Enriching Social Media

Facebook's Secret Message to MeThere's a lot that can be said about social media as it is right now and much of it has already been said, written and regurgitated all over the internet because, paraphrasing Douglas Adams, the definition of a geek is someone who uses social media to talk about social media. 

We all know that person. In fact, for some people I am that person, but if we measure the value of social media as our ability to communicate about social media, it really has no value other than being a technology with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and enabling those with it. I don't know about you, gentle reader, but I don't enjoy sitting and listening to people shout about how awesome they are all the time. We won't discuss the selfies, where one can easily be drowned in a sea of pictures taken in bathrooms - only inches away from toilets.

The same, of course, applies to businesses that speak only of themselves, but we are usually spared the misfortune of knowing what a corporation had for breakfast - and where the boardroom toilet is still off limit for corporate selfies. At least for now. 

Once upon a time, I wrote a review of a junior engineer at Honeywell for my manager. I stared at that sheet of paper for what seemed like a lifetime before writing, "He would benefit the team more by enriching himself more." In essence, he was a weak link (who I hope has found his place in the world!) and required constant supervision. He had nothing to offer but what he was taught and he did not seem interested in going beyond that. He brought nothing to the table but dined from it. 

At another point, I was a communications manager for a company where the CEO wanted me to constantly write about what the team was doing. The trouble was that his want for adding content was greater than the things that there were to write about. He didn't want to communicate to the audience the things others were doing in the same field, and that only served to constipate what could have been a very useful bit of social media. It's not just about your company. 

It's about your audience.

That's the issue with social media, be it with personal use or business use. There are many that dine from the table but there are few who bring things to the table. It's those who bring things to the table that truly add to social media - though those that share certainly propagate those things. 

If you truly want to use social media, do your audience and yourself a favor: Bring something to the table.

When Not To Use Field Collections [Drupal]

DrupalI rarely feel that I have much of substance to add to the Drupal community when it comes to the front end, but having seen field collections abused in 3 different clients over the last few years I am compelled to write about how not to use them. It boggles my mind that I've seen the same problem crop up so many times, and I expect that this has to do with so many new front end developers for Drupal out there in a needy market - so needy, in fact, that those who shouldn't do front end work yet are being highly paid for mistakes that should never be seen outside of a learner's sandbox.

It also speaks to the value of some technical leads out there, but with turnover rates as they are in the Drupal community, projects suffer.

The beauty of field collections is the ability to treat multiple fields as a single field within the front end. This is handy in certain use cases, such as when showing dynamic information on a specific item. The classic example of how they are useful is for a playlist. They might be useful for a library of information, a collection of quotations and any number of other bits of dynamic data. In essence, the front end gets to do some of the heavy lifting which was once reserved for the back end and custom modules. It is awesome.

It is not, however, something you use to display static content - particularly through nesting. I'm sure someone can come up with a use case for when it could display static content effectively - in fact, it seems that a few have - but the use cases I've seen do not qualify.

Now, by all means, keep doing it - it seems to get me paid to fix your work.

Just because you have a hammer doesn't mean everything is a nail. KISS. Assorted other cliches.

Online Shopping User Experience vs Design

Design vs. User ExperienceSome time ago, I swore I would never buy shoes online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy pants online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy a car online - and, again, I did.

These are tributes to two things: better and more informed user experiences online that mitigated the risk when I was busy swearing.

But yesterday, I was looking for shirts, and Amazon, Google and a myriad of other websites failed. It was the sort of failure that was so ubiquitous that I had to write about it - unlike buying a car stereo at Crutchfield.com instead of Amazon.com because of user experience (and better prices).

I decided that I would like a few mandarin collar long sleeve shirts with pockets since I've lost weight and some of my older shirts make me look skeletal. Someone on the planet would make what I wanted - I'd stopped wearing these shirts because the simply are hard to find, but resolved, I spent a few hours yesterday trying to find them and was sorely disappointed that I couldn't find what I wanted... and that, though they might be there somewhere on this big blue marble, the user experience sucked horribly.

Most sites, as an example, won't allow you to search between long sleeve and short sleeve shirts (at least for men). That is disappointing because it's a shirt buying basic. Then comes the problem where a mandarin collar is also called a banded collar (and on Google, the 'silhouette' is identified as a Roundneck).

What probably makes the problem worse is the fact that I have no patience for shopping. I don't like having to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of shirts to find the right one. I know what I want. I know my way around search tools. I know how this search should have been designed. I know how shirts should be tagged. I know that when I search for mandarin collars, banded collars or roundnecks (not to mention 'China collar')... I shouldn't see regular collars in the search results.

Once again, we find where the algorithms are limited. C'mon, folks, get it together. 

Or hire me and let me do it for you. :-)