VXML IVR Preview

So I am currently working on a blog post where I walk through the process of coding a simple IVR in VXML. The post is almost ready and will be out soon. In the meantime you can call:

1-(800) 289-5570
And then enter PIN: 9996141888

The program asks for your favorite animal and then gives a short response.

Some Updates

Hello all. Here are some updates on what has been happening.

I am no longer a member of the Zeall.us project. I left on good terms. We decided that with my other commitments I could not devote the time necessary to move the project forward. I thank Lucas and the Zeall.us team for a lot of things. They are allowing me to keep this blog for one. Also I have learned so much about politics in the last year it is amazing. In the past I was just a voter who looked the day before at the candidates and then pretty much voted straight party. This experience has taught me to look a the bigger picture across all races. Local, State and Federal. Back in 2008 I was young and wasn’t even registered to vote in the primary. My how times have changed.


I’m not going to just sit around an do nothing now. I still work on my smaller projects and do volunteer work, but I still want to create something. I will be working with some other Zeall.us friends in the near future to start up a podcast. We have lots of interesting topics to discuss and we are looking at doing them collaboratively. Keep on the lookout for those. They will be posted here when we get them done.

That is it for now. This site is going to get a small redesign to fix links and stuff, but nothing major.




Spreading the Word

It is 2016, the era of near instantaneous mass communication and social media. Anyone can create an account on any platform and just start typing away to gain fame and fortune. How are companies evolving to fit this new paradigm? The answer is by crazier and crazier ads. The next series of blog posts will examine this topic. Be on the lookout for my Zeall official blog posts on advertising from the very first print ads to the internet. Things are going to be interesting around here. I have a few post ideas in mind. I am going to look at different advertising media and show you what has and what hasn’t worked, as well as what I feel are some of the best, and worst ad campaigns. From rodents selling sandwiches to cowboys herding cats, we are going to have a good time.


Let’s kick things off with what in my opinion are a couple of the funniest ads of all time.


  1. EDS was herding cats


The year 2000 was an amazing year for Super Bowl ads. It was when early tech companies started to make more money than should be allowed very quickly. Plenty of people remember this ad, but who can remember what company made it or what they even did? The ad is super hilarious, but at the same time gives you absolutly no idea of what the company did.  Most of these companies, including EDS no longer exist. Thanks to the internet this ad lives on forever.


I’m from Texas, but I currently live in NM. Cowboy culture was a big part of my childhood. Maybe that is why I find this ad so hilarious. It is amazingly well done and reminds me of what I thought cowboys did when I was a kid.


  1. Language learning is hard.



One of my degrees is in Linguistics. I don’t ever use it for my job but I do use it as sort of like a parlor trick every now and then. Start talking about linguistics and suddenly people are interested in how they talk and how they sound to others.


One thing that I love to study is accents. I was born and spent most of my early life in Texas. I moved to NM when I was 10 and I had a pretty thick accent. Other kids made fun of me for it and I sort of lost it. It still comes through on certain words and when I catch myself I think it is pretty funny. I also listen to NHL radio mostly in the car and it is recorded in Canada.  The wealth of different accents on that station is always entertaining.


As an IT worker, I find this ad both hilarious, and one that hits frighteningly close to home.



These are a few of my favorites. Advertising is most effective if you can remember the ad and what the company does. These are older ads. More modern ads that you see on TV all the time have better traction on remembering what the company. Humor is still used to sell things and if you can remember the ad because it is funny it is better than just pitching your product.


Millennials and Technology

In an earlier post I mentioned my frustrations with Millennials and technology. I talked about apps and how they know things that I don’t, and I will probably never catch up with. I am a hardware guy. We are a dying breed. With the way current technology is made there are just not that many of us who are able to tinker with stuff. There are a lot of DIY projects out there on the market, but you have to want to do them in the first place. Your average person is not going to say one day “I think I’ll buy a Raspberry Pi and learn Linux.”


It is not because they don’t want to learn, it is because they have never really thought about it. A computer is a necessary part of learning to be a functional worker. No matter what job you have, you will use a computer. Now the first thing a young person is exposed to is not a computer, but either a phone or a tablet.


I remember the day I got my first phone. It was a week after I passed the driving test and was able to fly solo. In those days a phone was simply a way to keep in contact. I still have that phone, and if current political trends continue I may dig it out again. The thing is, the phone has become so much more in the last 11 years. Back then all I could do was make a phone call and spend a good 5 minutes writing a simple text. Oh and snake, I played the heck out of snake.


I was a super early smart phone adopter. I will never forget my the first time I was able to browse the Internet on my phone. I had the summation of the world’s knowledge at my fingertips. I also had a calculator. When I was in 5th grade and we were learning math my teacher said “you will never have a calculator with you at all times.” Now not only do I have a calculator, I have one that I can use my finger to write and solve complex problems including calculus problems, right on my phone.


So where does this leave the younger generations? I got my phone when I was able to drive. Now I see kids in middle school with phones. For them a phone is the same thing I went through when I was 8 and learning a desktop computer.


These days apps are the way to get things done. There is an app for almost everything. There are apps for things you didn’t know you wanted an app for. These have made our adult lives simpler. Now imagine if you had these tools to make your life simpler when you were in high school or early college.
On top of making our lives easier, there is a social aspect to having a phone with the latest apps. The world is amazingly interconnected and people from all over the world can share stories and problems. That is why developing a social media app is so exciting. We have the power to positively change the world around us.

Americans Are Upset With The Government

This election cycle the theme seems to be one of anti-establishment candidates. Both the GOP and the Democrats have a candidates who are anti-establishment. Trump is most definitely a Washington outsider and Bernie is highlighting all the things that Americans are upset with the government about.

The main thing that the people are upset about is government inefficacy. People just don’t think the government gets things done anymore. When we do hear about bills being passed they always elicit outrage from various communities like the tech sector. Congress has an abysmal approval rating at 11%. This is a big issue. Nothing ever seems to get done and everything seems to be held up by partisan gridlock. When bills are introduced it seems that the people elected to pass the bills have not even read them, or they do not have the requisite knowledge to be well informed enough to make a good decision on the bill. The fact is the country is changing with new challenges and and new technologies and the government hasn’t kept up.

I work repairing Apple devices, so I have had a vested interest in the iOS encryption debacle. There is also a proposed bill that is so anti-encryption that it would ban file compression. Do representatives not realize that the stuff they are trying to ban is the backbone of modern civilization in the Internet age? E-commerce would pretty much shut down without encryption.

Another reason for the distaste of the government is the way the Congress and Senate are actually elected and run. Every two years there is a new election for members of the House of Representatives. How can we expect anything to get done in the super short legislative sessions a every year on top of having to run a new campaign every other year. The Senate is elected every 6 years. These two facts lead to midterm elections where voter turnout is abysmal. This leads to dynasties in both the Senate and the House.

Lack of action by elected officials is also one thing that upsets the people. This goes beyond the Congress all the way up to the President. While Congress is perceived to take little action, the President is under scrutiny for all that he does. Since FDR the President is expected to have a major role in domestic politics. The President’s scrutiny has more or less taken the eyes off of Congress and allowed them to do just enough to get re-elected.

Congress’ approval rating is low. There is the mentality of “my guy is OK, the rest of congress is what is bad.” This excuse is becoming less widespread with the newer, younger voters. With near instantaneous communication that they have access to 24/7, younger voters have the ability to be the most well informed voters ever. The problem is one of motivation. With Zeall becoming motivated is easy and can lead to real effective change.





Learning By Doing

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It is a group that tries to re-create the middle ages through picking a persona and living as they would in your time period. The organization is entirely run by volunteers. I am actually the chapter president of my local group of about 60 people.

So what makes me want to volunteer? It is all about learning valuable life lessons and learning things in a way that is not likely to get me in too much trouble if I make a mistake, like it might at a job. This last weekend I spent 10 hours at an event volunteering in the kitchen. I spent a good amount of time making pies from scratch. Before this event I could count on one hand the number of times I have made a pie. I made 33 pies in 4 hours at the event. The great thing is I now have learned a new skill and it didn’t cost me a cent. The act of making a pie is now permanently ingrained in me. I don’t really see myself making a ton of pies in the near future, but I now have the skill.

Imagine if you could do this for other valuable life lessons. Becoming politically active is a life lesson. The fact that you can vote to affect change is a very powerful and valuable thing to become good at.

I am working on an app called Zeall.  Zeall is a way to become involved in things like politics. Zeall allows you to volunteer and take action, or even lead a group of volunteers, building life lessons along the way. In the SCA we have a system of awards that recognizes people’s work. Zeall provides the same function. In the SCA I get recognition by a small group of people, but it means a lot to me. With Zeall you can gain recognition with a large group of people. Volunteer organizations, political parties, and even the politicians themselves will be able to recognize your work.

Another thing that I struggle with as the chapter president is getting people to take action and step up to do things. The major breakdown in the system is coordinated communication. When I need to coordinate something it is a mix of text and Facebook messages. Zeall can fill that gap. With an application like Zeall I would be able to quickly and effectively organize people and see what they are doing and what needs to be done. As someone who regularly organizes events, being able to manage a group of people in real time would be invaluable.

Bonus SCA quick pie dough recipe:

300 grams flour
45 grams sugar
1 pinch salt
100 grams Crisco
110 grams of water.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a food processor. Add the Crisco and mix until crumbed. Add the water and mix until the dough has balled up. Take out of food processor and form into a ball. Cut in half. Pat it thin and refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Now do that 17 times and you have just made the dough. The next step is rolling them all out. Like I said, permanently ingrained.

“You young kids just get this stuff”

I’m the manager of the Apple repair department of my work but I have always been the go to guy for any problems that come up. When I worked there 2 years ago before I left for grad school it was the same. I worked in sales then. I have some pretty funny stories. One of my favorites is the time I sold an elderly gentleman an iPad. We went through all the features and got it set up for him. Three days later he came back with a problem. He asked for me by name. He tells me “It suddenly started a showing a screen I can’t get out of and I can’t figure out what to do.” I say, “ok turn it on for me and lets take a look.” It is the dead battery screen. He didn’t realize you had to charge it apparently.

But that is a different generation. They didn’t grow up with it like the millennial generation did. The millennials should be better with computers right? After a year of dedicated time twice a week I have come to the conclusion that this is not the case. When it comes to a laptop or a desktop they are way behind. Things like simply installing a program throw them off. When school starts every semester a good 70% of my week is installing Office. That is the thing though; the younger millennials didn’t really grow up with it either.

All of the younger millennials grew up with smart phones and other mobile devices. Mobile devices have as much abstraction as possible. They have an operating system that is drastically different than a computer. Some devices it is only possible to install apps from the curated app store. You have to jailbreak your phone to install 3rd party apps. Using mobile devices is the type of tech savvy that millennials have.

I didn’t start with a smartphone but I have had a smart phone starting with the second ever Android device. I like to think that I have kept up with the times. I know the ends and outs of them and I can even tear them apart and put them back together. Where I fall behind is the apps. There are so many apps that younger millennials use that I have no clue how to use and if I started I would be in the same boat as the guy who didn’t realize that he needed to charge his iPad.

That is how to get millennials to do something. There is a reason that the app industry is booming. In 2014 Apple paid iOS developers more than 10 billion dollars. In 2013 Apple announced the App Store’s 50 billionth download. That is 7 apps per person for the entire population of the earth. Imagine what you could do if you could harness that power. You could start a cause or create and idea that would be unstoppable.





Video Gaming

I’m going to start off by saying that I am not a game critic, just a fan of gaming and how games work. I’ve been playing games since the 1990’s when I started with my dad’s computer playing Chessmaster.

Video games are light years ahead of where they were when I was a kid. Amazing advancements in technology have allowed games to become almost lifelike. From 8-bit to now more colors than I even knew existed, graphics have become incredible.

It isn’t just graphics, the games have become smarter too. Games now do things that games even 5 years ago couldn’t do. One of the games I played back in the day was Age of Empires II. Going back to the game now it is interesting to see how the game AI handles different situations.

Shooter AI has gotten better too. When Halo first came out I was 13. My sister and I worked and we were able to beat the game on legendary. I just finished Halo 5 with a friend of mine. I am now working on legendary and it is shocking how much better the AI is for the enemies. The fireteam on the other hand, well that is a new blog post all together.

It isn’t just the games that are changing; the way we game has also changed. With the invention of the smartphone and other mobile devices, mobile gaming has become a huge industry.

There is one trend to the gaming industry that I do not like, micro transactions. They have become the norm for the industry to make money after the initial sale of the game. What was once mainly confined to the mobile gaming industry, micro transactions have now found their way into games like Halo and Destiny. I am not a fan of the pay to win, where things purchased offer an advantage.

Gaming is what got me into the computer world. I have been building computers for 13 years now, and that is how I landed my current job. We’ve come a long way since Chessmaster, and I eagerly await the next big title.


Hello and welcome to the first of a weekly blog post.

My name is Britton McNelis. I’m into tech stuff, gaming, food, sports, medieval historical reenactment, or anything that can keep my attention for more than 2 min.

I graduated from New Mexico Sate University in Las Cruces, NM in 2013 with degrees in history and linguistics. I attended graduate school at Indiana University Bloomington for a semester studying Computational Linguistics but I came to the conclusion that the life of an academic was not something I was interested in pursuing.

Currently I’m the manager of the Apple Authorized Service Provider department of the NMSU bookstore. I hold all the repair certifications and I am the one turning the screws.

I am also the president of the Society for Creative Anachronism chapter in Las Cruces.

This blog is going to basically me posting about whatever I feel is interesting that week. Check back on Tuesdays to get new content.