Blog

14 Years at Intel

14 years ago today I signed on as a “Blue Badge” Intel employee (I had been a “green badge” contractor for 9 months prior). I tell people I don’t feel old enough to have done anything for 14 years, and that’s true. I was only 22 when I started. I moved to Oregon for this job, so I can’t even really say I’ve lived in one place for that long.

Joshintel2000

I have worked on a lot of really cool stuff in those years – from software localization to server administration and monitoring to building wikis, podcasts, and live video broadcasts to exploring new ways to connect and engage with people online (earning the title “social media guru” along the way, which still haunts me ) to community management and event organization and managing high traffic developer sites and understanding the metrics that go along with them. Not to mention the themes of education, exploration, experimentation, and authentic human connections that have been the foundation for it all. Whew.

I’m eligible for my second “sabbatical” – a wonderful benefit (8 weeks paid leave) that comes around every seven years – but I’m deferring it until I finish my Masters degree in Adult Education next June. I’m so excited for what the future holds I feel a little silly. There are so many cool, exciting, worthwhile things to work on that every time I think about it, I feel spoiled for opportunity. Here’s to learning, stretching, and continuing to work on stuff that matters.

Standard
Blog, Education, Video

Video: How to Make “The Pointing Arrow” Paper Airplane

I made this as part of my graduate course in adult education, around the idea of learning by creating and sharing “artifacts” on the web in a “digital portfolio”.

My 7 year old son Gabe is a big paper airplane enthusiast. In this video, Gabe shows you how to make a paper airplane of his own design, “The Poining Arrow”. As you can see in the video, Gabe is a natural explainer. We rehearsed once or twice before we recorded this, and he went into about twice as much detail in the actual video as he ever did during rehearsal, without ever missing a beat or needing to do a second take. Contrary to what he said in the video, this was actually his very first how to video, and I was very impressed with his style and ability to explain what he was showing. I recorded the video on my smartphone, and uploaded it directly to YouTube.

We’ve been using Gabe’s interest in paper airplanes in our homeschooling to learn about all kinds of things – geometry, symmetry, lift, drag, and experimentation with different designs to see how they perform. We’re just getting started with the idea of making how to videos and guides, but we’ll definitely be doing more. They’re a great way to take a constructionist approach to learning – making something (a physical or digital artifact), sharing it with others, and thinking/talking about what’s being learned.

Standard
Blog, Education, Podcasts

Podcast: Owls and Ornithology with Emma

I made this as part of my graduate course in adult education, around the concepts of how we construct our own learning by creating artifacts and sharing them. I’ll continue to publish bits like these as they come up.

This is a podcast (an audio recording) I created with my ten year old daughter Emma about her fascination with owls, how she got interested in them, and what she’s learned about them (the image you see above is a quick sketch of Emma’s “logo” owl drawing). She’a a very bright girl (if I do say so myself), and as my wife and I have taken charge of our kids’ education through homeschooling, it has been a joy to help our kids find topics they’re interested in, and encourage them to explore. We try to let our kids, the learners. lead the way with what they want to learn, rather than focusing on “depositing” knowledge into them from a set curriculum. We feel like we have a lot in common with the “hackschooling” approach described by 13 year old Logan LaPlante in his popular TEDx talk (though we’re nowhere near as cool as his parents seem to be :-).

I made this podcast using the SoundCloud app on my phone, but there are lots of other tools and services that make recording and publishing a podcast easy (like Chirbit or Audioboo). We recorded the interview in my car (which can make a great impromptu sound booth), and it automatically uploaded to the SoundCloud service. From there, it was simple to grab the embed code and insert it into this page.

I can see us using a podcasts a lot more as we explore different ways of learning with our kids. There’s something easy and natural about just having a conversation about a topic, and it’s easy to hear the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices as you talk about things they have learned. Web and device based tools make it easy to make a podcast, and I’ll likely be asking our kids to make more podcasts about things they’re learning. Creating podcast as a digital artifact of learning is a a great way to construct and share knowledge.

Standard
Blog, Education

Why I’m Studying Adult Education

If you follow me in other places or know me personally, you probably know that I’m in a Masters program for Adult and Organizational Education at Oregon State University right now. I’m in my second term, and I’m loving the program so far. I had always known that I wanted to go to grad school, but it was a challenge for me to find the right program or even field of study. I’m a “techie” guy, but I didn’t feel like computer science was the right field for me – I’m a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to programming. I like to dabble a little in everything. People ask me if I’m a developer, and I always say no, because I feel like it would be an insult to the developers I know to say that I was.

But I’ve always loved to learn new things, and teach people how to do cool stuff. It energizes me, and (I’m told) I’m pretty good at it. So I started looking into education-related grad programs. Most of them, as you can imagine, are focused on people who are going to be teachers or professors. I’ve toyed with the idea of being an adjunct professor or something someday, but I like working in the world of software and technology too much to give that up for academia. I’m a practitioner, not a researcher. So my search continued until I found this program at Oregon State.

The program is built around several different educator roles, like instructional systems designer, and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like it would be a good fit for this weird sort of hybrid career and skill set I have built up. So far, it’s been challenging, fun, and I have learned a ton. I have no fixed idea of what I want to do with this degree when I finish it, but this program is helping me figure that out. When I was little, people would always ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and, snarky child that I was (and am), I’d say “it hasn’t been invented yet, but I know it has something to do with computers”. That statement is as true today as it was when I was five.

I’m going to be posting a lot more here about the things that I’m studying and working on. Right now, I have an amazing instructor for our Instructional Technology courses, Jonan Donaldson. He has introduced some amazingly powerful concepts around “constructionism” (building our own knowledge) and how we can use technology to learn and teach. I’m absolutely in love with these ideas and their application in my work and family life (as we explore alternative education methods and homeschool with our kids). Jonan calls this concept “authorship learning“, and he’s definitely on to something. There’s something very powerful about the idea that instead of receiving knowledge from a teacher, or through study, that we create it by making things, sharing them with others, and reflecting on what we’re learning. We’re doing that in Jonan’s class, and I’m experimenting with it with my kids. I can’t wait to get a deeper understanding.

Expect to see posts, artifacts, reflection, and more on the topic as I explore these new concepts and attempt to figure out my mission in life. Wish me luck! :-)

Standard
Blog

Hope, Comfort, and Joy

Christmastime and the end of the year holidays naturally lead us to introspection. The days are short, the weather is cold, and we usually have some time off from work and school. We have lots of time to think about the year gone by, and the one to come.

For many, it’s a season of joy, giving, and celebration. For others, it can be one of the hardest times of the year – from those who just get the holiday blues to those of us that wrestle with depression and anxiety. I hope we can all spend some of our year-end reflection finding hope and comfort, and sharing it with those that need it most. They’re in your life, I promise. Maybe they’re you.

Regardless of your religious views, I hope that this Christmas season will be a chance for you to reflect on what’s important to you, how you can move more towards being the person you want to be, and finding happiness and joy. Let’s take care of each other.

Standard
Blog

iPhone 5 Leather Case Thoughts From A Case Hater

I have never liked using a case on my iPhones (from the beginning). I’ve never found one that didn’t make it feel excessively bulky and, well, ugly. I like the feel and look of the devices, and have never liked covering it up with a case. My wife, on the other hand, is pretty rough on her iPhones, and benefits from having one. So I ordered one of the new Apple leather 5/5s cases (blue) for her at the same time I ordered my 5s, with the ulterior motive of evaluating it for myself, to see if I might finally cave in and start using a case.

She loves it – it’s super slim, feels and looks very nice, and provides good protection (especially to the back, edges, and corners, which are the most vulnerable areas on the 5 series, IMO). I liked it too, a lot, so I went out and picked one up for my 5s. I went back and forth on color, between black and red, and finally went with red, just to have a little splash of color. I love it so far. Feels nice, looks GREAT, and doesn’t add hardly any bulk. One of the best features is that it adds a little grip to these very slippery phones, and I feel like it’s much less likely that it’ll slip out of my hand with the case on.

I’ve seen some complaints that the buttons (power and volume) are kind of hard to press through the case, and they are a bit stiff, but not excessively so, and I’m sure they’ll loosen up over time. I’ve also seen complaints that it’s hard to remove the phone from the case, which is true, but I don’t intend to take it out of the case very often, so it’s not a big deal to me. It’s kind of pricey at $40, but that’s Apple for you. Great quality, worth it to me.

A couple of incidental observations:

I picked up the case at the Washington Square Apple Store (in the Portland, OR area) on Saturday afternoon. I used the Apple Store app on my phone to scan and pay for the case without waiting in any lines, or interacting with anyone. Even in a super crowded store, I could have been in and out of there in a minute if I hadn’t stopped to chat with one of the sales guys. Very slick experience.

As I mentioned, the store was PACKED, which isn’t unusual, but besides the normal crowd (I’ve never seen Washington Square mall this crowded, in general), there was a line of about 50 people *outside* the store, queued neatly behind some ropes. Mind you, this was about 4:30pm on a Saturday afternoon. I asked what they were lining up for, and the sales guy told me it was for the 5s. He said that was the first day they’d received any significant stock since launch, and people were still lining up for it.

So, after 6 years, and on my seventh iPhone, I think I finally found a case I like.

Standard
Blog

The Most Important Book I’ve Read in a Long Time – “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”

This might be the most important book I’ve ever read, as far as career is concerned. The basic premise – that “follow your passion” is bad advice, and that there is a logical, proven path to being happy and fulfilled by the work that you do – is at once powerful, and so close to all the other career “advice” you probably hear all the time that you might let this one slip by without further consideration. Please don’t. This book is important. Especially if you’re “knowledge worker”.

I could go on and on about what I learned from this book, how I am starting to apply it (and how much of it I was already doing, unintentionally), but I really just want to encourage you to read it. Just start with the first few pages. It hooked me, and the further I got, the more revelatory the experience was. I made tons of highlights and notes. I intend to turn right around and read it again, to make sure I understand it all. And I’m taking actions to apply it. Deliberate, mindful, small steps. It will take time. It’s a lifelong process. But understanding what happiness or “job fullfillment” or “finding your passion” actually means, and that you’ve quite possibly been chasing the wrong ball your whole life, is such a powerful, exciting, and great feeling.

Read this book. Deliberately choose to improve your skills, to gain rare and valuable attributes that you can exchange for the qualities that make great work. Forget your “passion”. Get good, and be happy. :-)

Standard
Blog

Six Years Ago, The iPhone Changed Everything

You'll all have one of these soon!

Six years ago today was the launch of the iPhone. Up until the night before, I was convinced I wasn’t going to get one. It only had “2G” EDGE data speeds, and I had just switched from Verizon’s 1.5-ish Mbps EVDO network to AT&T’s faster UMTS/HSDPA network. I was using an HTC phone running Windows Mobile 2003, and I loved it. Fast speed, email and web, it was great. I didn’t think I could handle going back to slower EDGE speeds.

But the night before the iPhone launched, the excitement overcame me, and I decided to wait in line for an iPhone. I went to the AT&T store in Hillsboro about 9AM the next day (the launch was at 6PM), with a camp chair and supplies, ready to camp out. I was first in line at that store. I made it into a fun experience – I blogged and posted photos, and even managed to work for a while with my laptop. Rachel and the kids brought me lunch and stayed and played for a while. I visited with a couple of people in line near me, and the overall atmosphere was fun and exciting. As 6PM drew closer, the AT&T store staff visited with us, sharing in our excitement, and brought us bottles of water and chips. The store closed a couple of hours before 6PM, and we could see the employees inside setting up the new displays and demo phones. One guy brought the iPhone he had just unboxed over and held it up to the glass for us – it was the first time I (or anyone else there, for that matter) laid eyes on the iPhone in person. It was beautiful.

Teasing us!

When 6PM rolled around, the doors opened and the excitement hit its peaks. I was the first one in the store, and since I knew exactly what I wanted, it was a quick procedure. Activation went smoothly (lucky for me I was first, as activation delays set in later). EDIT: I remembered that wrong. A few minutes later I got to be the first iPhone owner to walk out of the store. There was no huge crowd (though I think I remember some applause and yelling), but it was a moment of supreme nerd pride and satisfaction. I was (pretty much) the first iPhone owner in Hillsboro. You can see a set of photos from that day on Flickr.

I sometimes wish I had gone to the Apple Store. The crowds were bigger, and it feels like it would have been a more “essential” iPhone experience. Next year, for the 3G launch, and the following year for the 3GS, I went back to the same store. I showed up about 4AM (it was a morning opening, unlike the 6PM launch for the original), and I was close to the front of the line, but never first again. It was fun, but never approached the atmosphere of the first one. And with the iPhone 4, I decided to pre-order online directly from Apple. I somehow got my phone a day before it officially launched (which was another bout of nerd pride). Since then, with the iPhone 4S and 5, I have always pre-ordered. It’s a little different to spend iPhone launch day at home waiting for the FedEx truck, but it’s also nice not to get up in the middle of the night and sit outside a store.

All of this probably sounds extremely indulgent and narcissistic. And it is. It’s one thing to wax nostalgic about the day a new phone came out. But the original iPhone was something special. Phones (and PCs, and tablets, and the web, and a lot of other things) were never the same again. Entire industries have been created and recreated. So as spoiled as it sounds, I think it is worth looking back, six years later, and contemplating everything that has changed because of the iPhone.

Standard
Blog

Xbox One Announcement: I Didn’t Expect To Be Interested

Microsoft unveiled the next generation Xbox today: [Xbox One](http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xboxone/meet-xbox-one?xr=shellnav). Wired has a great [“first look”](http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/05/xbox-one/) – I highly recommend you read it.

The guts: a custom AMD SoC that combines CPU and GPU (assume it’s x86, like the PS4, but they don’t say one way or the other in this article). 8GB of RAM. 500GB hard drive. USB 3.0. Blu-Ray drive.

Next-gen Kinect can do some pretty amazing things, including monitor your heart rate.

The thing that has me most excited: integrates with your home theater set up with an IR blaster and pass through HDMI, so you can walk into the room, say “Xbox, watch TV”, and everything turns on. The ability to search for channels or shows (by voice or text), and “snap in” live content side by side with a game or something else seems really, really powerful.

They didn’t talk much at all about the gaming aspect of the new box (they’re saving that for E3, just like Sony and the PS4).

I don’t have an Xbox 360 (I’m a PS3 guy), and I wasn’t really interested in the new Xbox until today. But I can see this taking over as the center of my family’s entertainment experience (which consists mostly of Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube on our Apple TV). I was watching that blurry PS4 teaser video last night, and Rachel asked me if I was going to get one. I told her it depends on what the game lineup looks like. The main PS4 game I’m interested in is Driveclub. I must be getting old, because the big shooty shooty games like CoD just don’t appeal to me anymore. Now I’ll have to compare the game lineups, but I’m leaning towards the Xbox One now. The PS4 will have to have a pretty spectacular games lineup to tip the scales for me.

I didn’t expect to be very interested in the new Xbox, but now I’m intrigued. E3 can’t come soon enough.

Standard
feed_jacket_josh
Blog

Google Reader Alternatives for Reeder Users Like Me

tl;dr 2 – The ReaderPocalypse is upon us. Silvio has updated the iPhone version of Reeder to work with Feedly, Feedbin, and a couple of other services, but not the iPad and Mac versions, which I use heavily. I’m starting to lose hope. In the mean time, I’m using Feedly, which has some pretty slick iOS apps, and works decently in the browser on my Mac. It’s a pretty good interim solution, but I still feel like there’s room for a standout in this field. I’ve played with FeedBin, FeedWrangler, TheOldReader, Digg Reader, and AOL Reader, and they just don’t work as well for me as Feedly does. YMMV

tl;dr – I don’t know what I’m going to use to replace Google Reader yet. I’m going to wait and see what works best as a replacement sync service in Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder apps.

Now that we’re a few days past the initial shock of the Google Readerpocalypse, everyone can’t stop talking about alternatives. As a heavy Reader user, and having converted many people to it over the years, lots of people have been asking me what I think about the alternatives. Rather than list out the alternatives for general Reader users, I’m going to focus on 1) how I use Google Reader, and 2) which of the current alternatives is a suitable replacement for my workflow (hint: there isn’t one yet, as of mid March).

Josh Reading Feeds on the Beach

I have been a huge fan and proponent of RSS since I discovered it in the early 2000s. That “Longhorn <3 RSS” track jacket that Microsoft gave out at Gnomedex in 2005? I wore that all the time, with pride. I even went so far as to wear bright orange Crocs for a few years, as my “RSS Evangelism Shoes” – people would then ask “What’s RSS?” and I’d say “I’m glad you asked!” While I’m in between bright orange shoes right now, it’s still one of my favorite colors, and that’s 100% because of its association with RSS. So, yeah. I’m that guy. :-)

Orange Crocs on the Beach

Once I realized how well it could replace my “open a bunch of bookmarks for sites I follow and check to see if I recognize anything new” model, I was hooked. I used various RSS aggregator apps (FeedDemon, NewsGator, etc.), but the one that really set my heart afire was Bloglines. The appeal of a web-based reader, which could sync my subscriptions, read state, etc. across any device was the holy grail. It was fast, I only had to manage subscriptions, and it had a great mobile-friendly version that worked on my handheld devices (this was back in the day before smartphones were even really a thing). It was the centerpiece of how I read the web. There’s a reason there are 8 pages of search results for “bloglines” on this blog. It had a lot of cool little features, too, like a widget that would embed a live outline of your subscribed feeds, which I used as a live-updated “Link Library” to show what sites I was following. (Side note: I was surprised to learn that Bloglines is actually still around. I thought they had been shut down long ago. It looks like Netvibes absorbed them – the new interface is very similar. Maybe they’ll stage a comeback in this new feed reader renaissance.)

When Google Reader was ascendant, it quickly became clear that it was going to be the web-based feed reader that most people used. After a rocky start (it was extremely slow and clunky in the beginning), it improved steadily, until one day, it was the only game in town. I used it very heavily, at one point trying to out-Scoble Robert Scoble (I prided myself on the insane fact that I followed more RSS feeds – about 1800 – than he did at the time). Fast forward a few years, and my feed count is at a much more manageable level (324 today), and I’ve probably read millions of items using Google Reader (for some reason it’s only showing my stats back to 2010, with 300K+ items read). And now Google Reader is going away, and I’m in the same boat as all of you looking for a replacement.

I’ve learned in the last week or so that the way I use Google Reader is a bit different than most other people. As such, my requirements for a replacement are different. So let me elaborate a bit on how I use Reader, so you can see 1) why a replacement that might work for you won’t work for me, and 2) what your prospects are if you happen to use Reader in a way similar to me.

Google Reader, for me, is now exclusively a back-end sync service for Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder apps on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Reeder’s combination of speed, excerpts, and shortcuts let me “process” hundreds of items in just a few minutes (that is, skim and decide to read, send to Instapaper to read later, or share to individuals or mailing lists that I manage). I actually timed myself this morning – I started with 149 unread items from overnight, and in less than five minutes, I had gone through them all. I didn’t read every single item, but Reeder shows me enough that I can quickly decide whether I want to read more, and most importantly, when I’m done, and everything is marked as read, I’m confident that I’m not missing anything important. I never use Google Reader’s web version, on my computer or devices, anymore.

So, for this kind of usage, let’s see how the current (and near future) Google Reader replacements fare.

##Feedly

Feedly saw over 500,000 new users over the weekend, since Reader’s demise was announced. It’s essentially a really pretty copy of Google Reader’s web interface – and it is very pretty. In inexplicably requires you to install an extension in Safari or Chrome when you use it on Mac or Windows, which makes no sense to me. And it has an iPhone version that looks quite nice. I imported the OPML of my subscriptions, and it works well. The only problem for me is that it doesn’t sync with Reeder’s apps, so it’s out. It’s also not clear what their business model is (it appears to be advertising-based, with no option for paid user accounts). Given what Google has repeatedly taught us about free services, this makes me nervous.

Newsblur

NewsBlur has been down under heavy load for the last few days, so I only now got a chance to create a free account (they offer paid “Premium” accounts for $24/year). I imported my OPML, and immediately ran into one of the limitations of the free account – you can only have 64 subscriptions. Premium accounts have no limit to the number of feeds you can follow, and also get access to other key features, like “river of news” view (reading by folder, which I do exclusively), an extracted text view, and privacy controls. While I’m encouraged by the fact that they actually charge users money (and therefore hopefully have a sustainable business model), I’m not ready to plunk down my $24/year yet until I hear they have added my key feature – syncing with Reeder’s apps. Overall, though, I’ve heard good things about NewsBlur, and if Silvio updates Reeder so that it can sync with NewsBlur, they could be a contender.

Fever

I’ve wanted to check out Shaun Inman’s Fever for a long time. It’s kind of a niche product – it runs on a web server (like WordPress or Mediawiki), not your personal computer or device. It costs $30. That was enough to keep me from installing it to tinker, but current conditions changed the balance, and I decided it was worth a look. One of the big plusses that Fever has to recommend it is that is syncs with my beloved Reeder (at least, the iPhone version – the Mac and iPad versions don’t sync with Fever). So I set it up on my web host, and played around with it. It does what it says on the tin. It’s a little slow, but I blame that on my cheap mediatemple hosting (it’s not running on a powerful server, by any means). I really like the “Hot” view, which synthesizes all of your feeds to see what topics people are talking about – a feature I always hoped Google Reader would release. But I don’t think I’m going to stick with Fever. I’m a little concerned about it eating up storage, bandwidth, and CPU usage on my mediatemple account (all of which are limited at the tier I’m on, with overage charges). But Reeder is closer to syncing with Fever than any other alternative, and unless Reeder goes the route that Marco Arment outlined (make “sync server” a user-changeable field), there’s a good chance it could be my Google Reader replacement. At the very least, I’ll probably keep using the “Hot” view.

FeedWrangler

I hadn’t heard about it until the Readerpocalypse (I don’t think anyone had), but David Smith has announced that he’s working on a paid Google Reader replacement for syncing. No further details are available, but I signed up to learn more. This one is a wild card. Could be cool, could fizzle and fade.

Digg

Remember Digg? If you’re thinking of the old user generated news site, then you need to check out the new Digg. They reinvented themselves as a collector of what’s hot and interesting on the web, and the new site is surprisingly good. It consistently delivers stuff I find cool and interesting that I haven’t found anywhere else. Anyway, the new Digg has announced that they’re building a Reader replacement, complete with copying the Google Reader API. Another wildcard, but if it’s anywhere near as good as the new Digg, this one could be great.

What Are You Going To Do?

So after all that, what am I going to do about finding a replacement for Google Reader before July 1, 2013?

I’m going to wait.

There is no clear winner for a replacement right now, at least, not for the way I use Reader/Reeder. So I’m going to wait and see.

A lot will depend on what Silvio decides to do with the Reeder apps. I really hope he follows Marco’s advice. But given how dependent I’ve become on his apps for the way I read and process feeds, his decision will hold a lot of sway with me.

Standard