Latest Blog Posts

What a Drag

July 26, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Journal Star continues to beat the drag strip horse with its latest tales of lovers and haters. With all of these articles, you’d think somebody had sold the City some faulty fire trucks or something.

At this point I just can’t believe that the drag strip is going to happen. Not in the proposed location, anyway. The controversy has lingered too long for anything good to result.

Unless, that is, one of you folks has a solution that will make most of the involved parties mostly happy. I doubt there is such a solution, but hey, prove me wrong.

The New Lincoln City Libraries Website: A Review

July 25, 2007 at 4:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Guest blogger Karin Dalziel (aka Nirak) has written a nice review of the new Lincoln City Libraries website. She very kindly created a version of her review just for you folks.—ed.


Karin Dalziel is a Master’s student in Library and Information Science (that is, she’s studying to be a librarian.) As such, she admits that she’s a wee bit biased when it comes to the topic of libraries.

Last week, the Lincoln city Libraries debuted their new website. I have heard about this website for months now, and was curious what they were up to. I heard rumors of blogs and RSS feeds and web 2.0 content. Dreams of interactivity and public meeting spaces danced in my head. So far, I don’t see these new features.

Lincoln City Library new page

My immediate reactions to the site:

  • The new site design breaks some links. The old links for “hours   and locations,” “heritage room” “frequently asked questions” and more are broken. Of course, this can be fixed with a redirect, but I question as to why they were changed at all.
  • I don’t find the site particularly attractive, and at this point, it’s somewhat quirky.
  • There is a missed branding opportunity. The site is fairly generic, it does not say anything about Lincoln City Libraries.
  • There are lots of errors on the page. This is pretty inexcusable when they’re so easily found - Most of the errors can be fixed in minutes with a well known programs. While it’s true that it can be hard to get rid of all errors, many of these are very simple changes (changing the doctype or case of elements, for instance.).
  • The navigation is confusing. Some items are repeated. The expanded lists don’t always stay expanded, even when you click in the same section. Many navigation links lift you completely out of the template, which is disorienting.
  • The code is just messy. It’s a fairly universal rule in (good) web design nowadays to style the HTML elements that are already there whenever possible, rather than adding lots of new classes. This not only makes the code leaner (and faster loading) but it has a host of accessibility advantages.

These are all little things, in of themselves, but they add up to a disorienting experience for the user. Today’s Internet users have little patience for such frustrations, and will go somewhere else rather than put up with them.

Where are the new features?

Quick Connect Web Services, the company hired for the redesign, has an impressive list of new features:

  • Add, edit, and delete pages whenever they need to using an online text editor similar to Microsoft Word
       
    •   Each page can have a different template using any of the three templates we developed for each section of their site  
    •  
    •   Pages can be public, or protected so only staff can see them  
    •  
  • Organize content into categories and with tags
  • A customized blogging platform

       
    •   Visitors can comment on blogs and the comments are “threaded” to facilitate discussion  
    •  
  • Promote books on different sections of the site
  • RSS Feeds for their blogs
  • Update their site navigation

It’s a very nice list, but I hardly see any of this. I can’t find an RSS feed or a blog. I have seen a few email forms, but nowhere can I leave a comment. I’m not sure if the tagging of content refers to the front end (users) or back end- it sounds like a great concept, though.

In the end, this site looks exactly like what it is- the same old site, shoved into a new design. Very little thought has been paid to the content, navigation, usability, or what the user will actually use the site for. There’s no integration with the ILS (which I realize is a whole other beast and outside the aims of the project, but there’s not even the illusion of integration- you’re taken to a completely new site).

More than anything, I’d like to see some transparency as to the goings on in thelibrary. At the Ann Arbor District Library, there are several blogs aggregated on the main page, and people can comment on the posts. What’s amazing is, the libraries respond! Take a look at this blog post about Ann Arbor’s new website, and the long list of comments that follow. The truthfulness is something that’s great to see in a public institution.

Suggestions for improvement

Why should I care if the Lincoln City Library has rolled out a nice, generic website? Because I see the potential for much more. Much of the potential is not lost- with some tweaks, the current website design can work. Here are my suggestions for an improved user experience.

  1. Carefully consider navigation - every links does not need to be on the side navigation.
  2. Get rid of clip art, add photos.
  3. Add interactivity - make blogs, enable comments. Give the public a way to interact other than an email form.
  4. Adjust the colors - brighter is not always better!
  5. Add redirects to fix broken links.
  6. Try to integrate the book search into the site. (Right now, you’re taken to a new page, out of the template)
  7. Add pictures/bios of staff - I realize not all staff will want this, but maybe some will, and they can set an example.
  8. Add multimedia - utilize free services to put video content up.

My redesign

Here’s an idea of what an alternative website might look like - slightly subdued colors, more photos, picture of the library across the top. This is just an idea of an alternative, it is by no means what I think the site should look like. (Also, I didn’t spend too long on this, just tried to flesh out some ideas)

LCL mockup

Image credits:

Questions for you

What do you think? Is the new website just fine the way it is? Do you even care about the library? Would blogs and RSS feeds interest you at all?

Super Target is Open?

July 25, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

It looks like the new Super Target on South 40th Street and Yankee Hill Road is now open. Well, that’s the rumor anyway. Target.com is a little confused about the store, listing its address as:

Lincoln SW SuperTarget
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null, null null

I suppose that’s better than last night when the store didn’t even exist on Target’s website.

DCI at Memorial Stadium Tonight

July 25, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Cornhusker Summer Music Games is tonight at 7:30pm at Memorial Stadium. The performing corps include:

  • The Cadets - Allentown, PA
  • Phantom Regiment - Rockford, IL
  • Santa Clara Vanguard - Santa Clara, CA
  • The Academy - Tempe, AZ
  • Troopers - Casper, WY
  • Blue Stars - LaCrosse, WI

Best of all, it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to rain tonight. Knock on wood.

Needed: One Awesome Babysitter

July 24, 2007 at 12:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus and I need a babysitter to watch Robbie some weekday afternoons and early evenings. The typical times will range between 3:00pm and 8:30pm, but rarely do we need somebody for that entire time. (Usually just a couple hours.) Our schedules are a little weird, so we need somebody who is pretty flexible. We prefer either somebody within a few miles of 48th and Highway 2, or somebody who can come to our place. We prefer somebody who we can count on for at least several months. And if you can only do one day a week, that’s fine. We aren’t opposed to working with more than one person; in fact, that’s what we’re doing now.

If you are such a person, or if you know of such a person, and you would like more information, please .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

How Alltel Works

July 24, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Missus and I have low-end cell phones, but they work just fine for our needs. Because she often needs her hands free to deal with Robbie, The Missus likes to use a headset when she is talking on the phone. But since our phones are low-end, the headset is wired. A little annoying at times, but no big deal.

Recently her headset died. Unfortunately, it died one month after its warranty expired (typical!). Yesterday afternoon she went to the nearest Alltel store to get a replacement. When she walked in she was greeted by a woman with a bad attitude who told her there was a wait. When The Missus asked if there was a good time to come back, the woman replied, “Not really. It’s always like this.” That’s great customer service, isn’t it? Alltel knows their customers always have to wait, but they don’t bring in more customer service reps. Nice.

Fortunately, the 20 minutes zoomed by because Robbie was able to play with (and drool on) all of the demo phones. Robbie loves phones, so he had great fun. He probably entertained the other waiting customers, too. Win-win.

When her name was called, The Missus went with a friendly rep who asked her what she needed. She said she wanted a cheap headset to replace her broken one. Nothing fancy. The rep’s face sank a bit.

REP: Umm, well, we don’t really have any cheap wired headsets any more.
THE MISSUS: None?
REP: Well, umm, not really. You see, they want us to push the newer Bluetooth models.
THE MISSUS: Which cost…?
REP: About fifty bucks.
THE MISSUS: And which…?
REP: ...don’t work with your phone anyway.
THE MISSUS: Oh. Well I’m not paying fifty bucks and I’m definitely not buying a new phone.
REP: But…
THE MISSUS: But?
REP (quietly): Well, I think we have some headsets in the back that are going to get thrown away. We don’t officially sell them any more. Let me go check.
The rep goes in the back. A couple minutes pass. He comes back with a package in his hand
REP: This should work for you. There’s no charge because we aren’t supposed to sell these things anyway.
THE MISSUS: Thanks!
REP (quietly): Remember, I didn’t give this to you. (louder) Have a nice day!

So now The Missus is in possession of an apparently illegal headset thanks to the work of a rebellious Alltel customer service rep. Lots of companies have some sort of “trash the perfectly-good-but-too-cheap stuff and only sell the fancier, expensive stuff” policy. But what a stupid policy! In this case Alltel lost out on fifteen bucks—approximately what The Missus would have paid—because they only gave the customer the option of paying zero dollars (no headset) or fifty dollars (fancy headset) plus however much a Bluetooth-enabled phone would have cost. It obviously makes financial sense or Alltel wouldn’t do it that way. But what about PR? How much money will Alltel lose after a few thousand Lincolnites (and probably some non-Lincolnites who find this post via a search engine) read this post and think negatively about the company?

Well, you’re right, probably not much. It’s not exactly a huge scandal, and “everybody does it” is probably fairly accurate. Oh well. At least The Missus got a free headset.

The Fire Department is Always Good for Some Controversy

July 24, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I can’t possibly compete with the comments on the latest fire department-related article from the Journal Star, so I’m not going to try. Please, go read and enjoy, if you can stomach that sort of thing. Then come back here and post quotes from your favorites. I don’t even know where to start…

Save the Water, Mmm-Kay?

July 24, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Mayor Beutler has asked (again) that Lincolnites cut back on water usage. Hopefully you are already conserving, but if you aren’t, please start.

Speaking of water conservation, is it just me or are more people allowing their lawns to go dormant? That seems to be the case in my neighborhood, anyway. And why not? Dormant lawns really don’t look that bad, and they come with the benefit of not having to mow.

40 days and counting

July 23, 2007 at 3:39pm By: D.M.B. Posted in D.M.B. Sports Report

It has been far too long since my last blog so I thought since I got some free time, I’d do one.

We are 40 days away from the “lid-lifter” (as Jim Rose would put it) of the 07-08 college football season for Nebraska.  Nevada comes to town Sept. 1st.  This will not be an easy season for the Big Red.  A very very difficult non-conference schedule and our two key conference games on the road (Mizzou and Tex-ass).

Lets first start with the rankings.  I’ve seen anywhere from 15-18 as the Huskers starting point for the season.  The polls have yet to come out but all the preseason publications have put the huskers in the low teens to start the year.  More importantly and closer to home, the big 12 media has picked NU to finish 2nd in the Big 12 North to Missouri.  Missouri, who returns 15 starters, and experienced QB Chase Daniel are the picks over NU, their young backfield, and depleted defensive line.  Oh yeah…we also have a QB battle with Joe Ganz and Sam Keller.  Keller, of course, the bally-hooed transfer from ASU hasn’t seen the field in quite some time.  True he burned it up in the Pac “we don’t play any defense” 10 but why oh why didn’t he keep his job?  Now I didn’t expect Coach C to name a starter this early and he won’t name a starter till probably the Tuesday before the game.  The huskers are putting all their eggs into this basket by bringing in Keller.  The Huskers want a Big 12 championship and a BCS game this year, they need one.

The non-con is laced with potential pitfalls.  Nevada (8-5 and qualified for the MPC computers bowl and narrowly lost to Thug U.), @ Wake Forrest (11-3 and a surprising ACC championship and narrowly losing to Louisville in the Orange Bowl) and Ball St. which should be the easiest of the 4.

Oh yeah…I forgot…USC.  This is the game that Nebraska has been waiting for for a long time.  Not since 1998 has a top 10 team (Washington) visited Lincoln in the non conference and there hasn’t been a top 25 team since Notre Dame in 2001.  And even then that ND team was no problem for the Big Red.  But do you all remember that atmosphere for the ND game?  It all started with the record attendance at ESPN college gameday, the Red Out and the ND fumble on what…the first play?  2nd?  The atmosphere on that day was one that I will never forget.  The USC game…has the potential to be even greater than that.  All the pieces are in place for NU to pull off the upset.  The eyes of the college football nation will be on Lincoln that day.  Night game, ABC, ESPN gameday in town.  All the makings…But will NU come through?  Just like Nebraska of the 90’s, USC doesn’t rebuild, they reload.  And oh boy are they loaded.  USC went 11-2 last year, drilled Michigan in the Rose Bowl, and probably return a preseason Heisman candidate in John David Booty.  Sure they lost WR Dwayne Jarret who drilled Nebraska last year, sure they lost WR Steve Smith who drilled Nebraska last year but by no means are they going to have a dip in talent.  Nebraska played it very very very VERY conservatively last year at USC and by in large I agreed with that strategy.  But there is no way that they can implore that same strategy when the Men of Troy come calling September 15th.  This game is the first true measuring stick of BC’s “rebuild Nebraska” project.  Put a poor showing on the field in front of a national audience and we’re no closer to national prominence than we were two years ago.  Play with USC from kickoff to the final gun, win or lose, Nebraska will be on the right track.  In some ways, this game might mean more than a Big 12 championship.  This game will shape Nebraska’s national image for another couple of years.  And with Billy C’s contract due up for negotiation very soon, this is a very very very important game for the well being of Nebraska.

More on Nebraska in the coming days.

Went to the Zoo Last Night

July 23, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Wilsons went to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo last night, and we had a blast. The zoo looks very, very different than it did when I was a kid, but I think it has evolved nicely. If I have one complaint it’s that it doesn’t seem like there is as much animal diversity as there used to be. But (1) I’m not sure if that’s actually true, and (2) seen through a child’s eyes, I’m not sure that it’s a problem. There are certainly plenty of things for kids to do.

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is a gem, and I’m very proud that it’s a part of our community. I have been to several zoos around the country, and none of them have a section for small kids that compares to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. Have any of you been to a zoo that either in whole or in part compares favorably to the Lincoln Children’s Zoo? Where?

Cold Treats

July 23, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Dairy Queen may have left 33rd and Pioneers, but I noticed this weekend that there’s a new option at the intersection: Snow Rush sits on the northeast corner in the space occupied many moons ago by Video Station. Snow Rush apparently offers shaved ice and fruit smoothies. I haven’t made it inside yet, but I hope to soon.

Speaking of smoothies, Juice Stop is my hands-down winner in Lincoln. Where is your favorite place to go for smoothies?

Did You Notice?

July 23, 2007 at 12:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Cornhusker State Games were in town this weekend. Did you notice? I’m not sure I would have noticed had I not refereed four CSG soccer matches. There seemed to be very little marketing this year. Or do I just watch all of the wrong TV stations, listen to all the wrong radio stations, and see all the wrong billboards?

The soccer events had some successes and some failures. I’ll start with the latter by noting that organization of the soccer events was very poor this year. At the game site I was at, Cornhusker State Games involvement seemed to be limited to setting up the brackets, handing out medals, and providing a medic. There was virtually no other CSG presence. Even the rules they provided were screwed up—25 minute halves for the adult competitive division?!—and had to be changed, and there was no way to verify that players were legal.

On the plus side, I want to give a hearty “Bravo!” to the teams in the two adult divisions I worked with. In years past, adult soccer at the CSG was characterized by violence and chaos. It was awful. I stayed away from reffing the CSG for several years as a result. This year was completely different. The players were almost universally in a good mood, and they just wanted to play. Even better, the level of competition was decent. None of the teams will be competing at the World Cup any time soon, but most of the teams included current and former high school and college players who can play the game pretty well. It was very refreshing, and I hope it continues next year.

Now for the qualifier: I was only around the soccer events, so don’t take my comments about the CSG too far. I have always heard, for example, that the adventure race and triathlon are well-organized. I would love to get around to more of the events, but when your dad is the soccer referee assignor, well, your weekend is pretty much planned out for you.

Did any of you participate in the Games this year? Were you a spectator? How did it go? Any gold medal winners in our midst?

The Beckham Meltdown

July 22, 2007 at 2:17am By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

image

Anyone watching Chelsea vs the LA Galaxy now? Probably not. He looks good sitting on the sidelines.

Chelsea up 1-0. They are picking LA apart.

UPDATE: Now he is stretching.

Midnight Radio

July 20, 2007 at 11:33pm By: Mr. T Posted in Mr. T's Den

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I am a sucker for great live rock and roll albums, and my CD player has nearly burnt out playing great performances ranging from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s In The Beginning and Live at Carnegie Hall, to Tori Amos’s incredible live singing and playing on To Venus And Back. More recently, I have gotten heavily into My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos and Wilco’s Kicking Television.

A great live album I have just recently discovered is Big Head Todd & The Monster’s Midnight Radio - originally issued back in the 1990s. This is a compilation of live recordings and taped jam sessions with a very bare, reverb-free sound. I can only describe it as a mix of perhaps Dire Straits and The Minutemen. I have been listening to this one non-stop for the past week, and highly recommend it. “The Moose Song” is amazing.

Friday Five: Flyover

July 20, 2007 at 12:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Below are five aerial views of Lincoln. Can you identify the places in each photograph?

  1. image
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