Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

book cover: Confessions of a Public Speaker (man sitting next to lecturn)I absorbed Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker (O’Reilly) during the four days after Christmas (amidst the bizarre humidity and noise of an indoor Boston water park with my family). Berkun grabbed & held my attention with amusing stories and solid advice that resonated with my presenting experiences, good and bad.

Read this book if you present at conferences, pitch your ideas, your products, or your firm. It’s a manual for being prepared and engaging. (It is not an in-depth discussion of rhetorical styles nor presentation slides; for these Berkun refers the reader elsewhere). The book offers many useful suggestions for conference hosts as well.

The central tenet of the book is that successful public speaking requires serious thinking. The more you’ve thought through your ideas, the more confident you will be in your ability to discuss them, even through technical glitches and difficult audience questions. Read the entire post: Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker

Book Review: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Web Form Design

I heartily recommend Luke Wroblewski’s Web Form Design (May, 2008) for people who create web forms and for those who hire others to create them. The book is structured in three parts: form structure, form elements, and form interaction, and includes a plethora of real-world examples. Whether you’re a novice or expert, walking through Wroblewski’s overview of forms-related issues will provoke your thinking about design choices and their impact. Luke is Chief Design Architect at Yahoo! and blogs at Functioning Form.

Below are some of my thoughts and recommendations in response to the book.

Deepen your understanding of other people’s experiences

Who are we to not bother to ensure the resources we create are universally usable? As you are thinking about making better web forms, deepen your understanding of how design choices affect people with disabilities. Read the entire post: Book Review: Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

Recovering from a WordPress Spam Injection

I should have been relaxing and working on an inspirational side project, but instead spent much of Thanksgiving weekend trying to eliminate a senseless spam injection on a WordPress (wp) site.

I was frustrated, to say the least, by how difficult it was to find a solution. There were many months-old unanswered pleas on the wp forums.

I cannot figure out the hackers’ revenue model. Repeatedly over the course of two weeks, my husband’s site became unreliable to access. The symptoms were varied, including:

  1. The site never loads
  2. Loading stalls and then redirects to a virus scanner software
  3. The site is redirected to a Harry Potter related website
  4. The site takes a long time to load and the source code shows approximately 30 links to enhancement-related drugs or movies. Each time the links are to a new single site, where the drug or movie is a variable at the end of the URL. The inserted code has a style of display:none; so it’s not visible to the naked eye. Nevertheless, it is available to search bots.

For the first few days, the injection would take place in the form of #4 (invisible links) at the same time of day. Replacing the theme’s header.php erased the problematic code, returning the site to normal for the day. (I read of other situations where the injection is in the footer.) The ftp logs showed that /wp-content/themes/mytheme/header.php file was changed. Read the entire post: Recovering from a WordPress Spam Injection

Twitscoop: Roadmap to Discoverability

Twitscoop LogoLollicode’s Twitscoop has become my daily source for breaking news, from the Hudson plane crash and earthquakes to Top Chef results. I use Twitscoop primarily through my favorite desktop Twitter client, Tweetdeck. The center column of my deck shows what’s “Buzzing Right Now:” the twitter zeitgeist as ascertained by Twitscoop. A click on any word of interest in the Twitscoop tag cloud results in a page with tweets containing the word, and a frequency graph of the term’s Twitter appearances.

In May, Twitscoop launched changes, becoming a full-fledged Twitter client. These changes posed some discoverability issues for me, in part because I was having a broader Twitter search issue. The people at Twitscoop have been great about troubleshooting with me. (They seem genuinely interested in making improvements to their interface, based on some of the public interactions with users on Twitter, their emails with me, and their ‘About’ page.)

I do have a few suggestions that mostly relate to helping users bridge the gap between what they know and what they need to know to make use of the service.

Read the entire post: Twitscoop: Roadmap to Discoverability

Loving the page layout of our siddur

Mishkan T'filah coverI’ve been preparing the program for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, to provide some orientation for the people who have never or rarely been to a Jewish service.  The prayer book (tziddur) can be particularly confounding without some explanation. There’s been plenty of controversy over the 2006 Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah (“dwelling place for prayer”)—what should have been left in or left out, how much it weighs, accuracy of translation, gender-inclusive language that is too disruptive for some, etc. All that aside, I love the information design. The layout facilitates a more accessible service than its predecessor, using navigational cues and transliteration and translation for most prayers. It invites sinking in to each prayer through generous white space across a full two-page spread.

Read the entire post: Loving the page layout of our siddur