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.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Story of an Artist


Pure art is nothing more than an expression of human consciousness for others to experience.
– Me

Apple announced upgraded MacBook Pros, this morning. That lead me to noticing their new commercial that's part of their "Behind The Mac" marketing campaign. Apple commercials sometimes have sticky songs such as in "The City," featuring "Sing to Me." (Both videos tell a story about a deep, curious, and budding love.)

What's unusual about this most recent "Behind The Mac" ad, embedded below, is the naive, lo-fi recording that accompanies the commercial; the song is "The Story Of An Artist," by the musician Daniel Johnston.

Johnston suffers from debilitating mental health issues. At one point, in his late 20s, when he was flying in a small plane piloted by his father, he removed the key from the ignition and threw it out the window. Amazingly, they escaped from their crash landing, in a forest, with only minor injuries.

For those of us who are older, it's the subtle, yet authentic, quality of Johnston's cassette tape recordings that bring a wave of something more than nostalgia; it brings saudade. We remember making the same recordings on our cassette players in our bedrooms and basements. Press play and record at the same time --- and don't forget to break off the tab if you don't want to mistakenly record over it.

Johnston's songs have a hauntingly raw simplicity underneath a sad kindness, as they are performed by a man whose sufferings are difficult to understand, let alone imagine. His lyrics aren't his words, instead, they're his unfiltered thoughts, feelings, and experiences ---  candid and exposed --- yet endearingly palatable in their message. 


How to Inventory Prime Now

More and more often, I find myself using Amazon Prime Now for two hour food and restaurant deliveries. As a former supply officer in the Marines, I quickly learned the importance of receipting for materiel as soon as it's received, before signing off on the delivery.


Pre-inventory
Receipting for a Prime Now delivery should also be done as soon as it arrives. To avoid any confusion or mistakes I simply unload everything in one spot, typcially on my kitchen counter (see my pre-inventory photo). Be sure to thoroughly check for any small items, especially in the bags with the cold packs.


Post-inventory
You can print out your order if it's a big delivery, but that shouldn't be necessary. I simply open my Prime Now app on my phone and start at the top of the list. As I scroll down, through each item, I pick it up and move it from my pre-inventory location to another counter (see my post-inventory photo). I've seen people simply take a quick look in their delivery bags and then put everything away, causing problems later when they're unsure if they received an item they ordered. Also, be sure to double check the quantities. 

Once you've gone through the entire list, you'll know within a two minutes if everything was delivered. If something's missing, I'll go through all the bags to triple check before calling customer service. 

If you have extra items, simply keep them. I've contacted Amazon when I was delivered a few extra items I didn't order and their response was "I'm truly sorry that you have received an extra bag of goodies. You are welcome to keep, dispose of or donate the items in that extra bag." Their loss is your gain. Not a bad deal.

If you're missing anything – or, if you've received the wrong order – then contact Amazon. They will probably give you a refund and/or a credit and then, if time allows, send out the replacement items.

In my experience, all of the drivers for Prime Now have been Amazon Flex Drivers which is like Uber/Lyft, but instead of moving people, the driver is moving goods. However, the Flex Drivers do not pick and pack the items in the warehouse; that's done by well-trained Amazon employees and highly obedient robots.

To speed up my delivery, I will use the app or website to track the Flex Driver on the way to my place and meet them between my front door and the street. Your deliverer will appreciate that, especially if you live in a gated complex. 

Like Uber/Lyft, no money is exchanged on the spot. It's all done ahead of time, through the app; even the tip.

Yes, Amazon's taking over the planet (and beyond). It's the second most valuable company in the world, if my calculations correct:

High Tech Market Capitalization
  • Apple:     $939B
  • Amazon:    $872B
  • Google:    $824B
  • Microsoft: $801B
  • Facebook:  $599B
  • Netflix:   $180B


PS – No, you don't have to queue up your food to inventory it. I don't. I only did it for these photos.