ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

End-to-End Experiences Do Not Scale Globally

9/29/2011 4:46:39 PM


I’ve been watching a live blog from Amazon’s new device unveiling yesterday. Jeff Bezos was repeating his “end-to-end service” mantra. I love the end-to-end experience idea … in theory. In practice I’m never able to experience it. Apple and Amazon are the best known end-to-end service providers. They are huge. They have a lot of weight. But even they don’t have enough power over content owners and/or don’t offer attractive services to content providers worldwide.

I own 2 Kindles. I read in English mostly and Kindle provides me with end-to-end experience most of the time. I love it! Except Mark Russinovich’s Zero Day: A Novel wasn’t available in Kindle format internationally for half a year. So I didn’t get any experience at all. But, yeah. Who cares!?

My wife reads in Russian and there are virtually no Russian books on Amazon. But Kindle is an end-to-end service and support for “obscure” formats like ePub isn’t a part of the end-to-end experience. So to read non-Kindle books on a Kindle you have to convert them to MOBI (provided they are not DRMed). It’s pretty easy to do with Calibre but it degrades your experience to a level lower than with non-end-to-end open market readers directly supporting multiple formats.

Our daughter reads in Lithuanian and there are basically no non-DRMed Lithuanian ebooks. So Kindle is just a useless piece of “premium product at non-premium price” for that.

And situation with books is actually much better than what goes on in the music and video area. So even before the Kindle Fire announcement it was obvious that it’s going to be US-only (or US + some Western European countries at best).

End-to-end experiences sound good in US. They are glorified by user experience advocates. But when it comes to worldwide scene, clunky duct taped Android experience dominates. That’s why it’s so huge. There’s no need for Amazon, Apple or Microsoft to strike a distribution license for Moldavian books to be available in Moldova. There’s some local company that would do that, because that’s their main market*. It’s crap and pocket change for the US juggernauts, but it’s the whole market for that little company.

Great end-to-end experiences are only great while you stay on course. One step off that course and you have a subpar experience, if any at all. Maybe someday these global corporations will manage to cover all the bases around the world. And maybe World Peace © will come too. Both are equally likely.

* P.S.:  I know nothing about Moldova and Moldavian books. Just a random country my brain picked.

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Live Globalization

6/12/2008 5:26:00 PM

Microsoft has nice tools to implement "global" web sites. Unfortunately they overuse the technique most of the time.

I was looking for an alternative to SkypeOut calls to call my daughter cheaper while she's on vacation in Germany and I've read several nice opinions about pc-to-phone calls in Live Messenger. So I went and installed it. But I couldn't find the option to call a phone from it. I started looking around wondering WTF and then I checked this page called "Call"


Do you notice anything wrong with this picture? The URL is "threewaystocall", it says "Get big savings on phone calls around the world" and then there are TWO options: video calls and pc-to-pc calls. And where are the PC-to-Phone calls?

If you dig through the help you can find a small sentence on the "Call a contact's phone or computer with Windows Live Call" page that says "This feature is not available in some markets."

I assume that I'm part of that "some market" but wouldn't it be clearer and less awkward if they've just placed an asterisk on the "threewaystocall" page saying that "PC-to-Phone calls is not available in some markets/your market" rather than just hiding it? I know it looks cool on paper that you can report to someone that you can automatically detect user's "market" and display content accordingly and it's a nice "demo" feature but sometimes old-school remarks work better.


Globalization Perfectly Implemented

6/6/2008 12:00:58 PM

For the last couple of months every time I clicked a link to some band's MySpace page I was presented with site's GUI in Spanish. I thought that there was something wrong with my browser settings or something and since I don't use MySpace for anything more than described above I wasn't paying much attention.

Then one of my co-workers told me about the same issue and another one confirmed from different location. Apparently for MySpace's AI all non-US IP addresses belong to Mexicans. And there's no easy way to switch language. There's a tiny "MySpace International" link at the bottom (after gazillion of ugly banners, friends, etc.) where you can switch from United States (Latino) to United States (English).

Way to go. MySpace is officially not only the ugliest but stupidest social network out there.

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File Encoding in Visual Studio

11/5/2007 3:43:02 PM

It appears that there's no way to set default file encoding for new files created in Visual Studio 2005 through "Options" and it will save your files in UTF only if it encounters characters it can't save in your systems default non-unicode locale.

What does it mean? It means that if you develop a simple web site in a language of your system (Lithuanian in my case) and you hardcode some local text in your .aspx it will save in non-unicode encoding (Windows-1257 in my case) and when you move it to the server (or other computer) with other default non-unicode encoding all your localized text will be ruined.

What can be done about it? It looks like we have 3 options:

  1. manually save or re-save your files using "Save with Encoding";
  2. change your system language to "English" in control panel (this is kind of wrong);
  3. re-save Visual Studio templates (in Common 7\IDE\ItemTemplates) in UTF-8 with signature

Only the last option somewhat solves the problem but you'll have to go through all of the templates you ever plan to use and hope that this doesn't break anything.

Hopefully this issue will be addressed in VS2008. I had no time to play with the betas yet, so I have no idea if there are any changes in this area. Can anybody confirm this?

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