Monthly Archives: June 2009

FGF

Known more as a song writer and lyricist than as a singer, Laura Nyro was also a formidable vocal talent in her own right. Her songs were recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Barbra Streisand, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Three Dog Night, Carole King and many others. In some of her songs, you’d swear she sounds like an angel and in others she’s living and feeling the depths of the blues. She died of ovarian cancer in 1997. This is one of my many Nyro favorites, made popular by BS&T Three Dog Night, Eli’s Coming.

Edit: I always thought she was as good as, if not better than, Bob Dylan at lyrics and music. If I’ d had a son, I’d probably have named him Eli because of this song. (Well, that and if I’d called him Rainy Day Women it would have been worse than “Sue.”)

Passwords

New research has shown that you make it harder on your users if you mask out passwords in a web-based application. Most of the time, when you enter a password, all you see is a row of bullets or asterisks. The idea is so all those hundreds of evil people peering over your shoulder won’t be able to steal your password. The truth is that there really aren’t a hundred people back there; in fact, there’s hardly ever anyone back there.

The actual effect is that when you type your password in, you might as well just close your eyes anyway since you really have no clue what you typed in the box. The feedback the system gives you is useless. If you screw it up, you have no idea which letter you hit wrong so you keep trying over and over. I’m one of those people security types hate – I only have a few passwords that I prefer to use, period. If my work didn’t require me to use three of the big four (numbers, lower case letters, upper case letters, and special characters), and change the damn thing every 90 days, I’d probably have the same one forever. Jacob Nielsen says the following:

Users make more errors when they can’t see what they’re typing while filling in a form. They therefore feel less confident. This double degradation of the user experience means that people are more likely to give up and never log in to your site at all, leading to lost business. (Or, in the case of intranets, increased support calls.)

The more uncertain users feel about typing passwords, the more likely they are to (a) employ overly simple passwords and/or (b) copy-paste passwords from a file on their computer. Both behaviors lead to a true loss of security.

Yes, if you’re in an Internet Cafe or some other public setting, masking might be useful from a security standpoint, but instead of compelling everyone to use the masking, why not just add a simple check box to let users make that decision? User Experience – it’s about those people you want to suck money from. Keep ‘em happy and they’ll come back.

Oh, and remember that old three click rule? You know, if it’s more than three clicks away from the home page, nobody will ever bother. Well, that’s a load of crap, too. If a site makes it easy for me to find exactly what I’m looking for, it’s OK if it takes four or five or six clicks, just as long as I know I’m making progress. After all, when I get to your site, I’m on a mission. I want to simply find what I want. If I click on men’s, then shoes, then sneakers, then 12.5, then white, I’m smack dab right where I want to be and I’ve got no doubts about it. At all. Yep, that was another plug for zappos.com  or at least their navigation & usability.

Woot! More FGF to Love!

I always wanted to have a singing voice like Bill Medley Barry White or J.D. Sumner, but that’s not the case. I can imitate Barry when I’ve got a bad cold, but that’s it. Here we have one of those three, Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers in “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feeling“.

Aside: J.D. was an interesting man. He lived in the same condo complex my parents did back in the late 70s and I got to talk to him several times. He had a limo that Elvis had given him one time when he was having car problems and needed to get back to Nashville from Memphis. His voice was as deep as the soul of the earth. There’s audio of an interview of J.D. where he’s talking about Elvis.

FGF

Back in the 60s there was a weekly television show that was called That Was The Week That Was.”It was a half-hour of a satirical version of the news. Regrettably, no one has ever bothered to YouTube that show’s version of this song, which showed the real Downtown. This is Petula Clark from 1964.

Privacy issues on the Internet

OK, let’s skip totally by the concern that we’re talking Bozeman, Montana, which isn’t exactly the urban center of the universe that Nashville is, but this is a bit more than I’d ever provide an employer:

Bozeman City, Montana now asks all applicants for jobs to Please list any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, YouTube.com, MySpace, etc., the city form states. There are then three lines where applicants can list the Web sites, their user names and log-in information and their passwords.

NOT. EVER. HAPPENING.

Anybody heard that the economy sucks?

Yep. It does. Lots of people are losing their jobs even when they’ve worked for companies a long time. Here where I work during the day, we’ve been through three rounds of reductions starting back last November or so. The first time it happened, the company could say we reduced some of the lower performing and new people (although I knew some who were neither).

The next time, since they’d spent so much time talking about how everyone left was a core employee and vital to the organization, they couldn’t blame it on performance – it was really the economy – it was for the first round too, but they wanted an excuse, I guess. I blogged about that one. 

The third time it happened – just recently, we lost about another tenth of the employees. Some of them had been with the company for a long time – decades. One, a good man and a dedicated employee, had reached his 25th service anniversary just months before. That’s almost unheard of these days – 25 years at one company – really old school. Another, who had started a few months before I did twenty years ago was also let go. Both of us were from Nashvile, were both Vietnam era veterans, but had not gotten to know each other until we met in the break room on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center over twenty years ago.

So when I hear about an employee with twenty years of service (like me at my company or my friends who had been here even longer), who does something for which any decent employer would fire them in a heartbeat, but gets a “pass reprimand” because she’s never done anything flagrant before and “has been there for twenty years,” it’s like spitting on those people who got released without any reason, but just because of the economy hard to understand at some levels

Now how strange is that? When there’s cause, you stay and when there isn’t, you go. Sorry, but that’s just wrong different.

Update:  I read ACK’s piece last night. He’s right that Ms. Goforth is not a player. She doesn’t even play one on TV. She’s just a regular person working in a job that doesn’t pay any where near what it would in business. Every company is different. Here, such an action wouldn’t have been tolerated at all. The state, however, isn’t likely to lose clients over this. And, as R. Neal said, this could become a teaching moment for not only her but others. That’s a good thing. Sherri, don’t do that again (but you probably already know that, don’t you?). Making people afraid is never a good thing. It’s time to move on.

Dear newspaper owners,

If you haven’t already read this online article (which coincidentally happens to be freely available on the Internet), go check it out. I’ll be here when you get back and it’ll be like you never went away.

Great! You’re back. OK, lets get started. I’ve been surfing the web for a long time now. I shop there, I read the news there, I read blogs, fiction, look at art, automobiles, antiques, find restaurant menus and times and directions, look up or rent movie DVDs or watch them online, check out club or theatre offerings, the list just goes on and on. And there are all kinds of places to do it, everything from alternative newspapers, to TV station websites to network and PBS sites, it’s really just amazing how much is out there.

So, that pretty much leaves you picking up the dog poop in the park without gloves, doesn’t it? I mean, you must be frantic almost because there’s all this stuff out there that’s readily available. All you have left is quality journalism, so you feel as if you have to sell that quality to make your profit. And, mind you, profit is a healthy thing but, really, as far as I’m concerned, if you aren’t making enough money off ads that the site targets at me by appearing near articles I want to read, I completely urge you to go right ahead and put up some sort of permeable pay-based scheme and charge what ever you feel might be appropriate for your demands.

NPR is happy if I give them $35 bucks a year every now and then when I can afford it and, although I’m sure they’d prefer if I did it every year without fail (through monthly bank draft), they don’t freak out and cut me off if I don’t. Newsweek (yes, I subscribe to it and have for years) will entice me from their magazine to the website for added special stuff. Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t, depending on whether I have the time or the interest or I don’t. And, you see, that’s the key. You interest me with quality (Hey, they have Fareed Zakaria. Do you?) stuff and I’ll pay for it and show up. 

You cut me off and I’m gone. You want money from me just to see what’s posted on your newspaper site and I’m history for you. If you go under, I may even notice, but really, life’s to busy for me to give a shit about you. I got grass to mow, the garden to water, blog posts to write and work I’m paid for to do. As they said at Xark, maybe your passing will leave a vacuum in which innovation can occur.

Whatever you do, there will be someone out there providing the same content that you do – the same news items, the same local interest – just from different perspectives. And they may not be as qualitative as you are – hell, they may even bury the lead or use run-on sentences and they may not even know what the AP stylebook is or care, but the chances that I’ll really care about that stuff, if I’m interested in the topic, are damn near zero. Just like your chances of survival unless you change.

-30-

And yes, I did consciously bury the lead and do a run-on sentence.

FGF

She’s older now, as we all are thankfully, and no longer has long flowing dark hair, but she still plays and sings and looks as magnificent as ever. Some of my earliest musical memories are of listening to folk singers like Joan Baez (and falling wildly in love with them and their ideals). Although she is best known for her more famous versions of her own song Diamonds and Rust, and for singing Phil Ochs’ works and other Dylan songs like Love is a Four-Letter Word, I love this Dylan one, Forever Young.