Camera Design Decisions

A couple years ago I released one of my favorite apps, Goofy Glass.  Since that initial release I have pushed out many updates.  Along the way I have come across a variety of difficult design decisions.  This latest release has been especially difficult, and so I’ve decided to recap the tradeoffs I made.

Initial Design

Two years ago the initial design of Goofy Glass was based on Android’s open source camera.  They locked the phone into a single orientation, and then handle “orientation changes” by monitoring the sensor and simply rotating all the elements on the screen manually.


While this isn’t a very common design, it is actually a really smooth experience for a camera.  There are three things that makes this nice:

  1. It is fast.  Since the layout doesn’t change none of the surfaces or the camera have to be reinitialized.
  2. It makes taking pictures easy.  It allows you to take photos with your left or right hand, from the top or bottom.
  3. It makes things simple.  With only one orientation to worry about, there is a lot less design to worry about.

The Challenges

This was great, and I loved having in my app.  But over the last couple of years I’ve noticed some really big drawbacks to using this method.

device-2014-11-03-213857Rotating buttons
In order for this method to work everything has to be rotated manually.  Initially this was simply buttons, so with a little code abstraction that was easy.  But in order for this to work everything I ended up needing to rotate fragments, dialogs, action bar and event toast messages.  And rotating some of these items required creativity and sometimes a worse layout.  For instance, fragments all had to be perfectly square so they could rotate correctly.

Problems with ads
One of the biggest problems has been with ads.  For some reason still unknown to me, rotating ads causes all sorts of problems.  On some devices they don’t show, on others they only show only if you add background to them.  They get copped funky if you’re not careful, and the full page ads always show up toward the forced orientation.  Goofy Glass actually has my lowest performing ads of all my apps, and this is one of the big reasons why.

device-2014-11-03-213305Confusion w/ Software Buttons
On a phone with hardware buttons it is easy to miss this.  Even on a phone with software buttons you probably won’t notice, since phones tend to lock the software buttons toward the ‘bottom’ of the screen.  But on a 7″ tablet it is glaringly obvious.  Most people use the 7 in portrait by default.  When the app is locked in landscape, and the user is in portrait, the home button is on the left side of the screen, which is ugly and hard to find.

Face detection woes (other filters)
And last, but not least, it was really cramping my style.  Every filter I built I had to worry about rotations, and the impact it would have.  For most filters, this isn’t too terrible.  But I’ve had plans to add face tracking to the app for a while, and it was getting complicated fast.  Most of the programming for it is done, but finding a rotated face and rotating the effect to match the face was proving to be quite painful.

The Solution

device-2014-11-03-215315I finally decided the cost of this design was too high.  So in this latest update I decided to finally break it apart.  And wow, did it turn out to be a lot of work, much of the work was simply a process of undoing what was already in.  The interesting thing is apparently the Google team had the same problems, because their latest updates don’t lock the orientation anymore either.

I will admit I’m going to miss those smooth animations.  Design is almost never straightforward.  And contrary to popular belief no single design will win, there will always be tradeoffs in the decisions we make.

Google Play No Longer Loves Indie Developers

Both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store were built on the backs of independent developers.  The platform was wonderful!  People could easily find exactly the apps they were looking for, and developers could finally reach out to niche markets.  The pay for developers was reasonable, and the cost for users was much cheaper than traditional software.  Life was great.

But not anymore.  Let me share a couple experiences…

unnamedOver two years ago I released my second app to the Play Store, Funny Voice Changer.  My first app, Palette Painter, had a really slow launch, after all it only supported Android 3.0 on launch day which had less than 1% of the market (though it supports 2.2+ now, and is still going strong).  I expected the same slow response with Funny Voice Changer, so I clicked Publish and went on vacation.  Boy was I wrong.

Funny Voice Changer exploded overnight.  It was getting thousands of downloads a day.  In fact, it was too many.  I wasn’t ready for the barrage of ratings, the bugs it encountered, and the emotional roller coaster that ensued.  I gave up on the app after just a couple of months, something I have regretted ever since.

unnamed1I have since learned about the importance of iteration, and finally decided to fix those two apps, and remove that regret from my shoulders.  Yesterday, I finally released the refreshed versions, Funny Voice Changer 2.0 and Scary Voice Changer 2.0.

So how is the launch going so far?  Try a little experiment for me, go to the play store and search for Funny Voice Changer or better yet, use the name exactly Funny Voice Changer 2.0.  Do you see it?  If you don’t, that’s because it is ranked #124 for the first, and #88 for the second.  That’s right you can’t even find your own apps by name anymore.  Note: You will see my Voice Changers from 2.5 years ago in the 1st and 4th places.  You won’t find my new voice changers.

You can’t even find your own apps by name anymore.

Perhaps this is a one time thing?  (Well two technically, since there are two voice changers)  But the same thing happened to me just a couple weeks ago.  I released a fun Hidden Animals game.  My son loves it, and I’m certain other kids would as well.  But the day of the launch I couldn’t find it.  Even searching by the exact name it didn’t show up at all, not in any page, in any search I tried.  I have since tweaked the name and description a bit and have gotten it to show up at about the same 100th place on the search, but not exactly a searchable spot.


So how are they ranking apps via search?  Nobody knows.  Which is probably for the best, otherwise people would game the system.  It is obvious that the title and description don’t help as much as they once did.  So perhaps there is a variety of good reasons they’ve done so, right?  After all,the goal is to provide people with the best apps possible.  So what factors could they be using to rank apps?

Here are a few ideas along with some comments:

– Ratings.  This actually seems like a fairly reasonable way to organize apps.  But I have my doubts that it actually has much of an effect.  After all my previous Funny Voice Changer is ranked #1 and it has a miserable 3.3 star rating.  But worse, even some 1-star apps are showing up higher than my new apps, and these are apps that people obviously don’t want.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.28.46 AM

– True intent.  A user types in “Funny Voice Changer”, but is really interested in any voice recorder out there.  This has a grain of salt to it, we don’t always know exactly what we are looking for.  Though I believe people are generally pretty good at it… but if they are looking for a funny voice changer it doesn’t make much sense to show a face changer.  That having been said, there are a *lot* of voice changers, so I do applaud Google for trying to parse it into something reasonable (assuming the results are reasonable).

– Number downloads.  Once again it makes sense that if an app is downloaded a lot it must be loved.  Though I do argue this should be weighted by how well people *liked* the app after they downloaded it.  For instance, even though this app has 100,000 – 500,000 downloads, something tells me that if you download it, you won’t like it.  This method of course helps either apps that have been in the store for a long time (regardless of worth), and developers with large pockets who can advertise to get a lot of downloads quickly.

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.27.47 AM

– App awesomeness.  I think this is a great metric, but how do you calculate this?  The only way I can think would be how pleasing the screenshots, title, description, ect are.  I would love to believe that they’re doing crunching on these to calculate an awesome score, but seeing apps like this and this make me believe they aren’t.

– App life – I’ve heard some people say that uninstalls have a huge impact on your ranking.  That makes a fair bit of sense, and I hope it is something they are doing.  On the other side of things, not all lifecycles are the same.  While some apps like Facebook you may keep on for the long haul, there are apps that may be perfect for an occasion.  Mine are great for sleepovers, others are great for weddings, and others for travel.  But you still should be able to find those apps if you’re in the moment.

– External links/Google magic.  This seems the most reasonable idea.  But it also tends to benefit those with large pockets.  Do you want lots of reviews of your app?  Do you want press releases?  Then open up your checkbook, because nothing is free.  And that’s assuming  your SEO efforts even pay off, it is very likely they won’t.

I don’t know how their ranking algorithm works.  But it is clear to me that as an indie developer it is no longer worth it to invest my time into building creative apps for the Play Store.

I’d love to hear your experiences on deploying to the store.  Has it been the same for you?

Google NEXT

For the past 5 weeks I’ve had an amazing opportunity to be a part of the NEXT program in Provo.  It has been an amazing experience, and I am very grateful for all the mentorship shared with us.

So what is NEXT?  NEXT is a program for entrepreneurs to help them validate their idea.  To prevent spending tons of time and effort building a product that nobody will ever use.  The biggest thing I learned from the program was to Fail Fast.  

The principle if very simple: the quicker (and cheaper) you can validate an idea, the quicker you can move on to the next idea.  If you can do that before you fall in love with the idea, then you’ll be able to pivot over and over again.   Soon you’ll refine your idea into an idea that people are banging down your door to get their hands on.  Of course that is easier said than done, and the 5-week class was there to teach us how.

As a developer, I spend way too much time in the underbelly of an idea.  I want to see how hard it is, how fun it is, how interesting it is.  And by the time I start showing people I’m well past the point of no return, the idea has become my baby long before it is ever validated.

And of course idea after idea I’ve had a very silly approach to building them.  I outlined this faulty approach in my presentation as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 10.31.32 PM


Essentially it boiled down to:

1) Come up with an idea I liked…
2) Work my tail off to see it come together…
3) Release, and scratch my head at the results.

So how well as this worked out for me?  Well of the apps I’ve worked on they currently fit into one of the following categories:


Successful (but did not reach full potential):vocode_icon_512icon_512

Unsuccessful: icon app_icon_512  icon

Unreleased (or TBD): app_icon3  app_icon  app_icon

Needless to say, that is a terrible business plan.  Never knowing what will work before launch, and never completely knowing why the successful ones are.  The good news, I started doing these apps for fun, so the loss isn’t a big one.  I’ve enjoyed working on each and every one, and am actually very proud of them (even the non-successful ones).  That having been said, there is nothing worse than working on something really hard, loving the project dearly, and then releasing it to the applause of nothing but crickets.

For my future projects I plan to follow the lean startup ideal, and Fail Fast.  Thanks NEXT for all the advice!



Spot! Animals Released

I just recently launched the perfect game for kids and toddlers.  It is a hidden objects game like Where’s Waldo or Eye Spy.  It is a 100% free for a limited time.  Below are more details about the game.  Check it out, and let me know what you think.


Screenshot 2014.04.09 09.21.18Search for animals and hidden objects and this perfect game for kids and toddlers.  Match the cards along the bottom with the animals in the scene as you explore these beautiful landscapes with hidden animals.  Search in the zoo, prairie, ocean, and more to earn stickers.  With over 400 animals and items  to find in 10 beautiful levels your kids will enjoy playing Spot! Animals over and over again.

Even toddlers can play with a mode that doesn’t require any matching at all.  Tap any of the animals and be rewarded with a splash of color and sound.  My son loved it, and was the perfect little beta tester to make sure they game is perfect for toddlers, I’m sure your kids will love it too.

Screenshot 2014.04.09 09.21.30

Where the wild things are

Where_The_Wild_Things_Are_(book)_coverAs part of #ChildrensBookDay I thought I’d write about one of my favorite books growing up.  This book is none other than Where the Wild Things Are.  But to be completely honest, it wasn’t so much the book I loved as the experience.  But to truly understand you have to know my Dad.


I was lucky to have a really amazing Dad growing up.  He cared deeply about us kids, and our education, and spent plenty of time teaching and playing.  We had a family motto: “Work hard.  Play hard.”  And we did a healthy amount of both.  But anyone that truly knows my dad also knows he is super clever and extremely hilarious (as long as his funnies don’t go way over your head, which they often do).

This was no different as a child.  We had story time every night for long hours at a time.  Like any good storyteller he did the right voices, perfect intonations, and of course an energy that really helped us to engage in the story.  And Where the Wild Things Are was one of the best.  Right in the middle of the book are three amazing pages.  No words.  Pure party.  The Wild Rumpus, of course.

where-wild-things-are-rumpus rosenbach-sendak-wwta-rumpus_300dpi_ WildThings1

Every night we would conduct our own wild rumpus, and I never wanted to the last rumpus page to turn.  I hold that tradition with Logan still.  When we read Where the Wild Things Are we hold a wild rumpus that Grandpa would be proud of.  We party all around the house, and Logan loves it dearly.  While my memory fails me, something deep inside of me tells me we throw down many of the same dance moves my dad and I did nearly 3 decades ago.

Thanks Dad for reading to me as a kid.  My love for books is in large part thanks to you.  And I’m doing my best to impart that same love to Logan, which is succeeding all too well.  He is already bartering hugs for books.  “One book, big hug”, he says, a request that is nearly impossible to deny.

(And thanks mom, you taught me to love books too.  Although I sometimes think you gave me the, life-stops-because-I-can’t-put-a-good-book-down gene.)

Kickstarter is Live

After lots of work I am proud to finally announce that my Kickstarter has gone live.  I’ve been super impressed and grateful by the amount of support I’ve received so far.  Please help the good vibes keep rolling by sharing in any way possible.


As the project goes on, I’ll be sure to bring updates and information about the process.  So check back soon for lots of news and goodies, but in the meantime go back the project!

Goodnight Lad Kickstarter

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.