Author Archives: Matt

Chat is becoming the next platform. Interacting with computers through channels that you already use to talk to people (Facebook Messenger, SMS, Slack etc) in a way that feels natural is a powerful way to accomplish many things for which web pages, mobile apps, desktop applications, or commandline scripts are cumbersome.

Chat is not a panacea for all user experience problems but there are many day to day things that might be able to transition to this way of interacting with computers or new ways that as yet haven’t been able to work.

In some ways this is evidence of more encroachment of technology into taking ever more jobs from humans.

Facebook has a bot they run on Messenger (available limited to Silicon Valley area) which can answer ‘any’ question and perform any number of activities on your behalf. Right now it is operating on a hybrid model. There is an ever growing list of queries for which it can automatically handle, and anything which the AI is not yet able to handle is directed back to an actual person to do. “what is a good pizza place nearby?” can be sourced from Yelp reviews. “Can you call and reserve a table for this evening” -> maybe can’t be handled automatically and will go to an actual person to do. As development continues the features that can be handled will be incrementally expanded.

I have a service running to maintain my healthy habits. Persistence is an app that messages me to do things when it can tell that I haven’t. It’s like a dependable friend that holds me accountable to my goals. There’s no reason why all this can’t happen through a communicative medium like chat. There’s no reason why this couldn’t feel like chatting to an actual friend.

After playing with the Slack and Facebook APIs around chat, it’s proving to be both more difficult and more interesting than I imagined. Difficult because in these early days creating interfaces that process natural language and conversation threads is missing a lot of tooling. Interesting because this is all so new that you really get a chance to build something that no one has really thought of yet. This is a new platform and there is still much to learn.

Today I wanted to get my desktop set up for doing some python programming. The process couldn’t have been easier and was way better than anything possible on Windows.

On Ubuntu, I opened the package manager and did a search for python. went down through the list that it brought up to find a good IDE to develop in. I found the python plugin for eclipse listed.

That was it. I checked it to be installed and it automatically selected all the requirements. Press install, and it started to download all 42 required packages. No hunting around.

So I didn’t have to go to to get the python runtime or development libraries, or to download eclipse, then use Google to find the python plugin for eclipse and figure out how to install that.

It might take a full day to set up a development environment for python on a windows box. I did it with 1 click, and 5 minutes of download time.

Package management used to be the worst part about linux. In the old days you’d have to use a site like to search for each package you’d need, then try to install it only to find that you needed more packages. Before that it was even worse, you’d have to download and compile the source, which would break and you’d have to search through the error messages and then find another thing that provides the particular file it was missing.

These days installing software on Linux is a dream.

trafficIf you’re using Google Adwords as your only way to attract traffic to your website then you’re making a mistake. There are so many free ways to attract visitors that paying for traffic should really only be considered after you’ve exhausted the other methods.

I’ve been using a Google AdWords campaign to drive a small number of people to this site.  It’s mostly an experiment to get used to running campaigns and seeing all the options that Google put in there. Continue reading

2Continuing on from the motivation that I got from Tim Ferriss’ book “4 hour work week” it’s time to have a second go at creating a muse for passive income.

My previous attempt was to create a theoretical e-book/software combo and market and sell it online using Google Ads to drive traffic. The site never landed me any sales, but I did manage to learn a lot from the process.

As I stated in an earlier post, I’m using auto deductions from my bank account to force me to save money to continue to start businesses. Now I’m ready to have a second go at starting an online business. Continue reading

After much fidgeting with CSS to get the site working in Internet Explorer I was finally ready to set the updated theme live.

I would very much like to hear your opinion on it.  Let me know if there’s something that looks not quite right on your system.

This page has looked the same for a while now.  It’s time for a change.

There’s a bunch of things that I don’t particularly like about the way this theme is designed.

Here are the outstanding issues to be fixed:

  • There are a lot of pixel sized items that restrict the page layout on different resolutions.
  • The menu bar is not prominent.
  • The page is too narrow, and as a result there is unused space that could be used to show more useful information without scrolling.

I’m thinking about ways to make the site look better.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.  What do you like or not like about the theme?  Leave a comment.

teachingOver the weekend I called an end to my first attempt at creating a passive income ‘Muse’.  The general idea was to develop an e-book and software package and sell it online using adwords to generate traffic for the site.  The site gathered just 200 visitors over the course of the week, and had zero sales.  Six sales was the magic number I was hoping to get.

The business idea failed to generate interest but the test was a success.  There were many lessons learned during this test that I will be able to take into the future tests.  And there were a few things that perhaps need to be improved to increase my chances at success next time. Continue reading

test tubeTaking the concepts of Tim Ferriss’ “4 hour workweek” to heart, HalOtis has undertaken a pet project, an experiment if you will, for a potential business idea.  I’ve taken what I consider to be a mediocre product idea — in this case an e-book and accompanying software to try and sell online.

At this moment I’m half way through my market test.  Here’s what I’ve done up to this point:

Continue reading

I have to admit that I’ve been obsessed with the book since I finished reading the first chapter. Tim Ferriss has taken a unique path in life and through this book he shares those things that he learned along the way.

Tim’s philosophy is what he calls Lifestyle Design. A process of determining first what you would like to have you life be, and then figuring out how to make it happen. The contrasting philosophy and one which most people in North America follow is what Tim refers to as the “Deferred Life Plan”, which entails going to school, then working for 20-30 years before retiring to the life you always wanted.

Continue reading