Posts Tagged ‘wall of shame’

Wall of Shame Rant: EBay

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Some of you may remember Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture as an inspirational and courageous last lecture in the face of a terminal disease. I remember him as one of my professors at University of Virginia. It was the best course I ever had – CS 305 I think – called Usability something or other.

Our first assignment was to find “unusable doors”. No kidding, that was it: scour the campus, sit outside a door, and count failure rates (pushing instead of pulling, pushing the wrong side, etc.). What an eye-opening experience! We learned to observe using the things engineers like us created and quantify failure rates. We were shocked at the high failure rates in something as ridiculously simple as A DOOR. After all, Pausch said, “doors have been around for 5,000 years, and today’s engineers have yet to master them”.

[Side note: while we quantified door failure rates and submitted our reports, Randy went with a little more “soft” approach to grading, quantifying reports as “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. My report – creatively mentioning “the flames of Satan being visible in the door’s reflection” – earned “The Ugly” distinction.]

In addition to quantifying failure rates, we learned to experiment with design before, during, and after implementing them. In the intervening years, I’ve decided to write a book on the topic. It is going to be a masterpiece called “The Ultimate Solution to Usability in Everyday Tools, Software, and Life“. But I’ve never gotten past one page. One sentence, in fact. The entire content of my book is going to be a single page, with a single sentence, with three words:

USE IT ONCE.

Recently I was trying to sell some gear on EBay. I had to verify my identity by calling a phone number. Ridiculous form of identity validation, but fine – at least they can KIND OF trace a seller to a phone number – so I played along.

So I called. And for 14 excruciating minutes I was greeted with this:

EBay FAIL

Yes, those aren’t artifacts of the recording – that was a full-on ear rape for 14 minutes of carnival music fading in and out.

Which brings me to my point: EBay has inexcusably failed the litmus test for usability: quantify your results and use it once. If any one of those support representatives had called their own support line, they would have realized that ear-raping the very clients they depend on is not a very good business practice. And making them wait on hold for 14 minutes to use their service doesn’t really cut it in this “need-it-now” world…

So, I implore any and all of you portal system admins: it’s all too easy to focus on a specific aspect of a system like keeping thing running (I find myself in this position more often than I’m comfortable with – not knowing how the system is used but just “keeping it running”). But, if we do something as simple as using it once, we may learn a thing or two about why our end users are so salty when they finally pick up the phone and call to complain.

Wall of Shame Rant: Comment Spammers

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but – wow – those comments keep coming in!  Oh wait, no, they’re all from spammers who clearly have nothing to do but waste my time deleting them all.  These leeches should all … well, let’s keep it clean for the kiddies.  Spam is a fact of life, and it’s only going to get worse.

Fortunately, I was able to get a little bit of satisfaction recently by NOT approving the following post:

Dear Russian Mafia, I didn’t approve this asshole’s comment.  You know what to do. 

For the rest of you all, I’ve turned on Captchas for commenting so at least the automated spambots will be kept out.  Sorry for the additional 10 seconds when posting comments here!

Wall of Shame Rant: Oracle Support and Maintenance

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

In my last Wall of Shame rant, I blasted some shady spammer and had no qualms about it.  But this time is different:  I’m writing this post in a sincere effort to get Oracle to look at some of its policies and procedures, specifically around support.  Oracle has some stellar products and decent support, and in defense of Oracle’s support organization, support people have a tireless, thankless job, dealing with irate customers who think that software should never have problems.  So, while occasionally customers have it tough, customer support often has it much tougher (NSFW for a LOT of language; kudos to that Dell support guy for keeping his cool and staying on the line).

Oracle support, I salute you for the tireless, thankless job you have, but please stop telling clients their problems will be fixed with an upgrade when you’re not sure it will, or worse, know that it won’t.  Also, please honor Oracle’s support policy and don’t withold patches until a client gets to the latest version of the software, knowing that by the time they do, another patch release will probably come out, starting the whole cycle all over.  Of course, it’d be different if the upgraded version actually fixed the problem, but in the below rant, my client couldn’t even submit a patch request that affected the 10gR3 version of Analytics because they weren’t on the “latest version”, which was ridiculous because the latest version didn’t fix the problem either.

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Wall of Shame Rant: Beware Shady WCI Consultant Resellers

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

The views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily the views and opinions of Integryst, LLC.  No, wait.  They are.

I hate spam.  Spam in my mind is like getting mugged at knifepoint for a nickel.  Sure you’re not completely destitute when it’s over, but you just feel dirty knowing that that shady character is going to turn around and keep mugging millions of others.  It’s the people that buy these goods and services that keep shady operators operating, but hey – I don’t blame you, Mr. Penis Extender Guy.  I blame the Nigerian Prince who keeps emailing me in the first place.

I had an idea last year – even registered the domain name counterattackspam.com – that is simple in its premise:  Set up a “white-hat” botnet that would launch denial of service attacks on spammers so that the next Nigerian prince gets 10 million fake bank account numbers trying to help him move his millions across international lines, submit millions of fake credit card numbers to the V1gr1a vendors to steal for their own illicit purposes, or simply launch a DDOS attack on the site to knock it offline and protect Grandma Mildred from making a mistake buying from these people.  My opinion is that if you hand that mugger a fake nickel and he gets busted for counterfeiting when he tries to spend it, the ends justify the means.  But apparently my legal counsel (thanks Bill!) advises me that there are numerous ways to run afoul of the law on this according to the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, Virginia Code § 18.2-152.1 et seq.  So, in the absence of doing anything interesting (or illegal), I submit my idea to the world for someone else to implement.

The definition of spam is a bit nebulous:  I have a lot of contacts I’ve worked with over the years.  If I email one of them an unsolicited – but personalized – message, is that “spam”?  I’d say no; it’s just reaching see how they’re doing and see if there’s any way to help them out.  If I email all of them the same form message, is that spam?  A little greyer, to be sure, and something I wouldn’t do. 

Before I get into the root of this rant, just know that there are still a lot of reputable, experienced firms out there that can help with your AquaLogic, WebCenter, or “Enterprise 2.0” needs.  I started Integryst with a specific focus on honesty, integrity, and excellent service.  And I know it sounds idealistic, but I’m just as interested in you having a successful WebCenter Integration as you using Integryst to do so.  As such, here are some other great firms who can help you out (disclaimers included):

  1. Function1 (I cofounded this company in 2007, and while I left in Jan 2009, as of this writing I still have a vested interest)
  2. PPC (I count several consultants here among my personal friends, but they’re some of the most talented people I know in the industry)
  3. Idhasoft (I have partnered with this firm on at least one proposal, and they’ve got another of my personal friends/college roommates among their ranks)
  4. Oracle (I worked for Plumtree and then BEA, leaving shortly before Oracle acquired BEA, but I still have lots of friends and colleagues there)

Want to hear the actual Rant?  Click on… (more…)