Buffer Feature Requests

Dual Window

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ have significantly different character number restrictions than Twitter. Naturally, Twitter limits posts to their notorious 140 characters. LinkedIn allows 700, and Google+ / Facebook allow about five thousand.

I like to post things with a quote from the articles I share that captures what I found most interesting about it. Generally, they fall between 200 to 200 characters. Too long for Twitter, which means I editorialize it to make it fit.

Something amazing about the Pocket tool to share to Buffer is it provides two different textareas. One for Facebook and one for everything else. Brilliant! So much so, that I am tempted to completely change my workflow to push anything I want to share to Pocket just so I can share it with Buffer in a way that makes sense. On Facebook the preview URL appears to Pocket rather than the actual destination which slightly bothers me because I’d prefer the source to get attribution.

Tumblr

It would be nice to be able to share to Tumblr through Buffer. It seems odd that Buffer would support App.net who has been dying for years and will finally be gone in 6 weeks yet not one of the larger social networks?

Email Changes

Ran across a site where if one changes the email address associated with the account, it sends the confirmation email to the new address.

Say, I am a Blackhat and used a phishing attack to get the password for the account. Having legitimately logged in, I then change the email address associated with it from victim@outlook.com to my blackhatalias@gmail.com. Sending the confirmation to blackhatalias rather than the victim ensures a compromised account will get altered. Strong security would want to prevent the change unless the owner of victim@outlook.com confirms the change.

Though, it does look like an email was sent to victim@outlook.com almost 3 hours after the confirmation saying:

Still scary. The blackhat has probably already made off with the data and done the damage.

I get the temptation to allow users to change their email address to a new one. It will prevent support phone calls because if they no longer have control of the old email account, users can simply change it to another address they do.

Of course, the site in question also does not have Two Factor Authentication. But, then it also is just a support forum. So, the ramifications of losing the account is impersonation at worst. They could ask or answer a question as me or change the profile to say something demeaning.

Confirmations

Received an email from a company they were using to validate my email address is the correct one. It specifically told me not to do anything if the email address is correct and to let them know if it was not.

We’re writing to confirm that this is your current email address. If this email address is still current, you don’t need to do a thing.

If you would like to change your email address, please update your information today.

Um…

I presume if the email bounced, then they have tools that noticing this would mark the email address as bad and use phone or postal mail to reach out to me. Which is fine.

But… Let’s say I stopped using this email address because it is overwhelmed with junk and am using a different one. This email gets to that address, it does not bounce because it is perfectly legitimate but I’m not reading anything sent there. I will not see this. Because of their “don’t do a thing,” they think I would see it in the future. Therefore, I would not have an opportunity to update my information to a better one unless I think of it myself or eventually stumble across this buried message.

Of course, this same company was pretty aggressive a couple years ago wanting my cell phone number so they could text me.

Disproductive Software

Talking to Blackboard About Applets

We implement software solutions to help us become more productive. These pieces of code allow us to do more through creating efficiencies. Bad software hinders our ability to do the work. Normally I would call this unproductive, but I had a weird thought fighting a human resources program this morning. Unproductive software is both disruptive and unproductive, so we should call it disproductive.

Not only are we not achieving as much as we ought, but we also become so frustrated with the lack of productivity that we whine and complain about how bad it is to others. There is a synergy of lost productivity due to the overwhelming frustration of having to deal with such horrible software. The amount of frustration become its own entity and source of workplace dysfunction.

Like, all I wanted was a simple report the software claims to be able to do. It tells me zero even after I try all the reported tricks to make it give me the correct value. So, I resorted to a different report that gives me all the details to add them up myself. And then I could not save the second report in Mozilla except to print it out on paper (or the HTML, but I hate that), so I had to re-do the same thing in Chrome in order to save it as a PDF. Annoying. The good thing is I discovered data entry problems I had not previously noticed due to a dropdown box defaulting to a useless value that I failed to change, which I had to fix. Everyone hates this program, which is probably why we are switching.

Learning Tech

I learned electronics as a kid by messing around with old radios that were easy to tamper with because they were designed to be fixed.

Lee Felsesnsteinin The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

The story I tell about how I ended up working in information technology is about having a computer all my life as a child, breaking it, and most importantly knowing that I had to fix it before my parents found that I had. The typical takeaway is that I was intelligent, talented, etc. But, really that reveals the wrong assumption.

More correct takeaway is by this point in computer history, people designed computers to be fixed. The above quote suggests radios were initially custom built, which made them expensive to fix. To accomplish mass production, modular components make it easier to assemble but also as a side benefit easy to swap failed parts. Computers followed the same path but not only on the hardware side but the also software. Modularity to software is how we can patch, install new software, change settings, etc to fix issues.

Even today, I see people look appalled that smartphones can be successfully sold without an easy way for the owner to replace the battery or a microSD slot to add storage. We like to be able to fix our stuff. Maybe it is our Do-It-Yourself cultural biases at play.

Making things fixable lowers the bar to tinker with it. Tinkerability makes something more accessible to learn where, when, how, why it behaves the way it does. Those experiences in turn make a user self-taught into a power user and eventually into a computer administrator who really is just a power user given the keys to offlimits parts.

Read Later Shotgun

Back in my Netscape 3 days, my bookmark.html was incompletely saved losing about 2/3rds of the file. Researching how to fix it revealed to me the file was just an HTML file. My new editing skills could not recover it, but I could make a new copy and fix individual entry losses. Making a copy onto a floppy disk meant I could take my bookmarks with me. I noticed that saving them longer enabled me to preserve a bunch of sites I did not go back to see.

Somehow I decided to maintain my own home page that lived on the floppy disk. Pages I wanted to read later, I would add to the bottom of the home page. A few years later, I created a password protected secret page in my work personal web site to replace the floppy. The strategy was the same of keeping an HTML file. Stuff I did read, I removed from the file. Ugly, but it worked.

Then I started blogging. Reminders to myself to read something came by posting them to my blog. As I was constantly in my blog, I did go back and read things. Not removing read links meant confusion and sometimes multiple reads. Eventually I stopped reading links saved for later.

Bookmarking and clipping web sites arrived, especially their exploiting code placed in the toolbar to record bookmarks. I tried several: Evernote, Delicious, Magnolia, Diigo, Instapaper. However, I found I rarely went back to look at what I saved. Saving entries was easy. To see what I saved required going to the site, which I rarely did. Often by the time I did go back to read bookmarked items, they had slid behind the paywall or expired, so pure bookmarking sites were awful. Clipping had its own failure in that multiple paged articles made saving content a pain and reduced the likelihood I would save it to read later.

Most of my online reading came from blogs, so I tried to use my RSS reading to handle it. First with bloglines and later with Google Reader, I thought starring entries would perfectly handle what to read later. Keeping entries marked as unread certainly did not as it has the annoyance of automatically marking as read anything older than 30 days. The feature to tag posts with something like “read later” helped. It works but only for posts in GReader.

Chrome added an Apps feature. Surely Read Later Fast would be the solution. It is in my web browser, so like the home page it is around all the time. Like the saving web sites it preserved the whole page. With a single click I could dismiss it as read. I just… forgot it was there. (I just re-installed the app and connected it to diigo.com to find over a dozen items from over a year ago.)

Guess what I really need is something like Read Later Fast to have an icon in the address bar to remind stupid me there is stuff for me to read. (I use One Number to remind me I have Gmail and GReader posts to read.)

Open Letter to UX Designers

Do not move things right before I click on them.

Windows this means you. Opening up a new window steals focus from my mouse to the new one. Opening a new window when I did not explicitly request it and while I am typing or navigating something in order to do something critical infuriates me.

Facebook this means you too. Adding new comments to the Newsfeed a tenth of a second before I click on a comment box means I click on the wrong one. It is the kinds of thing that will drive people like me to Google+.

My coworkers will thank you too for me not discovering creative new obscenities to describe your products.

Sincerely,
Ezra

 

Broken

At 30:00 Steve Jobs talks about how innovation came about because people wanted something for themselves to use that was actually good. Maybe this is the takeaway message for dealing with any technology, especially in education. If <name your institution’s LMS> sucks, then look around and cobble together something actually good. Or failing that make your own. Don’t rely on a corporation making profits to suddenly improve.

Email is the most important app I use. I’ve used everything out there… I know we could improve the productivity at Apple 30% just by getting them good email… If something so obvious as email is so broken… there is no answer to these questions [1] except, “Let’s go do it.”

[1] Actually, I think the answer is licensing. A manager wants to pay one bill for software everyone uses. People who hate the software either spend the time to find a free alternative and/or pay the money for a license to an alternative.

Ctrl+F

From Crazy: 90 Percent of People Don’t Know How to Use CTRL+F:

This week, I talked with Dan Russell, a search anthropologist at Google, about the time he spends with random people studying how they search for stuff. One statistic blew my mind. 90 percent of people in their studies don’t know how to use CTRL/Command + F to find a word in a document or web page! I probably use that trick 20 times per day and yet the vast majority of people don’t use it at all.

This incredulousness people do not know how to use Ctrl+F sounds like availability bias. Just because you know how to do something, does not mean everyone or even very many do.

If electronic literacy classes are the solution, then the rate should be below 90% as those have been around since the 1980s. After 30 years, there should have been a dent. Unless keyboard shortcuts are not content taught in these classes as they are so 1980s. People came up with the mouse for a reason, right? Some get so used to the one way they learned how to do it, they do not learn more efficient ways as that takes time and effort and their way is “good enough”. Others are always looking for how to improve how they do things to get it done faster. A few minutes (aka hours) looking for a better way is worth it for something that will improve life.

When I watch people do things on the computer to help me, I pay attention as maybe I can use that in the future. Of course, I would rather be able to do anything I need done on the computer than rely on others to do things for me. More… casual… users may be content to be inefficient so more efficient people will just take over and do the task for them.

UPDATE: By the way, I commented on a friend’s inability to quickly get to the top of a web page without a floating button to go to the top of the page that she could use the Home key. She was pleased to have a new way of doing things. Maybe I should have looked up common keyboard shortcuts and given her the list?