Thursday, April 30, 2015

Detailed specifications

As a Product Manager, I frequently struggle with how many details I need to supply in an Epic. Say too much, the team doesn't read it. Too little, weird things happen.

Lest my current staff think I'm pointing at them, I'm not.  :)

Broken cookiesYears ago I wrote a requirement that spoke of an unique sequence number. The product delivered to me had randomly selected numbers that nonetheless were unique.  I couldn't believe it .. randomly choosing the numbers, then testing uniqueness, was harder than just allocating the number in sequence. Which was, in fact what I had asked for.

Today, another wonderful example, this time from my local bakery. Box up some cookies so we can sell by the package. Seems simple. What bake shop owner in their right mind would imagine some industrious packer breaking cookies to make the boxes as full as possible? Such as this box, straight from the market, over half the cookies are, well, halves. Who would ever think to write in the epic, "Box up some whole cookies, take broken ones home for your kids." Or, "Don't break my pieces of art to make them fit!"

It would be like writing in the manual for the pizza delivery driver, "Don't hit any fire hydrants with our delivery car!" Though come to think of it, when I was in high school another student did in fact wreck a pizza delivery car by driving it into a fire hydrant at full speed. Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caller ID; or, Wireless Caller my butt

I've got this telemarketer calling me and they won't stop. Different number each time, different name in the Caller ID, vague about their company name, and continuing to call despite being asked at least 3 times now to add me to their Do Not Call list.  For that matter, they are ignoring the National Do Not Call Registry.

And here's the rub: I pay for Caller ID precisely so I can not interrupt my work to deal with this crap.

Meanwhile, the Telco I pay is letting disreputable callers spoof the system I pay for. It hasn't, after all, escaped me that the caller ID is reporting pretty unlikely names. This morning is "Wireless Caller". Tell me, since when has a telemarketer clearly in a call center (lots of background voices) used cellphones for the calls?

And I'm starting to wonder why I pay, and why others pay.  Class action refund, anyone?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Greece as a condo corporation

Is is possible to draw an analogy between an EU country and a condo corporation?

I read this morning that Greek treasury debt rates are in excess of 23%.  It seems obvious that they must somehow increase their revenue to service that debt. How?

A start is to increase their tax rates and/or get serious about collection. No more of this "Only a fool would pay taxes" attitude many Greek (non-)taxpayers are said to have.  That can lead to two things: one, property owners are forced to focus on revenue from their properties, leading many of them to move and rent their homes to comparatively rich Germans and Brits; or two, homeowners flee to a cheaper EU country and/or the government repossesses their property out from under them and turns it into vacation rentals.

The government becomes a vacation timeshare operator.

And if they don't, or otherwise don't make enough net to pay their debt obligations, the Greek government could and perhaps should be viewed more like a condo corporation and the taxpayers like homeowners. Government debt is held on behalf of the citizens (homeowners), and paid for in revenues derived from the citizens (condo fees). If the the condo corp goes bankrupt, it is repossessed for its assets, and the new owner can liquidate or operate to recoup their investment.

Who can repossess Greece?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Facebook captcha extortion

I started using Facebook recently, and quite frankly, they are annoying me.Here's one way.

I press the Like button on something, and am presented with the common captcha dialog whose usual purpose is to verify that I am human and not some sort of robot or screen scraping program. I pressed Like on several items yesterday, from the same browser window each time, and had to figure out an unreadable string like this one more times that I cared to.  It seems strange to me that Facebook believes a robot had taken over the connection I had already verified as having a human operator.

Whatever. Facebook seems to understand that this gets really old really fast, and the first text in the captcha dialog is "Sick of these?" Clicking that link opens this window where one is encouraged to supply a mobile phone number so they can text a confirmation code.

I have two complaints with this.  First is, I don't text, and don't have a text plan on my phone. I'm suppose I'll get a text if they send it. Probably. And my provider will be happy to charge me for that.

More interesting, though, is that any one-time text to my phone will do nothing to meet the useful goal of the captcha - which is to very that I am not a robot that pressed Like. For this to have that value, they would need to text me a confirmation every time I press Like, just as they are presenting the captcha every single time. I hope they're not planning to text me that often - as I mentioned above, I don't have a text plan.

I've confirmed with another Facebook user that she doesn't get confirmation texts with every post, so FB clearly don't feel the need to verify a human every time.  Why, then, do they present a captcha every time, other than to maximize pain and further incent me to give up my cell#?


Friday, December 16, 2011

Death, taxes and UPS

There's nothing more constant that death and taxes (well, that they are unavoidable at least).

I've felt the same way that UPS (the shipping company, that is, not the thing plugged into my power outlet) was kinda this black box, never really changing, despite being at least mildly shoddy.  We've all got stories about packages that didn't arrive the day planned, or my personal favorite, the "Fragile" sticker with a boot print on it.

But recently it seems they've got clever. They have increased their service level, for a fee. And the services are useful ones, such as being able to call them to redirect a package to another address (perhaps your office or a neighbour who will be home). Check it out.

If I have a gripe with this it is that it seems a little bogus to charge for some of these services. The least defensible is probably them redirecting your package to a UPS store for you to collect .. that service is saving them money, for exactly the same reason that super-mailboxes (multiple customers with a single drop-off point) are more efficient than delivery mail door to door.

Clever positioning to make it seem as if this is a valuable service that you want to pay for.

Though it could backfire ... it could be viewed as a protection racket - you know, where you pay the Piranha Brothers to make sure something bad doesn't happen. Picking up your package at the UPS office reduces the service they deliver, and gives them fewer opportunities to make another figurative boot print.  I might very well pay for that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Failed at "Getting it done right"

Rob Bonta uses SafeUnsubscribe® which reliably removes one's email address from mailing lists.  Pity it doesn't work.

Back in July, I started getting political spam from the campaign of Rob Bonta, who seems to be mayor of another city in my general region. I don't live in that city, and don't know anything about him. He seems to be running for a state seat, and possibly could become my representative, but I am ineligible to participate in politics in this country so I frankly don't pay much attention to his or other campaigns or that level of political boundary.

Except when they are spamming me, in email or robot phone calls. Then I notice.

On July 23 2011, in response to an unsolicited campaign email from Bonta, I used the unsubscribe link to request my email address not be included in any future mailings. I continued to receive emails on Sept 5 and Sept 22.  The most recent email attempted to justify itself: "You're receiving this email because of your relationship with Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta." I neither live, work, vote, nor even visit Alameda. My only relationship with him is that his campaign has started sending me emails, and has so far failed to respect my request to stop.

Beyond the immediate annoyance, the bait-and-switch of the ignored unsubscribe is frustrating. If you are going to publish an unsubscribe link, at least respect it. Sadly, political spam seems to be exempt from the California anti-spam laws.

My annoyance aside, this has also been an amusing example of Bonta's apparent (in)ability to "get it done right".  That seems, after all, to be his tagline. The unsubscribe link said:

"Getting it done right. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta uses SafeUnsubscribe® which reliably removes your email address from our lists."

I have since sent a note to the complaints address listed. I haven't heard back, but also haven't (yet) received any further emails.  Here's hoping. Kudos to the folks at SafeUnsubscribe for publishing this additional communications channel so they can hear about their clients who may be behaving unreasonably.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google and Third Party Cookies

A few web pages I've tried to visit are refusing to load these days. One such is Google's account settings page. The others also seem to touch Google account-related services, eg viewing someone else's public calendar. When I hit such pages, Google courteously offers to help me correct my browser config by enabling 3rd party cookies.

How ... helpful.

Here's the thing: I disable third party cookies quite deliberately, and want them disabled.

Third party cookies are, to me, an invasion of privacy.  With a third party cookie, some schmuck who buys an ad placement in a site I visit can set a cookie in my browser tagged with the advertisers domain.  Then when they buy another ad presented in another site I visit, they can set another cookie. Since both cookies are 'owned' by the advertiser, they can then track my browsing history, at least to the extent of the subset of my browsing where their ads are presented.

I don't want third parties, especially any schmuck who can buy a few ads, to know my browsing history. For an example why, check out the ACLU Pizza Dramatization.

So now I'm kinda stuck if I want to tweak any of my Google account settings. I can't just clear my last hour of browsing history, because my work style means I currently have about 10 browser windows and 40 or 50 tabs open right now, some half of which I've touched in the past 20 minutes. I suppose I could keep a secondary browser on my machine just for pages such as these, set that browser with a relaxed security profile, and clear its cookies after each use.  Seems a pain.

And I can't figure why Google would want third party cookies on their account settings page anyway. I suppose they may have some number of internal domains, but it seems to me as if they are not being careful of their cross-domain cookies.