Enlightened Empathy

At the time AirBNB was so small, Joe Gebbia personally went to listers to photograph homes for the listings. In taking these photos…

“We got so close that we go to step into their shoes for a moment and see the world through their eyes, and really see the pain points that they were feeling,” says Gebbia. That’s the basis of innovation — you take an enlightened and empathetic point of view and combine it with your own unique point of view to create something new. In a short period of time, the quality of listings improved and number of options increased.

In the How I Built This with Guy Raz podcast, Gebbia calls this Enlightened Empathy.

While doing web design, we talked to the administrators for the department who wanted a site. In doing support for the sites, I would get to talk to users to understand what they were trying to accomplish and make tweaks or major re-designs to make that experience better.

There is a whole profession, User Experience Designer, built around the idea of engaging representative users to understand how they use technology to ensure the design reflects how people will use it.

Context Menu

Almost everyone using a computer to access the Internet uses the left click on a link to go to its location. Exceptions might be left handers who switch the buttons on a mouse, those using screen readers, or similar small niche users of the Internet.

I tend to multi-task, so I will scan a page and open all potential links I want to check in a new tab. The  way I accomplish this is the browser’s context menu with a right click on the link. In both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, the open in new tab (or window) are the first options.

Since my exactly what I wanted to check does not persist in memory, opening them all up in their own tab, lets me not have to remember. I can just circle back through the tabs.

So any time a web designer changes the context menu so it is not there, my blood pressure rises.

A decade ago, web designers were terrified of people stealing photos and source code, so they would disable the context menu. Back then, I would turn off JavaScript from running, go to the page, download their images and source code, then email it to them as a proof of concept that all they did was annoy people.

Today, it seems my nemesis is a support portal where the right click on a link operates the exact same as a left click. At least Ctrl+Click still opens the item in a new tab, which is what I want. I did not name the company in hopes it takes them longer to not break my workaround too.

P.S. It appears that they keep track of the last page visited, but updating a ticket does not make it the last one visited. So I end up somewhere else.
🙁

Interactive Archives

My jaw dropped at the end of this blog post Cloud Hosting and Academic Research.

There is a value in keeping significant old systems around, even if they no longer have active user bases.  A cloud hosting model seems so right to me–it’s scalable and robust. It just makes sense. But the hosting costs are a problem. Even if the total amount of money is small, grants are for specific work and have end dates. I can still be running a 10+ year old UNIX box, but I can’t still be paying hosting fees for a research project whose funding ended years ago, no matter how small that bill is.  Grants end–there’s no provision for “long term hosting.”  Our library can help us archive data, but they are not yet ready to “archive” an interactive system.  I hope companies that provide hosting services will consider donating long-term hosting for research.

Opening up a new area of digital archives by preserving the really cool works of the faculty seems like something I might enjoy.

My mentor in web design and server administration might have been described as a pack rat. He… Well, I guess, we kept around versions of web pages a decade old. Nothing really found deletion. The public just missed it by use of permissions.

When building my portfolio, my mistake was not gathering up the whole files to replicate the sites I designed. I’m no longer doing web design or even programming. So it is okay.

A professor in Geology had a pretty cool Virtual Museum for Fossils. The site moved around a few times, eventually ending up on the main web server also hosting WWW. Of course, HTML, images, and Flash files are easy to archive. Take the files and place them on a web server. Since they are static, it is easy to keep around for a long time. As long as the standards remain honored, they should be good. Developers of web browsers have pressure to go for the new, which potentially abandons the old eventually.

Scripted web sites using Perl, PHP, ASP, or JSP, JavaScript, or AJAX require a working interpreter. Still, some things might not be backwards compatible.

About a year ago my mother ran across 8mm video film. An uncle found a place who converted it to DVD. Will we even be using DVDs in a decade? Maybe the 8mm needs to go on Blueray?

Going back to the scripted web sites, should an archived web site’s code be updated to work on the new version of the interpreter? Maybe. If makers of the interpreters allowed for running in a backwards compatible mode, then all would be good. Even better, to be able to add to a script a variable that tells the interpreter which back version to pretend to use. For administrators, they could have the programmers check non-working scripts by just telling the interpreter to simulate an older version.

Higher Ed Twitter List

Karlyn Morissette posted her Master Higher Ed Twitter List. Other than @eironae and @barbaranixon, I didn’t know anyone on the list. So I thought to post a list of higher education professionals I follow categorized by primary expertise.

Blackboard twitterers might be another post.

Those in bold are coworkers.

College / University / Departments

@atsu_its – A.T. Still University – IT Help Desk & Support
@BC_Bb – Butte College Blackboard System
@CTLT – Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology @ Goucher College
@GeorgiaSouthern – Georgia Southern University
@ucblackboard – University of Cincinnati Blackboard Support

CE/Vista

@amylyne – Amy Edwards – CE/Vista DBA
@corinnalo – Corrina Lo – CE/Vista Admin
@elrond25 – Carlos Araya – CE/Vista Admin, Dr. C
@jdmoore90 – Janel Moore – CE/Vista Admin
@jlongland – Jeff Longland – CE/Vista Programmer
@lgekeler – Laura Gekeler – CE/Vista Admin
@ronvs – Ron Santos – CE/Vista Analyst
@sazma – Sam Rowe – YaketyStats
@skodai – Scott Kodai – former Vista Admin now manager
@tehmot – George Hernandez – CE/Vista DBA
@ucblackboard – UC Blackboard Admins

Faculty

@academicdave – David Parry – Emerging Media and Communications
@amberhutchins – Amber Hutchins – PR and Persuasion
@barbaranixon – Barbara Nixon – Public Relations
@captain_primate – Ethan Watrall – Cultural Heritage Informatics
@doctorandree – Andree Rose – English
@KarenRussell – KarenRussell – Public Relations
@mwesch – Mike Wesch – Anthropology
@prof_chuck – Chuck Robertson – Psychology

Information Technologist / Support

@aaronleonard – Aaron Leonard
@Autumm – Autumm Caines
@bwatwood – Britt Watwood
@cscribner – Craig Scribner
@dontodd – Todd Slater
@ECU_Bb_Info – Matt Long
@ekunnen – Eric Kunnen
@heza – Heather Dowd
@hgeorge – Heather George
@masim – ???
@mattlingard – Matt Lingard
@meeganlillis – Meegan Lillis
@soul4real – Coop

Assessment / Library / Research

@alwright1 – Andrea Wright – Librarian
@amylibrarian – Amy Springer – Librarian
@amywatts – Amy Watts – Librarian
@elwhite – Elizabeth White – Librarian
@kimberlyarnold – Kimberly Arnold – Educational Assessment Specialist
@mbogle – Mike Bogle – Research

Web Design / UI

@eironae – Shelley Keith

Director

@aduckworth – Andy Duckworth
@garay – Ed Garay
@grantpotter Grant Potter
@IDLAgravette – Ryan Gravette
@Intellagirl – Sarah B. Robbins
@tomgrissom – Tom Grissom

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reCAPTCHA and Chrome

Was using this RSVP form with Google Chrome and found the reCAPTCHA was telling me I repeatedly failed the Turing test. After the sixth time, I decided it might be my browser, so I tried it in Firefox which worked fine.

Curious, I went looking for a possible problem between reCAPTCHA and Chrome. According to a post there, the Transitional XHTML DOCTYPE is the cause. Changing that DOCTYPE to Strict ought to fix the issue. Given the audience, I doubt there is anyone else using Chrome to fill it. So fixing it probably isn’t worth it to them.

Interesting. I’ll have to look into issues with Chrome and the XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE.

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reCAPTCHA and Chrome

Was using this RSVP form with Google Chrome and found the reCAPTCHA was telling me I repeatedly failed the Turing test. After the sixth time, I decided it might be my browser, so I tried it in Firefox which worked fine.

Curious, I went looking for a possible problem between reCAPTCHA and Chrome. According to a post there, the Transitional XHTML DOCTYPE is the cause. Changing that DOCTYPE to Strict ought to fix the issue. Given the audience, I doubt there is anyone else using Chrome to fill it. So fixing it probably isn’t worth it to them.

Interesting. I’ll have to look into issues with Chrome and the XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE.

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Tale of Defeating the Crazy Woman

Babies are fascinated by me. When the two of us are in a room, they often find me the most interesting thing in the room. Usually, it is mutual.

So, a mutual friend of a friend, Mojan has a fantastic blog. The past year or so has been about being pregnant and most recently figuring out how to be a parent for the first time. Well, a crazy woman set up a ‘blog” which hotlinks images from Mojan’s blog and falsely represents the child in the photos. Ick. I offered to help with this identity theft issue.

Once upon a time, I was annoyed with people taking images from my last employer’s web site. Since I was the campus web designer, I created an image which said, “All your image are belong to VSU.” Also, as the web server administrator, I figured out how to defeat hotlinking with .htaccess by using mod_rewrite to give them my annoyance rather than their content. For the next couple days I watched the perpetrators try and figure out what was wrong. The hate mail I got was fantastic! I recommended Mojan do the same. When she agreed, I went researching to do what I did once upon a time. This is the .htaccess file I recommended she try.

# Basics
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On

# Condition is true for any host other yours
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?mojansami\.com/ [nc]

# What to change gif, jpg, png to which target. In this case does not exist.
RewriteRule .*\.(gif|jpg|png)$ http://mojansami.com/images/stolenpic.jpg [nc]

My directions were not all that specific. So the next thing I know, her site is sporting an Internal Server Error. *headdesk* She used Dreamweaver to create the .htaccess file and upload it to her site. She reported the file she uploaded disappeared. Eventually, it did occur to me to look for the error.log and see what it said. The log complained about DOCTYPE in the .htaccess file in the home directory. A file which did not show in the FTP listing. So, replacing the bad .htaccess file with a blank one fixed the Internal Server Error.

The .htaccess file in the right place, of course, resolved the issue with the crazy woman hotlinking.

Nothing can fix the pain of another person committing identity theft against you or your loved ones. I really hope Mojan doesn’t become discouraged and abandon blogging entirely. Between moderation and authentication she might find a better balance.

Do you have any stories of online identity theft?

Social Marketing

Normally, I consider John Dvorak a crotchety old-timer who doesn’t get human-computer interaction due to his myopic self-centered view. (His use isn’t usually my use, so he gripes seem inapplicable.) Finally, he got one right… almost. In his most recent blog post… er… opinion article, he described people using social networks as “marketing” themselves. Actually, the phrasing is identity management. People use these online tools to appear better than who they really are. Well… Duh. I’ve always thought I should use technology, especially social networking tools, to control what others think about me.

Back in the old days, as a Webmaster, I discovered the friend of a friend of a friend had a LiveJournal (one of the first social network sites, predating even Friendster) blog where she posted a bit of her art work from her classes. I’m not a freelancer, so I gave her some of the freelance web design leads which she turned into experience to help her get a real graphic design job. Rands might just be understanding getting a job is a potential use of Twitter. Given employers Google their job candidates, why not? I am sure there are many reasons for why one should strive to maintain a positive image for those taking the initiative to check.

The technology is new, but the purpose is as old as natural selection. We all wish to succeed. Stone tools allowed my distant ancestors to accomplish monotonous tasks faster than others and attract more advantageous mates. Maybe social networks are the modern stone tools?

links for 2007-10-18

Live HTTP Headers Equivalent for IE

UPDATED: The below content is outdated due to being ancient. This post will stick around to help people get to the new version: Live HTTP Headers Equivalent for IE or Edge 2016



I looove the Live HTTP Headers extension for Firefox. (Yes, I will marry it some day.) It works beautifully and always gives me what I want.

So we have this issue of people experiencing an issue of downloading office files from Vista. From the conversation we know the problem occurs with:

  1. Microsoft Windows XP and Vista
  2. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 and 7
  3. Microsoft Office 2007 and maybe 2003

So Firefox is unaffected and behaves as expected (a Microsoft Engineer told us because Firefox is less secure?). The Live HTTP Headers will not help diagnose because Firefox works. Oh… And the solution of “Use Firefox” has been rejected by the affected parties. So, we need an equivalent for MS IE to get our users to install.

There are a couple equivalents for Live HTTP Headers for Internet Explorer:

  1. iehttpheaders has major issues with anti-virus software. I’ve never gotten iehttpheaders to install and or run with McAfee installed (even disabled). I don’t know market share of anti-virus vendors, but I’d bet McAfee is pretty common.
  2. IEWatch is more for web designers and gives way more info than just the headers because it has a broader purpose. Plus its not free. I don’t feel comfortable telling people to install something they are going to have to eventually buy even if they only need it for a couple days.

I don’t think either will meet my needs. 🙁

One of the reasons I want the headers is because I am biased. I trust what the browsers say more than I trust end user recollections. Probably its because I read web logs too much.