Occupied Neurons, September release

I’ve been scratching the itch of building an app for myself that solves a Job-to-be-done: when I’m networking, I want a tool to remind myself who are the weak ties in my network I’ve talked to, and what I’ve learned about them.  I want visual refreshers (photos I may have of them) and textual reminders of topics and things an otherwise-non-porous-memory would retain about people whose company I have previously enjoyed.

Using Firebase with ReactJS

In all the research I’m doing on prototyping a front end for my app, I’ve struggled to find something that’s more than “assemble every bespoke tag, class and id by hand” but less than “spend the next six months learning AngularJS”.  Focusing on the front-end to explore my user needs, I didn’t want to get stuck developing a big-ass (and probably unnecessary) back-end stack – even just adapting some well-defined pattern – so I started to explore Firebase [which is all front-end coding with a back-end data layer – to approximate it horribly].

And with a couple more explorations of the territory, I stumbled on the ReactJS “getting started” guide via the Hello World app, and finally understood how cool it is to have a pseudo-object-oriented approach to assembling the “V” in MVC.  (Who knows – for all I know, this is just vanilla ES6 now, and I’m just that far behind the times.)

Still, it is strikingly familiar in basic construction and with the promise of integrating a Firebase “backend” to give me a lightweight stack that will more than adequately perform for me as a single user, I’m finally willing to wade through the React Tutorial and see if that’s enough for me to piece together a working prototype

Props vs State in React

This is one of the more striking subtleties of React – how similar props and state are, and how it appears [at least to me] that the distinction is more a convention for others to understand how to use your React code, than anything that is required by the React compiler.


And on the Product Side of my mental tesseract…

I’ve also been refreshing my knowledge of the Product Management practices I haven’t had an opportunity to practice lately.  Amongst which:

How does a Product Manager perform competitive analysis?

This is the clearest-eyed explanation I’ve seen yet about “understanding your competition”.  I’ve worked with too many Product Marketing folks who get spun up about the checklist war, and making sure that we have feature parity in the product, and it’s always seemed like a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Focusing on “what problems does the competition solve for *YOU* dear customer, and why are those important to your core business?” is a whole lot more genuine *and* believable to me.  I’ve never thought of this line of questioning as “competitive analysis”, just part of doing my job to suss out what I can do to help my customers.


The Equifax breach – reckless endangerment of the US citizenry

UN-fucking-believable. I was hoping that this would turn out to be a situation where at the very least, Equifax had built defense-in-depth measures to limit the amount or type of information someone *could* get if an attacker exploited one of the innumerable vulnerabilities that exist on every modern software platform.

Nope – pretty much EVERY piece of sensitive personal data they have on more than half the US adult population was exposed as a result of this attack. Everything that any reasonable check of your identity or financial fitness would use to verify someone is you. Pretty nearly all the info a malicious individual would use to impersonate you, to obtain loans in your name, or file a tax return to get a refund, or screw with you life in many other highly-damaging ways.

Some choice quotes from https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/09/why-the-equifax-breach-is-very-possibly-the-worst-leak-of-personal-info-ever/:

By providing full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some cases, driver license numbers, it provided most of the information banks, insurance companies, and other businesses use to confirm consumers are who they claim to be.

That means well more than half of all US residents who rely the most on bank loans and credit cards are now at a significantly higher risk of fraud and will remain so for years to come.

Meanwhile, in the hours immediately following the breach disclosure, the main Equifax website was displaying debug codes, which for security reasons, is something that should never happen on any production server, especially one that is a server or two away from so much sensitive data. A mistake this serious does little to instill confidence company engineers have hardened the site against future devastating attacks [editorializing:…or even that the company’s engineers have half a clue what they can do to prevent the rest of the US’ personal data from leaking – if there’s even any left in their databases left to find].

The management and executives of this company should not only resign, but be brought on charges of criminal, reckless negligence on behalf of all Americans. They (along with the other two credit reporting agencies, and dozens of grey-market data hoarders) are stewards and power brokers over our lives, central/single points of failure in an economy that is nearly all digital, and which so fragily transacts on such thin premises of trust and explicit, positive assertions of identity.

We should not only be scared of how terribly their negligence endangers our lives for the rest of our lives, but be rationally and irrationally angry that the lobbyists and oligarchs have set up a system where these careless morons can and will walk away with a slap on the wrists, a cost-of-doing-business fine and strictures, for foreseeably ruining millions of lives and livelihoods.

What to do

I froze my credit after one of the big health insurer breaches a while back, and so far my life hasn’t been significantly inconvenienced – but the very fact that we each are forced to opt in to this measure, and insult-to-injury forced to pay for the privilege of preventing something none of us asked for, is just downright Mafia tactics.

You should probably freeze your credit too ASAP, because even if you weren’t affected this time, inevitably you were in the past or will be in the future. This brittle negligence and lack of accountability is what the US economy runs on