What was going to be a rant about Hulu turned into praise about Hulu customer support

Problem = unhappy user
Last night I was infuriated by the fact that I was served three consecutive ads on Hulu. I thought to myself, "this is getting to be as bad as regular TV." I tweeted my disapproval, and then followed up by saying I was going to cancel my Hulu Plus account and then write a blog about how much I now hate them.

While I did end up canceling my Hulu Plus account, my bitterness toward Hulu was resolved by a few helpful tweets from @Hulu_Support, and thus, this post turns from a hateful rant about how Hulu is selling out (and how worthless Hulu Plus is, as the moment), to how much I appreciate attentive customer support.

A courteous reply from a company can completely change a user's opinion
As it turns out, the fact that Hulu ran three consecutive ads during a TV show is apparently a bug, and wasn't supposed to happen. I was informed of this by @Hulu_Support. The interesting thing is how little it takes to make people happy online (at least me). All the Hulu support rep did was admit the mistake and collect some information from me so they could troubleshoot the issue. Who knows if they're actually going to do anything with the information they got from me, but it was nice of them to ask. Also another observation: Hulu Support uses your first name when @replying. I thought this was a nice way to engage users, by responding to people and not just Twitter handles. A nice touch.

Great examples of customer support via Twitter: Hulu, Zappos, American Express
Other businesses should take notice of how businesses like Hulu, Zappos, and even American Express handle customer support on Twitter. I recently tweeted about Zappos, without expecting a response. As it turns out, Thomas Knoll, Community Architect at Zappos responded from his personal Twitter account, an account he doesn't typically use for customer support. This likely mindless action that took just a couple seconds on his part reaffirmed my positive opinion about Zappos, an opinion that is not likely to change based on that short encounter.

Ad overload (and a rant about newspaper websites)

We all know newspapers are dying (even with ad revenue from their websites), but this looks to be a move of desperation. Here I am, trying to visit the site of our local newspaper, the Orange County Register, and I can't even read the article because a giant leaderboard ad is covering the story. And there is no way to close the ad. Ridiculous.

An even larger issue, besides the fact that I can't read the story, is that the interface of the website itself is terrible. In this particular post (screenshotted below), you'll notice that the entire article copy is below the fold. ("Below the fold" refers to the part of the website you can't see without scrolling.) Even if you aren't familiar with common web practices, it's kind of common sense that you should at least be able to read a little bit of the article without having to scroll.

Way too much space is taken up by those ridiculous Facebook Share, Tweet, and comment icons, and Facebook "recommend" link. I could go on and on and on...

Hey Register, hire me and you'll go out of business slower.

Oh, and their Twitter username is "OCReggie". Seriously?

How to avoid eye strain and neck pain while using a computer

"More people are showing up at eye appointments complaining of headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and neck pain—all symptoms of computer-vision syndrome (CVS), which affects some 90% of the people who spent three hours or more at day at a computer, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Healthy."

The above quote comes from a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday. If this is true, the only reason the percentage is so high is because people don't know the simple steps to avoid these symptoms. Here are a few things I do to make sure I never have to leave my computer...unless I really want to.

Adjust Monitor Brightness
I think the single largest reason why people have trouble sitting in front of a computer screen for an extended period of time is because their screen is too bright. Most monitors are set to be way too bright by default. Try turning the brightness all the way down. It will make your eyes think you're looking at a piece of paper rather than staring into a flashlight. (Make sure you adjust your brightness and not your contrast.)

Ambient Light
I like to keep my office pretty dark, but it's important the ambient light in the room doesn't contrast too greatly with the physical world. For example, if my monitor is bright and my room is dark, it's going to hurt my eyes because of the stark contrast. This is why your parents always used to tell you to watch TV with a light on (at least my parents did). But an environment that's too bright isn't great either. When I used to sit in a cube all day, I had the florescents above me ripped out. Distancing yourself from ambient light in a close proximity is a good idea.

Monitor Height
A lot of times, neck pain is caused from leaning down to look at a computer screen (this happens a lot when working on a laptop). Whenever possible, make sure your monitor is at your eye level. I would suggest that if you're looking straight out from your chair, at least 1/3 of your monitor should be above your eye level. I used to set my monitors on books. Now I use actual monitor stands that get my monitors off my desk by about 4 inches. Avoiding looking down will help reduce neck strain.

Back Support & Sitting Position
I never work in front of a computer without a pillow behind my lower back. Even actual back supports from office supply stores don't work well. I recommend an actual pillow. It helps keep the upper body back and upright. It also helps keep my head back to where I sometimes rest it on the back of my chair. This reinforces the last idea to keep your head looking straight on rather than bending forward and looking down.

Even Multiple Monitors Help!
This isn't for everybody, but...I work in front of an array of 3 or 4 very large monitors. I think doing so actually helps keep my eyes fresh and my neck from hurting, because I have to physically turn my head to the left and right to see all my screens. This keeps me from focusing in a single, small area for too long at any given time, and it also reminds me to blink when I turn my head.

These suggestions definitely aren't scientific - they're just a few bits of common sense that I've realized over my time using computers. Hope this helps keep you pain-free!