Monday, January 16, 2017

Mental Health in America

How does someone end up on the streets? There are many different reasons such as abuse, drugs, loss of a job, and mental health issues. Over the past few months, I've watched the mental health of a  friend and former coworker from Apple, decline until he ended up living in his office, car, and then ended up on the streets. Help and love from family, friends, his church, and coworkers did no good since he wouldn't accept any aid.

Last time this happened to him, he ended up being arrested and committed. Unfortunately, until someone exhibits some harmful behavior – what authorities refer to as "fitting the profile" – there's not much that can be done by others. Sure, we tried talking to him, in good faith, but when one's brain can't accept reality, logic does no good. From his point of view, the entire world doesn't understand his genius and he things we're all squelching his creativity.

Today, a few of us, including his wife and mother, had to pack up his office, which he had been squatting at, for a couple of months, until his sympathetic landlord had no other choice. We wondered what street he was living on as we boxed up his computers, routers, books, marketing collateral, and training materials.

But, that's life in America. We're free until we harm.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Understanding Trump

Since the election, I've been trying to better understand President-Elect Donald Trump. What I heard as his promises on the campaign trail didn't make sense. It has taken me a little while to realize that much of his forward looking rhetoric seemed to actually be his opening bid in a negotiation rather than campaign promises. You're selling your home for $800,000; I show up and offer $750,000; that's not the end of the deal, only the beginning.

When Trump said, "Build a wall," he was actually pitching an idea. From his point of view, why not throw out ideas and see what sticks? At the end of the day, he got the results he wanted. He accomplished what no other candidate could; he was elected POTUS. People may be protesting the election, but no one is contesting it like the 2000 election. To bring up the point that Trump didn't win the popular vote is like rationalizing today's loss of your favorite baseball team in a close game, say 2 – 1, by arguing that your team won yesterday's game 10 – 1. You can't carry over yesterday's extra eight runs to today.

It's been said that the first person with a crazy idea isn't as crazy as the first follower of that idea.

Build a Wall

Something I couldn't understand, when Trump said he was going to build a wall, was why other people from Mexico and Central America would support him. How could they support that? Yesterday, I got an answer to my question from someone who employs an undocumented worker. It turns out that undocumented workers aren't seeking solidarity with other undocumented workers by supporting Trump. Rather, they're seeking to stop the influx of undocumented workers into the U.S. to limit their competition. Something I didn't understand before today now makes complete sense. This is a small epiphany, but I will continue to try to understand how people think while seeking objective truth.

Failing to understand your friends and enemies is failing to understand people.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weak Stadium Security at NFL & College Venues

Only clear bags allowed.
Last night, I went to a basketball game at UCLA. Women were prevented from entering the arena with any opaque bag larger than a clutch. Women who showed up at security with a purse were sent outside the arena to leave their purse at check-in. Ladies had the option of transferring the contents of their bags into a clear plastic bag if they wanted to. It turns out this policy mimics the NFL's; the NFL says it has "unanimously" implemented the same poor security practices at their stadiums.

Here's the problem... the security metal detectors can't detect leather. The clear plastic bag policy is trying to mimic TSA security policies in form over substance. Why can't a woman bring an opaque bag into an arena? I don't know.

How can you defeat this security measure? Simply empty the contents of your purse into a clear plastic bag and then hide your empty leather purse anywhere on your body such as in the small of your back. After entering the venue, simply transfer the contents from the clear plastic bag back into your leather purse. This suggestion is a much safer option for women than leaving their purses with some college kid to guard. (Would it be far-fetched for a creepy college kid to go through your purse during a game?)

Security Theatre

What the NFL is accomplishing with this policy is known as security theater. Most people recognize that security is usually a trade off with convenience (although it doesn't necessarily have to be) so, if a policy is implemented at an institutional level that is highly inconvenient then it must be safer, goes the thinking. In other words, it's inconvenient security theater without making the venue safer – if anything, it puts added risk on their fans due to the hassle of standing in line in the rain (which is what happened last night) plus transferring stuff between bags, in the dark, while having a college kid watch your bag, etc.

Let's keep America scared. I think you see my point.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Protesting vs. Complaining

If every single one of your thoughts, posts, and comments are anti, anti-Clinton or anti-Trump, then you are not helping. You’re not even protesting. You’re complaining. You don’t like your lot in life, so you want to bring others down to your level by “informing” them through your biased view points.

You protest a cause to prevent or change it. You protest the war to end the war. You protest higher taxes to lower them. You protest evolution to promulgate the idea that Adam was made from dust and Eve was made from a rib; you do this to get your Creationist beliefs institutionalized.

For protesting to have an effect, it has to be organized as a group; it has to send a clear message that’s actionable. Venting really doesn’t help because it’s not as if you’ve discharged those negative feelings, you’ve simply amplified them.

I swore my life to protest your First Amendment. Never a regret there. But now it's my turn to exercise my freedom of speech; except I'm doing it in a positive way. Find a way to make it work or be miserable – that's your choice.

I'm not saying don't protest or demonstrate. By all means do that if you can make a difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

An Entrepreneur's First Step

What should be an entrepreneur's first step when creating a business, product, or service?
Write a press release and FAQ.

Think: Begin with the end in mind.

The press release (PR) and FAQ are notional. Later, when you're ready to ship, you'll publish the final PR and FAQ. In the mean time, the notional PR and FAQ are used to socialize your vision with the team. Sure, you'll tweak the document while you're working on your baby, but using this as a starting point... as your vision document... gets everyone on the same page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Presidential Elections and the Press

In the 2000 Presidential Elections, the press reported results in real-time which, some say, may have effected the outcome since people in the western US, AL, and HI may have skipped voting, thinking it was a forgone conclusion.

During the next major Presidential Election, in 2008, it wasn’t a close race (365 [Obama] to 173 [McCain] electoral votes), but none of the major networks called the race until 11 PM ET (8 PM PT), at the exact minute when the polls closed everywhere but Alaska.

I wonder how they'll play it, tonight?

Freedom of the Press Means Capitalism 

Keep in mind that, while freedom of the press is critical, these news companies are for-profit businesses that need to make money. They make money by making news. By making more news, more people tune in. To make more people tune in there needs to be suspense and excitement. A close Presidential Election does exactly that.

Now take a look at the news cycle leading up to today's election. Have you ever noticed that the Presidential debates are hosted by journalists? On the surface, that makes sense since they should be able to interview people without bias. Of course, they do their best – in lines with their employer's desires – to be unbiased. But there are two points where this isn't the case. The first, and most obvious, is the fact we all have slants. I've done video and written journalism and I've seen how simple it is to have a story focus on what I'm most interested in. At best, it's unintentional bias, at worst, it's misleading (which we see, every single day, in politics). One can speak the truth with the intention to deceive.

Second, and this isn't obvious, is there are subtle cues in the news to make it more dramatic. A slow motion scene of a recently deceased Challenger crew; or a studio audience at a Presidential debate.  Between keeping your eye on the news crawler at the bottom of the screen, along with the transition sound effects and breaking news graphics, you are forced to pay attention.

Debate this Debate Idea

Would not the debates be more effective at informing citizens if there was no clapping, cheering, or booing? Of course, the audience is told by the moderators to refrain from making any noise, but that doesn't work. What also doesn't work is telling the candidates not to interrupt each other. The latter issue could be solved by either switching off the mic of the candidate who doesn't have the floor, or giving that candidate the option of overriding the switched off mic while incurring a time penalty.

Television media has a very good idea about how their reporting will affect their viewers. Repetitively showing dramatic events will keep people on edge which keeps them tuning in.

One way I've serendipitously discovered to avoid the news drama is simply by not watching live TV news. But, I am not disciplined enough to do this on my own; instead, years ago, I cut my cable service to nothing but Internet.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Macintosh Touch Bar

The MacBook Pro's new Touch Bar is intriguing. It's a contextual software menu integrated into the keyboard's hardware. The best of smartphone UI elements brought to a laptop. That's the key to a good UX: UI elements that move out of the way when they're not needed.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

iPhone 7, Unjacked

CNN Breaking News.
Did you hear that the new iPhone 7 won't have an analog headphone jack?

Yeah, I know, everyone heard. It was literally breaking news, yesterday, on CNN.

But concerns only began with CNN. Within hours, I was pinged by friends and colleagues, "Joe, what are your thoughts on this whole earphone jack thing with Apple?"

I'm surprised that Apple brought so much attention to the fact that the analog jack was going away. I don't recall Steve Jobs making any mention about the fact that Apple got rid of the floppy drive on the original iMac in 1998. Back then, Apple was earning less than $50M/quarter with less than $5B in market capitalization. So a radical departure, like the elimination of a floppy drive, was a boom or bust move.

The reason people are asking about the lack of a jack on the new iPhone 7 is because they're not sure what it means, in the future. They don't know, so they ask, which is an ideal way to form an opinion. Apple has always been great about transitioning from an old, outdated technology to a new one. That was the case with the transition from OS 9 to Mac OS X by cabonizing apps (all life is based on carbon) and with the transition from PPC to Intel processor (Marklar) seamlessly using Rosetta.

But, the key part of Apple's transition away from the old analog jack to a Lightning connector is similar to the move from a 30 pin iPod connector to Lightning in that its more efficient as it saves space.

So, what's an iPhone owner need to do with their traditional earphones when they get an iPhone 7? Nothing. They don't need to purchase anything else since the iPhone 7 ships with an earphone to Lightning adaptor. There's not much to see here, other than progress, innovation, and, as Phil Schiller – who gave a spectacular presentation, yesterday  – put it, "Courage."

Apple Teaser

What does this image represent?
Last month, Apple sent out an invite for yesterday's iPhone 7 announcement. I spent a bit of time looking at the blurred image of lights in the distance, speculating on what it meant. Were those traffic lights, street lights, and break lights? Perhaps. But why?

I saw some speculation on the Internet, but it wasn't until the very end of yesterday's Keynote when I figured out what the image represented. Apple concluded the Keynote with the image below; a slightly cropped image of the original and it became apparent. This image was nothing more than blurred lights making up the top part of the Apple logo.

I don't know if there was any intentional meaning behind these images, but I can speculate that, before the Keynote, things were "blurry" and after, everything became clearer (hat tip to a better iPhone camera). Like the hidden arrow inside the FedEx logo, once you see the Apple logo, you can't "unsee" it.

Of course, the question going through your head at this point is why did I spend so much time over-analyzing this image? Great question. The short answer is because I have too much time on my hands. The long answer is, since I get paid to speak about Apple, I want to understand as much as I can. But, alas, I was too slow in figuring all of this out as others had figured it out, last month.

It's all very clear, now: The blurred top of the Apple logo.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gray Hair in Tech

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
–Mark Twain

I recently read Winer's comments about the lack of older people in tech. Just a day earlier my 79 year-old mother headed back to New York after visiting me for a week. She had some concerns about traveling alone which had me thinking...

An old person is someone at least 20 years older than you. When we encounter people, we make judgements by fitting them into a persona or applying a label we've experienced which can help or hinder our view of the true reality. A 20 year old's view of a person in their 40s or 50s is that of their parents, their view of a person in their 60s or 70s is that of their grandparents.

Today, as I waited at a bus stop, a slow moving woman, close to 80 years old, headed in my direction. As she approached me I wondered if she was homeless, looking for a handout. Stopping in front of me, she held out her hand with some change in it and said, "Could you help me? Are these two quarters or two nickels?"

After I answered her she said, "I have trouble seeing, could you tell me when the 215 bus comes?" I immediately realized that she could be my own mother asking similar questions while traveling through the airport, such as where a particular gate or baggage claim carousel is located.

I told her that I'd let her know when her bus was arriving and, at that point, I decided I'd wait until this nearly blind lady got on her bus which arrived about two minutes later. She's was extremely grateful.

So, now that I'm "old," let me go back to when I was in my 30s, as a software engineer at Apple. I worked with an older, gray-haired, software engineer and my perception (misperception) of him was, "Why is this guy still coding in his mid 40s? Why isn't he in management?" At 40, software engineers are taken out back and shot, or promoted into management.

So, therein lies the issue – I, too was part of the problem, back then and now I'm on the receiving end.

It's a fact of life that people will judge you based on how you look, smell, dress, age, poise, presence, etc.

So it's key to have to have a lot of experiences and an open mind.

Note: I originally drafted this last October, but didn't publish it until today.