Goodbye emotions

Image by prosto photos from Flickr
Photo by prosto photos from Flickr

We are working on changing the look, feel, and organization of the ITS web site in the months ahead and have assembled a number of folks from across our department to serve on an ITS web working group. Our main focus over the last few weeks has been to get some web usability testing ready. Earlier this week, Lori and Amy tested the usability script on me and we recorded that session as well as my screen movements using ScreenFlow. At this morning’s ITS web working group meeting we watched that video of Amy and me and even though my recording was a just test of the script, I think the group saw the power of doing these usability tests.

The thing I like most about these tests is that they remove all emotion from the discussion. It’s one thing for me to suggest how I think people use our site, but it’s much more credible to watch how a number of people interact with our site. It takes the guess work (and the determination we all have to be right) out of the equation.

Long live usability testing.

Alternative School Break site is live

Photo used courtesy of Alternative School Break, Lafayette College

Amber Zuber, Assistant Director of the Landis Community Outreach Center, along with her right-hand student, Rashidah have successfully gone live with the new Alternative School Break web site, which they are managing in WordPress MU as one of our WordPress pilot participants.

Next week, Rashidah, along with a number of students from Lafayette, are traveling to Long Beach, MS to work on housing projects and anticipate posting their daily reflections to their new site. I am very excited to follow their progress throughout the week.

For those interested in following these good deed doers, follow them next week at

Google gets back a bit more of my love

Google Map screenshot of Mississippi
Google Map screenshot of Mississippi

Yesterday, I needed to find a map of Mississippi for Amber and her first post on the Alternative School Break site. We weren’t having much luck finding a map that we liked, but then it hit me that we could take a screenshot of a Google map and even mark on the map where the Mississippi team would be over Spring Break. So Amber worked on getting the map positioned how she liked before grabbed the screenshot while I researched Google’s copyright policy. Turns out we could legally use the screenshot as long as the Google logo and copyright were both included in the screenshot.

Google also includes permissions for using Google search result screenshots and usage of their logo, which is almost none.

Hiding the iGoogle Chat gadget

picture-2Google, whom I’ve been having a love affair with for quite sometime because they offer so many incredibly awesome tools for free, has again caused me to lose a bit of faith in them. Last week, a flaw in Google Docs caused less than 0.5% of its users’ documents to be potentially exposed to those to which they have shared other Google Docs. Strike one.

Then, sometime in the last few months Google decided to invade my iGoogle and happily place a Chat gadget on my screen. They didn’t ask. They just assumed I’d want to use. Well, I DON’T! I found a setting that makes it possible to hide the Chat gadget, but it still leaves a link on my iGoogle to “Enable Chat.” When I check to hide it I expect it to be hidden…completely. Strike two.

In my Google love affair world they will most likely need more than three strikes before they’re “out,” but this recent blunder and this most annoying Chat gadget doesn’t impress me. Google, I want the ability to complete remove all remnants of Chat from my iGoogle.

Help me bring back the love.

Web 2.0 put into silos

Photo by timailius from Flickr
Photo by timailius from Flickr

I know, I know. Silos in the work place is ick. We want people to be willing to go outside of their comfort zones and work with one another. To do great things together. Luckily, I’m not talking about putting people into silos, but rather putting some commonly used online apps into task-oriented “buckets” or “categories.”

My wife’s boss recently attended the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference where Chris Lehmann, principal at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia spoke. In his “School 2.0: Combining Progressive Pedagogy and 21 Century Tools” presentation he grouped a number of apps many of us find indispensable (almost all of which are free) into tasks we generally find ourselves applying these tools. His categories looked like:

Research Collaborate Create Network Present
RSS Wikis Blogging Twitter UStream
Delicious Google Docs Drupal Skype Flickr
Google Moodle Podcasting Facebook iTunes U
Wikipedia Digital Films IM Voicethread

This list is certainly not exhaustive, nor do I suspect Lehmann thinks so. I also realize that some of these apps could “live” in more than one column (e.g., Delicious also fits in “Network”). However, I think categorizing these apps into manageable chunks might help the masses of hesitant teachers/professors and maybe even students to see more easily the practical application of these tools.

Feel free to add other popular programs in the comments below. Where does YouTube belong?

**Lehmann will be speaking at Web 2.0 Visioning Boot Camp for Educational Leaders in Philadelphia this summer. This “boot camp” is organized by Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and is limited to only 25 people. I suspect this will be a good one to attend.

WordPress app for iPhone/Touch

Photo © 2009, Apple Inc.

I grabbed my wife’s iPod Touch and searched for a WordPress app and found one. I thought it made sense to post my findings using the app, so here I am in Talbots while Mb shops. Here’s what I found:

  • Setup was easy once I properly configured my WordPress site to use the XML-RPC publishing protocol.
  • I can manage a number of WordPress sites from the app.
  • I can assign posts to a category, but cannot create new categories from the app. I can also assign tags to posts.
  • I can designate my post’s publishing status (e.g., published, draft, pending review).
  • Writing is simple and very basic, though I would like to see some basic HTML editing like lists and bold. Also, the ability to add pics from the iPhone/Touch would be handy. Maybe I’m asking for a bit much with the latter.
  • If the name of a WordPress site changes it will not propogate down to the app.

I like the app, but I just realized that Mb shopped the entire time while I played the role of the husband who ostracized himself from the entire shopping experience. Not sure that’s what I was going for.