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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

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.

Pondstone would like to extend their congratulations to Sally Clelford, Tara Shaw and Jenna Norman on 5 years of success and over 500 events planned!

We wish you all the best and continued success!

www.f2fe.com

Face 2 Face Event Management - www.f2ge.com

Chicago-based Ragan Communications launched their totally redesigned web site this morning.  The new version is a huge step up from the previous site, packing a host of Ragan news, videos, conferences, webinars, blogs, and much more into a clean and friendly user experience.

With integrated e-commerce, Like and Retweet links, streaming video, and plenty of Web 2.0 goodness, there’s a lot here for the folks and Ragan to be very, very proud of.

A tip of the hat to the whole team down in the Windy City for a job well done, especially the web programming team who took the new site from concept to concrete in record time!

And while I can’t say that Pondstone had anything to do with that herculean programming effort, I can very proudly say that the site design is 100% Pondstone!

I urge you to check out the new site at http://www.ragan.com.  There’s no better source on the Web for valuable and relevant information for professional communicators, and now there’s no better looking one, either.

Cheers,
Duane

From the BBC, full post here.

The Pac-Man game Google put on its home page gobbled up almost five million hours of work time, suggests a study.

The playable version of the classic video game was put on Google’s front page on 21 May to celebrate 30 years since the launch of Pac-Man in Japan.

The search giant reworked the game so the layout was arranged around letters forming its name.

The Pac-Man game proved so popular that Google has now made it permanently available on its own page.

Time delay

The statistics on how many people played and for how long were gathered by software firm Rescue Time. It makes time-tracking software that keeps an eye on what workers do and where they go online.

On a typical day, it suggests, most people conduct about 22 searches on the Google page, each one lasting about 11 seconds.

Putting Pac-Man on the page boosted that time by an average of about 36 seconds, the firm said based on the browsing habits of 11,000 Rescue Time users.

The firm believes this is a relatively low figure because only a minority realised that the logo was playable. To play, people had to click on the “insert coin” button which replaced the more familiar “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on 21 and 22 May.

Extrapolating this up across the 504 million unique users who visit the main Google page day-to-day, this represents an increase of 4.8 million hours – equal to about 549 years.

In dollar terms, assuming people are paid $25 (Ł17.50) an hour, this equates to about $120m in lost productivity, the firm said.

For that money, suggested Rescue Time, it would be possible to hire all Google’s employees and put them to work for about six weeks.

During an interview on Ottawa CBC Radio One with Kathleen Petty and Alistair Steele, the JimWatson.ca, the site for Ottawa mayoral candidate and Pondstone client, Jim Watson, was dubbed the best among all contenders.

Full text of the interview below:

Ottawa CBC Radio One, Kathleen Petty’s show

KP: Alistair Steele’s been looking at the brave new world of online electioneering… So get me back on track here, Alaistair – what did you find out?

AS: Well, Kathleen, I found out that compared to the last election in 2006, there’s been a remarkable upswing in the adoption of new technology, particularly social media sites like the ones that you just mentioned. It’s really quite amazing just how many ways there are now for candidates to reach voters and some of them are making full use of those new tools.

KP: OK, so who gets the most marks for the most impressive site?

AS: Well, I’d say that Jim Watson sets the gold standard here. No surprise, really, given his status, given that he is running for the mayor’s job. His web site is very slick, it’s easy to navigate, it’s uncluttered, it’s topped with a photo that makes him look friendly and approachable, it’s got the simple yet striking grey and red colour scheme. There’s a link to his Flickr page, there’s a slide show where you can see photos of Jim out in the community, there’s a section for campaign news complete with an RSS feed so you can get updates as they come in. You can donate, you can order a sign. And then there are these invitations to follow Jim on Twitter, or you can choose to ‘like’ him on Facebook , and of course there’s a link to YouTube where you can view videos like this one … [clip] … the sound quality’s not great here, which would be about my only complaint about this web site.

For audio of the full interview, go here.

From TIME NewsFeed online, written by Dan Fletcher:

If only there were a social network that allowed me to connect with my friends and post videos online…

A new video posted the Derrick Comedy troupe (a group that includes Community star Donald Glover) pokes fun at the spat of social networking sites that promise “a revolution in the way Web users interact with other users” but really are just knockoffs of Facebook. Their site, dubbed Gink, is no exception: “We took the appeal of Facebook, and added the ability to connect with friends.” Uhhhh.

Maybe my brain’s short-circuited from an inbox clogged with websites all promising the exact same thing, but Gink doesn’t sound that far out there to me. Gink has a currency on the site, dubbed goints. “Users can exchange goints with other users, and in return, they recieve quimbles.” Sure they can! Hey, it makes about as much sense as Foursquare.

And full disclosure: video has some strong language at the end.

The full video can be found here.

Blu Dot Design and Manufacturing, Inc is a Minneapolis-based furniture company founded and operated by three former college friends who shared a passion for art, architecture, and design. The rest of the Blu Dot Story is as follows:

Our goal is to bring good design to as many people as possible.  Which means creating products that are useful, affordable, and desirable.  To make that happen, our design process is founded on collaboration.  Not just among ourselves as we play show-and-tell with concepts, but a total collaboration between pencil and paper, materials and machines, even packaging and assembly.  We like to think that the form is almost inevitable, a by-product of the process.  Our job is simply to help it emerge as beautifully and as efficiently as possible.

The BlueDot Real Good Experiment is a response to the “resourceful culture of ‘curb-mining‘: the act of finding furniture on the street” which the company became aware of after opening a SoHo location. From the experiment’s site:

Now that a year has passed [since the store’s opening], our friends at mono approached us with a way to conduct a curb-mining experiment of our own: What would happen if we left a bunch of Real Good Chairs all over New York, free for the take? Who will grab them? Where will they go? How will they get there? What will their new homes look like?

Thus, the  REAL GOOD experiment was born.

The Real Good experiment and accompanying video (Blu Dot Real Good Experiment from Real Good Chair on Vimeo) is a great example of social marketing. All the chairs that were placed around  the city have found good homes, according to the site (and image below).

To continue to follow the chairs, check out the Flickr and Twitter feeds.

-Jessie W.

Here’s a quick compilation of some of the best ads that are sure to make you look twice.

Narrowed down from a list of the seventy best, the below ads show how great design can be used to covey content for a variety of businesses and organizations.

Send a letter.

Eliminate bad breath.

Glassex cleaner.

Highlite.

M&M: Communication Just Got Sweeter.

Mr Hot Pepper

Nothing can replace a tree.

Pepsi Twist.

Porsche.

Pull more.

WMF Knives: Sharper than you think.

WWF: Don’t cut the rainforest.

These are just some of the best ads around. If you know of a list of similar cailibar, please share it in the comments.


– Jessie W.

Pondstone Communications

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