Categories
Ideas

Google+ will improve your social media experience, even if you don’t use it.

Google+ a better social media user experience

The Question

My friend at Good Web Work asked the question,”To what problem is Google+ a solution?”. I started to write a comment on his post, but after the scroll bar popped up on the comment form realized this was blog post material .

I have no idea what I’m talking about

I haven’t used Google+ yet so take this opinion as one from an outsider looking in. I have watched videos, played with demos and read reviews. My first impression: The design looks nice; a clean minimalist interface with an ample use of white space. The overall impression I get is an easy to navigate, light and responsive website. Three cheers for Google for finally letting their designers do their jobs.

You gotta problem?

What problem does Google+ solve? Well, that depends on your definition of a problem. Did the world think Myspace was a big problem before Facebook came out. Probably not, since most users had not experienced anything better. After Myspace users got a taste of simplicity from Facebook’s early interface, the contrast was almost offensive. Now Google+ seems to be positioning themselves as the cleaner, friendlier interface of the social networks.

Competing for the best user experience

I can come up with a few problems Google+ at least attempts to solve. What about the problems of inferior user experience and lack of healthy competition?

The Problems Google+ May Help Solve:

  1. Inferior User Experience – Facebook is great, but there’s plenty of room for enhancements. Google+ Circles, Huddles, and Hangouts appear to be new take on common social media functionality. Circles are supposedly a big improvement on Facebook “Lists”.  Allowing you to group friends more easily and filter what you see and what others see gives more control to the user and hopefully improves the user’s experience. You also have the ability to “Follow”, in the Twitter sense, someone you aren’t “Friends” with, in the Facebook sense. The best of the both worlds perhaps.
  2. Lack of Healthy Competition – Facebook has exploded in the last several years with no one coming close to competing with them as a full social platform. Google can and will compete for users. This will cause Facebook to improve their service in response, only giving users more options and better social media experiences.

Everybody Wins

For most people the current Facebook interface is familiar, so they wouldn’t consider it a problem. The mere fact that Google is launching a very serious social media platform designed from the ground up with the user in mind will benefit all users of social media even if they aren’t using Google+. They are raising the bar and their competitors will have to jump higher.

Yes, according to Neil Postman‘s definition of a problem, a newer/better social network from Google may not solve any of the world’s biggest problems.

It may only help us communicate more efficiently.

What do you think?

Categories
Adventures

How to fix the Netflix DRM Error N8151 in Google Chrome for Mac

Quick Summary:

* Try watching after each step. You may not need to go all the way through the process to fix the problem.

  1. Delete the PlayReady folder (This step fixed my problem)
  2. Uninstall & Reinstall Silverlight
  3. Create a new user
  4. Contact Apple
  5. Check Browser’s Rosetta settings
  6. Check for corrupt fonts
How to fix the Netflix DRM Error N8151 in Google Chrome for Mac
Error screen for the Netflix DRM Error N8151 in Google Chrome for Mac

The Troubleshooting Process

This process was recommended by Microsoft Technical Support.

  1. Delete PlayReady folder

    1. Quit all browsers
    2. Browse to Mac HDLibraryApplication SupportMicrosoftPlayReady and delete the PlayReady folder
    3. Restart browser (Safari or Firefox)
    4. Test Netflix again
  2. Uninstall Silverlight

    1. Open you Mac HD
    2. Go to Library
    3. Go to Internet Plug-ins
    4. Drag Silverlight.plugin to the Trash
    5. Go you to you Home Folder
    6. Open the Library folder
    7. Open the Preferences folder
    8. Look for the com.microsoft.silverlight.plist file and move it to the trash
    9. Look for the com.microsoft.SilverlightPlugin.loader.plist file and move it to the trash
    10. Check your Trash to make sure there is nothing you want to keep then empty your Trash
    11. Restart your Mac
  3. Install Silverlight

    To manually install Silverlight please follow the steps outlined below:

    (Note: when completing these steps make sure you have quit our of all running Applications and that they have not just been minimized to the Dock)

    1. Launch your web browser (FireFox/Safari) and visit Silverlight.net/GetStarted
    2. On the lower right side of the screen you will see Install Silverlight, Choose Silverlight Mac Runtime and allow this to download to your desktop. If the installation automatically launches quit out of it and complete the following steps.
    3. Mount the Silverlight image that is on your desktop
    4. Ctrl+Click Silverlight.pkg
    5. Choose “Show Package Contents”
    6. Open Contents
    7. Copy Archive.pax.gz to Desktop
    8. Ctrl+Click the Archive.pax.gz file that appears on the Desktop
    9. Choose “Open With”, BOMArchiveHelper.app or “Archive Utility”.
    10. This should extract a folder to the desktop called Library
    11. Open this folder
    12. Open the Internet Plug-ins folder
    13. Copy Silverlight.plugin to Hard Drive: Library: Internet Plug-ins.
    14. Restart your Mac
    15. Visit Silverlight.net and go to Showcase, if you can view this page without being prompted to install Silverlight then it has installed successfully.
  4. Create a new user

    If this is unsuccessful there might an issue with your user account preventing Silverlight from working correctly. What we would like to do is test a new Mac user. To create a new Mac user:

    1. Go to System Preferences
    2. Go to Account
    3. Choose the Plus sing in the lower left corner to open the new account window, enter Test for the user name, leave the password blank
    4. Put check mark in Allow User to Administer this computer
    5. Choose Create Account
    6. Now logout out of your original account and login to the Test account
    7. Once in the Test Account visit Silverlight.net and go to Showcase, if you can view this page without being prompted to install Silverlight then it has installed successful
    8. Visit NetFlix to make sure that you are able to access their content.
  5. Contact Apple

    If Silverlight works with the new Mac user you will need to contact Apple and have them decide why the original user will no longer allow Silverlight to work.

  6. Check Browser’s Rosetta settings

    If this fails another suggestion we can make it to check to see if the browser is running with Rosetta enabled. To verify this please follow the following steps. (NOTE: you must quit the browser to follow these steps)

    1. Open your Mac HD
    2. Go to Applications
    3. Locate browser
    4. Ctrl+Click on the Icon and choose Get Info
    5. Under General Make sure the box that says Run using Rosetta is not checked
    6. Launch browser and attempt to launch content on NetFlix
  7. Check for corrupt fonts

    If this fails then there might an issue with corrupt fonts within your
    operating system that is not allowing Silverlight to load when attempting to access NetFlix content because NetFlix uses DRM formatted content and corrupt fonts can prevent this type of content from loading.

    The next step will be to manually install the Arial and Verdana fonts to do so please complete the following:

    1. Go to the Hard Drive
    2. Then Applications
    3. Then Font Book
    4. Choose the Verdana font, and go to File, and Export Fonts. Name the folder Verdana.
    5. Then choose the Arial font, and go to File, and Export Fonts, and name the folder Ariel.
    6. Go to the desktop, and look for these two folders.
    7. Go inside each of these folder, then another folder with the name of the font. You will see multiple folders in here. You will need to go inside each of these folders, and copy all fonts located here to HD>Library>Fonts
    8. Restart the computer.
    9. Attempt to view Netflix content.

How I discovered the Netflix DRM Error N8151

My wife and I decided to sign up for Netflix again. We cancelled several months ago, but after buying a few kids movies on iTunes, we started to miss having access to loads of toddler-taming flicks for the price of one movie purchased from Apple.

Netflix had all of our account info on file. After three clicks I was back. My Instant Queue was stocked with everything I added before canceling. I was ready to sit back and watch a show.

I heard that the recent launch of their new interface design was a debatable attempt to make the site more user-friendly. Either way, I was excited to try it for myself.

I clicked my selection and waited for it to load. Instead of opening credits, I saw this:

How to fix the Netflix DRM Error N8151 in Google Chrome for Mac
Error screen for the Netflix DRM Error N8151 in Google Chrome for Mac

Bummer. Anticlimax. I had seen this error before. During my previous Netflix subscription I had to burn a long evening on the phone with support to fix the problem. The problem was frustrating but fixable, so I wasn’t too worried.

Digital Rights, Smigital Rights

After a little googling I found the help I needed.

The error has something to do with Silverlight, a Microsoft technology Netflix uses for their video player. The details of why, how and what circumstances triggered this error do not interest me. I just want the thing to work.

Within a few minutes I found step-by-step instructions from Microsoft Silverlight Technical Support on how to address each possibility.

In my case everything was fixed after trying the first step. The movie cloud was back!

I could simply post a link to the forum where I found all the answers, but then I would have to find that forum if I ever ran into this problem again. So, I’m posting the process here to help myself and maybe others who have a similar problem.

I hope this helps others fix this problem quickly so they can get back to watching their favorite show.

Categories
Adventures Ideas

An Inconvenient User Experience: Gmail Drafts

Summary

  1. I love Gmail.
  2. If you accidentally discard a draft its gone forever.
  3. I think Gmail should send discarded drafts to trash.
  4. You can vote for that feature here.

I love everything about Gmail except one thing…

Discarded drafts are unrecoverable without warning. I accidentally clicked the Discard Drafts button while scrolling by a different part of the page in Gmail. I also happened to have an important long-winded response selected. After the accidental click, it was “discarded”. Or in Gmail terms, “deleted beyond all recognition, and NOT held in the Trash like deleted messages, you should’ve used Google Docs, and your hair looks funny.”

Me: “Geez Gmail. Settle down. We’re all friends here. I just want my draft back.”

Gmail: “No.”

After googling “accidentally discarded drafts” I found that I’m not the only one whose had this problem. There are Gmail users who have lost drafts of love letters to children, important business responses, and other irreplaceable or inconveniently lost documents.

I should have known better.

The popular answer on Google discussion threads are, “You should have known better. You should have used Google Docs.” …

Should we? The Gmail interface doesn’t explicitly or implicitly say that I will not be able to find discarded drafts in the Trash. There is no confirmation to explain the consequences of this irreversible action. Granted, if you’re in the inbox, when you click Discard, there is a temporary “Undo” period. But user beware the Discard Drafts button in the Drafts section.

No warning when discarding drafts in Gmail

Angry little button

There is nothing about the “Discard Drafts” button that says,

“I will delete the (expletive) out of this draft, son. Do it. I dare you. What! WHAT! (slaps you in the face).”

That’s the message the button should convey visually.

Instead we get,

“Hey bud, I’m a normal button. Grey even. Need a back rub. There. Therrre ya go. That’s it. Shhh…”

The Discard Drafts Button: Accindentally discarded drafts in Gmail
The message is not consistent with the severity of the action it initiates. Glance through the book [amazon_link id=”1592535879″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Universal Principles of Design[/amazon_link] and you’ll learn about creating things in such a way that the user can’t fail. I recommend the section on Affordance.

A love letter

Dear Gmail UX/UI Design Team,

You guys are great. You got it 99% right and its only gotten better over the years. Its just that the 1% you missed happened to delete all my junk.  Please send discarded drafts to the Trash so that the click happy-fingers of myself and other Gmail users have a reasonable safe-guard against accidental discardationmentness.

Sincerely,
Paris Vega
AKA Guy whose lunch was stolen by the “Discard Drafts” button.

Yes we can (if there are enough votes to prove users care)

I’m sure Google gets millions of complaints daily. To their credit they have a robust help/support system. After voicing my concerns in Gmail Help they directed me to a place where you can vote on new features for Gmail. Low and behold “Discard drafts to trash” is in the Helpful Additions section.

gmail user experience suggestion

If you are a Gmail user and a decent person, please go there now and vote for this feature.

Categories
Experiments Ideas

How does social media impact SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization

…and yes, social media does affect SEO. To better understand how SEO works, let’s look at the story of Billy Joe Awesome and his Pappy’s Comb.

Pappy’s Comb

Billy Joe Awesome needs a new comb to stroke his cherished mullet. The houndstooth-patterned mullet comb that Pappy gave him was lost in what his family members now call the “Squirrel Incident”.

Hoping to replace Pappy’s comb and regain his family’s respect, Billy Joe goes to Google.com and types “houndstooth mullet comb” in the search box. Moments later, Google magically presents Billy Joe with a list of pages about houndstooth mullet combs.

Delighted, Billy Joe Awesome clicks the first link, finds the perfect comb, pays for it via PayPal, and restores his reputation as the only guy in town with a mullet sheen brought on by the expertly-milled teeth of a houndstooth mullet comb.

The End.

What can we learn from Billy Joe Awesome?

This story leaves me asking a few questions:

  1. How did Google decide which web pages would show up in the list?
  2. How did the first website get to the top of the list?
  3. Where can I get my hands on a houndstooth mullet comb?

The process of answering the first two questions is called SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Let’s look at these questions one at a time.

Question 1: How does Google decide which web pages would show up in the list?

Answer: As soon as Billy Joe Awesome typed “houndstooth mullet comb” into the search box, Google went to work behind the scenes looking for pages on the internet with the phrase “houndstooth mullet comb”. The pages with the the best content and code make the list.

In other words, these pages are the most relevant to the search phrase.

Question 2: How does the first website get to the top of a search result?

Answer: After finding the most relevant pages, Google decides which page is the most important, via an instantaneous and always-evolving series of algorithmic calculations. That doesn’t mean much to Billy Joe Awesome — he just wants to know where to get his coveted comb. The importance of a page within a search engine’s system is determined by how many other relevant pages link to that page.

Question 3: Where can I get my hands on a houndstooth mullet comb?

Sadly, the houndstooth mullet comb does not yet exist. When it does I will link to it here.

Relevance and Importance

Among the hundreds of variables a search engine examines when deciding who to list at the top of a search results page, the two main things considered are Relevance and Importance.

For Billy Joe Awesome, Relevance to him means finding a website with houndstooth mullet combs similar to the one he lost. In the same way, Relevance for search engines is measured by how the content on your page (text, images, links, rich media) relates to the keywords being searched for.

While it is “important” to work the knots out of Billy Joe Awesome’s mullet before Sunday’s big family reunion, Importance within the context of SEO is measured by how many other relevant web pages give links to your page. The best links come from other important pages and contain relevant text in the middle of relevant content.

How does Social Media affect SEO?

Social Media helps build the importance of a given web page by generating organic relevant links from social networks to your website. Every time someone shares a link from your site, Google sees that as a “vote” for your website.

The more interaction between your website and social sites the more links generated, meaning your site is more likely to show up on search results pages.

Google has also started integrating Twitter into some search results, giving yet another reason to join the tweeting masses.
When creating content for your website consider these questions:

  1. How relevant is the content on your page to what a potential customer might use in a search box?
  2. How important is your page compared to your competitors’ relevant pages?
  3. Have you shared your website’s content on popular social websites?
  4. Could Billy Joe Awesome find your website if he was looking for your products or services?
  5. Should you try to corner the houndstooth mullet comb market?

Super Secret SEO knowledge

The exact formula used for deciding who shows up where in search results is only known by the search engine creators themselves. Here are some of the other known factors taken into consideration by search engines like Google when analyzing a website.

  • Is your website’s code properly written?
  • How fast does your website load?
  • How close are you to the zip code of the person searching?

All of these things, and more, can affect your performance in search results.

Mission Impossible?

Improving your website’s listing on search results pages may seem like an impossible task. However, a good Search Engine Optimizer can help you beat your competition by keeping a well-trained eye on your website’s search engine performance.


* I originally wrote this piece for SM Agency’s blog to help clients understand some of the services they offered. The blog has been retired, so I republished the article here.

Categories
Ideas

Google goes solar funding $1 per watt solar panels

Googling Green
Recently Google posted an article on there blog about encouraging green energy. They also made it obvious that, as usual, they were ready to put their money where their mouth was.

Where is Google’s mouth?
Well, at moment Google’s billion dollar mouth is salivating all over a change-the-world sandwich. First bite: The way we produce electricity.

A few years back Google invested in a little startup called Nanosolar. Fast forward to today’s headline and we see that Nanosolar has come a long way. They figured out a way to “print” solar panels. That’s right, semi-conductor ink and all. This process turned out to be way cheaper than traditional ways of producing solar panels. That’s why they can charge such a coal busting rate of $1 per watt.

We’re talking about finally accomplishing what the tree-huggers have been praying for the last several decades: Renewable Energy as a our main source of electricity.

Revolution?!… where… I don’t…?
Well, for now the company is backed up for 18 months from their first shipping date. So it may be awhile before the general public gets their hands on these things. But you just wait. One day you’ll all be at Target/Walmart getting some eggs and you’ll pass by the rolls of Nanosolar sheets. I’ll be there fighting through the nerds to get my hands on the most abundant power source on earth: Sunlight.