Recently in Technology Category
November 18, 2013
Mathew Ingram responds to Farhad Manjoo on how telling teenagers' use of tech is:
[...] teens and twenty-somethings are good predictors of technology's future, even if the services or apps or hardware they prefer at a specific point in time don't become a "winner" in market terms. And that's why companies like Facebook -- and investors who hold shares in them -- should be concerned when they see younger users dropping off or adopting other services.
I'm not sure that I entirely agree with either of them - Manjoo is pretty clearly accurate when he points out that some major trends that do come to pass aren't led by teenagers, and it's not just the financially gated ones either - Twitter is one example of a service that has traction but which teens came to late, if at all.
But equally, Ingram is correct in saying that the behaviours of teens are more telling than the services they use. Teens' use of Bebo and MySpace in the mid-2000s heralded the rise of Facebook rather than a growth in the two sites they were using at the time. The trend was telling, rather than the sites.
So - look at teens' usage of disparate tools to maintain a loose, non-centralised network as the key message of today's situation, not at the particular services they're using to do that with right now. Indeed, if anything, this promiscuous use of a variety of tools makes it less likely that any one will become significant in the long-term - as swapping out any element of their social toolbox becomes significantly easier than it was in the centralise social network era.
And, of course, once their parents figure out they're doing it, that's exactly what they'll do. Snapchat's in the papers. The clock is ticking...
Do we put too much faith in the idea that teenagers are a good predictor of technology trends?
Yet the vast majority of your most-used things weren't initially popular among teens. The iPhone, the iPad, the iPod, the Google search engine, YouTube, Twitter, Gmail, Google Maps, Pinterest, LinkedIn, the Kindle, blogs, the personal computer, none of these were initially targeted to, or primarily used by, high-school or college-age kids. Indeed, many of the most popular tech products and services were burdened by factors that were actively off-putting to kids, such as high prices, an emphasis on productivity and a distinct lack of fun. Yet they succeeded anyway.
Every time someone I work with says "but my teenagers do this thing, we should do that", I shudder. They're NOT good predictors of what will work, and any attempt to argue that comes across as a personal insult to those children's parent. It's pretty much a red flag that I should extricate myself from a project now.
November 5, 2013
Reasons I love being self-employed #7:
For reasons we don't fully understand, IT Vs the rest of the company is a bitter cold war of control. The only way to work in a modern office is to bring your own laptop & 3G dongle in.
Note: Never tell the IT department that you're doing this, as they'll find a way of stopping you. Probably by telling security that you're a terrorist.
Every time I sit on a morning train into London, and watch someone miserably poking at a giant, back-breaking black laptop plastered with "PROPERTY OF IT" stickers, I thank my lucky stars I have the skills and knowledge to work as I do...
There are 15 more very, very accurate observations about corporate IT where that came from.
The FT's Lisa Pollack on the power - and danger - of Excel:
While Excel remains the utensil of choice, it comes with risks. Recent history has shown that poorly monitored spreadsheets can be costly for organisations. Yet slightly more than half the senior managers responding to a survey earlier this year said there were either "no usage controls at all" or "poorly applied manual processes" in spreadsheets used by their companies.
I'd not really thought of things this way before. Companies' instinctive reliance on Microsoft Office, and employees' familiarity with it, might be creating a rather dangerous situation where they're pushing into areas where good governance would suggest using a specialist tool instead.
Another symptom of the often too cosy relationship between Microsoft and Enterprise IT professionals, perhaps? Maybe Word does need to die...
October 8, 2013
If you've been following stories like the Snowdon NSA revelations or the recent Silk Road bust, you'll probably have come across mentions of Tor. Want to know exactly what it is? The Next Web does an excellent job of both explaining Tor, and putting it in context:
When users installed Tor software onto their computers, it would conceal their identity and network activity from anyone spying on their behavior. This was accomplished by separating the identification and routing information. The data is transmitted through multiple computers via a network of relays run by like-minded volunteers — almost like how users installed SETI software to look for extraterrestrial beings.
September 27, 2013
Remember that video which purported to show a baby confused as to why you couldn't operate a magazine like you can an iPad?
Well, my baby daughter has no problem with that.
What she is really challenged by is the fact that the TV doesn't have a touch screen. She finds that baffling…
September 26, 2013
Rather to my surprise, I took delivery of an iPhone 5s from 3 yesterday. Why surprise? Well, according to the last e-mail from them, it wasn't due for another 12 days... Still, I'm certainly not complaining, and it's a huge improvement on my aging iPhone 4, which is somewhat sluggish under iOS7.
The thing I was most excited about, though, was the camera. So much good new stuff in there, from burst mode to the slowmo video camera, all of which strike me as useful for mobile reporting. I've been somewhat busy over the past 48 hours, so I've only had a few brief moments to play with it. Fog was rolling over the Adur yesterday, which seemed like a pretty good test of the camera, as it's challenging light to get right. How did it perform? As you can see from the above image, pretty damn well.
Seemed churlish not to follow-up with a panorama...
OK, serious impressed now. I'm going to have a lot of fun with a camera this good in my pocket...
September 23, 2013
The company just announced that fourth quarter sales would come in at the high end of its expectations, which ranged from $34bn to $37bn, after sales of its iPhone 5s and 5c devices smashed forecasts this weekend.
Apple said it had sold 9m iPhone 5s and 5c units over its first weekend on sale, a record for the company.
Once again, the opinion piece of the tech press are utterly at odds with the public perception and reaction. Tech journalism is trapped in a model of what constitutes value and innovation that doesn't match with that of the public.
There's an opportunity there for some enterprising journalists, isn't there?
September 5, 2013
Interesting idea in a New York Times Bits blog interview with the woman behind the I Forgot My Phone video:
Ms. deGuzman’s video may have landed at one of those cultural moments when people start questioning if something has gone too far and start doing something about it.
Last week, the Unsound music festival in Poland banned fans from recording the event, saying it did not want “instant documentation” and distractions that might take away from the performances. In April, during a show in New York City, Karen O, the lead singer of the rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, told audience members to put away their phones (using an expletive to emphasize her point).
(Worth watching the video, if you aren't familiar with it)
There's historical precedent for this:
In the late 1950s, televisions started to move into the kitchen from the living room, often wheeled up to the dinner table to join the family for supper. And then, TV at the dinner table suddenly became bad manners. Back to the living room the TV went.
As ever people rush to blame tech for ruining some aspect of our lives. The tech has no will, no agenda. It's us - and the fact that it takes us time to adapt to new tools that creates the problem.
September 3, 2013
Well, now, I might actually have a future as a tech blogger and analyst after all. Last Saturday, I wrote a piece for Next Conference, speculating that the big push that that Nokia was giving its Here Auto in-car system made it look like it was preparing for a post-phone future.
Sure enough, yesterday, Nokia announced it was selling its phone business to Microsoft, in part of the second big pivot the former rubber company has made. What's left? An interesting mix of technologies that could make the Nokia that remains post-phones an interesting player in the future where we have embedded screen all around us - in our cars, in our homes, and maybe worn on our person.
I had the chance to visit Nokia's HQ in Helsinki late last year, as part of a Brilliant Noise project I was involved with (this ebook was the end result of my contribution). It was - and felt like - a company in transition. There were some bright, articulate and thoughtful people there, and a deep commitment to the brand. If enough of those stay with the Nokia that remains, it could well be a company to watch over the next few years, freed once again of the shackles of its past.
As for the new Microsoft with its phone division - well, its future rather depends on who they chose as CEO, doesn't it?
August 15, 2013
- Being interested in the future of connected TVs
- Building up a consultancy career
- Having a one year old child
Points two and three make point one surprisingly hard to explore. This is the reason that several weeks after I received it, I'm finally getting around to reviewing the NOW TV Box from SKY TV. Full disclosure: This was review unit supplied directly to me for purposes of review.
Why am I interested in this category of device? Because they have the potential to change our experience of TV in the same way that the internet has changed our experience of consuming news. When you pick and choose the content you want to watch, and buy or stream it over the internet, you're no longer beholden to channels or the schedules. Even the rolling news channels start to change, when you can pick and choose the news package you want to watch.
I have two "smart TV" type devices already:
The NOW TV is cheap - about a tenth of the price of an Apple TV at a staggeringly low £9.99. It's also small - smaller, in fact, than the AppleTV. There's a cost to this - it's a WiFi-only device, with no Ethernet option, for example. That won't bother most people, but I've gone out of the way to wire out house for best performance, and there are days when we don't have the WiFi on at all. Still, it makes it almost ludicrously easy to set-up: connect an HDMI cable, connect the power, and you're off:
August 14, 2013
If you've been following the PRISM/Edward Snowdon revelations, you'll be aware of how insecure online communications can be.
If you're a journalist, you more than likely have sources you need to protect, and confidential information you gather. No online communication can ever be truly safe, but you can go a long way towards it by encrypting your e-mail.
I've just set myself up for this, using the simple instructions for encrypting your e-mail from iMore.
If you're serious about journalism - do this.