Author Archives: Tom Carswell

Looking for seating at your local coffee shop?

A friend and myself went into Starbucks last weekend.

About 30 percent of the chairs were available, but we couldn’t find a seat to sit together and chat.

Several small tables with two chairs had one person sitting there, using a notebook PC, tablet or phone. These tables were located along the outside of the store, where the power outlets were.

There’s a big long table at this location, which was pretty much full of PC users also.

Not many use the ‘bar’ seating. Seats are a bit small, and the bar height seems a bit too high (yes, that’s my opinion).

Computer users seems to be there for the free Wi-Fi to do their research/work/email/YouTube watching etc. without being alone in a bedroom, dorm, or home office.

There were “non-electonic patrons’ also. Many of them looked around for seats to sit at, but with no empty tables, they ended up leaving.

So if you were a business owner, competing with Starbucks, and knowing this information, what would you do?

User Experience: Preventing accidental data deletions by typing DELETE

For awhile now I’ve been using profile management software by Blitzen, and there’s a feature there I really like.

Context: say you’re working on a form, and you accidentally select it for deletion.

On most websites, you’d see a pop-up saying something like “Hey, are you sure you want to delete this?”

On other tools I’ve been in such a hurry that I clicked OK by accident and that “oh…..crap” feeling washed over me.

Some apps, like Gmail, offer an Undo feature which is a way to get it back after the fact.

Blitzen has a cool way to make accidental deletion next to impossible.

For example, when you want to delete a form, you see this function, asking you to type the word DELETE in the textbox.
(I’ve enlarged it in these screenshots):



Note the delete button is inactive, which implies you have to do something first…like type DELETE.
Also, the input box doesn’t have autofill turned on, so your browser can’t remember to type DELETE for you.

This function is also smart enough to ignore typos:



This gadget makes you think…type the word, then click delete:



Simple…easy to use…and helps prevents disaster.

Read “The Secret History of Tiger Woods” even if you don’t like golf.

Sunday morning I sat down and read the ESPN article The Secret Life of Tiger Woods.

If you – like me – thought this would be about his personal life dissected in the public a few years ago…well, it’s much more than that.

Try to picture Tiger Woods running with military boots on a golf course, or his serious thoughts about joining the US Navy.

Parachuting. Firing military weapons. Training and taking military trips with Navy SEALS. He did all these things in between winning golf tournaments.

But he didn’t do it just to do it…it was much more than that. And some of it is unsettling.

Most poignant was the closeness and influence of this father Earl. His dad wasn’t the best role model; some of his bad traits ending up becoming Tiger’s.

A truly intriguing read about a man trying to find who he we really want to be.

Highly recommended.

User Experience: Talking to my car vs pressing buttons


How fast would it be to change a radio station from AM to FM? Fast.

More and more cars – mine included – now comes with voice-activation for systems control.

At first, I thought this was kinda cool.

Now I don’t, because it takes me longer to change radio stations than it used to with simple buttons.

Recently, while driving and listening to FM, I wanted to change to AM.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Press voice command button
  2. Wait for voice prompt
  3. Prompt: “Say a command”
  4. I say “Play FM” (Out of habit, I said ‘FM’ when I meant ‘AM’)
  5. I hear the three-note “I understand you” chime.
  6. Radio stays on FM station.
  7. Press voice command button again
  8. Wait for voice prompt
  9. Prompt: “Say a command”
  10. I say “Play AM”
  11. I hear the 3-note “I understood you” chime
  12. Radio tunes to AM station.

Elapsed time: 23 seconds.

Cool technology, but not better.

The simplest way to add value is to save the user time” – Jay Rosen

Thanks, Garry

Photo of Garry Shandling


I’m sad to hear of Garry Shandling’s passing.

I remember watching “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show“, and its odd but watchable stories. Even it’s quirky theme song got stuck in my head.

Several years later, my friend Alex told me “You gotta watch this new show. It’s hysterical.” He was referring to The Larry Sanders Show.

I became a quick fan and looked forward to every episode. I took Hank Kinsgley’s intro – “Get ready to have a good time” – to heart.

What I enjoyed most about The Larry Sanders Show was it’s familiar talk-show venue, with a cast of compelling characters: funny, smart (mostly) and ambitious, but with self-doubt and flaws, just like the rest of us.

Garry was a man who wanted to do things differently.
He thought different. He experimented. And it worked.

Thanks for the years of entertainment, Garry.

Thanks for showing this human that thinking different is to be accepted, embraced and nurtured.


Could your phone apps be replaced by texts?

Do you have a bunch of app updates waiting on your phone for you to install?
Me too.

Of course you can set up your phone to install updates automatically, but what if you didn’t have a ton of apps to update at all? Maybe only a few…or one. Wouldn’t that be simpler?

A recent article by Connie Chan at Andreessen Horowitz gives insight. When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China – explains how WeChat is indeed an app, but also a platform also.

Companies can get official accounts and you can interact with them. WeChat accounts:

“…ranging from celebrities, banks, media outlets, and fashion brands to hospitals, drug stores, car manufacturers, internet startups, personal blogs, and more. “

WeChat also handles online payments. See where they’re going with this?

A short while later I came across Kik’s announcement that China’s Tencent has invested $50 million with them.

Guess what company has also heavily invested in the WeChat app? Right – it’s Tencent.

Ted Livingston – CEO at Kik – wrote this on Medium:

“When we met the Tencent team in China, it became clear that we had a shared vision. We agreed that someone would do in the West what WeChat was doing in China. The only question was who. We both believe it could be Kik.”

Wouldn’t be convenient to just text a company about a product or service and get more info? Or book an appointment? Or place an order and get it shipped and paid through one app?

Maybe I can hold off on updated those apps for awhile longer….