Thursday, July 25, 2019

Twitter's Redesign is a Big Mistake

Today Twitter rolled out its new redesign to me. In a post on the Twitter Blog from July 15 2019, Twitter claims that the new design is "...a refreshed and updated website that is faster, easier to navigate and more personalized." It also claims that the redesign has "Easy Access to Your Favourite Features." To say that many Twitter users, myself included, disagree with them would be an understatement. The redesign doesn't seem faster than the old design and it is certainly not easier to navigate. It certainly does not give users easy access to their favourite features.

Indeed, it would seem the reaction of Twitter users to the redesign is universal hatred for it. Today I spent several minutes reading through tweets related to the redesign and I found no one who actually liked it. Now to a degree this can be expected. Many, perhaps most people, don't like change. That having been said, there are so many people speaking out against the redesign, often quite vehemently, that I think there is more behind people's reactions than a mere dislike of the redesign. Quite simply, the redesign was poorly executed and actually makes Twitter harder to use than the old design.

To begin with, the Twitter redesign is simply unattractive. There is far too much blank space on either side of the screen. The sidebars are too wide and the centre column for tweets is too narrow.  Overall, it just looks a bit cluttered. If the redesign were merely ugly, that would not be a problem.  Unfortunately there are other problems that make Twitter harder to use. To begin with, the feed is set to Twitter's algorithm determined "Home" feed, just as the Twitter mobile app is. Now, just as on the app, one can switch to "Latest Tweets" by clicking on the stars at the top of the feed. That having been said, I suspect that like the mobile app this means it will switch back to the "Home" feed sooner or later, requiring the user to manually switch it back to "Latest Tweets." Quite frankly, this is something that has always annoyed me about the app. I much preferred the old Twitter web design where one could simply turn the algorithm off in settings and never see the algorithm determined feed again.

Another problem, and one that makes the redesign harder to use, is that Notifications, Messages, Lists, Profile, et. al. are in the left sidebar rather than at the top. For me at least, it makes more sense to have such important things as Notifications, Messages, and, in particular, the Profile at the top. I think this might be true of many people. You'll notice other sites generally have their navigation bars (or menus, if you prefer) at the top. Facebook has its so you can reach your profile, friend requests, notifications, and so on at the top. The web version of Instagram has it so one can reach his or her likes and profile at the top and even on the mobile app one can access messages at the top (everything else is at the bottom, which seems more reasonable than having it on the left). Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, and various other social media sites have navigation bars at the top. Now I am not a fan of Facebook and some of these other social media services (some I don't even use), but I think there is a good reason they have their navigation bars at the top. I think it makes it easier for users to navigate the sites than having them in a sidebar does.

Of course, this brings me to another way that the redesign is harder to use. To reach Settings and privacy, Help Centre, et al., one must press a "More"  button and then press on whatever one wants. The old design one simply clicked on his or her profile picture to access a drop down window through which he or she could access these things. Quite simply, I think the redesign makes it harder to reach such things as Settings, Help Centre, et. al. Indeed, while I never used Moments, I have heard complaints from people who do that now they have to click the "More" button.

As to the Trends that occupied the left sidebar in the old design, they are now in a sidebar on the right. This doesn't really present any problems, except that it seems to display fewer Trends. The old design displayed about ten Trends, while the redesign only displays about five. This makes it harder to see what is trending.

Among the biggest problems with the redesign is the feed itself.  Despite Twitter's claim that the redesign is faster, I haven't seen any evidence for that claim. When scrolling down it not only seems slower than the old design, but even a bit jerky. I am honestly puzzled as to why Twitter is claiming the redesign is faster. It doesn't seem to be on Firefox or Chrome on a desktop using Windows 10.

Now it is true that Twitter rolled out some nifty new features with the redesign. For fans of Dark Mode, there is an even Darker Mode called "Lights Out." One can also control the font size of tweets, and there are new colour options. Twitter has also made it easier to switch to another account if one has multiple accounts. Unfortunately, I am not sure any of these new features make up for the fact that the redesign is poorly designed and harder to use.

Ultimately, I think the mistake that Twitter has made with its redesign is that they have made it like the mobile app. It's as if they took the worst aspects of the mobile app and applied them to the desktop site. Quite frankly, I think this is backwards. I have never enjoyed using the mobile app and, except for those times when I don't have access to my computer, I always use the desktop site for that reason. The old design was easier to use, easier to navigate, and faster than the mobile app. I can't say the same for the redesign.

Given the reaction users have had to the Twitter redesign, I think they are going to regret having gone forward with it. In 2018 Snapchat introduced a dramatic redesign that its users hated. Ultimately they  lost users and its stock actually dropped as much as 20%. In the end Snapchat had to make changes to the redesign. I rather suspect the same thing could happen to Twitter given how much users dislike the new design. While many media outlets have pointed out that users always hate changes to the designs of social media services and that eventually they adjust to those changes, I think that is not true in every case. Aside from Snapchat's controversial redesign, there is also the example of Facebook's double column Timeline. Users never warmed to it and eventually Facebook had to change it. If users eventually stop complaining about a social media service's redesign, it may be because they simply realise that their complaining is doing little good, not because they have grown to love the new design. Ultimately, I don't think people are ever going to like Twitter's new design and it could cost them users.

In the end, I think it would be best for Twitter if they scrap the redesign and return everyone back to the old design. If they want the website and the mobile to look and behave the same, then they ought to come up with a design that makes the mobile app look and behave more like the old web design, not the other way around. Put Notifications, Messages, et. al. at the top of the page. Give users back a means of permanently disabling the algorithm sorted feed in settings. They can keep many of the new features. I think if they come up with a design that draws on the old design for both the web and mobile and ditch the redesign, Twitter users will be much happier.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Late, Great Rutger Hauer

Rutger Haeur, the Dutch actor known for playing the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982) and Navarre in Ladyhawke (1985) among many other film roles, died on July 19 2019 at the age of 75 following a short illness.

Rutger Hauer was born on January 23 1944 in Breukelen, Netherlands. His parents were both drama teachers. At 15 he ran away from home to join the Dutch merchant navy. He returned to Amsterdam in 1962 and attended the Academy for Theatre and Dance there. His acting training was interrupted when he served as a combat medic in the Royal Netherlands Army. Afterwards he joined the experimental acting troupe Noorder Compagnie. He remained with them for several years.

His television debut came when he was cast as the lead in the medieval drama Floris in 1969. In the Seventies he reprised the role of Floris in a German remake of the series, Floris von Rosemund. He also had a recurring role in the TV series Duel in de diepte and the mini-series Voor koningin en vaderland. In the Seventies he appeared in the TV shows The Pathfinders, and  Waaldrecht. He made his film debut in 1973 in the movie Turks fruit. In the Seventies he appeared in the movies Repelsteeltje (1973) and Pusteblume (1975) before making his first English language film, The Wilby Conspiracy in 1975. For the remainder of the decade he appeared in the films Keetje Tippel (1975), Das Amulett des Todes (1975), Het jaar van de kreeft (1975), Max Havelaar of de koffieveilingen der Nederlandsche handelsmaatschappij (1976), La donneuse (1976), Soldaat van Oranje (1977), Pastorale 1943 (1978), Mysteries (1978), Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf (1979), Grijpstra & De Gier (1979), and Spetters (1980).

In 1981 Mr. Hauer made his first appearance in an American film, playing a psychopathic terrorist in Nighthawks. It was in 1982 that he played what might be his most famous role, Roy Batty, in Blade Runner. In the Eighties he appeared in such films as Chanel Solitaire (1981), Eureka (1983), The Osterman Weekend (1983), A Breed Apart (1984), Flesh+Blood (1985), The Hitcher (1986), Wanted: Dead or Alive (1986), La leggenda del santo bevitore (1988), Bloodhounds of Broadway (1989), Blind Fury (1989), In una notte di chiaro di luna (1989), and The Blood of Heroes (1989).

In the Nineties Rutger Hauer appeared as the villain in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). In the Nineties he appeared in such films as Past Midnight (1991), Split Second (1992), Beyond Justice (1992), Nostradamus (1994), The Beans of Egypt, Maine (1994), Surviving the Game (1994), Omega Doom (1996), Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1997), Simon Magus (1999), Partners in Crime (2000), and Wilder (2000). On television he appeared in several TV movies as well as the  mini-series Il principe del deserto, Lexx, Merlin, and The Tenth Kingdom. He also appeared on the TV show Screen One and several TV movies, including Fatherland.

In the Naughts Mr. Hauer appeared in the TV series Alias, Smallville, and Salem's Lot. He appeared in the TV movie The Poseidon Adventure, Starting Over, and The Prince of Motor City.  He played Earle, the crooked businessman who had taken over Wayne Enterprises, in the movie Batman Begins (2005). In Sin City (2005) he played the corrupt Cardinal Roark. He also appeared in such films as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), In the Shadow of the Cobra (2004), Minotaur (2006), Moving McAllister (2007), Barbarossa (2009), and Happiness Runs (2010).

In the Teens Rutger Hauer had recurring roles on the TV shows True Blood, Galavant, Channel Zero, and Porters. He guest starred on the shows Wilfred, The Last Kingdom, and Mata Hari. He appeared in such films as Spoon (2011), Dracula 3D (2012), Life's a Beach (2012), The Letters (2014), Drawing Home  (2016), The Broken Key (2017), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), Samson (2018), and The Sonata (2018).

Rutger Hauer was an incredibly talented actor. While it seems certain he will always be best remembered as Roy from Blade Runner, he played his share of heroes as well. He was Navarre in the medieval fantasy Ladyhawke. He played a blinded swordsman in Blind Fury. In Split Second he played a police detective tracking down a serial killer. Of course, he was well known for his villainous roles, and he played several throughout his career, from the title psychopath in The Hitcher to Lothos in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Cardinal Roark in Sin City. Rutger Hauer was well known for the many action movies in which he appeared, but he also played many non-action roles as well. He was a television journalist in The Osterman Weekend, a philandering status seeker in Eureka, and a member of a poor family who was convicted of hunting deer out of season in The Beans of Egypt, Maine. He played everything from priests to spies to police officers. He played both Dracula and Van Helsing at various points in this career. Rutger Hauer certainly had incredible range as an actor.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Denise Nickerson Passes On

Denise Nickerson, the child actress who played Amy Jennings on the soap opera Dark Shadows and Violet Beauregarde in the classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), died on July 10 2019 at the age of 62. The cause was complications from seizures and a stroke.

 Denise Nickerson was born on April 1 1957 in New York City. The family moved to Miami, Florida when she was still a baby. She was only two when she appeared in a TV commercial for a Florida heating company. She was 4 years old when she was discovered by Zev Buffman, a Florida theatre producer, at a local fashion show. She later appeared as Wendy in a production of Peter Pan at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami.

Miss Nickerson made her television debut in an episode of Flipper in 1965. It was in 1968 that she began playing Amy Jennings, the orphaned sister of Tom and Chris Jennings (twins both played by Don Briscoe). She continued on the show until 1970. She also appeared on the soap opera The Doctors and she later had a role on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. Denise Nickerson was also a regular on the children's show The Electric Company, playing Alison (one of the Short Circus, a singing group on the show). She guest starred on the shows Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law; The Brady Bunch; and The Wonderful World of Disney. She appeared in the TV movies The Neon Ceiling; The Man Who Could Talk to Kids; If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever?; The Dark Side of Innocence; and Bert D'Angelo/Superstar. In 1968 she had appeared in an unsold pilot starring Bill Bixby titled Rome Sweet Rome. She also appeared in a 1977 commercial for Burger Chef, as well as other commercials.

Denise Nickerson made her film debut in 1971 in Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory. She also appeared in the films Smile (1975) and Zero to Sixty (1978). Miss Nickerson also appeared on Broadway in the productions Sherry! (1967) and Our Town (1969).

Denise Nickerson retired after the movie Zero to Sixty to become a nurse. She later became an accountant.

Denise Nickerson was certainly talented as a child actress. While best known for playing the bratty Violet in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, she was capable of playing other roles quite well. The role of Amy on Dark Shadows was certainly a far cry form Violet. In Zero to Sixty she played 16 year old repo agent "Larry," who was different from both Violet and Amy.

From all reports Miss Nickerson was also a very sweet woman. She attended Dark Shadows conventions, and everyone who met her remarked on her kindness. In real life, Denise Nickerson was the exact opposite of Violet Beauregarde. A talented child actress and a very nice woman, she will be missed by her fans.

Monday, July 22, 2019

David Hedison Passes On

David Hedison, who appeared in the movies The Fly (1958) and Live and Let Die (1973) and starred on the TV show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, died on July 19 2019 at the age of 92.

David Hedison was born Albert David Hedison, Jr. on May 20 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island. He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1945 and served for 18 months. He attended Brown University where he became interested in the theatre. He studied acting under Sanford Meisner at The Neighborhood Playhouse and under Lee Strasberg at The Actors Studio. He made his Broadway debut, using his name Al Hedison, in Much Ado About Nothing in 1952. He later appeared on Broadway in A Month in the Country in 1956.

David Hedison made his television debut in an episode of Danger in 1954. He was credited Al Hedison in episodes of Kraft Theatre and Star Tonight. In 1958 he signed with 20th Century Fox and his stage name was changed to David Hedison ("David" being his middle name). He was the lead on the TV show Five Fingers, which ran from 1959 to 1960. He made his film debut in 1957 in The Enemy Below. Mr. Hedison appeared in The Fly (1958), Son of Robin Hood (1958), and The Lost World (1960--the first film in which he was credited as "David Hedison").

In the Sixties he played Captain Lee Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He guest starred on the show Hong Kong; Bus Stop; Perry Mason; The Saint; The Farmer's Daughter; Journey to the Unknown; and Love, American Style. He appeared in the films Marines, Let's Go (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Kemek (1970.

In the Seventies David Hedison played Felix Leiter for the first time in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). He also appeared in the film North Sea Hijack (1980). Mr. Hedison guest starred on such shows as ITV Saturday Night Theatre, BBC Play of the Month, The F.B.I., The New Perry Mason, Shaft, Medical Center, The Manhunter, Cannon, Ellery Queen, Family, Barnaby Jones, Wonder Woman, The Bob Newhart Show, Benson, and Charlie's Angels.

In the Eighties David Hedison had a recurring role on The Colbys. He appeared in the mini-series A.D. He guest starred on such shows as Nero Wolfe, Hart to Hart, T. J. Hooker, Matt Houston, Amanda's, Dynasty, Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, Love Boat, Simon & Simon, Knight Rider, Crazy Like a Fox, The A-Team, Trapper John M.D., Hotel, and Murder, She Wrote. He reprised his role as Felix Leiter in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill (1989), making him the only actor to play the character twice in the history of the franchise. He appeared in the films The Naked Face (1984) and Smart Alec (1986).

In the Nineties Mr. Hedison had a regular role on the soap opera Another World. In the Naughts he had a role on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He appeared in the films Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001), Spectres (2004), and The Reality Trap (2005). He made his last appearance in the film Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk (2017).

David Hedison was a very talented actor, well suited to playing heroic roles. He was perfect in the roles of Captain Crane and Felix Leiter. While Mr. Hedison would play many heroic roles over the years, he was capable of playing other roles. Indeed, aside from Felix Leiter his most famous role may be that of obsessive, amoral scientist André Delambre in The Fly. In Kemek he played a writer who tests the drug of the title. While David Hedison played many heroic roles through the years, he was capable of playing many other sorts of roles as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Alan Stafford's New Novel, Bonkore!

Alan Stafford, photo by Lynda George
Alan Stafford, author of the non-fiction books Too Naked for the Nazis (a biography of the music hall act Wilson, Keppel and Betty) and It's Friday, It's Crackerjack! (about the long running British children's show Crackerjack!) has a new book out. Bonkore!: Second Coming of a Sex Comedy is Mr. Stafford's debut novel. You can read about it in the press release below.



The Carry Ons are to return – brand new and ‘politically correct’. But do they have any place in the modern world? And would a cleaned-up Carry On raise as much as a titter?

Comedy writer Alan Stafford’s new novel – BONKORE! Second Coming of a Sex Comedy imagines just such a situation, and Alan has his doubts. ‘It’s easy to forget what a woeful state the Carry Ons were in towards the end. Both Carry On England and Carry On Emmannuelle tried to push the barrier of smuttiness and nudity but never really succeeded. Even before these movies were released, the sex comedy was now X-rated, heralded by Robin Askwith’s Confessions of a Window Cleaner. The Carry Ons were too saucy for some – but not nearly saucy enough for many others.  They’d well and truly lost their way.’

Alan’s debut novel – BONKORE! – imagines a Confessions-type movie franchise that is abruptly cut short when one of the actors suddenly and mysteriously dies midway through filming. But there’s a twist. A present-day movie director comes along and plans to finish the incomplete movie with the original cast, who are by now far older than when the movie began.

‘It’s the usual tale of a group of ageing actors reuniting to shoot a naughty movie set in outer space,’ says Alan.

Alan finds it slightly bizarre that just weeks after the publication of his novel, life is imitating art. ‘The idea of the Carry Ons returning to a world where they no longer belong, is exactly the situation I explore in my book. Logically, it’s doomed to failure, but everyone is swept along on a wave of enthusiasm and never really questions the folly of this enterprise. The whole premise behind this bizarre plan is a mystery – which can only be solved by reading to the end!’

And does Alan think the Carry Ons have any chance of success? ‘It all comes down to the writing – though, as I writer, you’d expect me to say that. We’ve seen any number of disastrous remakes in recent years, but just occasionally the production team really pull it off. I expected to hate the reboot of the St Trinians films – but there was a strong cast and a strong script that transformed all the schoolgirl shenanigans into something relevant to a present day audience. Let’s just hope the Carry Ons can do the same. And if they need any help, they only have to ask.’

Bonkore! Second Coming of a Sex Comedy is published in paperback and on Kindle by KGHH Publishing and available from Amazon.



Why would anyone wish to resurrect the saucy sex comedy? Surely it died a natural death decades ago. Along with one unnatural death. An actor who killed both himself and an entire movie. And now, out of the blue, a fresh young director is keen to complete that movie – with the original cast!

Thus begins leading lady Amanda’s improbable quest – to seek out her co-stars and persuade them to strip off and get sexy for one last movie. But will her fellow performers be in any shape (mental or physical) to face the unforgiving glare of the studio lights? Nostalgia and neuralgia, libido and lumbago collide in this sometimes wry and wistful, sometimes bizarre and bawdy, sex comedy about the making of a sex comedy. Expect a bumpy ride as the old gang reassemble for a final bonkbusting encore … BONKORE! … a delicious debut novel from comedy writer Alan Stafford.