General

The following was posted on a special interest web forum and I thought I would share it here since it relates to things I often touch on. This article briefly explains my approach to talking to and getting my issue resolved or at least something back from them. When I have to call any support line or help center from banking to utilities to tech support, I usually try to empathize with them, and take a peek into their perspective so I can make the process as painless and beneficial as possible. It has been modified slightly for this audience. If you have found any particularly good techniques not mentioned, please let me know in the comments.

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In the beginning there was nothing but undifferentiated ether that took form when something decided it was time for the infinite void of indifference to chose what to be. Some things spun off into matter and some to energy, and everything changed in the longest  instantaneous blink of an eye. As things cooled down, patterns emerged and took form.

The patterns became more and more complex as time went on. Eventually, man too would create virtual universes cast in electrons and controlled by gates pulsing to the beat of an unsteady clock.

As engineers worked, they invented ways to work in this universe and be able to comprehend it all. Initially there were patterns that became patterns of letters glowing green or amber rasterized onto dim black screens. And so this was the interface to the world of electrons for decades. Then some very smart people started thinking about better and faster ways to express data, and new paradigms to work in, and the graphical user interface (GUI) and mouse were born farther back in time than most people realize.

As time marched on more people began to refine the GUI and human interfaces that controlled them: trackballs, touch pads, touch screens, etc. But all this might not have happened if not for one person, and it’s not who you’d think it is…

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I am signed up to receive several tech-related newsletters and promotions from various companies. About 3 or 4 of them are for well-known, technology-focused stores and it must be that time of year. Instead of the usual storage, laptop or video card upgrade specials, the emails have shifted to promoting those electronic do-dads such as RC cars and helicopters, laser pointers and laser parking assists, and other items that you’ve never heard of before seem pretty cool and kinda’ want for yourself. Even if you do not belong to one of the many sects of Christianity, the end of the year present-fest is hard to resist no matter what your religious affiliation or lack thereof.
Sure there’s always Thinkgeek, the year round e-shop that has those kitschy toys and popular sci-fi branded merchandise. (Will someone please get me that Doctor Who Desktop Dalek? I know I would never buy it for myself. And if you really love me there’s that Kiwi WiFi iPhone ODBII interface… but I digress.) But this time of year, everyone gets into the act. Most stores know the target price for the bulk of items range from about $20-$50 for presents since people have more friends than they do significant others or very loved family members and a majority of people can’t afford expensive gifts.

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I went to a development talk the other day and it was not what I was expecting. While it certainly was enlightening, it was enlightening in all the ways that have nothing to do with technology except that’s the context of the people involved. So, in any business you have people with attitudes that they are the master’s of their field. Whether or not they are masters isn’t the issue: it is how they approach others either wanting to learn from them or wanting to debate with them.

Generally they fall into 2 camps: those that will listen and discuss things intelligently and those that either talk down or refuse to talk to people they consider inferior. My problem is with the people that will not hear people out and make no attempt to actually communicate with people. This is commonly referred to as “people who talk at you, not to you.”

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Flash, specifically ActionScript, was very easy to learn. But got more and more difficult as they added features to a syntax that didn’t really resemble what I was more familiar with. While simple statements were easy to parse, the complex interactions between and within some of the more complex constructs made following the logic more difficult as you moved up scales of complexity. That is to be expected, but instead of a steady climb, there were leaps.

In addition to this, I found the naming conventions needlessly verbose. I understand the reasons for that (predecessors, and Adobe wanting something familiar) but do not agree with the implementation. The reason I do not like it is simply because it is less efficient when you’re reading code to mentally hold “addEventListener” than it would be to simply use “trigger” or simply “event” while you are also taking in what that event you’re listening is doing. As one becomes more familiar the syntax it just blends in, but I find the process inhibited by the conventions used in the first place.

Aside from my opinion on ActionScript, with Apple’s exclusion of Flash from mobile devices and then Microsoft’s subsequent statement that Windows 8 will not support Flash either, it seems obvious that Flash is going to be phased out within 10 years most likely. Adobe even recognizes the need to move on with their latest product to construct web front ends in HTML5.

So, with that writing on the wall, if it was my decision, I would learn HTML5. It is available now. It is in a growth phase and since it is not proprietary everyone (Tech companies) has no reason not to use it. It will be here much longer than Flash is. And sure, if you are going for a quick strike (one time development of a product that will be around only a few year) and you already know the language, there’s no reason not to use Flash. But long term? It’d be more valuable to me to invest my time in learning HTML5.

I got a letter from Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix,
today. It was an abbreviated form of what is here: http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/explanation-and-some-reflections.html So, even though I don’t have his real email address I replied. I cancelled my membership months ago. I thought about pulling apart each argument, but I’m tired of writing today, so I thought I’d just sum up my feelings about where Netflix went wrong.

Reed,

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I have a bit of time so I’ll post an observation. I’ve been reading reviews for various apps and items in various places. And the most helpful and informative reviews look at both the positives of an item and the negatives. The open discussion of what you like about something and what you do not like add to your credibility. What makes reviews even more helpful is when a person makes suggestions on possible ways to improve the product. They help both the people considering the purchase of something and the creator improve their product.

I’ve been doing this a while (reviewing on places like Amazon, B&H Photo, MacUpdate, Apple’s iTMS and AppStore, etc.) and this is the most helpful format I’ve noticed and followed myself in whole or in part. If you have any questions why it is structured this way or why certain topics are suggested please post a comment. Thanks. Now the suggested review format:

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Perspective is the ability to step back from one’s self. And evaluate what you have from an outsider’s point of view and really see where you are. Quite literally one of the dictionary definitions of the word perspective is: “true understanding of the relative importance of things.” It’s the fact that realizing that everything is relative, that helps one see where one is truly at.

If I ask someone where they are and they are standing next to me, they might say, “I am here.” But that informs no one without context — but context is what a lot of people forget to include when they’re looking at their situation. It’s really easy to interpret a person’s physical presence from the word “here” because we naturally synthesize the information at our disposal: what we see, hear, feel, etc. in short: their entire environment.

But what a lot of people fail to do is to take synthesize all the things that affect them and take everything into account when the look at what they consider a bad situation. What’s even worse is when some people think they have all the information, and make decisions without thinking of what they might be missing, or things that they are taking for granted and not including in their decision making.

I find it useful to step outside myself, which means setting my personal feelings aside for a minute and looking at myself from what someone else might see. Just that act of looking at your actions or situation from what it must look like to someone that doesn’t understand everything you know helps tremendously. It clarifies and crystalizes things you might not even realize about your situation and even yourself.

So, the next time you find yourself in a crappy situation with someone, take a step back and look at it from a different perspective, and see if your situation is as bad as it seems. Often people I see complaining about what is essentially a problem  that person created himself/herself, either out of thin air or by doing things to rub people the wrong way.

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  1. Turning Japanese – 16 Volt
  2. Crown of Thorns – Wumpscut
  3. The Grey Line – Wynardtage
  4. The Darkest Corridors – In Strict Confidence
  5. Once In a Lifetime – Wolfsheim
  6. Blue Lights – Fictional
  7. The Siren – Aesthetic Perfection
  8. Destillat (VNV Nation Remix) – Das Ich
  9. Can’t Change the Beat – Combichrist
  10. Flesh – HexRx
  11. Giving in to Change (Wasted Time Remix) – Imperative Reaction
  12. Paranoiattack – The Faint
  13. Time Bomb (Radio Edit) – OhGr
  14. Omen – The Prodigy
  15. Now or Never – UnterArt
  16. Cereal Killer Northborne
  17. My Eyes are Red – HexRx
  18. Blue Alice – Ayria
  19. Heroin, She Said – Wolfsheim

With the Winter Olympics half over I have to say that the coverage is much better this year than previous years. I’m actually watching them as opposed to tuning them out.

I’m really impressed that they’re not breaking away as much and you can watch whole events in most cases. If only they covered everything, but then it’d take a month to watch everything. Besides once you know the scores, watching is kind of pointless.