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Originally posted November 10 2006 at 17:11 under General and Physics. 2 Comments. Trackbacks Disabled. Last modified: 15 November 2006 at 22:38

Energy Barrier (Or I Just Want To Read About The Moon)

Annoyed and disappointed

The Moon’s surface may actually be more active than thought. I can only tell you that though because I’ve just ploughed through what can only be described as an awful user experience on PhysicsWeb. This saddens me, not only because of the time and effort waisted and the frustration, but also because I expected better from an IOP site

It started off with clicking a link in an RSS feed to read the story about the Moon. Except I didn’t land on a story about the Moon, I landed on this login page Screen Capture of PhysicsWeb login page. Now maybe I’ve been missing something, or have always been logged in and so have never noticed, but I didn’t know that PhysicsWeb required registration simply to read an article. In fact, a quick glance at the main news page shows that some articles are deemed “premium content” and others (most) not. What criteria makes something locked to those not logged in I don’t know. So, hmmm, login….

At this point the user experience became really bad. My first instinct was the realisation that PhysicsWeb is part of the IOP so I tried my IOP login. I even tried going to the IOP site and making sure I was logged in before returning to PhysicsWeb. This made zero difference; even as a logged in member of the IOP I couldn’t read that article. So I started guessing email addresses on the forgotten password page, just in case I had an account I didn’t remember. That give me an email which didn’t say no such user. Aha! Still took me two goes at the form to get it to actually send me a new password though.

I was joyous. Correct email address and new password in hand I could finally read about the Moon (remember that?). Except, of course, not. Instead I was forced to this update profile page Screen capture of the update profile page. I’ve blanked the address out in that screen capture for obvious reasons but I can tell you that they’d managed to take whatever address they had on record and put the entire thing on the one line: street, town, postcode, country, everything (it wasn’t actually the right address anyway—obviously there’s no link to the actual IOP here). They also set the country to United States (this would be the UK IOP). Then there’s all that “basic information” required…

It wasn’t until the end of the form that I finally worked out that I have an account because PhysicsWeb is produced by the IOP Publishing arm—it’d be helpful if they mentioned that at the initial login screen. Having filled in all the bits and bobs of basic information (ha!) they finally, finally, allowed me to read about the Moon (its surface may well be much more active than thought).

Most of the Above Is Not The Point

PhysicsWeb is basically the main public facing news site of the IOP. While its main audience is probably professional physicists there’s no real reason they or, more importantly, the general public should have to register just to read a freely available article. That in itself is a far too large a barrier to overcome for the casual reader. Part of the point of the Institute is to inform and educate any who are interested in the subject—it says so right there in the charter To promote, encourage, guide and cooperate in the education and training of those who wish to be or are practising as physicists or as assistants to physicists or are interested in physics or in subjects connected therewith (emphasis mine). There seems something fundamentally wrong for such an organisation to put barriers in the way of doing so. Forget about the terrible user experience I went through; I’m a member of the IOP and so I’m more prepared than some to put up with that. By all means allow people to register and tailor content towards their preferences, allow them to save interesting articles and whatever else you can think of. But just to simply read a single article which sounds interesting? Don’t put barriers there, getting people to the Moon is hard enough already.

Comments (2):


Indeed, I just ran into the same thing. I haven’t been bothered to jump through all those hoops yet - and the casually interested passerby certainly isn’t going to…

Boo IoP!


Made by Ed on Nov 10, 2006 at 18:23


This is a new thing then… I wondered if I’d just lost a cookie somewhere which had been protecting me from it. I was shouting out loud at the computer. I really don’t see why they’ve done this :-(

Made by Ian Scott on Nov 10, 2006 at 18:32

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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