Romey's Ramblings

Random musings of Jeromey Balderrama

April 20, 2018
by Romey
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Why Google Chat won’t fix messaging

Exclusive: Chat is Google’s next big fix for Android’s messaging mess

The fact that they’re looking to fix Android’s messaging mess and not everyone’s messaging mess is why this will probably fail yet again.

Real-time messaging (be it SMS or real-time chat) is an absolute cluster, not for lack of innovation, for an inability to reconcile the needs of the users over each company’s own goals, resulting in some very draconian restrictions.

I’ve been using GChat/Hangouts for well over a decade, in daily conversations with my wife and family.  We have a basic set of needs:

  1. Enabled for real-time chat
  2. Ability to receive and respond to notifications across both desktop and mobile phone
  3. Group chat capability
  4. Ability to share pictures and other media
  5. Have a large user base and a lower barrier to entry for new users

Hangouts has been solid but also is neglected by Google.  Now their latest focus is to shift Hangouts for Enterprise use and deprecate it for consumers.  Supposedly they were steering everyone to using Allo, and I remember being very excited its pending release – and then it came and underwhelmed.  What made Allo fail out the gate was the fact that it was tied to your phone number and only one device, so you couldn’t use it from a tablet, let alone a desktop.  Over a year later Google came up with this jenky workaround to have your phone forward chat notifications to a desktop, but worked unreliably and required you to have the app open on your phone.  Given they hampered a key feature of Hangouts, it all but wrote it’s failed destiny and is why it hasn’t been adopted.

I don’t see much difference with Chat. From the article, it seems to be driven by whether carriers will pick up the protocol. That’s well and good to get Android the same features that iMessage enjoys on iPhones, but does little for anyone else on the desktop or using an iOS device. By limiting their goals, Google will once again doom themselves to failure.

I’ve looked a lot of other messaging tools, but each one has its own set of problems. iMessage is designed to promote the sale of Apple devices, which is why you won’t ever see a Windows or Android client (removing #2 and #5). Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp are all great apps with a lot of functionality but don’t have a big userbase and it’s hard to compel people to switch (with the caveat that WhatsApp is big for my international friends).  Facebook Messanger comes closest in terms of offering all the features, but feels really slimy and intrusive to use – and yes, I know that Google reaps the same benefits from inputting my personal information, but you’ve seen a lot more callous coming from Facebook lately.  Skype has been pivoting more into the messaging space, but they’ve had a bad spam problem and I’m not convinced people’s Skype contacts reflects all of their everyday chat contacts. The only time I go to Skype is to make a video call.

If Hangouts vanished overnight, I think I’d reluctantly migrate most of my activity to FB Messager.  It’s frustrating that Google is one few companies that has the clout and wherewithol to tackle this problem, but they’re hampered by their own blinders.  Until then we’re just confined to the ticking clock of neglected consumer Hangouts.

March 4, 2018
by Romey
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Seeing Hamilton

After over two years of falling in love with this musical through the Original Broadcast Cast Recording, Bethany and I were lucky enough to be able to see Hamilton on their traveling tour through Denver.

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The fact that we were seeing Hamilton didn’t really set in until we were sitting in the theater and seeing the set.  I was really anxious to see whether the live performances would invoke the same emotional responses that I got from listening to the album (and I’ll freely admit that I cried the first time I heard Dear Theodosia and still get emotional when I hear Yorktown). I was also curious just how much my internal rhythm would be thrown off with the traveling cast, after being conditioned with the rhythm of the original cast performing the musical in a recording studio.

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It’s important to note that the Soundtrack is basically the entire musical. You can count on 1 hand the lines of dialog that aren’t on the recording (minus a song that was intentionally left off as an Easter Egg for those who attend the show – but trust me, that song doesn’t take away from the musical experience.

I’m happy to say that the performance was everything I had hoped for. It delivered every bit the passion, enthusiasm, and character that was present in the recordings.  The visual elements, however, added a whole other perspective that couldn’t be conveyed in the over 200 times I’ve listened to the soundtrack.  There are some amazing comedic elements that are portrayed through body language and choreography.  The other thing that took me by surprise was the transitions between songs, which helped give a sense of just how much time and emotion carried over to the events in the next song.  For example, the Cabinet battles seemed to come out of nowhere and really drove home the fact that Hamilton and Jefferson were constantly at odds with each other. Also, the way Say No To This drove straight into The Room Where It Happens clearly depicted the tension Hamilton was feeling as the pressure was building.

Before the show, Bethany and I set an over/under on the number of times we’d cry during the show. I set my number to at least 4 times and blew that out of the water with getting teary-eyed at virtually every other song. The performances that were emotional for me included:

  • My Shot (caught me by surprise, probably tears of joy)
  • Satisfied
  • Wait For It
  • That Would Be Enough
  • History Has Its Eyes on You
  • Yorktown
  • Dear Theodosia (this one pretty much always cues waterworks)
  • Take a Break (depicting just how badly turning down the Schuyler Sisters weighed on Hamilton)
  • One Last Time
  • Stay Alive – Reprise into It’s Quiet Uptown = Bawling like a baby
  • Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

One other thing that caught me off guard was just how many people weren’t really aware of Hamilton, the story, or the soundtrack. Granted, the Denver Center of Performing Arts wanted to reward season ticket holders with first offering of the tickets (which is why we got to go, through the generosity of Bethany’s parents), but the flip side of that were a lot of theatre fans that really knew nothing about Hamilton except for the hype around it.  During intermission, I overheard one guy saying “I didn’t expect to be this much hip-hop”.   I think there were other people there who knew it was culturally significant, but again probably didn’t take away as much as they could.

If you are lucky enough to get to see Hamilton: please, please, please listen to the soundtrack a few times through, especially if you’re not accustomed to rap.  There is so much depth and richness, as well as historical references depicted in the songs, making it easy for it to fly in and out of unaccustomed ears.  There is so much information packed into each song that it makes it very hard to take it in.  In fact, after listening to the soundtrack, check out a great Podcast breaks down all of the backstory and historical references in each song: The Hamilton Podcast on Graphomania

Lastly, if you’re a Hamilton fan and have not had the opportunity to see it live, please don’t fret. I know it’s easy for me to say, but I sincere that while seeing it live offered new insights and enhancements, it wasn’t world-changing in my appreciation of Hamilton. The theatre that’s playing in your mind while listening to the songs does a great job of telling the story.

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February 23, 2018
by Romey
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Why the Broncos preventing ticket printing is evil

Broncos embrace mobile ticketing for 2018 season

In which by “embrace mobile ticketing”, they mean they’re taking away the ability for season ticket holders to print tickets from home, requiring you to use their ticketing system to broker not only re-selling the tickets but any transfers as well.  I always love the PR spin that acts like they’re giving you something when they take something away.

One one hand, I can understand their justification for doing this, and the selling point that this will cut down on high-margin scalping and counterfeit tickets, which is all well and good, but when I heard about this policy change, I couldn’t stop thinking about two formative stories that shape my view of mobile ticketing.

  1. Back in the fall of 2017, I purchased tickets to Mumford and Sons, only available as a moble ticket. It turned out that I had to travel for work the week of the show, and tried to transfer 2 of the four tickets to my wife and the other two my friend. The ticketing system was so shoddy that it ended up taking days of attempts before I believed the transfers went through. Fast forward to the night of the concert, when I got a call from both of them stating that the tickets I transferred to my friends weren’t coming up.  So there everyone was, in line and stressed out about not being able to get in, while I was far away and essentially powerless to help them out.  The concert attendants weren’t particularly helpful, and who can blame them when they have a compounding line of people eager to get in.  We finally solved the whole problem by me re-claiming the transferred tickets, screen shooting them from my phone and texting the image over to my friend – which I should have just done, to begin with.
  2. This time the last year, the Broncos went on a massive audit of season ticket holders, establishing a newly-formed policy that they would revoke tickets to people who didn’t go to any games that year. They used the only data point that was convenient at the time – the NFL Ticket Exchange and tracking the electronic tickets. I detailed my concerns about this last year, but the bottom line was that for all practical purposes, my tickets should have been revoked and the only thing that saved me was the wherewithal of “selling” (and by selling, it was at-cost to friends and family) the tickets through the printed tickets.

Make no mistake, this is about making sure the Broncos and the NFL have the data points for all ticket transactions and can harvest the data for their own purposes, especially for retroactively enforcing policies that they just made up.  I wouldn’t be surprised after next season they’ll take tickets away from someone who wasn’t able to go, transferring the tickets to friends and family. And yes, I understand that there are fans that abuse their tickets by massively upselling them and not attending any games for years at a time. It would be fair to call their fandom into question. However, there are also many other fans that simply may have had a life event (like a birth, a sickness, a temporary job relocation) disrupt a single year of their attendance, and despite devoutly attending games for a decade before, they’re subject to the same revocation.  The Broncos have every right to do that, but it doesn’t make it a complete jerk move and fan-hostile.

Mobile ticketing ENABLES season ticket audits. I’m all for preventing scalping, but if you were serious about punishing scalpers you could send an intern out on game day, pretend to consider a scalper’s ticket and note the seat #, call the ticket holder the next day.  Sure it takes a little more work, but it punishes those who are egregiously violating your policies, rather than the low-hanging fruit of new parents that sold the tickets to their next-door neighbors.

If you go read the article and the FAQ, they’ll tout that 35% of their fans used mobile ticketing last year, conveniently forgetting that 2/3 of their other fans have never used this process.  I’d get it if 80-90% of the fanbase were using their phones to get into games, but don’t pretend they’re not trying to ram something down fans throats that they didn’t even ask for. Don’t piss on my leg and then tell me that you’re making me fire-retardant.

What about for friends who buy my tickets or if I can’t go? Now they’re all going to need TicketExchange accounts and I will basically need to handhold their app experience. Where’s the convenience in that? Now the Broncos are making their season ticket holders your front-line support for your app. I imagine that many more fans are going to have a similar experience to my Mumford and Sons story from above. Emailing tickets to my friends wasn’t a problem that needed solving.

I went back & forth on Twitter with one of their PR reps (and to their credit, they were at least responding – unlike last year), and he was quick to justify that other teams were doing this and that the NFL is moving over to this.  However, the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rockies are still providing paper tickets with nice commemorative designs.  Even if many more teams were using this system, just because others (don’t) do it, doesn’t make it right. This is a race to the bottom for the fan experience. Commemorative tix aren’t the issue – introducing a barrier (preventing printing) to my “honest fan” experience, all to collect data to possibly punish me later on – is.

This isn’t about being a luddite or not embracing technology, this is about protecting yourself from data harvesting that is only going to be used to punish you, as the Broncos and NFL continue to squeeze blood out of turnips for their money-printing machines.

February 19, 2018
by Romey
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Don’t Stair At Me–Help Me Fight For Air

Hey friends, I could really use your help! Please help me fight for air, so others don’t have to.

On Sunday, March 4th, I’m going to climb 52 floors of stairs for the American Lung Association to raise funds for healthy lungs and healthy air. When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.  

The funds raised will help provide patient education and support important research and advocacy efforts for everyone living with lung disease including COPD, lung cancer and asthma.

As I Step Up to the Challenge, I would love for you to help me! Every amount, no matter how small, would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your generosity! 

You can donate by visiting http://bit.ly/JeromeyClimbs

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November 30, 2017
by romeyinfc
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New Windsor Library Defeated

The New Windsor Library Initiative, which I adamantly supported, was unfortunately defeated.  After spending this month reflecting on the reasons for the loss, I ultimately attribute it to the following factors:

  1. Members of the community disagreed about the inherent value libraries offer to our community, especially to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford access to the resources the library provides. Many ultimately decided that the elevated taxes would not result in a positive return on our community.
  2. Members of the community had a fundamental misunderstanding about the Library District, its boundaries, its relationship to other local municipal entities, and the way libraries are funded, both operationally and through facility expansion.
  3. Members of the community had confusion and misunderstanding about how the proposal came to be, how proposed funds would be allocated, and the previous attempts to solicit input and collaboration.
  4. Members of the community did not demonstrate an appreciation for present and anticipated growth, and its impact on current library capacity and their staffing – nor did they appreciate the future capacity planning with the proposed library, seeing it was something that was too large for the present time. I think we only need to look to our newly expanded recreation center to find out what happens when a community expands facilities with current demand in mind, where even mid-morning weekday classes are overfilled with attendees.

    …And finally

  5. Some opponents of the library measure were able to exploit the community’s lack of knowledge (especially for #2 and #3) and instead projected scandalous motives to explain issues that they did not understand. I found it most egregious that terms like “No Transparency” and “No Collaboration” were used when there were numerous public meetings and opportunities for input, as well as hundreds of pages of feasibility studies and proposals were available through the website. Rather than clarify their concerns, many simply used their lack of knowledge as justification for their distrust in our government institutions. While I do think it’s important for our society to be skeptical and scrutinous of our municipalities, many assigned nefarious motives for that which they did not understand, hiding behind their own ignorance.

Ultimately, I do think that our community needs to do a better job to improve issues #2-4, and hope that it can come through meaningful discussion, debate, and consensus towards what is best for our community. I do think there will always be those that fall into the #1 and #5 camps but hope that those can be diminished as we do attempt to improve #2-4. Perhaps it means more meetings and dedicated hearings. Having participated in two previous capital campaigns through my church, having an abundance of listening sessions and solicitation of input help quell concerns that many had. I would be very interested in doing my part to assist in any way I can, hoping that we can continue to provide a quality library that meets the needs of Windsor for generations to come.