Keeping it fresh
What has always fascinated me about my developer friends is that they’re the most inquisitive people you’ll ever meet. New languages come out every month, and they’re the first to get their hands dirty. Theories are tested, boundaries are pushed, and innovation is the nucleus of their existence.
Because the learning and testing never ends, we host a quarterly event in Austin called Stump The Developer where an expert on stage fields questions from fellow developers – if they are stumped, a sassy gif shows up on the big screen behind them, and the stumper joins the expert on stage to take the next question. It gets rowdy, but secretly, everyone’s there to learn.
Our most recent event was held at The Iron Yard and Elias Carlston was back as our expert. He has been a software engineer for over 15 years, was the first front end developer at Zipcar, and worked with brands such as Charles Schwab and Harmonix (makers of “Rock Band”). Currently, he is building an HTML5/AngularJS app for Sapling Learning, a higher-ed division of Macmillan.
During Stump, Carlston suggested two books that every front end developer should read – “Code Complete” by Steve McConnell and “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. He alluded to how design concepts are simplified by the two authors, for example, Norman suggests we think of design as how we look at a stove top – a simple, universal chart helps us all to understand the moving parts without words or complex elements introduced.
13 books every front end developer should read
But those aren’t the only two books developers should read – we asked our readers to weigh in, and below are their 13 picks for front end devs, whether aspiring or veteran, and note that they’re not all about coding – some are about culture, and there’s even a fictional novel in the mix to get your gears turning:
1.”Code Complete” by Steve McConnell (recommended by Carlston)
2. “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman (recommended by Carlston)
3. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White
4. “Design is a Job” by Mike Monteiro
5. “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
6. “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward R. Tufte
7. “The Dip” by Seth Godin
8. “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, & George Spafford
11. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
12. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
13. “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum” by Alan Cooper
Tired of transcribing screenshots? Put this Chrome extension to work
(TECH NEWS) This new Chrome extension takes out the tedium of transcribing all your necessary screenshots into your writing and does it for you.
My favorite part of being a writer is getting to interview people from various walks of life. My least favorite part of being a writer is transcribing those interviews.
Slightly easier, but still annoying, is transcribing information from a screenshot, photo file or PDF. Sometimes you have to get this information in a rush and retyping all of it slows you down.
Docsumo is making that process into a breeze. The tool allows for users to grab text from a screenshot for easy copy and paste.
So how does it work? First, it has to be downloaded as a Google Chrome extension. Once it’s part of the browser’s extension, it can be put to work.
A video on Docsumo’s website demonstrates the easy transcribing process. The developer does a Google image search for a shipping label as they need to quickly copy and paste an address. When the necessary label pops up, they click the Docsumo tool that allows them to drag and select the part of the label they want to transcribe (the movement of the mouse is similar to taking a screenshot on a Mac computer).
Then, the text that they’ve highlighted is transcribed into a box where it can be copied and pasted. Simple!
In addition to copy and paste, users can extract, edit, and share data. After that, all of the related information is removed from Docsumo’s server. Examples of when this tool is useful include: Invoices, bank statements, insurance documents, bills, and tax forms.
The tool is made possible through Optimal Character Recognition (OCR) which, according to Ducsumo’s developers, is something that comes in handy in many situations.
“Organizations often receive crucial information and data in image form of documents. These images can be a photo of a document, scanned document, a scene-photo, or subtitle text superimposed on an image. The real challenge for the operation team is to be able to extract information and data from these photos. It can take hours to manually pull out this data and assemble it in a structured way for record-keeping and processing. This process is hugely error-prone too.
OCR technology comes to rescue in this situation.
Optical character recognition or optical character reader (OCR) is the electronic or mechanical conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text. This technology is suitable for photos of text-heavy documents and printed paper data records such as passports, invoices, bank statements, receipts, business cards, and identity verification documents. OCR technology is the way of digitizing printed texts so that they can be electronically edited, searched, and stored more compactly.”
In a world where pen-to-paper has slowly been fading away, Docsumo is here to give it another push further away.
Scoring productivity: Is this Microsoft tool creepy or helpful?
(TECH NEWS) Microsoft launched a new tool that helps monitor user data, but it’s not a work monitoring tool – it’s trying to judge productivity.
Just recently into the work from home movement, Microsoft launched their new tool, “Productivity Score”. According to Microsoft, this tool helps organizations understand how well they are functioning, how technology affects their productivity, and how they can get the most out of their Microsoft 365 purchase.
But to do all of this, the tool will keep track of how each employee is using Microsoft products. For instance, the tool will monitor how often video or screen sharing is enabled during meetings by employees.
It will keep a metric of how employees are communicating. It will show if employees are sending out emails through Outlook, sending out messages through Teams, or posting on Yammer. It will also keep track of which Microsoft tools are being used more and on which platforms.
So, Microsoft’s new tool is a scary work surveillance tool, right? According to Microsoft, it isn’t. In a blog post, Microsoft 365’s corporate Vice President Jared Spataro said, “Productivity Score is not a work monitoring tool. Productivity Score is about discovering new ways of working, providing your people with great collaboration, and technology experiences.”
Spataro says the tool “focuses on actionable insights” so people and teams can use Office 365 tools to be more productive, collaborative, and help make work improvements. And, while this all sounds good, privacy advocates aren’t too thrilled about this.
Microsoft says it is “committed to privacy as a fundamental element of Productivity Score.” To maintain privacy and trust, the tool does aggregate user data over a 28-day period. And, there are controls to anonymize user information, or completely remove it. However, by default individual-level monitoring is always on, and only admins can make any of these changes. Employees can’t do anything about securing their privacy.
So, user data privacy is still a large issue on the table, but privacy advocates can breathe a sigh of relief. Yesterday, they got a response from Microsoft they can smile about. In another blog post, Spataro responded to the controversy. “No one in the organization will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365,” he said.
Although Productivity Score will still aggregate data over a 28-day period, it will not do so from an individual employee level. It will do it from an organizational one as a whole. Also, the company is making it clearer that the tool is a “measure of organizational adoption of technology—and not individual user behavior.”
Don’t want FB getting access to your texts? Try out Signal instead
(TECH NEWS) Elon Musk tells Twitter followers to “Use Signal” after WhatsApp announces new Facebook data-sharing policy.
On January 6, WhatsApp users received an in-app alert informing them about the company’s updated data-sharing policy. The message asked users to accept the new terms and conditions where they gave WhatsApp consent to share their information with Facebook. The updated policy would be effective starting on February 8, and users who didn’t agree to the changes would no longer be able to use the app.
The policy verbiage is concerning, but this isn’t the first time WhatsApp has shared some sort of data with Facebook. The company has been sharing data with Facebook since 2016. Back then, the companies announced sharing data would help “improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.”
But, Facebook’s data privacy practices are ones that have been controversial over the years and don’t garner much trust. Musk is recommending people to start using Signal because it offers two key things.
The app offers end-to-end encryption on ALL messages. It protects all text, video, audio, and photo messages, which can only be read by the sender and recipient. If a message is intercepted by anyone else, all they will get is gibberish.
Also, other than your phone number, the free app does not store or collect any other user data. The company is a nonprofit and relies on grants and donations to support development. It isn’t owned by any tech companies and doesn’t have any ads.
“The smallest of events helped trigger the largest of outcomes,” the app’s Executive chairman Brian Acton said in an interview with TechCrunch. “We’re also excited that we are having conversations about online privacy and digital safety and people are turning to Signal as the answer to those questions.”
In a Tweet, the company posted screenshots of app installs jumping from 10 million to 50 million. With Musk’s tweet skyrocketing Signal’s downloads, Acton does have a very good reason to be “excited”.
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