Junk Mail After Vehicle Registration

Soon after registering my car in North Carolina, I received loads of junk mail. Most of the letters said something like:

VEHICLE ALERT NOTICE

REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION – PLEASE ACT NOW

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL OPEN IMMEDIATELY

Junk mail from car registration

These letters were from the “Automotive Services Department”, the “Warranty Services – Extended Coverage Department”, of some other made up name, an were disguised as legitimate looking auto warranty letters. But really, they were from scammy companies trying to get me to sign up for an overpriced extended warranty for my car.

I did some digging and found others who had the same experience. It turns out that DMV information is publicly available. So wahoo, anyone can find out that you registered your call and can send you a bunch of spam.

Yes, I know there are methods to opt out of junk mail. I just felt bothered knowing that my info was in the hands of spammy companies.

It stopped within a few months.

Looks like there isn’t much that you can do to stop this. So if you’re in the same boat as me and the millions of others, you’ll likely just have to wait until it stops.

auto registration junk mail 2

auto registration junk mail 1

 

 

Interesting articles about space travel, exploration, etc.

I have really enjoyed reading and hearing about space lately. Three things stood out recently:

#1: Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years (thanks to John Gruber for pointing this article out) – really cool to see.


#2: This comment:

http://thebaconsandwichofregret.tumblr.com/post/132121475325/weepingdildo-send-me-to-mars-with-party


#3: I was thinking about countries sending rockets and equipment to the moon and it became clear to me that eventually we will have wars and fighting over the moon. Fighting over land, resources, rights, etc.  So I did a little searching and found this interesting article:

China Could Legally Seize Moon’s ‘Peaks of Eternal Light’ –“Will Earth’s 1st Space War Start There?” – I didn’t know about Helium 3 and the “peaks of eternal light”

Much Ado About To-Do Lists

check list I keep a to-do list, and have for many years. But lately, my list has become a bit overwhelming. I’m looking for ways to improve both my list and my methodology of getting things done.

Over the years I’ve used many different methods to track my to-dos. I’ve used a small notebook, sticky notes, a plain sheet of paper that I crumble up and throw away at the end of the day, a minimalist to-do app, a more complex to-do app, and most recently: a Trello Board. Each of these have been great in their own way.

But as my list becomes overwhelming from time-to-time, I begin to wonder about my methodology. Not my tools, my methodology.

Should I be writing everything down? Am I trying to do too much?

David Hansson and Jason Fried, the CTO and CEO of Basecamp, recently shared some thoughts in two “This is How I Work” articles. They were asked related, but different questions:

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

David:

“I don’t, really. I try not to have a backlog. I’m sorta obsessionally clearing out my inbox. Most emails can be answered as soon as they arrive if you just make a decision and write back briefly. Most people’s inbox are overflowing because they waver, so they defer, which just makes the anxiety ever greater. Just make the call, which in my case is mostly “no,” then move on.

The only tracking I generally do is of things that are outside of my control. Like, we just finished building a house. I had to have a system for keeping track of all the vendors, punch lists, and such. Basecamp fit perfectly for that, thankfully!”

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Jason:

“I don’t track to-dos. I have a small handful of things I know I need to do every day. If I can’t keep them in my head, I have too many things to do. Every day is a blank slate for what I need to do. If something I was supposed to get done yesterday didn’t get done yesterday, it’s not automatically on my mind for today. Today’s mind is a clear mind, not yesterday’s remnants.”

In the “This Is How I Work” series, there are many different opinions of and methods of managing to-dos from “I’m a pen and paper kind of guy! If I write something down I won’t forget it.” to “I think to-do lists are evil.

For me a to-do list is helpful, but it’s important that my list is manageable. Yesterday, I removed 20+ items from my list. These were items that had either already been done, didn’t need to be done anymore, or were tracked elsewhere (like an un-archived email in my inbox, or a paper on my desk).

I’m going to try and commit myself to less stuff. To focus more. To say “no” whenever I can.

There is also a mindset I’d like to work towards. Its:

Get things done as they come up. If they aren’t important, let them fall away. If they are, they’ll come up again or you’ll remember them.

instead of:

Write everything down that you need to do, spend time prioritizing, add more things as you go, work on the list from top to bottom.

The first is more immediate. More doing and less planning.

The purpose of a to-do list is to get things done and to stay organized. But when your list makes you feel overwhelmed and disorganized, like mine has for me lately, it’s time to reevaluate and improve (or remove) your system.

Button Split Test using Divi

From July 17th to Nov 13th, I ran a split test on the main button on my homepage. I wanted to see what text converted better between “My Work” and “Get in Touch”

split test homepage screenshot

I ran the split test using Divi theme’s built in split test feature, setting up two buttons, each with different text (and linking to the appropriate page – one to my contact form, the other to my portfolio). The test looked like this:

button split test admin

After nearly 4 months, these were the results:

  • “My Work” received 27 clicks
  • “Get in Touch” received 6 clicks

button split test graph

The “My Work” button was the clear winner, and clearly I also need to work on improving my clickthrough rate. I want to overhaul much of my website, but in the mean time I can run other split tests with the site I have: button color, font size, heading and subheading copy, background, etc.

The Current Push in Education

On Thursday October 19, 2017, Bill Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is making another big investment in U.S. schools.

$1.7 billion big.

This investment will span over the next five years and be used primarily to development new curricula, help schools collaborate to identify problems and solutions, and use data to drive improvement. Additionally, 25% of the investment “will focus on big bets – innovations with the potential to change the trajectory of public education over the next 10 to 15 years.”

“Education is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging areas we invest in as a foundation.”

“. . . like many of you, we want to see faster and lasting change in student achievement – and our commitment to that goal is steadfast.”

While it won’t solve all of the challenges we face in education, it is a great step forward.

Education is something that is on my mind a lot. From friends of mine starting companies like Dev Mountain, a coding bootcamp, and Lambda School, an alternative to a traditional CS degree, to YCombinator’s recent Reqeust for Education Startups.

“At YC, we’re deeply interested in education because of its power to transform lives and societies and to maximize human potential. On a micro level, we believe technology can help reverse the trend in K-12 of spending more and more money to achieve the same learning outcomes.”

There are many neat things happening in this space and many more needed.

Both my wife and my mother are or were teachers. I’ve been able to see more of the “behind the scenes” stuff that goes on in the life of a teacher than the average person does. And like education as a whole, the teaching side is rife with challenges.

I’m excited to see continued progress in this space and both hope and plan to be part of it.

 

 

Julius Yego – the javelin thrower

 

Julius Yego does not have a coach. Not in the traditional sense anyway. He learned how to throw the javelin by watching YouTube videos of great javelin throwers of the past.

He won the 2015 world championship and took second in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“I do not have a coach, my motivation comes from within.”

“My coach is me, and my YouTube videos,”

Incredible.

We Each Need Our Own Voice

You’ve heard of the band named R.E.M., right? You may have heard their songs Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion, or Man on the Moon.

An R.E.M. song came on the radio the other day. Some people wouldn’t say that the lead singer’s voice is “good” (others surely would). It’s not like Usher’s voice or Justin Timberlake’s voice. It may not necessarily be a very great voice, but it is unique.

This reminded me that we don’t have to be as talented as others, sometimes you just need to have your own voice. There will be people that love different, unique, and wonderful qualities it has. It may not be everyone’s favorite, but it can still be the favorite of many, many people.

You’ve heard of Casey Neistat?

He recently posted a video called: How to vlog like Casey Neistat, by Casey Neistat. In it, he shared ways that you can vlog like him. But in the end said that even if you do follow those instructions and do everything he does, you’ll have created your own Casey Neistat video and you’ll have failed.

You need to have your own voice. We need to not worry so much about sounding like others. Sound like you. Be like you.

I came across a neat post titled: Not Doing it Right Should Never Stop You From Doing it at All.

It’s about having your own voice and an outlet of creativity. It is a good reminder for me that I should keep going with my learning to code. There have been many times of frustration for me.

Two favorite quotes from the article: “Perfectionism kills good ideas” and “You don’t need to know everything to get started, you only need to know enough to keep yourself interested in learning more.” Also, I love that he uses a vanilla Twenty Fourteen WordPress theme on his site.

Here’s a longer quote from the post:

“I’m not an engineer, I’m a hack. My code will never be as efficient as yours. My algorithms will never be as elegant as yours. My comments will always include movie quotes, and inside jokes, and certainly won’t be as helpful as yours.

But my software will be a unique expression of myself. At some point, writing code stopped being a purely academic exercise (if it ever was that, and I personally don’t believe it ever was, except in the imaginations of those who wished it would be) and it became another medium regular folks use to express ourselves.

That’s a wonderful thing, it truly is. It means there will be messy, spaghetti-fied code that’s unreadable and inefficient and may not ever be fully understood even by the folks who write it, but that has always been the case. Code has always been messy, which is why there has been so much energy spent on teaching people how to write clearer and cleaner code. One of the main goals of objected oriented design patterns was to create code that humans can understand more easily.

If code was always clean, we’d still be programming in assembly.

We are going from code that was created to solve problems to writing code to create new problems. That’s the next step forward and we need minds who are excited about going places they’re not supposed to go.

The wonderful outcome is that the barrier to entry has been lowered enough that we can start teaching an entire generation of kids how to write code. It’s still an ongoing process but writing code is going to become as ubiquitous as writing a blog or posting on Facebook. While some may decry the current generation as being Snapchat-obsessed and only capable of communicating in Twitter-sized chunks, they are at the same time, capable of writing their own scripts and self-automating their workflow, in any vocation, from accounting to zoology. They are absolute geniuses compared the previous generation that grew up only having one computer to share among a whole class, or none at all.

If you’re an old timer who’s been there, made those mistakes, and has the scars to prove it, keep sharing your wisdom, it’s essential.

If you’re just starting to write software for your own personal reasons: come on in, the water’s fine.

The first thing to learn is that you can’t learn everything at once and you don’t need to know everything to get started. You only need to know enough to keep yourself interested in learning more. That’s all anyone else did.”

So in the end, just keep going. Think less about what others think. Don’t get very caught up in it. Just do what you do. Build. Create.

Lift up your voice and sing your song.

Navigation bar color: how to change in all views. Xcode. Swift.

Need to change the navigation bar color? Add this code to the AppDelegate.swift file, within the didFinishLaunchingWithOptions function:

func application(_ application: UIApplication, didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [UIApplicationLaunchOptionsKey: Any]?) -> Bool {

let navigationBarAppearace = UINavigationBar.appearance()

// Color of Navigation Bar background
navigationBarAppearace.barTintColor = UIColor.white
// Color of Navigation Bar Title
navigationBarAppearace.titleTextAttributes = [NSForegroundColorAttributeName:UIColor.black]
// Color of Navigation Bar back indicator, button titles, button images
navigationBarAppearace.tintColor = UIColor.black

return true
}

This changes colors of the navigation bar for all view controllers.

Written in Swift.

An idea for the letgo app

letgo is a great alternative to listing products on Craigslist, KSL Classifieds, or eBay.

But the app has a screen that needs replaced or improved: the Notifications screen.

letgo notifications screen

To me, these notification are annoying and the screen doesn’t solve a real user problem.

It shows when a user has favorited your product. But favoriting your product doesn’t seem to matter much. As a seller, I don’t care much that someone has favorited my product. If they really liked it, they’d buy it, right? But I’ve never had someone favorite my product and then later buy it. Also, I don’t want to “Check out their profile”.

It seems that letgo is using this screen as a way to increase engagement. Users receive a notification each time someone favorites their product, some opening the app to check who and what.

I recognize that the “favorite” functionality serves a purpose. It gives buyers a way to tag products that they like for future reference, but as a seller, it doesn’t help me much.

But it could.

A Price Reduced screen

letgo should replace the Notification screen with a “Price Reduced” screen. This would likely:

1. Help sellers sell their stuff
2. Increase user engagement
3. Increase retention
4. Further differenciate letgo from the competition

A new Price Reduced screen would show products that were recently reduced in price. Second to the home screen, I anticipate this would be the second-most viewed screen in the app.

Along with the new screen, an addition to the “favorite” functionality could be that buyers who have favorited a product would receive a notification when the price of that product is reduced.

A Price Reduced screen could really help sellers sell their stuff. But sometimes they get their prices wrong. Currently, changing the price doesn’t “bump” their product to the top, so it just sits buried and unsold.

Take me for example. I currently have 39 things listed for sale on letgo. I want to sell all of that stuff! There is a chance that someone will search for my specific items, but it’s likely that I just overpriced them. I received interest in several items when I first listed them, because they showed up on the Home screen, but after that, the interest has declined to almost zero. If I reduce the price, shoppers will still have to search for the specific item in order to see it. I don’t want to delete and relist at a lower price because that is a pain. But I’d be willing to lower the price a little to get it sold.

How the Price Reduced screen could work

The Price Reduced screen could work like this:

Sellers can edit their items and reduce the price, and all price reductions that meet certain criteria would appear on the Price Reduced screen.

For items $1- $24, a price reduction of $1 or more will show up in the Price Reduced screen. For items $25 – $50, a price reduction of $5 or more will show up in the Price Reduced screen. For items $51+, a price reduction of $10 or more will show up in the Price Reduced screen.

Buyers would receive a notification when the price is reduced on an item they’ve favorited.

A limit to the number of price reductions made to one product could be implemented to reduce abuse by sellers who set prices high at first and reduce the price often to get their product to appear at the top of the Price Reduced screen.

. . .

Do you have other ideas for the Price Reduced or Notification screens? Feel free to share your idea below.