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Test your website content, as well as your UX.

Nobody needs to convince you that it’s important to test your website’s design and interaction with the people who will use it, right? But if that’s all you do, you’re missing out on feedback about the most important part of your site: the content.

Whether the purpose of your site is to convince people to do something, to buy something, or simply to inform, testing only whether they can find information or complete transactions is a missed opportunity: Is the content appropriate for the audience? Can they read and understand what you’ve written?

From A List Apart:Testing Content

Things made by people I know

A few friends have been busy launching new businesses over the last few weeks, and some others have new sites or existing bits and bobs that you might be interested in at this time of year, so here is one post, plugging them all. Note – I’m not on commission for any of them!

Grow your own cows

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Written by Reb Williams, and illustrated by Maria Smedstad

When Reb Williams’s ad exec dad had a mid-life crisis, he didn’t get a Ferrari. He got green. Before Fearnley-Whittingstall let his chickens run free, even before Tom and Barbara were on the telly, the Williams family gave up the rat race and moved out to the country to live the Good Life. Only they weren’t very good at it… This hilarious account of growing up with eco-freak parents was first published in the Guardian’s ‘Experience’ column. Now you can read the full story, hairy udders and all.

Buy on Amazon

Revival

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Revival Retro stocks a range of vintage style clothing. It’s new, not second hand, it comes in a range of sizes and is high quality production and design. You can dance in it, party and generally enjoy wearing these garments time and time again.

The website now includes a shop, and ships worldwide (except the US), so this is not just for London people. Every friend you have who defines their own dress style and doesn’t follow the high street, all you swing dancers who go to international camps – dancers from other cities perhaps don’t have local access to this kind of stuff, every friend who might not have a clue what to buy their partner for Christmas…

Check out the Revival shop

Panga 

Bespoke, contemporary and rustic handmade furniture.
Clean and honest designs that showcase the integrity of the materials to create truly tactile products from sustainable sources that seamlessly marry established design principles with modern lifestyle demands.

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Panga designs available online here

Moonhorse books

Moon Horse is an online bookstore specialising in lesbian interest titles, both printed and ebooks. It has a huge range of books at competitive prices.

Moonhorse books online bookshop

Anything else?

Have I missed anyone? Any friends out there thinking harrumph, why is she not plugging my stuff? Let me know.

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Life inside Facebook: how head of developers organises 500 people

Ever wondered what it’s like to be an engineer inside Facebook? We got an exclusive interview with Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering at the company, who has previously been named one of the 50 most important people on the web, to ask him how he gets things done in an organisation that’s not only growing fast – but also setting the pace when it comes to a lot of web implementations.

Schroepfer is in charge of a team of 500-odd developers who do everything on the site

Ah, he makes it sound so simple – I’d love to know more about what infrastructure supports this development arrangement, and what their investment in automated testing has been. It’s a bit of an obsession for me at the moment.

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Coming Out in the Sciences: After 50 Years in the Lab

Coming Out in the Sciences: Part I—After 50 Years in the Lab, a Reproduction Expert Leaves the Closet

Maggie Koerth-Baker at 9:00 AM Monday, Oct 11, 2010

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Story and interview by Steve Silberman

Neena Schwartz is a legend in reproductive biology. A trailblazing endocrinologist, she helped map the pathways of communication between the brain and the reproductive organs, uncovering the crucial role of a hormone called inhibin in regulating ovulation. She has also been one of the most outspoken advocates for women at the lab bench, co-founding the Association of Women in Science in 1971, fighting for equality in the face of pervasive old boys’ networks, and mentoring generations of scientists at Northwestern University.

Throughout this distinguished career, however, Schwartz has borne the burden of a secret—she’s gay. […] Now retired, Schwartz explains in the book that she is coming out with the hope that her story will “provide young gay scientists or other professionals with a lesson of possibilities for success and happiness without such splits in their lives.”

An interesting story of feminism in the world of science in the 1970s.

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Google users’ stories

Some of the best feedback we receive are the real-world stories of how people have used Google to make an impact in their lives or the lives of others. We’re constantly amazed at what people can do and have done with our technology—from making a life-saving diagnosis to reuniting with a long lost love.

When i talk about using storytelling as a means of knowledge transfer, people often ask for examples of where this has been used, so I was pleased to find this examples from Google.

Journalism Warning Labels

Contents Not Verified

It seems a bit strange to me that the media carefully warn about and label any content that involves sex, violence or strong language — but there’s no similar labelling system for, say, sloppy journalism and other questionable content.

I figured it was time to fix that, so I made some stickers. I’ve been putting them on copies of the free papers that I find on the London Underground. You might want to as well.

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Have some ready for the next cancer scare / dodgy science data / fake exclusive you come across.

Scott Adams Blog – The Less Feature

One of my local movie theaters just added the option of special seats that move in sync with the action on screen. Now every time I want to see a movie with friends, I need to poll everyone to see what sort of seat they want. Worse yet, another nearby theater offers dinner with movies. It won’t be long before planning a movie will take more ti me than the movie itself.

 

Let me say it again: World, I’ll pay extra if you will please give me less.

 

I do find myself paralyzed by indecision sometimes, and resort to telling myself to do the thing I first thought of. That usually works out just fine. I’m trying to plan a holiday at the moment, and can’t decide between the 6 equally excellent but utterly different options I have thought of. If I leave it another week, I’ll have thought of 6 more. I can still remember the original holiday plan, so it’s probably time to listen to my own advice and go back to what I first thought of.

 

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Design with Intent toolkit – resource to encourage different perspectives on design

It’s been a long time coming, but a year after v.0.9, thenew Design with Intent toolkit, DwI v.1.0, is ready. Officially titled Design with Intent: 101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design, it’s in the form of 101 simple cards, each illustrating a particular ‘gambit‘ for influencing people’s interactions with products, services, environments, and each other, via the design of systems. They’re loosely grouped according to eight ‘lenses‘ bringing different disciplinary perspectives on behaviour change.

 

This is such a brilliant set of resources to encourage a fresh look at design. It points out examples of how conscious design decisions have influenced the world around us. In the same vein as the also excellent The Psychology of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman.

 

Posted via Posterous by Elaine Aitken

Ninite – one stop download of essential software

I’ve just used Ninite to download and install a bundle of software for my laptop, and it is great! The Ninite site lets you choose a list of very useful tools and applications, and then gives you one installer to run to install them all.

I already had quite a few of the applications installed – browsers, Skype, Spotify, AVG, Dropbox, but tried it out when I was installing CCleaner. I also bundled in SumatraPDF and Evernote.

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Sure enough, as promised, a single installer package was created which installed all of these with no further interaction required. I do a little ad hoc tech support for friends and family and this is brilliant for a number of reasons:

1. There is now one place to send people to download the tools that they need. No more trying to navigate the free vs paid vs demo vs pro options on each site.

2. Ninite automatically chooses not to install “toolbars and other junk”. So often I use someone else’s computer and find that the useable browser area is half what it should be, because of all the toolbars they they never use and don’t understand where they came from.

3. It has already introduced me to some applications that I will now try out, reassured by the fact that they are provided by Ninite and likely to be worth looking at.

This is going to make setting up a new PC so painless – it’s almost a good enough excuse to buy a new one!

Offsite backup has given me an enormous sense of well-being

Every few weeks, I see someone else on Facebook realise too late that a laptop is not something you can rely on always being around. Whether it is through theft, hard-drive failure or a knocked-over coffee, information on a laptop is very vulnerable to being made suddenly unavailable. I have a number of ways of backing up important information, and I use them sporadically, when I remember / have time / can be bothered. I used Syncback for a while, which did work well but relied on me remembering to plug in the external hard drive and leave the computer turned on at the time that the backups were meant to happen. I bought wireless network storage to try to make it easier, but still I found that backups were often out of date. I bought a new laptop and didn’t bother installing Syncback so then I was completely unprotected. My partner also bought a new laptop and was loading it up with music and photos and asking “what happens if it breaks”. And all the time, I wondered what good any of these backups would be if my canal-side house flooded or if someone broke in and took it all. In the last few months, though, I have found two methods of protecting my files that just work and both have simplified my life and given me an enormous sense of well-being.

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A few months ago I discovered Dropbox as a way of getting miscellaneous files onto my iPhone. It’s free, you install it on all computers you use and it behaves like a normal folder on any all of the computers. The special thing about this folder is that it is always exactly the same on all computers. It’s brilliant. I routinely use 3 different computers, and they all have Dropbox installed. I store any document that I am working on in my Dropbox folder, so wherever I access it I am seeing the latest version. I have recommended it to a friend working on a thesis, who had been emailing copies backwards and forwards, and lost the latest version when her laptop died. She could retrieve a version that was a few days old from her emails, but with Dropbox she could have logged in to the web interface from any computer and found the latest version. The free edition comes with 2GB storage.

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I am a longtime listener to the This Week in Tech and This week in Google podcasts from Leo Laporte. One of his sponsors is Carbonite, so each week I get another reminder of how important off-site storage is and a little pitch for the benefits of Carbonite. I finally decided it was worth a try and signed up. They offer 2 weeks for free whilst you check that it works for you, and then it costs $54 a year to back up one computer (same dollar price applied in the UK). It works by securely copying the contents of specified folders to a server somewhere far, far away. If your laptop goes kablooey, you can install Carbonite on a new computer and restore some or all of these folders to your new computer. They warn you that the initial backup can take some time (I backed up 25,000 files making 23GB of data to transfer) and they are not wrong. After a couple of weeks my backup was complete and now it just keeps it up to date in the background. Whilst having a bit of an explore I realised that not only is Carbonite keeping my backup current, it is also keeping an archive of previous versions of files. So this means that when I delete an entire folder of photos by mistake, or overwrite one document with another, I can go to Carbonite and restore the files to how they were before I messed up. And if the house ever floods or I leave my laptop in a pub, I know that the insurance can replace the hardware and Carbonite can restore the really valuable stuff. My partner as now also installed Carbonite and her backup is well underway. It really does take quite a while the first time though, so patience and a little bit of faith is required. Once you see the little green padlock telling you that the backup is complete though, I assure you that you will sleep a little more soundly. Links: