So, they support Windows, OS X, the iPhone and the iPad. They cover four major browsers, but apparently using an up-to-date version of one of those browsers is not supported.
It’s time for another installment of the State of the Hostile Web, a series that I’ve never officially started, yet have many entries examples of user-antagonism to highlight.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately heard Kenny Rogers. Maybe that’s because I was born and raised in Texas, but that’s besides the point. This was a crystal clear opportunity to blast the Internet with a reminder of the awesomeness that is The Gambler.
To ensure I got it just right, I did a quick search for the lyrics, and the first site to pop up is called LyricsFreak (they don’t get any link love from me – you’ll see why), which displays the words in all of whiskey-soaked glory. But when I go to cut-and-paste them (you can call it lazy – I call it efficient), nothing is selectable. At all. The normal click-and-drag to highlight doesn’t work and the right-click menu is taking the day off.
I was perplexed. I was annoyed. But I also know a little bit about these here Web pages, so I figured that I would just view the page source to disable the code that was blocking me, or I might copy the lyrics from there.
…and I stopped dead in my tracks, confronted with this:
On a warm summer 's evenin' on a  train bound for  nowhere,
That’s the very first line of the song: “On a warm summer’s eve on a train bound for nowhere”.
Beyond disabling all of the standard methods for copying a bit of text, Lyric Freaks encoded every single character of the song.
Part of me understands that their goal is to not have other people copy their database in bulk. Assuming they paid for the transcription, it has value to them that they want to protect in order to make some money . I get that. I’m a happy little capitalist myself.
But this practice has instantly made the site useless to me, when there is a sea of lyric sites available. Beyond that, any developer can tell you that this won’t make the least bit of difference to someone specifically scraping the Lyric Freaks site to snag their content. None.
So, the people who actually use their service, see, and hopefully click, their ads and tell others to visit are hamstrung.
Which I used oh so cleverly in under 140 characters:
This is a very long blog post that boils down to the fact that LyricFreaks has lost site of what’s important, hurting prospective users before they even have a chance to turn them into fans. All this in an attempt to protect something, using a method that won’t work, making the Web a little less friendly and a little less usable.
User-hostile practices do not work on the Internet. Your site or service is one among many competitors, and it won’t take long for a competitor to eclipse your work, so do yourself a favor and build solutions that reward the user for visiting instead of making their day harder in an attempt to protect a castle made of sand.
For the last couple of years, one of the most important columns in my TweetDeck setup was the one tasked with presenting tweets that mention Refresh Austin. The search itself is pretty straightforward, though it includes several variants to account for all of the possible ways that people might reference our group:
refreshaustin OR austinrefresh OR “refresh austin” OR “austin refresh” OR @refreshaustin. This worked beautifully for a long time, but a little while back (I don’t know when exactly) I noticed that the feed included many tweets that have nothing to do with our group. A significant portion of these are written in languages other than English, so it’s been hard to detect a pattern.
The photo shows five recent tweets, three of which do not apply to our group at all. The key detail is that all three link to bit.ly/ra, which I set up a long time back to point to the Refresh Austin site. But in these cases, the problem appears to be due to the fact that a longer URL, which starts with ‘ra’ was cut off when the users retweeted or simply posted a tweet greater than 140 characters.
Twitter’s search now follows links within tweets to determine that they are both valid (non-spam, no malware) and also to provide additional context. So, in this case as bit.ly/ra resolves to RefreshAustin.org, the tweets appear in my search feed even though they have absolutely nothing to do with us.
So now I understand why this happens, but I do not have a solution for it. While I do not want to filter out tweets that contain the bit.ly/ra link as it is a valid link, I’d love to reduce the overall noise. This is a bit frustrating, but seems solvable with a bit of time and effort. Should I figure something out, I’ll post it.
“moral choices” in video games are, to me, more about cost vs. benefit than right vs. wrong. Because my real-world morality may not map to the world depicted in the game, and because “being evil” is a legitimate and common play strategy, I need to know how the decisions I make serve game-related ends.
Well said. In any story-based game, my first character typically follows a pragmatic course, though I tend to lean towards “light” or “good” decisions. Once I complete an especially good game, with a well-developed story, I will start anew to experience the game with an “evil” or “bad” character. This allows me to experience the story from a different angle, see how intertwined decisions and branch and appreciate a beautifully crafted world.
Games are a separate universe, with different consequences, which
occassionaly often require that we make decisions and follow paths that we might not in our physical world. We as humans map our morality onto that universe, following our own codes and at times breaking them in ways both subtle and profound. It is both freeing and thought-provoking.
Well for me at least.
Thanks to Andrew for including that aside in his review of Alpha Protocol – it got my mind moving this morning, which likely wasn’t his intent when he wrote it. On a side note, I don’t think I’ll both with the game now that I’ve read his breakdown.
Stop. Don’t answer immediately, take a couple of seconds to think about what that question entails and the smaller questions that come with it:
- Who are your users?
- How would they describe themselves?
- Why do they visit your site?
- What are the different types of users that you are building your site for?
- Which are more important to you?
- Which are more or less likely to visit, stay and use the tools you build?
- Which don’t stay as long as you would like?
So, do you know your users? If not, here are a few methods to learn more. Some are fast, cheap and easy, others require a bit more work, but provide far more information.
You’d be amazed at what you could learn by a single poll question, especially over time.
Create a series of questions to gain information you don’t already have about your users. This may vary widely, but here are some ideas:
- Are you male or female?
- How old are you?
- What is your favorite part of the site?
- What part of the site is your least favorite?
- Is this your first time to the site?
- How often do you visit the site?
The key is to only show one question at a time. Ideally the poll is placed prominently and consistently on the site. Placing the poll in the same spot in the sidebar and rotating the question every couple of weeks will pay rich rewards over time. Most users are much more likely to answer one short question every so often than they are to answer a full survey, which takes a larger investment of time up front.
This longer form is useful for getting information quickly, but you may not reach everyone you’d like to. It does have the very real benefit of branching questions. If the user says they are a regular visitor, you can dig in a little deeper to determine why they come back.
Standard analytics that report on your site’s traffic is important when you need to find the popular areas of the site. We’re going to skip that for now as I expect you already have most of that defined or can get your hands on it easily enough.
The more interesting data comes from user-specific analytics that will help you answer questions such as the average age of your visitors, whether they are male or female and how interested they are in participating in the community. Working with this data will allow you to decide which groups of users visit one area of the site more often or take part in you discussions more regularly.
If you’re able to talk to your users directly, you can gain a wealth of information. This can be a complex undertaking requiring a lot of effort, so I recommend working with your passive data before you decide to invest the time and money interviewing your customers and prospects. Additionally, you won’t capture data from those casual visitors who stumble upon your site through a search result, so the data is incomplete when thinking about the largest area for growth.
Tie it Together
The best of all possible worlds would be to tie your direct questions (polls and surveys) with the information gathered from your analytics. If you can determine which questions to show a user based on how often they visit, you’ll have better data. If you can present questions based on how many friends the user has connected with on your site, you have a whole new axis of data to learn from.
Now That You Have Data
With the information you gathered you can prioritize where you spend your time and effort. Revisit the questions at the beginning of this piece to see how your answers differ and think about how you can use this knowledge to craft your site so it delights your users and achieves your business goals.
What Have I Missed?
This is by no means a comprehensive list of methods and ideas, and I bet that some of you have other (better?) ideas and experience to share. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!
Given Facebook’s release of a slew of developer tools and APIs, providing Web sites the world over with the ability to access the user data of Facebook users and the ever (d)evolving changes to Facebook’s privacy settings, it’s no surprise that there’s an outcry from individuals and privacy groups. The New York Times has published a great set of infographics laying out the “50 settings with more than 170 options” that a user has to work with to control how their information is used.
The accompanying article, Price of Facebook Privacy? Start Clicking is well worth a read for anyone unfamiliar with the issues at stake.
- The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook
- Auto-Logging Into Facebook Could Get You Arrested
- Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol from a Web Developer’s Perspective
Images from the New York Times