“It wasn’t a mistake. We followed procedure.” Passing the blame doesn’t cut it when two convicted killers are loose.

The news yesterday that two more Florida prison inmates were in the process of obtaining forged documents ordering their release underscores the need for all prison officials to scrutinize and verify such documents before letting dangerous convicts loose. Of course.

But it raises a much broader issue: In the age of electronic cut-and-paste, how can we trust any signed documents in any walk of life and business? Clearly, the potential for forgery is great. Companies and government institutions alike will need to routinely include a verification step before accepting a signature as valid in any transaction of consequence. Reaching the signatory by phone or in person will seldom be practical. We’re going to need some sort of unique, embedded coding to prove a signed document is valid. Can we get the nation’s techie A-Team on that right away, er, as soon as they are finished fixing the Healthcare.gov website?

killers mistakenly released

Also…for a quick crisis communications lesson learned, let’s go back to the day the original story broke about the two inmates convicted of murder mistakenly released from prison. While the two killers were on the loose somewhere in the nearby communities, causing no small amount of civilian trepidation, Misty Cash, deputy communications director for the Florida Department of Corrections, reassured the public with these immortal words:

“There were court documents that were provided and our department followed the process and procedure that we do for every inmate when we receive documents saying they should be released. It wasn’t a mistake. Nobody forgot to do anything or didn’t do something right. There were forged documents involved.”

Lesson learned: When something has gone terribly amiss causing imminent danger to the community, a spokesperson is ill-advised to stress that IT WASN’T OUR FAULT! The public doesn’t care if you followed the “process and procedure,” Mindy, we just want the bad guys returned to prison and for this to never, ever happen again.  

30 days of tease: first Yahoo! logo truly hideous. But it’s only up from here, right?

Yahoo! today kicked off a stunt of featuring a new corporate logo each day for the next 30 days, before unveiling its new, for-real-this-time logo.

This morning Yahoo! is basking in free publicity. But is this really such a great idea?

The whole idea of a different logo each day is so… Google. The number one search engine is known for its Google doodles–whimsical takes on its logo in keeping with whatever occasion it happens to be. Copying your biggest rival isn’t the best way to showcase your innovative spirit, Yahoo!

And 30 days is a long time to tease. Especially in the Internet world. After all that build-up, the real-deal logo better be fantastic, or Yahoo! is setting itself up for an anti-climatic backlash. So they better make sure that none of the 30 tease logos surpass the final logo in awesomeness. Luckily, they are off to a good start with today’s clunker, a truly annoying graphic horror show:

 

Media Survival Skills in a Visual World: The Eyes Have It

(Second in a two-part series about the future of newspapers and other media.)

.

At last week’s Digital Life Design Conference in Munich, futurist John Naisbitt raised the issue of how various media might have to adapt to society’s rush toward more visually dynamic forms of communication.

.

“Newspapers and magazines have to reinvent themselves, as people are reading less, especially young people,” Naisbitt said, noting various cultural signs pointing toward a coming predominance of vividly visual expression. “Today, architecture is the most important art form in the world. Political movements identify with a color. People wear bracelets that indicate a certain affiliations.”

.

If people increasingly draw meaning from visual expression, how will media that are based primarily on words remain relevant?

.

Focus on the powerfully simple, says Mihaela Lica, author of the blog: eWritings – SEO Web Design and Online Public Relation.

.

“There is a clear movement toward a more simple, yet sophisticated design,” Lica Mig3_1 told me in an e-mail interview across the Atlantic. “Simple (not simplistic) layouts with a centered orientation, soft background colors (mostly neutral), big text and plenty of space. Such designs are fresh and airy. Designers have finally understood that simple web pages work well, are more usable and provide for a better browsing experience than cluttered pages.”

.

Lica recommends Stylegala as a useful resource for those looking to make their sites more engaging. “Use special effects sparingly — Flash, 3D graphics, strong accent colors can draw attention to your content. Deliver content in text, video and audio files.”

.

Lica is not convinced that the trend toward the visual means the end of text-based media. “Are we talking about the death of culture as a whole?” she asks rhetorically. “Are we going back to the ‘cave man’ stage when pictures were enough? I am not so sure about that! Human communication is still based on both words and images.”

.

As someone with considerable experience in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Lica points out that the Internet itself is text-based. Which led me to ask her a stupid question, hoping for an answer full of wisdom, and she did not disappoint.

.

Can you ever foresee the day, I asked, when search engines can sort and categorize purely visual forms?

.

“I doubt that the search engines will be able to understand images,” Lica replied. “They’d probably be able to understand pixels and color codes, but are they really going to be able to decipher shapes and feelings? I don’t see how.”

.

We can assign labels and cut lines to the images that a computer can recognize, but it would be a tremendous leap for a search engine to recognize emotion. And there’s the wisdom: The power of visuals lies in the emotional connection to the human. When we add visual elements, they should add to the emotional intelligence of the piece, complementing the mostly intellectual value of the text.

Together, words and visuals can tell a richer story.

.

“Culture has been always visual, and we don’t need a ‘futurist’ to tell us that!” Lica says. “It’s always been about visuals: the way we dress, the way we identify a person or a product. But people will always count on words for a deeper understanding of the world.”

.

- Jon Harmon