Thinking: Our Blog
We’re proud to announce that Oomph will be hosting ‘Carols and Crayons‘, a benefit for Cradles to Crayons Boston, in partnership with Warehouse Bar & Grille and Double Cross Vodka. This festive fundraiser and donation drive will be held at Warehouse (40 Broad Street) here in Boston, on December 17th, from 5pm-7pm. All are welcome and encouraged to join the team for a night of mingling, music and of course, drinks.
The Oomph team is continuously inspired by the city of Boston; its resilience, its beauty and its people. Choosing Cradles to Crayons as a featured charity was a simple decision, as “C2C” has long been committed to bettering the lives of children in Massachusetts, providing children in need with the essentials they need to thrive.
At the event, donations are suggested for entry. Cradles to Crayons requests the following items: gently used or new clothing (kids’ sizes 0-20) and shoes (kids’ sizes 0-13), books, new art/craft supplies, new hygiene supplies for ages 0-12, laundry detergent, and batteries.
Please RSVP here, and make sure to pass this invitation along–The more the merrier!
The WordPress 3.8 update is scheduled for December 12th (next Thursday), and we at Oomph are eagerly awaiting its release. Promised to hold, “many terrific visual improvements to the dashboard,” 3.8 beta 1 is already available to the self-hosted (play away!), and will automatically integrate on the 2nd for WordPress.com VIP hosted sites.
Until the official release next week, we wanted to give you a quick rundown of projected features and how they’ll affect your site, as well as important tips.
Here’s what you need to know:
- WordPress.com VIP hosted sites will notice a change after the update on December 2nd. This will affect, according to WordPress, code surrounding the Admin, Dashboard, Theme Preview and Widgets refresh.
- Those with custom plugins or custom admin interfaces should start testing now to keep everything running smoothly. WordPress.com VIP recommends reading this post for more guidance.
- WordPress 3.8 brings a workflow change: features are developed first as plugins before being incorporated into Core. This means by the time features make it to the user, they’ll be fully baked and ready to go–However, if they are not ready to be incorporated, it also means they won’t hold up new releases.
- The admin console is getting a lovely makeover (see below) in an effort to keep things simplified, modern, and responsive. This has been live on WordPress.com since this summer, but will now be in Core. You can read more about the specific thought process behind it here.
- 3.8 features a “less bloated” dashboard to stay organized (mostly done by consolidating or removing widgets). It’s not a huge change, but it should contribute to the streamlined, modern look WP is going for.
- The theme selection process should be improved with the incorporation of the THX38 plugin, which you can preview here. This keeps the “user-friendly” quality of WordPress alive and well, allowing users to easily make their WP site their own.
- A cleaned up widgets tool, called Widgets Refresh, will tentatively be included, tasked with simplifying the way users manage the widgets on their site.
Be sure to email the WordPress.com VIP team with any questions, at email@example.com! If you have any questions or concerns about 3.8, let us know in the comments below.
As I write this post, I’m wearing several pieces of technology: I have my Google Nexus 4 in my shirt pocket, and I have a Withings Pulse activity monitor in my pocket that’s silently judging me since I’m not up and active right now. My heart rate monitor watch is sitting on the shelf, but it’s ready to leap into action the second I decide to head out for a run.
Wearable technology seemed like “the future” only recently, but as Moore’s Law has progressed and more advanced circuitry can be squeezed into smaller spaces, we’ve seen a rapid rise of small useful gadgets that we can wear. We are very rapidly approaching the realization of many science fiction concepts, and indeed many have already been realized:
The Star Trek Communicator? Smartphones.
The Star Trek Tricorder? Tablets.
Minority Report’s individualized ads? Google Adsense.
Self-driving cars? Google’s doing it, and they already exist in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City project.
While there have been wearable technology gadgets on the market for years, the advent of the smartphone ecosystem has ramped up the production and quality of personal technology. My Withings Pulse syncs to my phone in the background and pushes my activity data to the internet without any action required on my part at all. When I open my app or visit the Withings website, my steps, pulse history and other activity data is right there for me to analyze.
Wearable technology isn’t just for less-than-fit folks like myself that are trying to track activity in an attempt to steer towards better health; there are many valuable benefits to wearable tech for people with health issues, disabilities or other challenges out in front of them. An external device that monitors your pacemaker and contacts your doctor if arrhythmia is detected can save a life, and the FDA-approved Ingestion Event Marker (IEM) can be swallowed to collect internal data via Wi-Fi.
But just as in the sci-fi movies of our childhoods, the real digital frontier’s expansion heightens concerns around ethical implications. Our innate distrust of artificial intelligence easily lends itself to conspiracy theories of robotic limbs taking control of our bodies, and ingested mechanisms sending information to corporate entities. While there are certainly considerations to keep in mind, I think it’s safe to say technology will continue to move forward while the early adopters ponder and publicize the ramifications of their choices. The economy’s downturn has prompted us to seek alternative, disruptive answers in fields like energy, and healthcare. Wearable technology may hold the answers we seek; for example, a recent MIT Technology review article highlighted new startups such as EyeNetra and AliveCor, both of which use smart-phone based monitors to perform the routine check-ups of a heart monitor, or optometrist. Once such applications are accepted, what is their natural progression? Why, integration with Google Glass, of course! Now something you wear everyday can check your blood pressure, update you when you need new contacts, and even alert you that your cholesterol is getting too high. It’s the stuff of an Orwell novel, sure, but it’s convenient. And if the past few generations of smart phones have taught us anything, it’s that the consumer craves convenience above all. How far will wearable technology take us down that slippery slope?
Last week announcement of Coin took over the internet: its promo video skyrocketed to over 4 million views, its social media presence exploded, and the company reached its pre-sale goals in a mere 40 minutes. But now that the dust has settled, some are questioning whether this “one card” is worth the price. All things considered, it has limited functionality, questionable security, and seems to be lacking some old fashioned common sense. The Oomph Team has been discussing the product, and here are the resulting issues that we have with Coin:
1. It has some shortcomings…
The Coin only works with magnetic strip based cards, while many other countries have already moved on to chip and pin technology. This means that the cards of the near future won’t work with Coin, and it likely will have issues with international markets.
Additionally, there are some practical questions that we just have to ask: What happens if you sit on it? What if you have to leave a card with someone for, say, a bar tab? After enjoying that bar tab, will you really notice the “left behind” alert message? Most of all: Does anyone have enough cards that this is actually a significant problem?
2. The young Bluetooth 4.0 LE
The Coin is connected to your phone via built-in Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and counts on that technology to check-in with your phone, keeping your Coin in your proximity. 4.0 is Bluetooth’s latest offering, and although it’s been incorporated into the iPhone 5, it is still relatively young and untested.
The Bluetooth includes an encryption algorithm to keep card information safe, but it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out a break in the security wall (and when they do, they’ll have everything). Speakers or phone calls are one thing, but we’re not sure we’re ready to trust all of our sensitive financial information to the still immature Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
3. It doesn’t multi-task.
As of now, Coin is just a simple, physical device that doesn’t offer additional analytics or spending tracking. Is that too tall an order? We don’t think so.
Why spend money on a product when you can get many similar products or apps for free, with added benefits? Some of us in the Oomph office are already using Simple: an app-based bank that uses debit card meta-data to give you in-depth information for and assistance with spending and saving. Likewise, products like the Kickstarter-funded nio card never need to be replaced due to battery, accepts chip and pin cards, and integrates with your phone for a slimmer pocket.
4. phone Battery life = functionality
As other sources have already highlighted, Coin keeps your information secure via its attachment to your smartphone–if it’s away for more than a set amount minutes, it shuts down; however, if your phone dies, the card has no connection to it, and will then shutdown too. To fix this, Coin recently announced that users will be able to unlock their Coin with a “morse code like” sequence directly on the device, even if the connection to a phone is lost. That’s a relief, but it also means any security connection with your phone is now broken, including alerts to unusual spending in the case of identity theft.
5. So why not just your phone?
With today’s smartphone, users can scan giftcards, pay via apps like Level Up, and track spending with services such as Mint…so why buy another gadget? The general consensus in our office is that for the soon-to-be price of $100 a pop, Coin isn’t worth the functionality that a smart-phone already provides.
What are your concerns about Coin? Did you already place a pre-order? Let us know in the comments below.
Wednesday, December 4th at 6pm in the Microsoft N.E.R.D. Center, join the Boston PHP Meetup group for the “Founders Panel Discussion,” featuring some of the “top innovators in Boston,” including Wayfair‘s Founder Steve Conine, Founder of One Pica Greg Segal, and Oomph’s own Founder and President Christopher Murray.
Given the panelists, the event should present an interesting spectrum of the digital marketplace at all stages: the “ground-up” web engineering of Oomph, the strong Magento/e-commerce specialization of One Pica, and the first-person online retail experience from Wayfair. The panel seeks to explore why and how technology companies are started, and how they grow from inception—a topic which speaks to our city’s lively start-up community.
We as a company are extremely proud and honored to have Chris Murray named as one of the event’s selected innovators. As our fearless leader, he not only keeps us motivated with his strong vision and unyielding optimism, but also his nose-to-grindstone mentality that means he’s always down in the trenches next to us.
Check out the Boston PHP Meetup site for more information on the panelists, including pre-event interviews, and come by the meetup on the 4th for some free pizza, engaging speakers, and great tech networking opportunities. Before the event, make sure to send your questions to Boston PHP via email, or tweet it to @BostonPHP!
If you have anything you’d like to hear about from Chris Murray, let us know in the comments!
Oomph Project Manager David Grenier has been with the team about a month, but has already eagerly dived into our culture, client relations, and team projects. As a liaison between our clients and our development/delivery team, Dave is the organizational force that ensures project elements are released in a timely fashion. As we move into the start of a new year, we’re so grateful to have the extra logistical push that Dave provides. Read more about this Providence native below:
How long have you lived in Providence?
I’ve lived in Providence on and off for most of my life, with a few detours to Arizona, Ireland, Seattle, and Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!) in my 20s.
I love the city. I love the fact that its a real city but still affordable. I love that you can have a car but you don’t need a car. I love that most of my friends and tons of great places to hang out are all within a 10 minute walk from my house. I love that if you know where to look there’s always something going on. I love the Providence Kickball League (go Zomboree!), and I loved Fort Thunder (RIP).
What is your primary background with web development/design?
My primary background is in project management, but I have worked as a web developer.
How did you become interested in web development?
I’ve always been interested in programming, starting with writing programs in BASIC on my TI-99/4A in the early eighties. Back then “saving your program” meant literally handwriting it out in a notebook so you could type it in again the next day.
After moving away from full-time web-work to be a professional photographer for about ten years, I came back to the agency/development world in a client facing role. I worked at a communications agency for four years doing account and project management, and decided I wanted to take on more tech-heavy projects, so I started talking to Oomph.
What’s your favorite part about working at Oomph?
My favorite thing about Oomph is Chris and Erica’s chocolate lab Milo.
But a close second is everyone else I work with. I love being surrounded by super-smart developers and working closely with them to solve complex challenges. The fun of development to me is the problem solving aspect—whether its figuring out the complicated business logic required for an application, the UI/UX challenges involved in making an application as intuitive as possible, or the programming challenges faced by the developers as they translate those requirements and designs into working code.
We’re all problem-solvers here, and it’s quite exciting to be a part of it.
Today, developers and designers alike code, create, and customize sites for multiple screens. As users, we’ve already come to expect that no matter which site we visit, the given destination will instantly recognize our device, adapt to our screen size, and quickly acclimate to our device’s various specs—at the very least. Simply put, what was once considered an exceptional mobile site is now universally demanded.
But responsive design is far from evolved. In addition to these established requirements, device manufacturers and OS developers continue to push the boundaries of the expected, as seen in Google’s latest release: the Nexus 5 with Android 4.4 KitKat. This offering throws down a mobile gauntlet, catering to consumers’ call for increased functionality, design simplicity, and more.
What can this release teach us about where responsive design is headed? Let’s find out:
1. One Thing to Rule Them All
As a certain tablet’s recent ad campaigns insinuate, there is a real consumer call for a “one device” that does it all. The Nexus 5 capitalizes on this desire with a wider range of optimized functionalities—for example, full-screen immersion mode and swipe motions that mimic an e-reader, KitKat’s advanced photo editing suite, or the Nexus 5’s built-in infrared blaster support that easily transforms the device into a universal remote.
2. Take Social A Step Further
More social! Always more social. It’s not just apps, it’s not just pages, now even entire mobile platforms have to be socially optimized. KitKat allows users to sync contacts across all social media sites, something previously available only by app. To keep you in the know, if you are called by a number not found in your contacts, KitKat will use Google search to find a possible match, and include available photos.
3. Tech Should Be Wear-Optimized
Smart glasses, smart watches…Today, technology is increasingly wearable. The Nexus 5 with KitKat is the next mobile device to incorporate this hardware, putting a motion detector right in the device that is goes further than most—including sensors that act as pedometers for fitness enthusiasts. Wearable tech is becoming more than a mere trend, but how will it evolve from here?
4. Less Is More
As we learned at WordCamp Boston ’13, less is more in mobile. But while the pressure has traditionally been on developers to keep sizes down, Google has made an effort to do so itself in KitKat. The platform is optimized to perform on devices with RAM as low as 521 MB, and its Developer Kit includes access to RenderScript, providing devs with a way to make better apps with less code. This shift of responsibility from developer to manufacturer is a significant one; though it doesn’t tangibly reach the consumer, the powerful apps and less expensive devices that follow will likely push such features into the realm of the required.
4.4 Why Wifi?
It’s not a huge revelation, but clearly the rapid migration to The Cloud is influencing consumer expectations. Wifi is great, but users no longer want to rely on it. Increased functionality sans wifi is pushed forward by Google Cloud Print, released earlier this year and included in KitKat, which lets users connect any printer to The Cloud for remote printing without wifi.
So in conclusion devs and designers, KitKat and the Nexus 5 signal a change a lasting impact on RWD, and ultimately increase expectations for UX. Now that users have had a taste, they will most certainly want to break them off a piece of that…unprecedented functionality.