Monthly Archives: July 2006

MySpace and Blogs: The more things change…

OK…time to get a little philosophical. 

So here is what we have: a whole bunch of personal homepages where people would put a bunch of info about themselves, their favorite music, movies they liked, and other bits of personal chit chat and then sprinkle it with some favorite photos and links to their friends.

Sound like MySpace or maybe your favorite blog? Sure does. But actually that isn’t what I’m describing! Continue reading

Who Are Those Guys?

No prizes for recognizing the reference in the title here – it’s much too obvious (please don’t tell me if it isn’t).

Here’s the current staff of Ilium Software (click for the big version):

Standing, left to right: Ken, Julie, Dan, Sheri, Matt, Ellen, Marc
Kneeling: Kevin, Lee

OK, we’ll have a prize (one of our programs, or, if you have all of them already, a handful of excellent stylus pens) for anyone who comes up with a good caption. Put any entries into the comments.

Good for the Customer vs Good for the Business

I’ve been running into more and more crazy corporate policies that might help the business in some fashion, but do nothing for the customer. In fact, a lot of these policies are downright bad for the customer and yet they still exist.

My personal theory is that if a policy is “Good for the Business” but “Bad for the Customer”, it isn’t actually good for the business at all! Read on!

*When I wrote this today I saw Kevin was getting ready to post and I was going to hold off until tomorrow. As it turns out we’re talking about the same basic topic (great minds think alike!) So I’m going to post it today anyhow as a complimentary piece!

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Retention? Nope.

Ilium Software is really happy to have customers, but not so happy to have them that we would do anything to keep them. On the surface, doing anything seems like ‘bending over backwards’ to satisfy the customer. That’s not a horrible idea – we really try to make people happy within reasonable limits and company policy.

When I say ‘do anything’, I include threatening, badgering, obsfucating, hard-selling, and otherwise retaining.  The first – and quasi-official – thing that I want to get across is that we don’t have a retention policy or a manual. Ilium Software does not have a document that says how to retain customers when they say, “I don’t like [product], I want a refund.”

For more examples and some ranting, keep reading.

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Form & Function: A Developer’s Perspective

How important is appearance? Is it a vital part of any application design? Or just a nice thing to add if you have time for it?

There have been a couple of great posts about this subject today. One of them is at Just Another Mobile Monday and another at Treonauts. Both of these address the subject from the point of view of a user. I thought I’d take a second to discuss it from the developer end.

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Common sense is neither common nor sensical. Discuss!

One of my little Google Homepage widgets is for a blog by one James Bach, who knows more about testing than me. A lot more. He recently blogged about his dislike for the words ‘intuition’ and ‘common sense’ being used as explanations in arguments.

Bach has a very good point when it comes to using those two concepts as ways to explain away a problem.

The article also made me think about how often I run into issues of common sense or intuition while providing tech support. Keep reading for some examples, and a little discussion on how I think the common sense and intuition pitfalls can be avoided.

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What is RSS? Here’s a short answer.

One thing I’ve noticed in terms of support is that people usually come to us wanting to make lists (ListPro), keep track of passwords and such (eWallet), keep track of financial transactions (Keep Track), but when it comes to NewsBreak, it’s a bit up in the air. It lets you… read news! Specifically, it’s an RSS feed aggregator, and if you know what RSS is, you understand the concept immediately.

If you don’t know what RSS is, wrapping your head around just what NewsBreak is good for, can do, can’t do, etc. can be a little tricky. If you don’t know what RSS is, this article will probably help: A non-technical explanation of RSS.

A Good Name is Hard to Find!

With the recent announcement of the Microsoft Zune I just felt a need to talk about naming products. I’ll give Microsoft a little credit. It’s really hard to name a product these days. Most of the good names are already taken by something. That leaves new products stuck with either made up names or names that squish two words together and pretend that it is one word (yes…we’ve done this too…I know).

Now, some of the made up names end up being quirky cool, like WOOT! and Google. Unfortunately, it seems that this has led big corporations to think that a wacky new word for their product name is the smart way to go.

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You got “Getting Things Done” in my ListPro!

Ten points to whoever recognizes the advertising throwback in the title. “Getting Things Done” is a methodology developed by one David Allen to help create a ‘trusted system’ for tracking what you need to.. get done.

GTD focuses on helping you dump your brain into this trusted system, so you don’t leave obligations looming in the black uncertainty raincloud over your head. If you don’t have time to read his book, you can probably get a good sense of how the core of GTD works by looking at this flowchart [PDF file, 30KB].

GTD is pretty popular with geeks, probably because it takes quite a bit of fiddling to get it done (geeks love to fiddle with things, in my experience), and because it’s a “Life Hack”, a way of optimizing your life to make things work better.

GTD is also something that is basically a bunch of lists. We make a product called ListPro that is very good at making bunches of lists. So inevitably, the two will collide. For the collision, keep reading after the cut thingy below.

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