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Four Fails + One FTW: Nobody Likes The #Dickbar

2011 March 10

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Four Fails & A For The Win, how much explanation is needed anymore? Even if your cultural touchpoints go back to Hollywood Squares, the phrase “Sandy Duncan for the win!” might ring a bell. So let’s get started with the big mistake of the last week: Twitter’s Quick Bar, aka the #dickbar.

FAIL #1: Twitter Launches the Quick Bar, Driving Customers to Third Party Software

A popular topic of conversation in recent weeks was whether someone, or some company, was going to buy Twitter. Potential buyers included our future overlord Google; but the big question that has been asked is why someone would want to buy Twitter for such an exorbitant price when it hasn’t demonstrated much of an ability to be profitable yet.

For a while, the closest we had come to a direct revenue stream featured celebrities shamelessly including product placement in their tweets. Search #ad if you want examples. Since the layout of the website was originally just a single column timeline of tweets, there was no easy answer. So Twitter redesigned their website to allow for a lot of supplemental content on the right half of the screen. In this space, they list the most popular Trending Topics (that’s Twitter for “what everybody’s talking about”) and they use an eye-catching yellow button that says “Promoted Tweets” to let you know which of the topics are there thanks to truckloads of cash, rather than to metric tons of users.

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Problem is, some people don’t use the Trending Topics, and ignore that section of the page, and in most smart phone iPhone apps, this information is relegated to a page you have to poke around to find. Money spent on ad buys is wasted on all of these of users. Last Friday, Twitter released an update for their official iPhone App, where Trending Topics were mandatory, and showed up in something they called the Quick Bar, taking up a tenth of the already small screen. If you think this doesn’t pertain to you because you have an Android phone or just use the web version, just know that if it works here, they’ll bring it everywhere.

It was immediately seen as a giant gaffe on an aesthetic level, as obscuring text with more text and a semi-transparent shade bar is just plain ugly. I understand they need to pay the bills, but they missed an easy revenue stream here: paid upgrades. I don’t think the designers at Twitter are so dim as to think this looks awesome, so they should have tried to convince the guys in charge of marketing to offer the choice to turn off the Quick Bar, but that for a few bucks, the official Twitter app is great enough that many would pay the fee to keep it Quick Bar-free. This has already driven people away, and has been a boon to third party app developers, as we now have people like Mac Internet Talk Radio host Dan Benjamin telling their audiences to jump to Twitteriffic.

User ratings for Twitter's iPhone App as of late night March 9th show that the Quick Bar fans are in the minority.

The annoyance over the Quick Bar spread, leading Mac news blogger John Gruber to coin the phrase (and later, the hashtag) DickBar. Forcing the trending topics on users who don’t need them is to claim there’s only one real way to tweet. Trending topics are rarely about important current events, more frequently, they’re pop culture traffic, such as #BieberFever, #TeamTaylorSwift, and #RealWorld, things that most people don’t need to be bothered by, or told that they should be tweeting about.  Further, promoted hashtags aren’t always competent at keeping things on message. Right now the Promoted Tweet is from the soda beverage Sun Drop, who are using #howtodropit to try to start a campaign similar to the “There’s No Wrong Way To Eat A Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup” ads. The phrase “how to drop it,” though, can take on a litany of other meanings, most of them regarding shaking ass on the dance floor, but this can have you finding yourself associating your brand with jokes such as this gem from @AudiDiamonds: “I drop it like the bombs in the London station #howudropit“.

The Fix: On Wednesday, an update was released for the App that made the Quick Bar only exist above (not on top of) the tweets in your timeline, which, in a hilariious turn of events, has introduced bugs to the program. This is not enough. Let us pay to turn the feature off: we’re willing to compromise, damnit, so stop pushing your users away.

FAIL #2: RollingStone.com’s Subscriber Services Move at a Snail’s Pace:

RS

Rolling Stone Magazine has a subscriber-only section of their website which is similar to what The New Yorker has been doing for a while. While it makes perfect sense to expect that their password-protected web page should get the latest issue on the same day, if not earlier, than any newsstand gets that issue, this does not seem to be the case. In New York, Rolling Stone hits the news stands every other Wednesday, but this past Wednesday, the previous, Bieber-covered issue was still the new issue online, when many newsstands already featured the Snooki/Wiz Kalifa covered issue. In hindsight, I’m thankful that Rolling Stone kept Snooki off my monitor, but this points to the sluggish pace at which some magazines tend to deliver content online. This is not new for the publication, as they memorably took forever to get their giant story that got Stanley McChrystal fired online.

The Fix? In my recent diavlog, Collin Orcutt of SI.com noted that a wise strategy is to develop content in a way that prioritizes the web. SFGate reports that Rolling Stone has hired NY-based data services provider NYI to assist their current online re-launch. This is the firm that deals with US Weekly, so we can assume they know how to handle highly demanded traffic.

FAIL #3: Advance Notice of a Fail in the Making: Google Thinks the Website Address Bar Is Just Too Much

© Google, natch

Google’s Chrome web browser is the James Bond villain of its field. Google announced that they would no longer support the popular video codec H.264 months ago, and that still hasn’t happened, giving everybody plenty of time to lobby them to rethink the strategy, and to ditch the Chrome browser altogether. Now, they’ve let everyone know their plans to radically redesign the web experience by moving towards either the Compact or Sidetab view seen above. Laptop and desktop screen space is not so bad that the simple address field needs to go. This just smacks of being too clever, by a step or a few.

The Fix? I’d bet money this doesn’t even see the light of day. So, the fix is just to continue the negative press towards this silly idea.

FAIL #4: Captcha, If You Can (and You Probably Can’t)

Screen shot 2011 03 07 at 6 50 27 AMScreen shot 2011 03 07 at 6 59 18 AM

I noticed the weirdest thing when trying to download from a file storage service a couple days ago: Captchas with umlauts and the O with a line through it. Both times, I was nerdish enough to know the keystroke (Option+U, U and Option+O, respectively), but this is just ridiculous.

Fix? Again, easy: captchas need to not require keystrokes that you need experience working in a publishing house or editing in another language to be familiar with.

FOR THE WIN: The Internet Is Continuing to Save the Music Video

With MTV continuing to abandon the idea of playing music videos on its television networks, the Internet is continuing to play a large part in reviving the dying art form. Javier Douglas produced the above video for the LCD Soundsystem song “Dance Yrself Clean”, and it’s the best unofficial video I’ve ever seen. Previously, someone used a Kermit puppet to make a video for the LCD track “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” but this video goes above and beyond that idea. It features most of the Muppet gang, and since it was filmed on a street in the town of Brighton, England, you get to see the crowd reacting to this spectacle in a way that you yourself might be in front of your screen: surprised and joyful.

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