Category Archives: Tech Interests

General technology collections

PhD Forum on Mobile Experiences

As mobile touch screen devices become increasingly ubiquitous, they are also becoming more accessible to people with visual impairments. Both Apple and Google have developed screen readers that are pre-installed on their devices, but Apple’s iPhone seems to be the most popular touch screen phone among blind people. The downfall with an iPhone with VoiceOver is that it is very slow, as the user averages about 1.5 words per minute typing this way. Washington University CS Ph.D. candidate Shiri Azenkot developed Perkinput, a nonvisual text entry method that uses the 6-bit Braille character encoding.

Perkinput is aimed to enable blind people to use mainstream mobile devices as efficiently and effectively as sighted people. It is based on Perkins Brailer, a mechanical device that uses 3×2 keys to represent each alphabet character and allows users simultaneously press the keys to enter a character. Perkinput allows the user tapping out braille characters using one tap with two hands on a larger screen such as a tablet mobile screen or two taps per character on a mobile phone.


Figure 1 Perkins Brailler and Perkinput. Braille encoding for ‘r’ is the binary string “111010”.

Shiri had participants use VoiceOver, which is what is currently used with smart phones, as well as Perkinput to compare the typing speed. Her results showed that not only did participants immediately enter more words a minute using Perkinput initially, but after multiple trials saw more improvement. The error rate was also lower using Perkinput. Here is a live demo:


The Technology Behind My Social World!

Human has always been a social being. Presentation and Communication are important aspect of living “Social”. In the Tech Behind Social World workshop Akhila Naveen (Yahoo!) and Jennifer Davis (Yahoo!) enlightened the audience on the ‘social’ aspect of webpages.

Replacing the user story with the job story

When building a new product from scratch with a “blank canvas”, it’s hard to get the whole team on the same page when it comes to customer motivations, events, and expectations. Using the jobs to be done philosophy to help define features can turn things around. This is called “Job Stories”. A job story can be defined as “situation + motivation + expected outcome” as shown below


Breaking down the job stories into components, we can discover the resourceful APIs


Then apply software design principals, we get the webpage as our 3D (Define, Discover, Design) output!

Product Development Practices that Enabled Facebook to Reach One Billion Users

How did Facebook grow to one billion users and what could be learned? In her 10 minutes lighting talk at Grace Hopper Celebration, the amazing young and talented manager at Facebook, Julia Lee, described scalable product development and software engineering practices that allowed Facebook to reach one billion users. She focused around understanding Facebook users and identifying highest potential features and also highlighted discipline around instrumentation, data analysis, process, and decision-making.

  1. Understand
    • Correlation and causation
    • Incrementality and cannibalization
  2. IdentifyObjective function: an equation to be optimized given certain constraints and with variables that need to be minimized or maximized.
  3. Execute
    • No QA!
    • Sim ship globally
    • Everything logged, monitored, automated!
    • Performance lab
    • Continuous deployment/testing
    • Heavy dogfooding
    • Daily: two global pushes
    • Weekly: Tuesday major push
    • Semi-annually: reviews, goal setting, light roadmaps

The team structure at Facebook

  • Small teams, big impact
  • Own an objective/KPI
  • Team sets aggressive goals and takes accountability
  • Nurture risk-taking
  • Reward impact not effort!

Throw ideas against the wall. Innovation often starts with knowing the right question(s).