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Heading out in the morning for Philadelphia, and the 2010 OnDemand Expo.

This year I'm on one panel, and giving one presentation (along with my buddy Mark Van Duinen from TracyLocke).

Here's the panel info:

Title: Making Digital Workflows Pay Off
Date: Tuesday April 20, 2010
Time: 1:00-1:50 PM

And here's the presentation:
Title: Creating a Multi-Channel Marketing Center around a Web-to-Print Storefront
Date: Wednesday April 21, 2010
Time: 4:00-4:50PM


If you're at the Expo, swing by one of these and say Hi.

See you in Philly!

A client asked me how to create a rich email signature that would be viewable by all recipients, no matter what. In particular, he wants his logo, complete with contact info, to show up and look as good as possible. Great idea - having invested in getting a nice logo done, you'll want to put it in front of your readers as often as you can.

Well, that turns out to be a tall order - some email readers can't read HTML email, for example, and some have HTML mail turned off by default (I'm told the new Blackberry client falls into this latter category).

So, given that we need to create something that works most of the time, and doesn't look completely foolish the rest of the time, I've suggested that we compromise by putting his contact information in text, and leave just the graphic part of the logo as an image.

That way, if the image disappears and the text loses its styling, at least the reader will have the basic info available.

Mail.app

This particular client uses Apple's Mail.app to send and receive mail (as do I these days, after a long romance with Eudora, a troubled relationship with Entourage, and flings with other more or less broken readers).
Given the sparsity of Apple's help files on this, I've hacked up a short instruction set with some screen shots, below. Many of these instructions will also work for, say, Entourage, though the details will differ a little.

I've started by assuming we have Mail already set up, with some existing accounts.

Creating a new Signature

Our first step is to go to Mail's Preferences, and find the tab for "Signatures".
ScreenSnapz_signatures.png

You have the option to select a particular account for this signature, or select "All Accounts" to see all your signatures (you can add the new on e to particular accounts later). Adding a signature to an account makes it available when you're composing mail.
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At the bottom of the second column (see above), click the little "+" to add a new signature. It'll be called "Signature#x" by default - we'll want to change it to something more meaningful, so that when it shows up in popup lists we'll know which one it is.

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Above, I've renamed the signature "MyNewSignature" - not very useful, I'll admit. I've also started typing some information into the box at the right. I've started with my name and email address (the one for this account) - don't assume these will always be easy for your readers to pull out of your emails; some readers may appreciate not having to scroll all the way back to the top of an email to figure out who you are. Since this is plain text, it should appear more or less as shown in all readers.

Adding an image

To insert a logo or picture, just drag it from your desktop.
ScreenSnapz_signatures4.png


Note that all graphics should be in RGB color space. As for file formats, JPEG (.jpg) is the most bullet-proof, though .png is becoming more widely supported.

I recommend using bitmap formats rather than vector formats such as PDF here, because you've already rendered the art into pixels (if you don't understand this, don't worry - just use an RGB JPEG).

It's a good idea to keep both the display size (how big it looks on your screen) and the file size (how many bytes) as small as you can.

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Above, we see one of Mail's little habits - it sometimes displays incoming graphics at the wrong aspect ratio. Just click away to another signature, then back to the new one…

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and this should resolve itself:
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Above, note that I've also typed in a web address (complete with the "http://" part, also known as the protocol specifier).
This will become clickable in most HTML email-friendly environments; your plain-text readers will have to copy and paste this address in order to use it.

Styling text

The text in your signature can be styled just as any text in the body of your email can. These stylings will simply disappear in a plain-text environment (so remember to use other cues such as line breaks for separating content, rather than relying on only, say, italicization).

ScreenSnapz_signatures9.png
To style a passage of text, select the text and go to "Format->Show Fonts" (Cmd-T - above) to bring up the Font palette:
ScreenSnapz_signatures11.png

Here, I've made the text Helvetica Bold Italic. Just as with web pages, its better to pick fonts that are quite common (helvetica, Arial, Times, Lucida) to be sure your readers have them. If they don't have your chosen font, the choice of what to display instead is up to their mail reader, not you.

ScreenSnapz_signatures12.png
In a perfect world, all your readers will see something like this.

Assigning the Signature to an Account

If you've created your signature under the "All Accounts" listing, you'll want to pick particular accounts to make it available to (assuming you have more than one email account - don't we all?)

ScreenSnapz_signatures13.png

To do this, simply drag the signature's name in the middle column over the account's name in the left column. The account name will highlight briefly.

Applying a signature to an email

When composing a new email, just pick your desired signature from the popup list. Only the signatures assigned to that particular email account will appear in the list. This will keep you from using your work email with your personal signatures, and vice versa.
ScreenSnapz_signatures02.png

Done!

Happy emailing.

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AdLab has some detail about the already-old-news Avatar/McDonalds upload-my-face thingie, running in Europe.
Obviously this has been done before - from "Simpsonize Me" to M&M's to Dexter and back again - but at least this time we have some stats:

  • 4 million user sessions
  • nearly 10 minute session time
  • about 1 million shares via email/social network post

So, a great data set for explaining the concepts of "sticky" and "spreadable" to your audience.
AdLab post

Avatarize Yourself

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Google Docs will soon be supporting uploads of up to 250MB, in all file types.
Google's Docs and Wave products are starting to look like a real collaboration solution, especially for loosely allied or ad-hoc teams which may not have any need for a real infrastructure of their own (I work with a shifting coalition of collaborators, in just such a scenario).
Does that mean that workflow or asset management within an organization is no longer necessary? I don't think so - I see Google as a better solution at the fringes, where organizations interact, and where the greatest communications difficulties typically are.

In other news, YouSendIt is looking a little green around the gills...

Google release

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Guy Kawasaki points us to AppMakr - a simple widget builder that creates an iPhone app, with your RSS feed as the content.
You distribute the resulting app through the iPhone App Store - either under AppMakr's account, or your own Apple Developer Account, if you have one.
Be sure to visit Guy's article - from now till Monday, he's got a promo code that lets you build your app for $49 instead of $199.
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AppMakr site

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If you can handle the academ-ese, here's a journal dedicated to online advertising.

Fortunately, they have an RSS feed, which streams abstracts to your reader - and these may perhaps be a bit more readable than the full articles.

At the very least, sticking a few pages of this sort of thing in your consulting report will handily keep your customer from actually reading it, and help ensure that they take your word for whatever conclusions you've drawn:

Advertising value provides an overall representation of the worth of advertising to consumers (Ducoffe 1995). Existing literature suggests that consumers view advertising's ability to supply information as a primary reason for approving of it (Bauer and Greyser 1968). Research in online advertising also shows that advertising can offer value to Internet users in the form of more relevant information (Ducoffe 1996). When online community members possess a distinct group intention about the need for advertising, they should be able to internalize the notion that advertising benefits the community. As a result, these members should be more inclined to develop favorable evaluations of the advertising. We also hypothesize that they perceive a higher degree of value of advertising in the community:

H6: Group intentions to accept advertising in online social networking communities relates positively to perceived ad value in community sites.

Finally, cognitive studies of associative links suggest people tend to regard relevant information as more accessible in their attitude formation (Rodgers 2004). The more community members perceive advertising as relevant to the community themes, and thus more relevant to community members, the more likely they are to find such information useful, which should result in a higher level of perceived ad value. In turn,

H7: Perceived ad relevance relates positively to perceived ad value.

Come to think of it, slogging through this stuff is how I earn my rate.

Journal of Interactive Advertising

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I've always intuitively felt that all-nighters and such lead to poor performance - ever since high school actually. So it gives me a small thrill when I find some scientist waving around studies that support the idea.

In this case, Psychology Today's Kelly McGonigal shares findings that show how cognitive function is disrupted by irregular sleep patterns - not just not getting enough, but not getting it regularly can, apparently, severely inhibit performance.

Here's the executive summary:

Getting enough sleep, on a regular cycle, may make us a better version of ourselves. And even though my greatest wish is usually more time in the day, I'd rather feel good and perform well than get to be a crankier, impulsive, sick version of myself for a few extra hours a day.

Full Article

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powdermonkey brings us the welcome news that the US Department of Defense has positively OK'd Open Source software for use in its projects.

Here's the opening statement:

To effectively achieve its missions, the Department of Defense must develop and update its software-based capabilities faster than ever, to anticipate new threats and respond to continuously changing requirements. The use of Open Source Software (OSS) can provide advantages in this regard.

The memo's attachments outline a cogent case for OSS, which all software customers should take to heart. Here's a list of key points:

There are positive aspects of OSS that should be considered when conducting market research on software for DoD use, such as:

  1. The continuous and broad peer-review enabled by publicly available source code supports software reliability and security efforts through the identification and elimination of defects that might otherwise go unrecognized by a more limited core development team.
  2. The unrestricted ability to modify software source code enables the Department to respond more rapidly to changing situations, missions, and future threats.
  3. Reliance on a particular software developer or vendor due to proprietary restrictions may be reduced by the use of OSS, which can be operated and maintained by multiple vendors, thus reducing barriers to entry and exit.
  4. Open source licenses do not restrict who can use the software or the fields of endeavor in which the software can be used. Therefore, OSS provides a net-centric licensing model that enables rapid provisioning of both known and unanticipated users.
  5. Since OSS typically does not have a per-seat licensing cost, it can provide a cost advantage in situations where many copies of the software may be required, and can mitigate risk of cost growth due to licensing in situations where the total number of users may not be known in advance.
  6. By sharing the responsibility for maintenance of OSS with other users, the Department can benefit by reducing the total cost of ownership for software, particularly compared with software for which the Department has sole responsibility for maintenance (e.g., GOTS).

Gives new meaning to "Good enough for government work" :-)
Powdermonkey post

DoD PDF document

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Hugh Macleod, of Gaping Void fame, has this short post on "Rudy's Bar-BQ Sause", illustrative of how brands can become meaningful part of their customers' lives. Here's a bit:

Too many brand managers ask the question, “What message do I have to craft in order to get people to buy my product?” It’s a dead end. A far more useful and profitable question would be, “What can I do to make my customers’ lives more interesting and meaningful?”

And “Meaningful” always has a social dynamic. We find meaning via our relationships with our fellow creatures. “People matter. Objects don’t.”

A bottle of barbecue sauce isn’t going to instantly change anyone’s life for the better. But that 4-hour-long conversation with an old friend, sharing a plate of ribs and brisket, with some Shiner Bock… Well, that might. So you want your product to be there when it happens; you want your product to be around during your customers’ significant moments.

Macleod calls a product like rudy's a "Social object", in the sense that what's really being purchased is a way of connecting with others (in this case, via a backyard recreation of the experience of a Rudy's restaurant).
This isn't really new - beer and spirits sales have been driven by the nuances of social interaction for decades. Think about it - does anyone buy a particular beer based on how effectively it'll get you tanked? I think most beer and spirits sales are driven by the kind of person you want to look like, and the kind of people you want to be with.
But what would it mean to apply this thinking to, say, curling irons? What if your product could become a social object? How would you make that happen?
Full post