Category Archives: Reviews

Ownership

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 10.32.56 AM

I’m learning Python and needed a decent IDE to get my work done – I’m so spoiled! I installed PyCharm and have found it sufficient. Today, after several days of using it, I finally noticed that the tip of the day is blank! This is fine, I unchecked the box, but what I wanted to point out was the missed opportunity: the tip of the day is your chance to educate the user on helpful functionality, to increase product retention through brand loyalty. And what is done with this opportunity?

Tips not found. Make sure you installed PyCharm Community Edition correctly.

Nope I won’t. If you can’t take ownership of this problem (first take: don’t show the tip by default if it isn’t working) at least in the tone of the presentation, then I know enough able you to move forward.  Disable the feature and wait for the functionality to be proven in the future.  This is a very matter-of-fact approach that could be softened by different messaging:

Woah.  I can’t find any tips!  Click _here_ if you have some time to help diagnose what happened with your install.  In the meantime we’ve disabled this feature, you can get to it again from the Help menu.

See, I already want to buy whatever software would give me this kind of lip service!

How Geography Dictates Fates

I just watched a documentary on Netflix that was based on Jared Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and I’ve been moved. Jared lays out the major factors for why some societies are wealthy and others are in poverty, and they all boil down to one thing: geography. It’s not this simple, but the idea is that temperate climates, combined with high-yield crops like wheat which allow for farm animal domestication, allow people to spend time developing new technologies to fulfill and build wealth. Where these things have not existed, we find poverty and the conquered.

Well worth my time to watch, and I’ve added the book to my list to learn more. It’s quite sad, but also encouraging.

Using Game Theory for Positive Outcomes

Game theory investigates the motives and dilemmas of social interactions relative to selfishness and cooperation. As we understand game theory we can increase our chances of finding satisfying resolutions by adopting new strategies or even by just having a clearer view of social dilemmas and their underlying causes. In his book on the subject, Rock Paper Scissors, Len Fisher gives the following ten tips:

  1. Keep the same strategy if you’re winning, shift strategies if you lose.
  2. Bring a third player in. They can be a known negotiator or a known cheater – either way it helps.
  3. Set up reciprocity. Knowing that you’ll deal with people after a conflict can increase the incentive to cooperate.
  4. Limit future options or provide incentives. This shows that you are committed to the best possible outcomes.
  5. Offer trust. It’s simple, but it can be effective.
  6. Create a situation from which neither party can escape from without loss.
  7. Use side-payments to maintain cooperation.
  8. Know the seven deadly dilemmas and avoid the worst outcomes:
    1. The Prisoner’s Dilemma – all must cooperate or all fail.
    2. The Tragedy of the Commons (a series of Prisoner’s Dilemmas) –self-interest prevents cooperation despite impending long-term failure.
    3. The Free Rider problem – people taking advantage of a community resource without contributing to it.
    4. Chicken/Brinkmanship – each side tries to push the other as close to the edge as they can, with each hoping that the other will back down first.
    5. The Volunteer’s Dilemma – someone must make a sacrifice on behalf of the group, but if no one does, then everyone loses out.
    6. The Battle of the Sexes – two people have different preferences, but each would rather share the other’s company than pursue their own preference alone.
    7. Stag Hunt – cooperation between members of a group gives them a good chance of success in a risky, high-return venture, but an individual can win a guaranteed but lower reward by breaking the cooperation and going it alone.
  9. Work to create transparent processes that are inherently fair.
  10. Favor smaller groups, it’s easier to foster trust and cooperation

Redesigning the Weather

Weather.com has, at least in my mind, always been the go-to place for weather forecasts. I don’t know why I made the association… oh wait! It’s because its probably one of the best domain names on the Internet.  Nice job.  Anyway, my only complaint has been that there is so much clutter in between me typing in my ZIP code and getting the actual forecast.  Wait no longer, the site had a redesign this last week!

Weather.com Redesigned

Weather.com did an excellent job branding the redesign as an overwhelming improvement, stating that the changes were based on the following customer feedback:

  • the site is too cluttered
  • I can’t find what I’m looking for
  • The site is too slow
  • The site is too hard to navigate

You’ll probably see that same kind of feedback on a lot of ad-supported sites!  In the redesign, Weather.com added new features like saved locations, weather apps and user contributed pictures and video, as well as a large slide show that highlights top stories and regional coverage.  The redesign added a more comfortable layout, better top-level navigation and menus and did an excellent job of blurring site content with ads – check the right column.

Overall, I give it a B+ and a better commendation of continuing to use the site.

PayPal – Page Not Found

PayPal - Page Not Found

I think this is a clever way of presenting the user with an explaination about why a page can’t be loaded – well it’s better than a logout or a 404 anyway.

It would be even better if the link I just clicked on from the last page would take me where I am supposed to go, but I guess that concept is outdated.

Avoiding the Important

I’m reading the 4-hour Workweek right now, and one of the principles author Timothy Ferriss repeats over and over is to remind yourself to not invent things to do just to avoid doing the important things. Taking that into mind, yesterday I filled out a sticky note of things that I wanted to do today, and stuck it squarely in the center of my monitor, vowing to focus on the most important things. It’s still there, and I’m actually moving my windows around the note, trying to read my email first anyway. Even now, I’m typing this quick post around the sticky note. Clearly, I have a problem with avoiding the important. More to come.

Food, Inc

Every six months or so, a movie comes out that has the capacity to actually change me. I have to admit that I have scoffed the recent push for organic foods a few times, but I won’t anymore. In fact I may even buy some, because I appreciate what they are trying to do and I want to cast my vote at the checkout scanner for the foods that are produced responsibly and sustainably.

Anyway, enough of the rhetoric. No matter what foods you like, you should see this movie, gather some information and then make a decision about your life and your food, because it does matter.

The Dip, by Seth Godin

In an appreciably small book, Seth Godin focus in on the period in life when increased effort yields the same or worse results. Convention wisdom teaches that this is the time to “stick it out” and that quitters never win. But Godin counters with this insight, “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

The Dip is a quick exploration of how we get into this dip and when we should stick it out and when we never should have been there. The key is knowing beforehand if it will be worth all the effort, adds Godin, “you should outline your quitting strategy before the discomfort sets in.”
Do you have the guts to quit so that you can succeed at the right thing? Do you really believe that you can be really successful at the right thing, not just average at something?

Interesting stuff. Read it for a quick insight into the things that you may be failing at because you won’t quit.