Inspirations, captions, ideas and notes.

It’s been a while since I last blogged (almost a year, I think) as I trackback and try to find a new way forward.  I have to thank @goatlady for giving me that extra push and a great excuse to get the ball rolling with her Ada Lovelace Post. 🙂  For those of you wondering what the fuss is all about, you can have a look at the AdaLovelaceDay Pledge.

Over the past few months, I have been blessed with many new friends, most of whom I have met via Twitter.  While I familiarise myself with this new yet not so new environment called Perth, the encouragements and suggestions from these tweeps have given me strength and hope. It is not easy to start anew in a place with zero friends.  Thus, I feel these women deserve a mention in my Ada Lovelace Day tribute: @goatlady, @developit and @cindyleigh.  Two other women that have influenced me were a couple of ladies I had the honour of working with while at Aviva Asia: Joanna Leong and Amy Hoe.   These women are not just going with the flow like most people are; they have taken the reigns of leadership roles, each in their own way, while balancing a full life of being wife, mother, entrepreuner, friend and every other role they play.

@goatlady (Kay Smoljak) – What intrigued me about Kay was her colourful percussionist past life.  Kay currently runs Clever Starfish and wants to make the web a better place for everyone.  What makes her different is she’s not just saying it, but she is actively doing something about it – being in the Port80 committee, the Australian Web Industry Association, and also the sub-committee of the WA Web Awards. She’s one of the organisers of the Perth Web Standards Group, and a co-founder of Web Women, a local networking group for women in the industry. Yes, talk is cheap. Kay is a great example of “don’t tell me what you can do, just do it…”.

@developit (Frances McLean) – is a freelance software developer and consultant, who is also a part-time Information Technology lecturer at TAFE in Western Australia. She delivers PD (Professional Development) for staff members and is involved in developing Assessment tools for staff to use on PDA’s (Portable Digital Assistants).  She has taken her love for technology, developed it into feasible solution and shared it with those around her to make their lives easier via mobile devices.  The amount of focus and discipline needed to achieve that is tremendous and I am excited to see what she has in her sleeves for the next reveal.

@cindyleigh (Cindy Prosser) – is a proprietor and head designer of Attitude e-media.  Cindy has been floating in the digital web space since 1995 and it is her passion for CSS Design & Green IT that inspires me.  She believes that the IT industy has the capacity of reducing greenhouse gas emissions enormously. And her company invested in running their infrastructure on Natural Power, which is an energy that is generated from renewable sources with minimal impact on the environment. Once again, a great example of putting passion into action.

These last 2 names are by no means the least important to me. In fact, they have been my key inspiration for the last 4 years. It is unfortunate for me that we have now gone seperate ways, but I do look forward to the day when our paths cross again.

Joanna Leong – is currently a Senior Manager of the Business Systems team in Aviva’s Asia Pacific I.T. Department based in Singapore.  I had the honour of working closely with her in several key projects, and her grace and strength still inspires me today.  Joanna’s no-nonsense down-to-earth management style makes it possible for each of us to bring our strengths and knowledge to the table.  She is a proactive manager and always has the welfare of her team at heart.  She taught me that one does not need know-it-all to be a good leader. One can be successful and build a strong team which everyone is envious of, if one can tap on the strengths of the individuals within the team and unite them.  She is a true leader and I see a lot of her in my leadership style. But I still have a lot to learn.

Amy Hoe – is currently the IT and Operations Director at Aviva Asia (based in Singapore).  Amy is a charismatic leader and in my opinion, she is better at this role than many of her male counterparts.  It is almost impossible to find a leader at her level that still takes pride in getting to know all the staff that contributes to the teams that she manages.  Her ability to balance micro- and macro- management leaves me in awe and her track record is proof that her formula works.  Her achievements include setting up a regional IT shared services; championing customer strategies; supporting large scale direct marketing call centres across Asia; and rolling out SOX compliance projects for CIGNA.

I am very honoured to be able to name these leaders as my friends. And am truely blessed to have such inspiration that I can learn from.

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With the hassle of web maintenance, companies are finding it a challenge to keep their web sites up-to-date after the initial launch. Getting it designed and published for the first time is great! The site looks new and fresh. But after weeks… months… years… without proper maintenance, the web site can become a stale and uninviting, which does not reflect well on the site owners.

Most smaller firms are not keen to hire a web master full-time, and some larger ones have an entire team looking after their web assets. But even with a large team, it is sometimes still cumbersome to update the site content with fresh releases, as these often come from the brand/communication channel, whereas the web team tends to be based as part of the I.T. department; and hence the update gap – where press releases sometimes do not get posted on the corporate web site a week after they appear in news sites or papers.

Some organisations have chosen to use content management tools to help them close this gap. However, content management tools range from the freeware that cost nothing (e.g. OpenCMS) to those that require a hefty investment (e.g. Interwoven). So, how do we know what is suitable? It’s anybody’s guess. I’ve been doing some research on this lately, and my friend Google has turned up quite a few articles on various web content management tools. Not all of them are very meaningful and some require payment before you can read anything. But I have found several useful writeups here and there, and will list them here so it is all ‘under one roof’ for if anyone else needs the reference… and I’ll update it as I go along.

5 reasons why Drupal is not Enterprise ready

Many Open Source content management systems written in PHP want to be recognized by the business industry as being “enterprise” ready. This is not only a mark of prestige and status but places them in a position where large companies are ready to invest in the software as a platform for their projects. Drupal is now trying making its move to be enterprise ready but has a long way to go.

I keep coming across interesting development, coding or javascript sites but have not jotted them down… only to have trouble finding them again when I need them later. Sigh… yup, so here is a list, in no particular order. I’ll update this post as I go along…

Web Development

Javascript

I was previously using iPhoto to put my album and photo book together, but later on realised that it is not possible to get the books printed. As a result, I gave up that notion, and used iPhoto purely to manage my photo archive.

However, in my search for photo book today, I came across this SG Mac User Group Forum on the availability of iPhoto book printing in Singapore which will please lots of Singaporean Mac users. However, it seems that the quality of the print may not be as expected.

Yea, I’m at it again. I’ve been rather slack in finishing that Chiang Mai scrapbook but I’m very pleased to say I have made some progress last weekend. I got stuck at page 5 since February last year and managed to complete the layout for page 12 last Sunday! Yay! At last.

I have not mentioned this before – I’ve been using InDesign for the layout, as I found the master pages (template) design approach very useful. I started by coming up with several possible backgrounds and layouts, and have since been ‘applying’ these master pages of my choice to the new pages as I go along. It’s really neat, since it is fully customisable; and I do not end up with 20 different files for 20 pages, like I would if I used photoshop.

Also, the elements and adornments, as well as the photos I use in the album are ‘linked’ to the Indesign file, so I can enhance/edit them individually if I want, and the changes will be updated in the Indesign version automatically.

But I have also recently, been on the hunt for a good photobook tool, as my current approach seems to take far too long. I think it’s my fault, really – as I either spend far too much time finetuning the layout, or leave it untouched for too long.

To date, I’ve been recommended in one way or another to the following photo album and/or photo book providers, to which I’ll add notes on as I go along:

I did a quick search and there is really a lot of other options out there. If you have found any which you think are good, feel free to drop me a note too; and we can swap ideas.

What do you tend to do when looking for information about a certain product or service? Let’s say you’re planning to buy a new mobile phone. Would you look up the manufacturer’s site for information? Or would you turn to your local telecommunication provider’s web site? Perhaps you’d ask your likeminded friends and colleagues first? And maybe you’d look up reviews and comments on the internet, which would lead you to relevant forums and industry gazettes?

With the wealth of information available on the internet, people do not just go to Corporate web sites anymore. In fact, I’ve recently acquired a new 2nd generation HTC Touch. And my buying decision was made without even going to the HTC web site. Yup, I looked up the descriptions and features list on my local service providers’ web sites, as well as those of overseas providers. And to ensure that the phone was not a problematic model and if problems existed that they can be resolved, I did a search on Google and located a host of forums, product reviews and consumer feedback.

This is one of the reasons why companies need to revisit their corporate sites to keep the content relevant and useful. If I’m looking for ‘user reviews’ and did a search for that, would your web site’s ranking come up tops? Unlikely.

I recall several months ago, we discussed putting a forum and blog on our corporate web site. But this is not something conservative marketeers can stomach. There is always a fear of smear comments, negative feedbacks, etc. But with proper moderation, this can be managed. The way we hunt for information online now renders this concern obselete. If customers have a genuine concern and can’t air it on your corporate web site, they’ll vent it somewhere else.

Related articles:

  • How to evolve your irrelevant corporate website” by Jeremiah Owyang
  • Today’s top 10 – “Top sites in Singapore” by Alexa – the rankings shown here is a good indication of the trend I mentioned earlier. People are doing researching and visiting community sites more than anything. Today’s rankings are 1. Yahoo, 2. Friendster, 3. YouTube, 4. Windows Live, 5. Google.com.sg, 6. Blogger.com, 7. Facebook, 8. Google.com, 9. Wikipedia, 10. MSN. I’d discount the ranking for Windows Live and MSN, as people who use messenger tend to open these pages without even deciding to do so.
  • Slideshare has a presentation which compares the 2005 and 2007 rankings. For a comparison, you can have a look at slide 30.

I truely digg the effort that has been put into this! This is to-date the most comprehensive web analytics provider list. If you are looking for some information regarding web analytics, this is a good place to start. The list gives an overview of what’s out there, but there is little offering of details, although if you are really keen to learn more about the provider, you can visit their web sites directly. A drilldown into each provider offers a chance to vote and give a review of the tool, but not too many people have given their insights.

Clickz also has a small list but it has not been updated for a while now. Here it is for what its worth: the Clickz Web Analytics list

As in any vendor / solution selection, you need to pin-point the business needs and the system requirements before shortlisting and making your final buy or outsource decision. Avinash Kaushik has an article in his blog which highlights the importance of self-reflection in the selection process. In this article, he also lists several other useful references in relation to the selection process. If you are embarking on an analytics selection or evaluation exercise, perhaps his writeups will help.

I can’t agree with Avinash more about how difficult it can be to get a list of requirements together.  In the last month, I have collated our existing statistical reports, as well as signed up for Google Analytics to help give the business a better idea of what they can expect from 1) a tool we already own and 2) a basic analytic tool 3) our vendor’s clickstream analysis reports.  Analytics is not something people (I.T. and business folks inclusive) fully comprehend.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me still too.  So, hopefully, the study will provide a baseline from which we can make more intelligent decisions on what is available and what can be helpful but is lacking.

Wish me luck!