When building software, you often encounter a case where you expected user input in some form, but it arrives at another. Excellent products do not reach such situations because they know what to expect from their users. Generally speaking, the situation of receiving “bad” input can be divided to two cases:
Number 2 is bad. This week I encountered one of the worst examples of this scenario, in one of the most baked products in the world: Microsoft Outlook (of which I’m a fan, by the way).
I input a bunch of email addresses separated by commas, and got this dialog:
I was so pissed off at that. So Outlook doesn’t accept my input, but also has the nerve to tell me it knows what I input, and *literally* asks me to go and do some work that will take me time, but could be solved programatically in a trivial manner. Modern products don’t do such things anymore. In case I didn’t mention it yet - I got pissed off.
The lesson here is simple: if you know of a user behavior that leads users to generate input you’re not adjusted to - just adjust yourself. Be good to your users and work for them. Not the other way around.
Running a cloud service surely has its challenges, but I believe it’s the future of consumer products and most technology in general. We (Soluto) rely our service on Microsoft Azure, which we chose as our scalable big data platform because we could build stuff really fast on top of it using our favorite tool: Visual Studio. We now run on hundreds of machines and deal with close to 100M data transactions per day from which we extract quick fascinating insights for our users, which is fun and cool.
For over 24 hours now, we’re down. It’s horrible. Seeing Google Real-Time Analytics show this image is.. well… heart breaking at best, and murderous-thoughts-invoking at worst.
But every cloud provider has its glitches, and to be frank, every software or hardware company ever has had its glitches. We know people are working hard and around the clock to fix this failure, so instead of complaining, we decided to send our community to transmit positive karma in the direction of the people spending their weekend restoring the service instead of with their families. Who knows- maybe it’ll speed the restoration process :)
Here’s the post we published on our Facebook page:
Hi all, sadly Windows Azure is still down which means we’re still down. Here’s how you can help: go to Windows Azure and write on their wall that you love them and appreciate the fact they’ve got people working hard around the clock during the weekend in the holiday season to restore our service. Wish them luck and send positive karma their way :)
What do you think? Would you act differently?
I love tech. Throughout the years I’ve surrounded myself with old tech memorabilia that has some significance in the history of computing, or to me personally. But now, as I plan my move to NYC to open Soluto’s US office, I need to cut down on my stuff. The apartments are much smaller in Manhattan…
So with a heavy heart, I’m selling my PC museum.
I’m using this post as a homage to the stuff I collected over the years, and also as a landing page for potential buyers :)
Note: as far as I know, non of these actually work. Maybe they can be fixed somehow, but they’re sold as non-working machines.
So here’s what I’ve got so far:
Apple PowerBook 180
My favorite piece in the collection. Released in 1992 by Apple, one of the first laptops with a space to put your palms (see other laptops below- no such space). Perfect external condition.
Zenith 171 aka “Lunchbox”
Released in 1985, this not-so-lightweight portable computer is really awesome. I love the lunchbox branding, although weight-wise it’s like a lunchbox full of bricks. Beautiful piece.
Released in 1984, this is the successor of Commodore 64 (and not the other way around, like I thought when I purchased it). It comes with a tape, lots of documentation and tons of games.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K
Released in 1982, the Specrum is a childhood PC for many Israelis. Originating in the UK, it was more popular in Europe then in the US.
Released in 1987, the Macintosh SE had the same case as the original Macintosh. Comes with keyboard (no wire), lots of documentation and some extras.
Apple PowerBook Duo 230
Released in 1992, the PowerBook Duo series were probably the first Netbooks. They were smaller, lighter, and weren’t very successful. But- they left behind some beautiful items.
V-Tech Precomputer 1000
This is a truly remarkable piece. Why? Because it’s a PC aimed for children, to teach them the Basic programming language, released in 1988. Back in the day, some people thought children must learn programming languages. And not because it’s a solid profession, but because that’s how you “speak” to computers- through programming languages. And since in the future there’ll be computers everywhere, children must learn how to speak their language. Then came along companies like Microsoft and Apple that built operating systems - those things that are the foundation for the translation between humans and computers. Beautiful piece. Read another related story here.
Casio Cassiopeia A-11
One of the first Windows CE PDAs, running Windows CE 1.0. Comes with a.. wait for it.. Modem! And the first in the Cassiopeia series.
Packard Bell Statesman
486 processor, 200MB of HD space, 4MB of RAM - a true beast. Notice no space for the palms, shows very early laptop design concept.
Released in 1987, with a 8088 processor and 40MB of HD, this is a beautiful laptop (although from its weight you would never guess it’s supposed to be portable). And it has a built in carrying handle, kinda like the next item, only much less elegant… —>
Apple Newton eMate 300
A beautiful device, although it’s one of Apple’s flops everyone loves to forget. It existed for less then a year on the market, starting March 1997, and it was supposed to be a cheap laptop replacement running the Newton operating system (and if you don’t know Newton then you’re not a real tech geek).
Last but not least - my white whale, the beautiful Tandy 1400HD. If you’re interested in the history of personal computing, I recommend you read about Tandy - the leather shop that acquired RadioShack (!) in the 1960s…
Well, that’s about it. I have a bunch more old PDAs but those I can carry with me abroad…
If you’re interested in any of those devices, ping me at email@example.com. One thing though - local pick-up from Tel-Aviv only :)
Skype was misbehaving on my PC, so I uninstalled it and went to Skype.com to download and install it again. It’s Skype, possibly the most popular downloadable software in the world, right? So I didn’t think it’ll take me more than 200 milliseconds to find the desired “Download” button.
But it did. Here’s the Skype homepage I saw.
Granted, I don’t have their data, and I don’t even know their goals being part of Microsoft now. But my experience tells me that if their goal was to make Skype accessible to many consumers visiting from a Windows PC, their placement of “Get Skype” (second option on the left in the blue toolbar) or “Join Skype” (white button on top right) is not ideal.
Am I missing something?
I’ve been following Microsoft for a while now, fascinated by the disconnect between the huge amounts of money they make, the huge amount of people they effect, and on the other hand the reduction in what marketers would call “brand value”. In other words, while for every Mac in the world there are 10 PCs, in some places around the world it seems PCs just don’t exist.
A couple of weeks back Steven Sinofsky, the guy who ran Windows stepped down and was replaced with Julie Larson-Green. I don’t know either of them in person, but I had a chance of following both of them in the past years. I always thought of Sinofsky as a tough manager with very aggressive beliefs, thinking business-first. Larson-Green on the other strikes me as thinking user-first.
I got a chance to meet both of them in February in Barcelona, when the first customer preview of Windows 8 was shipped. We (Soluto) were invited to this very small event as one of the first 70 apps ever in the Windows Store.
Here’s me with Sinofsky (when I pulled an iPhone to take that picture he was like “an iPhone? Really??” - but it felt in good humor…)
And here’s a picture I took with Julie Larson-Green and Antoine Leblond, a very cool and funny Microsoft SVP
I’d like to wish Julie Larson-Green good luck in her new position. Regardless of your opinion on Microsoft, it is a beast with tons of cash and tons of excellent people. I’m sure they’ve got more interesting stuff up their sleeves, or at least I hope so. An Apple-only world will be very boring.
I was driving to work when the sirens started. This is how Israel’s Road No 1, aka “Jerusalem - Tel Aviv Road” looked when everyone stepped out of their cars to take shelter:
This is me, taking shelter behind my car (give me a break, the sun was in my eyes):
And then I saw two amazing Iron Dome rockets fly up from right next to me, intercepting two rockets on their way to Tel Aviv. Advanced tech to the rescue!
Then I proceeded to work, just another day in an Israeli start-up. Fucking war.
One of the things we do well at Soluto is enable people to understand what runs in their boot, what’s required and what’s not, and allow them to speed boot time. I’m often asked why this matters, because it seems today no one reboots their PC, they put them to sleep. I know I don’t - I reboot my laptop maybe once every two weeks, and my home PC even less.
As it’s a popular feature, there are two ways to look at it from a product management perspective.
So although Soluto’s service now does much more than allowing people to understand their boot and shorten it, boot time apparently is still an issue for many. As a product person, you must be able to step out of your own habits and look at the data. If you ask the right questions you may be surprised to find out you’re actually a minority in a very important group.
If you yourself are suffering from a slow boot and would like to shorten your boot time - go ahead. Apparently the average Soluto user shaves 36 seconds of their boot :)
More info here.
Last week I jumped to London to watch the Olympics. Being a huge sports fan the experience was amazing, but there was one thing that drove me crazy.
The London Olympics has several sponsors, most prominently Coca Cola, McDonalds, Visa, Samsung and Acer (when I say “prominently” I mean their effects are felt everywhere through the games).
Before I flew, I discovered that McDonalds’ terms of sponsoring included that no one else in the areas of the games is allowed to sell french fries, unless they come with fried fish (because the classic dish of Fish & Chips could not be banned in the UK). But besides the Fish & Chips exception, no one is allowed to sell french fries around the games. Which pissed me off.
But that didn’t even come close to what Visa did.
Those folks up there at Visa sponsored the Olympics under the limitation that no other credit card could be used to purchase stuff in the Olympics, from a cup of coffee to an official hoodie. If you’ve never been to such an event it’s hard to imagine how huge the venues are, and once you entered a stadium in the morning, you’re not allowed to exit and return with your ticket. Which practically means that once you’re inside, you can either use Visa or cash, that’s it.
And that REALLY pissed me off. As a consumer, I was abused and insulted. On the practical level, I hold both a MasterCard and a Visa, and the terms I get when using my MasterCard in Europe are better than my Visa (in the USA it’s the other way around). But losing a few pennies was not what pissed me off. It was that a major consumer brand chose to abuse simple folks as a way of marketing. And that’s just stupid. Getting a credit card is not something you do in a minute, certainly not in a foreign country. So Visa couldn’t really expect international visitors holding other cards to actually switch to Visa on the spot, right?
What did they expect them to feel? “Oh my gosh, Visa is so awesome, I wish I had a Visa card, when I return home I’m going to get one ASAP”? No!
More probably, like myself, they would say “Why would those assholes do such a thing? They already have their logo smeared all over the place, what did I do wrong to be banned from using my credit card in the largest touristic event in London in the past decade?”
The marketers at Visa are probably more experienced than me, but I still want to give them a small marketing lesson:
If you want people to like you, give them something. If you want people to hate you, take something away from them.
I understand that maybe this campaign was aimed solely at UK residents to switch to Visa, but I still find that abusive.
So what could Visa do? Again I’m not an expert on credit card marketing, but if you follow the bold sentence above, Visa could just appeal to Visa owners by giving them something. A discount for using Visa. A special gift for buying with Visa above some amount. Whatever. As long as you’re giving something to your customers, and not taking away something from those who aren’t.
So great work Visa, now I HATE you.
[I spend my days and nights working at the tech startup Soluto, trying to help people enjoy their PCs. Have you tried it yet?]
The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. — Eric Ries (via a-pr)
(Source: startuplessonslearned.com, via a-pr)
From initiation, to the trough of sorrow, to the promised land — Paul Graham’s view of the startup process, from a Y Combinator meeting in 2008.
image by A VC, via swissmiss