Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I am such a slack

I need to finish my Masters. The only thing holding me up is...well...me. My graduate project is on designing websites that "age well" meaning that they meet web standards and have been designed in a way that make them senior-friendly. This is a hold-over from my previous job, so it has been hard for me to feel like working on it.

I held focus groups in October (while I was on maternity leave) and asked 2 groups of seniors what they thought of the site (wvseniors.org). I was hoping they would have provided some feedback on the design, but mostly they just offered suggestions for content. While I think both focus groups were interesting, I found that this format is not very conducive to getting user feedback on a website. In Dec. 2004 we posted a user survey on the website and actually got better, more specific feedback on the site usability than with a face to face group of people.

I guess I am unsure as to how to put that in an official report on my graduate professional project. Part of the project was also to do a follow-up survey to ask them if the problems if there were any had been corrected...but if there weren't any, I am not sure what to survey them on. On top of that, it isn't my site any more, so I am not really as eager to do it.

I need to just buckle down and deal with it.

The hardest thing is motivating myself to sit down and listen to the recordings and transcribe it all. Listening is one thing, but transcribing is another. It is also something that is nearly impossible to do with a 6 month old wanting your attention.

Sigh. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

eBay fraud continued

Newsweek/MSNBC has another story on eBay fraud and cites some examples of people getting screwed for hefty sums of cash.

Here's alink to the article:
Swimming With Sharks - With more people buying goods on online auction sites, crooks are getting even more aggressive.

I'm glad they are reporting on this because it highlights a scam that caught Steve a couple of years ago. He bought a laptop on eBay, and thought it was above the board because the guy had excellent feedback. Turns out some schmoe's account had been hijacked by a con artist. The deal smelled fishy to me when they didn't use the eBay system to communicate (send q's and answers directly via e-mail so ebay didn't have a record) and asked that the money be wired Western Union, but Steve wanted to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Now we know better, but at the time, it seemed less likely that it was fraud based on what we knew at the time.

So again I wonder if eBay is worth it anymore....

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

House

I usually hate to post about things that are "in the works," but hopefully fate will be on my side and it will get going. Steve and I are planning on building a new house at "the farm" probably across the valley from mom's place. Mom's wanting to build a new place too, but I am not sure what her schedule is. The wrinkle is that since the property is still mortgaged, we have to survey off the place where we want to build and then mom has to go to the bank and see if they'll allow her to break it off of the current loan. This is totally new territory for me, so I find this stuff difficult to deal with because it is complicated and confusing and I am not sure which route is the best route. I also hate waiting for other people to do things. I'd like to get going on this now, but know mom doesn't have time she can really take off of work to go to the bank or make phone calls during the day - until summer. Sigh.

Anyway - this is a short post, but one of the many things that are on my mind right now. The upside is that looking at house plans and thinking about hat end of things is a lot of fun for me. The financial/legal end isn't.

more later...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Aristocrats!

The other night we watched "The Aristocrats" on DVD. OMG. It is a movie about what is probably the most disgusting joke I have ever heard, but it was really funny.

This movie has its problems. The editing and the presentation is definitely not as good as it could have been. The filmmakers erred (IMHO) in not providing more complete tellings of the joke by the different comedians. I think that even if the premise is the same, it is still satisfying to hear each one's "performance" of the joke. So, I think it could have been a lbetter if they'd presented it with less splicing of the parts of the joke throughout.

That said...I thought it was a really funny movie about an interesting phenomenon. This joke has become a kind of inside-joke among comedians and everyone who tells it puts his or her spin on the joke - some even try to drag it out as long as possible. The film interviewed LOTS of comedians - many of whom roundly criticized the filmmaker for making a movie about this joke as it is so horrible (not just in taste...it's just a bad joke). I liked the movie, though because it was interesting to watch these comedians discussing the comedic art and well, some of the takes on this joke are pretty friggin funny. This is possibly the only time I have ever found Gilbert Gottfried funny; they show a clip from a Friar's Club Roast in 2001 and the story behind the event and his presentation there is priceless.

I'll also never be able to think of this movie without thinking of Drew Carey's delivery of the punchline (you'll understand when you see it).

There is something really satisfying in watching other people laugh. This joke and the artform in making it so gross makes comedians howl. It's so bad it's good, I guess.

Anyway if you rent it, prepare to be offended, but you'll laugh too.

Cats and bird flu

This is scary: Bird flu hits weasel-like animal

This article says that a marten has been found with bird flu in Germany in an area where cats (!!!) have also been found to have contracted the disease from eating birds. I think that is pretty frightening since I know we have cats at our house who do catch birds from time to time (mostly for sport). My mom also like to feed wild birds (which subsequently poop on my car - but that's another gripe) so attacting birds to our house is even more less appealing to me with this find. I have to admit that I really don't like birds much anyway. I am happy to admire them from afar and yes, some are pretty and I DO like hummingbirds...but I really hate starlings (gross) and sparrows (too many of them), mourning doves (they are just too stupid) and pigeons (thankfully we have none of out where we live, but I hate them anyway).

So I suppose the fears of a bird flu pandemic could be overblown, but I sure as hell hope they figure out a way to help people weather it if they catch it. In the meantime, I'm thinking we ought to keep the cats inside (though that might mean trouble with a capital Pee) and stop feeding the damn birds.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

What is the point in eBay anymore?

I just read this article on MSNBC talking about eBay's latest fee increase: Ebay's Cleaver Fee Increase Plan

Ebay is officially a waste of time if you want to sell anything on your own. It's back to the flea market if you've got small items to unload. There is a deperate need for an alternative to eBay. Google...can't you do something? You've taken on a lot of other services...can't you try your hand at autions too? This market is in SERIOUS need of competition.

The thing that pisses me off even more about eBay is if you get ripped off there is absolutely NO recourse through eBay other than whiny feedback...which the seller can dispute. Even so, feedback ratings can be bogus. About 4 years ago, I think eBay hit its peak with a nice balance of cost, fairness and reliability. Here is an article fromt he NY Times concerning this:
Seeing Fakes, Angry Traders Confront EBay (note that you will probaby have to register - for free - to read the story)

So...am I going to stop using eBay? I am certainly not going to bother listing anything for sale unless it is worth at least several hundred dollars. But I just don't have anywhere else to look for some things.

There has got to be someone out there with the wherewithall, money and entrepreaurial spirit to take them on. If you have that kind of energy and resources, I will be happy to help. Just drop me a line...