No more recommendations, please

Four years ago, I wrote about how I wasn’t an Amazon geek any more in response to my previous post in the year where I was pondering my relation with Amazon. Recently, I reviewed my position and decided to go one step further.

The big cleanup

Today, I can gladly say I’m really not an Amazon geek any more: I’ve recently cleared a majority of the additional data given, including items marked Not interested (of which I had more than 50 thousand in all domains combined!) as well as all ratings. Removing this data took me several hours even with a help of a browser script that semi-automatically did it for me. Furthermore, I have disabled the search history and recommendations calculated from things I’ve bought before.

The main reason I did the cleanup is that I don’t feel like the recommendations are very interesting to me, especially considering the effort that has to be taken to keep up-to-date with all the recommendations. While I’ve been enjoying some of the recommendations that have eventually popped up after giving tens of thousands of hints for the recommendation machine, I don’t feel like keep doing that to find two more slightly above mediocre albums which I enjoy listening to once or twice – nearly not enough to buy them.

Another reason to mention is the privacy. While I consider it a minor deal that a company has a list of items I don’t like in their selection – they know what I’ve purchased from or through them anyway – I can empathize those who do not like their data shared. Most important of all, while I’ve enjoyed from the recommendations before but don’t do any more, I need to be able to stop using the feature and clear my data too.

Good & bad, or, the analysis

In 2010 I placed 28 orders in Amazon. This year, I’ve placed three orders. There are a few explanations for this. For starters, I generally buy much less music now.

However, while I don’t have the exact statistics at hand, I’m certain that the percentage of orders from Amazon has dramatically decreased, and there is a single key reason for this. The price difference for an item shipped from Amazon or bought locally has leveled out. I’m sad to note that most of this is caused by Amazon having removed the free Super Saver deliveries to Finland. On a more cheerful note, the record prices have finally started coming down in Finland.

A few words about record stores in Helsinki

Contrary to the more stores means more competition means lower prices logic, the amount of record stores in Helsinki has decreased slowly, but steadily during the last years. The store I prefer for prices, easiness, online presence and selection is a relatively new player in the field, but is spreading around the city while other stores close down. Whether it will monopolize the sector some day is a different thing – there are still a few older shops around.

Here’s hoping for healthy stores, reasonable prices, and of course, more good music.

At the end of the day…

I still have an Amazon wishlist with half a dozen of items. I mostly use the wishlist for tracking releases as well as occasionally placing an order. Based on this small bit of information, I still get some recommendations from Amazon. Since I’ve done the big purge, I haven’t really looked what’s on this list, but maybe I will in the future. Just for fun though.

Preparing responsive design for Xubuntu

As some of you might know, I was appointed as the Xubuntu website lead after taking a 6-month break from leadership in Xubuntu.

Since this position was passed on from Lyz (who is by the way doing fantastic job as our marketing lead!), I wouldn’t have wanted to be nominated unless I could actually bring something to the table. Thus, the xubuntu-v-website blueprint lists all the new (and old) projects that I am driving to finish during the Vivid cycle.

Now, please let me briefly introduce you to the field which I’m currently improving…

Responsive design!

In the past days, I have been preparing responsive stylesheets for the Xubuntu website. While Xubuntu isn’t exactly targeted at any device that itself would have a great need for fully responsive design, we do think that it is important to be available for users browsing with those devices as well.

Currently, we have four stylesheets in addition to the regular ones. Two of these are actually useful even for people without small-resolution screens; they improve the user experience for situations when the browser viewport is simply limited.

In the first phase of building the responsive design, I have had three main goals. Maybe the most important aspect is to avoid horizontal scrolling. Accomplishing this already improves the browsing experience a lot especially on small screens. The two other goals are to make some of the typography adjust better to small resolutions while keeping it readable and keeping links, especially internal navigation, easily accessible by expanding their clickable area.

At this point, I’ve pretty much accomplished the first goal, but still have work to do with the other two. There are also some other visual aspects that I would like to improve before going public, but ultimately, they aren’t release-critical changes and can wait for later.

For now, the new stylesheets are only used in the staging site. Once we release them for the wider public, or if we feel like we need some broader beta testing, we will reach for people with mobile (and other small-resolution) devices on the Xubuntu development mailing list for testing.

If you can’t wait to have a preview and are willing to help testing, show up on our development IRC channel #xubuntu-devel on Freenode and introduce yourself. I’ll make sure to get a hold of you sooner than later.

What about Xubuntu documentation?

The Xubuntu documentation main branch has responsive design stylesheets applied already. This change have yet to make it to any release (including the development version), but will land at least in Vivid soon enough.

Once I have prepared the responsive stylesheets for the Xubuntu online documentation frontpage, I will coordinate an effort to get the online documentation to use the responsive design as soon as possible. Expect some email about this on the development mailing list as well.

While we are at it… Paperspace

On a similar note… Last night I released the responsive design that I had been preparing for quite some time for Paperspace, or in other words, the WordPress theme for this blog (and the other blogs in this domain). That said, if you see anything that looks off in any browser resolution below 1200 pixels wide, be in touch. Thank you!