Words On Wednesday

Words on Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Let’s see what the second week brings.

Snapchat – I downloaded Snapchat. I hate Snapchat.

 

The interface is cumbersome and unintuitive. Every time I load the app, I’m taken straight to the camera. If this is primarily a messaging app, why do I want to see the camera? Show me my current messages. When swiping around, I eventually managed to find a message from the snapchat team. I had to hold on the message to watch a video, with playback stopping every time I took my finger off the screen. I never got a full tutorial, just something about being able to add a caption to a picture.

 

My wife sent me a video, but I couldn’t figure out how to watch it. I tried holding on her name, but it just caused the message to be considered viewed. I got to the chat interface and tried to send her a message. When I pressed what I thought would be the “send” button, I was taken back to the camera interface. Seems the universally accepted send button is a camera button for Snapchat. The actual send button is in the keyboard, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on Android. Oh well, I can learn to deal with that. We sent a few messages back and forth. Every time I would switch tasks to another app and then come back, my messages had disappeared. I don’t know where they went, she doesn’t know where they went, the messages are just gone. Additionally, any time I got a message while my phone’s screen was off, it would come on to alert me to a new message. I’m familiar with this feature from facebook. There are times when I think it’s neat since a small, blinking light aren’t very obvious. There are also times when I find it annoying, because I don’t want my screen coming on randomly and burning my battery when I really don’t care to be alerted to notifications at the time. I’m sure this feature would be extremely annoying in a chat application where I’m having a conversation with someone (or multiple people) and having my screen light up and turn off frequently.

 

Relating to my frustration, my wife sends me a YouTube tutorial on Snapchat.

How to use Snapchat – http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TMxTyFjEus4

 

Let me preface this by saying that the video is well done. The narrator is descriptive and hit on all the functionalities for a good overview. This reflects an extreme oversight on part of the Snapchat developers, however. A YouTube video should not be necessary to show users how your app works. You should explain that in the app or offer some sort of initial rundown.

Having seen the tutorial, I see that the disappearing messages and videos is how the app is supposed to function. I’m not entirely sure why it works that way, but it does. Furthermore, it seems as though the app suggests heavily that you include a picture with each message. Alright, so that clears up why the send button is a camera button.

 

Maybe my problem with Snapchat is that I don’t understand its need for existence. If I want to send someone a message, I have numerous options already. Ideally, I can use Google hangouts. If they don’t use hangouts, most people I might need to converse with can be contacted with Facebook messenger. Worst case scenario, I can send an sms. Both hangouts and Facebook messenger support transfer of pictures and videos. So what’s the draw of Snapchat? You have to create another account to keep up with just to use it. You can doodle on pictures and caption them before you send them. I have no need for that. Your pictures and messages disappear after some extremely short amount of time. I tend to forget things and I’d like to be able to look back at them later. Sure, I can take a screen capture of a message or picture which alerts the person who sent it to me, but how does it differ from a Facebook or hangouts message at that point? Maybe if you use pictures and emoji frequently in conversation, Snapchat might work for you. Maybe you send dirty pictures or otherwise private content to people, Snapchat might work for you. I don’t. As far as I can tell, it’s just another chat program I’ll never use. If I send you a dirty picture, you’re welcome to keep it (because I won’t).

 

As a case scenario for those who do actively use Snapchat, let’s ponder for a moment. You, dear reader, send me a picture or message that you intend privately for me. I take a screen cap of the picture or message. “But Jake,” you say, “Snapchat will tell me if you used a screen capture on the message.” Yes, indeed it will, but at that point you can do nothing about it. You can plead with me to delete the screen cap, but there is absolutely no way for you to force me to delete it, no way for you to verify that I have deleted it if I say that I did, no way for you to stop me from sharing it with anyone I see fit. Perhaps you would only share something so private if you knew someone well enough to feel that they wouldn’t do such a thing. Perhaps this Snapchat partner would never even think of violating your trust in that way. Just remember, there isn’t anything preventing it. No matter who would do it, anyone could do it.

Digital Pantry – What’s in the cabinet?

 

I now have a small fallout shelter’s share of canned goods because of various sales at Ingles and Walmart. While I have no problem with this, I’d like to know exactly what groceries we have available so I don’t have to assume we have something because we have bulk of everything else. In my mind, the most efficient way to manage this would be a digital pantry.

 

Keeping digital representations of anything physical can be very difficult to do. It requires diligence in updating any changes, no matter when these changes may occur or how large they may be (buying groceries pulls in quite a bit of inventory). There has to be some way to streamline the process, however.

 

Ideally, the system would work something like this:

The initial setup would be the most difficult part. We would have to go through and take count of every food item we have (and possibly more if we’re counting non-food items like aluminum foil, cleaning products, etc). We would scan barcodes, take an exact count, maybe record a name and description for each item. Essentially, the digital form would have every bit of information you could get by looking at the physical items themselves. After the initial setup, the database should change based on what you use or add. Scan a can of kidney beans for use, they’re decremented from the total on hand. For common items that need to be in stock constantly, there should be some sort of alert that an item is low in stock, and another alert when out completely. Items that are either low or out would automatically populate a shopping list with the number required to put that item back up to maximum capacity. If applicable, the prices for any one item would be listed at several stores, as well as any sales that may be active at the time. When the shopping is finished, the items purchased would automatically be refilled in the database. For items with a very short shelf life, some sort of expiration time could be implemented to give an alert when an item is close to spoiling. If the user has a collection of preferred recipes, items that are near spoiling may offer suggestions to use up the remainder of that item quickly.
I realize that this sort of functionality would have numerous shortcomings. Products without individual servings would be difficult to maintain unless you adamantly use a multiple of the serving size each time. Expiration dates aren’t stored in a barcode, so that would have to be entered manually for each purchase. These problems and more would make implementing such a system very difficult, if not impossible. However, it can still be inspiration to make something similar happen. Even if all the functionality isn’t supported, just having some of these features would be far better than simply wondering if you have enough of something and only putting items on a grocery list when you run out of them. Maybe this will be standard with the kitchen of the future, but for now I’m just looking for something to help me keep up with groceries.

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