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..::/ Broge Nooz \::..
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007
An Open Letter To MySpace and Tom: Why MySpace sucks
Let me preface this by stating that each and every point I make here is opinion. Obviously. I’ve been a software and web developer for years, so this is not a random rant. I believe that I’m qualified to make the statements that follow based on my experience. This is not to boast; rather, it’s to support the claims that I will make. Also, I will not just complain without cause, but will offer specific examples and ideas for solutions where possible. It’s a little something I learned leading technical teams in my career.
Inconsistent User Interface and Controls Number one problem, MySpace has a different set of controls for nearly every discreet module or section. Sure, the attempt to make MySpace videos a clone of dominant YouTube is cool, but getting around the videos section is a different experience than say, posting or reading blogs. Viewing user’s picture galleries is different than either of those tasks… and so on. And since I’m on the topic, either give me a rich text editor everywhere or don’t. Allow HTML codes or don’t. What I’m really saying here is, please be consistent. If you don’t force users to learn a new user interface in every section, they’ll be more willing to explore the site fully. That’s a better way to leverage your user base than aping YouTube’s ideas lock, stock and barrel.
Numerous Site Errors It seems that every day, there’s a new problem or bug. Friend counts are wrong. The email count is wrong. There’s a problem logging in. An example of this last problem: with Internet Explorer 7, I cannot log into an account with a proper username and password. However, if I leave the password blank, get redirected to the login error page, and put the same username and password combination in, voila, it works. That’s just a stupid, stupid problem. That same profile works just fine using Mozilla Firefox instead. I should mention that MySpace renders totally different in Firefox than it does in Internet Explorer too. That’s to be expected but if you practiced good software development habits and cross-tested, it could be mitigated. Users of the site experience strange problems daily, which leads me to my next point.
Addition of New Features To Unstable Code Until you can get the damned site working properly – the technical term is “stable” – stop adding new features and fulfilling feature requests. It’s bad software development practice, guys. This is not how you build a successful product. Yes, computer software has its bugs; even gold, shipping products such as Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X) have to be frozen and released. But good products have a solid foundation and can do the basics without blowing up. Car manufacturers don’t dribble out new technologies and then sometimes fix the broken parts after consumers get screwed. They wouldn’t sell any cars if the electrical system kept malfunctioning. For months, I have been unable to edit my profile in Safe Mode and I get blown off by technical support. Get the site basics working and then add new features… and test them. Invite your users to test them. If you need a good example, look at Yahoo! Mail. You’re not forced to use the new features, and the basic product just works if you have problems with the fancy stuff.
Extremely Poor Technical Assistance The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page is crap. It’s directed at people who are new to the site. There’s no searchable knowledge base, and the method of contacting technical support is hard to find. Even if you do manage to shoot off an email to support, you get canned answers that rarely help the problem. It’s obvious in reading the responses I get that you don’t even look at the problem I’m reporting. In fact, you’ve told me to edit my profile in Safe Mode (which doesn’t work) and usually blame “bad HTML.” Are you kidding me? If “bad HTML” is the problem, then don’t allow users to screw up their profiles by adding it. If you’re not even going to read my email, don’t patronize me with brain-dead responses. I wonder all the time how Tom finds out about all these problems, because you sure as hell don’t pay any attention to email from users.
Inconsistent Application of Terms of Service/Lack of Appeals Let’s start with user ages. Validating someone’s true age is surely a difficult and monumental task with (xxx users), but some logic could be applied to the process. I maintain a profile for a radio show, and an age was chosen to reflect our FM dial position (96). Since the profile represents a group of people, it was the obvious choice. MySpace obliterated the profile with no warning – just an email to say that it was in violation. There are many groups that have MySpace profiles, but the real issue is that I see profiles every day that have obviously faked ages. Why our station’s profile got nailed and these others still exist is beyond me. Here’s a suggestion to help with this issue: identify your users’ demographics – I’m sure you already have that information for advertising – and scan ages that fall outside of the main demo. When you find these profiles, don’t just blow them away, for God’s sake send an email to the user advising them of the violation and give them 2 weeks to change it. This can all be automated with very little human intervention. You ignored repeated attempts at contact and provided no appeals process. Sheesh. Oh yeah… users should have the option to display what personal information they choose – some people don’t like “45 female” being displayed for the world to see. Understand?
Tom and MySpace, I don’t expect for a moment that this diatribe will make one whit of difference. If anything I expect it will earn me ire my profile will be deleted. If that comes to pass, I won’t be back, but I will post this open letter on my personal site just in case. However, if you’re smart, you’ll take my advice for the benefit of your users and the betterment of your bank statement.
...why I like my job. Since I get out to a lot of places and see a lot of people, I'm bound to run into someone I know once in a while. And sure enough, through a lot of serendipity and such, I ran into an old friend that I haven't seen in years and also have had no luck tracking down.
It was Derrick. Might not mean anything to you, but Derrick and I played in a band many moons ago, and I'll be damned if he hasn't stuck with it all this time. Of course, we reminisced about those days and promised to keep in touch this time. Being at a concert where I was working and he was partying was not conducive to catching up on old times. As promised I called today and Derrick stopped by for a bit. We got out the guitar and the bass (mine anyway) and played a little bit, talked a little bit, and promised each other that we would do it again soon.
Of all the shows to hit Cincinnati this year... this is the only one that I would not miss. Tickets arrived... seats are reserved, and I'll be there. Will you? If you don't go, you will never know what you're missing. Seriously. It's like an acid trip without the acid, it's everything you thought a spectacle could be - and you will probably walk out with your eyes and neck muscles twitching from sensory overload.
Hey, if it can convince even the most sheltered, conservative people I know, you'd be a fool to pass on it. Look at it this way: at least you don't have to go to Vegas (or Chicago or Berlin or Boston or New York or ohthehellwithitjustgetonitandgo)!
Since I now have a phone that plays MP3 files - and I have to tell you I really, really like that part of the phone after using it - I wanted a decent pair of stereo headphones for it. The ones that Verizon sells with the Music Essentials Kit suck, quite frankly. I couldn't use them to answer phone calls because people couldn't understand me, and they sounded like cheap car speakers. I didn't want to experiment and have the same problem all over again, so I hunted around and found something: Sennheiser MM 50s to the rescue!
I ordered these from an online vendor and they arrived this afternoon. The MM 50s cost me about $35.00 with shipping. The picture in the above link doesn't do these little bad boys justice, they are sleek and invisible in your ears. The headset comes with three different sized earpieces, and they almost literally disappear into your ear. I'd bet that anyone who ever tried earbuds and hated them (such as myself) would love these little cans.
How well do they work? They're amazing. If you're not familiar with Sennheiser's products, they are well known for producing good to audiophile quality head and microphones. I think $35.00 US is rather a paltry sum for the sound quality when listening to music. Voice calls will take a little getting used to, as the rubber ear sleeves block outside noises extremely effectively. The few phone calls I have made since trying them out were done in stealth, so the callee wouldn't know I was on a headset. The fact that no one said anything about me being in a tunnel or hard to understand is a promising sign, but we'll see what happens when I'm out and about.
I don't know if you could get away with these on a plane or train, but I don't get on those very often so I don't care. The sound is very clear, with good bass response and clear highs. You can turn them up loud enough to do hearing damage without distortion, which could be a bad thing for people who like it loud. You won't know you're going deaf because it's so much fun. I'm hearing things in my MP3 collection that I haven't heard on my bigger Sennheiser HD 590s.
The one problem that came up was my discovery that if I plug them into the phone as I normally do (by using my thumb to press the jack) they do not connect properly and the sound is distorted and quiet, since the electrical connection is not perfect — much as if you pull a headphone jack out just enough to break the connection. I don't know if this was the headphone jack or the phone's design, however... your mileage may vary. Highly recommended.
As you may have noticed from the previous post, I recently acquired a new cell phone. Well, that means a new toy and another thing to hack, since it's essentially a small computer wrapped up in a phone. All of this comes from my need to avoid paying Verizon for every ringtone, wallpaper, and song that I want. I can also create custom ringtones of the songs that I want, or from sound effects that I already have.
If you've got an LG phone, VX8100 or not, or even just a CDMA phone from Verizon, the check out the guide to hacking the VX8100 that I've recently put up. There will be some small revisions going forward, and soon... a page where you can download custom ringtones that I've created, or even request your own. Have fun!!
After three years of being fairly happy with my cell phone (an LG VX6000), I decided it was time to visit the local Verizon store and upgrade. Frankly, I had all but killed the battery in my poor old 6000 and rather than spend the money on a new battery, I wanted something new to play with.
So what did I end up with? A shiny new LG VX8100. Overall, it was the best option for me, with a bunch of slick features - although I think Verizon is fairly mercenary with the way they set up their phones. Regardless, the handset supports Bluetooth headsets - a first for me - as well as sporting a decent camera, and a media player (also a first for me). The winning factor for me was the mini SD slot that the phone has, so I can load up a bunch of music and pictures and tote them around. Now I can put off buying an iPod for a few more years.
The basic reason for this post is because I promptly found a way to "hack" the phone and enable the built in MP3 player. Straight from Verizon, this feature is not available, but it's easily enabled using the following steps:
Access the main menu by pressing the OK button
Press "0" to access the service menu
Press "0" six times for the service code
Go to setting 11, "Music Setting"
Press the OK button
Select "MP3 Enable"
Press the OK button
Restart your phone.
Now that you've rebooted the phone, the MP3 player is enabled. To use it...
Enter "Get It Now" by pressing the right navigation button
Select "Get Tunes & Tones"
There will be a new option available, #8: "My MP3s"
Now you can play any MP3s that you have loaded onto your external mini SD card. For me, this is huge, because I didn't want to be forced into converting my existing music collection, nor do I feel like paying $1.99 a pop for music from the VCast service, which is in WMA format at a low bitrate. Not that fidelity through the onboard stereo speakers is great, and only marginally better with the earbuds - but now, I have one device that I can tote around, and listen to my music when I'm doing... whatever.
Specifically, the fact that people will use you for it, if you know how to do things on a computer. A better term for this might be "free consulting." I just deleted the fifth or sixth message in as many days from someone that I once attended class with, someone who calls me and asks only for technical support. I don’t get phone calls from this person for any other reason. There’s never any offer of a favor or service in return. What's really ballsy about the latest message is that not only is he looking for an answer to his first question, now there's a second question too. No "hey, would you mind" or "if you have the time" implied here, it's "help me." Apparently I'm now on the hook to help with Winamp as well as setting up a webcam broadcast.
Thus my rant. The unnamed caller named Damon in the previous paragraph is just one of many and probably doesn't understand why I am purposely not returning his calls. It's a constant barrage. Hell, I even got an email about a week ago from someone I barely know asking me to help him load software onto his computer. I'm sure that each person that asks for this kind of help doesn't think it's that much to ask, but when you're one of several people who ask every week - or sometimes every day - it adds up. I have a job, I have other interests, and I don't like fixing other people's computers in my spare time. I simply don't have the time for it nor am I interested in it.
Folks, let me be plain. I don't have time to give help to everyone who asks. If you wait for me to get your computer working a certain way, you’re going to be waiting a long time. I cannot afford to do free consulting. This is the kind of thing that people get paid for in the real world, and I once did it for a living. There are exceptions to the “no technical support/no free consulting” rule: family members and close friends. Close friends know who they are. They are the people that I confide in. They don't brazenly ask for favor after favor. They are the people who know how I feel about this and have been told that I don't mind helping. And you know what? They don't expect it from me, they just know that they can ask if they're in a pinch, The same way I can count on them in a pinch. As it should be.
Hopefully these people wouldn't ask a casual acquaintance if they could borrow money. That's the same concept under a different blanket. I don't work for free, and that's what this is - free work. If you think that’s rude, that’s fine with me.
As a favor to a friend, I've finally gotten around to encoding and uploading the music video our group produced while I was attending class at the Ohio Center for Broadcasting. I don't make a personal appearance (unless you count my guitar and hands in certain places) but I did the all of editing and most of the directing. Smug perhaps, but I consider this project my baby after all the time I personally put into it. So that, friends, is why there is a video window in this post. Watch away and spill your comments if you're so inclined.
I've added my own music choices to my, erm, MySpace profile. Fortunately, since I have my own website, I can stuff MP3s of my choosing and stream them however I want. If you're interested in doing something similar, I will share the information - but fair warning, it involves a little bit of advanced work in HTML coding and you will need someplace to store your music for it to work.
Here's the basics: paste the following code into your profile somewhere (I chose Interests to make the player appear on the left side. Position it where you want, here's the code to paste in:
That allows for one song, if you change the YOUR MUSIC URL HERE to something such as http://www.somewebsite.com/music/song.mp3. I went a step further since I wanted to play more than one song in succession.
To do this, create an ASX file. Open Windows Notepad and slap the following example - here's a sample:
You can have as many ENTRY fields as you like with individual files. When you're done, save the file with the extension ASX. (If you need help, get in touch with me). Put the ASX file on the website hosting your music and use that as YOUR MUSIC URL HERE. Now, when people visit your page, they will hear the music you've chosen.
Perfect for control freaks and those who like choices. I'm both.
Will someone please tell me what it is about women and concerts? While working the Dierks Bentley pre-party this past Sunday at the Cincinnati Gardens, I couldn't help but laugh more than once at the number of girls who came to the show in 30 degree temps with not only no jacket, but miniskirts and more than a few sleeveless shirts. So again, explain to me please, why do women do this? You don't come across as a gorgeous babe, more like someone who prefers to "look good" and isn't smart enough to dress appropriately for current weather conditions. I'm sure that I hold the minority view here, but I still find it laughable. No doubt there were plenty of guys who would have been interested in warming these fools after the show. Cough, cough.
Also this past weekend, I was honored to be a part (albeit a small one) of the Warm 98/96.5 the Star Cares for Kids Radiothon. There was no way that you could not be touched - even the hardest of hearts - by the stories that former patients and parents shared there. Collectively $351,520 was raised in our community to benefit this world-class children's hospital. I was there in fourth grade, many moons ago, and the care was as good then as it is now. Kudos to everyone who was a part of this incredible fundraising event.
Oh, I dunnit now. For some stupid reason, I went and created a MySpace.com profile. It's really cynical and makes no sense, since what little free time I have for such things tends to go into this here website. I didn't send out a single invite and I really don't care, but I admit my curiosity is piqued. Let's see who notices. I hate going along with fads but I love posting snotty comments elsewhere on the web, so what the hell. What's become of me? What's next, Friendster? GAAAAH! Somebody shoot me before I start listening to pop music.
Today's example of something that you should have the sense not to do? My Ex-wife of five (and change) years calls and announces that she is on her way to my house with her mother and grandmother to visit the kids. What kind of reality do you have to live in for this to be acceptable? I was floored. Too bad I was home, it would have really been grand had I already been out. Now don't get me wrong, I have no issues with my kids visiting their mother and her family; I just have issues with them doing it in my residence. I've told myself for a long time that nothing she does can surprise me and yet she always manages to find a way. Unbelievable.
OK, on to the happy news now. Friday January 27th was the night of a big event at the radio station where I work: a concert featuring opener Jack Ingram and headliners Hot Apple Pie. It was a great show! Jack Ingram is an incredible performer who likes to talk to the audience, and he treated our guests to an intimate acoustic set with his guitar and one of his band members (a rather freakish looking dude). It's official; after watching all of the guys play... I'll still play my guitar with fervor and pride but I suck in comparison. Jack was followed by Brady Seals and Co. for an hour's worth of smokin' music. One of the highlights of the night for me was the privilege of taking Brady and Mark "Sparky" Matejka to and from their hotel. It's not often that you get to spend time actually talking to the performers; usually it's a quick and dirty thing because of everything else that is going on. Brady is a hometown boy, originally from Fairfield OH and is very down to earth.
Incredible musicians, all of these guys. As usually happens at these events, I was the man with the camera for the station, a rather fun job if I might say so. Pictures of the event will be posted soon on the Star website.
I have a movie recommendation for you: Nanny McPhee. I worked a screening here in Cincinnati for the movie and it was definitely a worthwhile venture - that is, staying to see it. For all the comparisons to Mary Poppins, it isn't the same movie. As a parent, kinda makes me wish I had the foresight (not to mention the magic walking stick) that Nanny McPhee has. Great cast, great story - even if you can suss out in the first fifteen minutes what will ultimately happen, it's how the story is told that gets you there - and this is a journey worth taking!
Well, today was it: I had an interview this morning with Ken and Kitty for the role of morning show producer at 96.5 the Star. No word on when the decision will be made, but the interview went well and I have high hopes. Now here's hoping that I didn't screw myself by putting all of this in writing, but I'm too excited to say nothing at all. If I get the job, my hours will be hell but I don't care... because I love the business of radio and it's where I want and need to be!
OK, now that's out of the way. I want to share a funny, funny link that my friend Jeremy passed along tonight. I can't help but Chuck-le when I read the stuff here: Chuck Norris Facts. Enjoy... more news as I get it!