TV That Reads The News For You

In NYC there is a local news channel called NY1. I never watch it (I am not ever sure we get it in my apartment) but I happened to catch one segment while running some errands for work a few weeks ago.

It turns out that rather than cover the news in the morning, like every other news station, NY1 outsourced the process. Rather than do their own stories they will read to you the news paper so you don’t have to! No joke. I watched in amazement as the anchor picked up the Times and the WSJ and literally selected and read articles to the camera.

Call me old fashioned for getting the paper every morning but is this really what it’s come to? No wonder we will all be working for china in 10 years.

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A List Of Grown Up Things To Do

Some actqivities in like just sound adult. I am not sure why, maybe because it makes thing of my parents. Here is a list of the most adult things you can do. Feel free to ad.

Check the pool filter

Refill the propane tank

Call the exterminator

Schedule to get the rugs cleaned

Fix the dishwasher

Replace outlet covers

Go to a pta meating

Write thank you notes

Alphabetize spice rack

Press some shirts

Rollover 401(k)

Check the paper for coupons

Prostate exam

Interview landscapers

Return library book

Read a paper book

Take blood pressure

Watch instructional video on texting

Register you vehicle

Garden

Stop by the bank

Watch hgtv

Home depot

Watch your fiber

Bed

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Does Going Global Take The NY Out Of NYU?

NYU made its way into the Times this week. Its satellite campus in Abu Dhabi has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the world. The plans for NYU Shanghai are under way. And this past week NYU announced a partnership with a non-profit online university to broaden its reach to under served parts of the world via the internet. But these forward thinking global ambitions may create even bigger problems for the university.

NYU is already huge. With 50,000+ students it is one of, if not the largest private universities in the world. Strength usually comes in number, yet NYU with its small army of violets, is disjointed. Alumni giving is dreadfully low. Suicides are freakshily common. Something is missing from the picture that is not keeping this mammoth community together.

The one unique factor NYU has to unify its graduates is the experience it creates within New York City. NYU is not a traditonal university in that it truely immerses its students in the city. But expansion world wide, while a great ploy for the brand, weakens it value. Certainly it will be impossible to create the same enviroment found on Washington Square abroad. And as the number of campuses grow, at what point does that stop being relevant?

I worry that NYU will transform itself into a high end University of Phoenix. Rather than expand, the university should figure out how to cultivate in current students the feelings that keep them active as alumni going forward. A strong base at home can only help make expansion more successful. Until NYU gets that right they should focus on issues closer to home.

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Closed Caption TV At The Gym Makes It Clear Deaf People Are Missing Out

I take hearing for granted. It’s true. I live on my iPod and dont think twice about the sounds of the city around me. But this morning I realized I was being a fool. All it took was 30 minutes at the gym and one poorly captioned tv show fir me to realize that we should all be more grateful our ears work.

Example

I always knew televisions could display captions for the show you were watching. Like any other hearing individual I never thought to test it out. I assumed, retardedly, that this captions would be an accurate representation of what was in the show. It’s not. I was shocked.

The best way to describe the product of whatever system is compiling the text is to imagine what it would be like to transcribe message from your friend while at the worlds hottest techno club. We have all been there (or some other insert random loud situation). You drop works, misunderstand the ones you do here and as a whole just do a crappy job of understanding what the other person is saying. That’s what cc looks like.

Even funnier – this was the spelling bee

Of all shows where accuracy is paramount and automated transcription is easy this was the true test. But the tv managed to do things to words that I would never have thought of. Some of the spellings were even worse than my own.

Funny as it may be I felt kind of bad. Deaf people just can’t catch a break. You would think that living in silence you could a least enjoy reading Mr Hollands Opus to yourself. But tv captions suck. Whoever developed this needs to step up their game. Until then thank god for text messaging.

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Make Banks Pay – Protests, Education, And Why The Teachers Are Right

May 12, 2011 – I was taking a nap when suddenly I was roused by a full blown marching band and some unidentified cheering. What the hell is this I thought. Not a stranger to random NYC protests, usually I find them annoying. A bunch of vegans or some other hippie group yelling about a non-issue that they want changed. Yawn. So I walked over to my window and looked outside. This was no flash mob ladies and gentlemen but a full on march. I still couldn’t hear what they were saying (the shouting ironically made it harder to hear them) but I did see signs – “Make Banks Pay.”

Some quick Googeling turned up news results that matched the signs. Teachers and other unions, in opposition to the education cuts taking place state/citywide were marching on Wall Street to somehow hopefully convince the government that banks should pay more to offset the cost of education. With America steadily slipping in polls that rank the quality of our schools against those around the world, their concern is one that should not be overlooked. The proposed solution?  Rather than firing teachers and cutting the budget we should – gasp – extract more money from the people privileged with holding our money. Great idea.

While this might have sounded good on paper at the pre-rally meeting, anyone who has lived through the last 3 years can tell you that the likelihood of success was a staggering 0%. America loves its banks. Correction, the American government loves its banks. In fact we love banks so much that we don’t only despise the idea of taking more money from them, we go out of our way to throw money at them. It doesn’t matter what type of bank you are. Commercial banks, investment banks, if you are a bank you are lucky enough to have bought into the most protected, liability free, taxpayer backed business venture ever.

Banking and the financial services industry in this country has become a disgrace to the American people. This is not because of the outrageous bonuses, stupidly high salaries, or other perks delivered to an industry who creates nothing. (O.K. that may be part of it) Rather, what is disgraceful is that we have a government that is willing to stake taxpayer money to buoy an industry that spits in the face of the American people as it repeatedly operates without any sense of responsibility. Forget the concept of too big to fail, you can’t fail! (Unless of course your Lehman Brothers and are so corrupt e.g. Repo 105 that even the government balks at bailing you out.)  You want to create a derivative market for sub-prime securities that you developed based on fraudulent loans? No problem. You need to borrow money because you stupidly gave 400mm dollars to name Citi Field when you don’t have the cash? Who cares! Baking takes the term moral hazard to a new level of unbridled, unabashed, arrogance. All when our schools are sagging and could use that money to do some serious good.

While the protest was never going to be a success, the idea the teachers and other unions raised deserves more support. Instead of bending over backwards to help organizations that pillage from the community coffers only to come back time and again asking for more, put the money towards something useful – education. If there is ever a choice between backing a group of people who are still getting paid deferred bonuses from 2007 (thank you Lloyd) and supporting something that will benefit our entire country in the long run, the choice should be simple. I, along with many Americans, would support a higher tax, a levy, or a good old repo run on the banking system. Sure it will never happen, the time has come to make money mill stop. The next time Wall Street hits a speed bump let the banks go under. Save our schools.

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Why I Will Never Outsource Software Again

I am writing this to share some horror stories that are still on going that resulted from relying on foreign coders. I will admit this does not represent 100% of all outsourced development companies (how could it?) but to anyone thinking about undertaking such a product, buyer beware. These places, which can be found on Elance or even from posting a craiglist ad in this country, will taken on just about any job and say yes to anything – regardless of whether they can accomplish the goal. Don’t be fooled by the drive to save money. It is better to pay more once than pay less 1000 times. Hopefully this can serve as a warning and save some very promising entrepreneurs the headaches I have dealt with over the last few years.

A little more than a year and a half ago my team and I started working on a great idea, a location based chat application. What would eventually become Echo was originally designed to be a website. We chose to go the mobile route because, at least for a location based application, there was so much potential in using new technology (e.g. the smartphone) to bring new functionality – user location – to “old” tech ideas – the chat room. One problem – none of us were coders.

We met with several developers. We finally selected a company based in New Hampshire. Turns out the company misrepresented how it operated. Instead of doing all coding on site, what we assumed was this guy’s apartment, all the work was secretly shipped out to India. Now I know a lot of things get outsourced to India but coding should not be one of them. The work was unreliable, full of bugs, and worse off when we finally found out the software was being built in India and tried to contact the developer, he was no where to be found. There was just no control (and impossible to find any) over a developer thousands of miles away who could take off and do whatever he wanted to do.

Eventually we parted ways with this sham operation. We found a company based in New Jersey who was willing to take on the project. This technical chop shop – Rapidsoft Systems – looked legitimate on the surface. Many big contracts, run by a computer science professor who used to head up development for many big companies and was himself Indian (we thought this would at least make dealing with the outsourcing process easier). He was able to diagnose many of our problems right away. So far so good. The project would be forwarded to his team in India for work.

What followed was probably the worse experience ever. Developers quit or were fired on a regular basis so there was no consistency in the team. Every few weeks or so we would come to realize either that the team had changed entirely, or that several key members were gone. This meant that either (a) we had to re-teach the application to a new set of people or (b) even worse, coders with no idea what was going on were being left to play around with our application.

We tried to leave several times but met resistance along the way. Despite numerous revisions and issues fixing basic features, they were committed to finishing/dragging us down with this application.

It took 8 months to convince them to give us the code. This was only after they tried to bill us for work we did not request, sent internal emails asking developers to take longer and list phony work orders so they could try and charge us for more (funny thing is that the developers who realized this was wrong sent us these emails), and generally were disagreeable as a whole. As it if couldn’t get any worse, the code we received was complete garbage. Over 450 error messages, improper implementation of several features that made it guaranteed to be rejected by Apple and a non-scalable back end that would have been sure to leave us dead in the water down the line.

A horror story to say the least.

Having invested both time and money into this project I am committed to finishing it but wanted to make sure my mistakes were not in vain. No promise of saving money is worth dealing with foreign developers. Pay more upfront and get someone local, with experience, who actually knows what they are doing – it will save you money in the long run and more importantly it will save you time.

p.s. – anyone who knows a developer in nyc looking to get on board with our team we are always looking, message or comment their info

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Update – 5/16/2011

Following the comments from our manufacturing software guy bellow, I did some investigation. I contacted some people at Rapidsoft to see if anyone knew who this person was and whether he actually had hired them 3 times in a row to do a project. No one could verify this information. While I do agree with some of what he said, I now wonder what his connection to the company is. It appears there may be some shadier motives prompting those comments.

Also in the meantime other sites have picked up on Rapidsoft’s shoddy work and several other companies have verified and validated by complaints. Looks like it is not just my project that was damaged but that this is on ongoing practice. See the links bellow for more detail.

http://www.scaminformer.com/scam-report/rapidsoft-systems-inc-never-finish-project-on-time-and-c19655.html

http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/Rapidsoft-Systems.aspx

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Some Suggested Improvements to the New York Times Paywall

The New York Times has decided to enact strict controls on access. While the paywall is a good start it does not go far enough. Here are some suggested improvements:

(1) You may not read articles on nytimes.com aloud. If you do, anyone with in earshot will be credited with having read one of the 20 free articles allotted to them each month.

(2) You may not read with friends. If a friend is present while you are reading the article and they in anyway see the content it will count towards their 20 allowed free views per month if they are not a subscriber. If they are a subscriber, and you are not, it will count twice against your allowed remaining total.

(3) For non-paying subscribers, any content read outside the New York Times website that sounds like the person who wrote it read a New York Times article will count towards your allowable total of free articles for that month.

(4) NYTimes.com reserves the right to deem all Times content including but not limited to that which has been, heard, inadvertently seen, dreamed about, relayed via blog post/equivalent lesser newspaper, or  substantially similar to any existing Times article constructively read for the purpose of calculating page views and advertising rates.

(5) Print subscribers will receive free access to the NYTimes.com website to view unlimited content so long as this content is not viewed on (i) a mobile device (ii) an ipad (iii) a laptop (iv) any other convenient method of access.

(6) Electronic subscriptions do not include access to the full version of the New York Times crossword puzzle. Electronic subscribers will only be allowed to access a limited version of the crossword each day. NYTimes.com does not make any warranties or representations about the accuracy, completeness, or entertainment value of this limited puzzle. NYTimes.com reserves the right to delete such words and questions as it sees fit in the free version as well as to add black boxes or change the shape of designated “fun words.” For full access to crosswords, subscribers may upgrade to a “preferred subscriber account” for $999 per month.

(7) You may not read any other newspaper. Failure to obey this command will result in immediate termination of your subscriber agreement.  Parties to any subscription terminated as a result of a breach of this section agree to receive the “Weekender” for 1 (one) year on the Friday of the week following its release.

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