The New Yahoo! Mail Beta

What’s New in Yahoo! Mail beta

The New Yahoo! Mail Beta

The first thing you see after logging in

Yahoo! is not among my favorite brands online, although I do use it a lot for catching up on international news. I saw on the Yahoo! Mail blog that they are working on a new version and there is a beta out there for the larger public to mess with. You can imagine I could not resist to the temptation to give it a spin. Here are a few impressions:

  • The design is bold, in line with the design I saw earlier on the Yahoo! News Canada: dark blue header, a search box that stands out and large tabs that makes navigation easy. I’m not a big fan of Yahoo! News Canada, it always gives me the impression that in terms of content, it’s  more like a watered down version of its international counterpart.
  • Once I logged in, to my great disappointment, I was still taken to a What’s New section, see the screenshot above. There is a preview of my Inbox, a Top News section, a large (300x250px) ad selling me a gadget to control snoring and a Trending Now block. Apart from the preview of the inbox, all the others are wasting my time. If I log in to my email, I’m expecting to read my emails and not to see the latest news and to find out that Miley Cyrus is trending on Yahoo. The advertisement I can forgive, since that’s the one that pays for my email and let me give here a small tip to Yahoo, I don’t have a snoring problem and I’m not looking to loose weight neither.
  • I do like that there is an inbox tab and more especially a contacts tab, with the current official version of Yahoo Mail, it took me months to get used to finding the My contacts link.
  • Once you’re inside, they’ve changed the way your online contacts will show and the icons are redesigned.
  • The black buttons to write a new message and other actions related to messages selected, I find them too harsh.
  • The header of the table that shows the list of messages looks like another email and it’s confusing.
  • The flagged messages are somehow better now, because the icon is more visible, but it’s still pushed to the right as the last column and I find that it doesn’t stand out. I flag my messages when I want to remember something, and I want them to stand out next time I log in. I would suggest Yahoo, that apart from having that orange triangle hidden in the extreme right, make the background of that flagged row a different color, maybe a light orange, or a light blue to be less harsh.
  • For reading and writing emails, the interface is cleaner, but the black buttons on the top are still ugly…

These are just a few impressions I jotted down, without going into details. It’s still in beta and I can see they put into it a lot of effort to make it more up to date, but someone up there at Yahoo loves clutter and loves noise. The title of this post should be a hint to Yahoo to get rid of the What’s New tab. I’m not sure that clutter and noise is the best differentiating factor for their brand. There is so much talking about the fading importance of emails, that I don’t think they can afford to screw this up.

Do you use Yahoo! Mail? What do you love about it and what would you change? on Facebook

Why an Facebook page? on Facebook

I usually see people creating official Facebook pages, when they reach the limit of friends they can have (5000 on a personal account). It makes sense, the average FB user will never get to that number and I’m not expecting in the near future neither to reach that limit. Why have than a separate Facebook page for this website?

The main reason I did it, is the widget you can see in the left hand, under the Categories section. On my personal account the privacy settings are set in a way to let only my friends have access to my info. This is because I want to keep my Facebook account open only to my friends, in most of the cases people I know personally and in some cases people I would love to meet in person. Adding a “Like” widget would have meant that I have to change my privacy settings and go public, something I refuse to do.

The other option was to create an Facebook page that is public. I changed the syndication settings in my NetworkedBlogs account to feed my blog post from now on to the FB page, so that I won’t spam anyone with my posts showing up twice on their wall.

Quora screen capture

My first impressions about Quora

Quora screen capture
Here is Quora, a new kid on the block, whose name keeps popping up in quite prestigious blogs (see a few recommended articles bellow), so I’ve decided to give it a try.

What is Quora

Quora is another Q&A website, a bit like Yahoo Answers, but what I found unique about it, was the quality of the people active on it. Basically there are a bunch of topics and you can ask a question, other users will give answers and again others will vote on those answers. The answers can grow into discussions, giving you access to unexpected insights.

First impressions

The community has that early Twitter feeling to it, bunch of tech pioneers and many of the big gorillas of the tech world are quite active on it.

Unlike Twitter it is very fast, at least for me. I was so impressed that I’ve even found a question on this topic with some interesting details in the answer, but quite frankly by not being a developer some stuff are beyond my understanding.

The design is friendly and while it’s limited in features, what’s there works like a charm, overall I had that feeling that this website will be a place I will come back more than once.

Asking questions

My enthusiasm was watered down quite early, when I tried to ask a question about the way seniors are using Facebook. I kept getting a pop-up with this message:

Learn About Quora Questions Before Adding Yours
Use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
Quality is important on Quora. Each question should be a complete sentence, with correct spelling, grammar and formatting. It should begin with a capital letter and end with a question mark. Don’t capitalize arbitrary words. If you want to emphasize a particular word or phrase use italics, not ALLCAPS. Avoid profanity.

Pick the question that meets Quora guidelines:
How to make a cheese omelette?
What’s the Best Way to make a Cheese Omelette?
How can I make a good cheese omelette?
for breakfast, how can i make a kickass cheese omelette

This pop-up would keep coming back and I could not post my question, no matter how I would rewrite it. Here is my question rewrote in four different ways:

I would like to know more about the way people aged 65 and up are using Facebook?
What are the most popular features of Facebook with people aged 65 and up?
Are you 65 and up? What do you like about Facebook?
What are the most popular features among seniors using Facebook?

Are my questions really that bad? Is Quora stricter than that English teacher in your worst nightmare? In my opinion the question I tried to ask met their guidelines, it was also a question for what I have a hard time finding answers on Google. I’ve tried contacting Quora trough several channels to ask them for help, but so far I did no get an answer for them. Maybe you can tell me what I did wrong.


I hope with their new found popularity, they will get more feedbacks and they’ll improve the things that need more work. I also hope they will have an iPhone app out soon, because their mobile website is not that great. It’s a website and a community worth checking out!

Recommended articles about Quora

How Quora could get interesting by Chris Brogan
Frequently Asked Questions About Quora on TechCrunch
The Question Of Quora by Mitch Joel

The noxiousness of technology

I stumbled upon an interview with Douglas Rushkoff, a media thinker, who also writes about contemporary Judaism. Here is an excerpt that I find interesting:

Is increased reliance on new technology coming at the cost of spirituality?

Well, the rabbis promoting the oral tradition asked this about the written law, right? New mediating technologies always cost us our intimacy and direct social contact. The less Judaism is about being in a room or under a tent together, the less real it becomes. It’s not that technology costs us spirituality. It’s that the misuse of technology compromises the spiritual components of real life.

This question pops-up everyday and there is always someone to forecast the end of civilization because of the new technologies. Nothing new under the Sun, as Rushkoff points it out, writing has diminished the importance of oral tradition. Since the early forms of writing, someone could sit down and read on his own, get informed, without the need of another human presence. Information could be transfered more easily and more accurately. With the appearance of the printing press, information became cheaper and more accessible. Renaissance and Reformation are all direct results of this technological invention.

Later comes the telegraph, the telephone, Radio, TV, etc. and now we get to use the Internet under its many forms. Social media is among the preferred targets of the naysayers, this week it was the turn of Montreal journalist Pierre Foglia with Expliquez-moi ce rien to express his dislike of Twitter. He complains about the low value of messages that float around the twittersphere, naming the tweets of a humorist, an MP and francophone singer. I won’t try to reply to him here, it was already very well done by the grand dame of Quebec social media, Michelle Blanc on her blog.

My first reaction was, why on Earth someone thinks it’s cool not to get what social media is all about. Than on a second thought, especially after reading some of the comments on Michelle Blanc response, I came to the conclusion that it’s maybe a question of generations. Maybe older people miss those social interactions that were the norm at the time when they were young and now maybe because of the technology, or maybe because of their age, they become more isolated. This gave me the idea of thinking of tools specially built for seniors to initiate them in the usage of social media. There are many seniors who are already present and active on Facebook or Twitter, but for the rest a properly built tutorial would be helpful.

How should this tutorial be built? Should it be a PowerPoit, a PDF or a YouTube video?

St. Patrick’s Day Parade – stop motion animation

Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the oldest in North America and maybe the coolest. I love this event, not just for its cheerful atmosphere, but it also brings a moment of green in our life and it reminds us that the Winter won’t last forever.

Étude de cas a été le portal des nouvelles macro-économiques de l’agence de presse CEP News. Le site a été mis en ligne au début de l’année 2007 et il a fonctionné jusqu’au mois de mai 2009. Il avait deux sections : CEP News Online, avec des articles et des informations utiles sur l’économie, accessible gratuitement et CEP News Pro, avec du contenu enrichi pour les abonnées.

Au début

Au moment de mon arrivée au CEP News en août 2007, le site Web nécessitait des changements majeurs pour organiser et présenter mieux la richesse informationnelle du contenu.

Le site ne présentait pas une hiérarchie nette de l’information. Ainsi, des articles de fond étaient cachés par des nouvelles d’intérêt secondaire.

Le site était plutôt difficile à naviguer à cause de son menu mal organisé; les articles n’avaient pas des illustrations et cela donnait, à la première vue, une impression générale fastidieuse.

De plus, l’aspect de l’optimisation pour les moteurs des recherche (SEO) avait été complètement négligé.

La marque

Compte tenue du fait que la pierre angulaire de n’importe quel projet en communication est la définition de l’identité corporative et la création d’une stratégie de marketing ancrée dans une image de marque hors de commun, mon but initial a été de créer un nouveau logo et de rédiger un guide des normes graphiques.

Le logo devrait suggérer : The Canadian source of global economic news
Logo CEP News

Ultérieurement, ce logo a été remplacé à la fin du 2008 par une nouvelle version afin de représenter mieux l’aspect global de nos nouvelles.
Logo CEP News Version 2.0

La mise en page que j’ai proposée visait à corriger les problèmes de l’ancienne version du site. Les couleurs, la proportion des différents éléments, l’organisations des informations ont été changés pour faciliter la navigation des visiteurs. Trouver l’information pertinante dans le plus bref delai est cruciale dans la monde du finance. Ayant cette raison en tête, j’ai redessiné le site.

Pour cette version redessinée, l’équipe avec laquelle j’ai travaillé a utilisé pleinement des techniques Web 2.0, d’un côté, pour organiser mieux l’information et créer des liens entre les différentes sections du site, et d’un autre côté, pour créer l’image d’un site nouveau, moderne et branché.

J’ai créé une base de données avec plus que 500 illustrations, qui a fait la joie des nos rédacteurs et des nos lecteurs.

Le nouveau site a également permis à notre équipe de vente de proposer aux clientes des solutions de publicité en ligne diversifiée et flexible.


À mon arrivée, avait presque 300 visiteurs uniques par jour. Après le lancement de la version 2.0, le nombre de visiteurs a grimpé exponentiellement. Dans les derniers jours du site, recevait chaque jour entre 20 000 et 35 000 visiteurs uniques.

Avoir une mise en page structurant l’information d’une manière logique et une architecture de site facilitant la navigation est un des ingrédients principaux pour être compétitif sur le Web.

Le succès de ne s’explique pas seulement par les changements d’ordre visuel. Une équipe des professionnels du marketing, de la programmation, de l’IT et du design (représenté par le soussigné) a contribué à ce succès. Le visiteur potentiel du site était au coeur des nos efforts. C’est pour lui que nous avons conçu la manière la plus adéquate de présenter le matériel fournis par les excellents journalistes du

D’ailleurs, l’amélioration d’un site Web est un processus continuel. Car, si d’une part, la technologie est dans un changement constant, de l’autre part, les utilisateurs changent eux aussi leurs habitudes. Bref, pour avoir des résultats optimaux et rester compétitif, un site Web doit suivre ces changements.

When will Google ebookstore open in Canada?

Books as we used to know them

In Romania we used to have many books at home. It was in our habit to buy books, read them put them on the shelf and maybe read them again, or maybe just let them collect dust. We had hundreds, maybe thousands of books, not just because both my wife and myself we were teachers, but owning many books was a cultural trait of Romanians.

I think it has to do with the political situation during the Communist time. When everything was censored, the TV was broadcasting only propaganda and there was little mobility, for intellectuals books were an excellent way to escape the absurdity of the moment.

Even after the fall of Communism, Romanians would buy a lot of books; finally you could read all the censored authors, books were still relatively affordable and libraries were a pain to use.

In 2002, when we finally got the Canadian visa, and started selling everything, it was painful to realize how little value our books carried. Nobody would buy them, the second hand bookstores were overwhelmed with books from people leaving the country. I sold hundreds of books literally for pennies, I donated to libraries that would accept them and the rest I still have it in boxes back in Romania, waiting that maybe one day something will happen with them.

This was a painful lesson for me and I told myself that I will never buy books again, unless I have to.

I’m sure other Canadians, not just immigrants, but anyone who had to move realized buying books is not a good idea. Anyone trying to sell their library, realized that  buying new books is a poor investment decision. These are universal truths, not just in Romania or in Canada, but everywhere and I would expect that book publishers and retailers to act accordingly.

Google Books

Google has ambitious plans regarding books. Sean Prpick from CBC, produced a very interesting Ideas show about Google Books called The Great Library 2.0 where he’s talking about the plan of Google to become the modern version of the Alexandrian library. There are some interesting points raised in the show about the possible consequences of letting a private company handle this task.  You can listen to it by subscribing to the Ideas Podcast.

Now that Google has managed to scan a huge number of books, it makes absolute sense to come up with a tool take make all that wealth accessible.

There are many manufacturers, retailers and publishers that came out with e-readers as an alternative to books. Amazon with it’s Kindle, Sony with it’s Sony Reader, or the Nook of Barnes  & Noble are all devices that claim to represent the future of books. I’m not that convinced, if readers are locked into using a device to read their books, we’re back to the same situation as with paper books. These days I would also expect of gadgets to do more than one thing, e-readers have limited functionalities, hence, they are over-priced, bulky and probably, rather sooner than later, will be collecting dust.

The Google ebookstore that was launched a couple of weeks ago is an amazing solution. It offers books for sale without locking you into a single device. Even more, it will help you synchronize among all your devices, so that you can start reading a book on the computer and finish it on your smartphone.

Here is a video demonstrating the features that come with it:

Google ebookstore in Canada

For now if you go on Google ebookstore from Canada, you won’t be able to buy books, only download the free ones. I hope the negotiation of Google with the publishers and retailers will advance faster and I hope that finally they’ll stop pissing against the wind. I would be curios to look at some statistics after this Christmas season about trends in buying paper books versus ebooks.

I’m also looking forward to the time when Canadians won’t have to pay 30% more for a book. Even as the Loonie is on parity with the Greenback, prices of books are still the same as when 1 CAD was .70 USD.

It will be also interesting to follow how Google will manage to give ebook owners true ownership over the content. There are other features that too that will revolutionize reading books. For now it’s not the technology that slows down the progress, it’s rather the mentality and the laws that are slow to adapt to new realities.

Should we be patient and wait while the lawyers get rich? Should we the readers put pressure on the publishers and the retailers to rethink their business model?

Facebook and Twitter search sucks

What I hope 2011 would bring in Social Media

Facebook and Twitter search sucks
I find it really unfortunate that Google missed out on Buzz, although this time it’s less of a failure that Wave was at the time. Buzz is not working, because the social aspect is not evident, you won’t find your friends on it, unless they are geeks and connecting with strangers is not as straight forward as with Twitter. Undoubtedly Google’s strong point is search, no other company is as accurate and as fast in running queries as Google. While Facebook and Twitter are flourishing and don’t seem to slow down in their expansion, they just don’t seem to know how to fix their search.

I really hope 2011 will be the year when all these companies will finally recognize that they are good at some things and for some other things they better let the other do it. There were already some steps taken by Facebook in this direction, when they teamed up with Bing, but there is plenty of work to be sorted out.

Here is my list of search related features I hope they would have:

  • Twitter – first task, sort out that search for once! What do you mean, I can’t search tweets from last week?
  • Twitter – once the simple things are working, let’s start having some fun features, such as searching someone else’s timeline, or searching by date.
  • Facebook – it would be nice to finally have a News Feed search. Sometimes I know of a link or a video I saw someone posted about a month ago, well, finding that is not an easy task for me and I’m not that popular. If I would have thousands of friends, it would be an unimaginable task to perform.

Being able to search our archive of posts on these websites, would make the whole social network experience more meaningful. We’re just shouting, but when we need a relevant information, we need to turn to good “old” Google.

What do you hope 2011 will bring in Social Media?

The Deusche Bank logo

I will take my hat off in front of these famous logos

As you read this post, the device you use right now has a logo, even the browser. We’re surrounded by logos, they are everywhere and because of their omnipresence, often they are recorded on our brains as simple signs, but they are more than signs, they are symbols. In many cases a logo becomes a symbol because of a coherent brand experience, superior customer service, innovation or quality. There are plenty of logos out there that are worn with pride, almost like talismans, to show the world their wearer is identifying himself with the values of that company.

As a graphic designers, we are often put in the situation to come up with a logo, so every graphic designer has to develop a habit of taking a closer looks at logos. We need  to analyze them, to dissect them, to think about colors, shapes, fonts. How do they look big, how to they look at a favicon size (16x16px), will they look good in black and white?

Here are three logos that are inspiring me and I always look up at them as perfect examples of logo design.

The Deutsche Bank

The Deusche Bank logo

In the early 1970s, some enlightened folks at The Deutsche Bank realized, that their logo does not represent them any more. See bellow the evolution of their logo throughout the years, I think you will agree with them, they badly needed a change.

The Deutsche Bank logo troughout the years

In 1972, eight graphic designers were commissioned to redesign the logo and the winner was Anton Stankowski from Stuttgart. His logo, I think is the best logo a financial institution could ever get. It’s easy to recognize, it works well in any size and it’s so simple that you wonder how come nobody came up with this idea earlier.

The thick slash symbolizes growth and square is a symbol for security. Your money at The Deutsche Bank will grow in a secure environment.

It’s a simple shape, but as we can see it’s not simplistic, in line with the spirit of Bauhaus, playing with the energy of shapes and eliminating unnecessary elements that would discount the over-all effect.


Fedex logo

The current FedEx logo is the design of Lindon Leader of Landor Associates, from San Francisco. It’s famous among graphic designers, because of the hidden arrow, between the capital E and the x. It’s something that people rarely notice, but it’s something that works at a subconscious level. It’s a logo that represents speed and dynamism, while being solid and trustworthy.

The Fed is always purple, while the Ex is changing color, depending on the department that will use it.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press logo
This is probably my favorite Canadian logo. The Canadian Press is a national not-for-profit news agency, who in 2007 went trough a re-branding process. The logo is the work of a Vancouver communication agency, Rethink Communications. The stylized quotation marks with the maple leaf refer to the “Canada” wordmark.

I find it patriotic without falling into kitsch and the quotation marks make reference to the craft of journalism.

These are some of the logos that make me take my hat off. It’s good from time to time to see logos that make you feel good to be a graphic designer.

How about you? What are your favorite logos?

How to install Java on Kubuntu 10.10

Yep, I have Kubuntu too installed on my machine and I love it. But… There are still some stuff that a newbie like me will find hard to achieve. Sometimes even such obvious task as installing Java will surprise me with some unexpected challenges, but hey, we’re not afraid of them, are we? I could not find the answer on Google, but I was lucky that my good friend Boris gave me a hand. Here are the steps we took to have it up and running:

1. First of all, you want to make sure you don’t have Java installed already. Open the terminal and type:

java -version

In my case, this gave me this output:

The program ‘java’ can be found in the following packages:
* gcj-4.4-jre-headless
* gcj-4.5-jre-headless
* openjdk-6-jre-headless

2. You will need to check if the file /etc/apt/sources.list has these two lines commented out (meaning that they have # in front)

# deb maverick main
# deb-src maverick main

3. If that’s the case, you’ll have to go back to your terminal and type:

sudo kate /etc/apt/sources.list

This will open the same file in Kate, but you’ll have writing privileges. Find the above two lines and remove the # in their front and save the file.

4. Go back to the terminal and type:

sudo apt-get update

5. Type:

sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jdk

It will ask you if you’re OK to install Java that will take up a bunch of space on your hard drive, you should press the y key to agree and continue.

6. At the end you will get a window with the licence agreement, to get to press the OK button, you first have to hit the Tab key and than press Enter.

That was it for me, I hope it will help you.

In case it doesn’t work for you, in step 3. uncomment:

deb maverick partner
deb-src maverick partner

Thanks Lars for the feedback!