Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

Sides of the story

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

We live in a world in which technology has increased people’s ability to sell bullshit. But it has also increased our options to check information and decide on our own if we believe it. The trust we once had for information sources is mostly gone – I find myself quoting the source and explicitly stating that I am just relaying information and not endorsing it way more often than I did. Sadly the ability of assholes usually evolves faster than our own ability to call them on their bullshit.

So it is weird to me that we haven’t become more wary of what people we know tell us. One would think that in the age where we don’t adopt any conclusions without checking with multiple sources, we’d do the same when information is shared privately – and one would be wrong. In other words – the government is lying to us, the media is lying to us, but what we hear at the bar is all true.

I’ve recently tried to become less susceptible to these kinds of one sided stories and try to check the other side before creating an opinion. I’ve been called out on adopting other people’s opinions a few times in the past and I’m trying to be better at this. But this means work and a few additional variables with all information you store in your brain – source and reliability. So now whenever I hear something I try to check it before I store it memory – and if I can’t, I store it as a rumour with a low reliability score, just as I would when I hear something on the news.

Adopting this has made me more content with myself, but also made it harder to converse with people who refuse to question things they have been told.

On meetups

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

I’ve recently been to a few meetups that were almost a complete waste of my time. The talks themselves weren’t necessarily bad, but it showed they weren’t managed and more often than not, most of the crowd leaves after the talks so there’s no networking opportunities either.

That might sound a bit harsh, but I always felt that as the organiser of an event (I was involved with Spletne urice – a weekly meetup – for quite a while) my job is to provide people with as much value as possible to show that I respect their time and effort to come sit in a hall for an hour or so and listen to something I consider important/relevant[1].

Preparation and curation

As we didn’t have meetups during the summer (less people in town + our space was closed), this meant that every season would start off with me going through all the possible topics I could think of that I felt had developments relevant to the community, brainstorm topics with other senior people in the community and then thinking of companies and people who could be good at presenting these topics.

Convincing and scheduling

Unfortunately Slovenians don’t really want to speak in public too much, so a lot of time was spent convincing people to actually present. If I started the season with 20 topics and people I could start at the beginning of the season and when people said “maybe in a few months” I set a date for them and kept reminding them. This was an ongoing thing as new topics and relevant speakers would pop up during the season. Because you can’t fill all the slots this way I had a set of “evergreen” topics and people who can present on them to fill it all up – this also helps in months when you have less time, but it does mean you owe people.

Talk management

I almost never let people write their own talk descriptions and titles. While I did ask them for a description it was more of a way to see what they want to talk about and the text I wrote was what I wanted them to talk about. This meant that I would give back suggestions on how to make the talk more relevant to the crowd and also to set the expectations – as the meetups were on the broad topic of web technologies, a good narrow description would pull in listeners that would otherwise not have come. For people who have not presented before or felt they might not do a good job I offered even more help –
checking their slides, possibly guiding them on how to tweak them for better effect.

Sad state of affairs

What I see nowadays feels more or less unmanaged and even though that sometimes means some awesome odd-ball talks, it often has the following result:

  • the speaker is chosen from a friends/volunteer list, not a best-of list
  • title and description are ambiguous or even straight up misleading
  • the presentation is more of a trial run with not enough though given to the argument
  • the presentation is off-topic
  • the speaker does not know the crowd and the history and nobody helps him/her understand it before the event

All of the above means that more often than not these things just waste people’s time and look like the organiser and the speaker have no respect for the time of the people attending. I know this is not true most of the time, but having a bunch of people show up because they are hiring and go to meetups to find new employees (of which there are usually none) only masks the fact that the event should be run better and provide more value to the community[2].

The question then is – if you can’t do a meetup properly, do you find another person or a team to do it better? And if there is no one else, do you want to up your game or just quit? Is something better than nothing?

  1. All this is based on my memory of how it went down – I might have been an ignorant asshole and only have romantic memories of the whole affair. back
  2. Unless of course it’s just a ploy to find employees, then I’m not the intended audience so please disregard everything I just said. back

On car configurators

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

I’ve recently gone into another cycle of find-a-new-car. I do this now and then to stay in touch with what is currently on market and what I could buy if my trusty Civic dies unexpectedly.

What I’ve seen (again) is that the state of car configurators and comparison tools has not progressed a lot since I first started seeing them in about 2000 when working on a website for Renault. That’s why I like buying cars from Asian brands (actually Japanese brands) – they have a small number of trims and not a lot of things you can add, which makes for a simple decision process. The european brands however will basically sell you an engine with a steering wheel and a set of wheels and then let you add on whatever you want/need so that you actually buy a car – I’m exaggerating here, but not long ago BMW had manual rear windows in the default trim.

The state of the art seems to be adding numbered codes to equipment and then listing them in packages, sometimes online even notifying the user about the incompatibilities when selected (which is sometimes fun – I still can’t configure a Renault car).

The funny thing when comparing trims/models is the fact that there seem to be no links between items, which sometimes means that you’ll have a “Steering wheel” and some trims will not have it – cause they have “Leather steering wheel” a page lower (intentionally selected these cause you can’t solve this with a sort).

Modelling features seems somewhat simple:

  • title
  • description
  • price
  • includes features
  • not with features
  • applies to models

If you try to normalize this you will quickly notice that it gets highly confusing when you have the same commercial title for a feature pack that includes less features and is priced lower because it only applies to high-end trims.

If you’ve ever done this before you can also imagine this conundrum makes for a very fun UI experience – some features only apply to automatic transmission models, some only to models with a certain engine or number of doors. Let’s not even start with special editions…

What do you do to deal with all this mess?

The airport confusion

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Frankfurt airport confuses me. I never know when I’ll have to go through security and when it’s only going to be border control. This means that I don’t really like flying through it as I don’t know if I can buy stuff at airports on the way in and Fraport is losing money. Same thing goes for shops at the airport – even store clerks don’t know if I need to clear security again. And I don’t like the idea of throwing away a 50 EUR bottle of rye bourbon.
If they offered a service that would, based on the date of travel, origin and destination airports, tell me which gate I might arrive at and fly out of as well as what kind of controls I’d have to go through and which shops are on my way I’d like it more.

Work for food

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

I’ve recently been exposed to two different local companies looking to get work done for what is essentially free.

Ads

The first one was a request by a reputable event venue looking for the visual identity for an international Jazz festival. Their posting vas very raw, saying only what they want (a poster) and what they give in return (tickets to the festival and a t-shirt).

The second one was a request by a PR agency for a month long stint doing “PR and Event Management”. The posting is humorous and very well written (PR agency, remember?) and also includes a list of what they want (full day of hard work) and what they give in return (lunchmoney).

Interpretation

As usually both postings leave a lot of room for interpretation and of course people base their interpretation on their feelings towards the company. To make things even I’ll try to make two interpretations for both – one optimistic and one pessimistic.

Optimist

The first request is targeted at aspiring designers who have either just finished their studies and cannot find work or are trying to find work as designers even though they studied something else. Maybe they’re just Jazz fans trying design while unemployed. Since the event organizer has a team of internal designers they’re not actually looking for all the applications (logo, poster, booklet, tickets,…) – they want a poster that communicates an idea (agencies will tell you that ideas are hard to come by, entrepreneurs will sell them a-dime-a-dozen). Since designers are usually hired based on their portfolios (preferring published work) winning this could jumpstart a career. It could even possibly lead to a job for a music label or another, bigger music festival.

The second request is targeted at people who know that in PR and Event Management it’s all about who you know and who you’ve worked with. This means that working for a company on multinational accounts can lead to a job in either this same company or at the multinationals – which could get you far. The company is only asking for a month of “free” work and is actually using this as a testing period for a full-time hire after the month expires. They’re a good standing company with loads of work and the salary is great. Since you’ll be working a lot with a great bunch of people you’re learn so much that after the month is over you’ll not only have the offer from this company, but from at least three more.

Pessimist

The first request is a way to get a free visual identity because they want to fire the internal design team as soon as possible. The winner will have to do all the applications for free after he wins and the tickets will be the worst you can possibly get for a concert, while the t-shirt will be of the wrong size. They will not allow you to sign your work or advertise that you did it.

The second request is a way to pay less for people who will pass out flyers at events, make coffee and type CEOs recordings of PR notices. It also includes sending PR emails from to media and journalists and reminding them every day until they publish. Since you’ll be working hard all day there won’t be any time for mentoring or observing what others do and after you’re done coworkers won’t even remember your name.

But…

People who supported one and not the other were probably thinking of one as a pessimist and the other as an optimist. Knowing the companies they might be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that none of these scenarios are probably true.

The economist in me will say that if you can make people work for you for free, just so they get an entry in their CV, you should. But is that the right thing to do? I don’t think so. It’s a tricky subject and there’s a lot of different arguments for and against such requests and quite a few of them surfaced in the discussions on Slovenian social media. The bottom line for me is that it’s a slippery slope… But that’s a whole new post.

View Source Alliance

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Most of what I learned on the web in my early years was from “View Source”. Then came the books and the conferences.

It makes me sad to see lots of sites minifying code for performance and not releasing the full version of the code so other developers could learn from it.┬áIt’s the openness that I really like about the web.

I think there should be a “View Source Alliance” that would set rules on how to release your code in a way that visitors can benefit from the speed of minified code, while web developers can still find your full files and learn from them.

I’ll set a few simple rules here, hoping somebody with more reach picks them up:

  1. If you minify the files for them, use a simple convention name.min.ext (say jquery.min.js)
  2. When you deploy minified files, also deploy their full version at name.ext (say jquery.js)
  3. If you for some reason can’t release the full files next to the minified ones, add this to the top of the minified file: /*viewsource*http://path.to/full.ext*/ (say /*viewsource*http://http://code.jquery.com/jquery-1.4.4.js*/)

This way you will not only help others, but sometimes even stop breaking the law. Because you might be using some open source code with a licence that says you must release your code with a same/similar licence.