When Google started back in 1998, they surprised people by their simplistic design. Their page was clean and fast. They didn’t even have a footer, that people thought page is still loading! Their paid ads were all plain text, clearly visible and distinguishable. They were ahead of everybody else settings standards about user experience, and always always putting the customer first. That’s one reason it took Google so long to start making money. Larry and Sergey did not want to ruin the user experience with ads, and before they came to know the relevant text ads, advertisement was basically bunch of banners you throw on your page here and there. Now however, things are being done very differently. Let’s take YouTube for example. They bought it when it was running at a cost, started putting ads on the site. No big deal. Then small short clips 10 seconds or so before you watch few minutes video. Even though that’s not the best experience, I understand the service has to pay up eventually, so I wasn’t opposed to it. Now however, with embedded video ads becoming mainstream, I’ve seen 3 whole minute ads showing before a 30 seconds clip I want to watch! 3 minutes is not even a tv ad normal length when you’re sitting on your couch too lazy to reach for the remote, let alone online when you have 30+ tabs open, and skipping the clip is just one click away. Yes I know you can skip it, but if you think about it, why show such length ads in the first place? 30 seconds clip is too short to show more than probably 7 seconds ad, if you really must! I could not find a snapshot of that 3 minute video ad, but here is a similar example.
As you can see, the advertisement itself is more than 150% of the clip you want to watch! Has this even been thought over? Ad length? Ad to clip ratio? Those basics Google used to lead and show the world how to best do them? Apparently not. They decided to completely ignore it and see how much they can milk the cow before it goes dry. A simple thinking on their side should’ve made them realized, watching 10 seconds ad might be ok for many, but 3 minutes… I’d say never!
Google isn’t stopping there however, and wants to ruin every other web page you visit. As Google AdSense is the most common traffic monetization technique, you are expected to see it over many web pages, and very often in the form of an image or video ad. And that’s fine if you ask me. Site provides free content, displays ad on the site in case you like it, every body wins. But now that they’re allowing everybody to post video ads, they need to make sure those ads are making them money. But really, how likely are you to visit a news or game reviews page, and decide to click and watch a 30 seconds car ad? Very unlikely. People are becoming less and less engaged with ads. That’s why AdBlock is there right? So what did Google do after they realized no one is playing those ads? They reverted to one old trick played by cheap ad sites. Hover-to-Play! I’m just moving my mouse cursor over the page, unknowing of the consequences, move my cursor over the video ad, and all of a sudden it starts playing! Damn that’s annoying! I’ll hit the pause button. Ooops!
That Google+ button everybody seems to hate is there to make sure you don’t hit the pause button until it’s too late! You know what that reminds me of?
There are already so many reasons to like Audible, the most popular audiobook shopping site out there. Beside the large collection, their easy to use monthly subscription service, and ability to keep your purchases and redownload them forever, today I was amazed to find another feature just by mere luck. As I haven’t been driving a lot lately, I ended up with unused credits which translated into long to-listen to purchased audiobooks. Last one I listened to was Inferno by Dan Brown. I had activated my subscription just for that. And boy was I disappointed? Anyways, I went through my list of books, only to find an option to return books I didn’t like! What the hell was that all about? It’s a digital book. How can I return it? I clicked the link, and found Inferno, which I had rated very low, eligible for return. Two clicks and BAM!
Seriously! Does it get much better? I already listened to the whole book. I did not complain or anything, and they had no reason to even offer the return in the first place. I don’t think I know a bookstore that would allow a return after so many months because I finished and hated the story! But I guess they can afford it, and most importantly, they want to, because they want to keep customers happy. There is no real competitor for Audible out there right now, and unlike the conventional way of thinking, they’re making sure they keep a big distance between them and number two. Surprisingly I could not find any details even in the help section about what makes a book eligible for return. Perhaps Inferno was just that bad? Or perhaps they’re keeping the rules a secret to protect against fraud.
How can they afford it you ask? Sure there are those of few who would jump at the chance, leave this page right now to down vote their last book, in hope of getting mere $15 back! But here is the good part:
- Not everyone is a scumbag.
- With time, they will be able to tell scumbags from honest customers.
What is the cost?
Not sure how the deal works. They could be paying from their own deep pocket. I doubt a publisher would approve such return.
What are the gains?
- Customer trust: Customer will have more faith in the service, and will be more willing to try new books (i.e. spend money).
- Happy customers: Not only do customers trust Audible now, but they’re also very happy to stay with them. (Guess who’s keeping his account active despite like of time?)
- Filter bad books?: If my hypothesis is correct, this might be related to you giving a book bad rating. I surely don’t think they would return a book you gave five star to, unless you claim it was by mistake purchased and you already have it. So that way, they’re encouraging users to review the book, and let others know they didn’t like it. They can also personalize the experience for that specific customer in the future. For example, I never want to hear about a Dan Brown book again.
So thank you Audible for this great feature.
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I got this weird Twitter App notification on my iPhone today.
At the age of information overflow, I have absolutely no interest in knowing who followed whom. Let alone get a push notification on my iPhone for that. So why did I get it? By mistake? Very unlikely. The message is formed to tell me about who followed whom. Only thing I can think of is the ridiculous idea that this is some sort of new Twitter Ad being tested. I searched and found reports of what seems to be a new kind of Twitter notification Ad being tested. However even these reports seem different in context. They’re promoting tweets or users. Not simply telling me a user has been followed! Either way, I hope none of these notification ads ever make it. At least not without opting in for them. We are fighting hard to keep our phones spam free from SMS. Who would want to receive ad notifications for things he didn’t opt-in for in the first place? I can understand push notification about iPhone sales if I like iPhones. But push notifications for tweets and follows as a form of ad is absurd. I don’t even get notifications for my own followers. Let alone someone I don’t know or care about.
Did anyone get something similar recently?
Last week I made a booking online through FlyDubai.com for a relative using my credit card, which has been safe and secure till then. Next morning I got a call from my bank NBK telling me there has been a declined attempt using my card at Dubai eGovernment website. Ofcourse I hadn’t. And thanks to NBK for having such fraud detection system in place. Luckily the attempt didn’t go through. But now they had to cancel my card, and start issuing another one. Ofcourse I can’t tell you about the fun time I’ll have updating all these sites with automatic billing with my new credit card. Best of which should be PayPal and Google Wallet.
But how did this happen? I haven’t used my card with anything relating to UAE for a while, except this FlyDubai. So the only logical explanation is that, this fraudulent attempt was related to my online booking through their site. Now I’m not accusing Flydubai of running this scam in anyway. But it does seem however that they run a low kind of security on customer credential info, with no proper auditing nor control over who has access to these credentials. This is what most likely is happening.
- FlyDubai are storing credit card numbers in clear somewhere, rather than just last four digits. Perhaps with the good intention of verifying real card holder upon ticket issuing, though not justifiable.
- No proper auditing is kept over who access what information.
- Insider with proper access rights is picking random credit cards and trying them online.
- CVV is not stored with the credit card, as they don’t need it to verify the card holder. Hence the insider has to guess the CVV, thus transaction was declined.
To that, I hope FlyDubai will look into this deeply, and take strong action to avoid more damage, as I for one won’t be using my credit card with them anytime soon. Other travelers might less-alert banks, and might be less aware of potential threats. This could go unnoticed for a while on them.
Anyone else booked through FlyDubai.com? Did you have similar incidents?
Last month I placed an order on June 8 with XCite.com for Last Of Us Special Edition as a pre-order using Knet online payment. Game was supposed to come out Friday June 14th. Thursday they called telling me game will be late and delivered only on Sunday I think. This was a disappointment, as we all know the game already sells in Kuwait market a day or two before it’s official release. I said ok, but didn’t feel so comfortable. So I bought another regular copy from Blink.com, deciding to sell the other copy if it arrives, and keep the special edition items. Saturday they call again to tell me the game won’t be delivered even on Tuesday, and they don’t have a date yet. Some pre-order that is! I told him people have already finished the game twice probably and I’m still waiting for their delivery. He said it is stuck in customs and they can’t help it. I told him I want it canceled. He offered Web store credit or refund. I opted for refund, but I was shocked to hear it takes 3-4 whole weeks to get the 25 KD refund back. I was pissed off, but let it go.
Today it is July 26, six weeks since I canceled my order, and still nothing! I called yesterday afternoon and they told me someone will call from the web support in an hour or after futoor. So they call center they advertise on their site doesn’t get you to the web support team, and that’s a separate one. Needless to say no one ever called. I called again today at about 2 PM and explained my problem and how they ignored me. The guy on the line with classic defense style replied “No, no one ignored you. They were probably just too busy” Really? I told him if you’re too busy you can’t call back customers for a whole day, you should stop selling stuff. I mean that means you’re making big amount of money. And from my sources, I know they are.
Anyways, he again promised someone will call tonight. I countered what if no one does. He said call again tomorrow and we will open complain again. Huh? Are you even hearing yourself? I kept asking him to open complain for a customer support manager, and he kept replying his manager is not responsible, it should go to web support team which includes their manager. And when someone calls me from them, I can ask him to file complain to the manager. Problem is, no one called! And it’s been six weeks, so that should’ve been a sign I should have some priority in resolving my matter.
That is what truly happens behind the scenes at XCite. However if you tweet something bad about them on Twitter, you immediately get this kind of response.
They did not reply to my last two questions. It’s sad and pathetic that such big companies would treat you differently if you call and inquire through their formal channels, than if you deface them online. I have already called my bank and they told me to file official report of the incident against them.
What you should take from this is to never trust them for pre-order items. Especially their PS4 pre-order deal, which requires 50 KD deposit. I can only imagine how bad this can go.
I admit I was taken by the visuals of Gratuitous Space Battles, and hoped for something much more at a very low discounted price. I love the graphics and style of massive damage with lasers and rockets in all direction. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that this is just a simulation where you build up your fleet, click Fight, and then just see the battle rage on, wishing you could at least do little to at least guide the shots. Alas that doesn’t seem to be the case. You just wait for the battle to end, and I managed to get bored from the first fight. Also, the game has a very high edge entry point with dozens and dozens of text screens guiding you through assembling your space fleet. You keep scrolling through one tiny text message after another, hoping to see some action.
This is mostly my fault. Have I know it would be purely a simulation without mostly anything from my part during the fight, I wouldn’t have wasted the small amount. But guess this is how Steam sales work. We tend to think after we buy.
Even my kid didn’t like it and quickly dismissed it. Saying I should’ve read more before I bought it. He’s upset I guess I blew a chance of a good game on him. Still, many seem to like the game. If you’re into simulation, and don’t mind the steep learning curve, and have the time for it, maybe it’s for you. But most people won’t enjoy it I believe.
Now, back to Steam Summer Sale! I’ll try to read a little more this time.
Sometimes there are just great movies which you can’t do justice. Others there are terrible movies that don’t even deserve your time for a review. Sometimes, it’s somewhere in the middle. A pretty good idea, strong cast, you are fully focused and enjoying the moment, only to realize midway the execution is terrible, and the story leaves disappointed and angry at ruining such an opportunity.
Last week I got the chance to watch The Experiment. The story itself was unconventional and one that really got me interested. 26 volunteers enroll into an experiment where they play the roles of either a guard or a prisoner for two weeks for the purpose of a psychological study of human behavior under extreme circumstances. The promise is that each volunteer, shall the experiment conclude successfully, will get paid $14,000. There are certain rules for the study that must be met. Guards must keep order, prisoners must not touch guards, and the experiment will stop immediately in the case of violence. Civil rights are not maintained however during the experiment. The protagonist is a favorite actor of mine, Adrien Brody, playing the role of Travis the idealistic who ends up being one of the prisoners in the experiment.
Now with that plot, the movie had my full attention. The execution however went astray in the middle of the road. As it was obvious from the candidate screening, volunteers came from different beliefs and ideologies. However most of them had one thing in common. They all wanted the huge paycheck. At the beginning, guards and prisoners were all compassionate and friendly overall, until one prisoner mistakenly throws a basket ball into the face of a guard, who starts bleeding from the nose. Acknowledging the mistake, the guard didn’t take strong action against him. Later however, another guard starts explaining how they must show their control over prisoners, or else they could risk failing the experiment, and losing all the money. And so they start harassing him, and then gradually his inmates, getting more violent and extreme one step at a time. Prisoners started protesting when they were served what seemed to be like dog shit. Disobeying the rule of all dishes must be eaten in full. Up till that point, I could say it was alright.
After that however, the guards and prisoners start to clash head straight, and one protesting prisoner is first shaved, next day tied to a chair, kicked down, and then gets peed on by a group of guards. Kicking him off the chair did not trigger the violence penalty. Seems the Doctor went lean in the experiment. The prisoner goes back to his cell, smelling of urine, broken. His begs to save his inmate who needs his insulin injection is met with absolute refusal. After he convinces one guard to smuggle the injection, he’s busted, and his face gets pushed down the toilet several times.
Now assuming the moral of the experiment is to see how long will people tolerate injustice, which is the violence in this case which gets ignored by the Doctors conducting the experiment, who would agree to get jailed, peed on, and have his head shoved down the toilet, just so that he, and his offender each walk away with $14,000? And I’m not spoken about a homeless, but rather an idealistic guy. Why did he have to tolerate that long until he erupted? The script got even more ridiculous as sick guy who needed the injection eventually got stabbed, died, and the experiment still kept going! Not until all prisoners were armed, and went fist to fist with the guards, started beating them to death did the alarm ring, signaling the termination of the experiment. And upon hearing the alarm, they all stop. Even Travis, who was beating the guard who killed his friend in vengeance, decided that’s enough and let him live. They all kept waiting outside for the bus to take them back home, only to be seen later in an interview saying they will sue the doctor who conducted the experiment.
Didn’t it occur to the doctor sooner than that he will get sued? Guy getting peed on, have his head down the filthy toilet, and then another stabbed to death. All that didn’t make him reconsider? I mean that’s US, where you can get sued for serving a cup of hot coffee. I felt really sad that such a strong and unique story got messed up so badly towards the end. This could’ve been very huge otherwise.