Archive for the 'Tech/Internet' Category

Ironic?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Someone at work sent around this story, and it made me want to verify how well these search queries were working. That is not what this post is about. I often use goo along with Google Japan to search for Japanese websites, and as I was trying those Japanese keywords, I wanted to see what other search engines were available in Japan. Not knowing exactly how to look for one, I just searched for「サーチエンジン」(“search engine” in Japanese) in goo. On the results page, goo was — to my surprise — the 9th item listed. I thought it would come in first. So I tried the same thing on Google — this time in English, obviously.

Where was Google? ON THE THIRD FRIGGING PAGE.

Alta Vista came in first, and Google UK beat Google.com by coming in on the second page. Live Search beat out Google UK. Woo-hoo, Microsoft.

I guess it doesn’t matter since I was using Google to do the search, but if more people are able to use the same algorithm on sites other than Google, like through their licensing — doesn’t it become more critical that Google itself comes up earlier in a search for “search engine”? Yes, I’ve seen the “What If Google Was Optimized” page, and ha-ha, that would be ridiculous. But can’t they at least rig something to show Google.com on the first page?

Evangelicals have smaller… you know what

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

There seems to be plenty of critiques of this year’s presidential candidate websites. Here’s something I noticed for myself.

While I was looking for Hillary’s and Obama’s speeches from last week, I observed that Clinton’s site was smaller than Obama’s in width! At where I work, we have been targeting 1024×768 for quite some time. Obama’s site seems to fit that resolution, and Clinton’s, while bigger than the next smaller threshold of 800×600, was considerably smaller — about 100 pixels narrower than Obama’s.

Obama screenshot

Clinton screenshot

The difference of 100 pixels makes Clinton’s site look just a bit more crammed and busy than her rival’s. BarackObama.com, by comparison, benefits from the extra white space by communicating (at least to me) a sense of confidence.

So it got me curious — I went to the two other remaining candidates’ websites.

JohnMcCain.com: Black? You really went with black for your background color? Anyway, the screen resolution is even bigger than Barack’s. Guess we know who the real man is!

McCain screenshot

Huckabee screenshot

And here’s the punchline… Mike Huckabee’s site targets 800×600! Over a year ago, it was reported that only 17% of all monitors support up to 800×600. It says something about how mainstream this guy is aspiring to get, huh?

Yummy for Obama, crummy for Huckabee! And if Obama and McCain win nominations for their respective party, you know their websites’ size really mattered.

Coming soon: another blog post

Monday, January 21, 2008

Yes, you read about it here first, folks. Yummy or Crummy will be adding another blog post here sometime in the very near future. Do hold your breath, and don’t sit back and relax, because before you know it my new blog post will kick you in the teeth and throw you down like your daddy never could, no matter how much he drank.

Plaxo is dumb

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I created a Plaxo account a while ago to try it out for work. Someone recently sent me a request to connect, so I said what the heck, and dug it up to sign on.

But then I saw this really annoying module on my “pulse stream” page. It looked like it should be showing my Flickr photos, but it was showing generic photos instead. Seemed like some connection/authentication issue. So I clicked on “connect.”

dumb plaxo 1

That’s when I was asked, “How do you know You?”

Huh? Thought it was dumb, but I figured I can fix it by clicking “connect” after selecting all the different ways I could possibly know me.

dumb plaxo 2

Nope — I cannot connect with myself. So the annoying module persists. There’s NO WAY I’ll keep using this thing. Super crummy!

Giving Wesabe another try

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wesabe

I tried out Wesabe shortly after they launched almost a year ago, I think. I was initially excited, because I thought the using tags was the perfect solution to address the problem of categorizing personal finance details to see the bigger picture.

When I tried the service the first time, I dipped my toes in by only uploading one month of statement. I realize now that was a bad choice on my part, because it really failed to show me the most powerful part of using Wesabe.

This time, I let Wesabe import everything that it could from my bank, going back as far as last year. And I spent about an hour tagging each line item, going back for maybe about a month and a half. As I was tagging, I noticed that more and more items were automatically being tagged, because Wesabe was recognizing similar transactions. This is not a new feature because I knew about it back when I tried it first, but trying it on one month worth of information just didn’t show me the power of this application. The real benefit comes when you can see the info aggregated over a year or so, using one of your tags — and being able to do so without having to tag everything for a year.

So as the image shows above, even though I only tagged few lines with “gas,” because we almost always get our gas at the same gas station, Wesabe was able to quickly compile our gas spending for the last year.

And my hope now is that each time I update my account info, I just need to tag a few additional new items, and then the rest is good to go.

I’m really hoping that this will help Lucretia and me see where our money is going, and where we can trim the fat, so to speak. That’s all I really need to be able to do — I don’t need to balance the checkbook exactly every month; I just want to be able to know where I can optimize. And in order to do that, I simply need to be able to organize each item in my statement. Tags are really the perfect way to do this. I wish my own online bank had similar features, so I don’t have to import the info into a third-party application.

Anyway Wesabe has a social networking aspect of it that lets people share tips related to certain tags and whatnot. I really didn’t care for this the first time around, and I still don’t. But it’s free to use, and so far it’s given me enough good things (like the graph above, that really made me feel good about buying a Hybrid) to make me keep trying it for another few months or so.

Steve Krug speaks at a SIGCHI meeting

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I checked out this event for three reasons:

  1. I never read Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, but I read/heard it being referenced so much, that I felt that I shouldn’t miss a chance to see someone like that for free.
  2. I wanted to take the opportunity to attempt to network and do a little bit of recruiting since we’re currently hiring for an IA.
  3. I’ve never been inside Adobe. I was just curious!

Steve KrugWell — mission accomplished, I suppose. #1… To be honest, Krug’s talk that promised to reveal secrets behind creating a “perfect web page” was a bit disappointing, because it turned out to be nothing more than hammering home two of the most basic IA/user-interface design points for an hour. The two pointers — clearly indicate where you are on the site by highlighting a nav item or using a breadcrumb trail, and use a clear and consistent page title on each page — are not revolutionary by any means, and they’re something most UI designers practice without thinking about them. In fact, we do so much more nuanced thinking to solve complex UI problems everyday. To be fair to Krug, it might be true that some designers forget the basics when we get caught up in small details — but I still think he was overstating how many websites really do miss these two mindnumbingly simple steps. And he was truly exaggerating when he implied — although he cleverly never said so — that having those two things will give you a perfect web page.

Then again, I have to remind myself that it was a free event after all, and his job is to educate the ones who may not be as familiar with the basics as others.

I still liked Krug as a speaker. He comes across as a genuine guy, and he reminds us all to always look at things from the user’s point of view. Also, he doesn’t speak with the Nielsen-esque conviction that you must follow all the rules to be successful. He recognizes that there are plenty of gray areas, that we all make mistakes, and that’s why we should frequently test and evaluate our work to catch the problems. For example, he was extremely kind to the site owner when we found that a “home” link on her site that we were viewing live as a group turned out to be a broken link. (At the end of his talk we all looked at URLs — suggested by the audience — to apply his two pointers.) Instead of singling out that site to talk about how important it is to check your site for broken links, Krug simply reminded us that everyone’s sites contain errors like that and more all the time. To him it’s not bad to make mistakes — but it is if you don’t find out by testing with users.

Oh, one more thing. He has not finished his “Site Navigation Identification Chart” — so that was not shared as promised at this time. He did say that his idea is based on plane spotting cards from World War II.

#2 was bit of a disappointment as well. I met a few people, but I didn’t quite get a chance to talk to as many people as I had hoped. If you are looking at this post and are looking for an IA opportunity, please send your resume to careers[at]pop.us.

#3 — I really didn’t see enough of Adobe to make any impression. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I guess it’s no surprise that it looked like any other corporate giant.

(By the way I illustrated his mug since I didn’t have any photo that I could legally use for this post…)

You should check out this website

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Should Do This

Should Do This is the latest from Robot Co-Op who brought us 43 Things/Places/People. The “43″ series never stuck with me, but I think I’ll like SDT, because it’s not really about what I want but it’s what I think other people should do. I think most other people also find it easier to criticize others and point out what should be different with the world. Is that a personality flaw? Who cares! I think it’s more fun, too!

I like the nice details like the use of sub-domains so the URL of the list of things Apple should do reads like: http://apple.shoulddothis.com/, and so on. I like that agreeing/disagreeing is not used like a rating system. There is no incentive to agree/disagree just to bring something up higher/lower in ranking (like digg), so hopefully people are more honest.

Obviously there’s more work to come later (like aggregating similar suggestions and a more robust contact system), so it’ll be exciting to watch what they’ll accomplish in the near future. I’ll be checking back often to suggest more things. You should, too!

Tinker, Tailor, Maker, Sailor: New Perspectives on UX and the Web

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Just came back from this event: Tinker, Tailor, Maker, Sailor: New Perspectives on UX and the Web

It was hosted by ZAAZ, our alleged competitor. Their space was really nice — loved the big windows, and open space with booths and couches. And the location! Parking must be tough, but it’s not bad if it encourages taking a bus, etc.

Anyway, about the event. I liked all the speakers — I think I learned something from each one.

Lee LeFever: Lots of good pointers on preparing yourself for creating an online community. Maybe leaned a bit on a basic side, with advice like: Make it scalable; Have a community manager, etc. But a good start of a laundry list of things to consider — better than learning it the hard way!

Emma Rose: Did the impossible — explained the ethnographic research process in a really simple, practical way… in 15 minutes. Also she runs a program with University of Washington where she helps students conduct usability studies with real projects. Yes, I got her business card.

Jason Carmel: A real primer on web optimization. He was a very entertaining speaker, and that may be what I learned from him the most. Not putting down his presentation, but I was lucky enough to go to Google to learn the basics in March so it was everything I knew (which isn’t much).

Paul Ingram: The most ambitious presentation, and that’s why this was my favorite even though it probably wasn’t the most successful or polished. He spoke with passion about the need to create something new. I think everyone’s chord was struck at one point or another, being in a creative field and all. I think he would have liked a group hug at the end.

Thanks, ZAAZ!

Collaboration gets it done

Monday, June 18, 2007

Here’s a list of skills essential for a designer to take on a more strategic role rather than a tactical one, from Luke Wroblewski’s Functioning Form.

I would add one more to this list:

Learn to build consensus.
It’s essential to approach these high-level meetings with stakeholders as a chance to get everyone on the same page. If you’re a good designer, your solution will always be gounded on long- and short-term business objectives. What separates you as a good strategist is your skill to corral disparate organizational needs and allow your client to shoot for the same goal as a group. If everyone feels like they’re heard during strategy phase, it builds a good foundation for when you get into actual design and implementation. The client will trust you and you will feel like you’re working together. But if you come off as an outside expert who’s telling them what’s best for them, there will always be somebody who will make a point of diagreeing with you, and you’re in for a rocky project. Sometimes it’s not even about design. It comes down to involving the client and making them feel invested in the process.

Something else about this topic in general… I’m just starting to learn how to lead these strategic meetings with high-level stakeholders, and I want to stress that this and other skills that Luke lists on his post are all learnable. I think many designers fall in the trap of thinking that they’re somehow more authentic than those in the suit talking strategy, and it’s not their role, or they can’t because “it’s not me” to speak in business terms. I myself used to associate “strategy” with something a little negative, because I felt that real value was in a solid design and implementation rather than just talking about something to death. But now I realize that in order to win bigger clients and have a meaningful impact as a designer, you have to share a strategic vision with the client as well. As someone who’s always been tactical, the learning curve has been pretty steep. Fortunately I have great coworkers who can teach me a few points and keep a very collaborative environment internally, so we’re able to brainstorm almost daily about how best to improve as a group in this direction. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to share some of the things we collectively learned.

Blog workshop at Into the Woods

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I’m taking a workshop about how to blog more productively. We are on a laptop, participating in the workshop and updating the blog in real time. Because the tips are pretty self-explanetory, I’m sharing the actual writing I did rather than describe the ideas behind them.

Tip #1: Make a list

Things I hate about being out of going on a business trip

  • Not seeing Lucretia
  • Not seeing our cats
  • Eating out — gets old after a while!
  • Packing according to the latest airport security protocols
  • The work laptop. It’s a serious POS.
  • T-mobile. More time out of town, more time on the phone. Unfortunately, more dropped calls.
  • Pre-boarding.
  • Waiting to deplane.
  • Cabbies that do not take a credit card.

Tip #2: Write a review

Sleeping Lady food review, Friday’s lunch. The yakisoba noodle was very inconsistent. While some of the noodles were dry and crunchy, others were soft gooey. The sauce was too salty, and it really didn’t taste like yakisoba sauce I remember from Japan. I was a bit disappointed because it was the first meal after our arrival, and I had been talking up how great the food is here.

Sleeping Lady food review, Saturday’s lunch. The chicken in coconut milk sauce with rice was great! I had to go back for the seconds even though I was already full. Lots of chicken white meat and veggies in creamy coconut sauce, poured over fluffy white rice. Everything went together very well — Sleeping Lady definitely redeemed herself today.

Tip #3: Take a trip down a memory lane

Design Camp, October 2004. That’s what it was called before it became Into the Woods. I had just started at POP two months prior to the event, and I really didn’t know how to feel about going. Spending 3 days in a remote location surrounded by a bunch of designers I hardly knew was not something I was immediately excited about. As I look back now I’m grateful to have had the chance to go. It showed me that POP is a generous worksplace that values team chemistry. The event helped me get to know my coworkers, and to this day we joke about what happened here. The workshops were fun, relaxing, and at times inspiring, although they didn’t try too hard to be so.

Tip #4: Conduct a poll, survey or contest

We didn’t actually write any polls or surveys in the workshop.

Tip #5: Play the “if…” game

If I had a genie and he could grant me 3 wishes.

  1. World peace. Both present and future conflicts. Who can resist…
  2. Ability to live forever and go back and forth in time. Does that count as two?
  3. Ability to speak all languages fluently.

Tip #6: Take inventory

Things in my wallet RIGHT NOW.

  • QFC receipt
  • 5 dollar bill
  • Drivers license
  • MTA Metro card
  • A memo that has “2173″ written on it. It’s in my handwriting, but I don’t remember what that could be.
  • ArtsFund access card
  • My hairdresser’s card
  • Sunny Teriyaki card — fully stamped!
  • POP office access card
  • Lots more, but running out of time

Tip #7: Show, don’t tell

That’s Dan and Bess taking the workshop with me! More photos in Into the Woods flickr group.

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