Space Beer, Editable Video Clips, and Misleading the User, Oh My!

Intriguing content? Check. Easy-to-use online video editing? Check. Easy sharing via popular social networking sites? Check. Other than minor details, (like whether people actually want to edit and share snippets of news videos,) what could go wrong?

So I checked out MSNBC’s freshly launched update to their online video player, which adds basic video editing to a fairly standard set of sharing options. The editor, itself, is relatively well done. MSNBC kept it simple, allowing you to select a clip out of a video by dragging sliders in from the beginning and end. You get good, real-time feedback of where the video will start and how long the clip is, and you can preview your clip at any point.

To test this, I chose something with almost universal appeal—a story on Sapporo’s new “space beer”. Here’s a screenshot from previewing my clip:

MSNBC's New Video Editing Tool
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New Web 2.0 Shopping List for Burglars?

New gadget site gdgt, a wiki and social network for the gadgeterati, looks promising in many ways. It has instant gadget-geek cred from founders Peter Rojas, founder of Gizmodo and Engadget, and Ryan Block, former Engadget editor-in-chief. And it seems a well architected and executed site that’s fun and easy to use.

One feature of the site got me thinking about potential concerns: on your profile, which is publicly viewable, you can list what gadgets you have or want.

gdgt widget

A friend of mine tweeted a link to his profile, asking if others were using the service. Looking at his profile and list of gadgets he has, I realized it would be fairly easy for someone looking at the leave-in-your-home gadgets to not only find his address but also know when he wasn’t home—the perfect opportunity for a burglary.

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Statistics are neither Lies nor Damned Lies!

Mark Twain photo

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Imagine the news headlines that today’s media might run in covering this quote popularized by Mark Twain, (originally attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.)

  • “Twain Cleverly Skewers the Twisting of Statistics”
  • “Twain Calls Statistics the Worst of All Lies”
  • “Man Hiding Behind False Name Claims Some Lies are not Lies”
  • “Twain Declining Mentally: Makes Logically Inconsistent Statement”

We’re all familiar with how statistics can be interpreted in various ways to make very different claims. We’re also familiar with how news headlines can be written to generate the most interest, or may indicate a bias or (gasp!) even an agenda by the author or publisher. I was reminded of this recently when looking at a series of headlines from Google News about Apple’s performance in the American Customer Satisfaction Index for Personal Computers.

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Wallace & Gromit Meet Google Street View

Okay, neither Wallace nor Gromit are in this. It’s a cute piece from Google Japan about how they protect people’s privacy in Google Street View. It’s very engaging, the animation associates Google with a number of positive emotions, and the robotics are a perfect fit for the Japanese audience.

Well done.

Typography Gets a “-pedia” that’s Special

Typedia logo
Do you ever have the feeling there are some incredible typefaces that you don’t know about or just can’t find? Do you have some of your own you want to share? Or are you looking for a better place to express your innermost disgust feelings for  Comic Sans? Then Typedia may be just what you’ve been waiting for.

But wait, there’s more! Typedia is more—well, let’s say ‘different’—than a basic wiki. As the founder, Jason Santa Maria, describes the Typedia site:

Because typefaces aren’t just pretty letters alone, but pieces of art that have distinct criteria, a more specialized tool is needed. The site is a wiki with structure, a “swiki” if you will. We’re dealing with similar subjects and shared parameters, so we can organize the form of that content, as opposed to a freeform essay-style site like Wikipedia.

Whoa! Hold on there. Yes, Typedia has added to the basic wiki framework. Any wiki has structure to it, though, even beyond the obvious parts of ‘pages with titles’ and ‘links among pages’. And his example of a "freeform essay-style site", Wikipedia, is riddled with structure.
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Data-Triggered UX Reviews

I’m currently helping a client with the UX of their data and analytics reporting. In a recent report, an analyst noted that there was a very low and persistent click-through rate from a certain type of product page to an associated store that sells add-ons for those products. The analyst recommended further investigation, suggesting it might be because the store promotion would usually fall below-the-fold.

Not being able to resist, I took a quick look at one of the pages, and in about 5 minutes surmised that it wasn’t so much that the promotion of the store wasn’t obvious, but that a visitor would have to work quite a bit to find a way to get there. The low CTR we were seeing made perfect sense.
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No, I Don’t Want to Copy Now, but Thanks for Asking…Again

When upgrading my iPhone recently to the 3.0 OS, I finally had at my fingertips what I’ve read so many people clamor for since the original iPhone debuted…copy and paste. Now, I’m glad it’s there, even though it’s limited for now just how far away you can paste your copy, and even though I haven’t actually used it for any real purpose other than to see how it worked—I’m sure it will come in handy before long. But what this “new” functionality reminds me of the most is just how much touchscreens, or touch-sensitive inputs in general, can be as limiting and frustrating as they are freeing and delightful. Read more

The 3 Rules of Prototype Fidelity

I gave a presentation with a colleague at last year’s Web 2.0 Expo in New York on Prototype Fidelity. The first of two main points of our presentation was The 3 Rules of Prototype Fidelity. These are rules I came up with to help you find a good level of fidelity to use when creating a prototype. The second main point of our presentation, which I’ll go into in a later post, was to show different types of fidelity, or “Facets of Fidelity” if you want a nice buzzterm.

The 3 Rules of Prototype Fidelity in their most basic form are

  1. Make it
  2. Leave things out
  3. Throw it away

Now there’s a little more to these rules, but that sums up the basic points. Let’s go into a little more detail. Read more

Bad UX: Get Away Free or Be Labeled a Terrorist

In case you needed a new argument for the importance of good user experience, police in Queensland, Australia, are making fewer arrests because their records management system has become too difficult and time consuming to use.

FRUSTRATED Queensland police are turning a blind eye to crime to avoid time-consuming data entry on the force’s new $100 million computer system.
“They are reluctant to make arrests and they’re showing a lot more discretion in the arrests they make because QPRIME is so convoluted to navigate,” Mr Leavers said. He said minor street offences, some traffic offences and minor property matters were going unchallenged, but not serious offences.
“There was an occasion where two people were arrested on multiple charges. It took six detectives more than six hours to enter the details into QPRIME,” he said. “It would have taken even longer to do the summary to go to court the next morning, so basically the suspects were released on bail, rather than kept in custody.”

In the other direction, The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists in 2005 and 2006, in part because “the software offered limited options for classifying entries.”

If you’re thinking of turning to a life of crime or activism, you might want to research the relevant law enforcement systems’ usability and taxonomies first.

Thanks to Bruce Schneier twice via Dorian Taylor.

Web 2.0 Expo in New York

Had a great time at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York last week. I’d been to the San Francisco version of the same conference last spring, but was heading out to this one to present on Prototype Fidelity with a friend of mine, Ryan Lane.

Here’s one of the more entertaining, if not inspiring, parts of the conference. This is Gary Vaynerchuck speaking about personal branding. Gary is the guy behind Wine Library TV and is…well, I’ll let Gary speak for himself…