Reflection on Peer Appraisal Exercise

This is truly an interesting exercise. First of all I would like to thank all my team mates who took the extra effort to appraise my performance for the past 3 assignments. I totally understand the “extra effort” part as I myself have to appraise all those that I have worked with too.

Peer appraisal might sound or look easy up front, but It’s really not as easy as it seems. Maybe it’s just me but putting feelings down into words is not trivial at all. So once again thank you awesome team mates!

So now on to the reflection. The recurring theme in the appraisal result is that I am an ideas person. It’s like deja vu because last year ideas was also the recurring theme in my peer appraisal.

I dug deep within hoping to unearth what makes me cause others to think that I am an ideas person. I really don’t know. Well I did not aim to be the “ideas” person when I decide to take this module again. I wanted to be a “coder“. But I guess it’s still a long way before I’m up to par. Joshua, let’s work harder on this together!!

But seriously I believe everyone is capable of coming out with great ideas. Ok, let me try asking myself how did I end up with so much ideas?

  • Read. Read a lot more. Read something outside of my field of study. Don’t know what got into me, I just decide to pick up an American History Textbook and started reading. Of course, having someone like Ben Leong as your Facebook Friend does help boost your reading a little bit more. Now I think about it, maybe it’s because I’ve added Ben Leong as my Facebook friend – my Facebook News Feed is never the same again.
  • Lateral thinking helps a lot. Sometimes great ideas pop when I try to piece different disciplines together in your head.
  • The propensity to ask a lot of questions help too. Well, one of the major complain that I have from friends (not from this peer appraisal) is that I ask “Why?” too much. Asking “What If?” helps too.
  • Of course nothing beats writing down my ideas. Ideas come when I least expect – Serendipity happens. Toilet and Bathroom cubicles especially. That’s why it’s important to record it/jot it/blog it down whenever it happens. I used my smartphone as my brain extension. And it’s working pretty well so far.

But having said all that, yes having ideas is good. But since  ideas’ a dime a dozen, I think successfully executing an idea is even more valuable. And that is a skill that is not so easy to hone. In fact, in the context of a web app, it takes more than one person to successfully execute an idea.

Now onto the “Bad” side. I got a “MIA sometimes” and “Difficult to reach at times” and a suggested improvement of “To put away messages so that I know you’re unavailable”. Whoever you are, I really treasure your comments. I will try to leave “away” messages. Perhaps as Gtalk status?


As I think about it, I think this has to do with my unusual nocturnal waking hours than anything else. I’m aware of the problem and I don’t think there’s an easy fix. Meanwhile the easiest way to reach me is through Facebook, SMS, Email and Gtalk. Generally I just dislike picking up phone calls. I guess my growing up in a home where there’s a telephone hotline makes you subconsciously refuse to pick up the phone. Maybe that explains why I really prefer higher latency communication.

Windows + Left/Right to Dock Windows on Dual Monitors (Win7)

For the longest time I am quite frustrated with the fact that I can’t mouse dock my windows in the inner side of a monitor in a dual monitor setup. Somehow googling it for answer didn’t occur until today. So I found out that you can actually Windows + Left/Right arrow to dock them.

docking window inner side windows + left/right

Woohoo~ Now if only mouse dock works as well.

Now Windows + Shift + Left/Right shifts your windows to the other screen while preserving the window size. Win7 is quite polished.

Cinch on Mac OS X does mouse docking really well.

Case Studies Review: Get Help! (2.0) & Team Dynamics

User Interface & Interaction Design

So today’s “lecture” is about User Interface & Interaction Design based on the Facebook app “Get Help” by Su Yean, Kent Nguyen and team. This is the 2nd time I am attending this seminar/lecture.

The slanted tabs is being mentioned again. Haha, looks like the simplistic interface of Facebook and how it became successful have somehow infiltrated al our minds. Or wait, maybe it has always been like this, maybe Facebook just somehow nailed it. On this note, I have a question, is there a place for slanted tabs? Maybe not in Facebook?


Gamification is also discussed. I don’t remember whether it was mentioned last year. Well judging by the amount of hours gamers spent playing games, I guess the gaming companies did something right. Maybe it appeals to the natural instincts of human beings. It’s like they are able to push the right button in people’s brain. People get excited and motivated to complete a virtual achievement or earn a virtual badge. The most interesting fact is that adopting the same game concepts unto learning works, think  “JFDI Academy“.

JFDI Academy Logo

Apparently JFDI Academy  is so compelling that students leveled up during the lecture itself. Meaning that it’s more exciting to work on the assignments than listening to the prof’s lecture. Ok, I have digressed. But it’s interesting how gaming is shaping the reality landscape. I believe this concept is not too far-fetched

Video Game High School

It’s the near future: You’re dead. Your kids are probably dead.
Your grandkids (if they’re alive) are playing video games.
Why? Because professional gaming is the biggest sport on earth.
Around the world, millions of players duke it out in fighters, RTS’s, First Person Shooters and more.
To the victors go the spoils: glory, clan contracts and million dollar endorsements. The best young gamers are recruited by elite boarding schools to sharpen their skills. The best of the best go to VGHS: VIDEO GAME HIGH SCHOOL.


A:B Testing. Two different version of the same apps. “People are not like you”. Therefore it is important to constantly tweak your apps to fit what’s popular, or plainly what’s giving you the highest click-through rate. Minimizing the number of hops to the desired end result. I think the randomize links to show two different layout and functionalities is quite interesting. Now for Final Project, let’s try to make this happen.


Team Dynamics

Read my blog post about Fan Gang.

Ideas first” OR “Team first“?

Like what I’ve said in my previous blog post, it all depends on the context in which the team is in. By coming back to the context of this module, for final project. We have only 6 weeks. The sage’s advice is that we wouldn’t want to end up in a deadlock like the US Congress.


Prof. Ben mentioned that as Project Manager, try not to be too much like a “Nice Guy”. Be firm. Somehow it reminded me of this “Nice Guys” video by KevJumba.

I don’t believe that “Nice Guys” always finish last. But it is important to be constantly reminded of what is the team’s established vision and make firm decisions. Remember to aim for WIN-WIN situations rather than compromises.

Quote of the day “If you can’t finish the project, write a good report!” (Applause)

CS3216: Case Study 2 – Team Dynamics (Fan Gang)

As I have done the case study for “Get Help!” last year (see blog post here), I shall write about “Fan Gang” instead. To understand my response below, you have to read this Assignment PDF first.

FAN Gang 樊刚

Note: This blog post is not about Fan Gang 樊刚 – (wiki) one of China’s most prominent economists and one China’s most active reform advocates



Ok, on to my Case Study response:

First of all, I think “Fan Gang” is a very bad name. Not sure why but “Gang” sounds amateurish to me. But it could be just me, sometimes our views might not quite like others. (

Ok, on to the discussion questions:

  1. Lanh said, “It would be really bad if we have a great idea but are unable to execute it successfully”. What are your views? Which is more important - the idea or the execution? Why?

    I would like to use Prof. Ben’s favourite quote to answer this question “it depends”. It really depends on the situation. Of course in the context of CS3216 module, execution should take a higher priority. After all there are certain milestone that a team would have to meet by the end of the semester. Poster session is one of it. Like how Jeremy have felt during the Poster Session. It kinda miss the point to have a Poster Session if there were nothing to showcase. But at the same time, without an idea that the team truly believes in (also mentioned in the text) it would be a waste of everyone’s time. Having said that, all is not lost if an app does not execute well. Well, if it’s not because of what “Fan Gang” group did, Prof. Ben wouldn’t have such a wonderful example for this Team Dynamics assignment. “Sometimes in life it could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”


    Ok, the demotivational poster is a joke. I didn’t mean to disrespect the team’s hard work.
    But at the very least everyone in the team brought home a valuable lesson. Think about it, isn’t this what school is for? A sandbox environment for people to take big risks. Failed. Learn from mistakes.

  2. What have you learnt about Facebook so far?

    Facebook? Listen to your users, but not by listening to what they have to say but rather “listen” to their usage behaviour. Throughout Facebook existence, they have changed their user interface so many times that I think even they themselves lost count. Take a trip down Facebook’s memory lane here
    facebook evolution

  3. Comment on the ideas for Another Life and Fan Gang.

    I don’t want to talk too much about the “idea” of either Another Life or Fan Gang because it hasn’t really been tested in a real environment. But judging from the success of “The Sims Social”,”FarmVille”, “CityVille” and many other simulation games, who’s to say “Another Life” wouldn’t take off if it was executed properly. Same for “Fan Gang”, never try never know. Although Prof. Ben was not convinced that people will want to have “Fan Pages” for ordinary people, but now we have “Facebook Like Pages” and what do you know, I’m sure there are even Facebook Pages for cute cats and favourite friends. Maybe if Fan Gang was properly developed back then, Facebook might even take interest and acquire the group? Perhaps it really did happen, in an alternate universe.

  4. Should the team have changed their idea for the Final Project mid-way or stuck to their original idea? Why, or why not?

    From the way it was described in the text, the team seem to be more excited about “Another Life” than “Fan Gang”. Especially since the decision to change their idea for Final Project was done with a Team Vote, that means it might not a consensus. In retrospect, maybe they would be better off continuing with “Another Life”. As I have learned through the hard way, one small ounce of belief in an idea can motivate a person for a long way. The opposite is also true, one small ounce of doubt can grow into toxic and energy will be drained. Sometimes, one small ounce of energy is enough to push through the threshold.

  5. List the major problems (obvious and non-obvious ones) in faced by the team? How could they have done differently and better?

    Knowing the limited time frame they have, I think the team is really too ambitious to try to implement everything by the project deadline. I think the team would be in a much better position if they aimed for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) instead of a full feature app at the end of the assignment. In essence I think an Agile Development methodology might suit them better. I might be entirely qualified, but I got the feeling that there are little place left for Waterfall model development in the software development world. Especially since user feedback plays such an important role in the feature of an app.

  6. What did the team do right/well?

    I think the team was really thorough in their features/specs list. That is no easy feat.

  7. What would you do if you were Jeremy on the evening of 24th April (and the deadline for the final project submission was the next day)?

    I would ask my room mate to help as much as he can? I would beg Prof. Ben to extend the deadline? I really don’t know. However, If I myself fully believe in the idea and there really is nothing else I can do to salvage the situation, I will start blogging about my whole experience. Although I’m not good at writing, but I found that writing my thoughts down in words help me process my emotions and thoughts better. At the very least I should crystalize the lessons learned so that i will not repeat it again in the future.

  8. How would you handle a situation where one of your team members is unable to deliver on the work he/she promised because of personal problems?

    Well, if confronting the person doesn’t work, one could complain and rant about it for a little while. But ultimately it’s about sucking up your chest and move on. Delegate the remaining task. Cut some features and get it done.

  9. What, in your opinion, are the key learning points from this case study?

    As title, “Team Dynamics”. Have an idealistic long-term goal but realistic short-term goals. Be tactful when dealing with people. Do not be afraid to take risks.

Vsee talk

Today Prof. Ben invited Milton from Vsee to speak. He started by introducing the Vsee technology. I really think it’s uber cool. Interestingly why wouldn’t I have heard of this before this…. For such a cool technology, perhaps they could use a bit more coverage on popular media?


I’m really grateful that Milton is sharing what he’d learned in starting Vsee and his life. I think this is one of the added points of CS3216. You get to take a peek into other people’s brain, priceless.

He said quite a lot, but I am just going to blog about these few points that caught my attention.

On people to people relationship, he mentioned the “Sandwich” method. In essence, when you have to provide negative feedback, you start with a positive compliment to the person, then you move on to provide the negative feedback, but remember to target the action not the person. Lastly, you add some icing by providing another round of positive feedback. This reminds me of a Saturday night session with HuanJin and CheeEng. One of them mentioned about this before, and I have always tried to use it whenever I remember. I have to agree with Milton, this method really does work. Even if the other party knew that you are using the sandwich method, it still work. The challenge is to have this mechanism kicks in when you’re angry, overwhelm with furiousity. I just have to say, it’s not easy, not easy at all.

Milton likes to read biographies. I like it too. But it’s interesting that he would recommend the biographies of Hitler and such to gain a different perspective of how people look at people. Maybe I should do that. But ever since I got my galaxyS2 and data plan I found myself reading more online articles than books. In fact, the books in my room are already gathering dust. But it’s really a struggle, there are so many things to do, so little time. Milton mentioned that one way to really know what’s important to you is to always seek out new experience. It’s only after you try you’ll know whether you like a certain thing or not. IMO, that sounds like a good strategy except there are quite a few things out there that it’s better not to try as it might have lasting effects. Again it sounds like “balance” is always the key.

He quoted that someone mentioned that man are lousy decision makers until they are 51 years old. Apparently we are not mature enough and we don’t have enough experience yet to make really good decisions. Now I’m curious, how about women? Does the 51-rule applies to them as well?

My respect for Milton have just increase again after hearing that he persisted for 5 years, 2003-2008 before he got his first round of investment. He must really believe in his solution, it’s passion meets reality.

“Comfort is the worst prison.” IMO, life is made out of many different compartments, I think some compartments are meant to be comfortable and some must not be too comfortable lest it hinders growth.

Creating Value

I arrived quite late for this CS3216 external pitching session and missed Reuben’s presentation. Sorry bro.

I arrived smack right when Gary was presenting. I couldn’t agree more to what Darren have said, he is too weak in audience engagement. Can’t he see that everyone is bored and restless halfway through his presentation?
Personally I found the candlestick idea to be very interesting. I have the same sentiment when Prof. Ben asked, “Does it really work?”.

Moving on.

Dr. Dana & First Aid Corps.
Dr. Dana’s work is really commendable. He showed us statistics of CPR in resusitating a cardiac arrest patient. Surprisingly CPR doesn’t really help the overall surviving rate. AED is supposed to be better but people seem to have problem using it correctly. Even after going through AED trainings, studies have found that people tend to forget 50% of the stuff that they’ve learned during the training. Thus, he wants to help retention by making a game of some sort. IMHO, making it viral seem to be the way to solve this.

All in all, I just have to say that we definitely need more people like him in our society. Constantly trying to solve real world problems. And this is a problem of life and death. Now I hope someone from the class pair up with him to make the AED training game. Wait, maybe we can incorporate some of the AED locations in our HTML5 app. Idea to ponder about.

Module-Review came to pitch again. I’m fortunate enough to have most of my modules assigned to me when I was still in NUS. One thing i notice about module choosing, most of the time it,s about choosing modulr that doesn’t clash with your core modules. So many times I’ve singled out the modules that I want to take only to realize that it clashes with my core. Pain. So if module-review does integrate module planning and do a better job than CORS, I’ll use.

He mention that future iteratikn might include degree planning. Yes that is totally relevant. As of before my graduation, some of the university requirements and total MC to graduate stuff really caused me some pain along the way. But a simple excel spreadsheet and some calculations did the trick.

It’ll be nice if it integrates with CORS and IVLE.

The only problem with this module-review platform is that it’s usage is periodical in nature. Very hard to retain users. Quite hard to monetize also. The site hits will be almost barren during say the 3 months holiday. It’s a hard problem. Maybe he should work with COMCEN on this.

Ok I’m quite confused. What does this Cliquefund venture is trying to do? I know it’s something to do with investment and I remember feeling that “Hey this guy is out there to change the corrupted economy system, cool”. But otherwise I have no idea what it’s about. Anything would care to enlighten me?

App Seminar (Pekay’s Little Author & Many More)

SquareSquareFirst up we have Square, a mobile payment solution that includes a credit card reader & an app. Hey it's a smart solution, it uses the sound jack. If I got it correctly from the presentation, the device translate the magnetic strip data into sound first before decoding it back into ones and zeroes. For this itself this app deserves a "star". Here's a promo video for Square.

The team mentioned that someone managed to crack the app in BlackHat. I wonder how did they do it? Did they build they own card reader? The team also mentioned that they did try to sniff the packets by using wireshark. But somehow it doesn't work because Square uses RAW sockets (whatever that is, it's supposed to be secure).

Square charges 2.75% as commission for each swipe. Hey, they even have a promo video for this flat rate feature.

However according to their analysis, it might be cheaper to use Square for the initial $4500, but conventional POS services is more cost-effective afterwards. I think this analysis only applies to particular situation where a vendor can actually support a POS setup. Mobile vendors, house-call doctors, artists etc wouldn't have the luxury of setting up a POS on-the-go, therefore, I still think Square is really revolutionary.

InClassInClassThis is supposed to be an app for you to take notes while you're in class. The first thing the team mentioned is that the app has a non-intuitive UI/UX. I have not personally used the app but according to my classmate Ajay, he downloaded and deleted the app in 15minutes. Come on, text cursor on the right? It doesn't help when it crashes very often too.

Other than fixing the UI/UX and crash bugs, the app could go a long way if it collaborated with educational institutions and integrates with online books stores. IMHO, it's good to have many integrated features. But I guess that has to be shelve for the far future. The app needs to iron out the kinks and garner a strong user base first. If not it'll end up like many feature-bloated Microsoft products.

During the Q&A, Blackboard was mentioned. I took a glimpse of Blackboard Learn and it looks like a generic version of NUS IVLE.

Oh ya, I quite like the presentation style. Not many words, simple and straight-to-the-point pictures.
PulseNewsPulse NewsI'm sold. After just 2 mins into the presentation, I've downloaded the app on my GSII and started using it. And it actually integrates with Read it Later, Instapaper etc. I'm sold. I like the intuitive UI and mosaic layout. The best part is it integrates well with Google Reader and Facebook. Sadly it doesn't really recognize Google Reader "labels" thus I can't really insert the whole CS3216-2011 RSS as a source.

The team mentioned about the inability to customize the layout. IMHO, I think it's very much a design decision, inspired by Apple iOS perhaps? Another drawback the team mentioned is that the search is not optimized. One day into using the app, I realized that I didn't even touch the search function, their recommended list is sufficient for me. Maybe I'll grumble in the future when I need to use the search feature.

Some of the possible further implementation mentioned include
  • Text-to-speech
  • "Donate Now" button. Actually I will donate if the premium features adds value to my life.
  • Braille version. Now I think this is really pushing it too far. It's not even sure how a capacitive touch screen device can implement braille. But if the app really does manage to do it, it'll be a big hit.

  • As of now, it is not possible to customize the layout. Now I think this is very much a design decision. The unique selling point of this app is the mosaic layout. Personally I think the dark theme is also intentional. Dark surrounding gives focus to the subject content.

  • Search is not optimize. This one is true. It just gives me one whole chunk of unfiltered information. I guess with good recommendation subscriptions, search become less of a priority feature.

Possible implementation mentioned by the team:
  • Text-to-speech. Not too sure how popular this will be as I have never really used those text-to-speech features in apps. Reading is faster.

  • Ask for donatation button. Prof. Ben mentioned that it is not that good a model. But actually if the app is real good, adds value to my life, and it's free, I would donate to support a fellow developer.

  • Braille version. Are you serious? How is Braille gonna work on a touchscreen?

Presentation: 7/10 (i want to give more since i'm sold at the idea of the app (android support), but the team tried a bit too hard at the beginning by trying to suan Ben & Nescafe (dry humour?))

FlipboardFlipboardPersonalize social magazine. After the seminar I've started using Flipboard. By far I think this is the best looking news reading app out there. Too bad it doesn't support Android.

  • Curate your own list. Is it something like labels? I can think of its potential, especially if the nature of your work involves research and reading a lot of online articles. It'll be great if you can collate them as an archive.

  • The team mentioned that the feedback system is good. But from the looks of it it's a getsatisfaction integration. I've seen many sites using getsatisfaction including major brands. But I don't think it's inherently the app's feature.

  • No Cache clearing function. The team mentioned that it accumulate up to 5GB on the iPad after just one month of usage. For a 16GB model, that is like 30%, quite a lot.

  • This is from me. No android support!!!
Doodle BuddyDoodle BuddyMy group did the presentation on Doodle Buddy. In my opinion, It is precisely this type of app that even a 2 years old knows can operate what makes iPad so revolutionary successful. Otherwise it's just a bigger screen iPhone, another luxury device for geeks.

Night StandNight Stand HDMusic Alarm? My experience with my new SGS2 is that the battery life is seriously low and the alarm didn't rang because the battery went dead. Not too sure about iPad's battery life.

  • Multi-app integration - Twitter, Facebook, etc. Ok this sounds attractive, but with Flipboard, PulseNews and all, why would I want to use this?

The team mentioned that stability is something the app can improve upon. IMO, if it's gonna be an alarm clock, better make sure stability is at the top of the priority list.

Commercial Potential
  • 18 million likes on FB. This is no small feat. Maybe there's a market out there for multi-app integration?

  • $1.99

  • In-app purchase

Presentation: 6/10 (didn't prepare enough? Manage to answer the questions well though)
The Sims SocialThe Sims Social (Beta)It's quite awesome that the group actually decide on this app. I remember I jumped on it and straight away started playing when I saw "The Sims". I remember playing Sim City on DOS, tried to play SimCity 3000 on my computer although it lags a lot. I remember my computer cannot support The Sims.

In any case, I think social interaction for simulation games is the future. I've blogged about it briefly in my City of Wonder post. But I think The Sims Social manage to integrate the social interaction pretty well, although there are still a long way to go until it is truly real-time. Then it will very much be like Second Life. I remember trying Second Life, not sure why I didn't continue. Maybe too open ended?

What's worth mentioning is that due to the unnatural growth 20million players in 3 weeks. I happen to be one of the unlucky ones to NOT being able to play the game for 5 days straight. Interestingly the game has so much attraction that I went to stalk the forums for hope to resume playing the game. Finally the engineers fixed the bugs and I got to play again. They even award me 150 Sims Cash as a compensation to my lost game time. Hooray!
Evernote Peek Evernote PeekWe had a quite interesting debate about whether there are any real use cases with the whole smart cover peeking feature. Then somehow we went on to discuss about physical book vs e-book.

Ben mention that ebooks will be the dominant reading format, and physical books will be cannibalized. Somehow I think so too, I believe that the familiarity of physical books is very much a learned habit rather than a fixed constant. It is very much an emotional attachment to books, that happened to be around ever since.... Gutenberg? Or was it since the Chinese invented paper?

In any case, as Ben mentioned, kids nowadays are already growing up surrounded by digital contents. Chances are kids might be more accustomed to e-books than real books.

Then Ben brought up last year's Chewy Chong's talk about "People are not like you". For some reason or another, I didn't seem to blog about the session. But thanks to Google Reader, these are some of the blogpost from my CS3216 (2010) classmates if you're interested.

  • Microsoft guy speaks up! (and makes us think)

  • Something to Chew Over

  • Marketing to Crack Whores and Kids
  • Pekay's Little Author Pekay's Little AuthorOk, last but not least, this is my assigned app for the seminar critique. For some reason, Murphy likes to be my friend. Of all the apps that I could have been assigned, it has to be "Pekay's Little Author". That is the only app that I did not have any notes taken down.

    Nevertheless, here an attempt to dig out subconscious memories of the said presentation.

    Ok, this is another app for children. It empower children to create storybooks by using template cartoon figures and pictures. It has a Facebook app and an iPad app. Interestingly the iPad app was fresh out of the oven somewhere at the end of August.

    Here's an official demo video.

    Let's start with the Facebook app, on first glance the UI is really atrocious for a children-targeted app. The buttons are splatter across the screen and the tabs doesn't draw attention. Furthermore, you have to actually click on the "My Page" tab, then "New Storybook" to create a new storybook. And eh, ugly IFrame scrollbars, go away! Talk about UX, ugh.

    From my experience trying out the app, this app is only usable if a parent is guiding the child while using the app. The storybook maker is quite powerful, you can even control the limbs of the cartoon characters. In addition, it seems you only have a limited set of template characters & stamps for the free version.

    The team mentioned that the developers should add sound, animation, rating system for storyboard. IMHO, I think they should spend more time cleaning up the UI/UX if they are serious about the children market.

    Pekay's Little Author (Facebook version) Screenshot

    One interesting note is that Facebook is for >13 years old. Of course no one can stop you from faking your age to register an account. But interestingly Pekay seem to have noticed that and thus they provide an Adobe AIR version for those <13 years old. Oh well, or you can purchase the iPad app for $5.99 instead.

    All in all, I can see what this app is trying to do and it's big potential and value-addedness for children. But seriously they should really invest more time cleaning up their UI/UX, a complete overhaul will be good.
    The order of presentation:
    1. Square
    2. InClass
    3. PulseNews
    4. Flipboard
    5. Doodle Buddy
    6. night stand
    7. VNC Viewer
    8. Sims Social
    9. Pekay’s Little Author
    10. Evernote Peek
    11. PDF Expert