Monday, March 21, 2016

Adobe Jumps the Shark

I love Adobe Systems.  I worked there three different times, and was employee #40 when it was just a tiny little start-up.  I grew up with Adobe, built some important software for them, wrote one of the seminal books on PostScript.

But for god's sake, who's in charge over there, and what are they doing?  I have never had such miserable experiences with installers, updaters, subscriptions forced upon me, crashing applications, and overall lack of awesomeness.  If Adobe is in decline, it's Adobe's own fault.  You don't have to sit back and be old and pointless.  You just don't.  Photoshop isn't any better than it was 10 years ago, and may be slightly worse.

You have all seen Adobe Air update messages -- two a week for a while there -- without any idea of what Adobe Air is, or why you want it, or why it needs to be upgraded.  But this is the one that sent me over the edge today, as I was concentrating on some work that I was doing.  Up pops the most useless dialog box ever, to interrupt my concentration.  You launch an updater to tell me that I don't need to update?  Really?

I recently tried to upgrade my Acrobat Pro (yes, I'm one of those people who actually paid for Acrobat Pro -- several times).  I bought an update, because I have at least 5-10 valid serial numbers from the, past, because I've been buying it over and over again -- not because it keeps getting better, but because it won't run on modern systems unless you upgrade it, and you can't upgrade it without paying.

So I buy an upgrade, and it tells me that my existing serial number is too old, and the upgrade won't work.  Okay, well crap, okay.  So I can no longer use the app because I attempted to upgrade it, and I can't easily get my $199 back other than by spending $449 for the full version and then calling tech support and asking for my $199 back.  Maybe Adobe's cloud could notice that my upgrade isn't valid and automatically refund my money, and delight me?  Naaaah. So for months I've been unable to use Acrobat Pro because I don't feel like calling tech support and spending 30 minutes on the phone to fix it.  I'll just quit using it. Take it out of my dock. Print things out, sign them, scan them back in, rather than using Acrobat to sign documents. Sigh.

I have five or six Macs in my office, and on all of them, sporadically, I am told that Adobe Creative Cloud is messed up, and I have the opportunity to Quit.  What I really need is to find and run the uninstaller and remove it from my systems, but I don't have the time or inclination. Maybe the little dialog should offer that as an option?

Adobe has an "Uninstaller" because it installs so much crap in so many places in your system:

I have to sign in to some cloud to use software.  I don't want that.  I don't want to subscribe to something and pay every month for something that I only use occasionally.  I want to pay $600 and get to use it whenever I want.  That's what products are supposed to be.  Whoever decided that people want to pay monthly for productivity software is just wrong, and listening to the wrong people: the Wall Street analysts who want recurring revenue.

Here's a little secret: if people start to hate your products and your business practices, you won't have recurring revenue for long.  The recurring part is based on trust and value. At this point, you are losing both.

I'm clinging to Illustrator and Photoshop CS5 because they just keep working, though now they all crash on Quit, because the operating system evolved but they didn't.

Is that what you want, Adobe?  For loyal customers to go away?

Come on, Adobe, put somebody else in charge and fix this stuff before it's too late.  It's way past ridiculous and broken.

Glenn Reid

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nest Thermostat: No, Thank You.

Nest Thermostat Review: 2 out of 10

I bought a Nest thermostat, partly to learn about it from a professional standpoint, and partly because I was excited to try it out. People are raving about them.

Bottom line: after several days of trying it out and setting it up, I got so angry at it that I took it off the wall, put back the ancient one that it was replacing, boxed it up, and I'm returning it. I *never* return *anything*, so this is notable.

Nest Sucks at Being a Thermostat

The thing that's wrong with Nest is that it isn't very good at its basic function: being a thermostat. There are two things that it should do:
  1. Determine the temperature in the room, and the desired temperature, and try to make the room be the desired temperature.
  2. Turn the furnace on and off.
On the first point, yes, it kind of does that, but it doesn't show you the current temperature in the room -- only the desired temperature.  It knows the current temperature in the room, right? And every other thermostat on the market shows you both temperatures, right? So why is it that there is literally no way to see the current temperature in the room?  The only answer I can think of is: "design".  We didn't want to mess up the beautiful display by showing you two numbers, because that would look bad.  Right.  Good decision.

On the second point, turning the furnace on/off, the brand-new 3rd Generation Nest with a fresh software update ... fails miserably. The furnace runs for a while, then I think when the room temperature is just about the desired temperature, it starts to cycle the furnace on/off every 3- 4seconds, for quite a number of minutes. As a programmer, I'm pretty sure this is because the temperature sensor is not quite accurate enough, so when it's on the line between 68 and 69, let's say, it flips back and forth (maybe the temperature is 68.5643 and it rounds off to 68 then to 69 then back to 68 as the temperature fluctuates 0.001 degrees.

This is so basic to the functionality of a thermostat that they probably have internal brown-bag lunches on this topic at Honeywell, when you join the thermostat engineering group. Hysteresis, they call it. Except they don't seem to  have thermostat engineers at Nest, just "user experience designers."


Nest is Not That Helpful

Okay, it sucks at being a thermostat, but isn't it awesome as an Internet of Things poster child? Sort of. The app is nice, and it does show remote status pretty well, and remote control (except for that part about "what temperature is the room, anyway?). But it's focused on saving energy, which is great, but it is not very focused on making me warm on a cold day, which is the other reason for having a thermostat.


Nest has a feature they call Auto-Away, which uses the built-in motion sensor to decide whether or not you're home (a pretty good idea) and turns the furnace down when you're not around. This would be great, except for WHEN YOU ARE HOME, and just NOT IN FRONT OF THE THERMOSTAT.

Motion detector delays are pretty standard, right? Like your motion detector light fixture on your front porch. There's a switch on there to decide how long a delay you want.

Nest's Auto-Away feature has exactly one control: ON or OFF.  That's it.  You can't set the delay for how often you walk by the thermostat. It seems to have a really short one, like 10 minutes, after which it decides you aren't home and TURNS DOWN THE HEAT.  That is so completely not helpful, on a cold day.

When you find yourself getting out of your chair many times during a day and walking into the room with the thermostat in it and waving your arms, to try to make the heat go back on, you start to realize that the product is badly designed and implemented.

Remote Control

Which brings me to the last feature, the ability to control the furnace from someplace else. This is totally great, and works well.  AND YOU NEED IT, becuase you have to turn Auto-Away off, because it sucks and that's your only choice (ON or OFF). But if Auto-Away is off, then you have to turn it off remotely if you are Away, and forgot to turn the heat down.

Fail.  Epic fail, all in all, because it has all the ingredients of being awesome, but absolutely sucks at doing its basic job.

Shame on Google, for buying them and placing such high success value on a product which just really isn't awesome at all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Blog Reboot

I have had this blog for 11 years now, and there's a lot of stuff lurking in the archives.  It is a reflection of me, I suppose, though a disorganized one, without any particular theme.

I have a couple of other blogs, one of which is over here: and has the distinction of hosting my most-read blog post so far, about working with Steve Jobs.  But there isn't much content over there, alas, and the technology behind that blog is not good.

I have started a new blog at which hasn't been unveiled yet, and will be specific to the book contents.  I think that's okay

So I'm rebooting this blog going forward, changing the focus a little, and letting the past, and archives, fly as they may.

Maybe I will blog about internet clich├ęs, like the "under construction" graphics  of yore (I almost included one, except no one would read this text if I had), or this:

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Apple: Don't Lose My Data!

Quite a few of us old timers have been bitching about the fact that Apple got rid of "Save As..." in the document model.

But few have noticed that it actually creates a situation where you LOSE DATA!  This should be filed as a Priority 1 showstopper bug.  Anything that causes you to LOSE DATA is a bad thing.  In fact, the main argument Apple made in favor of persistent storage instead of having Save and Save As was so you wouldn't lose data.

First, the dialog box from Hell:

I was editing an important file, but left it open (commonplace, and usually not destructive).  Meanwhile, I edited the same file on another computer, with different changes, and saved it to my shared (Dropbox) location, so it sync'ed out from under TextEdit.

This has happened countless times in the past, and TextEdit was smart enough to notice it, and tell me not to save over the other file.  This dialog box purports to do the same thing, BUT WITH A CRITICAL DIFFERENCE.  It does not allow me to Save As... to preserve my changes (because Save As... is not a feature any more!).

My two choices are [LOSE CHANGES] and [LOSE OTHER CHANGES].  How is that a good choice?

I had to think about this one for a while, and I went out to the Finder, made a backup of my file, clicked "Save Anyway", then manually merged the changes between the two files.  Messy, and not for the faint of heart.

Apple UI Fail

Interface Design

I used to build software at Apple.  I was once a preeminent user interface designer, before they called it either Human Interface (as if there are other kinds of users) or User Experience (as if you get to control the experience some other way than through the interface).  Anyway, I notice more and more Total Fails in Apple software, and I've decided to start blogging about it, for no particular reason other than hoping to help the current/next generation of UI designers to actually think about some of this stuff.  It's not that hard.  So this is a continuing series, now that this is my second post on the subject.  Lots more to come, especially if I get any reinforcement from blog readers.

Today's Fail

This is obviously Safari.  I restarted after having to install Flash yet-again, and because the browsers are too lame to load plug-ins without restarting them, I had to restart all my browsers. And yes, of course I use Chrome and real browsers, but I also use Safari.  I choose "Reopen All Windows From Last Session", a menu command that wouldn't be there if the program were stable or smart, but there it is, and I use it all the time.

One of the pages I had open was evidently the result of having submitted a form, hence this dialog, but (and here's the Fail) THERE'S NO WAY FOR ME TO KNOW WHICH ONE. The dialog has no useful information in it, like the URL it is attempting to visit, or what the form might have been about.  Was it a purchase?  Or was it just a weather site where I had entered my zip code?  I don't know, and I can't tell.

Luckily I know enough about this stuff to know that it doesn't matter, because anything that I might worry about (repeating a transaction on an e-commerce site) will have lost authentication and sessionID and therefore it's very unlikely I will get in any trouble by clicking Send.  And yet I am slightly uneasy anyway, even as an expert user.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Worst Dialog Box Ever

I recently was presented with this dialog box on my phone, which I nominate as "Worst Ever":

How many things are wrong with this?  First of all, it's a double negative: "Are you sure you don't want to?"  I had to read that twice.

User Interface guidelines going back 25 years, on the first page or two, suggest the obvious, that the button you click should continue the momentum of the choice that you are confirming.  So:

    Are you sure you want to delete the file "bad idea.rtf"?

        [Cancel]  [Delete]

I read the above dialog box and could not convince myself which button would mean "Yes, I am sure that I DON'T WANT to upgrade."  Cancel sounds like it would cancel the upgrade, and Continue sounds like it would go ahead and upgrade me, when in fact the buttons mean the opposite: "Continue" means "stop, don't upgrade", and Cancel means "go back and choose again," which means I can change my mind and actually upgrade.

This is a needlessly confusing dialog box with the wrong buttons and a poorly-worded question.  There are only three elements to the whole dialog: the question, and the two button titles -- and all three of them are terrible.  Only a talking paper clip could have made it any worse.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Can we drop the leading "WWW." please?

The "www." that preceded web addresses for 20 years is almost as misunderstood as the http:// that precedes it. Modern users of web browsers will note that both are dispensable.  You can enter into any browser and you will get to the right place.

The reason is relatively technical.  http:// is a protocol, which indicates what language you should be speaking if you open a connection to that server.  When on a web browser, the presumption is that you will be speaking HTTP, though you can also get ftp:// and even iTunes:// to work in a browser.

But www. is even murkier in history.  Technical there is nothing special about www. as you can see from URL's that have things like www3. in them. Unlike http://, it is not a magi word that is meaningful to the browser.  It is actually just a subdomain like any other. or  A subdomain is a matter of efficiency that lets traffic be routed to a different server for different purposes.  In the early days, it was helpful, sometimes even mandatory, that the web server be a different computer from, say, the FTP server or the SMTP (mail) server.  So if you didn't type it might not actually work at all.

Nowadays that is long gone, except for domains that are poorly configured, of which there may be a few -- but none that matter.

To all of you who are creating business cards, or painting your web site on the side of your truck, or worse of all, saying "double you double you double you" out loud on radio ads ... please just omit the www. (and the http://) and direct people to and be done with it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Origins of the Peace Sign

I found this fascinating: the Peace Sign, which we all take for granted as an icon, was designed by somebody, on purpose, to advocate nuclear disarmament:
"It was invented by a member of our movement (Gerald Holtom) as the badge of the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War, for the 1958 Aldermaston peace walk in England. It was designed from the naval code of semaphore, and the symbol represents the code letters for ND.'"

Borrowed liberally from this site: Peace Sign History

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Mediocrity Creeps Back: A Review of iPhoto '11

iPhoto, You've Changed...

I led the original team that built iPhoto 1.0 (I have the custom-printed T-shirt and scars to prove it). I still use iPhoto and I still love it, 12 years later.  But I also have some criticisms.  For the record, I was responsible for iPhoto 1.0 through (I think) iPhoto 4.0, but I have not worked at Apple since the end of 2003.

I just now started using iPhoto '11 because I have resisted updating to Lion and Mountain Lion (I still like Snow Leopard better). But I bought a new laptop, so I'm using all the new stuff, like it or not. I mention this only because my perspective on iPhoto '11 is fresh, having just started using it.

Overall, my impression of iPhoto '11 is that it has some interesting new features that I won't use, and some old ones that I wish would go away (Face Recognition), but worse, the user interface has gradually degraded. It is pretty, and it is "easy to use", but it does not strike the right balance between power and ease of use.  It just isn't as good as previous versions, for the same level of functionality.

The mantra for iPhoto 1.0 was essentially that the user interface should disappear — photos are something you look at, so you want a very visual interface, with more photo, less UI.  This is the balance that is largely missing in iPhoto '11.  There is much more UI, and a lot less Photo.

The biggest problem is that the tools in iPhoto '11 are inside the area used for the photo itself, so if you click on Info or Edit, the photo gets [dramatically] smaller to make room for the tools.  This is maybe good for "ease of use", but bad for "usability".  The buttons in the Edit panel are way wider than they need to be, because the Info/Edit space is fixed size — but what a waste of space for labeled buttons that say things like "Crop" and "Adjust".

In the screen shots here, you can see the photo before and after the Info button is clicked, and how much the photo is reduced in size.

The whole point of iPhoto is the photos -- they should be as large as possible.  Calculating the area in pixels, I see that the photo occupies only 42.9% of the pixels within the window.  Less than half of the area of the screen is devoted to the photo!  It's much worse when a photo is in Portrait orientation — only 30% of the available pixels are used for the photograph!

A couple of versions back, the Adjust user interface was a floating panel, and the other features (like Crop and Enhance) were along the bottom bar, using far less screen real estate. The functionality of this new vertical strip of space is the same, but its use of space is dramatically worse. This is a step in the wrong direction. I know how decisions like this are made: in the name of "consistency".  Put all the features in the same piece of real estate, because they are similar.  But this is a programmer's point of view, not necessarily a user's point of view, and if it has consequences like reducing the amount of space to display the photo (and also changing the view when you Edit, so it changes size up and down as you're viewing) then it is a bad decision.  To quote the late Steve Jobs, "consistency is overrated."

Next topic: Manage Keywords:

Where did these keywords come from? I certainly didn't create them, and I don't want to look through them, much less use them.  What the heck is this?!  It's surprising, confusing, and useless. The keywords bear a vague resemblance to some of my photos, including words such as "barrel" and "cloud", leading me to believe that there is some kind of feature recognition going on — like face recognition but for barrels and clouds — that suggests these keywords for me to use.


And if the features are all now in the window as Edit and Create and Add To (which I don't like, obviously) why are Keywords in their own floating panel?  Why not put Adjust back in a floating panel, which is better than where it is now, since I can see my photo better?  There isn't much cohesive thought going into these features, or their arrangement.  I suspect Design By Committee.

I could find fault with many more features, as everything I look at has gotten slightly more cluttered, less good, or otherwise muddled, but I will stop there on the laundy list, and consider the more philosophical underpinnings of these choices...


Software design is about making tradeoffs: space vs. accessibility, speed vs. fidelity, ease of use vs. power. We thought a lot about these issues 10-12 years ago, and struck a good balance where you mostly saw your photos, and didn't have a bunch of useless features.  I think that balance has gradually eroded since then, each release being slightly less good than the one that came before it. It is amusing, and saddening, to see some of the tradeoffs that we made so long ago being reversed — with the outcome that was predicted those long years ago:

Maybe it's slightly easier to find the Adjust controls (which you only need to do once ever), and it's more consistent now (which doesn't matter that much), but the photo is now a lot smaller when you're editing it — and that's not worth it!  Bad tradeoff.

Sort Photos...

One of the few anecdotes I tell about Steve Jobs is from iPhoto 1.0, when we were just about to ship it. And I mean just about to ship it!  It was December, and we were in Golden Master Candidate 3 or something close to that.  No more changes, other than very high-priority bug fixes, and those only cautiously.  We had a Sort Photos submenu, just exactly as it appears in iPhoto '11

Steve was going through the menus one final time before we shipped it, and he stopped on this submenu.  The conversation went something like this:

Steve: "What is this menu for?"
Glenn: "So you can sort your photos by different things."
Steve [looking through them]: "They are sorted by Date by default, right?"
Glenn: "Yes."
Steve: "Get rid of that menu item" [Sort By Date]
Glenn: "Okay."
Steve: "Why would you want to Sort By Caption?"
Glenn: "I can't think of any good reason to sort by caption"
Steve: "Get rid of it."
Glenn: "Okay."
Steve: "Why would you want to sort by any of these other things?"
Glenn: [some lame possibilities provided]
Steve: "Get rid of the whole menu."
Glenn: "I can do that easily, as you know, in Interface Builder — but the documentation, particularly the localized documentation, will need to be changed, too, and we don't have enough time for that."
Steve: [after a few moments thought]: "Fuck the French and German documentation."

So of course we made the change, and of course Cheryl Thomas' team managed to update the French and German documentation on time anyway, by working late hours, and we shipped it without the Sort Photos submenu.  I realized that Steve was right, that you really didn't need to sort your photos by this and that, when there were already so many other ways to organize and view your photos, and probably few people would ever use the Sort Photos menu, and all it did was clutter up the application.

So it seems odd to me that the Sort Photos menu is now back, and Steve is gone. It makes me sad, considering both of those points.  Will mediocrity start to take over, now that he is gone? It is as though Sort Photos won out, in the end.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mobile is the Future! Or is it?

I hear this every day: "The future is mobile."  Yahoo is getting on that train now, everybody is getting on board.  I am not so sure this is a smart bet in the long term, unless you're betting against the U.S. economy.  Here's why I think that.

The information economy is a combination of two basic things:

  1. Doing work and producing things.
  2. Talking about work, and talking about producing things.
The United States, as a whole, has been transitioning from (1) to (2) over the past 50 years, although we are also, to some extent, reinventing the ways in which we do work and produce things, in digital terms. But the transition away from production toward "making money as a sir effect of other people producing things" is showing pretty strong.
After everything is said and done, there's always a lot more said than done. 
You can make a case that mortgage-backed securities, insurance, Gmail, Facebook, Goldman Sachs as a whole, and Skype are all Category 2 activities, as are the meetings in which we all spend half our days, talking about what we're going to do.

You can also make a good case that Tesla Motors, Make Magazine, SpaceX, and Google Glass  are proof that we're making a resurgence back to Category 1 production-based roots.

But this is all backdrop against which I am considering the computer industry itself, the purveyor of tools for the information economy: where is the growth market for people using computing technology: Category 1, or Category 2, and which way is it trending?

I believe that real computers -- laptops and desktops -- will hold a firm grip on the part of the economy that actually produces work product, whether it's manufacturing or spreadsheets, images, video, or the written word. You need a real keyboard, a big screen, and a file system to "do work".

Mobile platforms, on the other hand, are great for communication, keeping up in real time, touching base, chatting, updating status, checking in. You just can't actually type a paragraph or edit anything meaningful.

The real reason that Mobile is a high-growth area right now, outselling computers and seeming like a trend, is that people are backfilling a void that has existed, where these tools were not part of the workflow -- and also that the phones/tablets themselves have short-life obsolescence built in, so you need to update them a lot more often.

But I simply do not believe that mobile technology is replacing desktop/laptop technology. I think it is augmenting it, as a better communications platform, which is why the phone itself has proven to be the perfect platform for this: it's communications technology, not work-producing technology.

If you believe that people doing real work and producing things is disappearing and we're all going to just be talking about it on our tablets and phones -- and if you're actually right about that -- then I'm moving to some other country.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blow up your TV. Throw Away Your Paper. Move to the Country.

A hear a lot of complaining recently about Google and Facebook and how evil they might be, and how they are taking over the world, and invading your privacy, and blah blah blah.

News flash: using a credit card is far more invasive of your privacy than anything on the internet. They know everything about you at Visa, and they sell it to everybody else.  It has been going on for a long time, and you don't seem to care. Facebook has very little information, comparatively.  Quit worrying about it.

The internet is the TV of the new generation. Remember when hippies were yelling about turning off the "boob tube" and how it was rotting our collective brains and how TV alone would destroy modern civilization?  Farmville is equivalent to "Green Acres".  The internet is equivalent to TV -- it is an entertainment medium, supported by advertising. The only real difference is that TV has become really expensive (yet still ad-supported) and the internet is still mostly free.  Though I suppose Comcast has their hands in both of those pockets, don't they?

You don't have to use Google search, or Gmail, or Google Calendars, or any of the rest of it.  You don't.  But you can if you want to, and it's [mostly] free, so why not?

It's just that simple.  People need to shut up and make their choices.  Watch TV if you want to.  Create a Tumblr if you want to.  And if you don't want to, or are worried about your privacy, then don't.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Adobe Creative Cloud 1 - First Impressions

Adobe is really launching the Creative Cloud with CS6.  I decided to have a look.  I'm a very long-term power user of Adobe products, so I have been very curious to see what the Creative Cloud is all about.

The first thing you have to deal with (note that I didn't say "enjoy") is the Adobe Application Manager.  It's a little bit better than its predecessor, but stills seems to think that it is better about downloading apps than, say, the browser. I'm not sure I agree.  It also has some issues (see below).

I have a pretty strong feeling that it brought down my internet connection, which is normally rock solid.  I clicked on a large number of apps to download (who wouldn't, with a new Cloud offering?), and after a few minutes and one successful download/install, the internet connection was hung up so badly that I had to hard reset the Comcast router.  Maybe that was a coincidence.  I started a whole bunch of downloads after reboot, to see.

The next thing I noticed is that two of the apps that I downloaded -- directly from Adobe -- needed updates immediately after I downloaded them!  What's up with that?!

Adobe Lightroom 4.4 shows that it downloaded, but the "Launch App" link is grayed out, and the app seems not to be present in the Applications folder (!?).

This is a fairly major problem because (1) it seems not to have installed the app, and (2) I can't click "Install" because there is no Install link.  Re-launching the Application Manager shows Lightroom 4.4 as "Up to date" but it's not in Applications and I don't believe it's installed.  This seems like a MAJOR BUG.  IT also shows Photoshop and Illustrator and Flash Professional and Premiere all need Updates.  Aaaargh!  I *just* downloaded them, guys!

The installer should have links that take you to a page describing these apps.  I didn't know what Prelude was, or Muse, or Audition, and there was no way to find out from the Application Manager, which is where I was making the download decisions.  The Application Manager also has a fixed-size window.  Why?  It has a scroll bar (more content than will fit) and I have a huge screen. It's annoying to have to scroll to see things that I have plenty of room to see.  How hard is it to make the window resizable?  They even disable the green "maximize" button, which is harder to do, programmatically, than to actually make the window resizable.  And the names of three of their apps don't fit in the window without ellipses (...), which would display easily if I could resize the window (see screen shot above).  A little thing, perhaps, but after 25+ years of app development, you'd think Adobe would be leading the way on UX design, not trailing behind the pack on basic usability issues.

The next thing I noticed is that Dreamweaver CS6 is a lot like CS5.  A lot.  I'm not a big Dw user, but I haven't noticed any differences at all so far.  It's the first app that downloaded so it's the first I'm trying out.  I'll try some of the others.

Hmmm.  There are some serious glitches in mainstay applications that I discover within seconds of using them:

  • If you drag a file onto Photoshop to open it, the app launches but does not open the file.  This behavior has worked (on the Mac) for 20 years. After it is running, if I drop the same file onto Photoshop, it opens.  Bug.
  • The cursor in Illustrator displays with a really bad artifact.  I suspect it's because my "graphics card is not supported", which I learned from Photoshop, but not from Illustrator.  I have a Mac Pro that is about six years old, and works with literally every other app that I have ever tried.  Sorry, Adobe, but "fail".  Below this list is a screen shot of the cursor artifact.  Unusable, right?

All in all, I'm not terribly impressed by the quality of this major release.  Luckily I still have my CS5 apps installed.  I think I'll be going back to them, and possibly canceling my subscription -- a definite downside to the subscription model.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Starbucks Pisses Me Off [and is forgiven]

I have been a VERY loyal Starbucks customer for many years, as anyone who knows me will attest. I say good things about them.  I am a brand ambassador for them.  I go to Starbucks every day, though I took a few months off for health reasons at the end of last year.

My drink for the past couple of years has been a "triple short no-whip mocha" which seems to fall into the cracks of their policies, because I like a small amount of milk, but it costs as much as a Venti with 3 shots.  I pay $4.65 for an 8-ounce coffee drink.  Every day.  By conservative estimate, I spend about $1500/year at Starbucks.

But that's not what I'm pissed about.  That's just background.

A few years back, I bought a Gold Card when they cost $25.  It gave me a 10% discount on all purchases.  I loved it.

Since then, I've watched as they changed the "rewards program" to reward me less and less for my loyalty.  First they got rid of the 10% discount in favor of a free drink every time you bought 10 drinks, but they mailed you a post card to redeem to freebie, knowing that few people would get it together to redeem the post cards. Then it was 12 drinks, now I think it is up to 13 drinks.  But it gets worse.

There now is some kind of minimum threshold you have to meet to maintain "gold status", which is 30 stars within some time frame.  As if somehow I am no longer a "gold customer", which by most retail standards I certainly am.  They have my history in their little computers, since I always use my card (now the app) for my purchases.

Here's what pisses me off.  Yesterday I was getting close to a free drink, I noticed in the little app.  Two more stars to go.  Woo hoo!  Today I bought a $4.65 mocha, a panini sandwich, and a water, and used my app to pay....

I got an incredibly unfriendly alert that popped up and said, "You have failed to meet the minimum criteria to maintain membership.  Your reward stars have been reset to 0."

I stared at it in disbelief.  This is how they reward their best customers!  Gamification is one thing, but actually penalizing me for not earning 30 stars in some arbitrary amount of time -- and how exactly am I supposed to do that if you reset my count to 0?

This is appalling to me, and actually made me upset, right there at the cash register.  I got totally, completely pissed off at Starbucks, and vowed to boycott them.

Is that what you want with your "Rewards" program, Starbucks?  To piss off one of your best customers with your little star program, to the point where he doesn't want to come back into your stores, and will be considering Peet's or some other worthy competitor from now on?

Congratulations to your brain-dead rewards marketing team for totally screwing up what once really did feel like a "gold" program, and made me happy to buy coffee at absurdly inflated prices.  No more.  No more.

[Epilogue/update: 5/2/13]

A friend happened to post something on Starbucks wall at almost the same time yesterday that I posted this, complaining in almost the same way about no longer wanting to remain loyal to Starbucks.  I put a comment on her post, mentioning this blog entry.  I think a Starbucks employee must have read my comment, and this blog post, because I got the below email today.  I am undecided whether or not this suggests great customer service and I am happy again (a possibility) or whether it is impersonal (no actual contact from customer service, just this email) and lame and would not have happened had I not complained publicly.  Whether or not I am Gold is somewhat beside the point -- they need to seriously revisit the reward system because it is not, in fact, set up to reward actual loyal customers; it's more like a video game where you can periodically get a "game over" screen and have to replay the whole level.  Who wants that in a coffee rewards system?

My Starbucks Rewards? Rewards Status Check Balance Reload a Card Send an eGift
Here's to another glowing year at Gold. Raise a mug to celebrate.
Thanks for staying. The 30 Stars you earned keeps you at the Gold level another year. Here's to another year of rewards galore.

You're on a roll, so keep earning those Stars. Another 30 within a year keeps you at Gold level for yet another year. We're hoping this will be a happily ever after type of thing.

[Epilogue/update: 5/22/13]

I've decided I forgive Starbucks, and have reloaded my card twice since posting this article.  The baristas are great, and overall it's a great company.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012



Tanks, a set on Flickr.

I took these photos a while back when touring "Pony Tracks Ranch", the largest private collection of tanks and heavy artillery in the U.S., and maybe the world. It's now the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation.