The New York Times Navigation Bar Could be Improved

The navigation bar on The New York Times website doesn't look finished. I'm sure I'm not the first to notice this, but it hasn't changed since they launched the new site a few months ago. So, I took a stab at improving it.

The Setup

When you visit The New York Times website, the navigation bar is 155px below the top, centered horizontally, and 28px tall. When the navigation bar reaches the top of the window (after scrolling), it becomes anchored to the top.

The Problem

At this point, the navigation's layout changes dramatically. Two new items are added to the left and one is removed from the right. On top of that, the navigation items become left aligned and the bar becomes taller.

But there's no transition. Jarring is the first word that comes to mind. Here's a quick video that demonstrates the issue.

The Solution

I'm going to assume that the differences between the two versions of the navigation are absolutely necessary. That being said, it wouldn't be hard to add some transitions to soften the jarring switch.

I think the new navigation items should fade in, and the existing ones should glide to the left.

I've quickly thrown together a demo of how I'd hope The Times would improve their menu. Give it a try, I think it's a huge improvement. Is my version perfect? Of course not, I hacked it together on a Saturday morning while "watching" my nine month old.

But it's a start.

Update

Just wanted to address some comments I've gotten.

  1. Yes, I know this doesn't work great in mobile. This solution is for The Times desktop site. Even so, it'd be easy enough to come up with a complete solution.
  2. I've (mostly) fixed the demo in FireFox
  3. How'd I do it? With CSS3 transitions and a little JavaScript to calculate the width of the menu items. This wouldn't work for older browsers. But, since we're leaving the markup as is, older browsers would just continue to work in the current fashion, and modern browsers would work better. Check out the source of the demo for the details, but for those interested, I've included the pertinent transition code below.

HTML:

<div id="container">
<header>
<h1>New York Times</h1>
</header>
<div class="menu">
<ul>
<li class="icon hamburger">&nbsp;</li>
<li class="icon search">&nbsp;</li>
<li>World</li>
<li>U.S.</li>
<li>New York</li>
<li>Business</li>
<li>Opinion</li>
<li>Sports</li>
<li>Science</li>
<li>Arts</li>
<li>Fashion &amp; Style</li>
<li>Video</li>
</ul>
</div>
<div class="content">
...
</div>
</div>

JavaScript:

$(window).bind('scroll', function() {
if ($(window).scrollTop() > 119) {
$('#container').addClass('scrolled');
var width = 50;
$('.menu UL LI').each(function(index, el){
width += $(el).width() + 4;
});
$('.menu UL').css('width', width + 'px');
} else {
$('#container').removeClass('scrolled');
$('.menu UL').css('width', '942px');
}
});

CSS

.menu {
padding:4px;
transition: padding 100ms linear;
-webkit-transition: padding 100ms linear;

}

.scrolled .menu {
position: fixed;
top:0;
padding-top:8px;
padding-bottom: 8px;
}

.menu UL {
width:942px;
transition: width 100ms linear;
-webkit-transition: width 100ms linear;
}
.menu UL LI.icon {
display:block;
visibility: hidden;
float: left;
width:25px;
transition: visibility 250ms linear;
}
.menu UL LI.icon.hamburger {
background: url('/nytimes/hamburger.png') no-repeat 0 -7;
}
.menu UL LI.icon.search {
background: url('/nytimes/search.png') no-repeat 0 -7;
}
.scrolled .menu UL LI.icon {
visibility:visible;
}

The Most Hipster Article Ever Written

This article about about the soon to open Shuffle Board Club in Brooklyn has got to be the finest collection of hipster themed sentences to ever have been written.

Honestly, choosing just one paragraph to quote is difficult, so read the whole thing, but this is my favorite:

The story of the Royal Palms began two years ago, when Jonathan Schnapp, 41, a D.J., piñata-maker, web design professor at New York University and web developer, was driving to Miami with a friend, Ashley Albert, 40, a voice-over artist, front woman for the children’s rock ’n’ roll band the Jimmies, and jewelry maker. The pair were on their way to judge a barbecue contest in Lakeland, Fla. (Mr. Schnapp and Ms. Albert are also accredited Kansas City Barbecue Society judges.)
— New York Times

Black Friday: Views From a Jew

I see these commercials bragging about Black Friday starting at 8pm on Thanksgiving. Let's ignore the fact that it's not Friday (and we'll ignore the "Black Friday Deals All Week!" idiocy as well). My real question is: who are these people who think that's a good thing? I mean, if stores are opening on Thursday, that must mean that a majority of Americans think that's a good idea. Or at least that retailers believe that's the case. In my entire lifetime, I have met one person who genuinely likes Black Friday. So, maybe I hang in the wrong circles.

Oh, and another thing about Black Friday starting on Thanksgiving: Christmas is a holiday about spending time with your family, right? Have a delicious feast with your loved ones, give gifts to show your affection. That sounds nice. So why are people ditching one family gathering to get gifts for another? Live in the moment!

Even setting aside the recent trend of opening on Thanksgiving, the whole thing still doesn't make sense. If retailers have to offer ridiculous discounts on their everyday prices to get customers to show up, how are they actually making money? Either the bulk of Black Friday purchases are at regular prices or retailers jack up their regular prices so high that crazy discounts still leave them margin for profit.

If the bulk of Black Friday purchases are at regular prices, why do customers even bother showing up? If regular prices are so jacked up, why not just charge appealing prices on products all year long? People might be willing to buy things on more than one day a year. And then you wouldn't need Black Friday. You could just have Black Everyday.

Also, everyone knows that online prices are way better than even the craziest Black Friday prices, right?

I'm not looking for an explanation. I know that there's no good one. It's just one of those anachronistic things that I wish we could all simultaneously agree to stop doing.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Heaven, Hell and the Empire

Imagine you’re in hell. The devil has been torturing you day in, day out, for years. Every year, he finds a new way to torture you that’s even worse than the last. You don’t deserve it, you just ended up there.

Then, one day, all of a sudden, you find yourself in heaven, being granted bountiful goodness by Angels. You want a foot massage? You got it. Is there another beer in the fridge? Of course there is! It’s great. 

So a few years of this go by, and someone says “Hey my buddy, Satan, is down on his luck, want to go cheer him up?”

I’ve been a Sox fan in New York since 1998. I lived through 2003. There’s just no fucking way i feel bad for the Yankees.

Photos of old iMacs and Tube TVs at my parents' house

This is just out of control.

Lets start with my bedroom. Here’s a nice shot of a G5 iMac. This was never my iMac, so I’m not sure why it’s in my room.

I couldn’t help but grab this pic of Jurassic TV fossils sitting next to my old desk. Turns out it costs money to throw them away.

Loved these fanless iMacs. This was my youngest brother’s first computer. 

Ahh the Sunflower iMac. I think this was my middle brother’s.

OK, I lied. This one is still in use. Incredible (embarrassing?) that we have owned one of every form factor.

Apple's Map Links still go to Google on Macs and PCs

There have been many complaints about the data behind Apple’s new Maps app, and they are all certainly valid. However, my mother pointed out one non-data shortcoming that I have not seen mentioned elsewhere. When she goes on a trip, she likes to map out the directions on her computer, review the route, and then send those directions to her iPhone.

In iOS 5, clicking that link would open up the Maps app. However, with iOS 6, clicking that link instead opens Google’s website in Safari. That makes sense to me technically, but it is certainly a step backwards for users. So, it got me thinking: “how does Apple handle the new URL scheme they’ve got with iOS 6?”

According to this developer document, you can open the new Maps app, centered on Cupertino with this URL: 

http://maps.apple.com/maps?q=cupertino

Likewise, you can open up directions in the new Maps app using a link formed like this:

http://maps.apple.com/maps?daddr=San+Francisco,+CA&saddr=cupertino   

Indeed, on my new iPhone, loading those links in Safari automatically opens the Maps app. However, when loading those links on a PC, you are redirected to Google Maps. Maybe this had already been revealed, but it is news to me.

You may have noticed that those URLs look very familiar. In fact, Apple’s Maps URL scheme very closely mimics Google’s. It is so close, that you can take any link to a Google Map, replace the “google” in the URL with “apple,” send it to an iPhone, and voila, the Maps app will automatically open up. (Enormous caveat being that you will then get Apple’s directions, not Google’s).

Wow, Verizon is worse than Time Warner

Last Sunday, I called Verizon to see if I could test my line prior to the technician arriving. The woman was rude, speaking sarcastically with me: “How could we test the line before we’ve turned it on?

Strike 1.

Then she told me the technician would test it when he arrived for the all day appointment I had scheduled on Wednesday.

Waitaminute! The previous representative told me that they just flip a switch and he assured me I would not need to be home. I can’t be home on Wednesday. Even if I could be home, can’t you narrow it down beyond “All Day?”

No. They can’t.

Strike 2.

I took the day off Wednesday to wait for Verizon to come install my DSL. (Somehow “self installation kit” doesn’t actually mean that). At 4:30PM, half an hour before the end of my 8 hour installation window, I called customer service.

Sir I’m sorry to inform you that the technician got held up at an earlier job, and we will be unable to install your service today.

I was steaming mad, but I kept my cool. I asked the representative what she could do to compensate me for wasting my entire day. She offered to waive the installation fee of $19.95. Then she offered discounted anti-virus software. Then she offered to sell me DirecTV. Then she asked me if I wanted to bundle my cell phone with the Verizon bill.

Strike 3. (Also the other 26 outs)

So I canceled my appointment and my account, destined to poach lousy service from my neighbor until the expiration of my Time Warner 45 day lockout. Then I decided, on a lark, to try signing up for Time Warner Extreme internet in my wife’s name. I’d been told it wouldn’t work, but what harm could it possibly do? 

Monday morning, they will come and install Extreme internet between 10am and noon, a two hour window. Unbelievable.

Don’t fuck this up guys.

Thoughts on Apple TV and Cable

There have been several reports over the last few days that Apple has been in talks with cable providers to provide live television via an upgraded (or new) Apple TV. I was skeptical at first. Would Apple really want to deal with the mess that is cable cards? Or the hassle of getting the cable providers on board with integration? Especially as more and more people are quitting cable.

Then I remembered the Steve Jobs quote in Walter Isaacson’s book regarding Apple TV: “I finally cracked it.” Obviously, Steve had an “ah ha” moment. What if that idea was this:

Integrate Apple TV with cable provider existing streaming services. Time Warner and Comcast each have an iPad app that allows you to watch live TV. You just have to convince the providers to offer a streaming only plan*.

Cable companies would be happy because they could continue to control access to live entertainment. They could even continue to bundle their services, making more money than they can just offering internet. They even get the side benefit of no longer having to support their horrendous technology.

Apple would be happy because it could control the user experience, and serve as the sole solution to the living room problem. Essentially, the cable company becomes an app next to Hulu and Netflix. And, it would allow Apple to focus on the technology rather than on getting and maintaining content deals for iTunes, which have proved difficult in some cases.

* I realize this is harder said than done. They have their own deals with content providers that my preclude this. But the cable companies would have a much easier time negotiating streaming access with providers than Apple does. The cable companies have far more leverage.

Quitting Cable: A week and a half without Internet

After learning about Time Warner’s 45 day waiting period before they will let you sign up as a new customer, I checked out Verizon.com. Unfortunately, my building isn’t FIOS ready, so I had to go with DSL. Of course, Verizon has it’s own set of insane policies I had to navigate.

First of all, you cannot sign up for just Internet: You must also get phone service. Why? Probably because no one wants a home phone (myself included). But at that point, I was completely out of options. So, I chose the phone and DSL bundle at the introductory rate of $45 a month. The 3.1Mbps DSL is slower than the cable modem I gave up last week.

Then came the real insult. When I clicked next on the sign-up form, it said the earliest activation date was August 22. “That’s a week and a half away, can’t you do anything sooner?” I typed to the chat representative. No, they can’t. Then I asked if I’d need to be home for the install. “No, we just flip a switch in our office.”

Then why the hell can’t you flip it sooner?

The DSL modem showed up yesterday, giving me over a week with a useless box sitting in my apartment, and no Internet. OK, I lied: I signed up for LTE service on my iPad. (Of course AT&T won’t let me tether, but I digress)

The only positive thing about this whole debacle is that I now have a new strategy for screwing over Time Warner. I’ll sign up for Verizon DSL for two months at the introductory rate. Then, when my 45 day waiting period is over, I will switch back to Time Warner for WideBand. I can just keep doing this year after year, locking in the best rate possible, screwing over Time Warner in my own little way.

Quitting Cable: What do you mean there's a 45 day waiting period?

I’ve had plenty of problems with Time Warner’s customer service over the years. And granted, I am trying to do something they don’t want you to do. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that three different representatives gave me three different answers about how I would be able to sign back up after canceling my account, but none of them mentioned the 45 day waiting period before I was even allowed to have a new account.

The policy is designed to prevent existing customers from getting new customer deals by canceling and immediately signing back up. It makes sense, and if I had known about it, I would have dealt with the hassle of talking to Earthlink to cancel my service with them, then getting back in touch with Time Warner to switch my service to RoadRunner. 

But on Friday, when I called up to deal with yet another “hold” on my new order, the representative mentioned the 45 day waiting period casually: “Oh that might be the problem.” He was actually very nice, and attempted to subvert their systems to get me what I wanted, but in the end, all he could do was “escalate the issue.”

Then, on Sunday, I spoke with another representative. This woman talked over me, refused to listen to my problem, and transferred me to a different department while I was asking her a question. Classic Time Warner customer service.

So, I hung up and called Verizon.

Quitting Cable: Here we go

OK, technically I haven’t quit anything. But I did sign up for a new account with Extreme Internet. (Which I had to do because Time Warner won’t let me upgrade from Earthlink to Extreme…)

I’m planning to call up and cancel my existing plan once the technician has installed my new service. Hopefully, I’m able to actually do that.

Update 7/28 6:21 PM

Well it obviously wasn’t going to be that easy. I received an email from Time Warner indicating that my order would be canceled if I didn’t call them right away. Upon calling I learned that since I have an active account with Time Warner, the system will not allow me to create a new account. “Just schedule a disconnect and then we can release your order, I’ll transfer you now.”

We are experiencing higher than normal call volume. Your call is important to us, please stay on the line and a customer service representative will be with you as soon as possible.

When I finally got through, I was told of all the great offers I could get if I didn’t cancel my account. Then I was told that actually, I don’t have to cancel my account, I just need to call EarthLink and tell them I want to switch to Road Runner. “How much is the Extreme 30Mbps package if I do that?” $72.95 per month. But the option I found online is $52.95 per month.

Well sir, I can offer you $62.95 per month. That is the best we can do on the phone.

So I scheduled a cancellation. Shocking that the soonest a technician can get to me is 2 weeks from now. But they can come install my new service on August 1. Speaking of which, when I then tried to call and have my order removed from their hold status (and delayed until the tenth), that department had closed.

Update 7/29 10:42 AM

So once again, I’ve found that the previous customer service representative misled me: The customer service version of “pay it forward.” Turns out, just scheduling a disconnect is not enough. I have to actually be disconnected before I can schedule my install. Not that I blame them, I mean they should make it inconvenient to do what I’m doing. That being said, you’d think someone at their organization would understand how their system works. So now I’ll have a service interruption for at least a weekend. Being stubborn about $10 a month has its pitfalls.

Quitting Cable: All The Terrible That Comes With Changing Your Email Address

For ten years, I’ve had an earthlink email address as my primary junk email address. Every service I’ve ever signed up for on the web has been that Earthlink account. Because Time Warner cable won’t let you upgrade from Earthlink standard cable modem service to WideBand service, I’ve decided to cancel everything, and sign up as a new customer. So, I am in the process of updating my email address for every website with which I have an account. Most go pretty smoothly, but there are definitely some glitches.

AngelList: Security Oops

I made a typo when I typed in my email address, so I was unable to re-login into AngelList. There was no email confirmation box, and they don’t send a confirmation email to your old email address. So, I had no idea what was wrong. That part doesn’t bother me so much, but the fact that I was able to hit the back button 10 times, and get to the logged-in view of my account settings page, then click edit and see all of my settings has me seriously concerned. (I was not able to change anything at that point) That is a serious security lapse.

Also, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do on AngelList, I just know that as a software engineer, I’m supposed to love them and think they’re doing so much for our industry.

Yahoo Groups: UX Fail

I am forced to have a Yahoo Groups account because my co-op’s distribution list is on Yahoo Groups. I love this error:

Apparently, Yahoo won’t let you save an email address with Yahoo in the name. Brilliant! Also, perhaps not surprisingly, once I did select an acceptable email address, the process of changing it over was a UX nightmare, and I somehow received 10 emails from Yahoo in the process.

One more thing: In case you were wondering: No, you cannot change your Yahoo ID. So, yes you are stuck with the awful one you chose for fantasy baseball 12 years ago.


Facebook: No you don’t know my password

Facebook… I just signed in. I know I typed my password in correctly. So I can’t add a new email address. I’m really looking forward to my #leavingfacebook series.

GroupMe: Yikes on Email Templates

My buddy @whereandy works for GroupMe, so I definitely gave him hell over the 1997 email change confirmation email:

Here are some of the other, less-notable glitches I encountered:

  • SlideShare doesn’t have different email templates for their new user confirmation email and existing user changes email address verification, so I got a silly “Welcome to SlideShare”
  • Columbia ACIS has not updated their interface since I was in college. Spoiler: It’s still terrible.
  • Seamless: Unless I’m blind, I cannot find a way to change my account email address. Lame.

In any case, its a long process. I’ve been at it for over a week and I’m still getting emails to that old Earthlink account. 

Quitting Cable: A Prologue

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve quit anything, so I’ve decided to embark on a new mission. In some ways, it will be far more difficult than leaving google.* On the other hand, the television I watch is a combination of great shows I can legally purchase online and wastes of time (which I can also purchase legally online). On top of that, I have Netflix streaming on AppleTV and Hulu Plus on xBox. I mean, this is a cinch.

So here’s the plan. I’m going to drop my Triple Play service (Cable, Internet and VoIP Phone) and replace it with Wideband Internet (30Mbps down, 5Mbps up). I’ll stream anything I can, and buy anything I want. On top of that, I’ll be paying $50 a month instead of $130 (for the first year, but my $130 deal climbs to something obnoxious in six months anyway).

Unlike my quest to quit Google, I know the exact service I want to purchase. Unfortunately, getting what I want is proving to be far more difficult. I called Time Warner today, to ask for information about Wideband 30.

OK, sir, in order to give you information about Wideband 30, let me just ask you a few questions to better advise you on the offerings we have. What kind of devices do you use the internet with?

Yea, I already know I want Wideband 30, I just want to find out about the process of switching to it.

Absolutely sir, I’d be glad to help you with that. I’d like to ask you a few questions to better advise you on the offerings we have. What kind of decides do you use the internet with?

Listen, I’m technically savvy, can we just skip this part because I already know that I want Wideband 30.

This went on for a while until Anthony put me on hold to speak with his manager. Finally, he informed me that because my internet was through Earthlink rather than RoadRunner, he couldn’t help me and he’d have to refer me to the retention department. Then the phone cut out. Either he hung up on me or my Time Warner VoIP phone dropped the call.

Retention was more direct, but just as helpful. After re-explaining my whole setup, she informed me that she could not even touch my service, I’d have to call Earthlink. But I’ve never dealt with Earthlink previously, I’ve only dealt with Time Warner

So, as it turns out, the only way to upgrade to Time Warner Wideband is to completely cancel my Time Warner Earthlink internet service.

And so it begins…

* I have an epilogue to that saga started, I’ll get it posted eventually.