New FB Messenger Bot Port to Python Based on Quickstart Guide

FB Messenger Python Port on StackOverflow

The current Quickstart guide for the new FB Messenger Chatbot is in Node.JS. I am currently working on a project in Python and couldn’t find any Copy & Paste-able Python webhooks. So, I created one myself. Hope this is helpful to someone else 🙂

FB Chatbot Code Snippet on Gisthttps://gist.github.com/sshadmand/304a77371c9e207a5fa42a6b874017d5.js

Attention Deficit or Boredom Adverse

“Back when I was a kid we had far greater attention spans!” Well, whoopy-doo for you.

Youtube, TV, Commercials, Audio books and Facebook. The list of products that drive us into a pattern of ingesting only short-blips of information goes on and on. Some believe the consequence is a loss in our ability to pay attention to any lengthy (more traditional) format, and in their mind, anything of real value.

I take issue with that belief entirely. I’d rather ask this: Why is there a requirement to be able to pay attention to long-duration formated info in the first place, and what makes that info so much more valuable? Isn’t the goal of listening, reading, or watching information to comprehend it? Where does “length” and “staying still” play into that requirement?


As a kid people thought I had attention problems. I had tons of energy and not enough places to put it all, especially during school hours. Reading one long-ass book (that I had no interest in) for a class (I didn’t care much about) was not very motivating; I perceived writing in much the same way. Needless to say, I didn’t accel in those areas much.

For me, learning was just that — learning. It wasn’t a proof of my ability to sit still and do nothing for a long period of time, or to impress a teacher. Learning was all about answering questions, digging into things that interested me, and unraveling things that confused me. When the internet became “a thing”, I found myself ingesting tons of information daily, and it allowed me to pursue those questions with ease.

Fast forward a couple decades and I’m sitting here auditing an edX class at 2x-speed. I’ve skipped over a few sections that do nothing more than set the audience up for what’s coming (e.g. Boring. I get it. Let’s move on). And you know what? I love it — I love taking classes! As for reading, In this new environment of self-paced, kindle-based, materials I’ve found myself reading more books than I ever had in highschool. Even writing has become interesting to me. I started a blog 7-years ago to become a better writer, and, over 200 posts later, I’d like to think I have improved quite a bit. With all this interest in taking classes, reading, and writing, I have to ask myself: do I have an attention problem, or am I just terribly adverse to boredom (and the old, slow-moving, teaching styles)? Which led me to ask, why the hell would anyone want to be great at being bored in the first place?!

As our technology pushes us into a new format of learning, maybe it is less about “shut up and sit still”, and more about, “here is the world — have at it!”

It’s easy to think the world is getting dumber. We see “views” on YouTube of someone getting hit in the nuts soar into the millions, and people with obnoxious (or useless) things to say use social platforms to say them at scale. It is important to remember that with or without these new mediums people have been dumb for a long time. It is also important to keep in mind that the speed of advancements in technology are increasing exponentially. Those advancements push social media, but they also cut the time it takes to roast a turkey, pop popcorn, and provide classes to people like me that can now learn more efficiently than they ever have before.

I think learning was built on an extremely inefficient foundation because we didn’t have any other way to do it. Now, we are finally trimming the fat. The problem is, our kids are now able to eat lean beef but we are insisting that they still must chew the lard first. Why?

I say, take those little bits of data, re-arrange them, pause them, and fast-forward them as you wish. Let your curiosity for answers be the guide, not a demonstration in formalities.

We aren’t losing the art of education, we are deconstructing it and reassembling it through the gift of technology. The world has started to suit everyone’s individual pace, interest, and schedule. All the lost hours of dramatic pauses, introductions, segues or fluff are gained in the hours we can instead paint, exercise — or better yet — learn something entirely different.

Sure, it may mean that listening to a 1-hour speech at work will be more difficult for a person that is used to this newer, more efficient medium — but who’s fault is that? Why the hell are people talking for an hour anyway?! Is it necessary to achieve their objective? Are we simply committed to a style of interaction in the real world for no other reason than our attachment to tradition? Are we simply not yet ready to embrace a more efficient style of information-sharing that the digital world has built from the ground up? If you are looking for art and style, maybe you should go see a play.

As we move away from requiring our audience to sit down and shut up for an extended periods of time, let’s keep our goals in mind. We are not here to prove to others that we can sit through something that does not excite us, but to find out what does. It is not to prove we can endure boredom, but to break the shackles that required us to be bored in order to learn. It is time that we agreed to fight boredom, and recognize it as an old, outdated, emotion.

Creating your deck: 5 tips to avoid common pitfalls

A deck is often the first impression a VC, Angel or potential customer will have of your product or company. How can you make sure it is a great one?

First off, I get that there is much to love about your business, and I assume you’ve worked really hard to get it to where it is today. It isn’t surprising you’d want to share those experiences with others to impress upon them your level of commitment and demonstrate your ability to overcome obstacles.

That being said, nothing conveys your understanding of a problem, its solutions and its potential obstacles more than your ability to clearly deliver a compelling message. The goal of a deck is to do just that.

Here are some tips to help make it happen:

Tip #1 – Less is More.

Your deck is an intro to your business. It tells the reader concisely what the problem is,  how you’re solving it and that they too can benefit from your success. Everything else is a peripheral to those points and are better located in an appendix or follow up.

If you don’t think you can convey your problem and solution clearly, or you feel you need to say a lot to convey your value, then take a step back and try to find ways to trim down and prioritize your message. It is imperative that you can do more with less.

Worried your reader will miss out of some great nuggets? Try thinking of it this way: if you’ve grabbed someone’s attention in your deck then rest assured, they will have follow up questions. All that extra data you are eager to show off will find its way to the surface eventually, and at a time where it will make a greater impact.

An adage that hopefully drives the point home: “if everything is important then nothing is”.

Tip #2: No, You Will Not Just “Get Through All the Slides Quickly.”

A common rebuttal to #1 is, “Yes, there is a lot of information but it’s necessary. We will get through them quickly.” Heck, I use to say that too when working on my decks. The truth is, you’re wrong in more ways than one.

Ask yourself, when have I ever found any points impactful and important when I am rushed through them? Could you imagine the climax of your favorite movie in fast-forward? If anything, “let’s get through it quickly” is a clear sign that someone has other more important things to do.

If your points are important then give them due justice. Be sure to convey them impactfully. Pauses in speech can create that, and leveraging a few, carefully selected words and images do too.

Think about the mixed signals you are sending if your plan of attack is to rush through slides. For example, you may be saying, “I want you to see these slides because they are important, but not important enough to allow you to take the time to understand them.” or  “I want to make an impact on this point, but I also think my time is better spent elsewhere.”

Trust me, I get that you have 15-30 minutes to make your pitch, maybe less. What I am trying to impress upon you is that speed is not your saviour. Prioritization of your key points and trimming the rest are.

Tip #3: Follow Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule

Guy Kawasaki has a great rule of thumb for creating a slides:

10 Slides

20 Minutes

30 point font

You can diver deeper into his 10/20/30 rule here: http://guykawasaki.com/the_102030_rule/

Tip #4: If the information you present doesn’t impress the reader move on or change the information

You will not change someone’s mind by adding more information. If they like your angle they will be in touch to learn more. If they like what you have had to say they will ask questions. If they are having trouble making them time to take in everything you have to say then it’s over before it started.

What are some reasons people may pass on your deck?

  1. They are not interested in your space or industry
  2. They don’t understand what you are doing
  3. There is a conflict of interest
  4. They are not in a position to take action

It is hard to change the results for #1, #3 or #4 with your deck, it may be best to move on and find someone better suited for you. As for #2, you will likely need to step back and refine your messaging. Even if the reader is the wrong audience for you, the ability for them to understand may help push your deck to someone that is a better fit.

Tip #5: Be Critical.

Assume you received your deck in an email on a busy day. Would you take the time to dive into each of its 30 slides filled with hefty bullet-point lists?

The more critical you can be with yourself the more time you will save with advisors, customers, and investors. Hopefully the tip above can help make that happen.

 

 

Why you want hard problems and not difficult ones

Who doesn’t like a good challenge? I sure do. I love immersing myself in a problem and working hard to tunnel through its complexities to find a solution.

But, what makes a problem a good one to solve? Which problems should you avoid wasting time with, and which are worth jumping into to start your next wild ride?

Over the years I’ve compartmentalized problems into two categories that have helped guide me: “difficult” ones and “hard” ones.

Difficult Problems

A difficult problem is a problem that drains your mind and body. Everyone involved in these type of problems are spinning their wheels in circles, and are able to squeeze only a tiny of drop of value from each pass. Difficult problems are demotivating, repetitive and often fueled by dark clouds. Difficult problems are overcome, not solved, and one is driven to overcome them as a search for relief.

Their challenges are often emotional ones; often testing patience, not intelligence, persistence, or ideas. Most importantly, when a difficult problem is overcome the end results often places everyone in about the same place they started. A solution is a derivative of your current state at best, and incurs a great deal of wasted time and money. People tend to beat their head against the wall with difficult problems.

For example, problems that arise from convincing someone to want to be a better person, or to want to make better things, are difficult problems.

Hard Problems

Hard problems are a joy, but not at the least bit easy. They are motivated by “why”, “why not” and “how can we make it possible?” Much like difficult problems, they are filled with long nights, and little sleep. Unlike difficult problems (where a relief from the pain endured is what drives you), the pain you endure from hard problems are a bi-product of your insesent need to find a solution; you push-on in spite of the pain.

Hard problems are motivating, inspiring, and complex. They may never find a solution, or its solution is hiding right around the corner; neither of which changes your resolve . Working on a hard problem can feel like chewing on glass while staring into an abyss, but you chew with vigor and you stare like a hawk.

Hard problems create competition, new ideas and challenges with others or within yourself (e.g. “I can do better than that”). Rarely will you see competition arise from a difficult problem.

You know you’ve solved a hard problem when you end up in a place you haven’t been before, with a new perspective and new insight and a new direction to follow forthwith. With hard problems, you are not only avoiding going in circles, you have taken a rocket ship leap to a new planet. The harder the problem, the farther you will fly.  If only you can – just – get -to – the – next – solution! A hard problem requires focus. Neh! A hard problem fuels focus! A difficult one: a distraction.

For example, problems that arise from discussing how  to be a better person, or how  to make better things, are hard problems.

Final Thoughts

Avoid difficult problems if you can. Sometimes dealing with them is necessary, but recognize the difference; don’t let people (or yourself) mask one for the other. It can help both mentally and emotionally. Seek out hard problems by imagining what the world would be like if you solved them.  If you find yourself in a difficult problem see if you can’t upgrade it to a hard one.  How can you change “how come” into “why not”, or “no” into “let’s try and see what happens”?

Best of luck, and may your life be hard but not very difficult! 😉

[Video Excerpt] Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolph Plots

I heard about this book from Tim Ferriss’ podcast. In it, Tim dedicated an entire show to the author’s reading of this book. It got me hooked.

Usually with books I review I’ll append all the excerpts I’ve highlighted from my Kindle into the my blog post. For this book however, I found myself highlighting almost every sentence. He really nails the philosophy of long term travel including the feelings, challenges and rewards that come with . I’ve thought about writing my own philosophical experiences down, but why build when you can buy, right?!

This guy is like the Confucius of travel.

Here is a short 4-minute excerpt from Tim’s podcast, and here is the book on Audible and Amazon if you end up getting hooked too.

Long-term travel doesn’t require a massive “bundle of cash”; it only requires that we walk through the world in a more deliberate way.

This deliberate way of walking through the world has always been intrinsic to a time-honored, quietly available travel tradition known as “vagabonding”.

Vagabonding involves taking an extended time-out from your normal life — six weeks, four months, two years — to travel the world on your own terms.

But beyond travel, vagabonding is an outlook on life. Vagabonding is about using the prosperity and possibility of the information age to increase your personal options instead of your personal possessions. Vagabonding is about looking for adventure in normal life, and normal life within adventure. Vagabonding is an attitude — a friendly interest in people, places and things that makes a person an explorer in the truest, most vivid sense of the word.

Vagabonding is not a lifestyle, nor is it a trend. It’s just an uncommon way of looking at life — a value adjustment from which action naturally follows.

And, as much as anything, vagabonding is about time — our only real commodity — and how we choose to use it.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Don’t read this book please! If you do you’ll make it much harder for me and others to sell you something.

In all seriousness though, this book has completely evolved the way I look at pricing, marketing, positioning, and more. One major take away is this:

People have a hard time comparing things that are different from one another. Give people the opportunity to recognize your goal in that context, as a comparison between similar things. Of those similar things, make it obvious that your goal is the best option.

In the context of pricing, try to place the juicy orange you want to sell next to a dying one, and place both oranges next to an apple of any kind. You will sell more oranges.

In the context of mating, be sure you hang out with someone that looks similar to you but less attractive. You will end up being more attractive than anyone in the room.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

There are other gold nuggets in the book, such as how providing a sense of ownership to a buyer (before they buy) can garner an items maximum value. And, how a strong grasp of “market norms” and “social norms” can provide you with harder working employees.

But, the book is more than a few tips and facts, Dan takes you through the experiments and their results so you can understand the genesis of his conclusions.

Since reading Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely I have been able to benefit from many of its conclusions in my everyday life. It is very much worth the read. If you are thinking about selling a product, service or good read this book first!

I’ve copied some of my notes from the book below. Let me know if you have any comments, discussion points or ideas around them – I’d love to hear about them!

The discipline that allows me to play with this subject matter is called behavioral economics, or judgment and decision making (JDM).

humans rarely choose things in absolute terms.

We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth.

most people don’t know what they want unless they see it in context.

I found the recurring theme in the book to be: pricing (or in a larger scope, decision making) is more about a person following a path of least resistance than a true evaluation of values and rationale. The context you give helps to guide that path.

The decision between the Internet-only and print-only options would take a bit of thinking.

The path of least resistance equates to the path with the least requirement to think. The way you balance your offering helps decrease the need for thought.

Sam also knows that given three choices, most people will take the middle choice (as in landing your plane between the runway lights). So guess which television Sam prices as the middle option? That’s right—the one he wants to sell!

I’ve heard this concept before, but just creating a “middle” is over simplifying what is really going on here. It is more about the previous point of context. Provide things a person can compare most easily and but that beside something too different to compare without a deeper level of thought. For example, if you want someone to buy an orange, put it next to a similar orange – then put those oranges next to an apple. Well, I’ll let him explain it ….

It was the mere presence of the decoy that sent 84 of them to the print-and-Internet option (and 16 to the Internet-only option). And the absence of the decoy had them choosing differently, with 32 for print-and-Internet and 68 for Internet-only.

we not only tend to compare things with one another but also tend to focus on comparing things that are easily comparable—and avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily. That may be a confusing thought,

Studies even find that countries with the “happiest” people are not among those with the highest personal income.

pinstripe suit for $455 and decide to buy it, but then another customer whispers in your ear that the exact same suit is on sale for only $448 at another store, just 15 minutes away. Do you make this second 15-minute trip? In this case, most people say that they would not. But

The only question you should ask yourself in these cases is whether the trip across town, and the 15 extra minutes it would take, is worth the extra $7 you would save.

We compare the relative advantage of the cheap pen with the expensive one, and this contrast makes it obvious to us that we should spend the extra time to save the $7. At the same time, the relative advantage of the cheaper suit is very small, so we spend the extra $7.

We made this mistake  A LOT on our trip. When prices adjust we found ourselves worrying about 50 cents on a $1 charge BECAUSE we couldn’t help think “hey, this is off by 50%!”

This is also why it is so easy for a person to add $200 to a $5,000 catering bill for a soup entrée, when the same person will clip coupons to save 25 cents on a one-dollar can of condensed soup.

we find it easy to spend $3,000 to upgrade to leather seats when we buy a new $25,000 car, but difficult to spend the same amount on a new leather sofa (even though we know we will spend more time at home on the sofa than in the car). Yet

we could better assess what we could do with the $3,000 that we are considering spending on upgrading the car seats. Would we perhaps be better off spending it on books, clothes, or a vacation?

“I don’t want to live the life of a Boxster,” he told the New York Times, “because when you get a Boxster you wish you had a 911, and you know what people who have 911s wish they had? They wish they had a Ferrari.”

Another very relevant point to my recent experiences. I took a trip to eject from the cycle of not-enoughism.

Harry Winston, the legendary gemstone dealer. Winston agreed to put them in the window of his store on Fifth Avenue, with an outrageously high price tag attached. Assael, meanwhile, commissioned a full-page advertisement that ran in the glossiest of magazines. There, a string of Tahitian black pearls glowed, set among a …

Above was a great example of context. The marketer simply positioned a non-precious item along with extremely precious things.

not only that goslings make initial decisions based on what’s available in their environment, but that they stick with a decision once it has been made. Lorenz called this natural phenomenon imprinting…

… once we buy a new product at a particular price, we become anchored to that price.

The basic idea of arbitrary coherence is this: although initial prices (such as the price of Assael’s pearls) are “arbitrary,” once those prices are established in our minds they will shape not only present prices but also future prices (this makes them “coherent”).

the students with the highest-ending social security digits (from 80 to 99) bid highest, while those with the lowest-ending numbers (1 to 20) bid lowest.

This was a very impressive experiment. Just using high numbers in your context, *even if they have ZERO relevance to a price or your product*, effect the value a person places on your good. Just – wow.

But price tags by themselves are not necessarily anchors. They become anchors when we contemplate buying a product or service at that particular price. That’s when the imprint is set. From then on, we are willing to accept a range of prices—but as with the pull of a bungee cord, we always refer back to the original anchor. Thus the first anchor influences not only the immediate buying decision but many others that follow.

high-definition television on sale for $3,000, for instance. The price tag is not the anchor. But if we decide to buy it (or seriously contemplate buying it) at that price, then the decision becomes our anchor henceforth in terms of LCD television sets. That’s

The only way out of this box, in fact, is to rent a home in the new location for a year or so. That way, we adjust to the new environment—and, after a while, we are able to make a purchase that aligns with the local market.

“Well, I listened previously to that annoying sound for a high amount. This sound is not much different. So since I said a high amount for the previous one, I guess I could bear this sound for about the same price.”

you think to yourself. “People are standing in line.” So you stand behind these people. Another person walks by. He sees three people standing in line and thinks, “This must be a fantastic restaurant,” and joins the line. Others join. We call this type of behavior herding.

It happens when we assume that something is good (or bad) on the basis of other people’s previous behavior, and our own actions follow suit.

you think to yourself. “People are standing in line.” So you stand behind these people. Another person walks by. He sees three people standing in line and thinks, “This must be a fantastic restaurant,” and joins the line. Others join. We call this type of behavior herding. It happens when we assume that something is good (or bad) on the basis of other people’s previous behavior, and our own actions follow suit.

self-herding. This happens when we believe something is good (or bad) on the basis of our own previous behavior. Essentially,

Herding is a fairly obvious occurrence, but self-herding was more of an eye-opener.

the prices at the two places; and, of course, the cost (or value) of walking a few more blocks to get to Dunkin’ Donuts. This is a complex computation—so instead, you resort to the simple approach: “I went to Starbucks before, and I enjoyed myself and the coffee, so this must be a good decision for me.” So you walk in and get another small cup of coffee.

Buying coffee at Starbucks has become a habit with you.

Starbucks did everything in its power, in other words, to make the experience feel different—so different that we would not use the prices at Dunkin’ Donuts as an anchor, but instead would be open to the new anchor that Starbucks was preparing for us.

Could it be that the lives we have so carefully crafted are largely just a product of arbitrary coherence?

Could it be that we made arbitrary decisions at some point in the past (like the goslings that adopted Lorenz as their parent) and have built our lives on them ever since, assuming that the original decisions were wise? Is

it might seem to us that this is just one decision, without large consequences; but in fact the power of the first decision can have such a long-lasting effect that it will percolate into our future decisions for years to come.

with the price and quality of the truffle, and then made their choice. About 73 percent of them chose the truffle and 27 percent chose a Kiss. Now we decided to see how FREE! might change the situation. So

But what a difference FREE! made. The humble Hershey’s Kiss became a big favorite. Some 69 percent of our customers (up from 27 percent before) chose the FREE!

The critical issue arises when FREE! becomes a struggle between a free item and another item

Why? I think it’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of FREE! is tied to this fear. There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a FREE! item (it’s free). But suppose we choose the item that’s not free. Uh-oh, now there’s a risk of having made a poor decision—the possibility of a loss. And

Suppose I offered you a choice between a free $10 Amazon gift certificate and a $20 gift certificate for seven dollars. Think quickly. Which would you take?

a $20 gift certificate for seven dollars delivers a $13 profit. That’s clearly better than getting a $10 certificate free (earning $10). Can you see the irrational behavior in action?*

immortal words of Woody Allen: “The most expensive sex is free sex.”

In line with the ethos of market norms, those who received five dollars dragged on average 159 circles, and those who received 50 cents dragged on average 101 circles. As expected, more money caused our participants to be more motivated and work harder

He doesn’t mention it, but this chapter dances between the cost/benefits of capitalism, socialism as well as charities. Where does hard work truly stem from, and what motivates truly great work?

The results showed that on average they dragged 168 circles, much more than those who were paid 50 cents, and just slightly more than those who were paid five dollars.

people will work more for a cause than for cash.

This is yet another good reason to always look for the societal benefits in what you bring to market. Tangentially or directly.

AARP asked some lawyers if they would offer less expensive services to needy retirees, at something like $30 an hour. The lawyers said no. Then the program manager from AARP had a brilliant idea: he asked the lawyers if they would offer free services to needy retirees. Overwhelmingly, the lawyers said yes. … What was going on here? …

When money was mentioned, the lawyers used market norms and found the offer lacking, relative to their market salary. When no money was mentioned they used social norms and were willing to volunteer their time.

Why didn’t they just accept the $30, thinking of themselves as volunteers who received $30? Because once market norms enter our considerations, the social norms depart.

The structure he defines between market norms and social norms is very compelling. Definitely good food for thought in your everyday life.

IN THE PREVIOUS experiment, then, those who got paid 50 cents didn’t say to themselves, “Good for me; I get to do this favor for these researchers, and I am getting some money out of this,” and continue to work harder than those who were paid nothing. Instead they switched themselves over to the market norms, decided that 50 cents wasn’t much, and worked halfheartedly.

no one is offended by a small gift, because even small gifts keep us in the social exchange world and away from market norms.

They reacted to the explicitly priced gift in exactly the way they reacted to cash, and the gift no longer invoked social norms—by the mention of its cost, the gift had passed into the realm of market norms.

As it turned out, the students who had first worked on the “salary” task struggled with the puzzle for about five and a half minutes before asking for help, whereas those who had first worked on the neutral task asked for help after about three minutes. Thinking about money, then, made the participants in the “salary” group more self-reliant

In fact, after thinking about money these participants were less willing to help an experimenter enter data, less likely to assist another participant who seemed confused, and less likely to help a “stranger” (an experimenter in disguise) who “accidentally” spilled a box of pencils.

The inherent philanthropic traits we hold are pretty inspiring.  Even if subliminal.

the participants in the “salary” group showed many of the characteristics of the market: they were more selfish and self-reliant; they wanted to spend more time alone; they were more likely to select tasks that required individual input rather than teamwork; and when they were deciding where they wanted to sit, they chose seats farther away from whomever they were told to work with. Indeed, just thinking about money makes us behave as most economists believe we behave—and less like the social animals we are in our daily lives.

How do you balance this fact with setting up the most effective work environment?

For example, what happens when a customer’s check bounces? If the relationship is based on market norms, the bank charges a fee, and the customer shakes it off. Business is business. While the fee is annoying, it’s nonetheless acceptable. In a social relationship, however, a hefty late fee—rather than a friendly call from the manager or an automatic fee waiver—is not only a relationship-killer; it’s a stab in the back.

If you’re a company, my advice is to remember that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t treat your customers like family one moment and then treat them impersonally—or, even worse, as a nuisance or a competitor—a moment later when this becomes more convenient or profitable.

There is much more of a responsibility a company has when they use the sense of “family” with customers or employees. There are a greater consequences between benefits and failures.

In this 24/7 work environment social norms have a great advantage: they tend to make employees passionate, hardworking, flexible, and concerned. In a market where employees’ loyalty to their employers is often wilting, social norms are one of the best ways to make workers loyal, as well as motivated.

If corporations started thinking in terms of social norms, they would realize that these norms build loyalty and—more important—make people want to extend themselves to the degree that corporations need today: to be flexible, concerned, and willing to pitch in. That’s what a social relationship delivers.

we could elevate the social norm, making the officer feel that his mission is worth more than his base pay

MONEY, AS IT turns out, is very often the most expensive way to motivate people.

You move mountains with gospel, not cash. Create a vision and sell it.

to make informed decisions we need to somehow experience and understand the emotional state we will be in at the other side of the experience.

Go back to a home built before we had to have everything, for instance, and check out the size of the closets. Our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, was built in 1890. It has no closets whatsoever. Houses in the 1940s had closets barely big enough to stand in. The closet of the 1970s was a bit larger, perhaps deep enough for a fondue pot, a box of eight-track tapes, and a few disco dresses. But the closet of today is a different breed. “Walk-in closet” means that you can literally walk in for quite a distance. And no matter how deep these closets are, Americans have found ways to fill them right up to the closet door.

The average American family now has six credit cards (in 2005 alone, Americans received 6 billion direct-mail solicitations for credit cards). Frighteningly, the average family debt on these cards is about $9,000; and seven in 10 households borrow on credit cards to cover such basic living expenses as food, utilities, and clothing.

like the self-imposed deadlines I gave to Gaurav and his classmates (the deadlines that offered personal choice, but also had penalties attached for the procrastinators)? This might be the perfect compromise between authoritarianism, on the one hand, and what we have too often in preventive health today—complete freedom to fail.

Would you be willing to commit to a $200 deposit, refundable only if you arrived at the appointment on time? If so, you will have replicated the condition that I offered Gaurav’s class, a condition that certainly motivated the students to be responsible for their own decisions.

The reminds me of two thoughts, a Ulysses Contract and/or libertarianism vs. dictatorship.

HOW ELSE COULD we defeat procrastination in health care?

the “endowment effect,” we predicted that when we own something … we begin to value it more than other people do.

A powerful concept. In short, give a person the sense of ownership before the sale is made to maximize value.

Those who owned a ticket, on the other hand, demanded about $2,400 for it. Like Joseph, they justified their price in terms of the importance of the experience and the lifelong memories it would create.

The first quirk, as we saw in the case of the basketball tickets, is that we fall in love with what we already have. … The second quirk is that we focus on what we may lose, rather than what we may gain…The third quirk is that we assume other people will see the transaction from the same perspective as we do.

OWNERSHIP ALSO HAS what I’d call “peculiarities.” For one, the more work you put into something, the more ownership you begin to feel for it. Think about the last time you assembled some furniture. Figuring out which piece goes where and which screw fits into which hole boosts the feeling of ownership.

There’s another way that we can get drawn into ownership. Often, companies will have “trial” promotions. If we have a basic cable television package, for instance, we are lured into a “digital gold package” by a special “trial” rate (only $59 a month instead of the usual $89). After all, we tell ourselves, we can always go back to basic cable or downgrade to the “silver package.” But once we try the gold package, of course, we claim ownership of it. Will we really have the strength to downgrade back to basic or even to “digital silver”? Doubtful. At the onset, we may think that we can easily return to the basic service, but once we are comfortable with the digital picture, we begin to incorporate our ownership of it into our view of the world and ourselves, and quickly rationalize away the additional price.

More than that, our aversion to loss—the loss of that nice crisp “gold package” picture and the extra channels—is too much for us to bear. In other words, before we make the switch we may not be certain that the cost of the digital gold package is worth the full price; but once we have it, the emotions of ownership come welling up, to tell us that the loss of “digital gold” is more painful than spending a few more dollars a month.

But, once we change our possessions we have a very hard time going back down.

Would this keep our participants from clicking on it anyhow? No. To our surprise, they continued to waste their clicks on the “reincarnating” door, even though its disappearance had no real consequences and could always be easily reversed. They just couldn’t tolerate the idea of the loss, and so they did whatever was necessary to prevent their doors from closing.

philosopher Erich Fromm wrote a book called Escape from Freedom. In a modern democracy, he said, people are beset not by a lack of opportunity, but by a dizzying abundance of it. In our modern society this is emphatically so. We are continually reminded that we can do anything and be anything we want to be. The problem is in living up to this dream. We must develop ourselves in every way possible; must taste every aspect of life; must make sure that of the 1,000 things to see before dying, we have not stopped at number 999. But then comes a problem—are we spreading ourselves too thin? The temptation Fromm was describing, I believe, is what we saw as we watched our participants racing from one door to another.

THE OTHER SIDE of this tragedy develops when we fail to realize that some things really are disappearing doors, and need our immediate attention. We may work more hours at our jobs, for instance, without realizing that the childhood of our

What we need is to consciously start closing some of our doors. Small doors, of course, are rather easy to close.

I have based a lot of my life on a similar theory.

But the bigger doors (or those that seem bigger) are harder to close. Doors that just might lead to a new career or to a better job might be hard to close. Doors that are tied to our dreams are also hard to close.

We need to drop out of committees that are a waste of our time and stop sending holiday cards to people who have moved on to other lives and friends. We need to determine whether we really have time to watch basketball and play both golf and squash and keep our family together; perhaps we should put some of these sports behind us. We ought to shut them because they draw energy and commitment away from the doors that should be left open—and because they drive us crazy.

WHEN WE BELIEVE beforehand that something will be good, therefore, it generally will be good—and when we think it will be bad, it will bad. But how deep are these influences?

Reminds me of Stumbling On Happiness a bit.

But the advantage of Coke over Pepsi was due to Cokes’s brand—which activated the higher-order brain mechanisms.

But because a stereotype provides us with specific expectations about members of a group, it can also unfavorably influence both our perceptions and our behavior.

Research on stereotypes shows not only that we react differently when we have a stereotype of a certain group of people, but also that stereotyped people themselves react differently when they are aware of the label that they are forced to wear (in psychological parlance, they are “primed” with this label).

placebos work. One is belief—our confidence or faith in the drug, the procedure, or the caregiver. Sometimes just the fact that a doctor or nurse is paying attention to us and reassuring us not only makes us feel better but also triggers our internal healing processes.

The second mechanism is conditioning. Like Pavlov’s famous dogs (that learned to salivate at the ring of a bell), the body builds up expectancy after repeated experiences and releases various chemicals to prepare us for the future.

it is easy to imagine that a $4,000 couch will be more comfortable than a $400 couch;

When it comes to medicines, then, we learned that you get what you pay for. Price can change the experience.

In 2004, the total cost of all robberies in the United States was $525 million, and the average loss from a single robbery was about $1,300.18

In general, a compelling stat.

In the control condition, in which cheating was not possible, participants solved on average three problems (out of 20). In the second condition, in which the participants could pocket their answers, they claimed to have solved on average 5.5 problems. What was remarkable was the third situation—in which the participants pocketed their answer sheets, but had also signed the honor code statement. In this case they claimed to have solved, on average, three problems—exactly the same number as the control group.

The effect of signing a statement about an honor code is particularly amazing

Just an honor code can do so much. It reminds me of a study of how much more giving people were if they watched superman or info on a charity before the test.

occasional swearing of oaths and occasional statements of adherence to rules are not enough. From our experiments, it is clear that oaths and rules must be recalled at, or just before, the moment of temptation. Also,

we are able to “bend” reality, see the world in terms compatible with our selfish interest, and become dishonest. What

We are very irrational with our ethics. In short, ask yourself which is worst : stealing a $1 pen or stealing $1 in cash. Why?

Do you see what we were doing? Would the insertion of a token into the transaction—a piece of valueless, nonmonetary currency—affect the students’ honesty? Would the token make the students less honest in tallying their answers than the students who received cash immediately? If so, by how much?

He related this compulsion to our use of “tokens” as a way to separate our minds from the cash value we place upon an expense.

the tendency to order alcoholic beverages that were different from what other people at the table had chosen and a personality trait called “need for uniqueness.” In essence, individuals more concerned with portraying their own uniqueness were more likely to select an alcoholic beverage not yet ordered at their table in an effort to demonstrate that they were in fact one of a kind. What these

people, particularly those with a high need for uniqueness, may sacrifice personal utility in order to gain reputational utility.

Did he just describe a hipster? 😉

In Hong Kong, individuals also selected food that they did not like as much when they selected it in public rather than in private, but these participants were more likely to select the same item as the people ordering before them—again making a regrettable mistake, though a different type of mistake, when ordering food.

Perhaps restaurant owners should ask their customers to write out orders privately (or quietly give their orders to the waiters), so that no customer will be influenced by the orders of his or her companions.

but maybe we can realize that we have such biases and listen more carefully to the advice and feedback we get from others.

You can check out other reviews I’ve posted about books I’ve read here, or check out my read books list on FB here.

TuneTime: This Game App Takes Music Trivia to the Next Level

Now that I’ve learned how to natively develop for iOS, I’m starting to have some fun with it! In this case I’ve built a piano based music trivia game.

appstore-button

How it Works:
Each team attempts to play a secret song on the provided keyboard (via a simple play-by-numbers music score). The player gets no indication towards the timing or rhythm of the song, just the notes. The team must figure out what the name of the song is before the 30 second timer runs out.

TuneTime-homescreen

game-screen-TuneTime

 

Updates/Feedback

  1. First time use of app user is very confused as to what to do next. Usually they click solo first, and skip over instructions.
    1. Potential Solutions: A intro screen and walk through of the game would be helpful. Though that could be skipped too. So offering an “easy” version of the game that grows in complexity over time may be more helpful. e.g. less keys, keys to play light up etc
    2. Note: Users wanted to keep the keyboard as the point of interaction.
  2. Even when the instruction are read there is a lot of confusion on how the workflow of the game works. This was expected as Jackie and I even got confused playing it ourselves. Just didn’t have ideas yet.
    1. Potential Solutions: One user used the game in a way that gave me an idea. Before I thought the lack of providing a rhythm would make the game fun, ergot I set it up so the player didn’t know the song name before playing (this add to a very complex workflow).
      This user wanted to know the song name they played ahead of time and seemed to have a lot more fun trying to communicate the song name through the keyboard, to the other players. This workflow would be MUCH easier to present and understand. I’m just not sure if it would be too easy. Maybe there are other ways to add complexity over time (per #1)
  3. People who have never played the piano have no idea what “#” means. Though I suspected it wouldn’t matter since all the keys are labeled, it was to much information to digest on a first time use.
    1. Potential Solutions: per #1. A “how to use the kayboard and music sheet” before presenting the keyboard would help. As well as lighting up the keyboard for first time game use.
  4. Keyboard was a bit too small
    1. Potential Solutions: Not sure how I can have many song with few keys. The original keyboard had bigger keys but couldnt get much out of it. This could again play into harder level, more songs and smaller keyboard.
  5. When the game got going people had some laughs and fun, so the potential is there, just needs a much smoother and well informed experience.

BitLang: My First iOS App

You may have read how I recently learned to develop in Swift for iOS. Well, here’s a link to the app (BitLang) I set out to build during that learning process; now available on the iTunes AppStore.

appstore-button

More About the Inspiration and Background for Why I Chose to Build BitLang:

Duolingo_logoWhile on our “year long trip around the world” I found myself going back and forth between Duolingo (a language learning app) and Google Translate (a phrase translation app). While I love both products, they had a few shortfallings when it came to a couple of specific needs I had.

First, I wanted to learn from a pre-organized set of phrases that pertained to my immediate needs. I would then want to build upon that set of phrases with custom phrases of my choice.

Although I enjoy the general Duolingo-made learning process, it is built with a long-term lesson plan in mind. I am required to learn phrases like “Your horse ate my apples” to get familiar with the grammar of a language. What I want, however, is to learn phrases I can use for my one week tour through France. For example, due to travel plans this weekend I may just want to prepare myself to say, “May I have a local beer on tap?”, “Check please”, or “Two more red wines.”

unnamedOf course, I can accomplish my phrase-by-phrase translation needs using  Google Translate, but it doesn’t do a great job organizing the translations by category or language. Also, it isn’t built to help me practice the phrases once I’ve looked them up.

I was frustrated by those gaps left between my favorite products. So, I posted feature requests to both product’s sites and got a “[not in our roadmap]” answer. (Which I completely understand and respect.) At first I was disappointed, but then I realized, “Hey, wait a sec, I know how to build things. Maybe I should just create a solution myself.” And so, BitLang was born.

The app is still a work in progress and is growing from its humble MVP beginnings. Here are the designs I mocked up for the first few iterations. Currently it just looks up phrases and allows the users to bookmark them into a single folder. It currently only translates for three languages: French, Spanish and German.

In the next few versions users will be able to login, view pre-made translation packages, and bookmark those packages. Beyond that I will start digging into deeper learning based workflows (quizzes and tests) as well as some community based features.

BitLangv4_ai___14_31___RGB_Preview_

You can read more about the iterations I took in fleshing out the BitLang concept below.

Phase I

At first, I focused heavily on the learning part of the concept. Trying to simplify the lessons into premade (but pertinent) Q&A with very simple phrases. Users would translate a phrase one word at a time.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.11.04 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.10.53 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.10.44 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.10.35 AM

Phase II

Phase I became very complex, and the questions ended up getting pretty redundant. Also, I was missing the whole aspect of being able to generate a list of phrases that interest the user the most. For it all to work, the system would have to be made up of a custom lesson, not UGC. So for the next iteration I focused more on the “looking up of phrases” side of things. To make things even more challenging decided to build it while learning Polymer 1.0.

 Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.46.33 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.46.21 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.46.01 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 6.46.10 AM

It was starting to come together, but as I mentioned in my key learnings for iOS development, I was forcing a web app model in what was obviously better suited for a native app.  My lack of skills to develop in iOS has annoyed me for years so I figured it was time to make the move. That is when the BitLang app became to be.

 

Updates/Feedback

  1. Is really looking for a tool that provides gender along with translations. e.g. spanish: Cup -> Taza … should be … La Taza
  2. Is looking forward to the helpful learning side. One users suggests getting notifications for any words looked up. The interesting thing he asked here is: why should I organize things – If i’m looking it up I want to learn it so assume it.
  3. Big win: Tons of people find the same holes in language learning tools. I’m not the only one. People urn for crash course mixed with lookup.

Key links to finally learning iOS development

If you haven’t picked up any iOS development skills yet, now is the time. It’s never been easier. Below are my reasons to finally take the plunge (successfully), followed by some helpful links to help you learn to create your first app too.

Contrary to popular belief, I’ve never coded up an iOS app myself. My excuse? For one, hiring great iOS developers gave me more time to focus on building great teams and products for my startups.  In addition, Objective-C has a unique syntax and requires a deeper understanding of handling memory, which demanded even more learning time. Finally, there was an immense level of complexity involved in testing, certifying and delivering native iOS apps to market. As a matter of fact, those higher than normal learning curves inspired many startups (including a few that I launched) to focus on making developing apps easier.

Since I already had a strong web development background, I always found it easier to build prototypes for my ideas using the latest web-based, app-building, technologies. Year-after-year a new product claimed to have “the right stuff” needed to create an iOS app that felt fully native, without needing to learn to code directly in Objective-C. Year-after-year I found those claims to be more wishful thinking than reality. Although quicker to develop, those technologies always left the final product feeling hacky, unresponsive or limited, and, in order to go full steam ahead with a project, a fully native version would be necessary.

Earlier this year I took another shot at using a new piece of web tech to build out a mobile app idea I had. This time I learned Polymer 1.0. I loved it as a web framework, but my hopes that Google had managed to finally develop an SPA framework that translated into a smooth functioning mobile app was, yet again, overly optimistic.

It isn’t really the technology’s fault though. The rendering mechanisms for HTML/Web (et al.) just weren’t made to process smooth app-like features. It renders top to bottom, grabs all its assets remotely, makes a lot of inferences, is based on standards that try and work across an array of products made by a variety of companies, and manages general security measures that must be spread across every site. In the web world, the browser is the ad-hoc gatekeeper, and its fighting to keep up. The mission of a browser is critically different to that of apps: to allow a user to serendipitously browse a large breadth of sites in a single view, all the while protecting the user from exposure to malicious pages that are inherently sprinkled into a user’s browsing session. Native apps are different. Both the user and the developer have a strong working agreement between what the developer would like you to see and how the user would like to see it. With that level of trust the developer is able to confidently create an experience specifically tailored to the goal of the app and the interest of the user; the OS can focus on greasing the wheels.

Sorry, I digress. Point is, yet again I was disappointed in what the web (and web wrappers) could offer, and, almost as a yearly tradition, I took a stab at learning how to develop directly in iOS again. This time, I’m glad I did!

Maybe it was due to all the free time I had while on our year long trip, but I doubt it; it came rather easily this time around. No, I think the main contributor to my smooth transition is that Apple has done a stellar job incrementally improving the life of an iOS developer over the years. I think the real turn was the release of Swift in 2014. The language is a natural leap from other common languages, as compared to its Objective-C counterpart. Also, there is no longer a heavy requirement to understand how to manage an app’s memory and delegations. The other power ally in creating ease for iOS developers is XCode’s more powerful yet simplified environment, along with interactive interfaces like Storyboards, segues,  IB Designables and more. In addition, now that TestFlight is fully integrated with iTunes Connect and Xcode, testing an app on a device, releasing it to external testers, and pushing it to the App Store is only a few clicks worth of effort; fairly brainless really.

All this added up to a surprisingly easily made V1 of my very first fully native iOS app! Yay! This will be fun 😀

Links to Learning iOS

Here are some key links I bookmarked while learning Swift in Xcode 9.0, including: vides, Q&As on StackOverflow, and tutorials. I strongly recommend learning the language by working toward implementing an idea you want to bring to life. Not only does it give you an inherent direction in what needs to be learned, but it also helps you push through the tough parts of learning that would otherwise spell defeat. The app I built used APIs, JSON, CoreData, Table Views (for listing data), Audio, and more. Hope this list helps!

 

UI Table View Controller

Prototyping a Custom Cell

http://www.ioscreator.com/tutorials/prototype-cells-tableview-tutorial-ios8-swift

View at Medium.com

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/25541786/custom-uitableviewcell-from-nib-in-swift

Adding Animated Effects to iOS App Using UIKit Dynamics

How to Create A Dribbble Client in Swift

https://grokswift.com/uitableview-updates/

Async Calls

Search Bar

http://shrikar.com/swift-ios-tutorial-uisearchbar-and-uisearchbardelegate/

Storyboards Navigation and Segues

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/26207846/pass-data-through-segue

http://www.raywenderlich.com/113394/storyboards-tutorial-in-ios-9-part-2

http://makeapppie.com/2014/09/15/swift-swift-programmatic-navigation-view-controllers-in-swift/

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12561735/what-are-unwind-segues-for-and-how-do-you-use-them

http://sree.cc/uncategorized/creating-add-target-for-a-uibutton-object-programmatically-in-xcode-6-using-swift-language

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/25167458/changing-navigation-title-programmatically

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/29218345/multiple-segues-to-the-same-view-controllerhttp://stackoverflow.com/questions/24584364/how-to-create-an-alert-in-a-subview-class-in-swift

Reusable Xibs

Core Data

https://www.andrewcbancroft.com/2015/02/18/core-data-cheat-sheet-for-swift-ios-developers/#querying

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/28754959/swift-how-to-filter-in-core-data

http://jamesonquave.com/blog/developing-ios-apps-using-swift-part-3-best-practices/

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1108076/where-does-the-iphone-simulator-store-its-data/3495426#3495426

Network and Observers

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/24049020/nsnotificationcenter-addobserver-in-swift

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/25398664/check-for-internet-connection-availability-in-swift

https://www.andrewcbancroft.com/2015/03/17/basics-of-pull-to-refresh-for-swift-developers/

http://www.jackrabbitmobile.com/design/ios-custom-pull-to-refresh-control/

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/24466907/passing-optional-callback-into-swift-function

Gestures

http://www.raywenderlich.com/77974/making-a-gesture-driven-to-do-list-app-like-clear-in-swift-part-1

http://useyourloaf.com/blog/creating-gesture-recognizers-with-interface-builder.html

Designables

http://iphonedev.tv/blog/2014/12/15/create-an-ibdesignable-uiview-subclass-with-code-from-an-xib-file-in-xcode-6

Page View Controller (Pages on swipe control)