Usability Testing Made Me a Better Developer

A few months ago, I took some intro to user experience classes online. I wanted to get more familiar with some different areas and get a better understanding of the entire process. I have always wanted to design more and learn more about other parts of the stack then I have been working on.

I wanted to learn more and wanted to be more involved in that area. I bought Sketch because I figured that I could start playing around with that. I then read the book Sprint, and I wanted to get more involved with testing and the process before coding might start to happen.

Taking a Test

I took a few tests quickly after signing up. Most of the tests were just a static homepage to start. The questions were about different aspects about the homepage.  

The thing that I found most valuable about the whole process was having to say outright what I was thinking and what I was doing as I was consuming the content. This is something that took me some time to get used to. I was so used to just consuming and filtering all of the data in my head. I was struggling at first, but being able to stop and ask myself a few questions, even on my own projects, was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me.


Can Black Mirror Save Us?

In 2009, a documentary was released called, “We Live In Public.” The film follows Josh Harris, founder of the site While watching this movie, it was hard to believe that it all took place in the 90s. Josh Harris founded a streaming TV network during the 90s boom.

The movie was an interesting look at the tech climate in the 90s. These are companies and scenarios that some of us might not remember quite well. In the 90s boom, some of us were only a few years old.

It is almost hard to believe that there was a company in the early 90s that was working on streaming tech and was succeeding on a certain level.

Live Stream

Live streaming seems to be a space that everyone wants to get involved in. Facebook Live, Periscope, and Snapchat all want to capture our moments.

Now, with Snapchat glasses, the live component is something that is going to go to the next level of sharing.

The dream of “We Live In Public” is starting to come to the surface. It is going to be interesting to see how people share when it comes to wearables.

I think it is something that has altered all of our behaviors. I recently went to take a photo on my phone, stopped myself, and said, “I better Snapchat this.”

Black Mirror – The Near Future


Netflix released a new trailer for their latest bit of original programming, “Black Mirror.” If you haven’t seen any of the previous seasons, it was worth a binge. The seasons are only a few episodes each.


Cash Apps – Venmo, Square Cash, Google Wallet

I have tried different hacks and different ways to save money and track all of my spending. I have even used some unorthodox methods before. Financial apps have always been something that is interesting to me.

I was recently at a restaurant with a bunch of people. We decided to let one person pay for the meal and then we would all send that person money for our share of the bill. Sounds easy enough, right? It was interesting to watch the group of ten people figure out this whole process. Some people used this app and some people used others. I had a preference which one that I liked. But, as always, I wanted to see what I was missing out on.


I made an account on Venmo, and I just didn’t get why there was a public feed for the transactions. The feed when I made the account was loaded with nonsense comments. “$5 for a great night last night” (I am censoring that) or “$10 for trump donation.”

I sent someone over a $1. The whole process with Venmo just took too long. The removal of the money from my account and the fact that all of this was public was weird to me. I didn’t find that information to be useful. I felt like I was missing something.

Google Wallet

Google Wallet was once an amazing prepaid debit card that you can manage from your phone. Google has since transitioned the product to just a service to send and receive money.

Google transactions were almost immediate from debit card to sending. The money was an instant transfer to my account. It got the job done and it was fast. But the problem was that not a lot of people in my circle uses it.

Square Cash

Full disclosure, Square Cash is the app that I have used the most. But recently, Square has made a few changes. The biggest change is that they now charge a 1% fee for immediate deposits into your checking account. The only reason why this is a big deal is that if you are like me, you like having your money in certain spots, or if you have a $100 restaurant bill in your account, you want that money deposited ASAP to avoid any issues.

I found myself paying the fee and not waiting. There is no charge for next day deposits.

The other interesting thing that Square added is a virtual debit card. You can use your “Cash” balance to manage the card and provide the funds. The card was an awesome experience to use. I was able to use it for some internet orders, and my main cards were not subject to that type of input. You can look at it as a nice disposable way to get an online order up or hide the transactions from your main accounts.

Square also has a few business possibilities and a full web experience to send and request money.

What Now?

Venmo has its own audience and set of features. I did a little research, and it seems people do love that feed. But I think Square wins in all areas; design and UI are just so natural and easy to use. I love the feature set and how the product does seem to be evolving.


Time To Ship

Lately, I set out on something different. I wanted to make a lot of changes and I have had a lot of lists of to dos and goals. These were things that were just never getting done and got lost in notebooks, forgotten. I was stuck in a cycle of never getting the things done that I wanted.

I started with one big goal that I wanted to accomplish and built from there, each month taking on something that I had always wanted to try and starting to work it into my daily routine. Each month, the challenge ranged from trying to eat better to trying to take a photo every day.

Change In Thinking  

The beauty of tackling things in small chunks like this is that anything seems possible. The things that don’t seem possible suddenly make a lot of sense.  

One thing that I always struggled with was taking those large and ambitious goals and breaking them down into small tasks.  

New Projects

This process got me thinking better and finding pockets of time in my day, from making sure certain apps are on the first screen of my phone to not being afraid to outsource something when I need help with a project.

This month, I want to do something different and take the goal one step further. I have always wanted to do an online course and try out something along those lines, so I am going to set October 31st as my deadline and I am going to craft a course.


A Time To Be Small

I have always wanted to start a podcast. Tonight, is my attempt at publishing something. It is just a sample of the stories that I want to share and explore.

Sometimes, you just have to shut up and fucking ship something.


How Does Snap Keep Doing It?

Google Glass was something that I was ravenous for. The product eventually became dead and Google learned a lot from that experiment. I had the privilege to try out a pair for a weekend. The experience was just kind of strange. It didn’t feel natural at all but, on the other hand, there were a few things that were certainly forward thinking about that type of device.

Out of nowhere, Snapchat rebranded last week and is now a “camera company.” They also announced a brand new piece of hardware called “Spectacles.” Finally, something different and a company that is willing to take a chance on something. Just a few weeks ago, watching the Apple Event, I was hoping they would take a chance and release something that would wow and surprise us. A device or service that takes a real chance and tries to be something different.

When you first look at the Spectacles, they almost look like a joke. The oversized sunglasses come in a variety of bright colors and have cameras at the corners of each eye of the glasses. From, a hardware point of view it is an interesting device. The sample content looks like something that GoPro would make. The device is priced at only $130 and when you compared it to a Google Glass, it almost ten times cheaper.  

Live Stream

Facebook Live, Periscope, and are just some apps that are pushing live video into the mainstream. Even with the fact that these glasses can only record 10 seconds at a time, they are going to be huge with young people. They are priced right and will tap into something.

I think it is going to be interesting to see what people can do with them. They could work with the GoPro crowd as well.


Google Just Mainstreamed VR

Google had a big event last week. It announced a slew of new products including a new line of phones, new Chromecasts, and a new Google Home Speaker. But the big announcement out of Google was a more in-depth look at the Google Daydream specs and the Daydream viewer headset. Google alluded to a number of partners at launch including HBO, Netflix, and the MLB.

The thing that really caught my attention was the VR viewer. It looks like one of the most polished products out of Google in a long time. It looks like it was not a rushed product or a half-baked idea.


If you ever used Google Cardboard or even Oculus, you know how uncomfortable they can be and how difficult it can be to get in and out of the device. Google Daydream looks like it was designed for ease of use and something to quickly pickup. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of adjusting and lining things up. There doesn’t seem to be a need to remove your case from your phone to load it in. There is also room for you to keep your glasses on.


VR, until this point, has been something that just been too dorky and just for the dedicated. Samsung’s Gear VR started to open that up and show that we can use our phones to become the brains of our VR content. We don’t need to get a $3,000 computer and spend an extra few hundred dollars on a headset.

Google Daydream is giving me a lot of reasons to make a jump to a Pixel Phone to be able to use this VR.


What Is The Point of Google Allo?

Every day, there are always two tabs open on my computer. The first two things I open are Todoist and Gmail. I do most of my communicating with the outside world via Gmail and Hangouts. I also have my Google Voice number send messages and voicemail into Hangouts. I still use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for some communication but I would say that I am a heavy Hangout user. It was always an app that made sense; a real time chat inside Gmail where you can continue the conversation on your phone. The product worked well for my needs. However, it was lacking some things in terms of the modern messaging apps. It didn’t have the latest movie stickers like you could get on Facebook or the apps inside of iMessage.  

Months back, Google announced two new messaging apps – Duo and Allo. They were essentially video chat split out into its own experience and all other chats into their own app. The splitting made sense and is something that a lot of people do, including Apple. But during the whole announcement, Google never mentioned Hangouts, what it was going to do and how it was going to fit into the chat ecosystem.

As with all Google products, I was excited to try Duo and Allo. I had the latest Nexus and I basically use Google everything so why not? Duo was released first and it was a good video chat program. I hardly ever video chat but with the first test, it was fine and fast. If you video chat a lot, it makes some sense to use as you can jump in and out of calls faster than anything I have seen.

Just yesterday, Allo came out on iOS and Android. I had a number of concerns about the product going into launch but, hey, it’s Google. I got a lovely little notification because I preregistered on the Play Store.

When, you first boot it up, the signup process is fast but I had nobody in my contacts that had the app or using it yet, so it was a ghost town with the Google Assistant

The Savior

The Google Assistant is basically Google’s chat bot. Think of it as a text version of Google Now. You can have it answer all kinds of questions and do tasks for you. I set a calendar event, was able to search through some emails, and looked up some local restaurants.

There was a lot of interesting hooks into other Google services and it is just scratching the surface. Google can add support for Drive and Google Keep, but the assistant is going to be the big thing out of this.

Messaging should be universal. That is what Facebook gets right. It is on every device and it just keeps adding features to the core product.

One And Done

I have only used Allo once since it was launched. It is one of the rare Google products that has upset me. I wish this stuff were available to me in other products and across the Google ecosystem. I would love to be able to pull up the assistant when using other Google apps or have an Android feature like a chat head that would allow me to access this and truly start to make this an assistant.

It is going to be something to watch but there is nothing here yet.


Did You See The Game On Twitter?

Tonight, I am watching sports on Twitter on my Amazon Fire TV. Earlier this year, Twitter won the rights to stream 10 NFL games. The games are premiering this week and this has started Twitter down a road of live content. They have slowly beefed up their live offerings, most likely to get prepared for the NFL Season, but there was a problem with the discovery of these videos. I feel like I didn’t know about a lot of the content unless someone was tweeting about it.


This summer, I watched both the RNC and DNC conventions stream live on Twitter. The experience was actually enjoyable on the mobile app. There was something cool watching the conversation fall in while watching. It would great to be able to either be able to minimize the video or play it in the background while you interact with something other than the app.

The Game

The Jets/Bills game last week was streamed by two million people and watched by something like 50 million people on TV.

This is a step into something different and into something new for live sports. Live sports is one of the hardest things to watch if you cut cable. The NFL is especially tough to watch because it is big business. It also has a number of exclusive deals with companies and the TV deals just bring in new numbers.

This Twitter deal feels like an experiment but doesn’t feel like a natural fit. I know that the day after the game I heard people ask “Hey, did you see the game on Twitter?”  

It is exciting to see companies make these deals that open up the content more and don’t put them behind walls.


The Future Of Cars Is Not So Far Away


Uber finally introduced its self-driving cars to the world. They were rumored to have been working on this technology for quite some time but I don’t think we have ever seen it until today. Uber has a small fleet of cars in a few neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. This type of automation has been in Teslas for quite some time now and Tesla even just released an update.

This Uber trial feels like something different.  I have watched a lot of videos of people using the Tesla Autopilot but this was that next step into not owning your own car.

I must say,  when I first watched this video, the first thing that came into my mind was this felt like cars that are available to you 24 hours a day that will drive you on short trips.

Making Car Owning Option

Could this make owning a car something that becomes optional? Could this make people have one-car households and supplement transportation with Uber rides? There are some towns where travel is just a giant pain in the ass. This could allow us to rethink transportation once we get to a certain level of sophistication with this technology. I know we are far off from this utopia where software drives us around but, you have to admit, this is exciting and it’s fun to think about how this could change our lives.

There are some things about not having to worry about car ownership that would be a giant pain reliever for people.


Safety is going to be the biggest question as this technology develops. The first crashes of any level are going to be covered by the news and talked about heavily. That is what makes the small trials Uber is doing in Pittsburgh so important. Being able to get this thing on the road in real world situations is only going to help with the software development and find issues or any potential problems.


Just this weekend, a person from Lyft said that the majority of rides in about five years will be from self-driving cars. The technology is not going away. We might think that these things are far away but things rapidly change and technology is evolving faster than ever.

Just image one day in the future you will be able to call an Uber and just sit in the back and enjoy some Netflix. There may or may not be a driver in the car.