good week for science, bad for UX

February 13th, 2014 § Comments Off on good week for science, bad for UX § permalink

Leopard watching two lions

Leopard watching two lions (Photo credit: Calle v H)

these days i’m under a strange combination of feeling victorious and nostalgic over challenges that used to make me seriously irritated and frustrated. tasks that i used to do much more frequently and really hated the convoluted way in which they were implemented.

several relatives asked me to help with different problems each:

  1. I had to update online bank certificate on a 4 years old mac mini running Leopard. it turns out, the bank doesn’t generate a valid certificate on firefox 12 anymore, and newer firefox version require Snow Leopard. *sigh*. download ISO (wait few hours), too large for DVD, copy to external drive, reboot, wait an hour ’till it upgrades, move the access point because the internet stopped working, download new versions of chrome and firefox, get the darn certificate, everybody happy.
  2. I had to convince an abandoned windows XP machine to connect to DHCP router – remove all obsolete dial up ‘connections’, create lan connection, ping, doesnt work. switch cable, switch router, ping, doesnt work. open LAN properties, add TCP/IP, open TCP/IP properties, set to ‘obtain IP address and DNS automatically’, OK, close, warks! [thanks wikihow –]
  3. I had to get new government-issued certificate for access to e-taxes. even though this is a whole different registrar that under (1), i noticed the emails and instructions were word-to-word same. good news is, that means i knew what to do immediately, bad taste left because of fake competition. bonus? the user now has three certificates from two issuers on the system, all made in the same name, with the same ‘name of the certificate’ that shows in the dropdown box when logging in, making it hard to guess which is the right one for each service. and it gets even better. one of the services accepts the wrong certificate as the right one. probably someone on the other end was equally confused and matched the wrong ID. *sigh*


so much for the ancient technologies that still don’t work as expected. but there were some bleeding edged ones as well:

  1. my fancy new fitbit force wouldn’t sync. it just wouldn’t, for almost two weeks already. reseting the tracker or reinstalling the apps wouldn’t work. but the apps themselves made the whole process ultra frustrating, because of constantly changing behavior – random messages about not finding the tracker (that never moved anywhere), that it can’t find the server (even though @support claimed they are up), that the password is wrong, really didn’t help with debugging. and not everything was fitbit’s fault – once in the process, i tried logging in with facebook, which opened an oauth window, which was fixed size, but facebook loaded some security questions which were larger, which led to loading whole facebook, which was even larger. in the end, connection happened, but the app still wanted the same darn password. the tracker is now syncing, but the final step to this was to ‘add another tracker’, instead of ‘sync tracker’.
  2. and finally, i had to connect windows 8 laptop with external bluetooth speaker. this connection worked for months, and suddenly stopped working without explanation.  clicking on the speaker icon in taskbar and on devices and settings in left bar only brought up useless information. then i noticed bluetooth was disabled altogether, and it refused to switch on. so we rebooted (clicking on ‘start’ to shutdown was stupid enough, but now you have to click on ‘settings’ to find it, which is even worse). sure enough that switched the bluetooth magically back on, but the speaker still wouldn’t play anything. it turns out, the speaker icon in the taskbar had to be ‘right clicked’ (on a touch-first OS mind you), to reveal a ‘playback devices’ option, where you can switch the default device. and even that didn’t make the music come from them! i had to click on the darn speaker again (left click), and set the app-specific volume to more than 0. why i can set volume by apps, but not the output device as well, is beyond me.

all in all, it was a good week for science 🙂 everything magically works, and it seems there is some progress in the art of UX – these days most problems are actually solved by rebooting everything and letting the defaults kick in. ten years ago you had only 50% chance that would solve it.

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that h...

Jerry is frustrated by Tom who believes that he is a mouse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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2 simple tweaks that would make email useful again

August 4th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Major telegraph lines in 1891
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been ages since I last blogged here, mainly because I write too many emails these days. I actually wrote IMAP client to analyse this phenomenon, and it turned out I process something like 1000 emails per week. By process I mean read/write incoming/outgoing. I’m sure most of people doing business online these days are even worse-off.

So being a startup product guy, I was thinking what’s wrong with it and how to make it useful again.

I realized that there is only one thing missing in the whole email protocol. One simple concept, that has been around since human beings started communicating – ability to flag the messages with level importance. Sure the ‘urgent’ flag exists, but I believe it is not used because of a design mistake.

Think old-fashioned mail: there we have a three-part structure of the service:

  1. Sender can choose to send the package as ‘normal’ or as ‘priority’, depending on how important it is for him that it is delivered timely. Yes this was due to logistical limitations of the medium, but it also protected receivers from getting overwhelmed.
  2. At the same time, the receiver doesn’t have to pick the mail up immediately.
  3. And for truly urgent things we have telegrams

These ensure that all possible situations are covered – ability to send, control of own time, emergency situations.

Now, in digital world we can flag messages as ‘urgent’, and the only people really using this are PR spammers. So what went wrong? At the same time we completely dropped the (2), with an explanation that the receiver can choose to read at will. I believe this should be handled appropriately based on the social relationships.

So here are the two things email protocol lacks:

  • Social flagging: If my wife sends me email, I want to know about it immediately, and I’m ok if I read everything else only every hour or so. Right now, because of the way email works, I can only choose to see everything all the time. It’s great that the web can be real-time, but if it is all-time it starts to cause serious productivity problems.
  • Different urgent: Sometimes my wife will send me message she knows is not urgent and she wouldn’t want to bother me with it while at work. Because of the way email works she can only choose to send it now or wait and remember to send it later. The founding fathers of e-mail screwed up severely – in a real-time medium the internet today is we need the NOT-urgent flag. Most email programs don’t make it easy to do delayed sending, and it wouldn’t really solve this issue anyway, because I might be interested in reading non-urgent email during my lunch break.

We need email client that understands standard emails and ships them once per hour and priority that is delivered immediately. We need it on both ends – the senders and the readers. And I should be able to state mail from whom I want to see as soon as it arrives, and which should be delivered every hour.

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slow editor in wordpress?

July 1st, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 10:  Labourers build ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

argh! I went to write a blog post  about some broken software and was forced to use notepad, because of wordpress editor lag. there is one thing that irritates me the most in moders software – text editors that lag behind my typing. hate it. and it’s frustrating, because you can’t really do anything about it. grrr
the good news is, zemanta had nothing to do with it – after I disabled it, wordpress was just as slow as before. I don’t know what they are doing in the background, but am considering switching platform now.

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