Monday, March 28, 2011

I'm Back...

It's been a long time. Nine months since my last post- ever since I got my new job. Now it's time to pick up where I left off.

Making information easy is hard work. I've been rattling around in the washing machine of information overload, running through the spin cycle, and my head really hurts.

It's time for me to teach my team to embrace concise emails.

It's time for me to communicate the importance of usability and usability testing to my colleagues.The cost of poor usability is more support, more training, fewer clients, and an unnecessary trip to the unemployment office.

While I'm at it, I'll try to share the practical problems I face with you.

I'm back. It's time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meet Leroy Stick

A nomination for Best Press Release 2010: Meet Leroy Stick.

"Leroy" is the person behind @BPGlobalPR on Twitter, the unofficial, unaffiliated PR campaign that pokes fun and hostility at the official British Petroleum PR machine. Leroy keeps smacking BP with his stick,  in 140 characters or less.

In his press release, Leroy tells a good story, explains why he's doing this, tells us why we should be angry, and helps us find a constructive outlet for our anger. He beats public relations, marketing, and brand management folks about the arms and legs by pointing out the folly that exists in their work, but is only made obvious in extreme situations like the Gulf oil spill. Leroy comes off as intelligent, funny, and sharp; he found his voice and his forum and uses it to spread his message.

Great use of Twitter, superior content, and brutal satire that makes you think about morality in the corporate world. We need more Sticks.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Job Hunt- Mission Accomplished!

Sorry for the gap between posts- I've been focused on working through a job offer that will get me back to work (and probably blogging less).

Here are the numbers:
* 4 months "in transition"
* 11 resumes sent
* 6 initial interviews
* 5 follow up interviews
* 1 job offer (accepted!)

During my job search, I spoke to people in the career counseling business, people who have been out of work recently, people who know people who are out of work, people who have ever known people out of work, and I kept hearing the same reaction- Whatever you're doing, keep doing it!

I'm no job search expert, but that won't stop me from blogging about it. I think my successful job search came down to three guiding principles:
  1. Figure out what you want, and focus your efforts on that: I make it easy for others to find and use information. I looked at a number of jobs where that was either the theme of the role or where I felt I could apply that theme. 
  2. Network, network, network: This one is obvious. Your network can't help you if they don't know you're looking. Let them know and people will volunteer to give a hand. You never know where you're going to run into the right job- it could be through LinkedIn, it could be from a former colleague, it could be in the stands at a Little League game. Keep talking and keep listening.
  3. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed: I preach Less is More. If you've cultivated a network (even a small one) and you let people know, you're going to hear a lot of advice. Most of it is probably not for you, so listen carefully, thank everyone for their help, and figure out what you think works best for you. I decided to keep a list of all the possibilities and options I heard, while spending my time working on a few opportunities at a time. I didn't apply for jobs where I didn't meet the key requirements and/or didn't have a network connection; these aren't worth the time it takes to apply and manage them. Eleven resumes in four months may sound lazy to some, but I call it ruthlessly efficient.
I secured a leadership role where I'm in charge of managing authoritative clinical content so clients can find and use information to make the best decisions about cancer treatment options. This role fits my criteria for "the right opportunity"-  I get to use my strengths and skills, follow my passion, have a leadership role and a positive impact on patient health while reducing healthcare costs, and work at a small, innovative company surrounded by very smart people.

Mission Impossible? Mission Accomplished!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Fine Print

Two links about reading and understanding the fine print.

Legal contracts and user agreements are filled with difficult to understand content (thus the term legalese). Why can't lawyers collaborate with information designers to create agreements that users can actually understand?

Siegel+Gale = If it makes your immortal soul feel any better… «

Reader Story: Learning to Read the Fine Print

Friday, May 14, 2010

Enterprise Search Summit

I didn't make it up to NYC for this year's Enterprise Search Summit. Going from Speaker to "in transition" is tough, and I hope to be back next year.

Daniel Tunkelang (formerly of Endeca, currently with Google) was there and he posted Marti Hearst's and Peter Morville's keynote slides on his blog, The Noisy Channel. Marti is doing wonderful things with search UI design and Peter is a leader in Information Architecture and Findability.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bad Day at the (Unemployment) Office

Unemployment is complicated. Staying organized, creating structure to your days, and getting things done to ensure you land well takes focus and commitment. It also takes good information management skills- you  have to deal with a lot of information relating to severance, unemployment compensation, and your benefits. If the information you receive isn't well designed, i.e. with the main points and your required actions clearly highlighted, you will make mistakes and possibly lose benefits.

I missed the first biweekly claim deadline for my unemployment benefits. That's a $1000+ mistake. I received several letters from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry- my Claim Confirmation (I opened an unemployment claim), my determination of benefits (I am eligible to receive unemployment benefits), an unemployment handbook, my debit card (the state pays via debit card), and a PIN number to access my online account. The note about the deadline to file my first biweekly claim was buried in the Claim Confirmation letter, which I received before my benefits were even determined.

So I missed the deadline. I didn't read every word of each piece of mail. The most important information wasn't highlighted and I didn't see it. I can rail about poor information design, how the critical information was buried in a stack of mail, and how the point of unemployment compensation should be to help those who have been laid off, not make it hard to get the money owed them.

Maybe the state needs someone like me to make it easy for people to get the information they need to act.

Regardless, I'm the one who didn't recognize what I had to do and I'm the one who missed out on $1000. That's an expensive lesson to learn and I take responsibility for my error. Just because the information is poorly designed or hidden in plain sight, doesn't mean I relinquish my responsibility to read and understand it. Especially when the outcome will hit me in my wallet (or debit card).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Everything is Miscellaneous- The Video

If you have a spare hour (and let's face it, you're going to spend more than that surfing the web today), check out this video about classifying things. David Weinberger talks about purpose as the driver of developing useful classifications or taxonomies. The organization of information can then make it easier to find and use information, which fits my goals. The talk is funny and entertaining, with easy to understand examples. Weinberger makes a strong case for using metadata, including user-created tagging, as a basis for classifying and finding objects.

I'm going to check out Weinberger's book Everything is Miscellaneous.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Seth's Blog: All the news that fits

In his blog today, Seth Godin talks about money/business model driving length of message. This can differ among newspapers, web sites, blogs, and marketing brochures. Seth's point- sometimes the format and business model don't matter- give people the information they need and let them be done. Less is, once again, more.

Seth's Blog: All the news that fits

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing? Can Do!

I think there are 3 rules of good business writing:
  1. Know your audience.
  2. Be concise.
  3. Other than basic rules of grammar and spelling, there are no other rules.
I was excited to find a new book at the Library that sets down similar rules. Can Do Writing (by Daniel and Judith Graham) provides a 10-step system for effective business writing. The book guides you through the Graham's process to produce effective, concise communications for your target audience.

Can Do Writing helps you with the critical details of defining your target audience, developing and organizing your ideas, and drafting and editing to make it easy for your readers to understand what they need to know and do.

It's a quick read (of course) and there's a lot there to help you become a writer who makes information easy!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Exactly My (Power) Point!

I enjoyed Dona Wong's response to the NY Times article about PowerPoint.

Bulletpoints may lead to the demise of society, but probably not.

Does the format/tool you use make it easy for your audience to understand (and act on) your message? If the answer is "Yes", then you're using the right tool, whether it's PowerPoint, Word, email, just you on a podium with Arcade Fire playing in the background...

It's not the tool, it's the story you tell and the way you tell it. Even my kid knows that!