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The Expanding World of Online Video May 2010

Posted on June 4, 2010 by Josh Mc

Every month we look at the changes, updates and effects video is having on the online community, the big changes this month have been thanks to Google and their new site redesign. Now, while I expressed my opinion on Google’s New Layout there is one tweak that is nice, the video button is a lot more noticeable then it previously was, as seen below:

Comparison of Google Search Result Page

 

    • YouTube has turned five! Hard to believe the website has only been around for five years, I cannot wait to see what the next five years will bring. Watch the below video for a recap of some of the best videos as well as a timeline on their progress:

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Cutts Video on Google May Day Update

Posted on June 2, 2010 by Zach

For those interested in more information about the latest Google algorithm update, Matt Cutts has release a video via the Google Webmaster Help videos about the recent changes. He confirms that the changes are algorithmic, deliberate, non permanent and having nothing to do with Caffeine (their latest search architecture roll out) but that it basically tweaks their algorithm and specifically effects long tail searches. He goes on to say that the update was fully vetted and that they think it is a "quality win". In conjunction with Matt's comments there have certainly been some interesting discussions about this on different forums and blogs especially about people loosing a lot of long tail traffic so we are interested to see if that continues to be the case or if over time things settle down a little.

They have also released some other interesting Google Webmaster Help videos within the last week that you may also want to check out.


 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Why Building a Backup Payment System is Worth It

Posted on June 1, 2010 by josh

PayPal Payment Processor

Authorize.net Payment Processor

You may or may not know that on Thursday, May 27, 2010, PayPal suffered from a significant issue. This was nothing like the $2,000 per second outage that PayPal faced in August of 2009. A logic error with PayPal's risk model led to a higher-than-normal chance of transaction decline. According to a source at PayPal, the issue affected PayPal's direct payments system (not PayPal Express Checkout) and their virtual terminal. I was told that this was an "all hands on deck" incident for PayPal.

The issue began just before 8:30AM PST and lasted until about 4PM PST. I was notified by our customer service team that there was an issue with transactions just before 9AM. They came to me to let me know that a number of transactions were declined for, seemingly, no good reason. Later in the day, I received an update that the issue affected approximately 15% of transactions for PayPal. Although, we were likely to see a higher fail rate in our customer service center, since customer's who had experienced an issue were likely to contact us, try again, and fail, again. We saw a fail rate of closer to 50 - 60% during the issue period.

In development, we had already planned to begin development shortly on a backup payment processor process. In August of 2009, we had been directly, and severely, impacted by an Authorize.net downtime. We knew that we would face payment processor issues, again, at some point. Apparently, it's inevitable. Given the number of customers who contacted us about the current issue, and the untold number of customers who did not contact us, and the thousands of dollars in lost revenues, and the poor customer experience, we knew that we would need to bump this project in priority to A1 status. So, at this point we had already had experience transacting securely with two payment processors, and had already begun work in mapping out the new process. The dev began.

By about 4PM we had wrapped up testing the new process and were ready to push it live when I received a contact from PayPal that their risk model issue had been resolved and that transactions had returned to normal. Classic. Well, we didn't beat the PayPal clock, but we did learn some things.

1) Payment processors fail. As much as I'd like to believe that they're committed to five-nines up-time, I know that will never happen.

2) Customers hate getting errors at checkout, especially after they've already entered their credit card information. I know it makes me uneasy when it happens to me; you don't have to have more than one phone call from a panicked customer to know that you've really wrecked the whole experience.

3) It's not a very difficult problem to solve. Chances are you have spent a great deal of time, energy, and resources negotiating rates and developing a system and reading through an API manual and following PCI requirements.

Building a backup system is still likely worth the time and effort, if not for the untold number of lost transactions, for the customer experience. Now I am left wondering, though, 'What happens when both processors fail at the same time?! ... I am kidding, of course; we just direct them to use Google Checkout.

 

 

Five Reasons I Moderately Dislike List Blogs

Posted on May 26, 2010 by Sean

I read a lot of blogs. Ashamedly, I’ve fairly recently been introduced to a fantastic piece of technology from Google (only a few years late, right?) so now it’s easier for me than ever to read my favorite blogs in one sweet location.  In my ocular travels, I’m starting to notice a few things about list blogs.

Five Reasons I Moderately Dislike List Blogs

  1. They’re everywhere. With something like Google reader, all of my favorite blogs are aggregated into a neatly formatted page allowing me to consume or navigate away from the latest offerings from my favorite writers. This is great for convenience, but because it allows for almost side-by-side comparisons of different authors, the homogeny is often obvious.

  2. They promote the “lowest common denominator” - I suppose if you want your blog to read like journalism or quick info-fare, a list blog might be fine. What happens when we read list blogs (or anything with a list) is that readers are visually drawn to the list, leaving the requisite intro paragraph largely unread. For me at least, it seems that while they might generate readers, they do very little to convert readers. That is, draw them into your story, compel us to learn or feel, or support. These are the kind of viewers/readers/customers that companies pay billions for.

  3. Life isn’t a list. There are many days (all of them) I hope for neatly packaged instructions for life. Sadly, each of those days, I come to find that there isn’t actually “five keys to financial success!” or “fourteen keys to happiness.” I suppose financial success comes through hard work and discipline (two steps by last count) and there are probably far more than fourteen ways to become happier. But, we’re served convenient lists of ways to change our life, I suspect because…

  4. They’re easy. It’s easier to write in list format but it feels a little like suffocating the real writer. My favorite writers are ones who take sudden lefts when the reader wants to go straight. They hike the longer trail for the beauty of it. Or, simply, they give you two paragraphs of wisdom and move on. List blogs assume a dedicated format (listing, generally chronologically) and there’s little room for creativity – though it’s taxing, it’s necessary for real art. Conversely, sometimes it feels like writers really have two points to make, but because a two-point list is strange, they unnecessarily drag it out into five-points, sometimes essentially restating an original tip. See next point for proof of this phenomenon.

  5. They’re everywhere. They’re here, and here, and here. Writers covet readers, but readers covet newness and fresh ideas. Why don’t we treat readers with the respect they deserve? A person or company who asks us to read what they’ve written is an imposition on their time (read this, instead of that.) And it’s one of the most honoring and humbling and special feelings I can think of. We’re given so many minutes each day, to have someone to spend several of them learning with you is actually kind of profound.

I confess, originally the title was “Reasons I hate list blogs” but through writing a list blog, I kind of realized that I don’t hate them, I just hate what they sometimes represent. Sometimes, they’re absolutely necessary. They draw our focus to the point, and when constructed simply, it simply works.

It looks like another element consistent throughout this week’s blog aggregation is ending your blog with a question. So, as I’ve ironically (perhaps bitterly) written a list blog decrying list blogs, I will end with a deep and poignant question germane to the formula, typically used to inspire comments and conversation. Also, a generic stock-photo related to your blog topic doesn’t hurt (see above.)

What kind of blog do you prefer to read? Do list blogs hold your attention?

 


Kohler is arguably one of the most innovative brands in the home improvement industry. The new Karbon faucet has completely transformed the kitchen and more specifically revolutionized the kitchen faucet. Meanwhile Kohler seems to effortlessly create bathroom fixtures that are not only sleek but save water, like the Escale toilet.

Google Wave is Now Open To All Users

Posted on May 19, 2010 by Josh Mc

Today at Google’s I/O Conference Google announced that they are making Google Wave (which before today was invite only) open to everyone at wave.google.com.
 
Google wave is a tool to increase productivity by turning traditional email into a sort of email chat hybrid that allows much faster and easier communication and collaboration. Watch the video below for more information.



Trevor posted about this software when it was highly buzzed about at its beta launch earlier this year, but the buzz has dropped off since. However, Google has added many new features such as undo and email notification options and is encouraging those that have tried during the beta to give it another go now.
 
So head over to wave.google.com to try it yourself and let us know what you think about it in the comments.

 


 

Five Ways to Annoy Your Colleagues

Posted on May 18, 2010 by Arianna

Don’t understand why your co-workers dislike you? Well, here are a few common ways people annoy ones co-workers. Following these easy annoyances will ensure your co-workers will look forward to the day you are no longer with the company. Want harmony in your workplace, then I suggest you read and take heed.

Talking on your cell phone is one way to annoy your colleagues

1. Don’t carry your own weight

If you don’t do your part in a department then someone else has to do it for you. Someone will be left to pick up the slack, this inevitably causes resentment and can become a domino effect. Soon others will start slacking because you do it and get away with it. Next thing you know your department is crashing down in flames.

2. Be Sarcastic in work emails/chats

Being sarcastic with co-workers can lead to their disrespect of you, especially since sarcasm can’t always be detected in emails and chats. Thinking before you speak is too hard anyway so why try, right? Unless you believe your co-worker is your best friend, then its best to leave the sarcasm at home.

3. Talk down to your co-workers

Jumping on people when they ask a simple question is a great start to irritating your co-workers. Many people think that talking down to colleagues will build themselves up, but an “I’m better than you” attitude will not make you appear stronger. If not already an implemented rule in a company, then it should become one: Thou should respect thy co-worker.

4. Talk loudly on your cell phone/work phone

Your co-workers don’t need to listen to your cell phone conversations. More importantly, don’t have your phone so loud that people around you can actually hear the other person on the line. It’s not only distracting to the person sitting around you, but if you are really loud, then maybe even the whole company. Being a distraction will not look good on your next performance review.

5. Eavesdrop in others’ conversations

When someone comes and asks your co-worker a question, make sure that you answer before the person who was actually asked. In order to do this you have to be really good at eavesdropping. The definition of eavesdrop is to listen secretly to a private conversation of others. You can also turn around and include yourself in others’ conversations; this will irritate not only your co-worker but the other person asking the question. The wiser choice would be “Do not speak unless spoken to.”

 

All humor aside, it truly is important to make a good impression at work. Leaving a good impression and being likeable can lead to promotions, and co-worker support.

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of May 14th, 2010

Posted on May 14, 2010 by Vanessa
  • I haven’t tried but apparently Facebook doesn’t make it very easy to delete your account. Read Write Web just released an article about the recent uptick in searches for deleting Facebook accounts, which seems counter intuitive in relation to Facebook’s current popularity, but many seem to be turning to Google to find out how to do so. Since this story was written, I captured my own screenshot and it appears to be an even greater climbing search since then. You can see this reflected by Google’s search suggestion set below:

  • Google search suggestions how do I

  • Josh isn’t the only one disappointed with Google’s new search layout according to a recent post by Virginia of Bruce Clay’s blog.  In her post she notes that “thousands of people have downloaded the Hide Google Options plugin for Firefox and Chrome”.

  • Mashable releases exclusive information on Twitter’s new Business Center.  According to Mashable and their sources at Twitter the new business features will add a variety of features like the ability to receive direct messages from non-followers and the ability to verify business accounts.

  • I thought this TechCrunch article was really interesting - “Digg’s Biggest Problem Is Its Users And Their Constant Opinions On Things”.  TechCrunch points out that Digg’s history of making changes according to user uproars and complaints has actually hurt the company.  They compare this to Facebook’s strategy of “you may go pound sand” and point out that Facebook has reaped the benefits of this approach.  Interesting read.

  • I’ve worked in the “Nerdery” (a room full of nerds) and had to adapt to feeling out of place.  One thing I learned about nerds is that they speak in acronyms, and if you don’t catch on quickly you can find yourself really behind in any given conversation.  Linda Bustos decided to help those of you new to this type of situation by publishing “99 Ecommerce Acronyms”.

 

 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Is Google Losing Their Organic Roots?

Posted on May 13, 2010 by Josh Mc

Am I the only one that thinks that Google’s changes are making organic search almost useless? Take a look at the below screen shot to see what I am talking about.

Google Search bathroom faucets

 

The actual fold of the page is right around the start of the shopping results. Scroll down some more and you see the local business results, most searchers probably don’t even get past this as there is so much eye candy and things to click on that your mind is overloaded. Sure Google is trying to give the customer a good experience by offering them options, but basically there are two organic search results in this whole mess.
 
Add to that the new suggested brands addition, which basically Google is saying “Hey you searched for this word but wouldn’t you rather have this brand attached to this word?” While this may be helpful for some searchers, it is confusing for others and actually hurts companies that are trying to rank organically for certain keywords as they not only have to battle the competitors, but also Google’s “improvements” and all of the big name manufacturers they are suggesting you were searching for.
 
All I'm saying is that Google built their search engine on the idea of providing the best results in a simple manner, but if you cannot even find the results in their barrage of suggestions and ads, then when does it stop becoming a search engine that provides information and start becoming a business that allows big manufacturers and those that pay big bucks to keep out the people trying to rank organically? Google, sometimes when people search for bathroom faucets, they actually want websites that provide general information on bathroom faucets; not videos, not the manufacturer, and not local options, but information.

But I digress. What do you guys think about this? Is it too much, or is it good for the customer experience?

 

Explore the Earth in 3D on Google Maps

Posted on May 12, 2010 by Vanessa

Niagara Falls in Google Earth view

Now exploring the world on Google Maps is even more engaging with the utilization of Earth View in Google maps.  Earth view can bring maps to life with 3D imagery.  In Google maps click the Earth button, if you don’t already have it installed you’ll be prompted to install the Google Earth Plugin.  The video below describes the new 3D features.  Some of the more interesting features are the ability to tilt your view with the click of a mouse and then share that particular view using the link provided (which is how I was able to get the screen shot above of Niagara Falls).



 


Kohler is arguably one of the most innovative brands in the home improvement industry. The new Karbon faucet has completely transformed the kitchen and more specifically revolutionized the kitchen faucet. Meanwhile Kohler seems to effortlessly create bathroom fixtures that are not only sleek but save water, like the Escale toilet.

How to Decipher Your UPS Bill

Posted on May 11, 2010 by Jeff

It doesn’t matter what phone you’re carrying, smart or not, at the end of the month we all endure the madness of deciphering a three to ten page cell phone bill (+/-). I mean really what is a Federal Excise Tax? CNET and others have actually gone so far as to write guides, “How to read your cell phone bill”.

Take that same madness and multiply it by 400 to 500 pages and you have an average Gordian Project weekly UPS bill. That’s right, multiply that for a month and we’re comparing a couple thousand pages to our three to ten page cell phone bill example.  UPS provides the following sample invoice. The “summary of charges” is simply defined as being broken out by billing option, adjustments, and other charges. It’s those adjustments and “other” charges you want to look out for. In fairness a glossary of detailed terms is also provided. However, sifting through all those pages to identify the charges, calculating the individual dollars associated to them, and then watching for trends week to week is all but a full time job.

UPS Sample Invoice

If you’re experiencing similar frustration or just interested in better understanding what you’re cutting a check for I would recommend enrolling in UPS Billing Data. Along with your physical or PDF invoice, UPS provides the raw data in CSV, XML, or EDI format.  That raw data (CSV only) can then be used in conjunction with the UPS Billing Analysis Tool to, “create customized reports, organize your billing data from multiple accounts into a single data file, and integrate the information into your company's business systems.” The tool is helpful but limited.

To simplify the review of data I built an excel file to calculate the dollars, quantity, and average weight of each of the 97 billing options, adjustments, and other charges. Now, by simply dropping the weekly UPS Billing Data (CSV only) into the “Data” worksheet and selecting the weeks to be compared in the “Summary” worksheet the file sifts through all those thousands of pages of billing data, identifies the charges, calculates the dollars associated to them, and provides a high level view of the weekly trends. Long story short you know what you’re writing a check for.