Moving Day

Moving Day

Hello fans of the Pondstone Communications blog!

Thank you for years of loyal readership. With nearly 655,000 views at the time of posting, wordpress.com has served us well but it’s time to move our blog to our own site. We will keep this blog live (people who Google “cute animals” and “cool castles” will still find us here) but a more focused blog relating to Pondstone’s business will now be available at http://blog.pondstone.ca.

Thanks again! ‘Hope to see you at the new site!

Blackberries

Image by Ragesoss of Wikipedia

Service outages, slower than expected consumer pick-up of the Playbook, a disappointing showing at the 2011 Consumer Electronics show, a Executive shake-up (sort-of), and countless articles speculating on the viability of the company.

Not good times for Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry line of products.

Last week, Reuters reported that “Oil field services company Halliburton plans to stop issuing BlackBerry smartphones to employees and switch over to Apple’s iPhone, which it said was better suited to its needs, marking another setback for Research In Motion.”

But here’s the interesting thing… “RIM has nevertheless recognized the threat and in November announced it would offer security features for iPhone and Android from within its existing BlackBerry service for corporations.”

SO! New Blackberry hardware may get more critique than critical acclaim but if they sell their much-loved-by-business services and security on devices that employees prefer, they could set themselves up for long-term stability. Selling services in perpetuity (ŕ la Bell, Rogers, utility companies, etc) guarantees income and, on this scale, could potentially make up for any losses on the hardware side of things. That could calm the shareholders, silence the doomsayers, and enable the company to do some serious soul-searching before stepping back into the ring. Or they may opt to get out of the hardware game altogether.

Then again there are those iHaters and Android-o-phobes who refuse to hold anything but a RIM device…

It’s OK. Don’t fear the on-screen keyboard. See, it’s a full QWERTY too. There you go.

Read the full Reuters article on the Vancouver Sun site here.

We all make mistakes.

Anyone who uses Photoshop has likely used it at 4am in a one-eyed, caffeine-perpetuated fog of semi-consciousness in order to complete a project.  If you’re lucky, you or a colleague noticed the partially deleted poodle you left in the background before your masterpiece got published.

psdisasters.com, photoshopdisasters.com, and photoshop-disasters.net celebrate the errors that didn’t get caught and images from people who should have their Photoshopping licenses revoked.

Here are some of our favourites from psdisasters.com:

Dog Gone: A half pet is better than no pet at all... no wait!

Shopping Crimes:
Stock image: $2.50.
PS "artist": $10.00.
Branding impression of a lifetime: Priceless!

All Ultra Power: New and Improved
Translation: We all get dirty... and sometimes it may lead to dismemberment!

Caught Short: In a photo timing disaster six young actors were rushed to hospital with broken ankles after failing to clear the end of the dock.

X Factor: Really? I mean, really?

Does It Blend?: There's a fine line between beautiful and disturbing. This image - from the window display in a photography studio in Malaga, Spain - does not approach that line.

Hey Blédilait, that's cool. What's it got in it? Toxic waste? Awesome!

The Grinch

The Grinch (image used without permission from cartoongraphics.blogspot.com)

This time of year is stressful. In addition to the merry holiday demands in our personal lives (like trying to remember some of the “thoughtful gift” suggestions made by loved ones during the year or resolving schedules and dietary restrictions for an annually increasing number of gatherings, etc.), businesses face their own festive challenges.

There’s a lot for business owners, managers and staff to juggle with some projects in overdrive for completion before the break and others stalled until clients return in the new year, statutory holidays, vacations, the cold that’s slowly picking-off team-members, as well as client, supplier and your own office Christmas parties (that you forgot to plan in July so you’re now seriously considering the ballroom at Ikea as a venue).

With all that’s going on, it’s pretty easy to understand how some people can get a little Grinchy, even Scroogy, right about now.

Our hope is that, despite the hustle and the bustle, amid the chaos and confusion, you find time to laugh. Whatever you’re celebrating, or not, in the coming weeks… get in a good laugh. Stop and watch when you stumble upon the second half of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, spend some time reading the funnies on XKCD.com, allow yourself to chuckle when someone e-mails you the image of a roast turkey with the tan lines! Chortle, giggle or guffaw, and feel better for it.

Wishing you all the best of the season and a great, side-splitting, eye-watering, uncontrollable ugly-laugh… or two!

The Pondstone Team

P.S. Here are a few of our (G rated) favourites:

http://youtu.be/R55e-uHQna0
http://armorgames.com/play/7598/flight
http://www.xkcd.com

Don't Waste Wood LogoThis week, Pondstone launched the newly redesigned dontwastewood.com.

The “Don’t Waste Wood” campaign, by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC), promotes the benefits, both environmental and financial, of diverting wood waste from landfills.

The site features a substantial resource library for policy-makers, a toolkit for members of the construction and demolition industries, and information for architects.

In addition to showcasing various markets for wood waste, the site explores the financial feasibility of deconstruction vs. demolition. All information is available to the general public, including links to companies providing deconstruction services or making use of reclaimed wood in their products.

The new site is built on WordPress and includes a look-up feature that provides both Canadian and American users with a list of wood waste haulers, sellers or buyers within a specified radius of their postal code or zip code.

Check out http://www.dontwastewood.com

Infographics: An Infographic

Infographic from The Huffington Post

The first infographic I read was on the subject of crowdsourcing. I was entertained and informed. I also felt that this was a clever and creative way to present statistics and other information.

In my search to discover the origins of the modern infographic I learned from Wikipedia that the first infographic was a cave painting… right… helpful.

From my own observations then, these [modern] infographics are enjoying a surge in popularity. They seem to have started more poster-like and I’ve seen interactive (flash) infographics but my personal favorites are the long graphics that tell a story as the user scrolls (and scrolling is the only input required of the user). I find them a great showcase of the graphic designer’s talent and the most digestible presentation of the information.

Business and charities are now putting out infographics to sell or promote their product or cause with facts as an alternative to conventional advertising:

Here are a couple of sites that feature collections of entertaining and informative infographics, but be warned, you could spend a lot of time on these sites:

Have a favorite infographic or collection? Please comment.

Canadian Toy Testing Council

Canadian Toy Testing Council's Logo / 3-Star Award Winning Toy Badge

The Canadian Toy Testing Council’s Annual Media Event was held this past Tuesday, November 8th, to release their 2012 Toy Report and a new website built by Pondstone.

The CTTC is a non-profit, volunteer-powered, registered charitable organization. Every year, parents look to the Canadian Toy Testing Council and their annual Toy Report for recommendations on the best toys for children. The Toy Report is released at the beginning of the holiday shopping season and all testing results are posted to the CTTC website. That means that parents in Canada — and around the world — have access to the results. The news media, too, rely on CTTC expertise when they are reporting on stories related to toys.

Pondstone was delighted to work with CTTC’s Chair, Liliane Benoit, and the Board of Directors to redesign and build a new WordPress site for the organization.  CTTC’s web presence now has an updated look and feel, more intuitive navigation and provides CTTC staff with easy content management and updating.

The new site went live Tuesday morning and the 2012 Toy Testing Results were published at exactly 10:30am to coincide with the beginning of the Media Event.

Check out the new site, as well as the latest Reports and Awards at www.toy-testing.org

Siri Screenshot

Boo, Apple… Boo.

In a previous post on accessibility, I promised to investigate the accessibility features of my iPhone4. I had hoped that there was a way to control the iPhone with voice commands. I’m a few weeks too late.

My iPhone4 features some interesting accessibility tools like Apple’s Voice Over (screen-reading which works quite well, even in Safari), large text and high-contrast options (which reminds me of the old default Winamp skin), even custom gesture recording and assistive touch for users with “Physical & Motor” disabilities.  The benefit to all of these is clear (and if any readers make use of these feature, please comment on how effective they are) but my hope of controlling the iPhone by voice command were dashed with Apple’s launch of the iPhone4 GS earlier this month.

Coinciding with the launch of the iPhone4 GS, Apple incorporated a program that was previously available on the app store called Siri into iOS5.  Siri is dubbed as a “Personal Assistant” application that can “send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more” (http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/siri-faq.html).  Unfortunately I can’t test the extent of the voice control since support for the Siri App was discontinued and it now operates exclusively on the iPhone4 GS.

I have no intention of upgrading the phone I’ve had less than a year so I guess I’ll have to do without voice control for a while longer or start reading reviews of competing apps on the app store.  If anyone has an iPhone4 GS, please share your thoughts on Siri.  Or, if you had previously purchased the Siri app, what compensation have you received?

Below are some links to additional information including how one of the co-founders of the company that built the Siri has left his post at Apple.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

HTML5 Logo

HTML5 Logo. Source: http://www.w3.org/html/logo/ There are t-shirts and free stickers available!

While I’ve been growing increasingly excited by the new functionality available in HTML5 like native support for video and audio, I really hadn’t thought about what new Accessibility support there might be.  With a number of reviews currently underway and revised Accessibility Standards legislation expected across North America and Europe in the next few years, it seems an important topic to investigate.

On Tuesday, I attended a briefing with the CTO for Accessibility for IBM Software, Richard Schwerdtfeger.

One of the first things Richard talked about in his brief tour of new accessibility functionality was the <track> tag. In HTML5 you can define multiple tracks for a single media element enabling you to include video caption tracks, described audio tracks, advanced navigation and more.  Despite some browsers being slow to include support, the groundwork is now set to be able to supply video and audio content to users who would not otherwise be able to take advantage.

Check out http://www.html5accessibility.com/ for a comparison of HTML5 feature and attribute accessibility support in Windows Browsers.

Mr. Schwerdtfeger has the laudable goal of making all of IBM’s Internet Applications as accessible as desktop applications.  They developed a tool to assist their web developers identify Accessibility issues which they then repackaged for sale to the public.  It’s called Rational Policy Tester and there is a demo.

The next great challenge will no doubt be in keeping up with mobile devices.  Continuing to solicit increased sematics inclusion from browser manufacturers is essential, but how do you plan for keyboard accessibility on a touch-screen device?

Now I’m curious…

I’m going to investigate the “improved” Accessibility features Apple included in iOS5… I’d really like to be able to launch and control applications with voice command.  I’ll report my experiences in an upcoming post.

I was driving home the other day when I saw a sign by the side of the road. A number of them actually, similar to lawn signs you see around election-time. Spaced about 20 metres apart, they looked identical but they didn’t have a single word on them. They were simply large QR codes.

According to Wikipedia, QR (Quick Response) codes have been around since 1994 when they were invented by a subsidiary of Toyota to track vehicles during the manufacturing process.

More recently, with the rise in popularity of Smartphones equipped with QR code readers, they have been popping up in all sorts of print communications from newspapers and magazine ads to movie posters and Government of Ontario public awareness campaign materials.

This QR code redirects to EDC's 2010 Annual Report website

This QR code redirects to EDC's 2010 Annual Report website

Although QR codes can store a variety of information, they are most commonly used to redirect a user’s Smartphone to a (hopefully) mobile-optimized website or micro-site specific to the topic or campaign. Last year, Best Buy added QRs to their in-store product tags. Earlier this year, Pondstone used QR codes on Export Development Canada’s 2010 Annual Report to direct users to the Annual Report website we created.

Not only do QR codes provide a means of presenting targeted content to an audience already expressing interest in your message, but analytics can provide you with feedback on the level of engagement you are achieving with your campaign.

In Ontario, there is a law that prohibits the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle, so I have no idea what content the creators of the roadside posters wanted to share with me. QR codes, used properly, can be a highly effective way of sharing information but since my query is on a high-speed road with no stopping I’ll have to enlist the help of a passenger if I am to solve the mystery of this message.

Thanks for reading and drive safe.

Pondstone Communications

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