See you

This is the final CS3216 blog entry, to summarize what i have learnt from this module. Truth be told, it is a great module, and i am honored to be part of it. Recalling the journey, it all started out when I received the message calling for people who have a dream. I am one of those people who were deeply attracted by its description and immediately applied even though I have little experience and no knowledge in how a programming project would be like. It turned out that this module has half programming people, a quarter designer and a quarter random people. This makes this class unique because there are fresh ideas flowing in from all those different people coming from different environment both academically and physically. Prof Ben is a passionate person, he has so much energy and thought that is waiting to share with us, i simply enjoy all of these.

First project we did is a project management tool, from which i started to learn how to write html, css and php. Design is my main job for this project, both functional and artistic. I was satisfied with what i have done for the first project and Aldrian and I decided if have time we will continue with it.

Aldrian is a nice person, i still remember before the final project starts, we two, holding the same belief in open source research, tried to look for teammates but failed. Failure is no good reason to stop believing. I will starve to it in the coming future. The best thing about this module is that we can do any bold things, except porn and gambling :), and there is people who guide us towards that goal, the experience is simply memorable.

Second assignment is about mobile cloud, i felt that i didn’t put into much energy into it, which i didn’t regret because i fully utilize that time and accomplish a great research project. There is no way to predict.

So soon came the final projects, and so soon it finished up, i have done everything that i can and everything that i can’t but now i can for this project, the experience is great when you put all your energy into something. It is about managing social finance. At first I don’t have much interests in this application but after seeing my teammates’ passion in it, i started to get affected and became passionate as well. Passion really can pass around. Be passionate 🙂

I can’t recall how many difficulties I have faced when doing the project, solving the problems become part of habit, and part of life. As said by Prof Ben, CS3216 is about solving real life problem. Real life is tough and harsh, that’s why we worked so hard to solve them.

Yesterday I finished with another module SP3173. It is part of Special Program in Science syllables, and it is the last module in SPS. Very short is my journey here, even those people i don’t frequently meet. My feelings are strange, I know I missed it.

In the midst of the semester, i have severe self questioning. What kind of life do I want to live, now I think i have an answer. The whole semester experience is tough, and demanding. This is quite the opposite the life style of my previous years. I enjoyed peaceful life, and i like to solve hard problems. I don’t like the kind of life where I have to spend hours to do labor work. I more enjoyed to spend days to solve a hard problem which no one has solved before. I like creating, but more towards creating for fun instead of creating for value. This is not directly beneficial for the community but anyway i just like it. I like reading. Spending this whole semester without reading a book i felt unease. I believe in independent thinking instead of team works, even though this semester i realized the importance of teamwork as well. The most creative work must be from one person, this is my believe.

Glad that at the end of this semester I managed to get all this question clear. CS3216 is more about a spirit. Pushing one self hard and be different. That’s what I want to say as a thank you note both for Prof Ben and CS3216.


Catch up: 2 Random Thought

I am supposed to write the final blog entry however because I didn’t write since week 8 I have to reserve my final blog post a few days more.

Here I want to talk about several thought that I had recently. As designing CSS for our website, different screen resolutions are really troublesome. It forces a designer to waste much of his time solving problems that are not related to art. I wonder whether there is any simplicity solution to this, otherwise we must invent it. Efficiency and creativity are highly related to the level of concentration of which we can have on the most essential problems. The rest we should always keep as minimum. Java is there because we don’t want to waste time programming for different platforms, and HTML5 also does the same thing. Functionality is hard to increase, but concentration level is easy to be raised. There must be a way so solve CSS problem, either invented by others or by us.

Animation in jQuery is also troublesome. It is controlled by numbers, yet numbers are hard to visualize, at least for a normal people like me, therefore much of the energy of a designer is wasted on imagining how things  actually look like instead of how they should look like. There must be a simple solution to this, again if no one does we should take the responsibility to produce it. The direction that I approach this problem is to connect website with video editing software like after effects, thereby making it possible to animate Divs visually by dragging or setting keyframes. It really saved my energy. I believe this functionality can be extended more and is able to produce some really cool effects. I also sense that there is a need for such kind of a website like balsamiq yet specialized for animation.

Above is some recent thought. I will sleep now.

Catching up: 1

Today I want to take a breath and reflect on my life. Life goes really fast, three weeks have past and i hardly have time to reflect. It is a dangerous sign. There have been countless raw thoughts staying in my mind waiting to be organized. Now I shall spend some time on them.

Final projects have been running quite very for most of the groups, and from the presentation yesterday I was really impressed by the creations of classmates. Those which need great effort and spirit to accomplish I have seen many from my peers. This motivates me to starve towards the better, in the remaining days.

My learning experience in this module has a big curvature. I have undergone three transformation, from random people to designer to programmer. Transformation is usually hard and painful, as if cutting and folding part of the body, but the pain will soon be replaced by the lightness of being a beginner, where everything is new.

We are all following our light, and I shall wish everyone good luck:)


Week 7

Short write up on things that I learned from CS3216 lecture and peer appraisal.

There was a discussion on whether we should find teammates first or come up with an idea first. The final conclusion leans towards team sides and I agree with that because ideas are really easy to get but good teammates are not. However, the definition of idea here has a restricted meaning, which is a specific idea that is executable, producible and marketable. In a more general sense, it includes how one sees the world. People have their own life philosophy, and finding teammates are like finding friends. Good friends share similar philosophy. In light of this, ideas can help build up a team. These two terms are not separable.

We should guide our users. The principle of user interface design is really to make it as simple as possible for users to navigate through. This conclusion amazed me because despite our intelligence, everyone must be treated as stupid.

Should there be a leader ? There need not be definite answer to this question. The existence of leader is create order out of chaos. If the environment is ordered, then the existence of leader is not necessary.

On peer appraisal, first I have to thank those who wrote highly on me. You help me gain more confidence 🙂 Also, thank those who gave me suggestions and listed my bad points, I know more about myself and help me get clear what I really want from this module. Interestingly, many good points overlap with bad points. I think I am very fun & interests driven person, once those are lost, I don’t feel like it anymore.



Late Case Study 1: Get Help!

Get help is an application that our previous 3216 batch did, after reading their description, I found it a quite interesting application to talk about.

Functionality and Interface:

The problem that this application tries to solve is that when people need help, there are few people among their friends who own the skill to help. Their application provides an online platform to connect people together through social network, thus having higher chance to find a person who helps. This application’s functionality is largely based on an assumption which is after they make a connection between people, things will work out. Let’s assume this to be true first in order to proceed.

On the every page, there are a lot of buttons, some are on the top left, some are on the top right, some are on the right. It appears to me messy because buttons are everywhere. The developers try to squeeze a lot of functionality inside one page. This affects user experience a lot because functionality should be organized in a systematic way that the user spend least time in finding them.

An interesting observation is that they allow every need to have an icon. Why does a “need” need an icon? Icon is a way to customize, and people also like to customize. However, people use this application is not because they want to customize their need and make their need attractive, they want to solve problems and get things done, so this functionality I would say is unnecessary.

They also allows user to choose a specific person for help, then why they don’t directly contact the people? The main usability is to help user find a person who can help, if they already know who can help, this application may not seem attractive to them.

Also, by default “post to all friends” and “ask a specific person” are both selected, every time users have to cancel one of them. Users don’t like that.

As shown in project page, they allow user to comment, help, refer a friend and wish good luck. “Wish good luck” button is better to be called a “like” button because you can wish everyone good luck but you don’t necessarily like them 🙂 Refer a friend function I think is good because it carries the main functionality of this application.

Overview page contains other users’ help request, which doesn’t match the name “overview”, it’s better change it to “Friends’ need”.

Is this application engaging?

Whether an application is engaging or not depends on two simple things: is it useful? is it fun? This application is more towards useful side. However, do people really want to help? I believe there is a limit in how voluntary a person can be, yet this application is largely volunteer based. Therefore, busy people will not want to help because they don’t want to stop what they are doing and spend time helping someone who he may not know. Not busy people also don’t want to come to this app because it’s not fun, so we expect the majority of the users to be those who need help. They have a need so they come here.  However human’s nature is such that we want to fulfill our own need first before help fulfilling others’ need. The application may result in a “deadlock”.

The use of game mechanics saves the application a little bit because its effect is very limited. People only have a few special skills. Even though they have such skills other people may not need them. It is rare to find a match, so people will on average have a low score. If their scores are low, they loss interests in continuing it. Game mechanics must be designed in such a way that users with low scores can gain scores easily and users with high scores can gain recognition or awards. This makes a game continuous.

We can make this model more attracting by adding in financial rewards. People don’t do it for free, user must pay to get things done, this doesn’t sound good for an individual but it’s healthy for the whole model. Honestly, I think if people need something that don’t want to pay to get it, they don’t really need it. 🙂

Overall people need help but sometimes they can’t find anyone who can help. This is a realistic problem. It’s true for me as well, but I prefer to go directly to my best friend GOOGLE! Google already connects people who need help with people who own skills, therefore social network’s advantage is not really at its connection but its locality. People can come together and do things, this locality advantage is what we should look into more. 🙂

Week “?”

I fell sick these days, i guess it’s time not only to reflect on this week but also reflect on my life. I came across severe self questioning, when I skipped whole afternoon’s class to take a bus going around Singapore for fun. On the way back, I start to confuse. What kind of life do I want to live? Sometimes I want to live a peaceful and unassuming life, but sometimes I feel the urge to create and change. Sometimes I like to spend hours to watch movement of clouds but sometime I suddenly want to push myself so hard that I lost 10KG’s weight in one month and fell sick(this August). I feel this two ideals of life keep fighting with each other and I start to doubt whether they can really coexist. Maybe it’s the time to make a choice.

Last week’s lecture was about sharing. Some people from outside came and shared what they are working on. I generally feel good about all the sharings, some posted very interesting problems and solutions.

HDB is about creating a virtual community for students, but it looks more like for children rather than for secondary students. What if change it to a virtual community for kindergarten kids, through iPad? It would be very funny 😀

Purpple is about sharing photos for food and also feedbacks. I like this sharing feedback idea, but I think rather than letting user upload photos voluntarily, why not we provide an online platform to allow food stores to upload photos themselves, future food stores no longer need menus! Bring your phone will do! Just read the QR code on the wall! It sounds so interesting! 😀

Youtell is also about sharing feedback, it’s more general therefore a more clear classification is necessary. About their idea on short comment tag, A chinese chatting social network QQ already use it for some time but it didn’t work very well I think.

Gary Ong, I don’t really like his games, it’s of no value to the community.

Candlestick is interesting because it tries to win you money by observing patterns. If everyone uses this software, who wins? 😀

FirstAid is a game of life. It seeks to save lives. I respect this a lot! 😀 Even though the rough design of the game is boring but I am really keen to help them.

Module-Review is again about feedback and review. I already used this website for a year and it’s really glad to see that they are planing about module planning tool and feedback about professor. I think if he can use CS3216 timetable builder it will save a lot of mutual work…

I realize that many people are working on feedback systems. Maybe it’s really human’s nature to reference on other’s behaviors and results first before taking actions. Feedback system is not well covered in many cases. Working on this is an opportunity.

Reflection on Flipboard

The application that I’m going to reflect on is called flipboard. It’s an ipad application for RSS feeds. Flipboard describes itself as a social magazine, which is literally true because everything inside is organized in a magazine like manner, and to go from one page to another you just need to flip the page, as natural as flipping a book. There are several points that the presenters made during the presentation which are very interesting to talk about.

First, User Interface vs. Functionality, who wins? This is a hard question because the answer should be different in different times. However, as functionality becomes nearly saturated (by saying saturated I mean for each functionality we should be able to find at least one application which can achieve that), I believe User Interface is wining over Functionality nowadays. Flipboard is one case. From the presentation itself, I don’t see much difference in functionality between news pulse and flipboard, however, if I were to make a choice I will choose flipboard simply because its beautiful interface and enjoyable user experience. The simplicity of its design makes you feel so natural that you even don’t realize its existence, which is more of an art than pure design.

Second, the flipping through pages is to simulate real life experience like reading a book, therefore users feel natural. This may due to the natural resistance that we have in oppose to changes. Object has inertia, human thought also have. So how far should we go to simulate real life experience, and when should we force people to change? I don’t know the answers.

Third, flipboard doesn’t allow customization, which I think is a big loss. We like to customize things because we have an inner desire to express ourselves and get recognized. If in the future flipboard can allow users to design their own life magazines and deliver them to others, it will be very nice to see. Also, magazines companies can sell their magazines through flipboard which may be a more healthy business module for flipboard itself.

Fourth, during the presentation, the “cannot clear cache” and “only one user” problems are mentioned, personally I don’t feel them as big problems because I don’t think a normal user with care about how much cache an application uses, (but of course technically this is a issue which should be fixed) Also, how many people will share ipad with others? I believe the number is decreasing as years passed by, therefore the problem should become less and less important 😀

At last, as mentioned by the presenters, when the flipboard team started to build this application, they never think about how they can make money out of it, yet all they cared was is how to serve users better. I respect this spirit a lot 😀