Tuesday, 25 April 2017

What I've been reading w/c 17/04/2017: Diversity and Ethics

Slightly delayed post due to going on holiday!

My week's reading started with Hofstadter’s Law and Realistic Planning By Jane Collingwood where she outlines how "pessimistic-scenario generation is not an effective de-biasing technique for personal predictions.”  this got me thinking about how much of what we do in our lives is shaped by the people who provide us with the services and products that we use.

This article by Monzo is a perfect example of ethical product design should be done. They have thought about what their mission is, who their users are and what issues they might face. Compare and contrast with stories of how Uber use psychology to exploit drivers to see the negative face of "disrupting industries" when that is the sole aim. 

Again working conditions can have an impact even in subtle ways. There is a case here for Product Design and OS professionals to  provide more support on reporting usage to users. Computers are much better at this then humans! Could more thinking like this be a baby step on the path to more development teams thinking like Monzo? 

Next on my reading list was a great post on the difference between basing your business around the vocal 5% and really using feedback for process improvements. So, it's important to make sure to include diversity in customer feedback as well as on your team to avoid systemic bias.

This systemic issues is why diversity in IT is so important. As algorithms control more of our lives the bias of people writing them matters -  the world economic forum has also come up with a list of 10 ethical issues with AI  one of which can be summed up by Blay Whitby "Autonomous Vehicles don’t need to solve the Trolley Problem: but maybe we do" ... which means for a fair outcome for all of us, we need to make sure the people solving the ethical issues are representative of who they will impact. 

Which led me to a good write up of recruitment and diversity by @ashedryden: The Ethics of Unpaid Labor and the OSS Community -  As open source contributions are used as part of hiring process, we need to be careful this doesn't lead to an echo chamber of sorts. Ashe explains this much better than I could so well worth reading her work. 

Looking around at the different groups product design needs to consider I was pleasantly surprised that Microsoft has an awesome body of knowledge on inclusive design. 

Finally Important to remember Women’s History as part of Silicon Valley. There is more diversity than we commonly hear of. The current status quo isn't a foregone conclusion, so it's in our power to change it! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

"Untitled side project"

So, I've mentioned my side project a couple of times I should start to elaborate a bit more. I won't share the name or details just yet. Not because I'm worried about someone stealing it. Rather the idea, hypothesis, and validation are the next installments of this story. When embarking on this journey as a side project it had to be fun and interesting. A chance to try a different experiment to my day job. Different tech stack, different tools. While being useful to people. So I set to work with a collaborator on something to meet these needs and we discussed a basic idea. The first thing was creating a Trello board. One of the first cards was "think of a name". Next came looking at the front-end stack that was lightweight and easy. A PaaS provider that had a free option and integration with source control. This also needed a free private repo option. And it was vital to have a pipeline that built and deployed a working version of the code on commit. Luckily GitLab and Heroku play nicely together. It seems a little too easy! As an added bonus the Source app means a code change and deploy to a working server can be done on my phone - seems ridiculous but that is easier than updating this blog! One of the key early decisions was "NO PASSWORDS". There are more than enough sites that provide identity services, from GitHub to Google+. The last thing anyone needs is another username and password to remember.

Then in a flash of inspiration, the "think of a name" card was completed! A domain name registered! A Twitter account started! A user journey mapped on the back of an envelope! These were exciting times in "side project land".

Then ... nothing much. Life got in the way. Holidays, illness, and the day job. I would imagine this is a key struggle for many startups and side projects. Maintaining momentum. We found ours in targeting a landing page to launch a user research survey. Then booking in a night to work on it, to make sure it happened. With an actual site and the prospect of visitors. Another no brainer was the importance of analytics. With so many SaaS providers that have starter plans for free there is no excuse. So far we have Keen.io and Google Analytics. Pirate metrics here we come!

Edit: Follow up posts now available

Sunday, 2 April 2017

What I've been reading w/c 27/03/2017: Chatbots and AI

Chatbots are an interesting example of how supporting technology can be the catalyst for innovation. In this case smartphones with messaging apps, constant fast network connections, and an API economy. All these enable comparatively low-tech chatbots to be viable (even I wrote a production text interface to an asset DB in 2000!). So, it's not new technology that's the innovation, it's combining existing technology in ways that change behaviour.

This article in the Harvard Business Review is spot on. AI systems much more like employees than traditional IT. Because it "learns" you often can't just lift the data/business rules into a new system. So you need to start thinking about "handover periods" and "training" a lot more. (Also make the jobs-to-be-done framework about hiring tools to do a job much more apt!)

There is much promise in Artificial Intelligence, this article on what to think about machines that think contains some views around that which don't seem to be common outside academia or TED talks. (So possibly useful for those looking at AI without that academic connection, definitely much more informative than a lot of mainstream press coverage)

Time to go beyond mobile first to AI first products, different personalities needed for different user experience (UX) that the AI driven product will provide. This needs to be considered up front, in the same way that moving from desktop to mobile needed a mobile first approach. 

Interesting that from a marketing POV there is a lot of AI technology around but not many integrations in use. Maybe they need some tools like Wrappup?

Over on Medium a brilliant example of going from technological differentiator to commodity item. Reminds me of a friend's complaint years ago that his hard-won Flash skills were now standard tools. Same thing now with AI, what I learned to hand code is now a cloud-based resource. At least I will have appreciation of how it works (and pitfalls in training ;) 

Finally, Fred Hsu CEO of Agent.ai explains how for SaaS and other tools AI is not only going to change the way we work but also the way our tools and services are priced ... there could be opportunities with both. 

Making Bashfully less opinionated as we understand impact of complexity

This is  part of a series  about my side project  Bashfully , which aims to give graduates and other new entrants to careers a seasoned prof...