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Digg v4 and My Thoughts on the User Backlash

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Last Wednesday, Digg launched it’s newest and most ambitions iteration, version 4, to the masses. I had been using Digg v4 for several months now, as I was lucky enough to get into the pre-release testing phases. I found myself very impressed by the new design and features, so much so that it actually got me digging again. Prior to this I would sporadically check Digg for articles, but I never logged in, nor contributed in any way. Because of this, I was mildly surprised to see such a large backlash from the user-base. Note, I didn’t say I was completely surprised by the backlash, merely surprised at the level of backlash. Change is always hard on some portion of the user-base, and it is to be expected, just as Facebook. Following the backlash has left me feeling that it’s a bit undeserved on Digg’s end, though I’m not completely without sympathy for the anger and frustration some are experiencing. Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Technology

Verizon Wireless Twitter Support Screw-up

Note: This rant is purely my opinion on the matter. It’s also a bit of a rant, so beware!

Backstory: A few weeks back Verizon Wireless finally released the OTA (Over-The-Air) update to Android 2.1 (Eclair) for Droid Eris users. Verizon had been promising this update to users for months and months, but never coming through. Slowly, leaked versions of pre-release software came out. There were three versions in total, and all of them improved upon the previous. These leaks were extremely popular with the various Android communities (read: the hardcore fans) on the web.  They installed these “leaks” and reported bugs, tested features, etc. In practice, these leaks provided great beta testing for Android 2.1.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago. On May 12th, Verizon announced that 2.1 was finally ready to be released OTA to Droid Eris users. Most users had no an update was even going to come out. One day they just unlocked their phone to find a message saying they needed to install the update and reboot. However, for the various Android fan communities out there, it was a joyous time. People were celebrating the news, despite the fact that Verizon announced that this update would roll out slowly over time.  This meant not all users would get it right away.

Quickly, users with the leak flooded Verizon Wireless’ support account on Twitter (@VZWSupport), with questions about the leak and the OTA. For nearly two weeks, up until the VERY LAST DAY of the rollout, users were told that leakers would get 2.1, and to not worry. For two weeks this was the standard reply to anyone asking whether or not they will be able to get the official software in place of their leaked software. These responses stayed the same throughout the two weeks, up until Sunday where @VZWSupport sent a very definitive tweet stating that users on the leak WILL get the OTA. Here’s a screenshot of the tweet in-case it gets removed:

Notice the response to @PhishChica.

Monday rolls around. The final day for the OTA upgrade. Users on the various Android forums start getting antsy. Nobody with the 2.1 leak has gotten the update, despite the reassurances given by @VZWSupport. Then, the truth finally comes out. @VZWSupport sends out a tweet apologizing for previous information, but leakers will not be getting the OTA of Android 2.1.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not upset about not getting the official 2.1 release. The leak version I have is completely identical to the OTA release in every way I can possibly find. Same numbers, software info, features, bugs, etc.  I’m not upset about leak users not getting the OTA. In fact, I knew this was coming all along. We took the risk with unsupported software and it bit us in the ass, plain and simple. Anyone who expected otherwise has not been in the smartphone software game very long.

No, what is making me furious to the point of spending over an hour creating this masterpiece before you is the fact that we were flat-out lied to by this support staff. It was obvious that they really had no idea what was going to happen with leakers and the OTA. It appears that they assumed it would work. This is fine, they had reason to think it would all work out. However, you do not go into a public forum and give definitive answers like the one above. A more appropriate response to this issue is this: “We have every reason to believe that leakers will get the OTA, but we cannot be sure because the leaks are not official software.” Or, better yet, the classic: “I am unsure of that, but I will find out and provide more information when I can.” Either option would have been respectable, instead they chose to reassure users with questions and doubts that they would get their coveted update.

Then, on the very last day, the change their story and go into defensive mode. A horde of angry users bombarded the account with questions and statements of disgust. All @VZWSupport could do was claim that they never promised an update and that users were mistaken. But wait, didn’t I just post a screen shot of that same account saying users WILL get the update? It didn’t say maybe, should, supposed to, or any other vague wording. It said WILL. The word will is a very definitive word. It means that something is promised or imminent. As a matter of fact, here is the dictionary definition of the answer (taken from Dictionary.com):

am (is, are, etc.) about or going to: I will be there tomorrowShe will see you at dinner.

Or better yet:

am (is, are, etc.) determined or sure to (used emphatically):You would do it. People will talk.

Oh, and here is the screenshot where @VZWSupport claimed they never promised anything:

It seems to me like they were simply in P.R. defense mode. They got caught lying to customers, and had to put some spin on the situation and deny their previous claims. Eventually they did apologize for their mistake, but only after they spent an entire evening being hounded by users who were irate. However, the way that this situation was handled, from start to finish, just shows how unprofessional some of the staff members at Verizon Wireless are when dealing with customer questions. It’s not uncommon to walk into a Verizon Wireless retail outlet to ask a question, only to be given a made-up answer by an under-educated staff member that doesn’t want to sound ignorant (or upset the customer). Now, it appears, that their Twitter support staff is equally as bad.

In the end, this could boil down to one of two things. First, it could have been a huge miscommunication. If this is the case, then it means that the @VZWSupport staff are incompetent and any information from them should be taken with a grain of salt. Worse case, they flat-out lied to users for two weeks straight, only to change their story on the last day when most of the hype over the OTA had died down. If this is the case, then obviously this group of staff is not to be trusted. It also means that people should be losing their jobs over this. It is a huge breach of trust, either way, and I would not be surprised if users started demanding more credibility from the support staff that they depend on.

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On a related note: Another Twitter user (@braddyg) has a very good write-up on this issue, so go check out his response here.

Categories: Uncategorized

My Top 10 Android Apps

10. Digger (Free/$.99)

There are several Digg applications for Android, but Digger is by far the best out there. There is a free and paid version. There is very little difference between the free and paid version, but $.99 is dirt cheap and helps support the developer. Digger, to me, is what the official Digg app should have been for Android. It actually feels more like the official Digg iPhone app than anything else.

9.  ShopSavvy (Free)

ShopSavvy is a barcode scanner/shopping tool that lets you scan items and compare prices between stores and online. You can build wishlists, receive price alerts, and more. This is a very popular segment of the Android Market, but overall ShopSavvy is my favorite all around app for this type of thing.

8. Foursquare/Gowalla (Free)

I am putting Foursquare and Gowalla together on my list because they are both very similar apps with similar functions. Foursquare is focused more on friends and sharing your location, while Gowalla is more about the game aspect of finding items and unlocking achievements. Foursquare allows you to become “mayor” of a location (checking in more often than others). Some venues are actually rewarding the mayor of that location with freebies and other perks. Gowalla’s neat feature is trips. There are various trips available in many cities, and you can even create your own. These trips usually have you sightseeing around the city and visiting pre-determined locations. For example, in Austin, TX there is a trip to check in at various stairs around the city.

Some people prefer to use one service over the other, but I choose both because to me they both serve different purposes.

7. Mint.com (Free)

Mint is a great application that is relatively new to the Android Market. Having been out for awhile on the iPhone, Mint.com allows you to enter your financial information (credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages,etc.) and the mobile app allows you to keep tabs on this information and receive alerts and notifications. The app and site are secure, and it uses the same tool that most banking websites use, so you’re not sharing any information with Mint that isn’t readily available to many services already out there. It can be scary to use at first, but once you do you will realize that it’s a very powerful tool.

6. TWiT.tv by Mediafly (Free)

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In my line of work, I’m constantly driving to various family homes and other locations. I have put 30,000 miles on my car in about 8 months, if that gives you any idea of just how much I drive. Leo Laporte’s TWiT network puts out some of the best podcasts around. The TWiT app lets you stream the shows, or download them for later if you would prefer. They have video and audio versions as well.  Combining this app with my next choice ensures that I’m never driving bored.

5. Pandora (Free)

Pandora radio is a free audio streaming service that I simply cannot live without. You input one of your favorite artists, and Pandora will create a custom radio station based on that artist and similar artists. You then give a thumbs up or down to each song, and Pandora will learn over time and customize your stream. The real power of this comes when you’ve created several stations (using different artists or types of music). The Quick Mix option will combine all of your favorite stations and give you a station that encompasses all of your favorite music.

4. Handcent SMS (Free)

Handcent SMS is a replacement for the default SMS client on your Android device. Handcent is a lot more powerful than the native clients, allowing you to completely customize them to your liking. There are various themes, notification options, and tons of other settings to tweak around to get your SMS and MMS messages just the way you like them. You can also add various font packs in, to further customize the experience. The widget is just a basic 1×1 icon, but unlike the standard app icon, the widget shows you how many messages you have unread on the icon.

3. Aloqa (Free)

Aloqa is a great application that helps you to find out what is going on in the community around you. You can find restaurants, shops, events, or even local singles if you so choose. The interface is very well done, although it feels more iPhone like than Android to me.

2. USA Today (Free)

I played around with several news apps but settled on USA Today for it’s interface, range of coverage, and overall ease of use.

1. Twidroid Pro ($4.89)

Twidroid is easily the best Twitter client for the Android OS. The free version is good enough for most users, but I opted to pay for the Pro for the added features and the widgets. Twidroid boasts the most features of all android clients, so there’s very little you cannot do with this client. Easily my most used app.

Categories: Uncategorized

My take on the iPhone 4g/Gizmodo fiasco

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m sure most everyone who will see this knows the story behind Gizmodo “acquiring” a prototype version of the next iPhone. If, for some reason, you haven’t kept up to date with the story you can find it here.

For the last week or so, many people have been wondering what exactly is going to come of all of this. Would Apple retaliate or take action against any of the involved parties? Well, by the looks of it, Apple certainly is. Jason Chen, Editor for Gizmodo, had his house raided while he was away. The police seized four computers and two servers.

These actions have spawned heated debates on the topic. Some people feel that Gizmodo did wrong by purchasing the iPhone prototype and publishing the information. Others feel that as journalists they should be protected against this sort of attack. Personally, I find myself falling into the first category.

Let’s take a look at the situation as it stands. Gizmodo purchased the iPhone prototype from someone who claimed they found it in a bar. They paid around $5,000 for it. Before this, the seller had contacted Engadget as well, who turned them down.  Obviously, someone at Engadget was smart enough to see a bad situation in the making. What I am having trouble wrapping my head around is why nobody at Gizmodo saw this. Or, if they did, why they thought that it would work out in their favor in the end?

Under California law, people who find lost property are required by law to attempt to find the owner and return it. From the looks of it, no parties involved really tried to attempt this. I mean, how hard can it be to find the owner of an IPHONE. You know, the one that says APPLE all over the damned thing? It seems to me that getting the scoop on this phone was more important to the parties involved than actually obeying the law. Now, Apple is using the law to send a message to the world.

Apple is a smart company, and they have a lot of tools at their disposal in this case. They are going to hammer Gizmodo with everything they have. This police raid on Jason Chen’s house was only the beginning. At this point, they are just trying to gather as much information about the deal as they can. I think that before this is over, we will see charges filed against Gawker, the guy who sold them the iPhone and anyone else that Apple can prove was involved. Apple’s message here will be strong, and I think people will start to think twice about crossing them in the future.

I think Apple is completely justified in their actions. They have the right to be ruthless here, and I think it’s in the best interest of the company to send a strong message in this situation. In order to preserve their future products and the information regarding them, they need to crush the parties involved here. Apple wants people to fear their wrath so much that they will not try to leak anything like this head of time. I can’t say that I wouldn’t do the same if I were in their shoes.

Categories: Technology, Uncategorized

Dream Car Wish List

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I noticed several blogs contain car wish lists and top 5’s and the like. With that said, I do understand that this is not exactly the most original proposition for a blog post, but I think my list may be a little different from what you would normally see. My list isn’t all about Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. Actually, only one of them can truly be considered a super-exotic. Enough blathering from me, on with the list:

1) Nissan GT- R

The Nissan GT-R is without a doubt the quintessential super car killer. With a hand crafted 485hp (supposedly) twin-turbo v6, AWD, and enough electronic gizmos to make even the most jaded technophile nerdgasm three times over.

To me, this car is the perfect combination of performance, styling, and price. It looks great, is insanely fast, and will outperform many super cars twice or three times it’s sticker price. It’s the ultimate mechanical masterpiece. The only qualm I would have with the GT-R is that it really doesn’t stir the soul like other cars do. Its as if the designers and engineers wanted to make the ultimate driving appliance, not the ultimate driving car.

2) E46 BMW M3

In my opinion, the last must-have BMW ever made. Sure, the 135i comes close, but still suffers from BMW’s recent styling issues. That’s a nice way of saying that all current BMW’s are incredibly ugly. It’s as if the lead designer at BMW had a stroke, didn’t realize it, and kept drawing on the page anyway. Sure the performance is still amazing, but eventually someone will see you driving your new BMW.

The e46 M3 is a beautiful car to behold. It looks muscular, menacing, and poised to tear up any road you put in front of it. With this car, BMW discovered a formula for making the world’s best all around car:  330hp, 3.2l I6 + 6-speed MT + room for 4 + a trunk. Multiply that with BMW’s magical tuning, and you have yourself a world class car that cannot be beat for everyday use.

3) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX

Not a whole lot to say about this one. It, like the M3 above, is what I consider to be the last REAL Evo. The Evo IX was an amazing machine, that didn’t worry about creature comforts or interior build quality. It was a purpose-built machine that only existed to go fast, in almost every type of terrain you could imagine. The 4G63 engine was practically invulnerable, and the car itself is best described as “pure.”

For the Evo X, Mitsubishi decided they wanted to make the car more comfortable, more luxurious, and more stylish. In the process, they killed every bit of passion and soul that you found in the Evo IX.  There are also rumors that the next Evo will be a hybrid. So the Evo IX may very well be the last true Evo that will have ever been built.

4) Lotus Elise (Series 2)

Every garage needs a roadster. There are some days, where the sun is shining, the weather is perfect, and you have nothing scheduled. It feels almost criminal to drive a fixed-roof vehicle on days like this. Hence, you need a roadster, and if you are buying a roadster, you may as well get the best roadster you can. Hence, the Elise.

5) Aston Martin V12 Vantage

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Aston Martins. To me, they are the most beautiful, elegant cars on the road today. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the DB9, DBS, or the Vantage, all will equally arouse you. Just make sure you’re not in a very public place, or you may get charged with indecency. In my case, the ultimate Aston is not the most expensive, the biggest, or even their flagship. To me, the must-have Aston is the V12 Vantage, which is ironic, because you cannot purchase the the V12 variant in the United States. We only get the V8, which is still an amazing machine, the V12 just makes it a little more insane.

To put my lust for the V12 Vantage in perspective for you, I would gladly turn down the opportunity to own the 4 above cars (together) just to get the Vantage. It’s that special. It’s easily my most coveted car, one that I probably will never own.

Categories: Uncategorized

Reboot

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

When I started this blog, my goal was to write about one  of my favourite topics, technology. Mostly it was about computers, operating systems, and the like. Unfortunately, I really wasn’t passionate about writing on those topics, and I lost interest over time.

Because of this, I have decided to started to write about more interesting topics. I have a feeling thsi will be mostly about cars, car culture, and things of that nature, but I will try to throw some different things in there when I get motivated enough to want to write about them.

Stay tuned.

Categories: Uncategorized