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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If you're going to guess a user's context, get it right....

I'm sitting in a central London branch of Starbucks, connected via WiFi - my provider is BT OpenZone, roaming via T-Mobile.

Weirdly, I've had both Google.com and Blogger appear in German-language variants, and I've had to reset the language to English manually on both sites. I guess T-Mo must funnel all its traffic through a centralised egress point in Germany with a particular IP address, or else Google's making some weird assumptions that T-Mo = German company = German langage. . Thankfully it doesn't go via China or Hungary, where I probably wouldn't have even recognised the link for alternate languages....

This is one example of why any form of so-called intelligent, context-aware function, on a PC or a mobile phone, needs to be 100% accurate, tested continually & rigorously - or not exist at all. Services which guess your context wrongly (status, location, device, whatever...) are worse than useless - they make the providers look like idiots, as well as wasting your time.


Peter J. Cranstone said...

Once again I have to smile. Google has no idea "Who" you are or "Where" you are. So much for the current protocol and cookies.

Insufficient data to provide a really good experience.


raddedas said...

I know that Blogger checks your UserAgent header and adapts accordingly - if you spoof the UA of a DoCoMo phone in Firefox for testing purposes and forget to change it back Blogger will ignore your Accept-Language header and switch your session to Japanese - and then you really are stuck unless you read Japanese or you delete all Blogger cookies...
Another unsafe assumption that all users of a Japanese phone must use Japanese; you have to ask why they don't just honour the Accept-Language header by default and provide a clear language-independent manual override button (flags or something).

Martin said...

The web page of the airline company Swiss is another bad example. I work from Europe but for a Canadian company. When at work the web page always redirects me to the Canadian version and offers me flights in Canadian dollars from Canadian airports. It usually takes me 5 minutes to persuade the site to find a Euro variant for me... The lesson: If you do something "smart" at least make sure the user can "un-smart" it easily :-) Otherwise, you might loose revenue.