Archives For Matt’s Grand Ideas

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Everything we do has risks. Everything. Sometimes the risks are very small, sometimes big. You may leave your house today to go about your day. When you walk out the door you take a risk. Might you get run over? If you decide to stay in, you’re taking a risk. Will you have a heart attack on your couch due to a sedentary lifestyle?

Most decisions are made with no thought about the risks. For most of our decisions, that’s fine. For lunch, will you have tuna or noodles? It probably doesn’t matter.

When you think about it, we take way more risks than we ever knew. Go out? Stay in? Risks. Tuna or noodles? Risks. Lean in for a kiss? Risk. Tell what you really think? Risk. Stand up for what you believe? Risk. Stay quiet? Risk.

We sometimes refer to people who take big risks as gamblers. Every risk involves a tradeoff. We may get a reward, we may lose something. Gamblers are successful when the rewards outweigh the costs.

How do gamblers win? They take risks where the chance of reward is more the what could be lost. When they do this they know what they have to gain and what they have to lose. They know their odds. Some of them consciously consider each of these factors, and some have this preternatural ability to sense them innately.

There’s another name for people who take big risks: Fools. What is the difference between a gambler and a fool? Read the previous paragraph and someone who does the opposite is a fool.

Now consider your decisions. Are you taking risks that have no reward? Are you missing opportunities out of fear of failure?

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I hear a lot of bad advice on how much to charge for freelancing that leaves good money on the table. The most commonly suggested method is the “cost plus” style, where you calculate your desired hourly rate, multiply it by hours worked and get your cost. Don’t use this method, there is a better way!

Last year at Iowa Code Camp (and more recently at the Des Moines Javascript group) I gave a talk on how to so succeed at freelancing and always the most asked question is how to decide how much to charge. When Des Moines Web Geeks had their social event I gave a condensed version of the talk focused just on how much to charge. That talk was recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Considering how high the interest is, my plan is to re-record this and upload it as a free course to Udemy, but in the mean time, here is a short (21 min) video of my talk. Continue Reading…

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Amazon’s Prime service has many benefits. Consumers get fast free shipping from Amazon, which many are willing to pay for in and of itself, and in addition, they get a Netflix like service for streaming tv shows, movie and music. You also get access to a free e-book library and unlimited online backup for your photos. All for $8.25 per month in the US.

Netflix is a comparable video on demand (VoD) offering that delivers a very similar video and TV show streaming service for $8.99 per month. If all you want is streaming video, Amazon has one major benefit that Netflix can’t touch – the ability to buy or rent movies and watch them instantly, if they’re not part of the free package. This means you have about every movie or TV show that is in digital format available to you. Amazon’s total library dwarfs that of Netflix.

So how does Apple come into this? Continue Reading…

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Oh, I hate clickbait headlines. But if it works, we should use them to our advantage. My main job function is to make sure the software  my company makes helps users, does what they’re supposed to and are easy to use. I spend a lot of time talking to customers, watching them work and measuring the user experience. That means I also file defects when I find things that could be improved, which is always. (we make great software, but there is always room for improvement)

The most frustrating thing in the world is to file a defect and then have nobody look at it, prioritize it or work on it. I saw a post on Twitter about the most effective clickbait phrases used by BuzzFeed, the king of clickbait. It occurred to me: what if we use this to our advantage when filing defects? Continue Reading…

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It’s an annual tradition: Spending time with family, enjoying a nice meal, maybe watching a football game. Increasingly the tradition includes looking through the ads to see what the best deals will be on Friday. This year, there’s a competition to see which store can open the earliest on Thursday to attract shoppers. Some stores are opening at 5:00 on Thursday.

Thanksgiving is a US holiday that remembers early American settlers who survived against the odds. They worked with the native Americans, and to celebrate, had a feast. This was a feast where they expressed thankfulness, and that is the origin of the name. Continue Reading…

T-mobile’s pre-paid plans are changing

If you read my article about how I pay $8 per month for cell-phone service and want to do this, you better move quick. T-mobile is changing their plan this Sunday (Aug 17th). Overall, the pricing is simpler and cheaper, except that the “Gold Rewards” feature seems to be going away. If that is the case, then that means you’ll have to top up your phone more often. Also, there is a $3/month minimum, which isn’t that big of a deal. If you rarely used your phone with the old style I described where you start with a $100 balance and add $10 per year after your first year, you’d go 4½ years before you depleted your balance. This will only work if the updated plan supports minutes that don’t expire for a year. (currently refilling $10 only extends your balance by 90 days w/out Gold Rewards) When I get more details I’ll update my blog post.

I’ve been so busy writing a Node.js training series that I’ve hardly had time to blog. I have several posts in the works but they’re coming slowly as I get the draft done and off to the publisher for review. I’ve learned some amazing tricks that I need to share and I also need to update a few blog posts that are getting a little dated. Stay tuned!

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Apple is replacing Lucida Grande with Helvetica Neue in Mac OS X. Some people are happy, some are sad. Those that are sad explain that Helvetica Neue doesn’t make as good of a screen font because, in part, it has tighter apertures, which means that at small font sizes some letters get hard to read. For example, lower case Cs look like Os and Ss look like 8s. This is true when you view them at lower resolutions, such as most computer monitors (which are under 150 ppi, but is fine on high resolutions such as print outs (300+ dpi) and retina displays (approximately 300 ppi).

We know Apple cares deeply about the usability of their products, and we know that they have some great designers working for them, so we have to believe that they understand this potential for a problem. But what if the designers knew something we didn’t, that soon, non-retina displays would be obsolete? Continue Reading…

Photo by coolinsights

I often get asked by teens and parents for ideas for jobs. I always answer, “you should start a business.” Usually I’ll include suggestions based on what I know about the person who is looking for work. In my opinion, there is no better time in life to start a business than as a teen.

Why? You may ask? Well, here are a few reasons:

  1. No one is as risk tolerant as a teen
  2. Few people are as undervalued
  3. Learning to fail (aka trial and error) is one of the most important lessons you can learn and it’s better to learn it when you are young and the stakes are low
  4. You can make way more than minimum wage and you’ll more likely be doing work you enjoy

I could prattle off a few more reasons, but let’s dig into these. Continue Reading…

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In the summer of 2013 a TED talk started making its way around the Internet discussing how to apply agile project management practices to the family. Then a Des Moines local agile coach, Kristin Runyan put the idea into action and blogged about it. This December, a coworker reported how he had seen benefits of this idea.

The timing of the December talk coincided nicely with some thoughts I had. For one, my wife and I have been frustrated with our 12 year old son’s lack of interest in doing the things he was supposed to do. Secondly, at work we completed a team member “work style evaluation,” essentially a personality test, and it caused me to realize that I think my son has a different personality and work style than either me or my wife.

We felt that this “agile family” method may work for us. Continue Reading…