More on WordCamp 2007

On Sunday afternoon, after a barbeque lunch and musical entertainment from Andy Skelton, the WordCamp 2007 sessions continued.

The Past, Present, and Future of Web Publishing 

The first session of the afternoon was Past, Present, and Future of Web Publishing by Dave Winer.

Blogging, Podcasting, and Unconferencing are all similar forms of communication on the web. Developers of the platforms for these applications should design the platform from the standpoint of the user. When the developers lose track of the user, the product gets off track.

Dave Winer is often credited with publishing the first blog. He said, however, that the first blog was actually the first website at CERN.

In Dave’s position as contributing editor at Wired in February 1996, Dave was involved in a project to fight censorship on the web. In an effort called 24 Hours of Democracy, users were encouraged to publish as many articles on democracy as they could. The mail list used for this effort flamed out.

On a mail list everyone has the final say on an issue. On a mail list, people argue that others can’t say something. On a blog, this doesn’t happen because noone posting a comment can tell the author of the blog what he or she cannot say. Mail lists may start out productive, but many suddenly become non-productive.

Consideration should be made to making blog archives future-safe. Why shouldn’t today’s blogs still be available in a hundred years? Technology and platforms change and present a challenge to making what is written in blogs today available in the future. Archive.org may be a possible solution, but Archive.org has not been around very long. A solution to this problem may be to partner Archive.org with an organization like Harvard and allow people to archive their work there in exchange for an endowment.

Data portability is an issue. Can the entire contents of a blog be transferred to another platform as platforms change with time? In WordPress 2.1 portability was included by not tested between platforms.

Social networking platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pownce, and MySpace generated some discussion. While Dave didn’t understand the appeal of FaceBook, it appeared that the way most people found out about the WordCamp party on Saturday night was through FaceBook.

Usability Analysis of WordPress

Liz Danzico from Happy Cog discussed the Usability Analysis of WordPress commissioned by WordPress.

It’s important to get noticed (by Google, for example), but people don’t notice good design. Bad design forces people to change the design.

Liz quoted Mark Jaquith from 21 Feb 200&:

“That’s when I know WordPress is doing its job: when people aren’t aware they’re using it because they’re too busy using it.”

Happy Cog created user personas and watched people use the WordPress Admin. As a consequence, a revision of the Admin is coming in WordPress 2.4. The revision will be based on the paths that people actually use. Users tend not to care what the designers intended. The decisions on the changes to the admin will be based not on what the users say, but on what they actually do, as observed by Happy Cog.

On the WordPress Dashboard, the latest activity is all people really care about, so the dashboard will be redesigned to reflect that observation.

People don’t like surprises. Showing people something they’ve never seen before or showing something in a new way is great for blog content, but it’s not good for the Admin section of a blog platform. An attempt is being made to standardize the headers on each page of the Admin to ensure consistency among the pages.

The Admins of many blogging platforms are positioned as objects (nouns), but on WordPress the Admin is positioned as actions (verbs). Analysis of experiments with users to see if nouns or verbs were preferred by WordPress users showed that verbs are the answer.

Drafts of posts are not drafts most of the time. In the new Admin, posts will be identified as Published, Scheduled, or Unpublished.

Other possible changes discussed were:

  • a visual display of what a widget will look like on the blog,
  • separation of primary navigation from utilities,
  • the ability to reply to comments from within the comment panel rather than from the post,
  • Admin themes or skins,
  • better photo management, including a more visual uploading process and the ability to specify different sizes,
  • a redesign of video and audio,
  • tags
  • relocation of Plug-Ins

Liz summarized her discussion:

    • Be voyeurs,
    • Don’t surprise people,
    • Anticipate what people need,
    • Don’t be brief at the cost of clarity
    • Show, don’t tell
    • Never stop at a dead end.

Tomorrow: The Finale of WordCamp 2007.

Copyright © 2007 Stephen J. Danko

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