User experience follies from Google, a company who prides themselves on user experience

Apparently Google released a new version of Chrome within the last week. I just now picked it up, as I just restarted Chrome for the first time since like, ever. This version brought some changes to the interface, many of which have the loyal userbase of Chrome up in arms.

Google removed http:// from the query string

There are a few problems with this one.

The biggest issue: if I were to copy the above url from the address bar, what do you think it would copy? corywatilo.com? Nope. It would copy http://corywatilo.com/ - how does that make the copy/pasting experience consistent with what the user expects from what they see visually? It doesn't. I'll bet you the first time QA saw this change, they sent it back with a bug report attached.

Another issue: security. It is standard practice to SHOW "http" or "https" in the browser, and with good reason. Many large companies have launched campaigns recently, encouraging users to confirm they're on a secure website when making online purchases or dealing with finances by checking to make sure they're on a site with a prefix of https. Generally, a user confirms this by looking at the link in the address bar to see if they're on http or https. If the average person doesn't see http, they're probably going to tend to not notice that they're not on https.

And my last point is that it's just annoying, especially for developers. While this change doesn't break anything, it does make our job less easy by increasing the amount of uncertainty we have while developing, and more importantly, debugging problems. Without being able to explicitly see http, there's subconciously an increased risk that we're looking at the wrong url. At the very least, this should be a user configurable option. But it's not.

Google moved the Favorite icon

While this does make the favorite icon location consistent with Firefox's, it's a little interesting they'd move the icon this late in the game. It's not like Chrome was just released yesterday - the browser has been in development for four years.

Aside from that, it's actually a minor annoyance. With the way the interface used to be laid out, there was never a need for my mouse to move to the upper-right corner. Everything I needed was in the top left: Back, Refresh, Home, Favorite. Now that the favorite icon is in the top right, it's the odd man out. The mouse now has to make a special trip over there.

New Edit menu

Who at Google thought this was a good idea? Generally when you build an application on top of an existing operating system that you didn't develop, you try to make the experience seamless with that OS. You'll notice that all iPhone applications share the same type of buttons and inputs as those created by Apple. Likewise, all Windows programs have an Edit menu. It's just one of those things you don't mess with. Save reinventing the wheel for Chrome OS.

My inexpensive office security camera - better and cheaper than some professional systems

Despite the fact that the work I do is not top secret, nor do I have any enemies, I have always felt safer and better protected with the presence of security cameras. You just never know what you might pick up. Plus, I often work late at night and my office is next to a bar, and since my car sits outside, I like to be able to keep an eye on it at all times.

I've toyed around with semi-professional security systems (the kind that have dedicated DVRs and indoor/outdoor camera with LEDs for night vision), and basic wifi cameras for my house. Neither produce very high quality video. If you need to analyze somebody's face or try to read a license plate, you're pretty much screwed. The best you can get is a description of what someone is wearing or the model of a car.

When I went to set up my office cameras, a buddy of mine suggested using webcams. Typically we think of webcams as low-quality cameras that we use to talk to relatives or co-workers over Skype. But in reality, the quality of webcams have vastly improved in recent years. I've been using Microsoft's LifeCam, a 720p HD webcam for Skype, and am always being told how crisp and clear I look (and I'll take all the help I can get).

So I employed the same webcams for my security cameras, and they work great! The nice thing about these cameras in that they use a small footprint, and they are USB powered so you only need one cord running to it. Plus with USB extension cable with a built-in repeater for $10, you can safely wire a camera from a good distance from a computer. And image quality is great even at night. These Microsoft HD webcams used to run around $79. I just picked up another one on Amazon for $52.99.

I use a recording program from DeskShare called Security Monitor Pro that costs $90. This software allows me to start recording on motion detection. It takes video clips, still picture, and can even email me the media or publish to an ftp server. I record my cameras at 10fps, which allows me to see enough action so I don't miss anything, while not overloading my CPUs.

Then at the core of it all is a dedicated Acer Aspire. I picked up this $500 computer from Fry's. It's loaded with an Intel i3 at 3.06GHz with 6GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. It's amazing how inexpensive technology is these days. I previously had a lower-end Dell recording, but it only had a single core and it choked when I tried to view and record two near-HD streams.

So for as little as $700, I have a security system that is computer-based, and actually records higher quality video than typical dedicated prosumer security rigs.

Like I said, this is a little over the top for my needs, but it's nice to be able to see my surroundings. If you're looking to set up a basic security rig, I definitely recommend going this route. Like I said, I've toyed with lots of possibilities, and since this system records high quality video with great features that lets me see what's going on when I'm away from the office, there are really no downsides.

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.