Here’s why we’re being slowly automated out of traditional #jobs.
Why convoluted classes and prissy programming is not really necessary if you’re a startup
We’re building a super-simple project using Ruby. Part of it has to do with sending out emails on an hourly basis.
I started building methods to write jobs into a queue. Then I started to build workers to consume the queue and run those jobs. None of these jobs were called by someone using our app, so we were not worried about having a sluggish interface for our potential users.
I stopped myself to think for a second.
Why was i building these layers? After all, I was never sending these emails in a web request cycle.
- Would it be faster to just have a monolithic class to send these 3 emails?
- Did I really need Sidekiq for this specific application?
- What I just wrote a single method (< 100 LOC) to do the same job?
That’s what I did.
It took a couple of hours to write the method AND to compose the emails and everything ran quickly and efficiently. The app only has one client that’s ready to go. It’s also easier to debug.
Since its just a small app running on a single server, we also skipped the excellent Sidekiq this time too, for a good, old-fashioned hourly CRON job.
I saved myself a couple of days doing all of this.
So many times, as programmers, we get caught up into being a “professional” programmer that we forget that super-simple things could save us a ton of time too.
More worrisome, for startups, you want to get to the point of testing if your business proposition even works, as quickly as possible. This means getting that minimal viable product working yesterday.
And i’m going to do a lot more like this.
Thought travel agents were dead? Here’s why you were dead wrong.
Everyone says travel agents are dead. But that’s not true.
They still make our more complex trips easy and enjoyable. They still offer great customer service that the likes of Orbitz, Priceline and other can’t even begin to contemplate.
And they still book more than 50% of all travel worldwide.
The Travel Valet brings that agent even closer to you, in your pocket in fact. And we even throw in great information with it that helps you easier plan and then enjoy your trip.
No one in the travel ecosystem is doing that right now.
If you’re a maker, its time to get your ass off Facebook
I see it everyday.
Really talented people who can make stuff and produce, spending all their time on Facebook. ”Where’s your blog or site” I always ask, and they invariably say they don’t have one.
Photo: Ericson Smith
But sigh. They’re on Facebook.
I’ll keep this post short.
There are only 24 hours a day. We spend about 8 of them being productive. Maybe less. It takes time to write something on Facebook. Measurable time.
Wouldn’t It would be better to spend that time writing a post on your own blog instead??
Remember, you can still link it back to Facebook.
Personally, I think most people are afraid to put themselves out there and instead hide behind the welcoming backyard of Facebook that has your friends in it.
The backyard is fine when you’re having a barbecue. But it’s not your whole life.
Perhaps the best piece of writing on Brazil’s defeat at the hands of Germany
The night ended in a whimper. Outside of a few incidents, nobody rioted or howled at the moon. Rio de Janeiro became a collection of tiny personal portraits of defeat. A man wrapped in a Brazilian flag stood, visibly sagging, at the KFC counter. Someone in Santa Teresa smoked a joint in the rain. At the all-night Copacabana sandwich shop, a row of dejected customers ate in silence and drank one last beer. The television there was tuned to a soap opera, the first time I’ve ever seen it not playing a soccer match or highlights from a soccer match. The Lagoa neighborhood flooded, and the taxis left wakes, cutting through the standing water, hoping not to stall. “Tonight reminds me of the Day of the Dead,” said Claudio Aragao, one of those cabdrivers.
Why I want to stop being a programmer, but can’t (yet)
Believe me. I love programming.
Perhaps its the “maker” genes that I have. I love to think of a problem or an idea and being able to make it happen through code. There’s nothing that gets me going more than that intellectual challenge.
It also helped that I was shy, introverted and highly curious — elements you want in any programmer.
I’ve been around computers for just about 35 years now. And the internet since Archie, Veronica and the nascent WWW.
However, I am co-founder of a startup now, and what with web, mobile and api front ends to our growing database and business logic, its getting too much to handle.
I really wanted to learn objective-c. But it was easier to hire someone really great at it who would give his full attention, and he has.
Our platform is good enough with all the modules so now a designer can actually create a fully interactive site for a new customer in no time flat. It has really helped us to grow quickly.
So now, I find myself deep into the bowels of the API, databases — in other words, the bottom of the stack. Sure, its pretty cool to be down in there, but I’ve gotten to the point where I really want to farm this off too.
However, as CTO, that part of our business has become very important. Every other part depends on it. Even breaking it out into micro-services has my full attention.
I’m being seduced by Go too, but Ruby is still so powerful and easy to make an idea real that its hard to let go.
I think I’m just going to hire a young whipper-snapper to jump into my stack and at the same time start shifting the two biggest thing to go.. our general purpose API that serves both mobile and desktop clients, then slowly move our Sidekiq jobs into Go.
Why do I want to stop programming anyway?
I’m getting better at organizing the big picture now. After years of growing a business and making mistakes. I know what I need to do and how to organize people.
At the same time I also want to write more and do more marketing.
I still love programming and will always do some of it, but It’s time to direct my maker’s energy into another channel now.
So programming, you’ve been good to me, you’ve paid the bills, made it so i’ve never been out of work, and kept the world highly interesting. But its time to part ways soon.
I’ll be saying goodbye to my old friend soon. I’ll visit from time to time, but not every day as I used to.
Classy response on TAG Heuer sales director going to Apple for iWatch
How I started writing software that caused people to lose their jobs
What’s a robot anyway?
For the most part, we think of Isaac Asimov’s humanoid shaped robots. But in fact, robots are a lot more. See the wikipedia entry:
A robot is a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry.
In essence, robots are simply software. This software can control anything. It could be controlling a human-like body (humaniform).
It could simply just guide you along a path — the GPS in your smartphone. In this case, the robot is controlling you!
It could be Google’s self driving car. Or the device that auto-pilots a plane.
A mechanical welding arm in a factory. Or the digital air conditioner keeping your home or office cool.
So back to our jobs now.
The mandate of any business, is going to always be the actualization of profits. And as the customers of a business become less local, its going to matter less whether or not there are any local employees.
After all, if you can produce a good or service in your moms basement and ship it to any part of the world, then it does not matter too much if you hire a human, or a humanoid to make and package that product.
Hotel Management Software
Many years ago in Jamaica I was hired to write some hotel management software. It was supposed to help make reservations, improve the accounting of the operation and generally make the small hotel that contracted me, more efficient.
After spending many months to write the software (in Foxpro and later Clipper), we deployed it in the hotel and went on to work out the bugs to great success.
I remember one night distinctly working with the night desk accountant to show him how the system worked.
Normally he’d take the whole night to reconcile all the guest receipts. Now he could do it in less than 30 minutes.
After a few months I did not see him anymore and I never gave it a second thought, not realizing what had happened.
My Newspaper Delivery Insight
Several years later - after moving to the United States - I delivered newspapers (that’s another blog post) and I got to know the guy who owned the distribution for that area of Brooklyn. The talk came around to how I could make his operation more efficient.
I ended up writing software so he could cut back the hours of his office staff dramatically. He saved money and the delivery operation became more profitable.
Again, I wrote software that actually reduced or removed the income that someone was making. But it was the first time I thought about it.
My career went on deal with medical devices, online advertising, consumer to consumer websites and in all the cases, I kept putting people out of work.
I don’t feel bad about it.
Because pretty much all programmers, everywhere are doing it.
What’s going to happen?
If you’re the person reading this who was put out of work by one of my cohort, I say its time to move on and learn something new.
What’s staring us in the face is a sea-change.
Much office work these days is about shuffling around documents that are digital or hard copy. The guys who deal with digital documents are going to feel the pain first — simply because paper is harder to digitize.
Whole occupations are going to disappear very quickly.
And the smartphone revolution is merely going to accelerate this movement even faster than we thought possible.
As an example, with the new medical devices coming soon (Apple and Google Health Kits) as adjuncts to your phone, the need to physically go see your doctor will decrease dramatically.
The first vehicles to be automated will not be cars. Instead they will be trains, street sweepers, buses and similar workhorses. Most of these can be remotely controlled en-masse by a single individual and already follow largely pre-determined routes.
Gas station attendants are pretty much gone, except in very few states.
News is a commodity.
The garbage near my previous house in Miami was picked up by a robot attached to the side of the truck.
My electric meter is read directly by a computer.
It’s easier (and better) to find a date on your smartphone instead of a bar, church or nightclub.
So what should I do?
My question, instead, is “what are you good at?”.
Professions that require you to do something in a systematic way that could be easily mechanized are not really professions. They’re just a job.
You need to learn a real skill. Have some real knowledge about the thing that you do, in a lot of detail.
And it’s easier that before, since most questions can be answered via the internet in 5 minutes of diligent search or less.
Examples of professions that are not going to be easily replaced by machines are:
- Design of anything
- Art of any kind
- Entertainment of any kind
- Creation of anything
- Helping to save time
- Giving personal services
- "Professional" professions (doctors, lawyers, etc)
In short, once you can “make” or “fix” something or make another person’s life better directly, you’re always going to live long and prosper, no matter what happens in any economy.
Blessing gesture that was the inspiration for the Vulcan salute
So start changing now. Before its too late.
The job numbers are just a mirage at this point.
For a long time I’ve been thinking how to teach my 9 year old daughter to code.
Maybe it had been too soon.
Maybe I would not have enough patience (I’m pretty impatient).
However, I finally went to code.org and tried out the hour of code lesson myself and it was fantastic! I could see how little minds would really love this.
So watch out Sasha! Your dad is coming soon!!!
Dean Kamen’s new Stirling engine generator seems like an awesome idea.
It was actually invented in 1816 by, of all people, a Scottish minister named Robert Stirling. Which proves that besides the short Sunday service, Scottish ministers have a lot of time on their hands.
The typical American house draws continously 2KW of energy. However the above generator can easily product 20KW. This makes it ideal (for now) for smaller businesses, or for large mansion type homes.
The generator runs on natural gas and costs around $10,000 US Dollars.
Kamen plans to build smaller generators and to start mass production in 18 months.
Thanksgiving’s done - Now give those table scraps to your dog
So dogs, cats, lions and other similar creatures are carnivore by design. In the wildlife, they don’t live off dry, dog food. Instead they live on raw food caught as prey.
In pretty much every other part of the world, except the west, dogs live off the leavings of what humans eat.
In Jamaica, food is cooked for dogs. Typically “turned cornmeal” mixed with meats, bones and other parts.
In North America these days, based on superior knowledge, the best way to feed your dog is with raw meat — and in fact, its sold at a premium in most pet stores. By all indications, dogs tend to do so much better with a natural diet than with dry bagged food.
Commercial Dog Food - Why you should stop using it.
Dogs fed with commercial dog (bagged) food tend to have a larger amount of diseases, organ problems, cancers and in general, tend to have very low energy.
Raw food proponent Dr Ian Billinghurst (owner of the registered trademark ‘Barf Diet' and the BARF World Distributor Network) argues in his books that the dog has evolved over many million years on a natural raw diet and logically, this is the ideal food source. He claims that processed foods are “not what [the] dog was programmed to eat during its long process of evolution” and says that foods similar to those eaten by the dog's wild ancestors are more biologically appropriate.
Pretty much every dog disease, malady or other problem can be avoided by starting your dog off on a raw diet.
A Recipe for Raw Dog Food
We started our dog Tutu on this recipe years ago. I’ve given it to many of my friends in that time.
Where can I get raw dog food?
Well, you can start with the recipe above. But if you don’t have the time to properly take care of your best friend, here are some alternatives.
Finally, your dog is your pet. Many of us treat our dog like a member of our family with the same rights and privileges. We’d think nothing of paying a vet’s bill for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
We even buy organic, grass fed, local food alternatives for ourselves.
Yet why do we forgo the responsibility of nutrition to some company who exists solely for profit? It’s just the same as if you eat Micky D’s every day. Duh.
Start taking responsibility for your dog’s health and nutrition yourself. He’s your best friend, someone who you depend on for security and companionship.
Don’t be lazy my friends.
Why aren’t we paying $1.00 for first class mail?
The price of mail is ungodly inexpensive.
Think about that for a minute. Someone takes your piece of first class mail from your door, and can deliver it to another door thousands of miles away for 46 cents.
No wonder the post office is broke.
First class postage should be immediately increased to $1.00, which would still be a massive bargain. With the ending of Saturday delivery, that would almost immediately put the post office in the black and make it a profitable going concern.
Back in my home country of Jamaica, we only had door to door delivery in the most populous cities and towns. In smaller villages (like where I lived), we all made the daily or twice weekly trek to the post office.
Heck even at my current home here in the first world, all my mail gets delivered to a mailbox a couple miles away. The only thing that the letter carrier delivers here is junk mail.
It was great to go the post office in my youth, and its great to go to the mailbox now. I get to know the people running the joint, chat with the regulars and meet some spiffy new friends too.
In fact, the post office would save a TON of money not delivering to every single door in the United States. They could receive and sign for our packages from Amazon. More local post offices would be a great thing for each community.
Let’s get real people. I doubt that Benjamin Franklin thought the service he created should be run at a loss.