Posts Tagged "human behavior"

In early 2017, I wanted to be more anonymous on Facebook when replying to public posts or to comments friends made. I wasn’t feeling a lot of social media trust outside my own circle but couldn’t convince myself to reply to NOTHING. I treat Facebook as my personal world, almost a diary, so I don’t want biz associates or strangers just finding me there (even though I don’t post publicly).

So I changed my Facebook name to my first and middle name. I figured that would make me more anonymous. Someone in the SF area appears to have that as her full name, so hopefully I’m harder to find. I still had a female name, just not my real last name.

I found that strangers continued to treat me the same. When posting something liberal-leaning, the typical non-liberal response was that I was just a stupid person. I was overemotional (even when making a totally factual argument). I write too much! I just can’t focus! They used every insult in the book to try to distract from any decent point I might make.

I noticed that none of them ever wanted to take my ideas or arguments head on.

And one day I got a LinkedIn request.

A friend of a friend (a stranger to me) somehow put 2 and 2 together. He didn’t send a Facebook request. He sent a LinkedIn request… which connects what I thought was my more private, personal world with my more public, business world. Ugh.

So I changed my name again in October 2017.

I changed it to a name a human could possibly have but unlikely. 🙂 My first name is a common noun. My last name is a location. This isn’t my name but it would be like if my name were Trees Tucson. My profile photo is not of a human. So I should be really anonymous now, which is great for potential collisions with people who disagree politically.

But something I didn’t expect happened.

When I posted liberal-leaning commentary to public pages’ posts or to friend’s posts, I noticed two key things that were different from when my name on Facebook was Debbie:

1) Non-liberal-leaning people told me I was a Russian troll. This made me worried about what their fake news is telling them about Russian trolls. Most of what I read said that Russian trolls are NOT liberal-leaning. I have also learned that real Russian troll accounts tend to look like hot, young, female millennials with female names. I have a non-name and a non-human photo.

But to them, whatever my commentary, opinions, or points were were just fake news. They should be ignored. I’m a Russian troll!

2) Random people had way less empathy. For example, I posted to one public page post about having recently had an unexpected allergy attack. Every person who commented under mine said I was a liar and it couldn’t have happened. Never happened.

I wasn’t expecting to hear that the allergy attack I definitely had never happened. I wasn’t posting for sympathy. I was posting as a warning to others that something most of us thought harmless could initiate an allergy attack. But the people who commented went beyond not believing me to insults and declaring me non-real. I deleted my comment.

Bonus: a real life, long time friend told me my name looked so disgusting to him that when it comes up on the page, he wants to look away. Well that’s interesting! You KNOW it’s me. Yes, the name is weird. But I didn’t think anybody would have that huge a reaction to a common noun plus a town name. I told him I plan to keep the name.

So now what?

It’s an interesting thing for me to consider. I “dehumanized” myself by using a fake name and a non-human picture. I was then treated as not real. A liar. A fake.

Yes, I’m a human typing words into Facebook comments. I’m real! But when people saw the fake name, it was like they didn’t have to listen. They didn’t have to care.

When people agreed with me, the treatment was no different before or during my new name. They listened and cared. But when they didn’t agree, I wasn’t a person. I was fake news. It’s been interesting to watch and experience.

I plan to keep my ridiculous name because I’d rather be anonymous than cared about. I can go without the empathy of strangers. You can say I’m just bringing it on myself but I’m only noticing the change (mostly) from people who have different political opinions. Even strangers “on my side” haven’t changed how they respond to me.

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Airlines and the media have been distracting us a long time. You want legroom. More legroom. Economy Plus has 3″ more legroom. Upgrade for more legroom.

Legroom legroom legroom.

I’ve noticed that most of the flights I’ve been on lately, I think my arms overlapped the arms of people next to me. Strangers. My shoulder is over their shoulder.

Many adults are wide. I think of myself as average width. Very average in American size. And no matter how I try to pull my arms in, I’m overlapping people next to me.

I will pay for more width.

I’ve upgraded seats often. I’ve had United’s annual subscription to Economy Plus seats. But I would rather pay more for more width.

Yes, airlines are unlikely to do that. Put two seats where three can go and you might think they lose that fare. I wouldn’t pay double for that seat. But I’ve paid $20 – $160 for an upgraded seat.

Would I pay 50% more for a wide seat? Depends on the flight and the fare. But if you get two people to pay 1.5x, then you have made up for the missing seat. Give me a free checked bag and maybe I’ll pay 1.5x.

Hey, Deb, Isn’t a Wider Seat a First Class Seat?

Not necessarily. I’ll sit with the economy peeps and get fewer drinks, food, mixed nuts, etc… but preferably have more width.

I wonder if anybody has run the math on this… since it’ll be about math. I imagine few people at an airline are shouting out, “How can we make passengers more comfortable?!?!?!”

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Plan Ahead For Next Winter

Posted By on Mar 27, 2015

We have an outstanding (in a bad way) invoice to a client who keeps delaying paying. The invoice is for less than $2000. He is a local store outside of New York City. He said it was a bad winter… so few people came into his store, he can’t pay us.

I replied that I grew up right near his store. It snows badly every winter. One might think you’d see that coming. He wrote back that it was an EXTRA bad winter, and his foot traffic was down. It’s almost ironic that we’re getting paid because we built him an eCommerce website… which requires nobody to come into his shop to buy something. 🙂

I replied that I have a February birthday and never in my childhood went to school on my birthday due to blizzards. It was almost a joke around my house growing up. Debbie’s birthday is coming… prepare for the blizzard! I’m a bit of a loner, so spending every birthday looking out the window as the white crystals quietly covered the 1976 Ford, then the 1978 Chevy, etc… that was OK by me.

Expect Winter To Be Winter-y

I’m a consultant, and I KNOW that every year, I will have nearly nothing to do between mid-November and late-January. It’s just not a time when agencies take on a lot of work or need UX help. People aren’t doing a lot of hiring during the holidays. So my “business” slows down to nearly nothing for a few months.

I can’t stop paying my vendors. I have to plan ahead and have enough money to live and work on for those months.

I would think that most businesses open more than a year or two would notice what tends to make a period a slow time. Do they slow down in winter because they rely on foot traffic and people leave the house less? Do they slow down in summer because people vacation more and aren’t around to come into the shop?

This client should know better. Seeing as we first worked for them in the year 2000, one might imagine that he knows by now that winter can bring less foot traffic. Ultimately, his invoice being unpaid doesn’t make or break my company. But it is making me think about how much people are really planning.

I remember one time when a client emailed me completely frantic that his weekend sales were AWFUL and what the hell is going on that he had such a bad weekend on his eCommerce website. I had to explain to him that it had been Easter that weekend (he evidently didn’t notice), and that many people were probably traveling or with family. There were probably fewer people doing online shopping. I said if it doesn’t pick up later in the month, let me know. He wrote back later saying yeah, it was just that one weekend.

Notice Patterns and Try Predicting Your Customers’ Behaviors

Winter. I’d imagine fewer people going to shops unless they have to. Maybe spacing out their haircuts more. Postponing doctor visits. Less “going antiquing.” If winter weather can affect your local business, plan for that.

Holidays and special events. Do you have the sort of business that might see less (or more) business because of a holiday? I once went to Disney World in Florida on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a (pleasant) ghost town. Chances are that hotels, car rental, and other services that rely on Disney tourism saw a drop that week as a lot of the country focused on a special event.

School breaks. You might also have the sort of business that sees fewer people or sales when kids are out of school and families travel or send kids to camp. Maybe your business relies on people traveling to you.

You owe it to your business, your customers, and certainly employees and vendors you pay to notice patterns and plan ahead. If you will need to stockpile money when times will be or might be slow, then make sure you’re doing that.

Once you have identified these potential lulls, the second half of that then is are there any promotions you could run that would increase traffic or sales during those down times?

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There’s a lot of buzz about Disney’s new MagicBands at Disney World in Florida. In the old days, when you stayed and played, you got a card with a swipe strip. This was your hotel room key, room charge card, park tickets, and how you got your FastPasses (that let you dodge long line rides by coming back later).

MagicBands replace the cards. You wear a wrist band with an RFID chip and tiny battery. This wrist band gets waved all over the place to open your hotel room door, charge things to your room, get into parks, and get FastPasses. You can also associate pictures Disney staff and rides take of you with your PhotoPass account.

Since they’re using RFID, some people are getting nervous. They’re concerned that Disney will track their movements around the park. And think of the children! They might track children, and isn’t that a breach of privacy!!!

I don’t see it that way.

Thing 1, Disney World is a public place. What is my expectation of privacy in a public place? Not much when in theory, a marketing person could follow me ALL DAY and write down everything I do, eat, buy, ride, etc…

Thing 2, I’m sure before MagicBands tracked people, there were plenty of other ways to track people. The old card system knew where I was, what I was buying, where I stayed, and what FastPasses I got. Cameras can watch me everywhere. Experts track people’s movement through parks and shops. Disney even has/had a manual system that helps them know how long a ride wait is. They’d give someone entering the line something they had to give to the staffer who seats you on the ride. They then know how long that wait was.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think Disney weren’t the masters of tracking, understanding, and catering to human behaviour, even before RFID got involved.

Thing 3, I don’t remember a giant outcry when Disney World sold “Pal Mickey.” He was a stuffed plush Mickey that told you stories, asked trivia questions, and tried to keep you occupied when waiting on lines. But he also reminded you when parades were, and he told you when certain characters were near you. This means he had RFID or something in him that knew where you were.

Thing 4, let’s say Disney is using some long range tracking around the parks to see who’s moving around where and how. Let’s say your child is lost in EPCOT, which is a 300 acre park. And they don’t make announcements over speakers for lost children like it’s Walmart. Would you be happy that MagicBands saw your kid at The Land pavilion 7 minutes ago, helping you find your lost child more quickly?

Does that mean I’m for this? Well, it’s a vacation experience with a company known for forward-thinking technology. And you can opt out. They’ll give you the old card if you don’t want the wrist band. And I also believe Disney will keep the data for themselves and their use to improve the parks, guest experiences, and get people to spend more and stay longer.

I also think the data Disney collects is nearly useless to anybody else. What can Procter and Gamble do knowing how long the average woman is in a Disney bathroom? What can Coca Cola do knowing what the average guest spends on souvenirs? What can Siemens do knowing the average guest eats chicken fingers for lunch and then rides the carousel?

So I don’t feel particularly afraid of the data or how it will be used. It seems like a very specific application to me. I guess I can’t really find the problem here. This info won’t come up when you Google me. Nobody is going to call my house or mail me flyers. Pictures of children won’t be on the internet (more than Moms and Dads post them now).

So I’m not sure what the problem REALLY is. MagicBands are a more efficient way for Disney to do what they were already doing in a public place.

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Horoscope Syndrome

Posted By on Nov 29, 2011

Let’s say you’re browsing an online dating site. You’re reading a profile where a person who looks attractive to you is describing what he or she wants. Let’s say that description looking something like this:

    I’m looking for someone who is intelligent, honest, warm, affectionate, and fun. You should have a good sense of humour, and like music. Being outdoors is nice too, like for walks or visits to the beach or mountains. I’m also looking for someone attractive with a good job.

Your natural reaction is likely to be, “Wow! That person is describing ME! I am all of those things!” I call this the Horoscope Syndrome because it’s like reading a newspaper horoscope, and being sure it’s amazing accurate when in reality, it’s amazingly general. Monty Python did a GREAT job bringing this into my consciousness when I first saw this sketch when I was 12 in 1984. Among other craziness in this sketch, a housewife reads a horoscope that basically says she is a scary lizard monster biting rocks and trees, living in the tropics, and wearing spectacles. Her response is, “Very good about the spectacles!” The other housewife says, “Amazing!”

Horoscope Syndrome is where people naturally want to associate positive qualities or scenarios with themselves, even if they don’t possess them. As someone active on dating websites, I recently ran into the online dating profile for an ex-boyfriend. Wow, he sure sounded great by his own description! I happened to know that none of it was true. But that’s how he sees himself because he lacks the self-awareness and/or honesty to see himself any other way.

Let’s say the dating profile read more like this:

    I’m looking for someone with above-average intelligence, preferably someone who graduated college in the usual 4 years. My sense of humour is mostly Monty Python and Eddie Izzard. I don’t like humour based in pranks or bodily functions. My fave music is 80s New Wave, and I dislike formulaic pop songs. When outdoors, I like to hike among cactus in the Arizona desert. My idea of attractive is a guy who’s about 5′ 10″ who looks Middle Eastern, Caucasian Semitic, Mediterranean, Indian, or African-American. He’s probably a musician, comedian, entrepreneur, or computer geek.

Doesn’t sound so much like you now, does it. And if it does, I’m single; please contact me. 🙂 My point is that the vague nature of the first description, whether on purpose or on accident, makes people self-identify as being the person described. You’re sure that’s talking about you! Get a little more specific, and oh, this isn’t about me.

It’s important to consider how people self-identify when doing UX/UI projects. Sometimes, you have to treat your audience like who they think they are rather than who you think they are. Be careful of Horoscope Syndrome!

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Earlier, I blogged about changes Facebook seemed to be making to the list of reasons you are X’ing out an ad. I just went to X out another ad, and was offered a pile of choices, including two new ones.

There are two new ones on this list. “Sexually Explicit” and “Against Your Views.” I was under the impression that Facebook was checking ads. When I create ads, I have to wait until someone approves them. I figured they were checking for porn or something that may not be appropriate. Maybe they are going to automate this more, and they’re hoping you’ll police this for them.

“Against Your Views” is interesting since I think it is another way of saying offensive. Offensive is very subjective. What I find offensive might be something someone enjoys doing daily. And I’ll still be sure it’s offensive. It’s against my views. It doesn’t match my standards or morals. So I’m not sure where Facebook draws the line here.

I think the main times I have clicked “offensive” were the ads referencing a “Bucket List” after a friend of mine with a terminal illness complained about how cavalierly these ads seemed to refer to death. I blogged about that in February 2011. So if I saw those again, would I choose “Against My Views?” I wouldn’t. I’d still choose offensive.

Perhaps this choice is for when something religious or political is being advertised, and you don’t share that viewpoint. Facebook, what do you mean?

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In early April 2011, an eBay staffer gave a talk at the Product Camp conference. Part of his presentation was talking about a problem eBay was seeing, which they called pogosticking. This is where a shopper is on eBay search results. She clicks on an item to view the item’s individual page. She spends less than 2 seconds there. She goes back to search results. She chooses another item. She spends less than two seconds there. Et cetera. How do you get shoppers to more quickly find the right items for them, and cut down on this behaviour?

As the top expert on eBay shopper behaviour on the planet, I know I can improve and possibly solve this one. Say you’re looking for a Sprint Overdrive on eBay. OK, you know what you want. You are looking for which seller has it in the condition in which you expect it, for a price you’re willing to pay, who will get it to you quickly, and stand behind it if there is a problem. Here is what eBay search results look like now (click to enlarge):

How much of what makes or breaks my decision appears there in search results? Not that much, unfortunately. The obvious solution seems to be to just add more information to the search results… but what information? And how will we present it? Well, let’s start with what info a shopper is unlikely to need to see.

  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the seller’s feedback. You can opt in NOW to see that in search results, and I guess many people didn’t know they could do that, or felt that they didn’t need to see it. But when I see the Top Rated Seller ribbon, I know this is supposed to be one of eBay’s best sellers. It may not matter if the feedback is 2000 or 40,000. This is a person that eBay is pretty sure will make me happy.
  • The shopper doesn’t need to see the name of the seller OR the name of the seller’s store. You can opt in now to see those too. While I wish eBay sellers got a bit more play with their own branding, I know that a shopper’s decision is not made or broken on what the seller’s name is, or what the seller named his eBay Store. I am just as likely to buy my Overdrive from “Bob’s Bargains” as I am from “Electronics Neighbourhood Warehouse.” I made up both names. Sorry if any eBay seller is using those. 🙂

Just so you can see that there are options to show this now, you can see from this screen shot that if you click Customize View (on the right side, above search results), one set of options has to do with displaying seller info (click to enlarge):

So getting back to our search results, how do we build in the info the shopper needs to see? With as few words as possible. People hate reading. It needs to be visual, and tell the story at a glance. So I worked up a visual wireframe. No, I wouldn’t expect the final product on eBay to look like this. But this is where I would be going with a UX/UI project that aims at fixing this issue. After the image (click to enlarge), I’ll give you some points on my intentions for what you’re seeing.

I actually reworked a lot of what you’re seeing. Here are some points, and note that I didn’t fully work up the second search result’s appearance:

  • I added the Top Rated Seller badge to the item thumbnail. If eBay thinks that shoppers are concerned about picking out eBay’s best sellers, then let’s drop that badge out by where the eye is naturally going.
  • I put the item title and subtitle on one line, not wrapped. Easier to read.
  • Made the price larger. Moved Buy It Now, Best Offer, and bids right under it. Those two things go together.
  • Made FREE SHIPPING into a happy, glowing green delivery truck. Shoppers will only need to look for glowing green delivery trucks to know this is an item with free shipping. Drab blue delivery trucks mean the seller is charging for shipping. eBay’s trying to push sellers more and more into doing free shipping, so having a happy truck on your search result might help inspire a seller too. I put the shipping price right into the search results for the second item. When I clicked into it, it told me $10. So eBay knows this, which means it can be put on the search results page. I know that many sellers get “dumb” questions like what do they charge for shipping. Hopefully, something this visual and hard to miss will be an upgrade from how shipping is shown/hidden in search as well as on the individual item page. I didn’t work on that one yet, but the shipping price can be easy to miss, leading to customer service questions that waste the seller’s time since the info IS there!
  • I made it clear from where this seller ships (NY), when he will ship (2 biz days), and how. You now have a good idea of when you’ll get this. But if you go into the individual item page, eBay will tell you a range of days when you can expect to get this in your hands. That’s why…
  • The calendar is a placeholder for something way more advanced. The calendar would NOT show one day. It would show a range. eBay is calculating what days you’re likely to have this in your hands for the individual item page. So this image will show in an bold and hard-to-misunderstand way, “APRIL” at the top of the calendar on the red, and then “24-27” underneath (it would be more of a rectangle than a square to make room for the numbers). Boom. Obvious. No need to read much or think. This is when you’ll get this! When you eyeball all the search results, you’ll quickly see who is getting this to you fastest. Sure, you can read that it’s the guy who ships soon from near you, or in an expedited manner.

How long did it take you to figure out what I mocked up? Zero seconds? Was it just darn obvious? Did it leave you with questions or doubts? I think it’s fairly solid. It’s really just a slightly-designed wireframe, but I have confidence in it! I think this would be way better than eBay just slapping non-urgent info there, like the seller’s store name.

Will this idea solve every problem? No. For a collectable, a shopper will still want to go into the item, review lots of pictures, read about it, etc… Nothing we can put in search results to explain what this is in the detail it deserves. For a used or refurbished item, I’m going to go in and want to see more pics (is there damage?) and read about the condition (does it totally work)? Another concern is if a used item is guaranteed, warrantied, or can be returned. That might be nice to bring out into search since it CAN make or break a decision. But before I bring more info into search results, I’d love to see eBay test an idea like mine. I’d like to see if pogosticking goes down, and if not, I want to conduct interviews that find out WHAT info these people needed to see, and how they found it so quickly (if they’re staying less than a few seconds on an item before leaving).

Publicly-stated problem. Publicly-stated answer. I hope eBay will give this a try.

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Improve Your Surveys

Posted By on Apr 11, 2011

I was recently asked if I’d like to take a survey about what content might interest me. OK, sure. I assume this takes very little time, so let’s do it! Here is a screen shot of just one of the many questions. Click to enlarge.

Thing one, ouch ouch ouch. Thing two, holy cats, that’s a LOT of choices. I wish that by default, something meaning “no interest” were checked. I could then check my level of interest only where something interests me. What interests me on that list? Electronics, Food, and Pet. I have to say no to everything else. Can you make this faster and easier for me?

I closed the window, and didn’t fill out the survey.

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Penalty For Changing Your Mind

Posted By on Feb 16, 2011

Categories: Business

Tags: human behavior, travel

Name a scenario in which you are penanlised for changing your mind. I can only think of two. Flights (other than on Southwest) and pre-paid hotels, which typically have a no refund/no change policy. Maybe a restocking fee on an item you have to return.

Anything else? You’re not penalised when you change a regular hotel booking. Or rental car booking. Restaurant reservation. Dental appointment.

I can understand if an airline wanted to charge you a fee for cancelling. They thought they had it sold. Now they don’t. But if I’m changing my flight, I’m still doing business with you… and I may end up paying MORE based on what new flight I choose. I certainly won’t pay less. If I start off with a $300 flight and change to a $200 flight, I know I’m not getting a refund.

So why charger the fee at all? The fee makes me hesitant to buy the flight… which makes me possibly not book the travel at all. Or I book it on Southwest knowing that if my plans change, I’m not penalised. Why is Southwest special? What are they doing that other carriers can’t do? I could book on Virgin today, but if I have to change, it’s $75 plus any increase in the ticket price. Or I can book on Southwest now, and know that a change is not a problem. Which would you choose?

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Men typically don’t have a frame of reference for what it can be like to be a woman, especially in a male-dominated industry. In 1995, I went on tour with a band as their booking agent, tour manager, production manager, road manager, and sound engineer. 16 shows over 24 days in 5 countries in Europe. And every time the band introduced me to someone as their tour manager and sound engineer, the guy I was meeting typically said something like, “Well, aren’t you pretty!” or “Which guy in the band are you dating?” I was rarely taken seriously. And I couldn’t imagine that if that guy were meeting David, the tour manager and sound engineer, he’d tell David how handsome he is.

Fast forward to this week. Even though I have a serious boyfriend, I am still listed on an online dating site as looking to make friends… because I’m in a new city, and I’d like to make friends! My profile is very clear about this, and my profile is full of all the work I’m doing. The name I use on the dating website is the word “Busy” and then another word relating to business. So I don’t give it away, let’s say I’m “BusyEntrepreneur” as my online name.

This is the email I received yesterday through the dating website:


I’m too old for you. But this is a networking note, not a boy/girl thing.

I’ve been a CFO for a couple of telcom start-ups and returned from 4 years in Europe to this crappy job market. I’m a bit underemployed at my current gig at [a local well-known university].

If you need a snarky finance guy for one of your ventures, send me a note.

By the way, did you accidentally leave out a “t” between the “s” and the “y” in your screen name 😉

[first name]

Really. Just to make sure you didn’t miss the subtlety of that communication, please note 1) he’s basically asking me for a job, and 2) he suggests a letter T is missing from my online name… which would turn my online name into BUSTY Entrepreneur. Following that?

Sure, he’s a jerk. Sure I’d never hire him. Sure, he’s out of his mind. But it’s not like this is amazingly rare. So today, I ask each guy out there to think about how he looks at the professional women in his life. Even those of us with nice breasts, that’s not all we have. You may have nice eyes or be very good-looking, but in the professional arena, I’m interested in your qualifications and ideas. I will NOT be making any references to your looks or your body parts.

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