How about a slice of Appy Pie?

Imagine you have just finished a great big meal.
Man did it taste good.
But what you’re really waiting for, is the big finale, the piece de resistance, the creme de la creme (why are all these French words? I don’t know…. You an smell it before you see it.
It gets placed down right in front of you – the most delicious, most fantastic, most well put together thing of all times – the pie.

The Appy Pie.

This was an interface that helps the user create their own app. With app -design based careers being as hot as a homemade pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, these are all valuable skills to learn.

I was tasked with creating an informational app – it didn’t have to be about anything specific as long as it provided the user with some knowledge on a subject. I decided I would make mine about different recipes and called it Yum!

Screen shot 2015-11-30 at 7.54.38 PM

This is a screen cap of the beginning process!

From here, it  was divided into different categories including – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Though here it would index all different types of recipes. You could create your favourite lists of food for each category. This way, there was no need to lug out an old recipe book, just grab your phone and make it happen.

Of course this was just an idea – but I had no skill set or thought about how to make it into a reality. Appy Pie gave a nice overview of how to adapt an interface to your specific needs. I didn’t love my experience on Appy Pie. I think it takes more time to get used to than some of the other platforms and is not as straight forward.

I found myself applying all the features that I like about an app to create the best user experience I know – my own. I always find it interesting how media rubs off on us in unexpected ways and we apply it so easily in everything we work on.

So here is a draft of one of the prototype:

http://snappy.appypie.com/app/creator-software

Happy App-Making!

Digitally Yours,
BG
Digital Guru

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The More You Code: Codecademy

Computers have always intimidated me.

Frustrated Computer

Not in the way that I can’t use them or have extreme difficulty navigating their interfaces, more so in the way that I don’t know what is happening behind the surface of them.

I wouldn’t say that I am afraid of computers – I just don’t trust them.

In films only the “techie nerds” are able to hack a computer system, reprogram confidential software and override a security breach to save the day. The rest of the team just trusts that the “techie” can clear the way before they send the main heroes in. This type of media in addition to societal influence, I have always assumed that I was not gifted with the “techie” part of my brain that would let me be the undercover hero. Because somewhere along the long I associated my intelligence and competence with technology and decided that I didn’t make the geek squad.

That is why I loved working with Codecademy.

Without any of this sounding too much like an infomercial I will explain my experience.

It was simple, easy to use software that enabled as opposed to disabled. You can easily go back and look over different skills if you get stuck on a task or unit. The program is forcing you to learn and engage with technology but I never felt like I was stupid – or lacked the intelligence to learn. After almost completing a unit on web design, I can honestly say that I have a much better grasp of the going on behind the screen and am even on my way to building my own!  Sure, of course there are people that will pick it up faster and easier that others, but that’s the same for every skill that you learn. The speed in which you learn something does not determine your competence of the subject. In the case of coding, you are learning a new language and the syntax that comes with it from scratch. How can you expect yourself to be an expert when it has taken you years to speak the English language? Give yourself a break and trust your intelligence, future coders.

Once you have all those tools, it is up to the creativity of the individual to build new and innovative materials.

But this software is meant to give the skills to anyone (provided you have access to a computer and the internet) It doesn’t matter gender, age, demographic or previous experiences. Anyone can proceed in an environment they are comfortable learning in. So yes the interface is good, and skill building is good and the pacing, layout and language is all good, but this is more than just earning badges (although look at all my badges)…

 

 

Screen shot 2015-11-30 at 12.25.50 PM

This is about empowering everybody to engage with technology. In the words of Justin Trudeau – this is 2015. And in 2015 we are all techies. We just need to believe that our intelligence is not limited by stereotypes but the mindset we project. Coding is not reserved for the smartest people in the room. Coding is for anyone who has the ambition and time to learn.

Digitally yours,
BG
Digital Guru

 

 

So You Want to Appeal to the Masses, eh?

Everything online is always crafted. The sender makes specific choices  during the process to persuade and communicate a specific message to the mass audience. Although this can take many forms, we can evaluate it through at least 5 different characteristics; colour, clothing, camera angle, edits and cuts and visible entities. Let’s look at these characteristics by using Hillary Clinton’s most recent campaign video as an example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N708P-A45D0

Colour:

From the colour of the wallpaper to the shade of a person’s hair – colour is always purposeful.

For example – looking at Hillary Clinton’s most recent campaign video. The colour of her clothing is red and blue and her air is blonde-ish white. Subliminally these colours together, evoke feelings of patriotism making the audience  nationalistic when analyzing Hillary as a candidate.

Clothing:

Everyday when we get dressed in the morning, we intentionally choose clothing that reflects our mood and occasion. However, we are also unintentionally showing our social class and personality.

Now look at all the people in the videos. We have blue collared workers who are… literally wearing blue collared shirt (creative). Hillary is wearing her classic jacket that makes her look powerful and conservative. It is a clever way to craft an identity without the person having to say a word.

Visible entities:

Ensuring that every member of the audience can find something relatable in the message means that media has to make sure they include something tangible for each group.

 This commercial attempts to hit on people from all different walks of life. It represents getting ready for retirement, starting a family, members of the LGBTQ community and many others. This of course to make Hillary Clinton – a upper middle class woman and previous first lady – more relatable to the middle class American. That’s why the majority of the video is of other Americans as opposed to her.

 Edits and Cuts:

Edits and cuts can totally change the mood and effect of the media towards the masses. If it is one continuous cut or whether it is broken up into different pieces it changes the naturalness and consistency of the piece.

You’ll notice all the cuts that are happening constantly to show all the people it possibly can. Even at the end when Hillary is talking – they cut away from her to show more individuals while she does a voiceover. Makes it appear as if she is looking over them – she is there even if she isn’t.

Camera Angle:

The way that the camera is positioned influences the genre and overall tone of media. It dictates the status of the not only the person watching the media but also the position of the audience.

After looking at all these different types of people, we finally finish on Hillary. The Camera angle is at eye height, making the audience feel like she is their equal. The angle reinforces how relatable she is (even though she really isn’t).

So when you are creating a piece of media for the mass audience and population – make sure that you are aware of all these different aspects so you can expertly craft your message.

Good luck studying all of the class of EID100. We got this.

Digitally yours,
BG
Digital Guru

Filtered Twitter: Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck. An application that allows you to always be “on deck” when it comes to controlling your social media presence.

Tweetdeck is a download that combines all the different sections of Twitter into one accessible interface. This means that you can streamline your newsfeed, notifications, direct messages and activity log. How convenient is that? Well I would say that convenience comes at a cost.

Tweetdeck

If I was an entrepreneur who was running my personal, school and business Twitter accounts – Tweetdeck would sync all the accounts together so the information is in one easily accessible spot. So if I wanted to check out who has posted a new tutorial to their blogs, see if my friend has direct messaged me back or check if my business venture is getting social media attention – I can do it all in one place! No problem!

However, with all this greatness comes some dangers too. Allowing the user to create their own unique Tweetdeck experience might be great BUT it’s also limiting. Tweetdeck allows you to include tweets with certain keywords and accounts and exclude other keywords and accounts. This sounds great of course – but it’s also a little worrying. Doesn’t this just contribute to the filter bubble that social media can force us into?

Just for fun, I did an experiment – including all positive keywords and excluding all negative keywords. I was left with a very happy, sunshine and rainbows newsfeed completely ignorant to any of the tough stuff going on in the world today. If I relied heavily on Twitter as my main source of news I would left totally in the dark only hearing about the 77 year old man who coaching a little league baseball team in a small rural town. Don’t get me wrong that’s great news, but I am missing the global context we live in when I focus on the small town achievements. In society today, ignorance is not bliss it is irresponsible. Making sure that your filters will not leave you purposefully in the dark is crucial to being a contributing member of the online world.
Information curation is a step in the right direction for sorting through mindless junk on social media and monitoring your social media presence but we always have to be careful about how much a filter we create so that all the key data still gets to us.

All hands on deck!

Digitally Yours,

BG
Digital Guru

Information is Beautiful: The Life of an Infographic

Columns and spreadsheets of data can sometimes be very intimidating to digest. The poor aesthetic of the numbers distracts from the original intent of the data.

Enter the infographic!  A way of making even the ugliest information attractive. This way, data can go back to it’s original purpose – to communicate knowledge from the sender to the receiver.

So I set out to test out this new “beautiful” philosophy that is being adopted by blogs, corporations, schools and communities all over the web.  I created a very basic infographic on some of the information covered in the blog Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik on his system of analyzing social media metrics.

(http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/social-media-marketing-success-guide-businesses/#smfb)

 

EID100

By making information beautiful, we are making it more accessible.

I made the infographic on Piktochart which was a great medium! I used one of their templates as a guide and then added my data. It was like using an easier version of Photoshop (which is great when you are still experimenting with design platforms). I really enjoyed the process. Not only did it make my information beautiful, it made beautifying data, a great experience!

Digitally yours,
BG
Digital Guru

 

What Goes Up, Must Go…Sideways?

Horizontal and Vertical Interoperability

This makes no sense – side to side, up and down?

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/346988346264542268/
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/346988346264542268/

No matter what way you say it, horizontal and vertical interoperability rings the same dull bell of emptiness. I had no idea what either of these concepts meant until a few weeks ago when we learned about them in class. But, in the light of a midterm dawning right after reading week it is time that I really get a grasp on this concept. Who knows, this question could be the difference between a pass, a fail, an A or a B. So here is a little review/cheat sheet for all of you EID100 students that are cramming, just like me.

Horizontal Interoperability

This form of interoperability can be done without us even noticing that it’s happening. This is when media is moved from one place to the to the other without changing the end goal of the product. Although the media may have different features, the information from the product has not been manipulated throughout the process. A technological example would be moving from a Google Drive to a Word Document (Bless the GoogleDrive). Although the platform is different, on is cloud computing and the other isn’t, the information contained in the media has not been changed or manipulated. Both are still your lecture notes, the words haven’t changed, they are just in a different platform. A real life example would be when you are making toast. Putting in the raw piece of bread and after you take it out – the information is all still the same. It’s still bread, it is still going to be eaten (by me because bread is the most delicious food), but it’s just slightly different.

Vertical Interoperability

What comes up, must come down. However, when that thing comes down there is no way that it can possibly the same, as it was when it went up. This is exactly how it all works out when it comes to vertical interoperability. This happens when the information transitions from one form to another. A technological example would be the movement between Paypal and eBay. One is a sales platform and the other is a payment platform – one is advertising products for purchasing and the other is taking the credit card and payment information. These two systems have to work together, but they both have different end goals. A more real world example would be mixing all the ingredients together – sugar, butter, eggs, flour and baking powder – to create a cookie. When all the variables work together, they are changing the end product by working seamlessly together.

So Diagonal Interoperability?

Just kidding, that would be something. Glad that it’s not quite true. The most important thing to remember when you are trying to understand these concepts is that in horizontal interoperability the end goal is the same but vertical interoperability the final goal changes.

Good luck on all those midterms – to bad we can’t bring Google into the exam room, that would be a treat.

Digitally yours,
BG
Digital Guru

 

Is That a Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter or Tracking Cookie?

In the 3 dimensional world, keeping tabs on a person’s friends, interests and common hangout places is the work of either an overprotective parent or a psychotic stalker. However in the digital world we all seem to have very little problem with people following us around…

Am I being Digi-Stalked?

This week, I installed the add-on Lightbeam to my Internet browser. Lightbeam monitors all trackers and third party users that your store personal information while on the Internet.

After I updated my computer, (My professor laughed and how behind my computer was…always update your computer, people. Just do it.) Lightbeam has an extremely accessible interface that presents all collected data in a graph or in a list. I would recommend the graph view because it is easier to navigate and highly interactive. When you click on the circular icon representing the site you were on – it shows all external sites that have seen or are stored your information. This was my graph after surfing the net for 20 minutes:

Lightbeam Graph

Look at that! Look at them all! Who are half these sites? I was shocked. I am shocked. People talk about how your personal information is extremely exposed online, but until you see how far your information can carry in only 20 minutes – you have no idea.

I mean, just look at Google – from opening the search engine, three other third party users accessed my information. And the scariest part, is I don’t even know what information they saw. However, when I used DuckDuckGo, an anonymous search engine, no outside sources connected to my computer. So – if you ever want to peruse some content you don’t want tracked, I’d recommend not typing it right into Google.

The fact is – that we are always being watched. Every search you make, website you click or status you post opens your information up to anybody who wants to see it. That one search that you made out of pure curiosity could have put your digital identity at risk and you have no idea how many people are observing you.

What Can I Do?
There are a few things you can do to try and eliminate the digital crumbs that are you are leaving behind from your Internet cookie jar. First, start by clearing any unneeded cookies stored on your computer. This will make your system run faster and decrease your online vulnerability. Here is a YouTube Video to show you how to do that on Safari:

Second, be aware of other options that allow you to be “anonymous” online. You can use different search engines such as DuckDuckGo or Google’s “Go Incognito” option. These two sites will not track your searches or collect your personal information while you’re surfing.
Third, if you are worried or curious about your information – I recommend installing Lightbeam on your computer. This will give you a better awareness of how far your information goes and which sites are not secure.

Digitally Yours,
BG
Digital Guru

Beat the Hacker

Hello all!

Today marks a very important today. Today I, and my partner, embark a new journey of blogging. We are beginning a new blog together (blogging with others is always a great idea). We are proposing a 5 part blog series discussing the ambiguous and very daunting topic of – INTERNET PRIVACY.

Eye roll

Yes, I know many of you are may be rolling your eyes thinking “we’ve heard this all a million times, we get that the internet is a deep and dangerous pit of hackers and insane people out to get us” – but seriously, now is not the time to tune out of listening to your parents/teacher preach about this stuff.

I think it’s not the information that is causing the tune out but the medium in which it is being communicated. Which is why we have created this blog! Now student to student – can communicate about an extremely important topic in a more accessible way!

Check out our video pitch here!

Pretty sweet eh?
So keep checking up for details!

BG
Digital Guru

Feedly – Bitter or Sweet?

What is a Feedly account?

If any of you are like me and are so oblivious to any media other than Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and your other favourite news sites then you are probably as confused as I was when I first heard of Feedly. Feedly is a personalized RSS feed which streams your interests from different websites onto one concise newsfeed. But woah, what is an RSS feed? And does Feedly give food? Well my Internetly naive, friends, do not worry – I am here to help.

RSS?

An abbreviation for a fancy title called a Rich Site Summary. The key word here is summary –  it condenses and provides fast up to date information and headlines for all the sites that you select. Sounds really great right? Well let’s take a closer look…

So what does Feedly have on the menu?

For all you passive Internet lovers Feedly offers the convenience of a standard RSS feed is so you don’t have to sift through Facebook statuses, awkward tweets or even annoying blog posts to find the information you are looking for.

A stream of blogs, headlines, images, videos and posts that are personalized to fit your own likes and tastes. Pretty neat, eh? Instead of you searching for the information you crave, Feedly will bring a full plate right to your seat.

Shall we say that it is feeding our internet obsessions?

Yes? Laugh, it’s funny.

It’s not you…it’s me?

I agree that it’s great to organize the wide web using Feedly and tailor content to our interests. But as students, it’s our job to think critically and ask – is this a step in the right direction for the Internet? With other social media experiences I can reblog, retweet or comment to to create dialogue, provoke or just to poke fun at the millions of other users. It’s what makes the Internet the twisted and yet character building place it is today. With Feedly, I feel a lack of participation, I didn’t have to go out into the online community to find information it came right to me. It’s like always ordering in a pizza to your house because you don’t want to run into people at the grocery store (yes more food references). Furthermore, half of the fun of the internet is getting lost within the world of other content out there and finding something new and exciting just like you would on the shelves of the grocery store. The Internet is made for the brave new generation and Feedly just seems too safe for me.

So What’s the Verdict?

I can’t dispute Feedly’s convenience but I can challenge how Feedly (and other RSS feed sites for that matter) zap away my online community and digital interaction. I, for one am not ready to trade off convenience for communication…it just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

BG
Digital Guru

Digital Hygiene 101

Digital hygiene is equally as important as personal hygiene. Nobody wants to read a poorly composed tweet just as much as nobody wants to sit next to the person who showered in AXE. Either way, the situation stinks. As an emerging professional and student studying communications – it has come to my attention the importance of looking polished in person as well as on social media.  You want your digital identity to provide an accurate depiction of your image online, for future employers and colleagues to see. So, to help you make this media transition I give you my top 4 hygiene equivalencies to keep you smelling digitally delicious:

  • toothbrushFlossing – “I’ve already brushed my teeth so no need to floss today, right?” Wrong. Getting right in-between your pearly whites will not only make your teeth happier and your breath fresher but it will also help your digital image. Flossing out the filler words in your tweet, status or overall post will help you get to the point of your message and engage your audience from the start.
  • ShowerShowering: This one is really important. Keep. It. Clean. Wash away those embarrassing old accounts, statuses and pictures that today you wish had never happened. Don’t post language or content that you think would demean or insult your audience. If you want to appeal to a larger audience, especially in a professional context make sure your content is appropriate for that audience to see. Not just some of it – all of it. Giving yourself a digital shower will make you appear more professional and put together.
  • ArrowSwitch it up – We all love to switch up our aesthetic in response to the weather, personality and environment we are in. This means suiting up in jackets and mittens for winter, dying your hair black to reflect your teenage angst or keeping up with the most recent styles. When you are on the web, it is important to keep your followers engaged by always creating new content, adding new segments or updating your profile. Keeping your online content fresh will boost your reputation and increase your following.
  • GlassesStyle – We all use our physical bodies as canvases for our personality through makeup, clothing, and other aesthetics. Individuals that are confident and unique stand out and draw people in. So when you are posting on the web give yourself a voice, tone and personality through graphics, text and content that will put you a step above the others.

Make sure that your digital self reflects your physical self – if you are clean, crisp and polished as an individual everyday, why wouldn’t you want your media to reflect that?

BG

Digital Guru

*All images presented here are not mine and therefore I own none of the rights
*All links have been provided to the designated authors through the attached hyperlinks.