Saturday, January 14, 2023

Design for the User, Not the Developer

One of my past jobs was at a company that provided legally mandated continuing education courses to securities and insurance reps. Each client's compliance officers needed on-demand reports of student progress and annual reports of compliance status. Knowing these reports were going to be used rarely, but needed to be easy to use when they WERE needed, I worked with several of our clients to build a handful of canned reports that would meet their needs. Some massaging was needed every few years, but the clients were happy. It took them all of five minutes to get the reports that contained the data they needed in the format they needed.

Then came a new bungee boss to run IT. He decided to replace my simple reporting program with a complicated one that involved several steps to add the data you needed. It exposed literally every piece of student information in the system in a complex series of drop-down menus to generate the reports.

The clients HATED it. One of our bigger clients refused to use it because it allowed them to report on how many times a rep had taken the exam before passing. They said they couldn't accept the liability of being able to, in the example they gave, find out a rep needed 45 attempts to pass the ethics exam. They wanted a pass/fail. They didn't even want to know the actual score.

The bungee boss was FURIOUS clients kept demanding my interface instead of his.

"They just need to learn how to use it!" Bungee Boss cried.

"They only use it once a year," I tried to explain. "And they're not IT people."

In the end he just deleted my interface from the system and replaced it with his. The company lost quite a few clients the following year. Bungee Boss convinced the company owner that the reporting changes were not the cause, even though many of the clients who'd left had been part of multi-hour support calls to get the reports they needed.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Disapproving AI Bunny


I've been playing with AI generated images. One thing I've been doing is exploring "models." Models are trained on different image sets. I've been thinking of trying to build my own models using only public domain images as a way to address one of the ethical issues with models trained on images not licensed for that purpose. As part of this exploration I've been using the reference phrase "disapproving bunny" and the seed of 8675309 on different models to see how different the results can be. The results have been interesting.

Before settling on the shorter "disapproving bunny" as my reference phrase I generated a few with the phrase, "Reference image of a disapproving bunny created by different models." The results were a bit more varied.


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Never order from

I recently made the mistake of ordering from the web sire as a result of a Facebook ad. It was the first time I'd ordered anything from a Facebook ad and after this experience it's likely to be the last. Like many people I'm working from home during COVID. A comfortable lap desk would be helpful. As a result when I saw the ad for this product at a promotional price I thought it was a good deal.

I placed my order and waited for it to arrive. I paid a total of $25.89 after shipping. When the package arrived it was disconcertingly flat and had a return address that did not inspire confidence.

This is what I received:

As you can see there is a sizable gap between what I ordered and what I received. The garbage I was sent isn't even suitable as lap desk, even a poor one. It's a rickety frame for putting a laptop at an angle.

When I say it's rickety I mean it. There are two small wooden pieces that are supposed to hold the laptop in place.  One of them had already fallen off during shipping. The other chipped from light handling.

The email they'd sent with the tracking information included a gmail address to contact for any problems. I've contacted it and am awaiting a reply. I am not optimistic.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving! (Don't go up in flames)

Fried turkey can be delicious, but you need to do it right. This video has some excellent safety tips for frying your turkey with relative safety:

At a previous job the CTO came back after Thanksgiving and told us how he’d just burned down his deck and done significant damage to his vinyl siding. He’d been using a Turkey Fryer. He’d plopped the frozen turkey into the fryer. First, the oil overflowed and caught fire. Next, the ice in the turkey did what frozen water does when you drop it in boiling oil. Within seconds his deck and the side of his house were covered in burning oil and flaming chunks of turkey.

He finished the account with saying that next year he would set the fryer up in his garage, which had a cement floor. I left that job before Thanksgiving rolled around again, so I don’t know if he followed through.

Here are a few videos demonstrating what I suspect his back deck looked like thanks to his flagrantly ignoring pretty much all the safety advice around using a turkey fryer.

This video shows what a frozen turkey will do when put in boiling oil. Check out the air time that oil gets when it sprays up:

Here’s a short video of what happens when the fryer overflows:

Remember, the CTO I mentioned had BOTH happen.

Did you know Underwriter’s Laboratory has never certified a SINGLE turkey fryer? Here’s why:

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has their say:

Have an happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving! I hope everyone comes back to work Monday uncharred and without any new home repairs suddenly added to their calendar.