Intentional Future Making

I attented Tech Titans sponsored “Intentional Future Making” event at UTD. Speakers were Anne Balsamo, Dean of UTD School ATEC, Gwen Ishmael, Escalent SVP, and Ted Farrington, Kalypso Fellow. Dr Balsamo discussed the importance of researching culture and human behavior for innovation. Ms Ishmael shared use cases on digital ethnographic research, and how it applies in today’s technology consumption. Dr Farrington discussed deductive and inductive scenario methods, and how it was successful at major corporate R&D. Panel followed with questions from audience. I asked about the challenges facing ethnographic & R&D researches that are grounded in solid academic principles, while many startups jump quickly on the next idea and may be impatient for timely R&D. The challenge exists and innovators must realize the importance of timely research before jumping onto their idea. Panelists shared their insight on the criticality of research to prevent failed implementations, but at the same time, researchers are able to adapt to the new business requirements and are providing findings at lesser time while cautioning innovators against the risk of fast findings through incomplete research.

Dallas Innovation Task Force Q2

Just attended the second quarter task force meeting this year on innovation at Dallas run by the Dallas Regional Chamber. Special guests were Japanese delegates of CULCON (United States – Japan Conference on Cultural & Educational Interchange). The topics and forum discussions centered around AI and ML in addition to a lively discussion on the differences in AI adoption, opportunities, partnerships, and privacy among Japan, India, China, and the US.

Exciting Periods Ahead for Tech

I think that the remainder of the year and the following year will continue to be an exciting period for IT. Hype of AI has toned down a little, and now we have more focus on applications. Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and recently Apple are showing more developer centric products. Just check all their recent announcements. Open source still rules and GitHub is still the go to place even after Microsoft’s acquisition. Startups keep popping up in all different places such as in Texas and not just the traditional states. IoT, ARM chips, and Maker tools keep getting cheaper for affordable proof of concepts. The lucky interns are landing summer jobs while the unlucky ones will have to be patient for other opportunities but can pick up new skills in the interim or enjoy family unions. On the other hand, there is not shortage of learning and wisdom leadership by the incumbent corporate employees. Overall, it is great to be in IT.

Gen Z in Corporate Strategy

In several forums on digital transformations that I attended in the last two years, I would ask the panelists on whether they are incorporating Generation Z millennials into their product development strategy. In such forums you never get a yes or no answer and that is understandably ok, but the silence prior to saying anything makes it clear. It takes an effort to think about it when it should not be. Digital first or mobile first strategy should begin by clustering customers (and employees because they can influence your customers) by generation (silent gen, boomers, X, Y, and Z). Spend more research in determining differences in behavior toward your current or future products. The Z generation could ultimately drop your product altogether, so it important to maintain such outlook and strategize accordingly.

AI should not perfect the human voice

Been thinking that machines must not perfect the human voice. That’s because racial and gender discrimination has hurt our generations for a very long time, so why make digital assistants such as Siri or Alexa speak in either a feminist, a masculine, a particular dialect, or in a certain voice? While we constantly interact with machines, would it make sense to discriminate by voice. I think it would be best that machines maintain a pure gender/accent-neutral voice that does not sound male or female. Make it neutral. That way we don’t add to the pain of discrimination that human races keep suffering all the time. One universal voice for AI that speaks all (or most) human languages without preferring one tone or dialect over the other. What do you all think?

Sad story about print books

Sad story on the decline of print books used by students and faculty in their studies or checked out at libraries (over 60% decline). Nowadays digital articles, ebooks, and online reference management software are the main tools for scholarly research. The wealth of knowledge is not lost when switching from print to electronic formats but what I feel we lost is how much we perceive the work done by authors. When we find a book on a bookstore shelf, we not only see the nice looking cover but also notice the volume size. The physical appearance of the book is important for our perceptual mindset – big book means more information regardless of quality. But we we opt for an online version that is both searchable and easily accessible with our computers. With digital books, size doesn’t matter because we are capable of acquiring all sorts of ebooks regardless of quantity (number of pages) or quality (author X vs Y). We then search rather than read cover to cover. By loosing the physical essence of print books, its practical value as a whole book diminishes to us. Discouraged authors will then print less books or write smaller volumes. There is no way around this problem other than appreciating what authors write through #reading and #learning from what they give us.

Read the original article Dan Cohen (2019) “The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper” in The Atlantic May 26, 2019

Watching car races on TV

When cars were all mechanical and less tech and TVs were black and white with antennas, watching car racing was so memorable. You can’t replay or pause like today. Weather breaking broadcast reception were fans’ greatest fears. Now technology takes over mostly everything at the pit and on tv. Watching races seems to me more like watching a perfectly choreographed movie than watching human intellects and fitnesses compete . Still races are entertaining but are more perfect, enormously digital, and in hidef than the past. Sports technology is leaving lesser room for our imagination. Maybe we are witnessing the last episodes of natural racing before esports fully take over and self driving cars powered with algorithms become the predominant racing entertainment (not sport). Luckily so far we don’t have self driving horses so maybe that type of sports tradition may last longer than car racing, but only if we as human preserve our animal species before advancing AI. Enjoy watching #Indy500 today before robots watch it on our behalf. #technology #sports

Keep Learning

These days students graduate and become the new interns/young professionals in the workforce. Energy is high and spirits are up. They want to make a difference. We as long time professionals should embrace that, but they cannot do it alone. We should help them and support them. Don’t hire them and just let them stay alone. Work with them and frequently communicate with them. Not once a week but every day of the week! They learn and we learn. We should also learn from our past mistakes and from our past experiences, but we must always learn and help if we are to move ahead and make something new and useful. As Henry Ford once said “anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty”. Keep learning

Are Keyboard Shortcuts Still Shortcuts?

I remember the time when we as students first learned to program on early versions of PCs and terminal machines connected to a mainframe. Word processor software, namely WordStar and WordPerfect, were your everyday companion to write papers or stories. Productivity utilities for the first personal computers were innovative, especially that that memory allocation and processing power were so scarce. Developers of such tools had to find ingenious ways to create products that do not occupy all the machine resources to leave you with enough capacity for your work and software. What is now common in the development environment, including multitasking, multiple windows, screen splits, live code sharing, containers, cloud storage syncs, wireless headphones while coding, StackOverflow or Google for help, and virtually anything else you do today while coding did not exist a few decades ago. If I would pick up on some technologies that seem to stick around are:

– Listening to music while coding but not in the same and exact way we do today. You would have a double radio cassette player (if it is one of the big ones then you are rich!). The sound is covering the room until we managed to get our own Sony Walkman. 

– Dark, green, or cyan desktop screens like terminal machines, monochrome monitors, and Commodore computer screens.

– Programming languages and standard operating system shell commands that are still common “dir” “cd”, or words like compile and run.

– Keyboard shortcuts! Yeah, shortcuts. The CONTROL key, ESC Key, Function, Alt, Option, Command on your keyboard were a legacy for developers. (Side note some keys like the Command Key or the Windows key were possibly part of the political battleground for Microsoft and Apple.)

Non-developers may not really know or care about the CONTROL key (other than copy and paste). They may find the TAB key convenient while writing but are not aware of the war of the worlds in TAB vs SPACES when writing code. They would see the function key or keys (F1, F2,.. ) on their computer but not do anything with it. They will not appreciate when young developers in the late eighties would find ingenious ways to make use of such keys for games, tools, and software. Apple also put a dagger in the developer’s heart when the ESC key was removed in their latest MacBook Pro. That key was so essential for developers using VIM and other text-based editors that people like me managed to turn a hardly used key CAPS Lock as my ESC key. Love it or hate it but Apple kept faith with its Command key which does not exist in Windows keyboard. It made it difficult for multi-OS developers using Windows/Linux, and MacOS to remember all the shortcuts when using the CONTROL key, the OPTION key, and the COMMAND key. On top of that, you have the ALT key, SHIFT-CMD, ALT-SHIFT-CMD, OPTION-CMD, CONTROL-OPTION-CMD, etc. and then add a character or number next to each one to perform a specific function.

To get an idea of how shortcuts can be confusing if you are switching between a Windows and MAC Visual Studio Code take a look at the shortcuts for Visual Studio Code https://code.visualstudio.com/shortcuts/keyboard-shortcuts-windows.pdf and compare it with the Mac version https://code.visualstudio.com/shortcuts/keyboard-shortcuts-macos.pdf

The difference is substantial, and that is for one product across two different platforms. If you want to learn the various Windows operating system keyboard shortcuts you can check the link https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12445/windows-keyboard-shortcuts. For Mac, you can check https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201236 Good luck remembering a lot of those keys.

In today development environment, key stroke shortcuts keeps getting created for every software product imaginable. Products like Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, VIM, Office 365, LibreOffice, Mac OS own tools (screen capture and navigating around) have their shortcut commands along with the option of creating your own. As new products for developers come around, we have to remember new shortcuts. We are all humans, and we all age. So keeping up with the pile of shortcuts is problematic. Yes, there are options of not using shortcuts by using the Mouse, but we want to be fast and quick. We are developers after all!. I am not demanding a massive revolution against software manufactures that offers you new products with new shortcuts, but I think that the community needs to come together on making shortcuts less of long cuts. For instance, the famous CTRL C and CTRL V (copy and paste) should stay across all platforms and should not be replaced with CMD C & CMD V for Macs. Screenshot capture and paste should have a standard approach across OSes (remember Print Screen key?) We should demand that keyboard keys for Apple and Windows machines be the same – no more separate Windows flag or Apple own CMD key. The ESC key must return as well for Apple machines. These are just my ideas; others might have other suggestions in mind. Maybe we can eventually have an international developers guild of standard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are productivity functions. With our hands on the keyboard at all times, we can navigate and code much quicker than when using the mouse. 

Now you can do select all, CTRL C to copy the text, and CTRL V to share it with all your developer friends. (Oh sorry, this applies to Windows users. CMD C and CMD V for Apple users)

BASIC First Lines of Code

I will write about Microsoft Build conference soon but one important photo that I feel any developer would appreciate is that of the first lines of assembly code that formed the BASIC language compiler on the first Altair personal computer written by Bill Gates and the late Paul Allen. It can be see at the Microsoft Redmond Campus Museum. Such lines of code sparked the generation of software developers across the world including me.