Monday, October 15, 2018

Rule of Law: Punish Everyone?

Judge Judy, chatting with my mother in Little Italy, NYC,
epitomizes the rule of law.
The rule of law states that every person (or legal entity) is subject to the law. But that doesn't mean every person must be punished for every crime.

Thanks to the Constitution and jurisprudence, a punishment can be reduced or suspended. We've frequently been the recipient of this benefit when pulled over for speeding and let off with a warning. This doesn't violate the rule of law since the warning is a form of punishment.

But, what about the case where most people aren't warned, sentenced, cited, arrested, or punished? Does it violate the rule of law when a police office sets up a speed trap and ignores all the drivers who are going over the speed limit by only a few miles per hour? The short answer is no, because even though these drivers aren't punished, they are still subject to the law. So, while they aren't punished, they could be. Rule of law is upheld.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fear, Free Press, and the First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 
– First Amendment to the United States Constitution 

Foreword

We're at the point where entertainment has become more real than reality and we now suffer from information obesity
Exercise: Fill in the blank:
"Houston, we__________ a problem."


Summary

TV news should make us better informed citizens; instead, it's making us unnecessarily more anxious. Here's why that is, and my personal solution for that problem.

Freedom of the Press

Why is a free press so important? Like the rest of the Constitution, its primary purpose is to give rights to individual citizens while limiting the power of the federal government. Freedom of the press is a key part of this right to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions.

Nowadays, it seems that the news has moved away from distributing information and, instead, it is predominantly supplying opinions disguised as news. Rather than telling citizens the facts, the media (especially TV news) seems to be telling people what to think, instead of how to think, which has the effect of dumbing us down.

The news media does this because we, as citizens, get lazy. Simply put, we now view TV news more as a form of entertainment than as a source of unbiased information. Journalists have, effectively, become agents of the news rather than reporters of it. Many so-called news reports on TV have been poisoned with opinions skewed to their audience's beliefs. This is clearly seen on both the left and right, liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican slants on news articles causing more and more division among the population. Rather than a single pluralistic America, it's clear that there are commercial and political advantages to the businesses and organizations who participate in increasing this polarization. Their gains are our losses. While it might be easy to point a finger at one side, the reaction of the other side seems to do very little for d├ętenteRather than trying to empathetically understand another's view point, we, all to frequently, shoot back with reasons they're wrong. This causes the other party to become defensive and dig their heals in. Many times, the reality of both sides --- why both sides think their opinion is the right one --- has a lot to do with their time horizon; short-term thinking vs. long-term thinking. But that's only one small point of a bigger problem. 


No Longer Informing Citizens

As Americans, we've become over-entertained with news resulting in us not becoming informed citizens.

Here's a test for anyone, from a casual news citizen to a TV "news junkie" (typically, news junkies are people who seem well-informed, usually due to a fear of missing out):

1. What information do you miss out on by getting your news from reading (articles online, in a newspaper, or magazine) instead of watching TV? (In other words, reading the news typically deliveries the news with more logic and less emotion compared to watching it, regardless if it's CNN or FoxNews.)

2. Even more importantly, how well-informed are we when we pick up a voting ballot for the first time? 

For me, the answer to #2 is that I feel very uninformed. I have no idea who most of my local, state, and federal politicians are when their names appear on my ballot. I'm hard pressed to name more than a few members of my city council or county supervisors except for when I have direct contact with them. We know very little about our local politics for many reasons, such as it's boring or there's less advertising revenue from local news compared to national or international sensational stories; frequently, the latter have virtually no impact on us. 

The rescue of the 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a cave in Thailand grabbed national attention. But why should I, as an American, living in San Diego, be more affected by a story in Thailand while ignoring the plight of the others in my own city? The answer to this question is important. In this article, NPR boiled the answer down to one word: Drama. 

Drama is more entertaining than simple, important facts.

Reducing TV News Anxiety

How do we reduce the unnecessary anxiety we get from TV news? In order to do that, we have to consume less of it --- much less of it --- while focusing on more impactful news in our lives, which is the less entertaining local news. 

The first step I took, many years ago, was to simply not subscribe to any TV services (I only have an Internet cable subscription). This Vox video explains how TV news sucks us in especially during terrorist attacks or mass shootings. We get spun up, full of emotions and fear, which typically causes us to think irrationally. Everyone, from the NRA to the Brady Campaign (formerly Handgun Control, Inc.) wants to reduce school mass shootings. While this is of paramount importance, we seem to overlook any significant effort to reduce the number of child deaths, each day, due to car accidents which far exceeds the number of mass shooting child deaths. Child car deaths only seems to come to a mind when we, as a parent, become concerned about our teenage kid and their fresh, new driver license.

Since I don't have live TV news, I simply read my news online. Lately, I've started to watch short clips on the Apple TV Twitter app (which behaves significantly different than Twitter on the web or the Twitter mobile app). However, I've noticed that even these short video news clips on Twitter raise my level of anxiety without providing any actionable news; and these clips certainly don't make it easier for me to pick candidates on my voting ballot. 

Simply ask yourself why you're watching so much news? Are the key politicians that you constantly see in the national news helping to change your opinion; or is that news simply reaffirming your past voting decision which is something that you can't go back and undo?

Monday, August 27, 2018

Simplicity

Apple's Human Interface Guidelines simplify the Aqua UI.

You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.
de Saint-Exupery


Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. But simplicity is like time. We understand it at a high level, but defining it isn't easy.

The challenge is that simplicity lies on the other side of complexity. Without embracing complexity, the simplicity you produce will be oversimplified; in other words, ineffective. But complexity doesn't have to produce complicated solutions when properly analyzed and presented. We see this all the time in computer applications since software development is about managing complexity.

To achieve simplicity, one needs high performance building blocks that are reliable, predictable, and repeatable. Atoms are a perfect example. But, our lives aren't that simple. In our lives, simplicity means minimizing the introduction of variables, especially random ones. That may sound boring, but when we're bored, it's not complexity we seek, rather, it's randomness.


The Simple Life

Generally speaking, simpler lives are healthier than complex ones (just ask Elon Musk). So, what does it take to live a simple life?

Simplicity is about living life with more enjoyment and less pain.
To be happy by making every day go as smoothly as possible.
We want to enjoy and consume life instead of working and transforming it.



Sunday, August 19, 2018

Engineers Turned Entrepreneurs

Lately, I've noticed a lot of ex-Qualcomm engineers wanting to become entrepreneurs and I see them struggling with the same challenges I faced when I made the transition: sales and marketing. I'm personally reminded how difficult these operations are since I've never, once, booked my talk about Apple; instead, every one of my Apple speaking engagements, over the past few years, has been arranged by my agent in NYC – she's the expert who handles my sales and marketing.

Ineffective Marketing

If there's one point I can't stress enough, it's that you can't workaround sales and marketing, or hope it simply happens because you believe your offerings are great. If you don't know, or understand, exactly how you will match customers to your product or service, then you will have problems. I've met and mentored too many engineers who think that marketing and selling their offerings is easy. Marketing is not easy. Think about it this way: Engineers can't suddenly become effective marketers any more than marketers can instantly become respectable software engineers. As a matter of fact, it's easier to become a software engineer, and deploy code into production, than it is to effectively carry out sales and marketing operations since coding can be done without interacting with people. A software engineer can scour the Internet 24/7 to discover software libraries, error message meanings, best practices, etc. In order to carry out effective marketing and, ultimately sales, requires direct contact with people, which frightens many engineers.

Begin with the End in Mind

So, you're a career individual contributor who wants to become an entrepreneur. Why do you want to be an entrepreneur when you've had a great career as an individual contributor? Because it looks fun and exciting?

Many jump into entrepreneurship simply so can tell people that they're an entrepreneur. I've seen a lot of these types, and many of them fail because they've fallen in love with a particular technology, such as blockchain, cloud computing, machine learning, big data, IoT, etc. From there, they look for potential market opportunities for their favorite technology. In other words, they have a solution looking for a problem to solve. That's backwards. Steve Jobs said it best at WWDC in 1997:
You got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can't start with with the technology and try to figure out where you're going to try to sell it. And I've made this mistake probably more than anyone else in this room and I've got the scar tissue to prove it... What incredible benefits can we give to the customer?
Think about it like this: You have nearly zero sales and marketing experience and you think you've got what it takes to become an entrepreneur? You're about to pivot from a field you've excelled at to one where you have very little experience; please don't think it'll be easy. Don't believe that your brilliant engineering skills will translate in superior selling skills because you believe engineers are smarter than "flaky" salespeople who overpromise and underdeliver. Nearly every engineering project is delivered late and over budget. At some level, we all live in a glasshouse. Even if you think you can hire someone to help with marketing, you need to realize that marketing is experimental, much like coding. More importantly keep in mind that a salesperson or marketer can't simply jump, from selling one product or service, into another industry and be successful, off the bat. It's an iterative process, much like software engineering. And, just like a server side software engineer can't jump into mobile app development without making mistakes, the same is true for salespeople and marketers entering a new field.

People Skills & Storytelling

Engineers, like all career individual contributors, work in quiet work environments where they are inwardly focused on their work product, regardless if it's code, prose, design, art, photography etc. Sales and marketing require people skills. This begins with storytelling. Words like cloud, blockchain, crypto, JavaScript, patented, etc, are not very meaningful to customers because these are features of your product or service. Customers do not buy features, they buy benefits. When pitching a potential customer, entrepreneurs need to focus outward on people (customers, employees, investors, etc). This means leading with the benefits before the features. How can you deliver your message using as few words as possible? You need to hear what you're saying from your customer's perspective. After each claim you make, during your pitch, ask yourself why that's important. Imagine your customer asking, "So what? Why should I care about that?" Your pitch needs to fit into your customer's needs, so it has to be tailored each time to your audience.

Benefits for Your Customer

Selling an iPad to grandma or grandpa means they can be more social by texting and e-mailing you very easily. But this benefit could be a liability if you're selling iPads to a restaurant owner for their food servers to use. The restaurant owner doesn't want their employees using the iPads for social media; they want their employees to use the iPad for taking customers' orders and running the business. Know your audience, and understand which benefits are meaningful to them.

Engineers tend to focus on features, technology, and tools. There are similarities between software engineering and home building. For example, both fields have similar concepts such as architecture and design patterns. When buying a home, you care about what it looks like, both inside and out, and the quality (durability) of the work. What a homebuyer doesn't care about are the tools used to build their house. Telling a customer that your app was built with .NET, Swift, or Java in the cloud is the equivalent of a homebuilder telling you that construction workers built your home using power tools from Black and Decker, Hitachi, or DeWalt. You may care about the tools, but your customer doesn't, so don't even bring it up. That's what I mean by focusing outward on your customer's needs, instead of inward on what you consider important.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Blockchain

Blockchain is, at best, ahead of its time. It's not yet practical, much like Boolean algebra and asymmetrical (RSA) encryption when they were introduced.

At present, I think an ideal application of blockchain could be used in reducing spam e-mail.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Talking about Apple on KUSI News

It seemed highly likely, this past Thursday morning, that Apple's market capitalization was going to break through $1 trillion. When I saw that milestone quickly approaching, I sent an e-mail to a local news station which opened with the following:
I am a retired Apple employee (1998 – 2007) here in San Diego and I’d like to make myself available to KUSI for an interview about Apple since that company reached, and surpassed, a $1 trillion market valuation, this morning.

Nine minutes later, I received a response, "Thank you for your email. Would you be available to appear on our 5pm newscast tonight?"

Wow! That was quick. Of course I accepted their offer.




A few people asked me if I was paid for my appearance. News organizations do not pay or compensate guests for information to avoid any conflicts of interest – that's basic journalism ethics. However, many news organizations will pay for photos or videos. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

 One Thousand Billion Dollars 



In June 1997, a pray request was sent out for a company that was within 90 days of bankruptcy.

It seems that enough people prayed.

#1,000,000,000,000.00 #OneThousandBillion AKA #OneTrillion

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Unhealthy Mental Health

A silver-painted woman with mental health issues

The Past

Over the past few years, I watched a friend's mental health deteriorate to the point he could no longer live with his wife and kids. He ended up living on the streets, trying to get by. This is the second time, in a decade where this has happened to him. Both times, his paranoid schizophrenia improved, significantly, after he was arrested and institutionalized at a mental health facility for months of treatment.

After his most recent recovery, I bumped into him in Cupertino where we spoke for about ten minutes. He's never acknowledged any hint of his mental health issues – in other words, denial.


The Present

One key symptom that seems to make mental health worse, for the individual, is denial – a failure to even acknowledge there's an issue. A person's private life should remain as private as the individual wants it to be. However, relationships imply responsibilities. If a person is unable to maintain a friendship, then the friendship will fade away.

The part that frustrates me is I have to guess why people, with unacknowledged mental health issues, act the way that they do. From my point of view, it begins when they can't speak on the phone, even though they used to. Although texting helps, it can be hours or days until even a simple text message is answered.

I count myself as very fortunate that I don't "stress out." Knock on wood, but I have yet to experience depression, anxiety, a panic attack, etc. Many years ago, I would have attributed this to my Marine Corps experiences where I had to learn to handle many different situations that my civilian peer age group did not. Today, I realize that I'm simply very lucky.

How could Robin Williams succumb to depression? Replace the word 'depression' with 'cancer' and no one would even ask. But, mental health issues have so much stigma that individuals don't want to acknowledge it, let alone discuss it with others.

When I was faced with a life threating illness, I told as many of my friends and relatives that I could. My thinking was, "If I was a friend or relative, I would want to know that Joe's sick."


The Future

I currently have several very close relatives and friends, that I've know my entire adult life, who have some type of debilitating mental health issue which is completely unacknowledged. In two cases, it's worsened by alcoholism, which is another disease that is too frequently ignored. I now recognize the pattern. They lose touch, usually completely, and can't communicate. It seems to begin with a social anxiety. Very frequently, plans – even plans they've initiated – get abruptly cancelled with no explanation.

Now, I try to figure out what to do to help and my conclusion is that I can do very little, especially when they refuse to engage in any type of even light social conversation. For those I know who have admitted their mental health issues to me, it's much easier for me to lend a sympathetic ear. For the others, it's easy for me to mistakenly think that their condition is their fault and it's hard for me to sit back and watch the downward spiral.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Apple Design. Apple Marketing. Apple Talk.

Apple Park

1. Apple Design
2. Apple Marketing
3. Apple Talk


1. Apple Design
A good base metric for usability is both how long it takes to accomplish a task and how many actions it takes (clicks, taps, etc). Although good UX, involving human-machine interactions, typically involves familiarity, it doesn’t necessarily have to be familiar to be intuitive. (Think about the first time you saw the rubber band effect on the iPhone as a user scrolled to the top or bottom of a list – that was unfamiliar, yet intuitive.)

Fitts’s Law, named after USAF Lt. Col. Paul Fitts, puts a finer point on usability and ergonomics using simple formulas that relate the distance to a target with the size of the target. Fitts’s formulas date back to the mid-1950s and they apply nicely to computers and cockpits.

Fitts’s formulas:

Index of Difficulty = log₂ (2 x distance to target / target width)

Throughput = (Index of difficulty) / (Average time to complete the movement)

Throughput is important with computers because you don’t want a user to hit the wrong button and then have to backtrack to fix their mistake. While a computer can be very forgiving, in an aircraft, you don’t want to put the ejection button next the landing light switch so as to not accidentally hit the wrong one. 

Thanks to Fitts’s Law, this is why, on macOS, the menu bar for the active window is along the top of the screen, whereas, on Windows, the menu bar is attached to the top of each window. Having the menu bar on the top of the Mac’s desktop screen gives the target (File, Edit, View, etc) an infinite height because a user can’t move their mouse pointer beyond the edge of the screen, no matter how much they try. This is why macOS’s four corners of the screen make great hot spots. It is extremely easy to move a mouse pointer to any of the four corners to, say, lock the computer (requiring a password to unlock it). This, effectively gives the pixel, in each of the corners of the desktop, an infinite width and height, off the screen.

And while Fitts’s Law is great, design does have a bit of an artistic aspect to it. Good UX is designed with people in mind.

2. Apple Marketing
The goal of marketing is to match customers with products to generate revenue. A novice mistake new entrepreneurs make is to focus inward on what they think is important, instead of focusing on the customer experience. For example, many entrepreneurs will spend a lot of time and money designing their logo. Customers don’t do business with companies based on what their logo looks like. In other words, “No One Cares About Your Company Logo.” However, how you use your logo is very important; it’s critical to stay on brand in order to prevent brand dilation.

There’s a lot of noise out there, so a company’s marketing communications have to be clear and concise. This starts by leading with a product’s benefits before its features.

What’s the difference between a benefit or feature? The key features of a product (or service) enable the benefit for the customer. In other words, use a product’s key features to summarize its key benefit.

One of the best examples of leading with the benefits before the features was the introduction of the first iPod in October 2001. I believe, if any other company had created the iPod, such as HP, Dell, or Microsoft, they would have marketed it as “a 6.5 ounce MP3 player with a 5 GB hard drive, measuring 4” x 2.5” x 3/4”.” Even as a software engineer, I would have to breakout a calculator to figure out how many songs a 5 GB hard drive could hold.

Instead of touting the features, the slogan for the first iPod was, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Elegant.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


Lead with the benefits, before the features.


3. Apple Talk
So, what is it I do? I've detailed that here:
http://blog.joemoreno.com/2018/06/the-apple-way.html

More info on my talk, The Apple Way of Design and Marketing, here:
http://joemoreno.com/talk 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Practice, Practice, Practice

Wireless networks and crowds do not mix well.

One thing I learned to appreciate at The Basic School was the importance of rehearsals. In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. So there's no better sample or simulation than actually "doing it."

I give several Keynote presentations each month. Even when I'm giving my presentation at a tried and true venue, I still like to be set up and ready to go at least 30 – 45 minutes before the audience arrives. Instead of using a Bluetooth remote, to advance my slides, I use the Keynote app, on my iPhone. The Keynote app not only controls my slides, but it also displays the current slide that's being presented. Additionally, the Keynote app controls my Keynote presentation using WiFi, instead of Bluetooth (or infrared), which gives it a much longer reach since WiFi can be relayed.

Last month, when I presented at San Diego Startup Week (SDSW), I setup my laptop more than an hour early since I would be presenting on the morning of the first day of the conference. When I arrived, the A/V was still being set up and tweaked. But it all quickly came together as I ran through my presentation testing the audio and room lighting. I was confident and ready to go when the masses arrived.

Whenever large groups of people gather, get ready for something unexpected to happen. And that's exactly what happened. I probably should have realized that, when you get hundreds or thousands or people on the same network, it slows to a crawl. In my case, the problem was the WiFi LAN (not the Internet connection) that was overloaded. The WiFi was provided by a wireless router in my presentation room and it was overloaded. So much so that the signal couldn't travel from my iPhone's Keynote app, 20 feet to the WiFi router, and then to my laptop. In foresight, that was unexpected, yet completely expected in hindsight, if I had given it some thought. While I was able to successfully give my presentation with my Keynote app, it was touchy. I never saw any of my slides displayed on my iPhone and it would take a couple taps, followed by a long delay, to advance my slides. Clearly, that's not a distraction I want when presenting.

Last night, I brought up this issue at our SDSW postmortem. The best solution I heard was the recommendation to have a private WiFi network for staff and presenters. I'm sure we'll push for that, next year, if there are enough WiFi channels available to support it.

Event best-laid plans of mice and men can go awry.