when advertising works

I consider myself an expert at ignoring advertising. I have never once clicked a link in an email ad, I don’t sign up for anything unless I’m 100% sure it’s legit and will get me no spam, be it a newsletter, website account, whatever (I still refuse to get a YouTube account), and most forms of advertising simply have no effect on me, because of the effect many studies have found — repeated, irrelevant advertising in the same location is very easy to tune out as noise for pretty much everybody. (Note: I do have one friend, who shall remain nameless, and when she sees a commercial on TV for almost anything, she wants to try it.) When I watch TV, I often mute it during commercials, depending on what channel I’m watching, and ads like those little videos that play before the video you actually want on some website, I always open up some other browser window or something else to do while the video is playing, I refuse to even give them my attention.

However, I realized the other day that some advertising does work on me. I thought about the situation as it was happening (I was quite aware that the advertising was working, but this did not lower its effectiveness level), and I came to the conclusion that I imagine the same thing happens for a lot of people, and it is that very situation which causes things like mailers to be effective. (Of note: I do NOT believe the same tactic works for spam email — I have encountered this exact same situation with spam email and it had zero effect. I believe that as internet users we are trained that all spam is evil and probably a scam to steal our identity/money/very souls).

So what happened, you ask? Well, a brief backstory: I love movies, and have been a member of Blockbuster’s online movie rental for a long time now, maybe 2 years or so, I don’t remember exactly. Several months ago, sometime last year, I decided that to be fair, I should compare the Blockbuster online movie rental service to Netflix, its biggest competitor. Now, this is not about my thoughts on which is better, if you’re interested, feel free to ask, but after a couple of months of using Netflix and comparing it, I cancelled the service for financial reasons (and again, if you’re interested in comparing the two, don’t read too much into this, there is a lot of other backstory here I’m not telling), even though I really enjoyed it. Recently, I have been considering restarting my Netflix membership for various reasons, but I had not yet decided to do it. But then the advertising happened. I got, in the mail, a flyer from Netflix, saying that I should renew my membership and reminding me of all the benefits and blah blah blah. It didn’t offer me any special prices. It didn’t offer me any more free stuff (new members get a 2 week free trial). And it didn’t tell me anything about the service that I didn’t already know. I enjoy being well-versed in anything I do, so I do my research on every product I buy and every service I use, to a reasonable extent of course, depending on what they are. But the very same night that I got my Netflix flyer, I went online and renewed my membership. Am I a sucker for advertising? No, of course not. Had I received that flyer at a random time, I would have simply thrown it away and not given it a second thought. But I was currently considering restarting my membership at Netflix. So did the flyer tip me over the edge and make the decision for me? Perhaps, nobody can say for sure what tips them in situations like that. But I know that the flyer had at least some effect, be it small or large.

So that, in my opinion, is when advertising works the best. There are other situations for different people where it works in other ways, but I think that it works the best when the potential customer is already considering the product or service offered.

And now I’m off to enjoy my unlimited Watch it Now service :)

assez de temps…

D’abord, je voulais dire à tout le monde qui m’a envoyé un mail, veuillez m’excuser, j’essaye de répondre, mais j’en ai beaucoup! Je vais répondre à chaque mail, mais il me faudra quelques jours de plus :P

Mais en pensant à cela, j’ai commencé à penser un peu au sujet du temps. On a plusieurs dizaines d’années dans la vie, mais j’entend toujours des gens qui disent que la est courte. Et même si je n’ai que 23 ans, chaque jour je comprends cette phrase un peu de plus. Il y a plusieurs choses que je veux faire, et il y a plusieurs choses que je dois faire. Et la réalité c’est que il n’y a pas assez de temps pour en faire tout. Par example, les langues. Personellement, mon but, c’est de parler 5 langues courrament par l’âge de 30 (l’anglais y compris). Ok, je parle anglais, je parle français (j’ai dit courrament, je n’ai pas dit parfaitement ! Même l’anglais, je ne le parle pas parfaitement). Alors, il me reste 7 années et 3 langues. Si vous avez lu la page “Qui suis-je?” sur le site (une page que j’ai vraiment besoin de changer, ça fait presqu’une année entière…), vous savez peut-être que j’ai étudié le japonais, le chinois, et l’italien, aussi. Mais, pour être honnête, mon japonais, c’est terrible. Le grammaire, je le comprends assez bien, les kanjis, je les adore, mais le vocabulaire, c’est ça que je n’ai pas bien appris. Et mon chinois? Pire que mon japonais, mais encore la même situation, une manque de vocabulaire surtout. Mon italien n’est pas mal, je peux le lire et le comprendre assez facilement, même le parler un peu, mais je suis toujours loin de le parler courrament. Et ça, c’est seulement les langues. Je veux aussi m’améliorer en informatique, pour pouvoir améliorer le site. Et il y a plein d’autres choses que je veux apprendre, même si je n’ai pas d’une raison plus spécifique que le plaisir (l’astronomie, par exemple).

Mais toujours on trouve un problème: tout ça, c’est seulement les choses que je veux apprendre. Même ça, tout seul, il serait impossible de le faire. Mais j’ai des amis. J’aime parler à mes amis, et quand c’est possible (évidement, pour mes amis aux USA ce n’est pas le cas maintenant), j’aime passer du temps avec eux. Et j’ai des parents, des frères, des neveux et des nièces, etc., avec qui c’est la même situation.

Et même après ça, il y a moi-même. J’aime écouter de la musique, regarder les films, même dormier un peu! Il y a tout simplement trop de choses à faire, et peu de temps pour les faire. La difficulté, c’est que l’on doit décider. Si on avait une liste pour la vie avec tout ce qu’il faut faire, ce serait simple. Mais on doit décider soi-même! Il faut décider la priorité de chaque activité, mais parce qu’on est humain, on le fait pas logiquement. On décide chaque moment, que veux-je faire? Et si on est responsable, on planifie un peu. Mais c’est impossible de le faire avec tout, parce que les priorités changent. Par example, ce podcast, les mails, le forum, le site, tout ça — je l’adore. Étudier les langues étrangères — je l’adore. Alors, pourquoi, me demande-je, est-ce qu’il y a des jours, des semaines même, où je réponds, chaque jour, à chaque mail que je reçois, où je fais un podcast tous les 4 ou 5 jours, et j’étudie une langue chaque jour, mais il y a aussi des fois où je prends deux semaines pour répondre aux mails, où je n’étudie rien, et je ne fais que peut-être un épisode par mois? Je comprends pas cette différence. Quelques jours j’ai assez de motivation pour faire tout ce qu’il me faut et puis de faire un peu de plus, mais quelques jours je veux dormir tard et ne rien faire, regarder un DVD, jouer un peu aux jeux vidéos, parler au téléphone.

La raison pour tout ça, c’est cette manque de temps. J’ai peur de ne pas pouvoir faire tout ce que je veux dans la vie, et je n’ai pas encore trouvé ni l’équilibre qu’il faut pour les activités, ni la capacité de dire que ça va si je ne réalise pas un de mes buts personnels. Et je suis vraiment jaloux des personnes qui ont ces deux choses. Peut-être c’est un “symptôme” de mon âge, de cette étape de la vie, quelque chose que tout le monde  apprend par expérience, mais quand même, je suis jaloux!

There’s actually an English expression that is appropriate here, one that you hear quite often: “So much to do, so little time.”

web design

So, over the past few weeks, I have been spending countless hours working on redesigning the entire website, and very late last night, I finished it. I just uploaded all the new pages this morning, and so now, when you look at the website, you’re seeing the new version of it. But here’s the thing…

it looks exactly the same!

Well, not exaclty the same. The menu on the left changed a little bit. But other than that? Nothing looks different. And as you might guess (or as you might know, if you know even basic web design principles), changing the menu does not take very long. So why did it take me so long to update it, then? And why did I do it, if nothing looks different?

What I did when I originally built this site was very basic. I had maybe 300 listeners, back in April 2007, and I wanted a website for the podcast, so I threw something together in a couple days, in between classes. It was very simple, it had maybe 5 pages or so, and to be honest, there was no reason to visit the site more than once. But I liked having a site up anyway. Before AnglaisPod, I had managed a few different web pages, but they were always very small projects that usually involved putting news up or making slight changes to old designs from previous webmasters. I knew basic html, but to be honest, I still looked up a lot of stuff (thank god for w3schools as well as google, lol). To build the site, I used a table-based layout, which is a very easy to do, fast, reliable technique that has been used for years and years by webmasters everywhere. Now, without going into technical details (ask me if you’re interested, I can talk forever about this stuff), table-based layouts are a bad idea, for a variety of reasons. I don’t remember when I discovered that fact, but in the back of my mind, I knew that one day, I had to redo the layout of the site.

The actual, correct way to do site design is a div/css layout. When I started trying to figure out how to redesign the site, I knew nothing about divs. I knew how to use css for colors and font size, very basic stuff, but other than that, I knew nothing. I don’t even think I’d heard of css positioning to be honest. So I had to learn from scratch. I went to I dunno how many sites and read stories of other webmasters trying to do this very same thing, seeing if I could learn from their experience. I looked at tons of examples, modified them, played with them, to see what I could do and what I couldn’t. Like I said, I won’t go into technical details here, but I had to learn how to do a lot of different things, and I had to practice them and try them in all kinds of ways. I have no idea how many nights I spend messing with the stuff, but it never seemed to worked. And so I would work on it for 2 days straight, get nowhere, then quit for 3 weeks. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then yesterday, for some unknown reason, I finally got it to work. I vaguely know what I did differently, but basically, it finally “clicked” for me. I understood. So I went about actually recreating the current design using divs and css. I’m sure at some point I will redesign the look of the entire site, but I just wanted to recreate the old look so I could say I had a div-based layout instead of a table-based one. So AnglaisPod.com is now completely div-based. A few individual pages still have tables for other things, and I will be slowly replacing those, but the main layouts are not tables anymore, so I’m happy.

So now that it’s all said and done, what is the benefit? Sure, it’s the “proper” way to layout my pages, but so what? Is there a benefit? Well, I’m glad you asked! Yes, there is in fact. For you, the end user, the regular visitor, there is pretty much one benefit: faster loading pages. The difference will be minimal, you probably won’t even notice. But they will load slightly faster! The rest of the benefits are for me. See, the way it was set up before, if I want to update something about the layout of each page, I had to go and change each individual page. This takes a while, especially as the number of pages keeps growing. Not to mention the ever-increasing number of photo pages! But with this new system, if I want to change the layout, all I have to do is change my css file, and voila (we actually say that in English!), the entire website is changed. In other words, if I want to change something that is the same on all web pages, I just change one thing, one time, and every single page is automatically updated. It’s the brilliance of divs and css. And also, as I was redoing all the pages to prepare them to work with divs, I also added in database functionality for a variety of things, such as the left menu. So say I add a new page that I want to include in the left menu (such as the upcoming Extras page). Well, all I do is login to my database, add one entry, and voila, all of the website will now have one more link in the left menu. With the databases and the div-based layout now, updating the website will be soooo much easier!!! I’m quite happy about this. So I think I am going to go take a nap, I’m that excited. :P

(if any of you do web design and are interested in how I did this, or if you’re an expert and want to laugh at me and tell me how dumb my code is and how much of an amateur I am for doing tables in the first place, feel free to do so)

Oh, and before I go, don’t even get me started on the incompatibilities of internet explorer with this whole thing. I do have it worked out, now, finally, but IE tends to ignore standards that firefox and opera can easily handle, so…that added a bit more time to the whole process. If you use internet explorer, do yourself a favor and download and try Firefox. If you don’t like it, try Opera. Just don’t use IE unless you absolutely have to, it’s a terrible browser. I mean, that’s just my opinion, but…it’s a terrible browser. And if you’re on a Mac, and you refuse to use Firefox and insist on Safari…well, I don’t understand, because I don’t like Safari’s interface, but at least Safari does a pretty good job with standards. And for all my fellow Linux users out there (I use Ubuntu and Vista both), read the Safari sentence again, but replace “Safari” with Konqueror. Oh, and one last random browser comment: Netscape has now officially been discontinued, no more updates for it ever.

One other good thing I suppose: before the update, the main menu had a special effect on it that only worked in real browsers, because of an IE incompatibility. Now, due to some of the magic of the changes I made, IE users can see the special effect, too. It’s not super special, it’s just the red box that appears around menu items when you move your mouse over them. But I think it makes the menu a lot nicer, still, so I’m glad it finally works in all browsers. So yay. And I promise, most of the posts on this blog will not be as technology-oriented as this one!

Now for my nap.

je ne sais rien à propos des blogs! haha…

c’est vraiment marrant — après deux semaines, je croyais que je n’avais rien comme commentaire, et j’étais un peu triste. j’avais presque décidé que j’allais quitter le blog, mais je me suis dit que pourquoi pas, je vais publier quelque chose au sujet du nouveau newsletter et tout ça…après cet autre poste, je jouais avec tous les options d’administration, et sans une vraie raison, j’ai cliqué sur “commentaires”…et il y en avait beaucoup! apparament, quand j’ai commencé ce blog, j’avais décidé de demander l’autorisation de tout commentaire, mais je l’avais oublié…et j’ai beaucoup de commentaires maintenant. quelle horreur tout ça…

et aussi, j’ai lu toutes les réponses, et il y avait quelque gens qui ont dit “en anglais!” et quelques gens qui ont dit “en français!” et aussi, quelques gens qui ont dit “tous les deux!”, alors je suppose que je devrais écrire en anglais et en français ici! je n’ai pas encore décidé si je vais traduire chaque poste ou non (ça multiple le travail par deux bien sûr et aussi, quelqu’un qui vient me lire ne lirait qu’une version alors est-ce qu’il le vaut? je ne sais pas…), ou si je vais écrire chaque poste dans une seule langue, mais…on verra. :)

alors merci pour tous les commentaires! je crois que ça “marche” maintenant, mais je n’en suis pas certain. ça c’est la différence, quand on emploie un logiciel que quelqu’un d’autre a fait, il faut “l’apprendre” un peu, mais quand on le fait soi-même (par exemple mon site, je tape  le code moi-même et je n’emploie pas de logiciel pour le faire)  — alors peut-être il me faut un peu plus de temps pour comprendre ce truc qui s’appelle un “blog”…

yay for the newsletter

I don’t want to repeat what I said in the newsletter, but I’m happy that I finally got the first one sent out. The longer I do this podcast and this website, the more things I want to try (such as this blog), and the more things I have to learn about. Setting up the newsletter was a little time consuming, but now that everything is “working” it should be ok. I put working in quotes because…well…due to a technicality, I didn’t receive my own newsletter…so I don’t know for sure that it got sent out…so if you are subscribed to it, let me know if it worked please :)

Things have been really hectic here the past couple of weeks, so I’ve gotten behind with email and updating the website, unfortunately. I think the next little bit will be easier, though, so I hope to get caught up with everything.

In one of the threads on the forum, we’re talking about different accents and such for English, and that makes me wonder. What do you guys think about non-French accents? According to my stats, about 90% of the listeners are from France, so I assume most of you are French — have you been to Canada or somewhere in Africa where they speak French? What was it like for you? In America, there are lots of different accents, depending on where you go, and I know it’s the same in France, the accent of Paris being much different than the one in Tours, both of which are again different from the accent from Marseille. Do accents from foreign countries seem even more different, or are they “just another accent”, just like it was another region?