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17 Dec 08:00

Developers First

A while back we developed Marketplace Payments. The first version of those was for Firefox OS and it was tough. There were lots of thing happening at once: building out a custom API with a payment provide, a backend to talk to our payment provider through multiple security hoops, integrating the relatively new Persona, working on the Trusted UI and mozPay and so on.

At the moment we are prototyping and shipping desktop payments as part of our final steps in Marketplace Payments. One thing that came clear a while ago was that desktop payments are much, much, much easier to use, test and debug.

Desktop payments are easier for the developers who work on payments. That means they are easier to get team members working on, easier to demo, easier to record, easier to debug, easier to test and so on. That dramatically decreases the development time.

In the meantime we've also built out things that make this much easier: a Docker development environment that sets things up correctly and a fake backend so you don't need to process money to test things out.

Hindsight is wonderful thing, but at the time we were actively discouraged from doing desktop development. "Mobile first" and "Don't slow down mobile development".

But inadvertently we slowed down mobile development by not being developer first.

18 Dec 12:46

Marissa Mayer Is Off The Rails

In a recent NY Times Magazine piece on Marissa Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo, Nicholas Carlson has chronicled the slow unwinding of the dream that Mayer would turn around the Internet icon. She comes across as capricious, vain, and robotically unfeeling, and way out of her depth. Here’s just one excerpt, focused on her management practices.

Nicholas Carlson, What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs

Mayer’s largest management problem, however, related to the start-up culture she had tried to instill. Early on, she banned working from home. This policy affected only 164 employees, but it was initiated months after she constructed an elaborate nursery in her office suite so that her son, Macallister, and his nanny could accompany her to work each day. Mayer also favored a system of quarterly performance reviews, or Q.P.R.s, that required every Yahoo employee, on every team, be ranked from 1 to 5. The system was meant to encourage hard work and weed out underperformers, but it soon produced the exact opposite. Because only so many 4s and 5s could be allotted, talented people no longer wanted to work together; strategic goals were sacrificed, as employees did not want to change projects and leave themselves open to a lower score.

One of the uglier parts of the process was a series of quarterly “calibration meetings,” in which managers would gather with their bosses and review all the employees under their supervision. In practice, the managers would use these meetings to conjure reasons that certain staff members should get negative reviews. Sometimes the reason would be political or superficial. Mayer herself attended calibration meetings where these kinds of arbitrary judgments occurred. The senior executives who reported to Mayer would join her in a meeting at Phish Food and hold up spreadsheets of names and ratings. During the revamping of Yahoo Mail, for instance, Kathy Savitt, the C.M.O., noted that Vivek Sharma was bothering her. “He just annoys me,” she said during the meeting. “I don’t want to be around him.” Sharma’s rating was reduced. Shortly after Yahoo Mail went live, he departed for Disney. (Savitt disputes this account.)

As concerns with Q.P.R.s escalated, employees asked if an entire F.Y.I. could be devoted to anonymous questions on the topic. One November afternoon, Mayer took the stage at URL’s as hundreds of Yahoo employees packed the cafeteria. Mayer explained that she had sifted through the various questions on the internal network, but she wanted to begin instead with something else. Mayer composed herself and began reading from a book, “Bobbie Had a Nickel,” about a little boy who gets a nickel and considers all the ways he can spend it.

“Bobbie had a nickel all his very own,” Mayer read. “Should he buy some candy or an ice cream cone?”

Mayer paused to show everyone the illustrations of a little boy in red hair and blue shorts choosing between ice cream and candy. “Should he buy a bubble pipe?” she continued. “Or a boat of wood?” At the end of the book, Bobby decides to spend his nickel on a carousel ride. Mayer would later explain that the book symbolized how much she valued her roving experiences thus far at Yahoo. But few in the room seemed to understand the connection. By the time she closed the book, URL’s had gone completely silent.

Mayer thinks she’s Steve Jobs, but she’s a cardboard cut-out, a product engineer that happened to be the 25th employee of Google, a by-product millionaire.

Turning around Yahoo is an almost impossible task, anyway. As Carlson says, 

Yahoo grew into a colossus by solving a problem that no longer exists. And while Yahoo’s products have undeniably improved, and its culture has become more innovative, it’s unlikely that Mayer can reverse an inevitability unless she creates the next iPod. 

And buying Tumblr and hiring Katie Couric is not the same as inventing a market-defining product.

10 Nov 20:16

Mozilla and the Future of the Open Internet

by mitchell
Today I’m wishing Firefox a happy 10th anniversary! I’ve reflected on the past ten years and on what the next decade may hold for the Web, and shared my thoughts on re/code, reposted below. People often ask me: why are you still involved so deeply with Mozilla? Firefox won. Why haven’t you gone to do […]
18 Dec 16:46

Facebook now auto-enhancing photos uploaded from iOS

by Jane McEntegart

Google has been auto-enhancing our photos on Google+ for a while and it looks like Facebook is experimenting with something similar using iPhone users as guinea pigs.

TechCrunch reports that Facebook will be auto-enhancing new photos uploaded from iOS starting this week. Similar to Instagram (which is also owned by Facebook), users will be able to adjust the intensity of the enhancement feature using a slider and will also be able to crop their photos. Android users that are jealous of their iOS counterparts can rest easy. This feature will come to your version of Facebook in the not-too-distant future.

Facebook has in the past offered users the ability to add filters to their photos when uploading from mobile but that was an opt-in process without any options for customization of each individual filter. This new option seems to be more geared towards fixing or improving bad shots as opposed to adding flattering but unnecessary filters to photos. However, some users may be annoyed by the automatic nature of its application. No word on whether it can be completely turned off.

SourceTechCrunch
18 Dec 17:19

The Incredible Resolution of the Olympus OM-D E-M1

by Rob Campbell

And by “resolution”, I mean, I am making the resolution to take more pictures with this camera in 2015. See what I just did?

I like cameras.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

OM-D E-M1 Action shot with Sony RX1

Cameras have always had a special place in my heart. Designed to be held in your hand, a good camera feels like it belongs there. As an imaging instrument, they capture a scene by gathering photons through a focusing mechanism – usually a lens – and stacking them on a sensor. At least that’s what happens in a digital camera.

Think about that for a second. Photons.

When you take a picture, you are literally capturing a moment in time. My inner physics nerd freaks out a bit when I think about this too deeply. Photographs may well be our best proof of time’s existence. Sidebar, if you want to read about the elusiveness of proving time, Dan Falk’s In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension (Amazon.ca link) has nothing to do with photography but is pretty interesting.

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Man hovering outside of GDC. Shot with the OM-D E-M1 and a Voigtlander 17.5mm F0.95. Manual focus.

Show a picture to one or more people who were in that place at that time and they will tell you, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” The image can take you back there.

Humans have been taking pictures (or, if you’re more serious about photography and want to sound like a prat, “making photographs”) for almost 200 years now. In that time, we’ve seen a couple of technologies come and go, though the death of film is somewhat up for debate. For the sake of argument, I’m going to claim it’s over.

As 2015 closes in, we’re seeing mirrorless cameras finally usurping the dominance of the once-ubiquitous DSLR. The tech is moving quickly too. Late last year, Sony released the first interchangeable lens full-frame mirrorless cameras. They’d previously managed a proof-of-concept with the RX1, a camera that can produce stunning images if you can put up with its incredibly poor performance and quirky controls and happen to like shooting in 35mm focal length (I do). The A7 series is an impressive line of cameras that one year later is already seeing its first revision in the form of the A7 mark II. Reviews are starting to come in and most of them have people gushing over it. “It boots up in under 2 seconds!” exuded one reviewer. “It focuses pretty fast!” wagged another.

Balls.

If you want a camera that’s properly fast, look no further than the still amazing Olympus OM-D E-M1. Behind that mouthful of letters is a camera that screams capability. It will blow your doors off it takes pictures so fast. It will melt your face with its incredible electronic viewfinder.

It will boot up and shoot about six frames before the A7m2 has powered-up. (not actually tested with science!)

That’s right.

“But you can’t get a good image with that tiny sensor.”

Balls.

Yes you can. This thing produces really sharp 16MP images.

sony a7r + voigtlander 15mm f4.5

Deb’s Sony A7R with Voigtlander 15mm Heliar M-mount lens on a Metabones adapter. Shot with OM-D E-M1 and 12mm F2 Olympus prime lens.

Olympus is making some really excellent cameras these days. Rumor has it, they’re coming out with a new E-M5 in the spring with some kind of crazy sensor shift technology that boosts the sensor up to an “effective” 40MP. Who cares? The E-M1 is the bomb. And the old E-M5 is still a plenty capable camera.

oli

“Oli” on an Oly E-M5, Voigtlander 17.5mm prime at F0.95.

This post is my commitment to get out and shoot more pictures.

18 Dec 18:13

"By the end of the century, corporations acknowledged that they had downgraded workers in their..."

“By the end of the century, corporations acknowledged that they had downgraded workers in their calculus of concerns. In the 1980s, a Conference Board survey of corporate executives found that 56 percent agreed that “employees who are loyal to the company and further its business goals deserve an assurance of continued employment.” When the Conference Board asked the same question in the 1990s, 6 percent of executives agreed. “Loyalty to a company,” Welch once said, “it’s nonsense.”

What has vanished over the past 40 years isn’t just Americans’ rising incomes. It’s their sense of control over their lives. The young college graduates working in jobs requiring no more than a high-school degree, the middle-aged unemployed who have permanently opted out of a labor market that has no place for them, the 45- to 60-year-olds who say they will have to delay their retirement because they have insufficient savings—all these and more are leading lives that have diverged from the aspirations that Americans until recently believed they could fulfill. This May, a Pew poll asked respondents if they thought that today’s children would be better or worse off than their parents. Sixty-two percent said worse off, while 33 percent said better. Studies that document the decline of intergenerational mobility suggest that this newfound pessimism is well grounded.

The extinction of a large and vibrant American middle class isn’t ordained by the laws of either economics or physics. Many of the impediments to creating anew a broadly prosperous America are ultimately political creations that are susceptible to political remedy. Amassing the power to secure those remedies will require an extraordinary, sustained, and heroic political mobilization. Americans will have to transform their anxiety into indignation and direct that indignation to the task of reclaiming their stake in the nation’s future.”

-

Harold Meyerson, The Forty Year Slump

18 Dec 00:00

The Case for Group Work

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Matt Acevedo, Blackboard Blog, Dec 21, 2014


Count me as being among those with no fondness for group work. Matt Acevedo writes, "We all know the why: group members don’ t contribute equitably. There’ s invariably that one driven person who does most of the work, a few folks who contribute just enough to get by, and the one slacker who no one hears from until the day before the big project is due." So what is the case for group work? Acevedo argues, "It is crucial that we (educators) also design and facilitate experiences that mimic the real-world context in which our students will one day operate." Maybe so - but by experiences of groups in learning are very different from groups in the real world.  then groups should be designed very differently. People from different professions (or programs) should be brought together, for example. Group governance should also resemble real-world experiences. And they should, as Merrill argues, be "engaged in solving real-world problems."

[Link] [Comment]
18 Dec 20:26

Quebec City mayor racks up $20,000 in roaming charges, says “I do not understand how cellphone companies allow this to happen”

by Ian Hardy

This kind of news never gets old. We usually hear from everyday Canadians and their fight to reduce unexpected roaming charges. This week, it’s a politician on the receiving end of a huge roaming bill.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume doesn’t know how to effectively use his smartphone while travelling abroad. While on vacation in Rome last February, the Mayor racked up cellphone charges of $19,860 ($11,800 for using his iPad and $8,060 on his smartphone). Then continued to defy logic and travelled to the United States in July and received a bill for $2,106 (for using his iPad).

Labeaume, who expressed anger towards his carrier, said he didn’t know how roaming works. “If you ask me why, I do not know. I’m very angry. I do not understand how cellphone companies allow this to happen… They told me I was using the 3G instead of the Wi-Fi. I’m not sure I understand everything,” said Labeaume.

While the specific carrier was not mentioned in CBC’s report, Labeaume did manage to get his carrier to significantly reduce the charges. The $19,860 trip to Rome was cut by about $13,000 to $6,881. Labeaume confirmed that his party, Équipe Labeaume, will pay for the charges as he wants to avoid taxpayers footing the bill. In addition, the trip to the States will be funded by taxpayers because: “I work when I’m in the United States. They send me stuff. I’m never on vacation.”

Source CBC
18 Dec 00:00

What the Sony hacks reveal about the news industry

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David Uberti, Columbia Journalism Review, Dec 21, 2014


If traditional newspapers won't cover the Sony leaks, then Gawker and Buzzfeed will. And if Gawker and Buzzfeed won't, then someone else will step forward. This changes the role of journalists in a manner that might be instructive to educators: "The new role of journalists, for better or for worse, isn’ t as gatekeepers, but interpreters: If they don’ t parse it, others without the experience, credentials, or mindfulness toward protecting personal information certainly will." I would feel more sorry for Sony weren't for its decades-long history of user-hostile business practices, up to and including the famous  rootkit incident, in which Sony hacked their customers' computers. I do feel more sorry for Seth Rogan, though I don't like his movies a lot.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Dec 19:20

torontodesign: architectian: Concrete #trainstation #brutalism...

by counti8


torontodesign:

architectian:

Concrete #trainstation #brutalism #engineering #architecture #transit #ttc #toronto #blacknwhite #bnw #ig

Concrete Classic

18 Dec 19:04

An Update on Flickr Wall Art

by Matthew Roth

We’re sorry we let some of you down.

About a month ago, we introduced Flickr Wall Art to allow our members to order printed photos on wood or canvas. Over the past few weeks, we’ve received a lot of feedback from the community and beyond — while some expressed their excitement about the new photography marketplace and the value it would bring, many felt that including Creative Commons-licensed work in this service wasn’t within the spirit of the Commons and our sharing community.

We hear and understand your concerns, and we always want to ensure that we’re acting within the spirit with which the community has contributed. Given the varied reactions, as a first step, we’ve decided to remove the pool of Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr Wall Art, effective immediately. We’ll also be refunding all sales of Creative Commons-licensed images made to date through this service.

Subsequently, we’ll work closely with Creative Commons to come back with programs that align better with our community values.

The Wall Art service will continue to be available, but will not tap into Creative Commons-licensed images. You’ll still be able to order Wall Art from your own photostream, as well as the work of Flickr’s licensed artists, who are part of the Flickr Marketplace. If you want your work to appear in the Flickr Marketplace, you can sign up here to be considered and a member of the Flickr curation team will reach out if your work is a good fit.

From the beginning, we’ve worked hard to foster a community of creators. It’s our deep commitment to the Flickr community that inspires us everyday. Please continue to share your ideas and feedback.

Bernardo Hernandez
VP of Flickr


18 Dec 00:00

Flickr removes CC-licensed photos from Wall Art program

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Ryan Merkley, Creative Commons, Dec 21, 2014


I can't say that I'm surprised there was an outcry, and I hope people now understand what the CC-by license allows. The Creative Commons blog states, "Our vision is one where content of all kinds is freely available for use under simple terms, where the permissions are clear to everyone. If that doesn’ t happen, creators can feel misled or cheated, and users are left uncertain if they can use the commons as a source of raw material." I would content that this is exactly what happened, and that the promotion of the CC-b y license as somehow "more free" fostered exactly this sort of misunderstanding.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Dec 00:00

Khan Academy founder has two big ideas for overhauling higher education in the sciences

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Gregory Ferenstein, Venture Beat, Dec 21, 2014


So let's have fun talking about why these would never work: "Sal Khan has a few ideas for how to radically overhaul higher education. First, create a universal degree that’ s comparable to a Stanford degree, and second, transform the college transcript into a portfolio of things that students have actually created." OK, to be fair, I think that he does point to some things that are broken in today's system of education related to articulation and credentials. But I don't think anyone (except Khan) believes there should be a single standard degree, much less a Stanford degree. And a moment's reflection will reveal the search and intelligence problem that results when grades are replaced with portfolios; how will an employer find what was formerly a BA from a slew of portfolios? The discouraging thing is that the business press and VCs take this level of thinking seriously.

[Link] [Comment]
18 Dec 20:33

Technical Problems Are The Easy Ones

by Eugene Wallingford

Perhaps amid the daily tribulations of a software project, Steven Baker writes

Oy. A moving goal line, with a skeleton crew, on a shoestring budget. Technical problems are the easy ones.

And here we all sit complaining about monads and Java web frameworks...

My big project this semester has not been developing software but teaching beginners to develop software, in our intro course. There is more to Intro than programming, but for many students the tasks of learning a language and trying to write programs comes to dominate most everything else. More on that soon.

Yet even with this different sort of project, I feel much as Baker does. Freshmen have a lot of habits to learn and un-learn, habits that go well beyond how they do Python. My course competes with several others for the students' attention, not to mention with their jobs and their lives outside of school. They come to class with a lifetime of experience and knowledge, as well some surprising gaps in what they know. A few are a little scared by college, and many worry that CS won't be a good fit for them.

The technical problems really are the easy ones.

18 Dec 23:30

Group A Or Group B? Contrasting Groups To Persuade People To Join

by Richard Millington

Here's a simple tip to persuade people to join any type of group.

Highlight what the group isn't. 

This latches upon two key aspects of psychology.

The first is people understand any object better when it's contrasted with another. I don't know if Car A is good by itself, but I can tell if it looks better than Car B. If it does, Car A seems good. 

The second is we tend to see things in good/bad dualities. We see most choices as a choice between something good and something bad. 

You can influence members to see joining the community as a choice about who they are and what values they hold (or want to hold) Are they group A or group B type of people?

If they're not Group B, they must be Group A. This is known as self-categorisation in social identity theory.

We are far more likely to categorise as part of a group when a contrasting group is made salient. If they're not one of them, they want to be one of you. 

So highlight who the community isn't for. Don't be patronising, simply highlight the type of people who wouldn’t be a good fit for the community. It might be people that are new to the field, people that have specific beliefs, people that don't match a prototypical member.

You don't even have to make group B sound terrible, just make sure Group A is slightly better. 

We spend too much time explaining who the community is for (usually everyone, sadly) and too little time explaining who it's not for. 

18 Dec 23:29

Nokia denies reports that it will stop support for HERE Maps on Windows Phone

by Jane McEntegart

Microsoft bought Nokia’s devices and services divisions but HERE, the company’s location and mapping division, wasn’t included in that package. That’s why we’ve seen HERE hit Samsung devices like the Gear S, the Galaxy lines of smartphones, and any other Android smartphone thanks to its recent Play Store debut. Nokia has said that iPhone version is forthcoming.

It’s clear Nokia is eager to get HERE on as many platforms as possible now that it doesn’t have to develop exclusively for Windows Phone. However, this week, reports surfaced that Nokia was actually planning to ditch Windows Phone development completely.

Windows Central points to this report in DigiToday that cites Udo Szabo as saying Microsoft will be responsible for the development of HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Szabo is director of product marketing for HERE and was quoted as saying the company’s goals have changed since Nokia doesn’t make phones anymore. The translated quote from this Finnish-language publication reads:

“When did Nokia phones, our goal was slightly different. Now we are developing applications on the basis of a realistic market. Microsoft will pay our maps license fees and is responsible for application development.”

Nokia has commented on the reports that it will no longer support HERE on Windows Phone and says that isn’t true. However, it failed to specifically address the comments made by Szabo about Microsoft taking over development.

“We have noticed some discussions in the blogosphere about HERE on Windows Phone,” Nokia said on its official blog. “We want to clarify that we are committed to providing great products and consumer experiences for Windows based phones. We will continue to support our HERE apps to ensure that they will be compatible with future versions of Windows.”

HERE Maps for iPhone is expected early in 2015.

23 Nov 18:45

HOWTO: Home and neighborhood security

My family once acquired first-hand experience in home security, neighborhood security, civil & criminal stalking injunctions, the police, the courts and the broader legal system.

Justice prevailed in the end for my family, but it was a harrowing introduction to a facet of society with which I had little experience.


A DropCam turned the tide in our struggle.

Recently, I found myself at a neighborhood security meeting after a spate of break-ins, and I ended up recounting how my old neighborhood banded together, protected itself and cleaned up the block.

To avoid repeating myself, I’m writing down what I learned.

Disclaimer: This is based on our personal experience in my city, and with the U.S. legal system. Please take caution when applying this advice to other crimes and jurisdictions. Consulting a lawyer is advised.

Click here to read the rest of the article

18 Dec 19:01

Equational derivations of the Y combinator and Church encodings in Python

I love the Y combinator and Church encodings.

Every time I explain them, I feel like I’m using sorcery.

I’ve written posts on memoizing recursive functions with the Y combinator in JavaScript and on the Church encodings in Scheme and in JavaScript.

When I spoke at Hacker School, I used Python as the setting in which to derive Church encodings and the Y combinator for the first time.

In the process, Python seemed to hit a sweet spot for the explanation: it’s a popular language, and the syntax for lambda is concise and close to the original mathematics.

I’m distilling the technical parts of that lecture into this post, and in contrast to prior posts, I’m taking a purely equational reasoning route to Church encodings and the Y combinator – all within Python.

In the end, we’ll have constructed a programming language out of the lambda calculus, and we’ll arrive at the factorial of 5 in the lambda calculus, as embedded in Python:

(((lambda f: (((f)((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((f)(((f)(((f)(((f)(((f)
(z)))))))))))))))))))((((((lambda y: ((lambda F: (((F)((lambda x:
(((((((y)(y)))(F)))(x)))))))))))((lambda y: ((lambda F: (((F)((lambda x:
(((((((y)(y)))(F)))(x)))))))))))))((lambda f: ((lambda n: ((((((((((((
lambda n: (((((n)((lambda _: ((lambda t: ((lambda f: (((f)((lambda void:
(void)))))))))))))((lambda t: ((lambda f: (((t)((lambda void: (void)))))
))))))))((((((lambda n: ((lambda m: (((((m)((lambda n: ((lambda f:
((lambda z: (((((((n) ((lambda g: ((lambda h: (((h)(((g)(f)))))))))))
((lambda u: (z)))))((lambda u: (u)))))))))))))(n))))))) (n)))((lambda f:
((lambda z: (z)))))))))((lambda _: ((((lambda n: (((((n) ((lambda _: ((
lambda t: ((lambda f: (((f)((lambda void: (void))))))))))))) ((lambda t:
((lambda f: (((t)((lambda void: (void))))))))))))) ((((((lambda n: 
((lambda m: (((((m)((lambda n: ((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((((((n) ((lambda
g: ((lambda h: (((h)(((g)(f)))))))))))((lambda u: (z)))))((lambda u:
(u)))))))))))))(n)))))))((lambda f: ((lambda z: (z)))))))(n)))))))))
((lambda _: ((lambda t: ((lambda f: (((f)((lambda void: (void)))))))))))
))((lambda _: ((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((f)(z)))))))))))((lambda _: (((
(((lambda n: ((lambda m: ((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((((m)(((n)(f)))))(z)
))))))))))(n)))(((f) ((((((lambda n: ((lambda m: (((((m)((lambda n:
((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((((((n) ((lambda g: ((lambda h: (((h)(((g)(f)
))))))))))((lambda u: (z)))))((lambda u: (u)))))))))))))(n)))))))(n)))
((lambda f: ((lambda z: (((f) (z))))))))))))))))))))))))(lambda x:x+1)(0)

Run the above in your Python interpreter. It’s equal to 120.

As a bonus, this post is a proof that the indentation-sensitive constructs in Python are strictly optional.

Read below for more.

Click here to read the rest of the article

18 Dec 21:58

I'm Sure It's a Great Language for Writting a Compiler

David Owens: Static Wins! RAH RAH!

"Seriously, someone asks for the functionality for dynamic dispatch and you say you can do the same thing with static code! No, you cannot. You can mimic the behavior.

"Instead, you showed someone how to build a static registration table. Then you make the statement that it’s “type-safe” while using Any as the arguments to the public API for dispatch and using type coercion… that’s not type-safety. And let’s be honest, it’s really not that different then the validation one does for dynamic dispatch either."

Via Michael Tsai.

12 Dec 21:34

5 Rules Of Email Etiquette

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As mobile applications such as WhatsApp and iMessage take over our personal lives, we naturally start using memes, acronyms and emoticons to communicate with friends and family. It’s totally fine sending messages like these to friends and family, but as most know, the workplace is an entirely different story.

Unlike personal emails or instant messaging, when you respond to work emails you’re also representing the company you work for. Here we’ll highlight 5 common mistakes people make when sending out business-related emails. 

1. Don’t use crayons

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Business emails are meant to be simple, clean and to the point. Every once in a while we come across an email that contains flashing images, text written in more colors than you can find on a rainbow, and the overuse of capital letters.

Stick to black font unless there’s something urgent that requires attention. If that’s the case, a simple hack to get your recipient’s attention is to bold key phrases. Excessive use of CAPS is not recommended. Nobody likes being yelled at, even over email.

2.

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Notice something missing after “2.”? That’s right, it’s left blank. Rather confusing wouldn’t you say? Leaving subject lines blank in emails is extremely unprofessional, and provides the recipient no point of reference to what’s inside.

Writing a subject line makes it easier for the recipient to search for your emails later, and allows them to quickly glance at their inbox and judge from the subject if it needs their attention right away or not. Plus, if you’re using SaneBox, you can filter emails by subject.

3. Don’t start email wars

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Sometimes the daily grind can really take its toll and a great way to release some of that stress is by writing an aggressive email to someone, or replying to one yourself. Colleagues or business associates can be very upfront and rude in emails when behind a computer screen, making you aware of any mistakes made whether they involved you or not.

Don’t fight fire with fire. Instead, try to remedy the solution or if you cannot, just don’t reply. Every email you send or receive is logged, reply in a negative way or flaming others can be a one-way ticket out of a job. When in doubt, take 10 minutes before sending the email. After you have time to cool off, read it again and see if there’s a better way to approach the situation.

4. Hello, is it me your looking for?

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When in a rush, you may forgot to start your emails off with a “Good morning” or a simple “Hey”. Common courtesy goes along way in creating strong business relationships and being friendly to people you’ve never met. Start every email you send with a polite greeting and end it with a simple salutation, such as “Thank you” or “Regards”.

5. Use proper grammar

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If your emails don’t contain proper spelling, grammar and punctuation it will be hard for the recipient to take you seriously. Not only does it make you look totally unprofessional, but it’s often enough to turn clients away from doing business with you. Re-read all your emails before you click the send button. If you catch a mistake but you’ve already sent it, use this simple hack (seriously, it’s awesome): Gmail’s Undo Send.

You’ll never meet many of the people you email and, as a result, your emails become their only reference point in deciding if they want to do business with you. Well-written emails are an absolute must for business today.

SaneBox is an all-in-one email management solution that organizes your inbox, giving you the time to focus on the important work instead of sorting through non-urgent emails. SaneBox offers email filtering, one-click unsubscribe, follow-up reminders, and much more.

SaneBox organizes your inbox so you can focus more on the important tasks. Try it free for two weeks:

 

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18 Dec 23:17

"I was embarrassed to be in public with him while he made several sexist remarks about the other..."

“I was embarrassed to be in public with him while he made several sexist remarks about the other candidate, but I wasn’t sure enough of myself at the time to walk out or call him out, which I deeply regret. Interestingly, male mentors and hiring managers have all said that I should have played it cool and finished the interview (which I did), whereas senior developers I’ve told this story to have told me they would have walked out.”

- On Interviewing as a Junior Dev
18 Dec 14:37

Rumour: Android 5.1 coming Q1 2015 with silent mode, improved battery management

by Jane McEntegart

The rollout of Android 5.0 Lollipop proceeds at a fairly even clip. We’ve already seen the OTA Android update deployed to Nexus 7 and Nexus 5 devices the world over, as well as Nexus 4 users, and the HTC One M8 and M7 GPE. Today brings news of a different kind of Lollipop update, though. According to Android Pit, Android 5.1, the first major update to Lollipop, will come sometime in the first quarter of 2015.

Android 5.1 will bring some significant improvements, addressing concerns about battery life, as well as improved RAM management, and fixes for certain bugs and instabilities. It will also see the return of silent mode, which has been noticeably absent from 5.0. With the current version of Lollipop, you can lower the volume to vibrate but not beyond that to completely silent.

Android Pit says this Q1 release time frame comes from two separate sources “close to the matter” and has the full changelog, too. Check it out:

  • Silent mode added after missing on Android 5.0
  • General improvements in system stability
  • Improved RAM management
  • Fixes for sudden app closures
  • Improved battery management
  • Excessive consumption of network devices when used Wi-Fi fixed
  • Issues with wireless connections fixed
  • Problems with Okay Google function solved
  • Notifications problems solved
  • Some sound problems experience by certain devices fixed
  • Other improvements and changes
  • Changes in the Material Design color palette (after users complaints, possibly for a higher version though)

Google hasn’t commented on any of the above, so it’s possible there could be more coming with 5.1. March (the end of Q1) would bring us to around the five month mark since Lollipop’s debut, which seems about the right time for a big update. The dust has had time to settle and user feedback will be plentiful. We’ll keep you posted on anything we hear related to Android 5.1!

18 Dec 03:57

David, Goliath and empires of the web

by msurman

People in Mozilla have been talking a lot about radical participation recently. As Mitchell said at recently, participation will be key to our success as we move into ’the third era of Mozilla’ — the era where we find ways to be successful beyond the desktop browser.

davidandgoliath

This whole conversation has prompted me to reflect on how I think about radical participation today. And about what drew me to Mozilla in the first place more than five years ago.

For me, a big part of that draw was an image in my mind of Mozilla as the David who had knocked over Microsoft’s Goliath. Mozilla was the successful underdog in a fight I really cared about. Against all odds, Mozilla shook the foundation of a huge empire and changed what was possible with the web. This was magnetic. I wanted to be a part of that.

I started to think about this more the other day: what does it really mean for Mozilla to be David? And how do we win against future Goliaths?

Malcom Gladwell wrote a book last year that provides an interesting angle on this. He said: we often take the wrong lesson from David and Goliath story, thinking that it’s surprising that such a small challenger could fell such a large opponent.

Gladwell argues that Goliath was much more vulnerable that we think. He was large. But he was also slow, lumbering and had bad eyesight. Moreover, he used the most traditional fighting techniques of his time: the armour and brute force of infantry.

David, on the other hand, actually had a significant set of strategic advantages. He was nimble and good with a sling. A sling used properly, by the way, is a real weapon: it can project a rock at the speed of a .45 caliber pistol. Instead of confronting Goliath with brute force, he used a different and surprising technique to knock over his opponent. He wasn’t just courageous and lucky, he was smart.

Most other warriors would have seen Goliath as invincible. Not David: he was playing the game by his own rules.

In many ways, the same thing happened when we took on Microsoft and Internet Explorer. They didn’t expect the citizens of the web to rally against them: to build — and then choose by the millions — an unknown browser. Microsoft didn’t expect the citizens of the web to sling a rock at their weak spot, right between their eyes.

IMG_20141202_144835~3

As a community, radical participation was our sling and our rock. It was our strategic advantage and our element of surprise. And it is what shook the web loose from Microsoft’s imperial grip on the web.

Of course, participation still is our sling. It is still part of who were are as an organization and a global community. And, as the chart above shows, it is still what makes us different.

But, as we know, the setting has changed dramatically since Mozilla first released Firefox. It’s not just — or even primarily — the browser that shapes the web today. It’s not just the three companies in this chart that are vying for territorial claim. With the internet growing at breakneck speed, there are many Goliaths on many fronts. And these Goliaths are expanding their scope around the world. They are building empires.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.46.59 AM

This has me thinking a lot about empire recently: about how the places that were once the subjects of the great European empires are by and large the same places we call “emerging markets”. These are the places where billions of people will be coming online for the first time in coming years. They are also the places where the new economic empires of the digital age are most aggressively consolidating their power.

Consider this: In North America, Android has about 68% of smartphone market share. In most parts of Asia and Africa, Android market share is in the 90% range – give or take a few points by country. That means Google has a near monopoly not only on the operating system on these markets, but also on the distribution of apps and how they are paid for. Android is becoming the Windows 98 of emerging economies, the monopoly and the control point; the arbiter of what is possible.

Also consider that Facebook and WhatsApp together control 80% of the messaging market globally, and are owned by one company. More scary: as we do market research with new smartphone users in countries like Bangladesh and Kenya. We usually ask people: do you use the internet: do you use the internet on you phone? The response is often: “what’s the Internet?” “What do you use you phone for?”, we ask. The response: “Oh, Facebook and WhatsApp.” Facebook’s internet is the only internet these people know of or can imagine.

It’s not the Facebooks and Googles of the world that concern me, per se. I use their products and in many cases, I love them. And I also believe they have done good in the world.

What concerns me is that, like the European powers in the 18th and 19th centuries, these companies are becoming empires that control both what is possible and what is imaginable. They are becoming monopolies that exert immense control over what people can do and experience on the web. And over what the web – and human society as a whole – may become.

One thing is clear to me: I don’t want this sort of future for the web. I want a future where anything is possible. I want a future where anything is imaginable. The web can be about these kinds of unlimited possibilities. That’s the web that I want everyone to be able to experience, including the billions of people coming online for the first time.

This is the future we want as a Mozilla. And, as a community we are going to need to take on some of these Goliaths. We are going to need reach down into our pocket and pull out that rock. And we are going to need to get some practice with our sling.

The truth is: Mozilla has become a bit rusty with it. Yes, participation is still a key part of who we are. But, if we’re honest, we haven’t relied on it as much of late.

If we want to shake the foundations of today’s digital empires, we need to regain that practice and proficiency. And find new and surprising ways to use that power. We need to aim at new weak spots in the giant.

We may not know what those new and surprising tactics are yet. But there is an increasing consensus that we need them. Chris Beard has talked recently about thinking differently about participation and product, building participation into the actual features and experience of our software. And we have been talking for the last couple of years about the importance of web literacy — and the power of community and participation to get people teaching each other how to wield the web. These are are the kinds of directions we need to take, and the strategies we need to figure out.

It’s not only about strategy, of course. Standing up to Goliaths and using participation to win are also about how we show up in the world. The attitude each of us embodies every day.

Think about this. Think about the image of David. The image of the underdog. Think about the idea of independence. And, then think of the task at hand: for all of us to bring more people into the Mozilla community and activate them.

If we as individuals and as an organization show up again as a challenger — like David — we will naturally draw people into what we’re doing. It’s a part of who we are as Mozillians, and its magnetic when we get it right


Filed under: mozilla, poetry, webmakers
17 Dec 22:41

The Post-Mobile Era

by Fraser Speirs

Twitter followers will know that I've been interested in Chrome OS for a while. Podcast listeners will know that I've been crazily frustrated with Apple's technology since iOS 7 shipped, particularly from a quality standpoint.

Put these two things together and it's time to experiment further with Chromebooks.

When you work in educational technology, you have to be a little like the Roman god Janus and look both forward and backward. You look backward because everyone else is behind you: pupils, parents, colleagues, administrators, regulators, government. These are the people you have to take with you into the new.

At the same time, we have to periodically make very clear judgment calls about what is happening right now - without reference to the past or the future. This is what happens in your summer refresh: it doesn't matter what's coming out in October or at CES and it doesn't much matter what you've deployed in the past - you have to sign your PO in June and the trucks roll up in August with whatever is the best possible decision at the time. Such are the hard scheduling realities of school life.

Like Janus, it's also essential to keep one eye on the future. Trends change, the conversation moves on and, if you want to serve your school community correctly and well, you have to not just be abreast of them but be leading and living those changes well before you expect others to.

This is what keeps me up at night.

When we started with iPad in 2010, the argument was around the appropriateness of "mobile devices" in the classroom. Could we manage without the standard computer tropes that adults of the time had been brought up with?

Douglas Adams:

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

I was 32 when we started with the iPad and, you know what? Douglas Adams was right.

It's odd to think back to those days and remember the heat we took for doing what is now an accepted (if not yet widely-implemented) part of the educational technology stack.

They said children couldn't multi-task on iPads. Wrong. They said children couldn't type on iPads. Wrong. They said children would break their iPads. Wrong. They said children would lose their iPads. Wrong. They said Android tablets would be better and cheaper within a year. Wrong.

What the over-35s meant was that they couldn't multi-task, type on or handle their iPad without breaking it.

Having said that, the move to mobile devices wasn't as much of a paradigm shift as some people thought. An iPad or an iPhone is, after all, a fairly doctrinaire computer of the type that Apple has made since 1984. Many people couldn't see past the introduction of the touchscreen and thought it heralded a completely new era of computing. Many thought that the tablet had to be understood from first principles rather than looking at it as an evolution of the laptop computer. While the touchscreen and the tablet form factor have enabled a number of new and important use cases and contexts, I'm not so sure it represents a completely new era. The smartphone, because of scale, reach and carrier subsidies, is genuinely fundamentally a different proposition but that's another post.

Like every Macintosh before it, an iOS device is essentially a package of processing capability, IO, sensors and local data storage and state maintenance. Later revisions brought some online syncing capabilities with iCloud. Even with iCloud, a user's "suite" of devices - their Mac, iPad and iPhone - remain three distinct bundles of local data and state, some parts of which are synchronised through the cloud but don't live in the cloud.

This distinction is crucial. This distinction is the spring from which all the confusion arises when your colleagues and relatives don't understand that buying more iCloud storage space won't solve their storage space problems on their 16GB iPhone.

Continuity and Handoff in iOS 8 and Yosemite attempts to bridge the divide between devices. While we have had data syncing for some time in OS X and iOS, Continuity is about attempting - at some level - to synchronise state between devices.

You can understand why iOS is built that way. The first iPhone had only EDGE networking and a weak battery. Any software process that depended on constant connectivity to the network was a total non-starter in the mid-2000s. Today, though, we have much more power-efficient hardware in our devices, better batteries and much faster cellular networks.

It seems to me that the prospect of a cloud-only existence is very close. Hence my interest in Chromebook.

I don't wish to reiterate the simplistic arguments about "you can't do this or that on whatever device". When we're looking at longer-term trends, rather than making tactical decisions about the current deployment, we need to think deeper. We need to avoid the human tendency to over-estimate the short term and vastly under-estimate the long term.

What I want to think about more is the idea that we are moving into a post-mobile era. Encapsulated in that phrase "post-mobile" is all kinds of opportunity for misunderstanding and erroneous refutation, so let me be clear: post-mobile doesn't connote that mobile devices are going away. Far from it. They may eventually be the only devices we own.

What I mean by "post-mobile" is that we may be about to move away from the idea of local state and storage, even on our mobile devices. To a certain extent - even possibly to a great extent - most people have already done this on the desktop (and laptop). Every significant application or service that has arisen in the last ten years or more on the desktop has been a web app. The last exception I can think of is possibly iTunes and, in the broad scheme of computing, it's even debatable if iTunes counts as "significant".

I started to notice this when I started describing my iPhone as " a remote control for cloud services". It seemed that every app I touched regularly on my iPhone was an app that more or less totally depended on networking for its function. Let's look at the main ones:

  • Mail
  • Safari
  • Twitter
  • Music streaming (iTunes Match)
  • Google Drive
  • Maps
  • Feedly (RSS)
  • Pocket
  • Travel apps
  • Instagram
  • Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Plex
  • Evernote

It seemed, ultimately, that my iPhone was becoming a stateless device. This hit home to me when I upgraded to my latest iPhone. Instead of restoring my backups, I set the phone up as new. There was almost no data loss: everything I had access to on that phone came back from cloud services almost immediately.

I think this is largely a function of the use cases that a smartphone is put to: communication and entertainment-oriented tasks that depend on up-to-date information. It can be done but it's not comfortable to write a Keynote presentation on your iPhone.

The iPad, however, is a different story. There, I do build movies in iMovie, work in GarageBand and create in Keynote. There is a lot of local state on the iPad and it can be quite difficult to manage at times.

So, where does my interest in Chromebook arise from? Well, ChomeOS has always felt to me like it really had the soul of Google in it, in a way that Android never did. Google is all about the web and ChromeOS is all about the web.

My interest in ChromeOS definitely also waxes and wanes along in inverse proportion to my frustration with Apple. Right now, it waxes strongly as Apple's ability to ship reliable software appears to be disappearing like snow off a dyke, as we say in Scotland.

ChromeOS isn't interesting because it's got better apps than iOS. Generally, it doesn't. It's not interesting because Chromebooks are nicer tools than Apple computers; they're not. I won't lie: Chrome OS is partly interesting because Chromebooks are 20-50% of the price of Apple computers.

ChromeOS is really interesting, though, because it's a computer whose entire existence is built around the idea that neither state nor data is local to the machine. In some ways, we had this before when we used OS X Server to manage OS X machines with auto-mounted home directories and so forth. Auto mounted home directories barely worked across a LAN, however, far less a WAN. Software just wasn't designed to talk sparingly to storage in those days.

The total decoupling of state and data from the machine and coupling it to the user's account has a number of interesting implications. The device becomes essentially disposable or at least highly fungible. It becomes secure, since there's little or no local data to attack and even logging into the computer can require 2-factor authentication.

When I first started looking at Chomebooks, they were cheap and quite weak computers. They were slow and made of poor plastics. Today, though, they are much faster and much better built and have achieved this without the kind of price increases that we have seen from the once-cheap Android tablets not trying to compete with iPad on performance and quality. Chromebooks are reaping the dividend of 30 years of development on PCs.

At its heart, though, a Chromebook is a computer built around Google Drive and Google Docs. The Drive suite is the killer app for Chromebook, and the rest the rest. It is interesting, though, that there increasingly exists a class of software that is "synchronised local state" and another class that is "cloud state accessed locally". This is the difference between Pages and Google Docs or between OmniFocus and Todoist or between iMessage and Slack.

The long-term strategic part of this is that it appears to be much harder to build a robust cloud-coordinated back-end to previously local-state software than it is to make a cloud-backed application work offline. Witness the rather sorry state of collaboration tools like iWork's iCloud collaboration, OneDrive or even Dropbox.

The flipside of this coin is that it's not just about having your state and data in the cloud; it's also about having your applications running continuously, even when you're not actively using them. There's no IFTTT channel for Microsoft Office. I'm very interested in what happens when our tools are no longer tools that we start and stop using but rather are processes that operate continually in the cloud working on our behalf and which we check in with from time to time as we need. This is the difference between Google Now and Siri: Google Now works for you when you're not watching; Siri works only when you whistle.

Phase one was about adopting "mobile" technology in schools. It worked and it's embedded now. iPad is the workhorse tool and I appreciate that very much. It just means it's no longer particularly intellectually interesting. For me, phase one is over.

To my mind, phase two - the next five years or so - is about making full use of the cloud in schools. I hope Google moves ChromeOS beyond the laptop form factor, so that we don't lose some of those benefits of mobility. I sure hope Apple decides to be part of that conversation at all.

18 Dec 07:19

Recommended on Medium: 2014: The Year in Garbage

18 Dec 05:05

This is Good and Too Long Coming… Cuba & the US

by Ms. Jen
Today President Obama announced that the US and Cuba are working on normalizing relations. This is good that the US and Cuba are moving forward into 21st century. It is even better to say goodbye to the vestiges of the 1950 and 1960s policy that no longer fits either nation or the current state of... Read more »
17 Dec 23:15

Is the sales tax the best way to pay for transit? No, but it’s politically sellable, says LA

by Frances Bula

For those who don’t follow me on Twitter (are there any?), I was in Los Angeles recently. Yes, one of my favourite cities, which I’ll explain another time.

But while I was there, observing the anguish of house monsterization (a real word, it appears), the worry about gentrification brought on by bike lanes (a real debate, it appears), the angst over a developer building fortress-like apartments in downtown LA (a real architectural sin, it appears), I also had a chance to interview one of the architects of the coalition that helped get 67-per-cent approval for a half-per-cent sales tax in LA in 2008 to pay for $36 billion in transit improvements.

Denny Zane is one of those great old-fashioned American leftists, still fighting for the people. In his downtown office building, complete with a giant photo of a young Cesar Chavez, he talked for an hour about how to win the transit fight and why it’s important. Interestingly, there was a lot more focus, when he talked, about how important transit is to working-class people than I hear in debates around Vancouver (where the left and the NIMBY right seem to view it currently as some evil developer plot).

Here’s my story summing up his main points. More to come.

17 Dec 23:16

Industry Minister to make announcement to “deliver more choice, lower prices and better service in Canada’s wireless industry”

by Ian Hardy

James Moore, Canada’s Minister of Industry, has scheduled a press event tomorrow at 1PM (PST) in Vancouver where he’ll announce new measures to “deliver more choice, lower prices and better service in Canada’s wireless industry.”

It’s widely expected that Moore will communicate finding from the AWS-3 and 3500 MHz spectrum auction open consultations, which both aim to provide Canadians with more competition from new wireless carriers.

We’ll have complete coverage of any news from tomorrow’s press event. Stay tuned!

Source Canada

(Thanks Mark & Greg!)

17 Dec 20:03

Indigenous Digital Media

by Rob Shields
isuma.tv/ikcc

www.isuma.tv is an indigenous video network online, established with the assistance of the Canadian Media fund and cable and satellite distributors Bell, Rogers and Telus.  Check out also Scoop.it’s listing of indigenous and Inuit films.

-Rob Shields University of Alberta

18 Dec 01:31

The Future is Open, and It's POWERful

by randall

Are you content with the status quo in technology? I'm not.

Years ago, I became aware of this little known (at the time) project called "Ubuntu". Remember it?

I don't know about you, but once I discovered Ubuntu and became involved I was so excited about the future it proposed that I never looked back.

Aside from Ubuntu's "approachable by everyone" and "free forever" project DNA, one of the things that really attracted me to it was that it had the guts to take on the status quo. I believed (and I still believe) that the status quo needs a good disruption. Complacency and doing things "as they always have been" just plain hurts.

In those days, the status quo was proprietary software and well-meaning but inpenetrable (to the everyday person that just wanted to get things done) free and open source software. I'm happy that we've collectively solved the toughest parts of those problems. Sure, there are still issues to be resolved but as they say, that's mostly detail.

Fast forward to today. Now, we are faced with a hosting (or call it cloud infrastructure if you wish) hardware landscape that is nearly a perfect monopoly and is so tightly locked down that we can't solve the world's big problems.

Spotting an opportunity to create something better and to change the world, a bunch of people rallied together to create

Click to learn more!Click to learn more!

Not surprisingly, Ubuntu joined and became a partner early on. And today, another one of the most famous disruptors has joined: Rackspace. In their words,

"In the world of servers, it’s getting harder and more costly to deliver the generational performance and efficiency gains that we used to take for granted. There are increasing limitations in both the basic materials we use, and the way we design and integrate our systems."

So here we are. Ubuntu, Rackspace, and dozens of others poised once again to disrupt.

It's going to be an interesting and fun ride. 2015 is poised to be the year that the world woke up to the true power of open.

I'm looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. Please join us!