Browsing articles tagged with "speaker reviews Archives | april.holle.blog"
Dec
9

THE Brian Shaler

Brian Shaler

So I got to sit down with Brian Shaler yesterday during the Phoenix BarCamp and really pick his brain regarding his recent boost in popularity on the net.

I’ve been on a big personal branding kick and I’m trying to talk to anyone who’s someone to ask them how they “did it”. Not necessarily to find the best way “in” but to be able to at least assess my possibilities and think of it another way. So when I heard Brian was getting some SERIOUS digg attention and had over 6k followers on Twitter… I started to wonder if he was my next brain-sucking victim in the quest to become immoral. Sounds kinda creepy when I put it that way eh?

Anyhow, when Chuck Reynolds and I finally hog tied him and tossed him into the back of the van, after HOURS of threating to toss him into a vat of scorpions, THE Brian Shaler gave up his secret to his AMAZING popularity rise.

When he first found Twitter, he realized the growth potential of seeding the popularity contest that is viral marketing. How you ask? It’s brilliant really. You follow people… doesn’t matter who really, the more active the better I suppose. Lets say you start following… 3 thousand people… then all the sudden, even HALF of those people return the favor by following you. You instantly have a captured 1,500 user audience in which to broadcast yourself and things you want to become known. Once you have a decent size user audience, communication back and forth can continue the viral campaign, since every @brianshaler twitter statement someone makes is broadcast to all the users twitter followers as well, and these people start to ask, who is this person they’re talking to? Perhaps they too will start following you. All the sudden you have over 6 thousand twitter followers just like Brian Shaler.

He uses this captured market as a launching pad for things to become viral and tracks every link he sends out to this base group so that he can track the SEO effects of his experiment in viral activity. So, lets say… he has a site that he wants to promote. He sends out the link to his twitter followers saying, “Hey check this really cool thing out…”. Because of his extensive research on the SEO traffic produced by his Twittering alone, he knows that he can pretty much rely on about 100-300 click throughs from his Twitter followers alone. So perhaps his twitter followers actually think that this thing that he has sent them is a great idea, so they send it to a friend, two friends or three friends. The viral exponential factor already starts working its magic… but lets say that someone submits it to StumbleUpon or Digg, and the their own viral patterns start to build on top of this small 100-300 base click throughs. Suddenly you have created a mountain out of an ant hill.

The craziest thing about this, is that due to the way the internet naturally is a sharing device, people who will never ever meet Brian are now his number one fan. During the BarCamp we were recording and streaming the presentations. A Brian Shaler follower from Germany found out about the web broadcast and came into the web chat, this follower actually asked Brian to tell his friend (who was also a Shaler follower) that he had flown to Phoenix and had actually hung out with Brian. Crazy eh? Off of merely creating a viral platform to toss things out on, Brian has actually become internationally famous.

Besides creating that viral base for yourself, Brian also seriously recommended building your own brand of yourself. As cocky as this may seem, it really helps promote the idea of “he is someone” much like personalities such as Oprah or Michael Jordan. Then using this identity for everything that you toss out into the sea of the internet, or even in real life. Brian actually has business cards that just say “Brian Shaler” on them… on both sides, nothing else. Why? He says, “If you can’t contact me in 30 seconds using the information on that card, don’t contact me.” This very small piece of printed material just adds to the effect that Brian really is someone you should already know of.

Brian also chalks up his fame to some of the side projects he’s put effort into in the past, and believes that it’s better to have many sites to your brand with lower search rankings than one site with a high page rank. Why? Because different people have different interests and you can reach a larger, broader audience. He has recently broken out his blog from his personal portfolio site, widening his name sake that much more. But you can really see this effect in his creation crappygraphs.com. The whole site’s premise is crappy graphs that really don’t display accurate data at all, but more so a point. After creating only 20 crappy graphs, he decided to create a flash application on the site that allowed users to create their own crappy graphs and submit them to the site. After ten hours of intense manual labor over the course of one weekend, he now gave his crappy graph followers a way to really express themselves…crappily graphically. Crappy Graphs now has over a thousand graphs… why? Because of user submissions. These user submissions have been Dugg, StumbledUpon, and spread throughout the viral universe, and how did Brian accomplish this? By creating one, 10 hour application that allowed his users to express themselves.

So while the rest of us are trying to figure out the best way to market some silly viral ad campaign, Brian will be tossing links out into his twitter feed and reaping the click throughs, Diggs, and Stumbles.

** I was forced against my will to name the following links… part of the verbal agreement to be talked to by THE Brian Shaler. But do check them out anyhow. ūüėČ You’re welcome Brian. **

For those of you who DON’T know you Brian Shaler is, check out his blog, his personal portfolio site, his famous twitter account (6k followers and counting), the ShalerJump and of course Crappy Graphs.

Dec
8

Letters from Bar Camp…

I had a GREAT TIME at the 2008 Phoenix BarCamp today! I was a little… OK maybe more like VERY nervous about having to stand up in front of people and tell them about things that I might have some expertise in. But once I saw that everyone else was just as informal, I got into the grove of things. All the discussions were very informative, some of them so much so they were over my head, but thats ok!

I’ll just go over some of the great points some of the speakers had regarding their topics and discussions. Anyone that was there, feel free to pipe in regarding what you thought was interesting, points I missed, etc.

……………………………………………………………………

Pam Slim author of Escape Cubical Nation started off the day speaking about how growing start up companies can avoid becoming the cubical corporate environments that the entrepreneurs came from to begin with. There was a fairly voiced concern from the business owners in the room regarding how to avoid becoming that which they didn’t want to employed by to begin with.

Pam offered a simple common sense approach to really keeping the soul to your company, meet and get to know your employees. That a business owner should know what his/her employees really want to get out of their time with the company, and to realize there really isn’t any binding contract for these employees to be invested in your company if you don’t return their investment by investing in your employees. She mentions that open, honest communication is key to this relationship between employee and employer.

To really spend the time to know what each of your employees is interested in and their personal investment and interest in your company. She says to build on what your employees want to learn and do, this will enforce trust in you and foster a real value of your company to your employees instead of merely being a “job”. This will help take the pulse of your company’s true interests and values from the ground up.

Understand that perhaps some of your current employees final goals in their career may mean starting their own business, or moving away from your company in some other way. Foster this growth in your employees, perhaps once they have broke out on their own they’ll send business back your way, or other potential employees that will be a great fit for your company. Make sure you aren’t buying into the mafia mentality of you’re either with us or against us, and if you leave you’re against us for sure.

Open, honest communication allows for huge growth potential in your company when your employees are allowed to honestly express their ideas and true feelings on company projects and directions. Instead of wasting six months on a dumb idea, Fred over in development, will simply be able to express… “you know that’s not the brightest idea, but I’ve been toying around with this other thing and I think it might work…”. Don’t make yourself or your employees “check their soul in at the door”, make sure everyone is in agreement that all your companies practices align with your company’s overall goals and values.

¬†……………………………………………………………………

Derek Neighbors from Integrum Technologies spoke regarding rapid business growth and how your company can live through culture changes from creative culture to command culture and back again.

Derek started out with a recap of Integrum’s rapid growth due to new projects and contracts that they were taking on at a very rapid pace at the very beginning, and that when you loose sight of your company’s core values things can get messy VERY fast.¬† They had become a beast of command and control with sour employees.

So, once they finally realized that they had become the beast that they tried to run away from, they revisited their core company goals and values. Then they took the pulse of their employees, finding out what really motivated them every day to get out of bed and drive to work, and how those motivators aligned with the company’s goals and values. Aligning your employees goals and the company goals will make each teammate personally responsible for their part within the company, allowing for self-motivation and interest in the company as a whole. Making you less responsible to your immediate manager and more responsible to the company as a whole. Derek says, “Sometimes people have a hard time figuring out who’s the boss when they visit the office.”

Derek sighted that these key communication between employee and employer was an extremely important part of really getting back to their creative, coordinated company that they had originally envisioned. Today, Integrum is a team of eleven VERY talented, VERY driven close-nit people that get things done and done right. But, without that reassessment of their goals and how their employees fit within those goals was key to that success.

I asked Derek, as part of a fast-growing company, what can I do as an employee to help foster that feeling of a creative culture instead of a command culture. Derek’s advice was to share my opinions and ideas candidly, build team activities that bring us closer together as a whole, and become entrepreneurial within my own company (build activities to promote and foster teams and the company within itself).

Dec
4

Refresh Recap: ALA Web Design Survey

Alright so at this point everyone has read the 2007 Web Design Survey at A List Apart. If you haven’t, you should… really. This is the first time we’ve ever had a survey for the web industry alone, and while it’s not necessarily scientific, it is a good sampling of the community, nearly 33,000 web professionals.

The December edition of Refresh Phoenix shared the survey results and open discussion was has regarding what statistics we thought were interesting finds throughout the document. Such as:

16% of web workers polled were female.¬† Why is it that females are not prevalent in our industry? Check out a great set of interviews by fadtastic, where they contacted several of the industry’s leading female web designers to ask them the same question.

85% of web workers are white. What causes our industry to be so monochromatic? How is it that world wide there is still a serious racial rift in computers and design? Does this matter? Does this need to change?

53% of web workers said their field of study was directly related to their career. Leading one to reconsider the age old myth that you don’t need to be a college graduate to be in the web industry. Salary data also suggested that a bachelors degree helps boost web workers into that $40-60k salary range.

28% of web workers are in-house, 23% are self-employed and 22% are part of a design/advertising firm. This even split reminds us of all the employment possibilities there are. It also makes note that there really isn’t a large majority in one working environment.

23% of web workers work 30-40 hours a week, 42% 40-50 hours a week, and 12% 50-60 hours a week. So remember when you’re punching out at 7 pm that you’re not the only one out there!

When looking at the salary range data, salaries tend to bottom out at 40-60 k a year after 5 years of experience.  The highest paid are Information Architects and Usability Experts. The self-employed/freelance sector made the least, under $20,000 a year. However, this does not split full-time freelance and part-time freelance, so some of this may be supplemental income to their full time positions as well.

Project Managers and Information Architects seemed to be the most satisfied with their jobs, while designers, web designers, webmasters, and the self-employed were the least satisfied when looking at Job Satisfaction data by job title.

72% of web workers polled have a personal site or blog. This doesn’t seem unnatural that web savvy people would have their own sites, but what is interesting is that the percentage of people who blog across gender and salary ranges did not vary greatly. In other words, 72% of EVERYONE in the web industry has a personal site or blog. The real question is how often do they blog on their blog? hehe

One of the questions posed was, “What would you like to see survey statistics on that were not included in this document?” Answers ranged from “Percentage of web workers who have ADD?” to “Ratio of hours worked and salary.” The best questions that are currently not answered by the survey were, “What are the range of benefits?” and “What’s the percentage/range on working conditions (corporate vs. casual)?”

Still, my brief synopsis doesn’t do this survey justice. Please, if you haven’t already, read the full survey. It’s full of interesting information regarding education, salaries, work environments, how we stay current in trends, and more.

Nov
17

Facebook Developers Garage Recap

I keep forgetting my notebook at work, so eventually you’ll have some good quotes and stats to go along with this post, but I wanted to get it up here before the content became stale.

I attended the Facebook Developers Garage in Phoenix, AZ on Wednesday. Overall it was extremely informative. We’ve been on a big facebook app kick at work lately, so the timing couldn’t be better.

It was great to hear Dave Morin speak, it’s not often you get to meet a driving force behind a cultural phenomenon. The amazing growth that Facebook has encountered in the last year is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is the amount of return traffic they continue to receive, about 50% of their user base return. Also, the user base isn’t a set target market, it seems everyone is getting value out of the social graph. Dave stated that the 25+ population is seeing rapid growth. And there isn’t an age limit to Facebook users, Dave mentioned that in international terms 50-70 year old users are booming user base as well. Over 50% of the Facebook social graph is international users, and is the top social network in England. The facebook developers platform is a remarkable way to continue the interactivity of the website, making sure there’s always something new to do, add and get value from each time the user visits.

Dave was clear in the honest reason why Facebook was created in the first place. To be able to share and communicate information through a one to many conversation platform. Being able to share information to a large group of people in your networks at the same time, allowing for communications to be timely and all inclusive to your network base. It’s interesting how the new platform and applications have twisted this exchange of information into all kinds of venues, from comparing your friends to sharing your interests and photos.

The real power of Facebook is the social graph, how people are connected through friends, locations, similar interests and other social networks. To make an amazing application it has to really link in and harness the power of that social graph, both in virility and¬† in activity. Users need to be able to easily share the application with friends and the more you have activity with friends the more chances you have to introduce the application for install. Chris Johnson cited in his presentation that for an application to exponentially become more popular you need to have AT LEAST a 1:1.1 install ratio. That means for every install you have one or two installs of the application. Facebook gives you many many opportunities to become viral, your application appears in the applications list, user profiles (in two different locations, the quick bar and the profile view), invite friend controls, notifications sent to friends when interactivity is created, mini feeds when the user uses the app, and news items if the application becomes a large enough force within the community. However, having these entry points doesn’t spell success alone.

You have to build virility into¬† your application, brainstorm ways your user base can connect with their social graph through your application. Share photos, tag friends, send gifts, link them together and create value through their communications. Give users a chance to share, compare and talk to their friends about the information your application provides. Again, this all comes back to communication, make sure you give your users a chance to communicate with their social network why this information is important to them. Not only is it important to be able to allow your base user to communicate to their network, it’s equally if not more so to support communication from their network BACK to the base user. Dave cited that to when a user receives feedback from their network on an application use, they’re TWICE as likely to reuse the application.

Reuse is extremely important!¬† Chris Johnson cited attrition by uninstall as the number one killer of application success. You must create your application with value to the user that is ever-lasting, something that they will want to continue to use not just install once and forget about it. Because when that other application comes around that DOES provide that value, yours will be uninstalled or hidden to make room on their profile for the other application. An uninstalled or hidden application isn’t very viral is it? So make sure you add continued value for your users.

Nate from Red Bull candidly showcased the Roshambull application during the his presentation. It was a great presentation that reminded us to not just make an application and forget about it. Do testing, ask users opinions, they’ll tell you how to make your application even better. It was great to be able to hear from someone about what they did WRONG about and application and how they made it better, instead of just praising how amazing it was. Your application should be constantly evolving to continue to add additional value to your user base. Also, the facebook platform is far from being finally evolved, so keep in the know about the new stuff that’s coming out, maybe you can leverage some of the new additions to the platform to make your application more successful.

In addition to the keynote, marketing, technology and case study presentations there were also five minute presentations from developers in the Phoenix community to showcase their upcoming applications and brand new ideas for applications still in the brainstorming phase. These were very interesting and I really liked the energy challenge application idea. It was an idea for an application that would allow you to enter in your monthly energy consumption and challenge your friends and neighbors to competitions to decrease your energy consumption. I think applications like this are a great idea and really allow for more important information to be spread throughout the social graph and really make a difference in the world, not that fluffy friends don’t make the world a better place.

Social networking has given the web an additional depth of value in communication in our every day lives. Connecting and communicating with your family, friends and new contacts couldn’t be easier these days. With the facebook platform and applications the sky is the limit of how communication can rapidly expand the knowledge base of the entire world.

So hop on and become part of my social graph by visiting my Facebook profile. ūüėČ

Oct
15

Bill Buxton: What Makes a Good UX Designer?

I happened across a video interview with Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher for Microsoft Research, on Canadian User Experience today and thought some of his points were very interesting in regards to what makes a great user experience designer.

He was questioned about what a college graduate should focus on when entering the ux career field at Microsoft, and his answer was interesting. “I don’t want a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. I want “T-Shaped People”, People who have a broad understanding of the whole field (the horizontal part of the T) but then have deep understanding and perspective in one discipline in particular ( the vertical part of the T).” He went on to describe how having this deep knowledge in one area of the field makes you very creditable and an expert in your area. This deep knowledge allows you to catch details of UX that someone with shallow knowledge likely would have missed.

Building a team of T-Shaped People allows you to have experts in all areas of your full field, yet all of them have a broad understanding of the task at hand and how they fit into the process. Being a T-Shaped person allows you to be trusted as an expert of your area of discipline, and other experts have to trust that you know the very miniscual details of your expertise.

Sep
16

Letters from Code Camp

So I spent a good chunk of time yesterday over at the Phoenix’s Desert¬†Code Camp and I must say, what a great set up! There were lots of sessions available for most every type of coder. I found two sessions to be especially interesting, SEO for Coders and Designing the Obvious.

 The SEO for Coders session went over how developers can start from the inside out when creating a site to really give SEO a fighting chance.

Some of the on-site SEO considerations are:

  • keywords in the domain
  • relavant, keyword rich content (Content is King!)
  • keywords in page titles (Page Title should go before Site Name)
  • clean, keyword rich urls
  • keyword proximity and density throughout the site (use Ranks.nl to test density, 2-5% is good, anymore and possible spamming might be considered)
  • having keyword encompassing meta tags, make sure all your keywords are covered
  • internal links
  • relevant, keyword rich alt and title tags
  • valid xhtml code that’s quick loading

Some of the off-site SEO consideration are:

  • inbound links to your site
  • reciprocal link exchange
  • press releases
  • forum comments
  • e-mails
  • paid links and pay per click

Overall it was a great session that covered the basics of SEO as well as some of the tips and tricks of the trade. Such as using dashes instead of no space or underscores in your page urls. I confirmed a lot of my beliefs about SEO as well as learned about some new tools to look for great keyword combos and how to better market my sites outside of my own.

Designing the Obvious was a wonderful session as well that covered some of the overlooked, but very important pieces of designing a user-friendly site. Some of the highlights were:

  • first impressions are important, make sure you put a lot of thought into the front page of your site
  • use wireframes to mock out your site before designing or developing, it saves time and money
  • pay attention to diagonal balance, don’t force it, but be aware that the users eye will tend to shift from the top left to the bottom right and try to put your main branding and focal point to fall within that diagonal line
  • when designing navigation try to use verb noun pairs to support the users mind set of getting things done
  • many sites are now changing the style of used objects to make them more pronounced on the page, the more the user uses it, the darker it becomes,¬†making it easier for the user to find what they’re really interested in
  • we need to explain exceptable values on forms, approach form design as if you were a user looking at it the first time, make sure everything is instructive and clear
  • there are three states to any interaction on the web, invitation to act, manipulation or the steps to complete the process, and completion and confirmation, confirmation is the least remembered step in web site creation, but a very important step for the user, make sure to include it

Robert Hoekman, Jr., the speaker¬†for Designing the Obvious session,¬†also has a book out by the same title. Also check out his blog and he’s starting Up Down Repeat Workshops that you may want to check out, the next one coming up is about form design.

Sep
11

How to Date Your Clients and Score

So lastnight I went to AIGA Arizona’s monthly Say Anything. This month’s topic was, “How to Date Your Clients and Score.” The presenting speaker was Brian Drake and Arthur Milano of Brian Drake Design Illustration, who hosts the monthly get together.

¬†Brian takes a personal approach to business, and draws several takes from his personal dating experience to succeed. Brian opened with this simple remark, “Successful business isn’t businesses talking to businesses, it’s people talking to people.” Brian went on to talk about how he has personal relationships with each and every client he has. He knows when their kids birthdays are, if they’re getting divorced, or if thier dog dies. “I never call to talk about business, I always call just to check up on them, like a friend.” He said that this is what makes his company successful at closing deals, big 6 and 7-figure¬†deals.

An audience member asked, “What if the client isn’t into that type of personal relationship?” Brian and Arthur simply replied, “Then they’re not right for us.” Brian went on to say, “It’s just like a passionate relationship, You don’t want to be with someone who just thinks you’re so-so. You want them to dig you, and if they don’t, then you’re wrong for eachother.” He went on to say, “Be excited about that moment with the client, not the future or the executable.”

Brian and Arthur also discussed the word “vendor” and why they don’t use it, or want people to describe them as such. Arthur said, “Vendors sell hot dogs, we are suppling a valuable service.” Brian piped in, “If your client calls you thier vendor, you’ve done something wrong with that personal relationship. The word vendor implies that you’re expendable, that you’re not a valuable asset.”

While personal relations are great, Brian also warns to make sure you’re staying in touch with the score, “Always ask if this relationship is good for me, and is it good for them as well.” Arthur stepped in to say, “We care about the clients success, not just about the money or deadlines, this builds trust, and with trust work goes well.” Trust goes a long way, it makes a committment between the client and yourself to make both businesses successful.

Brian and Arthur switched gears to talk about how thier partnership in thier company. Arthur said, “Brian is the Yin for my Yang, everything I’m not so great at he excels and vise versa.” Brian went on to talk about how it’s important to have a second person to bounce ideas off of. He also spoke about how to hire. “Always hire people who are better than you. Surround yourself with people who are successful.” Brian and Arthur aren’t just personal with thier clients, they also carry that vibe into thier own company. Arthur commented, “Your job effects your life, if you don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills, that effects YOU. Your work is PERSONAL.”

I really enjoyed the approach Brian and Arthur take with thier business. I think we worry too much about the bottom line sometimes and forget about the people our work effects.

However, being a front end architect in a company I really don’t interact with our clients, however I feel the my project managers are my client. I can then take these “dating” perspectives and apply them to the inner workings of my company. Good relations within the project structure can make it go more smoothly, personal opinion is more respected, and everyone treats eachother as a professional and an expert at thier part.

Keep your eye out on AIGA Arizona’s website for more Say Anything events as well as other neat events.

What is this?

This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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