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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Anti-Pattern: Pogo Stick - Google Blogger vs. Backpackit

In my previous article I ranted about Google Blogger. Let me rant some more :-)

Besides being a good example of the One at a Time Anti-Pattern it is also a good example of the Pogo Stick Anti-Pattern (I first heard this term from Jared Spool). I define it as:

Requiring the user to go down a level or two, perform an operation, come back to the top and then have to go back down again. The name comes from hopping up and down through the site.

In the Google Blogger example I described the process of deleting comments requiring a multi-step process:

Pogo Sticking in Google Blogger

It takes three page refreshes to complete the operation and return to where you started.

Compare this to the way you can delete in Backpackit.

Backpackit provides an in page one step delete

What to do about delete confirmation?
  1. Don't provide one. If the item is trivial (like an item in a list) you can just let the user delete it without bothering them with an idiot box (pointless confirmation).
  2. Provide one. In Google Reader they use the standard Alert mechanism. This is less than desirable since depending on the operating system the confirmation can appear far away from the deleted item. On the Mac, the alert slides out under the title bar which forces the user to move the mouse far away from the delete operation. Another approach is to provide a lightweight overlay (with a DIV or iFrame) to confirm the delete. They can appear quickly and in context with the operation.
  3. Provide an Undo. Google does this in several of its products. In Google Mail if you delete a mail message you get a chance to undo the delete.

Deleting mail messages can be undone in Google Mail

This is a clever way to present a one-time undo by tying it to status messaging (along with contextual help).

By using a direct In Page Action pattern, the Pogo Stick Anti-Pattern can often be eliminated.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Anti-Pattern: One at a Time - Google Blogger, Reader and Backpackit

Ok, I really shouldn't use blogger. I mean I get a disdainful look from most other bloggers. How can I have a serious blog on blogger? And at times some of its deficiencies drive me completely nuts. I keep planning to move to WordPress but inertia keeps me using blogger.

But one thing that drives me completely bonkers is the administration of commenting. I recently was spammed like crazy across all my articles. For some reason I stopped getting notification after the new Blogger was released (even though I had the "send me email when I get a comment" option turned on.) Needless to say I have it set so that I have to moderate all comments (unfortunately).

So when I did find out about the spam, I had to go to every article (still not done) and delete the spam one comment at a time.

Here is the process:
  1. Go to blog article and find spam comment
  2. Click on trash can icon to delete
  3. Get taken to another page
  4. Click the "Remove Forever" checkbox
  5. Click the "Delete Comment" button
  6. Click the link to go back to my blog article
  7. Scroll back down and find the next article, repeat steps 2-7 as needed.
This is a classic Anti-Pattern that I call "One at a Time". It's when you force the user to only be able to act on a single object at a time.

Steps 1 & 2:

Steps 3-5:

Step 6:

Now imagine having to do this for 50 spammed comments. Now you can get a feel of how painful the One at a Time Anti-Pattern can be. This also illustrates the Pogo Stick Anti Pattern -- forcing the user to go back and forth through several page levels to accomplish a single task.

This makes my original example in my Anti-Pattern talk look very paltry. I used a very simple example from an early version of backpackit.

Clicking on Lettuce requires the user to wait a second before hitting Tomatoes to avoid a race condition. Now this is a minor nit and only comes into play when you are clicking several to do items in succession. Note in the latest version of backpackit this is not an issue since the time it takes for an item to respond that is is checked is almost zero seconds.

But this does show up in other places with varying degrees of annoyance. Often there is no way to do a bulk operation like delete all items. Here is an example from Google Reader.

In this example from Google Reader, they do provide a way to remove multiple feeds. In my original comments on this interface I missed the bulk remove since the use of the trash can and the unsubscribe button don't match each other well -- leading me to originally miss the bulk remove. Thanks to Dan (comment below) for catching my mistake.


To delete you have to click the trash can icon. For each click you must confirm the delete.

Hopefully you will not have to do this for a bunch of feeds. Your best bet is to export the OPML file and edit the XML directly :-)

There is also a mixture of interaction idioms employed on the same page:
  • Direct In Page Action. 
    • Delete. Action happens immediately when you click on trash can tool. Follows the One at a Time anti-pattern.
    • Rename. Action happens immediately when you click on 'Rename'. Follows the One at a Time anti-pattern.
    • Change Tag (Folder). 'Folder' equals 'Tag'. Unlike the select then tag, this allows you to add or remove a tag by selecting/deselecting the tag/folder from an individual drop down list for each item.
  • Action on Selection. 
    • Tag. Select items with check box then click the function to start the action on the selection with the Drop down (More Actions...). This is is especially confusing since you are led to think the drop down would be a filter since it lists all your tags (and is sandwiched between two filtering mechanisms).
    • Unsubscribe. The Unsubscribe operates on selected items (not to be confused with the visible filtered items).

It's not all bad to mix these idiom styles. I think the use of a trashcan for unsubscribe is what is most confusing.

Even with the bad labeling this is better than Google Blogger which provides me no way to delete except one-at-a-time.

Ok, so I feel a little better after all this ranting. Now I can get back to deleting the spam comments -- One at a Time.

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