Find, Understand, Share, Extend

Reading time: 2 minutes

Today is World Usability Day. The theme this year is communication. I’ve chosen to write about something which I find helps teams I work with communicate and explore what we design and put on the web.

Back in 2005, Yahoo! Search announced a “vision statement”.

Enable people to finduseshare and expand all human knowledge.

Somewhat ambitious, sure. A little grand, perhaps. But what a great way to think, not only about search, but also about everything we make on the web.

And it happens to form a handy mnemonic in the shape of the acronym FUSE.

At the time I was working on learning technology and intranet projects at the BBC, and found it was a really useful way to think about everything we designed, built and put out there.

If we design this site, template or widget, if we publish this content, if we make this web app, will people be able to find it, use it (more recently I’ve started using ‘understand’ as well), share it and extend it (which I prefer to ‘expand’)? FUSE?

And on every project I’ve worked in the five years since, it has still come in useful. Whatever becomes of Yahoo!, I for one, have a lot to thank them for.

[For more on FUSE, see this blog post by Tom Coates, not a fan of the acronym! In 2006, the BBC came up with its own version of FUSE – in Find, Play Share (BBC press release, Guardian article) – as its approach to all audience-facing digital output. Both work, but I find FUSE really gets people thinking.]

Mark all as read: momentary headspace

Reading time: 1 minute

A week offline (well just about anyway) and google reader is telling me I have over 3000 unread items…

So I have just hit the “Mark all as read” button.

For a brief moment, my google reader is empty. I can’t remember the last time it was empty.

I wonder what I’ve missed.

Using a combination of different techniques I’ve been managing to keep my email inbox empty for several months now. But that “space” soon became filled with unread items in my RSS subscriptions.

It’ll be interesting to see which bits start filling up first. My “news” (whatever that means these days) tag is the most obvious candidate.

Apparently I have 189 subscriptions. And that’s after a bit of tidying up. Of those, there are only a few that I really hope will have new items each time I check – and they’re virtually all written by people I’ve met.

What would your txt msg templates be?

Reading time: 1 minute

These are the text message (SMS) templates that came with my phone:

  1. I am late. I will be there at
  2. I’m at home. Please call
  3. I’m at work. Please call
  4. I’m in a meeting, call me later at
  5. I will be arriving at
  6. Meeting is cancelled.
  7. Please call
  8. See you at
  9. See you in
  10. Sorry, I can’t help you on this.

I’ve never used them. I’m not sure I ever will.

“Sorry, I can’t help you on this.” Seriously!

I mean they all seem to be written in some strange language from a bygone era. For starters they all have complete words and correctly used punctuation.

It got me wondering what templates you’d end up with if you went round asking people what text messages they send the most.

So… going forward

Reading time: 1 minute

I’ve noticed two expressions being used more and more these days, mostly in a work context.

First, the use of the word “So” to begin an answer to a question. This seems particularly rife amongst presenters on the conference circuit.

Often it seems to be used to acknowledge a question and the questioner as if to say “Okay, I understand the question… here’s my answer…”, a way of taking the baton and gliding gracefully on. A conjunction between two people.

The other is “going forward” to describe time after a point in time. It doesn’t seem to have reached official idiom status yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time, if you’ll pardon the pun. And what on earth did people say before it came along?

Never can say goodbye

Reading time: 1 minute

Have you noticed that on the radio very few, if any, presenters and guests say “goodbye” at the end of an interview or phone call?

More often than not they say “thank you” instead.

I was just wondering if this is conscious and deliberate.

To have this conversation in Welsh please press 7

Reading time: 1 minute

I’m on the phone to a well-known supplier of outsourced services…

“Please listen carefully to the following options…”

There are 7 options, but they don’t tell you how many there are going to be.

I’m not quite sure if what I’m calling about matches any of them.

And there’s no “For all other enquiries please hold” at the end so you’re left drifting in to the abyss with Enya playing softly at you, not quite knowing what’ll happen next.

Anyway, I digress.

What caught my attention was that the sentence offering me the option to have the conversation in Welsh was in English.

Help! I’m starting to think in status updates

Reading time: 1 minute

On my Sunday run yesterday morning I suddenly caught myself turning everything I was doing in to Facebook status updates.

If you haven’t been on Facebook, status updates let you tell people in your group of friends or networks whatever you want in little SMS type messages which then appear on their Facebook pages next time they visit.

For example this morning I wrote “starting a new chapter” which was then translated to “Nic Price is starting a new chapter” on my friends’ Facebook pages.

It’s not just Facebook that has this feature. Twitter is one of a several other sites that let you do the same thing, but without inserting the word “is” in front of what you write. It’s a little like writing really really short blog posts.

So there I was… “finding this hill steeper than usual”… “wishing he’d been running more regularly recently”… when I suddenly caught myself at it. “Nic Price is thinking in status updates.”

Automatic accents

Reading time: 1 minute

Do you have a lift at work? Does it have a male or female voice? Who decided that?

Does a lift in Belfast have a different accent to a lift in Manchester, Falmouth or Glasgow?

Should the automated announcements on trains change accent depending on which part of the country you’re in?

Moving house, virtually

Reading time: 1 minute

When you move house and send your change of address cards out, you probably only put your new address on the cards and not your old one. And if people want to send you a “Happy New Home” card they’ll need to copy down your new address on to an envelope.

But when people change email address, more often than not, they send out the “Change of email address” email from their old email address. This is true for the last six such emails I have received.

So if you’re changing email address, transfer your contacts list and send your Change of address email from your new account. You never know how many virtual “Happy new home” cards you might be missing.

And please send them individually or use the BCC field. Just in case anyone accidentally hits the “Reply all” button.