August 14

You do the hokey pokey and you find a work around

My teenagers are going to be driving soon, so I’ll need to equip the car with my parents’ “driving school” hack: an aluminum can with a few pebbles inside. We don’t remember exactly who thought it up, but we all remember using it well.

Deployment was simple,  “rulings” not subject to appeal. Just throw it in the back seat or pickup bed. If it rattles when you maneuver, you were going too fast. Simple. Objective. Argument-proof.

At home with our own brood these days, we employ similar absurd measures to prevent unwanted actions.

  • iPad too feeble to entertain OS updates? Put a passcode on it. Then you can never accidentally deploy an update.
  • Keep pocket launching an otherwise mostly useless garage door app and popping the door open? Bury the app under three layers of folders.

Defeating the Pocket Launches

Sure, I could, you know, LOCK my phone, but then life would be boring. How else would I scare the crap out of myself investigating middle-of-the-night noises if I didn’t pocket launch Audible at full sound? THIS IS AUDIBLE! (It was only the wind, skritching a tree branch on a window screen.)

But the mostly useless garage door app recently became more Lorena-and-pockets-and-toddlers-proof. You can now require a Touch ID fingerprint to open the garage door. Yay!

Of course, there many many other things they can change about the app to make me happy (I’ve been ruminating about it a while), but I’m delighted they’ve added this feature. Stay tuned for the pull apart on garage door apps.

Touch ID prompt

Category: DO NOT STARTLE USER, Free Beta Testers, security, User eXperience | Comments Off on You do the hokey pokey and you find a work around
August 2

I cut the cable, and I may be cutting Netflix free

netflix is cancelled screen

Back in the day, when Netflix had their blue logo and distribution houses only in California, we gave it a try. Too long a turnaround and many broken discs later, we took a break.

The new and improved red-logoed Netflix had a significant impact on our decision to “cut the cord” … as a result we’ve been cable and/or satellite free for well over a decade. We’ll stay at a hotel with cable once in a while, and use the time to remind ourselves why we have stayed severed from real-time television. Noise, commercials, lack of selection and control. Our cord-cutting apps do just fine.

Enter Autoplay Previews …

But a few days ago, the Netflix app on our Apple TV (current generation) started behaving just as badly as cable/satellite TV. It started autoplaying previews. Very annoying. Very loud. So we scrolled through the app options, scrolled through the online options, but found no way to turn it off. Continue reading

Category: DO NOT STARTLE USER, fix it already, Free Beta Testers, Netflix, User eXperience | Comments Off on I cut the cable, and I may be cutting Netflix free
January 31

I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0

I lost one in September 2010, one in November 2010, and a few more since then. The original “clip” design failed for me … it kept popping off my ample waistline, and didn’t do well clipped to my shirt or bra, either. The hardware’s inability to handle multiple wake ups overnight didn’t do me any good, either.

Fitbits were originally priced around $99, and have mostly gone up in price. And complexity (still no Smart Alarm). And when you add on a new, more comfortable band … the cost goes up even more.

Another one, an Alta this time, has wandered off. We have an idea of where it might be, but it depends on the honesty of everyone else there. More likely it’s on eBay or Craigslist.

My suggestion is this: how about a “lock out” button? You can report your cell phone stolen to your carrier, why not the same for a fitness band? Heck, it’d be a revenue stream to subscribe to a return service; you try to sync a “stolen” subscribed band and you get a reward for returning it. At the very least, a “lock out” of a stolen item will reduce the resale value of stolen goods ….

user-edited Fitbit App screen.
Click the lock to lock it out from synching to a new user profile. Brick it till you get it back.
Category: Data Architecture, fix it already, Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0
November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

Continue reading

Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, games, Niantic, User eXperience | Comments Off on Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO
October 23

Confessions of a Convention Junkie

When I met my spouse a few years ago, we had a grand first date, geeking out about things we liked in common, planning our first nerdcation together soon after. Our destination: a technical conference (SIGGRAPH). Neither of us actually worked in the industry, but liked it enough to want to spend time learning more about all the cool math that went into making movies.

I sat in on a talk from WETA (the hoopy froods behind the Lord Of The Rings movies), bought a Mars rover shirt at the SGI booth, went to a Digital Domain party, and generally had a nerdy good time with the folks in charge of the green pixels.

I still go to conventions for fun and learning. 🙂 It’s as expensive as a semester of college (sometimes), but shorter and more fun – and it’s easier to sort out who is interested in what you’re interested in.

This month, I got a double whammy, working one convention, then dropping in on another for helping out with the first. The topic, to my surprise, was in my specialty cloud — Information Development and Process Analysis, and touched a bit on my recent work as a Product Developer. I’m sure the guy running the day would have been surprised I call it ID/PA/PD, but it’s neat to see how my skills transfer to the marketing industry.

Pro tip: Take a multi-port charger with you and you’ll make a ton of new friends … also a few safety pins, some extra socks, and plenty of business cards. I dusted off my freelance cards from 8 years ago and used them to make new friends… I designed them with plenty of room to write on so new friends would remember why we need to talk later.

Looking forward to nerding out as I strike out on my own, finding more conventions to talk about making things work for people better with fellow info geeks. 🙂

Category: Free Beta Testers, future | Comments Off on Confessions of a Convention Junkie
October 2

Let me tell you WHY I’m unsubscribing …

I’ve been trying to clear out my inbox lately. I get a lot of emails, mostly by choice, but some emails I don’t want to see any more (and yet some still keep coming ).

It’s gotten a lot easier to get off of email lists these days, as email providers are more strict about blacklisting flagged spammers. A simple unsubscribe is appreciated, but being able to tell someone why I’m unsubscribing can be helpful, too.

There’s a golden opportunity to gather data at that point. Maybe emails are too frequent and we’d appreciate a digest option. Maybe emails are too ad-laden, or we’ve changed jobs, lives, focus.

But most email lists and services don’t seem to care. I canceled audible (never used the credits was an option I took). I canceled Patreon (changing focus, and it let me leave a nice note I hope the artist got). I’d estimate, though, that at least 90% of the email lists (mostly marketing, industry, and home-improvement) simply had an unsubscribe option … without a feedback option.

Sure, I could write an email, but I’m your lazy user. I might not think of it. But if you asked me … you never know what might come out that might help!

Category: Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on Let me tell you WHY I’m unsubscribing …
September 23

Break Fast. Learn Things.

Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERT What is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.

A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).

My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …

But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.

image of a woman pretending to be a stopsign
When you trick or treat in a neighborhood populated with self-driving cars …
Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Break Fast. Learn Things.
July 8

I love a (dragon) parade …

Dear Backflip: Nice code update! I can run Dragonvale on an older iPhone without a lot of crashing.

However … you need a clear button for the dragon parade. I’d like to be able to kick them all when I’ve maxxed my ring count for the day.

Dragonvale Parade screen shot from the iOS app
I … love a parade.


Edit: They did! Thanks for “righting” this!

Category: fix it already, Free Beta Testers, games, User eXperience | Comments Off on I love a (dragon) parade …
May 2

What a drag it is getting old

I’ve been yapping about the new Apple TV lately; mostly because I’ve been the one using the remote. Usually I just watch everyone else struggle with it and complain. And we aren’t all that old! Though we’re getting there.

It’s not that we fear change

Yeah, I hate it when things change. I was a diehard Windows 98 user. For a while you were not getting me away from WindowsXP. I still have Office 2003 installed on this very Windows 7 laptop. It really took a lot of being annoyed to recently request I have Office 2013 installed on my work computer if we ran out of other ways to fix the problem. And I got annoyed enough at “live photos” that I deactivated it as soon as I realized why my pictures were all “screwed up”.

But we aren’t all exactly like whomever is beta testing the hardware over at Apple’s main nerve center.

I realized this because I actually had to dig up and use the Apple TV remote to test my last couple of posts on this subject. “Dig up” because I don’t actually use it. We programmed the Apple TV to accept commands from my “dumb” IR TV remote.

Then I lost my “dumb” remote. Maybe with practice and no other options, I can learn to use the slick new Apple TV remote, but I really dislike the design and current use enough that I really don’t want to.

Annoying! The Apple TV remote is annoying.

Honestly, if I hadn’t been able to program the Apple TV to accept data from my “dumb” remote, I probably would never use the Apple TV at all. I’d watch things on my phone or read a book.

But if Apple follows my suggestions (or takes them and turns them into something even amazingly more funderful), we also have to remember the dumb remotes.

Just like one can set the click speed on a mouse or the touch sensitivity/help on an iPhone, do it on the Apple TV, too. For all kinds of remotes.

Siri, help me set up my remote

So you’ve done a few things to let us customize our experience, Apple, because you read my first two posts and shifted your agile teams into high gear to get right on it. Like one in fifty nerdly geeks have programmed in our favorite shortcuts and you have lots of data. Take that data, and use it to build onramp protocols for Siri to use.

Guide a user through a friendly questionnaire at first, to set up the most basic functions. If they want to “expand it”, walk through setting up long clicks or assistive clicks. Then, no matter what remote they use, (annoying Apple TV one, “dumb” IR remote, or their iPhone/iPod) they have a non annoying experience.

Don’t let Siri guess too hard

But don’t push it too far. Don’t let the “AI” style programming make all the decisions. Feel out what your users want, and ease them into it. It’s been about twenty years since someone taught me how to dial a cell phone (type in the number, press the green “send” button). I don’t like being told “this is the only way to do this”, but I also know we can’t fall into the trap of infinite customization. In that way lies madness … and I spent enough years trying to wrangle the madness of infinite customization into mere user guides for mere mortals.

Category: Apple, Free Beta Testers, hardware, User eXperience | Comments Off on What a drag it is getting old