Crowdsourcing and account deletions

Recently I ran into two separate but converging issues, namely crowdsourcing and account management on websites.

As it happened, I needed an app on the Web that would enable me to maintain a list of people who sign up for an event in June. I looked into quite a few of these and selected three to try out.

First I checked Doodle. It works fine, if you only need to see who will attend, but I needed a little more than it could do. I signed up anyway and used it to pick meeting times for the organizing committee. For that Doodle works well. It lets you create a poll and send out a link to selected people, so they can then pick the meeting times that suit them.

Doodle is using a crowdsourcing translation tool to deliver local versions of Doodle for each language market. Therefore, when I received an email from Doodle telling me that a person had responded to my poll, I wasn’t surprised to see abominable language in the email. If I retranslate it into English, you’ll see.

It should have said in Finnish the equivalent of “John Doe just responded to your poll”.

Instead it said, “John Doe has just been just informerating unto the questionnaire.”

As a language professional with experience in IT translations since 1986, I blew a gasket. Such drivel should not be issued by any site that aims at delivering a quality user experience. I was sufficiently annoyed to write to the support email address and report it, after I had a look at the site itself and found numerous bad translations.

I told them that a company should never crowdsource language unless they have a rigid quality control system sitting on top of the work. Currently the Finnish is way below professional level. They did thank me for reporting, but asked me to fix the errors for them, using the OneSky crowdsourcing tool. Just for the heck of it, I signed up and fixed ten or so of the most glaring errors. Then I left, but kept getting emails from OneSky asking me to fix more strings.

I went to OneSky to find the “Delete Account” button, but there is none. Instead, I had to email Support and ask them to delete my account. As user experiences go, this is one of the biggest mistakes to make – keep a user hanging on in the vain hope that they will reverse the decision to leave. For me, such a missing button is a 100% proof way of telling me I don’t want anything to do with the site.

So now I am waiting for the support folks to delete my account, and I still get the emails to go in and translate some more for free. Fat chance.

Case 2 is Zoho. I shopped around in their site and thought that the system looked like it woud deliver, so I created an account. Quite soon it became apparent that Zoho would be too unwieldy for my needs, so again I tried to leave. What followed was surreal, actually. I could find a spot in the account section of the site for deleting my account, but  before I could delete it, I had to create a new email address for a fictional organization under the domain zoho.com. After I had collected my eyebrows from the top of my head, I wrote them an email with three main points:

  • “if you don’t let people leave you with just one click, you are not doing yourself a favor. You can’t hold on to users like that. Users will leave with a bewildered feeling, and they will not mention you in a favorable light, when they discuss systems like this with other users looking for a solution.
  • your service offering is muddled in the extreme. I wanted an easy-to-use registration system for a specific need, and wound up creating email addresses and business domains within Zoho. It should go the other way around – first let me get what I need just now, and then tell me of all the other systems I could have with you. I would have been interested in more than just this quick fix, but now I am no longer easy prey for your other systems.
  • it takes a lot more coding to create this complicated and unwieldy exit path than it would to create a fast way out. Consequently, you will have many ghost accounts later, when people just leave the account dormant. Do you think these email addresses will be of any use to you? I certainly don’t, because they are tainted. If you keep mailing these ghost account holders, they will just add zoho.com to their junk mail filters.”

I haven’t heard back from them.

So the sum of this post is twofold: don’t believe crowdsourcing will deliver unless you keep an eye on it. As Lenin said, trust is good but control is better. And if you believe in getting lots of users, you have to create a service they will flock to, with a high quality user experience, not code a prison from which they cannot leave when they want.

Oh, the solution to my problems? Google Forms. No frills, but all the bells and whistles I needed.

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About heikkihietala

Heikki Hietala has worked at the crossroads of IT and language since 1986. He studied at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. With an M.A. in English Philology and minor degrees in Communication and Information Technology, he has seen action at Microsoft, McKinsey & Company, Lionbridge, Bates Advertising and since September 2003, HAAGA-HELIA University of Applied Sciences. His interests of late have been user interface design and usability, 3D Design using Blender, and information technology for the small and medium enterprises. In his spare time he writes fiction in English. His novel, "Tulagi Hotel", was published in 2010 and a short story collection, "Filtered Light and Other Stories", in 2012. Tulagi Hotel is now available in Kindle and in paperback (also at Akateeminen Kirjakauppa), published by Fingerpress UK. "Hotelli Tulagi" on saatavana myös suomeksi kirjakaupoista kautta maan.
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