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IDF – Effective Web Communication – #12

IDF – Effective Web Communication – #12

Interaction Design Foundation today suggested we reconsider our homepage’s pictures and words.

​Visual: OH I love the painting of the young 1700s author in inkwell-pausing contemplation. He communicates: We are trying to do a good job here, but we’re so awfully young, and have been ripped from foreign far-flung times before we could acclimate to them and placed here, in this strange netherworld of floating bits of thought and color: God help us!, people forgive us! and somehow if you could please help us we feel ourselves caught between the rough granite mortar and pestle, feel ourselves oozing out on all sides. Visually appealing: check; Building Familiarity and (lonely oh so lonely) presence: check; reducing uncertainty: ??? well, you are learning what you will get here: a lonely lost forgetful little boy turned author from the would-be-classicist-but-too-broken-hearted-to-stay-within-the-lines school.


See below for info on WAP ebooks, novelty gifts, a Pure Love advertisement/gimmick/scam/lark, as well as intros to the poetry and assorted what-not that Bartleby Willard—as isolated and mournful as a blue whale quietly circling the sevenseas—lobbed onto this site during the six years he was supposed to be staying on task.​


See below for info on WAP ebooks, novelty gifts, Pure Love ads/scams, and intros to the poetry and assorted what-not Bartleby Willard—as isolated and mournful as a blue whale quietly circling the sevenseas—lobbed onto this site during the six years he was supposed to be staying on task.​

STREAMLINED it a bit. Considered taking the passive out of the end of the sentence, but decided I liked how it wrapped around reader and author, cuddling them together in the shameful sorrow of an almost-author almost-working all the time.

On the whole, I think this front page does the best it can. It gives readers a sense of the author (building familiarity and presence) while introducing the various offerings of the site. It is a little long-winded and self-indulgent in spots, but that’s part of explaining to would-be readers who we are: so sad, so lonely, so defeated by the monster, lying there flatback on the cold cement having given-up; yet trying, hoping, pushing for a better way, for Beauty which lifts up all. What about uncertainty? Are we reducing that? I think so: we’re making it very clear what is offered: a book, some novelty items, lots of literary doodles, lots of giveup. Is this what people want? What???
I ask you: What is a human being to do in a time so jumbled, chaotic, and likely to blow up as our own? They speak of a post-truth society, and we say: is there no way home from here? Is there no hope for shared truths founded upon a shared Truth? They say: work hard and go for it!, and we say: what? We can’t hear you, but do you see the ten gazillion scraps of thought and action flying from every direction, running like lemmings or Jesus-cursed pigs over the cliff?

When net-neutrality goes, even less people will see our pathetic little tappings at the overhead ice. Oh, someone pull them out! Someone break the ice! This is too terrible! To watch them through the cloudy scarred ice as the wrap their impotent tired little fists against four feet of frozen solid! Never were very good swimmers, nor much for holding their breath. Quite sad really–just not up for the task at hand; wrong training and all that.


IDF – Question 9

IDF – Question 9

Today the Interaction Design Foundation asked:

“Using the information in this lesson item, what can you do to increase each of the following? If you don’t want to increase something, note that as well.

AMW & BW took a quick stab at that slippery eel of a question:​

Trust: Make sure the site is as professional, safe, enjoyable and usable as possible

Specifics: No spelling or grammar errors or bugs in delivery;

easy navigation to high quality work [ex: right now the page with an overview of the writings is a mess that needs to be organized so that the reader can easily find the type of writings they are looking for, with the better writings at the top of the list and the others at the bottom];

money-back offers prominent and honored

use third party money-takers like paypal and stripe that people already trust;

all ebooks should be readable and beautiful [when a writer asks a reader to spend their time and energy on their book, the writer is asking for trust, and so we want to err on the side of removing more content rather than the side of getting in every clever little point (ouch! how do you do that?!?)];

if we are ever going to actually have a readership, we’ll need a system for monitoring emails and the Buy the Books page should be shorter
Familiarity: We can release the books on other forums (like Amazon and B&N) and submit works for reviews. [Right now the site is basically a secret, which is just as well, since isn’t ready for visitors.] We’ll have to get the mailing list up and running so we can send out updates about products and maybe weekly (short!) writing selections.


We need to make sure these elements are high quality: 1) tangibles, 2) the combination of responsiveness, reliability, and assurance, and 3) empathy (Gefen, 2002a).​

Most of these have been discussed in the Trust and Familiarity sections. What does Grefen, 2002a mean with “empathy” here? The site anticipates users needs? “Empathy” for the user or for all sentient beings? Let’s have a lesson on this use of “empathy” please.


Again the lesson noted that there’s a trade-off with Presence: rich media creates the illusion that the user and the product/company/site really are pals hanging out (named here: “presence”) and that increases user’s motivation to engage with the site’s message; but the rich media (and probably most fundamentally their veg-out in this pretend hang-out, a pleasant escape that’s painfully undone by awareness and critical thinking) decreases their ability to process the message.

That’s no trade-off for decent advertisers! We want to raise, not lower awareness. We don’t want to lull people into pretend romances with us while sticking our grubby products down their drowsy mouths. We want to share aware joy–the only kind that’s worth pursuing.

This by way of saying, let’s not put too much rich media into the main pages of this website. If we want to post a skit on it’s own page like we posts poems on their own page: that’s fine. That’s a skit and understood as one. And, like a poem, it is a way to build presence by being your whole self in front of your audience. Right? It isn’t always immoral to create rich media experiences, just when you’re using them to try and fool people into pretending you’re their friend and you’re hanging out being real cool together so cool and so’s this cat tote that we’re selling, so cool, so very cool.

Well, there’s degrees of degradation in all human endeavors. We’ll try to push towards less bullshit with the scheme sketched above. We can also create rich media contents that unmask themselves, which will help users increase their general savvyness.


IDF – Effective Web Communication – Number 6

IDF – Effective Web Communication – Number 6

The Interactive Design Foundation asked us to review how well the front page of our website adhered to basic copywriting guidelines. Those guidelines are in bold, our answers follow.

Level of formality for your audience

Our audience is lost. Their hearts are broken. And yet a sweet shattered kind chuckle’s been building and building at the back of their mind/heart/bodies for ages now, comforting them, lifting them up, making joy possible–inevitable even. Picture them as seawrecked skeletons scattered across a dusty seafloor when bright white rays poke at them through the crinkling dome of the light-filled tropical waters. You must picture Sisyphus happy. How could they complain about the style of this webpage? It is not actually glib. It’s just kind of silly, and all through it rings the melancholy and persevering

Vocabulary appropriateness for your audience

Our audience longs to grow spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. They will appreciate the poetic uses of language. There are a few tougher vocabulary words, but not so many as seriously hamper one’s understanding of the overall piece. Also, it is very easy to look up a word when you’re already on the internet!​

Sentence complexity appropriateness for your audience

Covered above​

Appropriate chunking to break up cognitive demands

OK. Take, for example, the section on the Corporeal Product Line. A mix of short and long sentences that introduce the products, explain the logic behind paying more for novelty-product versions of totes and baby onesies​, and punch up the mini-essay with fun, silly, but still basically on-topic exclamations.

Sentence type variation to retain interest

OK. See above: chunking and sentence type variation go hand in hand.​

Use of be verbs (and passive constructions, which use be verbs)

We tired. For example, in the “Diary of An Adament Seducer”​ section, we changed, “A project that was once begun and then” to ” A project begu​n and then”. In fact, in several instances we used that trick: Make the sentence into a list-item style to eliminate the grammar necessary to have it be a complete sentence in the traditional sense.

On the other hand, we left (beginning of text) “… during the six years he was supposed to be staying on task.​” because it the round about grammatical excess helps to paint the picture of a person not staying on task.

Use of filler words

Again we tried. For example, “And also a few stories of the mythic origins of Wandering Albatross Press​” became​ “And also a few stories describing WAP’s mythic origins.​” Honestly, we’re not sure we should keep that change. We’d originally wanted “living” instead of “describing”, but then that seemed too confusing, and now you’ve got us worried about being confusing. But now we’re stuck with a boring verb like “describing” and are concerned that it doesn’t jive with the flow of the page

Important information first

Yes. The book is for sale and here’s a link. Then a quick overview of all the items we will introduce on the page. And also those items are arranged in descending order of importance.​


We sacrificed some conciseness to frolic. It’s a balance. You don’t want to bog people down; but you do want to frolic with them.​

Length of webpage

OK, I think. Again, it could be shorter, but then we’d have less frolic.

To tell you the truth

We are trying to be ourselves without being off-putting. It’s not a terrible idea for a project like this. It is not likely to succeed in any big way, but insofar as it does succeed, it will be because people correctly recognize that we’re creating art that interests them. If I am a business that sells computers or some other serious product, then I want people to correctly recognize that my computers are affordable, capable, and reliable. I avoid the silliness and round-abouts. If I am selling soda, then I am a con artist, since there is no value in soda except the illusionary storylines that come with it and the thrill of swilling sugar–a thrill that is only natural in children aged four to ten. If, then, I am a fraudster, it behooves me to match my lingo to the lingo of my audience; however, it behooves the rest of us to teach ourselves and others how to spot such manipulative profiteering.


IDF – Web Communication Course – Answer 5

IDF – Web Communication Course – Answer 5

AMW and BW take a stab at a couple questions from the Interactive Design Foundation, in their dogged attempt to become people who notice design.​

Is creating a sense of presence in our best interest?

Yes, but not through piles of media, which, while increasing a user’s motivation to engage with you, decrease a user’s ability to process what you are saying. Instead, our landing page will be prose that admits who we are and that we don’t understand the loneliness, though it dogs us so. And from there, the various experiences will be linked to easily. There will be some rich media content: for example, an ad that shows how the rich media increases motivation while simultaneously decreasing your ability to process information, thus pricking your vague longing’s never-ending gimmegimmegimme while simultaneously diminishing your ability to notice that the vague longing will never be satisfied by some specific “good” and that if the ad suggests to you that by going down their rabbit hole, you will indeed find that salvation that the back of your thought screams for, then that ad is scamming you. The anti-ad will work like this: rich nonsensical content of the sort you see everywhere, that, upon a click-over breaks into a succinct prose description of the evil within such media maneuvers.

What type of media would best server our audience?

Again, clear prose upfront, and some of what we link to should be rich content (anti-ads, skits, etc). Some of what we link to should also be clearly organized accessible literary larks, and we also need a confessional page where we outline what we are attempting to do as a business and where we are falling short. This combination should increase trust by being upfront and clear (all links must of course be tidy, and the book comes with a money-back offer, which upon refund comes with a sincere apology that we wasted your time, but you see, we thought we had to start somewhere, and it took us so long to come up with this book that it seemed a shame to throw it out, and it seemed to us like at least some people would enjoy it enough to bother with it), while also giving users the opportunity to become more familiar with us by checking out all the charming singsongs we’ve heaved up into the inforealm.


IDF – Web Communication Course – Question 3

IDF – Web Communication Course – Question 3

This time, The Interactive Design Foundations asked for up to a half a page about how we could improve our site’s Beauty, Proximity, and Similarity (three aspects of Attractiveness). And also how we could reduce our site’s Uncertainty (because if people are going to want to form a relationship with you, you need to reduce their uncertainty about you). The whole thing has to do with encouraging users to form a relationship with your site and business.

How did the boys do this time?
Not to great. Came on real strong with the metaphysics, but ran into some difficulties with the practical applications of their great Truths.

BW & AW Answer:

Beauty is Truth is Goodness is Justice, and the spot within each human moment where these ineffables run together is the same spot where Love explodes and is all. The wise see Beauty bursting through all things. That doesn’t mean they think all things are equally worthy. Beauty bursts through all things, and should be shared, and the way to share Beauty is to open hearts and minds to Beauty, and the way to do that is to encourage the growth of inner space: to encourage peace and togetherness and watchful kind joy. In individuals and groups, the values that promote such space are Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Justice, Love–those eternal directions that words cannot perfectly capture but to which words can nonetheless meaningfully point.

Proximity is convenience: is this relationship there for the taking?

Proximity is also welcomness (or at least we can roll it into this category, since the research didn’t mention that critical part ​of attraction. We form deep bonds with immediately family members partly because they are always around and partly because there is a dome of welcomness over the relationship: “come what may and annoying as everyone here is, we all accept the notion that we are in this together”. Since “we are all in this together” is actually not just true within families, but is in fact a great spiritual Truth spanning and yoking together all sentient beings, there’s no reason that we cannot expand that dome of welcomness so that it encompasses all of creation–it is just a matter of growing in wisdom. As wisdom grows one sees that we all flow together off of the one Light that shines through everything.
Similarity is, at the surface level, shared culture: shared notions about what is cool, what is interesting, how to put things, what is funny, what is right, how politics should go, how religion should be done. But at the deeper level, similarity is shared human Truth: what really matters is the Light within that alone knows what-actually-matters and how we can move in accordance with what-actually-matters. Therefore, the wiser we are, the more we grasp that we all share this Light and the longing to understand, follow, and flow off of it better.

From the foregoing, it is clear that to the wise, Beauty is everywhere, proximity is unavoidable, and similarity undeniable. Therefore, the best design will be that design that encourages the most wisdom in its users. But how can design encourage wisdom? It must be wise itself: relentlessly aware, honest, clear, kind, joyful, kindred.

But how can our website be wiser? As it is now, the site is a few silly introductory pages for several products: the site itself, an unreleased book and some possible future books, a few novelty items, and then various writings that I’ve tossed up over the last five or six years and which landed somewhere on the blog. We need to make at least a version of the book that is very readable, and we need to make it very easy to avoid falling down into the miles of verbiage. But yet we still need some way for users to see what is available. Maybe if we made the introductions to each product on the landing page into one sentence in bold with an anchor tag to reading more about that topic. How is that wiser? Well, it would be a little clearer. And how to make the site more aware? How to get a site to admit to itself and others what it is up to? What about cartoons with rollovers that reveal their underlying trick (ex: “Buy me because reading me will make you better looking and/or closer to more good looking people. Look at me: I’m reading this book and I am gorgeous!”)? That might get people thinking a little bit about how media encourages their own inner errors and thus guides them away from wisdom. But how to get them to really question the value of our product? What about our silly, back-handed, too-cool-for-school style: how do we make people aware of the deceit within that? And yet we feel that on the whole they should forgive us and work with us, because we are trying to be honest and kind–how to lay out our case for that forgiveness honestly? Obviously, we can release the answers to these questions and otherwise be transparent about our process, but we’re trying to make the landing-page itself wiser. Perhaps we could add an anti-advertising section at the bottom that links to both our advertisements and our misgivings about advertising. I think lots of banners festooned on the main page that upon rollover read “We can’t do it! We can’t get it right! We’re trying to make a perfectly decent and forthright product, but the little foolishnesses within us prevent our success!!!” Maybe that would get across our belief that honesty and kindness are the goals and also our confession that we’ve fallen short and also our intention to keep trying.

Consumer uncertainty can be reduced with a FAQ page, as well as a page on our attempts to be open, complete with links to info on what we are doing with our money (supposing any money was being made), what we’d like to accomplish, and what we wish we could get away with.

Answer from Bartleby Willard and Andy Watson to some extremely difficult questions posed by The Interactive Design Foundation.

IDF – Web Communication Course – Question 2

IDF – Web Communication Course – Question 2

Continuing with our questions posed by the Interactive Design Foundation
See IDF Web Comm – First Questions for the first set of questions that we couldn’t handle.

IDF question: “What are the values of your target audience?”
Poor AW & BW take a desperate stab at an answer:
Our target audience is somewhat aware of both their need for True Goodness​ as the ultimate bedrock and guide for their thoughts and actions and the dangers inherent in either over- or under-stating their own insight into True Goodness. However, very few people are all that wise, so (since we’re looking to engage more than a couple dozen people) the vast majority of our audience will still be mostly caught up in their longings for worldly success: material wealth, romance, friends, fun, prestige, a job they love. They value True Goodness and want to do what is right, but they only kind of wish their desire to follow True Goodness was strong enough to overtake their lives and lead them into spiritual blessedness–as they cannot shake the nagging fear that spiritual blessedness may mean they have to want to give up things they currently really really don’t want to give up.

IDF relentlessly asking questions:
“How can you construct a message and messenger that seem to reflect the values of that demographic? Considerations:
How much humor is appropriate and what type?
How much slang is appropriate and what type?
What should the messenger be wearing? Consider levels of
Formality of attire, and
Degree of crispness of attire
What is the typical rate of speech within that demographic? (slow and measured? Or quick and energetic?)
How much vocal pitch variation is most appropriate for this demographic? (mostly even, or highly varied?)​”

BW & AW give it their best:

But you see, the element within human beings that we–same as any half-way decent company–want to target does not want to be tricked. We don’t want to trick anyone. We don’t want to “seem” to be anything we are not. ​I suppose our readers will appreciate humor so long as it is kind-hearted. The project is a literary one, so slang is fine if it is artistically well-founded. There will be no pictures of real people, and the value of all images will depend upon their whimsy: how gentle is their touch and how much do they admit that we are all in this together? Look at the title of the book: A young boy, masterly painted in dark colors and soft-edges, wearing clothes and hair outdated by a couple centuries, looks thoughtfully ahead, the thumb of his writing hand on his pale round chin. It says: “Return with us to those thrilling tales of yesteryear!” It says: “and what of melancholy, tired old Europe?! Aren’t we all just flickers of light upon strange rivers?” The rate of speech of our demographic is not uniform. Nor is the vocal pitch variation.

​IDF wants to know: “How can you construct and present a messenger that makes your audience comfortable and want to trust you”

We suppose:
The messenger must admit what we are trying to accomplish: create beautiful, interesting, worthwhile thought, art, and fun; but also create a revenue stream with these creations, so we can spend more time creating and wondering at it all. It must also admit our misgivings: why should people spend their precious time, focus, and even a bit of money on us? Aren’t we somewhat lying about our goals? Don’t we to some degree desire accolades, great wealth, hot babes? Naturally, such desires flow through all of us, but the question is: how much are they driving our actions? How can the messenger be kind to both our readership and ourselves? Go easy, be well-organized, not overwhelm people with haphazard sketches. ​

Questions posed in the Interactive Design Foundation’s Web Communication course.
Answers from Bartleby Willard and Andy Watson, who just don’t know what to do–they really don’t.