Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why I prefer talking to Software

My wife suggested that I call the call center for a billing clarification. I prefer not to do so and this experience again reinforces my preference.

I got the clarification that the additional bill amount was some additional installation charges - it was too small for me to argue about it. However, the human insisted on telling me about a great 70% off promotional offer, which I declined politely without even listening to it. To my surprise my no was ignored. A few hours later, the offer was enabled on my set-top box.

This time I used the online complaint but the call center called back as I expected. He was going to delete the additional package but wanted to explain the offer to me. I got irritated - the f.. word got him off my back but ruined my mood.

I think it is in God Bless You Mr. Rosewater that Kurt Vonnegut raises the question - what's the purpose of humans on earth!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Goofing up with Miro - could the UI be smarter?

I have been using Miro for several years. So, it isn't that I was unfamiliar with the user interface. However, I am still bewildered that how did I remove all the TED videos I had downloaded instead of deleting the one sentimental video I intended to delete.

A major part of the problem was the poor response of Miro on the netbook. I had clicked the delete option on the video as it was playing. It did not seem to have worked. I deleted it from the video list and clicked on a menu option to confirm deletion. I clicked on the form several times as it did not seem to respond. I clicked multiple times because on the netbook, I often needed to click twice for Miro to queue my download request.

Since nothing seemed to be happening, I suspect that I must have clicked on remove podcast option absentmindedly. I am hoping that I had clicked on a confirmation screen after I clicked on remove podcast. It would have been a very unfortunate programming issue if one of my earlier clicks had been taken as a confirmation for the deletion of the podcast!

This is, obviously, nothing more than a minor 'disaster' or, more precisely, an irritation. It does raise the issue of how does the software UI behave in a sluggish environment. Can we code UI in such a way that the intentions of the user and their interpretation is not distorted by performance issues of the application?

We also need a better alternative to the confirmation screen. I doubt if anyone reads the confirmation screen before clicking after the first few times. So, how about a confirmation screen after the event with an UNDO button instead of an OK?