By Stephen Downes
July 20, 2004

User Satisfaction Survey
Sorry for the late newsletter - my wireless hub decided it was time to give up the ghost and stop sending signals, and I had to scrounge around the house for an ethernet card - but not before pulling out a spare computer with ethernet installed and installing Red Hat Linux. It was a beautiful install, no problems at all, but sadly my old computer just didn't have (at 64 meg) enough memory to run the software.

Anyhow. The Government Education Portal (Australia) is conducting a survey to sample user opinions of their new design. Of course, such surveys, posted on the website, attract website readers (and, therefore, people who are presumably satisfied with the design). With a little note in OLDaily, though, perhaps we can correct this inherent bias. Via EdNa. By Various Authors, Commonwealth of Australia, July, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Reading Online Text: A Comparison of Four White Space Layouts
I have always maintained that white space is an important element in web page design (the same dictum extends to things like email messages). While not the last word on the subject, this study lends empirical support to my belief, showing that while people read pages with margins a bit more slowly, they comprehend more. And while leading (the space between lines) does not affect comprehension, readers report dissatisfaction and greater eyestrain with suboptimal leading. I wish the article had looked at more things, such as the length of paragraphs (more than eight lines is pushing it, in my view) and typestyle. Via Column Two. By Barbara Chaparro, J. Ryan Baker, A. Dawn Shaikh, Spring Hull, and Laurie Brady, Usability News, June, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Mediathink Releases White Paper: 'Not Just for Nerds: RSS - The Next Big Thing Online'
Watch out for the hype train in this item, a press release that links ultimately to a useful White Paper on the market position of various RSS aggregators (which is the part worth reading). Also worth noting is the paper's take on the impact of RSS on email. In a sentence: unless email providers solve the spam problem within the next few months, they will lose their entire market to the world of RSS tools and aggregators. The White Paper also has some good diagrams of the flow of information in RSS networks; you'll have to use the capture mode of your image editing software to get them, though, since the PDF has been (uselessly, but annoyingly) copy-disabled. By Press Release, Mediathink, July 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Salesnet Releases E-Learning Tool
Best line of the article: "If the salesforce automation field has learned anything in the past five years, has to be this: You can lead salespeople to software, but you cannot make them use it." Overview of the Salesnet e-learning application with attention to its focus (increasing sales, as opposed to management and administration) and the use of a 'sandbox' to allow applications to be tested before deployment. By Kimberly Hill, CRM Daily, July 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Login
I have been one of those agitating on the Poynter Online News mailing list against those very annoying site registrations being adopted by newspapers. This article is a good overview, looking especially at the systems that have emerged that allow people to circumvent registration by providing fake user logins and passwords. I think that user mandatory user registration is one of those things that looks like a good idea (and gets good results) when only a few sites do it, but becomes an unmanagable mess and a major nuisance when everybody does it. Like spam. By Rachel Metz, Wired News, July 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Technology to widen Amber Alerts
Off topic but worth noting (with the hope that this will be forwarded to someone who can make this happen). What I want: a simple line of Javascript that I can insert into my webpage that displays nothing most of the time, but which will display the Amber Alert when it is invoked. From experience, I know that it would be installed on hundreds of thousands of blogs and other websites. The technology is dead simple; all that is needed is a server that can handle several hundred thousand hits a day and a simple JS writing mechanism. Anybody wants, I'll provide the software to do it for free. By Associated Press, Globe and Mail, July 20, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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