A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Yahoo Mail Beta

I logged into my Yahoo! Mail account the other day and was presented with the option to test their new interface. Overall, Yahoo! Mail Beta is pleasant to use and feels like a regular desktop client such as Outlook or Thunderbird. You can read RSS feeds alongside your mail and have the option of forwarding stories to your friends. You can also drag and drop email messages between folders without refreshing the page, thanks to a lot of AJAXy goodness. You have the option of using a preview pane for messages or a handy tabbed interface.
Yahoo! Mail Beta
However, the big disappointment would have to be speed. There are noticable delays when you attempt to load a folder and sometimes even when you select a message. Both Firefox and Internet Explorer stall when I attempt these basic tasks. However, it’s still faster than the old method of refreshing the page.

Almost two years ago, Yahoo! acquired Oddpost, which is now powering Yahoo! Mail Beta. Integrating two existing pieces of software can take much longer that it would first appear. Even after a lot of effort, the results can still be less than ideal. When time is limited, it is essential to decide early on exactly how far you want to take software integration. Otherwise, you could just get stuck waiting for your mail to load.

Consumerist Empowers Shoppers

Back at my Midwestern high school, state law mandated that students could not graduate without having taken a course called consumer seminar. Though a wholly informative course, after college and graduate school, I can’t really remember much about the course or what we learned. I know that I took it during summer school after my junior year of high school and that we spent our last day in class watching this (awesome) movie called “Breaking Away” as a reward for making it through the course. I know that the teacher’s daughter worked in advertising and had written a famous sports jingle, but that’s about all I remember about that class.

Not too long after high school, you find yourself making actual decisions without the benefit of all the information. You sign things because you are either too busy or too visually impaired or too impatient to make out the mouseprint. Sometimes you simply don’t know how to advocate for yourself. You meekly pay your bills, buy your groceries and submit to what companies describe as external pricing pressures. Once in a while you pop open the newspaper to find that a desperate and strung-out consumer has written to a columnist about how her phone company or credit card misbilled her and could the reporter please advise her on what to do? Sometimes the reporter does oblige, and after the whole sordid tale is in print, the PR people usually start looking into this. Things tend to get resolved when bad publicity is at stake. (more…)

PR and ROI: A Critical Crossroads

As a practitioner and researcher in the arena of marketing accountability, I am impressed with the latest articles in PRWeek, and other places, about the industry’s growing stress on measurement. It is clear that PR must be concerned about accountability measurement if it is to retain its proper share of corporate budgets.

While a recent guide to measuring the impact of PR on sales (Council of Public Relations Firms, 2005) has helped establish some informational groundwork, the buzz around complex statistical approaches to measurement is evident. Having career-long experience in measuring marketing effects, I would like to outline the strengths and limitations of emerging tools.

Market Mix Modeling (MMM)

This approach came to us from economists. It is actually a form of linear regression, a basic technique used in many industries for years. It works by looking at a number of potential variables that could impact something (e.g., sales) and simultaneously considering their individual contributions. (more…)

SMS For Action

Recently, NPR’s Story of the Day podcast (Empowered by Technology, Indians Fight Government Corruption) featured how SMS technology effectively gave middle class Indians the ability to launch large scale protests against a legal system that is notorious for protecting the interests of the elite class. Fashion model Jessica Lal was shot and killed at an exclusive nightclub/bar in Dehli nearly 7 years ago, allegedly by Manu Sharma, the son of a wealthy Indian politician. A month ago, Sharma was acquitted of all charges after evidence related to the case mysteriously disappeared. Witnesses became uncooperative. The acquittal came on the official basis of insufficient evidence. It is believed that bribery and corruption were key to the outcome of this case.

India’s middle class was largely angered by this latest demonstration of the Indian legal system’s incompetence. As a response to the verdict, Indian news broadcast station NDTV launched a “Justice for Jessica” protest campaign and asked their viewers (mostly composed of middle class citizens with cell phones) to text in their signatures for a petition to reopen the Jessica Lal murder case. According to NDTV broadcast journalist Barkha Dutt, the lines were open for only 3 days but the yielded over 200,000 messages in support of the campaign. All responses were registered as votes. An impromptu rally was also held in the capital after students text messaged each other of their plans and forwarded this new age call to action to their friends. Again, there was an unbelievable turnout. The NDTV petition was forward to India’s most influential political leaders and the case has since been re-opened, with support for Jessica coming from political elites such as Sonia Gandhi, as well as the prime minister and the president.

(more…)

What'll it Be? Lots of Visitors or Lots of Users?

As a moody consumer and cynic, I’m beginning to find that there are way too many websites that claim to be “a one stop shop” or the “complete” or “ultimate” resource for their field. In many cases, these sites are so unappealing and loaded with so much content, that users like myself are forced to seek help from other sources or forget the whole matter entirely and continue watching television, wondering why we even bothered in the first place.

Recently, I discovered http://reallybig.com/, tag lined as “The Complete Resource for All Web Builders”.

When I hear the words “complete resource”, I am assuming that I am going to be provided with some substance – something that I can actually LEARN from.

Upon entering, I was immediately met by enormous banner ads forcing me to switch to T-Mobile and use Peapod.com for my grocery needs and get a Capital One card. I’m just looking for new coding developments or tricks!

But I am assured by the site’s welcome message, “If you’re building a Web site, you’ve come to the right place.”

Okay then…

I finally located what I assumed was the site’s navigation (in the middle of the page) and clicked on “HTML Tutorials”. Seemed like as good a place as any to start. Right away I was taken to another poorly designed page that again, assured me (in a green box at the top of the page this time) that I will be provided with everything I need to create a webpage.

Fifteen minutes of scouring more options than I would ever need and many that I didn’t understand, I am finally taken to a page that simply links me to an external site (that did not even open in a new browser window – HTML Coding 101?).

At best, I would describe this site as a large web-tree or links page but certainly not a “complete resource”.

I think there are two possibilities for why sites like this exist. 1.) It profits from and is designed to lure people into reading and clicking on a series of paid advertisements or 2.) The creators of this site actually believe that they are helping people and simply lack the presense of a good project manager – someone to challenge them to think critically about what they have to offer – real content or a series of links?

Sites should not pretend to be more than they are in hopes of luring lots of people to their pages, who ultimately, will never return.