Posts Tagged ‘Websites’

Dear Robyn,

I was chatting with someone on formspring yesterday and I came across two questions you asked me on there some time ago:

1) If you could invent something, what would it be? and
2) If you could have anything technology wise – what would you choose?

They’re cool questions. But I never asked you so I am wondering what your answers to them are!

This is what I wrote (man, you wouldn’t think I was a geek or anything…)

I’d like to invent:

  1. A Munchkin style card game where Aliens attempt to take over the world and Men In Black try to stop them. The Aliens are only allowed to communicate in crop circles and the MIB are only allowed to speak in secret code. Alien and MIB characters can be spawned or killed using Conway’s “Game of Life” mathematics, control their spaceship and weapons using Turing Machine style state registers, move strategically like chess men, fool each other with Poker style bluffing and if there is an uneven number of people playing one person becomes a spy for any side they choose and no one knows who they are playing for or when they are going to switch alliances! OK, no one will play this unless they are Sheldon from Big Bang Theory but it will be funny to make it anyway!
  2. A guitar overdrive effect that spits randomly like a Rally car. At them moment all overdrive FX seem to just go RRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! as one ear splitting, continuously homogenous cacophony.
  3. Consciousness, Artificial Intelligence and self determination for a robot. (Followed very closely by “Empathy For Living Things”, “Don’t Do That” and “Go To Your Room” modules….)
  4. A self interpreting programming language for the internet that anyone can use without being a programmer to make sites (or anything else) they like intuitively, and that can interpret itself perfectly without needing any other 3rd party browser.
  5. The computer program that passes the Turing Test

If you could have anything technology wise – what would you choose?

  1. A robot with a personality you can change with a screwdriver to suit your mood
  2. An alien spaceship
  3. A Mercedes MacLaren SLR supercar or Ford Mustang for when #2 is not available
  4. A professional Canon digital SLR camera like yours with a Macro lense to do high speed close up photography of miniature, split second things that happen in nature we can never see with our own eyes
  5. A private space jet that goes from Auckland to space and lands in Blenheim in 2 minutes so I can visit you whenever I like (hmmm, I predict that by the end of our lifetimes we’ll think this is ordinary!)
  6. An intergalactic wormhole that connects Auckland to any other city or planet I feel like visiting instantaneously (I hear the latest version comes bundled with #2)
  7. A newer bass guitar than the 25 year old one I have now and bass FX that can make a growling sound like Marilyn Manson’s voice
  8. A guitar rig that’s as awesome as my Tremonti Signature axe.
  9. A keyboard that is easier to program than my existing demon KORG and sounds less like it was designed exclusively to produce dance music for nightclubs – a bit disconcerting considering I hate nightclubs!
  10. The latest version of Cubase or Protools recording software
  11. Adobe CS5 Web Premium software (because, I am not quite smart enough to invent the self interpreting language in one lifetime)
  12. An alarm clock that plays a nice tune instead of BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! (which at 6am in the morning sounds more like Marilyn Manson going RRRAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!)
  13. An iPhone or similar with all of Muse’s songs and Govenor of Poker on it (hmmm, maybe this has a friendly alarm clock that will play Muse perhaps?)
  14. A recording studio with a monster desk that’s so long you need to roll your chair from one end to the other to reach all the buttons
  15. Chairs with NASA grade castors for withstanding the abuse at #14
  16. A more grunty computer that can tolerate all the work and Muse crap I put in it and allows attempts to create robot brains
  17. A memory chip and GPS for my own brain so I can remember stuff longer than 2 seconds ago and will no longer get lost walking around my own flat
  18. A microscope that can see things as small as those proposed in Superstring Theory (oh look! That’s where I left my keys…)
  19. A time machine that pauses time indefinitely so everyone can eventually make all the weird inventions dreamed up they can never finish in one lifetime.

What are yours?

Morgan 🙂

Image courtesy of Iva Villi


Howdy Robyn,

Hope everything is going well with your foot and you are managing OK as hoppy, haven’t become dizzy, tripped over the cat, choked on the cat or worse, died of boredom!

Just in case you are going spare while you are unable to galavant all over the countryside like you normally do (you’re not I hope!) I thought I’d tell you about the fun site I found today via a fellow Muser*. It’s called Wordle and it takes a bunch of words and makes them in to an artwork or “word cloud”. Looks awesome. You’re a writer so I figured you’d love it. The crazy Muser posted up some of Matt Bellamy’s lyrics and they looked quite profound like that so I thought I’d have a go at posting two of my songs (No One Will Know and Centre of Gravity) through the Wordle machine and see what it made of them. Here’s the result:

Looking at them like that is weird. Now I can’t imagine how I crammed all those words into one place. If you would like to have a play here is the link to Wordle

Morgan 🙂

*Muser = obsessed demented Muse fan who lives online on the Muse Boards. Not to be confused with regular “Muse fans” who resemble normal sane people. According to singer Matt Bellamy, Musers are completely crazy and he would definitely want to be one if he weren’t actually in Muse himself. I am a Muser, therefore this must mean I am crazy and also not a member of Muse …. Good to know…

Dear Morgan,

I read your last letter with interest about the purpose of the websites, and I agree with you that a website’s sole purpose shouldn’t be just to collect emails. I also think it’s the experience of the website that is the most important thing.

So, as a market researcher in another life, I decided to troll the internet to further give examples as why email addresses would not be the most important thing for a website, and this is what I found…

1). Rune’s Barf Bag Experience.

So let’s ask the most basic question here. What would be the point in collecting email addresses for this website? It’s a barfbag collection! Why anyone would want to collect these things I don’t know. I only hope that he manages to collect clean unused ones, and they haven’t been ‘recycled’ in any way. Gawd – there’s a shop so you can buy them, AND there’s even a swap page. I can see it now – hey – I have 3 barf bags from United Airlines – I’m willing to swap them for one from Singapore Airlines! Honestly, it’s enough to make you.. well Barf!

In my opinion then. Importance of collecting emails? zero
Overall website experience? Stumped and confused.

2). The oo
Lets go to the question here again. What would be the point in collecting emails for this website. Actually, the question for this website should be.. What is the POINT of this website? It’s all about oo, whatever that may be. People are even invited to go in and write their own ‘oo’ What’s even more scary is that people actually do. Should these people even be allowed to procreate? I further googled ‘oo’ in Wikipaedia and I got a list of things that oo actually meant. Sadly, just as I thought, the oo website had nothing to do with any of them.

Importance of collecting emails? Zero
Overall website experience? Ummmmmmmm

3). Elevator Rules
Well what can I say? Rules for Elevators? I’ve used lots of elevators in my life, but never knew there were ‘rules’. It gives rules such as.. ‘Never, under any circumstances urinate or defecate in an elevator. It is not, and never will be considered funny by anyone.’
Do people actually do this? Defecate I mean? In an Elevator? Did they mistake it for a toilet? Do we even need to know about this? Do we need to collect email addresses for it? Gawd – you can even buy this book of rules. And stickers too. To place on the jacket of the people that defecate so they too learn the rules. But what’s scary about this is there’s a whole website for this. So now you know!

Importance of collecting emails? Zero
Overall website Experience? ‘0.0’ Unbelievable. What about ‘Common Sense’?

4). Urinals – The best urinals in the world, gathered here in one website
Okaaaaaaaaay. Do people actually go into that website and decide to travel based on the urinals? Does the website owner have errrrrrm, a fixation with mens toilets? Do we need to collect email addresses for this? What would be the purpose, to email everyone when he finds another ‘urinal’? Imagine… ‘Dear everyone, I was in Mexico City, in the main street, and found a really neat urinal in Joey’s Bar – you should all go and piss in this one for the best experience ever’. Hmmmmmm I don’t think so!

Importance of collecting emails? Zero
Overall Website Experience? Didn’t do anything for me – but would love a man’s take on this – anyone up for the job?

5). Pets in Uniforms

Okay – this is just plain nuts. I know that women sometimes have a fetish for men in uniform. I mean – that’s just plain sexy. Especially Policemen. And Fireman. And Air Pilots. Okay okay – Too much information – if you value your life don’t turn up at my door dressed like a policeman! Or Fireman. Or pilot!! But PETS? PETS? That’s taking the fetish a bit far. I could image it if it were a sheep and you invited farmers far and wide in Australia. But cats? Sigh. Why would it be important to collect emails for this site? By the way – right now there is a holiday special on and you can get your pet made up in full regalia for only $19.99. I think Morgan should send in a photo of her budgie and see what they do to it! They should dress it up like Tiger Woods as it’s a very amorous one! Just think, she could then watch Tiger Woods in action 10 times a day. I’m not talking about his golf!

Importance of collecting emails: Five , but only because they’ll send something back to you, and you might want to know of the specials so you can dress up your cats, dogs, horses, sheep, goats, and maybe your husband.
Overall Website Experience? Chortle!

Okay – I think you get the gist now – I could go on – there’s so many weird sites out there. I hope I’ve made my point.


The #1 Purpose of a Website

Posted: June 15, 2010 in Opinion
Tags: , ,

Dear Robyn,

I read an interesting statement the other day by a guy called Tom Poland that got me thinking about what is really important on the internet. His statement was this:

The #1 purpose of a website is to gather email addresses.”

I’m keen to challenge that statement because I don’t believe it is entirely true (and anyone is welcome to disagree with me and tell me why in the comments).

Ever since I started web developing I’ve followed lots of blogs like his from various “experts” putting forward their take on what the #1 purpose of a website is or what the most important thing to do on the internet is to be successful. Generally these all go along the lines of “the most important thing is”:

  • gathering email addresses
  • getting ranked #1 on search engines
  • building 50’000 satellite sites
  • getting large numbers of visitors past the site
  • setting links up correctly
  • having big red flashy buttons and shiny whirly things
  • having the perfect combination of Social Media tools set up
  • magic formulas for converting people to buyers
  • buying this or that super duper SEO tool that morphs your keywords and urls effortlessly with the flick of a switch with Einstein’s e=mc2 equation so you can maximise your ability to know what domain names you should give your satellite sites and what colour your whirly flashy things should be so you can get ranked #1 in search engines to get email addresses to convert people…

Often they are valid and useful points but there is one essential ingredient missing (to me at least) from all of those statements that NO ONE ever seems to talk about and it’s something I learned about when I was much younger from a couple of people – one of them being our senior engineer at the recording studio I used to work at and the other, strangely, being C S Lewis.

When I first got interested in sound engineering I used to worry incessantly about whether or not I was doing exactly the perfect technical thing and whether I was up with the play with all the big super duper experienced engineers out there or if I was just a junior twit with no clue and bad ears. So I used to obsess 24/7 about stuff like:

“If I push that red button and route the signal to channel 23 on post-FX via this flange effect with the compressor set to x threshold and y release and the EQ set to z frequency – will I have the perfect setting?…. Make a god awful mess?… Get laughed at….. Blow up the mixing desk?….. Blow up the universe?….. Cause the drummer to spontaneously combust like they do in Spinal Tap? …”

I used to spend many hours chewing off my fingernails and wondering whether I should do A or B or C or A+B-C and what other engineers thought was the right thing to make the perfect recording people would rush out and buy. I figured more experienced engineers knew there was a correct “formula” for achieving this. Then one afternoon the dilemma of how to know when you’ve got the magic formula got solved for me when an almighty argument erupted in Studio A between two of our younger engineers over which exact mathematical formula should be used to calculate the amount of reverb to be added into the mix of some song. After half an hour of yelling complicated mathematical equations at each other and threatening murder, our senior engineer got fed up, marched into the studio, smacked their heads together and killed their argument with this:

“When this song gets released not a single person is going to care one iota how many milliseconds of this that or the other thing you’ve used in there. The only thing they will ever care about is:

“Does this make me feel good?”

As soon as he said that I realised that I (and they) had been focussing on completely the wrong thing – formulas, technology, other people’s expert opinions, advice in Engineering publications, what other engineers thought, maths, graphs, where to hide the bodies of all the drummers who combusted… But the only thing we really should have been worrying about was:

“What’s the listener going to experience when they hear this?”

That is the only thing that really matters. His comment has proven to be the most important thing I ever learned about how to make sound engineering decisions – or anything else for that matter (and that drummers are always expendible!) Ever since then, if I record something and get stuck for what the most important thing to do is I just ask myself that question and the answer becomes much easier to figure out.

Another thing I think about often comes weirdly from The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. When I was at primary school one of our teachers read us that story and I loved the magical part where Lucy ventures into the wardrobe for the first time, finds frozen trees between the coats and Narnia out the other side. But of course, when she runs back excited to try to convince her other siblings, not only to visit this amazing place with her, but to help save Narnia, they don’t believe it really exists at first since all they see when they go into the wardrobe themselves is a bunch of musty coats, some stinky moth balls and the solid wooden back of the wardrobe. (Sometimes I think life is like this – there is the mundane side and the side that promises something better if you go looking for it and believe it’s possible).

About the same time I heard that story the ballet school I went to put on an end of year production in a larger venue than we ever had before. I had never gone out on stage in front of a proper ‘big’ audience before so I was nervous and not very impressed with the idea. I spied on the evil horde from the wings and decided anyone would have to have a death wish to go out there and get roasted with their laser sharp glares and be judged for every technical mishap. I was sure they even had clip boards and pens provided to them at the door so they could keep score of every bungle and botch up and that they would get a $5 refund every time I forgot to point my toes. But I went out there anyway. And when I did I discovered something truely remarkable that has made me love going on stage ever since.

First off the evil, glaring audience vanished behind the gigantic wall of black created by the lighting and when I turned around I saw something I wasn’t expecting to be there – a magical, awe-inspiring world just like Narnia (we had been practising without costumes up until that point). Then it occurred to me that going out on stage is exactly like things are in the book. The stage is Narnia, the wall of “black light” is the back of the wardrobe, on the other side of the wall the audience is Lucy’s siblings and you are Lucy. The whole point of going out there isn’t to execute some technically perfect performance you learned off some expert (in this case my ballet teacher). It’s to be Lucy, to truely believe the Narnia you are creating on the stage is real and to draw everyone in the audience into your world by showing them that there really is a magical world beyond the “back of the wardrobe”. Since then I’ve never been nervous because I know being on stage isn’t about people watching you – it’s about inviting them onto the stage with you to share your experience because you want them to feel what you are. (I believe that ultimately this is why music, art and films are so popular. People are happy to escape the mundane moth balls and oppressive fur coats of life from time to time and see that there is something more inspiring and meaningful out there.)

So why does that have anything to do with websites? Well if you look at that list at the beginning of my post again you’ll notice it is completely devoid of any reference whatsoever to the effect you have on your visitors. There is no human factor there at all. It’s as if websites are made for unfeeling robots. But I believe what the visitors experience is the most important consideration. So I would say:

“The #1 purpose of a website is to inspire your audience and create something they truely believe in and want to be involved with.”

Everything else is of secondary importance – even if it’s that stuff all those experts are saying should be tops. My main point here is not that any of those things listed are unimportant, but that, in my mind, there is little point in attracting people to a site in the first place, or gathering their details if you don’t draw them into your world when they get there. If you don’t show them that there is something magical worth believing in behind the back of the wardrobe what’s the point? If websites are primarily about nuts and bolts and formulas or executing some parasitic marketing advice of experts that misses the most exciting reason to be there in the first place – the audience and their experience. The most powerful thing to put into a website has nothing to do with formulas, tools or SEO advice. The most powerful thing is the ability to inspire other people and share something with them that is bigger than “mothballs”. And that bigger than mothballs thing comes from truly believing in what you do and caring about what difference it makes to other people (but that’s a whole other topic). I think this is one way to set yourself apart from all other competitors out there. After all, your competitors can all make use of those same tools too but how many of them set their main priority as creating of the kind of “Narnia” people want to believe in and visit more than anywhere else?

Think about this for a second. When you visit some site that impresses the hell out of you do you go away excited because;

  • You got to leave your email address behind? or
  • The key words were really effective in getting you to the site? or
  • The links were set up to maximize Google rankings? or
  • The developer wrote really clever code?

No of course not. Hopefully you go away excited because you made a real connection with the people who created the site and their message and you want to be involved with them in future – because you saw their version of “Narnia” and believed in it too.

I guess as a practical example of this a couple of Decembers ago I randomly came across Time is Running Out by Muse online. (And I apologize for using a music example but songwriting would have to be my biggest passion in life and I can’t resist a great song). I didn’t know who they were when I started playing the song but half way through the second verse I became a Muse fan – and before the end of the song I logged in to became a Muser (that’s a completely crazy Muse fan who lives on their website). I had a strong conviction about them as a band from the first finger click in that song. They also have a fantastic website (and I think a very talented group of people who run it) but lets be realistic – if I hadn’t have been inspired by the band it would have been a complete waste of time collecting my email address. What inspired me?

In the words of Matt Bellamy:

“To feel liberated is something that I feel when I am playing music and I think if you can help other people feel liberated in that way, psychologically and spiritually liberated, then that is the best thing that music can do”.

This is the main reason to me why songwriting is important and has always been. So we share that vision of “Narnia” and that is what inspired me. Their music represents something a bit bigger than just chords, staves and mothballs and that is what really matters. And this is reflected in their website also which makes all the difference (I am sure their 77,000+  members on the website agree).

So when people visit a site should the #1 purpose be;

“…to gather email addresses.”


“…to inspire your audience and create something they truely believe in and want to be involved with.”

People can go leave Tom Poland their email address in droves if they want to but I know which purpose I would pick first.

Leaving your email address is something you can do AFTER you visit Narnia….

Morgan 🙂