September 2011 Archives
September 30, 2011
The Kindle? At that price point, in that form factor? It's stuffed. (pause for laughter) Amazon needs to become a platform, selling ebooks on all devices.
- Make the Kindle a lot cheaper
- Make the Kindle a lot better
- Become a device-agnostic platform
September 29, 2011
September 22, 2011
Image via CrunchBase
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, true enough. What most people fail to realise is that they are not entitled to have that opinion taken seriously. The ability to bash out a few hundred barely coherent words and post them on the internet does not automatically make your opinion worthy. That respect has to be earned.Still a useful things to bear in mind when interacting on the internet...
September 21, 2011
It occurs to me that media and marketing businesses are like the master craftsmen of old. Master masons in the middle ages created cathedrals and castles of staggering scale and beauty.I've felt for a long time that the future of media will look very different from even its recent past. This is more grist to the mill.
When science - and especially mathematics - began to make its influence felt more, though, a whole new world of possibilities opened up - what we think of as the modern discipline of architecture. Projects of scale and ambition were led by architects. Architects brought together science and the art.
That's not to say that master masons wouldn't and didn't have a future - but it was a future within the context of architecture as a discipline, as a world view.
September 20, 2011
September 19, 2011
Since my job morphed from "head of blog development" to "editorial development manager" (which happened a while before the job title change), I've struggled to give a clear, one sentence description of what I do. The closest I've got is "figure out how changes in technology, journalism and social media present us with business opportunities as a publisher - and then do everything I can to make sure we take advantage of that". Not exactly a conversation-starter at a dinner party.
This problem is afflicting the whole of journalism, I think. Jobs are becoming less defined as the work we do becomes more mutable. Arnold King sums up this trend in employment thus:
The paradox is this. A job seeker is looking for something for a well-defined job. But the trend seems to be that if a job can be defined, it can be automated or outsourced.
The marginal product of people who need well-defined jobs is declining. The marginal product of people who can thrive in less structured environments is increasing.
Something to think about…
[via Jackie Danicki]
Image via Wikipedia
David r was banned in July. Banning is a social measure where the community decides that the person's invitation to edit the site has been rescinded. You can read David r/Hari's ban discussion: there were fifteen users who supported a ban (myself included), and three who opposed the ban. David r is banned indefinitely from editing anything on Wikipedia. As we now have confirmation that David r is Johann Hari, Johann Hari is indefinitely banned from Wikipedia. This means that if he pops up with a new account and someone can confirm that the account is a "sockpuppet" used by Hari, that account will be blocked indefinitely on sight.Interesting contrast to The Independent's decision.
Who does all this? Volunteers.
I admit that, having written that I didn't believe Hari guilty of passing off somebody else's intellectual work as his own, it did give me pause for thought. But I concluded, in company with other sympathetic journalists - of left and right and centre, such as Deborah Orr, Ann Leslie and George Brock - that Hari had been a fool rather than a knave.
The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago I started to notice some things I didn't like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn't my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people's too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire - like Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Deborah Orr and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I factually corrected some other entries about other people. But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you.
At one stage Johann Hari quotes David Rose in his blog, giving him biographical details like "a starred first from a degree specialising in environmental science at Cambridge, and extensive work in Antarctica observing the effects of global warming", to support a point Hari himself is making. Green counts "at least fifteen biographical facts (from a lawyer girlfriend in Walthamstow and subbing jobs at the Independent and Spectator, to a principled and noisy opposition to the invasion of Iraq)" about David Rose, none of which were true, because there is no David Rose. "[It] was a fluent stream of lies contrived just so that the systemic smear campaign and dishonest self-promotional exercise could carry on and never be exposed", he says.Perhaps Hari should just admit that he's a fiction writer rather than a journalist and move on...?
September 16, 2011
- We underestimate the impact of the mobile as the computer everyone has in their pockets at our peril.
- The impact is less likely to be an evolution of what we do on the web and more likely to doing things centred around the local, social, ever-connected nature of portable devices.
- I really want what Dwolla offers. And I want to be able to leave my wallet at home as a result.
- HTML5 is way more capable that I expected, in the right hands.
- Lots of lip service is being given to HTML5 and Andriod, but it was the building for iOS session that was packed out...
- I really like the between sessions music at this conference... ;-)
- Apple's mindshare at conferences like this is truly terrifying - I've seem maybe three non-Apple laptops, and one non-Apple tablet. Otherwise, it's wall-to-wall MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs and iPads.
- There's a lot of hopes for Windows 8 / Windows Phone here, that's somewhat tempered by its lack of traction amongst the public, certainly in awareness terms
- There's a deep air of uncertainty. People used to building for a standard platform - the web - are now trying to deal with a fragmented market of OSes. Apple's dominance in mobile app revenue is alluded to, but people aren't confronting it head on.
- RIM's Blackberry has been mentioned precisely once. Based on this conference so far, it's a dead platform walking.
- Several of the "consultants" around are clearly evangelists of one platform in a consultant's clothing. Beware, beware if you're hiring a consultant for your mobile development
- Early internationalisation
- A small team, able to be nimble
- Single platform from the beginning - no reason you need to be on two platforms from day one.
- Minimum viable product at each step
- Invested in community very early
September 15, 2011
- astroturfing - creating fake online grassroots reviewing/feedback. US airforce looked for persona management software to create fake personas on the social web. Why?
- stolen identities - some brands write auto-posts from services you connect to Facebook as if you wrote it yourself.
- overreaction- Fouad Mourtada created a fake Facebook profile for the Crown Prince of Morocco - and was arrested and tortured for it. He shouldn't have done what he did - but the punishment outweighed the crime. The Trafigura case was an example of trying too hard to silence things.
- spying - US government departments have mentioned that Twitter is hard to get information from - but Facebook is co=operative to requests. The NYPD have a team trawling social media for evidence of crime. Ethical? Probably!
- inappropriateness - Habitat using an Iran protest hashtag with their marketing promotions. #mousavi. Wrong and stupid.
- Fleet Street Fox offers to give him a good old-fashioned journalism education - and doesn't think he'd last the day.
- Andrew Sullivan plays down his offences and hopes for his rapid return.
- A WannabeHack points out what a kick in the teeth this is for unemployed journalism graduates
- Guido Fawkes contrasts the Indy's reaction now to a previous situation with some parallels
- An Economist blogger finds it depressing and a poor reflection on British journalism
- Christina Odone thinks that the punishment does not match the crime
- Dave Mascord has a round-up of other comments
I've found mobile devices to be especially effective for on-the-street interviews. When New York City brought in a new system of letter grades for restaurant health inspections last year, the WNYC newsroom asked me to get reaction from New Yorkers. Using my iPad, I asked people on the street where they liked to eat and then looked up the restaurant's inspection report online. I was able to capture their reactions when they heard the details -- things like evidence of live vermin at their favorite restaurants. It was tape I could not have gotten in the moment without an iPad.
UK iPhone folks: Facebook Messenger is here: http://t.co/K86pzQgW
Getting a Facebook Page together for my blog: http://t.co/Avnsq6G
RT @ComCareFamilies: #topman t-shirt debate: does the store glamourise #domesticviolence? http://t.co/XA1kDd2
Westfield Stratford City - what the press thought http://j.mp/odgEtq
From yesterday: Five random thoughts on mobile http://t.co/p00SItt
September 14, 2011
September 13, 2011
- There are an awful lot of high priest of cults masquerading as scientists in this space
- Some companies price their offering solely based on how little their potential customers know
- There are lies, damn lies, and ageing web metrics products
- There are two, diametrically opposed dangers on tablets: being a print fundamentalist and being a web fundamentalist
- An awful lot of people don't understand the difference between the internet and the web
September 12, 2011
- The problem with a job that involves looking at how technology changes will impact on editorial content is that the rate of change of technology is a lot greater than the rate of change of editorial businesses, so I spend all my time panicing about how far we have to go...
- All meetings should be measured on their Reggie Perrin Quotient. 0 RPQs is the perfect, enjoyable, productive, work-affirming meeting. at 100 RPQs, you're driving to the beach and preparing to fold your clothes neatly... (never went higher than 15 RPQs today)
- People who just go ahead and give things a go, without being told to do A, B or C are worth their weight in any precious metal you care to name right now.
September 11, 2011
September 6, 2011
First and foremost, the concept of an "editor" at TechCrunch is essentially just a title and nothing more. Generally speaking, neither Mike nor Erick (TC's two "co-editors") are overlords that dictate what everyone else covers. With a few exceptions (mainly for newer writers), no one person even reads posts by any other author before they are posted.Traditional journalists may be appalled to learn this. But this is a big key of why TechCrunch kicks their ass in tech coverage. We're fast and furious in ways they can't be, because they're adhering to the old rules. Are there benefits to those old rules? Sure. But in my opinion, the benefits of the way we work far outweighs the benefits of the way they work.
Even if it's just on a subconscious level, each of these authors must know that the future of their business looks a lot more like TechCrunch than The New York Times. Love it or hate it, that's the truth. It's inevitable.
September 5, 2011
A respected Swiss scientist, Conrad Gessner, might have been the first to raise the alarm about the effects of information overload. In a landmark book, he described how the modern world overwhelmed people with data and that this overabundance was both "confusing and harmful" to the mind.
September 2, 2011
We take synchronised time for granted but it's only a few centuries old. With the railways came the need to synchronise and make sure London and Brighton aren't 15 minutes apart. People already had "pocket" watches - they were early adopters, but as they become smaller and time became more synchronised, they became more common. Society adapted to a new network.
Connections you make through the things you carry around bleeding into everything you do. They show what's most important to you. A Boris Bike key in your pocket in San Francisco reminds you of the network it's part of - people, places, home?
Oyster cards are avatars of yourself. It represents you to a system. It registers as you, and has an effect on the system that has an impact on you. The RFID chips within them have the potential to represent you in many ways.
Now think of this in the context of another pocket object the iPhone - and the ways it represents you and your life, over time.
Service on an aged object?
Should we care about the objects we carry with us? Should we regard them as "old friends"?
So, yeah. Mobile devices are personal devices, life companions. And that should change the way we build for them. It's a metaphor (and bigger on the inside).
Interesting couple of talks to round off the post-lunch session. Dan Hon walked us through the exploration of new forms of storytelling that have been going on online. Some are facilitated by a coder and writer combo. The development of new tools has lead to new forms of storytelling, from alternate reality games (ARGs) (Hon cites one associated with A.I. he got sucked into in 2001) to people using Twitter and its ilk to create fictional personas and narratives.
However, he suggests that there are significant issues around discovery and participation right now. In particular, as entertainment and information objects make a digital transition, we often lose the context of their design. Book covers become 200 pixel wide icons. TV becomes 640 pixel wide boxes on screen. Everything's being reduced to icons, to small versions of the physical object it used to be. We lose context.
We need to explore building products that facilitate these new forms of narrative and gaming rather than constantly adapting existing forms and tools.
Meanwhile Kars Alfrink was thinking the other way around - how we bring our understanding of games back into the physical work. In a sense the games of politics are already manifest in our world: there are towns split between countries as a legacy of history. There are fictional and real examples of cities which exist alongside one another without interaction) - The City and The City and Berlin in the post-war cold war era. Areas of London where gang confrontations happen alongside couples eating and drinking at a bistro. In extremes, this leads to riots.
Rules are fundamental to this. The riots highlighted the existence of two different cities in the same place - with different rules. What if we could make those rules more tangible? Simulation fever - the stress of two completing rules sets (games versus reality) He's not tailing about gamification - by rewarding reciprocity, we suggest there's not inherent value in it. Mary did a good post about this earlier. Games can bring societies together - like chess in the park - or they can create monocultures. (I suspects FPSes would count here).
Pervasive urban games are part of the routine. Visible Cities - a chase game, with checkpoints in "other cities". You're not allowed to interact with people in "different cities".
Rules as memes. Bookcrossing is a simple ruleset that promotes behaviour. Werewolf amongst geeky circles. Games as social practice. Nomic - a move is to suggest a new rule. Life is roughly a massively parallel game of Nomic. Can we create a game that takes these implicit rules and makes them explicit?
A really fascinating talk by Frank Chimero about curating, organising and accessing all the digital "possessions" we're accumulating, including Likes and things we favourite, and notes we make.
The very different characteristics of digital and analogue material are certainly a fascinating topic. Analogue is owned and forces you to remember it by its presence. Digital feels like we pay for access to it, and is often invisible until we seek to find it.
Digitally, we have piles of stuff, but it's not a physical pile - it's a collection of information, much of which lacks context in an accessible forms - particularly our choices to star/heart/favourite/like/+1 pieces of content. Can we put everything we like in one place? 19th Century Gentlemen did in their Commonplace books. (An analogue Tumblr blog...?) It's "curation as authorship".
The Creator Economy - producing and consuming in the same act
The Architecture of Serendipity
Curation is collection with an architecture of arrangement. Arrangement requires a second pass. (I agree with that - I often give onld sections of this blog a second pass - I should do more of that with my "information buckets") We need technology optimised for the second pass:
- How we sort things - location, alphabet, time, category, hierarchy (latch. We tend to sort things in reverse chronological, which is great for the new, but not for things you've seen before. Digital is infinitely mutable - things can exist in more then one place at once.
- How we move through time - content can time-shift. Instapaper allows us to postpone reading things. It's a time machine that pushes content into your future.
- What media is supported - Lots of women's fashion blogs do this - they curate looks, Biblion - an iPad app that curates exhibitions specially.
He also talked about the challenge of producing quiet data. The Kindle blends in when placed on a table, while the iPad shouts for attention. Sometimes quieter is more productive.
Perspective - a PhD is just a tiny nipple outside the boundaries of our human knowledge of the universe. Startups are just the same, a small new thing in this whole ecosystem.
Printing brought us the idea that knowledge could be controlled, attributed, finished. And that lead to people wanting to claim and protect their ideas - hence patents. Processes allow us to duplicate what've learned. Once you can duplicate, then you can scale it, and then you can make money...
The power of the network online is more powerful than any individual, and so we're starting to see the idea of ownership of an idea break down. Ideas self-replicate and grow. It takes on almost biological characteristics. Once something is out there, it leaves our control.
And now we have the net and social networks in out pockets at all time. This amplifies these effects - and accelerates change.
The balance of power is shifting. We can't expect people to interact with our protects in linear, controlled ways. They no longer have to wait for us to create experiences. Instapaper and Flipboard take away your navigation and ads and give people a better reading experience.
It's counter-intuitive to present people with incomplete, draft products, but people like to ability to adapt what you present. People are not homogenous, and don't want homogenous products.
It takes time to figure out the social contexts and requirements around new technologies (took ages with the car). You go through periods of stability, rapid change, then a new period of stability. These used to be quite long. Now? Interlocking mini s-curves. Constant change. And the result is generation gaps. People only a few years apart in age are having very different experiences of technology.
The more complexity you build into a system, the more reliant you get on other actors in the ecosystem. Compare self-ground coffee and a French Press with Nespresso system. Simple can be better, because it gives you more ability to customise.
We are creating a new culture, new systems to adapt to a new age.
Are we going to spend the rat of our lives staring at our mobile screens? A babysitter spent the first half hour just texting and ignoring Goto's kids. She bans texting, iPads et al at the dinner table.
We shouldn't be designing for addiction, but to fit in to people's rituals. Do you read a physical newspaper over breakfast or RSS feeds on an iPad? Do you listen to the radio as you commute, or podcasts? Goto is shocked by how little people understand the customers they're providing business services to.
Mood and context change people's experiences - she gives the example of her Mini, and the "fun" of its design, and the way that shapes her whole driving experience.
- get people to stay upright and communicate with others
- understand what machine to human communications should be and how they should work.
The gulf between what people tell you, what they believe about themselves and what they actually do is a problem when researching user needs.
The iPhone home button is comforting because it always takes you back to the home screen, something clearly happens when you use it, and it has a optic experience that make sit feel good. Oh, and you can customise it, if you want.
We've moved up the hierarchy of needs to the point of comfort, beyond merely usable. Sensory engineering has been around since the 1960s, Kansei provides a framework for measuring emotional response to design. I like the idea of "contextual personas" - personas which reflect what people do at different times of day. One of my minor obsessions is that people consume news in different forms at different times in their day, based on their working, commuting and relaxing patterns. This looks like a good way to start exploring those ideas, and understanding the context of how people use what we do.
Don Norman appears to be scene setting - he's talking us through many of the current issues in technology. He's given us a little light Google-bashing, talking about the familiar issues that you are not Google's users (unless you're an advertiser) - you're the product. The nymwars around Google+. The lack of design expertise.
And others - Apple and its rules. So switch to Android - and you have to design for dozens of different devices, screen sizes and versions of the OS, instead of two.
And now we have tablets. There's no consistent language of what you do to achieve any particular task across devices yet (and Apple is busy disrupting ideas by reversing scrolling in Lion, too).
"It's a great challenge - and we're still learning. Are you ready?"
The distinction between devices is blurring, you can't be focused on a single device type any more. Interfaces are changing and blurring.
Apple licensed music, and made it easy to sell songs at a reasonable price. They made it easy to find music. iTunes is an SAP database - they took that complicated database and made it easy to use. And they made it possible for other people to develop accessories. And they made an "iPod approved" system which meant they could make money from that ecosystem. Amazon has done many of these things with the Kindle. Kindle dominates because it has the easiest system.
Twitter: Built of social clusters of people. Retweets get you from one cluster to another. Twitter provides the tools, and we provide the content (and the usage methodology, too - users came up with @replies and #hashtags). We're curating and editing through these social processes.
"You need to think systems" - as opposed to a single app or website.
Ah, I'm beginning to remember the style of dConstruct from last year - some of these talks are so wide-ranging (if you're being kind) or rambling (if you're not) that they're hard to summarise in a post. Norman is effectively exploring how we need to shift our mindsets from single products to systems, that we build in co-operation with others, be they other companies, or our users.
September 1, 2011
If the Editor of this paper were to suggest that he owned you just because you are reading these lines, you might understandably be puzzled. Perhaps, not unreasonably, you would be downright irritated that the choice you made to read a particular article in a particular newspaper on a particular day could make you the property of a particular journalist.
But, more importantly, what the fuss did demonstrate was how central online reporting has become to the work of journalists. No doubt, having started tweeting as an experiment two years ago during the party conference season, it became almost as important to me to break stories on Twitter as it did to get them on air on the BBC's rolling news channel.It's a good, thoughtful piece, that, to me, really helps undermine the corporate-structure centric blog post that kicked off this whole discussion. It's about the communication between reporter and their interested audience. It's about speed. It's about relationship.