Interview with a Zombie

i'm socially conscious

The blogger “Zombie” of the blog Zombietime has been covering anti-war, anti-Bush and antinomian protests in San Francisco, the city that never met a liberal cause it didn’t like. While we may mock these silly displays of moral rectitude, Zombie has revealed, through pictures, the really dark and violent fantasies that these marchers would impose upon the rest of us. Their world is one in which sadistic murders would go free, suicide bombers are heroes and Israel would be wiped off the map.

PolicyByBlog has a really interesting interview with Zombie on how and why Z decided to document these rallies. An avowed liberal, Z thinks these protesters are, “actually, literally insane.” Are these people the mainstream or are they just freaks? They are apparently in the mainstream of the SF left.

Even if you hate politics, Zombie is a great example of the power of a citizen journalist. Guided by a zeal to show the full story of events, Z shows us the anti-war left in SF in all its unhinged madness. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

Zombie’s been an inspiration for me, too, as you can see of the photo above of a cheekily subversive protester which I snapped at anti-war rally in DC.

Yahoo in the Brand Universe

Yahoo is a tale of missed opportunity, a new media giant that acts like a dinosaur as their nimbler rival, Google, runs circles around them.  Yahoo could be so cool – they have Flickr, which is the very model of web 2.0 sites.  The difference, however, is that Google is about empowering users.  Yahoo is about big media telling consumers what they should watch.  We’re just a bunch of eyeballs to them.  Their latest attempt to get back in the game is documented in an article in Variety:

 … it’s focused now on a new strategy it calls “brand universe.” Rather than just searching for exclusive content, Yahoo has identified over 100 brands that are most relevant to its users. It plans to launch new sites that bring together all of the content relevant to each brand from across the Yahoo network, as well as whatever the netco can get from the big media firm behind it.

Apple is a brand that is very relevant to me.  I’ve been going a trusted set of Apple sites for years to feed my fanboy addiction.  What, exactly, is Yahoo going to bring to the table?  Sites like MacCentral, MacRumors, MacUser, etc…. have the space pretty much tied up.  What could I get from Yahoo that I couldn’t get from them?

Stock Photos: Seeing Double

You’re not crazy. You are seeing the same people over and over again in advertisements, according to this article in The Wall Street Journal. Why? Because it’s a lot easier to use stock photos of people than to go out and take pictures.

When I worked for AARP, we only had a couple of CDs worth of stock photos of active seniors. We used those people again and again on the web site. No women in walkers for us, no, these were tan couples striding to the tennis court, rackets in hand. Or lithe men hanging off steep cliff faces. Or independent grandmothers on the vacation of a lifetime. We used them so much that I felt like I knew them.

Imagine my surprise when I began recognizing them in other places, like ads for health insurance and annuities. And why not? We didn’t own them, after all. They were just stock.

my dad
not stock…. a real active senior, my Dad

The Trustworthy Web Site

You visit a new web site, whether it’s to find information, do some shopping or make a transaction. How do you know to trust it? According to a recent article by Human Factors International, web surfers evaluate sites primarily on two criteria:

  • Professional-looking appearance
  • Ease of use.

What that means is that the design and the photos look to be the product of a professional effort – it’s not some MySpace site. And that the site has been designed to make it easy to use – again, it’s not some MySpace site. Web credibility is also a function of relevant content. Basically, this means a web site designed toward user needs.

What’s interesting is that this web site evaluation process is done in seconds. Visitors get to your page, glance it, and then decide whether it’s a trustworthy web site.

Get Real: Have an Enemy

I’ve been enjoying Getting Real, the book by 37signals (creator of the very cool Basecamp).  The book, which is available online, is ostensibly about best practices in software development.  However, I think its lessons can be applied to other situations, like… life.  For example, they suggest having an enemy.  When building Basecamp, 37signals decided that their app would be the anti-Microsoft Project.  MS Project was the enemy.  MS Project would be the opposite of the beast that is Project.

Who’s your enemy?  How does having an enemy motivate you?  When starting a project, do you think to yourself, “I’ll show them!”

Blogs in Government

The blogging revolution has reached government agencies. I think this about makes it mainstream. Pretty soon, even your grandmother will have a blog. Government webmasters (full disclosure: I’m one of them) have put together a really helpful page on the benefits and challenges of government blogging and what to consider before you pick up the keyboard. Bonus: some example government blogs and the Weather Service’s blogging policy. Policy? This is the government after all 😉

Web Workers: Some Bathrobes, Some Not

macbook proIn this charming post by Anne Zelenka, she gives thanks for being able to work in her bathrobe. Web workers don’t need to worry about dressing up or even leaving the home. But what about us web workers who have to bother with showering, putting on pants and trudging into the cube farms? It’s ironic that most in the web field have do their work in a fixed physical location, putting in “face time” with coworkers and trying (futilely) to appear interested during lengthy meetings. It’s so, well, 20th century, that most who build and maintain web sites have to report to an office every day. I’ll give thanks when the work practices of today catch up to the reality of web work. Until then, you’ll find me in my cube.