January 24

Unsubscribable, that’s what you are …

I now know that all of the Kia dealerships around here share a database, and badly. There are three in the area. My spouse went to one to test drive and pick out a Soul five years ago. A friend went to another to test drive a Soul five years ago, and was treated so badly she bought a Dodge across the street instead. I went to our local Kia to test drive a Soul, and was treated so badly I went back down south to the one my spouse tried a Soul at and bought it there.

Yesterday, I plugged in the address to my GPS and drove 22 miles for an oil change at the original Kia dealership. Fast, friendly service; they did what I wanted, gave a list of “what will need to be dealt with soon but you’re okay for now”. They really reminded me how awesome an experience it is when I need dealer service (otherwise we go down the block to the mechanic we’ve used since the 1990s, even though we now live 22 miles away).

And then I got an email from my local Kia dealership as if they had performed the service. Ugh. I’ve only been to the local dealership the once, because I couldn’t limp the 22 miles to my preferred dealership. Despite all this, and my many requests for them to stop mailing me and calling me, they still think that I’m theirs. Not only that, I can’t unsubscribe from their emails.

Dear Kia and Carfax … fix your marketing engines!

Images below the cut … Continue reading

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November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

Continue reading

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October 23

Confessions of a Convention Junkie

When I met my spouse a few years ago, we had a grand first date, geeking out about things we liked in common, planning our first nerdcation together soon after. Our destination: a technical conference (SIGGRAPH). Neither of us actually worked in the industry, but liked it enough to want to spend time learning more about all the cool math that went into making movies.

I sat in on a talk from WETA (the hoopy froods behind the Lord Of The Rings movies), bought a Mars rover shirt at the SGI booth, went to a Digital Domain party, and generally had a nerdy good time with the folks in charge of the green pixels.

I still go to conventions for fun and learning. 🙂 It’s as expensive as a semester of college (sometimes), but shorter and more fun – and it’s easier to sort out who is interested in what you’re interested in.

This month, I got a double whammy, working one convention, then dropping in on another for helping out with the first. The topic, to my surprise, was in my specialty cloud — Information Development and Process Analysis, and touched a bit on my recent work as a Product Developer. I’m sure the guy running the day would have been surprised I call it ID/PA/PD, but it’s neat to see how my skills transfer to the marketing industry.

Pro tip: Take a multi-port charger with you and you’ll make a ton of new friends … also a few safety pins, some extra socks, and plenty of business cards. I dusted off my freelance cards from 8 years ago and used them to make new friends… I designed them with plenty of room to write on so new friends would remember why we need to talk later.

Looking forward to nerding out as I strike out on my own, finding more conventions to talk about making things work for people better with fellow info geeks. 🙂

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October 5

Re-preciated terms … “Lost my marbles”

The etymology and meanings of phrases in any language continues to fascinate me. Where words and phrases came from, what they used to mean, what they still mean …

I heard an interview on NPR recently where the speakers mentioned our current use of English names and terms such as “horsepower” for engines and “candlepower” for lights. We still “film” or “video” on our smartphones as well, instead of “record” or “capture” … “capture” seems to have attached itself to the idea of motion capture instead.

And some words have taken on additional meanings – a “handle” is still something you grab something by, but it’s also a chosen name for online chat. A “honeypot” is both a place to store bee juice and attract black hat traffic.

But as some words fade out of use in negative ways, such as “retard” (soon, please) and “lost my marbles” … will they come back to mean something completely different?

Some neat new-ish technology popped up in an old reading list of mine the other day: HUGE marbles designed to capture visible light and convert it to electricity. I envision buildings with marble roofs, and ground quakes causing the arrays to shift off line. “Why’d the power go out?” “Welp, we lost our marbles again …”

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October 2

Let me tell you WHY I’m unsubscribing …

I’ve been trying to clear out my inbox lately. I get a lot of emails, mostly by choice, but some emails I don’t want to see any more (and yet some still keep coming ).

It’s gotten a lot easier to get off of email lists these days, as email providers are more strict about blacklisting flagged spammers. A simple unsubscribe is appreciated, but being able to tell someone why I’m unsubscribing can be helpful, too.

There’s a golden opportunity to gather data at that point. Maybe emails are too frequent and we’d appreciate a digest option. Maybe emails are too ad-laden, or we’ve changed jobs, lives, focus.

But most email lists and services don’t seem to care. I canceled audible (never used the credits was an option I took). I canceled Patreon (changing focus, and it let me leave a nice note I hope the artist got). I’d estimate, though, that at least 90% of the email lists (mostly marketing, industry, and home-improvement) simply had an unsubscribe option … without a feedback option.

Sure, I could write an email, but I’m your lazy user. I might not think of it. But if you asked me … you never know what might come out that might help!

Category: Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on Let me tell you WHY I’m unsubscribing …
September 27

Easter Eggs of a bygone era

I’ve been thinking of Easter Eggs I miss lately. Versions of software I’ve worked on where my name pops up on the second or third screen of contributors. A set of doors that would pop open when you closed them in a certain sequence at one place I worked (yes, like the West Wing episode).

But my favorite was in one of the original versions of the Apple Remote for the iPhone. If you hit the key sequence on the remote just right, (okay, fine, if you hit replay) you could put on a movie to play over and over and over again.

I loved it because I could put on a movie to fall asleep to. If I woke up, it’d still be on and I could drift back off. Handy to have before I got a white noise setup.

I kept hoping it’d be expanded, and you could use it to set up a playlist of shows or movies to just run.

Sadly, it’s now gone. I think the fourth or fifth update, someone nuked it. I can sort of understand why, and with the newer AppleTVs running iOS now, it might not have been long for this world, but it’s still something that might be useful. Set up a couple of episodes of this or that, let it run and repeat, especially for home movies. Truly an edge case scenario, but one that was pretty useful on nights when sleep was helped by a soothing replay of an old favorite movie.

Category: Apple, User eXperience | Comments Off on Easter Eggs of a bygone era
September 23

Break Fast. Learn Things.

Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERT What is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.

A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).

My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …

But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.

image of a woman pretending to be a stopsign
When you trick or treat in a neighborhood populated with self-driving cars …
Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Break Fast. Learn Things.
July 8

I love a (dragon) parade …

Dear Backflip: Nice code update! I can run Dragonvale on an older iPhone without a lot of crashing.

However … you need a clear button for the dragon parade. I’d like to be able to kick them all when I’ve maxxed my ring count for the day.

Dragonvale Parade screen shot from the iOS app
I … love a parade.


Edit: They did! Thanks for “righting” this!

Category: fix it already, Free Beta Testers, games, User eXperience | Comments Off on I love a (dragon) parade …
May 22

Lego, Lego, everywhere ….

This came across my LinkedIn feed as a “like” from a colleague a few weeks ago.

As I learn more about how I learn and my kids learn and the world and learning turns into “everyone is a YouTube star” these days, I find little shares like this great. We’re coming up with new ways to learn things, to teach things, and to reach people.

And I’m not so much talking about YouTube and Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook and Minecraft and Project Spark and, and, and … but the underlying Internet. People can reach across the world with new ideas and share things in a way I never had as a kid. Inspired teachers came from “somewhere” (probably other inspired teachers) and if you were lucky you got one or two in your school career.

And even those without Internet are feeling the effects. Memes become tee-shirts and bags and books and television shows.

Knowledge is an infection. Feed the disease. 🙂

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May 5

Information Developer or Content Developer?


Paul Noth's Duck Gods vs Rabbit Gods war
“Okay folks, it’s purple vs green again ….”

Once upon a time, I was a technical writer. My friends were technical writers. My bosses were (usually) technical writers, or, had been, once upon a time.

I was pretty busy honing my trade, so I didn’t give much thought to what we wrote versus, say, what the Education folks wrote. Or the Marketing department put together. Those sell sheets came from somewhere, sure. We’d check for technical accuracy and contribute as SMEs for certification classes and exams, but other than that, our paths rarely crossed.

My boss at the time was quite adamant that Education and Technical Writing should be distinctly separate. I was new, I was learning the industry, and I took her word for it and filed the information away for later. I get it, now, but I didn’t then.

Later on, my colleagues at Citrix started calling us Tech Writers something else — Information Developers. There were many things going on then, so I didn’t give it much notice. After all, our employee records still said Technical Writer. I’ve recently noticed Citrix finally officially fixed that, and they’re all Information Developers now (yay!).

But over a decade on from those first discussions of the term Information Developer, I’m seeing movement towards calling Technical Writers by a new name … Content Developers.

The big BUT is … content isn’t always information and information isn’t always content. And this further on into my career, with exposure to much more than Read Mes and technical dictionaries, I can really see that.

I wonder if my colleagues heading down the Content Developer path aren’t headed in the wrong direction? Focusing less on the information aspect of writing?

From working with them, I know they aren’t actually working less with information. Many of them still wrangle direct, specific, technical information that users and administrators and software developers need. They aren’t focusing any less than Information Developers on architecting information properly, or organizing it in a way that makes sense for users. And we’re all doubling down on “touch once” and content management systems, and producing presentation-independent documentation.

But in branding with “Content Developer” rather than “Information Developer”, I think they’re treading on a fuzzier path. Maybe it’s my perception alone that “information” is something you use, and “content” is closer to entertainment and lighter on information. A more casual way of communicating.

And, from my recent reading, the term Content Developer is being used more and more heavily in marketing by copywriters to expand their explanations of what they do in an expanding environment of available work. So I’m not saying the term Content Developer is a bad thing, just that someone else got there first.

Maybe I’m just worried that Content Developer vs Information Developer devalues what Technical Writers do. Especially with the whole Epic lawsuit going on.

Maybe it’s just ducks vs rabbits … and there shouldn’t even be a ‘war’.

Category: Data Architecture, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Information Developer or Content Developer?