PROI: The “Personal ROI” of Blogging

February 5th, 2016

Do you blog? Why or why not? If you do, what do you get out of it? Is that worth the time you spend? If any of these questions is remotely interesting to you, read on.

I recently had a a baby, and as you other parents know, having child has drastic changes on the amount of free time you have. As such, you begin to evaluate your personal activities. If you were a business, you might dub this evaulation “ROI analysis”. It’s an interesting concept, actually — the ROI of personal activity (PROI!). How much time and effort do I put in, and what do I get back? Surely we all ask these questions subconsciously every day, but how often do we consider them as we consider ROI at work? Probably not that often.

One of the activities I have been evaluating is blogging. I don’t blog for profit, and this isn’t an article in multichannel merchant magazine, so I’m not thinking about cost, profit, ad dollars, or anything like that. I’m comparing the amount of time I spend to the intangible benefits I receive. For non-profit bloggers, the currency of blogging is obviously not money, but it still exists in comments, RSS subscribers, friends who talk about your blog, job inquiries, new people you meet through the blog, etc. And just like a business, if the time spent is not producing enough currency in return, you start to question the value of this activity.

Personally, I started a UX blog because I like talking about UX, and I like writing. If I could stimulate discussion through my blog, that would make me happy. There were also, obviously, career advancement possibilities: I could establish expertise, learn new things, and build a network of contacts, all of which might score job opportunities, promotions, speaking and writing gigs, etc. I’ll admit I had grand illusions that simply putting posts out there would generate all kinds of interest: “Surely I will get dozens of comments on every post, spawning more posts and more comments. I’ll meet new people, and quickly establish my name in the field. Victory shall be mine!”

Yeah, right. It turns out I’m just another one of many similar-minded folks, out there toiling away at a blog, but not getting the PROI I expect. Sure, some people comment, and I have some RSS subscribers, but it isn’t quite the force I hoped it might be.

So what are my options now?

Well, I could quit, and never look back, freeing up time for more important things. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet.

I could try to find the next “blogging” and get out from the masses and ahead of the curve, if I knew what that was. I think I was on to something with my “screen capture videos”, so perhaps my blog should consist soley of those? It might work! It might not.

Option three might be to join forces with other like-minded people. Maybe if we all blogged from the same site, we could bring our measly audiences together to form one audience that is actually kinda big. I like that idea… but I don’t know if anyone else will.

So, I’m interested to hear what other bloggers (or people who have thought about blogging, but haven’t found the PROI yet) think. What do you get out of blogging? What is your “currency”? What does one do to fix PROI? Should we ban together? What will the URL be?

Usability Violations with Comcast Digital Program Guide/DVR

February 5th, 2016

After picking up my first HDTV, I switched from the phenomal TiVo interface to Comcast’s built-in DVR. TiVo has recently announced an HD receiver, but I still haven’t decided if the improved interface is worth the extra cash. Either way, this won’t stop me from critiquing Comcast’s interface.

1. You cannot pause live TV while using the program guide. So, if I am paging through the guide and want to pause the show I’m watching — a pretty reasonable thing to do if something good comes on but I am in the process of looking for another program in the guide — pressing the pause button kicks me out of the guide. Then I have to start over trying to find my way back to where I was in the guide. (Finding things in the guide could also be easier, amplifying the problem.)

2. If I am watching something on delay, and the recorder needs to change the channel to record something, I will get kicked out of the program that is being watched on delay. This one is a bit difficult to explain, so I will use an example. I was watching a movie on TNT (Sleepy Hollow, if you must know), which I had paused for about 20 minutes and as such was watching delayed. The movie was set to end at 10pm, at which time I had two other shows scheduled to be recorded (it is a dual-tuner DVR). At 9:59, a message popped up asking me if I wanted to change the channel at 10pm to record my show. I selected yes. A minute later, the channel changed, kicking me out of the delayed program and causing me to miss the last 20 minutes of the movie I was watching. (If I was using TiVo, the channel would have changed but the hard drive would have saved the end of the movie as well, allowing me to watch both.)

I was going to make this a top 10 list, but I only got to 2. What are your gripes with this interface?

News: Response Time Rankings

February 5th, 2016

The Q ranks #2 within “high broadband Internet backbone response time”.

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Webinar: 6 Ways to Reach Tablet Shoppers to Drive ROI

January 11th, 2012

I presented at this webinar on January 11, 2012, along with Sucharita Mulpuru of Forrester Research and Nathan Richter of Monetate. My portion discussed the process that my company uses to identify, prioritize and implement tablet optimization initiatives.

The webinar is available onDemand for 90 days.

Guest Speaker at Rutgers

June 13th, 2011

I recently appeared as a guest speaker at Rutgers University in their MLIS 512 Interface Design class. I spoke about heuristic evaluations and how they are used in the “real” world (versus the academic world).

2010 IA Summit Presentation

April 18th, 2010

I gave a presentation at the 2010 IA Summit entitled “Better Faceted Navigation: Advanced Design Techniques”. Description and slides after the jump.

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ESPN.com’s New TV Campaign

March 16th, 2009

ESPN recently redesigned their website (not sure exactly when) and has launched a new TV campaign to promote the site. If you haven’t seen the ads, watch below, then read:

In general, I find it interesting that they have chosen to promote the subdirectory URL (i.e. espn.com/somethingyouareinterestedin) aspect of the site, since, in my experience, novice users don’t always fully understand how to use those URLs (and clearly ESPN has to appeal to the entire population). Though I’ve found that people tend to find “domain.com/subdomain” clearer than the other method — “subdomain.domain.com”, in general they are far less likely to use a subdomain than to just go to the main site and look for the content they seek.

In spite of that larger issue, I noticed some other minor issues that could create big problems for the worldwide leader:

The voiceover states (verbatim), “espn dot com, slash… Bill Simmons, The Celtics, The Fighting Irish, Mike Golic, Serbian Table Tennis Sensation Biba Golic…” However, typing in espn.com/THEceltics does not work (caps for emphasis only). Nor does espn.com/THEfightingirish or espn.com/serbiantabletennissensationbibagolic! Ok, so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch, and when they quickly run through the URLs at the end of the commercial, the “the” is gone (as is the “serbian…”), but still, shouldn’t the voiceover state the URL correctly?

I suspected another flaw was that they showed spaces in the names of multi-word items (i.e. Bill (space) Simmons), but typing the space into the URL actually works! Clearly somebody was thinking of these types of issues, so how did they miss the announcer stating “The Celtics”???

Another issue I noted is that when you go to espn.com, it automatically redirects you to espn.go.com, a relic of Disney’s failed “Go” network of the late 90s. From the homepage, however, if I type “slash” billsimmons on the end of the espn.go.com URL, it does not work. Only when I type the full URL from scratch (i.e. espn.com/billsimmons) does it point me to the right place. It took me a minute to figure this out — and I’m quite good at this stuff. Would a normal user try more than once, or figure it out if they did? Doubtful.

Even if users are ready for the whole “slash” concept, these minor inconsistencies will surely create problems for some people and force them to have a negative impact on the overall campaign. It would certainly be enlightening to see how these commercials do in terms of audience response and traffic to the website, though I guess the only way to find out would be if some ESPN employee (you know who you are) would tell me.

2008 STC Annual Conference Paper

January 5th, 2009

I co-authored a paper on the effectiveness of distance communication that was presented at the 2008 STC Annual Conference.

It can be viewed here (pdf).

eTail 2008 Panel

August 8th, 2008

For the 2nd year in a row, I was asked to participate in a panel at eTail’s East Coast conference; I spoke on “Increasing the Quality of the User Experience”.

My comments about video are noted in this email marketing blog.

A year later, my comments are noted again in this article about video in email.

Online Market World Radio Interview

May 23rd, 2008

I was recently featured on Online Market World radio. Description of the interview:

QVC Chief Information Architect Mike Madaio shares QVC’s unified view of TV and online customers and what the company is doing to help deliver consistently great customer experiences across the board.

You can listen to the segment here.

2008 Online Market World Conference

May 20th, 2008

I was mentioned as featured speaker in the Online Market World Press Release:

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Amazon Kindle – Will I Buy One?

November 28th, 2007

Amazon claims that the “Kindle”, their new wireless reading device is revolutionary, because it “reads like real paper”, and I have to admit having kindle-envy from the moment I watched the video demonstration. Years from now, we will likely note the Kindle’s release as a landmark day in reading history, and will consistently place it near the top of those “most innovative gadgets of all time” lists.

I, however, despite my famous quote “Now that I think about it, I’m quite looking forward to interactive paper”, will not be one of the early converts to the Kindle… for one major reason: Money! Not only is the device $400, but you have to buy the books at retail price. Only suckers pay retail for books.

I get free and cheap books through several methods:

My Library! – I can search the county catalog online and have any book delivered to my local branch (for FREE), within 72 hours. Sure, I pay my fair share of late fees, but the money saved on books (especially ones that I borrow and DON’T like) makes it worthwhile.

Book Swapping Sites – I use PaperbackSwap, though there are a number of them out there. What I like about PBS is that there is no fee for a transaction (users pay their own shipping), and that I can gain credits by simply sending out books to any user — there is no need to find a user who wants the exact book that I have and has the exact book that I want.

Half.com/Amazon Marketplace/eBay – Unless you are looking for a niche product or something that has *just* been released, it can usually be had for less than half price on one of these sites.

So, unless there is some social reason why you need to read a book the week it comes out (i.e. Harry Potter), or it is a rare, non-mainstream title, there really is no reason to pay retail for a book.

Which brings me to the Kindle. If I pay $400 for one of these bad boys, will I also have to shell out more for everything I read? When I am done with a book, will I be able to resell the “used” version via Amazon marketplace? Will I be able to import free eBooks from other sites on the web like Project Gutenberg? Will I be able to trade Kindle “books” with other Kindle users?

One might argue that the Kindle price of books is far lower than hardcover new releases, so people who do buy a lot of those might benefit from Kindle. Sure, that is true, but at $5 savings per book (using Amazon prices), you will need to buy 80 books to break even, and this isn’t counting your ability to resell, trade and share real books that you purchase.

I realize this is just one way to look at the Kindle. There are many advantages. Firstly, the Kindle is really cool. Books aren’t. That’s worth something, right? It is also smaller and more convenient than many books. It has additional uses like the ability to preview books, get news and blog feeds, use wikipedia, etc. Features like word lookup, page and quote annotations, etc, may end up making the Kindle experience “better” than reading a book.

I’ll admit it: I want one! My only point is that they will need to address the social sharing and reuse values that regular books bring to the table if they ever want to replace them. (Or, just stop selling books. ;o)

Project Complete

November 25th, 2007

The majority of my time over the past 6 months have been spent working on the new release of the website for the company I work for. As I rule I do not talk about that here, but after everything we did, I feel the need to at least point out what we did. As with everything else, there are things I like and things I don’t.

[the site]

Is Email Still Fun?

November 4th, 2007

“I turn on my computer. I wait impatiently as it connects. I go online, and my breath catches in my chest until I hear three little words: You’ve. got. mail. I hear nothing. Not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beating of my own heart. I have mail.” ~ Kathleen Kelly, “You’ve Got Mail”

Today I was working in Firefox, and I decided to close the ubiquitous (for me) tab that was open to Yahoo! Mail, and, as I did so, I recall thinking: “I’ll just check back later, maybe I will get something good.”

This got me thinking — is checking your email fun anymore? It sure used to be, but now I hear people complain about the vastness of their inbox far more than I hear anyone talk like Kathleen Kelly (not that anyone was ever that gushing, but, at one time, people certainly loved email).

Perhaps email has just become like regular mail, where we get mostly junk, but still get that little twinge of anticipation each time we open the mailbox, because today could just be the day where something special lies inside.

The Big Issue with Google Docs

October 21st, 2007

I’ve been using Google Docs lately to write papers because it is so much easier to move from computer to computer than with traditional word docs. Once you get used to the interface, it really is just as effective… save for one major problem — there is no way to determine how much you have written!

Paul Stamantiou says it much better than I, so I suggest reading his post here.

“The problem comes with the fact that it is damn hard to get a real sense of how much you have written in Google Docs due to the lack of a proper, ruled page layout view. I have gotten to the point of frustration; continually copying and pasting my documents into a real word processor…”

Article: Staying User-Centric in the Maze of Web 2.0

September 13th, 2007

An article I wrote was recently published as a two-part blog post on the Notes on Design blog.

Read part 1, then click “view Mike’s next post” at the end to read part 2.

Guest Blogging

September 9th, 2007

I am currently guest blogging on “Notes on Design”, the blog of sessions.edu.

I’ll post all the links within this post.

Check back for more soon…

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