Do French programmers program in French? And other questions about technology

At approximately 10:27 pm, during the inevitable and often weird stream of consciousness that equals me trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about how programmers in other countries do their thing.  I can’t say how I arrived at this thought, but it was a question I didn’t know the answer to and I felt a little small-minded for it.  If you’re a software engineer in France, I’m sorry.

Anyway, from what I gather, the most popular programming languages like Ruby and Python are English-based, despite being developed in Japan and the Netherlands, respectively.  In this interesting little thread on Quora, you don’t even need to understand English to use an English-based programming language.  You only need to know what result an English keyword or command word will produce.

The next question in my “does-it-ever-stop-I-need-to-sleep” stream of consciousness was what are the most popular mobile apps in other countries? How do others use their smartphones and stay connected?  Is everyone as addicted to their smartphone as the average American?

Sidenote: I belong to a Slack network made up of technical writers, developers and documentarians from all over the world.  It’s the coolest thing.  Everyday I read posts like “Hi, I’m a technical writer from India/Ukraine/Poland/Australia” in the #intro channel, knowing that someone across the world is reading the exact same thing as me. Chills!

According to Newzoo’s Global Mobile Market Report, rounding out the top five countries with the highest number of smartphone users are China, India, United States, Brazil and the Russian Federation.  Let’s unpack this:

China’s most popular mobile app is WeChat, a social app that offers way more than just messaging.  It’s got payments, social feeds, news feeds, and city services like booking doctor appointments, transportation and dining reservations.  As of February 2018, WeChat reached one billion monthly users, placing it behind only Facebook, Facebook Messenger, You Tube and WhatsApp’s global monthly users. The 2017 WeChat User Report shows users spend an average of 66 minutes per day on the app.  For comparison, Facebook users around the globe spend an average of 20 minutes per day on the app.  The average smartphone user in China has over 100 mobile apps on their phone and uses over 40 of them per month.  The global average is 80 total apps with over 40 used per month. I personally have around 80 apps. So much for thinking I’m a minimalist.

India is a rapidly growing, mobile-first market (more people access the internet from mobile devices than computers) and as such, companies have to shift their priorities and strategies to make sure the mobile experience is top-notch.  Facebook and WhatsApp’s highest user bases are in India, where social media and video streaming apps are the most popular.  One example is Hotstar, an inexpensive domestic video streaming app that costs around $3 per month.  According to app analytics company App Annie, India accounted for roughly 33% of the world’s 175 billion app downloads in 2017.  This is largely attributed to the introduction of subsidized 4G internet access by Reliance Jio, giving its price sensitive user base a better option to stay connected.

In the United States, Facebook is king.  The site accounts for one in five page views for U.S. adults, and we spend an average of 20 minutes a day scrolling, posting, liking, ranting etc.  That’s 20 minutes out of the three hours per day we spend on mobile apps.  Of the top 10 most used apps in the U.S., Snapchat and Pandora are the only ones not owned by Facebook or Google.  Facebook has 147 million active monthly users in the U.S. alone, most of whom are between 24 and 55+ years old.  The youngsters (under 24 years old) prefer YouTube.  We may be a distracted bunch, but at least we’re concerned about organization.  According to comScore’s 2017 Mobile App Report, millenials (18 – 34 years old) are more likely to delete an app if they don’t like how it looks on their home screen.

Brazil is also an emerging mobile-first market where Android has a 93% market share (iOS trails slightly at 5.8%).  Smartphone users in Brazil spend around three hours per day using mobile apps, and 92% of that time is using native apps, meaning a mobile app you have to download versus using a mobile internet browser.  Brazil is the largest internet market in Latin America, and WhatsApp sees the most usage.  Additionally, mobile banking is seeing a huge boom in Brazil due to significant technology investments by the country’s largest banks.  Most reports on the subject say this reflects how Brazil’s citizens are accepting and adopting mobile technology and becoming a more mature internet market.  According to the Brazilian Federation of Banks (FEBRABAN) report, transactions made on mobile banking apps quadrupled from 2014 to 2016, from 1.5 billion transactions to 20.7 billion transactions.

Last but not least, the Russian Federation.  Russia has over 80 million smartphone users, making it Europe’s largest smartphone market and the second highest percentage of smartphone users in a whole population behind the U.S.  The top app is (VKontakte), a homegrown social channel based in St. Petersburg.  Even though the app is globally available, ~67% of its users are in Russia.  Compare this to U.S-based Facebook, with only ~18% of its users in the U.S.  VK users spend an average of 16 minutes per visit, while Facebook users spend an average of 12 minutes per visit.  Clearly is doing a better job at engaging its users.  I’ll guess its emphasis on simplicity and not overwhelming users with ads has something to do with it. Looking at you, Facebook.

The fact that social channels top the global app market is not surprising, but personally I’ve become pretty disillusioned with Facebook.  I much prefer Instagram for its simple feature set.  Maybe one day social apps will be smart enough to stop you before you waste an hour rabbit-holing down the profile of someone you will probably never meet.





Surviving my first solo work conference

Full disclosure, I found this conference myself and pitched to my boss that I should go.  It was approved, obviously, but with so many other things going on in the months leading up to the conference, I forgot to freak out until about two weeks before.   Networking with complete strangers who are all most likely smarter than me? Anxiety-worthy for sure. That’s when I forced myself to sit down and make an agenda for the Write the Docs conference in Portland, Oregon.

Tip number one: Become VERY familiar with the conference website.  Pick out the talks you find most interesting and applicable, but keep an open mind as descriptions only go so far.  I’m someone who likes lists and plans, so writing out my agenda (in three different places) did wonders for my confidence.

I started digging into the conference website a bit more and discovered how this conference was unlike most in the tech industry.  For starters, only about 400 people would attend (compare that to something like Dreamforce which about 170,000 people attended in 2016, according to   The Write the Docs founders described an environment that really catered to first time attendees, emphasizing a culture of respect, openness and learning.  Even better, they had a Slack channel dedicated to connecting conference-goers before the event.  You’d better believe I was glued to that Slack channel for two weeks, stalking anyone who mentioned end-user documentation or help center articles, and combing through people’s conversations to connect with anyone who might teach me a few things.

One of my main concerns was how to make worthwhile connections at the conference.  I wanted so badly to take advantage of all my time there, and a big part of that would be through networking.   The Slack channel was key to helping me start networking in a non-intimidating way.

Tip number two: Does your conference have a Slack workspace?  If they do, JOIN.  I made group discussion plans, lunch plans and dinner plans through the Write the Docs channel, all before I even hit the ground in Portland. Comb through the available channels in the workspace and join anything interesting to you.  If you come across someone you’d like to meet, just ask!

A somewhat quirky part of the conference (I thought) was what the Write the Docs folks call the “Unconference.”  The main talks couldn’t possibly cover everything tech writers deal with, but the Unconference offered anyone the opportunity to post a topic for an informal group discussion about something they wanted to know more about.  For example, I participated in discussions about how to manage video content in a help center, the value of structured content and style guides, and one about using Zendesk to manage help content.  I think I got more out of these discussions than the main stage talks.

Tip number three: Does your conference offer time for informal discussions? If they do, JOIN.  If they don’t, perhaps seek out a group of conference attendees via a Slack channel or message board that would be willing to do this.  This might possibly be the most valuable one to two hours you get.

I surprised myself by how easily I was able to make “conference friends,” but I also took advantage of every opportunity offered by the Write the Docs staff to make friends.  For example, they organized a hike the day before the conference and I made sure I was there.  I adore hiking and wanted to experience it in Portland, plus, how long can you NOT talk to someone when you’re walking up a hill at a snail’s pace?

If you’re more introverted like me, you probably hate small talk.  Want to avoid it? At receptions or even during breaks between talks, look and listen for the men or women in the room having the most animated conversation and join them.  Chances are they’ve already surpassed the small talk so you can just drop in on a fun conversation, and you can do more listening than talking (yay!).  Walk up to them, smile and introduce yourself.  It’s only scary for five seconds, I promise. I did this, and ended up having dinner with three of the speakers from the conference.  Winning.

Tip number four: Listen to conversations going on around you.  Hear something that sounds fun or interesting? See someone you think you’d get along with?  Push down the anxiety of introducing yourself (it’s literally five seconds) and say hello.  You certainly will not regret it.

The first one


To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing it’s best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – and never stop fighting. – E.E. Cummings

Hello! Thank you for joining me in my first foray in to maintaining a real web presence, and on my journey in self-discovery and creativity.

In reading The Code of theExtraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani, I found he defines a state when “you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself, that nothing anyone says or does bothers you and no negativity can touch you.”  Along with this concept and Dr. Susan Jeffers wisdom on the concept of Fear, there’s really no “better” time to start a blog than now.

Anything you put on the web nowadays is subject to countless eyes and opinions, all judging in various degrees.  Well, I need to get over that because now I have a blog (!) and it’s going to be a creative space that’s all mine.

My posts won’t be about living your best life because that’s definitely not my area of expertise.  I’ll post about traveling, books, exercise, podcasts, cooking, etc… things that I find enlightening or interesting, and maybe you will too.

Now I’ll take a few moments to answer your burning questions:

Q: Where was your site header photo taken? I took this photo in Cusco, Peru. It’s one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.  The colors are magical.

Q: Is that a nutcracker AND a menorah in your profile photo?  Yes. I was raised Jewish but we also grew up doing non-religious Christmas activities with the other side of the family.

Stay tuned for more posts!