Thursday, April 20

High-five from your teenage cooler-than-thou son: priceless!

My mate Tony brought home his family's first Mac last night, to a family of wife and two young teenagers, all of whom had struggled with various bargain-basement PCs in the past. Tony's words were:

On the way home I said to [Son] “I hear it’s a pretty amazing experience getting it out of the box.” He curled his lip, flicked his tinted hair, took the plectrum he was chewing out of his mouth, adjusted his thick, studded leather bracelet and said “You’re such a nerd, Dad. Honestly, why would anyone find that cool?”

Then we opened the box. He grinned, went "awww!" and turned to me like a son: “Wow, how cool is that Dad?” And high-fived me. It was worth the extra $1,000 just for that alone! Although I don’t know how much use of it I’ll actually get…

...such is the joy of Mac. Another day, another convert...

A Teenager's Guide to the Second Coming: How Awesome Will It Be?

Originally uploaded by dooce.
...there's still such a thing as a teenager?

Wednesday, April 19

Listeners also bought...(a lot of other stuff)

Originally uploaded by bigyahu.
iTunes Store's recommendation engine does the darndest stuff. Browse amongst the less popular artists in almost any genre, and if the album you're looking at hasn't been purchased too many times, what do you get recommended? Bernard Fanning's Tea & Sympathy.

Don't get me wrong; it's a great album, but the chances of it also being purchased by someone who bought Urge Overkill's Saturation are very low.

Much more likely that there's a merchandising filter built into the iTunes Store management tool that lets a manager flog an album in spaces where there's nothing much else to recommend at this time, because there isn't a sufficient purchase history to deliver an accurate recommendation for titles like Saturation.

Problems are twofold: (a) merchandising filters can be like a firehose - very, very on or very, very off - so you see one title over-merchandised on pages like this; and (b) they tend to create a closed feedback loop - enough people browse from Urge Overkill to Bernard Fanning to fool the recommendation algorithm into offering Tea & Sympathy as a recommendation rather than a merchandised product.

Fanning's already sold more copies of Tea & Sympathy on iTunes Store Australia than there is tea in China, so the person managing the store should really give the server a good hard kick at this point - send it off to go merchandise something else.

Tuesday, April 18

Nigerians helping themselves to bluepulse (cross-post)

It's amazing where I find bluepulse users these days. Just searching and browsing in my off moments, I've often found thriving mobile telephony markets in developing countries with limited or no fixed-line telephone network, where rather than wait for fixed-line infrastructure and ADSL, they've elected to go straight to 2.5G or 3G.

That means consumers in developing nations are going straight to mobile internet applications these days, without having first used those applications on a desktop PC. This has significant user interface implications for mobile browser vendors - it's hard enough using a WAP browser to navigate, say, Yahoo! from a phone if you're familiar with how Yahoo! looks and feels on a PC - imagine how hard it could be if you've only ever seen Yahoo! on a phone. So many desktop interface conventions are clumsily implemented on a phone, or worse still, don't yet work at all. Bluepulse has an advantage in these situations since it's more about delivering a mobile application that works on a phone than repurposing a desktop browser experience for a handset. Bluepulse is easy to understand if the mobile handset is your first and only internet device.

Here's one example of people in Nigeria with an active mobile internet community - a thriving Nigerian community discussion on, and in amongst the talk about new babies, religion, politics and power-cuts, the locals are advising each other on how best to get the internet working on their mobile phones, where to download Opera Mini, and whether bluepulse is a useful alternative.

There are several mobile carriers in Nigeria, although not all of them offer GPRS yet. While the cheapest tariffs seem to be about AUD$25 a month (see NGN/AUD exchange rate) you have to remember that this represents a significant part of average monthly income - Nigerians are generally earning very little (with the possible exception of the more successful of the Nigerian email scammers.)

Bluepulse isn't intentionally a tool for social change, but I see Romanians using it and recommending it to their friends from Romania; or Filipinos chatting in Tagalog about writing bluepulse widgets, and that makes me wonder if the data-enabled mobile phone networks being built in developing nations might be helping these people coordinate political action, find out about news from uncensored sources, stay in touch with loved ones working overseas... and check their lottery results and TV schedule too, of course!

If that's the case, it probably helps that we make the bluepulse client free to use, and charge nothing to let developers use the bluepulse SDK to build their own widgets. If there are communities and aid agencies in developing nations that we can assist with advice on building and hosting mobile widgets, let us know. Revenue is important, but it's not the only goal.

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Monday, April 17

Pleo the little Camarasaurus

Check out the Pleo, an animatronic toy from startup Ugobe, ships Oct 15 according to Amazon but only to US addresses, so I'll have to call in a favour from one of my yanqui buddies.

Never mind the US$199 asking price! This lil critter looks like it finally does what toys from Roboraptor back to Furbles were designed to do - behave like organic creatures, interact with people and each other, and learn and grow.

This demo video of Pleo waking up and interacting with his designer is quite amazing.

I hope my son wants one of these this Christmas, because otherwise, he's getting me one!

Wednesday, April 12

Tuesday, April 11

Gidol - ohgodpleasenohelpitstooawful

Never mind the kiddy p*rn and the viagra, please somebody stop the internet being used for this purpose.

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Wednesday, April 5

Penetration: it's not what they've got, it's how they use it

Pardon the saucy headline but in the last few weeks' talking to potential investors and business partners, a number of times we've come up against a central question: how many handsets does your software run on?

It's a question that's meant to give a quick indication of (a) how many people are actually using our software on their phone; and (b) how many people could use our software on their phone.

Critical stuff for companies like Bluepulse with a mobile internet application to take to market, as central to the mobile app space as, say, circulation figures are in magazine publishing, or quarterly shipments in personal computing. But as with circulation or quarterly shipments, there are a number of ways to answer what appears to be a simple question - none of them straightforward - and unlike magazine circulation or PC shipments, there's no independent auditor you can quote.

Unlike some mobile applications, the bluepulse client on your phone connects to our server each time you launch it, so we have some clear numbers on not just how many people have downloaded it, but also how often they've been using it, for how long, and for what purposes.

However, it's the "how many people could use your software on their phone" where we hit problems.

We can establish, if we pay an industry research company enough, how many different handset models have been released, by all manufacturers, in all markets, by operating system. And probably, if we paid them some more, they could tell us roughly how many of each model have shipped worldwide to-date. Then it would just be a question of applying that number to the list of handsets we support on bluepulse, and there's your answer, right?

Wrong. You can't assume that people buy a handset and then use all the features on it, and that this behaviour is standard across age, sex and geography. One consumer will buy a brand-new phone packed with multimedia features and never use the phone for anything other than making calls, like all those SUV owners who've never taken their vehicle off-road. Another might stick with their Nokia 3200 until it has moss growing on it, and in the meantime will push the handset to its limits, accessing WAP sites, downloading content, and instant messaging with friends.

If I see another study that says, "youth the great adopters of mobile content" I will start tearing Ben's hair out if it doesnt also tell me what handsets they were on when they were busy adopting.

Here's a helpful insight from - an Australian mobile developer prepared to disclose some of the mobile consumer behaviour they see across their own mobile content. Keep in mind that Tigerspike develops mobile content for a broad youth market.

Their top 12 most popular handsets from 1 January 2005 to present are:

1. Nokia 3200
2. Nokia 6230
3. Nokia 7250
4. Sony Ericsson K700i
5. Nokia 6610
6. Nokia 3120
7. Motorola V3
8. Nokia 3220
9. Nokia 7610
10. Nokia 6600
11. Nokia 6100
12. Sony Ericsson T610

It's a significant list because a lot of these phones are running MIDP1, including, for instance, four out of the top five Nokia handsets in the list. If you're a keen follower of Mobile 2.0 companies you'll be unfamiliar with MIDP1 because Mobile 2.0 products typically don't support it. Many of them don't support MIDP2 either. Some of them are sufficiently bleeding-edge and driven by feature-over-functionality as to only support Symbian S60 handsets. Count the S60 handsets on the list. 'nuff said.

When we're out there talking about Bluepulse's growth potential, people don't want to hear, "we'll have millions of potential customers as soon as their carrier persuades them all to upgrade to a UIQ or S60 handset", they want to hear "we have millions of potential customers who can use our software on their phones today." Certainly, delivering functionality on a MIDP1 handset is not easy, and yes, it usually requires that you focus on function over features, but the mobile content industry should be here to sell content to the widest possible audience, not to sell new handsets for the handset manufacturers.

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Tuesday, April 4

Get a webcam on your clunky old mobile phone

This is way too cool for school: a webcam widget for your mobile phone that is (a) free; and (b) will even work on your clunky old MIDP1 phone.

I've always thought webcams were a bit pointless on a desktop browser, where so much more information can be conveyed on the big screen by other means - graphs, copy, etc. But on the small screen of the mobile phone, when you only have a second to glance at the screen, what better way to get the message across than with a webcam?

This bluepulse widget only does traffic webcams, but I'm hoping another one of our enthusiast developers might take a crack at one for surfcams - now *that* is a killer app!

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