English in the autonomy race

One of the surprises when I see jobs posted by German car manufacturers is they still post them in German. I am not talking about typical jobs, I am talking about jobs related to connected mobility and autonomous driving.

In a world more competitive than ever and with scarcity of skillful people for the next vehicle era, using German is significantly limiting those German manufacturers to compete with their American counterparts, and with smaller startups.

The first step for German manufacturers to catchup is to switch to English, in Germany.

Flag Morality

I was rolling somewhere and found one of the cleaning people using this German flag colored dust cleaner.

It reminds me of the first chapter in the righteous mind by Jonathan Haidt. The first case he presents is about the morality of using the country flag to clean the toilet, and how different cultures would react to such act. Americans for example are very proud of their flag. This shows me maybe the Germans don’t care.

Does this answer your question?

I love questions. I ask many of them. I also love being asked questions. Questions lead to thoughts, and thoughts lead to epiphanies.

However, there is an expectation problem when people answer questions. Sometimes people think they answered the question, but the person asking the question is still confused.

That’s why I like ending up my answers – most of the time – with an important question: Does this answer your question?

You will be surprised by how many times you didn’t actually answer but the person wasn’t expressing their confusion, misunderstanding, or disinterest. Try it.

Arabic Predictive Keyboards

Back in the days when I was writing Arabic on Microsoft word, there was nothing to correct me if I spell something wrong or have a grammar mistake. They later added spelling and grammar checker for Arabic.

But now the internet came, and there is an explosion of mobile devices everywhere, each of those little devices has a predictive keyboard that will autocorrect for the user if they type something wrong.

I think predictive keyboards are going to change written Arabic, forever.

The challenge with the Arabic language is that the spoken version is different from the written one. I used to write official government documents for my father, those had to be written in proper Arabic, with correct spelling and grammar. But I don’t type this version of the language when I am chatting with people. I write the same words I speak.

Every time my predictive keyboard corrects my Arabic, I undo the correction so it doesn’t sound weird to the person I am chatting with. After a while the keyboard learns the way I type, and starts autocorrecting me to the new version of Arabic it learned through my typing.

Most of these keyboards are connected to cloud services – unlike the old friend Microsoft Word back in the days – and with millions of users typing the spoken language on their mobile, uploading this data to Google or Apple servers, after a while the machine will learn the new language, and it will assume this is the correct Arabic.

I won’t be surprised if in a few decades the current written version of Arabic changes completely to be the same as the one we speak, thanks to the internet and machine learning. I don’t know whether this is good or bad.

Deleting old tweets

I have been using twitter for 8 years now, and since then I had more than 70,000 tweets. Yesterday I finally managed to delete most of them.

The reason for my decision comes from the fact I am trying to declutter my life, and control my online presence. My twitter account was full of stupid things a typical university student posts, before realizing the danger of what one says when their opinion changes, or like Trump, they become the president of the united states.

It wasn’t easy to delete all of them though. It turned out that twitter limits the number of publicly available tweets to 3200. The rest of your tweets are buried and can only be shown if you use the twitter search functionality. While one might feel safe something can only be found if the exact text in a tweet was searched for, I still wanted to delete them.

After some search, I found an open source tool that lets you delete all your tweets. The way it works is you download it on your machine, and download your twitter archive. The tool then parses the twitter archive, gets the link for each individual tweet, and deletes it. It took almost half an hour to delete 72,000 tweets.

There are still a few undeleted tweets due to glitches in twitter. One particular retweet is stuck on my timeline and every time I un-retweet it, it is still retweeted. I will wait a few days to be able to re-download my twitter archive, and do a second round of deletion on the remaining 700 tweets.

Only the paranoid survives.

Audible languages

Since I am trying to learn German, one of the best techniques that work for me is audio courses. I bought a couple from Audible and they are relatively good.

I mostly use Audible to listen to audiobooks. Amazon has whispersync, which syncs where you stopped on the audio book with what you are reading on your Kindle, given you bought both the audio and text versions of the book.

Amazon also has the same book narrated in English, and German. One idea that comes to mind, what if there is a way to use whispersync between the English and the German version, where I can listen to a book sentence by sentence both in English and German, allowing me to learn the language while enjoying the books I am interested in.

It is a language audio course powered by books.

The end of hotel price parity

When I was applying at booking.com I read that one of their success factors is price parity. Their contracts with the hotels state that the hotel can’t offer a lower price anywhere else.

This price parity is what makes them able to offer “best price guarantee”, refunding users the difference if they find the same room with the same conditions cheaper anywhere else.

However, this recently became under scrutiny by the European Union. Some countries ruled it is illegal and anti competition, giving hotels the freedom to offer cheaper price on their website.

I am working recently on a side project that I will announce later, this project involves visiting many hotel websites. I noticed the following:

  • Parity is dead. Almost all hotels offer a cheaper price if you book directly through them. The ranges are between 5% up to 20%, with 10% being the most number I saw.
  • Consolidation is happening across the board. Smaller hotels are being swallowed by bigger chains. Each chain has its different brands for different price segments. One example for this is the Ibis and the NH chains. From budget to 5 stars.
  • This one is more of a question than an observation: is there a chance for a no commission, software as a service OTA? The current problem hotels have is that they are not tech savvy, and consumers are lazy to have an account, and put the credit card on every hotel website they book. Maybe there is an opportunity for the Shopify of hotels with single user management system, and no commission model.

Editing DNA

Yesterday I read a very exciting piece of news about a group of international scientists being able to edit DNA in a human embryo to fix a disease caused by a defect gene.

This is super exciting news, and could pave the way to treating many diseases like mine. There is a bias in the medical research community to only work on hot topics. Rare, non-deadly diseases like mine go with no attention. There is little incentive to help such a small number of people who are not dying, regardless of suffering from hundreds of fractures in their lifetime and the impact on the life of those around them.

Finding such generic solutions will save many lives, and improve even more. I see some voices against it, out of fear of abusing it to alter humans, but if we can alter genes to get more healthy, smarter, and stronger humans, why not?

Rauchen ist tödlich

Smoking is deadly. I see this on every cigarette pack in Germany, and in every part of the world.

I was with a friend of mine, he is a smoker, he was telling me these photos of sick people they put on the packs have no influence on him. I told him if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t be there. Maybe I am wrong, maybe they are there because a lobbyist convinced governments to put it without real evidence to support that this works.

This reminded me of the identifiable victim effect. People sympathize more with a cause if they see someone hurt, more than if they see an anonymous person, and more than if they just see the number of people hurt.

Saying donate to save “name” led to more donations than saying donate to save people suffering from “cause”.

Maybe the photo on the cigarette pack doesn’t work because it is anonymous. Maybe instead of saying “Smoking leads to xx” they should say “xx suffered from yy because he was a heavy smoker, he died in 20xx”.