Features I’m looking for in an instant messaging client

I’ve spent far too much time lately trying to convince people that giving new things a shot is a worthwhile endeavour, especially when it comes to instant messaging apps.

Recently, I was led down the path of discovering Skype again, and then ended up tangentially researching pros and cons of that and other messaging services. Now, what I really want from an instant messaging app has become crystal clear.

Below is a list of all the things I’m looking for in an instant messaging service in 2020. Obviously, these involve a set of tradeoffs, but based on my personal priorities, this is where I’m at.

Key Features

  • Cross-platform applications (web, mobile [iOS, Android], Windows, Mac, I guess Linux if you really want to be serious)
  • In addition to the above, something that is really nice about good applications is that they respect the conventions of the platform(s) they’re on, including design conventions like dark mode and fonts/window design
  • Email and username login (with optional two-factor authentication)
  • Full message history, with option to export
  • Company/service doesn’t make its money primarily from advertising
  • Text, picture, video, audio/video calls with multiple people, GIFs, other nice well thought out features are a nice bonus
  • Ability to share conversations via link for new people to join
  • Conversations between different groups of people with overlap should be easy and handled gracefully, including showing enough information in notifications

At the moment, the app I have found that matches all of these the best is, like I said last week, Skype! I was as surprised as you, but I’m planning on sharing this info with as many people as I can to see if we can make Skype a thing again.1Find me on Skype today!

Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years as a Public Servant

At the start of 2018, I celebrated my fifth year of service as a federal government employee. I’m a *very* different person than I was back in January of 2013 when I first started working at NSERC, and a big part of these changes relate directly to things I’ve learned working in government.

A part of me thinks it would be really nice if growing up, people had to spend (at least) a few weeks working in bureaucracy (just like how everybody would behave better in restaurants if they had to spend a few weeks waiting tables and washing dishes).

It seems (to me) like pretty much everybody complains about how long things take in government, and I’m definitely not saying that bureaucracy is as efficient and streamlined as it can possibly be. However, I do think that these things move slowly for a reason, and that learning to take your time and consider multiple viewpoints while completing work that affects people’s lives and livelihoods would keep everyone a little humbler and more honest.

I’ve had the privilege of working on many different teams and projects in my time in the public service, and I definitely approach things now with far more consideration and patience than I used to. Work in government also gives some insight in to just how complicated issues surrounding politics tend to be, and specifically how almost nothing is as simple as someone might tend to assume from the outside.

Politics has become extremely divisive in the last few years, and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that people are used to hearing only one side of a story, as opposed to looking at the bigger picture from an objective perspective, and making up their own minds. There is also a sharp increase in personal attacks in politics, as opposed to ideological differences being respectfully debated.

Another piece of what I believe makes work as a public servant complicated is the changing ways we communicate and share information with each other. Through the news and social media, we’re all exposed to a pre-existing point of view on every possible issue, and these are not always presented objectively (this depends very highly on your preferred sources of news).

The effect of this, at least for the purposes of this line of thinking, is that we think we’re forming objective thoughts and opinions, but they’re often just internalizing biased talking points that don’t look at the whole story. We’re all guilty of this, and not just when we’re laughing along as late-night talk show hosts bash the current US President. One of the really handy things public service has taught me is to recognize where these biases are and to not get caught up in ridiculing the little things that go on in every social group (US executive administrations included).

It’s hard to say for sure whether I’ll spend the rest of my career in the public service, but I’ve loved the lessons I’ve learned so far, and the skills I’ve gained, and I’ve been able to manage my cynicism so far. One things that helps with that aspect in particular is to focus your personal efforts to improve your workplace to the things that you can control, and realize that you won’t be happy with every single decision that gets made around you, but to pick your battles and limit the energy you exert on things that feel important but don’t actually serve any particularly useful improvement to the way things are.

Here’s to the next five years!

Seeds of Thought – Basic Income

This past weekend, I sat down to put some of my thoughts about basic income in to words, and to share my proposal for a basic income plan that might work in a country like Canada.

I made a video (embedded below) that discusses my idea in some detail, as well as going through some of the reasons I think it’s a good idea. The spreadsheet shown in the video can be found at this link* (cleaned up for ease of use compared to the one in the video): Basic Income Tax Plan.

*The only cell you can adjust in the sheet is the green one at the top to adjust the basic income tax rate.

I’d love to hear some thoughts or counter-arguments to the idea, or the concept of these brainstorming sessions in general. I really found it a useful way to crystallize what I was thinking on the topic, even though it may not make for the most exciting listening.