Verizon lets you debug your own form submissions

About a week ago, I had to contact Verizon to find out why a cell phone number I haven’t owned for three years was showing up on my online statement. In the process of the call, they reset my online account password, and now I can’t log in. (Hence the misuse of the phrase customer support.)

Today, I went to Verizon’s web site to reset my account information, where I was asked to provide my email address and phone number.

Clicking submit opened up Firebug! Thanks, Verizon, for letting me do your debugging work for you. Does this mean I’m on the payroll?

Verizon lets you debug using Firebug

Automatic downloads and usability

I just went to download the latest release of GraffitiCMS (which is rather impressive), when I noticed this on their download page.

Thanks for downloading Graffiti!

We know you’re excited about building your new Graffiti site, but please be patient as your download is being prepared. If you click the link below, you will experience a delay in processing.

If your download doesn’t start after you count to 10 backwards in Roman numerals, please click here.

First, I thought it was interesting that they said "If your download doesn’t start after you count to 10 backwards in Roman numerals, please click here." Then, I started wondering… is this the best way to deliver a download to users?

The "automatic download" is rather ubiquitous — nearly all web sites use it. Some questions I wonder about…

  • What percentage of users get the automatic download? How close to 100% is this number? If it’s far from 100%, should we rethink the approach?
  • For those who do get the automatic download, is it something they are comfortable with? Do they typically respond correctly to the browser’s response ("open/save" prompts, or those silly IE slide-in alert bars that people tend not to see)?
  • For those who don’t get the automatic download, how long does it take them to figure out how to initiate the download manually? What’s the abandon rate?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but on the surface, I’d think a better approach (using the GraffitiCMS example above) would be to not have an automatic download. Instead, change the text of the page to the below, and have a big [START DOWNLOAD] button.

Your Graffiti download is ready!

We know you’re excited about building your new Graffiti site. Please click the Start Download link below to get your copy of Graffiti.


I wonder if an approach like that is more useful to users, and has a lower abandon rate than the automatic download approach…

Live search’s extra spaces (only for Firefox, of course)

Go to and do a search to see a nifty AJAXy popup search results box, powered by Live Search and including some advertising (which I deliberately grayed out below). Look closely, and you’ll see the URLs in the search results (circled in red) have spaces where spaces just shouldn’t be. No surprise, this happens Firefox but not in Internet Explorer.

About the only thing missing is a "Best viewed with Internet Explorer" logo, circa 1998. This really inspires me to click the "Get my own Search Box!" for my site — I’d just love this bug to be reflected in my own work, too.


Quicken, Windows, and WTF is happening?

I just installed Quicken 2008 for Windows, and ran it for the first time. Being a Quicken user before, when I got to the following dialog box, I clicked the [Next] button.


It’s been eight minutes since I clicked the Next button, and aside from massive hard drive thrashing, nothing is happening. There are no other applications open on my computer, and virtually no utilization reported in Task Manager.

So, can someone please explain WTF Quicken and/or Windows are doing right now?

Ah, by the time I finished writing this blog post, I finally received the "Open Quicken File" dialog box. Based on the initial folder in the dialog box, Quicken looked through my entire hard drive to find a Quicken file. I know this, because the FolderShare trash folder is selected — hardly the expected default folder for Quicken.

Can someone explain to me what brain surgeon at Quicken decided that a feature such as this — with no progress indicator or cancel button — was a good one?