Friday, August 31, 2012

Geek Video of the Month

Raspberry Pi smart glasses translate in real time

It's great when various technologies come together to create something innovative, exciting and useful!  We have already seen the scope of the Raspberry Pi and the hope that it might get children interested in programming.

Will Powell is a good example of that creative approach to technology; he read about Google’s 'Project Glass', which was our May Geek Video of the Month.

Will decided he’d have a go at a DIY attempt to try to achieve something similar. And what he’s come up with is downright remarkable. Here’s his automatic translation system, which uses a couple of Raspberry Pis, a 3d headset, some microphones, a TV and an iPhone to display real-time subtitles in your glasses as you have a conversation.
We could all have done with this technology whilst travelling throughout Europe in the 80's!

If you want to see examples of where Rocktime shares a love of innovation with our clients please check out OM Property Management's Property Online (YPO) Business System ARMA Innovation Award 2011, or our approach to web consultancy as a way to determine the best strategy for your business website.

Author: Andy Clarke, Fiona Anderson

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Benefits of using CSS3 - Cascading Style Sheets

clean and easy to read mark up with CSS3
Cascading Style Sheets separate the content of an HTML page from the presentation

It might help to think of CSS3 as a sequel, and like all good sequels you’ll need to understand a little bit about previous releases to get the most out of it.

The idea of Cascading Style Sheets is to separate the content of an HTML page from the presentation. There are two main benefits from this:

Each page on a site can reference the same style sheet, and changes made to this document can affect the whole site.
The mark up is kept clean and easy to read by both humans and search engines.

That’s pretty much it. Doesn’t sound like much does it? It’s pretty useful stuff though.

To illustrate the first point, imagine that you run a website with 100 pages and for some reason,  and I can’t think for the life of me why you would, you think it would be a good idea to change the font used through the site, to comic sans. Well, without 'style sheets' you would have to go into every page to manually change all the relevant tags in the mark up and this would take a rather long time, as well as being incredibly infuriating. (Doubly, should the client then realise that comic sans is not actually to their liking and want to change it back to arial!) With style sheets you can simply change one file and it’s 'job done'!

Then there’s the benefit of cleaner mark up. The content to code ratio has long been considered important in the world of search engine optimisation. If cleaner code gets you better results then it could ultimately mean more revenue for your business and who doesn’t like a bit of extra revenue these days?

So what of the very first incarnation? CSS 1 came along at the tail end of 1996 and allowed you to have control over, amongst other things, font styling, colours, tables, images, margins and borders. While this all sounds great, it wasn’t very successful and not many people used it. The browsers of the day simply didn’t support it very well, so what was the point in using something that, for most people, simply wouldn’t work?

Eighteen months later the imaginatively titled CSS 2 was released which allowed you to do even more things. Now you were able to control positioning more accurately, layer items on top of each other and even add funky shadows. It still didn’t work!

A few years later came CSS 2.1 - an obvious naming convention. The idea was essentially to fix some bugs and get things working uniformly across the browsers. People had started taking up style sheets with more enthusiasm now, as more and more browsers were sticking to standards that, on the most part, had been adopted. But there was a fly in the ointment...the dreaded IE6. Microsoft had decided to do whatever they wanted when it came to implementing CSS support, and as a result, has become the thing of nightmares. In some cases it was possible to make a site look fantastic on every single browser on the market but IE6 would render nothing but a blank screen. It was infuriating and still to this day, causes headaches, as larger companies can be reluctant to update their systems.

This brings us on to CSS 3. As with the previous releases, it essentially just builds on what came before it, allowing you to do a whole host of fun and exciting things like rounded corners, gradients, text shadows, multiple columns and more...and guess what, it still doesn’t work! Actually that’s a little bit harsh. When I say it doesn’t work, I mean that it still isn’t fully supported across all browsers but after more than fifteen years we’ve learnt an important message... it doesn’t matter. If a design is well thought out and works well, do we need to get 'hung up about things' if it doesn’t look exactly right in 'older browsers'? Of course not! If a button doesn’t have a rich gradient background, rounded corners and a drop shadow effect, could it still look good? Of course it can! If the main text doesn’t have a drop shadow on some browsers, so what? It’s still exactly the same font, colour and size. Design just requires a little bit more thought and a general acceptance that things aren’t going to look 'exactly' the same, across all browsers. On the plus side, you’ll get faster loading times and much richer looking sites on the browsers that do support CSS3.

And besides... although it’s not yet supported, CSS 4 is just around the corner!

Please check out some of our client case study examples. CSS3 is just one the many web consultancy areas Rocktime can help your business with. If you want to find out how we can help your business be found faster in the search results because CSS coding can be read very fast by search engines, then please contact us for a Sales quote.

What have been your experiences with HTML5 / CSS3 webapps?

Authors: Foz, Thom, Fiona Anderson

Friday, August 10, 2012

Social Mobile Local Global and the Olympics

distinctive uniforms worn by Team GB at London olympics
Team GB uniforms by Stella McCartney and adidas

At the time of writing this, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom, or Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or more recently 'Team GB' are doing rather well at London 2012 Summer Olympics. With a haul of 26 gold, 16 silver and 14 bronze medals - it’s our best showing for over a century. With 204 countries competing, this Olympic Games is truly a global event and shared throughout the world on social networks.

Social - Twitter
Before the games even started a Greek athlete was kicked off the team for tweeting with a racist overtone and it’s been a story of highs and lows for Twitter ever since. After posting some pretty malicious tweets about the diver Tom Daley, a teenager from Weymouth was arrested and given a dressing down by the police. For a fleeting moment this story was global headline news and seems to have re-ignited the debate as to how the authorities should deal with social network incidents of this nature.

Adam Naisbitt set up @2012TicketAlert after he tried to get hold of gymnastics tickets for his fiancĂ©e. This unofficial ticket alert helped thousands of people get tickets and filled the empty seats that were causing such a stir in the media. Of course the people at Ticketmaster and  LOCOG didn’t like his code crawling their site and they put a stop to it. But 30,000 angry Twitter users ensured that the service was re-instated. The Ticket Alert profile now has 54,466 followers.

Each day Google has been running little games on their home page that typically take less than 30 seconds to play. They look nice, well illustrated as with all Google Doodles, are easy to play and are relevant to the day's sporting events.

Any search involving the keyword ‘medals’ results in an up to date medal table at the top of the SERPS. Yep, the UK does seem to be doing rather well!

After winning gold in the Women's Heptathlon, Jessica Ennis had amassed over 600,000 followers and counting: today it is 726,516 with 957,976 talking about this page. Chances are that at least one of your Facebook ‘friends’ has liked her official page. But that is still a way off from the American basketball player, Kobe Bryant’s who has 13 million 'Likes'!  David Beckham, Britain's most decorated football player of all time, has 20 million. There’s even a trend in celebrity chart  if you prefer that to the actual medal count! Naturally, Usain Bolt is the most popular Olympian today.

There’s an app for that.
Shortly after the first athletes started arriving at the Olympic village, 'GPS, location-based Grindr', an app, or also known as a 'geosocial networking application', that hooks up gay men with others in the local vicinity, crashed due to the increase in traffic. Both the BBC Olympics and the official London 2012 apps have proved extremely popular. The free BBC Olympics app for iOS and Android devices gives headlines, video features, schedules and details about every sport, country and competitor.

The Join In app for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry phones connect viewers with local news updates and information about everything that is going on, in and around the Olympics, such as maps, guides, schedules, information on cash machine locations, ticketing issues and wheelchair access.

Rule 40
“Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”  In the interests of protecting big global business sponsors, this effectively barred athletes from thanking any unofficial sponsors on social media platforms. The athletes are considered 'labelled marketing assets' and Twitter as a 'marketing tool'.

Media - BBC
The BBC, as usual, have done us proud. The 'Danny Boyle, Isle of Wonders' opening ceremony had 27M UK viewers and not surprisingly, generated more tweets than the entire Beijing Olympic Games four years ago and amassed a staggering 9.66 million worldwide tweets . Nice touch honouring Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Web, in the ceremony. You can watch any event live on the BBC website. You can get involved with live comments and nowadays the BBC even retweet comments.

All the major newspapers like @Telegraph2012  have set up dedicated Twitter streams of Olympic coverage. Many of the newspapers regularly make direct quotes from Twitter posts.

The Olympics inspired blogs from all over the world, from sport clothing designs, jokes, politics, women's rights, celebrity to youth engagement ideals.

In addition to Transport for London’s (TfL) permanent Twitter account (@TfLOfficial) a number of Transport for London Twitter accounts were set up to provide additional local advice on how services and roads are operating during the Games @TfLTrafficNews, @TfLTraveAlerts and @GAOTG.

The 'social media accounts' and 'travel mailing lists' introduced by TfL are supplemented by a number of other online travel platforms. Concentra launched an interactive graphic detailing which Tube stations were likely to face the most severe disruptions on any given day of the Olympics; Google maps offered cycling directions for Londoners planning on cycling to work during the Games.

Mashable Tech did their own article on The Olympics of tech which makes some entertaining reading about achievements in digital, mobile, social and programming.

Half of all the searches and video streams in USA and UK are coming from mobiles and tablets during the Olympic games. Social Mobile Local Global; it’s all the same thing!

It is amazing to see all the technologies, social and search all coming together. Here at Rocktime we feel very proud of the Olympians and we are reminded yet again what a great industry of digital development we work in.

Which social or technical innovation inspired you the most at the Olympics?

Authors: Foz, Fiona Anderson

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Picasa, Blogger, image optimisation and SEO

a variety of RocktimeSocial blog images saved in Picasa

Rocktime has talked previously about Picasa as a photo sharing platform ‘Photosharing: Flickr versus Picasa’, in extension to that post, we would like to contribute some knowledge with regards to how Picasa integrates with your blogger account. Reason being, when using Blogger as your blogging platform, as we do here at Rocktime, you may not realise it but every image you upload through blogger goes onto your Picasa Web account.

With any free photo sharing web account, like Picasa, it is worth making sure about storage capacity. Picasa Web Albums offer a 1GB size limit, however, the additional charges for Google storage are fairly minimal. Not every single image you upload contributes to the total storage; images under a certain size will not count towards your 1GB limit. Furthermore, having a Google+ account will actually increase what you can upload for free, without taking it out of your 1GB limit. Google+ offers unlimited storage for photos uploaded in Google+, which are automatically resized to 2048 pixels. Videos up to 15 minutes in length are also free. G+ is almost turning into an image archiving facility.

An alternative is to use your own image hosting, uploading images to your domain, or using another online image hosting service, and then direct linking to the image through your blog post.

If you want to conserve space on your Picasa Web Albums account, another thing to look out for  is to manage duplicate images, which is an issue that sometimes crops up when uploading images to Picasa from your PC.

This is due to the way Picasa scans your computer for images; if you have the same image stored in a different file, Picasa might choose to treat it as two separate images. If you’re making use of the Import button to bring photos from your computer into Picasa, check the ‘Exclude Duplicates’ option at the bottom of the page. This will force Picasa to check for duplicate entries by comparing factors such as size and names etc, and hopefully remove the likelihood of any copies of images being uploaded.

Last year Google wrote some recommendations for improvement with the Google Picasa and Blogger integration which links to the Google Picasa Help Forum if more assistance is needed.

There are many other features from Picasa that help to keep a blog engaging, such as fast Picasa Web photo viewer, manager and uploader for Android devices - called Picasa Mobile -, which was designed to facilitate viewing and managing your online Picasa albums and photos.

Google Picasa Web Albums recently added a range of new image editing effects like Boarders, Vignette, Duo-tone, and more effects similar to editing in Adobe Photoshop, Irfan view and PaintNet photo editing software, which helps to make the photos look more professional.

There are numerous SEO advantages of optimising images in Picasa, like the ability to geo tag images, which adds geo-location details to help your local search engine rankings, high-quality backlinks pointing to your website, better page load time from reduced bandwidth and storage reduction, good search engine presence for your images, a library of images that can be shared socially, and you can even embed Slideshows in blog post from Picasa.

One feature that should never be overlooked with any images is the actual image optimisation process. We will write a more detailed brief on this in the coming weeks. Generally though, the rule of thumb is to make sure that the image is named accurately, that the image contains some of the keywords relevant to the blog or content of the article and that Google is given all the contextual and any localisation details about the image. This way, the chance of the image being found on Google Images is greatly improved. Every image on Google Images is a possible link back to a website and helpful to users. All good for user journey, mobile viewing, relevant content, sharing opportunities and SEO.  This can all be done in Picasa before uploading the image. Picasa allows that image to be shared in a number of ways, which is great for running marketing campaigns.

Once the images are uploaded to the blogger blog, it takes just a few moments to go into the HTML or right click the image in 'compose' mode and add the alt text for the image. Alt text, or alternative text of an image, tells the user about the image depending on the context in which the image is used.  Alt is not a tag, or a place to stuff keywords, it is an 'attribute'. Basically, search engines cannot crawl images, they index the text part attached with it, so the alt text is an alternative for non-visual browsers.
Images play a massive role in mobile, directories, user reviews, blogger engagement, social networks, websites, press coverage and organic inbound marketing link building campaigns.

If you’re interested in learning more about Google updates, services or how Rocktime helps businesses to use image optimisation as part of good practice for SEO, Accessibility and an Integrated Digital Marketing Strategy, then please ask one of our Flashlight Search Marketing Team  about publishing your content to a larger audience, it is something we are passionate about and have been talking to our clients about for the last 2 or 3 years. Check out the blog we wrote back in 2010 about Good practice on adding images to Blogs.

Please get in touch with Rocktime Sales Team to arrange a meeting or leave us a comment below about how image optimisation can make a difference.

Author: Fiona Anderson