Checks various aspects of any URL. Possibly handy.
Checks various aspects of any URL. Possibly handy.
I rarely fill out surveys online, but given the ridiculous new password-prompting policy on Yahoo, I jumped at the chance to help them out when I saw their prominent “Help Us Improve Yahoo” ad on my Yahoo Finance page. Sweet fennel! A way for me to quickly and constructively voice my displeasure about Yahoo without having to interrupt Dustin from his Tetris experiment.
Clicking on the survey link, however, led to one of the worst designed surveys I’ve ever tried to participate in. Here’s the screenshot:
So what’s wrong here? In order of importance:
This is really bad practice, Yahoo. You have presented a survey that will not only receive much less participation than it should, but the data you *do* get will not even be representative of your user base. The only people who will fill this out are people who are extremely patient, extremely concerned about you, and in possession of a lot of free time. Is that really representative of your user base? Cut this thing down to one page and you’ll learn a lot more.
I’ve been using Yahoo Finance to keep tabs on my stocks for as long as I can remember. Ten years maybe? It’s a simple, fast-loading page which lists all of your stocks and any news associated with them. It’s perfect for my simple needs. But after Yahoo’s redesign a week or so ago, Yahoo Finance has been pissing me off. I know this may seem like a minor thing, but Yahoo is now forcing users to log in every 24 hours. For someone who uses two or three computers (or even one computer, really), this is a major pain.
I went to my Account Settings page on Yahoo to see if perhaps a preference got flipped, and to my delight I saw a panel which let me set the frequency of login prompts. Great! Upon visiting the panel, however, this is what I saw:
What a useless set of options! Every 15 minutes? Who the hell would choose that? Who would want any of those options? Why not have one for “every click” as well? You could call it the MySpace Setting.
Anyway, this is becoming a real nuisance so I’m going to kill my Yahoo Finance habit and find another site to track stocks on ASAP. Does anyone have any suggestions? Google Finance maybe? What do you use?
Two conferences, two vastly different crowds of people, and only two people I knew at both events combined. That’s the one sentence summary of my five days in New York and Las Vegas last week. It was a fun week, and definitely a personal highlight sitting next to Roger Black on stage, but I couldn’t help but notice how dissimilar the situations of the attendees at both conferences were.
On the one hand, there was the Syndicate crowd — a group of people pretty well ahead of the curve on the technology side, but well behind on the business side. The types of people who preach giving up all control of your content and basically letting any business issues just work themselves out. “RSS” was mentioned hundreds of times. “Web 2.0″ almost as often. The focus here seemed to be — not surprisingly — on syndication, but there was very little talk about business models, products, creativity, or really anything outside the scope of “delivering information”. There were a few interesting exceptions which rounded the event out a bit, but that was the gist of things.
On the other hand, there was the Interactive Media Conference crowd — a group of people squarely on the other side of the equation. People working at traditionally profitable businesses (mainly newspapers) whose companies are quite obviously threatened by many of the concepts discussed at the Syndicate conference as well as plenty of other emerging forces. There were a number of visionaries there doing great things at their respective organizations, but this conference was all about established media.
So what was the more fun conference? For me it was the second, by quite a bit. For all the time I spend researching, using, and sometimes creating technology, I just don’t like talking or hearing about it when it’s not coupled with interesting, tangible products. I don’t want to hear about RSS. I want to hear about a product that is 1000 times better because of RSS. I don’t want to hear about Web 2.0. I want to hear about a service that, via its Web 2.0 approach to things, improves the lives of thousands of people.
I felt the Interactive Media Conference Crowd was much more interested how to use technology to improve their product, whereas the Syndicate crowd was looking for products with which to use their technology. Two honorable quests I suppose, but hey, how long can you really talk about RSS? For me, it’s about an hour until I eventually fall asleep.
Both talks went very well. Everyone on the Syndicate panel was mostly of like mind until we closed the session with a cursory discussion about full-text vs. excerpts in feeds. I’m an excerpt guy for now until certain rights, monetization, and content theft issues work themselves out, and someone else on the panel was for full-text. Judging from the reaction of the crowd afterwards, the world seems equally undecided. The full-text vs. excerpt debate is one that deserves its own blog entry — and will probably get one — but for now, my opinion is that people should do whatever makes the most business sense for them. At least one person at the conference mistakenly thought I meant that full-text feeds were evil and no one should use them. I can only attribute that to a bit of what I will now call The Jason Fried Effect (anybody want to do a Wikipedia entry on that?) — that is, when confident words are mistaken for unconditional advice.
The Interactive Media Conference panel was more interesting and touched on subjects ranging from typography on the web, to redesign strategies, to new distribution methods, to branding, to inverted pyramids. I was thrilled that Roger loved Newsvine and so did many others at the conference. That day I also learned that Forbes Magazine gave Newsvine their “Best of the Web” designation for user generated news sites. I don’t mention every time we get an award or recognition somewhere and I don’t spend any time entering us into competitions, but it’s always gratifying seeing the company get a step closer to the mainstream.
All in all, it was an interesting week, but I’m glad to be back in the office working on Newsvine. We’re launching some great new things in a couple of days.
Yesterday, I went out and bought a brand-new Blackberry 8700g at my local T-Mobile store. I’ve been using a Treo 600 for more than two years now and I just couldn’t resist New Phone Fever for any longer.
I had skipped the Treo 650 because frankly, it didn’t seem much better than the 600, and I was planning on going straight to the Treo 700 until Palm pulled two unfortunate moves on me:
Given that I didn’t feel like waiting who-knows-how-long for a GSM Treo 700P, I had a few options:
I’d been wanting to try a Blackberry for awhile since just as many people swear by them as swear by Treos, so I chose option #3.
After playing with this thing for about a day, I am convinced it falls into the category of a dreaded “sidegrade”. That is, a device which is an upgrade in some regards and a downgrade in others. For this reason, I may not keep it past the 14 day trial period. For those of you thinking about getting a Blackberry 8700g, here are the positives and the negatives (at least compared to a Treo):
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A nice, compact little trick to create reflections underneath your images automatically.
A list of domain names which are about to expire, that also matches entries in Wikipedia. Some decent hits in here.
I don’t post too often about upcoming speaking gigs because I assume most readers don’t care, but since I have a few coming up, here’s a quick combined rundown. If you’re in town for any of these and want to talk a little shop, let me know:
Keynote Panel: Grokking the Big Picture: An interview about how syndication is altering the worlds of media, publishing, and marketing.
Speaking with Eric Elia of Brightcove, David Geller of WhatCounts, and Dave Sifry of Technorati.
Panel: If You Could Build Your Website from Scratch… What Would You Do Differently?
Speaking with Roger Black of Roger Black Studio (OMFG!), Darin Brown of Avenue A/Razorfish, and Lincoln Millstein of Hearst.
Session: Designing for Community Interaction.
Panel: Design panel.
Speaking with D. Keith Robinson of BlueFlavor, Dan Cederholm of SimpleBits, and Bryan Veloso of FaceBook/Avalonstar.
This is probably the funniest product introduction site I’ve ever seen. It’s very well done and whatever agency created it for Philips Norelco should take a bow. Philips Norelco should also take a bow for having the guts to actually run it.
Warning: If you work within earshot of easily offended people, you might want to put on headphones.
It’s the perfect type of campaign for a potentially awkward product like this, and it’s pretty much by definition not offensive to a single person in their target audience.
Anyway, I’m just doing my part to keep this viral. It’s pretty hilarious. Make sure to hit up all the options in the main menu when the intro is over.
Are there many other recent examples of well-done, agency-created viral Flash campaigns? I feel like the memorable ones don’t come around often enough.
Another day, another MySpace post. I don’t mean to keep picking on the wildly successful social networking site, but just now, I saw a banner ad which really made me wonder what’s going on over there.
Five minutes ago, at the top of my MySpace profile page, I noticed a large ad for a site called “MySpaceBot.com”. The impressive collection of testimonials fading in and out across the bottom of the ad piqued my interest. A screenshot is below:
Whoa! I know this century is only six years old so far, but “the most powerfull [sic] marketing tool this century”? I had to have a look. Interestingly, the banner led to a site called “Friendbot.com”. Friendbot sells a product that — get this — specifically evades MySpace’s security procedures and performs all sorts of automated actions around the site. Here’s a sample of what evil Friendbot can do:
Here’s an interesting line from their FAQ:
Will I be banned from MySpace.com for using this program?
No you will not. But if by some miracle you manage to get banned, do not come blame us.
This whole Friendbot thing was starting to seem weird to me, so I dug a little deeper.
David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.
If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.
I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.
Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror
The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.