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January 19, 2004

Spam goes bonkers

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In my head I know it's an attempt to fool Bayesian spam filters, but in my heart I like to imagine that the spam kings think there is someone out there who'll see these subject lines and think, "Contradistinct dereference instrumentation flunk? Wow! I'd better read that right now!"

January 19, 2004 in Web | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Ten things I hate about DVD

I know complaining about DVD usability is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I just have to get some of these off my chest...

10. The packaging. These discs are the same size as CDs. So why must the cases be a different size? Now I need two different sizes of shelf unit.

9. Regionalisation. Okay, the film industry wants to control release times. That's their decision. But if I buy a disc in my own region, thus respecting their wishes, and subsequently move to a different country, the disc stops working. Thanks.

8. Copyright warnings. On videos, they put up all the copyright warnings at the beginning and you just fast forward through them. Many DVDs seem to have copyright warnings at the beginning and the end. Of each episode. In nine different languages. Which disable the fast-forward buttons.

7. Extras. I resent being bombarded with stuff of no interest to me. Yes, offer the fans a "collector's edition" bulked up with the blooper reels and storyboards and interviews with the bloke who made the tea -- I'd like this some of the time -- but 90% of the time I just want the film. It particularly annoys me that a tv series I'm particularly looking forward to has been held up for 6 months and possibly longer while they record audio commentaries for it. Not only will I have to pay more and suffer more navigational clutter, but I'm being made to wait for the things I don't want.

6. Packaging ergonomics. CD packaging raises the CD slightly out of the tray so you can get your fingers round it to lift it out easily (most of the time...). DVD packaging raises the disc in the same way, but many DVD packages then put a little rim around the disc so you can't get your fingers to grip the edge of the disc.

5. Menus. Playing a disc should not be a challenge. Okay, it may not be as immersive to have clear, readable text, and the marketers may want to put all their extras right their in your face, but it's tedious having to learn which random picture means "Episode Selection" and which means "Play All," figure out which item is currently highlighted, and dance through fiddly navigation to pick out an item once I've identified it.

4. Concertina packaging for box sets. Some box sets consist of a box containing a number of DVD cases. These are good. Others consist of a flimsy cardboard concertina which flops all over the place and constantly seems about to tear at the spine. These are good only if you have extra space to unfold the thing and extra hands to support the floppy bits while you try to extract the disc. (To be fair, some CDs are packaged this way as well, so this isn't specifically a DVD problem, but because of TV's series culture and the mass-market film industry's love of franchises, it is much more prevalent on DVD. CD box sets tend to be "prestige" items and packaged as such.)

3. No standardised navigation. Unless I've missed something (which I admit is entirely possible), there doesn't seem to be a standardised "back" facility for menus. Yes, each screen in the menu will offer an appropriate choice, but I'm used to having a well-known button that will take me back to where I came from. Why should I have to search for some self-indulgent designer's idea of how to represent "back" or "up"? Similarly, there's no standardised "page forward/back" facility for menus that spread across multiple screens. [Corrections requested if I'm making a fool of myself here.]

2. Accessibility. Again I may be missing something, but as far as I can tell if the designer decides to put the menus in a tiny-type squirly font, there's no option to make it easier to read. I guess the thinking is, "Hey, if they've got poor eyesight, they're not going to want to watch films, right?" [Corrections requested, or a bit more background from someone who knows about accessibility issues.]

And the number one thing I hate about DVD is...

1. Layer transitions. The way that, usually at a hideously inappropriate moment, the film judders to a halt. This looks exactly like some sort of fault and lasts just long enough for you to think, "Oh no! The disc's damaged!" before it picks up again. It's completely destructive of immersion. It's actually worse than the poor quality of VHS or having to change discs because of limited playing time, because the eye gets used to the poor quality once you're immersed, and disc changes are under your control, so the immersion breaking is voluntary. Surely it can't be too hard to do a bit of read-ahead or have a bit of overlap so as to make this transition invisible?

January 1, 2004 in Usability | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack