At the Ref Desk (3/25/17): Happy 1st Day of Spring Quarter! [more...]
Subscribe to RSS - Dept. of Bad Ideas

Dept. of Bad Ideas

The Post App Internet

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 4/12/16 (3:47pm)

Yet another bad idea bites the dust:

At the same time, it is clear that, apart from a shortlist of popular apps, most people just aren’t downloading a lot of apps anymore. Any given person spends 80% of her mobile time using her favorite three apps, according to ComScore. And few people go looking for new ones these days.*

Ya mean, I don't need to download a separate piece of software for every website I visit on my smartphone?
________________
* Jessi Hempel, "Facebook Believes Messenger Will Anchor a Post-App Internet", Wired (4/12/2016).

Infrastructure on the Skids

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 1/25/14 (8:58pm)

"High speed" Internet provider AT&T tells me that my connection speed sucks but instead of trying to fix it, they're throwing in the towel and lowering my monthly rate.

"About Your AT&T High Speed Internet Service - We regularly test the speed of your AT&T High Speed Internet service to ensure you have the best Internet speeds possible. Recently we sent a letter to let you know that our testing has found that your modem speed is slower than the speed shown in the AT&T High Speed Internet Terms of Service. We're moving you to a lower-priced plan more in line with your current speed, although we cannot guarantee specific speeds."

Institution: 

Design Fail

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 4/24/13 (2:56pm)

I swear if I get another one of these as a design proposal for the main page of a website, I'm going to sue Microsoft for crimes against usability. (P.S. Why Microsoft? Hint...)

On the Nature of Train Wrecks

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/26/13 (10:02am)

Matt Enis from Library Journal writes about the 'Fail4Lib pre-conference workshop' at this year's Code4Lib Conference where people talked about failed or problematic projects and the lessons they learned.

As I wrote in comments to the piece, I find the greatest cause of failed projects to be those based on received wisdom. Let’s call it, the ‘Wrong Bandwagon Effect’. Some mis-identified trend is taken up and you can’t argue against it because "everyone knows" -- i.e. received wisdom -- that it's the way of the future. Everyone knows! Only "everyone" never seems to include the end-user. But that doesn't matter since before you know it, yet another mis-identified trend pops up and nothing says 'cutting edge' like jumping from one of these trends to the other. (Classic example.)

This isn't an argument against innovation. Rather it's an argument against not doing one's homework, of coasting along without anyone ever looking back and asking, what's the record for that guru so far?

UPDATE (3/28/2013): Here's an even better, not to mention more contemporary example ...

The Age of One App Per Website is Over

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 1/29/12 (1:40am)

While preparing for next week's presentation on Responsive Design, I tried to recall my original uneasiness over the phone app frenzy. You remember -- that short painful period only a few months ago when either you were developing a phone app version of your site or you just weren't serious. You thought it silly? So did I. But it took me a second to remember why. I mean, this was before Responsive Web Design had sunk in as a possible solution. So why the initial uneasiness? And then of course I remembered: the notion that your average user was going to download a separate app for every site -- the equivalent of taking your collection of bookmarks and downloading a separate program for each -- was a complete absurdity. Thank God, we're beyond that. It's history.

Ding Dong, the Kindle's Dead!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 2/5/11 (2:43pm)

Wrong Way Here's a little secret, if you ever want to evaluate the relative value of those writing on technology, have a look at what they said about the Amazon Kindle circa Late 2007-Early 2008.

From Amy Lee over at HuffPost:

The ereader's days are numbered.

Though 6 million ereaders were sold in 2010, experts predict it is all downhill from here for these devices, which will be edged out by the growing number of increasingly affordable tablets on the market.

By 2015, twice as many people will own tablets as do ereaders. By the end of 2012, the number of people owning tablets will overtake the number of those owning ereaders, according to research by Forrester, a tech research company.

As the demise of the Flip camera suggests, consumers are increasingly trading single-purpose devices for multifunction gadgets. Especially as the price of tablet computers continues to fall, experts predict users will drop ereaders for tablet PCs that offer web-browsing and video capabilities alongside ebooks. Even Amazon, which helped make ereaders and ebooks mainstream, appears to recognize the ereader's impending demise and is rumored to be developing its own tablet device. The Barnes and Noble Nook Color has already been modified to run Android's Froyo software, taking it into tablet territory.

Of course, the problem is, we're going from Kindle Mania (eInk! eInk! eInk!) to App Mania -- so I guess it never stops.

Is Steve Jobs a Role Model for Librarians?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 5/1/10 (8:08pm)

steve-jobs-ipad-apple-ap.jpg I'm hijacking the title of an editorial in the latest issue of Journal of Academic Librarianship because I believe it illustrates a problem rather than a solution to our approach as librarians to technology.

In the piece, the author describes two approaches to meeting user needs:

...[To] wait for someone to tell you what they want (which assumes they know their needs and the solution possibilities clearly) or to know your customer and the solution possibilities well enough to provide a useful solution that would likely never have occurred to them.

So which, according to the author, should we pick? Why the latter, of course, which the author calls "opportunity-driven" and characteristic of Steve Jobs:

As trained information specialists who are also dealing daily, upfront and personal, with the changing information environment, I believe we are particularly well positioned to develop the insights and perspectives that allow us to see opportunities and possibilities that are not as clear or as obvious to our patrons.

The obvious, almost classic problem with this approach is that it moves the focus from our users to ourselves and while that might make for applause lines at library confabs where we're basically talking to ourselves, it risks ending up with solutions more suited (surprise, surprise) to our own needs rather than to those of our poor 'benighted' users.

The fact is, the library doesn't exist in a vacuum. Sure, we're in the information business but so are a lot of others. When our users come to us, they don't want a "19th-century library" as the author jokes. They want everything online and easy to find -- just like they've come to expect on every other site that seeks to attract their business.

To do this, we don't have to reinvent the experience. We don't need Steve Jobs even if we could afford him. All we need is to do our homework, to keep the focus always on our users, seeing what they prefer and how they prefer to work, melding our own wares to their requirements. Our users have already told us what they want. It's in the usage statistics of the most popular websites. Now all we need are librarians smart enough and sharp enough to listen to what they're saying.

Institution: 

Overpriced E-Books No Bargain for Students

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 12/5/09 (6:57pm)

Chicago Tribune logoI missed this article on ways to save money on college textbooks when it first came out. Most of it your average college student would know by heart after the first quarter or semester -- they'd know it that is, if they wanted to avoid bankruptcy. But what really caught my eye was this final warning from 'textbooks advocate' Nicole Allen about e-books:

The one option Allen warned students against buying was e-book versions of texts. A number of publishers offer online books for purchase, she noted, but they are one-year rentals.

By and large, the e-books are available only through an Internet connection, and many restrict the number of pages you can print at one time.

In this case, the calculus e-book cost $100, about $40 more than Chegg's rental and only about $20 less than buying a used hard copy. And you have nothing to resell. [Kristof, Kathy M., "Turning the page on pricey textbooks", Chicago Tribune (9/4/2009):1,29.]

Basically they're saying, why should you rent it for a limited time when for just $20 more it can be yours forever? I think this kind of calculation is absolutely de rigueur not only for students but for institutions thinking of investing in these potentially ephemeral yet costly products.

UW-Madison Dumps Kindle in Favor of Laptops, Netbooks & Smart Phones

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 11/16/09 (10:25am)

Actually they didn't but you'd think they would have right after their library director made the following comment to CNET:

[Library Director Ken] Frazier added that a suitable device would include better "accessibility, higher-quality graphics, and improved navigation and note-taking. I think that there will be a huge payoff for the company that creates a truly universal e-book reader."

Hmm, "accessibility, higher-quality graphics, and improved navigation and note-taking"? When, oh when, will we ever get a device like that? [/irony]

Of course, he forgot to include, a device 'already owned by 93% of the student body'.

Location: 

Amazon Kindle: Why Get It for Free If You Can Pay for It?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 9/5/09 (11:22pm)
great_slump_amazon_kindle_edition.png

This is so unfair! 'The Great Slump of 1930' by John Maynard Keynes which goes for the outrageous price of 'free' at Project Gutenberg Canada is being offered by Amazon to Kindle users for a mere $4.25. How does Amazon get away with it?

Institution: 

Pages