Sometimes an image is worth far more than a mere thousand words.
Even the milquetoast is calling him out:
The Friends of Caltrain sent me e-mail touting progress on public transportation and density along the Peninsula, with provocative news that for the first time in its history, Santa Clara could build a transit service that is faster than driving.
I think the El Camino BRT could be a great project to transform El Camino Real from a ghetto of 1950s strip malls into the sort of place where people would go to enjoy shopping. Maybe. Anyway, the news that a dedicated lane from Santa Clara to Palo Alto could make the bus faster than cars excited me. I’ll try to be at the Sunnyvale meeting this evening, and I also submitted my own enthusiasm to our governments via Transform’s handy link:
I used to commute along El Camino from Mountain View to Palo Alto. I switched to the bus out of environmental concerns. El Camino has the best transit service in the county but it still took 2-3 times longer to take the bus than it would have taken to drive. Now it sounds like you could get BRT running on El Camino FASTER than cars? YES!! If the cars get slowed a bit that’s not such a big deal, especially since any driver going any distance knows that Central Expressway / Alma is a much nicer car trip. Even though I now live 1.5 miles off of El Camino in Sunnyvale, if there were excellent transit services I would be tempted to hop on the 55, walk, or bike to enjoy the transit corridor, especially for trips up to Mountain View or Palo Alto or Stanford Shopping Center. What a pleasure it would be to not have to hassle with parking, traffic, or the Caltrain schedule. If it were sufficiently fast, I would totally use that as a commute option up to Menlo Park.
Also, I’d probably be more inclined to visit Santa Clara.
I really really loved the Flickr interface and the new thing they rolled out today makes me feel like I have been punched in the gut. I added my voice to the torrent of objections in the forums at http://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157633547442506/
A test view of a plugin I wrote to view Flickr photos on a WordPress site.
Wow. It is hard even to add a post here.
I loved the old interface. I also loved that when you added new layout options to the old interface, they were OPTIONS that users could turn on or off.
I like that you could browse photos with annotations, click on a photo for a larger view, look over the metadata, &c . . . then click through the photostream or set.
Back when I joined in 2005 I was wary that Yahoo! might eventually do something stupid to what was really a very nice, well-designed interface for managing photos. My main assurance is that there would still be an API . . . I guess I will have to brush off the old API . . .
Really, you should give users the option to use the interface they like. This feels like instead of sitting down with users, seeing how they use the site, figuring out how to make it work better, you brought in some jackass designer who sighed that the site looks oh-so-2005, and decided to replace it with a mashup of Google Image Search (which is a terrible UI, by the way) and the Facebook header image (which wastes space at the top of screens which are getting shorter and wider but at least looks kind of neat.)
Please respect your existing users, many of us who have been paying you real, cash money for years now, and give us at least the option to enjoy the user interface we loved about your site.
This drives me insane. Part of the challenge is that most software dictionaries are unaware of the word “colocation” and are happy to offer “collocation” as an alternative, but that is wrong wrong wrong wrong and it makes me a little nuts every time.
So, here is some explanation I just sent to the NOC and copied to the Sales team of a “Colocation Provider” who keeps sending me messages from something called “Collocation Status Report”:
A collocation is a statistic used by linguists to determine the
frequency with which words and phrases are found together.
On your contact information page, there is an option to contact Sales
Assuming that you are indeed in the business of Colocation, and not
actually updating us on the status of word frequencies, please fix the
name in your outgoing envelope from “Collocation Status Reports” to
“Colocation Status Reports”
Yup. That’s all I have to say about that.
From a survey I just filled out regarding a business trip to London:
Internet access … kept dropping packets, and I had to keep logging in to it via iPass. Don’t gouge customers, just let them on. This is seriously trivial, low-hanging fruit, which can make all the difference in the world esp for an international business traveler avoiding mobile roaming charges.
I would without hesitation stay at a more mediocre hotel that could deliver hassle-free, reliable Internet service, and the hassle-free starts with avoiding the damn tariff screen and just letting your guests on … guests who will appreciate this no-nonsense convenience far more than whether the staff have been properly trained to smile, &c.
I gotta say … we seem to “get this” in America … I’ve stayed at plenty of budget motels which offered complimentary, hassle-free, reliable Internet access. Though, I don’t recall having the same pleasure at a hotel in New York, where you could get free Internet in the lobby, but had to pay for it upstairs in your room.
For many of us, network access is kind of like tap water: we take it for granted that it should just flow, and not require one to jump through hoops to pay an additional $20/day. If there’s a business hotel chain that has figured this out, let me know, because my loyalty would be easily won.
Via Facebook: “Guys, I finally wrote a letter to the Boy Scouts to resign my Eagle Scout rank, and sent it along with my badge. It was hard to do but I can’t continue to the associated with an organization that has become so discriminatory and bigoted toward gay youth & leadership.”
As a former Boy Scout who never made Eagle, I am impressed by those that had the dedication to put in the hard work to attain that rank. I am not surprised to hear that my college friend, Dan Wright, made Eagle, and I am proud that he did.
Two decades on, it takes some integrity to renounce the hard work and proud accomplishment of youth, in the name of those youthful values. Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Courteous, Kind, and Obedient to a code of Universal morality which affords equal respect to all people.
Dan did well in his younger days, and he’s doing right now. Sometimes the label which you have earned just doesn’t fit on the heart within.
See Also: Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges
I found this in the Palo Alto Daily News today:
Good "LUCK" Stanford Indians "Give 'm the axe"
Stanford stopped using an Indian as a sports mascot in 1972. That put them 35 years ahead of Illinois. We retired our Indian mascot in 2007. (I’m still embarrassed about that.)
Anyway, since Patrick White saw fit to publish his name, face, and contact information alongside a racist cartoon in a newspaper, I dropped him a line suggesting that something might be amiss, and he wrote back saying that no, he was proud to stand by his cartoon, so I shared my own feelings with him:
It is good to cheer on your sports team, but I suspect that if the sports team mascot when you were growing up had been a buck-toothed, squint-eyed Chinaman in a big peasant hat, that you might think twice about printing a Chinaman cartoon in the newspaper. If you were to have such respect for Chinese people and culture, perhaps Indians merit the same sort of respect.
When I was younger my school had an Indian Chief for a mascot. The dozens of our Native American students found it upsetting and it took a few decades of protesting before it was finally removed. While one side found it upsetting that their culture was caricatured to cheer on a sports team, fans of The Chief took offense that Liberal Elites wanted to destroy their culture by imposing Political Correctness on their Hallowed Tradition. So, you had folks insisting that they had to insult another culture in order to properly honor their own culture.
Anyway, some years after I graduated, The Chief got to retire. Alumni kept contributing money and people kept cheering on their team as they had before. Nothing positive was lost, and our school has since regained some respect it had lost during its years of overt racism.
You can make fun of me and rationalize printing racially offensive cartoons in the newspaper all you like, but somewhere deep down, you know it is not right, and you know that you are offending people and scaring away potential clients. Most people are too polite to raise a fuss. But this topic means something to me, so I thought I’d drop you a line and encourage you to think things through.
I don’t need to change Pat White’s mind, and I surely don’t need him to manage my wealth. On the whole, the world seems to be taking a step or two forward for each step back. But it sure is weird to see a racist cartoon published in a newspaper is 2012, 40 years after Stanford managed to figure out that American Indians deserve a little more respect.
Left a comment on the Official Netflix blog:
What I have always liked about Netflix is that it was a one-stop shop that knew what kind of movies I like to watch, and could make smart suggestions. Netflix had a huge selection and could send me just about any movie I could want. The streaming was a nice addition, but you lose a lot of control that you have on the DVDs like selecting aspect ratios or subtitles. Sometimes the instant gratification is nice but what was important wasn’t a red envelope versus a streaming video, it was that one way or another, Netflix would get me movies I wanted to see.
Then you decided that what I really wanted had little to do with movies or brand loyalty and everything to do with having a medium preference shoved down my throat.
If the streaming is such a fundamentally new business model start a new business and be done with it. Call it Streamstr. Partner with old-fogey Netflix and their stupid red envelopes so their retarded users can stream a few videos. Better yet, be the Netflix I knew and loved so many years: deliver movies I want to me. If I have to pay more for postage or more for some streaming movie that is really “hot” that is totally cool.
But what you are doing right now is some sort of bizarre unsettling brand seppuku. Why is such a great company working so hard to come up with new and innovative ways to scare away its loyal customers?
Netflix used to be about people watching movies. End of story. Movies. Movies. Movies. Its not about picking the winner between VHS and Beta, its about your customers and their love of movies and about your love of getting the movies to your customers. No nonsense, no bull, no false choices. And now? You’re tossing that advantage aside, and I am just as well served by your competitors.
Making the experience more complex for your customers is just plain dumb. =(
Good luck with your brave new spin-off model. It was a nice ride while it lasted.
Last month I “cut and copied” the following letter printed in the Palo Alto Daily News. (Or I think its called the Daily Post now.) Now I shall paste, transcribe and share:
The text reads:
Bike changed a life
Dear Editor: A recent letter on “bikes vs. cars” stated that the over-50 crowd was “not about to go out and buy a bicycle” to replace their cars. Read on. Three years ago, I got in my car to go to an appointment and discovered that I had a dead battery. Frustrated (my wife had our other car) I slammed the car door only to notice right above me was my son’s old mountain bike hanging from the garage rafters.
I got it down — both tires were flat — pumped them up and rode off to my appointment.
Until that moment, I had not been on a bike in 40 years. After three or four blocks I wondered why it had taken me so long to get back on a bike. It was fantastic!
Several days later, I purchased my own bike on Craigslist and was soon riding to and from work — 15 miles round trip — taking the bus on days it was too cold or to dark. I’ve lost weight and never felt better.
After two months, my wife and I realized we could get by with one car, so we sold my car and used the money to put solar panels on our house. I now pay nothing for electricity. We’ve lowered our carbon footprint significantly. I’m 57 years old.
Background: Google Apps is a service where Google will host the e-mail and calendar for your domain. So, instead of going to gmail.com I go to mail.toldme.com and log in as dannyman for firstname.lastname@example.org. The annoying thing that has been going on for several years now is that only a minority of the growing array of Google software that features personalized content will support my Apps login, so I have two completely separate Google accounts:
Apps Account: email@example.com
Gmail Account: firstname.lastname@example.org
The first contains an archive of e-mail going back 15 years, my combined e-mail, telephone, and address book of all my friends, and Calendar appointments for the past five years. It integrates seamlessly with my Android Phone.
The second is for all the stupid Google applications that do not work with my Google account and require me to have a Gmail account that I never use otherwise: Picasa, Blogger, Google Maps, Google Voice . . . that last one is especially annoying, because now the brokenness leaks onto my Android phone!
The following is adapted from http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Google+Apps/thread?fid=475790531056779f00047e151dc314f4:
As a big Google fan, I have an Android phone and a Google Apps account, and a Google Voice account. Google Voice is really neat, but since it only supports Gmail logins it is really poor that my Gmail / Android contacts aren’t available in Google Voice. That’s right: since I’m a really big Google fan, the Google Voice application will NOT sync with my Google Phone.
I understand that it is possible to install software that pulls the data out of your Apps Gmail account or Android phone, and then re-copies that back in to the Google Voice non-Apps account. But this requires extra effort on my part to maintain a kludge to have duplicate copies of data stored in two different places.
What I want instead is the obvious and sane solution, where I log in to Google Voice the same way I log in to everything else: with my Google Apps account. My Android phone logs in to my Google Apps account and has instant access to my contacts list, and my hosted Gmail logs in to my hosted Apps account, and has instant access to the very same contacts list shared seamlessly with my Android phone. So, when I log in to Google Voice, I want to log in with my Apps account, and then Google Voice has instant access to all of my phone numbers and e-mail addresses associated with my Google Apps login.
Basically, I am asking for sanity, and short of sanity, at least an acknowledgement that sanity is a desired outcome.
This “second class citizen” treatment is really frustrating at times: the biggest fans get the worst support. Any idea when Google Voice is going to stop locking us out? And when that time comes will I be able to keep my phone number, or will it be like when I was forcibly migrated from Google Calendar over to a blank Google Apps Calendar, losing all my appointments and shared calendars, with no option to migrate my data?
I have tried to get an answer from Google Voice to no avail. I would like to think the Google employees behind Apps are working behind the scenes to make Google Voice available seamlessly to paying and loyal customers. Or maybe this simply is not a priority and us common folk Google Evangelists just shouldn’t get too worked up about Google products, and consider switching to competing technologies. Thanks!
These days my Android phone is in a weird way, because I’m starting to use Google Voice for SMS, except Google Voice has no access to my address book, so everywhere I am accustomed to seeing names and pictures for my contacts I see a ten-digit number, because Google Voice has no access to the contacts in my Google account.
I will always remember that us Boy Scouts gathered at the local council to go to Scout Camp and it was a really ugly building in a bad neighborhood. One day we drove past the Girl Scout council headquarters in a large, shiny, landscaped office in the suburbs. The contrast in my mind is that our troop got the money to fund camping expeditions, and my sister’s troop got the funding equivalent of an ugly building in a bad neighborhood.
I just filed the following question with the Girl Scouts of Northern California:
Why does over 50% of the proceeds from girl scout cookie sales go to “Council Services”?
I would like to think that if I pay $4 for a box of cookies that the girl’s troop is seeing at least 50% of that, as might be expected from other fund raising opportunities. It honestly sounds like a scam to me, and that is part of the reason I stopped buying Girl Scout cookies.
Thanks for explaining.
They did not write back. I guess you have to pay a bit more for “Council Services” before every last crackpot can expect a response.
I ate a lot of Girl Scout cookies when I was growing up, and I think they’re tasty, but they are not a good value for the money. Next time I’ll ask if maybe they can take a direct cash donation to the troop.
I received an e-mail with the subject “Amazon Associates and Google Blogger Now Integrated” and I was amused in much the same way that I am amused when I see a dog enjoying someone else’s vomit. The e-mail invited feedback via Twitter, but I went to fill out a form. This is what I wrote:
I received an e-mail with the subject “Amazon Associates and Google Blogger Now Integrated” and I was like “oh, trainwreck!” Then I realized Google had added a feature so associates could link more easily. That’s cool.
Except, Blogger is a horrible, horrible, truly awful platform. Hopefully you are working so that bloggers on other platforms, like WordPress, can do stuff effectively. (I know I stopped years ago as it wasn’t worth the effort.)
This was troubling: “The new tool allows Bloggers to add links and images . . .”
Why is it troubling? Because there are bloggers, and then there are users of Blogger. I realize that “Blogger” is short-hand for a “user of Blogger” but it also implies that Amazon is thinking that the only bloggers that count are the ones with a capital B.
But the real punchline was:
“Please tell us what you think of our new Amazon Associates for Blogger feature using hashtag #AMZN4BLGR on Twitter”
This is awesome on two levels:
1) “We should collect feedback from users. I know, we can assign our users a hashtag and they can communicate with us on Twitter! We’ll be trendy cool social media mavens!”
2) “Gotta think of a hashtag! Okay . . . let us take the words Amazon and Blogger, remove the vowels, and smash it together with the number 4. Because, after all, if we’re collecting feedback from users and limiting them to 140 characters on Twitter our hashtag should look like a car’s license plate!”
Maybe instead of having a giant social media marketing boner over integration with the most technically awful leading blogging platform you could focus on delivering core functionality to users that should have been delivered four years ago.
I received the following response to the complaint I sent to Shell about their infernal television gas pumps:
Dear DANIEL HOWARD,
Your complaint about the pumps at our Shell branded station concerns us. Please accept our apologies for your trouble and inconvenience.
Be assured that we will give this matter thorough and proper attention. Situations like this are best handled locally, so we have forwarded this information to our Region.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention and for your patronage of Shell products and services.
Shell Solutions Center
My hunch is that this will be the last I hear from them. All the same, this actual human0crafted response is a little better than the average evil corporation.
Alas, I pumped some gas into Mom’s Prius this evening, in Chicago, and I realized I was at a Shell station with more obnoxious NBC programming. Augh!!
Here’s an e-mail I just sent to Shell Gasoline:
I had no strong feelings about gasoline brands either negative or positive, until this morning. I pulled into the gas station at 19th Ave and Taraval in San Francisco, and the gasoline pump started talking to me and then playing commercials. There’s no way that I would find to turn it off. It was really obnoxious.
When I get my gas I like to have a moment I can stop and think. With blaring televisions on the gas pump I am instead filled with antipathy towards your brand. Because of my experience this morning I now know that when I need gas and I see a Shell station and a non-Shell station, that the non-Shell station is not likely to have a noisy television to annoy me while I get gas. For that I am willing to pay a premium.
Thanks for listening.
Yup. I am a grumpy old man.
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