Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Facebook "Lookup your Timeline" with NO option is NOT Okay

The way Facebook sells our data is something that I struggle with. A part of this struggle is how badly they manage our privacy. Users treat Facebook as if the user owns the content as they do with text messages and personal email. Unfortunately, Facebook is different. A couple months ago Facebook changed my privacy settings without my consent, making posts on my timeline public. I found this out by someone I don't know contacting me. I had to go in and re-set my privacy settings to make sure what I do there is private. This was disturbing. Their privacy settings are obtuse and can change without you ever knowing it. 

Their latest privacy change is even more concerning and I think it is a tipping point for me as a user. It is called the removal of the "Who can look up my timeline by name" feature. It opens up everyone's timeline to be searchable. They started notifying me by putting a notice at the top of my News Feed that I chose not to agree to. Today, however, that changed. instead of a warning I can ignore, they put in a modal dialog that only gives you one option. Agree to the removal of this privacy feature or you can no longer access Facebook. 

By being so ham-handed, sadly, I think my relationship with Mark Zuckerberg's brainchild is coming to an end. They block access to your Facebook unless you click on "Okay, I Understand." Frankly, I don't understand and don't think I may be a member for much longer. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flickr Redesign Shows That Marissa Mayer Gets The Joke

After dying on the vine since Yahoo acquired it in 2005, Flickr has been given new life. Is it perfect? Not at all. But it has been frozen in time where people didn't live with multiple devices like they do today. To give it context, the iPhone didn't come out until 2 years after Yahoo made the purchase. The consumer photography experience today is so very different than it was 8 years ago. In 2007, Kodak was alive and actually made a profit.

So literally a day before I was going to renew my Flickr Pro account, I see that all my photos are back. 1 terabyte of photos for free is good. The new design promoting the photography is good. The "Ken Burns" slideshow animation is good. Creating a good experience takes time. Marissa Mayer gets that. The first iPod sucked. The first iPhone wasn't perfect. But good companies make incremental steps towards good User Experience, making the things we love better over time.

Here are some recommendations on other improvements they can make:
  • Personal pictures are important to people. Provide us with a safety net if your Flickr account is hacked or mistakenly deleted
  • Make it easy to socialize photos and slideshows in ways that are relevant in 2013
  • Give us simple tools that manipulate photos and videos before we share them, vis-à-vis Instagram and Vine. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Java thinks I want the Ask Toolbar, and I have 12 pixels to avoid it

Today, my computer prompted me to update Java. I agreed, and then the above popup appeared on my screen. They "recommend" that I install the FREE Ask browser add-on. These add-ons are most often such a bad experience. To make things worse, for most people, they are almost impossible to remove once installed. This also feels like an anachronism.  We are living in a time where everything is changing. Intel is exiting the motherboard business to focus on the “next unit of computing.” That is huge. A disruptive wave of change is happening.
Another thing that makes this feel like something from the late 90s is the interface design. Today, interfaces are so much more touchable and large because in many instances they literally are. Look at the below screen grab from delicious.com.
The "Join" button is absolutely huge by earlier-than-2010 standards. To stop the installation of the annoying Ask.com toolbar in the Java screen, I have to get my mouse over a 12x12 pixel checkbox. Does Java work on Microsoft Surface? Will I have to touch this to deselect it? Look at the two UI components next to each other:

It will be interesting to watch the evolution of visual design in the next couple years as the hardware evolves.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

R.I.P. John Karlin, Human Factors Pioneer

On the same day as the blizzard called "Nemo" blankets the Northeast, a story about the life of a User Experience pioneer was published in the NY Times. John Karlin worked at Bell Labs in New Jersey for 32 years, and in that time helped to develop products that the masses could easily use. He is responsible for the touch tone phone design and he put the white dots inside the rotary phone to increase usability after the labels were placed on the outside. The story that jumps out at me was the UX guerrilla tactic he utilized when there was a question about shortening the phone cord. While the debate was going on, he surreptitiously removed an inch of cord from co-workers' phones every three days. They didn't realize it until a foot had been removed, ending the debate, the long meetings and arguments with everyone with a strong voice and opinion. What a great example of Lean UX.

He is also credited with creating the very first Human Factors Department in a U.S. company. UX Professionals owe him a bit of thanks. He died on January 28th at the age of 94. Rest in peace.

Here is the full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/09/business/john-e-karlin-who-led-the-way-to-all-digit-dialing-dies-at-94.html

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jargon is Evidence of a Disruptive Wave of Innovation

As I read through the titles of the first page of stories on TechCrunch.com, I noticed something interesting. There are a tremendous amount of new companies and products out there. 13 of the stories had jargonesque names in them that kind of sound silly if you say them all in a row. I can imagine them being sung in a karaoke bar to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire":

  • NanoSatisfi
  • Yammer
  • Goldbely 
  • Uber
  • Zite
  • EveryBlock
  • Happier
  • Redfin
  • Redbeacon
  • MyTime
  • Telly
  • LibreOffice
  • Trademarkia
If you check the home page from TechCrunch in 2011, you see stories about HuffingtonPost.com, Google, HTC, SalesForce, GoDaddy, Apple and Groupon. There are only a few buzzword-ly named companies listed, like Animoto and Audioboo.

I think this illustrates how quickly things are changing out there in the digisphere, with startups popping up so quickly you can't keep up with the latest uber-telly-moto-boo-whatevs. Let's check out the tech homepages in 2015 to see where the startup dust has settled. See you then!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is Why I Still Buy CD's and Comic Books

We've heard these heartbreaking stories about how our digital possessions are so easily wiped away. The latest example is from Linn, an Amazon Kindle owner. Amazon decided to delete her account, thus wiping all her books off her Kindle. I dread this happening. This is why I still like to actually possess what I buy when I can. There is something strange to me about buying a comic for my iPad app and not being able to store it with other old comics when I'm done. I've lost my Windows machine countless times as well, so I like having the ability to put a CD back into the computer when the OS goes. Apple has serious issues with being able to restore your ringtones, playlists and podcasts easily if at all. 

You can read the gory details here:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Virtual Meets Reality: Nomad Stylus

What do all of the images above have in common? They were all created on an iPad with a Nomad Brush. I just ordered a couple this morning to use for rapid prototyping, but also interacting with customers during field work. Show them a wireframe and have them interact directly with something that is familiar to them. I also ordered the PenGo BrushPen, so I will come back with feedback after using them to see which one works best in the field. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Creative Folks Bypass Old School Judgment System: Amanda Hocking

The path for "making it" used to funnel through a select few anointed ones. For musicians it was getting discovered by someone at a major label, and signing a deal. That takes a lot of hard work, but a large portion of serendipity. There were only just so many people in the right place at the right time. These days, musicians don't wait for that to happen, they just create their own opportunities online. This is simple today because MP3 players and sharing music is commonplace.

In the world of writing, the same thing is happening more and more as eBooks become easier to consume on our gadgets. Amanda Hocking was rejected repeatedly by book publishers so she decided to self-publish. Now that the Kindle, iPad and Nook are becoming an outlet for avid readers, she and others like her can wave goodbye to having to pass through the gates of the major book publishing houses. Last April she self-published and has sold hundreds of thousands of books online. Here is her story: