Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Image Thread: News Websites Love Eye-Rubbing-Man

If you went to any news website today, you may have seen and heard something familiar. No, not the overused phrase, "From Wall Street to Main Street." It was tons of news websites using almost the same imagery. Eye-Rubbing-Man and Nailbiting-Headset-Man graced the web pages of much more than a few pretty famous news organizations. Trader David O'Day rubbed his eyes as he worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and ended up becoming "Eye-Rubbing-Man" - an emblem of the worst loss in the history of the U.S. stock market. 

Here are the websites that showed David O’Day:

  • CNN.com
  • The New York Times
  • Chicago Sun Times
  • The Miami Herals
  • CBSnews.com
  • Detroit Free Press
  • ABCNews.com
  • The New York Post
  • The New York Daily News

Here are the websites that showed Nailbiting-Headset-Man:

  • Los Angeles Times
  • DailyBreeze.com
  • KansasCity.com
  • CNN.com

The funny thing is I started this voyage on cnn.com and ended up back there in the end only to find that they switched from Mr. O'Day to Nailbiting-Headset-Man. 

It looks like today will be another volatile day. If you are a trader on the floor of the NYSE, be careful what expressions you make. Every news website may run your picture.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Switching Brands Without Warning: 800-BUY-MOVIES.com Confuses Dalmations with Lesbian Beauties

My 5 year old heard that there was a 101 Dalmations 2 movie, and has not stopped asking about it ever since. So off I went to perform a Google search to find this movie and do something special for her. Up popped a link for exactly what I was looking from the website 800BUYMOVIES.com, and it was only $4.94! I clicked on Buy DVD and that is where my troubles began. 

As soon as I clicked on the big, blue Buy DVD button, a pop-up appeared with the following text:

Historical Reference
Sorry - We no longer offer this movie as available for sale. It is being kept on our web site as a historical reference only for the purpose of general information. Also, you may wish to check our movie auction web site, Reel Auction, from time to time, since these "No Longer Available" movies are frequently auctioned off at very low prices.

That is so nice of them! The words "Reel Auction" were underlined blue text, so I quickly clicked on the link to see if I could fulfill my daughter's wishes. Up popped the home page for ReelAuction.com, and right at the top was a search field. I quickly typed in "101" and hit ENTER. I should have paid a little more attention to the labels or the names of the movies in the auction. The results were entirely made up of pornography. ReelAuction.com is evidently the world's largest auction website for Adult movies.

How is it possible for 800BUYMOVIES.com to not be aware that people searching for children's movies might not be interested in Sum Yum Ho 2 and On Golden Blonde? What does this do to 800BUYMOVIES.com brand? Maybe before their naughty auctions, Reel-Auction.com used to be generic like an Ebay and 800BUYMOVIES.com never changed their system. Not sure, but I think they may even be breaking the law by showing me adult content without one of those "I am over 21" agreements. One thing 800BUYMOVIES.com has definitely done is garnered some really Bad User Experience with me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Web 2.0 Becoming Real-er: NFL Fantasy Players (CBS) vs. NFL Real Players

Last June, the NHL sued Madison Square Garden over "new media issues". This was really interesting to me recalling the struggle a decade ago to convince customers on how valuable the web would be. Something that didn't have a business model 10 years ago has become something worth suing over today.

Today I read that CBS is being sued by the NFL Players association over statistics usage for their fantasy football. CBS stopped paying a usage fee for the stats back in February after seeing that others using fantasy baseball stats freely won their case in court.

All of this wouldn't be possible without people being able to congregate and share online. As more and more things that we love in our real lives become virtual like Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto (OK, that one not so much) we'll see the rights to content being haggled over.

Having nothing to do with rights to content...what exactly is that guy on the Vikings doing to the guy on the Packers in Madden in the picture above?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Epilogue: The NBA Puts The Final Nail In The Synthetic Basketball Design Coffin

Back in January of 2007, I blogged about the NBA fiasco of designing a new synthetic basketball. The key component that was missing from their product lifecycle was a listening channel. They didn't garner and filter feedback from their customers, the players, until AFTER they delivered it.

It was announced today that the NBA will end its attempts at developing a new basketball altogether and stick with the familiar leather version. Here is a quote from Tim Frank, NBA spokesman:

"We are committed to leather for the foreseeable future," league spokesman Tim Frank said. "We just realized leather is what our guys wanted."

They just “realized” is an understatement. The feedback from players was incredibly strong. The synthetic ball they deployed would actually leave tiny cuts on the players' hands. Another interesting comment from the NBA is:

The NBA also formed a committee of top players to test the new versions and offer their input, something that was not done the first time.

I'm still shocked that they didn't include actual users during the original synthetic design. At least they learned second time around, to ultimately deliver…what they had in the first place.

The value of vetted customer feedback synthesized into new products and features is something that should be ubiquitous. It should be as concrete a component to the product lifecycle as development and testing are. The companies that realize this succeed. For every company that doesn't, we have an NBA Synthetic ball story.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What is Google Chrome? Just ask Gordon Gekko

The language surrounding computers has always been a challenge from many standpoints. See the cartoon above from 1985. This could easily be updated to today, but a big difference is you had a very small minority of people who did "things" with computers back then. Now, you have P-Diddy as a persona of someone who is now known as a video blogger. P-Diddy is not your typical Revenge-of-the-Nerd archetype.

There are a gazillion dissections on the web of the svelte new browser from the company that we've come to expect great innovations from. The thing I'd like to include on the discussion is the language used within the new product, and by others describing Chrome.

Within Chrome, Google uses playful language, like:

  • "Aw, Snap! Something went wrong while displaying this webpage."
  • "Stats for nerds."
  • "Browser crash…go boom"
  • "New incognito window"
  • "Under the hood"

This is normal language that we use everyday. We understand it, unlike the messages we get from most traditional software. Have you ever said anything like, "The application failed to initialize because the window station is being shut down" in a regular conversation with a friend?

Outside of Chrome, Wall Street is very interested in any new product from Google because they are successful and publicly traded. I really enjoy when a company comes out with something new that has the interest of business folks. I enjoy hearing how financial analysts dissect the technology components from their point of view. It's so foreign compared to how users speak of the same software. Do you ever hear stories from your friends that use anywhere near the same terminology business people do?

Take a look at the video below from MSNBC.

Direct link to MSNBC video: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/26510135#26510135

The discussion by Jim Goldman is purely about bottom line. This product is about "eyeballs" to him as a direct threat to Microsoft. While that may be true, the Google products that he casts aside in the piece such as Gmail and Google docs as "dabbling" have become a big parts of my online life. This real story here to me is Google's focus on delivering great user experiences consistently. There would be no subsequent stories of defeating Microsoft if Google didn't do that.

A last comment on language is the comic-about-the-comic that Google launched by Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame. Portfolio.com does a good job at lampooning Google, just in case it takes itself too seriously.

Defining Innovation Through Discrediting What We Know: Scott Berkun Video on The Myths of Innovation

Scott Berkun was recently a panelist on CNBC’s The Business of Innovation. I took a course with him at Jared Spool’s User Interface 12 and learned a lot about the hard to define topic of Innovation. His book, The Myths of Innovation, debunks a lot of the fog surrounding how we look at Innovation.

Here is a link to download video podcasts of the CNBC show to your iPod:

Here is an hour long clip of him on YouTube:

Direct link to YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOkGaj6rnEI

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

FT Article: User Experiences Suffer on Digital Products

I was lucky enough to stumble across the story, "The pen is mightier than high-tech gadgets" in the Financial Times by Lucy Kellaway. In it, she dissects the differences of the customer experiences of pens, laptops and iPods. The article focuses totally on the support of these products. When her favorite pen broke, she contacted Cross. They sent her a new pen along with her old one and included a friendly note:

"Compliments of Cross."

She compares that experience with the digital products we are familiar with such as laptops and iPods. Those products are created with the philosophy that a newer, faster one will come out in a very short time frame. If they stop working, they want you to buy a new one. Apple has typically offered to fix iPods I've had in the past that are out of warranty with an eerily similar price tag to what a new iPod would cost. When a laptop blue screens, instead of caring about what things we had on it customer support people typically respond with a "Sorry…Have to re-format the hard drive."

Just because these items are deemed as transitory devices doesn't mean they have to be supported as such. We remember these bad experiences and share them forever with people.
I've written about Shure in the past, which has a wonderful policy similar to Cross'. They have a lot of Good Experience Capital with me by replacing my expensive headphones, no questions asked. They connect right to the iPod and cost about the same price as a Nano, yet they just sent me new ones when the others broke.

A friend of mine at work shared a story with me about a local burger joint in Jersey City. They were training new cooks, so for that day, all the burgers were free. This happened about 7 years ago, yet he still brings this story up. That probably cost the restaurant nothing compared to their marketing budget, yet people are still discussing it. Priceless Good Experience Capital.

Here is a link to the Financial Times article: