Monday, October 22, 2007
Connecting with the Past
One of the main reasons I started this blog was to reminisce a bit about auld lang syne, as it were.
Then, out of the blue, I hear that a dear friend, one of my alltime best friends from elementary school and high school days, just moved to Richmond! How cool, how utterly cool is that!?
Monday, October 08, 2007
Helpful Voice-recognition Help
Recently, my wife had a question regarding our Wachovia online bill-pay system. When she couldn't find an answer on the Web page itself, she followed a link that directed her to call the telephone help line.
First she tried to cancel a payment...but saw no obvious place to do so. So she selected BillPay Help. She found this advice:
Canceling a Payment
You can cancel any payment that has not started processing. After you cancel a payment, its status changes to Canceled. Canceled payments appear in the Recent Payments section and in Bill Activity.
Note: If you cancel a payment that is part of an automatic payment schedule, only the selected payment is canceled. You do not cancel any future payments in the payment schedule. To cancel all payments in an automatic payment schedule, go to Manage My Bills and delete the automatic payment.
To cancel a payment:
1. Click Cancel next to the payment you want to cancel.
The Cancel Payment page opens.
2. Click Cancel Payment.
A message informs you that your payment has been canceled.
3. Click Done to return to the Payment Center.
The problem was, there was no Cancel button next to the payment.
Upon dialing, she heard a voice system respond with, "Enter your account number, followed by the pound sign. Or, simply say your number." Uh oh, she thought, a voice recognition system.
Instead, she found the experience helpful and intuitive. The male voice directed her to ask her question in her own words$#151;after giving an example. And when it couldn't understand her, it said, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite understand. Please ask me again."
She discovered that once a payment was being processed, she couldn't cancel it. That's why there was no Cancel button available.
Sadly, the help buries this fact in the first sentence. Yes, it says, "You can cancel any payment that has not started processing," but it doesn't explicitly say that the button isn't there, or that the facility isn't possible.
This sort of disjunct between help systems sadly isn't rare. Indeed, it's as if there were two teams: technical writers creating the Billpay Help popup window, and voice recognition writers creating the Billpay VR system. Someone should have done better usability testing, especially considering how critical the act of cancelling a payment must be.
So kudos to the voice recognition software and its script writers, but shame on the technical writers for burying the lead.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The Brave One's Not a Good One
I'm tired of lazy movie wriing. Having just watched Jodie Foster's latest romp through violence and depression (think The Accused hangs out in The Panic Room and formulates her Death Wish), I'm bitterly depressed that I spent $8.50 for the ticket to see this wholly unbelievable tale.
The ease with which her character buys an illegal gun is beyond imagination: Not only does someone hanging out in the gun shop happen to overhear her desire to own a gun (when faced with the prospect of having to wait 30 days for a gun license, she whines, "I won't last 30 days"), but she blithely follows this utter stranger through some creepily exotic Chinatown locales (why are they always chopping fish in these movie Chinatowns?). Never mind that in the previous two scenes she suffered from agoraphobia, yet now all of a sudden she's following a stranger through alleys. Never mind that she was terrorized by thugs in the park, now she's just going with a total stranger who's obviously involved in nefarious activities. No, it's just way over the top.
When he sells her the gun, she says, "I'll take it." Wait. He said it'd cost her $1000. Does she have 10 $100 bills? Does she give him a check? Does he take debit cards? Wow.
She never test-fires the gun, yet in her first encounter with a criminal, she puts three quick rounds center mass into him. And she never flinches.
And the ending is just, "Oh my gawd!" ridiculous.
No, this is a lazy movie.