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newsBytes (and some bits)


An interesting bit of tech surfaces every once in a while that tries to link print and digital worlds. The latest is Layar, which is bit like enhanced reality, a bit like a glorified QR code. They have a slick video to showcase its use in very clean environment.

Take out your mobile device and point it at an icon on the page of a magazine, and a richer experience ensues, such as a video that plays on the cover, or a link to a purchase page, etc.

Interaction, good.

Part of that is a step into the right direction as far as integration goes, especially with social media integration, such as ‘liking’ a page on facebook, and the ability to link directly to subscribe pages and products/advertising destinations.

Gimmicks, bad.

At the same time, I’m always struck by how gimmicky most of it is. We’ve seen attempts like this in the past, however, with products like the [CueCat](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat). This is not a problem specific to Layar, just to the overall approach.

Let’s face it, how comfortable is watching a video in a little (shaky!) box inside your already-small phone screen?

Besides that, you’ve got to juggle holding the phone at an angle to view the screen while pointing it at the magazine… well, you get the picture. Imagine someone on a streetcar with a magazine and a phone with headphones… Throw in a baby, purse, grocery or laptop bags and the other things that a typical commuter might have, and it’s a nightmare. At home, how comfortable is it to curl up with a magazine and go through that same dance on the couch?

On top of all of that, the reader needs to download a third-party proprietary app on only iPhone or Android for any of this to work.

How willing are you to hold your mobile device in one place as you interact with your magazine?

Stop SOPA and PIPA: blackout tips for webmasters

Tomorrow, many sites are taking a stand against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. On Wednesday, January 18th, sites like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and even the entire ICanHasCheezburger Network will protest these proposals in some way. Many of them, like Wikipedia, will be “blacking out” their site — effectively removing their content from the internet for the duration.
Taking down a website is no light matter. No matter how important the cause, many sites are a source of income and the return to business after a protest blackout should be considered.

Pierre Far (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK) has posted a good bit of information on how to temporarily remove your site from the internet while keeping the consequences in check.

Other methods

An alternative to this is an interstitial blackout, that still allows the site to be accessed, but only after the user sees a blackout message.

There is a handy SOPA Blackout JavaScript Utility for sites that wish to go this route — no content is then pulled from the site, but awareness is still created. There are also plugins for WordPress, Drupal, and others.

No matter your method, please consider the future of the internet, and help keep it open for all.

5 Tips That Make Your Meetings iPad-Friendly

Many of us have gadgets, and let’s face it, a good portion of them start from the “oooh, shiny!” stage, and never progress into something terribly useful. Like apps, those gadgets get tried, tired, and, eventually, retired.

But although the iPad may have started out with that dubious future in the minds of many, it looks like it’s making good headway, leaving the couch and the coffee house, and becoming a business tool — or at least, that’s the way many of us would like to have it.

To help make your business iPad more effective in meetings, look no further than Amber MacArthur. As usual, she makes technology relevant and useful in this quick article covering business meetings and iPads (and other mobile tech devices, by extension). She doesn’t beat us over the head with it, but I like that one of those five is “Be Courteous” — always something to keep in mind at any meeting.

Read the full article on Fast Company: 5 Tips That Make Your Meetings iPad-Friendly.


Developing websites — structure, content, and design

When it comes to websites, structure is something that every designer needs to think about before choosing a typeface or a colour scheme. The planning in these stages shapes how your content is presented and accessed, but in some cases, may actually influence appropriate content choices. Decisions about navigation shouldn’t be left to the end of the planning process, for your designer to deal with as an afterthought. Content is what you want on your site, but it’s extremely important that you make a commitment to a method of organizing it.

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Jonathan Coulton played the Lula Lounge in Toronto!

He’s the man behind the song at the end of the Valve game, Portal, but even before that, he had a cult following on the internet. Almost three years ago, he quit his job as a computer programmer to pursue music full-time. He started a project called “Thing-a-Week,” a regimented approach to his creative side, and one that would cement a great connection to his fans. The concept was simple, but required dedication to pull off. Every week, he would release something. Anything. Most of it was cool stuff. Some of it was übercool. Much of it was about monkeys, and other everyday topics.

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System requirements for being a Geek? Get excited about Diablo III

There are a few defining characteristics for geeks, many of which can be hotly debated. Using a custom version of Linux as your day-to-day operating system, knowing how to code in the assembly language of an obscure piece of hardware that doesn’t even get used anymore, scolding your friends for not having strict doctypes on their webpages about cats they own.

There’s another sort of geek, and that’s the one that gets chills when he or she sees an opening cinematic crafted by the team at Blizzard.

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