DuckDuckGo and phonetic spelling

Thank you to contributor Robert May for helping add Phoneic to Instant Answers at DuckDuckGo. This handy new query allows you to “spell a string phonetically with the NATO alphabet”.

As an example, consider someone asking you to spell your name over the phone. Assuming I’m in front of a computer, with an Alfred web search, I can type “duck phonetic villarin“, and see the Instant Answer at the top of DuckDuckGo search results:

Phonetic: Victor-India-Lima-Lima-Alfa-Romeo-India-November

Slick. Happy Thursday!

Bravo-Romeo-Yankee-Alfa-November. ;)

Four Years as a Happiness Engineer

Thank you, Automattic, for helping me improve and mature. Four years and counting, and loving it!

I like shifting my work schedule. I started with Tuesday–Saturday, switched to Monday–Friday during my Happiness Hiring rotation, and I’m currently on Sunday–Thursday. Dig it for helping reduce average response times. I’m happy to take advantage of the flexible schedule.

Happiness Hiring invited me for a rotation from mid July to early October 2015. I helped improve their process a bit by adding checklists and updating their internal documentation. Best of all, three of the trials are now my colleagues, and the fourth will start soon. So rad! :star:

For the Grand Meetup, many Automattic musicians organized, rehearsed, and performed a set of several songs during the party on the last night. It was epic. I played bass guitar for the first time in years for a song during the party on the last night.1

Late last year, Matt suggested we get a USB headset with noise-canceling microphone2 if we participate in video or audio chats. It was great timing because I was able to record some solid training screencasts with fantastic audio quality.

Notable

  • 15 “weekly” reviews.
  • Coworked five times with other SoCal Automatticians.
  • Four training sessions for other Happiness Engineers (one trial, three full timers).
  • Published 88 posts in 2015.
  • Comfort processing DMCA notices and trademark complaints have improved.

Travel & Events

  • May 2015: Justitia team meetup in Barcelona, Spain
  • October 2015: Grand Meetup in Park City, Utah (second consecutive year)
  • January 2016: NAMM 2016 in Anaheim, CA — two days in the WordPress booth by WordPress.com

Boo this man

  • I was 56 short of my goal of 144 posts in 2015. Don’t worry, 266 in 2016!
  • I didn’t publish any posts for the WordPress.com Transparency Report.
  • I was short by 37 weekly reviews.

Previously: Two Years as a Happiness Engineer, Three Years as a Happiness Engineer


  1. “The Distance” by Cake. No video at the moment. 
  2. I went with the previous Wirecutter pick (before it was updated), the Microsoft’s LifeChat LX-6000. (Amazon.com affiliate link.) 

Lyft: My first three experiences

A few colleagues used Lyft from their phones while I was in San Francisco for UserConf in November 2014. However, I won’t count that as my first experience because I didn’t use it on my iPhone.

I worked a couple of shifts at the WordPress booth (by WordPress.com)1 at NAMM 2016 in Anaheim on Thursday and Friday, January 21st and 22nd.

A day or two earlier, I installed Lyft.

Along with my pal, Ryan Cowles, we took public transportation from Pasadena to Anaheim early Thursday morning.2 After arriving at ARTIC (Anaheim), we went to the pickup area, and I requested a Lyft driver. 3 minutes — cool!

The time estimate was accurate, and I also received a text messsage right when we saw the car. Nice. Davey was friendly, and the drive was smooth.

I love everything about the ride history shown in the Lyft app. Davey drove us from ARTIC to Anaheim Marriott Suites in eleven minutes. :)

Next, I decided to test Lyft’s Lost & Found procedure.

Not.

As we tried to find the place to get our exhibitor badges, it took me about five minutes to realize that I forgot my DSLR camera in his car.3

Doing my best to stay calm, I opened the Lyft app, went to Ride History, and spotted “Find lost item” at the bottom. I described my lost item, entered my Google Voice number, and waited.

Eight minutes after Hideto dropped us off, he returned my call, and said he could meet me where we were earlier. Happy ending! He was super cool about it, too.

With my camera in hands, I was like:

On Saturday morning, the third driver (Joshua) picked me up at Marriott Anaheim Suites for part of my journey back to Pasadena. Really nice person, incredibly gregarious (despite being sleep deprived), and the drive was smooth.

I thoroughly enjoyed my three Lyft experiences. Highly recommended!


  1. I’ll save that for a separate post. 
  2. Ryan took a couple of cool photos: Metrolink, and Track 1 to Los Angeles
  3. Canon EOS 40D + Sigma 30mm f/1.4. 

Why We Encrypt

Great post from Bruce Schneier from June 2015:

Encryption should be enabled for everything by default, not a feature you turn on only if you’re doing something you consider worth protecting.

This is important. If we only use encryption when we’re working with important data, then encryption signals that data’s importance. If only dissidents use encryption in a country, that country’s authorities have an easy way of identifying them. But if everyone uses it all of the time, encryption ceases to be a signal. No one can distinguish simple chatting from deeply private conversation. The government can’t tell the dissidents from the rest of the population. Every time you use encryption, you’re protecting someone who needs to use it to stay alive.

Private/group messaging and calling with iOS or Android? Signal is fantastic. For email, James Huff uses ProtonMail.

Don’t talk to police

Amy and I finished binge watching Making a Murderer on Netflix the other day. I just realized I never posted about these two videos uploaded on June 10th, 2008.

Please spend 48 minutes and 40 seconds to watch them carefully, and share with others.

To keep it fresh in your mind, I’d also suggest rewatching on a regular basis (monthly, perhaps).

Below is a YouTube playlist I’ve had saved, “Don’t Talk to Cops” so you can watch them consecutively. Feel free to subscribe (to save you from the need to do the same).

(1) Mr. James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and a former defense attorney, tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

(2) An experienced police officer tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

 

No, you aren’t “just” the messenger

A few days ago, Amy and I grabbed dinner at a restaurant chain that offers online ordering, and delivers to your car at designated spots in their parking lot. I’ve enjoyed going to this restaurant occasionally for at least 15 years.

We arrived four minutes early, and called their phone number (as instructed), then waited.

Fiften minutes passed before we decided to call again.

I remember “Jane” asking the name on our order, even though we just told them. They would send “Jack” out to our car. Before “Jane” had a chance to hang up, Amy asked in a polite tone why it was taking awhile.

I just answer the phone and I’m the messenger.

(Also: It was hectic, and although “Jane” offered a drink for the trouble, we never got a sincere apology from her.)

From our perspective, we were under the assumption that our food was ready 15–20 minutes earlier. Add the ten minutes needed to drive home, and I’m not sure it’d be in good shape anymore.

“Jack” brought out our food. While pointing to a sign in front of our car, this statement was the first thing I remember when asking him what happened:

You’re supposed to call when you get here.

How would you feel if you followed instructions, only to be subtly scolded?

Amy politely held out her phone to show that we called three times1.

Oh, that’s weird. We didn’t hear anything about it! I do apologize for that.

Again, we asked about the food and how long it was sitting there. “Jack” felt the outside of the bag and said it felt warm, but we could check, or ask to see the manager to get it remade or get it “comped”. We mentioned where we lived (to describe how long it’d take for us to get home), and he showed some sort of false empathy.

Oh yeah, me too.

(Wait. What?)

Yes, bring your leader to us because you’re doing it wrong. (I didn’t say that out loud.)

“Judith” walked out to our car a few minutes later. She was super nice, listened to our brief story (experience), asked us if we’d like our food to be remade, and asked if we’d like something else. We already requested a drink, but didn’t ask for anything else.2

We were curious if “Jane” would come out personally to apologize. She didn’t.

“Judith” came back out ten minutes later with our order, plus a piece of cake for dessert, and was very apologetic again.

On the drive home, I joked to Amy to “prepare our bowels for rage”. Fortunately, the food was great.3 :D

Takeaways

“Jane” — Your primary job is to help customers with their needs, and your method is answering phones and making sure colleagues bring out the orders. We understand. Since we didn’t get our grub, be proactive to help customers with their needs. Check how long our order has been waiting, then start a new, urgent order—if we were okay with it—rather than send “Jack” out with food that’s been sitting for 15–20 minutes. If you weren’t empowered or able to do that, skip right to the manager (not “Jack”) and brief them on the situation along with your proposal. (e.g. “‘Judith’, can we remake this order since it’s been sitting for a long time? The customer has been waiting for 20 minutes.”). Also, listen, and don’t be defensive.

“Jack” — Don’t make assumptions. Ask us what happened, and listen.

“Jack” and “Jane” — How would you feel if you received this kind of treatment? Consider and use those feelings to help guide your actions towards the right resolution. (Empathy!)

“Judith” et al. — Evaluate the process of this service by walking through all the steps. Determine and fix/minimize any gaps, especially when things are busy. Teach employees to listen. If possible, empower employees with the ability to make things right.4 It’ll give them the opportunity to learn and take responsibility for themselves.


  1. When Amy called the second time, they answered and hung up. 
  2.  I don’t remember if we brought up asking for the meal to be “comped” when “Judith” saw us. At this point, we had been there for about 30 minutes. 
  3.  I’m glad there didn’t appear to be a behind-the-scenes experience as depicted in the comedy film, Waiting. :D 
  4. We never said, “Don’t send ‘Jane’ out here or we’ll go ballistic,” so use that opening to make things right with us.