Sunday, December 29, 2019

Self Taught Engineers

I thought this article on being a self taught engineer was great. It's by Amina Adewusi who wanted to get a career going as a coder.  She learned about it through the marketing of the bootcamp people who promote the idea that people can change careers. For this she is grateful to them.

However, as a single mom, the logistics and finances of a boot camp were daunting. So while attending a conference, she was introduced to the idea that a person can learn to code on their own.

The article is excellent addressing such things as how to find mentors, when to start interviewing, how to use the "tech tests" from interviews as an opportunity, and how to hold oneself accountable.

My experience in the tech industry confirms Ms. Adewusi's view of how possible it is. As a 62 year who has been in the tech industry since the late 1980s, I have rubbed elbows with self taught engineers hundreds of times.

Sometimes I worked for them. At Silicon Graphics in the early 90s, I worked for Carol (something) who had gone to work as a secretary after high school. I don't really remember her career story (or her last name) but she was running a big engineering organization at a premier Silicon Valley company and I think her tech skills were all acquired independently by her.

More often, I have employed self taught engineers. I ran a video game development company in London in the late 90s with about a 100 people, often more, and perhaps half of the of the tech staff were self taught "hackers",  a term we used back then to distinguish between the self-taught and the formally trained.

I've run an educational software for the last 15 years and the engineers that have most helped with the actual coding were...yup... totally self taught. We also have plenty of comp sci and software engineering graduates and many with masters degrees.  And we have some bootcamp graduates. One of our clerical staff just left us to go to a bootcamp.

Many ways to get there....

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Seth Godin on Learning: Response

Usually, Seth is pithy and insightful.  Today, he sounded naive to me. Although it post was brief. Seth said

The difference between memorization and learning

In order to learn something, you must understand it. You might become so insightful and facile with the ideas that it appears you’ve memorized them, but that’s just a side effect.
Rote memorization can be done in some fields, and you can even recite what you’ve memorized to someone else who can memorize it.
For example: You can’t learn alphabetical order, you can only memorize it.
On the other hand, memorizing anything that you’ll need to build upon, improvise on or improve is foolish. You’ll need to do the work of understanding it instead.

This is, to my mind, a very naive discussion of learning. There are some very different types of learning.  There's the building of skills such riding a bike, reading a book, or telling a story.

But, to be a successful reader, a kid must master many skills and lessons.  One skill is recognizing the different sounds, learning to connect them with the letters, and to learn to decode successfully.  However, many students fail to comprehend what they learn, on major reason is the lack of mastery of the vocabulary required to understand the book.  And while it would be great if exposure to vocabulary was enough for most people to learn the vocabulary, the fact is that most people need to encounter a word fourteen times in many different contexts over a period of weeks for the word to enter long term memory.

Stay tuned, more later.

There are two very important types of fluency or memorization that should happen in elementary school.

1. Learn your time tables - I recommend Time4MathFacts as Gamified and Effective.  See this math facts educational article

2. Retain your vocabulary. While learning vocabulary has a number of clever techniques, there's a different question of how to retain. Research says that for most of us, 12-15 touches with a word, different contexts, different ways over 3-5 weeks provides a very high probability of long term retention.  Read about vocabulary retention.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Designing a Multitouch Attribution Model for Online Marketing

Multitouch attribution models are replacing first-touch and last-touch methods of attribution.
Multitouch attribution is used to figure out how the different marketing touches contributed to a customer sale. Multitouch is growing despite the complexity since it both maps to the reality of:

  • the customer shopping experience 
  •  the vendor’s activities and expenses such as PPC, SEO, email marketing, retargeting, website materials and demos, and social media interactions. 

Multitouch is complicated and there are a choice of models. The choice should be based on what you believe best maps to the customer shopping experience and what decision the company is trying to make.

At the end of the day, each company needs to figure out how to handle attribution.

At the start of the process, a key step is a strategic think on what type of analysis or decisions is being made.

For example, a company might build the attribution model to consider increasing or decreasing the investment in different methods of making contact with customers such as PPC ads on search, PPC on social, banner ads, buying lists, or retargeting. In this analysis, the company’s marketing automation system website with demos and white papers is a fixed cost that is not really up for review.

Here's a quick overview of attribution models, thanks to Jimmy Shang

1.Linear attribution is the simplest. Each touchpoint gets an equal percent of credit. So in a simple example, if the customer, a) clicked on an ad, b) clicked on a retargeted ad, and c) clicked on an email and then bought, each of these three would get1/3 credit for the win. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than this since the interactions on the website could also be included.

2. Time decay gives more credit to the touchpoints closest in time to the conversion. For example, the last email before a purchase/conversion is given more credit than the first organic search*.

3. Position-based / U-Shaped is a hybrid between first- and last-touch attribution. This method puts more weight on the first and last touchpoints, assigning 40% credit to each, and splitting the remaining 20% between the touchpoints in the middle*.

4. W-Shaped credits the first touch, the point where a visitor becomes a lead, and the final touch each at 30%. It divides the remaining 10% among any additional touchpoints. Some advanced multi-touch attribution models leverage machine learning to assign partial or incremental credit to predict the value that each touchpoint added*.

*Thanks to Jimmy Shang of Ad-Roll for his  spectacular article on attribution models. The second through fourth models are directly quoted from him.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

BAD Customer Feedback Survey Design

I just had a frustrating experience with a chat window with a vendor.
At the end, they popped up a survey and in a fit of good naturedness, I thought I would take the time to give them some useful feedback.

It was a long survey with 10 questions and a place at the bottom to write in the box. I scrolled to the bottom and filled in the box with this:

I was distracted for a few minutes and your agent disconnected me. Very frustrating.

When  I hit submit, I found that it listed all the unswered questions in red and that the survey was incomplete.  The  survey wouldn't accept the comment unless I clicked on all the  questions.

so I had a choice, fill out the rest of it or just click out.  Since I had started to give them feedback, I decided to quickly fill out the 10 questions (I picked NA for most of them, 5 if there wasn't a NA choice).

At the next submit, it turned out that my answers had opened new follow up questions which were also mandatory so I blindly clicked on them too.

What a frustrating counter productive experience that survey was.

 If they really wanted feedback, they'd accept incomplete surveys when people are trying to communicate with them.

Instead, it pissed me off and filled up their system with lots of bad random data.

Generally, I find that this is the norm. Efforts at feedback are so poorly designed, they neither give the impression that the company actually cares nor gathers meaningful data.


Friday, September 20, 2019

United Airlines Communications Policy: What?

Dear United Airlines,

We had a trip that went horribly awry yesterday due to bad weather.  My wife got separated from her suitcase.  She had a first class cross country ticket.

Let me digress for a second and say that over the last few days, I have been receiving updates from Amazon (and others) about some items that we ordered. These are items cost mostly between $10 and $50. They give us text and email updates as they ship, progress, and get delivered. It's a pretty simple IT operation which provides customers with great service so they know what's going on.

So here's what happened.  She had a flight from Ft Lauderdale to Houston (UA 2148 on 9-19). And then a connection to Albuquerque. Houston was having a huge tropical storm but United took off from Ft Lauderdale anyway. Sure, they could have rerouted her before she left but United didn't.

The plane circled Houston for an hour or so and then went to San Antonio where they kept the passengers in the plane with no food or meaningful updates for over three hours. Finally, they let the passengers deplane but gave them no instructions about what to do next.

No text updates about what to do, no email updates, no phone calls. Doesn't United have a system? They must have disruptions and weather problems of significance weekly but they seem to react to them as if they are surprised.

The United counters were mobbed, hours of waiting if they went that way. United wasn't taking phone calls, ie there were 90 minute waits.  So my wife got herself to her destination by taking a 5 hour Uber ride to Dallas and booking a flight on American to her destination.

Meanwhile, what happened to her bag?  We've called in many times and each person has been agreeable and helpful. No complaints really about the staff.  And, the United staff have been able to login and tell us where the bag is. So last night at midnight, the lady at the United baggage claim said the bag was still in San Antonio and tried to tell us to file a claim with the other airline that she finished her trip on.  Apparently, that's policy. We disagreed saying that United should get us the bag. It was a first class ticket, they provided no way for her to continue her journey, they provided no info on how she could get her back etc. In any case, we filled out paperwork on the bag and where we wanted it delivered.

We called again this morning and found out where the bag was.  We called just a few minute ago and found out where the bag is. We provided all the same information over the phone and they agreed to send the bag over.  Very nice people.

But really, should we be calling in to get information that should be sent to us?  Shouldn't the app and website have a "trace my bag" feature built in for their travelers? This sort of IT infrastructure for convenient communications seems so simple to build in this day and age. United knows their travelers, has their cell phones, and knows where the bag is and what the plan is.  Why do they believe in having people call in to get information instead of pushing it out?

What's really astounding is not just the lack of communication about the bag but what about helping the travelers? They ditched her halfway through the trip, on a first class ticket, and never followed up in any way to see if she was taken care of or needed help.  Really?

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Long Form Forums

I believe that the rise of the short form and visual social media came at a high cost: the destruction of the long form special interest forums where people had interesting threaded conversations.

The conversations and communities were real and very important. Mothers learned about the basics from other mothers and shared their concerns and anxieties.

Collectors met and shared. Mommy bloggers reigned!

Now, every community is overseen and controlled by FB and Twitter etc. The hundreds of thousands of private forums on ning, vbulletin, and all the other systems were destroyed by the freight train express massive fall out from FB et al. #sad

No more big holiday parties for  forum groups.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Blogger: What should I do?

I have a number of blogs, such as this one and Amused by Jokers, and a Black Belt at 50, that I have maintained for years using the simplest quickest way to get started which was Google's Blogger.

I've noticed that they have been kept up technically and am wondering what the smart people think I should do.

I am not technical and do not have much interest in switching but I think I have to make a decision soon. Here's my choices that I see and I'd love some feedback on them.

1. Switch to Wordpress. How and when? Host at That means moving domain DNS's around. Uhg!
2. Upgrade my Blogger theme and all the plug-ins. How would I know what to switch to? What's current?
3. Make no changes and hope that everything keeps working

Blogger: What Should I do?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Apple: "Want Privacy, Choose an iPhone" - Huh?

This morning, I was greeted on Twitter by a sponsored tweet from Apple that said "The iPhone is built for privacy". As I clicked through and tried to see if Apple was actually making an announcement about some new privacy initiative, it felt Orwellian to me.

Apple, having tracked (probably) that I'm concerned about privacy and tracking, targeted an advertisement at me. This is a form of behavioral advertising which is that creepy thing that allows advertisers to track what you are interested in and advertise to you everywhere.

Googled info on St Louis?  Hotels, car rental companies, and airlines are now in your Twitter and FB feeds plus with banner ads on every site urging you to save money and time with their offering. But act now!

Having trouble with your ding dong? Turns out there's ads everywhere about polishing, fixing, upgrading, and trouble-shooting your ding dong. Even Youtube starts suggesting ding dong videos.

Back to Apple. So after reading Apple's hyping of their respect and concern for my privacy, I opened my phone to look at my privacy settings. After I clicked in, I scrolled to the bottom and clicked on Advertising and then on About Advertising and Privacy.

There's a lot to learn. I copy / pasted it below. BTW, there's no way do that easily. Apple's iPhone somehow doesn't allow a select all option when looking at the privacy text. Nor does it have a built-in way to get it emailed to myself. So I had to to that weird thing where I am selecting the text with one finger while scrolling with another to get to select all the text).

Advertising and Privacy

Apple’s ad platform is designed to protect your information and enable you to choose what you share.

Apple’s advertising platform is designed to protect your information and enable you to choose what you share.

Ads that are delivered by Apple’s advertising platform may appear in the App Store on iOS, Apple News, and Stocks.

The following contextual information may be used to serve ads to you:

Device Information: Your keyboard language settings, device type, OS version, mobile carrier, and connection type.

Device Location: If the Location-Based Apple Ads system service is enabled, then your location may be used to serve you geographically relevant ads. Your device location is not stored by Apple’s advertising platform and profiles are not constructed from this information.

Searches in the App Store on iOS: When you search in the App Store on iOS, your query may be used to serve you a relevant Search Ad.

Apple News and Stocks: The type of article you read is used to select appropriate ads.

Additionally, to ensure ads are relevant, Apple’s advertising platform creates groups of people, called segments, who share similar characteristics and uses these groups for delivering targeted ads. Information about you is used to determine which segments you are assigned to, and thus, which ads you receive. To protect your privacy, your information is used to place you into segments of at least 5,000 people.

In Apple News and Stocks, the topics and publications associated with your News identifier, and the publications you allow to send you notifications are used to assign you to segments. No segments are created from search terms in the App Store.

In the App Store on iOS, Apple News, and Stocks, the following information may also be used to assign you to segments:

Account Information: Your name, address, age, and devices registered to your account. Information such as your first name in your Apple ID registration page, or salutation in your iTunes Account may be used to derive your gender.

Downloads & Activity: The music, movies, books, TV shows, and apps you download as well as any in-app purchases.

Activities in Other Apps: App developers, subject to their own privacy policies and applicable laws, may provide information regarding your in-app purchases and activities such as game level completion.

Advertising: Your interaction with advertising delivered by Apple’s advertising platform.

Other Segments: For specific advertising campaigns, advertisers may match information they have about users with Apple’s information to create segments, which must contain at least 5,000 people. Advertisers can use an Advertising Identifier, or other information they have about users, such as a phone number or email to match users to segments on Apple’s advertising platform. During the match process, these identifiers are obscured to limit personally identifiable information being disclosed. To choose which segments they match users to, Advertisers may use information they have from interactions with users. This information is acquired and used subject to the Advertisers’ own privacy policies.

Apple does not know or make available to advertisers information regarding your sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or political affiliations. No Apple Pay transactions or Health app data is accessible to Apple’s advertising platform, or is used for advertising purposes.

Apple does not sell or otherwise transmit any personally identifiable information to third parties.

Information collected by Apple is treated in accordance with Apple’s Privacy Policy, which can be found at

View Your Advertising Preferences

About this Ad

To understand why a specific ad was shown to you in the  App Store on iOS, Apple News, or Stocks, tap the “Ad” button on the ad. This will present the segments and other data, such as demographic information, that resulted in you receiving the ad.

Ad Information

To see information about you that may be used to deliver targeted ads via Apple's advertising platform, including the segments that you are in, on your iOS device open “Settings”, select “Privacy”, then select “Advertising”, and tap “View Ad Information.”

To see this information on macOS, open “System Preferences”, select “Security & Privacy”, open the “Privacy” tab, then select “Advertising”, and click on “View Ad Information”.

If you have Limit Ad Tracking enabled, Apple’s advertising platform does not have Ad Preferences data for you.

If you believe information about you is inaccurate, please update your Apple ID and iTunes account information.

Choose Your Advertising Preferences

Opt-out of ads targeted based on your location

You may choose to opt out of receiving location-based advertising on your iOS device by opening “Settings”, tapping “Privacy”, tapping “Location Services”, tapping “System Services”, and sliding the “Location-Based Apple Ads” switch to “off”.

On macOS, you may opt out of receiving location-based advertising by opening “System Preferences”, selecting “Security & Privacy”, opening the “Privacy” tab, selecting “Location Services” and unchecking the “Location-Based Apple Ads” box.

Apple’s advertising platform does not receive location-based information when you turn off Location Services on your device.

Opt-out of targeted advertising

You may choose to enable Limit Ad Tracking on iOS by opening “Settings,” then tapping on “Privacy,” then “Advertising”, and sliding the Limit Ad Tracking switch to “On”. To enable Limit Ad Tracking on Apple TV open “Settings”, select “General” then “Privacy”, and set “Limit Ad Tracking” to “On.” On macOS, you may enable Limit Ad Tracking by opening “System Preferences,” selecting “Security & Privacy”, opening the “Privacy” tab, selecting “Advertising”, and checking the “Limit Ad Tracking” box.

If you choose to enable Limit Ad Tracking, Apple’s advertising platform will opt your Apple ID out of receiving ads targeted to your interests regardless of what device you are using. Apps or advertisers that do not use Apple’s advertising platform but do use Apple’s Advertising Identifier are required to check the Limit Ad Tracking setting and are not permitted by Apple’s guidelines to serve you targeted ads if you have Limit Ad Tracking enabled. When Limit Ad Tracking is enabled on iOS 10 or greater, this Advertising Identifier will be replaced with a non-unique value of all zeros to prevent the serving of targeted ads. It is automatically reset to a new random identifier if you disable Limit Ad Tracking.

Whenever you want to clear the data associated with your Advertising Identifier, you can simply reset it. To reset your Advertising Identifier on iOS, open “Settings”, tap “Privacy”, tap “Advertising”, and tap “Reset Advertising Identifier”. To reset your Advertising Identifier on Apple TV, open “Settings”, then select “General”, select “Privacy”, and click “Reset Advertising Identifier.” To reset your Advertising Identifier on macOS, open “System Preferences,” select “Security & Privacy”, open the “Privacy” tab, choose “Advertising”, and  click the “Reset Advertising Identifier” button.

If you enable Limit Ad Tracking, you may still receive the same number of ads, but the ads may be less relevant to you.

Monday, March 04, 2019

“We meet all Federal regulations”

“We meet all Federal regulations”

I read Seth Godin's email most days. It started one Sunday about 4 months ago when I heard him being interviewed on NPR on Sunday.  He didn't suck. And while I mostly don't listen to business so-called experts and writers, I found him refreshingly sensible and pleasant to listen to. Here's todays column of his.

The excuse made by large corporations for the impact of what they produce is that they simply follow the rules.
Of course, at these companies, there’s often a different department in charge of lobbying to change the rules so that they can increase short-term profits while being less beneficial to customers and communities.

It would only cost the car companies a dollar per car to prevent accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills dozens of people. When you can run the car without the key (most modern cars), it means it’s easier than ever to pull your car into the garage and accidentally leave it running, which can kill everyone in your home before morning.

When the government worked to put in a regulation requiring this fix, the car companies lobbied against it.
Why would they do that? (Now, due to outrage, they’re fixing this particular problem. But in the past, the car companies fought seatbelts and other safety measures).

Why does any organization actively fight to lobby to lower its costs when it might benefit customers and their communities? The rules are not going to lead to lower industry sales. All the standards do is raise the bar for all the competitors. I don’t think many of us want to live in the world of Sinclair Lewis.

The restaurant industry fought a smoking ban, and the baseball bat industry fought one on aluminum bats for kids…

Sooner or later, humans are involved. And when someone says, “not on my watch,” they commit to making things better, not simply more profitable. The rules are one thing, but what if you’re better than the rules?

“We can make it better” is a far better motto than, “we meet all the regulations.”

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Fixing the Academy Awards

Surprise! The Academy Awards are again really really boring.

And again, the Academy (and all the critics) seem to miss the obvious problem.
The problem is the speeches: they’re boring and repetitive.

Does anybody really want to listen to thirty people in a row race through 45 seconds
thanking the Academy, their mom, their husband, their collaborators, their hair dresser,
their plastic surgeon, their kids, and their plastic surgeon? Actually, it would be fun if
they would be that candid but instead they are uniformly professional thanking their
family and collaborators. No, nobody takes anything away from all those thank you,
thank you, and thank yous.

It’s meaningless drivel.

How does the Academy not know this?

How to fix it? All acknowledgements get written in advance and are scrolled across the
screen when the winner jumps up to give a speech.

The speech can be about anything but they are NOT allowed to acknowledge or thank
people. Now that would be interesting! They could talk about their artistic vision. Or their
challenges. They could talk about their dreams or what they want to do next. They could
talk about how this culminates years of efforts which didn’t get acknowledged.

It would be so much more fun if the speeches, which are the emotional highpoint of the night,
forced the speakers to say something of interest and not fall back on the endless repetitive
thank you, thank you, and thank you.

They’re entertainers. Lets see them do thar thing! Many will bomb. That’ll be fun too!

Google Calendar, Blogger, and iPad Bugs!

One of the amazing, practically disconcerting behaviors of Google Calendar is that it automatically injests all flight reservations cited in my emails and places them on my calendar.

I have a friend coming to town who emails me his reservations? It’s automatically on my calendar.

My son emails me when he is coming home from spring break? It’s on my calendar.

I make a reservation or one of colleagues makes one for me and shares it with me.  Yup, on my calendar.

Once it’s on my calendar, there it is. Unmarked.

I’ve tried to open up these events on my calendar and mark them for what they are.  Can’t!!! I can delete them.  And the pencil appears showing that I can write but really all it allows is for me to write a special alert. I can’t change the title or anything meaningful to signify what these flight reservations are about.

Since my calendar is kept open for all of my colleagues to see what’s going on, there’s some confusion.  Especially since both personal and business visitors often send me their reservations (I often offer to meet people at the airport or tell them that the start time for the meeting is flexibility: when they get here we’ll start) meaning that there are a lot of reservations that keep popping onto my agenda.  And some people change their flights mid trip which of course produces an overlapping array of schedules onto my calendar. Ugh.

BTW, I found another bug this time somewhere in between all the complex vendors and technologies that control my digital life. I recently bought a fancy iPad with a keyboard.  Very cool but full of little issues. The biggest one is that whistle it feels like a computer, it should be treated like a phone. By this I mean that that we should open apps rather than use an living inside a browser.  In this case,

For instance, if I was on a computer, I would jump between tabs inside my browser between my calendar and an email and a blog.  But on the iPad, I should jump between apps.

In this case, I’m in a browser and struggling to update a Blogger blog with this post. (Yes, I know WTF am I doing on a Blogger blog but I’ve had this for around a a decade and it’s been simple and I’ve just never got around to setting it up on Wordpress).

But todays bug is a dousey.  When I’ be written enough text so I’m now writing beneath the bottom of the screen!  So instead of the  screen crolling so that I can see what I’m writing, the viewport stays above the text so I’m typing and I can’t see what I’m writing!!!

I can put my finger on the screen and scroll down to peek but as soon as I release my finger, it slides back up above so that that I’m again typing below the screen.

And another tricky thing is that I can’t seem to figure out how to do a screen capture. It doesn’t seem to work like my Mac or like my iPhone for a screen capture.  Ugh ugh ugh.

The good news is that after an hour of work yesterday, I worked out how to work by Wolf coffee system that came with my new condo work!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Real People Jokers

Can you help? (this post is on the wrong site: It should be on the joker collecting website!)

I have around a gross of jokers in what I call, the real people section.  These are contemporary people on jokers. They're not cartoon characters or distant (ie Pre WWII) figures.

There are a number of familiar faces in this section that I cannot identify.  Can you? Can you help me identify who is on these jokers?

Dammit - this post in on the wrong site. Click thru for the updated post about real people on jokers.

On the right, William Buckley. Left???

David Letterman and Jay Leno

Number 3 - Late Night TV hosts?

Number 4?

5? - The PL is for Poland but who are these people? 




10 ?


Any and all help appreciated?