Monthly Archives: March 2014

Colorblind Awareness Day

Happy Colorblind Awareness Day! 
(Or as the rest of the world likes to call it St. Patrick’s Day)

Twenty plus years ago I woke up on St. Patrick’s Day.  Excited for a fun holiday, I went to my closet and picked out my favorite bright green t-shirt.  I was ready and exited.  You see, tradition has it that if somebody doesn’t wear green on St. Patty’s day you are allowed to pinch them.  I was in elementary school, and if I didn’t wear green I was likely to end up like a victim in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

ntssadylI arrived at school and instantly I was pinched… hard!  “Wait!”, I said, “I’m wearing green, you aren’t allowed to pinch me.”  The girl looked at me funny and asked: “Uh… where?”  I excitedly pointed at my bright green t-shirt.  She laughed at me and ran away.

Child after child they came up pinches, laughed, and ran away.  After a few of them I started to realize I had made a dreadful mistake.  It was obvious I wasn’t wearing green, or at least it was obvious to them.

After a day of being pinched and laughed at, I finally made it home.  I said to my mom: “I was pinched all day today, why didn’t you tell me I wasn’t wearing green?!”  She looked at me a little quizzically and responded: “Oh, I thought you were just trying to be a little rebellious.”

The next year, I was ready.  I asked my mom for help, and the two of us picked out a nice green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day.  I went to school, and was determined to make up for last year.  This year I would be the aggressor, my classmates would feel my pinch!  I arrived and noticed somebody without green on.  I ran up and said: “I get to pinch you!  You aren’t wearing green.”  The boy gave me a strange look, “Yes I am”, he said.  I responded, “It doesn’t count if it is on your underwear.”  And I reached out and pinched him hard.

Satisfied that I had won this year I strutted into class, only to find my teacher there waiting with her arms crossed, the little boy with a smirk standing next to her.  After an explanation that his pants were indeed green.  And a firm explanation that pinching is not allowed in school, I was finally sent to my seat.  From that day forward, I decided to fight for the disabled.  I vowed to hate St. Patrick’s Day, and to defend all those who are pinched unaware.  Or… at least that’s what I tell everyone when, after an hour of staring into my closet debating which one is green, I end up at work wearing a bright yellow shirt.

Funny Colorblind Stories

As we get closer to Colorblind Awareness day (also known as St. Patrick’s Day), I wanted to share a variety of my colorblind experiences.  I hope you find them funny.

First Bad Experience

One day in elementary school I was day dreaming out the window.  All of a sudden I heard my name:
brown-splat-hiTeacher: “Brad, what color is that on the right page?”
Me: “Uh… what page are we on.”
Teacher (Disapprovingly): “We’re on page 96, please follow along.”
Me (Turning to the page): “Red.”
Teacher (Mad): “No what color is it really.”
Me: “Green?”  (Now I knew if something wasn’t red it must be green)
Teacher (Furious): “Stop playing games!  What color is it?”
Without red and green, I had no clue.  I started spouting out colors:
Me: “Orange?  Yellow?  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t know.”
Teacher: “It is brown!  It is brown!”

Brown, I thought, I would never have guessed brown!

(On a side note, never get between my mom and one of her kids…  I don’t know what words she had with that teacher, but they must have been great.  That was one of the best apologies I’ve received in my life.)

Getting Dressed

When I was a teenager, I still remember vividly the first time I realized that my manner of dress was quite possibly hurting other’s eyes.  After dressing up for a nice event, and driving to the event with my dad, I got out of the car.  He took one look at me and burst out laughing.  After checking my zipper, if my shirt was tucked in, and whether I had toilet paper on my shoe I finally gave up and asked.

2013-02-23 18.15.19

Dad: “You don’t see that?”
Me: “See what?”
Dad: “Your clothes look horrible, that is the worst matching I’ve ever seen.”

Still to this day I need material supervision whenever I get dressed.  I only use about a quarter of my wardrobe.  The other 3/4 is sectioned off, and I only venture into it if we’re going somewhere nice, but only if Sarah is available to help dress me.  I will admit though, as with the picture to the left, I sometimes know it doesn’t match and ignore it completely.  I figure, if I can’t get it completely right, I might as well  make it as wrong as possible.

Traffic Lights

Now the one question everyone wants to know is: “How do you drive?  I mean how can you tell the traffic lights apart.”  Growing up, I always thought this was a silly question, Red is on top, yellow in the middle, and green on bottom.   I never understood what was so confusing about that.  They’d always bring up horizontal traffic lights, but honestly I had never seen one (I have since).


Truth be told, the green and the red on traffic lights don’t look at all similar to me.  The green looks almost white to me, while the red is a rich red color.  In fact the green is so close to white that for years I thought the white you-can-cross-the-crosswalk guy was green.  I didn’t find out until I was talking with a friend and he had no clue what “little green crossing guy” I was talking about.  In fact this was so surprising to me, that sometimes I still wonder if this is a giant hoax and one day you guys are all going to burst out screaming: “The little walking guy is green!  He’s green!  April Fools!  He’s green!”  Until then I’ll keep checking the RGB values on every image I see of him, just to make sure.

Now the red and the yellow on the other hand are fairly similar.  Which doesn’t ever cause problems, unless it is a flashing single light.  Even then my rules of safety are pretty easy…
1) Look what traffic is doing.
2) Ask the person next to me what the color is.
3) If in doubt, stop at all yellow flashing lights.

mY_cDVzYkzzSQVpDwY953dAThe third one almost never happens, you’d be surprised how easy it is to figure out the color way in advance, from signs, past experience, and a little help from friends.  But be careful of your friends…

One time, while in the car with Tanner Guzy I came across an unknown single flashing light.  I was pretty sure it was yellow, but I verified with Guzy.

Me: “That light is yellow, right?”
Guzy: “Oh yeah.”
<Proceed to drive through with another car nearing the intersection>
Guzy: “Wait!  That’s red.”
<Terrified I throw on the breaks and screech to a halt>
<Heart pumping I looked at Guzy>
Guzy: “Dude, I am so sorry,  I’m just kidding, it really is yellow.”

Friend’s for Good and Bad

A lot of my friends never knew I was colorblind.  But those that did have always made life fun.  Here are a few stories with friends:

– Paintball:
The first time my friends took me to an indoor paintball arena it was really hard to tell the colors apart.  The first person I saw was a friend.  Terrified that he was on the other team I shot him 3 times in the chest, only to recognize Aaron Jardine’s face.  “Dude!  He yelled, same team, can’t you tell the colors apart!!”   Actually no.  (I still don’t understand why all indoor Laser Tag or Paintball arenas use Red and Green… Really?)

– Board Games:
c26-1933054395-2-lNate and I have been friends for as long as I remember.  It was always his goal to beat me (or to help me win), and he wasn’t afraid to use any means necessary.  While playing video games he would pick the colors that blended in with the background.  While playing board games he would pick the color closest to mine so I would sometimes mistake his pieces for mine.  And while playing paintball he would dress in camouflage.  And you know what, it worked!

– Fake Poisoning
500 (1)Oftentimes it surprises me how clueless people can be about colorblindness.  But some people are much worse than others.  I once convinced somebody that since green light didn’t hit my eyes I could effectively see through green.  I convinced him I could see threw walls by painting them green.  I’ve shared that story with a lot of people including my mission companions.

While serving in Toronto we received some nasty green toothpaste for Christmas.  We deemed the toothpaste to be poisonous.  One day my companion made me a plate of cookies covered in this poisonous green toothpaste.  He was trying to poison me, because, naturally, I couldn’t see the poison.

Color of Work

Growing up we were given a variety of chores.  One Saturday morning I had the task of picking up apples.  After an exhausting morning of picking up all the apples I finally smiled to myself, I was done.  My Dad came out to check my work and gave me a frustrated look: “You aren’t done, you have a long way to go.”  After a pause, my confused expression, and another long look he realized: “You can’t see all those can you?”  See what?  He informed me I was only halfway done…

I worked wiring cables for a few Saturdays.  The first time I cracked open I realized I had no clue which wires went where, the colors were awfully close.  So I came up with a crackbrained plan.  Find the color yellow, since I could find that one just fine, and work around the wires in clockwise order.  It worked, every… single… time.


2012-01-15 11.59.57I’ve always loved art.  Though, I gave up on creating it years ago due to colors.  But, for Logan’s room we decided to paint a Mario Brothers scene over all the walls.  We started sketching and that went great!  We moved on to painting, my first stop: the green pipe.  After painting most of the pipe, Sarah burst into laughter and couldn’t control herself long enough to tell me what was wrong.  She turned to me and said: “You do realize Mario’s pipes aren’t brown, right?”  Needless to say, I was banned from mixing colors.

Now you may wonder to yourself, “Life while colorblind is really hard!”  But you know what, it has made for a lot of funny experiences, and it is something I actually look forward to talking about.

Check out my app: Colorblind Vision

My Son’s Hair is Green

Yesterday, as I walked down the street I looked at my son Logan and thought to myself: “Wow, he has such bright green hair, it really shows up well in the sunlight.”  By now, you may be thinking I am joking.  Or perhaps I played a cruel joke on my son and dyed his hair color to celebrate St. Patrick’s day.  But, I promise this isn’t a joke.   His hair looked the same way it always does, and you can see it in the picture below:

2014-03-07 10.12.53

By now you probably have realized that something is wrong with me.  In fact you may be hoping, deep down inside, that I’ve gone a little bit insane.  Which, let’s face it, could make for an interesting blog article to read.  But the truth is I experience something fairly unique I am colorblind.  When people find out I am colorblind they are generally really interested in what I see, how colorblind I am, and of course (the most important) how I manage to stop at stop signs.  But before I can get into those nitty gritty details, we need to learn a little bit about colorblindness.

How common is colorblindness?

From wikipedia, we get some pretty interesting stats.

Males Females
Dichromacy 2.4% 0.03%
Protanopia (red deficient: L cone absent) 1.3% 0.02%
Deuteranopia (green deficient: M cone absent) 1.2% 0.01%
Tritanopia (blue deficient: S cone absent) 0.001% 0.03%
Anomalous Trichromacy 6.3% 0.37%
Protanomaly (red deficient: L cone defect) 1.3% 0.02%
Deuteranomaly (green deficient: M cone defect) 5.0% 0.35%
Tritanomaly (blue deficient: S cone defect) 0.0001% 0.0001%

We instantly see one obvious things.  First, men are much more likely to be colorblind than women, this is due to the genetic tie colorblindness has to the ‘X’ chromosome.  Since women have two, their other ‘X’ chromosome can beat up the first and make it stay quiet.  (Although I would like to note that women still can be colorblind!  For some reason they think they are immune.  So, men, even though you are 22 times more likely to be incorrect, feel free to continue questioning their judgement.)

Cones, Cones, Cones

Next, you may be asking yourself what all these different types mean.  And more importantly how it actually affects a person’s vision.  I’ll try to break it down for you.  First there are two types of doodads in your eye.  You have cones and rods.  For our purposes cones are the only things that matter, as they are what determine color.  You were blessed with 3 different kinds of cones.  These are often referred to as the L, M, and S cones.  (For long, medium, and short, referring the wavelength it reacts to).  You may also hear people refer to these as Red, Green, and Blue.  Although that isn’t entirely accurate as you can see in the graph below.

Now each of these cones lights up with a response when photons (i.e. little bits of light) of a certain wavelength hit the rod.  If violet photon hits, the blue cone lights up with a huge response, and the other two don’t.  If a green photon hits, both the red and the green light up, but the green lights up more.

Graphic by Will Lowry

And here’s another one by the Physics Classroom.

The Physics Classroom

Now you’ll notice there’s some overlap.  That overlap is super important.  You see without that overlap the brain can’t resolve certain colors…  Here’s an example, the color ‘Yellow’ hits your eye.  Your 3 cones tell your brain about their responses.  The Blue sends back 0%.  The green sends back 70%, and the Red sends back 98%.  Your brain knows that specific combination makes yellow.


But now imagine you were stuck with only 2 cones, green and blue.  When the response comes in saying 0% blue, and 70% green.  Now the brain has a harder time determining which side of the curve it is on.  In a bright room, it will probably be okay.  In a dark room it may get 0% blue for both colors, making it hard to tell what side of the curve it is on.  Without the red cone’s extra information, those colors make look the ‘same’.  Remove the blue cone too and you would never be able to tell the difference between the two sides of the curve.

Colorblind Types

This is why trying to figure out what a colorblind person sees is so difficult.  This is why you may often hear people say colorblindness is more like a ‘confusion of colors’.  And why they may claim they can see all the colors, yet after that claim they still dress in a bizarre fashion, and say the wrong names for colors that really aren’t that close.

That alone is difficult enough.  Now add in the fact that different cones missing mean different things.  And also that a cone doesn’t just need to be missing to cause problems…  If a cone is simply shifted or defective it may have some of the same effects, but perhaps not as severe.

But understanding this goes a long way to understanding the different types of colorblindness.  So let’s take a look at those stats once again, but I’ve changed the titles out to be a little more clear:

The Absentees 2.4% 0.03%
Missing Red Cone (Red-Green) 1.3% 0.02%
Missing Green Cone (Red-Green) 1.2% 0.01%
Missing Blue Cone (Blue-Yellow) 0.001% 0.03%
The Shifts 6.3% 0.37%
Shifted/Damaged Red Cone 1.3% 0.02%
Shifted/Damaged Green Cone 5.0% 0.35%
Shifted/Damaged Blue Cone 0.0001% 0.0001%

So much easier to read…  so it turns out that being partially colorblind is 2.5 x more likely than missing the code completely.  And being red-green colorblind is something like 8000x more likely than being blue-yellow.

It is also clear now what some of the differences between missing various cones are:

All Red-Green: Struggles in the red-yellow-green portion of the spectrum.  If the cone is missing it is worse.  If it is shifted it could be bad or not.

Missing red: Deep reds end up looking like black, since you’ve got no cone on the far right to pick those up.

Missing green: Purples end up looking like blue, since you’ve got nothing on the far left to help distinguish the colors.

Missing blue: Blues look greenish and dimmed (maybe even black).  Yellow looks like pink, and purles look like reds.

The Magical Mystery Brain

But, here’s where it gets even more crazy.  The brain uses more than just the eyes to fill in details.  The brain’s ultimate goal is to be correct, (it is fairly obsessive compulsive about giving you the right answer).  It doesn’t just stop at one source, it checks a bunch other sources as well to make sure the information it gives you is correct.  One of the things it uses is your bank of knowledge.

If you tell a colorblind person the correct color for an object they will begin to see the correct color.  Not only will they know the right color, but they will physically see the right color as well.  It is a pretty trippy experience if you notice it happen, but most of the time the brain does it without you ever noticing.

Logan’s Green Hair

Knowing all of the above, I thoroughly believe I am missing my green cone.  I’m part of the 1% who not only has a defective green, but it is outright missing.  I really can’t tell the difference between blues and purples, and I’ve always struggled with reds and greens.  I can (for the most part) hide the fact that I am, because my brain fills in all the details and I don’t really think twice about it.

But knowing how my eyes work, and knowing that Logan’s shade of hair is right among one of those colors my brain can’t resolve correct, sometimes I misguide my brain a bit.  If I stare at my son’s hair enough and convince myself it is green, I can actually see it as green.  You may think I’m crazy, but my eyes don’t have enough information, and my brain is being given misinformation.  It is a really cool experience.

Yesterday, was simply the first time it happened without me trying.

Anyway, if you’re interested in seeing what life is like through my eyes, check out my Android app:

Colorblind Vision by Brad Grimm

Android Superman

My work recently awarded me a t-shirt, it is a little tradition at HireVue that when somebody does has a great achievement they are recognized with a customized shirt.  Mine has a superman Android on the front, and on the back says:

12,000 Devices
30 Screen Sizes
8 OS Versions
No Problem

2014-03-04 20.19.31

2014-03-04 20.19.44

First of all, it is super great to be appreciated.  I know a shirt isn’t a big thing, but there is a certain geek cred that goes along with it.  HireVue appreciates their team members more than any other company I’ve worked for.  Not only do they do a fantastic job showing it, but they truly mean it when they show it.  I’ve worked for companies before where they ‘show’ you they appreciate you, but you don’t feel that appreciation from day to day, so you feel almost like they are trying to buy your love.

So what was the achievement?  Quite simply, I took an app with a 2.6 star rating, and bumped it up to a 4-star rating after working there for a few months.

Which was a huge relief!

I almost didn’t switch jobs because of the rating.  I knew people there, and each of them absolutely loved their job.  We were in talks for multiple months before I finally took the dive.  But every time I looked into their company I saw a lackluster 2.6 star rating, and the number of downloads only in the 10,000 – 50,000 category.  I knew I would be in charge of a bad product, with less customers than most my other apps.  I wasn’t impressed.

In fact the only thing that got me over my apprehension was the freedom they were giving me to start a new Android app for managers.  But first before I could, I had to fix their candidate app.  I finally decided I was up to the challenge, and I’m very glad that I did.

So how did I take a 2.6 star app and turn it around?  Honestly there were only two things:

1. Quality

Android is a tricky beast.  It is even more difficult once you start dealing with audio and video.  There are tons of devices, and many little issues here and there.  It isn’t easy to get it right on all the devices, no matter what anyone will tell you.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get it right.  There are a lot of really well supported apps, and a log of really great developers out there.  It just means you have to put extra care and effort into getting it right.

I spent the first two months at HireVue really hammering on the app on as many devices I could find.  I noticed a lot of strange procedures, and rewrote a lot of the code that did the video, network, and recording.  I spent time making sure everything was threadsafe, and wrote a number of automated tests that simulated some really bizarre usage.  Most importantly I didn’t stop looking until I could verify that there was absolutely no way we could fix certain issues (usually by pouring through Android’s open source code to verify the problem was there).

In short, I fixed the issues so we were confident we could run on the majority of devices on the market.

2. Ratings

I believe most people love the HireVue process.  But the ratings were really poor because of two reasons.

First, a candidate with a poor experience was super likely to let us know with a bad rating, we had ruined their interview and quite possibly their potential to get a job.  This is a big deal!  Of course, most of that was addressed with the quality.

Second, assuming a candidate had a great experience they were already exhausted.  An interview takes a lot of energy, and the last thing you want to do is then go rate the app you used to take it.  Beyond this, we already had a survey at the end, so we could judge our candidate experience, this made it further unlikely for candidates to rate as they gave their feedback once.  I had a imple idea.  What if we made the last survey question a call to rate.  A simple question: “Would you like to rate this app?”  Since they were already in survey mode, they were much more likely to give good feedback.

Both worked like a charm, our bad ratings nearly stopped, and our good ratings started coming in more frequently.

And now I can move on to build an amazing manager app from scratch.

Report finds iOS apps riskier than Android apps!

I recently read this article that states that iOS apps are riskier than Android apps.  I make a point of not trusting news articles…  I’m an Android developer, so I like hearing Android doing well.  And it would be easy to just rejoice that Android is awesome, but instead I decided to look a little deeper.

First, the PCWorld article itself But let’s face it, Android @ 83% vs iOS @ 91% hardly makes me feel good.  It is akin to saying, all your data is stolen 9 out of 10 times on iOS but only 8 out of 10 times on Android.  So… you’re telling me all my data is stolen?  Great.

Second, what does ‘risky’ even mean?  So I decided to pull down the report and take a look myself.  Here were the things they considered risky…

  • Location Tracking
  • Access Address Book
  • Access Calendar
  • Single Sign-On (via social network)
  • Identify User (UDID)
  • In-App Purchases
  • Ad Networks

Really? These are the scary ‘risky’ behavior you are basing things off of?  Some I would consider the price of wanting a free app (in-app purchases, ads).  While others may be considered features, depending on the app function (location, address, calendar, single sign-on).

My conclusion?  More FUD, carry on, there’s nothing to see here.

Startup Weekend

A week ago I attended my first Startup Weekend in Provo.  The experience was good overall, but for none of the reasons I expected.  And in the end I had plenty of disappointments, even though I was glad I went.

The Ideas

From the onset I was really excited to hear the great ideas from other people.  I have worked on a lot of fun projects, (from Face Morphing to Augmented Reality and from Kid’s Games to Voice Changers).  I have a notepad full of ideas, and always love to hear ideas from other.  So I was super curious to hear each of the different pitches.

But to be honest the ideas I was underwhelmed.  There were only three ideas that stuck out to me as being interesting enough to work on.

  1. Love Journal – This was interesting since the pitch was given by Nate Bagley.  Nate had spent a year of his life interviewing couples to find the keys to a successful relationship.
  2. Draw-A-Doll – Jethro’s idea to turn kid’s drawings into sewn dolls.  I really liked the idea, but I didn’t want to spend my first Startup Weekend working with a friend as I was worried it would taint my experience.
  3. Mouth Music – An idea to turn your mouth into an instrument.  I had all the skills to make the project a success, I’ve worked on voice manipulators in the past, and was probably the most qualified person in the room to make it happen.  It didn’t make it past the first round, but I was apprehensive about repurposing old code I had already written for the competition anyway.

With so many pitches, I was really hoping to hear a variety of amazing ideas.  But to be honest I came away from the first part of the weekend disappointed.  Day to day, I hear a lot of ideas.  It seems like everyone has an idea for an app, and (not having the skills to make it come to pass) they really want to share it with me.  Since I’ve heard so many one minute pitches in my life, perhaps I just set the bar too high.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a variety of good ideas.  But I was looking for both a good idea, and something I was interested in working on.  In the end I picked Love Journal.

The Skillset

After picking the idea of Love Journal, which later was changed to be called the Love Note the work began.  We looked around the room to assess what kind of skill-set we had.  The goal was to build a moderately complex mobile app.  The breakdown of the skills was interesting…

4 Non-Technical
2 Graphic Designers
3 Web Designers (1 of which is new the field)
1 Android Developer… Me.

From the very beginning I was worried about the amount that we would be able to accomplish.  Nobody had mobile design experience, and I was the only mobile developer.  And the main focus was a mobile app.  But I decided to go in with full throttle and accomplish as much as I possible could.

I threw my headphones on and started working my tail off.  Luckily it turned out one of the graphic designers (Richard Austin) had a good handle on the mobile design, and between the two of us we were able to put together a pretty snazzy looking product with nice animations and good functionality by the end.

The Work

In the beginning I was pretty optimistic.  I knew the project depended upon me so I was working my tail off.  For the first 8 hours or so this worked out great.  But as time went on I started to get more and more discouraged.

The first discouragement was realizing I wouldn’t have the proper backend support.  I tasked a couple of the designers with building me one, but they didn’t seem to know where to start.  So I took the task on myself.  But as time went on, and the hours ticked by I started to lower my expectations further and further, and started to add more and more hacks and shortcuts.

My second discouragement came later in the day when much of the rest of the team just stopped working.  The non-technical members had worked hard, but ran out of things to do.  They were goofing around, watching videos, and chatting on Facebook.  All while my stress was going up realizing the amount of incomplete code that still needed completing.  I really felt the weight of the team on my shoulders, but I didn’t feel the support I was hoping for.

The Company

I love competition, and when I go, I go to win.  That was my attitude with this weekend too.  So there was a big disappointment not being part of a winning group.  On the flip side of things I am really glad I went.  I met some really awesome people.  And, the goal for me of the competition was to meet people, so in the end the experience was well worth it.

Honestly, I’d go again in a heartbeat, even with all my disappointments.  As a developer I don’t always get to interface with the non-technical crowd.  Getting to meet them, hear their side of the story, and learning from them was invaluable.  I run a business on the side, and I know that the business lacks in marketing, business strategy, ect.  I know I need to connect with people that have those skills, but it isn’t something that happens often for me.

If getting away for a few days and working my tail off is the only way to get to know great people, then perhaps it is a price worth paying.

The Food

The most surprising piece of the competition was how greasy gross the food was.  I guess I should have expected as much, but the whole experience left me feeling fairly ill.  It really felt gross by the end of Saturday.  I guess I have a good wife that cooks fairly healthy and treats me well better than I deserve; but I can’t imagine others didn’t feel that same way by the end.  It took me the better part of the next week to rebound from the lack of sleep and gross internal feeling.

All in all the experience wasn’t what I expected at all.  I really wish there were better ways to get in contact with potential entrepreneurial individuals.  But I’m not aware of where they may be.  So until then I’ll probably keep attending just so I can meet great people.