I signed up to Songkick yesterday: a great idea for a site that lets you track when your favourite artists are performing nearby. I chose to login using Facebook Connect and got this list of suggested artists:
Coldplay as the first recommendation? I can’t stand Coldplay!
I found myself quite indignant at being recommended I like Coldplay. But it’s not really about Coldplay, it’s about being suggested I engage with something I really don’t like. (So if you like Coldplay, please just think of your least favourite band in this scenario!)
I used to be a Flickr addict. I would shoot as much as I could and upload at least a few days a week. But the past few months, I’ve found myself spending less and less time on the site. Why?
Part of it is definitely the improvement in Facebook’s handling of photos. Facebook now provides higher quality images and the ability to share my photos with a much larger selection of friends.
And that’s where I think Flickr is starting to fall behind: there is a distinct lack of updates and new ‘features’ on the site. Twitter and Facebook are always tweaking their interface (with varying degrees of success and often with a fair bit of controversy). But the last major interface update I can remember was to sharing photos in March 2011. And that was hardly a massive new feature.
Comparison sites such as Kayak and Skyscanner are not only great for finding great deals on flights and hotels, but also cutting out much of the below-par user experience that seems endemic with many airline sites — in particular the obsession the airline industry seems to have with interstitial pages.
It’s depressing how many major airlines present you with screens like this on their landing pages:
Referrals on your site from Facebook? Good luck getting any sort of idea who sent you there. Unless it’s from a public page, all you’re bound to see is one simple referring URL: http://www.facebook.com/l.php. Facebook ‘wraps’ all links on Facebook within this simple file — once you click on a link in Facebook, l.php will ‘redirect’ you to the actual URL. Why Facebook does this is unclear. Possibly to protect user’s anonymity when accessing links — or is it something more strategic?
Given Facebook’s perennial privacy issues, seemingly providing its users such anonymity when accessing links seems out of character. Twitter links can be tricky to track, but since most accounts are public it’s fairly easy to track what users have linked to you by using services such as the bit.ly info page or topsy.com (but not Twitter’s search, because it’s utterly rubbish).
Are Facebook genuinely protecting users from being seen in referrals, or are they just harvesting all this data for themselves? Are they planning to keep it secret and build up better ‘user profiles’ (probably, which is quite scary) or will they launch some sort of premium API service where websites can see what Facebook users are accessing their site? (even scarier, although the privacy implications of this are massive).
But perhaps Facebook do have a strange sense of privacy for their users. There’s no way to know how many people have viewed your profile on Facebook (although countless malware applications claim to do so, and such a feature is no doubt a reason they propagate so successfully). This is probably for the best, as if they enabled something like that there’s a good chance many relationships would get quite awkward. Suddently realising some person you met at a party three years ago constantly looks at your profile would no doubt be very unnerving — nevermind if it was someone such as a close friend’s partner.
Scarily, only a few weeks back I discovered LinkedIn does exactly this: you can opt-in to see who can see your profile, and people you view can also see that you’ve looked. I find this quite creepy — would Facebook ever do this? I doubt, and really hope that they don’t.
A few Windows 8 Demos did the rounds this week. Generally the reaction was twofold: very positive because it looks great, and surprise because… well, it looks great. The adoption of the style used in Windows Mobile looks very exciting: clean lines, decluttered space and a strong emphasis on typography.
However, in this video, you can see that perhaps the experience is vulnerable to legacy Microsoft applications — such as using Office 10.
When that familiar Windows 7 chrome appears with Microsoft Office, Kara Swisher’s reaction is golden: ‘There it is again! It’s back. I liked the other pretty one’. Mumbled laughter fills the auditorium… while Steven Sinofsky and Julie Larson-Green try to get the demo back on track. But Kara Swisher’s reaction will sum up the feelings of many users: ‘oh, I’m back in old Windows now?’.
Steven Sinofsky then pushes the question: why isn’t Office in the new style? And poor Julie Larson-Green is left trying to answer something obviously out of her control (but does well considering being put on the spot). Trying to move on in the demo, Julie Larson-Green then has problems manipulating the old style Office using the touch screen… showing that Office really does need some work to work for touch.
Word and many other Office applications are so bloated these days, I’m very curious to see what their next incarnation will be like given the new and exciting design approach being taken by Microsoft.
Unfortunately, and Julie Larson-Green does touch on this in the demo video, removing or redesigning features from Office will upset a lot of users, even if it does make a better product. It might be a tricky job.