Skip to content

“Hello world” problems

“Hello world” problems published on No Comments on “Hello world” problems

Originally published on ReadWriteWeb

If you’re commenting on a tech story that involves a change that upset some people, and you’re not one of those people, it’s incredibly important to explain why those people are wrong to be upset. (Not that you don’t understand why they’re upset – that they’re wrong. See the difference?)

Problem is, you may be new to tech comment threads, and your instincts may lead you to make rookie mistakes, like:

  • putting yourself in the other person’s shoes
  • reading their comment past the first six words
  • reflecting before replying, while replying, or after replying

But don’t worry! Yes, you were wrong (see how easy that is to say?), but it’s never too late to learn how to dismiss other people’s points of view. Here are some classic moves that are proven winners, in the all-important sense that someone else loses:

Other people have bigger problems! They’re complaining about a bug? Point out that in Syria, the government is massacring their own citizens by the thousands. Yeah, that week’s worth of work that was lost thanks to that server failure doesn’t look so all-fire important now, does it? (The beauty of this is you can almost always find someone with bigger problems. “You only have three minutes left to live? This guy next to you has only two minutes!”)

You should be down on your knees in gratitude! They don’t like the new terms of service that pledges their vital body organs to a social network’s CTO? Tell them to stop bitching about the ***free*** service that the company is giving them out of the goodness of their hearts, asking only for their time, attention, content, data lock-in, personal information, clickthroughs, friends’ personal information and a multi-billion-dollar valuation the day they go public.

You upgraded too early! They’re complaining because printer drivers aren’t available yet for the latest version of the OS? That’s the price of living on the cutting edge! Suck it up!

You should have upgraded! They’re complaining because the only printer drivers available are for a version of their OS released last Thursday? That’s the price of driving in the slow lane, Grandpa! Upgrade or die!

You’re doing it wrong! They’re complaining because they can’t automatically post to GripPnar any more from QiggLope using the “Klarg This” button? That’s because they’re too stupid to use your clever technique, which uses a simple Python script, sixty-two metres of duct tape, a goat’s right ear, and a Beowulf cluster positioned in the exact geometric center of Stonehenge. Easy-peasy… unless you’re a moron.

You’re a prima donna! Ooo, Mr. Fancy-pants My-Smart-Phone-Can-Receive-AND-Send-Data is upset because the network was down for three days without notice? Why doesn’t he take his latte-driving Volvo-sipping Armani-eating sushi-wearing ass back to the lawn-bowling club?

Oh, boo-hoo! This is a handy one when you don’t actually have a coherent reason to disagree with someone. Also useful (and always funny and original, no matter how many times you say it): “Call the waaaah-mbulance!”

So that’s seven ways to avoid having to put yourself in someone else’s shoes (a proven cause of athlete’s foot) or see things from their point of view (a proven cause of pink eye). Got any suggestions of your own?

Not that I’ll be listening.

Click (and click, and click) to donate

Click (and click, and click) to donate published on No Comments on Click (and click, and click) to donate

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb

In times of horrific disaster, we want to reach out and help. That’s especially true if we’ve actually seen events unfold in front of us as they happened, whether it’s on live TV or Twitter.

For the organizations and agencies that raise money to provide relief, this is a critical time. Potential donors are seized with the urgency of the situation – and are flocking to their websites.

Which means usability suddenly takes on even greater importance. Add one form field too many, program in an unnecessary intermediate step, put a button here instead of there, and you can lose those donors… and the money they might have given.

That might sound silly and irrational, and it is. Nobody deliberately makes the calculated decision that their compassion for another human being is outweighed by the inconvenience of a poorly-coded pull-down menu.

But unconsciously, that’s exactly what happens: some part of our brain figures we’ve clicked one too many times, and bails on a cause we care about. Maybe that doesn’t speak well of us as a species, but it speaks volumes about the importance of usability testing.

On the other hand, our less rational sides can sometimes make us donate when we perhaps should be taking a step back and looking critically at the recipient. The folks at Charity Navigator have a series of suggestions for you to consider before you make your contribution to help folks in Japan, and it’s well worth reading.

How usability affects online fundraising is just one of the things I’ll be looking to learn more about next week at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Washington, DC. I’ll be cartoon-blogging the event; if you’re coming too, be sure to say hi.



Edge cases of the third kind

Edge cases of the third kind published on 2 Comments on Edge cases of the third kind

Originally posted on ReadWriteWeb.

Hard to believe it’s already been a year since I posted my farewell to Internet Explorer 6. (By “farewell” I meant “Just frickin’ die already.”)

My post was prompted by the announcement that support was ending for IE6 on Google Apps; since then, IE6’s decline has accelerated, dwindling into low-single-digit percentages of browser visits (if that) on most of the sites I manage.

And this week, the latest heavyweight jumped on the let’s-kill-IE6 bandwagon: Microsoft, which launched the Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site. It sets a target of reducing IE6 usage to less than 1% worldwide.

“For the love of god, please stop using our product” is an unusual message, but it’s a welcome one from Redmond. I’ve already been told by one client not to bother supporting it – which is superb news.

So if you haven’t already struck IE6’s installed base off your list of users you have to support, chances are you’ll be doing it sometime in the next few months.

But don’t feel too smug. If there’s anything to the latest sensational headlines from astronomy news(and that might be a big if), we might have a whole new group of use cases to consider.