Dice.com Latest Upgrade Broke The Site

At least as of 6AM to 9AM, the job search website for tech, www.dice.com is not useable in my experience.

They went ahead and rolled out a major revision of their website today.  There actually were a few things in it that were kind of slick.

When you go in to do a search for a position, and it makes sense to do so, you have a slider for a criterion.

For example, when you are requesting a page for a search, you can tailor the number of results you want back by using a slider to change the number from 10 to 100 in increments.   The 100 is a big help.

Distance works the same way.

There are a few others, but the problem is that there should be a little box at the end for you to enter in a specific number.

Why? 

Simple – I live in Wilton Manors, Florida.  I used to have a search that would look for a 27 mile radius.  That would include West Palm Beach but specifically exclude downtown Miami.  I don’t want that commute, nor would I want that for anyone else. 

If there is a slider, you need to be able to enter in a specific number.

They also deleted the ability to search for an Area Code or a group of Area Codes.  Broward County is 954 and 754.  Palm Beach County is 561.  Having the ability in a large urbanized area like this to simply search for something within a county is very helpful.  Otherwise, the distance must be used, and will slow one down with extra searches.

They deleted the ability to exclude recruiters.  Recruiters in my experience are unreliable.  I tend to look for direct hire only.

They clearly did not test their site when they went “Live” today – by the time I got to it.  It may be fixed later, even later today.  Much of this could simply be because they are rolling out changes at this moment.

When I get the results of a search, they come back with either “Relevant” or “Date” available, but the default is usually Relevant unless you caught the tick box and set it.  But the link is dead to change it back – normally, but not always.  This sort of inconsistency is very common within the site.

That’s the problem.  Things work sometimes but not always.

So basically their site is not useable as of this writing, 9:15 AM EST, 12/15/2014.

As for the way it looks? 

I personally am not a fan of the Web 2.0 Look And Feel for things where there are a lot of items to search. 

Dice.com is one of those sites.  They are presenting a database of links and a tight list format is the most useable. 

I understand that they want to look different than the other two big sites, www.Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com however, their search results in LARGE FONTS and lots of Whitespace means that you’re constantly paging when you do get the 100 results per page, if you can actually get things to work.

Thank you again for the 100, it helps.

But when you page through the site on a large monitor (1920×1080) getting only seven results per view until you page down is limiting.  Put as much on a line as possible.  I guess that means it’s first page with 4 links, then 13 pages of 7 links (or so) plus the remaining 5 links (or so) – that’s how the math works out.

Your User Interface guy must have missed that particular meeting.  The Testing folk are confused too – I got a page coming up using the old interface and immediately thought “THANK YOU!”. 

Then I refreshed the page and it was back to the new design.  There were no links though, kind of a surprise since I saw links on the Old Format Page.

I’ll be waiting.  The new design needs A LOT OF WORK.  The site has so many bugs in it that I simply closed every window that I had.   All my old links are no longer functional.  If I try to recreate them, the site is so buggy that I can not get anything even remotely like the results I expect.  I can’t page to the second 100 results.  Not even the old text search works properly.  If you want to search for Business Analyst, and put them in quotes, the new software thinks you are looking for “Business OR Analyst”.  It’s not the same thing.

For example, if I search for anything within 20 miles of zip code 33301 I am showing results in California.  California is a great place but a bit more than 20 miles away from South Florida.

Oh and one missing thing that is extremely important.  Dice removed the number of hits that a particular resume has.  It’s a metric that needs to return.  How else would you know if your resume is effective unless you know now many people look at it in a given month?

At this point, there’s nothing else that I could suggest other than telling someone who wants to use a job search engine to wait this one out and hit the other sites.  Dice.com is unusable due to UI, UX, and QA issues today.  

They tried, but … well, maybe tomorrow.  They went with a Big Bang Release and broke what they had before.  Would be best to roll it all back and try an Agile Project Management approach of gradual improvements instead of what they got here.

Will Garamond Save the Government 300 Million?

There is a 14 year old up in Pittsburgh area named Suvir Mirchandani that did an analysis on different fonts.  Since I play with fonts in creating web pages, it rang a bell with me.

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/politics/2014/03/28/lead-intv-suvir-mirchandani-expensive-fonts.cnn 
In short, most of the government documents in the US are printed in Times Roman.  It’s that “default” font you get when you have text with little tags on the ends of the letters that are called Serif.  Garamond looks similar to Times Roman and its derivatives, but it’s a lighter font.  The idea is that if they switched to Garamond at the same point, you end up saving money.

True, but… A 10 point Garamond is shorter and thinner than a 10 point Times Roman character.  To get the same height, you’d have to bump the size up on your text to a 12 point.

You should still save money but maybe not quite as much.  Since printer ink is ludicrously expensive, around $4285 a liter, any savings add up.

Does it matter?  Maybe, depends on how much you print.   You certainly will save money using the Light or Condensed version of the fonts, but you may not notice it.  If you’re printing out the resume, you don’t care, you just want it to look good.

I don’t tend to care anyway, I print very rarely, and besides I strongly prefer Gill Sans or similar like Trebuchet.  That’s the “Keep Calm” Poster font.  London Underground is another similar font. The M in Trebuchet is wrong, but that’s why I call myself a Font Geek.

What is more important than whether our 14 year old friend is completely right, or slightly wrong, is the idea that if you look carefully at a situation, small changes can make for a big difference in the end.  This is why things have gotten thinner in the manufacturing process.   Cutting costs, or even cutting corners, will save the manufacturer in the end.  If it is something to be thrown out and disposed of like packing peanuts, use the absolute minimum quality that will get the item to the ultimate person using the item.  It’s trash anyway, and trash is a massive problem.  Make enough of them and save a dollar a piece and it ends up being real money in the end.

The flip side of the packing peanut problem is the thickness of something like sheet metal in a car can be a life or death situation.  Thinning the grade of the sheet metal in a body panel of a car can be fine, if the car is never in an accident you won’t care.  If someone leans against the quarter panel of your brand new car and it crumples like a sheet of aluminum foil, you aren’t going to be safe in a crash.

The Warranty of Merchantability or Implied Warranty is a concept that fits well here.   The warranty states that a manufacturer “warrants” that a product is suitable to the reasonable use for its intended purpose.  You don’t expect to use your computer screen as a wheel chock to stop your car from rolling down a driveway, but you do expect to get a couple years at a reasonable brightness at a certain setting.  You know, so you can look at all those pretty letters, and fonts, and pictures of cats.

English Common Law is a wonderful thing, in this and many other cases.

So what do you take away from this?   As a web designer and consultant, I design things so they look good to me.  If I intend to print something out, will I be saving it for multiple uses?  Then splurge on the “bigger” fonts.  Once only?  Try not to print at all.  In the middle? Judge your audience.  Web only?  Make it pretty and change it when you get bored.

That last bit is why this page renders in one font and then snaps to another when it has finished loading.  The background there is that there are only a few web fonts.  Arial and Helvetica is one family, Times Roman (remember that one?), Trebuchet, and a few others in another family.  The font I picked for the blog looked good a while back when I changed my template.  It’s something called Cuprum in 14 point.  As one of the Google Open Fonts, I can use it freely, without royalties, and on any machine that supports the format even in commercial usages.  Blogger does the translation behind the scenes so that you, my reader, don’t have to have Cuprum on your computer.

Whether that saves ink if printed, I don’t know.  I could change the color to a dark grey and the result is I’d use less ink if I chose to print it out. 

Maybe our 14 year old friend should check that out?  What if you keep the font at the same size and weight, but change the color from black to grey?  From #000000 to #888888 for the web developers in the crew.

As long as it never gets printed, it just doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you still have to be able to see it and after all if you can’t see it, it’s a waste of time, isn’t it?

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.

Firefox 25 is Here

Getting caught up this morning I spotted an article speaking about how Firefox has been updated.

The short of it is that it’s more stable because they patched some internal stuff.

Internal stuff like memory problems and stability issues.  This is for Windows, Mac, Linux and probably iOS and Android too, but I haven’t gotten to the last two yet.

I was finding that Firefox 24 would simply pause.  Since I have on any given moment about 30 to 150 tabs open, that’s kind of scary.  Most of what I was doing would just… pause.  Pause for a couple minutes, so I was losing a fair amount of time when it would happen about once an hour.

Upgrading is pretty painless.  I clicked on Help, and About, and found the picture you see above.  Didn’t even have to click on a button until it was done.   When done the “Applying Updates” message changed to a button saying Restart. 

Now I’m on Firefox 25.  Whether other bugs will show up, I don’t know.  I do know it hasn’t locked on me in 3 hours of surfing about 200 web pages in tabs.

Since that’s done, I can get back to developing web pages, search engine optimization, and other “web development tasks”.

If you want all the deep and dirty info, here’s the article that I found that told me to check.

Avoiding Astroturfing

We’ve all looked at reviews online.   I actually find them entertaining.   Some sites really do have some over the top reviews where an inconsequential widget like a can opener is shown to be the end all of all creation.

Those are usually very easy to spot.   You will hear about an item on an auction site that has taken a life of its own and frustrated comic writers try to sharpen their wit and see if they get any attention for it.

That is rather harmless, kind of a prank.  A recent one was the three wolf moon T Shirt review on Amazon where putting on the T Shirt has been said to cause the wearer to get the powers of levitation and control over a pack of wolves, specifically in a Wal Mart.  This one has been going on for a couple years now as an established Meme.

But that isn’t astroturfing.   Astroturfing is the practice of posting fake reviews by someone connected with the company or product in order to drive sales or traffic to the site.   They’re usually pretty easy to spot, and pretty easy to avoid.   When you hit a review site like Yelp, simply skip all the Five Star Reviews.  They’re usually written by some second cousin of the owner of the shop anyway.

I’ve spotted them in company reviews posted on Glassdoor. Glassdoor is a site that exists to allow people to research a company they are interested in working for.  Hopefully they will give a glimpse inside the Glass Door to allow them to decide whether the company is worth applying to.   I have seen some reviews on Glassdoor that were clearly written by the owner, and they’re always “called out”.  What generally happens is that someone who was working there will post an anonymous review stating just how awful the company is and how it is mean to puppies and kittens and …   well you get the picture.

But Astroturfing also has a darker side, and luckily we have New York to thank for spotting it.  There’s a practice called “Search Engine Optimization” where a website is written in such a way to raise its ranking on a search engine.  The current wry definition of frustration is the act of proceeding to the second page of a web search in order to find something about something you need.   So webmasters, myself included, will try to add helpful links and comments in the page in order to make it more important and more pertinent to the web search engine.   The problem is that the rules are never told to the webmasters and they change all the time.

Search Engine Optimization is usually a guess.   A “Scientific wild-assed guess” or a SWAG, but a guess.

So what happened in the case of New York is that the State created some yogurt shops and looked for help in getting their pages optimized.   The shops never existed.   Some companies were valid and helped the shop “owners” work their webpages over with some commonly accepted techniques.   Others were more devious and resorted to Astroturfing.  These companies offered to have fake reviews posted in Yelp and others to drive traffic to the site.   That isn’t exactly legal as it deceives the potential client by having people in places like the Philippines and others posting these glowing reviews of a shop that they never visited and doesn’t even exist.

It’s also apparently illegal in New York, and should be illegal everywhere else.

Luckily these reviews are usually easy to spot, and normally easy to avoid.  Just avoid your Three Wolf Moon T Shirt.   It’s out of fashion now and worn “ironically” just like the reviews.

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.