Yakkity Yak. Critique of an app.

January 14, 2015

MET-AJ-YIK-YAK-APP-0307According to the all-knowing, as far as we know, Wikipedia, Yik Yak is ‘an anonymous social media app. It is available for iOS and Android and it allows people to anonymously create and view “Yaks” within a 10 mile radius.[1] It differs from other anonymous sharing apps such as PostSecret and Whisper in that it is intended for sharing primarily with those in close proximity to the user, potentially making it more intimate and relevant for people reading the posts.[2] All users have the ability to contribute to the stream by writing, responding, and liking or disliking yaks.’

For a whole fifteen minutes spent using this app I discovered the usual. It was a quaint, little oubliette for people of all ages to complain that it’s not as bitchin’ as the atmospheres present on their university campus or rave. Advising them to return to their bubbles of ignorance merely served to anger and confuse the dispossessed. Additional discoveries yielded re-enforcement of my opinion that people never emotionally mature passed an 8th grade level.

Giants of media The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CBS took up the banners of the oppressed with stories of cyberbullying, domestic terrorism, and bomb threats. Proving once again that no one can have any fun and no one can just use technology to have fun. In response founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington curtailed downloading of the app to those over the age of seventeen and limited geographical access to outside of school areas. Both morally laudable and technologically futile.

In March of 2014 TIME ran an opinion piece entitled, “Let Kids Run Wild Online”. It put forth the projection of parental fears and the lack of strategies to help navigate the unfamiliar consequences of new technology.  Fear is usually the reaction that leads to condemnation and banishment of the  misunderstood. It’s a wonder they let people drive. With Yik Yak the danger was the placement of identifiable information no matter how trivial that would bring the verbal attacks so dreaded by the meek and socially ostracized. But if you were able to keep it anonymous then who knows what could be socially accomplished. Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” I wonder indeed what the desired end result was for this app. Community building? Scientific collaboration? Social pressure release valve?

Using the 5 Whys Method one can easily point to the values of those who do harm. But tools given to those who are the recipients of those values are absent. Coping mechanisms, anti-bullying peer programs, and community involvement were non-existent. This is a spectrum of what technology can offer us.

In my opinion, don’t bother with this one. Unless you’ve decided to stay home and go to your high school reunion at the same time.


A New Direction For Snapchat

January 8, 2015

snapchatmoney   Snapchat – hailed as a great vehicle for passing around disposable media…that really doesn’t disappear. Recently they’ve expanded into the financial sector, following Facebook into the funds transfer foray. While it seems that they are groping to find a place in the New Economy they might want to try something new.

The nature of their business is tenuous, short and temporal. The appeal is to experience the flow of time and experience,  the individual perspective. Recently Snapchat began participating in events and creating a stream of inputs to associate with it. Taking this one step further could help grow their brand loyalty.

This next level would be to ascribe attendance to an event and reward those who contribute. For example, people attending a new Woodstock would get badges associated with their profile and it would impact their standing in the community. Purchasing memorabilia from such events that would be in limited quantities. Momentos would be from select strategic partnerships. This would give the user a takeaway, from a service with nothing.

Gamifying the app would also aid in raising participation. A group scavenger hunt benefiting a charity, for example, has many cross-branding opportunities available.  Animations to dance over the picture taken and personalized cached responses would serve to create more user familiarity and control.

There are many areas Snapchat could go in. Personally I hope they avoid ventures such as clothing lines and building their own zoo.


Book Review: “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

October 9, 2014

oneRecently read “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. These award-winning authors have crowned their six collaborative work together. Their publishing schedule is about every two years.

It is definitely recommended to gather valuable perspective on your endeavors. The premise is a shift in effort to identify and execute the one thing that will bring the highest ROI.

The approach is a remarkable one and worthy of challenging one’s beliefs and perspective about the work to which one is engaged. It does this by showing that is not amount of effort we put forth, but the type that impacts success; and beyond that evaluating, selecting and implementing the most effective choice. It is organized in four parts. An introduction to the overall concepts in three parts and then three chapters begins the book. After come segmented detail of challenges, approach and expected results.

Throughout there are rudimentary drawings that service the K.I.S.S model and accompany the text perfectly. The typeface is unremarkable. It’s one of the few books I’ve read in digital format.

Time is the catalyst for learning and discerning what is of import and greatest value to one’s chosen work. For example, selecting an accomplishment of importance for the coming year, and drilling down to this coming week. Another is identifying the results, not based on importance, but upon completion, how many other parts of the process would be pulled along with it. I found the book to be inspiring and different that most.


Security Research

March 11, 2014

Image           I have several privacy measures on my FireFox. These include but are not limited to Adblock Plus, Adblock Plus Pop-Up Addon, BetterPrivacy, Disconnect, DoNotTrackMe,Element Hiding Helper for Adblock Plus, Ghostery, Hide My Ass Proxy Extension, HideTab, HTTPS-Everywhere, NoScript, and Priv3.  Recently I downloaded the Tor bundle and poked around the “deep web”.  More direct, not that flashy. They actually have a version of Twitter.  S’weird.
Most of my friends have resigned to get a VPN.  VyperVPN, WiTopia, Private Internet Acess, proXPN, TorVPN, TorGuard, etc. Or you could “roll your own” VPN with various DIY projects from Raspberry PI. All good stuff if you are a technologist like myself.  Average cost is $50/month. Image

           Incorrectly called Social Engineering and the WTESTEHTMB theory, or what I call the Guilded Cage theory, is the next step to privacy, but only as a buffer. Over a one month period I applied to 142 job openings. The most I applied, an increasing number of prospective employers would ask me to login with or voluntarily submit my social media information. Now with the theory you create the perception of character, integrity and the “vanilla” appearance all employers are looking for in someone. Do not mention politics or religion. Post benign pictures of you, friends and family. Complete charity work every month or on a constant basis. Twitter, Facebook [when the tweens jumped ship there was almost no mention of where they would go], FourSquare, Linkedin, WordPress, and whatever other mainstream social media are in the press are the false walls presented to assuage the fears of employers.  Oh, and belong to groups related to professional and non-controversial interests.

          Alternatives to being on social media are people who use only their first and middle names or a pseudonym, who then friend away indiscriminately, post whatever they want and drink. Gasp. There are also things like Diaspora, social network platform. Disqus is emerging and interesting.

          This was done in the name of research. Reading articles on how to disappear from the internet. People seem to miss the obvious -unplug it and walk away. Technology seems to be a lot like religion to most. I want to believe what I want and how I want. Any intrusion or inconvenience is not tolerated. Yet it comes with inherent risks and mitigating those isn’t a bad thing. But the acceptance of taking on the responsibility of being a part of it should be.          

          In other research, downloaded iPadian because I wanted to test beta versions of apps from BetaWorks. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Every time I tried to download the app and run it, the software would flashback to the previous screen before I actually clicked on everything. On to the next.


The Long Road Back

December 30, 2013

ImageRecently I wanted to refresh the MySQL part of my knowledge base. Previously I worked with SQL consultants in building a ticket processing system at Bridgecom International. During that time coding became familiar and eventually became a foray into other ventures. So an opportunity presented itself, getting reacquainted seemed easy enough. Bridgecom had its own in-house development tools and it was a little easier. I set out to get a more complete picture and fill in the gaps in the patchwork of my self-teaching.

Looking for a path to follow I went to Udemy. Udemy is an online learning platform that allows instructors to host courses. ImageThe site was launched by Eren Bali, Oktay Caglar, and Gagan Biyani in 2010. I’d already taken an Operations Management course with Professor Gad Allon of the Kellogg School Management, Northwestern University. There was great interaction and and enjoyable concept exploration. J Peter Anlyan’s 4 Simple Leadership Tools for Every Team Member is on my plate along with Beginner PHP and MySQL tutorial and MySQL Database for Beginners. With the former it started out in unfamiliar territory – XAMPP.

According to Wikipedia, XAMPP is a free and open source cross-platform web server solution stack package, consisting mainly of the Apache HTTP Server, MySQL database, and interpreters for scripts written in the PHP and Perl.  programming languages. Of course the instructor started in the middle of things – XAMPP already configured. In addition, there were other elements I wasn’t seeing. Webserver configuration is something I am unfamiliar with and is something else on my plate that I don’t have time for.

So I went in search of a tutorial…for my tutorial.

And I found Teach Me Computer on Youtube. Nice and easy beginner scripting for PHP. Interestingly enough both teachers were using Notepad++. I use the licensed version of Sublime Text 2. Wrote a bunch of scripts and it was easy enough again. Making sure my files were in the right place so that the Apache would parse it.

In the meantime I installed Eclipse Standard 4.3.1 and Java 7 Update 45. Also geeking out on ObscuraCam, OTR secure chat applications, OrBot and watching Glenn Greenwald’s keynote on 30c3 at Saal 1.



Market Synchronization

February 27, 2013

In many ways the business model of a pizzeria is very simple. It currently operates in a market of about 2-3 thousand, low to medium income. The population is approximately 93% Caucasian and 7% African-American and Hispanic. We service local industrial business, small residential housing and a Job Corps facility. One direct and one in-direct competitor exist; and with such a small, flexible business in a minimal market, synchronization should be fairly easy.

Here are two examples of surprising trends which brought us more in tune with our market.

  1. Less is More: We began delivery breakfast sandwiches to local businesses. Usually ten would be made and taken to five locations surrounding our own. Flyers showing our weekly specials would be distributed and infrequently lunch orders taken. The number sold was recorded daily and varied widely. Over time the number produced and sold proved unpredictable; stopping delivery all together seemed logical. We then introduced a secondary product. This increased sales by 30% almost immediately and seemed to revive the channel. However, in a few weeks the trend returned to it’s usual variable pattern. Production costs were increasing and information research yielded little feedback. So we stopped. And the most surprising thing happened – visitors. Local workers would leave their sites and stop by the business at their break time. For the past four months we have sold the same number or more sandwiches every week day. Costs were reduced in labor and production, stabilization becoming the norm. 
  2. Once in a WhileOn occasion the store needs to be closed for a few hours to run errands and attend appointments. A gap of two hours a day is usual for the business until recently several customers began showing up. Additional revenue is always welcome, except when I need to take my dog to the vet or get my teeth cleaned. The thought was to put up a sign and leave a clever message on the machine about observing a siesta. Instead we called each customer to explain that we would be closed during those hours and would they like to order early. We would deliver at no cost to them. The customers were delighted and ordered more than usual, covering the delivery fee. Increasing market share through personal attention and customization brought positive change from the usual response to operating opportunity.

These are just a few examples of how changing the handling of the market and thinking outside the box can yield unexpected results.


Couch Concern

January 19, 2013

Wanted to push the couches together to watch a movie. The scope was to have as much cuddle space as possible and allow the dogs to get up and down at their leisure.

The layout is as follows:

Couch 1

Normally the couched would be put at a “v” like so, but doesn’t now allow for snuggle room at all. Or they would be pushed to-gether, side by side, but you would  get this (top view):

Couch 2

This configuration would not allow for the dogs to get up and down during the movie, which they so often do. This results and whining, the occasional bark, disrupting enjoyment of the film.

Thus the final configuration would be a juxtaposed and slight shift in the alignment (again, top view):

Couch 3

Fetching snacks is the final step. Woof.