Wednesday, February 27, 2013

HTML Graphic Emails SUCK

HTML emails, the kind that newsletters use, with graphic formatting and big images -- SUCK. I absolutely hate them, and so should you.

Many corporations despise these artistic emails and will block them. They have spam filters that delete these HTML emails, because they are often used by bad people to infect computers and enterprise networks with viruses, Trojans, and other malware.

Email is like a memo, a short letter, a brief communication. It's not meant to be a dazzling production with elaborate backgrounds and images.

Many people still don't know how to use email. They don't know how to compose good subject lines. They don't use paragraph breaks to chop up long dense blocks of text into readable chunks. They put too many topics into one email message.

They think an email newsletter should look like a magazine page or a print advertisement. So they make it all fancy with colors and borders and photos, which basically make the emails annoying and reduce their readability.

You must remember that many graphic designers don't like words. 

So when they have to put words into their designs, they make the text very small, or they pay no attention to background color contrasts. That's why you see so much light gray text on white backgrounds. It looks like the text is evaporating or partially erased. It's stupid and hard to read.

Perhaps you've seen this:

"Images are not displayed. Display images below - Always display images from [sender]."

That's your email program trying to protect you. You have the options to (1) not view the images (2) view the images in this email only (3) view the images in all emails from a particular sender.

HTML emails are often poorly formatted. Sometimes the main message is surrounded by all kinds of non-essential material. You often see a horizontal scroll bar, because the email is not sized correctly.

Since you can make HTML emails huge and lengthy, there is a tendency to put all sorts of announcements, news items, organizational information, staff names, and other things that detract from the main message.

The first rule in email communications is to have one message per email. When you need to send out another message, write a new email that contains that message, and no more.

Companies tend to send out HTML graphic emails too sporadically, thus they cram too much information into it. "It's a monthly newsletter," they say. 

Well, if you have a lot of announcements and news updates, maybe you should consider sending out a newsletter weekly. Let the paper version remain monthly, since you want to reduce print and postal mailing costs. But make the email version weekly, and try to have just that week's information in it.

I personally hate email newsletters, especially sales-oriented "email marketing". It works for some companies, so I can create good content for these campaigns, but I always advice clients to skip the HTML graphic enhancements, and just stick to plain text emails.

If you have some important images, product photos, or charts that you want people to see, have a link that says "View this email as a web page" or "Go to the web version of this email".

Another bad practice is when people copy and paste an email message into a blog post, and the textual or graphic formatting doesn't render correctly in the blog post template, so it's a mess.

Another problem with graphically enhancing an email is that it can make you spend less effort making the words compelling, since you think you can rely on the graphics to grab attention and emphasize certain elements of your message.

Just because an HTML email with graphic enhancements looks "nice" to you, that does not mean it will look good in your recipient's email inbox. 

Increase the chances that your email newsletter will get to the recipients and be easy to read -- by avoiding HTML email and use plain text instead.

HTML is for making websites, not for simple, quick text communications. Keep your emails simple and easy to read.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remote Working is Vastly Better Than Office Working

Working remotely is an incredibly powerful and positive thing, despite what Yahoo and Apple claim.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has decreed that Yahoo will no longer tolerate remote working. She demands that people relocate to the physical facility, or quit.

This decision by Marissa Mayer makes no sense. I wish I knew her real reasons for stopping remote work. I don't see how forcing people to work in a stuffy physical facility has any positive impact on productivity, creativity, or morale.

Being chained to an office in a physical location, with all that office interaction nonsense, can stifle creativity, mental intensity, and independent thinking..

It's good to have face to face meetings occasionally, and collaborate in physical proximity to other people -- but demanding all employees to huddle together in a building is so 1950s. 

It's ridiculous and unnecessary, at least when it comes to most types of IT, SEO, advertising, marketing, research, computer, and other technology and intellectual/artistic work.

I vastly prefer to work at home. I've had the luxury of working from my home office for the past several years and while I might consider accepting a 9 to 5 full-time job, it would have to pay me a lot of money to compensate for the many benefits of working at home.

Working at home is, for me and many other information workers, the best way to work.

No distractions.

No phone conversations overheard..

No phones ringing.

No lunch deliveries.

No laughing and joking in other cubicles.

No "look at these new photos of my child" interruptions.

No boring and trivial personal conversations.

No office politics.

No sexual harassment.

No birthday parties or other wastes of time.

No need to schmooze with anybody.

No need to abandon comfortable sweat pants and tee shirts, to get all dressed up in uncomfortable office attire.

No need to work only from 9 AM to 5 PM, then stop.

When working from home, you can get up at 12 noon, then work all the way to 3 AM the next morning, if need be.

In offices, you have to regiment yourself to a set schedule of work hours. Sometimes you're not allowed to work overtime or come in early.

You have so much freedom and concentration when working at home, it seems like your thought processes are more liberated and more intensely focused.

The Verge office: editorial staff.
(Image uploaded to their G+ page).

READ MORE about Remote Working:

Huffington Post "Marissa Mayer's Work-From-Home Ban Is The Exact Opposite Of What CEOs Should Be Doing"

All Things D "Physically Together: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More"

"What this reveals more than anything is that Yahoo management doesn’t have a clue as to who’s actually productive and who’s not.

In their blindness they’re reaching for the lowest form of control a manager can assert: Ensuring butts in seats for eight hours between 9 am-5 pm.

Though while they can make people come to the office under the threat of termination, they most certainly cannot make those same people motivated to do great work."

-- 37 Signals "No More Remote Working at Yahoo: A Stupid Decision"

"We use Basecamp to keep track of our projects, Campfire as the virtual water cooler, Skype for calls and screensharing, and iChat and email to top it off.

None of it is fancy, expensive, or hard to use. Everything we do to manage a business consisting mainly of remote employees is something anyone else could do too.

There’s so much untapped tech talent that does not live near your office, but would work for you if you allowed them to."

-- 37 Signals "Stop Whining and Start Hiring Remote Workers"

GigaOm "Why Marissa Mayer’s ban on remote working at Yahoo could backfire badly"

Chris Pirillo (VIDEO) "Remote Team Management Tips"

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unpaid But Not Unemployed: Beat the "Hire Only Those Who Have a Job" Syndrome

Companies are starting to hire only those people who already have a job. The long time unemployed are categorized as "unemployable", "undesirable", and "risky".

It's been in the news a lot lately. If you are out of work, many companies consider you untouchable, unworthy of being hired.

What can you do? You remain employed constantly by doing three things:

(1) volunteer at a non-profit or charity as a worker in your field of expertise

(2) serve as a consultant in your field of expertise and get a few clients, even if you charge them low rates

(3) start a blog wherein you demonstrate your skills and expertise on an ongoing basis.

If you do these 3 things, you are not technically "unemployed", though you may be underpaid or receiving no income at all.

The major benefit is that you are still working in your field, helping others succeed, and positioning yourself as an expert, with up-to-date skills and knowledge.

If you are unemployed, don't just look for a job, or mope around all bummed out, while collecting unemployment benefits.

Looking for a job isn't enough anymore. You've got to keep working in your field, whether you've got a paying job or not. You can't just park and put yourself into neutral, in a holding pattern, waiting and hoping for something to happen.

If you slump into lethargy, you'll fall behind in your job skills. Your expertise will become outdated. You'll get rusty, out of practice, and develop "expertise atrophy". 

Through disuse, you become weaker until you are unable to function at an employable level.

Figure out a way to keep using, and updating, your skills and expertise. If you're an unemployed chef, volunteer as a cook at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. If you're an advertising writer, keep creating ads for brands you like, as spec ads.

Whatever you do for a living, keep doing it in some capacity. Even if no pay is involved. 

That may mean hanging onto the tools you need. Be very reluctant to sell or hock your tools at a pawn shop.  Of course, if you're starving, or about to lose your home, you may have to sell or rent out your tools. 

When your tools are gone, you can still use tools. Maybe you'll have to borrow tools, or rent them, or find free tools somewhere. 

If you can't access any tools, then be a consultant, an adviser, a mentor who tells people who have tools how to do the job. Figure out how to do something within your field, your industry, your career path. Even if it's not the exact thing you normally do to earn money. 

Keep improving and learning and upgrading your skills. Watch free YouTube tutorials, read blogs and forums related to your field, read free library books on the latest issues by the most respected authors.

DO NOT wallow in self-pity and rot away in depressed inactivity.

If you keep doing what you do for a living, in any capacity, and you keep learning, you will impress potential employers. 

You'll convince them you're obsessed with your field and you will remain in it, no matter what. Employers will admire your tenacity and passion. They'll respect your enthusiasm and desire to keep learning and applying what you learn.

Remember, if you're volunteering at a non-profit or charity, or consulting and advising individuals and companies, you're technically not "unemployed", you're just unpaid.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Steven Streight and "Guy" at Peoria Riverfront Museum

At the CIAO and Friends Reception tonight at the Peoria Riverfront Museum. 

With "Guy" by R.C. Sayler (2011) in the art gallery.

PHOTO by Linda Herron

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lonelygirl15 Fading Queen of the YouTube Hoaxes

Who remembers the viral internet phenomenon known as "lonelygirl15"? 

She was a hoax, pretending to be an average teenage girl named Bree, who had boyfriend problems and cult anxieties. A series of videos, claiming to be genuine and honest, dribbled across YouTube like a bad basketball full of hot angst and air.

It lasted from June 2006 to August 2008. The clever web forensics crowd of online debunkers quickly ripped the show apart and revealed it to be a scam in September 2006, but it continued as a series of videos for a while longer.

It stands as a lesson to those who are too trusting, naive, and susceptible to online scams. For example, dating sites, which are haunted by predators, serial rapists, and married men pretending to be single.

I recall blogging about this show, and posting comments, telling people it was a hoax, but as usual, that just angered fans, who clung desperately to the illusion presented to them.

When an episode discussed her being "chosen" and groomed, with a special diet and other strange preparations, for a special "ritual" and her participation in a "weird religion", the show generated a lot more controversy.

Here's my post about "lonely girl 15" that I wrote in September 2006, the month we were unveiling the truth about this online persona (the video I embedded in my post has been deleted):

According to KnowYourMeme:


After the series was revealed to be fictional, the videos took a serious change in direction starting with the video entitled “A Change In My Life”, in which she addresses her religious beliefs.

Her participation in occult practices was first alluded to in the August 6th, 2006 video titled “What Did Daniel and Dad Talk About?” when a shrine is shown in Bree’s room with a framed portrait of Aleister Crowley, the founder of Thelema [a pseudo-philosophical form of satanism, endorsed by Jay Z].

YouTubers used clips from this video to argue that she was a Satanist. In the videos following this one, her involvement with occult practices became a reoccurring theme, evolving into a complex story with multiple characters.


Lonelygirl15 was he first successful YouTube Soap Opera.

New York Times called it "one of the Internet’s more elaborately constructed mysteries".