Learning the Language: Anatomy of a Website

I am a huge fan of using google to find answers.  Or watching instructional videos on YouTube to learn how to do something.  They are both great services, but only if you know what question to ask.

Recently I’ve been working on my company website.  I know what I want my website to do, but I don’t know what anything is called. Consequently I spend a lot of time figuring out the name of a certain feature or option so I can ask a question about how to achieve it.  As we become more enmeshed with technology, the expectation is that we automatically come equipped with the right vocabulary to ask the right question at the right time.

For example, googling something like “How do I get the name bigger on my website?”  is pretty useless. First of all, name is a generic term and therefore subject to varied interpretations. Second of all, which name and where?  What kind of website?  What platform is being used?

So while Google can be amazing for searches, if you don’t know how to ask the right questions, finding answers on the internet can turn into an exercise on how to manage frustrations.  If only website templates could provide users with a diagram pointing and naming the different elements, I’m sure it would help users to ask the right questions.

I’m still in the dark:

  • about what to call certain features that I want; and
  • what the features I have do.

Once I figure out the proper terms for what I want to accomplish, then it’s another process to find the answers.

When I installed my website template this ended up in my control panel:

With the exception of Ultimate TinyMCE, I don't actually know what any of these things are.

With the exception of Ultimate TinyMCE, I don’t actually know what any of these things are.

I have a vague understanding of what a slider is, but only because I’ve been working on my website for a couple of weeks.  And I appreciate that at least I know the names of a few things, thanks to options appearing on the backend control panel, even if I don’t yet understand what they do.  This means I will be able to search with the proper vocabulary to ask the right questions.

In short – stay tuned.  The website’s coming!



I have to confess, YOLO used to be my favorite acronym until I read about FOMO.  YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once” and is a pop culture term that signifies having done something indulgent or reckless.  Whenever I see the term, I imagine somebody saying it in a nasally, sing-song way, kind of like a child at a playground.  Once in a while I search on it just because it’s so fascinating to see the wide and varied use of the term.  It’s a popular hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and other places.

So here’s an example of a #YOLO story.  One night 22-year-old Samantha Lynn Goudie, who posted on Twitter under her alias @Vodka_samm, got trashed on vodka, as the name suggests. She was arrested for doing something in her drunken stupor.  Once released she tweeted about the experience.  #YOLO.  She deleted her Twitter account after she sobered up.  So here I get a bit confused, is that another #YOLO moment?  But I suppose after the deletion, poor Vodka_samm couldn’t attach the hashtag to anything.

YOLO is pretty hilarious, but FOMO beats it in every way.  FOMO stands for “Fear of Missing Out.”  I first read about it in an article called “Facebook use ‘makes people feel worse about themselves.'”  Apparently people sitting around on the computer all day following friends who are out doing exciting things and posting them (think #YOLO) suffer from this colloquial affliction.  I even found a subsequent article with strategies to fight FOMO.

The two terms are separate, but they feel related to me.  Obviously all the FOMO people are sitting around looking at all the YOLO postings and getting, well, FOMO over it.  I’m not quite sure what this means, or how it will play out, but it sure is fun to follow. Personally, I think the best strategy to fight FOMO, and any negative consequences to YOLO, is to interact with people in person instead of over social media.  If you have a #YOLO story to post, wait a day.  It could make all the difference.

And if you’re like me with no teenagers around to explain some of these things, I would highly recommend bookmarking this site on Internet Slang.  It’s really come in handy.

There’s an app for that…

Every time I wonder aloud if something is possible, or ruminate on a problem, somebody is quick to jump in with “there’s an app for that!”

  • track expenses 
  • count calories
  • measure your metabolic rate while sleeping
  • perfect your memory

If there isn’t an app yet, there should be one.

A new app, Memoir, is designed to give you a “perfect memory.”  Once installed you grant the app permission to access photos in your accounts (ex. Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare) and devices (ex. smartphone). Then Memoir constructs memories by aggregating photos, captions, and timelines from all your sources by matching geolocation, time stamps and bits of metadata embedded in your objects. Request photos from contacts to enhance the memory.

Basically it’s creating a photo album (aka memory) for you of a certain event based on matching people, places and times regardless of where the information was originally posted.  No need to spend time tagging and organizing the photos, Memoir can do all of that by using metadata.  This is my basic vision of how it works:

Memoir aggregates photos and other bits of information from disparate sources by matching metadata of geolocation, time stamps, people, etc.

Memoir aggregates photos and other bits of information from disparate sources by matching metadata of geolocation, time stamps, people, etc.

I have to admit, when I first heard about Memoir I was fascinated and creeped out all in the same moment. I like the idea of having photos aggregated automatically from different sources/people to create a “memory.”  But what about requesting photos from contacts who don’t edit their photos and share hundreds of blurry, bad ones.  Does this mean I’ll have to clean up somebody else’s mess in my memory?

Memoir’s privacy policy states: “All of the photos and data that you create, edit, share and store is deemed 100% private to you.”  This is amazing, but someone will find a way to release these tender memories into the wild.  After all, nothing remains sacred in the cloud where all the memories are stored.  I should also note that I couldn’t access Memoir’s privacy policy from their website, but found the link for it poking around in their twitter feed.

I’m still on the fence about Memoir.  Admittedly it’s not a good app for nerds like me who turn off GPS to save battery power and limit FB friends to under 50.  I think I’ll hold out for Dream App so I can finally remember what happened when I wake up.  Oh wait, there’s an app for that!

Are you interested in using Memoir?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

The Asynchronous Sync and Digital Photos

I’ve noticed that a lot of sync services work beautifully in one direction to save or backup. When deleting something, however, the services are largely asynchronous, meaning objects and services aren’t synced for deletion.  Let’s look at a few examples of what I call the asynchronous sync.

I use an Android smartphone and my photos are stored in a Gallery.  Presently my Gallery uploads automatically to my Dropbox. This is how it works:

Photos taken with smartphone are saved in phone Gallery and automatically backed up to Dropbox.  Gallery = Dropbox = Sync

Photos taken with smartphone are saved in phone Gallery and automatically backed up to Dropbox. Gallery = Dropbox = Sync

It’s important to understand how the sync works to use it effectively. In this instance, Dropbox is designated as my photo backup so it makes sense to save everything synchronously, but not delete it the same way.  If I was able to delete synchronously, meaning if I delete a photo in the Gallery it will automatically delete in Dropbox, it would defeat the purpose of having a backup.  I just need to remember that when I want to delete something, I have to do it in two places to maintain the sync: the Gallery and Dropbox.

Photos now exist in two separate instances: Gallery and Dropbox. Each one must be deleted separately.

Photos now exist in two separate instances: Gallery and Dropbox. Each one must be deleted separately.

My habit is to go through my photos before backing them up.  It gives me an opportunity to delete anything I don’t want and organize the rest into albums.  For the sync to work effectively for me, I must change my setting to backup manually.  This means that after organizing my photos, I will manually select them to upload to Dropbox.  This will save me the headache of having to delete unwanted photos in two places.  Additionally, I can safely delete photos from my Gallery to save space on my phone and know that the ones I want to keep are backed up.

The pre-backup organization also comes with a few synching rules to understand depending on which device and operating system is being used.  My Android smartphone offers options to Move or Copy photos.  Move means photos only live in the album in the Gallery. Copy means the photos live in the Gallery and in the album so they remain accessible in two places.  Similar to backing up in a Dropbox, this means copied photos also have to be deleted in two places: the album and the Gallery. Add in a third place to delete if everything was backed up automatically to Dropbox.

Each choice offers different options for managing photos.

Each choice offers different options for managing photos.

On my iPad, however, organizing photos from the Camera Roll (Apple name for a Gallery) into albums works a bit differently.  Once placed in albums, photos can only be deleted from the Camera Roll.  “Deleting” a photo from an album removes it from the album, but still keeps it in the Camera Roll.  This distinction is clearer now with the new operating system.

Deleting from Camera Roll  = Delete.  Deleting from Album = removal from Album.

Deleting from Camera Roll = Delete. Deleting from Album = removal from Album.

It might seem obvious but I knew somebody once who spent hours organizing her Camera Roll into albums on her iPhone.  Then she deleted the Camera Roll thinking that everything was in her albums and accidentally deleted everything.  Oops.

Having a backup is a great idea, but it’s important to understand how the services work and how to make it work for you. It’s also important to know what data is residing in which place.

Do you backup your photos before or after organizing them?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

The Human Touch: Forgive and Forget

We forget where we put things, people’s names or what we ate for breakfast this morning.  Now we forget, in addition to the aforementioned things:

  • documents we created
  • what’s on our hard drives
  • important email conversations
  • the thousands of images & video still waiting to be organized…

yet once we rediscover these things, a memory appears, or a sudden rush of emotion. Perhaps it is for these moments that we like to hoard our possessions, especially in digital formats.

Forgetting, however, is part of being human.  As a result of this human characteristic, we have always devised ways to capture important information in some sort of external “memory.” Until a couple decades ago, we would carefully select which things were worth remembering outside of our brains.  Formats varied and included things like cassette tapes, film reels, paper, slides, photographs, floppy discs, CDs.  Before that things like stone tablets and scrolls would have been used to record society’s most important memories. Prior to cheap, abundant digital storage, saving everything was impossible because of three key factors:

  • cost
  • time
  • space

Now we take it for granted that we can save everything digitally like emails, documents, photos, video, music, etc. Is this a benefit?  Do we need to remember everything?  Are we able to keep track of what’s been saved?

Cluttered bedroom.  How do you know what you have?

Cluttered bedroom. How do you know what you have?

I’ve experienced plenty of things I would actually like to forget.  I’m relieved no digital reminders exist for some of my most embarrassing, humiliating or painful experiences.  Another benefit to not having painful experiences captured in an external memory is the freedom my brain has to recreate and evolve the memories into something that works better for me.  It’s part of being human that goes along with the forgetting.  I’ve learned you can’t change what happened, but you can change how you interpret a memory over time, or just forget about it completely.  Forgive and forget, right?

Human Brain - best computer ever.

Human Brain – best computer ever.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t use available resources for an external memory.  But I feel like we save things too quickly without any regard to what we’re saving or why.  While it can be fun to uncover long, lost treasures when cleaning up clutter, it makes me wonder: if we don’t remember we have it in the first place, is it such a big deal if we don’t have it at all?

Do you save more because of available digital storage?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.

Fragmented Discourse

Thinking back to how plans were made before cell phones (the regular “dumb” kind), I’m often surprised that today’s technology actually makes the process feel more cumbersome and drawn out.  Plans used to be simple:

  1. Make plan.
  2. Call friend(s) and invite. (Remember the phone tree?)
  3. Discuss and confirm details over phone.
  4. Show up when you’re supposed to.  

One continuous stream of communication from phone to person.  No other options existed.  Occasionally email might have been used to make plans, but most likely things happened over the phone.  And more often than not, people kept plans because there was no way to reach your friend to cancel last minute.

Now it seems that making plans with people often requires multiple:

  • interactions &
  • modes of communication

Here’s one of the processes I go through to make plans:

  1. Make plan.
  2. Text or email friend(s) and invite.
  3. Wait for responses (response time varies from instant to a few days).
  4. Respond via text or email or calling.
  5. Repeat previous two steps a few times.
  6. Confirm via text or email or calling – at this point the mode might change, if it hasn’t already. Sometimes if the friend I’m texting doesn’t have a smartphone, then details may need to be emailed.  
  7. Show up when you’re supposed to.
  8. Wait for texts, emails, tweets or other form of communication from friend about how late s/he is going to be.

The chain of communication from initiation to delivery feels fragmented because it’s happened over a span of time and through multiple modes of communication.  It might seem like my issue is with step 8, but in actuality my complaints are with steps 1-6.  It’s almost like there are too many options available to communicate and that’s what ends up making things complicated.

What’s your preferred mode of communication when making plans with friends?  Cast your vote in this week’s poll.