Archive for the ‘ Feedback ’ Category

Feedback for News.com

I didn’t think the sound quality on the daily news.com podcast could get any worse. I was wrong. This week, it sounded like Charlie was recording his segments from his bathroom. This in addition to the jarring “remote” interviews he’s been doing lately where it sounds like Charlie’s calling from a pay phone and the correspondent is back in the studio. That in addition to the fact that the audio level jumps from segment to segment in most podcasts and nearly every podcasts gets cut-off mid-word before Charlie can finish his final sign-off. And all of THAT just astounds me considering how tight, professional, and polished EVERY OTHER CNET PODCAST sounds. I don’t understand. It’s annoying enough that after 6 months, I just can’t listen anymore.

One final (now daily) annoyance: has anyone noticed that the Mazda announcer’s diction makes it sound like she’s saying “interducing” and “mazzausa.com?” If I were Mazda and provided you with that loop, I’d be embarrassed. If I were Mazda and you recorded that loop, I’d be demanding my money back.

Feedback for Vongo

Wow…what a great concept! I love this idea. All-you-can-eat, er…watch, videos downloaded from the net for a subscription fee. I love it. However, there’s one key problem with this model. The computer on which I download video is different from the Media Center computer at my television where I watch the video. Without a ten-foot interface or, even better, a Media Center integration point, there’s no way this can work in my household (and – I suspect – many, many others).


As far as I’ve seen, Vongo has one of the best, most consumer-friendly, legal video download services available. As a project of Starz entertainment (think Encore and Starz TV), this has a real chance of success. I hope they don’t forget, though, that people aren’t likely to sit at their computer to watch a two-hour-long movie. Similarly, people with Media Center computers hooked to their big-screen TVs rarely use a keyboard and mouse from the couch to run “desktop-style” applications. I believe that they need to integrate with existing services like Windows Media Center to make this service a success.

A message to Disney

Hey…what happened to “Walt Disney World Resort: Plugged In?” That was such a terrific podcast–great content, professionally produced, and always interesting. While there are lots of fan podcasts about Disney, it’s just not the same. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the whole podcast idea was nothing but a big publicity stunt for the new Everest attraction. The timing of your cut-off would sure suggest that….

To increase your continued listening audience, have you tried promoting it in your resorts? I’ll bet guests would love to know how to keep in touch with what’s going on after they’ve left for home from their vacation. Consider mentioning it in the TV loops that you produce for the resort hotel guest rooms. And promote it on your Walt Disney World web site home page. Give this one the chance that it deserves!

It seems that Disney has been eliminating just one after another of its programs designed for its most loyal fans and guests–first the Disney Club, then the Disney magazine, now this. Please re-establish your production schedule for “Walt Disney World Resort: Plugged In.” There are definitely Disney fans out here who listen regularly and enjoy.

An e-mail message to Adobe

I notice that Macromedia Contribute is conspicuously absent from your MAX 06 session line-up this year. I certainly hope that this isn’t an indication that Adobe is thinking about ending this product line. As an Advanced Certified ColdFusion Developer and web solutions provider, I’ve found that Contribute is a wonderfully easy and inexpensive Web publishing system. It’s perfect for small businesses and for intranet management.

I realize that Adobe is probably making some hard decisions about which product lines to keep and which to eliminate, and I certainly hope that you choose to continue expanding and evolving this product’s capabilities and usefulness. While I recognize that some products like FreeHand [didn’t Adobe already divest themselves of that once for anti-trust reasons?] and Fireworks may seem in direct conflict with some of the legacy product lines from Adobe, Contribute clearly fills a publication workflow niche previously untapped by your company’s offerings.

I look forward to seeing how you further adopt the various products and platforms gained through last year’s Macromedia acquisition and hope to see your continued support of their various Web publishing tools and solutions.

A message to Warner Brothers

I just visited guba.com because I heard that Warner Brothers was offering feature films online. What a great idea! Oh, wait…no, it’s not so great after all. Let me see if I understand this properly. I can pay $19.99 to download a video to my computer from GUBA OR I can just buy the DVD itself on sale somewhere for about $17. If I buy the film from GUBA, I get an encrypted file that I can only play on a Windows computer with Internet Explorer or on a Plays for Sure device–but not on a standard DVD player. If I buy the DVD, I can play it on any computer with any DVD player software and on any DVD player. Now…which option do you think I’m going to choose?

I have to ask, “What were you thinking, Warner Brothers?” This is such a poorly conceived idea, it’s incomprehensible that anyone with any intelligence at any company could delude themselves into believing that this would be an attractive alternative for consumers. Why isn’t it, you ask? (1) This distribution model gives consumers fewer viewing location choices, completely eliminating the most popular one: the DVD player attached to the home TV. (2) The selection of Windows’ (and only Windows’) DRM alienates many tech-savy consumers who choose not to use IE, Media Player, and/or Windows itself. (3) The price point is completely out of line. Ultimately, consumers get less in this model, so they should expect to pay less.

Do you want consumers like me to consider buying Warner Brothers content online? Here’s what you need to offer: For 9.99 or less, let me purchase and download a file that I can play on any computer or TV in my home from a central file system. For 4.99, let me download either Plays for Sure (Windows) or FairPlay-protected (Apple) versions of the content, targetted for smaller, portable devices at 320 x 240. Then, and only then, will I consider buying Warner Brother content online. Until that time, I’ll be sticking with DVD media.


Want to let Warner Brothers know what you think?

Leave them a message of your own.

A message to Home Depot

The shelves are a mess

The aisles are a mess

From the day it opened, I’ve been disappointed in the Washington, D.C. Home Depot. The problem is, it hasn’t improved at all. At all times when I shop there, the parking lot is cluttered (not littered…cluttered) with trash; aisles are often blocked with baskets of random crap; shelves look like they haven’t been reorganized in months; store personnel are generally unable to provide ANY assistance; and check-out clerks make it painfully obvious that they’d rather be home drinking. Can you blame them?

I’ve posted some pictures I took the last time I visited the lighting section of my neighborhood Home Depot. You (and the rest of the world) can view these pictures on my blog. Welcome to Home Depot. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it?

I don’t want a phone call, I don’t want a reply message. I want someone to do something about this shameful store. Fire people if you have to–you clearly need to make significant changes. In the meantime, I’ll be driving to Maryland from now on to shop at Lowe’s.

An e-mail message to the D.C. government’s Customer Service center

As much as I appreciate the city’s efforts to be responsive by sending follow-up messages for online requests, this District’s current mechanism of communication is more frustrating than it is helpful. For years this has been the case. I’ve been ignoring this issue, but I’d like to take some time now to address it directly. I recently received a response for an online request I sent to the DC webmaster regarding a problem with Real Property database search. The message (below) is more confusing than it is helpful. I offer these points for your consideration so you might improve your ability to serve the residents who take the time to provide the feedback you invite on the District’s site:

[I have interspersed the District’s original message within my post, below. Some names and numbers have been removed or substituted to protect individuals’ privacy]

From: imailagent [mailto:customerservice.eom@dc.gov]
Sent: Saturday, April 29, 2006 14:58
To: [me]
Subject: Email from the EOM (Intranet Quorum IMA00447391)

  • Neither the From Address or the Subject give me a clue as to what this message is when I scan through my e-mail inbox. With all of the spam once receives these days, you should do everything possible to ensure that the recipients of these messages don’t inadvertently delete them just because they don’t recognize the sender or the subject matter.
  • Specifically, with regard to the From address, the sender’s email address: I have no idea whatsoever who imailagent is. Why would I? Why should I? It isn’t even as if this is simply an unrecognizable e-mail address—it’s the supposedly friendly display name of the sender’s e-mail address. This is the part of the name that you actually get to define. Suggestion: Change the name of the sender, the display name in the FROM address for each message, to DC Customer Service.
  • Specifically, with regard to the Subject: What is EOM? What is Intranet Quorum? Why would I care? Why should I care? The message Subject here baffles me. It doesn’t help me understand what this message is about. It’s worth noting that the message itself doesn’t ever define EOM or Intranet Quorum—and it shouldn’t have to because those terms shouldn’t even be in the Subject or the message. They’re not useful or important to me, the message recipient. The number in the Subject line is equally useless to the recipient. I initially assumed that it’s a tracking number for my request, but reading further into the message reveals that it is not. My request has a tracking number assigned to it that, in fact, is not the same as the “IMA” number in the Subject. Strange. Suggestion: Change the Subject for each message to something more useful. In this particular case, that could be Acknowledgement of service request #475602.
  • One more thing I notice before even opening the message: it has an attachment. With the many concerns about e-mail viruses spread by attachments, I would assert that sending an attachment in a message that the recipient doesn’t recognize is unwise. It might further encourage the recipient to discard the message without even opening it. Being both curious and careful, however, I first scanned the message attachment for viruses and then opened the message. To my bewilderment, the attachment is simply a text file that contains some XML with very basic metadata. I’m unsure why this attachment is included with the message that I received. At first I thought that perhaps it helps your automated system track any further correspondence on this request, but if I reply to the message I received, the file will no longer be attached to my response. So…why is this here? Suggestion: Do not include this attachment on the message that you send to the person who initiated the service request.

April 29, 2006

  • The first piece of information in the message is a date. It is today’s date. This is helpful, I suppose, except that the date of the e-mail message itself gives me the same information. What would be more helpful is the date that I made the request—especially since this acknowledgement comes to me several days after making that request. Suggestion: Replace the correspondence date in the message with the (clearly labeled) request date.

Thank you for writing to Mayor Anthony Williams. We appreciate your comments and care about your concerns. This acknowledgement is in reference to your recent email.

  • The message states, “This acknowledgement is in reference to your recent email.” I didn’t actually send an e-mail message to anyone, I completed a feedback form on the District’s website…so that’s a bit misleading. I’m assuming that your system uses the same form letter to acknowledge all requests. Suggestion: Change that sentence to “This acknowledgement is in reference to your recent request.”

Your request has been forwarded to [Jane Doe], the Mayor’s point-of-contact at the . Please feel free to contact that office at [(999) 999-9999] or [e-mail address] regarding the status of your request.

  • The message states, “Your request has been forwarded to [Jane Doe], the Mayor’s point-of-contact at the .” Yes, that last sentence is missing…something. Is it “Office of the Chief Technology Officer?” Is it something else? Suggestion: Fill in the blank.

Your correspondence has been assigned the following EOM tracking number: 475602. Please refer to this number when referencing this request.

  • The messages states, “Your correspondence has been assigned the following EOM tracking number: 475602.” Again, that EOM thing. What is that? No…forget that…I don’t want or need to know. Suggestion: Change the sentence to read “…the following tracking number: …”

If you receive no contact or reply from the agency within 5 business days, please call (202) 727-1000. Give them the contact’s name, office, and tracking number and ask for a point-of-contact follow-up.

For future correspondence with the Mayor or to submit your e-mail address for his database, please write to mayor@dc.gov.

  • Nowhere in the message is there any reference to my actual request. Nowhere. It doesn’t mention the request date, the request itself, or even the “Subject” that you required me to select when I completed the online feedback form. Suppose that I made a few requests over the past few days. Suppose that I made multiple requests on that same day. How would I know which acknowledgement corresponds with which request? I would not.
  • Why not include the original request in the response? This would be extremely helpful for some context. Especially since the sender could have initiated multiple requests.

Believe me, I appreciate the ability to submit feedback and request services online through the District’s website. I also understand the complexity involved in managing and responding to all of those requests—I’ve supported (and built) such systems myself. Having this experience, though, helps me also understand how important it is for you to help those requesting support and providing feedback to receive the information they need to know that the District has received, understands, and is working their request(s).

Thank you for your consideration of my suggestions, above.

[Richard]
Resident of the District of Columbia

A letter to Congressmen Smith and Sensenbrenner

Congressmen Smith and Sensenbrenner:

I am infuriated that you are backing new legislation that would further limit consumers’ use of copyrighted material in their own homes. It is incomprehensible to me that you might actually believe that consumers should just surrender control of when, where, and how they experience and enjoy the content for which they’ve purchased usage rights. Despite the pleas of consumers, of the tech industry, and of studies and scholars, this legislation broadly criminalizes what should be protected as fair use rights. It penalizes consumers in a desperate attempt at thwarting piracy, which you shamelessly masquerade as a defense against terrorism.

Help me understand, please, why I shouldn’t be able to watch the movie I purchase in any room in my home on any device of my choosing. Help me understand why it should be illegal for a parent to protect their investment in DVD movies by backing them up in preparation for the day that the original media gets scratched, cracked, or lost at the bottom of a toy box. Help me understand why copying a movie from an owned DVD to a mobile video device so as not to have to take a laptop through the TSA’s airport security lines makes someone a criminal. Help me understand why we the consumers must suffer for the recording and film industries’ failure to keep up with the market established by and for digital media.

Criminalizing consumers’ attempts to use content fairly is not going to catch terrorists. Nearly every independent study and nearly all evidence shows that piracy is not prevented by digital rights management (DRM). The content pirates you seek to defeat are not deterred by DRM. Invariably, these controls all can and will be cracked by the organizations that stand to make money by doing so [oh, wait, could I perhaps be arrested now for suggesting that possibility?]. The only real effect that DRM and the ridiculous legislation the content industries have lobbied so hard to introduce actually has is to inconvenience consumers and reduce the value and usefulness of the content you’re trying so hard to protect. These consumers are your children, their children, your neighbors, and your friends. That’s who this legislation will hurt—not the real criminals.

I suggest that you take a step back from the special interests of the RIAA and the media moguls to start thinking about protecting the people you’re elected to represent—the citizens of this country…the consumers. By backing this legislation, you are clearly not acting in their best interests.

[Richard]
Washington, D.C.

cc: Congressman Lamar Smith’s staff


How can you get involved?

Write to Congressman Smith at:

2184 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Call Congressman Smith’s office at (202) 225-4236

Write to Congressman Sensenbrenner at:

2449 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Call Congressman Sensenbrenner’s office at (202) 225-5101

Send Congressman Sensenbrenner an e-mail message to sensenbrenner@mail.house.gov

Contact your representative!

An e-mail message to the Director of Communications at Philips

To Whom It May Concern:

I am disappointed and outraged that Philips has pursued patents on technologies that could significantly limit consumers’ control of their television viewing experience. While I understand your assertion that you have not yet implemented nor do you intend to implement such technologies in your devices, I have read the patent applications, and the language is very clear. The technology described in Philips’ application would essentially provide broadcasters with an extortionist approach toward television advertising: Watch the ads or pay! And as if preventing fast-forwarding in recorded content isn’t bad enough, the application describes technology that could hijack consumers’ hardware by disallowing them from changing channels during advertising! That is completely unacceptable. How dare manufacturers and content providers even consider such technologies? It is outrageous. Philips must truly disrespect consumers to pander so significantly to content providers and advertisers.

I am planning to purchase a new television in the coming months. I am an early adopter who spends thousands of dollars annually on consumer electronics. Because Philips might even contemplate technologies that could so significantly limit my usage rights as a consumer, you can be assured that I will not now ever consider purchasing products from Philips—not televisions, not kitchen appliances, not light bulbs. You, as a company, have completely lost my business.

[Richard]
Washington, D.C.