From a Look Inside the Boxee to Curing Cancer

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.  Have a great weekend!

01_product-mass

On Starting Up…

http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/01/25/building-products-for-mass-adoption/
Achieve mass adoption by appealing to the "Normals". Right?

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://whitneyhess.com/blog/2010/01/27/the-ux-design-process-for-the-boxee-beta/
A look inside the Boxee user experience creation process.

02_boxee
03_cancer-MI

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/cloud/2010/01/cloudcancer.php
Leveraging Modular Innovation to cure Cancer.

 

What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Twine Tied Up in Load Time

image_thumb25A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are Accessibility, Consistency, Recognition, Navigation, and Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental role. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s overall Usability.

Example: Poor Load Time (value = 0.0)

Based on a recent study commissioned by Akamai…

2 seconds = Page Load Time when customers become impatient

Twine is a web product that goes beyond the basic user contributed content model of more familiar sites, like Digg and Mixx, and performs semantic analysis on your contributed content and interests to help identify both related content, as well as additional information of potential interest to each active user.

00_twine-homepage

I have been a user of Twine since being accepted into the early Beta. Beginning with my initial interaction with the product, and despite the evolutions of the user interface, it is apparent that the product’s Usability has been degrading over time — most notably in the department of Page Load Time, earning Twine a Page Load Time variable value of 0.

From the inability to login due to page timeouts…

01_bad-login

… to the incredible unresponsive (or barely responsive) interfaces…

02_twine-slow-loading

10+ seconds later

03_twine-slow-loading-10sec

… Page Load Time is a present and seemingly growing issue of Usability with this product.

One set of interactions, experienced in December 2009, best exemplify the negative impact on Usability of this product experienced due to Poor Load Time. In addition to sluggish interface interactions, for example when expanding the ‘related people,’ that would leave all but the most patient of patient people to conclude the product was merely unusable/broken, was the common and (hopefully) trivial task of accepting a friend request.

04_twine-friends

From the time starting with clicking the link within the email to accept or check out the friend request, to finally accepting, many minutes of delays and frustration transpired. For every click on the inbox, every time, every action involved in the process, 3-5 seconds was spent waiting, locked in a frozen state, unable to use the product in another way, locked into the current glacial path, of click, wait, click, wait, click, wait…etc.

dali-clock-500x500

While the Twine product does have its good moments and days, performing lickety split, the Page Load Time experience is one of (increasingly) frequent and long delays as well as the inability to access and load content.

Should Do

In addition to a basic focus on reliability and duration of Page Load Time, there are other improvements that a product, such as Twine, would benefit…

  • For the times where delay is unavoidable…
    • provide better user feedback to better align the user expectations of time remaining — e.g. progress bars instead of endlessly spinning wheels, clear messaging of server timeouts and delays instead of generic ‘unable to login’ messages
    • allow for the asynchronous performing of actions within the product, so that while one action processes, other actions, by the user, can be taken and content explored

Next…

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usability and Page Load Time of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From the Dissipation of the Tag Cloud to Twitter Ad MI

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

01_dysfunctional-leader

On Starting Up…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/readwritestart/2010/01/chicken-soup-for-the-startup-d.php
Learn from the warped mind of the dysfunctional leader.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://woorkup.com/2010/01/20/the-death-of-tag-clouds/
On the imminent demise of the tag cloud experience.

02_dead-clouds
03_twitter-ads

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/01/20/140-proof-rolls-out-ad-network-for-twitter-clients/
Modular Innovation in Twitter advertising.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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jQuery ThreeDots: yayQuery Plugin of the Week!

yayquery-plugin-of-the-week I’ve been a fan of yayQuery since shortly after their initial podcast episode. Therefore, you can imagine my surprise and elation when I heard them give a shout-out to my ThreeDots plugin … almost falling down the stairs as I listened this past Friday while entering the subway here in NYC.

image ThreeDots is a customizable jQuery plugin for the smart truncation of text. It shortens identified text to fit specified dimensions (number of rows within a container) and appends the desired ellipsis style if truncation occurs. An ellipsis style can be anything from ‘‘ to ‘more‘ to ‘<b><a href=”link”>click here</a></b>‘, and any other simple text or HTML you desire.

Also, I am pleased to announce the latest update to ThreeDots.

Changes in Version 1.0.7

  • [FIXED] edge condition concerning super long words

To yayQuery and everyone else who has supported the jQuery ThreeDots Plugin through your compliments, feature requests, and issue identification… Thank You.

Subscribe

If you want to be up on the latest in the world of jQuery (strong appreciation for unicorns, rainbows and sparkles are optional… but definitely helpful) I strongly recommend you check out yayQuery.

imageyayQuery Episode 8, 9 & 10 | Happy Birthday jQuery!

Video: OGV (170mb) | MP4 (186mb)
Audio: MP3 (40mb)

Subscribe to yayQuery today! (audio) (video)

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Twitter’s Crawl

image_thumb2A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are Accessibility, Consistency, Recognition, Navigation, and Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental role. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s overall Usability.

Example: Poor Load Time (value = 0.0)

Twitter is fast becoming, and for some already is, an essential communication tool.

00_homepage-twitter

Yet, Twitter earns a Page Load Time variable value of 0, due to its intermittent slow performance, but more so contributing to this value are the constant outages felt through the year, month after month.

If the page doesn’t load, if requested action takes an interminable amount of time, if the likelihood of the next user action failing is constantly looming, the overall Usability of a product takes a terrible toll.

In 2009, according to Pingdom, Twitter experienced a total of 20.82 hours of downtime.

01_twitter-pingdom

Outages of Twitter were not isolated to merely the entire site being unavailable, but also consisted of sub-sections, or sub-features not working or resulting undesirable or unexpected behavior. Contributing to the pervasive problem of Page Load Time is both the inaccessibility of the product as well as the inability of the users to obtain key information (missing updates, etc) and other bugs leading to incomplete or otherwise incorrect Page Loads.

A Quick Study

I quickly examined and compiled a list of incidents that affected the Page Load Time of the Twitter product, distinguishing between total downtime, and partial downtime and information inaccessibility, based upon the public posts on Twitters blog.

http://status.twitter.com/archive

I did my best to not double count any problems, but it was difficult since many of the problems occur so frequently, and it is often difficult to distinguish, from these status blog posts alone, between a persisting problem being experienced or fixed, from that of a new emergence of a similar or same problem. Furthermore, I also excluded the impact on Page Load Time arising from scheduled maintenance/downtime – periods of time over which the user expectation would be most aligned with the product’s promise of Page Load Time.

Some of my notes regarding my review of Twitter’s 2009 product Page Load Issues…

 

Dec 17

Site Outage

DNS records compromised

http://status.twitter.com/post/288586541/working-on-site-outage

Dec 14

sms service unavailable

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/283934158/sms-service-temporarily-unavailable-we-are-working-on

Dec 8

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/275824585/responding-to-unscheduled-downtime

Dec 7

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/273515629/brief-downtime

Dec 6

high rate of failwhales

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/272315876/responding-to-whales

 

Nov 30

Unplanned downtime

high error rate; tmp disabled list feature

http://status.twitter.com/post/263867698/responding-to-high-error-rate-lists-feature

Nov 23

elevated error rate

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/254725789/fixing-elevated-error-rate-on-twitter-com

Nov 11

high number of errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/240542434/working-on-high-number-of-errors

Nov 6

elevated errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/235296654/were-looking-into-the-cause-of-elevated-errors-on-the

 

Oct 21

elevated error rate

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/219264090/elevated-error-rate-being-worked-on

Oct 18

network connectivity problems

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/216351172/responding-to-network-connectivity-problems

Oct 13

account lockouts after username/pw change

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/212318608/researching-username-password-change-problems

Oct 12

errors and inability to tweet

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/211258987/responding-to-increased-errors-inability-to-tweet

Oct 7

Unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/207018761/recovering-from-unplanned-downtime

 

Sept 10

site slowness

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/185079863/working-through-site-slowness

Sept 9

secure connection failed issues

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/183975122/secure-connection-failed-issues

 

August 24

unexpected service interruption

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/170695014/we-are-responding-to-an-unexpected-service-interruption

August 16

Oauth and API problems

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/164410057/trouble-with-oauth-and-api-clients

August 15

unexpected downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/163603406/working-on-unexpected-downtime

August 11

Site outage

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/160693237/responding-to-site-downtime

August 6

Site is down

DOS attack

http://status.twitter.com/post/157160617/site-is-down

http://status.twitter.com/post/157191978/ongoing-denial-of-service-attackhttp://status.twitter.com/post/157191978/ongoing-denial-of-service-attack

August 2

Search Down

problem coming from migrating data centers

http://status.twitter.com/post/44516325/twitter-search-temporarily-down

 

July 10

site latency

widespread

http://status.twitter.com/post/139238308/working-on-site-latency

July 5

restoring accidentially suspended accounts

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/136164828/restoring-accidentally-suspended-accounts

 

June 15

Outage

problem w/ maintenance by provider

http://status.twitter.com/post/124145031/maintenance-window-tonight-9-45p-pacific

 

May 30

unscheduled downtime

fatal software error

http://status.twitter.com/post/115523264/unscheduled-downtime

May 28

unable to create new accounts

captcha problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/114566780/unable-to-create-new-accounts

May 27

site latency

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/113959453/working-through-site-latency

May 27

Unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/113891094/recovering-from-unplanned-downtime

May 22

search down

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/111769727/search-temporarily-down

May 21

robot errors

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/111054487/fixing-robot-errors

May 20

user search unavailable

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/110639419/user-search-temporarily-unavailable

May 14

unplanned downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/107824532/unplanned-downtime

May 8

latency issues

resulting from a scheduled site maintenance

http://status.twitter.com/post/105202075/back-from-site-maintenance-working-on-site-latency

 

Apr 28

elevated error rate

fail whales

http://status.twitter.com/post/101237008/fixing-the-elevated-error-rate

Apr 13

slow load times and high error rates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/95787359/responding-to-slow-load-times-and-high-error-rates

Apr 9

high latency

also fb not updating

http://status.twitter.com/post/94536362/twitter-com-is-experiencing-high-latency-were-also

Apr 7

high site errors; downtime/load issues

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93850673/update-on-delivery-delays-errors

Apr 6

maintenance (no advance warning); downtime

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93641925/one-hour-maintenance-starting-at-5-45p-pacific

Apr 6

errors; downtime

fail whales, robot pages; missing tweets

http://status.twitter.com/post/93501130/working-through-some-errors-this-morning

Apr 3

errors; downtime

fail whales, robot pages

http://status.twitter.com/post/92659539/recovering-from-errors-this-morning

 

Mar 16

unplanned maintenance

widespread slowness

http://status.twitter.com/post/87009894/unplanned-maintenance

Mar 4

problems logging in

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/83602310/problems-logging-in

Mar 2

power failure

degraded performance

http://status.twitter.com/post/82874378/power-failure-this-morning

 

Feb 18

latency issues

very long load times

http://status.twitter.com/post/79456053/working-on-site-latency-issues

Feb 14

downtime

db problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/78228774/back-from-maintenance-mode

Feb 11

Site down

db problem

http://status.twitter.com/post/77438630/site-back-up

 

Jan 20

site slow

slow load times

http://status.twitter.com/post/71824634/slowness

Jan 16

downtime

notified user of potential for more downtime

http://status.twitter.com/post/70991844/twitter-downtime

 

Dec 17

timeline delays and missing tweets

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/287676075/known-issues-timeline-delays-and-missing-tweets

Dec 10

problem posting tweets to FB

problem resulting from FB latency issues

http://status.twitter.com/post/277958642/not-all-tweets-from-facebook-app-being-posted-to

 

Nov 5

missing mentions

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/234412987/missing-some-mentions

 

Oct 28

no dmsg emails

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/226186595/not-receiving-emails-for-direct-messages

Oct 15

timelines 0.5h behind

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/214053142/timelines-currently-30-minutes-behind

Oct 8

timeline delays

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/207632462/timeline-delays-this-morning

 

Sept 16

missing tweets

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/189862465/tweets-from-users-you-follow-may-be-missing-from-your

Sept 14

missing tweets for some

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/187786359/missing-tweets-from-some-users

Sept 4

short delivery delays

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/179752377/working-on-short-delivery-delays

Sept 2

some tweets & followings delayed

small subset?

http://status.twitter.com/post/178076369/some-tweets-and-followings-delayed

 

August 12

timeline delays

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/161638570/working-on-timeline-delays

 

July 28

missing followers for new users

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/151217980/working-on-missing-followers-for-recently-joined-users

 

June 29

viewing other people followers/following disabled

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/132761078/viewing-other-peoples-followers-and-followings

June 16

unable to find new users

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/124832153/working-to-get-new-users-into-find-people

June 12

search delay

new tweets not being picked up by search

http://status.twitter.com/post/122606485/search-delay

June 3

delayed followings

resulting from spam attack

http://status.twitter.com/post/117482837/delayed-followings

 

May 13

timeline delays

hardware failure

http://status.twitter.com/post/107561169/temporary-timeline-delays

May 4

search running behind

search not processing real-time

http://status.twitter.com/post/103533181/search-running-behind

 

Apr 22

data inconsistencies

bug

[still being fixed on the 27th]

http://status.twitter.com/post/99180872/tracking-down-data-inconsistencies

Apr 22

missing user images

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/98960090/missing-user-images

Apr 14

delayed search results

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/96196695/search-results-are-delayed-about-20-minutes

Apr 10

missing updates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/94970050/were-working-to-resolve-an-issue-with-some-missing

Apr 6

missing avatars and dmsgs

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/93589702/missing-user-icons-avatars-and-direct-messages

Apr 2

not finding self in people search

bug

http://status.twitter.com/post/92334992/not-finding-yourself-in-people-search

 

Mar 18

missing tweets

db inconsistency, etc.

http://status.twitter.com/post/87625680/some-users-experiencing-missing-tweets

Mar 16

Delays on following and dmsgs

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/86986973/some-delays-on-followings-direct-messages

Mar 12

missing updates & actions

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/86067236/some-missing-updates-actions

Mar 11

inconsistencies

data inconsistencies (msg, counts, other data)

http://status.twitter.com/post/85644965/update-on-inconsistencies

Mar 9

inbound sms delay

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/84921942/inbound-sms-delay

 

Feb 6

inconsistent follower/following counts

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/76219963/delays-in-posting-text-messages

Feb 6

txt msg posting delays

problem w/ provider

http://status.twitter.com/post/76219963/delays-in-posting-text-messages

Feb 2

Missing updates

 

http://status.twitter.com/post/75182201/missing-updates-were-bringing-them-back

Feb 2

missing self

new users missing from search

http://status.twitter.com/post/75102341/unable-to-find-yourself

 

Jan 30

follower/following counts wrong

due to replication lag

http://status.twitter.com/post/74360199/were-looking-into-inconsistencies-with

Jan 19

slow search

search fell behind realtime due to maintenance

http://status.twitter.com/post/71697063/search-behind-realtime

Jan 8

Delivery delays

tweets slow to appear in the timeline

http://status.twitter.com/post/69184677/catching-back-up

Jan 6

Delivery delays

tweets slow to appear in the timeline

http://status.twitter.com/post/68751921/delivery-delays

 

That said, a clear picture of the Page Load Time experience felt by the Twitter product’s user base quickly emerged.

Approximately 14% of all days in the year experienced delays and disruptions, directly altering the Page Load Time of the product. And, another ~10% of the year’s days experience pages loading with missing information, resulting in a total number of days experiencing disruption at around 24% of the year or 86 days! (note: there may be some day overlap that is not taken into account in these numbers)

02_twitter-bad-days

Note: Data for December is complete (only goes through December 21, 2009)

Should Do & A Clear Flight Path

When using Twitter, tweets, responses, searches can and sometimes do occur quickly and without incident. However, with such consistency of problematic service, fail whales, site latency, etc. Twitter earns no more than a value of 0 for Page Load Time; but with a clear path to improvement…

  • first, focus on the reliability of the Page Load, drastically reducing downtime,
  • then, focus on the missing data and other inconveniences, some of which are touched upon in my table of notes above.

Next…

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usability and Page Load Time of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Facebook MI to the Value of Product Management

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

01_software-patent

On Starting Up…

http://www.unionsquareventures.com/2010/01/we-need-an-independent-invention-defense-to-minimize-the-damage-of-aggressive-patent-trolls.php
In defense of independent invention (and against software patents).

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://500hats.typepad.com/500blogs/2010/01/startups-vcs-eat-your-own-damn-dogfood.html
On the importance of your startup, and treating it right. Or, why you need a great product manager and designer more than anything / anyone else.

02_product-management
03_facebook-email

On Modular Innovation…

http://lifehacker.com/5446707/facebook-adds-comment-reply-by-email
Facebook’s latest Modular Innovation, ‘reply by email.’

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Group, New Year, New Opportunities & Thanks All Around!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb75
balsamiq_logo2_thumb26

A big thank you to everyone who made it to our latest meet-up of The Product Group, as well as to our sponsor, Balsamiq Studios! We all had a blast discussing Product People-oriented topics and enjoying Wonderful food.

DSC06076

Over the 1+ hours we discussed…

Product Management: just what exactly it means to do ‘product management’

On NOT Missing Important Market Trends: learning from the mis-steps of the newspaper industry

Managing Documentation: what people use, why they use it, and what is recommended

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering like this one and I am looking forward to seeing everyone, new and familiar, at our next meet-up …

Thursday, February 4th @ 7PM
@ Wonderful @ 172 8th Avenue (bet. 18th and 19th St)
NYC

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVP today or visit our group webpage at…

http://meetup.com/TheProductGroup

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. If you or an organization you represent would be interested in sponsoring or hosting an upcoming gathering of The Product Group please contact me.

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On the Page Load Time of Quick-UX

image There are some products out there (Twitter comes to mind) that could not possibly have an easier to use interface coupled with a simpler purpose (to say "what’s happening"). However, simple purpose and simple interface are not all that constitute a product’s Usability.

A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are…

Accessibility,
Consistency,
Recognition,
Navigation, and
Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental part. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s Usability.

The more engaged a user is with a website, the more they are able to interact, the more they can interact. The slower the website, the slower the rate and capability to engage.

Think of the last time you were shopping online when you made a purchase. Where you able to rapidly get to and purchase the product you sought? The answer most likely is yes. Now, think of the last time you visited a shopping website, where the pages were slow to load. Did you make a purchase? Most likely, the resounding takeaway characteristic you can recall today is one of frustration, in navigating, in seeking, that drove you to other websites — that facilitated your decision process through their greater Usability, and responsiveness.

If the user can forget what they were doing, due to sluggish responsiveness for actions taken in a textfield, the Page Load Time is too slow. The slower a page, the more opportunity a user has to be distracted by other websites, tabs, in-office activities, that can easily pull them from the initial web product.

The perceptions of acceptable Page Load Time are always changing. As the Internet and web continually accelerate, so too do people’s expectations regarding what they consider, ‘instant’ or ‘slow.’ At one point, over dial-up, ‘instant’ was many seconds, or even a minute, but today, a second is nearly ‘instant’, and many seconds is mostly unusable.

Assessing the Page Load Time variable requires very little of your time. ;-) However, I do recommend that you average at least a few data points over the course of a day or days to make sure you have an accurate sense of the normal product responsiveness.

  • If the product typically loads the information promptly (within acceptable expectations) then the Page Load Time variable is assigned the value of 1.
  • If the product exhibits the occasional, inconsistent delays, use 0.5.
  • And, if the product (like Twitter) has frequent and long delays (including outages) the value for Page Load Time variable is 0.

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usability and Page Load Time of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Prelaunch Prep to Implementing the Perfect UI

Every week I read thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

01_stealth-startup

On Starting Up…

http://www.rocketwatcher.com/blog/2010/01/prelaunch-marketing.html
Pre-launch startups and getting the message out.

On Design & Product Experience…

http://uxmag.com/design/designing-amp-selecting-components-for-uis
Honing the skills for implementing just the right UI components

02_ui-selection
03_online-offline

On Modular Innovation…

http://webworkerdaily.com/2010/01/05/does-the-distinction-between-online-and-offline-still-matter/
The blurring of online and offline worlds through today’s Modular Innovations.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Echo’s Sound: Reverberations in Modular Innovation

00_echo-logo As the next decade prepares to unfold, so too will the challenges faced by both the products and peoples of the Internet. Foremost to many are the challenges of …

            • continuing to craft one’s own unique experience and interaction with the online world, while
            • enhancing and being enhanced by the ever growing web of relationships, connections between person and person, person and product, product and product.

Empowerment & Control, Relationships & Connections

image Such challenges know many forms. Perhaps one significantly familiar, especially to those of you reading these very words, centers around the exchange of content and opinions —

  • in the manner you want,
  • when you want,
  • by the means you want.

Whether you are the publisher of the original content, or the opinionated commenter, you most often are left with a mere sliver of a limited vantage point of the current state of discourse and its connectivity to everything and everyone else. Some products, some services, today, are striving to bridge these gaps, make everyone more connected, make knowledge more connected, and further empower everyone through the expanding continuum of means to generate and follow conversations and their relationships. These products are services are known as, and part of, Modular Innovation. And, Echo is one such Modular Innovation.

02_echo-homepage

Echo. Echo.

Echo is a commenting module for websites and blogs that allows for bi-directional communication, aggregating comments from outside the web product within which it is installed and distributing those locally made comments to other web products, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Echo’s goal is to create a more connected, real-time, interactive Internet through the

  1. capturing of the echoes, offline continuing conversations based on a web product’s content (blog post, web page, etc.), and bring these echoes back to the local web product, and
  2. facilitating the continuation of the reverberations created by the web product’s content through the optional distribution of new, locally made comments back to the external, social spheres, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Sound Pressure & Noise

There are definitely many challenges facing the evolution of Echo and its founder’s perception of it within the larger ecosystem of Modular Innovation. Most directly, its challenges can be seen coming from Echo’s two chief competitors: Disqus and IntenseDebate.

Intense Debate Disqus
03_intensedebate 04_disqus

Where Echo, best displays its strengths are in Integration and User Experience. Where an Echo conversation is seen to be ongoing within a web product, it can be seen, in motion, in real-time, fully interweaving conversations both local and remote into a single, cohesive whole. The user experience is more inline with a distributed conversation, continuous across a variety of platforms, and centralized. When content within a web product is augmented with Echo, the resulting discourse is treated as a whole, no matter its source; local comments are not separated from remote ‘reactions,’ as occurs in Disqus.

05_echo-integrated

That said, Disqus currently has the edge over the competitors, most especially due to a …

  • Robust API (invaluable in accelerating innovation, Interoperability, Portability, and Sharability)
  • Price of Free (most especially contrasted with Echo which recently removed its Free Core Option, in place of a paid subscription model for all tiers)
  • Large Community of Publishers and Commenters (as a result, more people are more likely to have a Disqus account, more people are likely to configure their Disqus account to extend the propagation of the conversations)

Propagation

Like some of its competitors, as well as other players in Modular Innovation, Echo has borne witness to the growing desire for greater Modular Innovation, stronger relational ties between people and products online. As recently as this past December, in addition to further enhancing the Echo experience with …

  • image Whirlpools: Turn long conversation threads and similar comments into neat clusters of activity.
  • Split Stream: Split the Echo stream between comments and other ’social reactions’ with total control over the visual layout.
  • Social Likes: A lightweight way for readers to participate by endorsing each other’s comments. User faces and names are displayed for everyone to see.
  • Pause: An intuitive and subtle feature that simply queues any new items from appearing in the real-time stream while the user is hovering over Echo.

Pasted from <http://blog.js-kit.com/2009/12/01/echo-innovation-accelerated/>

… Echo also announced the continuing mainstream adoption of the product, along with the underlying principles of Modular Innovation, through the receipt of new customers: CBS/CNET, Discovery News, Dow Jones Local Media Group, Hearst Digital News, etc.

Ranges & Levels

07_chris-saad Chris Saad, VP Product Strategy & Community at Echo and co-founder of the DataPortability Project, has a perspective on Echo and the Internet, at large, strongly founded in the core principles of Modular Innovation.

"Where we once built websites – destinations that attracted ‘traffic’ from which we monetized ‘eye balls’ – that had loose connections in the forms of links, we now build widgets; lightweight pieces of functionality that connect countless sites and services using rich, deep and meaningful pieces of functionality.  Like individual neurons, "sites" must now maximize their connections to outside data sources and applications in response to external stimuli or risk being pruned themselves. "

from <http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/>

"More profoundly, though, the connections between those pieces will be just as important as the pieces themselves. The connections will be interoperable and create spontaneous meaningful interactions."

from <http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/>

The Modular Innovation trends seen within many of the cutting edge, next generation products, services, and platforms are often described via the instructive categories of…

 

So, with what aspects of Modular Innovation is Echo strongest?

image Most prominent to the successes of Echo are the characteristics: Interoperability and Sharability.

Central to the value offering of Echo is Interoperability – the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information. The list of products that Echo shares Connectivity with is large, and continues to grow, pulling in information from various web products…

Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Digg, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed, Delicious

… and also permitting the pushing out of users’ new comments to most of the same products.

Another feature, also shared with Disqus, is Redundancy of the user generated content, also referred to as UGC. Redundancy of functionality and content is provided by these products…

  • providing for both local and remote storage of UGC,
  • providing remote functionality in place of the local, built-in equivalent.

This level of Redundancy allows for the administrators of products that make use of Echo to run old and new commenting systems in parallel, in turn, allowing for the uninterrupted continuation of the dialog should the remote system cease to exist or the primary party’s product priorities change.

image Also at the heart of Echo is the Sharability of most of its content (excluding user Settings). When users post new comments, they can optionally share with one or more of the supported web products (listed above).

Reflection

Echo has a lot of things going for it, including a great experience. However, and in addition to the deficits already identified, and now re-emphasized as lacking…

  • a robust programmer API, and
  • a free tier in the pricing model…

… Echo would be well served by…

  • Increasing Connectivity
    • 10_linked-in If an article is posted to another source (with matching URL to the source), then pull in those comments too; and allow for an administrator to control (enable, disable, etc.) the detected and pulled in channels per content item, as well as site wide. For example…
      • If a news article is posted to LinkedIn, with a URL matching that of Echo-enabled local content, then when comments are made on the LinkedIn article, they should be pulled in to the local, original content.
    • When replying to a comment that originated from an external product, the reply should be posted BOTH locally and as a reply on the external product, thereby maintaining the Connectivity and flow of the conversation.
    • Allow for the local content creator to specify hashtags, or for hashtags to be extrapolated from the comments or content, to be able to selectively broaden the expansion of a conversation — not requiring a URL to always be the unique identifier of externally occurring content.
  • Improving Usability
    • Not all of the functionality is immediately clear, especially to a new user, when faced with the email-feeling new comment form. Individuals who implement Echo would benefit from being able to configure a more flexible user experience, forcing the display of some or all of the available ‘from’ and ‘to’ options.
    • Also, while the email paradigm may make sense to the more technically savvy, especially those knowledgeable of Echo’s core features, to the average user, it may be presenting too confusing a twist

    11_from-to-focus

    • Encourage more robust, complex conversations and sub-dialogues by…
      • Extracting supplemental comments, replies, from RT’s, and
      • Enabling unlimited levels of threaded conversation.
  • Improving Platform Integration
    • Allow administrators to, per page/post, disable and/or limit commenting. For example, if a WordPress blog post or page is set to ‘disable comments’ or ‘disable new comments’ then Echo, too, should not permit comments.

Echo is a very exciting product, with tough competition, whose presence is being heard loud and clear throughout the Internet, with reverberations influencing all flavors of the coming generation of web products, Modular Innovations.

As more products (from Twitter and Twine to Google and Microsoft) adopt the core principles of Modular Innovation, the relationships we all have with one another and the products and services we use online will dramatically evolve and forever change.

And, as these changes are occurring and, in the meantime…

check out Echo (and/or its competition), and

come back to share your experiences.

Who do you think will win the commenting system battle?

Is there room for more than one winner?

What do you think should be next in commenting? in Modular Innovation?

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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