GMail down: yes, it does happen

This, kids, is why you should never use Beta software for anything critical. Not even if it’s good ol’ Google.

Gmail down screenshot

Thankfully, I have three separate backup email addresses, all on different
domains. It is very unlikely that all of them will be down at the same
time so I’m generally reachable at all times.

Update (16 November): To the scumbag who’s trying to guess my GMail password and clicking the “forgot password” link so many times – give up, doofus! I used to be a sysadmin, so my passwords all look like “rj87iy90l” and I can actually remember them.

Yahoo messenger annoyances

I was going to write an entry on how a feature of the new Yahoo messenger version 6.0 bugs the hell out of me, but after I told Kallu about it, the bug suddenly got fixed in a day, so now I’m cheesed off that they fixed it, leaving me nothing to write about.
But hey, another one pops up to save the day!
If you use Yahoo messenger, you know that you can choose to stay “invisible”. This ensures that people don’t see you online, and you can lurk quietly.
Or so you’d think. While the invisibility works in the regular version of Yahoo messenger, it does not work with their “lite” Web version of the product. I found this out today when Udhay messaged me saying “hi”. I wondered how he saw me online because I was, ahem, “invisible”. Turns out that Udhay was using the web version of the damn thing and could see me just fine. Yay! Good one, Yahoo! Into version 6.0 and you didn’t look into this.
Update: For all of you who come to my site through Google looking for the Web version of Yahoo messenger, it’s at: http://jpager.yahoo.com/jpager/messenger.html. Now say thank you. 😉

Indiatimes.com – India’s spam champion

That wonderful Indian portal we all love, Indiatimes.com,
affectionately known as Indiaslimes (and various other names), has clearly taken some lessons in usability
from the mistakes of other mail services like Yahoo and Hotmail. Hotmail and
Yahoo, as part of their registration process, offer you several pages of
newsletters and information services that can very quickly fill your inbox with
unwanted junk mail. This extra step is of course an annoyance to new users.

Therefore, Indiatimes has decided to make the sign-up process simpler. It
does not ask whether you want to sign up for any newsletters. Instead, it
decides by itself that you like spam and happily fills up your inbox for you.

For instance, I had to sign up for an Indiaslimes account to read some crap
on their site some time back. I never intended to use their email because I
don’t need yet another email address. However, curiosity about their much-touted
APIC (which deserves another blog entry of its own) led me to log in to my
never-used account and see what the fuss was about. Bear in mind that I have never
given this email address to anyone or used it for any other purpose.

After logging in, this is what greets me:

Wow, so many "special offers" and all of them from
Indiatimes. I really appreciate their concern for me getting the best
deal for my money.

No, no, no, this isn’t "spam" at all. Most spam messages include
some cheesy way of getting yourself off their "subscription" list.
Indiatimes, to prove that it doesn’t spam, dispenses with that completely.

Here’s what one of the messages looked like:

See? Not a single "get me off this fucking list" link anywhere.
Saves them the trouble of even programming the feature. That’s efficiency!

 

When I saw this, I wondered, "was there some fine print in the sign-up
screen that subscribed me to so many damn mails?" To be sure of that, I
created a new account. Like I said earlier, the sign-up process is only one
screen. And this is the screenshot of it. Do you see a "spam me
liberally" checkbox anywhere?

and this is the next screen:

 

Indiaslimes is fond of another method of spamming. All you have to do is give
Indiaslimes your email address for anything. (For instance, if you give
your real email address for posting an ad on their classifieds site.) The next
day, you will start getting discount coupons, "special offers", etc.
from their e-commerce group. To make it harder for you to unsubscribe, they are
all on different mailing lists so you have to remove yourself separately 
from each one.

 

Indiatimes.com – India’s #1 spammer. Richly deserving the title of IndiaSlimes.

PS: if you need an Indiatimes ID, I have created one dummy account for you.

username: moronuser
password: moron

Enjoy!

Interface critique #2

For a user experience consultant, I don’t post enough material on my own blog, but somehow seem to find the time to post tons of comments on Webword, one of the best usability-related sites on the Net. So what do I do? I pester John Rhodes, the keeper of the site, to become a guest blogger and post links and commentary on the site. And John, being the naive soul that he is, actually grants me this access. Little does he realise how opinionated his site is about to become. So all you friends of MadMan’s Weblog (yes, all 3 of you), be sure to visit Webword every day and see what interesting tidbits I post there.   

Look Ma, I got featured as a “Net veteran” on Rediff.com. Ma…? Ma! Come use that funny thing called a PC and surf the Net. Don’t be such a technophobe. Relax, computer screens don’t blow up like they show in the movies. It’s safe, I promise you.   

Damn it, this site is supposed to be about user experience – Content, Interfaces, Usability, Site architecture, and Business strategy. We need some dope on that, don’t we? It’s been a while since I last critiqued interfaces, so let’s look at some new awful specimens.

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Interface critique #1

I’ve noticed that Brian Hayes hasn’t updated his interface halls of fame and shame since June 2000. So I guess I better post my interface examples right here.

Today’s post shows three interface designs (technically, it’s actually software design). Two are something that Microsoft could have implemented years ago and saved not only a lot of grief to its customers, but also a loss of face. The other example is something that’s not talked about much but is annoying enough.

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Big Freakin’ Flash ads considered harmful

Psst. I’d like to show you something interesting. But first, you have to do something for me. Go read this story on News.com. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be right here till you finish. Go on, read it and come back to this page. (To make sure you don’t lose track, the link will open in a new window.)

Did you read the story? No, you didn’t read it all. Go back there and do as I said. Please?

OK, now make sure that the other window is closed. 

Done?

Now let me ask you a question: what was the advertisement on the page about? You know, the big in-your-face Flash monstrosity? Didn’t you click on it?

Whaddya mean, you can’t remember? Didn’t it practically punch you in the face with its presence? It didn’t? Funny. That was one of the reasons they made it so big and made the adjacent text so hard to read. They sacrificed readability for supposedly higher click-through rates. And yet, I find anecdotal evidence that people are just going back to what they did with 468*60 banner ads – ignoring them. 

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Useful “Page not found” error pages

Ever encountered a “404 error” message on a site? Also known as a “page
not found” error, it can really annoy visitors. Some of these folks may never
return to your site. If you don’t handle these people with care, you could drive
important traffic away from your site. Now, you really don’t want to do that,
do you?

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