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Professional practice | Field Trip: Sustainable Van

11 Apr

In many professions, there is only so much one can learn about skills, theories or principles of that profession. Furthermore, there is only so much one can learn from one’s own experiences. That is why it is often immeasurably important to use other people’s experience or knowledge. Whether one listens to amateurs or professionals, there’s a lot that can be gained.

What better way to absorb such experiences or knowledge than a good old-fashioned excursion?

Here is one justification.

I went on one such excursion recently, and had a jolly good time discovering some applications of the skills and knowledge related to the discipline/industry that I ‘belong’ to.

It included such intellectual highlights as:

A visit to the beach

A visit to the beach

Not to mention …

A visit to a sandpit

A visit to a sandpit

Alas, you say, “that looks just like a primary school field trip”. Fair enough. However, I learned a few things of professional relevance.

So, here is my account of a rather fun day out, coupled with some useful things I discovered. Nothing too exciting – you’ll have to do the trip yourself to obtain as much from it as I did.

Site: New Leaf Nursery

What is it?

A nursery that have in stock only plants with some utility value. That is, useful plants.

Why would you visit?

  • To learn about the practicalities of having a chicken farm in one’s backyard
  • To find out about the range of nutritious (and sometimes tasty) plants that can be grown in a garden

For those who care for the details:

The rather passionate individual who operates the nursery commented that while this project/career direction doesn’t necessarily confer him a lot of status nor financial reward, the tales that one hears from others can be a big motivation. He mentioned that [others’] “stories of success [in their sustainability efforts] are what drive me on”. I think that anyone can similarly get that motivation. can apply to anyone, particularly to those who are beginning a new venture such as a startup.

Save the date: May 6 is National Permaculture day.

Site: Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre

What is it?

A fairly revolutionary approach to waste management.

Why would you visit?

  • You’re not sure what my previous statement means.
  • To find out about what eventually happens to items that you place in a red, yellow, green and blue bins.

For those who care for the details:

This site was once the Kimbriki tip – just another landfill site. However, households and businesses produce tonnes of waste – recyclable, compostable and ‘unusable’ – and there are a limited number of sites within the greater Sydney area that are suitable for waste disposal (that is, landfill tips).

The problem: there are large amounts of waste to be disposed of, and limited places to dispose of it.

There has been a shift in the way that waste is managed. There is now a focus on resource recovery. That is something of a shift. In the past, waste was considered useless. Now it is fairly common for waste to be thought of as for reuse or recycling.

Domestic waste collection now has several types, or ‘streams’ of waste – landfill, recycling and green waste.

It takes 6-8 months for their machines to grind through all the (composting) material.

It takes 6-8 months for their machines to grind through all the (composting) material.

Back to the original topic – the Kimbriki facility now accepts and processes many types of waste (green waste, construction materials, recyclable materials and electronic waste, amongst others).

Which isn’t terribly game-changing.

However, after processing those materials, the facility turn them into marketable products. By weight, about 80% of the material that enters Kimbriki is reprocessed and leaves the site (in a different form). Which is quite a beautiful thing: taking something which may very well be considered worthless, and creating a commodity out of them.

One of the products is crushed glass. The notepad and pink pen are optional.

One of the products is crushed glass. The notepad and pink pen are optional.

Another Kimbriki product

Another Kimbriki product

Not a bad use for VW Beetle parts!

Not a bad use for VW Beetle parts!

That’s called resource recovery.

*

Kimbriki is also home to an Eco House and Garden.

They have a very passionate workshop facilitator there. We learned about the fundamentals of having a composting system, healthy eating habits and about ecology. Quite useful things to know, whether one is a sustainability professional, an aspiring Captain Planet, or neither of those.

A highlight for our group was the discovery of a plant with apparent healing properties.

100320135317

I kid you not, it had leaves which act as an antiseptic. And the fruit or flower functions as an anaesthetic. Upon eating these berries, our entire group – a bunch of twenty- and thirty-something professionals, plus some uber-passionate green people – were turned into children marvelling at how their tongue went numb.

*

Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre is owned by a number of councils. It generates a profit for these councils. (Waste management is usually a whirlpool that sucks in money and more money. That’s part of why I find Kimbriki interesting.)

That’s enough of my admiration for Kimbriki. Next!

***

Site: A garden in suburban Sydney.

What is it?

“a piece of ground, often near a house, used for growing flowers, fruit or vegetable” nestled among the urban sprawl and chaos that is the Greater Sydney area. It’s a colossal garden that has a lot of food, much of which could satisfy one’s weekly nutritional needs.

That particular garden happens to be part of one household’s quest to live within planet Earth’s ecological means.

Why would you visit?

  • You don’t know about “planet Earth’s ecological means”.
  • You think a lifestyle based on sustainability might be a good thing, and would like to see what it involves.

For those who care for the details:

Private garden landscaping is nothing new. It’s positively unoriginal. Yet, what the owners have done is impressive – by growing food on their property, they know where it comes from.

The growing of food, (or knowing where the food comes from and what it takes for that food to grow and reach your plate) is re-situating oneself as a 21st-Century human being within the world of ecology. It makes one aware of one’s place right there in the abiotic and biotic systems that we are a part of.

*

Are you interested in environmental projects such as these? You can join a similar trip. Take a look at the Sustainable Van Facebook page.

*

Just for you, kind reader, here is a photo which I hope leaves you slightly upbeat about the sustainability scene, and the future in general.

100320135312

Sincerely,

Polluticon

Professional practice | Forum proceedings: UTSpeaks

22 Mar

As a final-year undergraduate student, as well as one without a colossal amount of experience* of the industry I wished to break in to**, I wasn’t sure whether I knew much about the industry. Hence, fairly late in my degree, I began to attend events that were organised by and for professionals of that discipline.

All well and good, you might say, but what good will it do? What can the time-starved person with multiple other commitments really obtain from such things?

Well, ‘networking’ [collecting others’ contact details, telling them about your interests, finding out about theirs, offering a mutually beneficial relationship – not usually in that order!] is one thing that has been talked about and talked about. I’m not going to talk about it here, though I will address it in a future post. I mention it because it is one thing that can be done while attending industry gigs.

Figure 1. Thinking about these concerns, and then acting on them, can help one’s career to flourish just like these plants appear to be. (Image from National Geographic.)

Figure 1. Thinking about these concerns, and then acting on them, can help one’s career to flourish just like these plants appear to be. (Image from National Geographic.)

Assuming that one has a particular industry, field or discipline in mind that one wishes to work in, I would suggest it is useful to regularly attend events in that discipline:

  • For those who I might term ‘established’ – e.g. those who are employed in the field they wish to work in, in a role that fulfils their needs – the things you can learn help ensure that your work reflects trends, pressures and whatnot that happens in the wider world beyond your own team/organisation. The bottom line: it helps one’s work to be more relevant.
  • For those I’ll term ‘aspiring’ – e.g. those who are looking for a role at a certain level in a certain field, that they have not worked in – listening to others helps give one a sense of what the ‘established’ do: how they talk about their experiences, the vocabulary they use, what sources they trust to find out about events, trends and other professionally relevant shenanigans. The bottom line: it helps one to be able to speak about one’s experience, or trends, with some kind of authority. Which can be of great use in a job interview.
Under the right circumstances, this is what a job interview sometimes looks like. If one has a photographer in the room, that is!

Under the right circumstances, this is what a job interview sometimes looks like. If one has a photographer in the room, that is!

Alternatively, you could:

a) have a chat with someone who does keep up to date with industry trends, and give them cake to encourage them to share their knowledge with you; and/or

b) scour academic literature and ask complete strangers for their thoughts on leading-edge trends. This might be worthwhile, but most likely will take a bit more effort!

So, now that I have provided something of a rationale for attending such events, without any further ado, here are my notes from a 2011 UTSpeaks public forum titled Sustaining Business: Will vision and leadership be the keys that safeguard corporations in an uncertain future?

The forum coincided with the launch of a book authored by the event’s presenters. Now that I think of it, authoring a book is one way to assert one’s appreciation of a discipline.

****

Presenter: Professor Suzanne Benn

Issue: the how of sustainability as a corporate strategy is lacking.

When it comes to embedding sustainability, there are two major approaches which the presenter highlighted. Obviously, they are simply examples and there might be many other types.

Goals Approach
Compliance/reinforcement Informal/soft
Strategise/innovate Formal/hard

There are tensions in both examples.

The above table and stolen image http://ecoopportunity.net/2011/07/why-sustainability-is-a-lot-like-high-school-sex/dr-bertels-chart/ are based on the work http://ecoopportunity.net/2011/07/why-sustainability-is-a-lot-like-high-school-sex/ of Dr Stephanie Bertels http://beedie.sfu.ca/profiles/StephanieBertels .

The above table and image are based on the work of Dr Stephanie Bertels.

Amongst the companies on the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, amongst the more important themes for addressing sustainability issues is the application of systems thinking.

Systems thinking suggests that entities be considered in terms of how they interact with those around them, and not individually. For instance, where there is a problem, one might not simply look for a cause and effect, but wider interactions.

Making use of systems thinking, there are three approaches organisations can use to incorporate sustainability [and in parentheses I have included my own interpretation]:

  • Life cycle thinking (considering for one’s output – a mobile phone, say – what are the environmental implications of this product from cradle to grave)
    • (E.g. during the extraction and refining of minerals for components; manufacture; distribution; during the use of the product by the consumer; in disposal)
  • Stakeholder engagement (of the entities that may have an interest in your organisation’s work, how many of them do you involve? To what degree do they have input in how your organisation does business?)
  • Complexity thinking (to my understanding, this may be related to holistic thinking – where parts of a system are viewed not individually, but in the context of the harmony or disharmony with which they work)

There is, however, an alternative approach: integrative thinking.

Recommended reading list: MIT Sloan Management Review (which seems to be a type of institute) and Boston Consulting Group. Together they publish literature on the topic of business sustainability.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

***

Presenter: Dr Bruce Perrott

One definition of organisational sustainability might be “meeting the needs of present stakeholders without compromising the benefits and returns to future stakeholders”

Recommended reading:

Worthwhile is an article titled The Sustainability Imperative, published by Harvard Business Review.

Also of use might be a book, titled Organisational Change for Corporate Sustainability, by Dunphy, Griffith and Benn (published in 2007). Yes, that’s right, it is authored by all three presenters.

A PowerPoint presentation available online offers what might be a rather handy summation of some ideas in the book.

**

Presenter: Professor Dexter Dunphy

Nothing in leadership has prepared us for this [current time, with its challenges for corporate and societal sustainability – and associated decision-making].

Some out-of-focus Brisbane night-time scenery for you. Coincidentally, many organisations are just as fuzzy regarding how to comprehensively implement holistic sustainability principles into their operations and vision. That's not a veiled criticism, it's simply my (untested) belief.

Some out-of-focus Brisbane night-time scenery for you. Captured by yours truly. Coincidentally, many organisations are just as fuzzy regarding how to comprehensively implement holistic sustainability principles into their operations and vision. That’s not a veiled criticism, it’s simply my (untested) belief.

Their book provides a useful roadmap in this arena.

There is a hierarchy of corporations and their responses to sustainability:

  1. Rejection: organisations that fail to recognise the need to change. They actively sabotage attempts in that direction. Their leaders allow the organisation to feel the impacts (penalties) of this strategy
  2. Non-responsiveness: organisations that don’t feel the need for change applies to them
  3. Compliance: organisations that recognise the legitimacy of these [sustainability concerns] but only do the minimum to avoid trouble
  4. Efficiency: these organisations might be characterised for having a focus on human systems, physical resources
  5. Strategic proactivity:                     these can become market leaders by embracing strategic benefits of addressing sustainability
  6. The sustaining corporation: one that seeks to reinvent itself with its response to sustainability

*

Panel discussion

As the heading suggests, the speakers completed their presentations and were joined by a panel of experienced sustainability professionals. Here is a summary of the notes that I took from the proceedings:

  • [It is important, for one to keep one’s sanity, to] recognise that you’re part of a system
  • [When a company makes an investment – particularly in sustainability – it always] needs to see a payback. Fuji Xerox had to plug all the awards they won.
  • One needs to measure the hell out of one’s initiatives, especially for management to understand their impact
  • Question: is price important?
    • Answer: no-one will pay a cent more for a product that is more sustainable, or less sustainable. It is a matter of [the successful product] being better than its competitors, at the same cost, oh and also, it’s a more sustainable product. (Which sounds impossible – that’s why one invests in innovation.)
  • Question: how to respond to stage 1 (rejection phase) companies/advocates?
    • When one has a [sustainability project] and the devils emerge, (that is a figure of speech, obviously!) intent on destroying it, that’s a sign they are taking you seriously – that you’re winning.
  • Question: how might SMEs (this of course is an acronym for Small to Medium Enterprises) incorporate these sustainability concerns?
    • The main way in which this might happen is by large corporations’ increasingly stringent standards filter through to suppliers and suppliers’ suppliers.
This was certainly part of an impression that I took from the presentations. Is it a cause for alarm? Not in the least, for those who are willing to adapt, innovate, and generally reorient themselves.

This was certainly part of an impression that I took from the presentations. Is it a cause for alarm? Not in the least, for those who are willing to adapt, innovate, and generally reorient themselves.

Sincerely,

Polluticon

* I had about two years of experience. From having worked in internships, volunteering and casual paid work.

** Organisational efforts to respond to environmental and more broadly, sustainability concerns.

Essential Workplace Sustainability Initiative #5 | Baking

6 Mar

An alternative title would be: how to encourage your co-workers to like you as a person, rather than only as a professional.

What possible uses would a professional have for cake?

Surely in this day and age, giving other people sugar is irresponsible, isn’t it?

What merit is there in spending one’s personal time, outside of work, to bake some sugary goodness to bring in to work?

Image stolen.

Image stolen.

I will now attempt to answer the last of those ridiculous questions.

In the present time, there seems to be an unspoken understanding of one’s work community to be a type of family away from one’s personal family. This could be especially so when one is in the situation of employment where one is spending several hours for most of one’s week, and when one has to work intensively with other people on projects of a collaborative or combative nature.

It is not uncommon for many employees (and employers) to spend in excess of 40 hours per week at work. Presumably some, if not most of this time would be spent interacting with colleagues or clients. That is a sizeable portion of one’s 168-day week.

Hence the things that one does to make working life that much more pleasant, or enjoyable, or easy, would hopefully not go unnoticed by one’s colleagues. While families generally seem to argue over dinner, they tend to help one another out.

Specific to the baking of cake, whether to mark a colleague’s birthday, or to mark the start of the week, I offer the following rationale:

  • While the communal consumption of food (think: lunch with your workmates) is always social, it is somewhat more personal to share food that one has cooked, with others.

Should the act of making food for one’s co-workers be impractical, an alternative would be to procure some kind of sweet or savoury treat from a business.

Note: it can become very tricky to select something appropriate to buy or make if anyone you work with has an allergy or is on a diet.

Now that I have dealt with those technical matters, it would seem appropriate to share a recipe with you. One that I tried recently, with some success,* with my own employment family.

I digress, here is the recipe.

Equipment

Electric mixer (or alternatively, a whisk and lots of patience)

Microwave

Oven

Small saucepan

Large mixing bowl

Baking paper

Medium-sized baking tray or cake tin

Ingredients

Pudding

200g pitted dates, coarsely chopped (should one not have access to an electric mixer, it may help to cut the dates finely)

1.5 cups of boiling water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

60g butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 eggs

1 cup self-raising flour

Optional: 
Fresh strawberries – for serving

Even more optional: cream or ice-cream – to serve

Butterscotch sauce

200g (1 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

300ml cream

180g butter

Optional: 1 tsp vanilla essence

Other aspects

Environmental sustainability – in making the cake, you will most likely not produce much waste, especially if you give slices to as many of your co-workers as possible. Many of the ingredients come packaged in non-recyclable plastic, which is unfortunate – that simply goes to landfill. Recently I’ve heard that a large supermarket chain are offering recycling of plastic bags and the like. That’s a step in the right direction, in my personal view. Professionally, I admire that business for taking some leadership in the resource recovery sphere.

Time – it takes about three hours to cook – 2.25 hours to prepare the ingredients and bake the cake then another 15 minutes total for the butterscotch sauce. Procuring the ingredients may take some time – say 15 minutes wandering the aisles of a grocery store or supermarket.

Method

  1. Line a high-walled baking tray or cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Place dates and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil.
  3. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.
  4. Stir in the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until almost smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and flour in instalments. Mix the contents well after each addition. Mix until just combined. Sometime during this stage you’ll want to turn on your oven so it reaches the desired temperature. Pour mixture into baking tray or cake tin.
  6. Cover tray or tin with foil and bake for 30 minutes in a fan-forced oven at 160 degrees Celsius. (To cook evenly, otherwise the top may become burnt while the inside is still soft.)
  7. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes in the same oven set to the same temperature.

Note: one could bake the mixture in a regular – that is, non-fan-forced – oven set to 170 degrees Celsius in 40-45 minutes, without using the foil.

Sources that I plagiarised the recipe from are available below.

Australian Good Taste – the picture and part of the recipe.

My Year 8 Hospitality class recipe. It still works a treat.

Best wishes for your own cooking. Note however that I take no responsibility for the results of any of your cooking exploits, including how they are received by your colleagues.

Sincerely,

Polluticon

Google4Entrepreneurs | Part 2

24 Feb

The epic conclusion to a two-part saga covering my notes from a genuinely functional and fun day of presentations and network ops. Part one is available here.

Social media is a recognition that the internet isn’t solely inhabited by computers – it’s inhabited by people.

Image stolen.

Image stolen.

Presentation: The Future of Work, Today – Stuart McLean

Always know your audience.

Mr McLean then did a really cool thing involving no technology whatsoever – he asked something of his audience. Questions. They weren’t all that provoking, but they gave him some information about us, and made us feel involved. A really useful presentation technique, I think.

Real estate agents hate Google Maps – it allows prospective buyers to find out whether or not their ‘dream home’ is a two-minute walk to the local shops.

Google Earth, boasting in excess of 1 billion downloads, is the most downloaded software in the world.

Some established technology trends are:

  • Shift to cloud computing
  • Increasing takeup of mobile devices
  • Use of social media

The past 30 years of business IT has generally featured*

  • Physical offices
  • Standard work day
  • Corporate devices

The parameters of business today tend to involve a bit more*

  • Any device (using a personal phone or tablet, say)
  • Any-time working hours (work goes around the clock)
  • Any team (the intention is to remove barriers to working with international departments, customers, suppliers, or anyone)
  • Any place

*Yes, I realise this may be a false binary, but I’m (and Google staff were) talking in terms of generalities.

Picking up on any team/ any place: Google chat (as well as Skype and numerous other providers) offer the option to host meetings via video. Isn’t that dandy?

So many businesses would be blown away by this connectivity. It might allow information to much easier traverse the labyrinthine departments situated in multi-site organisations.

There was a plug for Chromebox, a Google product which is apparently a desktop computer. It was given as an example of an opportunity to save time and money.

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Getting out there with Adverts and SearchSally Williams

This presentation wasn’t about online dating. Rather, it concerned the means by which one might attract one’s target audience. On reflection, not really all that different!

Paid search

  • Enables strong degree of control over message that goes to audience
  • Knowing which web page serves as landing page (the ‘front doorstep’ page, if you like) allows one to tailor the user experience

A provider such as iProspect

  • Apparently they work for adverts on organic searches only. At least, that was the impression I was given.

The basics of paid search. With Google, obviously:

  1. Select key words (broad key terms)
  2. Set bids and budget
  3. Target effectively
  • The example given was the physical radius around a given retail store
  1. Writing advert text

Suggestion: mobile-phone-friendly is an invaluable way to go with site design.

Benefits of mobile-specific web pages

  • 80% of online search engine queries by 2015 will be for video content

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The Awesome World of AnalyticsChris Eden

The speaker seemed a charismatic individual. In case that didn’t exactly incite enthusiasm, and as a professional courtesy, Mr Eden gave a brief guide to why he was talking to us today, from the privileged position as presenter. His credentials are substantial.

Since the origins of the Commodore 64, or even before that point, up to the year 2003, 5 exabytes of information had been created.

In the present time, that much data is created every two days.

Check out The Internet of Things. T’is a concept of some sort – I cannot quite fathom it yet!

A few resources:

One. The Wikipedia entry.

Two.

Three.

Four.

Five.

Six.

Seven.

On this topic, one can obtain some knowledge of use from Avinash Kaushik. One example is here.

In the past, creating websites (and user experiences) was rather faith-based – not based upon data, but based on opinions. With the introduction of Google Analytics, this is no longer the case.

Having information from Google Analytics (or similar products, for that matter) enables one to fail fast, and make new generations of products. [Google Analytics is a non-sinister tracking device that allows the administrator of a certain web page to find out information about users of that web page – from where they came to that site, and which pages that they visited.]

An example of the statistics that Analytics can give one.

An example of the statistics that Analytics can provide.

If you can’t measure, you cannot improve.

A few points of action-able information

  1. Bounce rate: visitors who visit one’s site and leave soon without taking any further action. As a general rule, having a high bounce rate means that one has bad (aka boring and/or non-informative) content, or content that has mislead the visitor to the site
  2. Platforms: allow one to consider, what technology do we design online assets for? Are they Safari-compatible?
  3. Understand geographical differences in performance. One can extract information about users to the city level. Low visits from certain areas may mean low resonance for those areas
  4. Site Search Reports: understand what users are really looking for
  5. Visitor Flow, Top Entry pages: find the doors that are most profitable. Most businesses tend to assume their homepage is the landing site. Often it isn’t. (Hence, work needs to be put into sites other than the homepage.)
  6. Look at full value of advertising spend. AdWords integration gives a full view, not just a media view, of what one’s web ranking results are. For instance, while one might have the goal of making it to the top 2 search results for one’s category of product/service. It could be discovered that it’s actually more strategic to be in the top 3 search results, and save the money for other avenues
  7.  Ability to watch today’s marketing activity unfold. Today
  8. Save time by using alerts. (Sent through e-mail)
  9. Monitor performance by channel
  10. Check performance of your conversion (e.g. whether or not a landing onto your site was funnelled into a sale, or a mailing list signature)

Give the whole team some credit, e.g. with multi-channel funnels, you can find out the team players in that winning basket pass, and can credit them/allocate resources accordingly.

An example given was: Social – Display – PPC

Reading list

How to set up a GA account.

The Wikipedia entry.

The official blog.

Should one wish to gain qualifications in GA, and more importantly, to learn about it, an option would be to try the Conversion University.

One can create tracking resources using Google URL Builder. This kind blogger sets out what must be done.

Some research on what users wish to find from mobile websites. From Google themselves.

A few useful graphics pertaining to the same topic.

Compuware presented a summary of the results.

Another summary of the data.

Google have a mobile/search/optimising business arm.

A student's rendition of the Google doodle. Image courtesy of Time Tech and the student.

A student’s rendition of the Google doodle. Image courtesy of Time Tech and the student.

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The Value of TestingAlex Speziali

The regular visitor to a web page takes 5-8 seconds to decide whether or not a website is interesting/useful/entertaining. There’s precious little time to waste!

Site testing is about making one’s web page the most amenable to visitors. At least, that’s what one would hope is the end goal of site testing.

Conversion is a valuable action. Following are a few examples:

  • Views of a particular page or video
  • Sales
  • Subscriptions

Site testing is not about board-room politics; data can override opinion to guide site design.

Google Analytics is a great tool to be picked out of your site testing toolkit. It allows you to run Content Experiments.

Example

The campaign team behind Now-President Obama (I’m writing this in 2013) tried a certain trick with their campaign website. I was mildly astounded when I found it out. It’s a useful introduction to what site testing is and can be. Although I would hope that much, much more can be done with site testing, or that it can be used for infinitely more meaningful things than raising campaign funds.

The eventual most successful combination. Image stolen.

The eventual most successful combination. Image stolen.

In essence, they designed multiple versions of their website and had a sample A of their online visitors view webpage Version 1 and sample B of online visitors view webpage Version 2.

One rather impressive-looking blog details the effects here.

The previous homepage. Again, image stolen.

The previous homepage. Again, image stolen.

Another blog, seemingly an inside account of the site testing shenanigans, can be found here. Engrossing stuff, if you’ve got an interest in the back-of-house operations involved in optimising a website for users.

Things one can do to increase a web page’s desirability to visitors (let’s call it persuasion)

  • Images, USPs (Unique Selling Points), page copy (headlines and buttons), social proof (no idea what that is, sorry)

Things one can do to decrease effort required of visitors (let’s call this efficiency)

  • Layout, navigation, call to action, speed

User testing. Useful, they convinced me.

Start small, start now

  • Takes 20 minutes to set up
  • 1 week to collect data

Which test won? Case studies are available here.

A well-respected professional in the website usability community, who goes by the name of Steve Krug once said, with regards to website design, said

Don’t make me think.

That serves as a motto – make everything super-duper friendly for visitors; they should have no trouble navigating to the content they wish to find.

It’s the difference between:

Submit

and

Go to payment options

Guess which one secured an 88% increase in follow-on actions?

(It was ‘submit’.)

10 Lessons from Steve Krug’s book.

A session with Steve Krug.

****

At this point the presentations were put on the backburner, while the catering emerged from the kitchens.

I enjoyed some noodles courtesy of Google. #yum

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Getting your message out with SocialSuzie O’Carroll

What might ‘getting one’s message out and connecting’ mean? In a context of there being 4 billion daily video views (presumably on YouTube)? I’m not sure. Sorry, I didn’t get to write that part down. What followed were ways to spread a message.

Building your YouTube

Exhibit one: marketing mayhem. Or rather, a small enterprise that attracted interest, courtesy of a well-told YouTube story.

There is also an interview, in case one is particularly inclined, to find out about what later happened to Orabrush.

How-to videos are big. What this means, the speaker asserted, is that they rank higher in views than music videos.

Example: the much-loved VeryPinkKnits.com YouTube channel.

How about this for an interactive online experience?

It is important for a website or YouTube page to give people a reason to come back. That means: have regular content. (Presumably, the content will be worthwhile in some way: interesting/useful/emotive.)

The range of services that Google offer. Image stolen.

The range of services that Google offer. Image stolen.

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Lean platforms for lean startupsAndrew Jessup

It’s fairly normal to ask oneself, and others, when starting a risky venture, “so, will this work?” It is apparently the case that ‘a sizeable majority will fail’.

The assumptions one may have when working on what seems like a novel idea are:

  • I’m the only one working on this
  • I have a good idea

It may be a great idea to challenge both of those assumptions – by doing research and by seeking others’ brutally honest feedback.

An author by the name of Eric Ries has authored a book named Startup Lessons Learned. Also in existence is a blog of the same name, run by the same person, which offers handy hints.

The author also offers some hyper-useful principles for a lean startup.

Some other principles

Start small, start fast – the advantages of a startup are that it can focus on markets that others do not (whether because they are not economically viable or otherwise). (With a startup, presumably, one doesn’t have the trouble of reorienting a vast array of resources and staff.) To this end, it helps to have a target (whether a goal or a target market) that is well-defined.

Learn like a scientist – use A/B testing (this refers to the abovementioned Google Analytics Content Experiments) to get quantitative data about what works and what doesn’t. With your testing, you can learn from mistakes! Don’t waste that chance.

Minimise friction to ship – make it hyper easy for visitors, customers and others to love your work.

****

How to monetise digital contentRichard Warburton

One suggestion is to use AdSense (another Google product, of course!) for one’s content.

Steps in building a monetisation strategy?

  1. Know your audience and advertisers
    1. What kind of people constitute your core audience?
    2. What is your Unique Selling Point (the acronym, of course, is USP)? That is, what do you offer above and beyond that of your competitors?
    3. How will you delight your users?
  2. Content is king. Produce great content, and users will flock to you like sheep at a shepherds’ party.
  3. Unfortunately I missed this point. Sorry.
  4. Capture the multi-screen customer (have a ‘plan of attack’ that works on an array of devices: from BlackBerry/Nokia/Android/iPhone to iPad to desktop computer – hey, why not Google Glass while you’re at it.)
  5. Plan for today … and tomorrow.

That covers all my useful notes from the day. Many thanks to Google for hosting the event – I’m certain that many of my fellow attendees gained a lot from the proceedings, and hope you gain something from these here.

Note: the presentations were held months ago. My notes were and are summaries. Hence, it is more than likely that the presenters may not have said what I quoted them as saying.

Sincerely,

Polluticon

From Google with Love: Insights for Entrepreneurs

11 Feb

Your correspondent attended an informational session put on by Google in 2012. He has disappeared since. The following has been pieced together from non-verified e-mail, transcripts of phone conversations, and chapter six of the Da Vinci Code. I hope you find it useful.

Image stolen.

Image stolen.

Presentation: Introduction Alan Noble

If you do what you love, you’ll enjoy it more and therefore (put more effort and) be more inclined to achieve greater success

Google is an overgrown startup company; still practices startup values

Main goal: making search relevant, and making search faster

Parallel goal: a great user experience

The google principles are of use.

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Fast is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There’s always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a suit.
  10. Great just isn’t good enough.

Define the problem. That’s a simple thing, yet so important.

Focus on the user. Yet don’t let that be the sole guide. Don’t forget the achievement of Henry Ford with his mobility alternative to the horse – his users would probably have asked for version 2.0 of the horse. A happy user is cost-effective – they’ll refer you on.

Foster passionate people – you need that to be the culture. At google the lowliest intern has equal access – with provisos – to information as do the senior staff.

There is no excuse for non-transparency

It is instructive to learn to fail quickly – experiment often

Don’t be afraid to place big, audacious bets – something that could be huge (acquiring YouTube, developing the Android format); or something that could be a flop (Google Wave)

The 3 Ays:

  • Audit data, and audit what you do
  • Admit failure
  • Adapt

“There’s never been a better time to follow what you’re interested in”:

Whether that is engineering, humanities, the arts etc.

We’ve now eliminated the tyranny of distance

There are some fantastic universities

There is an abundance of tech-savvy talent

Australia is a great test market for the world.

Presentation: Understand your user – Nick Leeder

Suggestion: consult a tween on technology trends. They may know more than you.

Data flows will quadruple by 2015

Mobile

  • The internet is now with us all the time
  • This changes what consumers do: e.g. Commonwealth Netbank logins during primetime television – it was found that login activity peaked during ad breaks

Video

From blue links, text, to voice, to YouTube, 140 views per person on earth; 800 million-plus unique users per month

Examples:

Robinjnixon / nicko’s kitchen.

The Khan Academy – projects like this show that YT is ‘not just about dancing parakeets’.

It is too!

Telstra KnowHow’s channel.