Words On Wednesday

2015-02-18 Death via Homeless Veteran & More

A little on a near death experience, my suggestion to the Google Maps crew, a discussion on nomenclature, and my idea on a new music UI.

The Homeless War Veteran Creeper

I almost died. For all my facebook and twitter friends who came for details after reading my teaser, thanks for your curiosity. Here’s how:

On Friday, I was walking around downtown, much like I do on most of my lunch breaks. I had gone to the library to pick up an album on hold, and started up E Kennedy St. The following events occurred, transcribed from a text conversation that happened immediately after the confrontation.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a dramatization. This is a true story, and graphic in nature. Reader discretion is advised.

A homeless looking dude is standing on the sidewalk ahead of me, maybe 30 feet from me. Tattered clothes, rucksack, smoking a cigarette. I notice the dude’s eyes are just locked onto me.

I’ve got my headphones in. I try to walk on the far left side of the sidewalk, since he’s on the right side up against the road. When I get close to him, he still hasn’t broken his stare.

He takes a step sort of into my path. He makes eye contact and says something. I take my headphones out and ask, “I’m sorry?”

“Do you have a problem with me?”

The guy is giving me a creepy vibe, so I say, “Nah, man, I don’t have a problem with you.” He asks again, and I repeat my response. Dude is getting closer to me. I’m thinking about getting my knife out of my pocket, but at this point it would be too obvious. He starts talking about doing tours in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

He asks, “you got a problem with the military?”

“Nah, man, I support the military.” He reaches out to shake my hand, and I oblige to avoid conflict. He pulls my hand up really close to his chest, so I am now uncomfortably close to the guy. Is he gonna stab me? Mug me? Does he want my phone?

He says, “I love America. How do you feel about America?” Well it’s alright, but we have problems just like any other country. Clearly, this is not what I said. I instead respond, “it’s great, man. Best place in the world.”

“I’ve been in the military,” he says, “I want to do what I can for my country.” Not really knowing what he wants from me, I say, “that’s awesome, man. Thank you for your service.”

He kinda shakes my hand and lets it go. I start edging away and tell him, “have a good day.” He starts walking the other way. Luckily, I had a pretty good view of nearby shadows against the parking garage to my left. I keep an eye on his shadow until it’s completely out of sight behind me. I then glance back occasionally to make sure he’s still gone.

Homeless people rarely scare me. I realize that many of them have fallen on unfortunate circumstances and just need some assistance. There was something different about this guy. He seemed crazed, almost. I don’t know what he was capable of, and I didn’t want to find out.

That was how I almost died. Normally, I don’t put much stock in Friday the 13th suspicions and triskaidekaphobia, but this makes a believer out of me.


Google Maps Shopping Malls

I’ve reported feedback within Google Maps, but I’d also like to suggest it here to see what others think about it.

I was continuing with my Local Guides reviewing binge, when I noticed that a large number of stores within Haywood Mall of Greenville aren’t shown on Maps. Maybe it’s due to the mall having 2 floors, but I couldn’t get them to show up no matter how far I zoomed in.

For locals, this isn’t a huge deal. Most people in the area know the majority of the stores and restaurants in Haywood Mall, and it isn’t a huge deal to go in and just look at the directory board if not. But what about visitors from out of the area? How do they know what stores are in the mall? Other than the big department stores with their names on the building, nothing inside is immediately obvious. Should they bother going in? Is there anything inside worth their time?

In response to this problem, I theorized the idea of a virtual directory on Google Maps. When looking for the name of the mall, there should be some way to display a list of all establishments inside. Perhaps these could be sorted according to category, alphabetized by name, or even just a picture of the actual directory from the mall with names being links to more info about that store.

This virtual directory could be updated dynamically with reports from the mall itself, store owners that open or close shop, or even mall shoppers. Ideally, it would be as current as possible. With this information available online, customers could plan entire shopping trips from the comfort of their home or simply make the decision of whether or not they want to bother going to the mall at all.

Maybe it’s a feature that nobody would care about but me. It just seems like something that would be beneficial to have, without requiring a ton of work (maybe. I don’t know how complicated the coding of Google Maps is).


Blog Nomenclature

I’ve recently abandoned the “Words on Wednesday, [date] [month], [year]” naming. What should replace it?

Getting feedback from other WordPress users, I recently decided that my previous naming scheme for the blog was uninformative. It gave the date, sure, but that’s listed on the post anyway. My titles gave no indication as to what sort of content any individual post discussed. Hard to get readers when you don’t have a gripping headline.

Instead, I started giving a brief list of topics, followed by a small headline. Much better for displaying content, but it doesn’t indicate when the post was written. I’m very particular about listing things in chronological order, so I like having the date in titles. Almost every document on my Google Drive is prefaced by “YYYY-MM-DD_” if creation date is at all relevant. Since sorting by date utilizes the last edited date, changing any documents retroactively will throw off chronological sorting completely. Sorting by name with the date in the title keeps everything tidy.

I’ve looked at numerous posts on WordPress, and different authors seem to have different naming policies. As for now, I suppose the “[date] [topic list]” style will work. It isn’t used by many authors, but it’s very typical of my personality. If feedback from readers indicates otherwise, I’ll simply try something else. I try to be adaptable, and write in a way that is pleasing to readers.


Music App User Interface

2. Scattered Music UI

A thought occurred to me for a fantastic music app UI.

Many people, myself included, have a hard time deciding what to listen to. I’ve got a collection of 20,000+ songs, how am I to know what I want to listen to at any given time? Usually, I just shuffle everything until something strikes my interest.

While dealing with this exact problem, I mused about an interface that allows you to select music visually on a touchscreen device. In this new UI, the player’s screen would be filled with album artwork from the user’s collection in maybe 1.5” squares. These squares wouldn’t be in a grid, they would be in a jumbled mess. Imagine if you took several vinyls and just tossed the sleeves in a large pile. Please excuse my terrible Microsoft Paint skills.

The user could flick away albums from the screen, constantly being populated with more from behind. Once the user found an album to listen to, they could tap on it to have the album playing from the beginning. Upon selecting an album from the mix, that album’s artwork would automatically be pinned to the upper left corner of the screen in a small thumbnail. Users could then either tap that thumbnail to load the track listing for that album and other options or continue looking through albums.

3. Selected Album

The next album selected would append itself beside the currently playing album. Users could continue this process until the entire upper portion of the screen is filled with a single line of albums. Past this first row of albums, any new selections would append to the right edge and allow the album bar to scroll left or right. Tapping on any of the albums in the album bar would bring up that album’s track list.

4. Album Bar

As an album finishes playing, the next album in the queue would begin. The previous album would not disappear from the album bar unless intentionally swiped away by the user. There may be some sort of option for the album bar to disappear into the upper portion of the screen, with the user being about to pull it back down at will, much like the Android notification bar.

5. Full Album Bar with scroll

Albums that show up in this view could be selected from a variety of criteria. By default, it would grab albums at random from the user’s collection. Certain options could be enabled, such as albums from a certain genre, era, or artist.

If the albums showing up don’t seem to be hitting on much, the user could shake the device to “dump” more albums on top of the pile or clear away several of them at once. For extra functionality, users should be able to “grab” individual albums with 2 fingers to move them around, orient them in a different way, or zoom in and out.

Perhaps this is a useless feature that few people would enjoy. I personally think that it would be fun to play with, and gives more options to decide on what to listen to. It certainly caters toward users with larger collections and proper album artwork, but it shouldn’t be that hard to amass enough music to have fun with such a user interface. Of course, it could be extrapolated in some way to work for streaming services as well.


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