Friday, 24 June 2016

Ann Morgan Guilbert Passes On

Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Yetta Rosenberg on The Nanny, died on June 14 2016 at the age of 87. The cause was cancer.

Ann Morgan Guilbert was born in Minneapolis on October 16 1928. She studied theatre arts at Stanford University. Her professional career began as a featured performer in the Off-Broadway music variety act called The Billy Barnes Revue in 1959. It was there that writer, producer, and creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carl Reiner, first saw her. When casting The Dick Van Dyke Show, he hired her for the role of Millie Helper, the Petries' neighbour and Laura Petrie's perky best friend. Miss Guilbert remained with the show for the entirety of its run.

In the Sixties she also guest starred on My Three Sons, Hennessey, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Good Morning World, The Andy Griffith Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Adam 12, Room 222, and Dragnet. She was a regular on the sitcom Hey, Landlord. She also appeared in the movies Two for the Seesaw (1962), The Man from the Diners' Club (1963), One Man's Way (1964), A Guide for the Married Man (1967), How Sweet It Is! (1968), and Viva Max (1969).

In the Seventies Ann Morgan Guilbert was a regular on The New Andy Griffith Show. She guest starred on The Partridge Family; Love, American Style; Emergency!, The Ghost Busters, On the Rocks, and Maude. In the Eighties she guest starred on Barney Miller, Cheers, Newhart, and Murder, She Wrote. She starred in the short lived sitcom The Fanelli Boys.

In the Nineties Ann Morgan Guilbert played Fran's doddering yet feisty grandmother Yetta Rosenberg on The Nanny. She remained with the show for its entire run. Before that she had a recurring role on Picket Fences. She guest starred on the shows Blossom, Home Improvement, Room for Two, Herman's Head, Empty Nest, and Seinfeld. She appeared in the films Grumpier Old Men (1995) and Sour Grapes (1998).

In the Naughts she guest starred on Curb Your Enthusiasm, State of Mind, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She appeared in the film Please Give (2010) and on Broadway in A Naked Girl on the Appian Way.

In the Teens Miss Guilbert guest starred on Happily Divorced, Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, and Life in Pieces. She was a regular on the show Getting On.

Ann Morgan Guilbert was an incredibly talented performer with a particular knack for comedy. She had perfect timing and a gift for delivering lines in the funniest way possible. What is more she could play a wide variety of characters. Indeed, her two best known characters are very different. As Millie Helper she was bright, hyperactive, and just a little bit nosy. As Yetta Rosenberg she was absent minded, but at the same time a bit scrappy. What is more she played a wide variety of characters throughout her career. On The New Andy Griffith Show she played the neurotic, constantly complaining, and interfering Nora. In the I Dream of Jeannie episode "Jeannie for the Defence" she played the wife of a man seeking to defraud Tony Nelson after a minor fender bender. It was rare that she ever played the same sort of character twice. It should be little wonder that Ann Morgan Guilbert had such a long career. She was an immensely talented comic actress who could play nearly any role she wanted.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ronnie Claire Edwards R.I.P.

Ronnie Claire Edwards, the actress perhaps best known for playing Corabeth Godsey on The Waltons, died June 14 2016 at the age 83. The cause was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Ronnie Claire Edwards was born in Oklahoma City on February 9 1933. She made her film debut in a small role in All the Way Home in 1963. In the Seventies she guest starred on such shows as The American Parade, Paper Moon, and Future Cop. She began her run on The Waltons in 1974 and remained with the show until it went off the air in 1980. In the Seventies she appeared in the films Five Days from Home (1978) and Getting Wasted (1980).

In the Eighties Ronnie Claire Edwards was a regular on the short lived shows Boone, Sara, and June in Time. She guest starred on the show Dallas, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, Designing Women, and In the Heat of the Night. She also appeared in the various Waltons TV reunion movies. She appeared in the films Perfect (1985), Nobody's Fool (1985), and The Dead Pool (1988).

In the Nineties she guest starred on The Torkelsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation. She appeared in the TV movie Inherit the Wind, as well as more Waltons reunion movies. She appeared in the films 8 Seconds (1994) and Sordid Lives (2000). In the Naughts she appeared in the film A Day Out with Gordy (2002). She was a regular on the TV show 12 Miles of Bad Road, which HBO elected not to air.

Ronnie Claire Edwards will always be remembered as Corabeth on The Waltons and with good reason. She was extremely convincing as Ike Godsey's persnickety wife. It was not a particularly easy role for any actress to play, having to straddle the line between making the character slightly dislikeable and yet making the character sympathetic at the same time. Of course, Ronnie Claire Edwards was quite capable of playing different roles. On Star Trek: The Next Generation she played a much more likeable role, that of a teacher who tries to help the character Data regain his memory. In The Dead Pool she played a much less likeable role, that of an ill-fated movie critic. Ronnie Claire Edwards may be best remembered as Corabeth, but she played many more roles.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Why HootSuite's New Streams are a Failure

Ever since Twitter dramatically changed their interface in 2012 I have relied upon HootSuite as my Twitter client of choice. Even before then I used HootSuite to schedule tweets. HootSuite had several advantages over Twitter's interface. One could reply to a single person (the individual who originated the tweet) rather than everyone mentioned in a tweet. One could hide inline images. Retweets and mentions appear in separate streams. What is more HootSuite has always had great customer service. Every time I had a problem with HootSuite (which was rare) I could rely upon HootSuite's customer service to help me out. What is more, they are not only prompt, but kind and courteous as well.

Unfortunately just last week HootSuite made what may be the biggest misstep of their existence. They introduced New Streams. In theory New Streams were supposed to be an improvement over the old Streams. In fact a large number of HootSuite users (perhaps the majority of HootSuite users) have expressed outrage at the old Streams being replaced by the New Streams. On both Twitter and HootSuite's feedback page there have been a large number of complaints about the New Streams. Many of the complaints are about the appearance of the New Streams, while a large number are due to a loss of functionality when compared to the old Streams. In fact, there appear to be more complaints about the New Streams than almost anything else in HootSuite's feedback pages in the past two years--this in only a few days time.

The biggest complaint with the New Streams seems to be the size of the New Streams. The old streams were highly customisable, so that one could easily maximise the number of posts one sees. The New Streams only have "Compact", "Standard', and "Comfortable" views, all of which take up more space than the old Streams. Quite simply, even the "Compact" view is not exactly compact! Even with images turned off (as I always do) I can see at most about three to four tweets per stream. This is in stark contrast to the old Streams, where I could see many more.

Part of the problem with the size of the streams in the New Streams comes down to the replacement of the old Streams' drop down menus for "Like", "Assign to", and so on by overly large buttons. The buttons take up far too much space, resulting in users seeing fewer posts per stream. It seems pretty clear to me that many users dislike the buttons and much prefer the drop-down menus for the simple reason that they took up less space and thus maximised the number of posts one could see.

Yet another complaint also arises from the size of the New Streams. In HootSuite one can choose the number of columns of streams that are displayed. I only ever display one, but other users sometimes displayed several. From the many complaints, it would appear now that users are able to view fewer columns than on the old Streams. As an example, a complaint on Twitter from just today was from someone who has three columns set up and could see three columns in the old Streams, but can now only see two columns in the New Streams. As someone who only ever views one column at a time in HootSuite this isn't a problem for me, but many users obviously seem upset about it.

What might be the second biggest complaint is that the New Streams do not give the exact time of a post as the old Streams did. To wit, while the old Streams would give "2:51pm" on a post, the New Streams only give "2 hours ago". This can be problematic for those who frequently schedule posts and really need to know the exact time something will or has been posted. Now one can hover over the timestamp ("2 hours ago") and get the exact time (2:15pm), but it would seem much easier to have the exact time right there on the post to begin with.

Another loss in functionality regards the way in which replies are handled on the New Streams versus the old Streams. In the old Streams when one replied to a tweet, the reply was only to the person who initially made the tweet, not everyone mentioned in it. If someone wanted to reply to everyone mentioned in a tweet, he or she would click the drop-down menu and choose "Reply All". This was particularly useful if one wanted to thank someone for a "Follow Friday" tweet and it came in useful in other circumstances as well. Indeed, it was one of the many advantages the old Streams had over Twitter's interface. Unfortunately, in the New Streams there is no way to reply to only a single person; it is always set to "Reply All". This means that if one wants to reply to only the person who made a tweet and not everyone mentioned in it, he or she will have to highlight every other name and delete them. I would hardly call this an improvement.

Aside from the loss of functionality in the New Streams, there have also been complaints that the New Streams are buggy. I haven't experienced any bugs beyond my Streams changing height (which is simply fixed by clicking on "Compact" again), but I have seen enough complaints on the feedback page and on Twitter to know that the New Streams are not functioning smoothly for many. For some people the streams are being very slow to update and for others they have to refresh to get them to update at all. Yet others have other problems. I have seen complaints that individuals can't retweet anything, people not being able to add lists to their streams, and people not being able to see replies or mentions.

While I do think the New Streams are a big step down from the old Streams and I would be very happy if HootSuite ditched the New Streams and returned to the old Streams, I am not going to stop using HootSuite. To me it is still superior to Twitter's interface and better than most any other Twitter client out there. Unfortunately I am not everybody. I have seen many tweets and even posts on the feedback page from people saying that they are giving up HootSuite in favour of Tweetdeck or even Twitter's interface. Clearly, at least to me, when long-time customers start talking about leaving a product for another product, a very big mistake has been made. I think HootSuite made a huge miscalculation with regards to how the New Streams would be received.

Indeed, on Twitter I have only seen one or two tweets in favour of the New Streams compared to countless numbers of those complaining about them. The feedback page is filled with complaints about the New Streams. A common refrain is that people want the old Streams back. What is more, people are being very specific in their complaints, so it is not simply a case of people disliking change. HootSuite insists that the old Streams will not return in order "to support a smoother transition to upcoming features and improvements." That having been said, I think I can speak for most Hootsuite users when I say that the only features and improvements we want are those that were lost when the change was made from the old Streams (a compact appearance, exact times on posts, the ability to reply to only one person, and so on).

Given the outrage over the New Streams, I think HootSuite really has only two choices. The first (and the one users seem to favour) is to get rid of the New Streams entirely and restore the old Streams. They would probably have to forget any "features and improvements" they have in mind, but at this point I think it would be worth it to keep their users happy. The second is a dramatic makeover to make the New Streams look and behave like the old streams. Replace the buttons with drop-down menus to save space and make posts more compact. Make the size of columns adjustable again. Restore the exact time to posts. Give individuals the ability to reply to only one person in tweets. The downside with this is that it would probably be so much work that it would perhaps be easier to restore the old Streams.

Regardless, it would seem HootSuite has made a serious misstep with the New Streams, to the point that many (if not most) of their users are very angry. It seems clear to me that they are going to have to take action immediately, whether that is bringing back the old Streams or making drastic changes to the New Streams. Either way, if they either do nothing or wait too long to make changes, I worry that HootSuite will lose a very large number of users to other Twitter clients. As someone who has used HootSuite for years and intends to continue using it despite my extreme dislike for the New Streams, I would really hate to see that happen.