Narrowing the Focus

I’m now officially working on my capstone app for Udacity’s Android Developer Nanodegree. First, in stage 1,  I will be designing the app, before starting to build it (stage 2). My design documents will include a description, UI flow mocks, and a list of required tasks that I need to complete to build the app.

I had been planning on creating an app on outdoor activities in and around Silverton, Oregon– where I live. However, there are a lot of activities and I want my app to be focused and manageable. We have Silver Falls State Park– which is huge. People call it the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Park system. It is 9,200 acres with waterfalls, camping, hiking trails, and activities. Although rare, you might even run into a black bear or bobcat– if so tell the park ranger. Then we have the reservoir– which is literally down the street from me– where you can go kayaking or boating, have a picnic, do some camping, or go for a nature hike. Next, there’s the Oregon Garden– which is a treasure. It is a lush 80 acre botanical garden with an amphitheater, a resort hotel and restaurant, tours, and year round activities. Some of the events include Christmas in the Garden, Yoga in the Garden, Movies in the Garden, Jazz in the Garden, Brewfest, a fireworks show, Art in the Garden, and many other events and activities. Also in Silverton, there are parks, the river, and other outdoor activities.

The project needed narrowing. This is usually how research goes– you start out big and then your idea becomes more focused as you progress. For this project, my focus will be on the Oregon Garden. Over the next week, I will be designing the app on paper: illustrating each screen, documenting the tasks, deciding on my method for handling data persistence, describing any corner cases in the UX, and noting any libraries I will be using as well as documenting my reason for their inclusion. After I am satisfied with my design, I will arrange a meeting with an Oregon Garden representative to discuss the app.

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

My Android Development

Since last summer, I have been enrolled in Udacity’s Android Nanodegree program (co-created with Google). It is a 9-12 month project-based journey for Java developers. It has definitely helped me take my software development skills to higher levels as I prepare to work full-time as an Android developer. One of many things that I love about the program is the community aspect. I find that developers, whether on Stack Overflow or in my Android developer community- are more than eager to help each other and share knowledge, as well as show enthusiasm about one another’s creativity and accomplishments. I love the idea of open source as well. This camaraderie is actually something that I would have liked to see more of in my academic experience as a lecturer in political science and international relations.

Currently, I’m on my next to last project, which is developing an Android wear watch face for an app and syncing the data. After that, I begin work on my capstone app, which will be published in the Google Play Store. I’ve decided to create an app focused on outdoor activities in and around Silverton, Oregon – where I reside. I’m looking forward to it. It will be in the Play Store in mid-summer. I’ll be blogging about the research process for my app over the next couple of months.

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment

Mobile Technology in Society


Question for Paul:
What is your opinion on mobile technology as it relates to society and culture?

That’s a great question. Mobile technology, and tech broadly, has its good and bad sides. From a personal perspective, working from the development and programming end of it, I love the intellectual satisfaction of working with algorithms and design patterns. I like being creative and appreciate the interconnectedness that technology brings to us. On the other hand, this connectivity is on a very superficial level and should not replace real socialization and community. We are seeing more and more anti-social people who lack basic communication skills, which may be influenced by certain types of technology, including mobile devices. It is fulfilling a human need in an illusory way.

One of the appealing aspects of mobile tech, besides being able to make a good living in the face of a poor (and often politically charged) academic job market, is how mobile is used to help people gain access to basic education, for instance, apps employed in Africa to alleviate illiteracy and support teacher training. While I don’t personally enjoy reading a lot of digital material– especially on a small screen– (I prefer traditional books), I can see the benefits that technology brings to people, who do not have library or bookstore access (traditional or online).

Unfortunately, the market is flooded with games and apps, some of which are a waste of time and brains cells, serving only to make consumers dumber, more distracted, and less able to communicate with others in the real world. I suppose the sole purpose of the creation of such material is to generate income for the developer or business owner. However, there are applications and technological innovations that bring concrete services to people and fill societal needs. My involvement, as a programmer and developer, in the world of software, is guided by the vision of using technology to benefit society. Mobile is already here (one billion Android devices now), and not going anywhere, so we might as well struggle to make it something positive for humanity and not a negative force. I am a Citizen Engineer, and a book bearing that name (Douglas, Papadopoulas, Boutelle 2010) discusses our responsibility:

“Being an engineer today means being far more than an engineer. You need to consider not only the design requirements of your projects but the full impact of your work– from an ecological perspective, an intellectual property perspective, a business perspective, and a sociological perspective, And you must coordinate your efforts with many other engineers, sometimes hundreds of them. In short, we’ve entered an age that demands socially responsible engineering on a whole new scale: The era of the Citizen Engineer.”

La vie est belle, profitez de chaque moment