Data Plans, Mysterious Fruits, and Ice Cream!

09 November 2015

This past August, Verizon reworked their wireless data plan offerings. Here’s how they sold them.

My thoughts?

  • What fruit is used for the 3 GB plan? My best guess is a hairless coconut. Also, why does this mysterious fruit not cast a shadow like the other fruits?
  • The “Best for” cases will only confuse customers. What does it mean to use “Facebook once in a while?” Am I a “gamer” needing extra data if all I play is offline games? And then there’s the stupid obvious: of course “big-time data users” pick the beefiest plan.
  • Why are the leaves of the pineapple clipped on top!?
  • The fruit analogy is a bit forced. Yes, a watermelon is heavier than an orange. But fruits have varying prices per pound. For example, take a watermelon and a weight-equivalent amount of avocados; the avocados will cost more. You’re literally comparing apples to oranges, but the apples are watermelons in this case. That said, if you overanalyze everything, everything is a bit forced.

I took a screenshot of this and months later finally sat down to write this post. Fortunately, revisiting this page today I saw Verizon made many positive tweaks to this page!

  • Everyone knows this absolute truth: ice cream is one of the best things ever. Fruit is nice, but ice cream is infinitely better. For the record, if the new version had used vegetables, I’d lose it.
  • My guess at the flavors: Strawberry, French Vanilla, Matcha Green Tea, Blueberry, and Vanilla Bean.
  • The header changed from “One plan. Four sizes.” to “One plan. Pick a size.” Adding a call to action helps guide users to the ultimate goal: helping them pick a data plan.
  • Using scoops of ice cream to differentiate plans is simple and natural. More scoops means you get more ice cream, but you’ll pay more. Everyone’s gone through this experience (some more than others) when buying ice cream.
  • Scoops are also just more aesthetically pleasing. They are coherent. A single scoop of Strawberry next to a double scoop of Strawberry and Vanilla will always look more natural versus a watermelon sitting next to a pineapple.
  • The “Best for” in the original version was a brave, but foolish endeavor. Removing it completely was a good move.
  • Some people will always go with the most expensive option and Verizon loses nothing someone uses 1 GB of the 18 GB XXL plan. Adding an XXL option will impact revenue in positive ways.
  • I don’t like chocolate, but most people love chocolate. Is there a kindred chocolate-hater on the Verizon team that refused to add a scoop of chocolate to even their 5-scoop XXL cone!?
  • As scoops are added across plans, the new scoops somehow magically get added UNDER the previous scoop. See how 1 GB is a scoop of Strawberry, but 3 GB has a scoop of French Vanilla UNDER (and not OVER) the scoop of Strawberry? It’s a bit unnatural and quite unnerving for this ice cream lover.

In short: I thought the fruity implementation was a bad joke, but I’m actually quite fond of and impressed with the ice cream implementation. It works well. Kudos to the Verizon design team!

Google Calendar and Mortality

02 November 2015

Do seemingly random things ever hit unexpected places in unexpected ways?

I have a Birthday calendar that I use to keep track of family and friend’s birthdays. It’s reliable because:

  • Birthdays don’t (normally) change!
  • I don’t have to rely on some social network (and proper privacy settings) to inform me.
  • I can add reminders days or weeks ahead of particular birthdays in case I need to get a gift.

Adding someone’s birthday to my calendar is easy. You create a new event and set it to repeat annually. And then the unexpected part happens:

I go with the DENIAL route and pick NEVER.

Fucking aye! Google Calendar just reminded me of a sobering and morbid truth: everyone dies. Thanks for that! And double thanks for reminding me of that when I’m thinking about people important enough to be added to my special Birthday calendar.

This calendar hit me right in the feels!

Feeling down? Turn that frown around! It’s Monday! Happy Monday! Be happy please! Come on!

Madhouse is Killing Anime

14 October 2015

Sometimes I start watching an anime series and it’s so good, I power through it in a few days. Overlord is the most recent anime to hook me so thoroughly I blasted through all 13 episodes in a weekend. While I could sing praises for Overlord, the very clear trend I only recently became aware of is the studio behind Overlord: Madhouse.

To say Madhouse has absolutely and consistently been killing it, producing top quality anime feels like an understatement. Take a look at the list of works by Madhouse and you’ll find anime that are, should be, or will soon be on your favorites list. This list includes gems like Death Note, No Game No Life, Death Parade, Parasyte, Monster, Hellsing Ultimate, Black Lagoon, Hunter x Hunter, and Trigun.

Need a new anime to watch? Take a somewhat unconventional route and start looking at the Madhouse productions you haven’t watched. Happy Madhousing!

Hello Tabletop Gaming

04 October 2015

I’ve recently begun exploring tabletop gaming and I’m happy to report my journey so far has been thoroughly enjoyable! Here are two games (one board and one card) that I’m currently hooked on.

Our first victory over Pandemic!

Pandemic is a cooperative board game (2-4 players) that pits your team against four malevolent diseases, which are conveniently named red, blue, yellow, and black. Players take turns moving between cities and trying to stymie the spread of the various diseases while gathering enough resources to discover respective cures. Discussion among the team is encouraged and a must for victory as coordination is key. It’s a challenging game; it took us four tries to finally win a game! Mechanics in the game make each iteration feel novel and fresh: each person is randomly assigned a role that gives them special perks (e.g. a medic can cure diseases in a town faster) and how diseases spread are determined from a shuffled (random) deck of cards.

There are several expansions to Pandemic that increase the challenge in this already challenging game. If this sounds daunting, I still definitely recommend getting the On The Brink expansion from the get-go as it includes much-needed dishes and trays for organizing all the tokens and disease cubes. Pandemic and On The Brink will run you about $50, but I’ve found it a worthwhile investment!

The end of a Monopoly Deal game.

Monopoly Deal is a faster way to play Monopoly. You’ll acquire property, charge rent, put houses and hotels down, screw over friends, and probably lose friends. But it won’t take more than 15 minutes to accomplish all this and all you need to carry around is a deck of 110 cards! You win when you can acquire three complete sets of a property color.

As with regular Monopoly, your friends mortal enemies will be looking to deplete your bank, take your property, and inflict permanent damage to your soul. Luck is certainly useful when drawing cards from a shuffled deck. But I’ve also lost consistently enough times that some strategy (that I’m unaware of) must be at play! Purchasable today for under $5, getting this game won’t break the bank!

If I’ve piqued your interest, but you’ve got any questions feel free to send me a tweet!

Computer Security Basics

22 September 2015

In our rapidly technologizing world, staying secure means adapting to novel threats. Staying safe isn’t difficult. A little effort here and there will keep you out of a lot of trouble. Here are some basic computer security tips.

  1. Passwords - Most people are terrible about passwords: using just a single password for everything. This is bad. When you hear about a website getting hacked, and passwords getting leaked your first thought should not be, “Crap! What other sites was I using that password on?” It should be, “Oh… I guess I need to update my password on that one site.” You need unique passwords for everything. Don’t share passwords unless you are okay with someone getting into that service. The unique password lifestyle isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of password managers that make staying secure easy. I like 1Password.

  2. Two-factor authentication - Two-factor means you need two things to log onto a particular service. You are probably already familiar with one-factor authentication when a service just asks you for your password. Two-factor requires another form of verification. Usually this is a code sent via SMS to your phone or a code generated on your phone with an app like Google Authenticator. For any critical services (anything involving access to your email or money) it’s important to set up two-factor authentication. This makes accessing your account more difficult for adversaries and isn’t as big an inconvenience as some people make it out to be. For most services, you are allowed to flag a device as personal. Once flagged, it won’t ask for a code again.

  3. Back up your data - Devices break, devices get stolen, and sometimes you accidentally delete important files. Keeping your data safe is important and it’s something that’s often overlooked because you don’t really see the value of your data until it’s long gone. The cost of backing up your data is chump change compared to the cost of attempting to recover data from a bad hard drive or the mental anguish suffered if a thief makes off with your computer. I wrote a whole post about backing up, aptly named Back the Fuck Up. For the impatient: just get CrashPlan and let it automagically back everything up for you to the cloud.

  4. Keep your computer up-to-date - Is your computer nagging you to install some updates? Go ahead and let it do it’s thing, especially if they mention security in them. Keeping your computer updated leaves you less vulnerable to all the bad stuff out there.

  5. Enable Click-to-Play in your browser - Most web browsers load all content when you visit a page. A page can include content that requires a plug-in like Flash or Silverlight to run. If these plug-ins have some vulnerability, malware can silently target those vulnerabilities. If you see an update for Java, Adobe Reader, Quicktime, Silverlight or Flash install them ASAP! This How to Geek article explains how to set up click-to-play on the more popular web browsers.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a decent start to protecting yourself. Did I get something totally wrong or something super important is missing here? Send me a tweet! Cheers!