Category Archives: Personal update

Getting to know git

This weekend I took some time to get to know Git. It’s software that helps you work with different versions of files. If you work with multiple people on a bunch of files, like software developers often do, Git can be of great use for dealing how to merge each contribution of new code. It also gives you a way to undo mistakes.

A couple of months ago I tried to understand it for the first time with some help via Skype, but it didn’t really stick.

These The New Boston videos helped me to understand the basics. I love The New Boston videos, because Bucky (the one who explains everything) never assumes you know anything and he always explains by showing how and then explaining why.

I also watched most of the C programming language play-list from The New Boston. Again, it’s great the videos start with the absolute beginning; in this case what program to use and how to install it to run C code. I’m not sure if I’m ever going to code a real program in C, but it’s nice to know a little bit about the grandfather of so many languages.

Moving forward

I’d like to give some examples of the type of tools I’d like to work on and why. Firs let me humbly explain my view on how the world works.

Motivation – Most people are motivated to do the right thing. They want to improve the conditions for themselves and if possible for all people. Think about what a Miss World would talk about:

  • Quality education for all
  • Peace for all
  • No more poverty
  • etc

Most people know the world as a lot of problems, and we would like to see it differently. In my believe we don’t have an awareness problem.

So what’s holding us back?

  • Lack of understanding
  • Broken feedback loops

Understanding – The world is rather complex. A lot of interconnected parts impact how the world operates. How do people become homeless? And what does it take to get them back on a more stable track. It’s not simple and not easy [1] to fix this problem.

Feedback – When you try something new, you want to know if it had any effect. If the feedback is positive you are motivated to do more of it. When you try to take on the big problems like poverty and education the feedback loop feels broken.

Broken feedback comes in many forms:

  1. No feedback at all. Someone asks you to give money for the children in Nepal. You give some money and you never hear about these children again.
  2. Slow feedback. When you vote for a politician to improve the way the educational system works. Even if that politician gains the power to work on the problem, it takes many years before you can expect to see any significant results.
  3. Noisy feedback. What does it mean when more people immigrate from conflict areas to the Netherlands? Are there more conflicts? Has it become easier to get out of these countries? Was it because of policy changes in the Netherlands or in Europe? It’s not so clear if it’s a good or a bad thing in the short term or long term.

How to fix it – Improve feedback loops,simplify where possible [2] and make it easy to take steps in the right direction.

The assumption is that things will improve when people have a greater understanding of what is going on and it’s easier to take actions and learn from them. This reasoning gives birth to unlimited opportunities and ideas worth investing in.

Some examples of possible tools:

  • Help politicians better understand what’s going on.
    Example: Enabling them to better recognize who the true authors are of the information that is coming to them. Is this petition a signal to be taken seriously or part of a lobbyist campaign?
  • Supports people in the creative process [3].
    Example: Enabling them to form quality concepts out of their ideas and make those into projects that have impact.
  • Help police on the street to quickly judge situations correctly.
    Example: Make it easier to recognize psychological disorders.
  • Help people to deal realistically with their own ambitions [4].
    Example: Make it super easy to quickly keep track of your goals and progress towards those goals.
  • Help teachers to learn from other teachers.
    Example: Share experiences on how to deal with bullying.
  • Help parents to better educate their kids [5].
    Example: Make a cheap marketplace for sharing children books online that also makes it easy to find books that match the reading level of the child.
  • Tool supporting informal care givers.
    Example: Making it easier to understand what care is needed and how to provide it in a way that fits with their capabilities.
  • Tool that makes it easier to eat healthy [6].
    Example: Make it easier to compare the health qualities of different food options.

How about making money?

Both for my own sake and because it enables the investment in the long term impact of these tools, profitability is an essential part of the equation.

Obviously the business model shouldn’t infringe on the primary purpose of the tool. It wouldn’t make sense to provide advertisements inside a tool that was created to help prevent manipulation by lobbyists. In the same way that FIFA should not have McDonald’s as a sponsor [7].

Concluding

So this is the rough road map for me to move forward on. It has a clear focus and it’s extremely diverse. It can include small prototypes and projects that take years to mature. There is a lot to learn and a lot to do. Let’s get going :).

Notes

[ 1 ] Simple made easy
The link is to a presentation that explains simple versus complex and easy versus hard. Easy are things that are ‘near to us’, that we understand quickly, that require little effort. Simple is straightforward, with no (or few) intertwined parts. Something simple like losing weight can be very hard to do.

[ 2 ] To quote Einstein – “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler”
It requires deep understanding in order to simplify something complex and stay true to the nature of what you are trying to convey. This means that for designing these tools, the designer needs to become somewhat of an expert in the field the tool deals with.

[ 3 ] Google Play – Idea Growr
Android app I made for the purpose of helping people to grow their ideas.

[ 4 ] Google Play – Personal Life Goal Goach
Android app I made to help people set and keep track of their personal goals.

[ 5 ] Google Play – My Picture Books
Android app I made for the purpose of making it more fun to read with your kids by enabling you to add sounds to the pages of your books. Another angle to this app is that it makes it easier to take a whole bunch of books on a trip, because you only need to take along your tablet.

[ 6 ] Sugar Fat Salt
An idea that I have not fully worked out yet, that makes it easier to understand how healthy your food is.

[ 7 ] FIFA – Who we are
FIFA states: “Promoting health through playing football and using the game as educational platform”. Somehow this coincides with having McDonald’s as a sponsor.

I’ve put this same text on the about me page.

Follow up on researching use of StackMob

I wanted to find out if I could use Stackmob (https://www.stackmob.com/) to create a back-end for Idea Growr and other future projects. I did some tests last week and decided not to go for it.

4 reasons I will not use StackMob

  1. Not a lot of good (Android) tutorials for what I want to do. The tasks tutorial was nice, but the only other real Android tutorial SnapStack, required you to have an Amazon Services account and incorporated Google Services API. This added to the complexity while I was only trying to learn StackMob not two other things. I guess I’m more of a beginner then they have in mind for their clients. In the end I could not even recreate the app in the e-book, because (among other reasons) they failed to include the layout’s, that made it unclear how to set up the app’s login, sing-up, forgot password pages.
  2. I used a contact form on their site because I wanted to e-mail them. Their auto-emailed me with a “Thank you for your interest in StackMob. Do you have time this week or next for a short call to discuss your requirements?”, I replied that this was not needed and that I could save both of us some time by just asking some quick questions via e-mail. So I included those questions and a couple of other remarks on their website. I never got a reply back. I understand they are busy, but if you want to call me at first, it doesn’t feel right if they don’t even reply with “can’t help you, too busy”. In the comments a reaction from StackMob.
  3. No local cache. I want the online part of the app to be optional, and the app should also work offline. It doesn’t seem StackMob can help me there. Maybe Parse would have been a better option for this.
  4. I had the feeling time was slipping away last week, and I was hardly making any progress. Making so little progress on StackMob made me realize even more I need a development partner for this and I should focus on what I’m good at.

The whole reason I wanted to learn some development skills is that I want to be able to show the potential of an app (/tool) in a real life working prototype. I can now to some extend do this, so I should focus on finding partners, coming up with interesting ideas for the app for marketing and business development. Also I can create more working prototypes and put some extra effort in how I present myself as a freelance interaction designer. So, aside from some interaction design work for a client, I will be busy with those things in the next weeks.

 

A fresh start

This marks the beginning of juliushuijnk.nl a new website I have set up to inform you about me.

I used to devote almost all of my time to FourceLabs,  the company I co-founded in 2009 with Karel and Adriaan. And while I’m very proud to have been part of this company, with great projects like Chick’n’Run, it feels good to have closed that chapter and being able to start afresh.

So now it’s time to forge a new plan. There is no hurry, so I’ll take my time to do some pet projects, talk to people, have fun and learn a few new skills. On this blog you can keep track of those things.

To make this post more visually appealing, I’ll end with a series of pictures I once took, that is meant to communicate growth and playing with your breakfast.

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