Archive for November, 2015

Japan. Land of tech I’ve never visited..

Monday, November 9th, 2015

I was asked what place would I ever live that I’ve never visited and immediately what came to mind was Japan. This is not recent feeling either. It’s been there since I was 13. I’ll tell you why.

When I was a kid and getting into tech there were certain things I wanted a lot of. Knowledge and games. Back in the early 80’s before the internet I would get numbers to what were called bulletin boards. It was the equivalent of dialing up a website and just staying there for a while to get what you wanted or learn about interesting stuff. Well, thus came the part of me that was a little bit nefarious. I found through these portals that if you know what to look for and how to look you could find video games that you could download. This opened up a whole new world because it merged the two things I liked. Learning how to do something and getting paid off with a video game. Sometimes one that might not even be available in the United States yet.

Therein lies the crux of my position. The games were sometimes coming out of Japan. Thus coming out of Japan they were in Japanese.  I actually loved this too because my brother and I already had a fascination with Japan. We watched Japanamation cartoons and would turn to Japanese stations and watched for hours only understanding a rare few words that were said.

Fortunately for us we had an uncle that lived in northern California that married a Japanese wife. To our delight they visited and stayed at our house for 3 days and my aunt’s sister came with her visiting Los Angeles straight from Japan. I was about 12 and couldn’t stop being around these ladies. She knew a couple American shows and the extent of her English seemed to Happy Days but it was awesome.

When they left I took it upon myself to find on a bulletin board how to learn Japanese. I later on bought a book on the language and learned how to read the Kanji/Kana character set which really helped me a lot to read the menus on the games. This turned out to be useful as I relearned it when I was 24 and happened to take a temp job at a company that was headquartered in Japan. Once an issue came up with the Japanese version of Microsoft Windows that a certain floor or bilingual workers was using. I jumped up to save the day. To their amazement the young black guy fixed it in Japanese. Made me a star among all the people on that floor that passed me from then on and waved and said hi even if they couldn’t speak English.

My fascination with the country has spanned many decades and I really need to make it a priority to visit for a while. I’ve kept up with a lot of things Japan just because of all of this. I may stick out like a sore thumb because of my skin color difference but sticking out has never stopped me before.

Top 10 Phillip facts

Monday, November 9th, 2015

I am a big sucker for lists so here’s a Phillip Banks top ten interesting facts list.

  1. Unknown to most my favorite sport is football even though I’m known for playing basketball all the time and in leagues all over the city.
  2. I have a weird immunity to alcohol which is one of the main reasons I don’t drink. My metabolism is so high that is consumes the alcohol before too much reaches my brain. I’ve done many tests on this by chucking whole bottles of wine and drinking 8 shots of different vodkas in succession to see if I was affected at all. Even did equations afterward to test cognitive balance. No effect. The down side to this is that medicines don’t work for me either in most cases.
  3. I’m pretty sure I’m ADHD from every online test I’ve taken or read. I have an incredibly hard time focusing. This would seem unpredictable because I love to read a lot. It is actually something that is horribly hard for me but my desire to learn supersedes my desire to give up because I keep getting distracted.
  4. I love the color blue. Just realized I just keep having more and more of it around me.
  5. About 10 years ago I read a man saying imagine if you read 50 books a year how much you’ll have gained when you’re old. Ever since then I’ve set a goal (that I usually don’t reach but at least get close every year) of reading 50 books. Thus I usually would rather drive in my car alone because I’d rather be listening to an audiobook than music while driving.
  6. I’ve been told this by a doctor but I’ve never taken the time to look it up but I am supposed to be written up in some medical journal somewhere. At 38 I broke my leg in 3 places from an accident on a basketball court. In a month and a half I was back on the basketball court. He told me my accelerated healing was of huge interest to his colleges.
  7. I absolutely SUCK at doing paperwork. You’d swear it was written in a foreign language sometimes. At companies I used to work at in the past I always had people in accounting trade me doing or making things that would make their life more efficient for doing all my paperwork. If they didn’t they might be waiting on me for a while to get the paperwork to them.
  8. My front right tooth is chipped. The reason being when I was 12 I decided I was going to learn to do tricks on my oldest brother’s skateboard. I was quite the daredevil because I wanted to try every stunt possible like one of my childhood idols Evil Kenivel. Well, needless to say between tricks I neglected to pay attention to a huge crack in my driveway that catapulted me into the sky and land on the concrete chipping my tooth.
  9. I absolutely despise coconut. I love chocolate but German chocolate has that one thing I really don’t like. Coconut. It all started from my sister and I helping each other up to some cans that had cookies in them on a high shelf when we were kids. If you made a mistake and reached into the wrong can you’d end up with coconut on your hands and I couldn’t stand that smell.
  10. I started programming when I was 10. As in a previous blog post I mention how it’s obsession slowly took over and took the place of my first love playing guitar.

My first love. My guitar.

Monday, November 9th, 2015

I’d decided to do this writing challenge to see how  I could get myself in the groove of writing and it gave me some subjects to talk about. The problem is that one of the subjects was my first love/kiss. I realized that a lot of these things didn’t relate to tech like I thought I could probably make them but that turns out not to be true. You see my first love was my guitar. I left my guitar for a computer.

When I was in 3rd grade I witnessed one of the most beautiful sights that changed my life forever. A girl at my elementary school was sitting on a step and playing a guitar. I was in complete and utter awe at the sight of this. Music just flowed from her hands and it filled my ears and went to my heart. I was captivated. My first thought was one that leads me through life to this day. How can I create this feeling for myself like she gave me. Thus led me on a journey that I am on to this day. Scratching my own itch.

A little background. My mom’s family was heavy into music. My great grandmother had an idea that really held a lot of weight. She felt like no matter what happened in the world all of her family had to know how to do two things because they’d never stop being ways to make money: Typing and playing an instrument. Thus my grandmother, mother and aunt played piano and thus led my brother sister and I to have to take piano lessons as well. Then one fine day I walk in and say I want to take guitar lessons instead of piano. It was still an instrument after all.

After reading how many hours the great players put into learning their instrument I had to get myself closer and closer to them. The greatest players at the time were Spanish sex symbol Charro followed by rockstar Eddie Van Halen. Turned out that they practiced almost 8 hours a day. I felt I wanted to be amoungst the best so I would set out on a course of getting closer and closer to that amount of time. I loved that guitar like no other thing on earth. I bought sheet music from music stores so I could play all the famous rock songs. My teacher was a backup guitarist for the legendary rock group Journey so I felt I was in even better hands. I practiced classical guitar, spanish guitar, rock and gospel till my hands were tired but they never seemed to tire. 3 years of scholarships and playing at various concerts and churches proved I was on the right path.

Many years later Toni Braxton would sing a song called Spanish Guitar in which she would wish that this man would hold her like he held his Spanish guitar. My Spanish guitar could have equal envy for a woman because my reverence for it and caressing of the strings brought me the signs of success that I coveted. Calluses. The sign of every true guitarist.

Our love song wouldn’t last forever though and I have to take the blame when I was 14. Great guitarists could play by ear from just hearing music they could create their own. This took the boring task of learning my scales. Daily going through these scales took long hand training. At the same time I had a mistress in the wings that started to consume more and more of my time. It was computers. I’d been programming since I was 10 but the challenge became more and more pleasing. My awe for Charo was slowly replaced with Bill Gates.

When I entered high school my first love picked up permanent residence under the piano at my house only to be thought of in passing from time to time but it will always be my first love.

First memories

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

My life has seemingly been around tech since I can remember. My technolust (term coined by the video podcast Hak5) was first started by my curiousity with all things. I mentioned in a previous post about being a tinkerer and that was evident from the start. So, travel down the well with me into the mind of a tinkerer.

I have two memories and I can’t remember which one came first but I was around 2 years old in both so they were somewhat close together. Ok so lets get the slightly embarrassing stuff out of the way with a little background. My mother had our house split into two rooms for the kids. My sister and I in one and my older brother Erick in the other. This arrangement worked for them because the two youngest were very close to their room and my brother who was 5 years older was down the hall. For some reason my mother decided to keep me in a baby bed and get every dollar of usage out of it. I guess you could say I was a bit rambunctious as a kid because I remember figuring out that I could make the whole bed fall down if I jumped on it really hard over and over again. I’m in the autonomous stage and I wanted to get out and run around but was confined to this prison that was up too high for me to climb out easily.

This situation was a lab for me. I had a couple of goals that were all equally important. 1) Escape, 2) annoy my sister because I knew this would always do it, 3) make my mom have to run in the room at which point I’d have escaped further from the bed each time and 4) amaze myself at how much the bed would take before it would collapse. The other goals were great but each time I remember holding out faith that I could break this bed more effeciently each time. I was too young to know about statistics and reports but If my little me would have known about that stuff I would have kept record.

This thinking hasn’t changed. 43 years later I still repeat things that I do over and over to become better and more efficient at them. High five 2 year old Phillip. You were working the scientific process and reaping great results as this is one of my sister’s first memories as well and my mom still holds this against me in conversations. Mission accomplished.

5 ways social media could improve

Monday, November 2nd, 2015
Crossroads of Problems and solutions

Crossroads of Problems and solutions

I’ve always been that guy in the meeting that would almost pull out my hair when people tear apart ideas but are never the person offering good valuable input. I thought I’d take as my goal to always be that guy that offers that little bit of value to everything I offer.

With that said I thought about this issue of social media and its needed areas of improvement. I have a good view of this seeing as how I do social media management for companies and evaluate new social media platforms when they are first announced. I’m that guy that will have an account right away to see where they may have strengths that my clients could use. With that in mind lets get started shall we?

  1. Context is key. There’s a lot that companies are doing to enhance your time on social media and keep you engaged. From the simplicity and minimalism of sites like Ello and now pretty much defunct Diaspora to the heavy weights like Facebook. The thing that I think would help with this is the problem of context of posts. Say for example that person posts a status that you just feel like you have no idea what they’re talking about. This could happen on Facebook or Twitter because there are tons of posts and this person doesn’t effective garner your attention all the time or they’re just lost in other posts you may not know what the background to this post is. This is an issue of what context these people are coming from. Hashtags have added a little connection to past posts that fit in this same line of thought but footnoting of some sort would make a great addition to posts knowing that if you really wanted some background on this post you could show posts that it’s also connected to. (P.S.: I’m not much of a user of Reddit however I do believe this background info is highly encouraged).
  2. Algorithms. Algorithms rule social networks behind the scenes. They are the equations that are the secret sauce to what you see and read. Facebook is the best example of algorithms because what you see in a Facebook newsfeed is made up of what the equation figured you wanted to see from the friends that you have. In short, I tell people not to complain about how horrible it is on there because the algorithm behind the scenes is looking at what you look at, read, click on and saying the content I’m going to show you most matches who you are. If you’re finding a ton of negativity in all the posts you see on Facebook then you’re seeing a reflection of what the algorithm sees to be who you are. This has proven itself to be a pretty decent system however it only works so well. For one reason it will only choose through a certain amount of your friends to even look through in order not to give you too much content unless you go into your account settings and specifically ask it to show you more. This is a problem more in the domain of psychologists. Coming up with algorithms that figure you out better is tricky. Artificial intelligence (AI) in video games works in this same area. I think a combination of the two say, a tour guide that is already working with information such as contextual data like your calendar would fix this issue. Imagine you have boring meetings all day. Feeding you more entertainment in your feed might be a little bit more of a pick me up that’s well needed.
  3. Evolution vs. Stagnation. Ok, on this one I’m going to look at myself because everyone isn’t looking for this in life but the start of every good idea is just what works for one person and expanding on it. I see life as am I getting better as a human being or am I stagnating. At that point I course correct and I teach my kids the same. From time to time I think that incorporating an algorithm, AI, and context data together could work to tell me from what I’m putting out there a little bit more about myself and how I’m doing. Systems like Klout using information gathered from all your social media platforms and tell you about your “popularity” and it’s growth. Firstly, I have used Klout in the past over an extended amount of time and found its service useless in giving me good info about myself. Secondly, it doesn’t used analysis of the text to tell more about me. What if I put up a post that said, “I just got a new job making a billion dollars as a rock star.” If it didn’t see me post it to all the social media platforms and get enough likes (which may be because I didn’t get seen on enough people’s pages from the algorithm issue above) then it might not see me as well liked till much later on and I could infer I’ve stagnated from their service. There are other services like Klout but I’m not familiar with one that has proven more effective. Please leave a comment if you do know of one.
  4. Overload. This one might seem a little contradictory seeing as how I want algorithms to sort this info out but information overload is a real thing in terms of social media. The key word being media. Media is a form of visual, auditory or tactile absorption of information. However, when is enough enough. I had a friend recently tell me about her cousin who gets drowned in Twitter posts. One of the best words of advice I’ve ever read on social media is to never expect to keep up with Twitter. Twitter’s main feed lacks a filter. As friends post you see it like a virtical stock ticker showing anything and everything. Unless you use grouping and alerts properly you can easily get overwhelmed as you gain people you’re following. Thus, overload on Twitter is easy but who just has a Twitter account alone? You have Instagram, FB and others. This adds to the overload especially considering you’re adding in text messages you get on your phone. Something that I like for this is something I’ve seen with blogs. All the works and title’s in a big box and the ones with more relevance to you having an increasing font size. I love that concept for social media and what posts to look at.
  5. Value beyond the like or favorite. The thing that people are looking for most in whatever they do is value. We talk to certain people rather than others because of the perceived value that this person’s conversations have over the other person’s. The value proposition in many things can be very skewed based on popularity. Systems such as Pandora, Spotify and Musicovery have figured out that what’s popular is not as important as what value you may get from what they find you. This can be equally as true for social media content. I’ve found many artists on these sites that I wouldn’t have ever known existed that played music I found fantastic. Social media discovery could combine all the afore mentioned things and find other people like me that are saying and doing things that bring my life joy instead of who’s the most popular. I can not deny the joy of a like, retweet or share but that joy is fleeting and becomes forgotten. However, finding other people that bring you constant joy with other humans that you want to get away from the keyboard and see all over the world? That’s what I believe social media should be all about.

What’s your take? Leave me a comment and let me know.