Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Serious Anachronism: Ballmer Says Microsoft Ready To Fight Apple

I read the title of this news story and wondered if I stepped into a time machine. Is it 1984 again? Apple has been delivering great user experiences for over two decades. Now Steve Ballmer realizes how important that is? Here is a quote from the article from Ballmer:

"...there is no doubt that Apple is thriving. Why? Because they are good at providing an experience that is narrow but complete, while our commitment to choice often comes with some compromises to the end-to-end experience."

Microsoft's commitment is to choice and not the user experience. That says it all. Let's see if there really is a shift in the direction of the user experience or if this is rhetoric.

Here is a link to the full article: http://www.crn.com/software/209600615

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Kodak Film Drops Still Exist

Recently I was walking through a town in NJ and noticed this Kodak film drop at the back of a camera store. I wonder how many of these film drops still exist and if they are ever used anymore? This one must still be used, since it has envelopes ready to accept rolls of film under the mail slot. It doesn't feel that long ago that these weren't anachronisms and were a part of our lives.

Look at how weird this feels to brand this with Flickr instead of Kodak:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse: Degree Girl OMG! Armpit Contest

Having a 5 year old alters your television viewing habits. While watching The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack with her (which is very funny), a commercial for Degree Girl came on. In the commercial, they were talking about the Ultimate OMG! contest. They never say Oh My God, which is interesting because saying God would probably get them boycotted by some group.

The commercial points to a sitelet which has Miley Cyrus & Ashley Tisdale on it. They let you know that you too, can download 5 custom songs recorded by Ashley Tisdale that you can listen to if you buy Degree deodorant to unlock them. It also has a pop trivia game, which I was disturbed to see that I got 7 out of 8 right. This entire sitelet is dedicated to a contest for young girls to talk about stressful moments where they would have benefitted by having Degree in their armpits. This is a clear sign that we are raising a generation of Internet-famous Julia Allisons. The TV is off now and the computer is password protected, and we are reading a book. Not sure how long I can hold back the Apocolypse, but I'm going old skool as long as I can.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fox News Photoshop Frauds Gets Frauded By Vanity Fair

Recently, Fox News ran a story on New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg and editor Steven Reddicliffe. What they didn't include in the story is that the photos they showed during spot had been retouched to make them look like freaks. Vanity Fair has responded in kind, Photoshopping a bunch of Fox News' TV hosts, although they do announce their re-touching efforts.

It's not hard to digitally create these facial distortions. Just ask strippers and Iran's state media. Simulating cross-dressing and long-range rockets are super-easy. Unibrows, zits, dark circles under the eyes, receding hairlines, lowering hairlines, big noses & chins and screwed up teeth are new Photoshop tools in the arsenals of large news organizations.

I figured I'd take a stab at distorting some famous Technology folks while the political folks are having a bit of fun. I prefer just using the liquefy tool for my Photoshop freaking:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Out With The Old Blogger Template, In With A Newier One

I'm not a hardcore programmer. I know enough to design hi-fidelity prototypes and deliver websites, but not enough to design a custom javascript calendar widget. I've tried many times to move my Blogger blog from their website on to my own without success. I'm not throwing in the towel yet, but am disappointed at how difficult it is to do simple things with Blogger. I should have to be a hardcore programmer in order to customize the look & feel of the blog. So here I am in this middle state of being on Blogger, but with a customized look & feel. C'mon Google, you own Blogger...Make it Googley! Make the experience simple and fun like you are known for.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iran Has Bad Photoshop-ing Skills...And Bigger Missiles

Last month I blogged about how Photoshop "Frauding" embarrassed Oscar De La Hoya with phony images of him in fishnets leaked during a court case against him. Today, it isn't a scornful woman releasing doctored photos for money, but a state-run media agency. While promoting the news that Iran is testing new, scary missiles, Iran State Media added an extra missile with Photoshop. The saddest part is that Iran didn't do as good of a job with their frauding as the rebuked, topless dancer did on her photos.

I know that slimming down Mariah Carey's waist for the cover Elle is the norm, but more and more that phony behavior is bleeding into the rest of our culture. Or is it the other way around? Very creepy to think of where things will be in 20 years when it will be even easier to create a realistic-distorted view of the world.

Read more on this from the NY Times:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Google Privacy Center Makes Traditionally Complex Content Easy to Understand and Fun

Google has changed their home page…a little. At the bottom of the page, it used to say 2008 Google. Now it says 2008 Privacy, and Privacy is a link to their new Privacy Center. The reason they swapped out the word Google is because they are rigid about keeping the number of words on the Google home page at 28. This is to keep the time it takes to load the page as fast as possible.

The Google Privacy Center takes a non-traditional approach to explaining their policy in regard to your personal data. Instead of posting a super long page of legalese you can’t understand, they have posted videos with people explaining their policies in simple terms.

Here is the official blog entry from Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Products & User Experience: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/search/label/privacy

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What is Google?

This is not going to be a very long article, although with a title like that you could write a novel. This is just an experience I had yesterday that seemed interesting to me. A friend of mine was having trouble with his website. He bought his first computer less than a year ago. He is in his late forties and uses it mostly for email and visiting websites.

He was confused as to why his business' home page wasn't coming up when he typed in his domain name. Instead of his home page, a page showing a map of where he worked kept coming up. I called him and asked him to explain. It turns out that instead of typing his company's domain name in the browser address bar, he always types in the text field on google.com. This works because Google resolves this quickly, and even resolves his typos. It works for him, and has never given him a reason to use the other address bar the rest of us use. Ask him what Internet Explorer is, and you will get a blank stare. Ask him what Google is and he will know that it is how he gets to things on the web. It works for him.

As the lines between OS, browser and software blur, the brand that delivers repeated, good experiences will win.

Meetup Invitation: User Experience Design 2008 Presentation

I'm giving a presentation on User Experience Design for the North New Jersey User Experience Meetup Group run by Bruce Esrig. It’s on Tuesday, July 8th at “From Scratch” in Madison, NJ. Please join us if you are in the area. Here are the details:

When: July 8, 2008
Where: From Scratch, 20 Waverly Place, Madison, NJ 07940
Phone: 973 845 9676 (the venue), 201 213 2756 (the organizer)

We'll welcome Michael Grossman, who will share a presentation on where User Experience Design is in 2008. This will be an open forum to exchange ideas and share stories of our experiences beyond the pixels and how they impact the products we create and use. Here are some of the topics covered:

  • Customer Awareness
  • Innovation sources
  • User Experience Design in a Web 2.0 world

Here is a link to the Meetup invitation:

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

If Only We All Had a Personal Windows Test Manager...Or Not?

There was a story out a while back about Charles Walling, a retired warehouseman who upgraded to Vista and promptly couldn't use his printer any longer. He ended up with the blue-screen of death while trying to troubleshoot the issue.

The follow up story by Todd Bishop talks about how Microsoft took on the viral nature of Mr. Walling's predicament and assigned him a personal Windows Test Manager. Ultimately, they resolved the issue and have a happy ending they can propagate with their marketing department.

Is there a silver lining in this entire experience? I can't see one. Todd's article ends with:

Too bad every PC user can't have a Windows test manager on call. But as for Mr. Walling, he's just happy he can print his genealogy records again.

I don't think I know anyone who would like a personal Windows test manager, especially after reading about all the hoops they had to jump through in order to get mediocre hardware and software to work together. Mr. Walling just wanted to work with his genealogy records, not have to deal with Microsoft. They should have been invisible. Is this a good experience? Microsoft needs to get better at addressing the overall user experience instead of just the user interface.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

WIRED Gives Presentation Tips So you Can Be Like Al Gore

We've all been in the audience while someone was giving a bad PowerPoint presentation. Instead of bashing bad presenters and the presentation tool itself (Edward Tufte sells his thoughts on this topic for a mere $7), WIRED Magazine has an article on creating an Al Gore-ish presentation. This includes advice from Nancy Duarte, the principal of Duarte Design who created the slide show used in an Inconvenient Truth:


Unintended Brand Evolution: Cheese That Laughs Out Loud

Recently I was shopping at a local grocery store, Stop & Shop. It's not an experience I enjoy like Wegman's but it is close by. Sometimes convenience trumps good experience. When I got home from shopping and was putting away the groceries, I noticed that the label on the cheese said, "LOL AMERICAN CHEESE YELLOW" and it made me giggle. Was there OMG SALAMI and ROFLMAO BALONEY at the same deli? LOL actually stands for Land O' Lakes, which has been part of our culture since the 1920's. I don't think they envisioned their store code would end up having a different cultural meaning 80 years later. This reminds me a little bit of the doomed appetite-suppresant of the late 70s/early 80s, Ayds. Note the awesome camera used at the end of the video clip...and no this is not a parody, this was real: