A Classical Letter about "How to React when Users Disapprove your changes"

September 17, 2006

We all know about the recent Facebook changes i.e. Mini-Feed etc which were not accepted by its users (And technically it was not a privacy issue as they were only displaying the information that was already there – they just made it more easily available). But Users are Rulers (in Web 2.0 at least).

It happens a lot of times that users simply don’t like your software. Some companies turn a deaf ear. Others respond with promises of improvements in coming versions. Some even go to the extent of “informing its users” that users don’t understand company’s vision. Some even keep on claiming that only a small number of users are against it AND their loyal customers are happy with them.

What did Facebook do. Nothing like the above mentioned “standards”.

Mark Zuckerberg accepted his mistake. He addressed his users in his blog with “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you”. It was good. But the classical Letter was yet to come and it did come.

I have read his An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg several times and I am impressed and fascinated by his handling of such a complex situation. True to his words, Mark has heard his users and he changed Facebook the way users wanted it to be.

A few sentences from An Open Letter from Mark Zuckerberg

“We really messed this one up.”

“We did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.”

“This may sound silly, but I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested.”

All the above lines are great. Great and simply Great. He is accepting his mistake. But wait – the real Classic is in the following lines where he seems to be out of this world. Before I quote the following lines, I must say that this letter should be included before preface in every book about Software Engineering, Customer Relations etc. This guy knows how to listen to the users and to act upon what they say. 

Mark wrote

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls

This is how you do the job right. You’ve done a mistake -> your users complained -> you accepted the mistake -> apologized -> But knowing that an apology is not enough, you worked day and night to modify it according to the user’s demands.

See how simple Real Software Engineering is !

P.S. I have never been a member of Facebook myself.


Google Earth Plus – Good but some obvious options are missing

September 13, 2006

Upgraded to Google Earth Plus (Release 4 – Beta) last week because I wanted to check out their path option.

Its good but some of the things are really annoying.

In the free version, you can use Ruler to make a path but you cannot save it. After upgrading I again made the path using Ruler and there was no option to save it. For saving a path, you should click another option called path. They should allow saving the path either way.

Why did I use Ruler to make a Path instead of clicking the path option? Well I first did try path option but it was so so unfriendly. When you use Ruler to make a path, it allows you to draw a line and navigate on map using mouse. When making the path using Path option, it allows you to draw lines with mouse but you have to navigate using keyboard.

I visited their community and someone has written there that we didn’t provide Draw-Line-and-Navigate-with-mouse in PATH option because people might have got slow computers and our software would have to decide whether user is drawing a line or navigating the map (remember this option works when you use Ruler).

Now this is funny. Ruler is available in free version (and Plus as well) but Path is available in Plus Version only (costs $20/yr). Who told them that a person who is spending $20/yr extra on their software will have slower PC than the one who use free software. Secondly, they could provide this option as a preference. Users can decide whether they want to use mouse to draw lines only or want to Draw-Line-and-Navigate-with-mouse.

Another thing. There should be an option that Path drawn with Ruler can be saved as well (in Plus Version). Its ridiculous saying that you can save path when using Path option but not when you use Ruler. The functionality is very much the same. This interoperability seems easy and very much needed.


SpiralFrog – Free Music (AD Supported) .. Finally Coming!

August 30, 2006

I had wished and hoped that this should happen and now its going to happen. Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company, has agreed to make its entire library of songs in collaboration with SpiralFrog. This is truly exciting. They would show a 90 second commercial for an audio song and 120 second commercial for a video. This should have been there earlier. We do see this on televisions. We watch commercials and we get dramas/movies etc (and we all know that TV commercials have a great impact).

This is probably the exact same model. This would bring new audience for the advertisers. Many people who use pirated music would shift to this. The songs would be ad-free and we can listen to them (as many times as we want) on any device (computer, portable music players, cell phones etc.). People who pay $1 for each download would also go for this.

Time is money and so obviously SpiralFrog’s Chairman Joe Mohen said, “The currency we’re using is time”. I did some interesting calculations for this “TIME IS MONEY” part for audio songs (you can do it for videos on your own ;)).

Time to download from iTunes at $1                 =    20 sec

Time to download from SpiralFrog a $0.00        =    90 sec

Time wasted in SpiralFrog (allegedly)                =    90 – 20 = 70 sec

Money Saved for spending extra 70 sec             =    $1 approx. 

For Back-of-the-envelope calculation, let say that we save $1 for each minute that we spend watching advertisements. 

So IFF you are earning more than $1/minute (i.e $60/hour) and you can work the whole day, only then you should go for $1 downloads as you will earn more in the saved 1 minute from paid downloads. Otherwise if you want to download something and have got extra 60 seconds that won’t earn you $1, go for these AD Supported downloads :P.

By the way, if you make $60/hour (and work for 16 hours, sleep for 8 hours), you make $960 a day. This makes 4800/week (5 days/week) and makes 19200/month (4 weeks/month) … which makes $230400/yr. If you are earning (and working) that much, probably this service was not for you 😛 – its targeted at teenagers (or other people) who spend a lot of time on music everyday.

Way to go SpiralFrog. I am excited about your December 2006 launch.


Probable Bug in Visual Studio

August 25, 2006

My friend Mohsin Saleem (no he doesn’t have a blog, so cannot link here) pointed out that he has seen a strange behavior on Visual Studio 6 for the following code.

  1. union u {
  2.     union u {
  3.         int i;
  4.         int j;
  5.     } a[20]; //Edit: Its not a[10]. Faisal, thanks for pointing it out.
  6.     int b[20]; 
  7. }u;
  8. int main()
  9. {
  10.     printf(“%d\n”, sizeof(u) );
  11.     printf(“%d\n”, sizeof(u.a));
  12.     return 0;
  13. }

Visual Studio returned

80
1600

Now that was amazing. I opened it in VS7. When made a .cpp file, it flagged a compile time error. When shifted to .c file, the same results 80, 1600.

Tried it on Dev-C++ and it worked according to what theory suggests. It returned

80
80

 

When change line 5 to “} a[10]”, Visual studio returned

40
400

Dev C++ Returned
40
40

With some other examples, I concluded that Visual Studio does this. sizeof(u) * (number of elements in a).

Don’t know whether this bug is reported or not. If it is, good. If not, the credit goes to Mohsin who first pointed this to me :).

 Edit2: Faisal also told me that he tried it on VS 2005 and its still a bug. Thanks to him in pointing out some blunders in my explanation as well.


My Celebrity Look-Alikes

August 20, 2006

This is really funny. Visit MyHeritage Face Recognition. It requires free registration. Upload your photograph and it will tell you that you resemble this and this celebrity (also displays the percentage of resemblance).

Now look at my results with different photographs.

Here is the first one

 

Here is the second one

 

Here is the third one

 

Here is the fourth one

 

Here is the fifth one.

 

I have tried different images of mine and the results have been stunningly different. It means the algorithm is still not very good. However, it might be the start of searching within the images (Web-based even).

Although I don’t know the names of the most of these people but some computer algorithm suggests that we look alike :P. Have Fun !

P.S. If anyone of my friend tries this, do send me the links to your resemblances as well.


KFC Run by Deaf

August 19, 2006

I went to a KFC branch today and saw that most of the staff at that outlet was deaf or probably had some other disability. There was a huge board as well that said that this restaurant has employees that are deaf or mute.

It was a pleasant surprise to see that some organization has started this. People with disabilities don’t get many jobs but its good when companies begin to accommodate them. Its a good business trick to attract customers but more important is the social service that they are providing to the society.

Now when I came back and searched on Internet, I realized that this concept is not new in KFC. May be its the first one in Pakistan but this has been done by KFC in other parts of the world.

Next time, when I have to go somewhere to eat, KFC will have an edge because they are trying to accommodate neglected people of our society.

This gives me another idea. Software is another industry where these people can work with proper training e.g. if we train those people how to design web sites, how to write programs etc – then they can work as a freelancer at least. There are many web sites like RentACoder and Kasamba etc. where one doesn’t need to talk/hear most of the times. Most of the communication is done through emails etc. These disabled people can earn a reasonable living through this.


Windows is not a problem always

August 18, 2006

Michael Kaplan has written a great post.

It always happens with me as well when I call my broadband Internet provider. They would suppose that the caller is the dumbest person on this earth and start with “Is your modem ON”? Then they would always tell me that you have to install SP2 and use anti-virus because windows is very insecure. Your Internet speed is slow due to viruses in your computer 🙂 (I want to ask how many viruses actually consume Internet bandwidth?).

Reminds me of a more interesting thing. Here in Pakistan, if light goes out in a train for a while, people would start expressing their anger against the power supply company that provides electricity to home users (yes I am talking about diesel engine trains and not those that are run by electricity).

Probably, we look for opportunities to put the blame of our mistakes on someone else. When our programs don’t work in Debug mode and work in release mode (or vice versa), we blame the compilers 😦 – Don’t we?