Latests posts in category: Koala

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Usability issues on a payment form

2009-03-03 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Usability, Web - 0 Comments
I know, I know, it is easy to nitpick on other people design, but this morning I tried to pay my phone bill online, and... failed. I had to retry many times, because I kept making mistakes on a simple, run-of-the-mill form to enter my credit card data. I was dumbfounded. How can, in 2009, people manage to make such a trivial and essential part of online business go so wrong? As I guess you are as curious as me, here is what I found out: (See the picture for the 3 main pain points)
  • 1 the expiration date example is ambiguous: does 0903 here means 2009-03 or 2003-09 ? Why didnt they disambiguate it by also adding a specification (like MMYY, or, as it is a french dialog, MMAA ?)
  • 2 but today, it was not only ambiguous but plainly misleading! As we were in March 2009, I assumed that the example was built from the current month and year. I said cool, so it is YYMM. Wrong! it was actually the reverse, MMYY, resulting in one failed attempt
  • 3 ok, I filled the fields, and hit the OK button... and it just reset the page to empty fields! Grumbling, I re-typed the fields, re-clic, and... another blank page! After these two more failures, I tried to think (which is what you't_Make_Me_Think do not want your users to do, trust me!). I then read the button label and discovered that this big, prominent button alone at the bottom of the page was not the Submit button but the Cancel one!. I should have hit the middle one "Valider", but this button was not in the correct place on the flow of the form.

So,after 3 failed attempts, I managed to pay my bill. All this on a simple form with no fancy verification code or Captcha. Well done Telefact, I wonder if you can find a worse example still in use today.

Google is not only not evil, it is also human

2009-02-02 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Tech - 0 Comments
As most of you must know by now, Google suffered an outage on Jan 31, 2009 that was caused by a simple mistake: the search Goliath depended for its results on a small David but didnt properly prepared themselves for the risk of such a dependency on a 3rd-party site. Unbelievably, when the stopbadware site failed to respond (ironically, because a Google bug was DOS-ing them), they decided to... stop serving pages! A saner approach would have been to serve anyways, or perhaps better, reuse a cache of the stopbadware previous results.

Anyways, I was kind of relieved to find that Google was down, because when it happened, I was installing for the first time broadband at my father-in-law house, and not being able to google sent me in a mild panic on trying to understand how a broadband or Vista misconfiguration could result in these strange symptoms! (Well, nothing is impossible with Vista, I know, it can even work sometimes smile

It also brought me memories of a similar blunder I was responsible for at work. I set up a monitoring daemon to check that our vital Intranet Wiki was up. The daemon checked various server health issues, and would eventually restart apache if it could find any other solution. One day, somebody by mistake locked the front page of the wiki so that nobody could see it... and the daemon, unable to see the page, would then endlessly restart apache... The resulting behavior puzzled me quite some time, especially since nobody uses a Wiki front page (everybody dwells in his own little corner) so the main cause was not found immediately... I can see the same human logic here in this bug: we are very bad at expecting the unexpected.

So, whatever you do, take some time to imagine what could go wrong. Expect the unexpected, and even the impossible. I often use an anecdote to bring people to realize this fact: Your computer memory bits can be changed by cosmic rays or radioactivity ! Now ponder this, and try to imagine how you can be sure of your data if it can be changed in your main computer memory, or hard disk controller, or disk... You will not see the world with the same eyes... and you will double check your monthly bank accounts smile

Scansreader new page

2009-01-18 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Site, Software, Scansreader - 0 Comments
Scansreader is a small, fast and efficient linux comics book reader written in C. I have now migrated its home page on this site, from its legacy place.

The rise of the Foswiki: behold Foswiki 1.0.0 !

2009-01-09 by ColasNahaboo in Koala - 0 Comments
Today, we celebrate the first release of Foswiki. It is quite exhilarating, as since the TWiki community was kicked out brutally by the founder Peter Thoeny in Oct 2008, it has been an hectic ride to get this release out of the door. I must say that this experience has been quite enlightening for me, I couldn't believe my eyes on how a depressed, bitter community has totally refounded itself and is now more healthy than ever, with a joyous democratic and innovative energy.

On the other hand, it was hilarious to see Peter Thoeny, left alone in his now deserted "community" of ... himself plus one employee, trying to pretend everything was normal and having formal weekly meetings by themselves, like a modern Robinson Crusoe and Friday on their deserted island... Or his pathetic attemps to hide to users the existence of foswiki.

Read more:

PS: also great is the Foswiki debian repository maintained by Sven Dovedoit automatically.

Tracking changes via RSS, GTD style

2008-12-08 by ColasNahaboo in Koala - 0 Comments
This is the kind of hacks I really like doing: examining a problem and try to find a simple solution by reasoning by analogy with the real world. This time, it was how to help developers of foswiki to keep track of changes in twiki. The metaphor chosen was the GTD (Getting Things Done) method, with a simplistic RSS + script technology. See more in the FoswikiRssFeedToTasks article!

TWiki forks

2008-10-28 by ColasNahaboo in Koala - 0 Comments
Well, it has finally happened, the dual-faced Janus what makes both the beauty of Open Source projects, and its Dark side, have come to visit the twiki Project. The Fork is here! Strangely this time, it is the project founder, Peter Thoeny who "forked out" most of the active developers of the Open Source project by locking them out of the project. Ironically he seemed to have so much dreared a fork that he finally decided to provoke a "preeemptive fork" to clear things out, and reach an often seen configuration where a private company sells a product based on an Open Source offering, with a community knowingly contributing to enhance a product belonging to a single company, but getting a better product in return. This is not a bad situation in itself, for wikis it is already the case with xwiki and deki, the problems came in TWiki case as the company came very late in the picture, and could be seen as "highjacking" the TWiki built by the community.

We will see what happens, but I would like you to read the excellent article made nearly a decade ago, WHY LINUX WON'T FORK - And why being able to fork is still A Good Thing. If all goes well, it will end up in more technical directions explored, each project incorporating the good ideas of the other one. If not, the crisis will show the bad side of many people, and will discourage contributors watching from the outside 2 communities dying from the lack of a critical mass.

As I was asked to take sides, I chose the "fork" camp, as I feel that it is where lies the heart of the community that actually made the modern TWiki. We will see how it evolves, but the beauty of open source is that both projects will be able to use the advances of the other one - if one do not end a proprietary fork. May we live in interesting times!

For more info, see: In the news: On the blogs of:

Update: The definitive name is FOSWIKI

foswiki As of 18 Nov 2008, the community we decided on the new name: Foswiki - Free and Open Source Wiki. This was chosen after a vote process to chose a name with com/net/org domain names available, and not infringing on a trademark in both US and Europe (this is why we couldn't keep the temporary name nextwiki, as it was a registered trademark of NextEngine, Inc).

What is good code?

2008-10-22 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Programming, Usability - 0 Comments
I stumbled upon the blog post "Is it important to write good code?" the other day, and became more and more ill at ease as I realized that I thought that I preferred the original code, that the author was trying to ridicule, over his new "improved" object-oriented version. At first I guessed this was another manifestation of the the "Worst is best" scenario - enhancements are often not worth the added complexity - but I realized that it was perhaps a more profound factor:

The original code is very good because it ... is small!. It fits on a teminal screen, so an human being can read it at once and have less items to maintain in his,_Plus_or_Minus_Two short term memory and also understand it easily because it follows a natural way of thinking with sentences using IF. This becomes obvious by reading the body of the blog post surrounding the code samples, where you can see that the author is using phrases such as "if I need this I do that", showing that in plain english, the if statement is the best way to make people understand what you mean. And making code that people understand is the best way to make debuggable and maintainable code.

At this moment I noticed the citation in the blog header: "Good programmers write code that humans can understand"

Indeed smile

PS: I know I am a bit exaggerating the issues there, and that I unfairly nitpick on Fredrik Normé, but it is that it seems to me from my personal experience that the two changes I see most in my coding efficiency as I grow older is a decrease of my short term memory capacity, and that I make more and more typos where I realize I mix up totally words with totally different meanings but that sound the same, for instance writing "never" instead of "nether", making me suspect that our natural way of thinking may be much more language-based that I imagined...

Irclogger new page, and release 1.14b

2008-10-11 by ColasNahaboo in Koala, Site, Software, Irclogger - 0 Comments irclogger is a simple "bot", a program connecting as a client on IRC servers to provide a web log of what is said. It aims to provide a simple, fast, efficient and web-compliant service. It is quite robust and mature, having be in daily heavy use for personal & business use since 2003.

I have migrated its page this new site, and I just released a minor release for it, 1.14b that fixes a log "off by 1" bug when selecting a search result. If you use irclogger, upgrade is recommended.

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Topic revision: r28 - 28 Apr 2009, ColasNahaboo
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