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Bad User Experiences and the Listerine Cap

Over the years I’ve gained more and more respect to the men and women who design our User Experiences. UX isn’t just for software, but everything you interact with, your keyboard, TV, fridge, the gear selection on your vehicle, all of those are UX interactions.

These interactions are vital to our use of a product, in extreme cases bad UX design can even cost lives. Your own unique products UX also trains the users the nuances of your product over time. Where you place buttons or interaction elements, the colors you use or even the textures.

Which brings me to a major UX failure that’s annoyed me to no end, the new Listerine Cap. Previous versions of that cap looked like this:

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The smooth section is where you place your fingers to squeeze the cap to release the child proof lock. Over years of using the product instinctively I knew what to do, so much so I could open the cap easily in the dark. Hopefully whoever designed this cap got a nice bonus.

Recently I bought some Listerine again and noticed immediately I was actually having difficulty opening the cap. I figured I was tried, distracted or whatever and moved on. But day after day I had the same trouble getting the cap off. It got to the point where after a long day driving a Water Tender around a Wildland fire I just hulked the cap off in a fit of rage. The issue, the cap design.

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The bottom section, where they put the logo, classy BTW, is smooth all the way around. From touch it’s almost impossible using coarse motor skills to identify, without looking, where you need to squeeze to open up the cap. Hopefully whoever designed this cap, most likely someone from marketing, gets a swift kick in the genital.

This small change has actually soured my opinion of the product, so much so that at least in the near future I won’t be buying it again. But it’s a powerful reinforcement, if something so minor can turn me off of a very cheap product, how many minor UX issues in my products have turned people off from buy decisions?

4 ways to fix YouTube’s Copyright system

I am not a content creator on social media, but I am a consumer. I have been a software developer for quite a while and have had exposure to Patent Infringement claims. As a developer and a business man, I do run a very small startup, I understand both sides of the issue, but our current trajectory is untenable. From the absolute mockery of public domain to aggressive and downright hostile copyright abuse that exists today a backlash is coming and the sooner companies like Google realize it the better.

Word cloud for Copyright infringementYouTube has two major issues that as a consumer I can spot. First is the Content ID system. Content ID is an automated system for cataloging copyrighted audio and video works and assigning them an ID in a database. All videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned and compared against the Content ID database, leading to automated takedowns. The second major issue is DMCA claims that can be filed against a video by a copyright holder. This is a manual submission (Content ID is fully automatic after you upload and catalog your works) but all other parts of the process are automated.

 

 

Why is this broken?

YouTube’s copyright system is getting close to 10 years old. This is an eternity in terms of the Internet. That long ago there weren’t people Let’s Playing, live streaming or making a living giving commentary. Ten years ago no one was sure how people could really make money off of the Internet like this and piracy was rampant. Companies like Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Viacom, etc thought that YouTube would be the downfall of their entire business models, through pirating or people watching others use their content. It’s under these conditions that the system as we have today with very little changes was enacted. YouTube was also not getting sued by the people creating content for it’s platform, thus it’s easy of use was heavily skewed toward the companies trying to protect their content.

But as with all things, if it doesn’t evolve it and it tilted in favor of one party over another it will start to be abused.

What are we seeing?

What we are seeing today is the YouTube’s Copyright system is being abused. Companies use the system to claim copyright over Fair Use videos and steal monetization (the ability for a creator to make money off of their videos), put content creators out of business and even more chilling silence critics. This happens because there are no penalties (even if the reporting page says there are) to report false claims. Instantly when you submit a claim or a Content ID match occurs for the next 30 or 60 days, you get the revenue from the video. Even if your claim is false and you withdraw it at the end. Because a channel (the storefront for all the content creators videos) can only have a max of 3 strikes against it at one time this system can easily be used to silence critics and stifle someone’s free speech for a time period.

YouTube is the #2 search engine on the Internet. As a platform it’s given the ability for a lot of people to make a living creating content. These content creators do it all legally, a lot of time utilizing the Fair Use provision to adding commentary or insights. But now they are under a constant risk. Imagine some, or all, of your income for 30, or 60 days could be stolen by a 3rd party. YouTube is popular because of these creators, not because of large companies.

Some ideas for fix the problem

As a developer I can see 4 easy ways to balance YouTube’s Copyright system. These aren’t end-all-be-all fixes, but intended to be things that can be added to the system to make it more fair and curb abuse.

1.) Strike System against False Claims

     There is a 3 strike system if you’re a content creator on the platform. If you get even one strike that can adversely affect your ability to create an upload videos, make money or even have a channel at all. But there is very little issues if you’re creating false claims. Companies should have to file claims on their own YouTube account. Sending out false claims should result in degradation of the claimants channel, unable to upload videos, unable to monetize, etc.

2.) Pending disputes don’t count against the system.

     When a claim is filed on a channel now it’s pretty much an instant strike. This is completely backwards and YouTube is automatically assuming guilt. Which could have been fine in 2005 but now is punishing creators (who are the major reason YouTube is popular) right out of the gate. Any claims pending against the channel (The ones within the 30,60 day response window) should not count against a channel.

3.) Monetization Should Be Held In Escrow (existing or added)

     Right now YouTube is an active participant in the Internets version of wage theft. As the system stands today if you have a monetized video on YouTube and someone files a claim they can draw the process out to the limit then at the very end withdraw the claim and keep the money. The same goes for Content ID, you have a monetized video and YouTube automatically detects content in the database, you money is now diverted to them. All money collected during the process should be held by YouTube (i.e. in Escrow) until the process is complete. This includes all existing and monetization that could be added during the process by either party.

4.) Claimant should pay for monetization stolen

     Content creators time is just as valuable as anyone’s. But the burden of proof is completely on them to submit documentation and information on these claims and thus end up spending a lot of time on this process. So this one is pretty simple, if you submit a claim against a monetized video you should have to pony up what the max spend over the time frame would be. If the max length for any claim is 60 days, then you should have to put into escrow 2 months with of estimated monetization. If your claim is false or invalid you loose the money up to that point. So if it takes 45 days, then you loose 45 days worth of that estimated monetization. That money would then go to the creator who had their time wasted and may split some off to fund a legal defense fund or go to charity.

What is a Senior or Lead Engineer/Developer

I see a lot of jobs out there looking for senior engineers/developers, with a fundamental lack of what the ‘senior’ part of that title means. If you only have senior in the title because of pay structure and scaling then you’ve already lost. Pay and progression though your organization shouldn’t rely on titles, there’s nothing wrong with an Engineer making more then a Senior Engineer. The difference in the titles is not pay or skills, but knowledge, experience and responsibility.

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If you’ve never seen the Brad Pitt war movie Fury (and your into war movies) I highly recommend it. In the movie Brad Pitt plays tank commander “Don Collier” who has to take on a fresh solider “Norman Ellison” played by Logan Lerman. Norman is young, never seen combat and is now working with a tank company filled with grizzled war veterans.

A good Senior Engineer/Developer is Brad Pitt, well the character he plays in Fury (I can dream dammit). They lead, teach and help their company and co-workers avoid painful and costly pitfalls through experience and knowledge.

Take this scene below, Norman is being thought (gruffly by Michael Peña’s character Trini Garcia) about what he’s going to do if the tank get’s hit. Brad Pitt also gives Norman a teachable moment by giving him an instruction, but also telling him why helping him avoid a costly mistake.

In the industry we often hear about 10x developers. These the the absolute rock stars that can pump out code like no-ones business. I’ve had the pleasure of working with 2 developers in my time that I consider 10x or close to 10x developers. But there is another class of developer or engineer that is just as valuable, they are the senior or lead ones.

A good senior developer is just as important as a 10x developers. A good senior developer ‘has been there and done that’ and has the patience and ability to teach others. They save time and money buy steering development down paths that avoid pitfalls they’ve encountered before. All while mentoring and teaching other developers as they go along making the team better as a whole.

Teaching and mentoring is an important aspect of the position. This goes beyond “hey I found this new technology and let me show it off”, anyone can do that and most of the time it’s a waste of time anyways. No proper teaching and mentoring involves being there to answer basic questions, conduct code reviews or paired programming sessions giving hints, tips and tricks along the way.

It also involves not taking the direct approach, the “this is how you do this, and now always do it this why”. A senior engineer should teach the ‘why’ of something, not just the how. Once a person is armed with the why they can figure out their own “how’s”, instead of just one.

So what is the difference between a Senior/Lead Engineer and a normal Engineer if not pay? It’s knowledge, experience and responsibility. Some developers just don’t want to teach people and that’s perfectly fine, some have excellent skills but very limited experience. Why should those people hit a pay celling and moving into a position they aren’t ready for or comfortable with? This is the Peter Principle at it’s finest.

Design positions in your organization that have distinct roles and responsibilities that take into account the strengths needed for that role and it’s responsibilities. Next don’t lock pay at any of those positions, a 10x developer in a Software Engineer should be able to earn more then a Senior Software Engineer. Your just punishing your company by forcing developers into a false career path that dooms them to fail. Don’t promote people into positions just because they’ve been there forever. Length of service doesn’t indicate that someone can lead or teach others.

Finally realize that a senior level position isn’t a function of age. Someone young could have more experience working with OSS and personal projects then his resume reflects, professionalism is not being paid to do a job, it’s a state of mind and holding yourself to a standard.

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