Archive for November, 2009

Privacy? What’s that?

22 Nov

First it starts with the government, then it spreads to advertisers, where will it go to next?  It seems that privacy is becoming less and less of an option for anyone using the internet.  Although it seems to be increasing daily, it turns out this technique has been used for a while it just was invisible to the users.  It was not until Facebook made it obvious that they were collecting and announcing users actions and information that people became nervous and more suspicious of sites that were collecting their information.  Although there are many positives to collecting information from your  life online that will help you in real life, there has to be a limit.  The question is often asked, what do you have to hide?  And most people would answer nothing, but having their private lives easily viewed through the actions and decisions they make when they are online is still unsettling to most and the user should be able to have some decision over this.

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Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You…

As mentioned in the NY Times article To Aim Ads, Web Is Keeping Closer Eye on You, ”The Web companies are, in effect, taking the trail of crumbs people leave behind as they move around the Internet, and then analyzing them to anticipate people’s next steps.”  This may be helpful when shopping on a site and you are presented at the bottom of the screen with a few suggestions of other products you may like as shown in the image above.  Suddenly the ads you are seeing on the side of the site and the products that are being suggested for you are products and ads you may actually be interested in.  But searches made on sites such as Google and Yahoo are not always searches that the user would want shared with other companies.  Most users when they go online to search for something feel comfortable that the information they are looking for, be it personal or public, is isolated only to there computer and they will no longer be connected with it once they are done searching for it, but this is not the case.  Consider for a moment all the information that you provide to sites like Google and Yahoo, particularly if you are registered and have an e-mail account with them.  As discussed in the Big Brother video, Google keeps records of the searches made using their site and what you search on google is “practically the closest thing to a printout of your brain that we have ever seen… it indicates your political leanings, your religious leanings, your medical concerns, your sexual concerns, a vast array of sensitive data”.  Sound a bit less appealing to sharing with the world?  Professor Alexander Halavais mentions in his paper on search engines that “Although Google says that they have no intention to combine data from all of these sources (including DoubleClick) into a single profile; the concern is that nothing outside of this intent would stop them from doing just that (Edwards 2007). If we continue down this path, Google will know more about you than anyone else does, including yourself”.  There’s a scary thought!

Picture 1What Are My Options?

There are sites out there that will help you to realize when your privacy is being breached.  An example of these is PrivacyFinder, which allows you to customize the amount of information you want sites to see and gives you a warning  and privacy report before entering a site when the site does not meet the privacy settings you requested.  For example, below is a screen shot of the privacy report I was able to see before entering the Victoria’s Secret website notifying me that they will be reviewing some of my information such as what I search for on their site in order to improve my shopping experience but will not save or share the information afterwards.

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As mentioned, the information that can be obtained about an individual from the internet can give a very detailed description of that user.  Regardless of what an individual has to hide, or how helpful it is to the government, it is becoming more and more unsettling through the realization of who has access to this information and how it is, and potentially can be used for and against the user.  The scariest part about this phenomenon is that the majority of the time the user is not informed that their information is being stored and used for certain purposes.  In the end it is the users right to know protect their own privacy and should at least be informed when their privacy is being broken.


Site Safety

22 Nov

After looking any many of the legal and ethical issues involved in creating a site, particularly one high in user involvement, it is important to address some of the needs we are going to have to consider when planning the site.

First off, Terms of Use seems to be a safety net that is a good idea to include in most sites nowadays in order to avoid any conflicts that may arise.

DMCA Notice may also be a good idea to include since users will have the ability to upload images and videos to the site.

It is definitely going to be necessary to have a Privacy Policy for the site as the user will need to provide a good deal of personal information for the site to work appropriately.

Finally, we will need to create a set of Community Expectations for the site, particularly because it is planned to be a professional setting that is going to include and give access to high school athletes in order to contact college coaches and teams.


Not Quite What I Had in Mind..

15 Nov

As a designer, a good deal of your work comes from inspiration, even if the final outcome is nothing like what originally inspired you.  But in today’s world you have to be careful about what material you use and the extent you use it, even if it is just for inspiration or you are going to break copyright laws. These laws are becoming more and more strict each day with new sites and programs allowing for individuals to create and display their own work.

For the past three years I have created a motivational video for the Quinnipiac University Cheer team before their final performance at NCA Nationals in Daytona. The video is a normally a compilation of photos and videos that are primarily our own with an overlay of music that has been cut together to be one continuous track. I would then post these videos on YouTube solely for the purpose of allowing the rest of the team and their family members to view it. There was no profit being made from this, it was strictly for entertainment and a means of motivating the team. This always worked out fine until the past year or two when YouTube removed the music track as a result of the video containing “an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG” and thus “the audio has been disabled”.  As you can see by the file below, a motivational video without the music behind it just is not quite as motivational.

Now I understand the concerns of the artists, but as I mentioned before it is not like we were in any way profiting from the video, I just used some of their work to enhance the intensity of the video I created purely for the entertainment of my team.

What does bother me, as all three of the audio tracks behind the videos I have made have been removed and I have instead taken them down altogether, is the amount of videos out there with extremely obvious copyright issues and often times no content that is their own other than the editing work such as the video below that are still surviving in the world of YouTube.

In my opinion, copyright is just increasingly becoming to much and does not seem to be coming to a halt anytime soon.  There needs to be a line that allows for creativity and supports the artists.  For instance, I would understand  if in the notes on the side of the video YouTube required anyone who used outside sources to give them credit, like citing in a paper, but I think the material should still be allowed to use.  Scientists are allowed to use other scientists research to support what they do as long as credit is given, why shouldn’t designers be allowed to use other designers or performers work under the same rules?


A Recurring Theme

03 Nov

The user seems to keep coming back as the most important part of any design regardless of the medium.  This observation was strengthened by all three of the materials assigned for this week as well as the research we were assigned to do for our own projects and  it even reflects back to many of my previous posts.  Our final project is to create a website proposal for a website with an idea we have created.  This weeks assignment is to look at the site from the users perspective and see what the user needs and wants in order to make the site successful.  Interactivity, experience, and the visual look of a design are key to success in this day but the designer should think of all of these elements with the user in mind.

Increasing User Involvement= Increase in Users

The article User Sketches discusses polling users during the design process in order to get the “right design” instead of just “getting the design right”.  In other words involving the users in the design process when there are still options between designs, getting opinions and honest feedback, and then building of the design that is strongest in the eyes of the users.  The article talked about not just doing this through simple questionnaires or interviews, but also through sketches.  By allowing the potential users to sketch out a design of their own you are able to see which aspects of their design they thought were the strongest and any ideas for particular changes, all from what they included in their sketch.  So what is the best possible way to get suggestions from the users? It seems like sketches are probably a good place to start!

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Simplicity is Gone, Bring on Creativity!

Simple objects that we use every day are seemingly going out the window and being replaced with their new creative counterparts.  Will this be the common trend?  Only time will tell but it certainly seems to be heading that way.  As illustrated in An Experience Economy to Make People Better the design of simple, every day objects can effect the amount of users just by making it more unique and fun to use.  The following video is chock-full of creative changes to ordinary things that make it more exciting for the user.  From dressing rooms to cubicles this video illustrates the creativity that has made normally boring mundane objects, and tasks more exciting for the user as a result of the objects.

Beauty Really Is Everything

In a talk given by Don Norman he discusses the importance of the look of a product to a user.  Oftentimes people do not think look matters when in reality, according to the research discussed, it really does.  Don Norman found that people will buy products that we know for a fact does not work well simply because we are attracted to the way it looks.  He also mentioned a struggle that designers have with making their product attractive to ALL users, but Don stated that it is ok that some people hate it as long as there are others that love it.  That is the nature of being human.


Meeting the User’s Needs

02 Nov

For my video upload I did a quick tour of the site that I had previously mentioned as one of my competitors.  My purpose for this was to give a brief tour of the site, because you have to make a profile in order to view it fully, as well as to look at how their site meets the user’s needs versus how our site will.  The main needs that will need to be met for the user are ability to contact coaches as well as players, upload images, stats, and videos to represent them, be able to find info on the University and team as well as the requirements or skills needed to make the team.  Additional draws are blogs in order to contact and discuss the team with coaches and players, ability to see coaches who have looked at your profile and may be interested, suggest possible schools of interest, help creating contact letters for coaches and athletes, and consistently updated University information.

View the Video


Ahh! Someone tell them I'm not really a very good golfer!