Simunication

November 11, 2007

So what if, in minutes to hours, you could start up your web browser and build & deploy a prototype to the web for customer feedback and then auto generate use case and requirements documents? A note to myself to check outSimunication.

How Javascript won the war

November 6, 2007

Just in case you thought that real men don’t program in javascript, comes an interesting overview in the Journal of Object Technology from Dave Thomas – the creator of the Eclipse IDE Platform. His basic thesis – look out for the next OS to be a webOS, one which can be developed in java or C# and exported or compiled as JS.

There are numerous JS UI frameworks which enable developers to “target” JS in the browser for delivering applications including Google Web Toolkit (GWT), Yahoo Widgets and various Ajax frameworks. A more ambitious approach is used by Morfik’s JST, which compiles applications developed using their UI builder and Basic, C#, Java or Pascal into JS Ajax.

A similar project, JSC is an experimental project to compile C# to JS.

Unfortunately, JS is not without its problems, one of which is the security risk exposed in XMLHTTP and JS/DOM interactions. These problems are due more to the DOM and Browser however. The Browser in particular is larger than many operating systems!

But surely no one would seriously consider compiling real applications to a native JS Platform. You clearly can’t do that with JavaScript! Well, if you have not been watching your RSS feed you need to read about the bleeding edge research at Sun Labs and Microsoft Live Labs.

Microsoft Live Labs Volta research project led by Erik Meijer, the father of LINQ, compiles MSIL to JS. The main goal of the Microsoft Live Labs Volta experiment is to delay irreversible decisions when building Web 2.0 applications until the last possible responsible moment. Volta allows today’s MS tools such as Visual Studio, C# and Visual Basic and applications to leap into the browser and cross platforms with zero deployment cost, optimizing for whichever execution environment (JavaScript, Silverlight) is already available on the client. Volta explores simple ways to build applications which span the internet cloud from user to data source using declarative tier-splitting refactoring.

Sun Lively is billed as a WebOS in JS. Lively leverages the impressive Squeak Morphic graphic framework to deliver applications on a JS + SVG platform. Lively is inspired by Dan Ingall’s work on Smalltalk and Squeak and no doubt by Dave Ungar’s work on Self. It provides an open, live programming experience in which the running code can be edited on the fly. The use of vector graphics enables rich new UIs that go beyond classical widgets. This brings to mind Sun NeWs, which pioneered the use of programmable vector graphics based UIs using Display Postcript and was used heavily in NextStep.

Luke Wroblewski has been doing some research for his new book, Web Form Design Best Practices, through actual usage data. To that end, he has been working with Etre on several eye-tracking and usability studies focused on specific aspects of Web form design.

You can read more about here. What I did find interesting about the research was that form B (shown below) had the least fixations and the best visual distinction, while still giving equal weight to the primary and secondary actions.

Form B

As expected Form E did the worst of the lot.

“…Only Option E performed poorly during our testing. Six people mistakenly clicked on the “Cancel” button when attempting the task with this design, while many more lingered over it before realizing that they were about to make a mistake. People, as a whole, were around six seconds slower when using this design than they were when using Option B (a considerable gap when you consider that the placement of the buttons was the only thing that differed between the two). They also required a higher than average number of fixations to complete the task (with a higher than average total fixation length and average fixation length)…”

Form F

Which pretty much tells me that we should be forms the way we always have.

Hi – please vote for my manifesto on changethis.com. Its pretty much a guide on how to use crowds to help you raise funds online.

In the pre-social networking carnival that is today’s web environment, a NPO was usually lagged behind in terms of technology, simply for the reason that up to date technology required money and technical expertise, which your typcial NPO did not have. In the last couple of years, there has been a shift in emphasis towards something that NPO had more access to than your average for-profit enterprise, a community. We are looking to roll out a custom social networking tool in the next couple of months and I have been doing a lot of research into this area, I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with the tools that are currently out there – small focused experiments that have allowed me to evaluate and learn from before investing development time. We want to get this right the first time, or at least the second.

Most of the Social Networks that I have had a look at, have great tools, and I am really impressed by Facebook and the Facebook platform that allows for the writing of microsoftware for Facebook. There are also a lot of nonprofits that are using MySpace and YouTube and other mass market social networking platforms. The problem with these sites is that most of the users there are there for fun, to kill time and, on the more business orientated sites like linkedin, for networking. They aren’t really there to look for volunteer or philanthropic work or even to donate.

At the moment my money is on niche’d social networks, smaller more aggeressively orientated towards a particular group, subculture or cause. More of a support site, than a massive online community.

Resources I have been looking at:
Using Social Networking to Stop Genocide
Danah Boyd’s publications on Social Networking
The Power of Many
and many others that weren’t as informative.

eNonprofit Benchmarks

June 11, 2007

In the Web 2.0 World measuring success is fairly easy, how much profit did the company make. Its the same whether you are working on a google adsense campaign or monetizing via subscriptions or even donations.

In the nonprofit world it is a bit more difficult – what do you measure? How many people were educated? Informed? Served? Engaged? Activated? How much money was raised? Did legislative policy change? Corporate policy? Public opinion? Success or a ROI, is the cornerstone of most endeavours and being able to link your efforts to a reliable benchmark is key. Whether or not a nonprofit organization can and should be run as a business is an interesting question in itself, however the first piece of software that can benchmark in a consistant way would really corner the market.

The eNonprofit Benchmarks Study sets out to have a look at the effectiveness of major American nonprofit organizations using the Internet to raise money and influence public policy. At the same time it defines a set of criteria that can be used to benchmark a nonprofit effectiveness. Now we wait for someone to put together Google Analytics for nonprofits.

Integrated Marketing

June 11, 2007

Convio recently released the results of an integrated marketing study. One of the interesting points raised in the study, is that in a blended multi-channel environment – i.e. one where there is online as well as offline marketing channels it is difficult to tell whether the money donated online is as a result of online activity or offline activity. Donors tend to engage the non-profit on multiple channels, as an example, a donor may receive a piece of direct mail requesting a donation and log-on to the organisation’s site to look for more info and then end up donating online. Does that get credited to the online or offline channel?

It is a truism in today’s multichannel world that in order for a brand to sink into the subconcious mind of a donor or marketer that it has to be seen at least three times. Offline and/or direct mail channels may be the impetus that drives a donor online, but it is the online facility that offers the ease of donation and immediate feedback that offline does not have. In a world where many organisations are reluctant to spend too much effort online because of a reliable offline marketing plan, it is difficult without reliable matrics to justify spending a large amount of time online.

The study found that people who received information both on and offline have higher long-term value, retention, and lifetime value as donors than people who receive information through only one channel – whether the channel was online or off. The conclusions that we can draw from this study, do seem to indicate that online giving does not simply cannibalize offline revenues but support them by allowing easy access to financial facilities as well as the ability to give immediate feedback.