Be Counted During Māori Language Week 2016

I want to ask all the people who speak or understand Māori to change the preferred language on their devices to Te Reo Māori at least for one day during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10, 2016. I emigrated to New Zealand in 2005 and I have loved this country ever since. My close friends know that I get emotional when I speak about the incredible difference living here has made to myself and my family. I’ve tried to give something back whenever I could, which brings me to this blog post.

What I want to achieve

With your help, I want to prove that there is a large enough group of people in New Zealand that would like to see support for Te Reo Māori in our software. Right now we are dealing with a vicious circle: businesses don’t see enough Māori users in their analytics therefore it’s difficult to prioritise implementing support for this localisation over other initiatives. I believe that we can help break this cycle by setting on our devices the default (preferred) locale to be Te Reo Māori.

You can help

Regardless if you’re a technical person or not, there are two things you can do to help: set Te Reo Māori as the preferred language on your device (even just for one day!) and then spread the word.

Step 1. Make Māori the preferred language on your device

Don’t worry:

  • apps and websites will fall back to English when Te Reo Māori is not supported.
  • this change will not update the language used by the operating system. It will however let apps present content in Te Reo Māori whenever they can. See the Google search screenshots below.

iOS

Do this from Settings > General > Language & Region > Other Languages (or Add Language if you already have more than one). Look up Māori and then select “Prefer Māori”.

Running a Google search for “Te Papa” will then produce the same results,  but the word “Images” has been replaced by “Atahanga”.

Google Te Reo

You may think it’s a worthless change. That would be true if nobody else makes the language change I’m encouraging you to make. The more of us do it, the more we move the statistic needle.

Android

Android support is patchy. Unfortunately support for Te Reo Māori does not come out of the box for the official Android releases. If you’re lucky, your particular device may have Māori or Te Reo as an entry in Settings under Languages.

The good news is that Google Developer Group Wellington (which I founded a couple of years ago) has support from Google to put together an official Pull Request to Android that will introduce support for Te Reo Māori. Get in touch if you wish to help.

Windows

I need to disclose that I am not an active Windows user so the information below may be out of date. I do believe that Māori has been an option since Windows 8, though. Below you can see a couple of screenshots of what you need to do to express your preference.

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Mac

Setting the preferred language on the Mac is also quite straight forward.

  1. Navigate to Settings and search for Language & Region.
  2. Ensure that your Region is set to New Zealand then click the + button under Preferred Languages
  3. Select Māori from the list. And click Add
  4. Select Use Māori and then restart your Mac

You’re (almost) done

Check here that you have successfully updated your language settings.

From this point onwards every time you use an app or website you will be counted. Ka pai!

Step 2. Spread the word

I believe the best thing you can do next is to just speak to people about this topic. It really helps with awareness and it’s more personal.

An easier option would be to send your friends a link to this article or to any of the resources on the internet that discuss this topic.

If you want to be succinct you may consider asking your audience: “Set your device’s language to Māori during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10. Help make Te Reo an option in the apps you love. #TeReoBeCounted”. You can click here if you want to tweet this message.

Supporting Organisations

A number of organisations have accepted to help this initiative in one way or another. There will be a follow-up post after this week is over to report on what we have collectively learned. Thank you Trade Me, Xero, Powershop, Radio New Zealand, KiwiBank, and Te Papa. If you engage with their apps and websites, and you have set Te Reo Māori as your preferred language, your voice will be heard.

1. Your apps count, too

If you build apps / websites targeted at New Zealanders, you can help, too. What you need to do is to share with me the number of users or sessions that you see for the mi_NZ locale, before and after Māori Language Week.

Here are a few options for how you can share what you learned:

  • Preferred: raw numbers. For example you could tell me Unique users on the 4th of July and on the 11th of July. You can check these numbers with most analytics tools anytime after the 11th of July.
  • Great: growth numbers. If you are comfortable with this option instead, then please share just how many of your users preferred Te Reo Māori on the 11th of July, versus the 4th of July.
  • Good: percentage change. If you’d rather not disclose the number of users who chose to start using Te Reo Māori, then maybe you can share with me what the % change was (positive or negative).
  • Nice: whatever you can tell me 🙂

Feel free to use (without the need for attribution) the instructions above to tell your users how they can go about setting Te Reo Māori as their preferred language. Get in touch with me if you want to continue the conversation.

2. Spread the word

Your organisation already engages with customers and this is a great opportunity to let the inner Kiwi show. You can break some of the BAU routine by educating your audience that Te Reo Māori is a viable language on their devices. You could take any of the following actions:

  • prepare a newsletter
  • write an announcement on your website
  • post on social media
    • Twitter.  “Set your device’s language to Māori during Māori Language Week July 4 – 10. Help make Te Reo an option in the apps you love. #TeReoBeCounted”. Click here to do it right now!
    • Facebook. Use whatever language you are comfortable with. Feel free to use the instructions above on how to change the language settings. Make it clear if your app/site supports or doesn’t support Te Reo Māori at the time of the post. Link to my blog post if it helps.
  • tell your front line (customer service, host and hostesses, sales, etc) about this initiative
  • update your showroom/store. Prepare and clearly label devices that already run Te Reo Māori. Train your sales staff and ask them to spread the word to your customers.
  • improvise

 3. Encourage your audience to engage

Now that you’ve spread the word, these users can be counted in the participating apps and sites. It would be a nice gesture to mention (wherever appropriate or by linking to this page) who else is participating in this campaign.

4. Post campaign

After the campaign is over, I will aggregate the results and I will communicate to the participants what we have collectively learned. I will then follow up with another blog post for the benefit of the community.


FAQ

What drives me?

Aotearoa is my home. There are many other people, much more informed than me, who can probably tell you why doing this is a good (or not so good) idea. What follows is my personal view.

Kiwis are amazing. I love Wellington. Even the laws are pretty great when comparing with the rest of the world. All these things play a an important part in how I feel about this place. However I feel that the language does not contribute at its full potential to this sense of belonging.

What does a best case scenario look like?

With enough exposure, here’s what I hope this initiative will achieve:

  1. Make more Kiwis aware that Māori is a viable language option on their devices
  2. Help those doing software development to better understand the makeup of their Kiwi audience
  3. Long term, I hope to prove that investing effort into localising our apps to mi_NZ (Te Reo Māori) is not just respectful but can also have positive effects on the relationship between app builders and their audience
  4. Get localisation support added to the roadmap of as many apps and services as possible.

What about the Census?

According to the 2013 Census, there were 148,395 people who can speak Te Reo Māori. Unfortunately I cannot settle with this number. Here are a few reasons:

  • there may be Kiwis who, out of modesty or self-consciousness, did not claim to be able to speak Te Reo
  • speaking and reading are different things. The census asks about the former
  • some people who can speak Te Reo may choose to not use the language on their devices. It makes me sad, but I can definitely respect their choice
  • not all these people have devices that can show content in Te Reo and some people may have more than one device

In reality, we may never be able to know how many people prefer Te Reo. All I want is to show that this number is large enough to justify treating it as a priority in our apps.

What does “our apps” mean?

I am doing this as a community member, not as the Head of Mobile at Trade Me. By “our apps”, I mean the apps and websites of the entities (people or organisations) who participate in this initiative and wish to better understand their audience.

We’ve promoted this. Now what?

If you build apps or websites please start tracking the number of users and sessions that use mi_NZ (Māori, New Zealand) as their preferred language.

If the number of users and sessions goes over the critical threshold for your organisation, then it’s time to update your definition of “done” and include localisation to the new features and apps that you build from here onwards. Don’t forget to update your testing strategy to cover text input in Te Reo Māori.

I’ve changed my mind

On iOS, you can go back to the same settings screen and tap the Edit button on the top right. Then you will be able to remove the newly added language.

Kia kaha e hoa mā! (Let’s go team!)

Update 5 July

  • Clarified that when there is only one iOS language, the option reads “Other languages” rather than “Add Language…”.
  • Added instructions on how to remove the language on iOS if you have changed your mind

Apple needs iMessage on Android

I believe Apple needs to build iMessage for Android. They have lots of reasons not to build it but I believe that have at least one really good reason to do it.

Apple has already acknowledged Android’s importance by building Apple Music for Android (I won’t count the Android to iPhone migration app). This was a sound business decision, the same was building iTunes for Windows was a necessary move. The sheer number of Android users will bring about more revenues and will help prevent services like Spotify from generating a lock-in effect for the hoards of people moving from Android to iOS.

iMessage is different, though. iMessage does not generate any profits (yet), and has simply been a value-ad for the iOS (and Mac) customers. They could have continued down this path, but something changed recently: Apple has doubled down on their fight for privacy. Tim Cook’s resolve and public appearances arguing against FBI’s request to build a backdoor in iOS is unprecedented. He even gave the first ever interview from his office on 1 Infinite Loop.

No other player in the space advertises privacy as a core product “feature”. Apple needs it not just because it is a differentiating factor, but because they truly believe this is the right thing to do for their customers.

The fact of the matter is that Apple’s customers interact with people on other platforms all the time, and not all the apps they use to communicate with their friends on non-Apple platforms are secure. Sure, WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption, Telegram does too, and so do many other apps. But none of these apps are controlled by Apple.

Building iMessage for Android will give Apple the ability to tell its iPhone customers that all their communication with their family and friends can be secure.

There’s an argument to be made, that for this to be completely accurate, Apple would also need to build iMessage for the web.

A bonus reason (speculation), is that iMessage is one step away from becoming a transaction platform (much like WeChat). Person-to-person payments could be one such type of transaction. In order to be successful, such a product needs to be available on as many devices as possible, thus making Android impossible to ignore.

p.s. If iMessage is to be added to Android, then FaceTime will most likely be added, too.

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Goodbye, Grandma

My grandmother passed away today. I cried for the first time in a long time. I am lucky though: I got the chance to know my grandma.

Her name was Maria (and she is part of the reason behind my daughter’s name). She was such an incredible woman. Not only was she a hard working person (she’d wake up at 5am and turn in at 10pm), but she never complained about the hand that life dealt her. She was born in the countryside, and she lived all her life at the top of the Harghita mountains. She raised four children (including my mother), and sadly she had to bury her husband and her eldest son.

She was strong and fit. She rode her bicycle till well in her 70s. She wouldn’t miss Sunday mass even if she had to battle a blizzard. She was respected and obeyed by the entire family. She never raised her voice, nor did she ever need to punish anyone. She knew how to have fun, too. When we least expected it she’d prank the kids, or she’s crack a joke.

Before emigrating to New Zealand, the very last trip I took was to go and see her. It was a 12 hour journey, and although I only spent a few days with her, I never regretted it. That was not the last time I saw her, though. I went back in 2011 and, for the first time in my life, I was able to have a grown-up conversation with her. She told me about what our family went through during the Second World War, she told me about how my grandfather lived and died, she gave me life advice, and she answered all my questions. I loved her more that day then I had my entire life. I had always known she was an incredible woman, but until that day I had never quite understood why everyone looked up to her the way they did.

My grandmother played a big part in my life. When I was nine years old and I ran away from home, I ran to her. When I had to decide what to do when I had a week to spend in Romania, I went to see her. When I close my eyes and think of my childhood, I remember spending time with her, learning how to herd the sheep, milk the cows, work the hay…

I’m lucky because I have so many memories with her. But there will not be any new ones and this is hard to come to terms with. Goodbye, Grandma, rest in peace, and thank you for everything you gave me.

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#JAFAC – Don’t Miss It Next Time

I had the privilege to speak at the very first edition of #JAFAC hosted at the fantastic GRIDAKL. Many people requested that speakers share their slide decks. Since there’s nothing sensitive in mine, I’m able to post it below.

During the interactive part of the talk I mentioned a number of apps. Some these (iOS) apps were: Air NZ, Amazon, Chirp, Drafts, Emoji++, Evernote, Garageband, IMDb, Instagram, Instapaper, Kibo, MacID, Musixmatch, OmniFocus, Overcast, Slack, Starbucks, Trello, Way2Ride, Workflow, and Trade Me.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was invited to take part in this event. I have a lot of respect for the people who put it together, so I went. This tweet right after the conference pretty much sums up my experience:

I came back reassured, inspired, and motivated. Thanks Sandy, Brenda, David, Steph, Jimmy, Christine, Te Miha, Richard, Colart, and everyone else I had the pleasure to listen and to talk to.

It was also very impressive to see just how knowledgeable were all the people in the attendance. Day two, the un-conference, enabled all of them to play a more active part and turned into such a revelation.

Stephanie BySouth

“Coaching Leaders” session with Stephanie BySouth. Part of un-conference on day two

If you focus on enabling people to work together successfully, if you are all about empowering teams, if you are keen to find ways to remove needless processes, if you want to learn on how to use feedback properly, if you desire to be in the company of really smart (Agile) people, then trust me, you don’t want to miss the next edition. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with a quote from Sandy: “no pain, no Spain”.

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I’m Attending Google I/O 2016

Although I have attended WWDC several times in the past, I have never attended Google I/O. I wanted to, but I didn’t manage to. This is about to change.

After a couple of years of becoming more and more involved in the Wellington Android community (by organising both the Android Meetup and GDG Wellington) I have finally been able to register for Google I/O.

I am a lot more excited than I thought I would be. The advent of Material Design and the relase of better and better Android devices (it’s no secret I’m a fan of the Nexus 5X), have contributed to making me more deeply involved in the Android ecosystem.

If you are around San Francisco between May 15th and May 21st, and you are keen to catch up and talk mobile stuff, get in touch. 

I can’t wait to attend I/O and to come back home to share my expeirence with the rest of the Google and Android community here in Wellington, New Zealand.

Adobe’s Efforts

In 2014, Adobe purchased the photo editing platform Aviary and integrated it into is Adobe Creative SDK. Aviary was known to be an easy-to-integrate photo editing tool, which is why so may 3rd party developers embraced the platform and integrated it into their own apps.

A year and a half later, developers are told:

  • the old Api Key won’t work anymore
  • they need to bloat their apps and include more of the CreativeSDK
  • they need to create a new App ID on the My Apps page on CreativeSDK.com
  • they must write down the secret token information since they won’t be able to retrieve it after registering their apps

This would be easier to come to terms with, had it not been for the insincere opening statement on the developer site:

We’ve made great efforts to ensure that migrating from the Aviary SDK to the Adobe Creative SDK is as seamless as possible.

Did I mention that end-users may end up needing Creative Cloud accounts before they can use the tools? The Getting Started guide is a herald of the future change: “Authentication is part of every Creative SDK workflow and every action performed requires a logged-in user”.

I do hope to see this change for the better, but I’m not holding my breath.

Interview Questions – One of my Favourites

Being a part of an interview can be a daunting task. For some people it’s a painful experience, for others it’s a thrill. I remember being in interviews that I didn’t want to end, and in others where I felt like banging my head against the desk. Assuming the interview is going well, there’s this one question that I always like to bring up.

If I’m being interviewed I like to ask:

If I do everything right by you, and I am a top performer, where can I be in two years’ time?

I need to know what the strategic plan is for the company. I want to know what the growth opportunities are. Depending on the passion and the clarity of the response I can also draw other conclusions or come up with follow up questions.

The reverse is also true. When I conduct interviews (and I’ve done hundreds in my career so far) I like to ask:

If we do everything right by you, and we support your growth, where do you see yourself in two years’ time?

I have heard some amazing answers, ranging from: “I’ve left the country“, “I’m running my own company“, “I’m the best mobile developer in New Zealand“, all the way to “I have taken your job“.

If you decide to start asking this question in your interviews (whichever side of the table you’ll find yourself), I encourage you to follow up during your first and second performance reviews…

So why don’t you take a moment and ask yourself: if you are honest with yourself, where do you want to be in two years’ time? If you’re feeling brave, tweet me your response.

p.s. this is a good opportunity for me to recommend this book: The Manager’s Book of Questions by John Kador. It’s a fairly old book, but because it doesn’t focus on one particular technology, it asks various categories of questions (from icebreakers to competency), and it doesn’t seek provide the answers, I still find it very relevant.

Clean Code – Mandatory Reading for Developers

All developers should need to read Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin.

If time prevents you from reading an entire book, then at least read this chapter: “17. Smells and Heuristics”.

One of my favourite bits of advice (that actually comes up a lot in discussions with the developers around me) is captured in this paragraph:

There is hardly anything more abominable than a dangling false argument at the end of a function call. What does it mean? What would it change if it were true? Not only is the purpose of a selector argument difficult to remember, each selector argument combines many functions into one. Selector arguments are just a lazy way to avoid splitting a large function into several smaller functions.

The book is filled with code examples, describes concepts rather than programming language idiosyncrasies, and is useful even for seasoned programmers.

Whatever language you code in (today), this book is likely to become a fixture on your desk for a very long time after you’ve finished reading it. Get the paperback version, and fill it with colourful post it notes.

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TV Wishlist

I’ve owned an Apple TV for a few months now (I have a Dev Kit unit). I’ve coded for it and I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I had anticipated. Here are some of the things I’d like to see in the upcoming iterations of the software / hardware.

Accessories for the USB-C Port

Camera

I’d buy a camera compatible with the this new Apple TV in an instant. I’d mostly use it for video chat (FaceTime, Skype, etc) but I can see how some other types of apps could use it too (Snapchat, Livestreaming a video podcast, etc).

Playroom / Kinect style games could also benefit from being able to plug in a video capture device.

Bluetooth is not an option because the camera would needs its own power source.

Game Accessories

This port could also be used for a number of game accessories. From Dance Dance Revolution mats, to Steering Wheels for your favourite driving game.

Web Browser

My reason may be different from yours. If you ever tried setting up an Apple TV in a hotel room, you probably know how annoying the whole log-in via a browser window situation can be.

Search APIs

Apps could be so much more powerful if they could tap into the Siri Remote search capabilities. Search is available to some video streaming services, but I think many more apps could benefit from such a feature. Here’s an example: “Siri, play a 10 minute summary of the new on Reuters”.

Picture-in-Picture

I’d love to be able to watch a film and then launch a Wikipedia or IMDB type app and interact with that app while the movie is still playing.

It would be great to be able to watch some live sports while shopping on Gilt, or browsing my next holiday destination on AirBnB. Anyone can get distracted during a game of cricket, surely.

New Remote

I’m one of those people who watch TV in the dark. Because of this I find myself holding the Siri remote “wrong”. I’m wishing for a less symmetrical remote that I can pick up an instantly know which way I’m holding. I also want a trackpad that is either less sensitive or is a bit smarter and doesn’t activate until I’m holding the remote with a tight grip or is able to detect accidental touches.

I’m hopeful

The reality is, that until the things above are implemented, the Apple TV will have to be shared with some other device. In my case, the couch device of choice is my iPad.

It’s likely that Apple prefers this, but they are also the one company that would be very happy to cannibalize its own product rather than wait for someone else to do it. Come on Apple TV, kick my iPad off the couch and turn it into my bed-side device.

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AirPlay Speakers. A SONOS Alternative for iOS Users

I have been jealous of my friends sporting SONOS setups for a while now. My reasons for not jumping on the SONOS bandwagon are not limited to just the steep prices that the SONOS speakers come with. The reality is that I prefer to use my own music / sound playing apps and because I listen to podcasts for a considerable amount of time. In this blog post I will describe a cheaper and more flexible alternative for achieving the multi-room setup that SONOS is praised for, using AirPlay enabled speakers.

Scenario

In this article, I’ll describe my actual home setup. I need at least three speakers: two for my lounge area and one for my office. I wish to be able to play music and podcasts (via my Overcast, my preferred Podcast app) to either speaker independently or to all speakers simultaneously.

The SONOS Ecosystem

Pros

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SONOS PLAY:1

Part of the SONOS promise is that you can easily and painlessly play the same music in multiple locations (rooms), using speakers that “play nice” and “just work” with each other. I believe that SONOS does deliver on this promise.

Scaling the SONOS setup is trivial, all that’s required is buying another speaker and adding it to the setup.

Cons

I have three main reasons to hold back from buying into the SONOS ecosystem:

  • SONOS speakers are quite expensive (arguably they do have very good sound)
  • They require the use of the SONOS app
  • Integration limitations

Now that Apple Music is available for SONOS my third reason is all but gone, but I have to acknowledge that this may not be your case if you prefer streaming apps that are not available in the SONOS app.

Cost

The cheapest speaker is the SONOS PLAY:1. It costs for $199. A high-er end SONOS PLAY:5 speaker costs $499. The SONOS SUB Wireless Subwoofer and the SONOS PLAYBAR TV cost just under $700 each.

The AirPlay Solution

Pros

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iHome iW3

My needs are quite specific, therefore some of these pros may not apply to everyone.

  • AirPlay is available to any app (it’s a global iOS setting). It’s also easily accessible from the iOS Control Center
  • Big choice of speakers (most are budget friendly)
  • Old Airport Express units can turn any speaker with Line-In into an Airplay Speaker
  • Very easy to use as external speakers for Apple TV
  • Can stream the sound from any of my Macs (iTunes even has support for multiple speakers)
  • Most speakers have Bluetooth too, thus making them really good travel companions (to locations where WiFi is not available)

Scaling the AirPlay setup is not too difficult, after adding another speaker to the setup, there’s an option AirFoil configuration step.

Cons

The initial setup is more complex than with SONOS. Usually it requires joining an adhoc WiFi network provided by the speaker, followed by entering the local WiFi settings which enable to speaker to join the local network and become a wireless speaker for any AirPlay device.

SONOS speakers can easily turn into a 5.1 setup when enough speakers are added to the setup. AirPlay speakers haven’t really solved this, yet.

Cost

One the the most affordable options is the iHome iW3 AirPlay Rechargeable Wireless which retails for $49.95!

The audio aficionados can splash out on a Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air Wireless AirPlay Speaker Dock. Amazon sells it for $420 at the moment.

I happen to have a Mac that is always on at home, so I decided to also purchase AirFoil. This has enabled me to group my speakers into “rooms”.  The Mac version costs $29.

Alternatives

Bluetooth

Most people will probably just use Bluetooth, and that’s ok. Not everyone needs the lossless audio that SONOS and AirPlay offer.

AirPort Express

As I mentioned above, an old Airport Express can turn an existing speaker into an AirPlay enabled speaker. Check out Apple’s refurbished store for a deal on AirPort Express units or buy from Amazon for $29. You don’t need the current generation one.

Android

There are apps out there that allow Android to tap into AirPlay. I am not familiar enough with them, and I suspect the new Chromecast Audio may actually be a more suitable solution. Chomecast Audio sells for $35.

Conclusion

I implemented the AirPlay solution for myself and I’m happy with it. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you prefer an alternate setup.