Moving this blog

Apologies in advance dear readers, but I’ve decided to move this blog over to another location — my other blog, which is called Thinking Without A Box. I’m finding it difficult to maintain two blogs, so I’ve decided to merge the two into one.

What this means is that I’ll stop posting here effective immediately (after this post). I’ll move all the posts and comments from this blog to the other one, so you can find all the content there. I’ll probably keep this blog around as an archive or something – haven’t decided that yet.

For those of you on RSS feeds, the feed for the new blog is at this URL. If you’re subscribing via Feedburner, I’ll change the settings so that you’ll get the feed for the new blog without your having to do anything. If you don’t want to subscribe to the merged blog, I figure that you can unsubscribe easily. (I hope you won’t though.)

(Updated a little while later — I realized after hitting the Publish button that this sounds like an opt-out strategy rather than an opt-in. However, to my knowledge most people who read this blog do read the other one too, so I figure they won’t mind. So, no, this is not me being weasel-y in any way.)

I will be writing about these topics as well as others on Thinking Without a Box, so I hope that you’ll continue to enjoy reading what I write. (Unless, you’re a masochist and this is painful, which is still enjoyment I guess.)

I apologize for the inconvenience or problems I’m causing. If you’ve got any questions or concerns, please comment or write to me. Hope to see you over on the other blog.

My credit card provider, ICICI, redesigned its credit card statement recently. Typically, you find that redesigns make you unhappy because what was familair is not and what is unfamiliar is (usually) hard to find. Not so with this redesign, which is why I am giving ICICI some blog love.

The image below shows the main part of the statement with the numbers white-ed or grayed out, so you don’t focus on those parts.

Credit Card Statement Redesign

If you notice, the statement summary box and the your total amount due box are in a different colour and they stand out right away. Also, the Your Total Amount Due box is bigger than the rest, so you don’t have to search the statement to figure out the two most important things – how much you owe and when you need to pay.

It’s a nice way to present information and to highlight the most important information for the customer (and possibly the credit card company).

I find this statement far easier to read than their previous one, which wasn’t bad but required some scanning to figure out the relevant information. I can think of a couple of statements, that I currently receive, that could do with a similar redesign.

Well done ICICI for keeping the customer in mind.

In all the years that I’ve spent ingesting pills / tablets / capsules, I can’t recall coming across one that has been easy to swallow. Sure, the capsules are easier in that they’re smoother and won’t scratch your throat, but they’re not that much better than tablets. Yes, the alternative is a syrup type of concoction but they don’t have those for all medicines.

Some of the tablets (images here) are hard to swallow and that’s one reason that you need tricks like these.

I have heard about some companies making pills that are sugar-coated that children find easier to swallow because of the non-bitter taste but that’s one component, taste, and not texture. (I guess it doesn’t help that some people’s, particularly children’s, gag reflexes seem to be in overdrive at the prospect of taking a tablet.)

One way that companies seem to work around this is to make chewable tablets. I still remember the Vitamin C tablets we would sometimes get as children, they were like eating a sour-sweet candy.

It doesn’t answer the bigger question of how to make tablets easier to swallow and whether people have put their minds to solving this problem. I feel that the right combination of shape, texture, and taste can result in a winning solution. I wonder what would happen if we asked a firm like Ideo to design a pill. I’ll bet they’d come up with something good.

There was a time, not too long ago, when a simple Enter would allow me to “Save” a delicious bookmark. Now, when I hit Enter, delicious converts my tag to lowercase (or something).

Hit another Enter and it takes me to a new input box (feature) called “Send”, which allows me to send my bookmarks to people. I just want to save my bookmark and have it appear on my blog.

I’d worked it out so I needed minimal mouse clicks to save a bookmark. Now, I either need to use the mouse or have to press the Tab button several times and figure out when the focus is on the Save button.

Maybe delicious wanted to get in on the Twitter bandwagon or maybe a lot of users asked for this feature, but I am not happy about these changes. The changes make it harder for me to save a bookmark.

In general, it makes you wonder why people feel the need to tinker with software and add additional bells and whistles, aka features, especially when things are working well. Keep adding features and you get unnecessary complexity.

Obviously you can’t keep things simple for everything but we seem to err on the side of complexity more than simplicity. Try spreading the simplicity love by indulging in some K.I.S.S.ing.

P.S. Those folks over at 37 Signals seem to revel in keeping things simple.

When I switched Internet Service Providers (ISPs), I had no idea what I was getting myself into. When I filled in a requisition form, the person told me that the connection would be done within 3 days.

The engineers from Airtel came the next day. They did their job installing the cables, etc. and were on their way. The next day another engineer came over to do the networking-related work and configure the modem.

Their work was impressive. Cables were not left lying around and were fixed properly. They even cleaned up while they were leaving, something you don’t see often in India. The engineer clearly explained the devices and gave me a text file with the necessary information. They demonstrated the speed of the Internet connection as well. After they were done, a customer service person called to check if I had been given all the information.

I was already impressed but then it got better. A few days later, another person from Airtel came in to audit the installation. He checked the connections, the way everything was set up, and gathered my responses to some questions. He mentioned to me that they wanted to ensure that the installations were done properly so that the customers wouldn’t face problems (and consequently complain).

Having come from a provider with a less than stellar record, this has been impressive. I know I’m probably jinxing it but I’ve not had a single outage so far. Airtel’s installation is a great example of doing things the right way and of doing things to delight the customer.

Boy, am I glad I listened to my friend and picked Airtel!

To shoppe or to shop

Whenever I see the word shoppe included in the name of a store, I wonder why they’re using that word instead of the more easier, shop. Merriam-Webster says that shoppe is basically the same as shop and that its etymology is “Middle English shoppe“.

The pronunciation is the same for both shoppe and shop, though the extra two letters makes me want to pronounce the former, shop-ee, and then elongate the ee sound. Also, at some level, it mildly irritates me to see that word being used. (Yes, I’m aware that I need therapy.)

I’m unable to figure out why people choose to use the longer spelling when the shorter one works just as well and is acceptable, unlike SMS-speak which is not. My guess is that the people who are using the longer word are doing so just to be different. If that’s the case, then it’s not a particularly creative way of distinguishing oneself.

Whatt doo youu thinkk?

P.S. Today I passed by a store that had a sign with the word Shoppy in it. M-W doesn’t have an entry for that word: I checked just to be sure.

I’ve been using Remember The Milk (RTM) for a few months now and I’ve used it enough to the point where I can share my experience. I decided to start using RTM (feature tour here)because I felt that I needed some way to remember date-based (or calender) items. Writing stuff down on paper is fine but paper doesn’t remind you when something’s coming up, so I needed some sort of automatic reminder system thingy.

I’m one of those later-adopters, so I finally signed up and got an account. Once you’ve signed in, you’ve got to set up reminders and how and when you’d like to be reminded and that’s all there is to it. I get reminders daily from RTM now and though sometimes it’s a pain in the gluteus maximus, it’s been a sound choice.

RTM works in my favourite browser Opera, so that was a terrific plus for me. There are shortcuts to do most of the tasks, so that’s also something that I like. You can also email yourself tasks, so that’s something that I’ve used from time to time.

Basically, apart from a small glitch in the reminder settings (which had a workaround), I’ve not had any problems in the four or five months that I’ve used the service. I’ve got the free account and I think it’s been great so far. I’ve not used any of the other applications that are out there: I sorta zeroed-in on RTM and I’ve stayed with them.

I’m writing about RTM because it’s the application that I’ve used, but the main point is about using any application that does similar things. I think that if you invest some time entering the reminders initially, the payoff is worth it — it has been in my case. You can put in birthdays, anniversaries, bill and insurance payment dates, computer maintanence reminders (backup, anti-virus, cleaning), and whatever else that you need reminding about — basically anything that you can attach a date to, you can throw into a system like this.

Now, I’m so used to this system that I can’t believe I waited so long to use it. (Shows you that sometimes it’s good to be an early adopter.) Whether it’s RTM or something else, it’s definitely worth a test drive.