Customers & Web Page Peformance Expectations

The faster and better the web gets the higher our expectations become. For example, “[n]ewer evidence shows that broadband users are less tolerant of web page delays than narrowband users. A JupiterResearch survey found that 33% of broadband shoppers are unwilling to wait more than four seconds for a web page to load, whereas 43% of narrowband users will not wait more than six seconds (Akamai 2006).” [Soufce: The Psychology of Web Performance]

This is an important issue to keep in mind when designing web pages. It is very tempting to load up our websites with interesting and funky stuff that we love. Stuff like flashing images, movies, sounds or music, huge pictures, etc. But the question that must be asked: is this stuff driving away our consumers? Does the self indulgent use of funky technology and graphical features on our web pages actually repel our audience?

I think we are underestimating the utilitarian approach of users these days. People used to just browse the web for fun and discover stuff. But now our use of the web is much more directed and we are time poor so don’t want to faff about too much.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

PDC 08 & WomenBuild… inspiring career paths in technology

PDC 08 is the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference being held this year in Los Angeles, California from October 27-30. PDC is the conference where Microsoft displays its upcoming technologies, roadmaps & gives a sneak peak into the future of the Microsoft Platform. Its targetted at Solution Architects, and Cutting Edge Developers.

Check out Ms Eibner’s post on this, BTW she’s another inspiring woman in technolgy here in Australia.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Some Good Customer Service

Just had a totally different customer service experience with Joven of Virgin Mobile, at Centrepoint in Sydney. Got a new mobile broadband modem and had a few issues connecting it to my Macbook. He sat down and fixed it for me, told me to call him if any other issues.

Walking away is a really happy customer and of course, I’ll tell all my friends. Even more, I’m likely to deal with this company again and to recommend them to others.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Musings on Customer Service

A really unusual thing happened today. I had some spare time in between meetings and found myself in the city shopping precinct. And, since I’ve needed a new watch for a while, decided to go shopping.

I have no preconceptions regarding price – I just want a nice looking silver coloured watch that I can swim in, and that has some cool features that I’ll probably never use. I don’t care how much it costs really, as long as I like it.

Mission in mind I went into Angus & Coote, a large retail jewellery store in Sydney. I wandered around looking at the watches for a good five minutes. The store was not very busy and it was not lunch time. No staff greeted me or asked if I needed any help. Eventually, I called out to a staff member asking if someone could help me. She said she was busy with another customer, but did not offer to get someone else to help me. So me and my credit cards (gold, platinum, charge, Visa, Master, Amex, and debit cards) just walked out.

Funnily enough anyone who had bothered to talk to me at that store could probably have sold me a watch for a substantial sum. This is likely because I am a tragic gear freak. But nobody even said hello. That’s what us geeks call an “EPIC FAIL”.

Here was a customer who needed only a moment of effort to covert them to a sale. Now I’m going to tell all my friends about this experience. It’s not going to be a positive story about Angus & Coote jewellers in Sydney.

Further, now I’m going somewhere else to buy a watch. I’ll probably even tell my friends about that too.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Connectivity, Transparency and Truth Telling

When HTML was first invented I got really interested in the precursor markup languages and did a bit of research on them. I discovered TeX, GML, SGML and learned how they had been used. Then I started to learn about HTML. It was elegant and simple, almost sparse. An ordinary person like me could develop web pages and connect them to other web pages armed with nothing more complex than a text editor.

But the possibilities and power grew when HTML was coupled with HTTP and TCP/IP. This is where the connections of hypertext were enabled. It was such a revolutionary thought – that it is possible to connect texts which were previously unconnected. Joining up ideas and morphing them into new ideas in ways that are impossible in paper based text. Hypertextuality provided the platform for hyperconnectivity. But where is all this going now?

It is moving towards decentralisation of power and towards transparency because everyone and everything is becoming connected. The mutual interconnectedness of all things is not just an idea anymore, it is becoming a reality.

This means that truth telling is the easiest option. Since, if everything is connected and transparent, falsity will be uncovered. None of this means that we will necessarily transition towards more democratic forms of political organisation. More likely it will organise around current political infrastructures.

Once it is possible to connect ideas, and to thus spark new ideas, other factors come into play. Human factors. We are social animals and behave in certain fairly predictable ways. A really strong drive in humans is the creation of communities or tribes. There has been a growth of social networking and web 2.0 based user generated content capabilities. This enables normal human beings (with little or no technical knowledge) to create content, connect their content to communities and share knowledge and information in new ways.

Once mobile connectivity is mature this tendency towards connection and community will really start a revolution. The possibilities that we see now are only just a glimmer on the horizon.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Skills that should remain hidden …

A tweet from my Twitter buddy Warlach earlier today got me thinking about certain skills that one should never admit to having mastered.

Many years ago Wendy McCarthy told me that in her youth typing or shorthand were skills to which an ambitious young woman should never admit having mastered. This was good advice and it ensured that I remained a purely non-administrative resource and never had to serve coffee as part of my duties.

Those particular skills are now pretty much obsolete (refer to for more of these) but there must be modern skills that once admitted to will pigeon hole you in ways that can only be escaped by fleeing to a new job (possibly in a new city).

One skill I have learned to deny is any facility in supporting any technology like PCs or photocopiers. I confess to complete ignorance of such technology – otherwise you end up helping anyone who can’t be bothered to RTFM. What is really interesting is that this confession soon becomes reality given how quickly the technology evolves.

Now I’m wondering what the other skills that should remain hidden are?

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Twitter Problems and Planning for Success

An exchange with Michael Krigsman and Ed Yourdon on Twitter this morning prompted me to post my thoughts on this topic.

To be clear on my position – I am a Twitter user and love the kind of communication and connectivity that it enables. I really want Twitter to be successful and stable. But I am also a user who is totally frustrated by the technical and management issues that impact on Twitter’s stability, usability and functionality.

The problems demonstrated by Twitter seem to fall into three distinct areas:

a) people are using the product in ways that were not anticipated by management

b) the platform is unable to scale to the actual number of users and is thus shockingly unstable

c) there appear to be severe architectural issues contributing to the ongoing instability problems

Items (b) and (c) are failures of project management; while (a) seems to be a failure of product planning.

I can see how it all happened. Some experienced start-up guys got together and built something and released it into the wild. It took off in both anticipated and unanticipated ways. But there does not appear to have been an underlying architectural approach that took into account the possibility of success and the need to scale rapidly at both hardware and software levels.

Many have commented on the use of Ruby on Rails and its potential role in these problems. But if you are creating a product that will potentially be used by multiple millions of users around the globe then you need a plan for success.

At least now Twitter is communicating more openly about the nature of the technical problems they are having. Today it is a database crash. Yesterday it was something else. Tomorrow who knows?

There are two things I do know:

1) a lot of people love the way Twitter lets them connect to each other

2) there is a short window for Twitter to fix itself before someone else takes its place

I really hope that the Twitter folk get their acts together, because there are already calls for other products like “FriendFeed to kill Twitter“.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

More on Hyperconnectivity

When Mark Pesce talks about the power of social connection and technology it all makes sense. Here he’s giving the keynote at AuRemix 08 and talking about the real power of of the internet and social networking. He is also sounding a call to action for those of us in business to use the technology to connect with each other in more authentic ways. The life of a cube dweller is not a good one, disconnected from real life in so many ways. But with this ability to use the power of hyperconnection we can become more than the sum of our parts. Worth listening to the whole thing …

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire