Deadprogrammer’s Hierarchy of Web Needs

I recently received a phone call from a recruiter. He wanted to lure me away to some “big company” that still had “small company feel” to participate in a “redesign of a major website”. He felt like all of these things, as well as “a well stocked kitchen” were big selling points.

I am a veteran of many website redesigns, major and minor. I’ve come to dread the word “redesign” because very frequently it meant taking a perfectly good website and making it significantly worse, and then through major struggles making it marginally beter. In the past I wrote a rather bloated article titled “The Russian Tea Room Syndrome” about this. Today I would like to write a bit more about this, as this topic rarely leaves my mind and my life.

Earlier in my career, I had very little influence over the redesign process, but this is changing. This is the primary reason why my job title has the shameful word “Architect” in it: I write code and configure servers, but I want my say in strategery as well.

So, Michael, you might ask, what is the problem with redesigns? Aren’t redesigns about making websites better? Well, many redesigns suffer from not following IBM’s famous motto.

IBM has one of the best corporate mottos ever: CRUSH and DESTROY. Uh, I mean THINK. They even give out props with the word “THINK” on it and publish THINK magazine.

Many redesigns happen simply as a knee jerk reaction: oh, look company X is doing Y and using Z. When you sit in a meeting and somebody is describing a redesign purely in terms of things other people do, you are likely in trouble. No thinking is involved at all.

But sometimes it’s the type of thinking that is going on that is the problem. You have to think about the relative importance of things.

I have a picture by famous graffitti artist Banksy hanging on my wall. It is a metaphor about true and false importance.

In 1943 a Brooklyn College professor Abraham Maslow outlined what is now known as Maslow’s Hierarchy: a pyramid that ranks human needs. It looks like prior to him nobody really gave a lot of thought to relative importance of pooping and morality. Well, maybe a little – there’s a Russian idiom for a person of untrustworthy nature that originated during WWI when soldiers relieved themselves in rows, next to specially dug trenches: “I would not take a dump next to this person”. Also see “I hope they serve beer in hell

Here’s Maslow’s pyramid in all of its glory:

I decided I’d come up with the hierarchy of web needs:

standard adherence: strict XHTML, CSS, etc

choice of technology: language, CMS, OS, cloud/servers, etc

other features: widgets, games, microformats

multimedia: video, podcasts, interactive flash

design: graphical elements, typography, pleasing layout

semantic web: metadata, tagging

usability: text size, image size, logical layout, uncluttered interface, site name/urls, browser support

community features: comments, ratings, feeds

googliness: search, speed, security

content qualities: usefulness, interest, freshness, uniqueness

content: text, images, links

In my opinion unsuccesful redesigns happen when people start from the wrong end of the pyramid (always skipping the first step: I’m yet to meet anybody with power who thinks about these things are important).

I will expand on this in my next post.

Orly No Bite

No Bite is a fast and effective bad tasting, clear color bitter nail bite deterrent formulated to stop nail biting. Promotes healthy nail growth. Enriched with natural pearl for enhanced shine and durability. Can be use alone or over nail polish. Good for both men and women. Dries to a natural looking finish – not shiny. Does not wash off with water.

Stop Your Nailbiting!: Permanently

This book provides the definitive cure for adult problem nail biting. The information and the technique supplied in this book offer effective, well-documented, and permanent relief from this frustrating habit. By reading this book, habitual nail biters can finally and permanently free themselves from the habit. It is the goal of this book to spread the message that life can be free from the pain and embarrassment caused by unsightly and unattractive finger nails and hands.
This book starts by carefully describing and defining the habit. There is more to this than many realize, and nail biters will benefit greatly by the information contained here. The knowledge and insight in this section form the foundation for beginning the journey to long, healthy and gorgeous nails. For example, many habit owners do not realize that nail biting is actually a two step habit. Both steps must be recognized and treated for the habit to be completely eradicated. The habit frequently also rears up unconsciously, and so the book also provides an effective tool for recognizing and altering unconscious behavior. Many questions are answered here and misconceptions about nail biting are discussed in detail and debunked.
After carefully defining the habit, the book then delves into why habitual nail biters pursue their habit. Incidentally, stress is rarely the cause of problem nail biting. Nail biting patterns that are frequently seen are then also discussed in detail. Reading about themselves in print will reassure nail biters that they are not alone in the world. Incidentally, research data indicates that the habit is wide spread across nationalities, age groups, and demographics. All of this information results in a powerful understanding of the habit. Many readers state that this understanding alone helps them to significantly reduce or even eliminate their nail biting problem.
However, sometimes information alone is not enough. So then, contained in the book is an ingenious and almost perfect cure to the habit. Described in the book is a simple to perform but highly effective technique for stopping nail biting. Many people who have tried the approach mention that they simply cannot believe how effective the cure is at permanently and efficiently treating their nail biting. Internalizing the information in the book and applying the technique described results in a very powerful therapeutic combination. Even long term habitual nail biters need just several weeks to completely and permanently break their habit. Some readers have even reported success just after several days. Once cured, the habit rarely resurfaces. Curing the habit increases self confidence and self esteem considerably.
After detailing the cure, the book provides documented and real case stories of notable successes with the treatment method. Case histories, pictures and testimonials are posted frequently on the book’s accompanying web site http://www.stopyournailbiting.com. Readers are invited to browse there at will and watch the anonymous and free forum discussion board to learn more. To complete the loop, the book details why other methods of nail biting habit control are not as effective or easy as the cure discussed. Many nail biters have tried various approaches to curing the habit. Such attempts often end in disappointment and frustration. The use of spicy creams and foul tasting lotions as a treatment option is addressed. Readers will learn that bad tasting lotions are not effective for nail pickers for obvious reasons. Finally, the book discusses children, and provides tips and tricks for working with children nail biters. The cure’s application to other similar ailments (cheek biting, hair pulling, and joint cracking) is discussed and readers are welcome to post tips onto the free web site forum for the benefit and well being of others.

Link Love 1

Stack Overflow: What do programmers listen to when they write code?

The best note taking tool in the world, Evernote, finally released an API. I really, really love Evernote.

Jesse Reklaw has a new Slow Wave book, The Night of Your Life, out. You can get signed copies from Slow Wave website or buy them at Amazon. Slow Wave is in the top 5 of my favorite comics, and Jesse drew the cat and programmer graphic used in the masthead of my site.

For some reason, my former co-worker Sean posts more New York City photos than I do these days.

The Night of Your Life: A Slow Wave Production

Cartoonist Jesse Reklaw turns the dreams of strangers into the most insightful, humorous, and clever four-panel comic strips you have ever read in The Night of Your Life. This hardcover volume captures the sublime pleasure of tumbling through the freewheeling narrative of our sleeping lives. Each strip is an adaptation of the many dreams submitted to Reklaw from all over the world, every one a unique and compelling journey into a landscape to which we all travel. The Night of Your Life is a testament to the ability of comics to illuminate the corridors of the imagination with wit, sincerity, and joy.

It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff

When Peter Walsh, organizational guru of TLC’s hit show Clean Sweep and a regular contributor to The Oprah Winfrey Show, appeared on national television shows and told people how they could reclaim their lives from the suffocating burden of their clutter, the response was overwhelming. People flooded Peter’s website (www.peterwalshdesign.com) with success stories about how his book had changed their lives.

Peter’s unique approach helped people everywhere learn to let go of the emotional and psychological clutter that was literally and figuratively choking the life out of their homes.

With his good humor and reassuring advice, Peter shows you how to face the really big question: What is the vision for the life you want to live? He then offers simple techniques and a step-by-step plan to assess the state of your home, prioritize your possessions, and let go of the clutter you have been holding on to that has kept you from living the life you imagine. The result is freed-up space, less stress, and more energy for living a happier, richer life every day.

The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit: An A to Z Lexicon of Empty, Enraging, and Just Plain Stupid Office Talk

This caustically funny Webster’s of the workplace cuts to the true meaning of the inane argot spouted in cubicles and conference rooms across the land.

At a price even an intern can afford and in a handy paperback format that won’t weigh down your messenger bag or briefcase, The Dictionary of Corporate Bullshit is a hilarious guide to the smoke-screen terms and passive-aggressive phrases we traffic in every day. Each entry begins with a straight definition followed by a series of alternative meanings that are, of course, what is really meant.

Take, for example, the widely used, seemingly innocuous term brainstorming:

1. to generate ideas as a group in an accepting environment and in a free-form manner
2. a supposedly relaxed forum in which no idea is a bad idea – that is, until you generate a bad idea and are met with uncomfortable silence/looks that suggest you are retarded or really uncool/the feeling that you are about to be fired

Beyond deciphering corporate commonplaces, you’ll learn the PC term for secret Santa (Holiday Harry); why the Blackberry is “most commonly referred to as a ‘Crackberry’ due to its highly addictive nature”; and that when a co-worker says “Have a good night”, they really mean: “this meaningless, seemingly interminable exchange of small talk is now over. I am no longer speaking to you, and will now flee this awkward social situation. Don’t even think of asking which way I’m walking.”

Just remember to read this only at COB (close of business) to avoid being busted (caught idling by your boss).

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming

“[A] solid how-to book…For amateur dream researchers, this is a must.”
WHOLE EARTH REVIEW
This book goes far beyond the confines of pop dream psychology, establishing a scientifically researched framework for using lucid dreaming–that is, consciously influencing the outcome of your dreams. Based on Dr. Stephen LaBerge’s extensive laboratory work at Stanford University mapping mind/body relationships during the dream state, as well as the teachings of Tibetan dream yogis and the work of other scientists, including German psycholgist Paul Tholey, this practical workbook will show you how to use your dreams to: Solve problems; Gain greater confidence; improve creativity, and more.

I’m Still Here!

As you might have noticed, dear readers, my blogging frequency is not what it used to be or should be. It’s not that I have writer’s block – in my GTD project folder I have enough notes for several hundred posts. But with the time constraints that a new baby, a demanding day job and several Quadrant II projects put on me, I have trouble finding motivation to sit down and craft my posts.

Still, blogging in itself is a Quadrant II activity, and even though so far I failed to make any real-life friends with it or attain any career-related connections, there’s the question of monetary gain. Belieive it or not, but even a small blog like mine, with only about 1000 readers or so, makes me enough money to pay for the hosting fees, and then buy myself a significant New Year present. I am talking a rather nice and expensive lens kind of money. Over the time, I had some thoughts about online advertising, and today, in order to make up a little for my blogging hiatus, let me share them with you in the next post.