Assistance in the dark

This is fantastic: Don’t be left in the dark during Earth Hour.

Australia’s leading blindness agency, Vision Australia is offering all-important advice for people taking part in tomorrow’s Earth Hour blackout in Sydney.

… Vision Australia’s Marketing & Fundraising Manager Trish Egan says, “Admittedly this advice is usually given to assist people who are blind or have low vision to live more independently. But there’s no reason why anyone can’t use the tips to help them move around safely during the blackout tomorrow night!”

Love it. Check out the full release – very clever.

P.S. 55,000+ individuals and 2000+ businesses are now committed – today has been HUGE I tells ya…

Data input annoyances

Jacob’s latest column is pretty much on the money.

I’m super busy with Earth Hour at the moment, so these comments will be brief.

  • At NETaccounts, a huge amount of effort has gone into (and continues to go into) making sure that the user can type in values, and we encourage that by using auto-complete and other mechanisms where possible. We did this because we watched how experienced and inexperienced users used NETaccounts and other software. Providing lists helps and hinders, depending on the user. Answer – intelligently support both.
  • I currently use a site that was developed by someone else. Care was not taken with data input (e.g. not auto-including “http://” at the front of URLs when not entered by the user) and it is costing us days worth of human-hours to fix.
  • Drop-down menus are pretty sucky on Mac browsers (Firefox and Safari both make them difficult to use, especially for mouse-less navigation – Camino get’s it right). Even more reason to avoid them.
  • Sites that don’t allow spaces and basic punctuation for phone numbers really annoy me. +61 (0)2 9123-4567 is a valid phone number – even for a local person. Allow for more than 10 digits to allow for international numbers. Strip the punctuation on the server side if you need to, but let the user enter in what they want. This bites hard, particularly on highly trafficked sites.

Anyone got any other usability annoyances they want to share?

Virgin carbon offsets

Well, I missed the news yesterday – but it seems that Virgin must have been listening 😉 They’re now offering carbon offsets for their flights. Noice!

More on the news – I do hope other airlines follow suit, but in the meantime this will impact my decision when booking airfares. I currently offset my flights using Climate Friendly – but this makes it easier (and by the looks of things is also cheaper).

Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have been integrated into their online booking system (I did every step but pay) – but I’m sure it’s not far away…

I think it was a very wise step to get the “Greenhouse Friendly” accreditation. In one fell swoop they remove any ambiguity about the validity of their efforts.

You know, I was just thinking about offsets this morning. I, like others I know, are waiting for the greenwash, with companies scrambling to go “carbon neutral” by doing nothing more than using offsets.

Although I don’t agree with this method of doing things, one thought I had was that at least a lot of money and investment will go into renewable energy infrastructure development. I don’t think it would take long for the existing investments to “run out” of capacity, therefore driving the business case for more renewable capacity.

Then again, maybe I’m just idealistic…

Bring Hicks Home

Amnesty International have just launched a very clever site as part of their campaign to Bring David Hicks home.

They have a “cell” – the same as the one David Hicks has been held in for 5 years without trial – that they are touring around the country with. Visitors to the cell are presented with a “passport” explaining David’s situation, and once in the cell, they can leave a video message, which is then presented on the Bring David Hicks home website.

If you have visited the cell, you can find your video by using the search/filter options on the site.

I think the site is very good – helping to bring home the reality of Hicks’ situation and allowing people to connect in a more emotional way with what is often presented as a legal or political issue.

I also love the fact that the site uses YouTube for video hosting – a fantastic use of participant media.

The site was launched yesterday by Digital Eskimo – who also helped WWF build the Future is man made site. Nice work!

Update: GetUp have also just launched a new video as part of their campaign on the same issue.

Something about Twitter

Seems that Twitter has hit somewhat of a tipping point – I’m reading about it everywhere on blogs. But this post by Dave Winer caught my attention today.

Seems the NYT is using Twitter to send alerts about new content being added to their site. I’m not quite sure on the benefits of this, but it’s an interesting use of the system. I read recently, can’t remember who said it (I think it was Seth Godin), that a sign of success is when people start using your product in unexpected ways.

Interesting… I wonder (aloud) how this might benefit other businesses? Does it provide any significant benefits over standard RSS feeds? Any thoughts?

(p.s. my profile, for those that are interested)