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Issue 13.5 ('Text Messaging')
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FEATURE

Simple is Better

Text Messaging with Xojo

Issue: 13.5 (September/October 2015)
Author: Mark Strickland
Author Bio: Mark Strickland has been a fan of many dialects of BASIC since it was on the Radio Shack TRS-80 and Digital Equipment PDP-11 mini computers. Over the years he has spent time in a variety of companies including a manufacturer of credit card imprinters and another that built 6,000 water heaters per day. More recently he has worked in a University Medical School setting using his MacGyver-like Information Technology and Ethical Hacker skills to solve problems, almost always with Xojo. In his small software company (SimplyBASICsoftware.com), he has been using Xojo to build things like a Web-based home health care package that keeps caregivers on task with text messaging. Usually his MacGyver skills don't make things blow up, but occasionally users might disagree.
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Article Length (in bytes): 21,762
Starting Page Number: 17
Article Number: 13504
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Excerpt of article text...

Regardless of the tools you have at hand sometimes simple is better. I believe that Text Messaging falls into that paradigm.

Hey, it is the 21st century and everything is complicated... especially Information Technology. I remember the "good old days" when you had RAM measured in bytes. Programming languages were primitive, but seemingly more predictable and easy to use. Fewer "invisible" problems seemed to surface because most language statements seemed to not do "mysterious" things. Because there was a more limited vocabulary in most languages you got fluent with how things worked, but, yes, you did write more code. Today lots of stuff happens inside a "black box" and that box is sometimes opaque. One statement in Xojo today can do things that required a dozen or maybe hundreds of lines of code a decade or more ago.

As a consequence of this older, less complex environment, user interfaces (UI) tended to be more simplistic, yet work got done. I think I remember an industrial engineering analysis of some of the early Graphical User Interfaces that showed they tended to confuse users and had longer learning curves when compared to character based terminals. At least for a while they tended to slow productivity rather than improve it. Character based terminals led you through the workflow while mouse driven GUI interfaces gave you lots of "free form choices."

Mobile technology has evolved rapidly and now you can do things on your smart phone that a room full of computer hardware could not do only a few decades ago. Your refrigerator may be more capable than some computers now stored in museums. In the exploding age of The Internet Of Things (IoT), technology and complexity is still rapidly accelerating. But is it always better? Interfaces have gone from pure text, to mimicking three dimensional screen objects with bevels, shadows, and lots of color, to the skeuomorphic designs with just a label for an action button. The arguments are endless which is better but the screen designs are still complex. If you are a smartphone owner but not tech savvy, sometimes this complexity slows down productivity or even stops it completely.

Suppose you had a group of mobile hourly employees that needed to clock-in to go on and off duty. You could build a Xojo Mobile iPhone App or Web App but then the user would have to have a smartphone device and some degree of tech-savvyness to navigate the app. Suppose your users were older and some even still carried flip phones. There are lots of industries that fit this model. Home health care of older Baby Boomers being cared for by younger Baby Boomers is frequently that model. For a while longer that will be an expanding industry. I suppose you could have them fill out a piece of paper but that does not work so well for a mobile workforce. You could have them call in their worked hours or send an email. All of these are labor intensive on the front side of the process and labor intensive and less accurate processing the data on the backside.

So what about those flip phones? They do text messages. You can build a back end Xojo app that sits on a server to send out text messages based on each employee's schedule to remind them to clock-in. There is even an example app that comes with Xojo that sends text messages via a service called Twilio. This alert could come a few minutes before the shift started for each employee and even the least tech savvy person could respond to that message with the two letters "IN" and when they pressed send they would be clocked in. Well, that is, if another Xojo app could "catch" this returned text message, parse the phone number, and update a database.

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