Author - Cliff Jared

The Continually Evolving E-Commerce Space

As the generational gap widens from seniors who have never used a computer in their lives to infants who are born toting iPads everywhere they go, the current shift in E-commerce focus is palpable. Technology impacts today’s generation at every turn, and everything from keeping up with close relatives halfway across the world to ordering your lunch is either done online or right from your mobile phone.

The broad shift in traditional market economies has seen a departure from the brick-and-mortar focuses of old, as increasing numbers of business transactions are carried out without ever setting foot in a physical “store.” Breaking down various aspects of the e-commerce focus show how companies are trending and just what portions will continue to be digitized and moved online.

Customer Service

The days of outsourced customer service are certainly upon us, as more often than not you’re left dealing with a call center halfway around the world to facilitate your customer interaction. More companies are recognizing the impact this has on their customer service as it’s generally not good, so many have begun to employ “smart” systems which make human interaction easier to facilitate.

Online automation softwares like chatbots have been a giant leap in this space, as it enables a real customer service representative to handle multiple inbounds in the time it used to take to resolve one incident. Also by logging interactions on an individual basis, all pertinent information becomes available to all members within the organization so that there is no drop-off or miscommunication through the life of the interaction.

Delivery Optimizations

From the market-changing delivery drones being worked on by larger corporations like Wal-Mart and Amazon to simply providing expedited shipping options and accountability, delivery services are certainly leaps ahead of where they used to be. New technology is constantly being tested to optimize shipping methods, storage, and optimization across the entire process. From flat-rate shipping boxes which make it easier to optimize the space within delivery trucks to marketplaces condensing shipments, the entire delivery system has made leaps and bounds to accommodate the shift to e-commerce focused entities.

Digital Wallets

The introduction of digital wallets have changed the way you pay, and for the majority of the population it began right on the iPhone. PayPal has been around for quite some time, Apple Pay was really the first to optimize the payment experience within native applications, really removing the checkout “step” altogether. As any e-commerce company knows, the drop-off at checkout is one of the most frustrating aspects of a transaction flow to deal with. It’s often incredibly difficult for an e-commerce company to identify which aspect of a check-out flow causes the most discomfort and work to improve their conversion rate can be exhausting. With seamlessly integrated options like ApplePay, it standardizes the process for all apps using it and streamlines the interaction for the user.

The Roadblocks

For many E-commerce converts, the most frustrating aspects still revolve around ordering something which you’ve never physically seen or held yourself. With this notion in mind, it’s quite obvious that the brick-and-mortar retail experience will never die as it’s incredibly important for the customer to be able to try things on and experience a product for themselves before they buy. This portion of the population will do well to keep the physical stores alive, but the numbers don’t lie; the numbers reveal how e-commerce has quickly carved a demand among consumers. The introduction of new e-commerce technology that will make the process faster and more efficient will encourage a new generation of shoppers to purchase online as well.

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Tools That Make Your Life Simpler As A Dev

Git

Version control is a serious issue to contend with when working as a developer on a team. Git is what is known as a Distributed Version Control System [DVCS/DCS]. The basic idea behind Git is that you need a way to control software versions when multiple developers are working on a project, otherwise each developer’s changes will overwrite the other team member’s code changes. A more relatable example would be saving a shared Microsoft Word document by selecting the “overwrite” option in lieu of the “merge changes” option. Git is unique in that it boasts industry standard features while remaining free and open source.

Additionally, Git is much less resource intensive than competitors. Additionally, it is a distributed system which means the developer team has multiple backups, can utilize any workflow to include blessed or shared repositories. Data assurance is another major consideration when choosing Git as a DVCS. Git ensures the cryptographic integrity of every project by ensuring that every file is checksummed and retrieved by its checksum when checked back out. This means that it is impossible to get anything out of Git that wasn’t what a developer put in it.

Stackify 

Stackify can best be described as an efficiency freak’s best friend when it comes to analyzing and debugging code. Stackify comes with two primary packages; Retrace and Prefix.

Prefix, in a nutshell, is a utility used to analyze pre-production code for bugs. It does the job of a code profiler and provides much more utility. Basically, it helps answer the question, “What did my code just do?” with ease. The general idea is that if a developer has the capability to spot and rectify software bugs before they ever hit production, the developer will be more efficient and valuable. A few of the more interesting features Prefix provides users is the ability to view logs by an individual web request, which saves times filtering through lengthy log files. On the database end, it allows a complete breakdown of SQL queries to include parameters, records affected by the query and how long the query took.

Retrace is geared more towards code in a production environment. Think of it as an APM, with some added extras that make it a more valuable tool. On the APM front, Retrace helps develop teams to monitor the performance and health of their applications. To accomplish this task, Retrace provides developer teams with vibrant application metrics by integrating multiple log sources into one package. Retrace provides a unique logging experience by providing full integration of application logs and applications errors in the same place. Error logging is unique with Retrace because it requires zero coding changes to capture errors unlike other APM solutions on the market

Chrome DevTools

Chrome DevTools deserves a mention because it is a free, open source and very powerful set of web development tools. DevTools allows users to effectively troubleshoot JavaScript, improve network performance, and examine CSS performance within the Chrome web browser. One feature that sets DevTools apart from other packages targeted towards web developers is the ability to emulate mobile devices with Device Mode. Device Mode is particularly useful due to the rapidly evolving mobile nature of technology.

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What To Look Out For In Virtual Reality In 2017

Ever since the Oculus Rift was announced back in 2012, virtual reality has seen a furious rise in interest, culminating in a number of VR headsets flooding the market. Entry level models such as the Google Cardboard have helped bring attention to the booming VR scene, while enthusiast models such as the aforementioned Oculus Rift have been released, showcasing just how powerful and immersive virtual reality is. Despite a growing number of apps and support available for virtual reality, it's still seen as a gaming accessory, which has stopped it from being widely accepted by the mainstream. That all changes this year, however, with the newest advances in VR technology. Here are three ways VR is set to make a big splash in 2017.

Online Shopping

In late 2016, Alibaba tested uncharted waters when it announced the world’s first virtual reality shopping experience on China's larger-than-life equivalent to Black Friday, Singles' Day. Alibaba released an app for the occasion called BUY+ that allowed users to browse products such as shoes and shopping bags presented by virtual models. In a video released by the company to promote the app, it showed a Chinese shopper trying on a VR headset and immediately getting transported to Macy's department store in Times Square, where he was greeted by store employees and was able to buy a handbag for his girlfriend.

It makes sense why online retailers are starting to take a look at VR as a way to boost sales. Research has shown online retailers enjoy a sales conversion of just 5%, compared to 25% for brick-and-mortar stores. For all the positives of online shopping, people still like trying out products before they buy. VR aims to solve that problem by simulating a brick-and-mortar shopping experience from the comfort of the user's home. It's no wonder why Amazon has been rumored to take the next steps towards integrating VR with their service.

Virtual Tourism

One of the most engrossing experiences available on VR today, virtual tourism is expected to take on a bigger role in 2017, especially in schools and universities, where VR has become an alternative to expensive class trips. Tourism with VR technology allows users to “visit” historical and iconic sites across the world, from the Eiffel Tower to the Pyramids of Giza. A growing number of apps have hit the virtual tourism market, including Ascape and YouVisit.

Gravity Sketch

3D design on VR is about to receive a huge shakeup this year. Kickstarter-funded Gravity Sketch is a tool that allows users to bring their concepts to life with a simple wave of the hand. By creating concept sketches in air, the tool aims at creating a simple, user-friendly alternative to math-based CAD. Gravity Sketch was recently released to the public in a beta version available for PC and iOS.

After years of being on the periphery of the tech world, virtual reality is finally ready to breakout and hit the mainstream in a way that hasn't been seen since the rise of the smartphone. Backed by tremendous support from all corners of the technology world, expect 2017 to be the year of virtual reality.

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Love it or Hate it, The New Macbook Pro is Here to Stay

It was almost a full two years between the 2015 and 2016 models of the MacBook Pro were released. For those that anxiously awaited the long arrival of the 2016 version, they were not disappointed. Aside from a retina display, not much had changed in the previous four versions of the MacBook Pro, since the introduction of the i5 and i7 chips which greatly increased speed and performance in the 2011 models.

With the 2016 MacBook Pro, however, Apple has given the notebook a complete overhaul and introduced a number of key features; not the least of which was the much anticipated touch bar. With this iteration of the MacBook Pro, Apple has once again returned the notebook to its professional status as a sleek, slim, compact notebook that is capable of delivering high end desktop performance. Long the favorite of creative professionals, the 2016 notebook – and its multi-function touch bar – unleashes almost limitless performance and creative possibilities.

All this functionality comes at a price, however, with the base model with touch screen starting off at a whopping $1,799 – nearly a 30% increase over the previous year's base model. A lower priced model is available, but even that model starts at $1,499 – still $200 more than the previous year's base model. The stripped down base model is not only lacking in a touch bar, but also offers only two Thunderbolt 3/ USB-C ports, versus the four ports offered on the higher end models. As usual, Apple is ahead of the curve and has released a technology before it is yet fully compatible with a number of peripherals. For the moment, there are any number of adapters available, but compatible tech is on the way.

But for those actually using their MacBook Pro for professional purposes – particularly for people that use their notebooks for media creation – the notebook is well worth it's hefty price tag. Not only does the touch bar offer a wealth of creative performance, but there is also talk that the oversized trackpad may have been designed to work with the Apple Pencil created for the iPad Pro. A forthcoming software upgrade may make this a reality.

The 13″ touch bar models also offer 2.9 GHz dual core processors, with available turbo boost offering up to 2.2 GHz of processing power. More than enough for video editors, game developers, coders and other professionals that need some serious horsepower in their notebooks. All of that in a slim, sleek body that weighs in at a mere 3.02 lbs – a mere .06 lbs more than the legendary MacBook Air.

For those willing to spend the extra $400 for the 15″ base model, they move to a quad-core i7 processor capable of delivering speeds up to 3.5 GHz. The 15″ model also upgrades the graphics package from the Intel Iris 550 of the 13″ models to a performance packed Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB memory. The 15″ model also offers a whopping 16GB of 2133MHz memory compared to the 8GB that come standard on the 13″ model. For more information about the differences in models, click here.

All in all, the MacBook Pro is once again, exactly what it should be – a power-packed notebook for professionals. For those that simply use their notebooks for creating documents, sending emails and surfing the web, this is a great time to get a 2015 model at a killer price or wait another year or two until the price drops on the current tech.

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