Iron Man Review

Bad ass movie, I LOVED it. I will see it a second time this week. I give it 9 out of 10, losing 1 point for unrealistic physics. Most notably, repeatedly decelerating from full speed to dead stop without injury.

Strike One: Asirra

And so it begins. I mentioned some issues with reCAPTCHA, and received a this comment:

Have you tried Asirra?

So I tried it. Here are the results of my usability study:

  • The images are really tiny until you hover over them.
  • I found it awkward because I really can’t quickly identify the correct images without hovering over each one. It requires too much mouse precision, which slows me down.
  • After selecting a few cats, I made the mistake of clicking the “Adopt Me” link, which took me to a different web site.
  • When I finally clicked “Score Test”, it told me I’m a bot. (I’m not, unless of course I’m a replicant and simply don’t realize it. Hey…what’s that origami Unicorn doing on my desk?)

I suspect it thinks I’m a bot because I clicked that “Adopt Me” link, making it forget the previous selections.

In summary, this is another CAPTCHA that tries accomplishing a “mission” — adopting pets — which detracts from its usability as a CAPTCHA. In particular, the “Adopt Me” links get in the way.

Someone Please Explain This

I don’t understand this claim:

Another problem is that it only supports 64 bit applications. Bye bye applets in Safari.

I found that in this article about Java 6 on Mac.

I always assumed that Java .class files are the same regardless of platform. A .class file compiled on one system should still run on Macs, even though their VM is 64-bit. But that quotation sounds as if the .class file format is different and code must be specifically compiled in some 64-bit mode to run on Macs. What am I missing?

Old Ladies for Clinton

Breaking news from our friends at CNN…

Actress Elizabeth Taylor urged voters in next week’s Democratic primaries to back Hillary Clinton’s White House run, saying in a statement released Friday that the New York senator was “not a flibbertijibbet.”

I tried looking that up, and Google suggests that maybe I meant Flibbertigibbet. I find it amusing that the Wikipedia article already mentions the CNN article about Elizabeth Taylor.

I’m still not sure how this news translates into anything meaningful…like war, education, the economy, the environment, energy policy, health care, etc. Add my stupid blog to the meaningless echo chamber, I guess. We’re doomed.

If My Phone Sucks…

…is Twitter worth my time? What’s the point if I have to login and check a web site for updates? The last time I tried Twitter, I tried following via RSS, which sucked because it lagged about 8-12 hours, which seemed to defeat the whole point.

Sick of reCAPTCHA

I really love the concept of reCAPTCHA, and currently use it on this blog. But I grow weary of this kind of comment:

Also, the captch is super hard to read.. I had to reload 3 times before I got one I could actually make out.

Observation #1

First, people who say this simply do not understand how reCAPTCHA works. One of the words should be legible; the other may or may not be. That’s because one of the two words is taken from some scanned book, and the OCR software could not read it.

People who understand this know they do NOT have to keep hitting reload. Instead, just type your best guess into reCAPTCHA. I’ve left a lot of comments on my own blog, and can only remember a single incident where I had to reload the CAPTCHA. Every other time, even if I couldn’t really read one of the words with confidence, I just typed my best guess and made it right through.

Observation #2

Observation #1 does not matter. It is unrealistic to expect people to research how your CAPTCHA works before they “get it”. I have received a large number of complaints about reCAPTCHA, and it’s making my blog suck. My own blog content is bad enough, now I have to deal with extraneous technical complexity.

This brings me to a larger point about software usability. As technologists, we have deep technical understanding of how our own software works. It is far too easy to get defensive and perhaps even angry at “dumb users” who can’t figure things out. All too often, we are blind to the usability flaws in our own software.

In Summary

reCAPTCHA is a brilliant idea, but fatally flawed. It presents hopelessly garbled text to users who generally don’t really understand what reCAPTCHA is trying to accomplish. Even if I were to include some detailed educational material explaining the concept, most people would not read my explanation. And who could blame them? We’re all overloaded with technical noise.

At this point, reCAPTCHA damages the usability of my blog, as evidenced by numerous comments and complaints from visitors. Explaining how reCAPTCHA works is not my concern. Making my blog easy for people to use — and blocking spammers — are my only concerns.

Sooner or later, when I get around to it, I’ll have to find another solution. That makes me sad, because I’m a big fan of the research behind reCAPTCHA. I really do think it is a great concept, but “not annoying customers” is a bigger concern for most web site owners.

I Can’t Win

Holy balls. I had a Twitter account in the past, but I deleted it. (due to being boring and having nothing to write about) Now I decide I’d like to try Twitter again, so I just tried creating a new account.

First, they tell me my Email is already taken. Grr…

So then I click the “forgot” link, enter my Email…and they say:

Oh Snap! We couldn’t find you!

So let me get this straight:

  1. According to their database, my Email address is already taken.
  2. According to their database, they can’t find my Email address.

Impressive. I blame Rails. (not really, just seems like easy trolling these days…)