New Firefox and Other Browser Update Weirdness

I’m settling in to get some things done and notice a blurb.

There’s going to be a rollout of the next Firefox over the next few weeks.  I pay close attention to that because I use Firefox extensively.  I’d be lost without it. 

I’m so tightly trained to use Firefox that I have to step back and actually “think” how to use any other browser.  Since I use Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Mac OSX Mavericks, and Debian Linux on a daily basis as well as Android and an occasional toe dipped into Apple’s iOS, I have to remain as flexible as possible and Firefox is on all of those computers. 

Except the iPhone but I hardly ever use them.

I will eventually install Firefox on the Windows machines when it tells me that it is available.  I’m not in a rush.  The last time they changed the way it looks, the User Interface or UI, it borked it for me.  I ended up installing things to make it look the way it did before I updated the browser while growling at Firefox in general.  Keystrokes and mouse clicks and all that moved.  They removed the status bar. The bookmark strip got lost, or rather hid, and that stores some of your bookmarks.  They removed the title bar.

Why?  Never heard a reason, but I installed Classic Theme Restorer and it brought it all back.  Immediately after that I installed Adblock Edge to get rid of the blasted adverts and other nasties that hitch a ride onto your computer as a result.  More Privacy means for a faster experience as well as fewer viruses and spyware pushed onto your local computer.  Nobody actually “Likes” ads anyway, we accept their presence and usually are annoyed or distracted by them, but “Like”?  I doubt it.

Rule Number One of Software User Experience (UX) is if you change the way something looks, you will break the way people work.  I learned that back in the days of the Mainframe and College. 

Rule Number Two of Software User Experience is that if you do change it there will be unintended consequences.

In My Case:

I have a computer that has what they call a “Clickpad“.  It’s also running Debian Linux.  I know Linux in general fairly well, but Debian Linux doesn’t manage Clickpads well.  Clickpads are those weird trackpads that are flush with the case.  You click on the pad instead of having normal buttons like every other Synaptic trackpad. 

I do know that is fixed in the next version of Debian, and I do know how to fix it now, but it is an annoyance that I have to deal with.  It basically forgets that it has a physical button in Debian Stable/Wheezy, and you’re stuck with whatever you touch on the trackpad.  I only get a Right Click when I tap.  I have since configured a two fingered tap to be a Left Click.

What that all did change did is to break the way Firefox works.  You see, on that particular computer, I can’t Right Click.  I can’t get the pop up context menu.  They changed the UI right away from it. 

Since that machine is Debian Linux, I have to wait for the next version anyway.  It isn’t even using Firefox, but something rebranded as “IceWeasel“.  To put it short, and sarcastic, Debian had a spat with Firefox over the branding.  Since Firefox/Mozilla doesn’t want anything proprietary at all on their default install, someone in the Debian Project grabbed the source code, recompiled it, created the graphics, and renamed everything to IceWeasel.  It works like Firefox but is Older.  About a version back. 

If you’re running Stable, or Wheezy, you could be quite a few versions back.  Jessie has a more current Firefox, but it also has a lot more annoying bugs in it because it is “Testing”.

But Windows?  Yeah, you’ll get it soon.  Just remember Classic Theme Restorer and Adblock Edge, and you’ll be fine.

As for the Mac?  When it is available, you’ll get a blip on the bottom of the screen telling you you’re ready for an upgrade.  You can also go back to the old theme if you want, but I do recommend Adblock Edge as well.

Why the harping on the ads?  It’s a much faster browsing experience when you surf a page without the ads.  No blinky pictures, crawling things, or text ads.  If you don’t download them, you use less data.  Things pop faster.

Trust me on that one.  You can always turn it off later.

Monster.com, Are You Kidding? Fancybox? Really?

In business, there is a phrase.

“Eat Your Own Dog Food.”

Monster.com doesn’t seem to realize this in their roll out of new “features”.

You see, Eat Your Own Dog Food really means that you’re going to use your own product to make sure that it suits what you intend it to do, and that you aren’t giving the competitors an unfair advantage.

In web development and Project Management, this means finding someone who becomes the “Subject Matter Expert” and “Product Owner” and takes on a very special role.   When I worked at the university, and in every position I have held back into the beginning days of my career, I’ve assumed this role.  It means that you are going to step back, listen to what the “Main User” of the system says about it, and champion that role within “Development” so that the Main User’s need are best served.

It means that you have to anticipate how any person will use the system and make sure that problems do not occur, and that when they do, problems are dealt with gently and “Gracefully”.

It also means that unintended consequences sometimes occur like in this picture above.

It is one of my least favorite features, the “Fancybox” or the “Lightbox”.

It is also very very rarely used correctly.

This is an example of how badly monster.com used the fancybox.

I did this under “my signon” and on another browser with no signon and it repeats itself.

Simply put, go onto Monster.com and do a search for any position you like in what ever zipcode you prefer.  Monster will return a list of positions.  It may even give you more than one page.  When you go from page 1 to page 2, it will put a “fancybox” up on your browser asking you “Let These Jobs Come To You”.

No, you blistering idiot, that is not what I wanted.

You see it will do that for this page, and any future page I want to look at. 

Every Blistering Page.

Ok, so I’m quoting the TV Sliders and Dr. Arturo with his wonderful rants and insults, but the point is still valid – Fancyboxes rarely serve a useful purpose For The User.

I went in immediately to my browser, clicked “Adblock Plus” and found a script.  I blocked it, and refreshed the page, and now I’m back to the old Fancybox Free behavior.

If I wanted an RSS Feed of the search parameters, it would not work because since I live in a major metropolitan area, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, there are thousands of jobs.  I have given up on RSS Feeds for this because they “max out” at 50.  I typically would need around 500 to be able to see the last two days worth of positions on this given search.

I have many searches, and have saved each individual page to save me a LOT of time that would be otherwise wasted clicking on “Next Page” buttons.   If I were not able to do the search the way I do, then I probably would have stopped using Monster.com a long time ago.

So all you need to do is go into your adblock plus and block the script called:

http://media.newjobs.com/nmy/usen/iperceptions506.js

It is badly written code, your QA, Development Department, and Project Managers have made a mistake.

It simply does not belong in a professional product like we have come to expect in Monster.com.  It only can have come from someone who has sat in too many Marketing Meetings and thought they could get more “buy-in” from their users.

Web Annoyances – Websites Where Keyboards Don’t Work

This one gets me a lot.  
It’s so basic that I have to wonder who on earth is making these web pages? 
Worse, who on earth is approving and testing them?

Oh, that’s right, you can’t do Proper QA any more since everything is written overseas on the cheap.

You get what you pay for.

Rant aside…

For the most part, even now, the place most people are doing their “heavy duty” web surfing is on a browser.  I’m basing that on this blog’s statistics, and I feel confident that that feeling is backed up by most web services.

The proportion is roughly evenly split between Internet Explorer, Firefox (and its variants), and Chrome.

I personally have noticed this on Firefox and on Internet Explorer, on Windows, Linux, and on Mac OSX.

It just doesn’t happen on a tablet or a phone since the way you use a webpage is different there.  You only have a mouse (touchscreen), you rarely have a keyboard.

I notice this on a daily basis on Monster.com, but it also shows up with many other oddball sites.

Here’s how to find the problem on Monster:

  • Surf Monster and do a search.  Doesn’t really matter what kind of job you search for, your own zip code will be fine.
  • You will be presented with a list.  Pick one from the list.   It doesn’t really matter which.
  • Now that you are looking at a page, a job really, use your Page Up or Page Down keys.

They don’t work.

You actually have to click inside the body of the page to get the page to move.   You can tab around, cursor around, whatever you choose, but it just doesn’t work until you click inside the page.

If you are a web developer and call this done, you are bad and you should feel bad.

Zoidberg doesn’t like you and neither do I.

This also works with the Windows or Linux alternate page down, the space bar.  

Navigation is simply locked down until you click inside the page.

My best guess is that it’s a function of working with the software behind the scenes (Ajax) and having reworked your browser so that all the keys are forced to do a certain special task.  Don’t know but it’s still wrong.

Now go back and fix your web page.  That’s a rookie mistake.  If you’re good, Robot Santa may leave you a gift.

Web Annoyance – The Fancybox or Lightbox rant

Welcome to my own personal rant… er annoyance.

Since this is my own personal blog, I’ll keep it “constructive”.  You see, I don’t like it either when people get shouty.  However, whenever I encounter this sort of thing, I want to find the person or people responsible, grasp them by the shirt collars and start screaming at them.

Usually from six inches away from their nose.

Loudly and repeatedly.

What is this thing?  It’s a “Fancybox”.  It’s also called a “Lightbox”.

Yes, seriously, that is what they’re called.  I’m not making this up.

It looks like this picture below.

Don’t think I’m “Hating On” yugster.com, they aren’t the only ones out there with this kind of laziness.  The idea in this case, and many others is to get the person to sign in to their website.

Ok, sure, for a couple pennies off the inflated price of whatever you’re hawking, I’ll sign in.

In the specific case of Yugster, their marketing is a “Deal A Day” site that grew a bit to include a few limited items.  Great!  They’re usually at a good price, and I do check them out every day.

BUT…

I do it VERY quickly.   It doesn’t take long to scan a page and see that “nope, not today” and close and move on …

What this site, and very many others, are doing is getting you to log in.   They then leave a cookie on your machine saying Hey!  Here’s Bill again, lets change what’s going on just for him and then present the page without the fancybox next time.

In one word:  Nope.

Why?  Cookies are a security problem.  One of the first things I do when I set up a computer for myself or others is to explain this, then go into custom settings.   Turn off third party cookies.  Immediately.  Then I set the browser up to delete all cookies when I close the browser.

The second one is important.   Sure, it’s convenient to have your browser remember you and your signon, but what about your banks for example.  Most banks do not do this, although Chase does seem to depend on cookies for some strange reason.

Here’s the deal.  You sign on to their website, it places a cookie on your laptop.  You go on about your business blissful in knowing that These People Remember Me!  Yay, I’m warm and loved in happy cyber land!

Now I go out to The Mall.  I want my laptop since my partner intends to go shoe shopping and I already bought all the shoes I need on deep discount via the web months ago and they’re taking up space in my closet behind the dog crate.

Go, Me!

I’m sitting in the food court with my shiny laptop and get hungry.  Getting up, I walk over to the Chinese place and decide that I need some Gung Po Chicken and a large diet iced tea.   Turn around and a shadow passes through my peripheral vision.

Going back to the table, I notice my laptop is gone.

*Poof*

Now, some people don’t have a laptop with a password, or are so dumb that they made the password “1234” or “qwerty” or some such simple crap.

That nefarious character has your laptop, got in, and is now snooping around your favorites.  Finds your bank and bang, he’s in.

All because of a fancybox.

Yes, It’s a flight of fancy, but it illustrates a point.  The idea that you can expect to keep those cookies intact is a truly bad one.  It doesn’t have to be a laptop, your big beefy dinosaur of a desktop machine will be one of the first things to go when your house gets broken into.

Still feeling good about that warm plate of cookies and your fancyboxes?

It isn’t so much that these websites believe that everyone must stop and log into their sites, its that once you do that, they expect you to want instant access to their site, always.

Bad idea folks.

So if you don’t want to be lined up against a wall and told how nasty your website is, leave the fancyboxes and lightboxes off.   They’re a bad idea.

No More Desktop Computer? Same Here!

I moved down to South Florida, Lock Stock And Barrel as the saying goes, in 2006.

Shortly after moving here, Florida Power and Light “decided” I didn’t need that desktop computer that I built.  There was a power spike and Poof! It was gone.

I was “That Guy”.  The one everyone leans on to fix their computer after their 10 year old discovered this cool website sitting on a server somewhere in Russia… that infected it with a virus.  The guy who built computers since Back In The Days of the 486. 

Remember those?

I would say it’s fair to put the number of Desktop PCs I’ve built in the area of 200, perhaps more.  It was never my job to do so, but it was always something that I found fun enough to do that I kept up with the trends.

Until I moved here.

Here is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1200 square foot house.   Down from a 3 and 1 1/2 1900 square foot in Philly.

I kept my skills up, but there were some things that I found I really didn’t care for about a desktop computer.

The main reason why I stopped using a desktop computer was space.   My desk is in The Florida Room, and that room is the warmest one in the house.  The Redundantly named Florida Room would be between 5 and 10 degrees warmer depending on the time of year, and since I keep the house at 78 … I migrated to the living room.

The thing is that it required that I keep a desk out there.   That desk got used less and less and became a thorn in my side that illustrated what was said about Possessions Enslaving You.

While I was migrating off of that old desktop computer, I kept the desk there to do computer repairs when I needed to, but I realized that I was using the laptop more and more.   They got cheaper to the point where the laptop I use now costs less than some of the motherboards that I bought in the past.

Unless you were playing a game, you really didn’t need a cutting edge desktop computer in the home. 

I noticed that many of my friends and clients were doing the same thing.   Why keep a boat anchor next to a desk in a house cluttered with “goodies” when you really wanted to be in the comfy chair in a living room or media room with your feet up?

A cutting edge desktop computer got less expensive as a result.  You can get a good desktop computer from many vendors for less than $500 these days, but when you can get similar laptops for the nearly the same price it led me to ask why.

I still have parts laying around the house.   A spare power supply here, a fan there.   For the most part, that Hardware Closet I used to keep in Philly is reduced down to a box of odd junk and a computer case.   I haven’t been asked to repair a desktop computer in over a year – fix a Virus problem, yes, upgrade a laptop, yes, but fix a desktop?  Nope!

Besides, you’d be shocked how much benefit you’d get out of a couple gigs more memory, and a really hard look at what you have installed on the computer.  If you don’t need it, uninstall it!

It seems that a casual glance in a big box electronics store will prove my point.   Rows of Laptops being hovered over by people, curious folks tapping at a tablet to try to wrap their head around what it is, but the desktop computer aisle is empty.   It’s even hard to get someone to tell you about a desktop computer in a computer store these days. 

There used to be a great amount of strategy that you’d have to employ to get just the right computer.  Now, you pick your price point, buy a laptop, and within two years you start looking to see what’s out there again.

Which is great for me, since I have a nice stack of Hand-Me-Down laptops from people who know I’ll pass them onto someone who needs them.  Your computer “slowing down” is usually because something installed itself on your browser that needs to be banished – toolbars, for example are useless.

For the vast majority of us out there, those home users of the world, you do not need the high end computer that the salesmen of the world push you toward.  In fact, I’d wager if you really look at what you need, a 3 or a 4 on a scale of 10 would be more like it. 

Yes, I’m being deliberately vague there, this isn’t intended to be a specific discussion of what to get now, since many of these articles are re-read in the future.

So if the salesperson is trying to sell you a computer for the home that is a laptop, at least these days, if you’re paying more than around $500 or so, step back and think about it.  You may be happy with the ego side of the purchase, but you probably do not need the extra expense.  The one I’m using to write this on, I paid $225 for in September 2012, and I’ll probably get another 2 years out of it.

But the Desktop?  Stick a fork in them – in the home, they’re done.

New Firefox and Turn Off The Smoothscrolling

I love Firefox.

Well no, Pee Wee I don’t want to marry it.

On the other hand, I’m so very used to the way it works and its quirks that I can’t conceive of using anything else.

It works on all the computers I use – Linux, Windows, and Mac.   It does things well.  It can be extended so that I block advertisements and “nasty” websites.  It does not spy on me (Hear that Chrome?).  It’s not Bloated (I’m talking to you Internet Explorer).  It isn’t forced on me (I don’t want to go on a Safari to check into a website).

So yesterday I updated my Firefox.  If you click on the link, it will tell you if you are up to date.

After loading up my normal 150 web pages and muddling through most of the routine, I see only one problem.

Smoothscroll was turned on “accidentally” by the upgrade to Firefox 13.

I’m not the kind of person who likes Smoothscroll.   It reminds me of when I was a kid sitting on a swivel chair and spinning around faster and faster so that when I stopped the world kept moving.

On this particular laptop (2 year old Core2Duo with Windows 7 and 8 Gigs of Memory), Smoothscroll doesn’t smoothly scroll it fidgets to the next page.   In a spastic wretching and lurching forward, you get the next page of data instead of a quick “Snap!” to the next page.

I know Smoothscrolling is supposed to look like you are skimming down a written page but to me it is annoying.   Not nausea inducing, just annoys me while I sit there thinking why isn’t it there yet?

I don’t want to be that kid in the back seat saying “Are We There Yet” when I’m looking at pictures of cats or puppies, nor do I want to be wondering why it’s taking so long to scan to the bottom of a page of 100 jobs in a job search website.

Do the job.  Do it quickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of that eye candy nonsense.  You’re just slowing me down.

Ok, enough of the rant.  If you want to turn on or turn off Firefox’s “feature” of smooth scrolling down your pages – which doesn’t work, here are the basic instructions.

  1. Launch Firefox.
  2. Click on Tools.
  3. Click on Options.
  4. Click on the Advanced icon that looks like a gear.
  5. Click on the General Tab (No, not the one that looks like a light switch, the tab below that.  I’ll wait.  Good.)
  6. Look down to the middle of the panel in the browsing section and click the box to the left of “Use Smooth Scrolling”.
  7. Enjoy.

Now that you have finished, here’s your treat.  A short video about an adorable little girl being taught by a friendly Boxer dog how to drink from the hose.

Repeat after me… Awwwww.

UI and UX – Get Out Of My Facebook!

User Experience and User Interface is a term in web development these days.  Basically the idea is that you should take a look at your website and think of it from the stand point of someone from outside.  How is that person sitting in a random apartment somewhere removed from you going to look at your page and use it?  Will that person say “Nope, you’re ugly and your web developer dresses you funny and I’m leaving”?

And that’s about as technical as this article gets today, you can relax.

You are looking at what really gets me these days.  If I see a banner here asking me to like them on Facebook, I’m thinking of the socially awkward kid in elementary school who tagged along whining at you to take them with you when you do some cool stuff.  How about the “Extra Needy Girlfriend or Boyfriend” who is begging for you to come over and spend some time when you’re out fighting fires or some such?

This is the modern web equivalent of me saying “Stuff it” I don’t need you. 

Yes, I meant “STFU” and since I keep my blog G Rated, I will allow you to define that acronym however you like.

You see, if I like this page and every page that I stumble across in the course of doing my daily research/entertainment/job hunting/shopping/ and so on, my Facebook page becomes a mire of inconsequential crap.  I depend on my Facebook News Feed to be pertinent.  It saves me from having to go to some of those websites and surf every single article to stay informed.  I know I’m not alone here, many folks have started to use Facebook the same way.  So why add all this junk?

My first impression of the page is now “Oh for crying out loud, not again”.   Or something stronger if it is the 43rd time I’ve been greeted by this kind of needy uselessness.

A Web Page, just like a blog, is what the owner wants it to be, and not the reader.  You are the product, you are not the customer.  You are typically being sold for your information.  So being slapped in the face by a Facebook “Like me” whine is their way of roping you in for a little extra advertising face time on Facebook.

That’s how it works. 

My Second impression is to click on Adblock Plus and see if I can find the script to defeat it.  Sometimes I can, other times I can’t.

Usually I hit about 50 of these useless needy girlfriends (I’m A Guy, Ladies, Don’t Get TOO Bent Out Of Shape, Just Mentally Remap it to Boyfriends or Lost Puppies, MmmKay?) in the course of a morning.  I do a LOT of research on technology and software/web development in the course of a day.   Getting slapped by http://www.pleaselikemeorIwillwhine.crap doesn’t make me like you any more than finding another flaming bag of web garbage sitting on my virtual doorstep would.

A Facebook Like button is fine, completely repainting your page with a “lightbox” like you see above is a great way to get people to move on like I did.  It’s the modern equivalent of a web pop-under window now that everyone has that little box clicked in their setting of their favorite browser to stop pop-up and pop-under windows as a default.   This one will be the next default, give it time.

So if you want to experience this stupidity for yourself, it was at this link on www.upworthy.com.  I closed the page, I don’t even know what viral information was there.  Maybe after I switch to decaf… Nah, I just closed the window and I won’t bother watching this supposedly important video as a result. 

I Know I Am Not The Only One Out There Annoyed By This Garbage.   

So folks, its a terrible idea to annoy your customers.  It doesn’t work in the real world.  If that grocery store changed their piped in music to, say, Death Metal, a small percentage would love it and their sales would generally drop from all the sweet grannies who can’t understand why they’re playing growling in the frozen food aisle.

Careerbuilder.com Update Broke My Job Search

Yep, it’s another tech post.

See here’s the deal.  Everyone who ‘owns’ a website is always looking for ways to refresh it so people find more reasons to come back.  More visits mean you’re more likely to click on an ad and send a few pennies to a few dollars their way.

Sometimes the refresh works, other times they need to go back and rethink it.   This is one of those times.

This is also a good illustration of why I put “User Experience” and “User Interface” on my resume.  I’ve written about how Dice.com made a change, why it was wrong and what they needed to do to fix it.  They hit that blog posting and decided I was right on some points, and used my ideas.   I’m sure they read it because they’re out in Iowa and nobody from that city had ever read my blog before that posting.  It was easy to find.

A little background and high order discussion. I’ll try not to get too “techie”.  In fact, I pride myself and have been told I’m successful in writing about weird tech issues and getting things across to people who don’t understand them.

I look for permanent work around 35 hours a week on average.  I use the major job boards and some of the minor ones to ask the question “What Jobs Are Available within 30 Miles of Zipcode 33305 in Computing Within The Last Three Days”.  You know, IT and Project Management.   Since I live in a major city, that search returns a lot of positions.  I further finesse that by saying search for specific job titles, certain exclusions of companies that are inappropriate for various reasons, and even some arbitrary things.

Once a week I have a similar search that is targeted at specific companies and all of the cities and towns in my county and a few neighboring cities that I know about.

Pretty straightforward, there are millions who are unemployed, underemployed, looking for permanent positions, and just curious that go through similar processes every day.

This process can be called “Data Analysis” or “Data Mining”.  You do the same thing every time you use a spreadsheet.   

One reason why I prefer www.dice.com to all the other sites is that it further categorizes things as to whether it is a “Direct Hire” which is a company vs a “recruiter” which typically is just reposting a position that a Direct Hire had posted the day before.  Needless to say, I know which recruiters to skip.  If they have a “hot deal” they’ll call me with the position and most likely I’ve already made my judgement as to whether to pass or not.  We’ll talk but usually they realize I’ve been there, done that, and moved on.

You can see from this picture that everything that I need to see is presented on one line.  Dice.com has successfully reduced things down to just the information you need to decide whether a position is worth looking at further.

Basically I’ve managed to use Dice in a fashion that is slightly inconsistent with their website.  I save each individual page as a link so that I don’t have to click onto the next page.  Each page is it’s own link in a folder in Firefox and I can look at each page in it’s own tab. 

When you are opening 150 pages a day, you want to save every last second you can.

The list is presented in Job Alphabetical Order, all jobs are within the last three days, and I can tell at a glance whether I need to pursue looking at a link.

By the way, a helpful hint.  If you are looking at a webpage, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the link and it will open in another tab.  You can do that many times, and look at all those links later.  It saves a lot of time!

That’s the biggest criteria about this.  Saving time.  Can you imagine doing this by hand in a newspaper? 

Now here’s what happened with www.Careerbuilder.com

Careerbuilder is a little different.  They’re big and they partner with many newspapers around the world.  You’re going to hit one of their sites if you are looking at a branded website for many organizations.  It also has a few quirks.

One is that no matter how hard I tried, I can’t get it to give me more than 25 positions at a time.  That forces me to open up as many as 20 links for a given criteria.

Their sort is semi-broken.  If I have more than one job type on a given link, it’s going to put a few jobs from “today” at the tail end of the search.  When you are looking at 400 jobs for that criteria, that means you have to load up 20 pages just to get to the tail end. 

Now that you’re committed to opening all those pages in tabs, you have to consider what you want to look at.  If you’re looking at this thing every day, you don’t need to look at three days worth, you can skip to the end.  Check for “Today” and “Yesterday”.  Today, in a list of 20 opened tabs, Today and Yesterday were pages 1 and 2 and part of 3 then again in page 20.  That’s a lot of extra page hits for no good reason.

This screen grab from Careerbuilder.com illustrates how just a few little problems break the page and make it more difficult to get to the information you are looking for.

They used to have a handy page number at the top of each listing.  Minor perhaps, but knowing you are on page 4 of 20 and looking at positions 76 through 100 is surprisingly helpful.  After all, you expect to have to skip ahead to the Next To The Last Page, so you need to know where you are at.  

The date is not shown, but it is implied by saying “posted today” and “posted yesterday” all in grey lower case text.  I can handle the grey, but the date would be more useful since it is more compact.  I would prefer to see the date as “Mar. 18”.  The year can be implied, we all make the same mistakes on our checks but by March or even the second week of January, the mental block against the year has been past.

Most importantly they slid all of the position specific information into a single column.

Position Name
Company Name
City Name

Position Name
Company Name
City Name

… is not as helpful as stringing it out in one line.

Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date
Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date
Position Name     Company Name     City Name   Date

The reasoning is that if you’re skimming through 400 positions for a given search, you need to be able to skim the column and check on position name first.   Ctrl+Click to open that position into a new tab and continue onwards.

That brings up another point.  The order it is presented is incorrect and there is no way to specify which column you’re sorting on – and you need more than one column.   The job name should be the most important order.  Ideally this should be Sorted first by Date, then Job Name.   What the result would be is now that you have all the “Business Analyst” positions sorted together for “today” and not mixed in with the “Data Analyst” positions.  They are similar but distinct disciplines and while many of the skills are similar, they don’t completely overlap.

After all they have different position names don’t they?

Luckily they have the position names all in blue and the rest of the text in other colors so with a mind trick I can try to turn off the rest of the info until I need it…

When you redesign a website as complex as Careerbuilder, you are trying to balance a lot of needs.  You don’t want to do a radical redesign because it will get so alien to people that their minds will switch off.   It needs to be evolutionary.   Things as minor as the list of pages you are on will be noticed especially if you’re skipping to the end of 20 pages and can’t get to page 19 unless you go to page 20 first like I did the other day.

Basically the information is all there – Content gets an A Grade.
Presentation?  You can do better.  C Minus perhaps. 

Dice.com did it right. I need more light.

I promise you this won’t be technical.

Much.

More “functional” – or the Way things work instead of What You Do To Get them to work.

A while back, I posted a detailed series of articles about the website www.dice.com when they made some changes to their website.  Many of them were picked up by Dice and used, some were not.  My observations were a little flawed since I aggressively block advertisements on websites.  When I’m working to find a Project Management Job, I don’t want some blinky or otherwise distracting piece of “graphics” slowing me down.  I’ve been online long enough to remember what the web was like before they started putting ads in web pages, and for the most part, that is my experience when I surf – I simply do not have time for that when I spend three hours a day looking for work.

Yes, three hours a day, every day, average, every SINGLE day of the year.  Add to that the actual time that I spend applying to jobs and it is well over a full time job of more than 40 hours a week.

I use Dice heavily, and it probably is the first one I hit every morning.

When you go to a page that you use frequently you have times where you have to change your information.  There are ways to protect that sign on, but the most widely known and used ones are called a “Captcha”.  They’re supposed to captcha the computers and let the humans do their thing.  It usually is text but it’s in weird fonts or colors and it makes it hard for a computer to scan. 

It also makes life tough for people.  The ones on Google Sites are the worst.  I have a lot of trouble guessing if “this” blob is a “cl” or a “d” because they’re so twisted around.  A quick jump to this link will show you what I’m talking about.  Just look at the picture and I’ll wait for you to groan “Oh God Those Things”.

Welcome back…

Dice had a system of around six different number strings in pictures so they couldn’t be scanned and it was stable – which is to say repetitious.  “MrVies” was one of them.  I have a theory that he was a farmer down the road from the folks out in Iowa that produce this website but I can’t really be sure.

I’m assuming they, Dice, knew this and realized something had to be done because it changed.

For the better.

You see instead of putting up an almost unintelligeable blue blob next to another, they went to something simple.

Well crafted questions in … GASP!… Clear Text.   You know, like you’re reading now!  The same size as any other text on your screen that you can make larger or smaller, copy and paste and so forth.

Oooo Text.

Repeat after me… “Oooo Text!”!

Ok so where’s the rub?

It isn’t with the website this time.  The problem is in what I heard described recently as the “Organic Biological Computing Interface”.  Yes, you guessed it, it’s that 224 pound slab of semi conscious meat that sits under the computer. 

Me.

Yours truly.

Yes, I’m a bit stubborn.  At 645 in the morning when I start, I’m also not completely awake.

Sure, I’m a morning person but even I have my limits.  The breakfast hasn’t boosted my blood sugar levels to “awake” nor has the little weak computing chip that I call my brain warmed up enough with some prime home roasted coffee and its subsequent jolt of caffeine induced energy.

In other words, yeah I’m half asleep when I start.

It’s also not quite sunrise yet and these homes in Florida are built to shade you from direct sunlight.  At that time of day, you frequently need to turn on the brass Orient Express lamp that you gave Mom back in the 1980s as a present and shed some light on the deal.

So as you are looking at a Clear! Text! question like “Enter the number twenty three thousand five hundred and thirty in digits” you are also running into a problem.  Where the heck is that number five on the darkened keyboard???

It also exposed a little problem, I got a little “ferhuddled” as they say in Lancaster County, PA.  I’d swap digits back and forth while I am going through my morning dyslexia and get it wrong.

Three or four times.

That is until I get off my duff and semi-close the lid to the laptop to shed enough light on the matter.

Score:  Dice.Com 1, Moose 0

Yep, I’m satisfied, and laughing at myself yet again.   I do a lot of that.

So if you’re listening Dice.com here’s a little Technical thought for you (You see I lied, but only a little bit, about that functional stuff!).

If the website was done correctly, you should have all these captchas stored in a database.  You should have an internal web page to add new questions as you think them up and delete out old ones that are stale, or just leave them in the database to cycle through.   All in all it’s a good solution that you came up with.

And no, I don’t really need access to that database. Although… hmmmm think of the power!  WOO HOO!

User Experience or Why Websites Fail

Facebook is a study of User Experience

There are many people who are paid strictly to improve the User Experience of a website.  So many that they’re just abbreviated to UX and UI.  UI stands for User Interface.  Both are quite tightly coupled. 

Every time you change something, you will annoy someone.  The idea is that if you don’t change your system/website/front garden you will find that the world will have passed you by. 

Just as a garden is never a static thing, especially in South Florida where if you blink you have weird exotics overtaking your prized Podocarpus, a Static Website will get overtaken quickly.

There is a balance toward adding new flowers to a garden so that it will be appealing to the eye, or just add new plants to make it fill out better, and doing too much and making it overgrown.

The corollary is that software problem you find in things like Microsoft Word where 95% of the people use just 5% of the features.

So why add the complexity?  You just may use it some time, but you can always ignore it.

Another corollary is the Automobile.  If they didn’t improve things, we’d still be driving the Model T.  Beautiful machine that evolved over its years to be faster and more efficiently built but would not work on the roads of this day.

After all, you really do want a stereo and automatic delay wipers and cushy seats and the ability to be comfortable in 90 Degree Heat as well as 9 Degree Cold.

Applying all this blather to a website such as Facebook you find yourself asking why did they do this?  Part of the problem is that changes just “happen” and you’re left confused.  Get off my lawn, young’un I want my grass to grow!  Sometimes the changes do work, but usually those changes are only after people make many complaints.  Simplification of Privacy Options on Facebook are a good example.

Today I was presented with this new and shiny feature in the news feed on Facebook.  Sure, it’s their right to use things the way they like and develop new features so we all don’t move back to My Space (yeah, right) or some other site.  After all they make their money by being the biggest thing on the block.  If we didn’t change, we’d all be using dial up modems on AOL

This New! and! Shiny! Feature! was that of the Top Stories.  For me it’s not an improvement, in fact it causes problems with the way I personally use the site.

I use Facebook as a scrolling surf board.  I’ve liked tech blogs, news sites, and other sites that I tend to hit frequently and it may be the first time I read about something important.  I read about Fukushima’s Tsunami on Facebook first after I caught a BBC article slip past.  Things like the Top Stories interfere with that by merging articles in because they were voted more important by your friends.  Now instead of having the most recent articles at the top and merely refreshing from time to time to see if I missed anything important, I’m afflicted with the Facebook Obsessive Compulsive Refresh Disease – FOCR.  Yes, they’ve turned me into a real FOCR as I hit F5 because there’s something in the way that I can’t suppress. 

The only benefit I see of this new layout is that everyone else will have the same pain as the flying bird of Facebook lets fly with some new top story only to splat itself on the windshield of your browser.  Spraying Bug Juice over it won’t get rid of this new “feature” at least yet.  Hopefully it can be turned off.   Briefly it was only for US users, but it has been spread over the pond to UK English users as well.

Sorry I haven’t found the fix for this one. 

Their User Experience Folks need to go back to the drawing board.