Saturday, July 14, 2012

7 Reasons Why Voki Is Bad and Ugly

I guess the official title of this post is, "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly of Voki: Part 2" but I read somewhere that if you give a quantified list as a title, people are more than twice as likely to read it.  I could have also called this post "The Foes and Woes of Voki," because I'm about to do a lot of complaining.
I've known about voki since 2007. I'm not sure how long it's actually been around. But as far as online apps go, 5 years is a lot of time to improve and enhance your product. Voki has kept their improvements to a minimum. Even if they had a single part-time software developer on staff, I'd expect more changes than Voki has made in the past five years.

The Bad and the Ugly

1) The login screen
"Okay class, today we'll be making our vokis. Please go to the home page and take out your magnifying glass." There is so much junk on voki's home page and the login portion seems to be an afterthought.

Can you find me?

Not only is it small, but they decided to go with a light gray as their login font color, so you are guaranteed to not see what you're typing. But no matter, when you inevitably make a mistake in your first login attempt, a brand new login window pops up that's much bigger, and you get to type everything over again. But speaking of logging in, why do you have to login with an email? The reason why we have login names is because they are generally shorter than email addresses. 

This is without a doubt, the most frustrating login page of any web app that I've dealt with.

2) Monsters, Animals, and White People
I've noticed that voki consistently adds characters to their repertoire. That's great. And I understand that when you make a "human" character, often (but not always for some reason) you can change the skin color. But here's a fun challenge for an international classroom; have the children design a voki that looks like them, or looks like them 10 years from now. If you have any children from Asia, they will be asking if the can't just make a cat or dog or monster voki. It's not necessarily because that's their first choice.

It's because there are almost no options for them. I've never had any child of European descent not be able to do this challenge. Ethnic groups are not even close to being fairly represented. I quit giving this as a class assignment altogether when I saw children in my class just give up and decide to design a "white" version of themselves.

3) Sacha Baron Cohen

There are 18 groups of characters to choose from in voki: Anime, Animals, Edgy, Oddballs, Randoms, VIP, Politics, Holiday, Digimon, Dogs, Cats, 3D, World, Beach, Monsters, Smiles, Classic, and Toons.  I like the variety, and I won't spend a lot of time harping on how the heck they categorized these characters. For example, why aren't "Dogs" and "Cats" considered "Animals"? Or what's with the "Beach" and "Smiles" categories? Instead, I'm going to talk about the "VIP" category. Here it is:

Just to be clear, we have four characters in this category. One might be Britney Spears. And three of them are Sacha Baron Cohen (as Bruno, Borat, and Ali G). I haven't investigated into who owns Voki, but if it's not Sacha Baron Cohen, then that is absurd. And I say that as a big time Sacha fan.

4) Excessive Load Time
Every school I've worked at has had issues with bandwidth. Vokis, whether they have a sound file attached to them or not, take a long time to load, and the load time speed hasn't improved over the years. Sometimes they even get stuck in an infinite loading loop. Children generally don't know how to handle an infinite load time. They're not sure if they should wait a little longer, refresh the page, or poke their neighbor with a pencil.

5) Invisible sound uploads
I mentioned at the end of my previous post that I ran into a problem that made voki unusable for me. Well, this was the problem. I don't understand it, but here it is: I couldn't upload a sound file in Safari, but I could in Chrome and Firefox. But I couldn't see the file in Chrome or Firefox once the sound file was uploaded. I could only see it in Safari. Confused? I'll try to explain through pictures.
I would upload a sound file in Firefox, and this is what I'd see:

But then I'd open the same account in Safari, and I would see this:
All of my sound files were visible. That would be fine if from Safari I could upload audio, but I wasn't allowed to from that browser. Eventually the process just got too cumbersome because Safari stopped showing all the sound files all the time. However this problem seems to have been fixed. I can now upload and see the sound files in the same browser (for the time being).

6) Paid accounts gives you 90 whole seconds.
I don't get this. In the free account, you are allowed 60 seconds for each voki. This isn't a lot of time, and limits the app. In the paid account you get 30 more seconds, which really isn't a lot of time, and limits the app. They should at least consider doubling the time from 1 minute to 2 minutes.

7) Blogger and Voki: Incompatible Partners
This is an issue I just discovered while writing the previous post. You know that married couple where both the man and the woman are fine people and you enjoy them individually, but can't stand them when they are together? That appears to be Blogger and voki. I would like to go back to yesterday's post on vokis and make some minor editing changes. But I won't. Because as soon as I open up the post for editing and add a link or change a spelling mistake, all the voki characters in the post will be erased and replaced with the last voki I used in the post. In other words, people should see this view:

But instead they see this "Attack of the Clones" view:
In order to fix this problem, I have to go into the html editor and paste each voki's individual embed code, and then save the post. The problem, I discovered, is when I switched to the rich-text editor. That's when the zombies would take over. So I'm not sure who to blame here. But it  is a bizarre error, and because I don't enjoy solely interacting with an html editor, an error that will stop me from posting multiple voki characters in a single post again.

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