Archive for April, 2019

Why Everyone Is Watching TV with Closed Captioning On These Days

Friday, April 26th, 2019

I found it inexplicable when I first started dating my wife that she required Close Captioning on at all times when watching anything on a screen. But now I’m kinda into it. My favorite part is when they do the lyrics to songs and I can hear the thematic connections to what is going on in a way I wouldn’t otherwise. Plus little callouts like “[Quiet Sobbing]” that I probably wouldn’t have heart at all. That reminds me I really need to get my ears checked.

I didn’t know it was kind of a phenomenon.

Improving WordPress Comments

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

WordPress has commenting functionality built-in. I feel like they haven’t seen a lot of love in a while. Here’s some random things I think would improve the situation.

Just ideas! I have no intimate knowledge of how this all works and what of all this would be easy/hard or is a good idea/bad idea. Just the perspective of someone who has WordPress sites with a few hundred thousand comments.

Collect Everything, Analyze Nothing

Friday, April 19th, 2019

This is a great essay on usage data collection:

It starts with a brilliant idea: we’ll collect information about every click someone makes on every page in our app! And we’ll track how long they hesitate over a particular choice! And how often they use the back button! How many seconds they watch our intro video before they abort! How many times they reshare our social media post!

And then they do track all that. Tracking it all is easy. Add some log events, dump them into a database, off we go.

But then what? Well, after that, we have to analyze it.

Ideally, the people collecting that data use it to improve the app. We do that at CodePen right now. We collect anonymous usage data en masse and then sometimes use it to inform design choices we make. None of us are data scientists, so I’m fairly certain we aren’t extracting the best possible information out of it (which is largely this guy’s point, collectively we suck at the analysis part), but we typically use it for stuff like Well, this feature is clearly used more than we thought and this feature is less, so let’s do some emphasis shuffling.

At the moment we don’t use it to perform any personalized recommendations, although we’re in the early stages of that also. I hope it ends up being useful.

Personal data is much trickier, as, for one, you have to be super GDPR careful. More likely, you’re monetizing it. I’d rather die than sell people’s personal information as a business model. If you aren’t selling it, it might as well be anonymous or public data.

As a side point, it’s always weird when I can’t figure out who wrote something. There is no name here:

But you can’t find a Twitter link. That suggests he’s a co-founder of this, which has three probably-men co-founders. They are listed on the site in this order: David Crawshaw, Avery Pennarun, and David Carney. In the footer, the cities listed are New York, Montréal, and Toronto. The .ca domain name could match either Montréal or Toronto, but based on the ordering my best guess is this was Avery Pennarun’s essay.

My Obnoxious Answers about Email Newsletters

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

(This is just an email-answer-turned-blog-post.)

What are some of the gotchas / pain points I should to look out for in running a newsletter?

You need desire and motivation to do it. Newsletters are no sure-fire-business-win, so hopefully, it’s fueled by your own passion for the topic. We have a newsletter on CSS-Tricks because, as a publication, it’s a nice way to reach folks that may not otherwise swing by the site. Email is cool because it’s so opt-in. If people don’t want it, they unsubscribe (or don’t subscribe in the first place).

One potential pain point will be content generation. Do you have an unlimited stream of that from your brain? Some people have trouble spitting out works on command. If you do, maybe start compiling a huge idea pile now.

Another pain point can be guilt. If you can’t manage to get one out consistently, you might find yourself feeling guilty about it, and the guilt leads to choices like nuking it, which is yet-more guilt.

How long does it take you to put together a newsletter (excluding time to create the actual blog content)?

There is no answer to that. You could spend 20 minutes compiling a few links. You could spend every waking moment preparing, writing, editing, and formatting. How much time do you have to put into it? Is it your livelihood or some for-fun side thing?

Do you use any tooling / outsourcing to put together the newsletter every week / month?

Lately, we write it in WordPress/Gutenberg and send it through MailChimp/RSS.

A bit of outsourcing in that Robin Rendle leads it up for us and does the vast majority of writing for it. Thanks Robin!

Infrastructure for Robo Calls

Monday, April 8th, 2019

I hear this robo call problem is largely a western-countries thing. It certainly affects me. I’ve been on the Do Not Call list for a decade and it does nothing. These days I get at least a few fraudulent calls a day. Literal fraud. Literally people trying to get me to pick up, talk to them, and take something from me.

The government is at fault, to some degree. The calls aren’t legal. I’m on a government-run list to stop them, which doesn’t work. Apparently, they are on it and having some success.

It’s the carriers whom I literally pay money to have phone service at all. I make precious few actual phone calls in a month. Seems like we are awful close to just not needing them at all, and this speeds along that process. Shouldn’t this be one of their top priorities? Some of them are doing work.

Phone makers too, you’d think. I remember when Apple gave us voice mail where we could just tap the message we want to hear from a list. Seems rudimentary now, but they had to invent that, not the carriers. Maybe they can invent tech to stop this also. There is some of that happening.

I guess it’s somewhat hopeful that it’s being fought at lots of different levels. As a consumer, I’m not particularly happy about it. I like the governmental fighting of it the most, because the people doing it should face consequences not just be stopped.

I can never bring this up without people reminding me that Reply All did an episode on this. They did! It’s great! Here it is!

Another angle to this though is what software is actually making these calls? When I think of APIs for calls and text, I think of Twilio.

Twilio says:

Since the pervasiveness of robocalling has exploded in the last year, folks have asked me my thoughts, and frankly, whether Twilio allows this with our platform. We don’t, and I’m as concerned as you are about robocalling. We don’t want these robocallers on our platform, and we actively work to prevent these perpetrators from making unwanted calls using our product.

They don’t want them (good) and fight to keep them off (good), but are they winning that fight? That part we don’t know.