The social networking crackdown in Turkey proceeds, as the nation has moved to piece secondary passage access to correspondences administrations like Twitter through Google DNS. Youtube, an alternate administration offered by the worldwide inquiry goliath, could be next in the wake of declining to uproot features asserting government debasement.
Head administrator Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration called the boycott a “preventive measure” after the administration had been utilized by residents to spread assertions of debasement inside the legislature. “Twitter has been utilized as an intends to complete deliberate character executions by flowing wrongfully procured recordings, fake and created records of wiretapping,” the administration said in an articulation.
After Twitter clients ended up unable to gain access to Twitter starting Thursday, numerous turned to Google’s DNS benefit as an approach to bypass the boycott. By writing in Google’s DNS addresses (184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11) into their program, they were ready to keep utilizing Twitter. That demonstrated just a makeshift result, in any case, as the legislature has uprooted access to that administration also.
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Arrested in Northern Mexico Early Saturday
Mexican authorities captured Sinaloa drug boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who has not appeared in video or photos since he escaped from prison in 2001.
MEXICO CITY—Mexican Navy marines captured Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s most powerful drug lord, in a predawn raid Saturday on a modest condominium in the western resort of Mazatlan, officials said.
The capture likely ends the legendary career of the farmer who rose from poverty in the mountains of the state of Sinaloa and built an empire of cocaine and marijuana that made him a billionaire and caused much of the violence that has killed tens of thousands of Mexicans in the last decade.
The arrest of the capo, often described as today’s equivalent of the late 1980s Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, marks a victory for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and for his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. The PRI ruled Mexico for seven decades until it lost power in 2000, returning with Mr. Peña Nieto in 2012 elections.
“It’s a major coup for the Peña Nieto administration and its allies,” said George Grayson, an expert on Mexico and the drug trade at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder hailed the capture as a “landmark achievement.”
Mr. Guzmán, believed to be 56 years old, was captured once before in 1993, but became a legend among drug traffickers by escaping, hidden in a laundry cart, from a maximum-security prison in Mexico in 2001.
He had been on the run ever since, a living symbol of the inability of the Mexican state to corral its powerful drug gangs or their corrupting influence on the country’s law-enforcement institutions. Most Mexicans believe the drug lord bribed his way out of jail.
It seems unlikely that the arrest will ease the violence. In the past, the capture or death of cartel bosses has often led to a short-term spike in violence as either a fight over succession breaks out within the cartel or other cartels try to take over turf from the deceased capo.
Cartels such as the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, which have been weakened in recent years by government strikes, could fight over the drug routes and regions left on the table by Mr. Guzmán, said Raul Benitez, an expert on security at National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“There will be a war to control his territories,” said Mr. Benitez.
Mr. Guzmán arrived on a government airplane to Mexico City’s airport, where a waiting helicopter took him to prison. Two marines in camouflage uniforms firmly grasped the captured drug lord, one of them pushing his head down with his hand.
In addition to one of Mr. Guzmán’s alleged accomplices, authorities confiscated 133 weapons, as well as two grenade launchers and a rocket launcher.
The capture was the final scene in a month-long drama that began when intelligence agents discovered one of Mr. Guzmán’s hide-outs, a house with reinforced steel doors, in Culiacán, Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam told a news conference.
Mexican military held Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Saturday. European Pressphoto Agency
The house had underground tunnels that connected it to seven other nearby houses and was also linked to the city’s drainage system, which offered the drug lord an easy means of escape.
Mexican authorities could have captured Mr. Guzmán in previous days, but waited to ensure no civilians might be caught in a potential crossfire, Mr. Murillo Karam said. “It was an impeccable operation achieved by navy personnel,” he said.
U.S. intelligence played a role in the operation, but U.S. officials described this as very much a Mexican operation.
“It was a Mexican operation in Mexican territory,” said a top-ranking U.S. official. “We played a supporting role.”
Mr. Guzmán will likely be replaced by his close associate Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, according to Mr. Grayson, the Mexico expert. He said it was unlikely the cartel would be torn apart by infighting.
“There was never a hint of hostility between El Mayo and El Chapo,” he said. “They worked together deftly.”
Mr. Guzmán’s power to corrupt security forces is the stuff of legend in U.S. and Mexican government circles. Four or five times, Mexican security forces arrived a day late to where Mr. Guzmán had just been. “There were more sightings of El Chapo than there were of Elvis,” said Mr. Grayson.
Many ordinary Mexicans had trouble believing the news.
“They finally got him? It would be good for the country, but I kind of doubt it. And if they have got him, they’ll let him go again. He’s untouchable,” said Jose Carcaño, a 35-year-old office worker.
Others said they were sure the peaceful arrest was the product of a secret deal between the drug lord and the Mexican government.
“These types of things are often arranged,” said Carlos Velasco, 53 years old, a small-business man in Mexico City.
Analysts said the capture should boost confidence among Mexicans and foreign governments in the Mexican government and in particular the PRI, which was widely seen as responsible for allowing drug gangs to become so entrenched in Mexican society during the party’s long rule from 1929 to 2000.
Many Mexicans worried that Mr. Peña Nieto’s administration would strike a bargain with drug lords to reduce violence in exchange for letting them ferry their illicit products.
“This eliminates any suspicion that Peña Nieto was going to negotiate with the cartels, and shows he is serious about fighting drug trafficking,” said Mr. Benitez.
Mr. Guzmán’s capture was also a triumph for Mexico’s navy. Far smaller than the army, the navy is seen by Washington as more efficient and trustworthy. It has played a role in the capture or death of several top drug lords.
For many in Mexico, Mr. Guzmán is the most daring and intelligent of the drug-gang leaders. His cartel, while brutal, often avoided kidnapping and extortion carried out by other gangs, crimes that angered many ordinary Mexicans. The effect was that Mexico’s army focused much of its attention on arresting leaders of other cartels, such as the bloodthirsty Zetas.
One of four brothers, Mr. Guzmán was born in poverty in a Sinaloa mountain hamlet in the county of Badiraguato, which has the dubious distinction of being the birthplace of most of Mexico’s famous drug lords. Badiraguato’s location has a lot to do with it: It is the gateway to Mexico’s “golden triangle,” a remote, mountainous intersection of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua states where opium and marijuana have been grown for generations.
As a young man, Mr. Guzmán rose through the ranks to become a top lieutenant for Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, another Badiraguato native and former police officer who had become Mexico’s top drug lord. Known as El Padrino, or the Godfather, Mr. Félix Gallardo cobbled together a super-cartel dominated by fellow Sinaloans called “The Federation.”
But the relative unity imposed by Mr. Félix Gallardo collapsed after his arrest in 1989. His empire, in particular the border crossings that were useful smuggling points, was divided up among his lieutenants. Mr. Guzmán and his close friend Héctor “El Guero” Palma got the border crossing at Mexicali, about 70 miles from Tijuana.
Mr. Guzmán began building an empire of his own. He pioneered the use of underground tunnels across the U.S.-Mexico border to ferry drugs. One such tunnel near San Diego had electricity, air vents and rails to transport the drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Mr. Guzmán operated an assembly line, packing cocaine into chili pepper cans under the brand La Comadre, exporting the drugs to the U.S. by rail, his former top accountant, Miguel Angel Segoviano, testified in 1996 at the trial of one of Mr. Guzmán’s associates. In return for the drugs, Mr. Guzmán imported into Mexico millions of dollars packed into suitcases flown into the Mexico City airport, where bribed federal officials made sure there were no inspections.
Part Al Capone and part Jesse James, Mr. Guzmán became a folk hero, feted on YouTube videos and by musicians who penned ballads, known as corridos, in his honor. He is known throughout Mexico simply as “El Chapo,” Mexican slang for a short and stocky man.
Adding to his mystique, “El Chapo” survived several assassination attempts by rival gangs, including a 1993 attack that killed a Roman Catholic cardinal.
—Laurence Iliff and Amy Guthrie in Mexico City contributed to this article.
Security firm IOActive issued a surprise advisory Tuesday urging Belkin WeMo customers to halt use of their smart home products, thanks to its discovery of several vulnerabilities hackers could use to infiltrate home networks and connected home appliances, including thermostats, lights and other devices.
Update Feb 19, 2014 10:00AM PST: According to a ZDNet report, Belkin issued a statement late Tuesday indicating that the company had been in touch with IOActive before the advisory went out and patched five security holes.
ReadWrite reached out to Belkin via email, and the company said it has already addressed security flaws in its WeMo API server, WeMo firmware and WeMo apps, and that products with the recent firmware release (version 3949) are not vulnerable to malicious firmware attacks, including remote control or unauthorized monitoring of WeMo devices.
The company provided the following information:
Belkin has corrected the list of five potential vulnerabilities affecting the WeMo line of home automation solutions that was published in a CERT advisory on February 18. Belkin was in contact with the security researchers prior to the publication of the advisory, and, as of February 18, had already issued fixes for each of the noted potential vulnerabilities via in-app notifications and updates. Users with the most recent firmware release (version 3949) are not at risk for malicious firmware attacks or remote control or monitoring of WeMo devices from unauthorized devices as described in the report. Belkin urges such users to download the latest app from the App Store (version 1.4.2) or Google Play Store (version 1.1.2) and then upgrade the firmware version through the app.Specific fixes Belkin has issued include:
1) An update to the WeMo API server on November 5, 2013 that prevents an XML injection attack from gaining access to other WeMo devices.
2) An update to the WeMo firmware, published on January 24, 2014, that adds SSL encryption and validation to the WeMo firmware distribution feed, eliminates storage of the signing key on the device, and password protects the serial port interface to prevent a malicious firmware attack
3) An update to the WeMo app for both iOS (published on January 24, 2014) and Android (published on February 10, 2014) that contains the most recent firmware update
The post will be updated if more information becomes available.
It’s the HTML select element. The invention of select dates back to 1995 with the introduction of the HTML 2.0 specification. So most of us have never experienced designing for web without select as an option. But it can be a really, really frustrating component to let into your designs. Let me tell you why.
Good things first
By using the select element it’s a no-brainer to create a list of selectable options. It’s easy and it’s cheap. It’s supported by all new and old browsers in use, and it comes with a lot of nice features, such as grouping options, keyboard navigation, single and multi select and reliable rendering across platforms without me having to put on my thinking hat. It just works!
So why not just use it?
At Tradeshift we’ve been working a few months on some soon-to-be-released updates for our user interface. Some of our core features include creation of invoices, quotes and purchase orders. It’s business documents with substantial amounts of data. Most often a human is involved in creating these business documents. Luckily, this human user has access to a lot of already existing data from various sources, which potentially makes document creation faster. All this data is predominantly represented as lists that the UI must enable the user to select from – efficiently and effectively – no matter the device.
Presenting option lists to users is most easily done by using checkboxes, radio buttons and by using select. However, some limitations in these components made the design team hit a wall for a number of reasons. Here’s an excerpt from a longer list of drawbacks of using select. The drawbacks would to some extent also apply to radio buttons and checkboxes:
The number of selectable options we have is often counted in hundreds which makes the standard select element hard to navigate.
Example: When specifying the unit type on an invoice line, the complete list contains hundreds of possible units. It’s not just hours, meters, liters, kilos, pounds and pieces – but also crazy units such as hogshead, syphon, ‘theoretical ton’ and ‘super bulk bag’. Tradeshift deals with global trade and compliance and we must be able to provide all these options. Standard option selectors would turn into haystacks.
A more common example is country selectors. I often find myself struggling to select United States in most selectors, no matter how smart the sorting of options has been done. For ‘popularity reasons’ United States is often found at the top of country list. Other times Afghanistan tops the list due to alphabetical sorting. Sometimes United States is far down the list, just after United Arab Emirates. Sigh! In addition to this, keyboard search is not available on most mobile devices. This forces the user to flick through the options manually. Searching is slightly better on desktop though, but it’s still limited to searching from the first letter onwards, so typing Emirates on your keyboard is not going to give you United Arab Emirates. You get it… and we’ve not even started talking synonyms yet.
The user often has to modify the options in the lists provided.
Example: We provide a set of default taxes that the user can apply to each invoice line item. Often, however, legislation and taxes change and we must provide the flexibility for the user to add and change the default options. We don’t want the user to go to the engine room (aka settings pages) while creating an invoice. For a fluent workflow, users should update properties like these in context, else we risk the product becomes harder to use than say a word processor template. Unfortunately, the select list cannot technically be extended with inline interface for mingling with taxes. We could of course show a modal dialogue with an interface to modify the taxes list. We’d then return the user to the updated select element when editing options is done. It’s an option, but quite a UX derailment that we’ve seen cause confusion to less experienced users.
The same input value can be generated from different selection paradigms.
Example: Payment terms can be expressed as a relative measure (e.g. Net 30 days), or an absolute value (e.g. Dec. 10th, 2013). One could imagine many solutions combining radio buttons, calendars and selects. None of them seems to provide the kind of simplicity we were aiming for. We don’t want two distinct inputs to select one value.
Select element UI interaction makes bad use of screen estate on mobile devices.
Example: On an iPhone 4 the select element takes up 54% of the screen space (520pt of 960pt vertically). This allows barely five options to be visible in the list. This simultaneously limits gesture space to the same 54% of the screen (Android does a slightly better job in many cases, though).
Hierarchical data can be a real pain to deal with using the standard select element. Option groups which is a part of the select element’s features, have limited usage when you deal with complex hierarchies. Country selection offering sub-selection of states is an obvious example. Standard solutions typically involve lining up multiple select elements. So interaction goes like this: first the user picks one option in one list, then closes that list, interprets the UI adding or unlocking another select element, which must then be clicked, etc. Not totally insane on a desktop browser, but on mobile the pain grows and the visual/contextual relations are easily blurred. I recently heard the previous Principal Designer at Twitter, Josh Brewer, quote someone that Mobile is a magnifying glass for your usability problems which seems right, and in this case it definitely corresponds with Tradeshift’s own usability studies.
Styling the select element is poorly supported.
There’s a whole bunch of reasons for the historically limited options for styling the select element – and even more scripts/hacks exist to overcome these limitations. Bottom line is that if you want your selectable options to fit nicely into your design in various browsers you’re pretty far into Hackland. And even if you go with one of these very nice styling scripts, you’ve not solved any of the interaction issues listed above – you may actually have added a few issues if your hack has changed the scroll wheel or touch behaviours or eliminated the standard “search feature”.
So in spite of the advantages mentioned initially, the many shortcomings we experienced in more complex scenarios simply left us frustrated with the standard select element.
So what can we do now that the cookie cutter solution does not make the cut?
We looked at many existing solutions, also the scripts that re-style the select element. We figured out we had to dig deeper. Please note: I don’t claim we’ve made big inventions in the following or that we invented the solution we ended up choosing. Variants of our final solution have been seen in many places. Also the solution we picked definitely has new shortcomings that we’re working on solving now – but most importantly, it allowed us much more freedom in working with user input and we can provide a consistent experience to our users across a number of scenarios and platforms. I only claim that we had a good critical process where we evaluated the most obvious options, found them insufficient and came up with a solution through a solid RITE process. A process of describing our needs (some listed above), ideating, prototyping and end-user/acceptance testing over and over. We wanted a new UI component that provided richer interaction options while completely replacing the select element, since we didn’t want a mixed user experience depending on what the user is selecting.
I’ll skip the process and describe what we ultimately ended up deciding on. Mostly by using screenshots – please be aware that these are somewhat early screenshots where copy is not final. To explain, I’ll use a few simple examples from the invoice creation feature, which requires a lot of selections by the user.
Basically the concept is to stack layers with the appropriate options providing ample space for rich interactions:
In the UI a subtle triangle indicates that there’s a list available for the field (full keyboard navigation is of course supported):
Upon clicking a field with the triangle indicator, a panel sides in smoothly (in most browsers) and the page is darkened with an opaque overlay, which focuses attention on the panel; we call this panel a picker. In this example the user clicks the invoice due field and a list of standard payment terms are presented:
If none of the standard options satisfy the user there’s also the option to specify an absolute date by clicking the last option, specify date:
This second layer presents more fine-grained options and is visually layered on top of the first layer, providing context to the user, keeping the user’s mouse and eyes in same position while also allowing back-navigation by closing the picker (escape key or clicking/tapping ‘x’). The visual layering provides an almost breadcrumb-style sense of navigational depth. What’s missing here on the screenshots is unfortunately the smooth horizontal animations further strengthening the sense of context.
Picking a date value closes all picker layers and sets focus back to the initial field activated, invoice due, and the user can tab on:
Another example is clicking the unit type selector in an invoice line (the one that says PCS in screenshot above). Here the current value is highlighted in the picker:
As aforementioned the full list of unit types is counted in hundreds. Meanwhile many smaller companies only use a very limited set of unit types, so instead of presenting the full list we only show the most recently used ones and a search field. Searching, in this case for kilowatt,returns the options from the full set:
Picking a value, here Kilowatt (KWT), closes the picker and returns the focus to the target field:
Clicking a unit type field again now has Kilowatt hour (KWH) available as an option. Users who use a unit type once are very likely to use that unit type again, so this approach provides a settings free way of defining custom/individual lists:
There’s a ton of other examples with more complex dialogues – not least configuration of taxes – which keep the user in the context and don’t abstract away into who-knows-where settings pages. Our studies show that the user usually knows where to find, and how to use the values added, when it all happens in the same context.
The concept of pickers first appeared when we started designing the new Tradeshift from a mobile first perspective. I.e. not trying to squeeze the desktop experience into mobile, but more the other way around. On phone size devices we now also have entire invoice lines in pickers instead of presented in the “page body” as on tablet.
It adds some extra layers of pickers, but we’ve found out, that the visual clues provided for the user to establish a mental model of where things are going on, are sufficient to go at least three layers deep. Example of a three layer deep scenario could be: Invoice line (picker on mobile) > List of applicable taxes > Add new tax to list.
Obviously, we wouldn’t believe this could also be the the solution on desktop if we’d not tested it. But out of the different scenarios setup for complex selection of field values in the cases we have, this one won hands down, also on desktop. We’ve found out, that compared to using a series of select elements and modal dialogues, this solution decreases the cognitive load on the user significantly. This, by the way, reminds me of a comment Rebekah Cox (Quora’s first employee and designer) once made: “Design is what we don’t ask the user to do”. I couldn’t agree more. We should free up the users’ mind to work on their business not our tools.
This doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. For instance we’ve figured out we need some way to not stick the picker to the right edge of the browser on larger resolutions and keep it closer to the field.
An extension made a bit later during the redesign process was using pickers to manipulate and navigate using objects (such as invoices) as “hubs” for navigation:
This allows us to reuse a small-screen friendly design pattern already known by the user while not forcing the user reload another page to get the options.
Implications for the overall design
We’ve come to love the concept of pickers. We use them every time the user needs to populate a field from a set of options. We’ve done enough testing that we’re also confident that our users understand and prefer the pickers over complex select element combinations.
Using the pickers as navigation hubs allowed us to further simplify navigation and present options in-context without forcing the user into subpages or even worse, cluttering the UI into a non-decodable mess. Our lists are now cleaner, it’s easier prioritize the screens for end-user consumption and decision making, and synergies in desktop/mobile seem to pay off as users need to learn fewer patterns. Another benefit is that we technically have less different UI components to maintain.
If you had to start from scratch and the standard form elements didn’t exist, would you end up designing your “multiple options selector for any platform” as it’s implemented with the select element today? Maybe not, and for us this was reason enough to reconsider.
Responsive Design: Getting Advanced Filtering Right
Summary:Wearables may be the tech du jour, but the next generation of devices and services needs to focus more on keeping users engaged in the long-term. These three factors, based on behavioral science, can help them do just that.
At least 10 new wearable devices were introduced at CES in January, from makers such as Sony, Pebble, Meta, LG, Garmin, Razer and more. Yet despite the enthusiasm in the market, the dirty secret of wearables remains: almost all of the current generation of products fail to drive long-term, sustained engagement and behavior change.
Endeavour Partners’ research recently found that while one in 10 US consumers over the age of 18 now owns a modern activity tracker, one-third of US consumers who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months, and more than half of US consumers who owned an activity tracker no longer use it. Consumers are buying them and trying them, but rarely end up relying on them.
Key challenge of wearables: Long-term engagement and behavior change
Sustained engagement is the key challenge for companies developing wearable devices or complementary services. A surprising percentage of devices fail to achieve even short-term engagement because they suffer from one or more fatal user experience flaws: they break, they’re a pain to sync with a smartphone, the battery doesn’t last long enough, they’re ugly and uncomfortable. Any one of these flaws is enough to turn off a user; more than one often lands these devices in a desk drawer or, even worse, the trash. Unfortunately many of the apps, portals and other services that use data from wearables suffer from similar UX problems.
Even if products and services avoid these traps and provide very powerful functionality, they will end up failing in the market if they fail to have a meaningful impact on users’ behaviors and habits. This dependence on behavior change means that traditional product design criteria are only part of the key to developing successful wearable products and services.
Three factors for long-term engagement
Human behavior is complex, but behavioral science offers three factors that can lead to sustained engagement over the long term.
1. Habit formation. Sustained engagement depends on a device or service’s ability to help the user form and stick with new habits. Wearable devices have the potential, all too often unrealized, to make the process of habit formation more effective and efficient than ever before. The best engagement strategies for wearables move beyond just presenting data (steps, calories, stairs) and directly address the elements of the habit loop (cue, routine, reward), triggering the deep-seated psychological sequences that lead to the establishment of new habits.
For example, as users of the Basis Health Tracker navigate the initial goal-setting process, the device sets up a sequence of key habit formation elements — cues, routines and rewards. Users can unlock the ability to add new habits by acquiring points (reward) after completing a previous goal related to successfully establishing a habit. From here, daily cues, routines and rewards are continuously sequenced to develop habits for better health.
2. Social motivation. To sustain engagement beyond the initial habit formation, a device or service must be able to motivate users effectively. Social connections are a particularly powerful source of motivation that can be leveraged in many creative ways. In addition to using social connections to influence behavior, social media and networking sites can be exploited to alter habits for positive outcomes.
Three key social mechanisms support motivation and broader goal attainment. First, when users are able to share or compete for goals, they are more committed to achieving those goals. Second, social cognitive theory suggests that we learn not just from our own experiences, but also vicariously from those around us. Third, social factors are huge determinants in our overall health. Connecting socially with others is as basic a need as food, water and shelter. The extent to which wearables facilitate social connections has a broad secondary effect on users’ health and wellness.
The Nike+Fuelband SE platform motivates users by effectively leveraging social connections. It encourages users to challenge friends from Facebook and their contact list who also use the Nike+ platform. The FuelBand’s Nike+ software allows users to separate friends into specific lists and groups, so a user can compare his activity with other Fuelband or Nike+ users and separate them into microcommunities, say, based on similar pace for running.
3. Goal reinforcement. To achieve sustained engagement, a user also needs to experience a feeling of progress toward defined goals. Research shows that achieving several smaller goals provides the positive momentum necessary for achieving bigger goals. Wearable products and services that help people experience continuous progress can do so, for example, through real-time updates that are powered by big data and insights. Facilitating personal progress in this way leads to improved health, user satisfaction and long-term sustained engagement. Fitbit Force uses haptic buzzes and text-message push notifications to constantly but gently reinforce progress and remind users that they need to do something in order to achieve their established goals.
The Future of Wearables
“There remains a great deal of potential for the wearables industry to embrace the complex science of behavior change and habit formation,” said Daniel McCaffrey, behavioral scientist and product manager of SyncStrength, in a recent white paper on wearables. “Advancements including real-time biofeedback and contextual data will change how technology impacts consumers’ health-related attitudes, beliefs and behaviors even further.”
A deeper understanding of habit formation, social motivation and goal reinforcement will allow companies to create more effective and successful devices and services to promote health and wellness. Looking forward to seeing the wearables at CES 2015!
How Do Current Wearables Stack Up
Endeavour Partners assessed eight wearables currently on the market based on 12 key criteria. This graph reveals that while some companies are clearly thinking about their products holistically, some are missing the mark.
Michael A. M. Davies is Chairman of Endeavour Partners and Senior Lecturer at MIT. Find Michael and Endeavour Partners on Twitter @michaelamdavies and @endeavourprtnrs.
I had the pleasure of seeing my dear friend John Buritica present a talk at the NYC HTML5 meetup earlier this week. His topic was task runners; he gave a comparison between the more popular ones in the game — specifically Grunt, Gulp, Broccoli, and using bash/Make. It was an interesting talk because the use of task runners has become so ingrained in our workflow that so many kinds are being released. The unfortunate consequence is that these tools for productivity are in fact making us web developers less productive.
It’s time to start writing code instead of writing code for writing code, or talking about writing code for writing code.
In the amount of time that John gave his talk, he could have built a site. In the amount of time that folks on Twitter argued about Gulp vs. Grunt, they could have built sites. The nature of the industry is competition, and it’s healthy to have different options for running our tasks and builds. The nature should not be to decide which way is The Right Way, because that decision’s already been made. The Right Way is to not use a task runner that you have not built yourself.
Think about it. You have a project. You write the code for it. Once you introduce code from another Node module, like Grunt, you are incorporating another author’s code. Sometimes this means that you need to open source your project. You have to put it all on Github. You have to let people sell your code for profit. You have to pay other users royalties if they sell your code.
It’s literally a nightmare.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If we eschew task runners built by other developers, we could focus on our own code and not worry about a drop in productivity. I, myself, have written my own task runner which guarantees productivity and has a license that means you do not owe me or the open source community anything. That’s right, I literally and figuratively eat my own dog food.
Snort is not so much a task runner as it is a task to do list. You put the file in your project root and you list the tasks that need to occur. Instead of manually importing plugins for your Grunts and Gulps, you are manually running the tasks — just like conceptually in the real world. The file is short, which means your company will save money on bandwidth and gigabytes of hard drive space
This file, which you can install for free from Github, serves as a reminder for the developer, you or anyone who uses the project if you open source it, as to what is required to get it to work. If you use a preprocessor for C.S.S., mention the command to type in the terminal for compiling it. If scripts should be updated, link them to scriptsrc.net so they can easily copy and paste the script tags. If the code needs to be minified, say so and you/they can do a Find/Replace All on tabs and carriage returns to change them to spaces.
These are the simple tasks we use and it’s time we stop over-complicating our workflow. When push comes to shovel, large task runner config files are taking up precious space, time, and brain power that would better serve our actual writing of real, important code. It’s time to stop grunting and gulping and to start snorting.
Jenn Schiffer is a web developer and growth hacker focused on workflow productivity and paradigm shifting the game changing industry of C.S.S. preprocessing.
Jokes as a Disservice
— It’s time to get serious about our industry and community as a whole
A Case Against Bitcoin
— Climate change is real and it has hit our economy.
A Call For Web Developers To Deprecate Their CSS
— One less programming language = one less headache.
During Superbowl weekend I was wasting time on Facebook when I saw a newsfeed ad about becoming an uberX driver in Los Angeles.
Right then, after watching so many shitty brand ads on TV, I had an idea! This is the story of how that idea became the financial model below which outlines how a person can make ~$60k a year driving a Pruis on uberX…
The story goes something like this —I photoshopped my personal brand logo onto a Prius, published the idea on Facebook and Instagram, and received great feedback. That was enough…
At that moment, I decided to sign up to become an uberX driver. Partially for the stories for my forthcoming book called War&Porn, partly because most uberX drivers I’ve spoken with have said they make good money on nights and weekends, and mostly because I’ve decided that my next business will be built on top of the collaborative consumption economy —I’m talking about platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and other crowd companies — I did the work.
I visited https://partners.uber.com and clicked the button to sign up. After uploading images of my car, my driver’s license, my insurance, my registration documentation, linking a bank account, and passing a background check (I know, I passed! Whew!!) I was in…
Up next was an online training course that took about 1 hour to complete. It covered the basics like, how to get 5 stars, the standard operating procedures, and what not to do…
I was able to pass the test on my first go. I got 75.86% of the questions correct. C’s get degrees as they say — or at least the abilty to make $60k a year driving a Prius. Now I am waiting on my Uber issued phone to arrive in the mail. Look out for me on the streets in the coming weeks…
The whole process took me about 2 weeks as a result of some registration and DMV issues, but other than that, it was super simple. Kudos to Uber for making getting started on their platform so simple.
Fast forward to: last Tuesday morning. I visited a Toyota dealership Los Angeles. I was forcibly introduced to a salesman the moment I stepped out of my car onto the lot. He was in his late 60′s, Persian, and wore a pungent blend of cigerettes and cheap cologne. He reached out his hand to grab mine. He shook firmly, looked me directly in the face with his dark bloodshot eyes and said, “Welcome, Mister…”
“Matt, Mr. Matt”, I said.
“Yes, Mr. Matt, I’m Manny. What can I do for you today?”
I told Manny I had a strange request. I needed a fleet of Prii. Ten of them. I told him I would be buying them very soon. Maybe even that day if he gave me the right deal.
Manny turned his tired face into a big smile and shook my hand again. This time with a lot of excitement he said, “I’m your guy Mr. Matt. You came to the right place. I will make a very good deal for you, Mr. Matt. Let’s go this way!”
He directed me towards the pre-owned Prius inventory. He walked me hastily in that direction talking with his hands in comical gestures. As I browsed the inventory, he asked me a series of standard questions. Judging by the look on Manny’s face, I did not give satisfactory answers.
What I you do? I don’t have a job, I guess. Okay, Hmm. Where I do you live? Are you from around here? I move from place to place. Um, what do you plan to do with the fleet of Prii? Oh, you know, utilize the Uber platform to build a profitable cash flow business. Mr. Matt, I must ask…
I told Manny to cut the shit. “Can you just give me a price list,” I asked. He didn’t have one. I asked him to get one. He insisted he didn’t have one. I thought it was silly a dealership did not have an inventory price list handy. Anyway…
I didn’t need to see the cars. I didn’t need to drive the cars. I just needed to do the math.
“You don’t want to test drive one to see if you like it, Mr. Matt?”
“No, Manny, I’ve driven a Prius. I want a price list of your black and white Prii. Non-smoking. With an extended warranty.”
We walked back into Manny’s desk on the sale’s floor of the dealership. He looked at my watch. He asked if it was… “Yes, it’s a gold Rolex, Manny. Here is my driver’s license. Do I need to fill out a credit application or can you get me some numbers?”
Manny asked me to hold on for a second. He walked over to his manager, whispered something in his ear, his manager walked over and introduced himself with a firm handshake and a quizzical look. I can understand why. Here is some kid that popped in unannounced on a Tuesday morning looking to buy ten cars. I was wearing a t-shirt, leather shorts, and sandals. My appearance probably didn’t help. And by now, I am sure the manager had heard I was unemployed. Assuming I was some loon, he asked more questions.
I asked the manager to sit down next to me. I pulled out my MacBook Air, fired up my excel spreadsheet, and showed him my model.
“I just need terms on 3-year financing of your used inventory. $5k down. Black and white. Non-smoking. With an extended warranty. And then I will show you why I want to do this.”
With much hesitation, the manager walked over to his computer, pulled up a list of cars, and presented me with a few 4-square sheets that looked like this. This is a common car sales tactic used to fuck with the oblivious buyer, which apparently I represented to said manager.
I plugged the numbers into the (over simplified) model I built based on driver research. I asked more than 50 drivers about average trips per day, average mileage per trip, average time per trip. I used uberX’s stated rates to calculate revenue based on my driver interviews. I also called my insurance company to discuss rates, factored in mpg, current gas prices, parking, service, and other fixed costs.
“Assuming I do a 50/50 revenue share with a drive that I hire, I can make…” Showed the numbers to Manny and my new manager friend, and their eyes lit up.
I did not end up pulling the trigger on a fleet of Prii just yet. There are a few assumptions in my model that present significant risk including, 1) future supply and demand, 2) future rates, 3) future regulation, and 4) insurance liability. I also don’t know if I want to get into managing a fleet of Prii — as fun as that sounds.
But, for anyone with a clean driving record, a few thousand dollars to put down on a Pruis, and some free time — you can live a very nice lifestyle driving for uberX.
Godspeed and stay safe out there on the road. Welcome to a new world of crowd companies.
If you enjoyed this read, please give it a recommendation. Thanks.
The battle over who should pay to carry Netflix traffic is heating up again, and one of the main players blames Verizon’s greed for the poor performance that many consumers see when trying to watch streaming video.
Cogent Communications CEO Dave Schaeffer made his case in an interview with Ars yesterday, saying Verizon is refusing to upgrade the infrastructure that carries Internet traffic from one network to another unless outrageous demands for payment are met.
The network connections between Cogent and Verizon, crucial for carrying streaming video and other content to Verizon’s home Internet customers, “are full,” Schaeffer said. “They are more than full. They are so full that today a significant amount of packets are being dropped between the networks.”
First, some background. Cogent is an Internet bandwidth provider that sells transit to Netflix and other companies. When Netflix purchases transit from Cogent, Cogent is responsible for distributing the traffic to all corners of the Internet. But no single company controls the entire Internet. Thus, Cogent must exchange traffic with other network providers, including Verizon.
The connections between Cogent and Verizon take the form of peering. It is a point-to-point connection that doesn’t necessarily guarantee passage of traffic to any networks beyond the two involved in the deal. Peering generally happens without any money changing hands, particularly if the two companies involved are of similar size and influence.
Theoretically, the peering arrangement between Cogent and Verizon benefits both. Cogent gets to distribute Netflix traffic, as Netflix pays it to do, and Verizon ensures that its customers, who pay Verizon to access the Internet and are demanding to watch Netflix movies, get the content they request.
Verizon wants to ditch the “settlement-free” peering model and get money from Cogent, arguing that it has to accept far more traffic from Cogent than vice versa because of high-bandwidth applications like Netflix.
Cogent has refused to pay. As negotiations stall, Netflix performance has dropped measurably for months on both Verizon and Comcast. Cogent claims this is because Verizon and others—but especially Verizon—are refusing to upgrade the connections between networks. Cogent points out that Verizon offers its own streaming video services, such as Redbox Instant, and thus has an incentive to harm Netflix traffic.
There are about 11 Cogent/Verizon peering connections in major cities around the country. When peering partners aren’t fighting, they typically upgrade the connections (or “ports”) when they’re about 50 percent full, Cogent says. They can do this by adding ports, adding capacity to ports, or peering in new locations.
With Cogent and Verizon fighting, the upgrades are happening at a glacial pace, according to Schaeffer.
“Once a port hits about 85 percent throughput, you’re going to begin to start to drop packets,” he said. “Clearly when a port is at 120 or 130 percent [as the Cogent/Verizon ones are] the packet loss is material.”
The congestion isn’t only happening at peak times, he said. “These ports are so over-congested that they’re running in this packet dropping state 22, 24 hours a day. Maybe at four in the morning on Tuesday or something there might be a little bit of headroom,” he said.
Slower traffic, and not just on Netflix
Dropped packets can be re-sent, but users could see slower loading times or page load failures. This problem is particularly bad with streaming video because it requires so much bandwidth, with Netflix alone accounting for more than 30 percent of downstream Internet traffic at peak usage times. It does affect all traffic, however.
“If you’ve got VoIP and you’re trying to run Skype, it may not work because the pipe was full, with your neighbor down the street trying to watch Netflix,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not only the video user. Every Internet user is suffering today in their ability to access all the applications, content, and other users across the Internet.”
This isn’t the kind of problem consumers can solve by purchasing a faster Internet connection, because they’d be paying only for a faster path to Verizon’s network, not a faster path to the rest of the Internet.
In some cases, Verizon has actually purchased and installed the necessary equipment to upgrade ports, but not turned it on, according to Schaeffer. “They actually put it in, so they spent the money, but they just politically have not been willing to turn it on in order to ensure that Netflix will not work as well as Redbox,” he said.
When Netflix can’t get through to Cogent, it sends traffic through other providers, but Schaeffer claims that “everybody is full.”
So what are they fighting over? Schaeffer said Verizon “wants a price that is about 10 times the market price for transit.” Again, transit is a service that takes traffic across the entire Internet, whereas peering is just a connection between two networks.
“It’s a less robust product at ten times the price,” Schaeffer said.
Cogent sells transit for an average price of $1.31 per megabit, though large volume users like Netflix get discounts.
Verizon responds: We don’t degrade Netflix to help Redbox
Verizon Senior VP of Public Policy Craig Silliman spoke to Ars today, saying that Cogent is unique in taking such an inflexible stance in negotiations.
There is a wide range of Internet interconnection agreements, he said. “We have settlement-free agreements. There are some ISPs to whom we pay money and there are others who pay money to us,” Silliman said. “There is a whole range of commercial options, and they get worked out commercially and smoothly, except for this one ISP who seems to have problems with not just us but a lot of others.”
Silliman added that “the whole premise of settlement-free peering is that you have a roughly equal exchange of traffic.” He did not say whether any of Netflix’s transit providers have agreed to pay Verizon, noting that specific commercial arrangements are confidential.
He also did not reveal how much money Verizon is asking for, saying, “we are open to negotiation for a commercially reasonable solution that works for both parties.”
Silliman said he’d have to check with Verizon’s engineers to respond to Cogent’s allegations regarding ports being more than 100 percent full and Verizon allegedly installing equipment but refusing to turn it on.
He did, however, say, “it is categorically false that we are doing anything to adversely impact Netflix traffic to benefit Redbox.”
A recent Wall Street Journal report said that “[e]xecutives at major broadband providers … privately blame the traffic jam on Netflix’s refusal to distribute its traffic more efficiently.”
Silliman noted that Cogent has been at the center of public disputes over peering more often than any other company. “It’s noteworthy that Cogent is always the one in the middle of these disputes, and they tend to use the media as negotiating leverage,” he said.
Cogent digs in for a long standoff
Schaeffer didn’t deny that Cogent has fought more public peering battles than anyone. One reason for that is “we only have one business, the Internet. Everybody else, the Internet is a sideline and they’ve got all these other businesses, but they’re kind of internally conflicted. They’re not willing to fight.”
Level 3 has also been in Cogent’s position, fighting Comcast over Netflix traffic in 2010. Level 3 has complained about the sway consumer ISPs hold because they face so little competition and control the only network path to consumers. The company has argued that peering arrangements should be calculated based on “bit miles,” the distance traffic is carried and the number of bits carried, regardless of which direction the traffic flows.
Cogent said its battle with Verizon isn’t unique. Comcast and Time Warner Cable are demanding payments similar to the ones Verizon wants, and Cogent’s connections with those ISPs have hit the “red zone” of 85 percent throughput, Schaeffer alleged.
Level 3 and Comcast declined to comment when contacted by Ars. A Time Warner Cable spokesperson told Ars, “It’s a business discussion with Cogent, and we don’t discuss our business dealings in the press.” Executives at major broadband providers, meanwhile, privately blame the traffic jam on Netflix’s refusal to distribute its traffic more efficiently.
Schaeffer said Cogent isn’t willing to pay any price for peering with Verizon.
“We believe firmly in bill and keep,” he said. “We bill our customers and we connect them to the Internet, and it’s our job to deliver to them the best quality possible. Verizon is billing its customers, and it’s got a lot more of them and it bills a hell of a lot more, and they’re not committed to delivering their customers what they promise the customers they’re going to deliver.”
Once you pay anything for peering, “it’s a slippery slope in two respects,” Schaeffer said. “One, everyone wants to get paid then. And then two, once you pay it’s like blackmail, they’ve got you, there’s nowhere else to go. They’ll just keep raising the price in a market where prices [for transit] are falling.”
Netflix attempts to peer directly with ISPs through its Open Connect peering and caching program. British Telecom, Cablevision, Google Fiber, RCN, and others have accepted the offer, but Verizon hasn’t. Netflix declined to provide comment to Ars about disputes with Verizon, but Schaeffer said Verizon has demanded money in exchange for peering with Netflix.
“Netflix is free to do whatever they want,” Schaeffer said. “I think if Verizon sold them a comparable product at an equal or lower price to Cogent, they should take it. But what Verizon is saying is, ‘pay us 10 times as much to get a less robust product, but it’s only to get to our customers, and that’s the only way you can get to them,’ and Netflix understands that’s closer to blackmail than a market transaction.”
Entrepreneurs trying to become the next Netflix will have a rough time if they and their transit providers have to pay for entry into consumers’ homes, Schaeffer said.
“We’re committed to driving down the price of Internet,” Schaeffer asserted. “If you allow people to impose monopoly taxes on Internet service, it’s going to end up resulting in higher prices and lower quality.”
Schaeffer said he isn’t opposed to senders paying for traffic, but not if it’s in addition to consumers paying. “I didn’t see Verizon roll out a product that says, ‘well if Netflix pays to send content to you, you’ve got free broadband connectivity,’” he said.
It might get worse, but is there a shred of hope?
The Federal Communications Commission hasn’t regulated the peering market, although the topic could come up during proceedings on the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has supported the idea of “two-sided networks” in which ISPs like Verizon can charge both Netflix and their home customers. Wheeler wants to impose some type of net neutrality rules on Internet access, but that would apply only to the “last mile” of connectivity from consumer ISPs to homes, and not the interconnection agreements at issue here.
In Europe last July, the European Commission opened an antitrust probe into whether Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefónica abused market positions in negotiations with content providers. The investigation, which led to a search of those ISPs’ offices, was spurred by Cogent’s complaints.
Schaeffer thinks the US government will eventually intervene. Individual consumers can’t do much to fight, but as peering controversies get more attention and inspire customer outrage, state prosecutors could intervene, he believes.
“I think there will be more press in major mainstream publications. I think there will be more customer ire,” he said. “I think service qualities will degrade, and I believe eventually some states’ attorney generals will probably step in and sue on behalf of the consumers.”
Talking about yourself is hard. Doing it in 160 characters or less is even harder.
That’s probably why so many of us end up stressed about crafting the perfect professional bio for Twitter – or LinkedIn, Facebook or other social networks.
It has to set you apart, but still reflect approachability. Make you look accomplished, but not braggy. Appear professional, with just a touch of the personal. Bonus points for a bit of humor thrown in, because hey, social media is fun!
In this post, we’ll go over the universal principles of a great social media bio – regardless of the network. We’ll also take a look at the big social media networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ – and discover how to make the most of the bio space provided by each.
Six rules for a foolproof bio
“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” – Henry David Thoreau
Yes, a bio on social media needs to be brief – and that can be tricky. But instead of lamenting the bio’s space constraints, treat it as an opportunity – after all, writing short has its rewards in social media. Think of the bio like a copywriting exercise or a six-word memoir.
A professional bio on a social network is an introduction – a foot in the door so your potential audience can evaluate you and decide if you’re worth their time.
“Focus means that we have a keen understanding of what the message is about, wit meaning there’s a governing intelligence behind the prose, polish meaning there’s that one little grace note, that one little word in a tweet that sounds like us in an authentic way.”
Pack in as much focus, wit and polish as possible by by employing these principles.
1. Show, don’t tell: “What have I done” > “Who I am”
Lots of us are fans, enthusiasts, thinkers and gurus on our social media profiles. But might it be more powerful if we talked instead about harnessing ideas, wrangling revenue, obsessing over culture and shepherding our teams?
The “show, don’t tell” principle of writing means focusing on what you do, not who you are – and that means action verbs. Try this list of action verbs for resumes and see if any of them add a little power to your profile.
According to a PayScale Inc. study Schwabel was involved in, 65% of managers want to hire and promote subject matter experts.
Skip the generalist route and focus on what you’re an expert at. Those areas of focus are your keywords, and they should be front and center in any professional bio. All social media profiles are searchable to some degree, so being specific positions you to be able to be found easily for what you’re best at.
3. Keep language fresh and avoid buzzwords like the following:
It happens – a once loved and useful word stops being so useful when it’s overtaxed. In your professional bio, think over the language and make sure it feels fresh, not overused.
LinkedIn recently compiled its most overused words for 2013. Are any of these in your bio?
4. Answer one question for the reader: “What’s in it for me?”
No matter what feats you’ve accomplished, potential followers mostly want to know one thing about you: What’s in it for me?
In marketing, that’s known as a value proposition – the promise of value to be delivered. What can followers expect from you? What value do you bring?
5. Get personal and hire a stand-up comedian to write your bio
That last little tidbit of the bio – usually where a funny quip or a more personal fact goes – often trips us up the most. Being funny is tough – that’s why social media agency owner Gary Vaynerchuk often hires stand-up comedians to write social media posts. And it’s tough to pick one element of a fully rounded personality to focus on.
The key again, is specificity. Lots of us love social media, coffee and bacon. But if you love llamas, jelly donuts and spelunking, you just might stand out and connect with some interesting new people. Tell a one-of-a-kind story. What hobbies and passions are uniquely yours?
6. Revisit often
As your skills, areas of interest and expertise evolve, so should your bio. Check it every quarter or so to make sure it still reflects you the best it can.
“The very best practitioners of short writing on blogs, on social networks, are people who are working over their prose. They’re revising it, with the same care they would if they were putting it on paper,” says Clark.
Adrien Broner and Marcos Maidana had no problems with the scale at their last press conference before getting in the ring for their bout at the Alamodome in San Antonio , Texas. Neither boxers struggled with making weight with Broner weighing in at 144.4 pounds, and Maidana 146.2 pounds.
Things got a little heated later when Broner began to heckle the Argentine , Maidana responded and Bernard Hopkins had to go on stage to separate them.
Adrien Broner came up and spoke as usual, with the arrogance, does not fear the power of his opponent and is sure to keep him undefeated.
“Maidana never fought with me , has never seen anyone like me in the ring , I feel good , I’ve eaten lots of ice cream .”
“I have to stay focused, I will not fall into distractions , I will not lie : this is the biggest fight of my career , he will try to hurt me, so I’m ready.”
” The plan is to go out and hit Broner , keep busy. I’m ready to throw a lot of punches and push it throughout the fight . I am also ready to cut off the ring ” Maidana went on to say.
The fighters are ready and just waiting for the first bell.
An unapologetic Clippers fan Antonio has always been a writer and sports fan at heart but other than his love for writing, he also fancies non-fiction books, cartoons, road trips, beaches, and cats. Antonio is in charge of maintaining the HoundSports webpage and is also an editor for the site.