Thursday, June 28, 2007

CBC's Facebook effort is not that bad

With my company's relaunch almost history, I'm finally able to step out of the bubble I've been in for weeks.

I've been able to read the news again - and you'll note the Net News items on the right are now mostly new.

An item today on caught my eye as it mentioned my current cyber-addiction, Facebook, and had a Canadian connection.

The article, CBC ‘wish list' experiment dogged by controversy presents a rather biased look at CBC's "The Great Canadian Wish List" project on Facebook.

Despite the hugeness of the bubble I was in, I can't believe I missed this project completely.

The Great Canadian Wish List is an attempt to encourage public discussion on items Canadians would like to see to make Canada a better country, in honour of our upcoming 140th birthday. I believe Facebook was used as there was already a sizable bunch of Canadians there (Canadians are world leaders in Facebook adoption), the technology was pretty much already in place, and to help capture a younger audience than the public broadcaster normally does.

Canadians can join groups to "Wish" for the items they care about. There are also discussions on the main group page and on the individual wish pages.

I joined tonight and its biggest shortcoming are immediately apparent: 1) this enterprise was hijacked by nut jobs with agendas 2) the generaly idiocy of many people. But it is not all bad.

Yes the top five wishes overall are:
1) Abolish abortion in Canada
2) I wish that Canada would remain pro-choice
3) For a spiritual revival in our nation
4) Restore the traditional definition of marriage
5) I wish tuition fees would be either lowered or eliminated

But then the next five are:
6) It's time for drastic measures to save our environment
7) Canada should keep abortions and gay marriage legal
8) A Canada where no one must choose between paying for rent and their medication
9) Proportional representation
10) Greener Canada

Some of these groups cheated to raise their wish and that is unfortunate. The article was quick to point out the CBC's faults for not maintaining tighter reigns. But to do so would have ruined the honesty (whether we like it or not) and uncouthness that is not only part of the fun, but the entire point.

I enjoyed voting for "Alaska should be part of Canada" as one of my wishes. But I also wished for help for the mentally ill.

The effort wasn't perfect, but then neither are people. For instance, there's a discussion on "I Hate Toronto" fueled, no doubt, by stupid, bitter trolls. But then there's also a discussion with even more posts on decriminalizing prostitution and that's not a topic conventional media or politicians are pushing for.

I applaud the CBC for trying something different and exploring innovative uses of the medium. Perhaps the other media outlets should spend less time criticizing other's online efforts and do something cool on their own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My Comments on Comments

Blogs by their very nature need to have comments, otherwise they are nothing significantly different than any web posting.

(Yes, Webslinger lacks in this regard - despite the much-appreciated efforts of three loyal readers.)

With this blog, I really wanted to be as open as possible to hearing from anyone - including complete strangers or passing readers that want to leave a quick note. Therefore, I have left the settings of this blog open to anonymous comments.

This tactic, I believe, helps encourage discussion and interaction and makes new readers and blog newbies more likely to comment.

The downside is spammers are hijacking this openness to post spam comments. I hate spam as much, if not more so, than anyone, so I find this really annoying!

My last post has an anonymous comment that I'm fairly certain is spam. I am reluctant to delete it though, as I don't want to cut legitimate comments - even if they are vague or off-topic. So if you were the person who posted it - please identify yourself.

The spam comments to date have not so numerous that I can't delete them manually. But I've been told that as a blog's readership grows, so too does spam.

I've decided in order to encourage easy and open dialogue in this blog, I'm going to continue to allow anonymous comments. I hope the spam doesn't grow or I might be forced to restrict comments.

I'm certain most other bloggers have faced or will face this same issue. It will be a real shame if spammers ruin one of the greatest strengths of the blog medium.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


I love the title of this blog posting as it refers not only to the standard post-project review, but more appropriately it describes my mental and physical state lately.

I really do feel like I'm back from the dead. My health is back to normal and I'm eating and drinking much healthier. I was feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated and incredibly exhausted! I never did get my relaunch party (moments like this were made for Lesley Gore songs) but since that was cancelled I used the time to go to Toronto Island with my family and we had an incredible day.

So here comes the lessons I am passing on to Webslinger readers that may be undertaking a big web project.

Lessons learned
1) If I were to do a project of this magnitude again, I'd have the entire core team working in the same space and preferably cloistered from regular business operations - too much got in the way, distance or otherwise
2) Get a caller ID telephone - I screen and filter my emails, why can't I do that with my phone? The equipment is relatively cheap and the time they would have saved would have been invaluable.
3) Hire one extra person to do the HTML. I'm sure that that everyone who has ever done a project like this feels they need more people, but one extra person - even a temp - would have saved me some time I really could have used for more complex decisions and deliverables
4) Insist on professional testers - we recruited volunteer testers and some found some problems, but over all they missed a lot - this meant the programmers and I were testing and finding things and this wasn't the best use of time. Testing is a valuable skill and it's worth the cost to hire professionals
5) Deadlines met or else! I had difficulties getting people to hit deliverable deadlines despite knowing about things well in advance. This ended up meaning I had to work insane overtime to do the work or things got dropped. An electric cattle prod and pillory would have definitely helped.

Pats on the back
1) We hired excellent partners that offered really useful suggestions and expertise
2) I booked people's time for this project months in advance
3) We resisted the evil powers of scope attack, like Superman valiantly resisting kryptonite
4) I held focus groups which raised some good points and confirmed things I suspected
5) User testing found things that needed to be addressed but that I had not considered - it was relatively easy to do and garnered great feedback
6) I reviewed other websites - I looked at a lot of other industry and general websites and got lots of best practices and inspiration - it took some time but ended up with some great ideas, living examples to prove my points, and saved re-inventing the wheel
7) I did tons of research including reading Jakob Nielsen's book and columns, Jennifer Kyrnin's newsletter, other newsletters, attended lectures - this was also a lot of time but really meant that we knew what we were doing beforehand
8) I put our user first in devising the new website - we solicited their feedback and really listened to them. Usability was paramount as was the KISS method.
9) Great team - committed, intelligent and diligent
10) ME - I was amazing!
I programmed, designed, tested, researched, planned, wrote, edited, troubleshot, presented, trained, project managed, consulted and compromised. Yes, with much stress but also with unparalleled skill!! I have yet to meet someone who can do all these things - so the biggest pat on the back goes to me!

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's Alive - But I'm Not

The Relaunch is launched! My burden has been released. I'm free at last!

The new website is now live, but I'm anything but.

This project almost killed me. I guess I'm too damn old for the endless overtime and stress. In many ways, this relaunch is not much worst than others I've been through or heard about - just hell while you're living it.

I'm so incredibly exhausted, overly grumpy, I've had insomnia and I feel nauseous frequently. My blood pressure was at the highest ever and I'm sure I gained weight as I have barely left my chair for weeks. So this website relaunch has almost literally killed me.

I was so glad to see my daughter again I had to go many days without seeing her at all - recently I went three entire days without seeing her (during that time she was playing with her Fisher-Price Little People and the mother and child were playing in the house but the daddy was always by himself at the computer "at work").

I feel so much relief that it is done.

Today, was the big day and I knew there would be lots of issues. And there were - the two biggest, not surprisingly, were with Flash. But my coworkers and I solved a lot of things on the spot, so at the end of the day almost everything is going quite well.

Didn't get to do all the Help stuff I wanted to - that always gets left to the last and with scope attack there just wasn't time. But I still want to use DemoFuse so hopefully later this week... (the relaunch never dies!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Relaunch Hell

Five, four, three, two, one... the countdown to D-Day is on! It's five days before the big day - the relaunch of our website!

I'd like to say I'm excited, but mostly I'm just exhausted. I'd like to say the worst is behind me, yet every day something completely unexpected and frequently horrorific affronts me.

Yes, I'm just damn sick of this website relaunch! And mostly, I just want it to be done!!!

My two-year-old daughter has been so sad that she never sees me as I'm working so much overtime (she's clinging to other dads at the park due to withdrawal). I'm exhausted as I'm literally working on this project day and night. By day and into the evening I'm at the grind, and come night, I'm dreaming about the project (which has had the upside of helping me figure out and remember things). I'm downing rum and cokes by the litres and upping my caffeine intake into hyperspace.

After weeks of beavering away at this relaunch, there's been a lot of trade-offs, sacrifices, uncovering Frankencode (a horrid patchwork of ghastly code that somehow, though barely, manages to come to life), cross browser chaos, emotional roller-coasters, and worst than scope creep - scope attack.

Yes, it is great to create something tangible and see it take shape. But man relaunches are hell!

Webslinger readers: please share your relaunch horror story so I can take solace in your agony.

And I forgot to mention, the company cancelled my launch party too! Months of relaunch hell and now no infamous launch party to look forward to. :(