Enlightened Empathy

At the time AirBNB was so small, Joe Gebbia personally went to listers to photograph homes for the listings. In taking these photos…

“We got so close that we go to step into their shoes for a moment and see the world through their eyes, and really see the pain points that they were feeling,” says Gebbia. That’s the basis of innovation — you take an enlightened and empathetic point of view and combine it with your own unique point of view to create something new. In a short period of time, the quality of listings improved and number of options increased.

In the How I Built This with Guy Raz podcast, Gebbia calls this Enlightened Empathy.

While doing web design, we talked to the administrators for the department who wanted a site. In doing support for the sites, I would get to talk to users to understand what they were trying to accomplish and make tweaks or major re-designs to make that experience better.

There is a whole profession, User Experience Designer, built around the idea of engaging representative users to understand how they use technology to ensure the design reflects how people will use it.

Pocket Feature Request: Pin

I tend to collect things to read later. Pocket is where they aggregate. (I do use Facebook’s Save Post feature, but only when on my phone to send to Pocket once I am at a browser.)

A feature that would help me is to pin important ones to the top. Ideally, anything I have partially read would stay at the top of the list where I can more easily find it when I return from another device. I estimate probably 10-15% of my saved items are partially read. And that number will stay the same because I add things at such a rate that getting back to them is unlikely.

There is one item, I really do want to finish, and I have spent easily 5 minutes looking for it.

Another option is to like Twitter allows, select an option on the item to pin it. The same as for favoriting or tagging, a button that pins it would help.

I know Kung Fu!

(No, not really.)

What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains?:

At this point [Neil deGrasse] Tyson interjected: Are you saying we could just upload “War and Peace”? Yes, Kurzweil answered: “We will connect to neocortical hierarchies in cloud with pre-loaded knowledge.”

There is a scene in The Matrix where the program for Kung Fu is uploaded into Neo’s brain. He proclaims, “I know Kung Fu!” He and Morpheus spar in the virtual dojo. Basically Kurzweil envisions something similar where we want to learn something, issue a command and poof, we have the knowledge. Currently, we have very easy access to information via the internet, we just need to bridge the gap of entering it into our heads.

As a technologist, I probably would take advantage of this a ton. I would download into my head computer languages, documentation, and implementation strategies for everything I need to know.

As a Luddite, I probably would still read paper books for pleasure. For me, pleasure of reading is not the knowledge imparted by the book. It comes from the process of reading, thinking about the contents, and integrating the information into my knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

Kind of like Kindle and paper books, just because a new technology exists and I use it, does not mean that I would not sometimes use the old one.

WP Jetpack Publicize Expiration

WordPress.com makes the Jetpack. They strongly push self-hosted sites to use it, especially the Publicize feature. Publicize is how my blog posts show up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+.

WP.com also strongly pushes using the composition on their site rather than the one on the self-hosted site. It is cleaner and easier to use.

Part of that cleanliness, though, means features are not as… clear. On my self-hosted site, the Publicize informs me when I need to re-confirm permissions for Facebook and LinkedIn which both expire after x days [1]. The WP.com version, does not show when I need to re-confirm permissions. The “Sharing” options are collapsed and even if expanded do not show the errors. So, basically, posts stop getting shared for a while until I notice and fix it.

One would think that WP.com being the maker of Jetpack would ensure that users choosing to use their composer would ensure they are alerted to a problem ASAP.

[1] I think x is 30 days, but I am not positive.

Buffer Feature Requests

Dual Window

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ have significantly different character number restrictions than Twitter. Naturally, Twitter limits posts to their notorious 140 characters. LinkedIn allows 700, and Google+ / Facebook allow about five thousand.

I like to post things with a quote from the articles I share that captures what I found most interesting about it. Generally, they fall between 200 to 200 characters. Too long for Twitter, which means I editorialize it to make it fit.

Something amazing about the Pocket tool to share to Buffer is it provides two different textareas. One for Facebook and one for everything else. Brilliant! So much so, that I am tempted to completely change my workflow to push anything I want to share to Pocket just so I can share it with Buffer in a way that makes sense. On Facebook the preview URL appears to Pocket rather than the actual destination which slightly bothers me because I’d prefer the source to get attribution.

Tumblr

It would be nice to be able to share to Tumblr through Buffer. It seems odd that Buffer would support App.net who has been dying for years and will finally be gone in 6 weeks yet not one of the larger social networks?

Email Changes

Ran across a site where if one changes the email address associated with the account, it sends the confirmation email to the new address.

Say, I am a Blackhat and used a phishing attack to get the password for the account. Having legitimately logged in, I then change the email address associated with it from victim@outlook.com to my blackhatalias@gmail.com. Sending the confirmation to blackhatalias rather than the victim ensures a compromised account will get altered. Strong security would want to prevent the change unless the owner of victim@outlook.com confirms the change.

Though, it does look like an email was sent to victim@outlook.com almost 3 hours after the confirmation saying:

Still scary. The blackhat has probably already made off with the data and done the damage.

I get the temptation to allow users to change their email address to a new one. It will prevent support phone calls because if they no longer have control of the old email account, users can simply change it to another address they do.

Of course, the site in question also does not have Two Factor Authentication. But, then it also is just a support forum. So, the ramifications of losing the account is impersonation at worst. They could ask or answer a question as me or change the profile to say something demeaning.

Confirmations

Received an email from a company they were using to validate my email address is the correct one. It specifically told me not to do anything if the email address is correct and to let them know if it was not.

We’re writing to confirm that this is your current email address. If this email address is still current, you don’t need to do a thing.

If you would like to change your email address, please update your information today.

Um…

I presume if the email bounced, then they have tools that noticing this would mark the email address as bad and use phone or postal mail to reach out to me. Which is fine.

But… Let’s say I stopped using this email address because it is overwhelmed with junk and am using a different one. This email gets to that address, it does not bounce because it is perfectly legitimate but I’m not reading anything sent there. I will not see this. Because of their “don’t do a thing,” they think I would see it in the future. Therefore, I would not have an opportunity to update my information to a better one unless I think of it myself or eventually stumble across this buried message.

Of course, this same company was pretty aggressive a couple years ago wanting my cell phone number so they could text me.

Disproductive Software

Talking to Blackboard About Applets

We implement software solutions to help us become more productive. These pieces of code allow us to do more through creating efficiencies. Bad software hinders our ability to do the work. Normally I would call this unproductive, but I had a weird thought fighting a human resources program this morning. Unproductive software is both disruptive and unproductive, so we should call it disproductive.

Not only are we not achieving as much as we ought, but we also become so frustrated with the lack of productivity that we whine and complain about how bad it is to others. There is a synergy of lost productivity due to the overwhelming frustration of having to deal with such horrible software. The amount of frustration become its own entity and source of workplace dysfunction.

Like, all I wanted was a simple report the software claims to be able to do. It tells me zero even after I try all the reported tricks to make it give me the correct value. So, I resorted to a different report that gives me all the details to add them up myself. And then I could not save the second report in Mozilla except to print it out on paper (or the HTML, but I hate that), so I had to re-do the same thing in Chrome in order to save it as a PDF. Annoying. The good thing is I discovered data entry problems I had not previously noticed due to a dropdown box defaulting to a useless value that I failed to change, which I had to fix. Everyone hates this program, which is probably why we are switching.

Learning Tech

I learned electronics as a kid by messing around with old radios that were easy to tamper with because they were designed to be fixed.

Lee Felsesnsteinin The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

The story I tell about how I ended up working in information technology is about having a computer all my life as a child, breaking it, and most importantly knowing that I had to fix it before my parents found that I had. The typical takeaway is that I was intelligent, talented, etc. But, really that reveals the wrong assumption.

More correct takeaway is by this point in computer history, people designed computers to be fixed. The above quote suggests radios were initially custom built, which made them expensive to fix. To accomplish mass production, modular components make it easier to assemble but also as a side benefit easy to swap failed parts. Computers followed the same path but not only on the hardware side but the also software. Modularity to software is how we can patch, install new software, change settings, etc to fix issues.

Even today, I see people look appalled that smartphones can be successfully sold without an easy way for the owner to replace the battery or a microSD slot to add storage. We like to be able to fix our stuff. Maybe it is our Do-It-Yourself cultural biases at play.

Making things fixable lowers the bar to tinker with it. Tinkerability makes something more accessible to learn where, when, how, why it behaves the way it does. Those experiences in turn make a user self-taught into a power user and eventually into a computer administrator who really is just a power user given the keys to offlimits parts.