Forget me not, Web2.0 edition

2009/05/23

I stumbled upon this pretty nice little application or service – depends how you see it. It is called reQall (obviously would have been recall, but recall.com as every good domain is taken.

What it does is that allows you to set a reminder in the future to do something – at given time and date: buy X, call Y, do Z. Nothing to earth-shattering about that.

What is neat is the way how you do it. Actually, many ways:

1) old fashioned: use web site, enter reminder. Just type text and reQall will extract both activity (buy / call etc) as well as date and place it in appropriate category. And when time comes you will be notified: either via email, or via SMS or even by some of the IM services. Currently supported are Yahoo, Google Talk, Jabber and AIM.

2) modern: use iPhone app to type in reminder. Same goodies as wit web, only – unlike Web – you have the phone with you available quickly at the moment when you actually need to remember something.

3) modern AND cool: use the same iPhone app, and speak up to 30 second message. It will be converted to text and then analyzed same way as typed text. I am not sure whether it is automated translation or some poor fellas in third world country and listening and typing it in. The understanding is VERY good. It even handles non-native speakers of English with strong accents (like myself) with surprising success rate. I had occasionally some question marks indicating that Person’s name or local place was not understood. For this occasion, you can always listen to your own audio 😉

You can also subscribe to daily jots that sums up your upcoming events.

Best of all: it is a free service. There is a pro version for $2.99 a month which adds some nice features. I am seriously considering to go for Pro just to make sure they can survive – as long as I find that I use  it more than 1-2 times a week, I am in.

Give it a try, it may be worth one small chai latte a month.

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Book recommendation: Outliers by Malcolm Caldwell

2009/05/20

From the author that wrote Tipping point (on my reading list) as well as Blink – which I listened to but found rather controversial. I was very curious what will this one be about.

The book is about success and people that managed to achieve extraordinary results. It touches several topics, I will pick three of them that I found most interesting. It starts with interesting observation – if you look at the MONTH of the birth of junior NHL hockey players, you’ll discover that over 50% of them was born between January and April. Certainly not anything like normal distribution. The point is that cutoff-date for signing up children into hockey training in Canada is January 1st. At the age when this happens (5-6 years), kid born in January has significant physical and mental advantage against kid born in November or December. As result, the early born children perform better in their category, and as result they are more likely to make the selection between the talented and perspective. Those selected get much more opportunities to play and practice, which causes them being really better players than late born ones – a kind of self fulfilling prophecy. As result – if your kids are born after August, better reconsider the NHL dreams. If you believe what M.G. is saying, I mean.

This topic leads to the second big theme that made me think really deep – the 10’000 hours rule.  M.G. claims that in order to be really good at pretty much anything, you have to spend about 10000 hour practicing.  Among many examples he mentions Bill Joy and Bill Gates with their early years almost unlimited access to the computer, Beatles during their concerts in Germany and several others. If this is really true, it has quite serious implications for our profession.

The third is very interesting comparison about how differences between eastern and western agriculture – growing rice in rice paddies vs  western farms has implications on the work ethic and math skills of the population.

He also explores many other quite interesting subjects – the ethnic theory of plane crashes (exploring how “power distance” in particular cultures impacts the communication between captain of the aircraft and first officers), why are merger and acquisition law firms pretty much of the same ethnic origin and also claims that the US schools are basically OK, it’s the parents that do not do enough for their kids education.  Hmm.

To sum it up, it was good and interesting read. Certain parts could be shorter – sometimes it unnecessarily re-iterates the same message,  but it is certainly very intellectually stimulating and thought provoking book.
Although I am a bit skeptical with respect to some of his conclusions or input data – as we know, if we properly select data set it is easy to prove pretty much anything ;-), I am very glad I picked it – the point of view and approach presented is absolutely worth the time and money spent.

The destilled message of the book can a bit demotivating to those who believe that talent and hard work will always pay back: even if you have all the talent and put in all 10K hours, you still need to have that final ingredients of success – such as being born in January for NHL hockey player and a bit of luck. Also those who believe that the succesful people are just lucky or born with silverspoon may be disappointed that all that does not work without the really hard work and practice.

Unless you belong to one of the above groups – recommended. And if you do – you should definitely read it !


Lost in the social networks

2009/05/17

This is public answer to all who were asking why is my blog so badly neglected. Short answer is: It is because I am pretty active elsewhere and did not really find any additional time to allocate. If you are busy person, now you know, see ya later. If you are curious what elsewhere means, read on.

Last year and before, blogosphere and this blog was *only* part of the social networking space I was paying attention to. Since about 3-4 months I started to really pay attention to Facebook. I originally joined to find out what my son and couple of friends are up to and somehow I started to see value in this channel of communication. Recently, even my nephews and children of a very good friend that moved from Ottawa to Europe.  So Facebook became the “generation bridge” and channel for stuff out of workspace.

With iPhoto’09 excellent Web integration plugin it is so easy to share picture that I could not resists and uploaded couple of albums 🙂 – like this one.

About month ago, I fell for Twitter. I had account on Twitter for several months, but did not really get it. Actually I pretty much hated Twitter being to most discussed topic on Twit. It was actually one of our owns – Nael – that caused

me to reconsider, and I am glad I did.  Speaking of Nael – if you are interested in social networks from developer’s point of view, SEO and location based services, follow Nael on Twitter. He also runs very good blog.

Again, Twitter is excellent addition – it covers the niche that is too low level or too short lived to be Facebook Worthy. With clients like TweetDeck I can even update both Facebook and Twitter, if I decide to do so. Different people use it for different purposes, for me it is replacement for news and RSS, filtered by the people I have selected combined with (filtered) lifestream log of events and ideas.

For the stuff that is really work related, we have two additional social network and collaboration tools, that limited to the company employees. One is Yammer – a private version of Twitter with very nice UI. Second is Wiki – we use Atlassian’s excellent product Confluence. This is location for everything that is either client confidential, covered by NDA or has intellectual property value. As it happens, lots of information, e.g. related to ATG development goes through and ends up in these channels.

I have also reluctantly returned back to log on into MSN Messenger and Skype. I generally find them quite disruptive and leave them off unless I have a immediate need to communicate. Which I do. The project I am working on has contributors all over the place – Toronto, Halifax, Cape Breton, Ottawa – and MSN is the “bloodline” of the project communication.

So if you want to keep in touch, do not rely solely on blog. You can see me on Facebook (search for Miro Adamy). If somebody I never heard of sends me a friend request I often ignore it, but if you mention blog, I will not. Or you can follow me on Twitter – the nick is miroadamy. For that you do not even need permission :-).

The only way how to follow me on Yammer, you must join ThinkWrap Solutions :-). The good news is that we may be needing just somebody like you – there are couple of really interesting projects starting soon, and besides, we are always looking for great people. Send resume to careers at thinkwrap dot com and you will hear back from us.

Please note – no overseas or teleworking and no agencies – you must be legally able to work in Canada and live either in Ottawa or Toronto (Mississauga).