Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Getting Around Bad Web Page Layouts

The page layouts of some sites seem to be designed by people only viewing sites on huge monitors. Google also seems to test some of their stuff only with super fast and super low latency connections. It isn't so surprising companies that don't have much customer focus just do what looks good in their office (which often isn't what the customer experiences).

Zillow and Trulia offer real estate information and provide maps. Unfortunately they don't bother to design the page layouts for the needs of people without huge monitors. For example, Zillow has 20% of the top of my screen used and then 50% of the right of the screen taken so you have this pretty small window for the content I want to see - the map.

I super easy design that would be done if customer focus was a concern is just allow the right column to be closed by users that don't want that waster their screen. But Zillow doesn't do that.

Given this I found another way to get back your view even if the page is designed to prevent it. Make the browser window very large (much more than your screen). Have the useless right column that you don't have any use for moved off the screen. This is obviously awkward but it works.

Sadly they then center the content for specific housing result so you have a huge amount of white space on the left and the page results scroll off the screen on the right. If they just didn't center it, things would be fine. If you right-click open the link in a new window it works (because the window opens as a normal sized window instead of the super large window created to cope with the badly designed web page).

These are the kind of solutions that only make sense for badly designed sites that are worth your time working around their bad designs. Most of the time I just abandoned such sites. But in those rare cases I actually find the site worth dealing with even with the poor design choices you can sometimes find work arounds in case you are not sitting in the exact conditions of their office (no large monitor, perhaps less awesome eyesight - which goes as people age…).

Another common failing of sites is thinking they can (or should even try) to treat web pages like magazines. So when you use larger fonts (very common for older users - very uncommon for web designers) the display falls apart - Trulia has this failing in the vary bad way of having content fall behind other content so you can't even see it).

Zillow and Trulia are actually pretty useful sites if you are interested in USA real estate. Supposedly Zillow is trying to buy Trulia. In a capitalist society this wouldn't be allowed. I hope it is not. But in a corrupt political society where cash buys votes and regulatory decisions it would be allowed. My guess is it will be allowed.

Related: Poor Web Site User Experience (Ux) for stock market data - Customer Focus and Internet Travel Search - Political and Corporate Cronyism are not Capitalism - 6 years Later Goolge Acts To Let Me Block Sites I don't want to see - snd then Google re-polluted the results :-(

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Blocking Bad Actor Web sites

I followed a link to a site that forced download of 2 files before Chrome finally stopped it and opened up 2 extra tabs and put a blocking popup that wouldn't even allow Chrome to shut down without saying ok to their crap (force shutdown via Apple was the only option).

I wish I could subscribe to a curated list of such sites to block my browser from going there. And I had the ability to submit my candidates (like the jack ass site today). I also wish browsers didn't allow that type of crap (the popup window, files and extra tabs) to get by and mess with me. Popups should not be allowed without my explicit approval. Downloads shouldn't be either (at least for most files - .jpg etc probably should). I wish the curated list would also deal with this and block more from bad actor sites and allow more from good actor sites…

Are there solutions that are addressing this now? What are they?

Trip Advisor is the only legitimate site I know that frequently abuses popup tabs etc.. Other sites I guess do it in a standard way that honors browser preferences. In my experience on bad actors, spammers, etc. and Trip Advisor (who I guess many would put in the bad actor category but I excuse or at least see as a useful actor that behaves badly so I see a bit differently than all the other bad actors that offer nothing of value to offset their bad behavior) - the only site that I use which abuses users but is useful otherwise is Trip Advisor. There are probably a couple other sites in the Trip Advisor bad actor category but I just don't bother using them. Well actually Google can come close sometimes but really I rarely see them do this type of thing (notification icon is one example of such bad behavior by Google).

Related: Practicing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at Apple - AT&T's Attempt to Take Away Consumer's Rights Denied - Incredibly Bad Customer Service from Discover Card - More Bad Customer Service Examples :-(

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Homicides by Gun Have Declined a Great Deal in the USA the last 20 Years - Still Over 11,000 People Killed with Guns in the USA Every Year

Homicides using guns in the USA have seen a big decline in the last 20 years. In 2010, CDC data counted 11,078 gun homicide deaths, compared with 18,253 in 1993 which is a rate of 3.6 gun homicides per 100,000 people, compared with 7.0 in 1993. This is great news. But this leaves the USA with 11,078 gun homicides in 2010 which is horrible.

From 1993 to 2000, the death rate dropped 45%. From 2000 to 2010, the death rate declined only 7% more.

The Pew Research report provides a large amount of detail on this aspect of our safety and health.

Deaths from mass shootings are a relatively small share of firearm homicides. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report (Congressional Research Service, 2013), 78 public mass shootings occurred in the United States from 1983 through 2012, claiming 547 lives and injuring 476 people.

... The United Nations Global Study on Homicide (UNODC, 2011) estimated that 199,000 homicides, or 42% of the 468,000 worldwide total in 2010, were committed by firearm.

According to U.N. statistics, the U.S. firearm homicide rate and overall homicide rate are higher than those in Canada and in Western European and Scandinavian nations, but lower than those in many Caribbean and Latin American countries for which data are available.

Where does the U.S. rank internationally in terms of gun crime of all types? A report that compared 2003-2004 victimization survey data for 30 countries, including most developed nations, found that the U.S. ranked about average in an overall index of common crimes (Van Dijk et al., 2007).

However, the report placed the U.S. among the top countries for attacks involving firearms. “Mexico, the USA and Northern Ireland stand out with the highest percentages gun-related attacks (16%, 6% and 6% respectively).” The U.S. had the highest share of sexual assault involving guns.
If the USA had the rates of gun homicides as Western European countries over 9,000 people would spared every year. At the Japan rate nearly 11,000 people would be spared every year.

USA rate for 2011 4 per 100,000 (homicide 3.6 + accident .3 + undetermined .1)
France = .68
Canada = .59
Italy = .47
Germany = .3
Spain = .2
UK = .07
Japan = .02

The improvement in the USA is good, but we shouldn't ignore the 9,000 people killed every year that other societies have shown is not necessary. That is 90,000 people every decade. That is a huge number, even based on the lower rate of gun homicides we have today compared to 20 years ago.

Related: Militarized Police Culture Creates Long Term Large Scale SWAT Raid Failure for Society - Using Deming’s Management Ideas to Reduce Violence in Prison - Police Failing to Enforce Law If Lawbreaker is a Police Officer - Police State

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Amazon Needs to Provide Assurance That Reviews Are Not Subject to Legal Harassment

I realize it is a tricky situation for Amazon. But if Amazon doesn't strongly and openly attack companies and lawyers trying to silence honest reviews on Amazon then we can't trust Amazon's reviews which have been a great source of information for customers.

Here is an example of a law firm trying to rid Amazon of honest reviews. The lawyers at Amazon probably want Amazon to just ignore things and let the intimidation take place. Legally it is likely the easiest thing for Amazon to do.

But if Amazon puts customer service first (which I think they try to do more than most companies) they have to take a strong stand against lawyers trying to suppress information about bad products of the companies they represent. The strong steps they could take include putting a note on every product by that company leading to details about evidence the company attempts to suppress negative reviews. They could also suspend offending companies for a period of time. They could raise their margins on such companies (thus making those companies products more costly). They could require companies to disclose any legal actions taken against Amazon review. Amazon could take legal action (or provide lawyers to those with standing to take legal action if lawyers trying to undermine Amazon's reviews isn't seen as something Amazon is allowed to protect against) against those lawyers trying to undermine the integrity of Amazon reviews.

There are all sorts of things Amazon could do to give customers access to better reviews that if lawyers are allied to intimidate and suppress honest negative reviews. They require effort and expense by Amazon so I doubt they will do much more than token action when the attention is so strong as to make inaction cause people question the integrity of Amazon reviews. It is certainly easier to sit by and ignore attempts to suppress negative reviews. I hope Amazon decides to take strong and public action to stop the abuse of the legal system to suppress negative reviews.

Related: HP Leaders Once Again Caught in Corruption Scandal - Action Is More Important Than Sympathy - Poor Service from Amazon (2008) - Jeff Bezos: Innovation, Experiments and Long Term Thinking - Links about Customer Hostility by Companies Update: Amazon revoked the offending company's right to sell on Amazon. Good move.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Exploratory and Scripted Software Testing

My response to, The Software Tester’s Easter Egg Hunt
I also whole-heartedly agree with his overall point that skill-based testing is much more valuable than the ability to mindlessly create and run hundreds of scripted tests. The only issue here is that, in order to make Holland’s point a bit more realistic, you really need to add a few layers to this hunt:
  • The eggs aren’t always visible at first glance.
  • Each hunt lasts a finite amount of time.
  • After each hunt, someone else renovates the building and hides new Easter eggs.
When you include these factors in the equation, scripted tests can become an extremely valuable asset.
Also each bug may only appear when certain other conditions are in specific states and when they are not in those states everything works fine (pairwise and combinatorial bugs). Like I can't use your comment system with Chrome ("Disqus seems to be taking longer than usual. Reload?" - just forever, reloading...) but I can with Firefox.

The most apparent/predictable pairwise and combinatorial bugs can be caught with exloratory testing. Many may not be though.

Scripted testing is good to check specific settings for specific results. Doing a bunch of this programmatically is very useful (especially to catch unexpected bugs from minimal code updates - doing full exploratory testing of an entire application every time any code is updated would take a great deal of resources - and likely slow things down too). Doing some of it with a person looking for issues in specific test cases is wise.

Thinking this is all you have to do is very unwise. You need exploratory testing by a knowledgeable software tester (or if this isn't possible then exploratory testing by a user proxy - this is not perfect but is much better than nothing) if you care about the quality of your software.

Related: Which is Better, Orthogonal Array or Pairwise Software Testing? - Maximizing Software Tester Value by Letting Them Spend More Time Thinking - Cem Kaner: Testing Checklists = Good / Testing Scripts = Bad?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HP Leaders Once Again Caught in Corruption Scandal

Hewlett-Packard seems destine to continue to have extremely bad behavior by those chosen to lead the company. At some point they need to appoint a board with the ethics and moral compass to take the proper actions and the competence to take effective action.

Hewlett-Packard Admits to International Bribery and Money Laundering Schemes
Hewlett-Packard has admitted to creating and using slush funds for bribes, money laundering, and clandestine “bag of cash” handoffs in order to profiteer off of lucrative government contracts in Russia, Poland, and Mexico, according to court documents.

HP’s guilty plea carries with it a $108 million penalty — a combination of SEC penalties, as well as criminal fines and forfeitures paid out to the Department of Justice. Thus far no criminal charges have been brought against American HP executives. The multi-agency investigation, which was conducted by multi-national law enforcement partners, the FBI, IRS, and SEC, has revealed kleptocracies in the three foreign governments and corruption and dishonesty among HP corporate fat cats.
I have written before about the corruption on the HP board and other bad behavior. Such a shame for a company that once was ethical and produced value for society.

Related: Geo-obsolense from anti-global HP (in addition to planned [coded-in] obsolescence HP breaks customers products based on geography - HP Poor Service – Industry Standard? (2006) - $8,000 Per Gallon Ink from HP (2007) - Another Year of CEO’s Taking Hugely Excessive Pay (in 2008 HP CEO took 7.4% of corporate profits personally before being tossed due to ethical failings). - Bad Behavior at HP (2006)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What I Would Include in a Redesigned Twitter Profile

Twitter has rolled out a new profile design with heavy emphasis on photos. It is being rolled out over the next few weeks, my account doesn't have it yet. Follow me on Twitter: curiouscat_com.

The new large banner image is good and the positioning of the Twitter user's avatar in that is good. The old design had the Twitter user's avatar in the middle of the larger photo which wasn't a great design.

The changes are not that large it doesn't seem to me, just some layout tweaking for more image space and a tiny bit of change (the list of followers is not "card" like instead of old tweet stream like) but still minor.

I would provide more space for the user to explain themselves and link to their other web sites, interests etc. I would have a new profile page (in addition to the current tweet stream page) that let the user write few paragraphs about themselves. I would let them add several web links (maybe force it into specific patterns but probably not). If it was forced into a specific pattern you could say let them add, for example): I would provide interesting view of data that can be gleaned from the Twitter universe on the profile page. I would have a "tag" cloud based on their use of # in their tweet stream (I would also put this tag cloud on their tweet stream page). How about a tag cloud based on those they follow? A tag cloud based on their favorited tweets.

Provide a link to their top 20 retweeted tweets (and such like things top 20 favorites). Provide another view with a decaying over time variable (so new stuff would rise and older stuff drop - like Reddit but much more slowly).

I would let them select tags they are interested in (and based on tags selected suggest other tags and users to follow). I would show links to popular users on specific tags. I would likely and some Klout like ratings (including doing so based on topics).

I would provide interesting data mining information based on users. For example, take the list of people following me, show a list of the top 20 people followed by everyone following me. Show a list like that but tweaked to compensate for overall popularity (so lets say Bill Murray is followed by millions of people and Justin Hunter isn't 5 of my followers following Justin would put Justin ahead of the 15 following Bill). I think there are probably all sorts of cool ways to show interesting stuff based on the data Twitter has.

I would also turn off nofollow on some links (I am not that tied to how this was done, personally I would do it for all links, in tweets, profile etc.) based on algorithms determining the user was popular and should be "trusted" as not spammy. It might make sense to have a couple levels based on how good the algorithm detrained the user to be.

Twitter is stuck in this outdated model based on fear of Google penalizing sites that annoy Google and so Twitter marks all non-Twitter links as "untrusted" (nofollow).

Maybe Twitter is also using nofollow because based on the poor way Google is using nofollow Twitter's pages itself are pushed high by telling Google not to trust any links on Twitter. Google+ started off not telling its Google search people all their links were untrusted. I am not sure, but when I look now it seems like Google+ has started untrusting all links that don't directly aid Google (so internal links to a Google page - like the users Google+ profile are trusted and all other links are said to be untrustworthy). We really need the other search engines to step of their game as Google gets worse and worse about finding good content and instead is focused on finding content that don't run afoul of any Google dictate.

It is this fear of Google that results in sites marking all links not to their sites (or sites with which they have corporate allegiance - so large companies benefit greatly from the aim to provide very few links that are not marked untrusted, as they have large set of corporate sites and large corporate alliances).

There is so much more Twitter could do with profiles and customization they really should be doing much more by now.

Related: Google Falls Victim to Google’s Confusing Dictates, Punishment to Google and Google Users Likely - How Google Could Improve Results (2005, most are still needed) - posts on usability (management blog)

I would also let you delete direct messages. I have idiotic spam DMs and I can't see anyway to delete them.