Archive for December, 2010

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Remember 4CHAN? This is the anonymous usergroup that conducted the hack attacks on Mastercard et al after the Wikileaks fiasco. Ever wonder what kind of people frequent this site? Wonder no more ..

Today you .. tomorrow me

Posted: December 27, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Just about every time I see someone I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, my girlfriend wasn’t too stoked on the practice. Then some shit happened to me that changed me and I am back to offering rides habitually. If you would indulge me, it is long story and has almost nothing to do with hitch hiking other than happening on a road.

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people’s cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket.”

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn’t careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. Fuck.

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand but he wouldn’t take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow…

But we aren’t done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won’t take it. All I can think to say is “Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor” with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t deal.

In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:

“Today you…. tomorrow me.”

tl;dr: long rambling story about how the kindness of strangers, particularly folks from south of the border, forced me to be more helpful on the road and in life in general. I am sure it won’t be as meaningful to anyone else but it was seriously the highlight of my 2010.

As it is Christmas weekend, I think it is only appropriate I repost this story of human kindness and the profound impact even small actions can have on others. The thread that this post appeared in was titled “Have you ever picked up a hitch-hiker?” where people weighed in with their opinions and experiences. It wasn’t until ‘Rhoner’ posted this small write-up that this thread really came to life. Rhoner talks about an incident when his vehicle was stranded on the side of the road for hours and no one stopped to help except for some Mexican immigrants. The Mexican’s closing words “Today you .. tomorrow me” succinctly express his simple philosophy and serve as a gentle reminder of the karmic cycle.
After-effect: A ‘SubReddit’ on Reddit.com called TYTM has been formed where people are sharing their experiences. Head over to Reddit to read more if you are interested.

Diet iz wrking

Posted: December 26, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags:

P109

In the Internet industry most people know the difference between Firefox and Explorer. We also know what FTW stands for and what the difference is between ASP, PHP and RoR. Or at least we know that there is a difference.

If you meet an entrepreneur who has never heard of Digg, Google Apps or The Freemium Model you would be surprised. Right?

But that is just us; a small subset of digerati who have time to stay up-to-date on almost everything relating to our industry. The rest of the world? Ignorant to most of it, and that is just fine. The problem arrises when you are trying to think about what you customers could want. Chances are they don’t have a clue what you are talking about. A few examples:

1: my father recently told to me he didn’t know how to text someone back. He doesn’t have an old phone that doesn’t make sense but the iPhone. How hard could it be? Well, he opened up the “Messages” App and showed it to me. He gestured at the interface, slightly irritated, and said “Where is the damn reply button??”. I was stupefied. The iPhone interface is the most elegant and easy to understand interface out there. Still, it didn’t contain that one recognizable element that my father needed to make sense of it all: no reply button meant he didn’t know how to reply.

2: a few years ago I managed an online birthday calendar. The interface was really simple. It showed the calendar in month view with a big red button on top of it that said “Add a Birthday“. It was so big I figured people wouldn’t be able to miss it. Unfortunately they did. I got about 100 helpdesk messages a day and about 60 of those started with “I don’t know how to add a birthday“. At first I got really annoyed at those ignorant people who thought it was more convenient to just email someone than to think and look around for more than 2 seconds. But then I did some tests and found out that everybody assumed that they just had to click the calendar to add a birthday. If that didn’t work they assumed it was broken. My fault, not theirs.

3: at a reception recently a woman came up to me and told me her daughter is named ‘Loïs’ too. She said “I was hoping I would bump into you because I noticed you know how to put the umlaut on the ‘i’, Can you please tell me how to do that on the iPhone?”. I explained it to her and the next day in the office during lunch I told the story to my co-workers. I laughed and said “apparently some people still don’t know how to get to the special characters on the iPhone!”. Nobody laughed. Then someone said “Well, neither do I. How DO you do that?” and then someone else admitted not knowing and then it turned out nobody knew.

4: Patrick got a call from his father a while ago who wanted to find something on the web. Patrick told him the URL and his father didn’t seem to understand what he was talking about. So Patrick said “You know, the address of the website”. His father still didn’t seem to get it so Patrick said “the line of characters you enter in the location bar in your browser” after which his father replied “I don’t know about all that. I simply click the blue icon for Internet and then Google shows up and I type what I want  in Google and then I get it”. Apparently you can book tickets, check email and do all sorts of  stuff online without knowing that each website has a distinct address called a URL.

The point of all these stories? If you know how to get to the special characters like ü, é and © on your iPhone and or PC, if you know what a URL is and if you know how to use most of the Apps on your iPhone you and part of a small group of experts. Don’t assume you are the default because you are the exception. Make your apps, websites and tools as simple as possible and always test with other people.

People are not really stupid, it is just that you know a lot more. Don’t let knowledge blind you.

A great article by Boris from TNW on how many times we let our personal knowledge and prejudices affect our judgement. A marketer/product development person must always keep in mind that he/she is the exception and not the average. Any marketing campaign / new product should be designed keeping the end user in mind.

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