Blogger relations, social media news releases, and the monitoring of online news outlets. If your company is already doing all these, it may be useful to know that these are only a part of the overall media relations picture, as Paul A. Argenti and Courtney M. Barnes write in ‘Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications’ (www.tatamcgrawhill.com). Create a home base to serve as the go-to spot for media in search of corporate news and information, the authors urge.

Online newsrooms – with dynamic content in the form of Web videos, news feeds, widgets, podcasts, searchable archives and so on – can become 24/7 press junkets, providing the media with all the required information, aver Argenti and Barnes. They caution, however, that navigability and user-friendliness are key to the success of online newsrooms.

Among the features that can enhance the user experience are image library, blog roll, Twitter links, thought leadership pieces authored by corporate executives, white papers to research, and op-ed columns. Corporate blogs can give media the opportunity to see what corporate executives are saying about issues involving company or industry, as the authors explain; candid blogs can spark story ideas, though candour may often be constrained by corporate policy.

Web video functions include product demonstrations, executive interviews, clips of news conferences, and commercials, the authors inform. They mention the example of Southwest Airlines’ newsroom (www.swamedia.com) for its ‘user-friendly video gallery with thumbnail screenshots of clips, a preview option, the size of each video, and the ability to download.’

Useful insight in the book is about the importance of optimising the company’s digital assets, as AT&T did, through a campaign centred on increasing the visibility of the media-focused assets on its online newsroom. “By conducting keyword research, establishing a style guide for writing press releases, and then optimising the releases by using keywords and embedded links, the company saw more than a 1,000 per cent increase in traffic from the use of targeted keywords, as well as a 50 per cent increase in search volume from 2007 to 2008.”

Imperative study material.

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Flash and bones

Shockwave, Macromedia, Adobe. Different first names, but what is popular is the second name, ‘Flash,’ known for its widespread adoption in Web animation and interactivity.

“Flash uses vector graphics, which means that the graphics can be scaled to any size without loss in clarity and quality of the graphic. The language used for scripting Flash is called the ActionScript. Several applications are able to display Flash content, including Adobe Flash Player, which is available for almost all Web browsers,” informs ‘Flash CS4 in Simple Steps’ from Kogent Solutions Inc.(www.dreamtechpress.com).

A chapter devoted to advanced animation helps you with tips on how you can flesh out your Flash presentation. Such as, through inverse kinematics (IK), armatures, 3D effects, and bones! “IK is a method to animate an object or a set of objects in relation to each other using an articulated structure of bones… A chain of bones is called an armature. The bones in an armature are connected to each other in a parent-child hierarchy,” the book explains.

But why bones, you may wonder. The reason given by the authors is that some animations need to limit mobility and set the animation properties. “Objects, such as characters, animals, or mechanical gadgets that have skeletons, restrict free movement of any object. Flash CS4 can easily add skeleton type structure, also known as bones, to an animation object…”

Appetising read for the hands-on techie.

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Customer influence vs interference

One of the interesting characteristics of agile methods is the active participation of ‘customer,’ says Kevin Aguanno in ‘Managing Agile Projects’ (www.macmillanpublishersindia.com). Such close customer influence over the internal workings of the development team has been cited as a major cause of failed projects using traditional methods (often cited as ‘customer interference’), but is also a major reason why agile methods are so successful, he adds.

A caution, however, is that this level of customer involvement is a double-edged sword: “It can lead to a greater likelihood of meeting the customer’s (evolving) requirements, but can also lead to scope creep and blown budgets if not managed well.”

Another technique that the author lists is concurrent design/ engineering. Projects that are well-suited to agile methods, he says, are development projects where the requirements are either unclear or unstable, or where the design will continually change due to technical uncertainty.

“If the requirements and design are going to change frequently, then waiting for the ‘design phase’ to end and getting a formal sign off from the project sponsor before proceeding with development will just lead to endless design churn.”

What is needed, as Aguanno advises, is the ability to start development on the portions where the design is reasonably complete, while still working on the design of other portions. “The main benefit here for agile projects is that it gets the project moving into development mode quickly, and also allows the project still to be very responsive to changing requirements and designs.”

Recommended addition to the agile followers’ shelf.

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Tomorrow’s WAN

Words and phrases such as emerging and next generation are moving targets, yet we never stop studying them. So, how will the next-generation WAN/MAN architecture be like? If you wonder what WAN is, or who MAN is, the answer is not in the ‘Wan Man’ page of Wikipedia, which explains the entry as a small island (pulau) in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. WAN is wide area network, and MAN stands for metropolitan area network. And LAN, as you may know, is the local area network.

The WAN is a place in the network that aggregates various types, speeds, and links running a disparate set of protocols together crossing metropolitan, state, and even country boundaries, says Muhammad Afaq Khan in ‘Building Service-Aware Networks: The next-generation WAN/MAN’ (www.ciscopress.com). “The largest example of a WAN is the Internet itself, which can be regarded as the public WAN. The primary purpose of a WAN is to connect users and applications connected to various LANs.”

Amidst major trends such as Web 2.0, software as a service (SaaS), carbon-footprint reduction, rise in the mobile workforce, and increased presence of open source software, Khan expects the next-generation WAN architectures to focus more on the anytime, anywhere, anything mantra.

“More and more centralised resources or applications (as a result of data centre consolidation) call for increased bandwidth needs and WAN optimisation technologies to achieve the same response times as if the data were stored somewhere locally.” Economics of such disrupting trends, as the author notes, can result in lower capital expenditure (capex) and even lower operational expenditure (opex) based on usage and quicker ROI (return on investment).

“WAN infrastructures have long evolved from being just pushing the bits through them to delivering a plethora of services at the network edge. True integration of services in the same metal sheet as the router/ switch itself is the new reality.”

Compelling presentation.

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Tailpiece

“To bring the Diwali mood into the computer room…”

“You allowed sweets to be distributed?”

“Also, we removed the anti-static floor mat to get some sparkler effects!”

**

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