Grow up

If you follow Mercedes Benz on any social media platform, you probably saw one of their “Grow Up” campaign posts.

I like the ad but I don’t understand the message they are trying to deliver. It seems they are trying to appeal to youngsters with the main campaign ad ending with the call to action “Drive”.

I think most of the people in same age group of those appearing in the ad cannot afford a Mercedes. So what are we trying to achieve here?

Grow up, learn about autonomous cars, order an Uber, or take public transportation.

Daylight Saving Time

Last Sunday Germany switched to daylight saving time. One realization I had recently is that many people whom I know don’t understand DST. I also didn’t understand it until I decided to demystify it for myself.

To understand DST, we need to start with two simple facts:

  • Work day always starts at 9AM, and ends at 5PM.
  • Your boss wants to save money on the electricity bill (More on that later).


During winter time, days become shorter. The sun rises around 9AM, and the sunset happens around 4PM. This means you have to start switching the lights on around 3PM. Making your boss paying for two hours worth of electricity before you leave.

Summer without DST

In summer things change. Days become longer. The sun rises earlier at around 8AM. It also sunsets later almost at 5PM. However, the work day stays the same. This means you need to start switching the lights on around 4PM, making your boss pay for one hour of electricity. This also means, there is a morning hour from 8 to 9 that you spend commuting from home to work.


Someone came and said, ok, if I want to save electricity, what can I do benefiting from the longer summer days? There are two options.

  1. Change the work day to be from 8AM-4PM. However employees will not be happy and as a lazy employer myself, I wouldn’t be happy if I have to wake up one hour earlier.
  2. Change the hour! If 8AM became 9AM, and 5PM became 6PM, employees would still come from 9 to 5, but they would spend most of the office hours while the sun is still out, meaning by the time they leave, it is not very dark and they don’t have to switch the lights on for long. And this is why it is called “Daylight Saving Time”. Because it saves daylight and not waste it while people are asleep, commuting or enjoying their life after work.

The full picture

The Science of Disgust

I was browsing twitter when I came to Diana Fleischman profile, opening her website I found

My research is mainly on menstrual cycle influences on psychology and the psychology of response to cues of disease, especially disgust.

I asked her for a link about what she is working on, and she sent me a 20 pages paper about gender differences when it comes to feeling disgust.

It was interesting to learn about disgust as a protector from pathogens that might hurt us. We feel disgusted by foods, or other things that we feel impacting our well being. This natural instinct serves as a protection mechanism just like the brain’s fight or flight response to potential attackers.

I didn’t know there is a “Disgust Scale” which measures how sensitive one might be to disgust.  I also didn’t know women generally score higher on the disgust scale, and the attribution of this to factors such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and the higher susceptibility than males to sexual diseases due to the anatomy of the female sexual organs.

You can read the whole thing here.


Egypt is a 4 hours flight from Berlin, and it is normally 250-400 Euros for roundtrip. 

Since I am trying to visit there more often for weekends, one scenario I couldn’t find a solution for is putting a destination on something like a wishlist, and get notified whenever there are cheap trips that meet a specific criteria I have like weekend breaks, or at least one week, or only direct flights. Until I found hitlist.

The app saves searches by other users for select destinations and if any of the flights matches your criteria, and is better than average price, you will see it on the destination feed. 

I am surprised SkyScanner didn’t build this feature.

The curious case of Mercedes and MyTaxi

Many imagine the autonomous cars ecosystem as big companies operating fleets of cars that can be hailed by customers from an Uber like app. The main elements of this ecosystem are a fleet of autonomous cars and a customers app. This will result in two types of ecosystems, the Apple, and the Microsoft.

The Apple like ecosystems will control the end to end experience. They will have their own fleet of cars, their own app, their own customer service…etc. In this pack I could imagine Tesla taking the lead.

The Microsoft like ecosystems will be hybrids of car manufactures – or more accurately OEMs – building cars as hardware while customers hailing them using software vendors like Uber, or DiDi.

One curious case I am thinking is Mercedes and MyTaxi. MyTaxi is owned by Daimler, the owner of Mercedes. It is the most popular car hailing app in Germany, and apparently it is beating Uber in other European markets.

We rarely hear of the mix of MyTaxi and autonomous Mercedes cars on the road. I think currently Mercedes might be the only company with both autonomous vehicles (although their level of autonomy might be less than that of Tesla), and a car hailing app with large user base. I wonder if Mercedes will ever wake MyTaxi – their sleeping giant – and start using it to test the full experience of hailing autonomous cars on the road.

Will see.

The FREE encyclopedia

I received a letter today from Wikimedia (the Wikipedia foundation) about a donation I made earlier to Wikipedia. The letter included the bill to use for my tax report and a note thanking me for the donation.

It is my first time donating to an organization responsible for expanding human knowledge. When I did it earlier I didn’t think a lot about why I am doing it. I just felt guilty when I saw the banner asking me to donate to keep wikipedia running. 

As I am reflecting more about it now, I think there are more reasons to why one should donate to Wikipedia when possible.

I was just discussing with a friend how the internet gave me access to information I wasn’t able to get before. Big part of this knowledge comes from Wikipedia. When you do a Google search about something or someone, the first snippet you get on the search result is most of the time from Wikipedia. Most of the first search results on Google are wikipedia pages. When you want to know something quick about a topic, you start with Wikipedia.

It is important to keep Wikipedia running and to donate more often. It helps keeping the organization independent from corporate and individual interests, which might lead to a bias in the information being presented or other bad practices. It also helps keeping it FREE, which gives them the ability to benefit – I would argue – billions of people everyday, making knowledge accessible to everyone. 

You can donate here.


One of the biggest anxieties for wheelchair users is bathroom accessibility. Every place I go to, I am always worried I may not find a wheelchair accessible bathroom, therefore I have to organize when/how much I am eating/drinking.

This anxiety is different from a place to another. In Egypt, the nearest place to my home that was wheelchair accessible and had an accessible bathroom was a Starbucks branch 5 kilometers away. It wasn’t accessible because they designed it to be, I was just lucky this branch had a big enough bathroom to fit the wheelchair.

Last time I was in Egypt, I found out this branch is closed permanently. Now there is no cafe/restaurant I know of within proximity that’s wheelchair accessible, non smoking (since smoking is allowed indoors in Egypt), and has an accessible toilet. I actually spent almost half an hour with my sister checking every cafe – and there are many – in “Gam3et El Dowal” street for wheelchair accessibility with no success. This resulted in taking all my meetings in Galleria 40, which is 20 kilometers away from where I live. It costs me around 6 dollars to get there, and 6 to get back.

In Holland it was a bit better, I knew few places that had wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Pathe cinema is one of them. All the branches I been to had wheelchair bathrooms (I once used my unlimited cinema card to get a ticket to a movie just to use the bathroom). The Hampshire hotel in Rembrandt square also has a wheelchair accessible bathroom on the ground floor right after the entrance. However, once I am outside the known, it is rare to find wheelchair accessible bathrooms in most places I visited in Holland.

In Germany it is much much better. The best I have seen so far along with US. Many places have wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Restaurants, Cafes, Train stations, even the public city bathrooms.

One of the other good things about Germany is the app. I heard about it long ago but it wasn’t very useful in Egypt because we didn’t have that many accessible places to begin with. I didn’t know the app is German until a colleague told me he used to work for immobilienscout24, they used to do field trips to public places to enter their wheelchair accessibility information on the app.

So I decided to give it another shot and it is really useful. Yesterday I was in a new place and I wanted to use the bathroom, the app gave me a nearby restaurant that has a wheelchair accessible bathroom. I wasn’t in a hurry so I went to the restaurant I was visiting, and I discovered they have a wheelchair accessible bathroom as well. So I opened the app, updated it, and found my update live immediately.


Getting from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station for Wheelchair Users

I started this post with the goal of helping wheelchair users navigate the hardships introduced by the Dutch railway company, to find they have made it much harder for wheelchair users to use their trains specially from/to the airport. Here is the story.

If you are traveling to Amsterdam airport and have to get to the city center, and you use a wheelchair, you only have two options.

  1. Train: It is the fastest (20 minutes to Amsterdam Centraal, and it comes every 10 minutes), but you can’t access it. Most of the trains are not wheelchair accessible, and NS has the worst process for helping wheelchair users, here is how it works:
    • You have to know in advance – even if you are a first time visitor to the country – that you have to call a number to request wheelchair assistance. This is different from for example Deutsche Bahn where the wheelchair user has to just go to the front of the train and the driver will come out and assist them.
    • You have to call this number one hour in advance, meaning you have to know which exact train you are taking, when are you getting out of the airplane (since wheelchair users come out last), and how long it takes to go through passport control, and luggage collection.
    • If you miss the train you booked, even though they come every 10 minutes, you have to call again and count the hour from the beginning.
  2. Take a mix of bus and subway, which will take you on average 90 minutes to get from the airport to the central station.

Given all this and how inconvenient it is, most of the time I had to get an Uber which costs around 30 Euros. However, there was a workaround. I was writing this post to show you the workaround, to only discover the Dutch railway company NS, removed the information from its app.

NS has some train models running between the airport and Amsterdam Centraal which are new, and platform level. They don’t need assistance to get on/off, the only risk is sometimes they are a bit far from the platform, so you might need someone’s assistance to help you jump the small space in between if you can’t do it yourself.

What you had to do to find these trains was to download in advance the NS NL App, and as soon as you are in the airport you connect to the free airport wifi, search for trains going to central station, then one by one, you search for the ones with the wheelchair icon as in the picture below (which I took from NS NL website) because there is no filter for wheelchair accessibility on the app.

By the time I started writing this post, I wanted to post some screenshots so I downloaded the app, I noticed something strange. The wheelchair icon was gone. It didn’t make sense to me, since I knew the sprinter running between the Airport and Hoofdorp passing through Central Station is mostly flat level. So I asked NS on twitter, and they confirmed that the icon is now removed!

One of the reasons I left Amsterdam was transportation wheelchair accessibility. I had big problems with the Amsterdam transportation company GVB. If I stayed in the country I was going to sue them because of their discriminatory policies and their workers’ attitude (this needs a separate post as I have interesting email exchanges with them). NS isn’t any different but at least I thought I can help those who don’t know since I lived for a year there and suffered a lot to use the train (specially to/from the airport). Now they made it even worse.

After all I said, there is still a workaround, although it is not guaranteed to work all the time as having the wheelchair icon. On the NS app, you can find a picture of the train model that’s coming. Since all the accessible trains are Sprinters, this narrows the search to few models.

Inaccessible Sprinter
Accessible Sprinter: It can be distinguished by its more arrow shaped front. Also one characteristic I noticed about the wheelchair accessible sprinter is it doesn’t have a bathroom (you won’t find the WC icon), however this is a theory that needs confirmation.

I asked NS about the arrow shaped image, and they confirmed it. You can find the tweets here, and here.

Thanks NS, maybe you should also remove the train models from the app so you can make it harder. for teams

This morning we had a big announcement for the tribe (organization) I am working for. It was about what our primary metric will be. I have few concerns about this specific metric. I voiced some of them in the all hands meeting, but I felt the need to structure them in a better way.

Previously I used Yammer, Facebook for work, Slack, and a bunch of Atlassian products (Confluence, Wiki, Jira…etc). None of these optimize for writing/reading lengthy posts. Plus they are noisy since they have a lot of features. Email is specific, and it is not opt in.

That’s why I felt there is a need for a like product for internal blog posts. You would have posts like

  • Why I am against using X as the primary metric?
  • Reducing latency by 50%
  • I quit office coffee and now I bring my own. Why you should do the same?
  • Why X failed? A postmortem
  • Shipping faster by doing whatever

Medium encourages writing as much as it encourages reading. There is nothing that serves this need for teams. Communication and transparency could be much better. The sky is the limit.