Sunday, March 2, 2014

Audible's badge model is fascinating to me...

I find Audible's whole model fascinating from a psychological standpoint.

There are 17 badgies that one can have.

And there are three levels (silver, gold and diamond) where one can have each.

To date, not a single person or wiki or blog I can find documents all seventeen of them, even when people claim to have emailed Audible directly (that usually gets a list of fifteen of them).

My actual interest is in reading or books I expect to enjoy and re-reading books I love in this fascinating new way that allows me to have the book read *to* me by someone else.

The only downsides to using the Audible App on my Nokia Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8 are some minor bugs I've reported to the App developers plus one I haven't yet reported (cannot change the speed at which the book is read to me) but I suspect that they would consider it by design.

I am left with the seventeen badges (only fifteen of which appear to be widely documented), none of which I am chasing though I've managed to snag thirteen just by being an obsessive (some might say compulsive) reader of books I enjoy.

I refuse to chase down the remaining three badges or how to raise to Diamond level any of the badges that are only at Silver or Gold level.

Though I find it fascinating how many of my own friends are obsessively or compulsively chasing them, for example when I find notes on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn (or maybe all three!) noting their reading habits, proving they are chasing after the "Social Butterfly" badge!

It can be easy to fall into such traps, though I would rather stay on target and just keep reading the books -- Audible (and thus Amazon!) gets the money anyway for the books I am reading by having them read to me.

The fifteen that are usually documented can be found at the following link:

I will list the seventeen badges, just for the record, and challenge anyone to explain how all seventeen of them work:

  • Stenographer
  • Audible Obsessed
  • Weekend Warrior
  • Repeat Listener
  • All Nighter
  • Marathoner
  • Undecider
  • Flash Eighty
  • High Noon
  • Binge Listener
  • Social Butterfly
  • Seven Day Stretch
  • Procrastinator
  • The Stack
  • Mount Everest
  • Look Ma No Buttons
  • Sleepy Head

The last two badges are the ones seldom mentioned though a Bing or Google search can dig out obscure references to the *hands free* and *sleep timer* features, which are both available on all platforms but are apparently not understood very well.

Let's just call them doc bugs, which actually means they are user interface bugs due them not being designed more intuitively, and documentation failed to adequately cover for the lapse.

The features themselves are pretty easy;  one lets you work backwards and forwards through the book and add bookmarks with gestures (although the unclear connection to related Speech commands would be an additional UI bug and perhaps even a badge bug!), and the other helps you guard against falling asleep by shutting off at a set time interval if you're afraid you might fall asleep soon.

Another simple search will reveal that a lot of people are completely obsessed with the game of obtaining Audible badges, which have no intrinsic value and which have no benefit beyond the sense of accomplishment after getting it.

Oh wait. Someone gave Amazon some money for the books. Can't forget about that bit, right? ;-)

I can see obvious avenues to take if I ever wanted to chase the remaining four badges (and I will admit to once wasting two hours chasing the *Repeat Listener* badge by listening to Samuel L. Jackson reading "Go The Fuck To Sleep", though it was in vain -- I think it knew what I was trying to do and I can't use a five minute book to do it. There must be a minimum time required rule or something.

And I haven't yet run across any books longer than thirty hours other than The Bible and as an agnostic M.O.T. I can't imagine being willing to put up with *that*. But maybe there are other interesting long books out there....

Getting back to the psychology of the Audible badges for just a moment, I think it is fascinating to consider the consequences of how exciting it must be to be to imagine some mythical Program Manager or Software Development Engineer at Amazon who spec'd out or wrote the Audible badge feature that makes extra revenue due solely to personality quirks of people who read! My hat is off to them!

Well, it isn't all altruism having nothing to do with the bottom line. For example, the Diamond level of the "7 Day Stretch" badge has a simple requirement: "Completed 50 books in a single week." That is not so much altruism as enlightened self interest."

Still brilliant, either way! I remain impressed at the psychology here! ;-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sorting it all Out is officially dead, but...

It has been made officially clear to me that the Blog I worked on from the end of 2004 until just recently is for all intents and purposes *dead*.

In my view that is unfortunate, because by starting just a few years after I started working for Microsoft fulltime, it is a chronicle of Internationalization and World Readiness know how that spans the bulk of my i18N career at Microsoft, at least!

As I have shown in another blog
here, most of it is still reachable, so although some of the readymade samples are gone, most of the Blog's actual content is still available in a way that cannot be taken away.

Long live the amazingly wonderful website called The Internet Archive @ !!

Now a part of me wants to find my favorite blogs and liberate them to this new Blog. Perhaps it would be exciting to re-inflate the Blog this way. I would enjoy it, and scrolling through nine years of blogs would be exciting, don't you think? ;-)

Monday, February 10, 2014

A couple of the benefits of books you read that are in fact read to you

In my post the other day, I talked about the way that all of my reading habits have been changed by using Audible Books via their App on my Nokia Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8.

And I couldn't be happier, truth be told!

Right now as I type this, I am listening to (and thusly re-reading!) "The Rainmaker" by John Grisham (read by Frank Muller), a book which helps remind me why although I'm a big fan of Audible Books, I'm such a huge fan of movies based on books.

That movie was okay, yes. But it is hard to compete with the almost 17 hour Unabridged Audible Book by using a less than two hours Hollywood movie.

The book is almost entirely in Rudy Baylor's head. And not even famous actors achieving excellent performances can really compete with that.

In the end, the main reason the movies do so well is something that authors like John Grisham will readily admit -- comparably few people both see the movie AND read the book.

And all the ones who do will say (even if they liked the movie) that the book was better.

Nor can I claim that this is due to nothing beyond coincidence. The book before this one from Audible was a re-reading of "Presumed Innocent" by Scott Turow (read by Edward Herrmann). In both cases, this one with over fifteen and a half hours of unabridged novel versus another ~2 hour movie, the book, will once again win.

My next book would further prove the point -- friend and colleague Mark Russinovich's "Zero Day" (an Audible book read by Johnny Heller), which at trim over nine and a half hours will be the thinnest proof this week that the book is always better (though that last book currently has no movie to prove the larger point again).

I am beginning to believe that Orson Scott Card had a point when he talked about the irony of people telling him that his book (Ender's Game) was so good that it ought to be a movie.

The book will (almost always) be better!

Almost subconsciously I am reminded of the ultimate example of a book that can't be done properly by a movie (and ultimately wasn't) -- the homicidal car Christine by Stephen King. Another book almost entirely written from the point of view of the car makes no sense whatsoever as a movie; I didn't even bother trying the Audible version of that one!

I will of course mention that Amazon got to charge me once more for the Audible version of most of the books I mentioned here....

One of the other problems with lots of book reading is that over time your passive vocabulary gets much, much bigger.

If you look at the Wikipedia article about Vocabulary it talks about the process a word routinely goes through in the journey from "Huh?" to fluent understanding:

  1. Never encountered the word.
  2. Heard the word, but cannot define it.
  3. Recognize the word due to context or tone of voice.
  4. Able to use the word and understand the general and/or intended meaning, but cannot  with the word – its use and definition.
  5. Fluent with the word – its use and definition.
Now obviously moving into the world of "passive vocabulary" will alter the process.

The article explicitly distinguishes it by calling it "reading vocabulary" outright. Think of it the same way, though.

In my own past, when reading the book "Gorky Park" by Martin Cruz Smith (the later Audible Books version read by Henry Strozier). I tripped over the word "ennui", which my passive or reading vocabulary called "enn-you-eye" even though I was aware of the word pronounced "ahn-wee" (even though I had no conscious idea how it is spelled) That kind of problem would never happen with an almost fifteen hour Audible book!

(In contrast, the less than two hour movie doesn't even include the scene in question.)

Which is not to say that there are never mistakes in Audible Books. In Gorky Park, Henry Strozier pronounces the last name of one of the murder victims (Davidova, as in Valeria Davidova) with the emphasis on the "do" rather than the way the movie and my Russian home health care assistant placed it (on the "vi").

Though I don't necessarily trust movies to always get it right, I do trust my Russian home health care assistant and how she would pronounce it! ;-)

But that kind of thing is relatively uncommon, and happens much less often than mistakes like mine with ennui.

At the same time, I really enjoy "reading" this way, which for me now feels like the only way to read, to enjoy a book truly.

You may not agree, and that is okay, too. I know what I love. What you love is allowed to be different....

I realize by not following every word in a reader like the Kindle leaves me vulnerable to the same kinds of passive vocabulary error that I had years ago with "ennui" but I don't mind. I want to enjoy the books I read and re-read, not merely treat them as vocabulary stretching exercises and nothing more. Don't you feel the very same way? ;-)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The "problem" with a company like Audible is that it can make a product like Kindle irrelevant...

Time for something a little off the topic of anything remotely related to Microsoft.

Let's talk about some other people's products and applications that I use. ;-)

Just for example, I have had a Kindle since it first came out. 1.0, even. I used to read books - both ones I had read before but not in some time, and new books.

Now I never upgraded after that first one because for a long time I never saw it adding any features I needed. I'm not truly a typography wonk, so new versions weren't providing anything that I needed.

Until they put a free Kindle App on Windows Phone, and then I never used my Kindle again.

I didn't need to; I now had any book I wanted in the device I most like to use!

Nothing could get between me and my Kindle App.

Nothing except for...

There is this little company named Audible.

They read the book for you and more to the point to you, like other technologies such as Recorded Books and others that let you have the book read to you.

Because I don't know about you but as long as I can bookmark any the book I like I really don't need the book itself.

That's why I find "deals" about using Audible for your Kindle titles like Kindle owners can now download Audible audio books directly over WiFi to be freaking hilarious

Because if not for the fact that I may have bought the

 Audible title from Amazon, I might never give Amazon another cent for a book!

Now not everyone reads books the same way as I do, so YMMV, but I doubt that I'm the only person who will not be reading books the way I used to read them.

Unless Amazon buys Audible or something  they may find themselves unable to have control of how books are bought for many people.

I mean, it is great that the title might have been bought on Amazon, but it might not have been. And clearly this other company is now in control of discounts and deals and such.

One day, people will come to their senses and not buy two copies of every book, so the fact that Audible uses Amazon by default means that they didn't want to have to rebuild a storefront themselves when Amazon has one. So why not be an Amazon store? ;-)

The real advantage that Audible has is that often person reading the book is a celebrity or expert and that having them read it adds extra value that often translates into higher value.

Which often translates
 higher prices. Some of which is likely due to the cost of compensating the celebrity or expert, but there is likely a lot of wiggle room there....

Now I just have to get "Love Monkey" by Kyle Smith and "How to Embalm Your Sister and Other Useful Skills" written by Darius the Dark into Audible's collection (both are in Kindle's!). Anyone have friends over at Audible? ;-)

I guess it isn't really a problem if people are happy to have their books read to them. That is good since it now covers how *I* use Audible. And I have learned a lot. I'll tell you about it in a later blog....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bugs found through looking at the archived Blog...

So it was just a few days ago that I explained how you can use the Internet Archive to get at the old blogs in my Sorting it all Out Blog.

But then I found out something very interesting.

And that something was quite unexpected.

It was (believe it or not!) a bug.

A bug in one of our more controversial keyboard layouts.

The layout? The Canadian Multilingual Standard keyboard layout.

It was put in as a comment to a blog written years after the original blog was written.

The blog? Well, the archived version of it is Getting all you can out of a keyboard layout #9b

You can scroll down to find the comment reporting the bug, or better yet I will just quote it here:

(((The dead key is on [Right Ctrl + . ] )))

This dead key adds a dot above, changing [ c ] to U+010B [ ċ ], [ C ] to U+010A [ Ċ ], [ e ] to U+0117 [ ė ], [ E ] to U+0116 [ Ė ], and so on.
So one would expect that [ Z ] becomes U+017B [ Ż ], and [ z ] becomes U+017C [ ż ]; which is indeed true about U+017B but not true about U+017C. You get U+0017 instead of U+017C.

I suspect this is a mistake in the KL design, where someone accidentally typed "017" when he or she had to type "017C", confusing 0 and C or dropping the trailing C or something.

Is U+0017 actually what is supposed to be there? I doubt it, because if you really need to input U+0017 for whatever reason, this KL already supports it as [Ctrl]+VK_W.


Now whether you like that particular keyboard layout or not, and I pretty much don't like this kind of multilingual keyboard layout, I certainly wouldn't ever want to have it with such a bug.

But perhaps the fact that nobody ever reported the problem through actual USE would tend to indicate that at a minimum that particular letter is never used!

Anyway, triage approved of fixing the bug, and I was able to fix it in place atop the existing layout. Even at the time, many were impressed that the Blog was finding bugs so obscure that even the French Canadian Standards people didn't notice!

And now the even happier ending -- somebody was able to:

  1. notice the bug report in a comment written in 2008;
  2. repro the bug on some older machines;
  3. be unable to.repro the bug now on newer machines;
  4. realize that the bug was found and fixed by the Blog;
  5. inspire me to write THIS blog about the issue!
And with #5, I write today's blog....

Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting to my Blog while it stays down

It is time for something more positive!

At the last Internationalization and Unicode Conference, I had the opportunity to meet with and talk to the person who was so impressed by the Nastaliq font we added to Windows 8 named Urdu Typesetting.

It was a great meeting, not only for the chance to meet and talk but to help him solve the problem he had trying to legally use the font in documents and in Apps while running in or on earlier versions of Windows.

The way? In two words, FONT EMBEDDING.

I solved the problem years ago with the Nyala font added to Vista for Amharic for friend and colleague Scott Hanselman.

He blogged about it here:

And in that blog, he pointed to the four blogs of mine on font embedding that explain how to use font embedding properly and thusly solve the problem.

Now, to solve the current problem (getting to those four blogs while the Blog itself is down), I must point to one more resource.

The Internet Archive, found at http;// (just in case you haven't heard of it!).

It returns unhelpful looking but worth their weight in gold URLs like these ones:

And the problem then solves itself!

Now that first blog (and some of the others) point to many other arguably famous blogs that answer other questions and solve other problems that can all be retrieved the same way.

Thusly, my (currently defunct and unavailable) Blog + The Internet Archive = the solution to everything I have blogged about since the beginning of my Blogging career, with minimal effort and fuss! ;-)

Now that is the kind of math I can get behind!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How to get home health care covered while you still go work every day

It turns out to be a very complicated problem. Not for its own sake. But for the sake of the health insurance company and all of its rules. Now my health insurance is Premera Blue Cross Microsoft, which means it's Microsoft with Premera administrating the plan. But there are still rules to be followed. Like the requirements surrounding home health care (which I clearly need) which I had no problem getting when I was in Building 25. The rest of my group was in Building 86, but 86's inaccessibility last year was legendary. But after half a year and half a million dollars, Building 86 was completely accessible, not just for me but for everyone else working there. And to tell you the truth, it was just in time. Because a lot of being a Senior Program Manager in World Readiness requires real face time -- with champions, with team members, with management. For "influence without authority" to be successful, that face time is required. So now that the building is accessible, everything is good now, right? Well, almost. I have to go to work every day to get the job done. But going to work every day makes me ineligible for home health care. There is no justice to be had here. Or is there? My neurologist is recommending that I work from home. I know that I can't, so AMA (against medical advice), I have to keep going in. The Multiple Sclerosis advocate at Premera Blue Cross says that under these circumstances I may well be eligible for home health care coverage! 😉 At this point, it doesn't matter. If they ultimately decide to cover it, they'll just be paid a little more. Right now I simply pay them out of pocket. And they aren't complaining. Maybe next time I will tell you the good news about the iBOT 4000 wheelchair.... 😊😉😊😉