Techmeme used my idea?

No not really, but Techmeme using twitter tags to get news stories makes me feel like my #CNN tag wasn’t an outrageous idea afterall.

The basic idea is when a person find discovers a news-worthy story (or is a part of a developing one) they would include #CNN in thier twitter.  This might make mining twitters for valuable stories easier.

CNN and the other news agencies should be keeping a close eye on this…

The New York Times – A Perspective

I like investigative journalism.  I like quality content.  I really like The New York Times, but… I also like that they are having a hard time right now.

Losing print media isn’t a bad thing for the NYTimes, or any other respected newspaper publisher.  Many doors will be opening as this one shuts; they just need need to find the doors.  Putting a fire under these fat giants is going to give us some really interesting results.

When the presses stop for the last time fight back the urge to crack a tear for the great institution- we’ll see the NYTimes again, and this time they’ll be leaner, seasoned, and innovative.

Add Drupal Forms using AJAX

Something very easy to do in drupal is adding form object to the content of your page without doing a page refresh.  I needed to add functionality so that an application form was displayed to a user when they clicked the Apply link.

Using JQuery we can “intercept” a client click of a link.  Add a .js file to which ever module you are editing, and add the following:

 if (Drupal.jsEnabled) {  

  $(document).ready(function () {
    $(‘a.apply-link’).click(function () {

      var submitApplication = function(data) {
        $(‘div.apply-link’).html(data.html);
      }

    $.ajax({
      type: ‘POST’,
      url: this.href,
      dataType: ‘json’,
      success: submitApplication,
      data: ‘js=1’
    });
    return false;
  });
  });
}
So when a link with a class “submit-application” is clicked an ajax/json call is made to the url.  Now make sure the js is included somewhere in your module code by using drupal_add_js(). 
Now all we have to do is make sure the page renders as json if an ajax call is made.  Add this  code just before the _page exits (but not after the exit(); !).
 if (!empty($_POST[‘js’])) {
    $html = drupal_get_form(‘job_posting_application_form’, array($node->nid, $node->title, $node->job_posting_email));
    drupal_json(array(
    ‘html’ =>  $html
    )
    );
Your link should be replaced with the form.
If you want to add a little bit of animation use the jQuery animation options.  Instead of just replacing the link, make it fade in:
$(‘div.apply-link’).hide();
$(‘div.apply-link’).html(data.html);
$(‘div.apply-link’).fadeIn();
Credit to John K. VanDyk’s book for breaking the back of this code.

More Ideas for News Sites

I love this.  CNN partenered with Facebook so you can watch the inauguration speech video live with your friends.  A collaborative taste of things to come?  (Off topic: I love the idea of Facebook Connect, but I don’t like it is the only good option.)

Ok, great, collaboration finally reaches the news sites, but why stop there?  Ultimately the news is created by people not by new stations, they just dig up the stories and choose which ones get the attention.

I just read about an idea to use twitter hashtags for job seekers/job creaters and thought that this idea might be adapted to news outlets.  A common citizen journalis seeing first hand a news-worthy event could write in #NEWS or #CNN for instance.  This might be a little redundant since news-worthy twitters are already crowdsourced to the masses if its popular, but its an interesting idea to speed up the process and allow news outlets to find twitters quicker. 

It would be interesting experimentation also if news agencies started keeping better track of people.  I should be able to read a story on Steve Jobs, click on his name, and see all the news articles on him.  Build on this, find out what people are saying about him on Twitter, blogs etc. add that content as well.  

With this Facebook Connect test I think we’ll see a full blown implementation soon.   Soon (I hope) I’ll be able to go on CNN and see what my friends are saying about certain articles.  I don’t think this will be complete though until CNN adds a whole lot more content to their site, even if its from outside sources (or user generated contect).

MSNBC vs CNN – Your online news

I have always been interested in the news, and It’s a hobby of mine to research the media’s transition to the web.  I found a really interesting article (linked from techmeme) interviewing the man behind CNN.com.  Probably the most interested fact: MSNBC has more unique visitors, but CNN user’s click more.

I’ve always been a fan of msnbc.com; its my primary source of news, and is usually the second site I check in the morning (techmeme is first).  I followed them through their redesign, learning a few things from their alphachannel blog (great idea btw, it takes critical blogs like mine off the google top 10 😉 ).  I like their site.  It’s not revolutionary, but it does the basics very well.

It’s funny because CNN.com is usually my 3rd stop.  It’s design is older, it doesn’t seem to have as much content (their technology section will have the same article up for a week), but I still pass by to see if MSNBC missed anything.  Its funny because one of the things it does so well on TV is completely lost on their website: humanization.  I have no one to identify with on their website.  Without the comfort with a familiar persona, and the fact that I usually don’t find much to read on their site, why do I still check it?

Is it beneficial, just a habit, or have I been duped by CNN’s marketing?

I think its a little bit of everything, but reading that article gave me hope for a more relevant CNN.com.  Mr. Estenson, the new general manager of CNN.com (what’s up with the Mr.?), understands me- I hope.  A news aggregator like Google can give me headlines much more efficiently online that CNN, so what are you going to give me?  Huh?

One thing we are seeing happen, which I think is fantastic, is twitter news.  Its not an official in any sense of the word, but its reaching online headlines quicker than CNN or MSNBC could ever dream.  From the Californian wild fires, to the attacks on Tibet monks, to the recent plane crash in New York, Twitter is getting out up-to-date news to people.  Just think, what if everyone was twittering from their mobiles?  And what if important twitters were somehow highlighted, like Google news?  Would it completely bypass news networks, or would it just give networks a more efficient way to distribute the news?

I think the answer is linked to the reason I don’t like the current CNN site.  As bad as this sounds, I like a popular face giving me the news.  Having Wolf Blitzer tell me what’s going on entertains me more than reading plain text  It’s comforting.  (An aside: It just doesn’t feel fair that, looking at the fall of print news, news broadcasters have glided to success online any loses)

Let’s hope Mr. Estenson can breath a little more life into CNN.com.  Keep me interested!

A Monster of a redesign

A monstrously redesign.  The purple monster.   The monster flop.  Ok I’m not that creative with my one-liners.  Apparently, neither is monster:

“Monster’s new job search is easier than ever! To apply for the job is 65% faster than before!”

Who is marketing this?  I’m trying to find a job not buying the Bullet blender.  Let’s take a look at this multi-multi-multi million dollar (18 million to be exact) redesign.  I’ll get through some of the interface stuff and get to the real problems.

Job Search

monstersearch

The new search has been simplified, and gives faceted search filtering, like SimplyHired or Indeed, so you can filter your results.

The search results are not that good however.  I searched for “Marketing coordinator” in Toronto (Canadian site) and I find perfect matches, but towards the bottom of the page.  I then dived a few pages deep and I’m still finding perfect matches mixed in with irrelevant ones; I’m even finding results from Edmonton.

My biggest problem is that every thing seems be in ajax’d.  Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean its a good idea.

Application Process

Clicking into a job I see Monster’s standard job posting page.  What has changed here?  Well, I see an ajax box, omnipresent at the bottom of my screen.  I click to find out more about the application process, but I’m met with a login screen.  I can imagine this is an executive decision to increase registered users, because most userface designers will tell you this is a goal barrier.  Not much else has changed here, let’s move on.

Profile & Resume

Clicking on the menu to access the tools, I get a fancy ajax box asking me for my login.  If I haven’t registered yet, and I want to take a look at the resume builder I wouldn’t be able too.  The site borders on arrogant with their constant demands for you to register.   I went through the painful registration process (2 steps and too many input fields), got past another 2 ajax prompts to prepare the form, and finally got to build a resume.

Note: The 2nd prompt has a funny checkbox that most people probably wouldn’t notice:

monstershare

When I look at the status of my resumes they say private even if I leave this checked, so what does this do?

Here is where ajax is useful.  I feel like I’ve been overly critical thus far so I’ll say this is a half-decent implementation.  I’ve seen better though. 😐

Career Mapping

Here is a tool that I found interesting.  I’m not entirely sure it is all that useful for me (I know what jobs I can get to move forward) but it might be interesting for some other people.  I think they must use there large data set of resumes to get common career paths.  The interface is pretty easy (even if it is flash).

What’s Really Wrong

Ok I’ve touched on some interface items but let’s look at the big picture.  Monster completely missed the boat here.  Instead of looking ahead and innovating they have made existing processes “65% faster” with excessive use of a poor ajax UI.  The social web was obviously not considered in the redesign.  How can this have been ignored?

Traffic on Monster hasn’t been going down because their interface was poor, they are losing traffic because their business model is becoming poor.  Charging a fee for posting a job is maddening to me.  There are so many ways of doing it for free!

Monster is the new AOL.

I think Monster also failed in the way this was released.  I’m a big advocate of progressive product deployment, releasing features gradually so you don’t shock your users.  This is one of the big advantages with developing for the web, and companies like Google have mastered it.

It’s really hard to see .com companies fall from their innovative beginnings.  At one point you have to look back and think “what did we do right to get here?”.

Drupal, jQuery and the favorite_nodes module

I’ve just completed my first jQuery attempt, to ajaxify the favorite_nodes “add to favorites” link.  Its actually pretty simple.

Edit favorite_nodes/favorite_nodes.module

Find the favorite_nodes_add function, and add the follow just before “return TRUE;”

 if (!empty($_POST[‘js’])) {
   drupal_json(array(
       ‘is_fav’ => ‘fav-link-‘.$nid
    )
  );
exit;
}

Now find the favorite_nodes_link function.  Where ever the $links[] is set (4 occurrences) add attributes:

$links[] = array(‘title’ => t(‘add to favorites’), ‘href’ => ‘favorite_nodes/add/’. $node->nid, ‘attributes’ => array(‘class’ => ‘favorite-link’, ‘id’ => ‘fav-link-‘.$node->nid));

Also in that function add the following line at the start of the function to include a js file:

drupal_add_js(drupal_get_path(‘module’, ‘favorite_nodes’) . ‘/favorite_nodes.js’);

Next, create the js file in the favorite_nodes dir named favorite_nodes.js and edit it:

 if (Drupal.jsEnabled) {

  $(document).ready(function () {
    $(‘a.favorite-link’).click(function () {

      var favSaved = function(data) {
    $(‘#’+data.is_fav).html(‘Saved’);
      }

    $.ajax({
      type: ‘POST’,
      url: this.href,
      dataType: ‘json’,
      success: favSaved,
      data: ‘js=1’
    });

    return false;

  });

  });
}

This is a quick and dirty way of doing it.  I’m waiting for UI confirmation before I make the interface any better.  The best way of doing it would be instead of changing the innerHTML of the link to “Saved”, you’d change it to “remove from favorites”, and change the link accordingly.  

Passing the ID back to the jQuery got over a problem when there are multiple fav-links on one page.  I’m open to a better solution.

Also I don’t like the placement of the js include file, but I’m not entirely sure where to put it.  

 I didn’t see code for this anywhere else so this might be a good start for anyone interested.

Corporate 2.0 – It's good business to play nice online

Web 2.0 is far more than wiki’s or blogs, its a fundamental shift in social responsibility and transparency.  Its the great democratic tool, and it is wielded on our politics, social lives, and economics.  It is a wave of change in the right direction.

As a corporation it is essential to realize the benefits of collaborating with customers, understand trends, and making sure to keep with the spirit of web 2.0.  It is no longer just about features on your website, it is about a cultural change in the organization.  It is really frustrating to see resistance to change, expecially when the benefits are so important, but it is hard to blame old-styled corporations fearing economic change – this really is the hippy thought revolution of our time.  It’s Peace and Love, but also with a dash of transparency and a bucket-load of accountability.

Why is it important for corporations to let down their hair?  Because bad public feedback can trample the best marketing campaigns and markets change depending on customer habits.  

Unhappy customers can, now more than ever, be your worst nightmare.  You can’t stop critism, but you can make a negative into a positive. 

Give customers a chance to express their frustration on the internet.  This gives you 3 very important opportunities; 

  1. its giving you the opportunity to win back the customer,
  2. its letting everyone else know you care about customers,
  3. and its enabling you to learn more about your customer.

People are fair, they know that not everyone will be happy with a corporation, but they will respect and trust a corporation which responds to their customers.  Corporate 2.0 is about building trust, and unless your corporation makes this a priority from top to bottom people will see right through you and choose a company they do trust.  

Corporate 2.0 is also about understanding what user’s want, and breaking old rules.  I’ve seen an avalance of ads from Aviva (formeraly Norwich Union) screaming a more open approach to business.  They are providing insurance quotes online which show thier rates and the rates of their competitors.  Nothing new really (and maybe released too late for a real benefit), but it is an example of a large corporation finally listening to users.  

Corporations need to be more creative and experimental.  Why are start-ups innovating the web and leaving corporations scratching their heads?  I put the blame on the fear of change and lack of open-minded leadership.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, in response to a unique proposal, “yeah that’s great, but that’s not our business”.

Stick with your old business for too long and you’ll find it no longer exists.

The falling traffic of tech blog sites?

I was doing some web traffic comparing for a project I’m in the middle of, and found some interesting stats on mashable, techcrunch, engadget and readwriteweb.

techcrunch, mashable, readwriteweb, engadget traffic stats

techcrunch, mashable, readwriteweb, engadget traffic stats

It’s really bizarre to see all 4 sites dropping around the same time, around July, then rising a bit after October.  You can’t say its seasonal, look at the October 2007 compared to 2008, it’s under half!  This is obviously not scientific, and based completely on Alexa’s traffic monitoring, but still interesting nonetheless.

Is it that tech blogs are less read?  Traffic sapped from RSS readers?  …Anyone else have a suggestion?

Update: It seems Alexa shouldn’t be your only source for traffic stats, as Marshal Kirkpatrick pointed out:  http://siteanalytics.compete.com/readwriteweb.com+mashable.com+techcrunch.com/?metric=uv

I’ve always thought Alexa was the athority on traffic stats.  I’m going to reconsider using them in the future.

Trying out Friend Feed

I’m giving Friend Feed a shot, but I think I there is more benefit with the service when I actually have friends subscribed. 😉

jarchowk

I was actually surprised to find out that none of my facebook friends have subscribed.

This social network service works much better with my use of the web.  If you haven’t heard of it, check it out!