09
Feb
08

Analytical Paper: SprucePeak.com

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SprucePeak.com is a website designed to promote and sell real estate in a developing community between Stowe ski resort and Bob Cupp Signature Golf Course, located in Stowe, Vermont. The site draws the user in with its colorful homepage and great balance of white space, images and text. SprucePeak.com uses interactive elements to help illustrate the story of this growing and up and coming community. SprucePeak.com does a very good job at relating their site to their product. They give their users a luxurious, clean, and eye catching website which correlates exactly to the type of community and experience that they are promoting within the content of the website.
I was told in school that one of the most important things in writing or designing something is to know exactly who your audience is going to be. SprucePeak.com is directing this site to users who are looking to buy real estate for a vacation home, second home or quite possibly a first home (though I do believe the first home posibility is very unlikely). It is an informational site about the community that is developing, the amenities and the possibilities available if one chooses to live there. Because it is an informational site it is important to get the information to its users effectively.
The website is setup like Style No. 5 that the Stanford Eyetracking Project discusses in its homepage design section of their report. They stated that, “Among the distinguishing features of this design are the use of a dark background color, its treatment of the lead story — usually an image with type superimposed on it — and a “multimedia magazine” look.” Determined by the studies conducted by the Stanford Eyetracking Project states that average time spent viewing a site in this style is 16.4 seconds and users have an average of 22.3 seconds of fixations on the site. This means that the site can grab the attention of the viewer but it is now up to the content to keep that attention.

On the homepage there is a body of text that is broken up into chunks which makes the content friendlier to the user like Professor Hanley stated in his lecture. The text is active and contains links however the first two chunks contain Governor Jim Douglas, Inaugural Address, January 6, 2005, which is boring and very easily skipped over. The most important information is in the last two chunks, which we know from the Stanford Eyetracking Project and Jakob Nielsen’s article, F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content, will be skipped over and not read by the user. The content however on other portions of the site effectively convey the information to the users using the principles of website reading which were discussed in Jakob Nielson’s article, How Users Read on the Web. These principles of lists, bold sub-headings and one main idea per paragraph are very well executed in the Ownership Opportunities. In these pages they list the features and amenities with bullet points and have short and concise but descriptive sentences explaining the section. The text is also active and has keywords that send you to different parts of the site, which is a very effective feature for today’s user, for it allows them to travel within the site and get the information that they need.

Along with having engaging content, multimedia elements are an important feature and useful tool for website developers to us in order to connect and entertain their users. Professor Hanely said in his lecture, that these elements should work as complementary pieces and should not be redundant. The strongest component of this website is its ability to effectively use different elements to engage the user and to continue those elements through out the website to convey the website’s message.

On all of the pages there is a slide show grabs the attention of the user. It grabs the attention by being an active slide show that continually changes and reflects the topics discussed in the text located on the same page. This allows users to see what is being talked about. In addition to the slideshow there are animated graphics that animate as the users rolls over them. These graphics bring you to an additional photo galleries or a different section (Ownership Opportunities) of the site.

Another element that they use which is very effective for the content of the site is the interactive maps. These maps help show the user exactly where and what the site is talking about. In this case it shows the community, where it’s located, landmarks of the community and the available real estate. The maps are interactive and the content within the maps is crisp and concise. The information is not redundant but helps the viewer establish a visual of the community.

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On the site there is also a video that accompanies the site. This video shows the viewer the aerial view along with the different views and activities that can be enjoyed in this community. It visually shows what the content states allowing the users to get a different more human view of this area. It may be considered a little redundant but I think it shows the “romantic” view of this community and gives it a human feel.

I think the multimedia elements do a very nice job at what there are intended to do. There is a bit of redundancy as you go from element to element but I understand that being redundant visually may have been the objective of the website developer especially since this site is explaining, describing and in the end, selling a community and hopefully a home.

There is a great deal of information on this site and as I explore it further I continue to find something that I may have overlooked the first time. The website is visually engaging and effectively through content and multimedia elements completes its purpose.

29
Jan
08

A New Semester

A new semester has started. I am currently enrolled in two classes, Writing for Interactive Media and Information Animation. I think this will be a fun semester I am looking forward to the Writing for Interactive Media class, I think it will help improve my writing skills. As for the other class, it’s mainly a computer science class focusing on Flash. I’m hoping that I will be able to pick up the actionscript language fast because I want to make cool applications like Johnathan Harris.=)

Or any other cool ideas people have for me.

Enjoy~

14
Nov
07

We are just a bunch of digital goldfish in a search engine ocean.

We are just a bunch of digital goldfish in a search engine ocean.

While reading Professor Havalais’ article Search Engine Society Draft Draft Draft I kept thinking about how I use search engines on the Internet everyday and their affect on me. Like Professor Havalais stated in his article Search Engine Society Draft Draft Draft, “The search engine has become much a part of our culture that there is a common assumption that we have found a cure for stupid question.” Today it is common to hear the phrase “Google it” whether it be from a friend, boss or teacher, this simple phrase has been accepted in our society as a way to instruct someone to search for something. In fact there is a website you can send your friends a link to if they do not use Google before asking a stupid question (http://www.fuckinggoogleit.com). Search engines’ technology continues to advance and change the way we search for information on the Internet. In order to search the Internet efficiently we need to know the trends of today and be able to predict what the trends of the future might be so that we may be able to manipulate the users and lead them to surf onto our sites and information.

Recommended Searches

Sociable search is a current trend that has the capability to increase and become a main function of search engines but also “vertical searches” are becoming increasingly popular and proved to be extremely effective. What I would like to see more frequently utilized is the “long tail” search approach or increased use of the “daily me” web search. This is probably already a reality but I want a search engine that tracks my searches so that it can narrow down my future searches to specific results so that I get the information that is most helpful for my needs. I know however by doing this I am giving the search engine a large influence over what my search results are and as Jen discusses in her blog, money’s impact is increasingly growing and large company’s can now pay to have a top hit on the results pages. (Which is kind of disheartening when you think of the Internet and what it has been founded on, Net Neutrality!) I would also like a mini information bar that recommends searches that may interest me based on the data received from past searches. (But they probably have something for that too.)

Digital Goldfish

I have a very short attention span, much shorter then the average adult; search engines help facilitate my short attention span by allowing me to follow many long tails on the Internet until I finally realize how off-track I have gone. This is great for when I am bored or just trying to waste time but for the rest of the time this is an ADHD kids nightmare. I am productive but it takes me twice as long to accomplish a goal (like writing this blog). Even while writing this blog I have been tangled up in the search engine web at least five times. As more and more adults are being diagnosis with ADD I wonder if it is just a product of our search engine society or if it is just doctors just wanting to prescribe us controlled substances and feed into the wealth of the pharmaceutical companies? Is the Internet enabling our short attention spans and actually creating disorders in people? I read a great article while I was traveling my long tail from the BBC. Turning Into Digital Goldfish talks about these very issues and what it means in our society today. My personal opinion is that it just a new element of our society and we must adjust to it medication is not going to help either (trust me I know!). James Watkins wrote a great follow up article How to Hook Today’s Online User, he discuses different tactics you can use to hook the online user and how you can take this digital goldfish effect and use it to your advantage. It does in fact have some positive qualities I did find these great articles and other fun distractions.

Information Overload

Besides getting caught on a website thinking “how did I end up here?” These search engines allow a large quantity of information at your fingertips. If you are not a “smart searcher” some of the information that you are lead to can be inaccurate or completely useless. If you enter a search on one of the main search engines you’re guaranteed about ten pages of results. This can be overwhelming how do you know what is accurate and best for your needs? Another way these search engines overwhelm their users is by providing so much information on not just the main topic being searched but by subtopics and other interesting facts. This can lead to a long tail that leaves you wondering, “What exactly was I looking for?” When searching for a resolution to a problem or just a question the search engines provides you with so much information that it sometimes raises new questions and concerns and you suddenly find yourself emerged in the internet with the first question not resolved and seven other questions waiting to be answered.

Being able to recognize how a search is used and operated is important and an extremely useful tool in our society. As a graduate student in an Interactive Media program it is important that I know how these search engines work so that I may know how I can manipulate their trends and their users so that I may be able to reach a specific demographic with my own thoughts and influence them.

07
Nov
07

Archive/Restore or Delete/Restore — ttyl

I was rereading the article Digital Memories in an Era of Ubiquitous Computing and Abundant Storage by Mary Czerwinski and friends and it really annoyed me. I am not really sure why it bothered me so much but I think it had something to do with the fact that I had recently (less then 24 hours ago) erased my entire hard drive and lost everything that I have created and saved in the past 3 months (including pictures of my trip to Notre Dame this weekend). Abundant Storage ha, I wish; I have added 2GB of memory to my laptop computer and it still run a little sluggish when I am using multiple programs. I guess I could buy a new computer or an external hard drive but I don’t really have $2,000 to be upgrading something that isn’t necessarily broken. I have an external hard drive I got it after my computer crashed the first time! I was going to be on top of my data, I was going to backup my files every night and never delete another file ever again, or until two years later. The external is now extremely cumbersome and not something I want to bring around with me. So now that my computer is so fresh and so clean, I decided this time I will backup my files all the time (well I’ll make an effort for once a week) I went back and bought a new sleeker external hard drive this was a start of something new, something this article talked about, the start of “Abundant Storage.” Well I got home today and plugged in my new external hard drive and guess what? It didn’t work, after 30 minutes trying to navigate Western Digital’s website to find a contact number I finally called the service line and was connected to some support staff. All he had to say was, Oh you need an additional part for the hard drive to work we will send it today, it should be there in five to ten business days. So here I am working on a computer that has nothing on it but the operating system with a hard drive that doesn’t work. All my digital memories are gone and so is my music! The authors don’t say anything about this in their article. I know there has been many times through out college that I have met someone who has lost all their data because of their computer crashing or something like that. So when you put so much emphasis on electronics and computers for storing your information what is saving you from loosing it all? The only think that I can recover from the past three months are some of the songs I bought from iTunes, the response papers I have written for this class (because they are online) and anything else pictures wise that I poster on the Internet. I am happy that I salvaged that work but I question if I really want to put all that information out on the Internet. We talk a lot in class about Google having records and files of everything you have searched, wrote, posted, viewed and bought on the Internet. That thought has kind of bugged me a lot lately, knowing that somewhere there is a file about me and my life on the internet makes me feel uneasy and very skeptical about what I want to sign up for and sites that I want to visit.

I can attribute these feelings also to that fact that I have been reading the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and other articles on Eco-Activism from Rolling Stone. It is interesting to read both of these articles together and just see the two sides of the spectrum, a more simplistic, less materialistic world and a world where your entire life is recorded and measured. In the end those who go out into the wilderness do not survive as long as those who bring a camera around but who do you think live a life of less stress and more freedom? Is freedom and happiness knowing if you have a temperature and the trends that occur in your life? Or is it just being one with nature and living among God’s creations in the wilderness?

Text messages

 

I think the United States missed the boat on text messaging. I think it was in class that Prof. Alex said that it was because the phone plans charged so much for text messaging that it really had not caught on like it has in other countries. We are getting better now though. You see those silly commercials from AT&T add unlimited text messaging to your plan! I am glad I have unlimited text messaging, I text about twenty times a day or more. I agree with the article Shibuya Epiphany, I usually text the same five to six people a day. Rarely do I text everyone in my phone list or even people outside those select few people. However, those I do text I text a lot and I love getting responses back. Text messaging is very much like Instant Messaging, which I grew up with in jr. high and in high school so it is familiar to me. I find it less of a hassle to text someone something that call them and tell them. Especially when it comes to directions, phone numbers, or just quick answers. I hate talking on the phone and this is the perfect way to talk to multiple people without getting to personal or to involve with the conversation. It is also easier to text someone than it is to have a conversation. I feel like there are things you have the courage to say that you would not if you were conversing another way. You can text someone and they can receive the message and respond with little to no interruption in their life. This is great but at the same time it also has strained our relationship skills and our ability to deal with face-to-face interactions. I used to think that we were regressing as humans but after taking this class I wonder if we are just in a transitional stage where a new way of communicating and connecting to people is evolving and changing. I don’t know where the trends of communicating are leading to but I think that we may be able to see them by looking at Japan’s fast forward approach to new technology and trends. Just look at this article it was written in 2001 and it is discussing things that only now are going on in our country. Is text messaging the new future? I went to buy an i-Phone the other day and when I looked at the service plan I wanted unlimited data and text and I could care less about the talk minutes. Another reason I know that text messaging in not a trend but a way of communicating in the future? My parents are sending me pictures via text messaging and texts instead of their usual calls.

31
Oct
07

My First Time, Buzz Me

This is my first time; will you show me how to do it? Blogging that is. That is obviously not the problem of the A-listers mentioned in the Blogs to Riches article written by Clive Thompson. These bloggers are seasoned pros; they know all the tricks in the book and have made a “recreational” activity into a full time job. Kudos to them, they have been able to attract public and entertain them enough to make them want to come back every day and sometimes every hour.

Blogs and I don’t really have the same relationship. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t let myself be exposed to blogs or if I am just really self conscious of people reading what I have to say. Maybe it’s both, the only blogs I read before this class, were gossip blogs. I dislike writing, and I would rather speak publicly in front of 100,000 people, at least there you can recant a dumb statement or the grammatical errors that you make. This class has truly been my first in-depth experience with blogs. I have read some of them before and I have visited Perezhilton.com a couple of time while I was bored but blogs and I, not really friends. To be completely honest I really don’t think I am that interesting. I don’t have access to breaking news celebrity photos and I think blogs that are about personal thoughts like diaries are lame.

Magazine Blogs

While I was working at Rolling Stone Magazine my cubicle was next to their on staff blogger Elizabeth Goodman at the time I was shocked that they had a on staff blogger but after this class and reading the Clive Thompson’s article I can see that it is imperative to have a blogger on staff, especially at a magazine that only comes out every two weeks. I remember over hearing her talking to some editors about reaching out to some other blogs to help get some attraction for the Rolling Stone Rock and Roll Daily Blog. During the time I was at RS online I am guessing that the blog was a C-list blog, they were only beginning to show to a slight concern about putting emphasis on it. But now visiting the site I can see that there has been an increase of posts and comments, as well as more authors contributing. I remember talking to Elizabeth and asking her about what she would include on the blog each day, she told me breaking news or just interesting things that were happening to artists that would not make it into the magazine but still news worthy. One day she was trying different ways to bring attention to the blog, she came up with Top Ten Albums and other rating polls that engaged the viewer and was controversial enough to make people comment and come back to view the blog. In weekly RS Online meetings we were always discussing how much traffic we were getting and how we could increase it. Setting up polls on the website or a place where people could get more news information was always brought up but as my time there continued they moved further away from building up the main site and more toward the blog. I don’t think that Rolling Stone Rock and Roll Daily blog is a A-list blog, (I think it may be a B-list) but they have made tremendous steps in creating more buss for their blog.
Random Thought* I think blogs are a very important element for a magazine to have. It gives your readers a place to go to get additional information. It also allows the magazine to stay updated so that its content does not go stale. I love magazines and I think that they will be around longer then newspapers but do you think that they might be forced to go online so that they can have more advertising and create higher revenue.

Buzz Me

The significance of advertisements in blogs is amazing. Before I read Thompson’s I just over looked the ads and considered them just an annoying page distracter. But I can completely understand why they have to be there, without them Perez Hilton would just me a fat obnoxious guy from Miami (or wherever he is from). He must have a ton of money in the bank because he whores out his blog like a pimp on Sunset Blvd. He has gotten to the point where the background is now a constant promotion for a television show or some lame movie. He does his job well and should be rewarded for it, lets be honest I visit the site about five to ten times on average everyday. But how does this help me? I think it is pretty clear that my blog will not be in technorati top 100 anytime soon. Let’s be honest I was ecstatic that 5 people linked to me last week (p.s. I had no idea what that meant, but it is good). I would like to think that my blog would have a more specific audience and therefore according to Thompson, I would make some money with a smaller audience and less hits but because with a specific audience I could target companies and ask for more money because the demographic of my blog is very specific. Unfortunately I do not have the patience to write up to date, interesting information every moment of the day nor does that interest me.

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Popularity contest
I do not have an expertise in any subject, I am not a witty and interesting writer and trying to gain attention for a blog seems like a high school popularity contest and I was never good at that. I do not consider myself a blogger and I don’t think I will ever be one. I am perfectly content with writing responses papers and maybe a few additional blogs on the side. I will say though, my interest in blogs has increased exponentially in the past two months, but like most things my interest will fade eventually and I will look for another thing to entertain me. In the future when I become a magazine art director (one of my many career aspirations) I will have a blog that accompanies my magazine, because I know the importance of the blog and the potential profits it brings (In fact that magazine will be mostly online and the magazine will be a mere addition to the site.) Once again, I would hold your breath.

23
Oct
07

Second Life’s 2nd Try

This is my second time signing up to join Second Life. I first signed up last Christmas after I read an article about it on an airplane. I was excited to join; it was going to be the perfect way to waste time while I was bored at home during winter break. Too bad I couldn’t get off the stupid welcome island. I knew how to talk, to read a map, fly and I even made my Advatar into the perfect Girl Next Door. It was so frustrating. It kept me occupied but frustrated as well. I wanted to experience what the article had written about and I couldn’t even beat the first level. I gave up, thinking to myself there is a reason I don’t play video games and stick to other entertainment.

Second try, I made a new name and advatar. (That always freaked me out about the last names having to pick one, what do they mean? People with the same last name as you are your family? I don’t get it.) Anyway, this time I didn’t really have time to waste, I wasn’t bored or trying to occupy my time, I just wanted to complete the assignment and get past Welcome Island. Well 3 hours later I still got nowhere. After the same frustration that I had the first time set in, I decided to quit again. So if anyone would like to help me my Second Life name is Mimiyo Myoo and I am stuck on the Welcome Island. I hate Second Life but I am willing to give it another try just get me off this freaking Island!!!!!

23
Oct
07

The Game of Life…

We are all gamers and we have been since birth. As we have grown up some of the games have changed but many have stayed the same, just will an updated version. Games are involved in every part of our lives and we cannot escape them. My question is how do these games impact and help develop our human psyche and how are they used today?

Your parents and teachers have used games to stimulate your mind and help teach you. Through games and puzzles you have engaged your mind and have experienced, learned or practiced something. Most of the time learning through a game is more effective then any other way. As you grow you take part in different types of games which are usually involving people. As a young boy or girl you may have taken part in some games such as “War” or “House” in these games you use your imagination to create a world that is all your own. This progresses to real life games, whether it be playing mind games in a relationship or playing the corporate game to advance your career. All these games are related. We are learning people, how to manipulate and use them to win the game of life. This reminds me of Social Darwinism, which is the idea that Charles Darwin’s theory can be extended and applied to the social realm, i.e. that just as competition between individual organisms drives biological evolutionary change (speciation) through “survival of the fittest” (not a scientific term itself), competition between individuals, groups, nations or ideas drives social evolution in human societies.


How does this relate to us in today’s everyday life?

As technology continues to advance there are more ways to reach people, more avenues to play these games, more methods to connect to people. The Internet is a game in itself. We go on to find out information, to learn, to communicate, and to just waste time when we are bored. Many companies have realized this and have taken advantage of how the Internet can affect our lives and game playing. Just as Pine, B.J., & Gilmore, J.H. states in their article Welcome to the Experience Economy, it is all about the experience. When you log-in to Second Life you are entering into an experience. The experience is what makes you want to come back and play again.

Why do we play games?
I was not a big fan of the article Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon by J. Huizinga, so I looked up another article that might explain why we play and its attributes a little better. I found this article about games and play called “Why We Play Games” by Nicole Lazzaro and in the article it states that emotion is the most important aspect of the games we play and that there are four key factors that need to be used to continue to bring players back to your game. Coincidentally these four factors are also involved in “life’s games”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

Emotion and the Fun of Games
As experts in player experiences we see a huge gap between “market research” and what players most enjoy about play. Players may check “good graphics” on a online survey, but our cross-genre contextual research reveals a more interesting story. We know how games deliver more emotions than frustration, excitement, and fear. The secret is in the gameplay.

The 4 Fun Keys create games’ four most important emotions:
1. Hard Fun: Fiero – in the moment personal triumph over adversity
2. Easy Fun: Curiosity
3. Serious Fun: Relaxation and excitement
4. People Fun: Amusement

These four main reasons why people play games are how bestsellers create more emotions for more captivating play. Each key unlocks a different set of play experiences. Because players alternate between them during a single play session best selling games offer at least three of the 4 Fun Keys.

4 fun key

How do games and experiences to reach consumers?
This leads me to my final thought on games. Just as teachers and parents have used games to provoke a child’s knowledge, I believe that many marketing and advertising agencies may use the same tactic through games to influence potential buyers. Second Life as an example is growing with more and more companies using it as a tool to reach potential buyers. Instead of advertisements in the form of Pop-up Ads they are creating games and experiences for the customer to the play and be involved in. This type of play influences the viewer in a subliminal way and is less obtrusive. We have to ask ourselves is the way of the future? I think it is, it might not be in Second Life (I hate Second Life) but these tactics will be used other places on the Internet to manipulate consumers.
There is a great article on this in Communication Arts Magazine Sept/Oct 2007 issue; check it out!