Now that I’m somewhat affiliated with the MaintainIT project I am trying to put my crabbiness aside and interact more with WebJunction. I’m thinking about even trying to attend a webinar about Practical Techniques for Supporting Public Computing. I stepped through the instructions for getting their helper applications set up and it went pretty smoothly albeit very slowly. I’m going to see if any of the librarians I work with here are interested in trying this process out, including the set-up which involves disabling pop-up blockers, sending and receiving audio via their application, as well as running a bunch of java applications. I’m interested to see if it was as simple for them as it was for me.
The only part I was dissatisfied with, from a personal perspective, was the overly-cute “door hanger for E-learners“. First of all, learning is learning and calling something E-anything really sounds like you discovered the Internet yesterday. Second, for a two page PDF that basically just says “I’m busy” with the WJ logo [actually it says “I am participating in an online course that is critical to my job performance” among other things, but I am overly sensitive to hyperbole so maybe this sounds normal to other people] why is it a 2.3 MB file? Just because most public libraries now have broadband doesn’t really mean we should be using it up with overly-large files. For the libraries that don’t have broadband, this is a forty minute download.
So, my constructive feedback, up to this point.
– the webinar software works well, I’m pleased it works on my Mac
– I’m glad WebJunction is functional, I’d like to see it look decent on Firefox on my Mac. I sent in a help request about this little problem
– I wish WebJunction had URLs and filenames that gave me some idea what was behind them. Why isn’t the door hanger called webinar_door_hanger.pdf or something so when I dump it on my hard drive I know what is is? Why aren’t we optimizing our web pages for Google?
– If you’re in advocacy work, it’s sometime tough to draw the line between what level of branding is appropriate to keep you able to do your work and get grants and what amount is actively getting in the way of delivering services. I’m really happy that WJ is using more platform independent means of content delivery despite the fact that they’re at least partially funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (as is MaintainIT). I hope they continue to support libraries in whatever technology choices they decide to make. A search for Ubuntu on WebJunction only gets no hits in the site itself and nets a few discussion topics, though this one should be required reading for any library thinking about making the big expensive step to Vista.
– No more 2 MB PDFs please. Since we’re working with people who, in many cases, are not that tech savvy, I feel that every choice we make should specifically send the message that technology is manageable, understandable and hopefully fun. There are best practices for usability just like there are best practices for accessibility and we should be working hard to move from “hey it works!” to “wow, this works WELL.”
update: I take back what I said about cross-platform support. What I emailed WebJunction asking why one of their pages didn’t look right on my browser (see photo above) the email I got back said, embarassingly:
At this time, WebJunction does not support Macintosh browsers. However, I will make note of the display anomaly you reported for future implementations.
WebJunction Training & Support Specialist
If it’s 2007 and you can’t design your web pages to be at least readable on a Mac browser, you should rethink your commitment to enabling “relevant, vibrant, sustainable libraries for every community” (emphasis mine) in my opinion. I appreciated the speedy response, though. update: and someone else explained to me how my browser was probably caching an old stylesheet from that page and if I just did a shift-reload it might clear up the problem. Guess what? It totally did. No love for the no-mac-supporting tech support, but at least the website isn’t broken. Cautiously optimistic I am….