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.Net Magazine - Issue 191

net191cover130I answered the Big Question in this months .net mag, thorny subject this time around, as ever making friends is always high on my agenda!You can find the original here.Is it ever okay for web designers to work for free?I know this isn’t going to make me popular, but let’s return to planet earth! Back here, our economy is in a mess, and the major banks, car manufactures, insurance companies, and many media companies are effectively bust. Money is tight, competition is fierce, cats and dogs are living together.With that in mind, does it make sense to work for free to win business? Err, I think so. Spec work isn’t evil. It’s competition. Its supporters are not the devil incarnate, they are pragmatists. I totally understand the argument. Spec work can destroy the beautiful relationship between client and designer, but then so does going out of business. The rest of the world has had to learn to adapt, and work leaner and more efficiently. Why should it be different for designers?

.Net Magazine - Issue 189

net189cover130jpgI answered the Big Question in the ever brilliant .net issue 189, you can read the original here.What, in your opinion, is the biggest myth on the web?The biggest online myth is also a huge ticking time bomb: data ownership. Even today there is a naive assumption that we own our online data. If you’re using web applications, especially in a SaaS (Software as a Service) environment you really might want to read the small print. Even if you’re paying for online services you may still have little protection.Without sounding alarmist, often you are signing your rights away without realising it. The classic example is the recent Facebook Terms of Use debacle. The original alterations granted Facebook an irrevocable worldwide licence to use your data as it saw fit. Facebook’s reaction was immediate and excellent, but faced with the potential wrath of 175million active users it didn’t really have a choice.The second point is about access to your data. People rarely discover how integrated their content is to a particular service until they need to retrieve it. This is especially relevant in today’s economy; tech companies are falling off cliffs at an alarming rate, often with little or no warning. If your SaaS-based provider suddenly vanished, what can you say to the tax authorities if you can’t answer their questions?We are using online applications for almost every walk of life, from social networks to the most intricate of business operations. If your life or business revolves around them, that small print may be important.

.Net Magazine - Issue 188

net188cover130I answered the “Big Question” in this months .net magazine.You can view the original post here.What’s the most inspirational design you’ve seen recently?This year I have fallen in love with tea, finding out all about the different brews. In fact the whole web community seems to be tea crazy at the moment. Brew 2.0, anyone?To help get my perfect cup of char, I discovered a beautiful site from a company called Eteaket. In my view, the site is stunningly elegant, and gives a real master class in top end design.It’s also refreshing to see the blend (no pun intended) of great design with ecommerce. Of course, they provide detailed information about their products, but the site also presents a number of nice touches like their ‘Tea Wish’ feature, and the inside story on the tea life cycle. It makes me feel great about their offering, and it’s my pick of the year.

.Net Magazine - Issue 187

net187cover130jpgI answered the “Big Question” in this months .net magazine.You can view the original post here.Does Gary McKinnon deserve a lengthy jail sentence in the US?Just who is Gary McKinnon? An Asperger’s suffering, UFO-obsessed stoner, or a megalomaniac out of a comic book?McKinnon’s hacks were definitely an impressive bit of work, and he did it right after 9/11 – in the league table of stupidity this puts him right up there with investing in Enron and making jokes about Manuel.But let’s be clear. McKinnon’s stupidity pales into insignificance alongside the ease with which he humbled the US war machine. Neo from the Matrix he ain’t. Yet he managed to break into the most sensitive areas of the US defence establishment by scanning for blank passwords via a 56Kb modem.If McKinnon deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars, the person in charge of network security should be right next door. The guy broke the law and deserves punishment. However, life membership of camp X-ray beach resort? I don’t think so. A week in the Big Brother house would surely suffice.

.Net Magazine - Issue 186

net186cover130I answered the “Big Question” in this months .net magazine.You can view the original post here.What do you see as the key ways to attract visitors to your site in 2009?If I were to coin a phrase to sum up my ‘09 web hopes, it would be “One bite and you’re hooked”. It’s what I call zombie content. The days of people just expecting to have a good user experience is so last week. 2009 is all about making it personal.So how would I use this principle to attract more visitors? Well that’s simple. Make it easy for someone to be part of your content. Embed common services such as Facebook Connect, OAuth or Open ID. Bridge the gap between a user’s personal online world and yours. It’s a surefire way of pulling them in.If you’re selling stuff, the zombie principle applies even more! Attract and encourage a higher order value by making sure that you have both personal and relevant offers. Don’t just discount blindly, give them a generous deal if they commit more. Entice them in, make it compelling. It should only take one bite.And most basic, but incredibly relevant right now – always listen to visitors and act on their advice. Getting your customers recommending your site is the most powerful business generator imaginable.

.Net Magazine - Issue 185

.netI answered the "Big Question" in this months .net magazine.You can view the original post here.What will be the main issues affecting the net in 2009?The first thing that springs to mind is Net neutrality. President-elect Obama has promised to uphold this neutrality and there’s already a relevant bill hanging around in the US Congress. However, getting any airtime given the mutual economic mess is likely to prove difficult.Secondly, money is now tight, so there’s much less grace for ‘beta’ stage online businesses. Quite rightly innovation has been allowed to run riot for a few years, but now investors are desperate for a return. This coupled with a slowdown in advertising spending will push companies to explore alternative revenue sources and they’ll have to become more creative. Even so, I fear that many much-loved e-businesses will prove a light snack for the big beasts, or vanish altogether.

.Net Magazine - Issue 184

net184cover130I answered this months "Big Question" in the worlds fave internet magazine .net:Original linkWhat impact do you think online activity had on the US election?The US presidential election has been fascinating to watch and a marketing masterclass from both parties. This time around technology has played such an integral part in the race for the White House, it’s become as much part of the story as the candidates themselves.Through the use of viral YouTube videos, micro blogs and blogging networks such as Twitter and WordPress, the candidates reached a considerably bigger audience than the traditional commercial TV market, and for a fraction of the price. The Obama camp especially has to take huge credit for the way it mobilised its online troops and effectively sold the vision.For me the most exciting thing of all was the empowerment of the individual voter. In elections past, if you disagreed with something a candidate had to say you only really had the TV to shout at. This time around it’s never been easier to publish your thoughts. One site I fell in love with was ‘Hack the Debate’, which took a live video stream from the presidential debates and overlaid a real time feed from Twitter. It was compelling viewing, and exciting that anyone and everyone could take part.

.Net Magazine - Issue 183

net183cover130Awesome, a triple helping of .net love this month!I answered the "Big Question" in this months .net and Chris Barling (Friend, Boss and Actinic CEO) is in there discussing what makes good customer relations.In fact .net this month is a great read, with Ben Huh (ICANHAZ) making a nice appearance.Available in all good news outlets now :)Anyway, the Big Question:What was the best site/app you came across in 2008?There are already a lot of sites and apps that are so good that they have become part of the fabric of online life, and this year a further influx has jumped onto my ‘must visit list’. However, for me there is only one clear winner, which is the Twitter search app, formally known as Summize.Twitter search is fantastic for research - who is talking about who, what and when. But its core power lies in real time and this, for me, was illustrated at The Future of Web Apps conference. A search for FOWA not only provided the latest rock star developer sightings, but also real-time opinions on the various topics and speakers. The result is powerful and empowering, at least until the famous Fail Whale turns up.

.Net Magazine - Issue 180

I answered this months "Big Question" in .net magazine. If you could own a fictional robot, which would it be, and why?Original link: http://bit.ly/4cwMutI thought that this was pretty easy but unfortunately my three-year-old daughter vetoed my vote for a squad of Fembots. And despite a great set of PowerPoint slides on the benefits of machine gun jubblies, I’ve been over-ruled again. I realise I’m not supposed to opt for the obvious, but the Pixar marketing machine has meant that my entire household has fallen head over heels in love with Wall-E, and after initial resistance I’ve succumbed to the little chap too. Apart from the benefits of a tidy house and on-tap comedy, I guess that he’d go down well at dinner parties. Quite how I’d feel about this emotionally challenged Dyson look-alike after a few irritating months might be an altogether different thing.