Alan Turing

Protrait of Alan Turing

This week was the anniversary of Alan Turing’s death. For those who don’t know who he is, he was a British computer scientist, considered the father of computer science for defining the basis of how computers work today.

He not only defined and formalized concepts like algorithms and computation but he was also an amazing cryptographer and helped decode many German messages during World War II.

He was 41 when he died. Which is a damn shame because of all the brilliance and potential he showed.

Let’s stop being disingenuous though, he committed suicide: he was prosecuted and convicted for homosexual acts and as an alternative to prison he received a treatment called chemical castration. 2 years after his conviction he was found dead from cyanide poisoning.

So here we had a genius on the rise with more than half his life still ahead of him and due to prejudice-as-policy we (humanity) lost all that potential. To put it mildly, that sucks.

So I implore you, if you ever have a thought that has even a bit of prejudice in it: shut up. You’re creating a worse future.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner in the cover of Vanity Fair Magazine

Just recently we went through a social media frenzy on the news about Caitlyn Jenner: the new identity adopted by Bruce Jenner after going through a gender transition. Of course the negativity didn’t take too long to come up.

The direct attacks were pretty bad but what really made me sad were the slight discriminatory comments from people that gain nothing from them.

racist.jpg

To them I just have one thing to say: I really hope you never find yourselves in a situation where you don’t feel welcome. 1

When the human mind is forced into a defensive state it stops allocating cycles to creative endeavours and dedicates the energy instead to the fight-or-flight reactions.

People think a joke or a slight comment doesn’t hurt anybody but they don’t realize that these types of comments perpetuate the discrimination by making it a normal thing. It also makes members of these discriminated groups to focus their energies on gaining equality instead of creating a better world for everybody.

Or worse, like Turing, give up.

Please stop, it is not worth it.


Learn from these kids:


  1. Not only this image is transphobic but also racist. Sad part is some people that use it just don’t realize.


Givin' a crap

When building something for someone else, do you try to build the best thing ever or do you just give them the minimum necessary to say you built it?

As product people we know projects have 3 strings pulling in different directions: cost, quality and time. And inevitably we need to choose one over the other to find a balance, that’s just how things work.

What should never happen is not giving a crap about your product. Saying something like “I have no opinion on how this should work” is a direct path to the land of bad products.

It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and sometimes you will make bad decisions. But a decision is necessary, a design is necessary to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Not having an opinion means you didn’t design a thing, you were presented a small bucket of play-doh and you just stood there and watched it dry.


Have you tried solving your own problems?

In a conversation with my wife one morning we ended talking about how irritating it is when people complain about a situation but don’t do anything about it (other than complain).

And before we go further, let’s be clear: this wasn’t about personal issues or some unique rocket surgery problem; We were talking about technical problems with known solutions just a Google DuckDuckGo search away.

In this era of having the answer to your question at your fingertips it seems that some people have learnt the wrong lesson: laziness is ok.

That attitude is so foreign to me, probably because I’m on one of the last generations than actually had to use an encyclopedia to do research.

Search, read, learn and stop complaining! Complaining won’t get you closer to a solution.

Whenever I find someone that constantly complains about something they don’t understand but haven’t put any effort into it, I just want to ask them Have you tried solving your own problems?



Trying on an Apple WATCH

Last night at midnight I pre-ordered one: 38mm sport version in space gray with the default black band.

I also setup an appointment at the Apple store to try them on after work, these are the ones I tried:

  • 38mm sport with white band
  • 42mm stainless steel with the milanese loop band
  • 42mm stainless steel with the black leather loop band
  • 42mm stainless steel with the link bracelete

I also looked at the leather modern buckle and classic buckle, but didn’t try them on.

My very first impression when I looked at them behind a glass: they are smaller that I expected. My next impression when I tried them on: they are lighter than I expected.

The aluminium model

The combination of the aluminium and the rubber band doesn’t feel cheap at all, the rubber is very flexible but not grippy. This makes the whole combination almost disappear and you stop feeling it on your wrist.

Until you get the taps: it’s as if an invisible someone poked you in the wrist with their figner, it’s a weird sensation.

I didn’t try a 42mm aluminium which I regret because I can’t compare the difference in weight.

The stainless steel model

That not-being-there-at-all sensation disappeared completely with this model. It feels heavier in the wrist and you definitely notice it.

I have not used a watch in a long time but my expectation for all the models was how this one felt. This model feels heftier than the aluminum one and if the band is loose enough you can feel it move around the wrist, the link bracelet felt like that but the other ones can be adjusted to prevent this.

The milanese loop has a very strong magnet and it took me a couple of tries to separate it to adjust it around my wrist which means that once you adjust it, it won’t go anywhere.

Milanese + Hair

The leather loop band felt very safe too with a similarly strong magnet. This band was also my candidate to buy as a more formal option, but to my dismay it’s not available in 38mm.

The try on experience is about the hardware

I got to the store earlier than expected but they had free spots available so I didn’t have to wait. I’m not sure what to make of that, maybe people don’t know that service is available.

The employee unlocks a hidden drawer with their iPod and takes out the model you want to try. When I saw that, I could hear Tim Cook in my mind saying “only Apple would think of something like that.”

The watches were in a video loop showing the main features but you couldn’t really interact with the device. From time to time the watches would make a sound or generate a tap on your wrist.

My guess is that Apple wants you to focus on the device and the bands. And it worked, I played a while with the buttons and the digital crown but then the entire focus was on the weight and the bands.

The digital crown didn’t provide any resistance at all, and trying to spin it with two fingers (pinching it with the thumb and index) felt a bit cumbersome, any smaller and it would be impossible.

The software

During the try on experience, the Apple employee kept reminding me that I could check out the software on the devices available in another part of the store. Almost as an afterthought I went to check them out expecting mostly to check out how apps work and get some ideas for mine.

But using the device with the OS turned on made a big difference, every scroll with the digital crown generates haptic feedback when you reach the end of a list. This gives the digital crown a whole new dimension that I didn’t get during the try on.


All in all, the experience was very nice. The Apple employees were friendly and helpful, they even brought us a water bottle.

The devices all felt solid and well built, the sport model gave me the same impression that I got when I picked up an iPhone 5 for the first time: this should not be this light.

I bought the 38mm aluminum version for economic reasons and this experience confirmed I chose the right one (even if for the wrong reason).

I’m sure the aluminum version will be a favorite between people that currenlty don’t wear watches. The stainless versions felt like an actual watch in your wrist so it will be a matter of preference to watch connoisseurs.

I was a bit worried about the difference in sizes when it comes to app development but after looking at them, I don’t think it will make that much of a difference.

I just hope Apple sells lots of them so we get a big marketplace.


White whales

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

– Mahatma Gandhi

In the book “Delivering Happiness” Tony Hsieh opens with a story of his first childhood enterprise as a worm farmer and imagines how if Gandhi had stopped by his house, he would have told him that quote after hearing his idea.

When his worm farm inevitably failed he imagined Thomas Edison dropping by and telling him his perspective on failure:

I’ve failed my way to success.

He then continues with this phrase that is what caught my attention:

He [Edison] was probably too busy working on other stuff though, because like Gandhi, he never did stop by my house. Maybe they were too busy hanging out with each other.

I just love his attitude (which probably helped him become a successful entrepreneur): you just don’t stop doing your thing just because others aren’t paying attention.

This reminded me immediately of a recent episode of Analog(ue) 1 in which Myke and Casey discussed getting people they admire to pay attention to them as “catching their white whales”2.

Casey (and Myke agreed) highlighted another very important attitude to have, in his words:

I haven’t really come up with who my next white whale is. Because I feel it’s kind of healthy to have someone that you aspire to impress.

Contrary to actual whale hunting, we don’t have harpoons to force people to pay attention3. We just have to keep on doing our thing like the book implied, until our white whales notice and come willingly.

I really don’t have much to add on this subject, but I wanted to point out these warnings to keep in mind when using white whales as a motivation:

  1. You may never gain the attention of your white whale.
    You could end up feeling frustrated and give up on doing what you do.

  2. You want your white whale to come to you.
    Do something because you believe in it, don’t do it just to impress someone. You may end up in a place you never planned to be in4.

  3. You may gain some unwanted attention
    There will be people that won’t receive your thing the way you want it. This is the Internet after all.

    There’s not much to do about it but heed Tony Hsieh: keep on doing what you do because at the end of the day this should be a virtuous cycle, your work will be what brings that person to your sphere of influence. Hopefully allowing you to gain the attention of bigger whales while ignoring the remoras and sharks.

The perils of hunting whales on the modern seas.


  1. The term comes from the novel “Moby-dick; or the Whale” where captain Ahab obsessed on catching the white whale that had severed his leg.

  2. It’s actually frowned upon.

  3. Like selling whale bait instead of high end fishing vessels.


QuickShopper

I’ve been working on this app for a while and it’s close to be ready for version 1.

Please subscribe and I will let you know when it launches.

QuickShopper.ca


Lena Reinhard – “A Talk About Nothing”

Great talk on privilege in the tech industry and how we - the privileged - can do better by first shutting up to listen and then doing something to help.

There is so much potential for software to make a difference in being inclusive if we applied this on ourselves.

As people working on software empathy is our responsibility, and it’s a skill that we can practice every day.

Click the title and listen to the entire talk, it’s worth it.


Story time:

When I built fictionesque, one of the “features” of the user’s profile was a tiny flag of their country. The intention was to allow users to find people close to them and be able to come together and become a community inside the community.

Soon after adding the feature, a person asked me to remove her account from the site because she had come from a different community fleeing the harassment of a guy that lived in her same country. She had switched communities and identities, but my feature had made her visible again.

I immediately apologized and made it so the information could be hidden.


One way to shield yourself from these errors is by surrounding yourself with people from different backgrounds and giving a voice to those not represented. Not doing so would be a mistake:

Being in tech and not caring about tech culture is a luxury, only affordable to those with enough privilege to ignore it & too little empathy to care.

This attitude will prevent software that calls women “you’re the guy” , but more importantly will give us a society where everyone feels welcome.


On needing help

Justin Jackson, as always, with a great article.

You’ve heard of Walt Disney, the affable showman who founded The Walt Disney Company. He’s an American icon with a great legacy.

You may not have heard of his older brother, Roy.

I didn’t know about him, what a great story…

Roy was the linchpin in the Walt Disney Company’s success

Each brother had a forte and relied on the other for the rest. As Justin says, working alone has its benefits but also its devils:

Isolation removes distractions, allowing us to focus on bringing ideas to life.

But when we lone wolves hit a speed bump, many of us stop creating. It’s hard to show up every day, by yourself. When there’s no one to cheer you on, and no one to be accountable to, it’s easier to just give up.


While working on QuickShopper I encountered two or three of those speed bumps.

The first one was actually close to my self-imposed shipping date , the frustration of not making the deadline due to technical problems, plus a well-timed flu hit me really hard and set me back a month (it wasn’t until the end of January that I resumed work on the app).

Other speed bumps in the road were not as serious and only set me back an evening.

The interesting part though? The biggest difference between these speed bumps wasn’t how hard the problem would be to solve, it was my attitude.

The first time I was so angry I didn’t want to talk about it. The others, I had a different attitude that allowed me to talk about it with my wife and friends.

This talking about it helps you let off steam and re-focus on how to move forward.


Great recommendations at the end of the article, including one that I’ve wanted to do for a while:

Start a mastermind. Reach out 2-3 of your peers and ask if they want to start meeting every week on a Google Hangout. Let each person talk about what they accomplished last week, what they want to do this week, and what they’re blocked on.


Thoughts on Apple's “Spring Forward” event

When I, like many other nerds, sat down to watch Apple’s “Spring Forward” event my main interest was the launch date of the Apple Watch to schedule the launch of the app I’m working on .

But something Tim Cook said in the first minutes got me thinking…

Since Steve Jobs passed more than 3 years ago one of the biggest discussions has been how his absense would change Apple – protrayed mostly with the now chichéd phrase “This wouldn’t have happened if Steve was still alive”.

Around that time Tim Cook promised that Apple would’t change:

We are going to continue to make the best products in the world that delight our customers and make our employees incredibly proud of what they do.

But change has been happening. Apple directly and through its CEO has become more open in their intentions and values. The changes have also been felt in how Apple is organized and how the products are built.

And yet, in a way, Tim Cook has kept his word.

The way these products are created has changed, the responsibility the company takes over the impact in the lives of everyone involved in their production has changed, but what hasn’t changed is the delight they produce on the customer1.

One of the very first things Tim Cook said reinforced this peception that Apple has changed and is a lot different from Steve Job’s Apple…

The event opened with a video of the inauguration of an Apple retail store in China but what strike me most was Tim Cook’s words while showing the store full of customers:

Of course with a great team, and this is the way we love to see our stores.

Tim’s words immediatly reminded me of Steve Job’s words when he presented a new Apple store during the first iPad event in 2010 :

This is a shot of it before it opened.

It’ll never look this good again.

Even the reaction of the audience is evocative of the difference: cheers for Tim Cook while Steve got some chuckles including an almost mischievious laughter.

Steve Job’s Apple was all about the products and the experience2. Tim’s Apple is also about that but without overlooking the people that make Apple successful.


Spring Forward

My perception of the rest of the event was influenced by this difference. Some of the products presented reinforced this preception more than others, here are my thoughts:

ResearchKit

How more “about the people” can you get? The presentation was kind of boring but if this new technology gets widespread adoption it will make a big difference in the future on what we consider curable and how early we can diagnose diseases.

I’ve never participated in any medical research but I (kinda) know how statistics work and providing researchers access to larger data sources is good3, making it open source was a great decision.

I asked on twitter if the data would be anonimized and haven’t found the answer, but Apple has said the patients’ data is kept private.

The new MacBook

Looks nice (not in gold thought), but what I liked more is that technology making it into the MacBook Pro .

The new trackpad and keyboard, and the new batteries that fill every nook and cranny are the most interesting. I’m not so sure about the single USB-C port (specially considering the price of the adapter to get HDMI ).

The new trackpad made it into the 13 inch MacBook Pro but not the new keyboard; and the 15 inch didn’t see any updates. I’m not sure what’s happening there but I hope it means that they are planning more far-reaching changes to the big one.

I wouldn’t be surprised that the next refresh will be a slight redesign to include the new keyboard technology too.

Apple Watch

Apple is billing the watch as the most personal device they have created and this presentation stayed on point.

After a short introduction, Tim Cook showed a slide that made me think of another famous Apple presentation .

Time keeping, relations, fitness

With this slide Apple positioned the watch as 3 things:

The most advanced timepiece ever created, its a revolutionary new way to connect to others, and it’s a comprehensive health and fitness companion.

This felt to me like a tribute and a way of saying “we’ve changed, but we don’t forget wehre we come from”, it could also just be Apple using a formula that has worked before, or just the rule of threes being applied . In any case the slide and the message felt familiar if not as impactful as the one delivered by Steve Jobs.

And just like Steve Jobs presentation, apps did not make it into the 3 talking points but I can bet that apps is what will make the watch have staying power.

Time keeping

The first point was about how accurate it is, but that quickly gave way to the actual message: you can customize the watchface to your liking. You can make it as simple as you want or have it show you more information.

One complaint I’ve heard a lot is how Apple didn’t allow developers to create watchfaces; and considering how this customization is part of the message it’s hard to believe they didn’t think to allow them.

One possible explanation is that this category (custom watchfaces) would get overpopulated very quickly with subpar options, basically becoming the fart app of the apple watch. It could also be that this is very valuable screen real estate and Apple doesn’t give that away easily.

Communications device

Continuing with the most-personal-device-ever message, Tim Cook showed how you can receive and send messages and emails, talk on the phone Dick Tracy style , and even send drawings, taps and heart beats.

The demo shown later would also reveal how third party messaging applications can also participate.

Health & fitness tracker

The last prong of the message was all about how the watch will track your activity and gently motivate you to do more week after week.

Apple invited Christy Turlington Burns to the stage to share her experience running a half marathon using the watch. The main message was “the Apple watch is motivation”.

During this section, a rather snarky comment on went by on twitter mentioning how she didn’t look like a healthy person. Not only was that comment uncalled for4, but also I don’t think Apple’s intention was to show the most fit person continuing to be fit with the watch. Their intention was about showing how a busy person can benefit from using the watch’s fitness features to become even healthier and stay motivated.

Just the beginning

Even though time keeping, communications, and fitness were the main selling points, Apple knows from experience that the real power will come from the third party apps. And for that reason they showed some apps like facebook, instagram, chat apps, trip information, weather, hotels and even an Uber app to book a ride.

When the iPhone came out nobody knew all the things it would enable. Same thing happens with the Apple watch: we don’t know what will be possible.

For now we’ll have iPhone apps providing simplified interfaces for the phone, but as our knowledge of what is technically possible and what is socially allowed5 starts to form we’ll see more and more amazing applications.


  1. You could say this has changed too if we are to believe the 99% customer “sat” that Tim Cook boasted about. But that’s just more of what Apple has always been known for.

  2. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Steve Jobs didn’t care about the people but for some reason he didn’t focus his message on that. Steve Job’s preferred to “put a ding in the universe” while Tim is definitely focused on empowering and enhancing the lives of people, legacy be damned.

  3. Some have said that the kind of people that buy iPhones are not representative group, but I’m not sure if wealth matters when talking about desease research (again, I know very little about desease research or statistics). Illnesses are like the honey badger .

  4. Jackass.

  5. Let’s agree right now that dick tracy conversations should be limited to one short message and not for dictating a company wide memo.