ad Silicon Tails: November 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Say what?

I know, I know. It's always really easy to find stupid error messages and general system responses likely to be meaningless to 90%-plus of users - as a matter of fact it is so easy that people make careers out of publishing books about meaningless system responses and UI copy in general. By now, one should think that we all got it, and were able to communicate in fairly straight-forward ways with users of our apps and sites - in ways that may even be, hold it, helpful.

Yesterday as I was posting the post below I wanted to copy some text in an article to quote it in the posting. As I higlight the text and copy it, IE7 feels a desperate need to force me into making a decision that seems to have nothing to do with my action and, worse, that I have no idea what means (see below). But it sounds scary, I don't want anyone, least of all a web page, to access my Clipboard. So much for that feature. I wonder what it is, what it does and why I would want it. And if they assume I would want it, why do they scare me away with non-sense that hints at privacy obtrusion?

Below is a much more positive example of essentially a 404 error (a web page that cannot be retrieved). The communication is much more personable, humorous, straight-forward, written in "natural language English" with clearly suggested actions to move me along. I am glad to see more of this direct and more informal communication on the web, even in apps that used to apply more "businessy" language that just seemed distancing and alienating.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Google Answers - RIP

Google's got no answer for Yahoo Answers - MarketWatch

This is Marketwatch's comment on the news that Google is essentially shutting down its "Answers" product. Excerpt:

"Speculation among Google critics on Wednesday was that Google Answers was no match for Yahoo Answers, a feature introduced last year in the United States that also let users pose questions. But unlike Google Answers, at Yahoo Answers anyone could ask or answer a question for free.

Yahoo Answers has roughly 60 million unique users, according to Yahoo Inc. spokeswoman Melissa Rische.

"We didn't set out to end Google Answers," she wrote in an email. "Yahoo saw an opportunity to build a community for users seeking knowledge, whereas Google's effort was something different, more one-sided."

Google say that they are re-focusing efforts (basically they need to kill some of the hndreds of projects that are going nowehere I guess). Danny Sullivan says that "killing off the service certainly will help Google seem like it is focusing efforts toward more needed areas". "But it still feels like an odd, almost surrendering move in the face of Yahoo Answers being such a success."

There is no doubt (even in the mind of a completely unbiased user of Y! Answers like me :-): Yahoo! Answers Rocks!!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Usability Days Conference is over

The 2-days seminar on usability taking place in Copenhagen is over. I think things went well, lots of good dicussion following my speech. I received follow-up emails from participants describing the keynote as "eye-opening" and "truly inspirational" and initial reactions in the blogosphere are positive, e.g. over at Klaus Silberbauer's place. Just like Klaus, btw, I really liked Eric Reiss' presentation on user experience and innovation: great energy, fun and intelligent. I have long wanted to meet Erik in person, so it was a pleasure to finally have an opportunity to sit down and chat. Eric recently started a UX consultancy - Fatdux - with one of my good friends Thomas Snitker (and Soeren Muus, a graphic designer I also had the pleasure of meeting). That was actually the best part of the 'coming home experience' this time - meeting interesting people. It's great to see how the UX field is maturing in Denmark (outside of academia).

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Monday, November 20, 2006

World Usability Day(s) 2006

The official World Usability Day has passed but an interview I gave to the Israel UPA organization in connection with "World Usability Day" is still on their site if you are interested - there is an English transcript and an mp3 file.

This week I am giving a keynote speech at a usability conference in Copenhagen called Usability days 2006.

Lots of focus on usability these days, which is good I guess, although at the conference in Copenhagen I will be encouraging professionals to focus more on "sociability" than usability per se.

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