Socialcast to the rescue

Social networking exploded at my workplace with the recent soft launch of Socialcast.socialcast logo
As an internal-use-only social networking tool, Socialcast opens up a conversation space that knocks down territorial walls, expedites knowledge sharing, and builds community.

For example
Just this month, our mobile clinic team began sharing their experiences on the road as they serve various communities, the underserved, the uninsured, and victims of natural disasters. Before, attempts to communicate back to us at corporate consisted of emails with attached photos that bogged down servers, created duplicate copies, and often missed entire departments of interested audiences not served by the email sender.

Now, they post a quick update on Socialcast, add a photo (linked to, not copied a gabillion times), and subscribers immediately see the update.

Resistance is futile
Yes, we do have resistance to this tool. I’ve heard “geez, not another site to go to. I already read email and our intranet.” Or, “I don’t get Twitter and I hate Facebook.” And I understand those fears. Continue reading

Wiki while you work

What’s a wiki?
Our intranet pagemasters participated in a lively discussion surrounding the use of wikis for collaborative workspaces.

  • Cynthia Q, my crime partner in our portal group, first layed out the wiki landscape for me several months ago, demo’ing its features and showing me how editing permissions work.
  • Just the other day, TaeAnn, my bud in the Customer Care division, wowed the pageMasters with a demo of how four (five?) teams in her division have run with the wikis, using it for team solutions, info sharing, decision-making, reference and resource noting, etc.
  • Information Technology has a dozen pockets of techies, project managers, and other early adopters using wikis for instantly-accessible repositories of constantly shifting team info, code snippets, system notes, trouble-shooting tips, and shift-coverage historical reference.

I’ve been waiting for more than a few months until the right topic and collaborative space idea appeared. Finally, today, I played with the wiki and here’s why.
Continue reading

digital photos, PowerPoint (boo), and online web albums (yay!)

“Geewhiz, send these photos out for the staff to see.” OK. I’ll just take a few hundred hi-res digital photos, paste them into a PowerPoint file, store that file on a local server, attach that file to email and send it to 200+ employees spread across the country. Aaaaaahh! You can see we have a recipe for a file storage disaster!

That process typified the old-school method of sharing photos, once used by our division. What’s wrong with that picture and what are we doing differently today?

Our first mistake was adding them to a PowerPoint file Continue reading

New winter header photo

With the cold night frost turning the lawn a crisp white, I turned my attention to the header photo image on my geewhiz blog.
I was about to put up a photo of a beautiful white forest and lake by photographer Jeff Klassen and suddenly realized I was about to violate his copyright. OK. I’ve deleted the image. But, visit his site from whence this image would have come from. G’head and click that thumbnail image to see his other photos.

Until I shoot my own winter white photos, I’ll leave you with an image of Lisa in the snow.

This is a great time to educate the new bloggers that one of the cool features to look for in a blog theme is the customizability of the photo image in the header. If you have followed Geewhiz through recent blog entries, you’ve noticed I periodically changed the photo in the header. The PressRow WordPress theme I use (thank you, designer Chris Pearson) allows customizable header photos.

So, toss another log on the fire, grab a mug o’ hot cocoa, wrap that blankie a little tighter around your shoulders, and sing along to “Chestnuts, Roasting on an Open Fire.”

How to act like a moron in public

JWebb posted an insightful blog entry at LoveYourUsers, a frank discussion of the CEO discussion board. I’m also perplexed at the thought process some of our employees use as they participate in the public discussion board, asking questions or making suggestions to our CEO.

The site includes a brief introduction that this is “an opportunity to ask any follow-up questions [that a person may still have] from the All Staff meeting” where our CEO shares topics from his perspective and gives us the “State of the Union.”

On the plus side, several employees that think things through have posted some great questions appropriate for our CEO to spend time on:

  • asking for his vision for our future,
  • asking for his definition of the term “high-performing employee”
  • commenting on decisions that he is responsible for,
  • clarifying our not-for-profit corporate structure,
  • asking for clarification regarding our newest high-profile account.

But, why are the following topics posted on the board?
Continue reading

Quick Guide to Writing for the Web

Ivan Walsh of spells out the basic three components of good online writing:

  • short sentences
  • tightly-edited paragraphs
  • meaningful headings

in his introductory article reprinted in

The seven-cell honeycomb of IA

In this brief, yet concept-rich article, information architecture guru Peter Morville goes beyond the infamous three-circle diagram of content, context, and users.

His article in Semantic Studios summarizes the honeycomb seven facets of user experience.

"I realized some time ago that while "information architect" describes my profession, findability defines my passion."

So, what's the buzz on your site's user experience? …getting stung by poor UX?

Have you:

  • taken the time to talk to the team, 
  • polled project players, and
  • facilitated a fact-finding foray into your facets?

A 2-second Grab

2 seconds is all you ge*

In the online message world, your attention is gained or lost in the first two seconds.

Either you stay to read more or you’re gone.

According to a Nielsen Norman report,

“people are throwing away most of your information, and you can’t fight the trend. Craft your email newsletters to sum up your message in [what they call ‘microcontent’:] subject lines, opening lines and headings…”

Apply this to your e-mail messages, your e-zines, your online newsletters, your blog, your ads.

Thanks for staying with me beyond the first two se

One of us was deaf

I was buying a product at an electronics web site. Notice I used the verb “buying,” not “shopping.” I had done my research and was ready to buy.

Working my way through checkout, I came across a page that asked me if I wanted their e-mail newsletter and e-mail product updates. I replied: “NO” to both.

I do not exaggerate when I say their process made me answer that question set three times.

One of us was deaf, and I know my hearing is fine.

If you are in sales, listen to the customer’s answers.

And to answer your question, no, I won’t shop there again. I won't even mention their name or link you to their site.

What’s a Blog?

You ask: “why should I spend time reading a blog named ‘GeeWhiz?'”

I answer:

I am a student of the written word.
My profession: technical communicator. I find out what information my audience needs, then help them find it and turn it into knowledge, so they may use that knowledge to unleash their wisdom.

If this is the information age, we have surely polluted it so with spam, fallacies, drivel, and trivia.

In frustration, we seek out people like me that help cut through the smog.

I aim for accuracy, brevity, and clarity, the abc’s of good communication.