Many have known Nuzzel as a handy app that picks out trending news being shared by the people you follow on Twitter. Earlier in March they rolled out their next product, Nuzzel Media Intelligence (Intelligence). I gave it a spin and here's what I think.

What Is It?

In short, Intelligence taps into thousands of stories that Nuzzel already see people share on Twitter every day, and use that information to send you a daily report on a subject you care about. Within minutes, you are ready to receive a report of relevant stories in your inbox next morning.

With the trial plan, I was able to create five reports. They covered topics of AR technology, block chain apps, machine learning, and, to check out how Nuzzel would stack up against my usual Feedly subscriptions, a report on Apple, Inc.

The Good

During the two-week trial, Intelligence reports worked well for me. Each morning the reports arrived nicely in my inbox and I could skim through the headlines with a coffee. At the time I wasn't subscribing to any news source on AR and block chain apps, and the reports filled in just right.

A great feature implied in the setup process is, you don’t follow or subscribe to specific sources. Not only does this allow for faster setup, it is very helpful for anyone who needs to explore beyond what they usually read.

In a recent article from Wired, Brian Barrett have a brilliant metaphor:

The difference between getting news from an RSS reader and getting it from Facebook or Twitter or Nuzzel or Apple News is a bit like the difference between a Vegas buffet and an a la carte menu. In either case, you decide what you actually want to consume. But the buffet gives you a whole world of options you otherwise might never have seen.

Intelligence reports felt like you are in a buffet place, accompanied by a food critique who picks out the best dishes. It just feels great.

Last but not least, you can add up to 10 recipient addresses for each report. It's quite handy keeping a small team updated on the frontmost stories of a certain industry. I didn't use it with a real team but I can imagine how this may be of help.

The Bad

On the flip side, there was one thing that stood out about the reports — they didn’t appear timely enough. Stories in the reports sometimes felt late by one or two days, and they seemed more repetitive than desired.

Part of the perceived tardiness came from the fact I couldn’t customize the time at which the reports were delivered. I was living in Beijing and the reports were scheduled for 9am every morning — it makes sense! Unless 9am in Beijing is actually 6pm in California. Combined that with the time it takes curation power of social media to lazily kicks, Nuzzel sometimes failed to pick up trendy stories that happened in the Valley in the afternoon. Many stories, therefore, only arrived on the next day and seemed late by a full day. I think it would be nice to have an option to customize delivery time.

However, not every piece of news is time-crucial as Apple’s next product reveal. It probably isn’t a bad thing at all to share a three-days-old insightful piece on block chain technology’s evolution.

Another thing with Intelligence reports was, they were somewhat tricky (albeit fast) to set up. When creating a report I was given three fields to fill out: Topic, Keywords, and Filter. To put this in a non-convoluted way, the report would be stories about words in Topic, containing at least one Keywords, and without any of the words in Filter.

Naturally I wondered: what should I put in each field? For the Apple report I put in Apple, Mac, iPhone, iPad, macOS, iOS, and Apple Watch, and left the other two fields blank. The results weren’t so pretty and a guy from Nuzzel actually tweaked my report setup: Topic was changed to only Apple, and Keywords contained news, updates, product, and announcements. Quite a different setup than I had thought.

But on the other hand, the Filter and Keywords fields are only for fine-tuned results. Overall I got pretty good reports by filling in only the Topic field.

The Verdict

In my honest opinion, Nuzzel Media Intelligence offers high quality reports that only take minutes to set up. You can definitely count on it to stay up-to-date in industries you care about.

I would love to see the reports see more customization options. It would also be nice to have some report templates set up by Team Nuzzel.

Mingbi.io is a project (and the first blockchain project) I wish I was a part of. For some background information:

Mingbi is essentially "money for the dead"; it's tribute that people put on and burn up for their past elders and ancestors on Tomb-sweeping Day in China.

Mingbi.io is practically a mirror of that kind of tribute, and it's beautifully simple to use: you can request to coin a serialized Mingbi (an ERC 721) from The Mint of Heaven, and later burn it and put someone's name in the memorial. Coin a Mingbi and the price of coining another one goes up; burn one and the price falls.

What I love (and feel envious to hell) about this product are three things:

  1. It is simple — coin or burn and that's it. The two steps form a minimal closed product circuit. And because it's simple, the product is hauntingly beautiful.

  2. It works on many levels: remembering the dead (Stephen Hawking's name is in the memorial), introducing a green way of tomb sweeping (which is a great answer to the government's call to never burn something in a graveyard), and it helped relieving the prejudice that blockchain equals crazy ICO scams.

  3. I really appreciate the developer's sense of humour in saying this product solved the inflation problem that plagued the Land of the Dead. After all we put too many zeroes on the paper Mingbi:

Paper Mingbi

I doubt if Mingbi.io will ever go viral and hit a hundred transactions per day, but I bet it'll make Top 3 for the smartest blockchain apps of 2018.

If you haven't checked out the website you really should. For me, I'll just go back to designing more mediocre dApps :/

Been prototyping an AR toy for a potential application, and I've dug deep with Apple's ARKit and SceneKit.

In case you are still confusing the two: ARKit handles environmental recognition, telling the app if there's a surface in scene (and if so, how far away is this surface and how big is it); SceneKit handles 3D rendering of your custom objects.

To create a realistic rendering you'd want ARKit to recognize the environment and SceneKit to handle rendering.


To start, Apple has a nifty page on how ARKit works in mostly plain language.

There's also Apple's ARKit section in the Human Interface Guidelines. This section provides basic do's and don'ts on application and interaction design.


To get your hands dirty, Mark Dawson has a series of 4 posts on Medium (1, 2, 3 and 4) on how to:

  1. Set up your first AR app and understand the relationship between ARSession and SCNScene
  2. Detect surface with ARKit
  3. Apply physics to rendered 3D objects (apply gravity, allow objects to bump into one another, etc.)
  4. Apply realistic rendering (dubbed in the industry as Physics Based Rendering, or PBR)

The only quarrel I'd have is that Mark used Objective-C in his example. Most developers have moved on to Swift. Apple's official documentation is more or less tuned for the Swift community.


Understanding and applying PBR:


More in-depth articles on improving rendered results:


Some of my additional thoughts as a PM:

  • Hire a real 3D designer if your rendered 3D model goes beyond basic geometries. They know much better at modeling and generating proper texture layers and maps.

  • If you are trying to provide a fusion of real and virtual objects and your engineering team is not adept with SceneKit, tell them to go easy on research. Some basic lightings and physics are more than enough for a magical experience; you don't need those complex lighting, blooming effects, shape distortion or smoke particle effects... After all, you are aiming for realistic, not surreal. SceneKit is a big, big, big rabbit hole to go down.

  • Apple has also previewed ARKit 1.5 bundled in the upcoming iOS 11.3. Prepare for recognition of vertical surfaces and images. Horizontal surfaces will no longer be a dumb rectangle. The community has, been, fervert, about, these, updates so you may want to get inspired, too.

Been working for three days this week after Chinese New Year. Been playing Alto's Odyssey for at least 10 hours combined on and off work. Can't fucking put it down.

Alto's Odyssey

If you enjoyed its prequel "Alto's Adventure," this new game is a no brainer. It's soothing, challenging to the right amount, and full of details for you to discover. Experience day/night cycles and traverse through harsh conditions of sandstorms and heavy rains, or from time to time, lose yourself under the peaceful clear sky of a thousand stars.

Throughout the game, you will unlock new mechanisms and distinct areas that are refreshing and fun to play with. New elements such as balloons and wall riding (Hey, Lúcio!) expand verticality and enable insanely skillful combos for pro players.

Squint your eyes and you may find some kinks or bugs for the game to work out, but it is overall a serene and addictively fun masterpiece. Graphics are breathtaking, especially if you have an iPad or an Apple TV.

If you don't have a Nintendo Switch, get Odyssey today.

A few days ago I tried out Fiery Reader, in hope that it could improve my reading experience. I thought it might be a better fit than Reeder, an app I started using a little over a year ago. Turns out I was wrong, and here are the reasons why.

View of Hot Links

Fiery Reader’s one competitive feature is Hot Links. It scrapes URLs from all the unread articles you subscribe to, checks for multiple mentions, and decides if there’s important information buried beneath the pile of articles in front of you. For me, it’s easily 1,000 unread articles per week, and this feature could potentially cut my weekly reading time in half.

Fiery Reader, however, does not deliver the promised experience.

First of all, the list of Hot Links is not parsed or processed in any way. All you get is the raw url beginning with schemas such as https://. Only when you tap on the tiny expander do you see which articles mentioned the Hot Link.

Second, Hot Links are not displayed in an order that makes humanly sense. Take a closer look at the screenshot, and you will notice a lot of links are about Apple’s HomePod damaging wooden furnitures. These links are not put together, but spread across many groups instead.

One improvement I'd suggest is to group Hot Links by checking if different links appear in the same article. This will probably deliver a more coherent reading experience, by presenting “stories” instead of “links.”

Poor defaults

The default theme in Fiery Reader is neat and clean, but it doesn't strike me as design work from someone who truly understands reading. To start, the margins in article view are too wide, leaving little space for the text. Use of color on links and block quote borders are distracting, and the floating toolbar is too intrusive for a focusing mind. The Avenir font family provides a thin and light feeling to the theme, but the developer didn't compensate for that with larger font size and line height. It’s true that all of the above can be fine tuned but it is really some hard work on users’ side.

Comparison

Comparison: article view of Fiery Reader (left) and Reeder (right)

The default list view looks okay. Images are given the right aspect ratio, and headlines are stressed with larger and bolder text. I personally want to know the source of an article from list view and it’s possible to find it from preferences. So far so good.

Until... I found out this beautiful default list view is actually dubbed "Custom" in preferences. And whichever built-in article list style you'd like to switch to, you are treated with weird wide margins on the side. Preview images are now tall and thin, rendering many 16:9 hero images non-informative at all. And once you switch off from the default theme, there’s no going back unless you delete and re-install the app. Weird.

Article list

Default theme (left) looks OK. But you can’t go back once you switch to another preset (such as “Regular” on the right)

That, added by the fact you can’t access appearance settings directly from article list view, makes adjusting the themes a painful experience. It took me 30 minutes to make sense of all this and I’m all done making another effort.

To sum, using Fiery Reader makes me appreciate Reeder even more. Non-distracting and efficient themes are something I took so granted for with Reeder.

More often than not, designing an app is about making sense of content hierarchy and making judgement calls. The customization freedom that comes with Fiery Reader is not what a premium iOS app should be.

Tiny annoyances

On top of those poor design choices, Fiery Reader has some more annoyances that also pushed me to have it deleted:

  • Article view takes a fraction of a second to load, even if everything’s been “cached.”

  • In any view, the floating toolbars designed for iPhone X (presumably) takes up too much space with the paddings and margins. On a phone without a 1:2.1 aspect ratio screen, the toolbar is way too much of a distraction than it is useful and elegant.

Summary

With all the demanding features and designs, Fiery Reader is not something I’d like to invest in. I’d probably pay twice as much for Reeder and rest assured that the design choices are carefully made, than to have the customization possibilities and not know what to do with them.

最近流行养青蛙。小青蛙绕世界旅行,偶尔回家给你带点东西回来或者是寄回几张明信片。不得不说养起来有一种似曾相识的感觉。

因为最近碰巧读了一本书叫《我很好啊,妈》。这本书大都是作者乌云装扮者除外旅行时所见所闻所感,用书信体的形式写给他的妈妈。没什么特别新鲜的,有的写起来甚至矫情,但偶尔还是能有那么几次说到我在国外时不曾想到的事情的,也能稍稍满足一些人对氤氲的欧洲生活的想象和对周游世界生活方式的向往(一些人比如我)。

亚马逊有售。(当时以为没有电子版。装订那叫一个差,早知道等俩月买电子版了)

2017 年过去了,我很怀念。这一年玩了不少好游戏,想在这里针对 2017 年推出的单机游戏进行一个前五名的总结。游戏不仅是社交的,也可以是内向的、沉稳的。我是一个独立游戏的重度玩家,也是一个横版动作类游戏的资深粉(更是一个没有 Nintendo Switch 的人)。望这个 Top 5 榜单能多少把乐趣带给更多的人。

无责任排名如下——

No. 5: Severed

Severed

Severed 是一个剧情依托的 boss 战游戏。你要控制主角在复仇心的驱使下一步步寻找杀害自己家人的凶手,揭示关于自己身世和所处世界的最终秘密。

作为水果忍者和无尽之剑系列作品的老玩家,我对 Severed 的操作轻车熟路——以适当的角度切对正确的东西就能干掉敌人,步步为营向前进。爽快的击杀手感外,Severed 对敌人的设计和关卡的难度进行了巧妙安排,基本能让游戏难度处于有挑战性却又不令人抓狂的地步,实属难得。配合超燃的背景音乐,Severed 直接吃掉了我一个下午的时间,从开头打到结尾。虽然游戏可玩性不强,但乐趣享受一次便也足矣了。

No. 4: Cosmic Express

Cosmic Express

Cosmic Express 是一个走可爱风格的智力游戏,每一关都是一个精心设计的迷宫。你要在星空车站中设计轨道部署,接上外星小生物并把他们送到目的地,最后还要把列车送到出口才能前往下一关。

随着游戏推进,你要不断应对不同外星生物,不能把小矮子送到高个子的家里;有的时候一个关卡还要给出两三个解决方案,来前往不同的下一关。

和开发商的前作 A Good Snowman is Hard to Build 一样,Cosmic Express 每一关的设置都十分精妙,多种过关方法的设计也让我赞叹不已,很难相信这是一个独立开发的作品。如果你单纯想找一个烧脑的解谜游戏,Cosmic Express 会是你花的最值的钱——玩了快一年了还没通关呢。

No. 3: Factorio

Factorio

“沙盒游戏的终极形态大抵如此。” 这就是我对 Factorio 的第一印象。

在这个复古风的游戏里,你可以从零创造自己的工业帝国,从原料开采、加工到最终的组装制造,全部都在你的掌控之中。从工厂的部署到传送带、储物箱 buffer 的设计,都是你发挥创意的空间。布局完成后你还要不断根据现有的生产目标调整产品线,一步步优化生产流程,应用各种运筹学原理和报表工具让自己尽快完成火箭研发的终极任务,逃离所在的异星地(没错你一开始出现在一个外星球上)—— YouTube 上看到有人 2:52 完成了任务,真是佩服呢!

如果这还不够刺激,建造壁垒碉堡武装自己的大本营、抵御外星生物的侵袭,甚至去主动进攻地方地盘、获取更多资源,是不是听上去有趣了很多?在两极中间,你还可以驾驶自己制作的小汽车拓展探索版图,或是铺设铁路和自动化轨道系统让资源成批地快速在矿藏地和工业生产地之间流转,还能部署无人机自动修复受损车辆、建筑和防御工事——这个游戏在复杂系统上拥有无穷无尽的可能性,因此也是一个巨大的时间黑洞。基本上玩着玩着,就已经天亮天黑了。

No. 2: Cuphead

Cuphead

“TT 你听说过魂斗罗么?” 当我兴高采烈给李响介绍 Cuphead 时,他突然这么问我。

论玩法,Cuphead 作为横版动作 + boss 战游戏,主角可以使用不同武器打子弹出去,确实和魂斗罗很像。就连难度都是魂斗罗般的经典设置——打通一个关卡大概需要几十次的重新尝试,不断磨练自己的技巧,并且要对关卡中出现的障碍和敌人了如指掌方才能九死一生通关继续。在抓狂后你会发现这个游戏贴心地提供了简单模式,在终于尝试二十次通关之后你又会发现,简单模式打通是不能帮助你进入下一个世界的🙂️

论画风,Cuphead 还是和魂斗罗差别很大的。二十世纪三十年代美国电影的画风被 Cuphead 表现得淋漓尽致,挑战失败时 boss 那个合辙押韵的嘲讽也是一段段读起来非常有趣的文字。

在可玩性上,由于 Cuphead 不同的 boss 会有各自的优势劣势,你就要不断调整自己的武器和护身符配置,充分发挥自己的长处,尝试不同的通关策略。

No. 1: Splasher

Splasher

我从小就是横版动作类游戏(Platformer)的狂热粉。Splasher 大概是 2017 年我买到的第二超值的游戏(第一显然是 Overwatch)。

作为一个快节奏的横版动作游戏,Splasher 的手感无可挑剔——毕竟是 Rayman 系列作品的设计师 Romain Claude 另起炉灶的作品。要知道在这类游戏中,只有拥有完美的手感,设计师才敢在关卡设置和难度安排上放开手脚,否则玩家一次次重试关卡只会觉得是游戏机制设计的问题,并非自己水平有限。

在难度安排上,Splasher 循序渐进,不断引入更复杂的地形、新的喷射超能力和越来越难对付的敌人。关卡设计和流程效果结合,说是为横版过关游戏设立了有一个新标杆绝不过分。

回头数数,发现今年发生了好多事。2016 年底毕业就开始找工作,找了半年,干了半年,十一月回国了;中间出去玩了三趟也是冒险和各种愉快的旅程。2017 年新年计划一共三条,只做到一条就是夏天几乎爬遍了温哥华附近想爬的山。之前觉得理所应当会发生的事没有放进新年计划,比如 “在温哥华找个工作先干两年看看”……

于是真要让我说 2017 年有什么感悟,就是觉得新年计划这种事都是没有用的——这个世界上没什么认准了就要削尖脑袋干一整年的事情。也不要用新年计划骗自己,企图盘活本来就要死掉的、不打算做的事情。更不要被新年计划碍了手脚,本来不该也不想做的事情却因为放进了计划逼迫自己去执行。

所以说啊,与其定计划其实不如一直督促自己不断去触碰边界,尝试一些新的东西。读书也好、看电影也好,都是很舒适的触碰边界的方式。除此之外认识新的朋友,去一些 community club 或者做一些之前没做过的事情、学一个新的东西也都算,很感谢身边有能推动我不断尝试新东西的朋友们,都给我带来了成长和不一样的视角。2018年,希望这样的势头还能继续。

话已至此,2018年我就没什么具体的事情想计划了。打算在未来这一年进行三个 personal project 的尝试吧,有一两个心中有了雏形。希望能在工作之外通过这些尝试去探索更大的世界。

What will you miss the most?

递交离职申请一个礼拜,这个问题已经被问了无数遍了。

我一般给的答案是蓝天白云和干净空气,好山好水,还有没啥乘客的公交地铁。这些答案简单易懂,也部分迎合了人家的偏见,能让对话顺利无害地进行下去。

当然我觉得这也是因为我这两年已经对北京没有一个准确的认识了,你问我会想念什么我也想象不出来呀。


“也许是日料吧,北京没有好吃又便宜的日料。” 有的时候我也这么说。九月底回国吃的那波通惠河畔的日本居酒屋,又贵又难吃也真是不想说话了。

但是想找好吃的日料总会有的,花钱就行了。

后来再想想,觉得花钱也买不来的,大概只有 Tim Hortons。


在 Purely Canadian 的光环下,Tim Hortons 有很容易让长期居住在加拿大的人对它有别样看法。

一般的食物体验是一个有限体验,始于购买、终于消费。Tim Hortons 店面遍布各个角落,在最热闹的城市里和我去过最小的小镇上都能买到他的 dark roast 或者 steeped tea。这样的存在,带来的则是一个无限延伸的食物体验。你和 Tim Hortons 每一次的交集都在拓展和丰富这种体验。


比如第一次来加拿大玩,十月的秋风里,和郭先生在尼亚加拉瀑布旁的 Timmy 买了一个牛肉奶酪帕尼尼,配一个中杯热巧克力。

比如无数个上仨小时数学课的下午,我们会去 Sauder 楼下的 Timmy 买一个小杯咖啡,或者买个 Ice Capp 来日过这些课。

比如暑假在机场实习,四点多起床到机场也会买一杯冰咖啡,准备在客流高峰来临的时候能集中精神记录数据。

比如在大雪纷飞积雪没踝的那天中午,睡了懒觉起床出溜着去街角的 Timmy 吃早饭看新闻。

比如冷冷冰雨的12月3号,收到了找工作申请的最后一个拒信,决心当年好好庆祝毕业不再找工作了,在地铁旁的 Timmy 里捧着热茶,Thomas 在 iMessage 里告诉我一切会好的。

还有无数个 Tim Hortons,在旅途的路上,在商场的角落里,在从公司走路需要二十分钟来回方便翘班的加油站旁,在各种你需要它出现的地方。这种温暖和陪伴的感觉没有什么别的品牌能给我。Starbucks 比起来真的屁都不是。


这种感觉啊,似乎只有李宗盛的歌里才能找到。

真是想念。

ALL SOLD OUT! Thanks for checking things out.

Hello beautiful people, friends, and strangers:

Here is a list of all the stuff I'm selling/giving away. Let me know if you are interested in any of these! AVAILABLE by the end of the month — not today.

Send me a message on WeChat/Messenger if you have me, or send an email via Craigslist. 微信搜 “fifty8”。

🌇🌄🎆 PICTURES/图在此: Dropbox

Kitchen stuff

下边这些看着给就好 Leave me a loonie for:

  • 电饭锅 Rice cooker, 1 yr old, not a nice one tbh
  • 锅碗瓢盆 Pots and pans: 32cm pan, 12cm pan, 22cm pot
  • 锅碗瓢盆 Plates big and small
  • 锅碗瓢盆 Bowls
  • 晾碗的架子 Dish drying rack
  • 没开封的洗碗机皂块 Cascade dishwasher pods, 60, unopened

Non-kitchen stuff

  • 🚲 捷安特21档变速自行车送头盔、灯、U型锁、挡泥板 GIANT Bike, 21 gears, with helmet, lights, U-lock, mudguards. $75
  • 📺 显示器 20" monitor with DVI/VGA, as seen on HP. Can supply adaptors as needed. NO direct HDMI support. Almost 2 yr old. $40
  • Printer (Canon MX492), color, wireless, with extra b/w cartridge and a stack of paper. $20
  • Vacuum as seen on Amazon, $25

Furnitures

Bought these on IKEA in January 2017. Essentially letting them go for 1/4 - 1/3 of the original prices.

这些家具都是今年一月买的。两三折便宜卖了。

运送烦请自理 I'd have to ask you to handle shipping. 大部分东西月底可出 Most available at the end of the month.