Friday, July 06, 2007

Pausing in High Definition

This is a tale of the worst customer service I have ever been witness to. I am the victim in the story. Were it not for my love of On Demand, I would have been on the phone with DirectTV days ago. I'm still considering, but it depends on some things.

All I wanted was High Definition television and a DVR box from my new cable company. Now, for background, I am renting my current house from my mother-in-law, to keep the house for her, while she works a temporary position with her company's training infrastructure. We're trying to keep as much as possible in her name, so that her move back is easier.

Here is the tale, in bullet point:
  • Call and schedule an appointment and backup appointment for HD DVR and a cable modem installation.
  • Miss the first appointment and figure they were busy.
  • Call first thing on the day of the backup, to remove the cable modem from the order. The phone company gave me a discount to keep the DSL, that saved me more than a bundle from the cable company.
  • Find out they never made the appointment. I waited a week for nothing.
  • I ask if I, not being the account holder, can go in and pick up the box. I am told tha I can.
  • Going into the location, I'm told I can't pick up the box, even though I have all the information.
  • My wife is added to the account, and we're told I can pick up the box, being married to an account holder.
  • Second trip is responded to negatively. When I say the 800 number OK'ed my trip, I am told "You don't need to listen to them, you need to listen to me. I have the boxes."
  • My wife goes to the location with a friend.
  • She's told she is not on the account, but that there is a note that her mother called in to add her. Somehow, that was not good enough.
  • "Isn't that good enough," her friend asks.
    "Who is this," the clerk asks, pointing at the friend and not looking away from my wife. "She needs to not talk."
  • On that last point, I shit you not.
  • They take my wife into the back office to tell her she can not get the box. That is strange.
  • When my wife gets home, I call them again and tell them the story, only to have it confirmed that my wife is absolutely on the account. Their HQ contacts the retail location and tells the manager to expect us and have the equipment ready.
  • We go back, pick up the box, and bring it home.
  • They forgot to give us a power cable.
  • We make a fifth trip to get a power cable.
No one would tell me how much storage the box had, so I still don't know how much I can record on the thing.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Me, Too, Python Magazine!

Thankfully, Brian Jones has finally went public with the Python Magazine he is launching. Why am I so thankful for this? I can talk about it now, and how I'm a technical editor, columnist, and will most likely author an article some issues aside from the column. The working title for my column is "And Now For Something Completely Different" and I think I will stick with that.

It is all very exciting. Being a huge fan of education of and through Python, the magazine is really fantastic in my eyes. Whatever I can do to help it along and turn it into a positive move for the community is worth the effort.

Keep your eyes out here for a surprise about the magazine before the first issue comes out.

See his original post:
Python Magazine Lives

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Page Chunking, Like Chunky Milk, Is Bad

Search results suck past the first page. Google might have a billion results for some search, but it won't give them all to you in the result page. You are probably only interested in the first five or so results. To be nice, you get a whole ten results on the page. If you want more, you need to go to page after page of ten results at a time, possibly millions of pages worth to get every single result. Obviously, you won't do that, and for two reasons:
  1. You don't care about all ten of the results on the first page, much less the thousands or millions of other result pages.
  2. Refining your search is far easier than going through one page at a time.
Having or bringing the information you want to the top of the listing is better than looking for it further down in the listing. That being the case, our solutions should center around making it easier to bring information up from the mountain of results, instead of finding ways to bury you inside of it.

Some interesting headway has been made with the universal search features launched by Google. You can shift your search focus to their different specialized searches. Ask.com has some of the most interesting result filtering, with their Narrow and Expand search suggestions. Rather than paging through results or manually trying to alter your criteria, they will split the results into logical segments, and point you to what your current results might be a segment of.

Another interesting filter tool could be result voting. I imagine a small - link on each result, which when clicked will remove the result, along with any very similar results in the entire set, and will reorder the remaining ones based on how similar they are to something you have deemed completely irrelevent. This would be a great way to filter similar termed, but logically different concepts. There are rumors that Google is testing such a feature, but I have not seen proof of this yet.

What other ways can we dig through the mountains we are mining?


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I write here about programming, how to program better, things I think are neat and are related to programming. I might write other things at my personal website.

I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.