it to us, on our mobile or at home, and keep things up to date, we will return, not only to the site, but, more likely, to the restaurant.

Below is a link to an article in the Globe by Devra First, highlighting, in a wickedly sharp manner, the pitfalls of restaurant sites.

A huge variety of web-safe fonts - OTF?! ... I mean WOFF!!

Jim Infantino

Ask any web designer about their deepest secret wish, as they drift off to their neatly kerned slumber, and most will say:

"I dream of seeing Franklin Gothic, Helvetica Neue, Cochin, Frutiger, even DIN Mittelschrift, all as web-safe fonts!!!"

Well, their dreams are just a bit closer to being answered as I type this. CSS3 - the newest version of cascading stylesheets being adopted by the newest web browsers, includes embedding font-families directly into the web page. The only caveat is that the fonts have to be licensed for web use since, once a font is on the web, anyone can grab it.

No problem! New web-only font formats have been developed for just such a purpose. Look for @font-face fonts with the suffix: WOFF, EOT, SVG & TTF. These fonts can be licensed fairly cheaply compared to most fonts, and only work on your webpage. Check out fontSpring.com for some of these - ready to go, including (drumroll) Franklin Gothic!

slab 1293
Franklin Gothic No 2 Heavy.


There is also a movement afoot to create some free-versions of high quality fonts for the web. The rush could be to be the first type foundry to create the next Verdana. Check out exjlibris (forget trying to pronouce it) for some fine new OTF (open type format) fonts that are licensed via Creative Commons to be used both on your mac / pc and on your website. Anivers is a favorite of mine.

slab 1293
Anivers from exjlbris foundry


If none of the available open source and web only font options work for you, there is Typekit. Typekit is a licensed, membership-based repository of embeddible fonts that you are not likely to find elsewhere. These can be licensed to a particular domain and embedded via javascript. We at SLABmedia, for example, chose to join typekit to gain use "Meta Web Pro" a typeface that matches our new logo.

When I was a young teen, my Dad, who spent much of his life in the creative end of Madison Avenue, gave me the most valuable advice about graphic design:

slab 1293

So, finally, your websites can be searchable, and also well designed. Let us know if you dream of type on-line like we do. Perhaps we can ad a bit of Bodoni or Calluna or Harfang to your site. And maybe even some day ... DIN Mittleschrift .... OMSVG!