September 22nd, 2010 § § permalink
I’ve been a Flickr user since 2007, and in that time, I have uploaded about 4000 photos. I upload my images to Flickr for two big reasons – As a backup to my many backups, in case the unthinkable happens, but mainly as a way to share my experiences with my people.
The more I use Flickr though, the more limited I think it is. From Flickr’s About page, they list two goals – Sharing and Organising.
Let’s start with sharing. What I think works well on Flickr is uploading photos and distributing it to all my different channels. So anything I put up is sent to Facebook, Twitter (via Friendfeed), Google Buzz and my blog. (Well, that’s broken right now, due to the move to wordpress.org, but you get the point.) People from all my different networks are able to catch up with my uploads if they so choose. This is the main reason I don’t put my photos on Facebook. They would be constrained to just that network.
Once it gets to this point however, I feel that the continuing process becomes too restricted. A non-Flickr member who clicks through to my photostream can only view the image, check out Exif data and click through to other items in my photostream. If they want to make a comment, they’d have to sign up to the service. I can understand not allowing anonymous comments, as a Flickr user I wouldn’t want that, but asking someone to sign up to the WHOLE service just to leave a comment is a bit much isn’t it?
Why not add a blog-like comment form where non-members could leave identifiable comments on an image using a name and e-mail address, or using a 3rd party log in like Twitter or Google? My instinct is that some of my friends would be more amenable to sign up to Flickr once they’ve had some engaging interaction with it.
On to organising. The more I use Flickr, the more painful organising gets. I’m not sure if it’s because of volume, or that it took me a while to figure sets, collections and tagging out, but I keep finding myself wishing for a better deal. First off, I really really need a level higher than Collections. I find that I have a few Collections I’d like to link up, and there’s just no way of doing that.
Flickr lets you locate your photos on a map. Anyone who has used that probably know *just how painful* the process is. I guess it works better if your camera has geotagging, and maybe that’s what that feature is for specifically. Otherwise, it’s just too hard.
And finally, editing tags. Ever mistakenly added a tag to a set of images which is inaccurate, and tried to take the tag away? If there is a way to do that en masse, I haven’t found it. One has to go through each picture, page by page, click on the little ‘x’ and then confirm the deletion. Not fun.
And now for the big one – viewing images. Flickr recently had a major release where they tweaked their UI, made the default image size bigger and added ‘lightbox’ browsing. I really like browsing images in lightbox view, without the clutter of the single image pages. However, the image description is missing from the lightbox view, and is hidden on the single page view if the image is in a horizontal orientation.
I find that this really takes away from the browsing experience. People are telling a story through their pictures. Titles and descriptions are part of the story-telling. Not making these visible as we browse photos definitely takes away from the overall experience. The main experience on Flickr in my opinion…
August 26th, 2010 § § permalink
There’s been an explosion of location-based services lately, with even Facebook hopping in on the action, and frankly, I’m underwhelmed.
Before I go on though, I should make something clear. I don’t have one of them fancy new-age phones – I use a Nokia 6500-s. I have data on it, but no apps, so my opinion of location-based services is coloured by using their WAP sites.
Most of these services are focused on broadcasting where you are, listening in on friends’ broadcasts and simple gaming (check in, collect a badge, trade virtual goods etc). I feel that this gets boring really quickly. After the initial rush of unlocking badges and becoming the mayor of places on Foursquare, I became completely apathetic towards it. Getting a badge these days makes me go ‘Meh…’ and the only mayorship I really want is that of Red Rock Coffee or of a friend’s house. (cos let’s face it, that’s hilarious. ) Oh, and don’t even get me started on FB Places. I checked in there once and lost all motivation to click through again.
What I’d really like is more practical use out of these services. Some ideas:
Location-based recommendation (idea A):
When I check in somewhere, show me what’s available around me, not just which of my friends are around me. Would be very valuable when I’m travelling or in an unfamiliar area. The tools I use to do this right now are either crowd-sourcing via Twitter or browsing Google Maps.
Location-based recommendation (idea B):
Keep track of the types of places I check in to and recommend similar places when I change my location. For example, I check in a lot at cafés around Mountain View and Palo Alto. When I’m in San Francisco, give me café recommendations! My check ins are a valuable insight into my preferences and habits. Use it to keep me interested and informed.
Event planning functionality:
My location doesn’t only exist in the now. It has a past and a future. An event isn’t only about when it is. It is also about where it is. Merge these aspects and allow me to plan or schedule in my location-based service. This is what we have to do now – event discovery -> rsvp on a service like Eventbrite -> add to calendar -> get reminders via email -> check calendar/event site for address -> attend event -> check in. Why not bring parts of the whole process together? I’m thinking Plancast infused into Foursquare.
Slightly related to the first idea listed above. As far as I can tell, the only way to find new locations is to browse where your friends have been or to check out the newly-crowned mayors list. If I am in City A why not show me a list of places with the most check ins, with the most tips, with the highest mayorship turn over…. You’ve got all this information, why not lemme at it?!
Location-based irl social networking:
Facilitate irl connections between people who have checked in at the same location. Guess what? I’ve done this by simply searching for a location on Twitter. People tweet that they’re where I am, and sometimes I reach out with an @ reply, and we connect irl. Or allow businesses to connect with people who check-in regularly. This already happens irl (with attentive businesses) and via Twitter. Once again, this information is out there. Just make it easy for us to use it.
I have a few more ideas which need to be fleshed out more, so I’ll leave it at that. Also, most of these aspects could be monetised. I’m running out of time – it’s time to check out of Red Rock – so might leave that for another day.
August 24th, 2010 § § permalink
Happened to land on a group’s page today and decided I wasn’t interested in their endless updates and I wanted out. After I finally found the path to ‘adios amigos’ (fyi – it’s a tiny link under the left side bar) and clicked on it, I got this:
Notice how it changes from ‘Leave Group’ at the start of the path to ‘Remove’ in order confirm that’s the action you want to complete. It made me pause. It made me stop and think “Hang on, I thought I was leaving the group. What am I removing??”
Once again, it’s small stuff. But it interrupts my flow. Don’t do it. Unless Facebook is doing it on purpose, to make me stop and think, maybe change my mind in the process…. Hmmmm…
So, Hot Tip: Keep your terminologies consistent throughout your app please.
Disclaimer: In case my bro sees this post and gets the wrong impression – the group used in the screenshot, Plato’s Cave, his venture which I totally and fully support, wasn’t the one I was leaving. That screenshot was taken purely for demonstrative purposes.
August 19th, 2010 § § permalink
Some of the most common issues I come across on the web are the most annoying to me as a user yet hard to keep track of as a producer. These are what I refer to as the small stuff. The stuff that isn’t primary functionality, and easy to overlook in testing. The stuff that you as a regular visitor to your site might never encounter.
Example 1 – Dead ends:
I was trying to sign up to Anno Books, and I used a plus-address in the e-mail field. Of course, they had a ‘Verify your e-mail address’ step which I forgot to anticipate. (For the record – END THE SIGN UP VERIFICATION MADNESS!) They sent me the verification link, I clicked on it, and I arrived at this:
- ‘Oops we seem to have a problem’ isn’t helpful. Was it my fault or yours? Do I need to do something to correct it, do I have to just wait for you to fix stuff? Web makers, please make your error messages as informative (and obvious to the eye) as possible.
- This page is a DEAD END. What do I do now? Where do I go?? Think about it. Somehow I got to your page, was convinced to sign up, went through the sign up and verification process – and now I’m stuck. I invested time and effort, and this blank page is the difference between whether I ever come back and visit you or if I move on and never look back.
The fix: As much as possible, inform the user about what went wrong. If there’s something they can do to fix it, let em know. If it isn’t something they can action, give them a path out of the situation. A link to contact support, a link to check an FAQ, a link to your blog, where you put up downtime notices… something, anything!
Example 2 – WTF moments:
I added a secondary e-mail address to my Paypal account, and clicked on the verification link (in this case, verification = good) This is where that took me:
My brain goes – EGADS!! What have I done?!?!?! – and alarm bells start ringing. It tells me I have activated my ACCOUNT, linked a credit card AND to proceed I have to link my bank details. Really, W T F?? I actually did think I did something to create a new account, which of course, was not what I was trying to do. And the call to action, the big yellow ‘Continue’ button would mean having to give more information I didn’t want to. My eyes didn’t even register the little ‘Go to my Account’ link on the bottom of the page.
The fix: Don’t FREAK ME OUT YO!! Make sure your links lead to the relevant pages. I’m sure that account created page works well for newly created accounts, but in this case, I should’ve been taken to a page that simply said ‘Email verified, Go to Account’.
The ‘high level’ fix:
The thing is, as producers, these things are easy to miss. When I first started at Tangler, I usually only found out about these when our members told us about it. That’s a great first step – listen to your people. If there’s a small issue, fix it, and this is key – add a test for it in your testing process. That ensures that any subsequent annoyances will be picked up.
The other thing I learnt to do as a product person was to take some time out and focus on the small stuff. I’d go into the system and sign up, change details, break things on purpose etc, just to see where an error led, if we could do anything to improve the landing page, or if indeed we had a dead end in a sequence. It became a fun past time, something I’d do between big releases to unwind. Doing this became key when we released TanglerLive. We all know it’s crazy times going live with a brand new product, and the small stuff is often forgotten amidst the madness. But that’s ok. No one expects you to get it right at first go. Just keep your eye on the small stuff as you go.
July 27th, 2010 § § permalink
I was hanging around the interwebs this morning, and I saw a tweet from @Audi about a live unveiling of the A7. Awesome! Finally, the manufacturer would be bypassing the media and giving me access to a launch! And I don’t even have to physically be there!
Side note: I like the @Audi people. They’re pretty engaging, and have even responded to me to clear up come confusion on my part before. The only criticism I have is that I expected an account called @Audi to be the official global account. This one is US based.
The Facebook A7 Premier page was pretty darn cool too. I didn’t understand why they were sending me to Facebook, until I got there and realised the live stream was embedded there. Finally, a purpose to Facebook pages
As luck would have it, I missed the launch. Got my time zones mixed up. I got to the Premier page about an hour late, and the live stream was gone. I kept checking back hoping they’d put up a recording of the event, but there wasn’t any. So, my first suggestion Audi – please put recordings of live events up. That way I can watch it, share it, embed it, and that’d be spreading awareness fer ya.
A little while later, I saw @Audi tweet “Check out the sexy #AudiA7 rear …warning: maybe NSFW” with a link to their flickr page. (original tweet deleted) Great! I thought. Moar sexy Audi pics! I was all ready to follow em on flickr too. Unfortunately, the images just look like standard brochure fare, and that was disappointing. The brilliant thing about social media – I immediately replied to them on Twitter and let em know what I thought. (No response yet.)
And in case you’re wondering, final check back at the Facebook page shows the same flickr pictures. No event recording.
Which brings me to my second suggestion Audi – When you ask for and get my attention, please don’t let me down. I like your cars. I follow Audi groups on flickr, I share Audi content on Twitter and Facebook via Posterous. I was willing to invest my attention further in your flickr images. But your content let you down.
Don’t feel too bad Audi. I see this time and time again with brands. They run a social media campaign, vying for a small slice of interwebbers’ already limited attentions, and they forget that hype can get them attention, but it’s content that leads to engagement.
It’s also not your fault Audi that there’s some awesome content out there related to your brand and therefore fighting for my attention. Your ace is that you have original content which makes me feel special when you release it to me directly. Use the moments when you release original content wisely, and make sure it blows my mind. That way I’ll happily stalk you on all social networks. You will have my permission to talk directly to me. You might have influence on my future (purchase) decisions. You will HAVE my attention *and* engagement.
July 9th, 2010 § § permalink
I decided a while ago that instead of ranting on Twitter about borked sites, I’d be more constructive and e-mail the company with issues and suggestions. Now, this works really well for startups/Web2.0 sites. Not only do they have ways to contact them prominently displayed, they actually read and respond to communication. Not quite the same with ‘corporation sites’. Save for a couple of instances (MSFAustralia for example) they don’t wanna hear from ya. So here’s my solution – presenting the Pro Bono series!
Vodafone’s (prepaid) mobile broadband gets the honour of being the first to be on the recipients’ list. Vodafone have a desktop app that you have to install in order to get connected:
The ‘View Usage’ panel in the image doesn’t actually give you the total amount of data you’ve used in a credit period. Which is kinda important when on a prepaid account with usage limits. Also, what’s with the 3G and GPRS columns? I don’t understand why I need to see that, unless it’s an advertisement of sorts – “oooh look at how much 3G you got!” Trust me vodafone, when I can’t load Gmail in basic HTML mode even while on 3G, it doesn’t count for a damn thing.
The real pain point comes when one clicks on ‘Check Prepay Balance’ or any of the options in the Service Info section. Clicking on those takes you to a web page. (In the image I’ve mistakenly highlighted ‘Other Programs’ as well. Those don’t redirect to a web page) A generic page, which has nothing to do with the option you clicked on in the first place.
Now listen up Vodafone, here is what should happen when I click on ‘Check Prepay Balance’: show me the balance in the desktop app. A lesser option would be to redirect me to a web page already logged in and displaying the relevant info. The least desirable option would be to redirect me to a log in page where I will be redirected to a page showing the Balance immediately after I log in. Notice how launching a generic page IS NOT AN OPTION. Making me jump through hoops just makes me feel you’re wasting my time and precious data limit. Not to mention how painfully slow pages load when your network is crawling.
The same applies to all the other options in the Service Info Category. I don’t see why the desktop app doesn’t already handle these, but if you have to redirect me to a web page, log me in, and send me to a page directly addressing the option I’ve clicked on.
Oh, and one last thing – EVERY TIME the desktop app launches, the software goes through an update loop. There are never any software updates, and it does it even if I use the app everyday. Cancelling it doesn’t stop it. Honestly, sometimes it’s like this app was built just to annoy.
Dear Vodafone, please fix it.
June 30th, 2010 § § permalink
Yo listen up.
There’s 2 things you need to know
1) I’m a fair person.
2) Don’t argue with me when I’m right.
That’s all you need to know. To deal with me and pretty much everyone I know.
Now all you need to do is empower your employees to deal with that. When I’m rightfully making a point, they should listen. (See point 2) IF they contradict me, they will get raised hackles. (See point 1) If they acknowledge my point, you get my business again.
When I’m wrongfully making a point, they can (cordially) set me straight, and I’ll take that. (See point 1) And you’ll keep getting my business.
Makes my life easy, and believe it or not, yours too.
November 28th, 2009 § § permalink
This issue is fast turning into one of my pet peeves, hence the following rant.
Dear Facebook and Twitter,
I’m a active member of your sites. So active (productive even) in fact, that I have thousands of Tweets, likes, shared items, comments, you name it. I’m doing exactly what you want and need me to do. So why won’t you let me access them?!?!?! *pulls hair out*
Why is it, Facebook, that I can’t search my past activity? Why is it you won’t let me search wall posts I’ve received? Why is it there is nowhere I can go to view the comments I’ve made?
And Twitter, you’re no better. Thanks to you, I’ve had to resort to ‘favouriting’ my own tweets so I can find them when I need them.
(I mean, seriously, how insane is that?! Not to mention it makes me look like a complete egomaniac… *tsk*)
This might seem like a trivial issue to some, but there is a lot of information exchanged in micro-exchanges on both these services. Information directly related to and useful to me. And every once in a while, I need access to this information. It would be great to be able to perform a simple search and get the information I’m looking for. And I don’t understand why I can’t already do just that.
Living in the moment is great, but I would like the ability to wander down memory lane too.