Author: Daryl Chymko

Getting Healthy

While I don’t do huge workouts every day, I’d hardly consider myself an ‘inactive’ person. But I’ve put on a few more pounds than I would have liked in the past years, despite my uncanny ability to “bang out” an epic hike with little to no preparation. However, something has to be done to get my weight back to normal levels and it’s not going to be from monthly hikes. I’ve always been a runner and while I wouldn’t say it is a screaming passion of mine, I enjoy it. But motivation has always been an issue. And while apps are cool for motivation, I think I’m going to try an old-school method first. I’ve decided to take a page from Giles Bowkett’s Calendar and post a physical calendar in a highly visible place (Actually the *first* thing I did was go for a run, then print the calendar).

Basically, the premise of the calendar is that you see it every day and you mark a big red X after you’ve completed your activity. You attempt to do it for x days in a row, and the theory is you won’t miss a day because it means a gap in the physical record posted on the wall (resulting in self-ridicule and nagging from everyone else).

So there you have it, I’m going to give it a try. I’ve got a big red X for October 14th, 2012 and I’m hoping to make it gap-free to December 14th. I’ll follow up with a blog post then.

Calendar Project 2013?

Friends, I need your help. Every holiday season I print up  calendars from photos I’ve taken of my travels.  Last year I sold them to friends and family and gave the money to a Planeterra project that I visited while travelling in Guatemala. In fact many of the photos in the calendar were from that very project.

I was happy that I was able to get about 25 people to commit to this endeavour, but in the end the production (and time) costs left me wondering if it was even worth it. I spent about $400 out of pocket which may have gone to better use if I had just donated it directly to the project without printing anything.

So I’m thinking I needing to revisit my approach. I have a few options
a) Come up with a different product
b) Come up with a different payment scheme
c) Come up with an entirely different approach altogether

I’d appreciate your input on this. For (a), would you still be interested in a photo calendar or is there something else you would find useful? In terms of (b) I had the idea of spreading the donation out over the year ($5 a month for 12 months).

Comment below or email me at dchymko@infometrix.ca

FYI,  the projects I’m looking at this year are Charity Water and a few on Kiva

 

 

Earth Day – Taking real action

So it’s the 41st annual Earth day and people are out rallying and parading. These are all great things, its good to see people in tune with the environment. But what does this mean over the long term? After the parade, are we all going to hop back into our gas-guzzlers and drive back to our giant houses in the subburbs?

You might remember my angry post on Earth Hour 2010. It was a reaction to the whole “turn your light off for an hour” slacktivism that is Earth hour ( grand savings of 0.0114% over the entire year for those who are counting). The most amusing part was the status updates like: “unplugged my laptop, sitting in the dark, happy Earth Hour everyone.” Le sigh. Anyway, I decided that ranting wasn’t doing anything productive and created this pledge. Since then, I’ve been tracking my utility and mileage and think I’ve done pretty well.

Here are my results:

Mileage:
My pledge was to drive 15% less. Comparing 2011 to 2010, I drove 19% less and comparing 2011 to 2008, I drove 29% less. This is a result of biking more and combining errand trips to once or twice a week.
2008 – 20,200K
2009 – 17,600K
2010 – 17,000K
2011 – 14,300K

Power consumption
My pledge was to drop 15%. Comparing 2011 to 2010, I decreased my power usage by 22%. This was done through a few things like reducing electronic items around my home, changing lighting to CFL, and hanging my clothes to dry (plus they last longer).

There are some other areas of my pledge that need work (my addiction to new electonics for one) so I’m going to make that the focus of my effort in upcoming years.

I encourage you and your family to make a pledge on the Earth Day site. Set some goals that you can follow-up on over the course of the year. Track your usage. Post them on the fridge as a reminder that every day is Earth Day.

Ego-code

Need to know why your favourite phone/car/band is better than everyone else’s? Use this handy code:

Path Reactions and Response.

The outrage over this Path  address book upload issue is interesting. It’s a good discussion to have but in my mind there are other privacy issues we should be way more worried about.

But I didn’t write this post to talk about that issue. I found the response from Path to be quite interesting:

We believe that this type of friend finding & matching is important to the industry and that it is important that users clearly understand it, so we proactively rolled out an opt-in for this on our Android client a few weeks ago and are rolling out the opt-in for this in 2.0.6 of our iOS Client, pending App Store approval.

 

First of all they added the opt-out feature to Android *first*. That’s odd, given that their app was iOS-only for the longest time. Their user base also *must* be  larger there. Is the Android team just more on the ball than the iOS? I doubt that, given they haven’t added the notification control that the iOS version has. Maybe the iOS team was busy working on a bigger ‘yet-to-be-released’ feature. Or are Android users more sensitive to privacy? Definitely a sign that Android has become an equal contender to iOS at least in terms of development  Maybe I’m reading way too much into this, but it does raise a lot of questions.

Second is the ‘pending AppStore approval.’  There *has* to be a better way for development shops like Path, especially with small code-base updates and especially for things of this nature.  The developers at Path aren’t going to add in code that sends costly SMS message to Nigerian short codes. This doesn’t *quite* fall under the ‘expedited emergency security hole’ approval process Apple has but there really needs to be a middle ground. A middle ground for companies that produce one of the top 5 social media apps currently in use.

 

 

Do APIs have UX?

What’s the frst thing that comes to mind when you think of UX?

Interface Design? User Stories? Emotions? You can maximize those things through good design and programming but what about the design and programming of the services your app consumes?

What if you built and deployed a fantastic web app that users just loved but the cloud provider you picked started to cut corners and was randomly losing files? Or you built a social media app with push notifications that worked great for people in certain countries but not others? These are both definitely potential UX problems.

So what makes one API better than others?  Three factors stick out the most to me:

Documentation – It has to be clear to the developers what the API can and can’t do. (Good, working, tested) code examples & debugging functionality really help too.

Robustness – If the API goes down all the time, doesn’t work in certain areas, doesn’t use common standards & protocols, doesn’t adhere to any sort of SLA,, this will impact your users in a very negative way.

Clear roadmap – New Feature’s are great and all but old ones should be deprecated well. Facebook was famous in the past for knee-jerk changes that constantly provided developers (read: users) headaches.

So what’s an example of an API that is delivering great UX? I’d say Twilio is one of them and I’ll use Airbnb‘s implimentation as an examle. Airbnb uses Twilio to anonymously connect hosts and guests during the reservation process. Not only does this provide for a great experiences in terms of privacy,but it’s easy, you’re connected faster than dialing it yourself, and the call quality is always excellent.  Every time. That to me us good UX delivered through an API. (See their documentation and status board for additional proof as well)

When developing your next app remember that UX isn’t just limited your software and design. It’s also the APIs, vendors, and services that you work with.

What are some examples of APIs with Good UX? Bad UX?

[Edit:] A good resource on what APIs are out there, who is using them and how is Programmable Web. They also have a good tool for monitoring an API’s availability

Foursquare check-ins from Path

I was really excied to see that Path includes the ability to push checkins to FourSquare. I don’t know about you but I’ve been going through “Social Media burnout” so its nice when they become more integrated.

However, I found one small issue with the Path Foursquare checkins and that is they won’t show up for anyone querying Foursquare via the API. This seems to be due to the fact that Path sends the check-ins without any geo-location data so FourSquare considers them a ‘record keeping’ check-ins rather than ‘full’ ones.

It’s something to consider if you have any sort of app that consumes user checkins (like we have at the co+Lab). I’ve confirmed this behaviour on the Path app on both Android and iOS