Coincidences

I'm in Holland, Michigan this weekend for Finish Weekend, a great concept put on by Collective Idea. Yesterday I met some new people that, as it turns out, I narrowly missed crossing paths with before.

The first was a fellow attendee to Finish Weekend from Lansing, Michigan. As I was scanning through his tweets, I discovered he checked into a delicious taco joint called Torchy's in Austin about a month ago. I remember vising Torchy's when I was in Austin last month, and knew I was there around the same time. A quick look through my Foursquare check-in history showed me that we checked into Torchy's in a two hour time difference from each other. Two guys from two different parts of the world who almost crossed paths in a place they were both visiting.

Later that night, I met a girl (we happen to share the same name) who lives here in Holland who was sporting a beanie from a company started by some guys I went to college with in Southern California. That led into a conversation about how she lived in Southern California for a while. Turns out she worked at a restaurant right next door to the Starbucks I practically lived at for my four years of college, about 15 minutes from where I live.

A while back, I posted a picture of a car I was following with a notable license plate frame. A few months later, I spotted the same car about 20 miles away (original post here). I posed the question, "How often do we drive by the same people and never realize it?" But the story above just gets weirder. You can't tell from the picture in the post I just mentioned, but the building just outside of the shot is the Starbucks which is right next door to the restaurant the girl worked at.

It's crazy to me how often we can discover these things about one another, and how common it actually happens. Our lives are more intertwined than we realize. Just imagine if we stopped and got to know everyone we passed by in life; if we just took the time to get to know people, what kind of other crazy stories and coincidences would we discover?

Strip out unnecessary features

If you buy a 4G hotspot device, would you also expect it to come with a built-in microSD card reader?

Dustin Curtis recently ranted about all the junky devices Motorola keeps pumping out. They sell a multitude of devices, all of which tout one minor form factor feature over the others. Compare that to Apple who keeps it simple, doesn't give in to the whims of finicky consumers (who don't actually know what they want), and continually builds a single, solid product. Motorola tries to give users "the features they want" with a variety of options whereas Apple often leaves things out in lieu of a better overall user experience. And history has shown that users will lean toward the better experience.

No sooner had I read his post than I experienced this first-hand. I've been trying out different 4G mobile hotspots in the past week. Some work great, and others leave you scratching your head.

Samsung makes a device for Verizon. It's one of the smallest 4G hotspots, and it just works. It does one thing and does it well: it gets you online at incredibly fast speeds. There's no screen on the device itself; it has an admin panel you can access for all the nerdy details. On the device, the only lights indicate signal strength on either their 4G or 3G networks.

Now compare that with offerings from both AT&T and Sprint. They offer a product made by Sierra Wireless. These products are a little clunkier (larger) and both sport on-screen displays. But the part I was really surprised about is they both have built-in microSD card readers.

One question: Why?

At what point would I ever want a microSD slot in my 4G hotspot device? Is that actually a selling point?!

I just don't get it. I can't think of a single case where a microSD card reader would come in handy. Chances are if you've got a microSD card (like in a camera), you've also got the device you used it in, and if you've got the USB cable to connect your 4G hotspot to your computer, chances are it's the same USB cable you'd use to plug the original device straight into your computer.

A 4G hotspot with a microSD reader is like buying a car that also washes your dishes, or a TV remote that doubles as an MP3 player. Why don't these products just focus on doing one thing and doing it well?

Device manufacturers are giving their product designers too much freedom. Just because you can add a "feature" doesn't mean you should. Does it really make sense? Will anyone ever use it, or will it just complicate things? Manufacturers need to start thinking about if a particular feature makes sense in the grand scheme of their product.

This same principle extends to web apps. In FolioHD, my co-founder and I are constantly wrestling with the hard reality of not adding features. Adding features is easy. It's not that they might not come in handy; it's that they complicate the usability. And if they are secondary features, you run the risk of losing the vision of your product and the reason you created it in the first place.

Cutting features is one of the hardest things you have to do. It's easy to come up with ideas. It's hard to pare down. Don't give users the world. Give them what they need. And if you keep it simple and do it right, you'll have a greater chance at success.

Who are you to decide how much money I make and how I should spend it?

I normally relegate my political posts to my politics blog or the popular Douche of the Day, but this is something I had to share with everybody.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for about a month now. To me, the protestors symbolize much of my generation who don't want to put in the necessary effort to achieve success. They'd rather take handouts than work hard to succeed.

Today I shared a link on Facebook to the story about Peter Schiff, a CEO who protestors dub as part of the "1%." Schiff visited a protest to have an honest conversation about their demands. (I suggest watching this video before continuing.)

After I shared the link to the post, a friend of mine from college wrote a comment saying what the protests mean to him (emphasis mine):

It's not that he needs to pay more in taxes; he just needs to make less money. More of the money made by whatever company he is CEO for, needs to donate more and put more back into the lesser paid employees. Why does the person who cleans the toilets for a company like his make barely enough, when he himself stacks more money in a year than he or his dependents could even spend? That's all I really disagree with. Corporations are corrupt in the sense that their business practices in such a manner that does not coincide with the CEO's belief in the value of life. Being CEO, he has the power to change that, I will protest with OCCUPY for that change.

I'm sorry, but who are you to decide how much money a CEO is allowed to make? Who says you should decide how profit should be spent?

The leaders of companies spend long days for years to achieve the success they have. They miss time with their families to see their businesses succeed. People are motivated by making money, so if people who start companies aren't incentivized by a big payday for becoming successful, what's the point in even trying at all?

On top of that, many of the protestors are protesting against the bailouts that banks and financial instutions received over the past few years. However, it's surprising to me that none of them seem to realize that the bailouts were institued by the guy they voted in as president, Mr. Barack Obama. Why do they continue to go after the institutions who were the beneficiaries of the bailouts rather than the guy who handed them out in the first place?

To those older than me, I'd just like to apologize for my generation. We are a generation raised under the belief that we should be handed success rather than achieving it on our own. We would rather complain about not being able to find a job than to actually go out and make ourselves marketable. But I maintain that success is achievable; it just has to be pursued.

In college, I took on a handful of internships, then began several entreprenurial projects of my own in addition to having a fulltime job. I want to be successful, but I realize it's not something that is going to be handed to me. If I want to be successful, I have to make it on my own. I wish more people my age understood this concept, rather than making fools of themselves complaining about the unjustness of society.

Success is achievable. People should spend more time pursuing it than asking the successful to share their success with them.

The worst mistake you can make as a user experience designer

There is nothing worse than navigating your mouse to click a link, only to find out the link was actually a dropdown menu. But it's too late, because you already clicked the link, so you're already being taken to a new page.

Example:

The problem? There is no indication this is a dropdown menu. It just looks like a link to a regular page.

So how should it work? If it's a hoverable area, the area shouldn't be clickable because you don't want to take the user to a different page if they click it. I wish more UX designers understood this basic concept. I cannot begin to explain the spout of frustration I just dealt with internally as I just ran into this on Verizon's website.

I am a terrible person

Nine years ago, my next door neighbors next door moved in. Today they are moving out.

And today as I left my house and drove by theirs, I watched as they loaded boxes into their SUVs and realized that I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually talked to them. In fact, I can count the number of interactions on one finger.

Time flies, but I never realized they had been there for nine whole years.

My justification for never getting to know them is because of their unique family situation, and the fact that they aren't the type of people I would normally spend time with. But my "justification" of the situation doesn't make it right.

I often complain that America is becoming less and less like the America that my parents grew up in. People aren't as kind to each other anymore. People look out for each other less. That's why I'm a fan of Texas. It's the last bastion of hope for American tradition and values. But today made me realize that maybe I'm just as much of the problem as anybody.

So here's a challenge for you today: reach out to someone you don't know - maybe someone you've seen for years but have never taken a moment to talk to. Take the initiative to be friendly. We were made to live in community with one another. Don't make it to the point that I have where I've realized I've wasted almost a decade to reach out and be a friend to the people who live right next door.

Apple loves to make incomparable comparisons

If there's one thing Apple likes to do, it's to tell everyone how awesome they are. At the beginning of every iPhone announcement, you can bet on them to give stats and metrics for at least a half hour about how they're killing the competition. But today, they used a metric that bears absolutely no validity, and thus required me ranting about it.

While Tim Cook was sharing that over 300 million iPods have been sold to date, he went on to make this comparison:

"It took Sony 30 years to sell 220,000 Walkman casette players."

Yeah. Okay. Thanks Tim. Good for you.

In other news, I've made more money in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 100 years combined.

A rant about established musicians who use Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a great platform for funding creative projects. There are a lot of creative ideas that wouldn't get traditional funding but now have a chance thanks to Kickstarter. I've supported several projects.

But I'm seeing way too many well-established musicians and bands turn to Kickstarter to get their 2nd, 3rd or 4th album funded. I sour on this use of Kickstarter for several reasons.

Why are musicians asking fans to foot the bill before the product is made? If a record is good, people will pay for it. It's as simple as that. But asking fans to pay for something that isn't even made yet is like just like getting a business loan from a bank.

Musicians who use Kickstarter are going to make a new record anyway, regardless of the outcome of their funding project. So they're basically asking for handouts. They'll take what they can get but it's not going to affect their decision on whether or not to make a record. In the real world, if your company doesn't get funding from traditional investors, there's a chance it's because what you're offering isn't something people actually want.

It's lame when signed bands use Kickstarter. I find it pathetic when bands signed to record labels turn to Kickstarter for support. If they were good enough to get signed in the first place, shouldn't their label be doing their job of getting the music out there to fans who will buy the band's existing music (in the form of promotion, tours, etc.), which in turn will fund their new record?

There obvious counter-argument to my opinion is that Kickstarter lets fans invest in bands they believe in, which in turn reaps rewards when the record is done.

I just think that if a band is good enough to get an album or two or three on the market, they should depend on forward motion from previous albums and tours, and support THEMSELVES if their music career is something they really believe in, rather than asking for a loan from their fans.

    Buick tries to 1-up Lexus on a problem Lexus doesn't have

    This Buick commercial shows that if you lock your keys in your car, you can unlock your doors with their iPhone app. While it might be a nice feature, the commercial infers that the Lexus owner locked his keys in his car. But it's actually impossible to lock your keys in a Lexus. Details below...

    Every Lexus comes standard with their SmartAccess keys. These keys don't ever have to leave your pocket, and more importantly, don't let you lock the car when the key is inside. I find it humorous that the makers of this commercial would choose to compare the Buick to a Lexus ES for this specific feature, full while knowing their whole point is moot. Hey Buick, if you're going to target buyers of the Lexus ES, at least point out a problem Lexus actually has, not one you make up.