Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Social Media, Social Solutions

In the ancient days of social media (circa 2008) people frequently said, "I don't get it." Back then, people didn't realize that social media was simply taking our spoken conversations about nothing and moving them online. But, as more and more people got involved an interesting crowdsourcing phenomenon began to unfold.

I first observed this crowdsourcing solution in the fall of 2008 when Guy Kawasaki forgot his MacBook power supply.

At the time, I was at home about 40 minutes away and I could have easily made it to Coronado by the top of the hour. After thinking about it for five minutes I responded to Guy's tweet but it was too late. Jerry Jones had sealed the deal. However, I did get an honorable mention from Guy (back then, my Twitter username was @JoeLeo.)

About two years later, I explicitly and successfully tried crowdsourcing to figure out the name of song. It's amazing when it works.

What struck me, today, is that crowdsourcing via social media still works. So much so that we simply take it for granted.

Last week, I reminisced about telephone landlines. I was imagining a home phone solution where my cell phone would link to a ringer so that I could hear it ring throughout the house without carrying it from room to room.

A college buddy quietly observed my tweet and found what I had described when he was shopping at Costco, today. We joked that he was my personal social shopper. He found several models, but the Panasonic KX-TG155 seemed to foot the bill as he passed along a photo of the collateral.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Cocoa

Everything in the universe has a life cycle. And I mean that literally, not in a metaphysical sense. It doesn't matter if it's the trees, birds, stars, planets, or people; they come into existence, exist, and then go out of existence. This is even true for dogs.

This afternoon I said goodbye to Cocoa, my beagle buddy for nearly 12 years. It's the first time that I ever experienced this, so I wondered how I'd know when it would be time. This past week he'd been having trouble keeping food down so he was prescribed some meds several days ago. Unfortunately, that didn't help. Another trip to the vet, yesterday, and some x-rays revealed large masses in his abdomen that were squeezing out his healthy organs. The vet pointed them out on the x-rays and her words were very grim and unexpected when she said that he'd have only days left since he wasn't eating. Last night, I made it a point to take some self-portraits and videos of him and me.

After a long night, last night, of seeing him trying to sleep while being uncomfortable we took him in this morning for some fluids and pain meds while making arrangements for his final vet visit tomorrow. The vet made it clear that he'd seem more like himself after the fluids and pain meds, but not to misinterpret that as a sign of things getting better.

After returning home, this morning, he and I curled up on the bed for a couple hours. That entire time he only moved once. His breathing was labored and more and more frequently he'd stop breathing for 10 – 12 seconds. I'd watch his chest wondering if that was his last breath. He'd become more and more finicky about what he'd eat over the past week but, yesterday, he gobbled down some rotisserie chicken without vomiting. Unfortunately, that didn't work today. He just looked at the chicken without any interest. The prospect of him not eating or drinking all day foreshadowed what would be a long, painful night.

After making a phone call to the vet his final appointment for tomorrow was moved to 4:00 PM today. I posted and tweeted the pending visit and then went offline, shutting down my iPhone and leaving it at home. It would be almost six hours until I was ready to go back online.

Having never gone through this I was pleased to see that the vet's office had a "comfort room." This small room was made up like a living room with a comfy couch, large ottoman, and a music player. There was a CD in the music player and when I hit play I heard the most gentle, soothing, appropriate piano music for the moment. There was a large curtain covering the window and, as I had correctly suspected, behind the curtain was a door to the parking lot which I parked next to. A private entrance out of the comfort room made a world of difference when leaving.

The vet came in and took Cocoa into the back to give him a sedative to put him, literally, to sleep. She brought him back into the comfort room and we just pet him for about ten minutes. When the vet saw that the sedative hadn't taken effect – he was clearly fighting it – she took him into the back for another dose. That did the trick. About six or seven minutes later Cocoa was sedated. Actually, it seemed more like he was paralyzed as the tip of his tongue hung out of his mouth while his eyes remained opened and blinked occasionally.

The vet tech used hair clippers to shear off a small patch of fur on his rear leg and then the vet stuck in a catheter needle and administered two drugs. As the vet had foretold, Cocoa's eyes didn't close as life left his body. After the vet confirmed that his heart had stopped she apologized as if she had been personally attached to this dog and this was an exceptionally rare event for her. The unexpected caring was extremely comforting.

Was it the right decision? Was it the right time? Certainly. But that doesn't make it any easier and I still can't imagine how empty this house will be without him. The heartbreaking part is that this little guy looked up to me for his daily needs and there was no way that I could make him understand what was going on. And, the sad coincidence of all this is that six years ago, today, my father passed away. But, ironically, I think it'll be easier to have a single day to remember dad and dog.

Some last licks on Saturday night.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Future of Coding

You don't have to write computer code for very long before realizing that you're going to spend a lot of time inside a text editor. And, a good chunk of that time is going to be spent debugging.

In many disciplines, there are only a few fundamentals. In boxing, there are only four basic punches: jab, cross, hook, and upper cut. In computer execution, like DNA, there are only two states (zero or one; or A-T or C-G, respectively). It's amazing what can be created with just two possible states mixed up in endless combinations.

In computer science, most programs continuously do three basic things:
1. Declare (foo = bar or NSTimestamp now = new NSTimestamp());
2. Test (if now > later then a=b or if snow > 6 then school = "closed")
3. Jump (GOTO 500 or JMP SIGNON)

Which begs a question that I've been pondering. Centuries from now, will computer programming still involve editing text? After all, programming is just a static form of communications between man and machine (pardon the sexism, I'm going for alliteration).

For many millennia, humans have primarily communicated statically, through writing. There are obviously other forms of communications, such as speaking and non-verbal communications (just stare at a stranger for a long time to communicate "I am creepy.") But other than writing (to include images), it's not really fixed (without the aid of technology, e.g. video).

So, just like building a house has always involved assembling small things like bricks and boards, will coding still involve text editing in the 23th Century?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

UI/UX Philosophies

At Microsoft, perfection is achieved when there's nothing more to add; while Apple believes that perfection is achieved when there's nothing more to take away.

Two completely different philosophies held by two highly respected and industry dominating competitors. Microsoft is a marketing company (you don't get 90+% of the desktop market without marketing your way there) while Apple is a product company (build great products and profit will ensue).

It's not having a great idea that will make a great company; rather it's having great execution.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How to Prevent Facebook From Publishing "time since last active"

I've noticed on my iOS Facebook apps that, under the chat feature, they display how recently it's been since my friends have been active on Facebook. In other words, the last time they accessed their Facebook account (minutes, hours, etc). This could easily lead to some animosity if you send a message to someone and later saw that your friend had accessed Facebook but didn't read or acknowledge your message. You might think, "Hey! Why is so-and-so ignoring me?"

It took a lot of searching to figure out how to turn off this time tracker (which, in this day and age, means more than half an hour on Google followed by some experimentation). It turns out there isn't a specific setting on either Facebook's website or in the iOS apps to turn this off. The only solution is to completely log out of your Facebook apps on your iOS devices. Since this isn't very practical it looks like iOS users are stuck with this creepy feature that broadcasts how long it's been since they last looked at their Facebook account.

Fortunately, this time tracking feature doesn't seem to be an issue when on the desktop or Blackberry. I wonder what the Android user experience is.