April 2017

Volume 32 Number 4

[Don't Get Me Started]


By David Platt | April 2017

David PlattI’ve always admired the genius of Rich Hall, who wrote the book “Sniglets” (Collier Books, 1984) and its successors. In his creation, a sniglet is: “Any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should.” For example: “Chwads: discarded gum found beneath tables and countertops.”

We geeks are a great source of sniglets, such as “Animousity: vigorously clicking your pointer device because a page is loading too slowly, even though it doesn’t do anything to help.” I’ve created my share, with coinages of hassle budget, marketingbozo, and MINFU. (See my April 2013 column, “Coining Currency,” at msdn.com/magazine/dn166939).

For this April, I will apply the sniglet principle to our software industry. I do hereby declare and name a new category of thing, which I’ll call Snaglets. A Snaglet is an app that doesn’t exist, but should. Of course, geeks being geeks, as soon as I publish a Snaglet in this column, someone somewhere is going to write it, just to bust my chops. But herewithin the canonical list of Snaglets at this instant in time:

Roastissuerie: Buzzes every 60 seconds during a phone call to remind you to switch your cell phone to your other hand, so that its microwaves roast both sides of your brain equally. Free version just buzzes every 60 seconds. Paid version keeps track of actual phone position, adjusting intervals to even out any bias.

FakeBit: Shows a phony Fitbit screen claiming that you’ve been exercising. Free version shows steps and calories. Paid version also allows you to award yourself medals.

Ventrilosnark: Throws a voice making nasty remarks to a specific audience location while a speaker’s back is turned. Requires two phones to create phased waveforms to steer sound. Free version uses a random voice. Paid subscription version samples voice of person sitting at the target location and makes snarky remarks in that voice. If your credit card expires, phone makes nasty comments in your voice from your location.

Baby, Maybe: Fertility cycle tracker with random variations built in.

Shut Up, Stella: The perfect gift for anyone who doesn’t miss their ex. User specifies name of ex. Program starts to nag when it hears ex’s name between alert syllables (“Oh, Stella dear”) and continues until user firmly states, “Shut up, [name].” User can select subjects for nagging (for example, drinking too much, farting in bed and so on). Free version uses generic male/female voice. Paid version scours the Web for the particular ex’s voice, possibly calling their phone to sample outgoing messages and then nags in that. Inspired by Star Trek episode “I, Mudd.”

GPSHutUp: Partner app of “Shut Up, Stella.” Uses same free/paid voices. Enter your destination, app gives you directions for the longest, least efficient journey. “No, you idiot, turn right here, not left,” which you ignore. Argues back when you insist, “I know where I’m going.” When you arrive, grudgingly admits, “Hey, your way really was faster. You’re so smart.” Even if it wasn’t, and you’re not.

Fight Night: Starts and continues an argument between automated wizards—Siri, Alexa, Cortana (and Google, if it ever gives her a human name). Choose any two partners, type in a starting insult—“Siri, Cortana says you’re rotten to the core”—and off it goes. “Oh yeah? Tell her she’s a talking donut, getting stale, and I’m coming over to take a bite.” Paid version automatically posts to social media.

DumpCover: App that covers up excretory and related noises when you go to the bathroom during a phone conference and forget to press mute. Paid version automatically mutes the microphone on first detection of any impolite sounds. Free version does that for the first five occurrences, then kicks in after five-second delay.

Scat!: A phone lying on a couch cushion detects when a cat jumps on the good couch, scares cat down with loud barking noises. Free version works at first, but effectiveness decays logarithmically, as cat wises up. Paid version interfaces with Internet of Things smart squirt bottle to provide negative reinforcement.

Plattski: Free version spouts random gibberish sentences, periodically attempts to convince you that they contain profound wisdom. Takes over your phone, won’t shut up or uninstall no matter what you do. Paid version (only bitcoins accepted) finally shuts up.

David S. Platt teaches programming .NET at Harvard University Extension School and at companies all over the world. He’s the author of 11 programming books, including “Why Software Sucks” (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2006) and “Introducing Microsoft .NET” (Microsoft Press, 2002). Microsoft named him a Software Legend in 2002. He wonders whether he should tape down two of his daughter’s fingers so she learns how to count in octal. You can contact him at rollthunder.com.

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