My I’ve Been Had week, or Coupon Rant

As I had said in , I tried to reach the people for McLuhan Future Festival or whatever its name is, to recover the money I’ve spent on buying a ticket to their 3-days Vortex Videogame Competition event that petered out to two hours. The e-mails are bouncing, and their web domain of mcluhanfestival.com is for sale, so I suppose there is no way to recover the money. Oh well. Such things happen. The only thing I don’t understand is, is it really so easy to call yourself a Mighty Fund of All Things Bright and Beautiful, rip people off, and vanish into thin air?
I am going to contact PayPal and find out whether anything can be done still. It being over a year, probably nothing, but I can at least try. Will keep you posted.

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Interestingly enough, I’ve been had this week again. Read the rest of this entry »

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Google maps rant

While preparing for my European trip, I was using Google maps a lot. Naturally, I wanted to save the maps I created, to return to them later. And that’s where my problems started.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Google suite of tools. They are extremely useful, usable and intuitive. I would not be able to function without Google calendar (and I totally love its easy integration with event organizing tools like Eventbrite). My business e-mail runs on Gmail. My business website is on Blogspot platform. I use Google analytics. And I am not paying a cent for all that. (I would have a hard time if Google suddenly decided to charge for all these things, I would have to pay through the nose. Just don’t tell Google, it may give them ideas.)

However, I was extremely disappointed with Google maps. They are as counter-intuitive as it gets. I was completely frustrated.

Intuitively, you expect the following sequence of operations:
1. You open a document.
2. You edit it.
3. You save it.
4. You can repeat pp. 2 and 3 as required.

Now, with Google maps it just does not work. Read the rest of this entry »

Some functionality Amazon is missing

Just something that occurred to me recently while I was looking for this book to buy it online. (I needed it for my translation work on “The Children’s Book” that is full of references to British mythology; the book was recommended by ASB herself.) I found the book at amazon.com for $70, and decided I cannot afford it. Then I entered it into my wishlist but that did not help a lot. Finally a good and kind soul checked amazon.co.uk for me and, hoorray, there it was, for $20, including shipping.

This simple story made me believe there are two important pieces of functionality that Amazon is missing.

1. There should be an option for the people to contribute small amounts towards somebody’s wishlist. Right now, if I am not mistaken, if I want to buy someone a gift from their wishlist I can only splurge for the entire book, which can be tricky if the book in question is expensive. It is much easier for 5-10 people to contribute smaller amounts. This would be especially convenient for groups of friends, relatives etc. who want to give an expensive item (think rare editions, anniversary gifts etc.)

2. There should be an option for searching “other Amazons” if the book is not at amazon.com. Right now you have to do it manually: go to amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk and so on which is a) non-intuitive and b) tedious. It would never occur to me to look at amazon.co.uk if it were not for that friend’s kindness.

Crappy policy of LinkedIn

Today I wanted to invite someone to contact on LinkedIn and got the requirement to enter their e-mail address, followed by this warning:

“Your account has been restricted because a significant number of LinkedIn users whom you have invited to your network have indicated that they don’t know you. Use of LinkedIn is subject to the terms of our User Agreement, which you have violated. An example of the violation includes breach of Section 11, LinkedIn User DOs & DON’Ts.”

It says further that I can remove this restriction by acknowledging the policy, but if they “find me in violation” again, they may suspend my account altogether. I counted the “Don’t know” responses to my invitations and found there are exactly 10 of them. What the hell? I have had a LinkedIn account for, probably, 5 years or more, and I have over 500 contacts. In all these years, during my interactions with all these numbers of people just 10 of them said they did not know me. I would say I am a paragon of prudency and trustworthiness.

By the way, it is not true that these people did not know me: I always use only the business cards people give me (their own business cards, that is), and only after talking to them at a conference or something like that. In all these cases where the people said they did not know me, what they really meant was that they did not know me well enough and preferred not to connect. LinkedIn, however, does not distinguish between this case and the case when a complete stranger approaches you after telling LinkedIn he’s your friend. As God is my witness, I receive a lot of this crap, especially from recruiters, and this definitely must be stopped. I understand the need for such policy and I am all for it. But there is an obvious difference between approaching a complete stranger under false pretenses and trying to connect to someone you met at a conference and exchanged business cards with.

Also, I entered those e-mails when I sent out the invitations (since I had the business cards), so I don’t really see how the requirement to enter emails would prevent me from sending those invitations in the first place. Therefore, the policy is not only insulting but useless.

And the moral of that is… LinkedIn’s usability, that was always great, started, sadly, to leave much to be desired. I am not going to “remove the restriction” because the way they phrase it, it is an insulting lie. Agreeing to what they say basically equals admitting that I was trying to deceive people to get in contact with them, and agreeing to LinkedIn removing my account altogether on the slightest pretext. For example, if somebody else says “don’t know her” instead of “don’t know her well enough” (and the latter option just is not there when you accept or reject an invitation).

If it’s ugly, it’s probably not well done

One of the basic principles of engineering and design is: if it’s ugly, it’s probably no good from the engineering point of view either.
The new AGO building      already sprung a leak. QED.

The new AGO is a usability nightmare

I visited the new AGO today. And yesterday I started reading “Why we buy“, a wonderful book by Paco Underhill. One would think there is no connection between the book on shopper’s psychology and an art gallery visit. However, today when I approached the gallery and then roamed its vast rooms, I thought about the book more and more. Why?

Read the rest of this entry »