Monday, April 23, 2007

YouTube: Invalid Parameters

When users login to YouTube, at the top of the screen, displayed prominently, is a message: "Invalid Parameters." What does it mean? I have been greeted in this manner for at least one month. How remarkable that the YouTube traffic continues to grow, despite an explicit insult on Page One. The user has reason to exit the site--and the 'Net--to determine what it is about him or herself that is Wrong. Readers: fret no more; it is the Google YouTube login script which has the problem. So, why is it, after at least 3 weeks, that the BUG still exists? The user believes one of the following is true:

1. The engineers are not aware of the problem.
2. The engineers are aware of the problem, but are unable to fix it.
3. The engineers are aware of the problem, but do not wish to fix it.

None of those possibilities boosts one's confidence or regard for the Google team. Indeed, #3 directly contradicts Google's "don't be evil" creed (whereas #1 implies that the makers don't use the system themselves or have a "Quality Analysis" staff; #2, incompetence).

Perhaps somebody there isn't too busy counting money, and can fix the issue.

The biggest problem with the message is that it is displayed regardless of what the user did. We might as well also discuss the error message in general. That is, if and when the message is displayed as a result of an invalid parameter entered by a user.

Problem #1: syntax. Sure, we are all aware of the word parameter, but we seldom use it. It's coder-speak. Fine and dandy for the internal methods of the coders, but the function should spit out 'Plain English.' If "parameters" was part of the local (YouTube) lexicon, it would be permissable here of course, but I don't see the word showing up**...

Problem#2: lacks specifics. If a user does something wrong, she should be informed WHAT it was she did wrong, and, if not self-evident, CORRECTIVE MEASURES should be identified and displayed.

** A YouTube search for "Invalid Parameters" displayed a short video from a young user who stepped up and asked the community "What's up?" As she mentions, there is no word about it in Help. Check it out (note: she pronounces 'parameters' like 'para-meters' but she means the same thing:)