Posts tagged "apps"

AI Portraits Isn’t Just Another Selfie Filter

July 24, 2019 Posted by Apps 0 thoughts on “AI Portraits Isn’t Just Another Selfie Filter”

Amid the FaceApp backlash, an AI portrait generator has largely flown under the radar. Its unique selling point is its ability to turn any selfie into a 15th century European portrait. In order to properly generate portraits resembling the works of old masters like Rembrandt or the more garish works of Van Gogh, “tens of thousands of  paintings” were used to teach the machine learning model. They ranged from the Early Renaissance to as late as the Contemporary Art period. All a contemporary internet surfer has to do is upload a selfie to embed their likeness into the annals of art history.

Would be selfie uploaders of color may immediately point out that the subjects of European painters were primarily white. Data scientists call this flaw a bias. Due to the available data set, the AI will be biased towards a certain visualization of the human anatomy. The auteurs of this machine learning model acknowledge their model’s bias and claim that it is one of the most notable lessons to take away from their project. For example, since smiling was considered too comical for a portrait, you will be hard pressed to find a 15th century portrait featuring a face-distorting smile. Rather, portraits of the time were meant to be a stark, albeit slightly idealized, representation of the patron. The model reflects this style be converting a full smile to a faint closed-mouth smile. In this way, the team behind AI Portraits want you to learn something about Art History by experimenting with their bias.

Still, however good their intentions may have been, it has raised eyebrows among those of color. Morgan Sung, a writer for Mashable, recently demonstrated the ways in which Portraits misrepresented certain physical features. She quoted Coin Center’s Director of Communications who said that his portrait made him look “more Italian than Indian.” And later on pointed out that BTS’s Jungkoo’s monolids were replaced with lidded eyes. Darker skin color, as is to be expected,  was lightened.

The AI Renaissance portrait generator isn't great at painting people of color

Credit: Getty Images

A rudimentary understanding of the process in which a model is trained allows one to realize that the above biases are the direct result of the limited data set. The solution could be to broaden the data set to include paintings from other cultures similar to those that the AI Portrait team referenced in their brief tour through the history of portraits.

Culture and Portrait

credit: AI Portraits

The team doesn’t directly state the reason for not choosing other data sets, though they mention that according to art historians like Joanna Woodall, Shearer West, and John Berger 15th century European art is the “inflection point” of portraiture. The implication here is that there is a wide swath of data available in this period to train a model. To compensate for the lack of cultural diversity, there is a wide range of styles that do potentially reduce the color bias somewhat. For example, Van Gogh often used dark colors in his composition.


credit: AI Portraits

A final point of criticism that has been floated out there is, what makes this different from FaceApp? The first thing to note is AI Portrait’s concise privacy policy which states, “[y]our photos are sent to our servers to generate portraits. We won’t use data from your photos for any other purpose and we’ll immediately delete them.” On the other hand, FaceApp is a profit seeking entity that uses legalese to open up the possibility of using your images for whatever purpose they see fit, just like Instagram and SnapChat; AI Portraits isn’t just any other selfie filter, it’s a work of art.


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internal apps

5 Internal Apps That Boosted Productivity

April 16, 2019 Posted by Programming 0 thoughts on “5 Internal Apps That Boosted Productivity”

The job of a developer isn’t always restrained to the day to day minutia of maintaining a code base and taking part in stand-ups. There are times when a company may require some developers to build internal apps to increase productivity. Other times, an insightful developer may crank out an internal app to streamline clunky workflow.

Below, we’ve listed five productivity-boosting internal apps that savvy developers cooked up for their co-workers. The responses were sourced from Hacker News.


Face Matcher

Image result for face recognition

At a company of 10,000, it’s important to know the 100 people you’ll be working closest to. I built a “memory” game as a webapp which matched the faces of 4 people on your team to a single name and a list of self-assigned skills. You click on a photo to match a name to a face, and once you guess right a new set loads. You can randomly click through your whole team and learn a lot about them in just 15 minutes or so.

The whole thing was built with read-only SQL scripts, Flask, and some JQuery.



Shim Layer


I wrote a shim layer for all our packer/vagrant OS workflows to operate against an unreliable vsphere ecosystem. It exposes a suite of posix sh functions for sysadmins/developers to easily operate against this very unreliable environment. It adds automatic logging, retrying, and adjustable verbosity because of the numerous ways this environment randomly fails.

People can just . source the file in from a shared location and often find that their scripts just start to work better. It’s not perfect, nothing’s perfect. It’s not even that clever. But when builds and deploys start to work twice as good, even with the remaining failures, well, that’s something. None of the 65000 employees using it will ever know, but it feels good to know we were dropping 2/3 orders and now we’re dropping 1/3.


Bug Scraper

In my previous organization, we dealt with a legacy enterprise software product which had accumulated a massive bug history over multiple years and sub-products. All being tracked by an in-house bug tracking product.

Lots of issues we used to see being reported were either already fixed or had been config issues. In order to (somewhat) quickly find existing fixes/comments for issues that we get reported, I built a search tool (webapp) which scraped the bugs and comments in those bugs in order to find any relevant information around your query and listed them in order of matching probability.

Was a pretty cool learning experience to build that out. I had deployed it on a personal remote VM that devs were granted, have no idea if people are still using it.



Multithread Hack

internal apps


At my last job we had to do builds constantly and put it on hardware, which was annoying because builds took 15 minutes and putting it on the hardware took another 10. Couldn’t solve the latter because it wasn’t in our domain, but the first half I managed to “multithread” a build using a really hacky batch script compliation method, with a make file calling the compiler in a new command window for each file that needed to be compiled, with some checks for “needs to be compiled” or “wasn’t changed”.

An extra script at the end of the process made sure that all the compiler instances finished before continuing with the next step. All of that work got it down to 2 minutes, or in small change cases, about 30 seconds. And another part of that was integrating some configuration data with existing files, which was simple as writing up a bunch of excel macros to do the copy/pasting and file output.

It was hooked up to a shared folder on the network so the other team could just do their part, and then my part was entirely automated. In fact, the team testing things could do everything by themselves without any input from me at that point and only needed me to answer certain questions.

Yes, it’s really hacky and the whole thing is entirely silly and could have been solved by using more proper tools (i.e. not a defunct make software without wildcard support for input files or Excel for configuration), but I was VERY pleased when I got it working.


Bar Code Generator

Photo credit: Campaign Creators

At my current job, I saw a lab technician work manually with Excel sheets entering sample IDs and then using a website where he’d copy/paste the sample ID into to get a bar code, and then print it out to stick on the box.

I wrote a Python script that uses openpyxl module to read His Excel docs, and report lab module to generate bar codes in a PDF document with appropriate spacers so that he can simply print it out, and stick them in boxes.

He is happy and so am I that I could save his time. It only took me 20 mins to write this script.

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Wattpad Revamps Its UI For The Better

February 28, 2019 Posted by Apps 0 thoughts on “Wattpad Revamps Its UI For The Better”

Wattpad, one of the world’s largest fan fiction websites, has recently done away with its old design in favor of a design that’s trending everywhere in the world of UI. That’s the all-white design. The absence of color or white space makes elements within the UI pop. This is especially important for websites that are text-based, like blogs or fan fiction websites. But there’s more to creating a complete user experience than simply changing color scheme. Logos play heavily into the way people think about a brand, so usin a logo that expresses intent is crucial.


Take these two logos:



If you didn’t know anything about Wattpad, you would still know nothing about the brand based on the first logo. Since the company choose a non-descriptive brand name, there has to be emphasis on the logo design. Yet, the first logo simply features text with a wide text shadow. Notice also that the color of this text shadow is muted and lacks “wattage.”

Now, if you were to look at the second logo, you might be able to guess that the website has something to do with creativity. That’s because Wattpad’s new logo employs a combination mark. That’s the combination of a wordmark(Wattpad) with a symbol or icon that will represent the brand. In this case, the symbol is a w represented in the form of a brush stroke.

This symbol does most of the heavy lifting in that it succinctly expresses the mission of the website. This succinct message is especially important now that more and more people are interacting with website from their phone. About 47% of web traffic in the last quarter of 2018 came from mobile devices. Being able to have a recognizable symbol on your app icon goes a long way in attracting new users.

Another way to attract users is through color. Signature colors improve brand recognition by 80%. A symbol needs bold colors to express a bold message. The new Hero Orange color that Wattpad has employed on their web app is more in line with modern tastes. Similar to Reddit’s orange, the color shows off that Wattpad is a place to boldly express your ideas.

Wattpad’s new wordmark also contributes to the company’s message by employing a custom serif font. The old font suggested that Wattpad might be a tech website with its flat edges. You can see sites like TheNextWeb and TechCrunch for examples of tech sites that employ this type of font. Now, the new font is in line with the idea that Wattpad is a creative writing app that connects readers with writers.

With their revamped branding, Wattpad can now present their platform as a place for creative writers of all ages to share their voices.



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Facebook Might Kill Pinterest The Same Way It Killed Snapchat

February 26, 2019 Posted by Apps 0 thoughts on “Facebook Might Kill Pinterest The Same Way It Killed Snapchat”

A TechCrunch article surfaced days ago claiming that the Instagram app associated with Android contains code that alludes to giving users the option of making collections public. This seemingly benign discovery was leaked to TechCrunch by Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineering specialist.

The code itself is not operational and appears to be a prototype that was pushed into production. Perhaps the release engineers in coordination with the rest of the team did not think that someone would snoop around their codebase.

They may have been planning on continuously pushing along new versions of the prototype along with the functioning code so that should they choose to A/B test the feature, it would roll seamlessly into their newest iteration.

Or, it may have been a complete oversight, which is doubtful but an option nonetheless. Either way, this revelation spells doom for Pinterest, an app that has carved out its own market share as an image-sharing site alongside Snapchat and Instagram. It offers what both Instagram and Snapchat do not offer: a repository of public images scoured from the web. Writers and artists often use the site for inspiration. Casual observers come for the quotes and pastry.

All of this is something Instagram can easily offer by allowing users to make their private collections go public. Just as imitating Snapchat allowed an uptick in the amount of users on their app and cratered Spanchat’s growth, imitating Pinterest may have the same effect.

Just like Snapchat, Pinterest only has a fraction of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly user base. Now add that to the fact that Pinterest just filed for an IPO and you can begin to see how Pinterest’s momentum might be halted.

Of course, Snapchat has stabilized. But Instagram has proven that it has a sort of gravitational pull on users. If they offer what another app offers, smartphone users would rather stay on Instagram than be forced to make room for another photo app.

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8 Best Fitness Apps of 2019[Infographic]

February 8, 2019 Posted by Apps 0 thoughts on “8 Best Fitness Apps of 2019[Infographic]”

To continue to be a productive web or app developer, one must first be able to develop the right health habits that will allow them to continue working within a field as difficult as software engineering. The problem is that very few of us are active. Here are some stats pulled from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services regarding our lack of physical productivity:

  • Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day; only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week.
  • Only 35 – 44% of adults 75 years or older are physically active, and 28-34% of adults ages 65-74 are physically active.
  • More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.
  • 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, aged six and older are physically inactive.

We have a lot of work to do to decrease obesity and other serious health conditions that result due to poor dieting and lack of exercise. Appropriately, it’s app developers that are creating ways to integrate health into the tech we use everyday. Whether it’s through wearables or our handy dandy smartphones, these 8 fitness apps are leading the way towards making us healthier, more productive human beings.

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A Developer’s Take On ByteDance’s 75 Billion Dollar Rise

January 15, 2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “A Developer’s Take On ByteDance’s 75 Billion Dollar Rise”

For many Americans, the thought that there’s a social media universe outside of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat is inconceivable. We’ve grown accustomed to their dominance. But there’s an app company in Beijing, China that eclipsed Uber to become the most valuable startup as of November. The company is called ByteDance.

You’ve probably never heard of it, because the company functions as a sort of manufacturer of apps. Unlike Facebook or Snap Inc, companies that are built primarily around an original app, ByteDance positions itself as product company that integrates Machine Learning algorithms into their products. On its website the company states that the founder of the company, Zhang Yiming, “saw an opportunity to combine the power of artificial intelligence with the growth of mobile internet to revolutionize the way people consume and receive information. This made ByteDance one of the first companies to launch mobile-first products powered by machine learning technology. “

In the age of AI and progressive web applications, ByteDance, founded in 2012, was already ahead of the curve. As Facebook and Snapchat have started to lose moment, ByteDance struck gold in targeting Generation Z. This laser focus on progressivism  is what allowed the company to build Jinri Toutiao(“Today’s Headlines”), its flagship product.

Image result for Jinri Toutiao

If  Facebook’s news feed and Buzzfeed had a baby, you’d get ByteDance’s news aggregation app. The company uses machine learning algorithms to curate content that is most likely to appeal to its readers. As web and app designers know, online readers are skimmers. ByteDance took advantage of this mindset to grow its flagship app.

It’s not just Jinri Toutiao that makes ByteDance the global phenomenon that it is today. You can boil it down to two apps– and Tiktok–that became one.

How Two Apps Became One was a company co-founded in China by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in Shanghai. The app had limited success in China, but exploded in the U.S. It was supposed to be a social media spin on karaoke featuring videos that were Vine-ish in length.

Soon, it became a meme repository and hangout spot for teens, which had parents concerned about the app’s safety, which in turn made the app more popular. Quietly, became one of the most popular Asia to America crossovers, reaching over 200 million users in 2017.

In that same year, ByteDance announced that it was merging TikTok with, forming TikTok. The merger created a platform that combined the virality of with TikTok’s video sharing user base, resulting in the most app downloads in the month of September 2018.

The Takeaway

This is a lesson to product companies of all shapes and sizes. There is always a need to serve future tastes and desires. Continual deliverance based on well-planned UX research is the key to spotting upticks in trends. If your product is constantly acquiring new features, it may be best to create a new product. What killed Yahoo and Myspace was feature bloat. Google and Facebook presented simpler alternatives that met the need of the consumer head on.

Now, Facebook seems to be crippled with an inordinate amount of features that raises the barrier of entry. Those that have grown up on the app will deal with the news feed and the bevy of other products that Facebook offers in its attempt to become the internet’s portal(Yahoo! already tried that. Google killed them and is still killing them).

For social media companies whose products serve the sharing appetite of its audience, they constantly needs to streamline the sharing process while adding new facets to the way we share. ByteDance clutched the pulse of this information hungry age with its news aggregation app on one hand and our need to creatively share with its short video app on the other hand. This has made ByteDance a powerhouse in the social media sphere, one that may dislodge Facebook from its lofty perch if Facebook can’t diversify.

That doesn’t mean adding yet another feature to Instagram or Facebook. To target an entirely new demographic of teens, Facebook needs to become a product company that can leverage its user base to grow its new products. Or, Facebook can do what it’s always done. Copy/ Paste and acquire.

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