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Normally, people love good products and hate bad ones. But three of the most lovable and popular tech offerings are in fact horribly designed and conspicuously flawed.
Facebookis one of the worst-designed Web sites on the Internet. Status Updates, the so-called News Feed, Posted Items, the Inbox, your Wall and categories of messaging and content are scattered (or buried) almost randomly.
Why is there both a “News Feed” and a “Live Feed”? Why can you choose to get “Less about Joe Schmo,” but not “Nothing about Joe Schmo”? Why can’t you easily select a “lifestream” mode that gives you everything in a single, linear feed? It’s as if Facebook was never introduced to the idea that simplicity is good.
Facebook has become the ideal platform for spectacularly useless applications, which guilt you into installing them. Your best friend wants to add you to their Birthday List, for example. Accepting means choosing others to “invite.” You’re forced to choose between disappointing one friend and spamming another.
Facebook recently offered a redesign. The new design was optional until it became clear that nearly everybody hated the new design, at which point they forced it on everyone.
But you know what? We love Facebook anyway.
Facebook actually connects people, and gives us a very real emotional feeling of connectedness. Old friends from high school, far-flung relatives, former co-workers — suddenly we’re part of their lives again, and they’re part of ours.
The Amazon KindleeBook reader is one of the worst consumer electronics products ever produced. (Fortunately, it appears that Amazon will announce a newer and better one Feb. 9).
Design-wise, the Kindle looks like a Star Wars-branded Etch-a-Sketch from the 70s or 80s.
If anyone on the Apple design team would have even proposed something like the Kindle, they would have been escorted out of the building by security, their mug shot tapped on the wall at the reception desk and their MobileMe account cancelled for life.
More than two thirds of both outside edges of the Kindle are page-turning buttons, and the remaining third of the top surface is covered by a keyboard. It’s almost impossible to handle a Kindle without pushing buttons.
When you press the rolling dial button, the default selection on the menu that pops up is — wait for it! — “Close” the menu. The designers assume that every time you push the main button, the most likely scenario is that you made a mistake and want to close it right back again.
The battery compartment lid slides off at the smallest provocation. When you slide the Kindle out of its leather cover, the battery lid usually stays behind.
There’s literally nothing good about the physical Kindle gadget, except for the readability of text on the screen. Despite this, we Kindle owners love them. Why?
There’s something about the combination of free, always there mobile broadband and access to the world’s largest online book store. Daily newspaper subscriptions of the New York Times, Wall Street Journaland others just show up in the middle of the night, even if you’re out of town. Read about a new book in one of those newspapers, and you can buy, download and start reading that book in less than 30 seconds.
The main reason we love Kindles is that when you’re reading on one, the gadget itself kind of vanishes, and you become fully immersed in the content just as you do with a paper book.
Last (and possibly least) is Digg.
Digg presents itself as a meritocracy — or, at least, a democratic process for selecting the best stories. If you are first to post a great story, and add a crisp, illuminating headline and concise, entertaining summary, Digg users will vote your story to the front page for all to see, right? But everyone knows this isn’t the case at all.
You could post the most important story of the year, and it would sit there with one Digg until the end of time. Then two days later, someone else comes along and posts another link to more or less the same story. If they’re driving traffic to Digg from the outside, or skillfully working the social networking tools from the inside, their story will hit the front page in three hours.
The stupidest thing about Digg is content categorization, which is obscenely partisan and laughably naive. Huge categories of content types and intellectual content are totally absent. For example, there’s no category for research & development. Nothing for opinion columns (other than “Political Opinion). Zilch for how-to information.
Meanwhile, Apple gets its very own category. Politics gets three categories. Gaming gets a whopping six categories. But religion and sex? Zero! I guess religion doesn’t matter and nobody’s interested in sex. . .
The categorization of content on Digg appears to reflect the comfort zones of the designers more than the realities of online content.
But, boy, do we love Digg anyway. Digg is messy and ugly and nonsensical, but just hit that front page and start browsing stories. It’s one of the few places on the Internet where you can be guaranteed of being entertained by amazing quantities of incredible stories, videos and photos.
These three horrible products prove that you don’t have to get everything right in order to be loved by the masses. You just have to get something very important right. And all three of these do that.
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Also: What is a smart home and why you should want one
The best smart kitchen tech products:
Also read: The best Alexa devices for your home
You will need one of Amazon’s Echo speakers to use voice commands. That said, Amazon offers an inexpensive bundle with its third-generation Echo Dot.
2. Arbor U by Moen faucet
Cooking is rarely a clean job. In fact, the Arbor U smart faucet from Moen counts on you making a bit of a mess. It’s equipped with motion sensors, and voice controls for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you don’t even have to touch it if your hands are covered in gunk. If you’re working on a recipe, you can ask it to pour a set volume of water.
Since it’s as much decoration as a practical fixture, you can choose from four different finishes. Amazon is also selling the Arbor U in a few different bundles with add-ons like soap dispensers.
3. Mellow Sous Vide Precision Cooker
The Mellow Sous Vide Precision Cooker may be worth including in your arsenal if time is limited, but you still want a fully-cooked meal waiting for you at the end of the day. Using mobile app control, the appliance can pre-cool water and/or keep your meal chilled until it’s time for cooking. The latter process is timed to a schedule of your choosing, so you’ll get a hot meal right when it counts.
The mobile app also offers an assortment of recipes to choose from, and remote control if you need to make adjustments on the fly. If you’re going to arrive home later than planned, for instance, you can adjust the Cooker’s schedule to match.
4. Drop Scale
Yes, the Drop Scale is a food scale with Wi-Fi. That might sound like overkill, but it comes with several nifty features making it one of the coolest smart kitchen appliances.
If you connect the Drop Scale to your phone or tablet, you can get step-by-step interactive recipes, and adjust them based on the quantity of ingredients you’re using. It also recommends alternative ingredients, and offers touchless interaction so you don’t get devices messy.
5. Google Nest Hub Max
The Google Nest Hub Max is probably the ideal smart display for home cooking. It has a 10-inch screen, and using your voice, you can look up recipes or track down tutorial videos on YouTube. If you go the former route Google Assistant will guide you through instructions step-by-step, and answer questions on topics like conversions, calorie counts, and prep times. Favorite recipes can be saved for later.
It’s also a pretty solid product for general purposes like music, news, or video services like Netflix and HBO Max. If you’re building a smart home based on Google’s platform, you’ll want one of these for controlling accessories like lights and smart plugs.
Also read: The best smart displays
6. Meater Plus Smart Wireless Meat Thermometer
Nothing beats going wireless, especially when it comes to blazing grills. The Meater Plus gets rid of pesky cables with a battery, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and a design that can handle any BBQ. Its companion app aids with the right temperatures for different meats, as well as alerts and estimated cooking times.
The accessory has a range of 165 feet, so you can roam around the house while your steak is cooking. It is (relatively) expensive, but very popular in the smart kitchen industry, so it’s hard to go wrong if you can justify the pricetag.
7. Revolution Cooking Smart Toaster
Those of us who care about the perfect morning toast can attest that getting it right is no easy feat. The Revolution Cooking Smart Toaster is meant to take difficulty out of the equation, and keep your bread perfect every single time. Revolution even claims that its toaster is faster than the competition while retaining more moisture.
Using a touch interface, you can select which type of bread you’re toasting, what its current state is, and how brown you want it. It’s that simple! You’re paying a lot for the privilege, but if toast is something you eat on a daily basis, it might be worth it.
8. Cosori Air Fryer
The Cosori Air Fryer is fantastic for smart kitchens if you enjoy fried foods but want to make them healthier, since air frying uses little to no oil. There are over 100 pre-programmed recipes in Cosori’s VeSync app, and new recipes are being added all the time.
9. Ember Smart Mug 2
Hectic mornings only get worse when you realize that your scrumptious cup of coffee has gone cold, after an hour passed by that felt like a second. That’s where the Ember Smart Mug 2 comes into play. The cup wakes from sleep when liquid is poured into it, and ensures the liquid stays at a preferred temperature. The cup has an 80-minute battery life and can hold 14 fluid ounces (over 400mL).
10. Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is a hit in the smart kitchen world for a reason. It combines eight appliances in one — you can use it as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, sauté pan, steamer, or a warmer. The sky’s the limit, especially with 1000-plus pre-programmed recipes in the Instant Pot app. If you have an Alexa speaker, you can use voice commands too.
The product’s 6-quart (5.7L) capacity makes it suitable for large family dinners or weekly meal prep. Plus, the stainless steel inner pot is dishwasher safe.11. Hamilton Beach Smart Coffee Maker
Read more: The best smart coffee makers
Three Tips for Tech Marketers to Increase Email Performance with IT Buyers Chris Brookes
Product Marketing Manager, APAC
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The average business professional receives approximately 130 emails a day. That works out to roughly 16 emails an hour in a standard 8 hour work day. This is exactly what you face with your prospects each day. In such a crowded inbox, how can tech marketers ensure their messaging stands out and is effective in reaching and engaging the right buyers? TechTarget’s recent Media Consumption Study takes an in-depth look at how nearly 1,500 technology buyers around the world conduct pre-purchase research and provides a unique window into what buyers in purchasing cycle care about and actionable intelligence that can be applied to make your email marketing efforts more successful. Following are three simple tips based on recent research that you can use to increase opens, engagement and overall email marketing performance for B2B tech prospects.#1 – Segment your lists – use activity as your guide
For the best results in email campaigns it is critical that you are segmenting your audience to ensure that the right message is reaching the right person. According to a recent Campaign Monitor study, marketers who use segmented email campaigns saw as much as a 760% increase in revenue. While it’s simple enough to segment your lists by standard demographics, better response comes when emails are targeted based on the activity of prospects. Make sure you continually refresh your database to cleanse inactive or dormant contacts.#2 – Ensure that your subject lines are value-based and solutions-oriented
A compelling subject line is the most important element of any successful email marketing campaign. No matter how great your copy may be, without a compelling subject line, no one will even open your message. Our Media Consumption Study found 73% were likely to open an unsolicited email with a subject line that addressed how a particular solution delivered value for a company. Fifty-seven percent would be compelled to view an email that talked about a solution’s benefits for their industry. Compare that with the fewer than 10% who’d open subject lines offering up a coffee meeting or a requesting a meeting. You must show your value before you ask for the meeting.#3 – Leverage intent data to personalize on recency and relevance
Personalization is essential to email success. A recent study of more than 6.5 million TechTarget emails shows that buyers are 12x more likely to respond to an email if the outreach is based on recency and topical relevancy.
Buyers expect you to know what their needs are. Use better data to build the right messaging that demonstrates that you can help them. Get right to the point – you cannot afford to waste their time, especially in the current business climate. For example, analyzing the emails sent to our own APAC membership, we’ve discovered that emails containing keywords like ‘study’, ‘problem’ and ‘business’ had much lower engagement rates than those reflecting a particular solution that a prospect had recently been researching: ‘cloud,’ ‘cybersecurity’ and ‘threat.’
TechTarget can help you better speak the language of your prospective buyers in every major technology market. Our Priority Engine platform reveals in-depth prospect-level behavioral intent data on topics, vendors and solutions researched by each individual buyer. Marketers and sales teams can leverage this intent to refine their outreach for maximum impact.
If you’d like to see examples of successful emails (strong subject lines, good use of keywords, personalized by activity) or want to dig a little deeper with the research we have available, please reach out to me.
email marketing, email nurturing, email performance, purchase intent data
In the slide show above, see moments from Alternative Spring Breaks at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Following up on our “Tweets from the Road” series, BU Today this week rolls out four stories on this year’s Alternative Spring Breaks — two each from New York City and Missouri. Today we start in the Big Apple with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. We return tomorrow for volunteers’ reflections on their service.
One thing volunteers at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis on Manhattan’s West 24th Street cannot be is shy. Name a delicate topic — STDs, HIV, contraception, homosexuality — it’s talked about in detail.
So it was a good thing that the 14 BU students who spent Alternative Spring Breaks there were no shrinking violets. They asked probing questions, role-played with gusto, and were unfazed by the required handling of packages of condoms. They comfortably shared meals and stories with clients living with HIV and AIDS.
The New York group was one of 35 BU teams that spread across the country — from Seattle and Texas to Puerto Rico and Maine — to spend their spring break helping people. Some boarded planes, but most stuffed into vans and rode buses to distant sites, where they worked on issues ranging from affordable housing and the environment to hunger and human rights.
And while most of the New York City volunteers didn’t travel far from home, the world they visited was a very long way from the world they lived in.
The GMHC was started in 1981, when six men decided to confront a mysterious and deadly disease known only as the gay men’s health crisis. The group set up an answering machine and the first AIDS hotline was launched. On its first night, it received more than 100 calls.
The group from BU joined students from Eastern Kentucky University and George Mason University, all of whom spent their whole spring break attending information sessions, working in the dining hall, and packaging materials for New York City’s 25th-anniversary AIDS Walk, slated for May 16.
Students also role-played scenarios that required them to negotiate safe sex with their partners. Pairs were given a script outline — such as, “I’m too big for condoms” or “But it just doesn’t feel as good” — and they conducted the rest of the conversation in front of 30 people.
One morning, a GMHC employee threw a Pussy Pack Party, where she taught students how to package a dental dam, condoms, lube, and finger cots in a cardboard package with a drawing of a kitten on it. She later led a round of Jeopardy, where most answers related to STDs and HIV.
And for the first time in at least some of the students’ lives, sex was discussed openly, unabashedly, and often with humor.
“I like that sex is not taboo,” said Kaitlin Bresee (COM’13). “I like that there’s no judgment.”
Each day, the students met someone living with HIV or AIDS. They asked about antiretroviral medication and its side effects, how those infected had told their families, and whether dating was still an option. Above all, they learned that an HIV-positive test is not a death sentence.
“For me,” says Parissa Salimian (CAS’12), “it really humanized AIDS.”
Most students had arrived with some knowledge of HIV and AIDS, but all were surprised by how much they didn’t know. “I didn’t really understand as much as I thought I did,” says Alanna Sobel (SAR’13).
One revelation hit close to home: the fastest growing population being infected with HIV is women ages 14 to 24. That’s them — or their friends, girlfriends, and sisters.
Of all their daily activities, lunch was the one that brought the BU students’ experience into focus. There they were welcomed into the diverse and family-like community of HIV-positive people. There were men and women, young and old, muscle-bound and emaciated, black, white, and everyone in between.
Students examined bottles of medication, listened to complaints about city resources (or lack thereof) for people living with HIV, were introduced to partners and told of loss — all over soup, salad, and a plate of lasagna. And like lunch partners anywhere, they chatted with clients about fashion, sports, Boston, and fun spots around NYC.
That’s because, as every student learned, people with AIDS and people without AIDS have a great deal in common: they’re all people.
Leslie Friday can be reached at [email protected]; follow her on twitter @lesliefriday.
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Cats can seem mysterious and aloof. They stare at nothing for hours on end and have very specific petting requirements. These and similarly strange behaviors have baffled and amused long-suffering human companions since they sailed with the Vikings (and probably long before that, too). But a new study from animal behavior researchers suggests they’re not actually above it all. It’s possible that felines attach to their people just like dogs and babies do.
This is the first study to look at cat attachment by looking at bonding styles, the same way researchers study dogs and human babies, says Kristyn Vitale, who researches cat behavior at Oregon State University. Studying these loyalty methods in animals can show us how similar our bonds with our pets are to those with other humans.
Both babies and dogs display the same basic attachment styles—secure or one of two types of insecure attachment—although they manifest differently in different species, Vitale says. Individuals with secure attachment are able to use their caregiver as a base and approach the world with confidence. Those who have avoidant-insecure attachment will try to stay away from their caregiver, because they don’t feel safe, and those with ambivalent-insecure attachment will go to their caregiver and demand attention, but not be able to use their caregiver as a source of genuine confidence. This study shows that cats do these things just like other dependents beings. For cats, “the biggest difference is that a secure cat can use their owners as a sense of security to explore out from, and an insecure cat can’t do that,” Vitale says.
To get a better look at how cats relate to people, Vitale and her colleagues had cat and kitten owners bring their pets to the laboratory, to a room they’d never seen before. Then they ran what’s known as the secure base test, which researchers use to study attachment in human babies, other primates, and dogs. “For two minutes, the owner and cat just sat in the room together,” says Vitale. Next, the owner left and the pet spent two minutes there alone. “That alone phase acts as a potential stressor to the cat,” she says. “What we see is how they then react to the owner returning.”
That reaction is the crux of the experiment, as it reveals how the cat thinks about their human. The researchers filmed the two minute period, then reviewed the clips with someone specially trained in identifying and recording the clinical signs of attachment, known as an “attachment coder.” The attachment coder looked for signs that mirror how babies and dogs react to this test, and grouped the cats into an attachment category.
The researchers found that approximately 65 percent of both the cats and kittens studied displayed secure attachment to their human, meaning that when the human returned they didn’t display signs of stress and were content to divide their time between looking around and hanging out with their human. Those with an insecure attachment style, around 35 percent in both cases, were still stressed after their human returned and demanded excessive amounts of attention.
It’s not news that cats are attached to their people, says animal psychologist Dennis Turner. “However, this study is still of value, as it applies modern attachment theory (and the three basic types of attachment) to cats for the first time.”
Sure, they don’t follow you around like a dog. Nobody would ever call a cat “man’s best friend.” But this study adds evidence to the fact that cats need us, too. “I think there’s this idea that cats don’t really depend on their owner and need them,” Vitale says. “But at least in this test, what we’re seeing is that most cats use their owner for their sense of security.”
And just like that, the old Apple is dead, and a new Apple is born. I believe you’ll see massive changes to Apple products by next summer.
Apple had to re-create its products to correct a recent string of failures, which I’ll tell you about below.
The reason transformation was necessary is that Apple makes a tiny number of products compared with more diversified competitors, such as, say Google or Samsung.
If, say, the iPhone were to fail in the market, Apple’s business would be catastrophically damaged. If, on the other hand, the Galaxy S III were to fail in the market, neither Samsung nor Google would be significantly affected.
But Apple can’t afford a single mistake in its mobile products — the entire company depends on the overwhelming success of iPhone and iPad.
And no other company in the industry puts so much control over product direction and design in the hands of such a tiny number of executives.
The link between people and products is so close that the only way to fundamentally change the products is to change the people at the top.
Look at the now-iconic iPhone design, for example. Every unusual thing about the hardware of that phone — the flat front and back, the circular buttons, the Home button, the two colors, the metal rim that doubles as an antenna — all of it had little to do with a corporate culture per se, or the preferences of users as they voted with their dollars. The iPhone is the iPhone mainly because of personalities and preferences of two people: Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive.
Yes, many other employees made huge contributions. But if either of these men had not been involved, the iPhone would be a completely different product.
The iPhone 5 is a marvel of hardware engineering. It’s so thin, so light and so sophisticated in its design that contract manufacturer Foxconn has said that it’s the most difficult device to manufacture that they’ve ever built.
And yet pundits, reviewers and experts — not to mention millions of users — are conspicuously unimpressed by the phone. Why?
The reason is that the iPhone’s software has not been keeping up with the evolution of its hardware.
For example, users are blown away by Google Now, which is Google’s voice assistant technology. Siri, on the other hand, has been getting slower and less reliable since its integration into the iPhone 4S a year ago.
Apple used to offer Google Maps as a built-in, standard feature of the iPhone. And the experience of using it was amazing. Then Apple replace Google Maps with a Maps app of its own, and now the experience of using the default Maps on iPhone is far worse than it was on the iPhone four years ago.
Not all iOS software is getting worse. Some of it is simply standing still. Most of the apps on the iPhone appear to be cast in amber, without any real improvement over the years. And Apple even introduced a new app called Podcasts, which is non-intuitive and under-featured — if graded on a curve along with other podcasting apps available in the App Store, it would get a C-.
But the strangest and most unexpected software failure with iOS is horrible design. Specifically, horrible skeuomorphic design.
Skeuomorphic software design is when something on screen is “decorated” with fake versions of real things. There’s even a blog dedicated to mocking the tasteless horrors of skeuomorphic design.
Apple’s own iOS apps are heavy with skeuomorphic designs.
The Find Friends app is decorated with what’s supposed to look like sewn leather. The new Podcasts app actually has a reel-to-real tape playing as you listen. The Compass and Voice Memos apps show big quasi-realistic looking respective compass and microphone. The Note apps looks like a yellow legal pad. The Game Center app has a green felt texture with wood trim. The iBooks app looks like a wooden bookshelf. And so on.
Some people don’t mind skeuomorphic design. But there’s no question that it clashes with Apple hardware. It’s as if Apple contracted out the design of its apps to a local teenager.
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