Sacha's dad was working for the British Embassy in Paris. No kidding! Not the kind of place I expected to have a gift shop, nor the kind of gift shop I'd expect to sell aprons, but there you go...
Tuesday, December 16
Friday, December 12
Friday, October 17
I can't remember *when* I created my sets, I just remember what they're called. Doesn't seem like such a big ask. Once you get beyond 20-30 sets, the list is completely unmanageable.
Wednesday, September 17
Sunday, September 14
Then it struck me how good it would sound as a ringtone on my iPhone.
Just in case you think it would sound great on your iPhone too, here's the ringtone I made.
(Just drag it onto iTunes and it should appear in your list of ringtones.)
Don't thank me, just buy the album, it's great!
Monday, September 8
Saturday, September 6
It doesn't cover very much of Sydney but I was impressed that Korean 3D tourist map web startup OnionMap would cover Sydney at all. Disappointed to see you can't rotate the map, but you can pan and zoom. Some elements are animated - click on the cruise company at the wharf in this screen and a little cruiser leaves the jetty and heads out into the harbour -cool!
Tuesday, June 24
I love the idea of using crowdsourcing to brainstorm new brand names, business names and taglines. I even love the design and functionality of namethis.com.
But I do think that some products - like yet another bogus weight-loss pill - are a bit open to guerilla criticism on a site like this.
I'll be interested to see whether and how the site moderator or the pill merchant take action on my suggested product name, "A Healthy, Balanced Diet and Exercise Didn't Work For Me."
Saturday, June 7
This is really clever - ping lets me make subsets of my social media - micro-blogs, blogs, status messages etc - so i can direct my status updates to only some of my services.
Thursday, June 5
Tuesday, June 3
I shot some video using Polar Bear Farm's Showtime and then deleted it. But now I seem to have a mystery chunk of data on my iPhone that won't go away and I can't find it.
Argh, time to reset iphone and then painstakingly restore all my personalisations and apps. Yah-boo!
Wednesday, May 28
Hi Mr Rudd,
First, congratulations on the first few months. Generally, you've made me proud I voted Labor - the reconciliation apology in particular was awesome.
I'm generally in favour of means testing - I think a well designed means test used appropriately ensures fairness and makes sure public money is allocated efficiently and equitably.
However, I don't think your announced means test on the solar panel installation rebate is well designed, or being used appropriately. It also conflicts directly with your 20% renewable energy target.
As a family of three we've already spent thousands of dollars of our own money to minimise our use of water and power and reduce our waste output. In each case, it's been simple to demonstrate that the expense will pay for itself soon enough to make it worthwhile, even without the benefit to the environment.
We're keen to take the same step with solar electricity generation and would like to aim for generating 30% of our electricity via solar. However, to make the economics work, we'd need a sensible rebate, and even the maximum rebate on offer would leave us waiting 15 years to see that investment pay off. Have you ever seen any kind of modern technology last 15 years unrepaired or replaced? No. It needs to repay itself much sooner than that.
That's bad enough, but the means test you've introduced means we're not eligible for the rebate at all, which means it would be financial lunacy for us to do it. Your means test drives away the very high income families who might consider installing a solar power system. Doh!
A good mate of mine was the CEO of Australian solar startup, Ausra, which the Howard government drove overseas by failing to support the development of a local renewable energy industry. Now I'm very disappointed to see the Rudd government making it even harder for a renewable energy industry to grow by driving rebate-motivated customers like me away and instead wasting money on the mirage of ''clean coal'' technologies.
I can forgive a few early slip-ups - you're a new government and it's a tough job - but I'd like to see you admit to your mistakes and correct them quickly once it's clear you've made them. Ignore the media and the opposition reaction - the opposition are a sad joke and you have mandate enough to make - and undo - many more mistakes without jeopardising your re-election chances. That won't be true in three years time, so please act now.
Keep up the good work,
Wednesday, May 21
Thursday, May 15
Tip of the hat to Jufemaiz for twittering Cycloloco.com's cool web tool for making custom marker icons for Google Maps. Here's a fun map using his icon in his honour.
This is exactly the kind of little friendly, free web tool that he and I are both rather excited about at the moment. Excited because (a) we think they're The Future; and (b) because we're building one of our own.
More news as it comes to hand!
Sunday, May 11
Thursday, May 8
Don't know what possessed me to see whether the Windows Live Messenger app for Facebook might work in Safari - as if! But when I was able to launch it in Firefox, guess what it pops up in your face before you start chatting with a friend? A CAPTCHA request! Talk about an epic fail way to discourage casual communications!
Tuesday, May 6
After another day not sure whether my tweets were getting thru or if i was reading the latest from the twittersphere i decided to strike back by submitting a new word to pseudodictionary. "twittery" was accepted, yay!
Friday, April 25
In 2001-2003, back when instant messaging was young and social networking was something we did in bars, I was working at Yahoo! and had a lot of fun trying to write wittier status messages for Yahoo! Messenger than the 500-odd other employees (see, this is why the company is now in the toilet. Too much time being clever in Yahoo! Messenger.)
I was cleaning out some cruft on my web host today and came across a forgotten list of some of the best IM status messages I'd seen while working at Yahoo!. Some of them may be too 'insider' (e.g. "Venkat" was senior engineering manager at Yahoo! and it was always a battle to get some engineering resources from his team) but many of them have universal appeal. Where known, I've credited their author by their Yahoo! Messenger ID. Many of those people still go by the same IDs, so if you're interested, try googling them (oops, I mean "yahooing" them.)
However I think I speak for all the original authors when I say: please go ahead and use any of these you wish. Enjoy!
- 10,000 Leagues Under The C++
- Now featuring multi-redundant links!
- Wireless and clueless
- All your engineers are belong to Venkat
- Disk space, the final frontier
- Do, or Ctrl-Z, there is no 'try'
- Home is where the base href is
- There's no page like home
- About to be replaced by a shell script
- On the internet, noone knows I'm a parent
- Living la vida Yoda
- Is anybody out there?
- On Messenger, nobody can hear you scream
- The less i know the more i appear to understand
- Phasers set to stun
- Savaging the soothed beast
- Filmed in Cinemascope
- Communication creates the illusion of progress
- Not at your desk
- But more, much more than this, you'll do it my way!
- I am a work of speculative fiction
- Luck can't last a lifetime unless you die young
- Conan the Humanitarian (naikrovek, 2002)
- Let the Wookie win (naikrovek, 2002)
- Stigmata - high-five gone awry (karen jackson 2002)
- Winona, if you don't steal, i'll go out with you (naikrovek, 2002)
- Only the young die young
- It hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year
- My PDA says it's your birthday, but it cares more than I do
- When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When all you have is nails, it's Hammer Time.
- Advertising is 85% confusion and 15% commision
- Pull apart my buns and smear them with butter (Easter)
- Capitalisation is in the eye of the shareholder
- What if the Hokey-Pokey IS what it's all about? (Stephanie Snyder, 2001)
- Camel, eye of needle... grease...
- 99% of the game is half mental
- All I want is a warm bed and a kind word and unlimited power
- Like a snowball gathering steam (the_bigtee 2003)
- Busier than a leper in an all-hands meeting (goonker 2003)
Despite evil bots hovering out there waiting to scrape up every email address that is published on the interweb and add it to a spam database, people still put their email address on web pages everywhere. I guess the need to be contactable outweighs the pain of more spam.
There are a number of ways to hide or encrypt your email address when it is published on a web page, but many of these methods can be decrypted to allow a spambot to snag it. I figure: why put the email address on the page at all? Why not use a form and a database?
I'll tell you why not: forms and databases are dry, unleavened developerness - I fall asleep every time somewhere between "records" and "fields." Life's too short.
Wufoo.com has many superpowers, not the least being some of the zushiest dynamic interface you'll find on the interweb, making it a snap (dare I say... "fun"?) to design a web form and the database that sits behind it. You can build something as simple as an email feedback form (so that your email address remains unpublished) or something as schmancy as a 15 minute online survey form. Good CSS support means you can customise a form so that it looks like part of your website, but if that's all a bit too hard, it's really easy to use a pre-designed template and copy-and-paste the resulting form code into your web page.
Here's one I built earlier for my work blog at Doing Words. Any time someone fills in the form, the details are taken down in a database I can access at the Wufoo site, and then the database emails me the contact request.
Believe me: absolutely no programming required. Sure, I still get spam, but mostly from my family!
Tuesday, April 22
Monday, April 21
Too much Kevin Rudd and not enough Paul Keating for my money, but other than that, this is a cracking tune. If you purchase the full track, the entire proceeds of your sale go towards a GetUp.org campaign to close the gap between white and black Australia, achieve parity in healthcare, education and employment, and recognise our nation's original inhabitants in our constitution.
Monday, April 7
Loverboy, one of the many Canadian pop rock bands that were popular in Australia when I were but a lad, always used to get my blood up with the rather explicit (for the times) lyrics of their song, "Turn Me Loose".
Mid-career, they were looking pretty tragic...
And now? Sheesh, they ought to be taken to the vet and put to sleep humanely...
It wasn't that long ago that 1,000 songs in the first 5Gb iPod was a revolution. Now my 16Gb iPhone carries a bazillion times more songs, and plays them with cover art, as well as videos, TV shows, even full-length movies. Oh, it has a great web browser, an email client and makes phone calls.
My iPhone is actually my second (I had the 8Gb first) but even my 16Gb is about to be superseded by a new 3G version in the next couple of months, according to Walt Mossberg. 3G will make a huge difference to using an iPhone, so of course I'll have to get one, even though I'm not very keen on the unsubtle Apple logo and the shiny plastic look of the 3G iPhone in this photo from Ben Barren...
Friday, April 4
It's important to consider the privacy of others - particularly children - when posting photos to the interweb.
Early in the history of Flickr I got a little freaked out when a friend's photos of her kid were snagged by an unknown woman who built a scary blog using the photos and her own stories to make like the kids were hers and not my friend's. Scary stalker stuff.
A while later, a naked photo of my son on Flickr received some unwelcome attention. Ick. But the sensible solution was not to post naked pictures of my kid - or anyone else's. Problem solved.
You'd think anyone managing a young sports star these days would either ban or closely moderate their entire participation in online social networking, but this week we saw controversial photos from members of the Australian Olympic swim team that had been snagged from their Facebook profile. Can't blame the journalists: need a photo to accompany a story, the choices are (a) pay $10,000 to a paparazzi and wait 24hrs to receive it, or (b) look up their Facebook profile and snag the photos they've added, free of charge? No brainer.
I could have over-reacted to the Flickr experience and never posted another photo of my son to the interweb, but then my gypsy family would never get to see their cousin/nephew/grandson at all. I could password-protected everything, but then family would never remember the password and never get around to asking me for it.
If I'd done either, I never would have seen this cool line art done by someone on Flickr, based on a photo I'd taken of my son:
Which was based on this photo of him grooving on his iPod while we were camping last year:
On the interweb, I think it's worth giving a little in order to get something back, and this is a great example.
For that reason, I make my photos on Flickr available on a Creative Commons "attribution-non-commercial" licence, meaning you can use them for anything non-commercial as long as you attribute them to me with a link. I'd be stoked if anyone else created good art out of something I just opened a shutter on for a fraction of a second.
Thursday, April 3
Amazon.com affiliate program can't pay a bank outside the US
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.
Tuesday, April 1
Oh, this is so geeky I'm all a-shiver! This is a report on my garden's water situation over the last month, as measured by the little black box on the wall next to our garden watering system, installed by Micrometonline.com as part of a 3-month trial by Sydney Water.
The little black box controls the drip irrigation system, and receives its instructions over the pager radio network from a central system monitoring rainfall, cloudcover, evaporation etc in each part of the Sydney metro area.
Basically, the little black box makes sure our garden is only watered when it needs to be, and only delivers as much water as our garden needs.
...which leaves SO much more water for me to have extra baths in!
OK, the graph and the website could benefit from slightly less data density for consumer users like myself, but that's to be expected from a system developed for large irrigators like councils and businesses. It's a great start for saving water!
Email Australia - creating more junk Hotmail accounts
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy
After all, it's never easy to sort the real news stories from the pranks on April 1st. Journalists have too little time between deadlines and too many pages to fill to check all of their facts, all the time. And we in the blogosphere, squeezing our blogging into thin slices of our day jobs and housekeeping, have even less motivation to think before we speak. Meanwhile, those of us with time for mischief, such as the most excellent Darren Rowse, keep coming up with plausible prank stories.In the end, a lot of April Fools prank stories to go press online these days.
Sadly, the Email Australia campaign, announced by ninemsn, Microsoft and the publicly funded Powerhouse Museum, is not a prank. Even worse, it's a thinly-veiled marketing exercise for Hotmail, designed to temporarily inflate the user registration numbers of Microsoft's webmail product.It seems like a prank because the museum is asking everyone in Australia to send in their 'best' emails and enter them in one of eight categories (Life and Laughter, Touching Tales, Family, Love and romance, E-mails, Embarrassing typos, Current affairs and Complaints.)
Wouldn't that be a fun job, sorting through all the entries in each category to decide which were worthy of archiving, which were the best, and which were least likely to lead to get the original author, ninemsn, Microsoft and the museum sued for defamation? That's not one I'd be putting my hands up for.Yes, the terms of the promotion state that you not only take on liability for establishing copyright of the material, but also take on the risk of any legal action arising from, say, using someone else's forwarded email which then turns out to be a snippet from a novel or something that the subject of the email decides is defamatory. Good luck with that.
You'd expect the Powerhouse Museum to choose the best emails in each category, but no - it's a ninemsn/Microsoft promotion, and ninemsn gets to do the selection, thanks very much. Here's a tip for contest entrants: try inserting a few references to how great Hotmail is these days, how much you enjoy using MSN Messenger on your new Windows Mobile phone, and how amazing Windows Vista is these days since they shook out the last remaining glitches. Now you know who'll be judging the entries!The final pinch-and-a-punch for this particular first day of the month is the news that all emails must be sent from a Hotmail account. And if you don't already have a Hotmail account, a handy link is provided to allow you to sign up for one.
So now what might at first glance appear to be a misguided but worthy effort to capture a little online culture for prosperity is revealed as a grubby attempt to artificially inflate ninemsn's Hotmail subscriptions for a month or two.Not very many people are likely to use that new Hotmail account for anything other than entering the competition, since Hotmail is indelibly stamped with the spammer's seal of approval. Even if Hotmail is less prone to spam than it has been in the past, most of these casual one-time users won't stick around to find out.
How sad to see a major Australian museum involved in such a thinly-veiled marketing promotion. "Marketing is punishment for a bad idea" said Andrew Hyde on Brian Burns' blog the other day. How very true. If only it had all been an April Fool's joke.
Thursday, March 27
Too many parking idiots, not enough stickers. So I ordered more!
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.
Am I the only person in Sydney who sees at least one idiot a day who's parked dangerously and/or illegally? My first batch of stickers from Iparklikeanidiot.com is all gone, so it was time to order more.
The stickers are great for bumpers, and are removable, so you can leave them on a windscreen and they will come off easily. Or, if you feel like giving someone a second chance, just tuck the unpeeled sticker under their windscreen wiper. That gives them a warning and an opportunity to spread the word next time they see an irresponsible parker in action.
So, you tell me: am I making a difference to selfish and rude parkers in Sydney?
No? Well, help me out here, peeps - go buy yourself some stickers and join the campaign :-)
Why do so many people in tech management find 3D interface so strangely addictive, when it's clinically proven to be idiot-forming? Techcrunch reports that AT&T has been developing a new web 3D browser, Pogo, based on Mozilla. I'm amongst the readers who reacted with a strong WTF? at the news, though it brings up some important points about interface design, following trends, and remembering history.
I remember my history. Right about when I joined Yahoo! the company cut a deal with Caligari, a maker of 3D software and browser plugins. The two companies collaborated on a 3D visualisation of the main web directory categories of Yahoo! (News, Finance, Sports, etc.) I can't find a video of the interface in action (challenge: can you find one?) but each section of the web directory was represented by a giant icon on a huge green field of grass.
From memory, Yahoo! 3D was something a lot of senior yahoos were interested in as something fun to play with - it really wasn't something the company was expecting to monetize or present as the primary interface for Yahoo! then or in the future. This was in the days of 28.8kbps modem bandwidth, 13" CRTs and Navigator 3.0/IE 3.0. Flying across the football field from one category to another would take about a minute, with frame rates at about 5fps, and you were quite likely to miss the category you were aiming for with the frame rate and lag time.
Yahoo! 3D taught me that desktop web browser interfaces were already quite mature, and that on the desktop, the old "click on a link with a mouse" routine was widely-understood, easily adopted by new users, and fast to use.
Since then, browser interface design has tried and rejected a few new ideas, and the only one I can point to that has really been taken up widely is tabs in the browser, as well as in the web page itself.
Twelve years later, 3D visualization of data and relationships is a powerful tool, but 3D navigation remains a solution without a problem. Why is this so? I can't point you to research on this, but my trusty gut instinct says:
- 3D interfaces need 3D input devices and displays. It's too hard to learn to grasp, manipulate and move objects using 2D input devices and displays. It takes too many brain cells to do the interpolation, even for those with strong stomachs and keen to try new things.
The other classic mistake I see in these videos of Pogo in action is mimicry without purpose, in this case, mimicking Apple's Cover Flow interface. I betcha nobody at AT&T knows what percentage of Apple's OS X customers actually choose to use Cover Flow (versus not knowing how to turn it off) but I am sure Apple knows and isn't telling.
Cover Flow is chrome: something that's meant to sweeten the sale or upgrade of the operating system, iTunes and iPods, not to be a primary interface mode.
Knowing your new BMW M5 has a gazillion suspension and transmission settings helps you justify your purpose, and six months later, if BMW surveys M5 customers and finds <5% actually mess with the settings? Who cares? We've still sold a lot of M5s.
How do I know Cover Flow is just chrome when I don't have any data? I asked my friends. The responses are all quite similar: even the musicgeekiest friend I have can identify only 30% of his iTunes library by album art alone. Subtract the albums he originally owned on CD, then subtract the albums he'd owned for years before buying an iPod, then subtract the album covers that actually have the band name and album name on the cover? He's down to <5%.
Don't believe me? Test yourself, I'd love to read about your results.
Meanwhile, who'd regularly use an interface that forced you to stop and think about 95% of the choices available to you?
While website homepages aren't as obscure as album covers, they certainly aren't designed to be recognisable - much less legible - at Cover Flow-sized dimensions. And any new content on them worth clicking on won't be readable unless the Pogo user is viewing at something far greater than 1280x1024px.
AT&T's Pogo mistakes the chrome for the fundamentals, and then tacks it onto its own product without any understanding of its true purpose, like a Chinese manufacturer designing cars that come out looking like a BMW that got left too long in the microwave with a LandCruiser.
Some of the videos of Pogo in action are well worth watching, and I'm in favour of AT&T and other large companies with too much money/time doing research of all kinds, even if its only into doomed interface design.
But while you watch, don't let the siren song of 3D interface whizzyness lure you away. Don't start picturing yourself in a 'Minority Report' future with productivity levels 10x today's. Expect the personal jetpack to ship first!
Wednesday, March 26
It's tough managing rights and markets and content on the interweb. The interweb aggregates so well that all your whack geographical or distribution-focused pricing policies, never intended to be seen together in the one place, may suddenly collide, such as in this case with a Phoenix album available for both $10.99 and $17.99 in iTunes.
Wednesday, March 19
Update: I stand corrected, and so should Pete Yandell, my original source for this story. Thanks to the diligence of readers like you, I've now learned everything I missed while I ducked out to put the kettle on while the iPhone SDK videoconference was playing: there absolutely is a way for a small business to test an iPhone app without offering it over iTunes Store, and developers who only want to release products to their own staff are able to pay a little more for the ability to do that privately via iTunes Store.
However, it still seems a strategic mistake to open the SDK to US developers only initially. Software development quality does not respect geographical boundaries, and the largest and most experienced mobile software development communities are all outside the US.
Anyway, read on, see where I was wrong, and please join in the very healthy discussion in the comments for this post!
It's been a couple of weeks since the launch of Apple's iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and it's taken me that long to find a serious flaw worth noting in what has been an otherwise enthusiastically-received program.
Friday, March 14
Saucy social networking social networker Laurel Papworth has cleverly pointed out that AOL's announced acquisition of Bebo may jeopardise Yahoo7's big partnership deal with Bebo in Australia, since AOL Australia and Yahoo7 are competitors locally.
It'll take a while for the deal to go through and international partnership deals to be rejigged, perhaps as much as a year or so for them to get around to figuring out what to do with a market as small as Australia, but it would be reasonable to expect that AOL Australia would want the Yahoo7/Bebo deal to be unwoven asap.
Laurel says the Bebo deal represents as much as half Yahoo7's available ad inventory. Holy CPM, Batman! No idea if that's correct, but that's a big kick in the guts to lose that many eyeballs with only 6-12mths warning.
Before I pick my jaw up off the floor, there's something else that leaves me agape. I haven't reported on the deal yet because I've been waiting for the perspective to be able to see the deal from AOL's valuation side of things. Surely it would make sense if I gave it time. But nope. No sense yet.
So, what's with AOL offering $850 million, in cash? Is it all upfront? Or are there performance metrics Bebo needs to make to collect most of it? Did anyone tell AOL this business was started by a couple of people only three years ago? Did anyone point out that since most of AOL's customers are in the US, they don't want a Bebo account because they're either wedded to Facebook or MySpace already?
Speaking of which, where are the studies looking at the cost of getting someone to churn from one social network to another? Has anyone looked at that yet? If I've been focused on my Facebook account for one, six or 12 months, what's it going to cost a competitor to get me to switch to their product?
Personally, I'm all over Facebook, a bit active on MySpace, and on Bebo, I'm an "unengaged user" - i have an account there, but only to see how it works and browse through the kinds of users to be found there. So Facebook has me as an "engaged user" - using it several times a day, with almost all my real-world friends connected, and a big social history stored there. This animated blackboard toy is the only thing I really like about Bebo right now.
I don't have any numbers, but intuitively, I think there are two kinds of social network user: engaged minority and non-engaged majority. The non-engaged majority will churn quite easily, but because their engagement is low, they're not worth very much to you and will churn again to your next new competitor. The engaged user is, I'm guessing, extremely hard to dislodge, even if you give them the means to migrate all their content, social history and reputation to your new social network.
Yet the network effects that give a social network its value depend entirely on those highly-engaged users. In other words, if you succeed only in acquiring another network's unengaged users, you've failed. They won't stick because they don't care about documenting their social history, and they won't stick because you don't have the engaged users you need to keep the unengaged connected.
That's my guess, anyway: would love to see the numbers if you have them.
Just a spoof, yes, but this is a trend worth spoofing. What worries me is these aggregations are headed in the wrong direction, losing richness, interconnections and annotations along the way: see my prior post on this topic.
Thursday, March 13
Tuesday, March 11
Regular viewers will know I have a major jones for Electronic Program Guides (EPGs) and digital television. Early Aussie pioneer IceTV is still hanging in there despite being dragged backwards through the hedge of the courts by the unlimited resources of the interests backing Channel Nine.
Now IceTV have finally launched their recommendation feature, iwatchthis.com.au (hmm... shouldn't that be "Youshouldwatchthis.com.au"?). Whatever it's called, it gets you to tell it which shows are your favourites (or you can let it watch what you record) and it'll come back with recommendations.
How well does it work? Well, my experience is limited because although I still have a login, my paid subscription to IceTV lapsed and I haven't renewed. Unluckily for IceTV, recently I fell in love with AppleTV and buying shows from the US iTunes Store and haven't had much time for Australian free-to-air television since then.
But my login allowed me to 'favourite' a few good shows in IceTV, including Foreign Correspondent, Lateline, Media Watch and Cutting Edge, just to test out the recommendations ('cos regular readers will recall, I also have a major jones for all things recommendations).
I expected IceTV's recommendations to be fairly good: highly engaged customers providing relatively accurate data, genre and cast relationships providing clear pointers to recommendable content, and most of all in Australia, a relative paucity of content to choose from!
So sure enough, IceTV scored a nice 5 out of 10 in terms of other shows I'd like to watch. But is that really helping me much? I mean, there's so little on free-to-air in Australia I don't really need recommendations at all, much less recommendations that are as likely to be wrong as right.
To really make the payoff, IceTV should be there to let me know when a new series of Top Gear is starting, because it knows I enjoyed the last series. It shouldn't be distracted by a repeat of a previous series, or the same series being screened a second time in a different time slot. Does it do this? Dunno, not possible to tell from my exploration.
Perhaps if IceTV offered me streaming previews, independent reviews rather than synopses, or even production stills. But the local commercial networks aren't about to help - they still see IceTV as stripping away revenue with ad-skipping features, when really they should see IceTV as one of the few things that can help them win and retain what remains of a viable media audience. Sigh.
Peepl have been dropping around to our house a bit lately, mostly to sample our fantastic fresh-ground Forsyths coffee (ZOMG it's so good I'm gonna make another now) but also to chat a bit about new opportunities on da interwebs. With no consent or prior warning, I'm going to use my iPhone's craptastic fuzzycam and Twitxr.com's social photomessaging to record some of these visits for posterior-ity. Sorry Yorke!
Yorke's next large-ish thing will be a platform that helps interweb startups manage relationships with the greatest double-edged sword of web development: the beta tester. I'm waiting for my alpha invite from Yorke, really looking forward to having a muck about with it. Unfortunately my feedback will need to remain confidential for the time-being, but hopefully I can tell you all about it very soon when it enters a more open beta.
Monday, March 10
file under "you really had to be there": GG is dead, long live GG
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.
I'm not going to burden the interwebs with yet another personal reflection on the importance of Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons (a) because my own teenage years were so very like every other young geek; and (b) I knew someone would do it better.
Turns out Adam Rogers from WIRED magazine is that very someone, with not only the killer story, but a hilarious and partly true flowchart to back it up.
He asserts we're all still playing D&D - or at least, role-playing - when we're online, not just in Second Life and World of Warcraft, but also on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Flickr.
I think that's an extraordinarily insightful premise. But I think it's your turn to roll...
In place of the original vague "libera/conservative" affiliations we now get actual political parties, which is great if you vote for the same political party every election and agree with their entire platform, which is... rare. But make no mistake, this is a step forward.
In Australia, all Federal parties considered by Wikipedia to be "significant" are represented, so Pauline Hanson and Shooters Party members will be disappointed.
Here's a fun thing: type a keyword like "Liberal", "Democratic", "Popular" or "People's" into the field and see all the whackjobs from around the world lined up together. It's almost like a political party name should be the opposite of who it actually represents.
I am certain there will soon be news stories showing whether, in the US, Democrats or Republicans are more likely to be active Facebook users, and Facebook Platform developers will bring us a variety of ways to surf the social graph according to political lines.
No doubt, many Facebook users consider their political affiliation a personal and private thing. So put "Pirate" or "Ninja" in there and leave us guessing.
Sunday, March 2
It took me less time to build a community site for an under 7 soccer team (inc. this nifty banner art) using Ning than it took 3eep.com.au to send me the confirmation email with the link i had to click on before i could start creating a site.
So my son's soccer team is now on Ning, not 3eep. Much as I like Nick and Rob and the 3eep guys, it's a case of sorry 3eep, not quick enough this time around.
Thursday, February 28
Last year I wrote something of our experiences driving in India for carsguide.com.au but in typical newspaper publisher fashion the story is no longer available on carsguide (the 'long tail'? what's that?')
Met Mike Culver, web services evangelist for Amazon's S3 cloud services today on his first trip downunder. All this cool stuff about how we can base an entire startup on a pay-as-you-go storage and computing model with the same reliability and speed as Amazon itself.
Mainly technical discussion, so a lot of it way over my head but one of my questions hit home:
If Amazon's charging me in USD and only accepts credit card payment, the foreign currency exchange fee my bank is going to charge me is a big hit. My bank's 3.3% for Mastercard and 3.4% for Visa foreign currency transactions is probably standardish.
Mike hadn't come across that before but seemed serious about taking that issue back to the US to get solved.
Not as big an issue for me personally as having no amazon.com.au, but prolly enough to make such a variable cost unaffordable here.
US companies still aren't great at the whole international product strategy.
(btw, no links or image with this post because iPhone STILL doesn't support copy & paste grrr)
[Sent from my iPhone, still unable to copy and paste and it's 2008]
Wednesday, February 27
I'm a professional communicator, and thanks to the remote business relationships I maintain online, a lot of my communication is in writing. So I'm very interested in studying how written communication is changing thanks to the influence of the interweb.
A few years ago there was the migration of emoticons from instant messaging and SMS to casual online relationships, eventually appearing in mainstream marketing and even business communication.
At the moment I see people beginning to adopt the all-lower-case capitalisation seen in microblogging and social networks, and the 'signature' - the end of your message where you leave your name as you would your handwritten signature on a letter - is going out of style. Don't even get me started about people who use 'lolcat' phrases...
Just because new styles are adopted doesn't mean they're widespread or permanent - you don't want to be the last person in your peer group to still be typing "lol" when everyone has moved on to "lolz". Just as saying, "OK" instead of "I understand" changes how you're perceived in a verbal discussion, these non-verbal cues you use will affect how you're perceived in a written discussion.
I found this post on PsyBlog when reading Kate Carruther's blog - the results of a study on the effects of using capitalisation and emoticons are both expected and surprising.
As I expected, correctly capitalising what you write improves the reader's perception of you, but while I thought emoticons would have the reverse effect, they also improve the reader's perception of you. CEOs of Australia, start using smileys!
Don't use them when communicating with software developers though, since the study also found that the effect of capitalisation and emoticons was minimal or even reversed when read by introverted and emotionally unstable people.
I've subscribed to Psyblog. Goin' psycho!
I've never seen an example of ASCII spam before. I want to reply with an ASCII pic of a girl in a swimsuit, or a Lamborghini - one of those classic ASCII art images of the 80s, but I know I shouldn't.
Tuesday, February 26
Mark Jones of Filtered Media is predicting the death of social networking. I don't think death is coming any time soon, and certainly not from Google and Gmail as Mark suggests. I think the bigger future threat for MySpace and Facebook are microblogging and social messaging layers over the top of the social networks.
Yes, social networks can't sustain the current growth. There will be a plateau. Following the plateau will come more realistic valuations, rationalisation and acquisition by the networks.
Yes, to some extent social networks will atomise - social networking platforms are already starting to blend in the features of other web platforms via their APIs and developer platforms, and it makes sense that some of that platform functionality will bleed out into email, search, blogging and other web platforms over time.
The 'friend spam' we see now on Facebook is a function of the immaturity of the social network businesses themselves, which are still learning how to manage open platforms, and to some extent a learning process for users - it's already unfashionable to be the friend who sends too much social network spam - soon, it will be social suicide.
I can't see Mark's 'Email 3.0' spelling the end of social networks. If I were an 18-25 year old, why would I need to wrangle with Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail if I can use Facebook's email to stay in touch with everyone I know? Hotmail spam vs Facebook spam? Give me the latter any day.
Why would I need to search from the Google homepage if Facebook was my homepage and I could launch a Google search from a Facebook app in my profile page?
Google's become the default for us 30-40 year olds, and Yahoo! is the default for our parents, but Facebook and MySpace have an opportunity to be the default starting point for our kids. ...if they seize the opportunity and execute well, which so far they have had trouble with.
Email is inherently a functional product - I need to have something to communicate to someone before I send an email. However social networks work best when I can use them as inspiration for finding something to say to my friends. I may not have any news myself today, but by browsing what my friends have been up to recently, there's always something that I can comment on, criticise, debate or LOL at.
Social networks will remain a place that people go to 'hang out' with their friends and meet new friends online. There will be fewer of them in the future, and the big ones will probably be owned by larger networks as MySpace is now.
But just as social networks have an opportunity to steal the email, search, media sharing and buying/searching eyeballs from the incumbents, there is already a couple of threats to the social networks: social messaging businesses like bluepulse (who are more comfortable if I disclose that I'm contracting for them any time I mention their name online, bless 'em!) and microblogging services like Twitter.
Social messaging businesses threaten social networks because they may steal away the user's all-important 'status message'. Without the status message being updated there's half the value of the Facebook newsfeed gone, and the newsfeed is everything to Facebook's business. If I can more quickly and easily update what I'm doing now from my mobile phone on bluepulse than I can on Facebook, then sure, Facebook may lose me (that's "me the hypothetical 20 year old" not "me the 43 year old".) Facebook's mobile product is still lame: you can't sign up as a Facebook user from a phone, and many of the key features are missing from the mobile product. Using MySpace's mobile product is like travelling back in time to 2000 and back in space to Boondocks, Carolina. I don't see any sign that Facebook or MySpace 'get' the importance of building a better mobile product yet.
Microblogging services like Twitter can also steal away the status message traffic and user loyalty from the social networks, by making it all about status messages, and then using the social network's own APIs to let the user update multiple social networks from one spot, saving time and money, both very precious to 18-25 year olds.
Thursday, February 21
Bluepulse (for whom I'm contracting at the moment) has been chosen as a finalist in the grand-daddy of tech award events, the SIAA 2008 CODiE Awards. Here's the press release and Bluepulse's announcement.
Generally, I'm cynical about industry award events these days. There's so many of them. Some seem like thinly-veiled pats-on-the-back for friends and clients. Instead of being selected, you have to lobby yourself, so that to even get on awards list radar, you almost need a dedicated person working on award entry submissions.
Here are a few problems and suggested solutions for technology awards events. Feel free to ignore them and keep having a wild time with your best clients at your next awards:
You entered? You win!
You've been holding your awards at the same time each year, but with all the competition from other awards, you realize you're a month out from award night and some of your categories don't even have entries yet. You get on the phone and call some friends, "get your entry in and I'll see what influence I have on the judging panel" (translation: you'll win because you're helping make our awards look less lame.) Solution: have judging panels select the entrants in each category, rather than asking companies to submit themselves or accepting 'nominations from customers' (which inevitably will be submitted by PR people). It's tough to get judges to do that much work, but it's worth it.
Who's the judge?
In some awards events nowadays, the selection is done anonymously by the company managing the event. Any time I see an awards event and can't find out who the judges were, I have to wonder whether there's any conflicts of interest, especially when the organizer earns revenue from consulting to - or running advertising for - some of the nominee companies. Best practice: full disclosure of the judges, their qualifications, and the judging process itself.
What's 'finalist' really mean?
Related to the previous problem. A little later on in this post you'll read me getting excited about a company I'm associated with being selected as a finalist in an industry award event. Well, partly I'm excited because it's a big, big award, and partly I'm excited because I have some appreciation of what a company has to do to be chosen as a finalist. Unfortunately, that's not usually the case. I'm not saying I think being nominated as a finalist is entirely worthless, but it's newsworthy these days, without the news including any detail of how your company or product was chosen as a finalist.
I saw some awards in 2007 where the judging panel selected a small number of finalists from a pool of hundreds of nominees and I also saw more than award where I suspect F=N-1 (do I need to spell it out?)
Best practice: full disclosure when announcing your finalists. How many entrants were there in that category? How were finalists chosen? How tough does your organisation believe it is to be selected as a finalist?
Did I mention Bluepulse is a finalist? ;-)
So how does the 2008 SIAA CODiE Awards stack up against my criticisms? Am I able to diss the entire tech industry awards biz while mounting a convincing case that the CODiEs are an exception? Yah, I think so.
The CODiEs have been running since 1986. 1986! Was there even an internet in 1986? That depends on how you define "internet" but there were certainly no internet awards in 1986, and I was busy chatting on CompuServe and downloading pics of Playboy centrefolds (when 'raunchy' meant 'nipples') in glorious greyscale from my local BBS. Award winners that year included Microsoft Excel and Aldus (pre-Adobe) PageMaker. Microsoft Windows won Best User Interface. I know, that seems nuts, but that's because we have the benefit of hindsight. Back in the day, Windows really was a significant advance.
But don't lose sight of the fact that, just in 1986's winners, CODiE picked the operating system that defined the personal computer industry for the subsequent thirty years, the software product that still counts 9 out of 10 dollars earned and spent, and PageMaker, which created the desktop publishing industry and set many of the conventions of graphical user interface design. That's a heck of an all-star cast. When Bluepulse has the goal of changing the way the world communicates, being nominated in that kind of company is significant.
True, in these self-service days, you have to enter your own company for an award, but the SIAA goes to a lot of trouble to source a large software industry judging panel to do the winnowing out of finalists, and then puts the awards themselves out to vote. Not an open vote allowing the entire staff of your PR agency to vote for you, either. Only SIAA member companies in the relevant category get to cast a vote - so you are literally voted for by your peers (and no, your PR agency can't become a voting member of the SIAA.)
Finally, the SIAA is a "software industry association" not "a web 2.0 blog publisher". Not only do online products have to compete with other online products to be nominated, you're also up against what old fogies like me still sometimes refer to as "real" products - stuff that in many cases ships on a disk, with a printed manual, in a box covered in feature bullet points, minimum system requirements. That's some serious competition.
So yes, despite the parlous state of tech industry awards, I think Bluepulse making it to the finals of the CODiEs is a big deal that we should all be excited about. This nomination is recognition that, fundamentally, Bluepulse is good at software development; that they can mix it with the best when it comes to the code. That's what we'd all want to have as a core competency.
iTunes and iPhone and movie rentals: Awesomenicity!
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.
Is "awesomenicity" a real word? It is now - now that I have a 16Gb iPhone and I can fit all my contacts, all my calendar, all the music I need, a selection of my best photos... and a MOVIE i rented from iTunes Store in ONE CLICK!
There's only two people on this earth who could make me take the train to work instead of driving a car: AL Gore (obviously) and Steve Jobs - coz watching movies on an iPhone? I feel like missing my stop!
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch
No doubt about it - business blogging/website host Squarespace does the shiniest site traffic graphs I've ever worked with.
See the transparent columns? That's last month's traffic, so you can see how this month compared to last month.
Lack of .CSV export is a bit frustrating though - there's no way to export the traffic data out.
Wednesday, February 20
Tuesday, February 19
Richard Giles from Scouta was looking on Twitter for some feedback on his new redesign. I charge for this kinda work, but here's some brief feedback:
S-P-E-L-L out the benefit
You haven't yet shown the user the benefit. You assume they know why receiving personalised recommendations is a good thing. Start with, "Who has time to find good stuff to listen to/watch online?..." and explain the benefit. Most consumers still aren't aware of what recommendation is, much less why it matters to them.
Who's your target audience?
It's really hard to get a good balance between the consumer target and the media publisher target, so why try? It just clutters and confuses to have a message aimed at publishers wedged in-between two consumer messages. Just put a button-shaped link near the bottom that says, "Are you a media publisher?" and take the publishers to another page. We media publishers are smart, we're better at retention when scanning a page than joe consumer.
What's your brand?
You've got two competing brands on the page: the "scouta" text and the whirly play button, which is really your chicklet - what should be small, subtle interface cue used before links, instead of player play buttons, etc. Which do you need the user to really recall? I'd suggest it's the Scouta logo.
Not all ratings are equal
Are you sure you want to collect user ratings on content right from the homepage with no prior Learn More or new user registation? Before they've really invested in the idea that rating things well delivers good recommendations? Having worked on content recommendation products before, not all user ratings are equal. I'd expect these ratings would be next to useless in this context, and aren't likely to give the user a positive result - they're going to expect a perfect recommendation after the first rating click, or click both of them to see what happens, or worse.
When it doesn't work as they expected (because you haven't yet told them what to expect) their simple little mind will come to the end of their tiny little attention span, they'll click off your homepage and whatever you paid the SEO to get them will be wasted.
I'm Not A Big Fan Of Capitalising Words That Aren't Actually Proper Nouns ;-) When The Whole Page Uses Them It Doesn't Focus The Eye, Instead It Decreases Readability Significantly.
25% OFF! Oh wait, it's free...
Love rosettes for highlighting 'special deal' info, though they tend to get ignored by users not interested in clicking on advertising links. They're not very 'with it' anymore. If you must use one, consider one with fewer points. If you're not wedded to a rosette but still want visual impact, nothing says "Ideal for iPod, iPhone and AppleTV owners" better than a pic of the products all nicely arranged together with some dramatic lighting and a zushy background.
Black on orange isn't kind on eyes, and, uhh... were you happy with that font?
Love the promise of personalised content recommendations, keen to see how the new site looks when it goes live! Hope that helps!
Monday, February 18
Clearly the missing letters in "...ingbank.com.au" are not "think".
They have yet to discover that URLs can be redirected - scary! Wonder how hard it would be to take my line of credit elsewhere?...