Eric Tendian

Innovating in EdTech, building Packback and Plannr. Undergrad at Illinois Tech. Aviation nerd. Cares about urban social problems (Chicago crime, etc).

Read this first

Why I love learning but hate school

I love learning but hate school. Why?

In school, you’re forced to put in effort into something which has no direct meaning apart from words on a piece of paper. Learning is much more purpose-driven, you learn something because it drives success. You learn because you need that knowledge or experience.

There are no classes on how to learn to walk. You just try it once, fall over, and get back up to try again. You don’t get a multiple-choice test on how to swim. The most long-lasting learning does not come from a classroom. It comes from putting in effort, failing almost all the time, and finally making a breakthrough to burn that experience into your head.

When someone asks me how I “got so good at computers” I think of every time I wiped all the data off my hard drive. All the times my program crashed or gave an error. All the times software didn’t...

Continue reading →


“We are not terminating this chase!” #ChicagoScanner

Passed 6,000 tweets on Twitter tonight, so thought I’d do a little bit of reflection of my journey coming to this point. For those of you unaware, the majority of my tweets now come from the police scanner where I share notable tidbits I hear. The title comes from this police chase audio but I recorded another police chase tonight which is also worth listening to.

It’s been a wild ride since March when I first bought a little USB stick that allowed me to listen to a vast radio frequency spectrum. Since that March 16th day when I placed the order, I have met some great people along the way who are making sure each victim of crime gets coverage. Some interesting anonymous characters too who stay up night and day to provide journalists with the information they need. Now I am one of the people who provides information, and I hope to one day play a part in reducing the amount...

Continue reading →


Bus Ride To The Second City

With thick smoke billowing into the air a block away, I stepped back into the safety of the train station. As a young white male out on the streets, on Chicago’s West Side, you can feel you’re an outsider. People look at you differently, they talk to you differently, and wearing more business-like clothes often results in being the target of panhandling. The entire atmosphere can be unsettling to someone who’s never set foot a mile from their quiet, peaceful home.

Later that day, I waited as cars rode by with music blasting, a group of young men hung out on the corner next to the auto repair shop and liquor store. Police drove through the intersection with an air of caution and suspicion, seeing the men gathering.

Standing at California Avenue and Harrison Street waiting for the bus to arrive, I quickly remembered I wasn’t in the Chicago shown in old postcards...

Continue reading →


CrimeIsDown.com: Changing the signal-to-noise ratio

“Simulcast currently unavailable. Units in 7…” The air is hot and sticky on a July summer night, and the radio crackles to life once again. A person has just been shot. I type furiously trying to keep up with the tempo of the dispatcher as she reads out the ticket. A few more keystrokes and I tweet one more time.

These sounds are an all-too-common occurrence on some nights. We hear tallys like “3 killed, 20 wounded”, “1 killed, 5 wounded”, “2 stabbed”, and more. For those in communities far from the usual centers of violence, it can be easy to simply ignore it with a “not in my backyard” attitude. It’s become something we know to skip through when reading the morning news report.

I used to ignore the crime and violence going on in Chicago. Why read about something that just involves death and pain? That’s...

Continue reading →


E.T. phone home: finding himself

“One day you could be president,” the parent tells their child; an overused cliche, with the statement going more untrue as the years go by. Another cliche is for parents to tell their children to be doctors or lawyers, timeless professions which often garner lots of wealth. I have been fortunate enough to have my path in life be left open-ended, no stereotypes or career cliches imposed on myself.

However, with that open-endedness comes great uncertainty and ambition. Over the last 18 years of my life, I have had many aspirations. Some of them far-fetched, some of them within reach, and some achieved by luck and determination. Thus, I am very thankful for those who gave me a chance to go far beyond the limits of my imagination. Alas, when one appears to do well at a motley of roles and tasks, it is difficult for oneself to find the true magnetic North and go in that...

Continue reading →


Enough Flappy Bird. Solve real problems.

Exactly one week ago, the hit mobile game Flappy Bird was removed from the App Store. It had become a viral hit, gaining millions of downloads and hundreds of thousands of reviews. So what is Flappy Bird exactly? It is a remake of the very old helicopter game where you tap to keep the bird afloat, and have to get it through a series of narrow openings in pipes.

Since it was taken down, I have seen numerous clones of the game pop up on GitHub and other sites. The question I have is: WHY? If the game has caused so much aggravation and hate for players, then why are we still trying to keep the meme alive?

There are so many social problems that need solving. Real, hard problems that do not have simple solutions (e.g. homelessness, gang violence, education, poverty). There are also many talented developers, entrepreneurs, and others in the industry - many more than there were ten years...

Continue reading →


Never Stop Shipping

Going to one of top high schools and colleges in Illinois in terms of technology curriculum, I’ve been very lucky to have so many classmates who are not only interested in the same areas I’m interested in, but also are very talented at it. However, for all the great talent that’s out there, I am not seeing all of it.

One issue I see is that those who may be really talented choose to keep their ideas/code/product secret instead of publish it to the world. With tools like Github available, one of the best actions a young developer can take is to publish all their code on the web. It is a very empowering feeling when you can work on something that you show to the world (and being proud of what you’ve accomplished is a nice bonus). Companies are even starting to replace resumes with Github profiles.

The other pressing issue is that those who want to get better...

Continue reading →


Keeping up with the frameworks

It seems like every day there is a new change in the front-end web development workflow. Just yesterday, I heard that “that Grunt and RequireJS are out, it’s all about Gulp and Browserify now”. For those not working in the frontend world, Grunt and RequireJS are tools to help automate the development process (building and modularizing code, for example). Gulp and Browserify are similar tools, but have been said to work better by some industry experts.

Every day developers are coming up with a new something.js or a browser drops/adds support for a certain CSS spec. There are constant changes to the workflow, with everyone having an opinion on what’s “best” or what the “proper” way to build a web app is.

Frankly, I’m a bit apprehensive about going into web development with all this constant change going on. How will I ever learn all of...

Continue reading →


Choosing your startup’s location

Too often I see new startups launching their products with a real-world component in a city that is not my own. That city? San Francisco, California.

Don’t get me wrong - I have nothing against the city and think it’s a great place to start a business. However, despite the abundant tech talent and investors in the area, it’s not always the right place to set up shop.

Location is critical to any business, despite becoming less critical as we’ve become an increasingly globalized world. When deciding to launch a product, especially one that people interact with physically, the founder must consider which place has the greatest need for that product. Otherwise, there’s an increased risk of failure because you may not have the biggest market to begin with.

For example, Chicago’s weather is all four seasons, and can get a large amount of snow in the...

Continue reading →


Bitcoins Can Now Legally Marry

Looking to capitalize on loving Bitcoins searching for a wallet, a new online startup called DogesForBitcoins lobbied Congress to let doges order pizza and pay with Bitcoins, by allowing long lost Bitcoins to come together in a single wallet. So here’s a bunch of Bitcoins celebrating a major civil rights milestone and their freedom to be awesome. It makes me tear up a little. I think it will make you tear up too.

Headlines

Sorry, but this isn’t the story you think it is. BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Business Insider, Gizmodo, etc. - these are all viral content mills bragging about how they are able to pander so successfully. One of the ways they accomplish this is with sensational titles filled with hyperbole and anecdotes.

These are headlines designed to fuel page-view journalism, something we call clickbait. They want you to click on the link so they can waste more of your time and thus...

Continue reading →