OTR Links 04/21/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Programmers are People too


With social media, it’s so easy to be critical with a perceived sense of anonymity.  So often, you see people just chuck crap without really thinking it through or wondering about the consequences or how the target of their ire might receive the message.

A common target in our digital world is programmers or the company that they program for.

A long time ago, and in a web far away, I had written a number of pieces of software.  They were called Doors and ran on major Bulletin Board System like PCBoard or Wildcat!  If you’re long of memory, you may recall “Bay Street Bulls” or “Pyramid of Cheops” or any of the others.  I think there were probably 12 or 13 of them in the height of production.  They were written to have fun and all of them had a social, competitive aspect to them and many BBS operators used them as a way to garner users.  They’d be tested and retested on my own BBS and a friend’s in Windsor before they were released to the world.  The last thing that I wanted was to release something with a bug or a problem with the code.

Every now and again, a hiccup would happen or I would add a new feature to the program and new versions had to be distributed.  It’s a process that all software developers go through.

Like virtually everyone who has a tablet these days, I use it to play games where the interactions are another way to stay in contact with family, friends, and potential acquaintances.  We live in a very volatile software world and there always are updates available.  It’s just part of the fun of staying on top of things.

Recently, I upgraded (or rather auto-upgraded) to a game that I play with my daughter.  It’s called “What’s the Phrase” and distributed by Zynga.  Recently, it updated itself.  But, when it came to making my next move, I received a message indicating that their server was busy and to try later.  No problem…I tried later and the server was still busy.  After a while, it was pretty obvious to me that there was a problem with the code.

And, in fact, there was.  Within a few days, there was an announcement that a version 1.20 was released and fixed an issue with a busy server.  I upgraded to have life continue on.  But, another problem appeared.  It kept crashing on startup on my iPad.  Now, the thing about Apple products, and I’m sure that you know, is that their claim to fame is that it “just works”.  Sadly, there’s little to be done to debug problems when the software doesn’t work.  No blue screens or error codes.  Just unhappiness.

So, I did what is common practice. 

  • I tried again. No success.
  • I checked to make sure that there was plenty of free space.  No success.
  • I forced quit the app and started again.  No success.
  • I deleted the app and reinstalled.  No success.

I started to poke around and found that there was a Facebook group with over 500,000 users.  Surely, if there was a problem that wasn’t limited to me, there would be others reporting it.  And, there were a few.  And, more than a few were nasty about it.  Very nasty.

I had run out of ideas myself so I sent a message indicating that I was having a problem and almost immediately got a message back from Jon who offered to help.  Now, I don’t know Jon – he could be a programmer, or a support person, or just a player of the game willing to help.  Either way, if he’s got a solution, he’s my current best friend.

He took some time and walked me through the above steps and I followed along thinking I may have missed something but I hadn’t.  There was no solution in sight.

We parted and I figured that was it.

In the next day or so, he asked if I wouldn’t mind Skyping to work through this.  What the hey…  I’m getting nowhere myself.  It turned out that the Skype call was from a name I didn’t recognize.  It was an engineer from Zynga located in Toronto.  We reviewed things and I could tell that there was skepticism on their end.  This came to an end quickly.  I held my iPad up to my web camera and showed my steps.  I could feel the disbelief on the other end but they said that they would take it under advisement.

A little bit of progress and I was impressed that the two of them gave that amount of time to me.  In the meantime, I’m now getting warnings that I’ll soon be forfeiting a game to my daughter if I don’t make a move.  We Petersons are a competitive lot so you don’t know how tough that message was to take!

On cue, Jon was back and wanted an email address for contact.  I got back to him and got a link to an older version of the program to download and use until a fix was forthcoming.  Did I mention that I’m getting this special attention out of potentially 500,000 others?  (and probably way more…)

That got me back into the game and life went on.  Then, just this week, I get another contact from Jon indicating that a version 1.21 would be released this weekend and to stay in touch should I have further problems.  As soon as I found that update, I grabbed it and voila, the issue was fixed and I’m now firing on all cylinders.

I didn’t ask but I wonder if those people who were so nasty with their comments had received the same immediate high level of support.  It never hurts to be nice and I’m so glad that I was with these gentlemen.  They reciprocated and supported their product with an absolutely high degree of concern and professionalism.  My hat’s off to them. 

I’m not sure that there’s a lesson in this or not.  But, I’d like to think that being kind never hurts.  Programmers and companies don’t deliberately release software that’s going to cause grief to the end user.  Like everyone, they want to be successful.  Is it too much to ask that they be contacted politely?

OTR Links 04/20/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Doctor, it hurts when I do that


It’s been an interesting week in blogging.  I need to follow that advice.

I thought it was just me that noticed and that I had damage control kick in.  But, once again, I was wrong.

The first inclination that other noticed was a message from @DavidFifeVP asking me where the message went and could I send the link to him again.  Then, last night at dinner, my daughter asked “Has your blog been screwy this week?”  I read your posts and it seems like I get an announcement that a new one is up but I can’t get to it.

Both of them are right.

Last weekend, I had given a presentation using Google Slides so it was only appropriate that I use Google Chrome as the browser to deliver things.  No problem there, and it worked like a champ.

I’m not one to turn my computer off so it just went to sleep and when I got home, opened the lid and away I went. 

As per my normal routine, I started a new blog post in ScribeFire and posted it to WordPress for publication the next morning at 5:00am like I normally do.  After it was posted, Brian Aspinall had sent me a link that I wanted to include so I logged into WordPress on the web and made the change and saved it.  I happened to glance at the screen where normally, you’d find a “Scheduled” button and saw “Updated” instead.  That was bizarre.  Maybe there was a change and I didn’t get the memo.  My next step is then normally to preview and proofread and then I noticed that the title of the post had changed to one that I had used in the past “It’s the Little Things”.  Now, that’s tres bizarre.

I flipped over to Hootsuite to see that the post had been announced to the world.  Wow.  Next step was to undelete the Twitter message and then I needed to also go to Facebook and delete the announcement there because the robots had done their work faithfully!  I updated the title of the post and made sure to change the date and time to the next day and updated.  Darned if the same thing didn’t happen again.  Now I’m starting to wonder about my sanity.  I do what every sane person does.  Repeat the process and click harder.  Same thing.

I open Firefox and repeat the process – do you know how hard it is to type with your fingers crossed – and everything worked well.  It’s all scheduled to go as planned.  Sadly, those who subscribe to my blog probably got a couple of bogus notifications of a new post.  I’m here to say I’m sorry.

The next day, I did my posting routine like normal and happened to be at my Windows computer with Chrome open and I noticed a spelling mistake.  I fixed it and republished and holy deja vue.  Fortunately, I had my Firefox backup scheme thought through and fixed things.

So, what does a good computing citizen do now?  Of course, I retrace my steps.  What had happened since the last time that I didn’t have a problem?

Actually, it turned out a few things.  Chrome updates itself automatically as it does with its extensions.  So, it could be there.  But then, I’d also had been doing my diligence with the HeartBleed situation.  I had gone and changed the passwords as I was notified by LastPass, including LastPass itself.  Check this, trace that, have another coffee, try this, it was like trying to find something in the dark.  Oh, and I had bought a new mouse and installed a new driver under Windows.

The good news was that Firefox needed updating on my Macintosh and the beta channel is now shipping with the new user interface. 

But, I’m no clearer to figuring out this particular puzzle.  Because it was replicated on both Macintosh and Window using exactly the same tools, I have a feeling that it may well be an issue with a tool or program that I’ve installed and that time will allow for an upgrade. 

It’s not the end of the world but I thought that I owed you who where the unfortunate recipients of bad notices an explanation.

And, just a heads up…I upgraded to Ubuntu 14.04LTS yesterday so look out!

OTR Links 04/19/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


I want to do something a little different this week.  Last weekend, two edcamps were held at the same time.  One in London (edcampldn) and one in Tilbury (edcampswo).  It was a very interesting day in risk taking for the organizers.  First, you have to do the math – bring 100 connected teachers together and you’ll need at least capacity for 200 devices.  On top of that, a couple of sessions were held collaboratively through Google Hangouts and a Google Document.  Both sites appear to have done it successfully.  Congratulations to the organizers.

One of the best ways to measure success is to gauge the reaction from the participants.  During the event, of course, monitoring the Twitter hashtags is the best way to go.

But, after the event, blogging is the way to go.  Even better, when you get new bloggers, you know that you’ve changed the reflective practice of some.  In this post, I’d like to identify the blog posts that I found as professional educators share their learning and their thoughts about their learning.

That’s about what I was able to find.  If you did blog about either event and I didn’t find you, please let me know below in the comments.

I’ve already added the new bloggers to the Ontario Edubloggers Livebinder.  If there are any more new education bloggers, I’d love to add them.  Remember, if you want to know about Ontario Education, talk or read an Ontario Educator.

To all those involved, don’t let this be a traditional one shot in the dark event.  Keep the conversation and the learning going.

OTR Links 04/18/2014


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.