Archive for 'Technology'

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Geek Out: Check Your Code

Occasionally we get excited about a new product, platform, or technology, and we want to share it with you. Just released, CSSLint is a tool that points out issues with your code. It’s quite simple…you type in your code and it does a syntax check plus a sweep to address pattern issues and other inefficiencies. So go ahead, geek out. As the folks at CSSLint warn, it “will hurt your feelings.” But that’s a good thing.

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Moving Targets in a Browser War

There’s an interesting problem that continues to face web developers as technology features advance. With every iteration in web greatness, how do we grapple with changing technologies? With a staggering advance in a host of new features—HTML5 and CSS3 currently leading the charge—we face a conundrum that hasn’t really ever been a problem on such a scale before: how to deal with new technologies that are only available in select browsers, on an increasing number of platforms, with fragmented browser market share. Oh, and did I mention that in many cases, distinct features vary from browser to browser? That, too.
Browser Wars

Technology doesn’t just sit around. In some regards, the disparity of the technology gap is staggering.
Continue reading…

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The Role of Mobile in Higher Ed

A brief post to share the slides from our most recent webcast, the Role of Mobile in Higher Ed. In this webcast, Sean Sweeney talked about the importance of including mobile sites as a part of the higher ed communications strategy. Through a mobile site, users are encouraged (and expected) to “take action” through a series of carefully and obviously placed buttons, giving them access to things such as admissions dates, applications, events, quick facts, and directions.

A big “thank you” to all those who attended. We hope you’ll join us for our next webcast!

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The How and What of SEO

The topic of Search Engine Optimization is a common theme running through website redesign projects these days. Many RFP’s dedicate an entire section to the topic, but if not completely understood, the subject can be quite confusing.

Let’s walk through a few steps to understanding and approaching SEO…

The major work needs to be done by the owners of your website’s content, and your ranking depends on adhering to a few well-established rules:

(Image by shutterstock)

1) Keyword Management and Content: in a world where content is King, keywords are the power behind the throne. A basic rule of thumb to follow: no more than 2 keywords per page and no more than 3 pages per keyword. Confused? Let me help.

First, a keyword is not a “word” rather it can be several words that appear together and are subject based. A list of keywords might be: “Record of the English Language”, “Online Dictionary” or simply, “OED”.

Second, use your keyword in context within the text of your page. Write for the reader, not some unknown bot, and focus on that keyword within the content. Yes, repeat the keyword, in context, throughout the text. NO, don’t simply repeat the keyword over and over again. Bots are made and programmed by engineers at places like Google—you‘re not going to outsmart them, so don’t even try.

Third, build your list of keywords and develop pages around them. Always think about the Long Tail and remember not to forget about less popular and slightly obscure keywords.

A note on content: write your page content for the people who are reading it. It should…

  • Be roughly 500 to 1500 words
  • Include images, titles, well-structured paragraphs
  • Be relevant to the keyword(s)
  • Include links to other pages within your site or even to other sites

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Bite-Sized Pieces

The implications of disaggregating your content

by Tom Beyer, Director of Publishing at iFactory

One of the consequences of putting content online is that it allows publishers to explode the notion of the book as a container. In many ways this seems like a great thing – you can combine content in different ways and even allow your users to pick and choose the content they are interested in. But of course this flexibility does have some restrictions – there are implications that need to be considered to assure you have the right work flows and systems in place to handle the new level of complexity in metadata and user transaction data. Nothing comes without a cost and in this case the cost is the added complexity of more closely managing your content.

The first thing you must ask yourself is if your content lends itself to being chopped up at a finer level of detail than the original book. If the content is highly narrative with a strong story line or argument then it is probably not appropriate for any sort of chunking – fiction and certain kinds of monographs are clear examples of this – no one wants just a few chapters from the middle of Bleak House or Infinite Jest.

But assuming that some sort of disaggregation does make sense for your content, the following describes just a few of the issues that need to be considered as your content moves online and you consider how you want to present it to your users.

Metadata

The most important thing to consider ahead of time is the metadata that needs to be created to allow your content to be disaggregated. If content is being combined into different collections, then there needs to be some mechanism for associating each item of content with the appropriate collection(s). These collections can be based on subject, time, theme – anything that makes sense for your list – the choice is up to you. But there needs to be a mechanism for tagging the data with the appropriate information and communicating that information to your online platform.

Taxonomies are increasingly used to help users find the content they are looking for. Often, publishers already have some of this information at the book level. To make the most of moving the content online this information really needs to be created at the chunk or chapter level. Often this means rethinking the taxonomy – does it need to be more detailed? Is there an industry standard taxonomy that you can use? If so, does your content map link to it or are there big holes where you don’t have relevant content?

One way to think of this is that all of the metadata you currently create and maintain at the book level needs to be maintained at the chunk (often chapter or entry) level. Depending on the kind of books you are entering into the system, this may be an increase in magnitude of the metadata that you manage. Is your system and business process equipped to handle this level of data?

Business Models

How do you intend to monetize the content? If the content is being packaged as part of a database that you plan to sell as a subscription service to librarians, be aware that the subscription model is receiving some increased resistance from libraries in the US. Also, subscription services demand a certain level of content updates to make them viable. Are you prepared to frequently update the system with new content?

One alternative to subscriptions is perpetual access. In this model libraries pay a higher initial fee to ‘own’ the content. This is usually a modest annual fee for the hosting costs of the platform that is providing the content. If this is offered in conjunction with the subscription model then there is usually the need to provide top ups so that perpetual access customers can gain access to the new content that is added to the database over time.

A third model – PDA [Patron Driven Access] pioneered by EBL – is proving increasingly popular with a number of the eBook aggregators providing it. You should consider whether PDA is something you want to consider for your content.

In all of these cases, you need to have internal systems to support selling content in these different ways. Is your current inventory and billing system up to the challenge?

Discoverability

It is vitally important to consider discoverability and SEO in conjunction with your online content. There has been an increasing trend to provide some portion of the content outside the access controlled firewall. Often quick search and the search results page are freely available if not some portion of the content itself. What happens when an unauthenticated user clicks on a result?

Ideally, the platform should at least show metadata about the content and potentially an abstract that entices the user to purchase or subscribe to the content. This means that the publisher needs to provide abstracts for each chunk or chapter of content – sometimes this is simple because the content comes with an abstract (most journal articles, for instance) – but if that’s the not the case,  the publisher must either invest the time to create them or develop an automated solution.

Custom Collections & Custom Publishing

Should you decide to allow your users to select the content for their own custom collections, or to allow for custom eBook or custom POD books you will need to provide even more metadata to the online system. Pricing and authorial information will need to be provided at the chunk level which users can then select. This is critical so that the resulting custom eBook and POD books can be priced appropriately and your authors can be properly compensated. This means you need to get reports which indicate exactly what chunks of content were used and in what quantities, so you can then keep track of these figures for your own internal purposes. Your contracts with your authors then need to spell out how they are compensated when only a portion of their work is used in a custom publication.

Another important aspect to consider are the business rules surrounding how the content can be packaged. Is there a maximum amount of content that users can choose for a custom publication? A maximum amount from any single publication? A maximum total number of publications that can be picked from? Are there certain combinations that shouldn’t be allowed for whatever reason? If you decide to allow users to upload their own content is there a maximum percentage that they can put into a custom publication? Also, do you have any restrictions about where you can sell your content – can you sell worldwide? If so, do you need to control that in your online system? What about a currencies options? Tax and shipping costs for POD publications may also need to be considered.

PubFactory

Disaggregation and custom publishing are major components of our PubFactory online platform. We provide the tools to allow publishers to disaggregate their content but ultimately our publishers are on the hook to provide us with the necessary data to make the system work. Of course, we are happy to provide advice to publishers considering what and how to move their content online. Give us a call!

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