Enabling deep linking (for mobile devices), the right way!

There needs to be an automagic way to update the address bar while scrolling. This way one can deep link to a specific part of a webpage without hassle. This is crucial for sharing content on mobile- and other ‘fatfinger’ devices.

This is the case: As you read an article on your iPhone or iPad you find a brilliant quote that you like to share with the world. So you click the “Tweet this”-button. But there is something wrong:

The address you shared starts all browsers at the top of the webpage in stead of straight to the quote! That’s awkward!

This problem has been solved quite a long time ago in the language of the web: HTML. They invented so called ‘Achors’. Anchors work like little pieces of bookmark-velcro. Just add a hash-sign (#) combined with the anchor-name to the address of the page and your browser will jump right  to the relevant quote. That’s what we call ‘deep linking’.  In the address bar of the browser you get URL’s like:

http://awesomekoalas.com/#food

Unfortunately these anchors are invisible to the human eye. As a web developer you can expose an anchor list by adding a table of contents in the document so people can jump right to the part of interest. This is however a lost art and rarely used in favor of a clean styled page (which I can relate to).
Continue reading Enabling deep linking (for mobile devices), the right way!

FAT Taxomony: Tag your content concise and consistently

Tagging has been both the content producers friend and foo for some years now. It’s the ‘cheap way out’ for relevance in a world dominated by a user generated content. This article shows you one way to attack the cluttered and seemingly random tag clouds, helping your readers to make sense of their intuitions and your content.

First let’s answer a question: Why would one use tags or taxonomy (defining -in this case: content- in a few basic terms) on a blog, photo site or youtube?

I start with this question because there is no one answer. It rather depends on the person you speak to, be it a content producer, (interaction) designer, librarian or the end user of your content. The following might cover 80 percent of the reasons to use taxonomy or tags:

  • make implicit links between content explicit, by actually generating a little group of content items that share that ‘tag’.
  • making a machine -more precise SEO compatible- summary of the particular content item, that’s also readable for humans.
  • providing a intuitive (but mostly serendipitous) pathway for content consumers to meander through your (and others) content items
  • (this is for the librarians among us) adding meta data to structure your content base.

But what are tags best used for?

Tags are meta data

For all intent and purposes tags are meta data. Tagging objects or ‘taxonomy’ stems from the olden day’s when archeologists and librarians needed to sort and describe their objects in a neutral, objective and retraceable way.

By making an index card for each object, people could find and also determine the relation of objects with others. Using reusable words like”rock”, “Denver” and “novel”, “youth” things can be found, inventoried and ultimately used for research or entertainment.

User generated content clouds

Now a days tags are the ‘easy way out’ for content producers (read: consumers) to relate content (photos, video, audio, text) with each other by tossing some descriptive couple of comma separated words in a text box, in stead of describing the ‘object’ in a short little paragraph.

This ‘ease’ of tagging has expanded to the user generated content generation. Resulting in seemingly trivial, but -when applied to large mountain of content- suddenly and surprisingly accurate way to relate and meander through content.

The most famous and well applied taxonomy is the one on flickr.com and other non-text based content hubs (photos, videos, audio).  tag clouds, with large words defining a lot of usage and small the less explored words.

With a large and productive user base these sites circumvent the inaccuracy of a unorganized group of content producers using their vocabulary to ‘tag’ their content. By sheer power of numbers of some of these ‘tags’ that overlap the tags used by other ‘producers’ and so forming a relevant cloud of photos.

Perhaps more importantly these tags did also -as time progressed- create groups of people joined by a limited, but statistically powerful vocabulary.

Tags are the measure of relevance between pieces of content

The more threads a spider spins between two branches, the stronger the connection is between the two branches. The same goes with shared tags between pieces of content.

Google makes a statistically ‘web’ of relevant properties of a piece of content in it’s search engine.

Hard links (i.e. linkable tags) however are the editor’s way on ‘forcing’ relevance between pieces of content. The relevance is an implicit web, growing with each piece of content that’s endowed with the same tag.

Are tags the SEO path to heaven?

By the way: a quick note for people that find tags the golden path to SEO heaven. It’s not if it’s not done right.

If done right however, it makes your content more relevant, like it would if you would add links to pages that cover the same topic or are otherwise inspiration or source for your content.

In any case: if you focus on the human aspect of taxonomy, you will be rewarded automatically in the long run (if not instantly). SEO is made to enable people to find content, not to feed machines.

 The FAT method

Great, now we go into the nitty gritty of how to accurately and without creating ‘link noise’ make great tags for your content.

The FAT method stands for “Four Axis Taxonomy”. It’s a basic framework or reminder on how to consistently taxonomize your content.

In this method we step aside from the ‘spur of the moment’, and ‘you know what I mean’ way of tagging the content and have the statistics take over.

For a proper way to tag content you have to take some time to plan the taxonomy landscape for your current AND future content. This might seem like a librarian, laborious and tedious approach for an informal tool to define content, but it will pay of.

Our goal with taxonomy is to make only relevant links from one piece of content to the other. Although it’s possible and sometimes even desirable to accidentally link two seemingly unrelated pieces of content -some call it serendipity-, it’s not the goal. Relevance is the reason people and machines ‘click’ on tags, so creating relevance is the name of the game.

To define a piece of content there are four axis over which a person or machine can regard a piece of content. These axis might seem arbitrary, but I’ll illustrate them with some basic questions.

The one question should be always on your mind: “What terms are the desirable path ways to reach this particular piece of content”.

One would predefine the tags for each of these axes and perhaps add as you go to provide linkage in the future. Tagging should have the foundation of consistency and the flexibility for content growth.

  1. Subject (s)
  2. Motive
  3. Media kind
  4. Entities

Subject

Sorry for choosing an ambivalent word for this, but it’s used on purpose. With ‘subject’ I mean both the ‘matter’ your content is regarding, as well as the persons, objects playing a role in your content.

An interview might be a good example: choose the name of the interviewer and of the interviewed person as tags. Combine the first and last name in one tag; you don’t want to relate all interviews with people called ‘Bob’ be connected, or if you do, make it a well considered choice.

Be concise with tagging the ‘matter’ at hand. The topic of your content might be an interview about the introduction of a book a person wrote about the love life of Henry Kissinger. Reasonable subject tags would be “introduction”, “book”, “love life”, “Henry Kissinger”. This way one relates all content considering introductions, books, love lifes and Henry Kissinger.

Motive

“Why is this piece of content here” is the central question for this axis. It might be arbitrary and even subject to make a category, rather than a tag.

In any case it’s an important connection between content and in most cases a relevant one for periodical and reoccurring content. You might be describing that the content is part of a series with a certain name (for example “series”, “love life of famous people I never heard of”), or that it’s location or situation is relevant (so: “introduction product”, “random ideas” or “walk in the park”).

Media kind

Define what kind of content your tagging so also the form of the content is searchable. Think in term of “commercial, film, landscape, sound scape, interview, press release, review, discussion, event, product, demonstration, editorial, etc”. This might be an arbitrary bunch of tags, but people will remember that video has take the form of an interview with David Hasselhoff.

Adding the form name “interview” will make a more accurate description of your content. Remember: when tagging audio and video, you might want to mention the execution of that particular media, like: an animation, narration or an interpretive dance.

Entities

This might be the ‘buck shot’ tagging part of the method, so apply this sparse and precise. Entities are things, persons and other ‘sticky objects’ mentioned, revered to and ‘visible’ in a piece of content.

It’s basically the stuff people might remember besides the subjects in the piece of content. You can choose from weird quotes, remarks, colors, sounds and circumstances.

I once looked for a music video clip where two guys were hopping and overtaking each other in weirs suites. When you look on Youtube for these terms you might not find the video clip of the ‘Fine Young Cannibals’ ‘She drives me crazy’. So consider the sticky parts of your content.

Rules to tag by

Here are some final bits and bobs to take note of when tagging your content.
  • Constraint yourself to a minimum amount of tags, it’s not a sport to get as many synonyms in one article. The more tags you use, the more chances you have to relate to an unrelated piece of content.
  • Be consistent and non-ambivalent when choosing your tag-terms. If possible, make use of the auto complete functionality of tagging tools, and consider the value of every new tag.
  • Make a list of reoccurring tags for each axis. For example you’re writing bike reviews. Make a predefined and researched list of bike types to choose from when ever you start a tagging a new piece of content.
  • Use tags or terms that are commonly used in the readers ‘world’, but don’t fall for the ‘contemporary’ trap and add ‘awesome’ or other terms that are obviously a lingual fad.
  • Taxonomy is thought from the end user and might be used to make a semantic link between pieces of content, but remember that with a wide audience it’s more valuable to be consistent. The audience will get used to your view and might even adept it.
  • Decide if you’re going to use singular or plural form for tags. This will make it more consistent and will make more relevant connections.

Own your online thoughts

A while ago I started to record my ‘tweets’ into an archive I own: mecorder.com, based on ThinkUp. The though behind this is I found myself posting most of my ideas and thoughts to twitter, but could not effectively trace back those awesome links and tweet.

ThinkUp is actually a tool to give you insight into your online conversations. So not only does it record your tweets and facebook posts, but it also adds the conversation with others to the mix. That way you can search and see what the conversation was, long after the tool you used has gone. So, at least it’s a handy little tool, but also very insightful.

Obviously ‘mecorder’ is a combination of ‘me’ and ‘recorder’. That would be the ultimate goal: to record my online presence, as well as the cloud around my ‘posts’. In the first case just to have a place my ‘public mental notes’ can live indefinitely, but also for it to have meaning, even if it was in the most insignificant way.

Value over time

I believe all content has it’s value, not only in the present, but also as part of a timeline from yesterday into the future. In that respect we are building a history of small seemingly insignificant pings, that hopefully come together to a symphony of some beauty.

Call me a sentimental historian, born in the body of a creator. I just like to make my content to last, in whatever form it needs.

Ownership

However, the most important reason to start recording my ‘tweets’ is to own the content I make, including the scribbles and time dependent nonsense I frequently post. Because as one is using ‘services’ like flickr, twitter, facebook, you hand over ‘you’, or parts of you, in tiny little increments.

When these services have gone (and all of them will pass), a significant part of you will be gone, for ever, even for you, the creator. Effectively you are not the owner of your own thoughts, how ever insignificant you think they might be at this time.

This thought made me record my tweets, to analyze, search upon (did you know twitter only makes the 3200 most recent tweets available to you?) and to once in a while re-read, just for giggles and fun.

The end of Apps, next stop: context and information centered design

Apps like you would see on your iPhone, iPad and computer are not here to stay. They were however a necessary step to make to truly build a way to show, edit, make, share information in an optimal way.

Websites were made to show, make and share information. It’s seen as the transparent non platform to do stuff online with information. With the coming of mobile, the development of technologies and computing power went to slow to get an optimized way to share, make via websites on a mobile platform. That’s why App’s were the savior for mobile information, just like applications were on PC’s. Apps and applications are an optimized way to get right to the core of the business or information, be it either editing, viewing, sharing, consuming text, video, audio, social links or images.

Apps philosophy is inside out

The Apps philosophy is however inside out, the wrong way. An App works like a doorway to a real small set of information, or just one view on information with a tiny swiss army knife to do stuff with the information (share, edit, etc). Some developers made Apps with a combined set of actions like twitter. It can make photo’s and tweet them together with text and it does so in a very convenient way for certain contexts. But if you strip away the Apps from the actions and information, you are left with just that: actions and information.

“I’d like to call Robbert”, is one of the use cases of a phone. As it’s designed to make calls, you just have to select Robbert and press Call. With many other applications on the phone we now have to choose the tool and then select the piece of information we like to apply the tool on.

Information as the core

If we’d take the ‘call Robbert’- use case in a wider view, it makes more sense to select the subject first (Robbert) and then select what you’d like to do with it: “I’d like to contact Robbert”. There might be a bunch of ways to contact Robbert, but it’s Robbert I’d like to contact. In this case it makes more sense to logically present information like ‘contacts’ and select context driven tools to edit, share  and -in this case- interact with the information.

The Web-OS by Palm and more recently the Microsoft Metro interface are interesting ways to make a information centered interface. It gives you combined, aggregated and some times a curated information view on your social context, news and other information.

Context driven information actions

That thought of “I’m in this context, I need this information to do this for me” is the core of information centered operation. It’s basically: making it possible for information to be  made available in a fluent and transparent way, dependent on the context. The user can decide to either presented in a certain way, being edited, added, called whatever it needs by changing the context.

 

Someone should track the Terms and Conditions

How many times have you glossed over or read the following or similar sentence:

The Terms and Conditions have changed. Please read and accept to continue accessing the site.

Dear companies, please explain what has changed instead of ‘expecting’ that we’ll just give up on the 19 pages of legal gibberish.

The proposal:

  • Some one please make a online service that archives and tracks all ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Terms of Service’ of most online services as an independent consumer rights service.
  • Explain your Terms in a clear format.
  • Explain and visualize changes in the Terms in a clear format
  • Agreement reversal: people should be able to have second thoughts about them agreeing on the ‘terms’, and temporary suspend the company ability to use the data of that particular account.

The Terms Archive

Archive the Terms. Such an archive would look like a ‘social’ press release website. An archive per company of all past and current ‘Terms’. In such an archive people can find their own service/ website/ shop and both archive new, re-read and compare the various Terms and Conditions. Comparing terms would be of the most important features. This will give the consumer insight into the changes and be part of the change.

Explain Terms

Message to all online services: if you value your users (being online value equity, or actual customers) you should help them through the Terms and Conditions and Terms of Service! There are several formats for that. One would be an indexed video with some one explaining the terms in a modular way without any redirect to other pieces of information, so no caveats. One should be able to ‘get’ each part of the terms. Other way’s is a ‘layman’ version of the document, explaining the consequences of each of the terms.

Explain and visualize changes in your Terms

This is the actual crux of the matter. It’s hard to see, compare and detect the changes made in any document. Companies should put some effort into explaining or make insightful what the actual changes are, and also talk about why the terms changed. A visual format would be a ‘track changes’ (like Microsoft Word) kind of version of the document. This will reflect on how your brand is perceived and trust in your service.

Agreement Reversal

If someone has second thoughts about accepting the terms and conditions of a particular service, they should be able to reverse the agreement and thus suspend the implementation of the changes of the reversed terms. In broad terms that would either mean that the particular account would be suspended with the option to reactivate the account, but also block for the company to use the user-data.

Updates

[2011-05-16] We have an update, after some extra thorough Googling we found the TOSBack website an initiative of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and TOS Back is available as an Open Source project, which implements some of the features described above! It’s still in the beta, it’s a start. It’s and archive and it does give a visual difference view. Funny to see most changes in the Terms are spelling errors.

 

Loud environment conversation earplugs

Use industrial earplugs for meaningful conversation in loud music

Problem: I keep having these urges to have a chat with people. This is quite impossible in bar dancing’s or other loud social gatherings like loud bars (very common in Amsterdam), festivals and concerts.

Solution: Bring a few sets of industrial earplugs to keep the interesting things (the conversation) and filter out the often irritating things out (drunks singing, bar music, or the feedback of a bad PA system).

Another advantage is that you can also talk with a normal volume (and hear other people talking with normal volume), and other people can’t. So the conversation can be as intimate as you want. This makes loud concerts perfect surroundings for talking about bribes, state security and personal affairs.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

Channel Surfing Auto Fire

Start channel surfing with just one stroke of a key

I have the problem of wearing out my ‘channel up’ and ‘channel down’ buttons on my TV’s remote control. This happens while channel surfing in vacations and weekends.

There should be a button on the remote like you would find on your joystick, the “auto fire”. Maybe two buttons, “toggle surfing” and “toggle surf channel list inclusion”.

For the advanced users there also may be a “surfing speed dial”.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

Call Frequency Sorted Phonebook

To reach the most (or least) called/ calling people in the book

Why not call the people who seem to think that using the phone is important, and don’t bother calling people who don’t use the phone frequently? The frequent callers/ callees are probably the people who react best on beeing called, right?

My experience is that some people like (depend) on using the phone do get things done. Some people are very important, so they get many phonecalls (this might be even enhanced through good replies).

You could also attach other conclusions on beeing called frequently, or calling frequently. For example for companies: bad service, bad product, good service, good network (of people), or for people ((a)social, good network, stalker. ;-)

Checkout the anotations and votes »

The Beer Crate Seat

Mould a butt-shape into the short sides of a beer crate to enhance comfort when sitting on them.

Pop quiz: Where does one get the best ideas? Right, at parties! So did I. Another question: on what does a Dutchman sit when all seats are taken at a party or on the camping? Right, on the side of a beer crate! They are solid (because of the enforcement within the crate to separate the bottles), they are lightweight and they have nice colors.

So why did no one think of way to make these things comfortable? A crate with a pre-mold butt-shape on the short sides for example! This is only the `economy` solution. It would be also nice to have an integrated polyester cushion instead of the butt-shape. This would be the ‘deluxe’ version, also easy to clean.

As an extra addition it would be nice to integrate a small ashtray in the form of a small, partly removable, drawer in de sides of the crate. This could be even an extra idea for halfbakery.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

The Relations Tracking Address book (Facebook history?)

Basically there are a couple of concepts that need to be coupled to build to a CRM for your friends, family and professional contacts.

Disclaimer: I’m aware that this might be a tool for man, rather than woman (they seem to have this down to an art)

Here is the list of concepts to be connected to give people their own place to track the relations of their acquaintances:

  1. Persons, companies: Name, Addresses, etc
  2. Relationship quantification and rating  between the person and  you (ie. friend level, professional level (with discipline), family level.
  3. Relationships between the Persons (this person was married with that person, this person is a kid of these two persons).
  4. History: basically when did somebody live at, have a relation with, worked at, got a child with, etc

That final touch (the history aspect: 4) will give the most crucial dimension to most social networking sites we already have. There is no way to track the relationships of people in time with those websites, or not in the extension one can deduce a narrative.

This tool by the way does not have to be made as an online service, you might even want to put all this offline, as it might not be for others to see (new kids, relationships, etc). It might however connect with facebook, linkedin to parse updates made by the persons and companies.

When changing address or relationship, all the data goes lost in a normal (electronic) address book. So I want to make an address book which tracks address- and relationship changes. Here’s a small data diagram of the idea. I do have to update it because the idea did change since I came up with it.

Updated 2011-06-02 (made an edit to update the piece to relate to facebook and linkedin (not known to me at the time).