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Turn off your computer
Perception and unreality

Turn off your computer. Yes, you, wondering if you can just skip to the next message and not feel obliged to turn off this machine. Yes, now. Don't even finish reading this. As my wife likes to say, "It will be there later." And, she's right (as always—something that's as comforting as it is annoying).

If anyone asks, tell them it crashed (they'll believe that!). You've been looking up close at your screen for too long. Turn it off and focus on infinity.

If you're still reading this, you haven't turned it off yet. Did you think I wouldn't notice? Go on. I'll wait... Right now. Go outside. Then come back and read the rest of this...

.

. You better not be reading this unless you've already turned your computer off and now are coming back to finish. I'll be able to tell...

.

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's easy to get confused between what I see on my computer and reality. Until I actually saw the Eiffel Tower in person, it seemed like it was only 12" tall. That's how big it is in the little models on my desk, and it's even smaller in pictures. I knew it was bigger than that—but that's how it felt.

Computers are wonderful things, but I sat in front of one for so long I'd gotten to the point where they started to affect the way I saw the world. It was as if I had tunnel vision—looking straight ahead, as if the world was my monitor (instead of my oyster). It felt small, flat, and two-dimensional. And the scary part was that I'd gotten used to seeing things that way.

Then I went to Yosemite National Park in California. Things there are big. And wide. So wide I found myself constantly turning my head until I realized I could stand still and see almost 180 degrees—I remembered I have wide-screen vision, not just 19" vision. I could see—well, as far as the eye could see.

Yosemite reminded me that while computers are great, seeing something 12" high and listening to stereo speakers just isn't the same as standing in front of the 2,400 foot tall Yosemite Falls, hearing the thunder of the Falls go right through you.

When I got back home, I tried to remember how it felt to see things—not just in front of me, but from side to side. I exercised my peripheral vision (it's easier to do in the car because of the movement). Doing this gave me a very different perspective. I wasn't driving though the world, I was driving in it.

The web doesn't just shrink vision, but also time. Everything's faster, and that can mean more pressure.

Last week, I turned off the computer again (yes, I can now go an entire day without using the computer—I'm so proud,) and took a ride on the Hawaiian Chieftain, an 18th century-style tall sailing ship on San Francisco Bay.

Not only was it a great way to see the bay from an entirely new perspective (like seeing the underside of the Golden Gate Bridge and finally realizing how huge that bridge really is—trust me, it's a lot bigger than 12" long), it reminded me of a different sense of time. Not the milliseconds of internet time, but the time of the tides, the pulse of the planet.

To help me remember this, I don't turn on my computer first thing in the morning. I go outside. I look around. I do Tai Chi.

I remember where I am and what's outside the phone lines. So here's to making your memory snapshots wide-screen.

 

Workflow—Making it easier to produce and maintain your site

If you've been working on your site, you know there's a lot more to it than just "making pages." Because the Web is never done, you need to create a simple system to help you manage it all. In the first installment of this four part series, I'll help you learn ways to help organize your people and files, efficiently edit your articles, then bring everything together in your web building program. Read Part I.

Why Write or Read Stories?

Why look at the stars? Why make banana bread? Using the Web to buy and sell objects is one thing—and interesting, well-written text can certainly help commerce—but what's the big deal about stories? How does that help you get ahead? Chris Meeks explains.

Upgrading Your Sites From 5 To 5.01

What is the process for moving site files from 5.0 to 5.01? Here's what Technical Support recommends to reduce the NetObjects Fusion file size and increase performance. Recommended steps for moving sites from 5.0 to 5.0.1:

    [1] Open the 5.0 site in 5.0.1.

    [2] Go to Publish view

    [3] On the Menu, click Publish, then Arrange Files, then Clear All Customizations.

Warnings:

  • For large sites this process may take a considerable amount of time (several hours—they're not kidding)
  • This process may also remove customizations that you want to preserve and require you to re-customize the Publish view.

Free For NetObjects Fusion Customers

Ingo Fischer's Apollon Project has released new free components for NetObjects Fusion NOF 2 through 5, and NetObjects Authoring Server 3 and 2000.

StructureDropDown 3.50/5.00 : This component is used to insert Drop Down Lists with Links like the Component LinkDropDown, but it uses the site structure of your NetObjects Fusion site to  automatically create the links. Additionally you can manually set links to show before and after the structure links.

StructureHistory 3.50/5.00 : This component inserts onto your page, the history of the last few visited pages based on the structure of your NetObjects Fusion site. You can specify the separators (images or text) between the shown pages and specify which pages you want to link. With this Component you have total control over the way you insert navigation systems  into your pages.

InsertIt 3.50/5.00 : With this component you can insert lines of text, text files or redirects on several  places into your pages. This component is useful if you want to add the same script to multiple pages, allowing you to maintain a library of script files which are inserted on the pages you want. When changing these script files you affect all pages that use this script file with one publish. The Component-version for NOF  2.x/3.x is limited because of limitations to the Components in that NOF-Version, but the Component for NOF 4.x/5.x uses the full power of the component architecture available with a special Publish-Component.

 

Design 101: Lines separate

Here's a common design mistake I see on a lot of sites, even those from companies who should know better.

  • Don't put a horizontal line under a heading. When you do, you separate the heading from the text that really goes with it. Yes, people read down—but if there's a line between something, it visually separates, and signifies that there is a break. (Notice how, even in this text FuseLetter I put the lines above the headings, rather than below them).
  • If you want to add a horizontal line to headings, put the line above the heading. This separates the heading from the text above it—which is correct, because a heading means you're starting a new topic.

This applies to text, forms, and any other information you want to structure visually. It's a simple rule (no pun intended, OK, maybe a little bit) but it can go a long way to making your work easier to read.

Create Online Surveys, Easily

Lately it's become easier to put up an online survey—especially with form processing sites like www.response-o-matic.com.

But even though it's easier to get responses, it's still not easy to tabulate and see what that information means.

Now a new, free service called Zoomerang makes the whole process fast and easy. It creates the form for you (no coding) and even supplies you with over 100 survey examples you can customize—so you don't have to start from scratch.

Zoomerang does a great job of collecting information and making it easy to see. It even lets you build a mailing list, you can invite people to take the survey—and keep track of who has, and hasn't responded. Or you can simply generate a URL and post it on your site or place it in your newsletter as I've done here.

The premium version, which costs just $17 a month, allows you to add your logo, minimize the Zoomerang logos, receive results in spreadsheet format, cross tabulate surveys, and store them longer than the free 30 days.

If there's one drawback, it's that right now you can't totally customize the look so it's indistinguishable from the rest of your site. You can choose colors, and the visual design of the surveys is excellent, but it's clear you're not on your site. Still, I think the power of what Zoomerang does and the value of the pricing far outweighs this.

You can try it now with a survey I created in all of about five minutes (but one I really would like you to take so I know what you're interested in). Click here to take the survey.

Save Web Pages For Free

SurfSaver was always a good way to save web pages (graphics and all) and store them in a way that makes it easy to search and find again. SurfSaver 2.1 is now free. You can download a full, 100% free, version of SurfSaver 2.1 from their web site. A Pro version that contains no ads and has more functionality is available until the end of May for $10 (rather than the normal price of $29.95). For details, see https://www.asksam.com/purchase/surf20_upgrade.asp

Feed The Hungry With Just A Click

Here's a great idea. All you have to do is visit this site and click on the "Donate Free Food" button. When you do, a sponsoring corporation will make a donation to feed a starving person for one day. You can do this once a day, and it costs nothing to you personally.

Also visit the new Rain Forest Site and donate free land to protect the rain forest.

One Final Word

Computers don't just change the way we see—they can change the way we think—and not always for the better. Video games, where kids shoot everyone in sight, are supposed to be just fun and games. But they're really "simulations," similar to what the military uses to train soldiers. No wonder more kids pull more triggers. The million moms who marched on Washington D.C. last week were right—handguns do kill children. Think about that the next time your kid sits down in front of a video game or computer screen. Do you know what they're up to, and are you sure it's good for them? Just some thoughts to ponder . . .


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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.