Off the Top: Mobile Entries


October 3, 2017

Animoji Trains Future Interaction Interface

In the September 2017 Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone X announcement Keynote they demonstrated the Apple ARKit driven face emoji, Amimoji. This is similar to other platform’s and service’s offerings.

But, there is something I think a little different about what Apple is doing. One piece is the face identification system that Apple has in the iPhone X and the 30,000 dots it uses on people faces to ascertain an identity, which makes it difficult for someone to use a photo or mask of a person to gain access. The other piece is people interacting with their screens and the live face scans of muscles and facial features moving.

It is this second piece, the live interaction where I have a strong hunch Apple is seeding things for the future. People are learning to interact with a facial scan interface for fun and learning the capabilities so to be comfortable with it. This seems very similar to Microsoft’s using the Solitaire game in early Windows to provide a fun interaction as a means to train people how to use a mouse and get comfortable with it.

Look out a few years and start to see not Animoji, but people talking to Siri to bring up an app on their wrist, car heads-up display, or (rather banal) iPhone and use facial interactions to swipe, scroll, sort, etc. feature options and light contextual information options for simple / calm interfaces. A raise of the eyebrow could scroll up options, a side smile left moves to preferred options and side smile right moves to next screen.

I know nothing other than a hunch, but playing around with this idea for years, I’m seeing the potential could be around the corner. Finally. Maybe. Come on Apple, lets take that step.



August 8, 2017

Mac and iOS Tagging with Brett Terpstra

If you are still following along here it is likely in hopes of something related to tagging or folksonomy (I have a stack of folksonomy and tagging things piled up, but not written-up) so today you win.

This week’s Mac Power Users is an interview on tagging with Brett Terpstra. This episode digs deep into what is coming in iOS and current state of tagging on Macs. While things are mostly tagging standards based, the implementations are still a bit on the manual and geek scripting side of things.

I am deeply excited about iOS getting tags that come over from Mac, which is why I have been tagging things for the past few years. I have been playing the long game with MacOS tagging in hopes that it would also sync to iOS. Years back I was really certain (the kind of certain driven by hope, more than knowing) Mac was going to provide a tag only option, which was going to be really good, as files have multiple contexts and tags can adapt for that reality (which is far closer to life than nested folders).

While we never got the world I swore was going to be the next logical step, or at least as an option, we do have something interesting now. It will be more capable and usable in the next few months with the iOS 11 and the next MacOS update, High Sierra. If this is your thing, give Brett’s sit down with MacSparky and Katie a go and you are more than likely going to find one or more tip to up your game, if not get much more out of it.



March 17, 2015

Mobile Apps and Enabling Content Use and Reuse

This morning I read Dave Winer’s “When will the 140-char wall come down” that aside from the focus of the piece is the secondary focus on mobile. The part that caught my attention is the section that mentions Facebook’s discussions with content publishers.

David Carr ran an article in the NY Times last October that previewed the pitch we'll likely hear. They want publishers to post full content to Facebook. In return they are willing to share ad revenue with the publishers.

The reason this is so important? In a mobile environment, clicking on a link to read a story is a very big price. We all know that mobile is where Facebook’s growth is coming from. News reading on mobile can become much more fluid. That's what Facebook wants to do.

This pulling content into large commercial social platform’s mobile apps is also problematic. While I really understand the value of not having the users click out of the service and keeping ad revenues pegged to a higher level, it is this lock-in that creates problems. For those of us who value content and being able to refind content and easily quote it and pull it together in links (as is done in this post) these walled gardens of social platforms have rather overbearing walls that make ease of personal information management a giant chore. Many of the social platforms offer some connection to bookmark, send to a full browser, and / or to other apps on the mobile device. Each service is different, most offer some means of getting the content out to functional tools or providing them within their app, but some (like LinkedIn offer nothing, which is really painful and horribly thought through).

The Value to Publishers of Connecting Content

Why should publishers care about their content in a commercial social platform like Facebook? As Dave Winer points out it is about mobile access and what apps and services to people spend time in. A common adage and mindset is to place your content were people are and can see your content. This makes sense to be in the commercial social platforms. Also people share in these social platforms things they find of interest. But, the downside is the lack of ease for people to share out into other social platforms and hold on to content for greater value add outside one platform.

The ability and ease of getting content out of the social platform’s mobile app and into a browser has value, as the browser often have user’s bookmarklets to tuck things into services to read things later (like Instapaper), bookmark it in services (like Pinboard) or a work service (like KnowledgePlaza), or grab an interesting snippet for later (in something like Evernote). All of these not only add personal value to the reader using these services, but most often this content is easily shared to others who follow the link and go read the publisher’s content. If the content is not linked to the publisher’s site and to the social platform, that often hinders people from going.

As publishers consider going this route they need to understand the referral value from power readers and how social platforms currently add friction to that model of value generation.



November 15, 2014

Khoi Turns Infocards into Wildcard

This past week one of my favorite designers, Khoi Vinh released a product for iOS that is a great play on information card UI called Wildcard. Khoi has a really good write-up of the journey launching Wildcard.

Wildcard is Best When Used

The real joy is in using Wildcard. Khoi created a wonderfully usable and quite intuitive UI and interaction model all based on information cards, which work wonderfully on mobile and other constrained UI devices. Wildcard is a mix of news summary and scrolling service and product finding service.

Information cards are often mis-used and misunderstood. Both Google and Twitter started in with adding infocards to their design and information structuring a few years back. Both did this as a means to surface well chunked and structured content into small chunks for mobile and other UI constrained interfaces, but also for information scanning and lite representation interfaces and interaction models, like Google Now and the Twitter stream. The model does not work as well on fuller information and content sites, as it constrains in ways that are not moving things forwards, but instead setting false arbitrary constraints.

An Interconnected Service

One of the great pleasures in Wildcard is it not only has its own hold onto for later interaction and service, but it has fully integrated sharing with others and into your own services where you track, store, and manage your information nuggets. It does a really good job of integrating into one’s own personal knowledge flows and capture services.

Far too many services (see (unfortunately) Medium as example of current balkanization from other services) have been shifting to make it difficult for the reader and user of their content to work with the content as they wish and need in their information flows. This fracturing means it is more difficult to share and attribute content (and send people to the site) when blogging or other write-ups.

Khoi has long understood the value of information relationships and information flows for use and reuse, which shows brightly here in Wildcard.

Moved Wildcard to the Front Row

After spending about 15 minutes with Wildcard in my first use of it, it moved to the front row of my “News” folder in my iOS devices. It may become one of my first go to apps to see what is happening in the world around me.

A Model Interaction App

One of the things that struck me in my first use was the intuitive interaction model and information model for moving into a collection and around and deeper in the collection and then back out. Wildcard is really well done on this front. It is one of those things where when I am done using it the ease of use (for the most part - there are one or so “wha?” moment, but for a just launched product that is great) really stands out and I start working through how it works and functions. I’m likely going to have a sit down with it not to use it, but to map out what it is doing, because for me its interaction design is really good and fluid.

It is always a joy to find an app or service that not only does its job well and seems to get out of the way, but works to augment your workflows and existing resources for use and reuse. But, when it stands out as a really easy to use service on first use and good for discovery and exploring, it is worth sitting and better understanding the how and why it does that so I can better think through options and paths for things I am working on or advising.

Kudos Khoi!



April 29, 2013

Broken Decade Precedes It Works Decade

I had long forgotten this Carl Steadman response to Michael Sippy’s “Just One Question - What do you want for Christmas”, but the response from 1997 is fantastic and frames the 1990s as the broken decade. (I’ll wait for you to go read it)

I’m not so sure that Carl’s broken decade got better in the first half of the 2000 decade, but it really started to. We are much farther along now. Our consumer world started to improve quite a bit and slowly business systems and services are slowly improving. The initial part of Carl’s rant focusses on the number of steps to get something going. Once it is working the steps are still clunky.

Carl gets in a great rant about time and how broken it was in the 90s within technology (calendaring and syncing is still a beast and likely to for a bit longer - you understand the problem sets and pain points if you have ever tried to build syncing). With calendaring and its related activities we now have Tempo, which is freakishly close to the next step scenario I used in many of the Come to Me Web presentations and Personal InfoCloud presentations from 2003 through 2007 (I’ve been getting requests to represent them as this is what more and more developers and designers are dealing with today and need to have a better foundation to think through them). There was an internal Yahoo presentation (and follow on day of deep discussions and conversations) with a version of the Personal InfoCloud and Come to me Web flow that is nearly identical to the Tempo app video scenario and ones spelled out in Robert Scoble’s interview with Tempo CEO, which is utterly awesome that it is getting built out some 10 years later (we had the technology and tools to do this in 2004 and beyond).

Carl’s rant gets worn away over time though consumer devices, services, and applications. The refocus on ease of use and particularly the use through mobile, which requires a very different way of thinking and considering things. It thinking through design, the dependancies, and real user needs (all while keeping in mind the attention issues, screen size, networking, and device limitations). The past couple years mobile finally caught on with mainstream users and people doing real work on the mobile and tablets - Box 40% mobile access of files stored there over the last couple years. Many other business vendors have had mobile use rates of their services from mobile over the past two years. When talking to users they opt for mobile solutions over their full enterprise tools as they are much easier to use, which quickly translates into getting more work done. As Bernd Christiansen of Citrix stated in an onstage interview the employee’s most productive part of the day is often the walk from their car to the front door of the office working on their mobile devices.

This world is not fully better and fully easy to use from the days of Carl’s rant, but it is getting better. We still have quite a ways to go.



December 28, 2012

My Landline is Out, But Do I Have a Landline?

It is quite apropos that Stacy Higginbotham at GigaOM wrote a piece on Over half of American homes don’t have or use their landline, as earlier this week I pick up my landline phone so I could call my cell phone so to find it, as I didn’t want to wake up the laptop to Skype or Google voice call it, then found there was no dial tone. I messed with the connectors a few times and still nothing. I think I only used it to check dial tone once or twice (it was less money to get a landline phone with internet and tv channels than with out it) as to sort out if internet or cable were out as a first step. I was a little peeved I didn’t have a landline dial tone, which is really odd as I haven’t had a landline phone since early 2008, as when I did it was never for me as my cell phone was my contact number from early 2000s.

After a couple days I was looking at the back of the cable router and noticed it had two RJ–11 jacks for landline phone. I thought I would try the other jack to see if I got a dial tone. Sure enough I did. Within 10 minutes the phone rang and it was a wrong number in a language I wasn’t quite familiar with. I then remembered a call in the middle of the night with a non-intelligble caller and I had then unplugged the phone. After hanging up, I reconnected the phone to the non-working jack again. Now I don’t really have a landline again. Phew.

For those about to ask, “What about those people who are going to call that number?” Well, I don’t give that number out and the only people that may have that number is the cable company and I have them sending email and they use my mobile number. Heck, I don’t even have that landline number should I want to give it out. Being that it is a cable landline and not the old copper landline, it will not even work if the power were out.



March 30, 2011

Late to Realizing Ovi Maps Does Exactly What I Wish

I been a big fan of Nokia's mapping solution built into its smart phones, Ovi Maps as it provides the best mobile turn by turn directions I've seen on any mobile device. But, this is largely because Nokia owns Navteq, which has long been the leader for on board mapping and driving solutions.

That FINALLY! Moment Reached

While I have been incredibly impressed with the Ovi mapping on my Nokia E72 device and often use the Ovi resources on the web, I hit that finally, somebody got this right moment with Ovi over the weekend. While, many web mapping solutions allow you to save favorites on the web getting those to sync to your mobile device, with your directions has been left out of most of these solutions (I have been complaining to friends at Google, Yahoo, and elsewhere for many years that this is a no-duh next step). Well, it seems Ovi figured this out quite a while back. (I noticed Google Mobile Maps provided this at the end of 2009, but have never been able to get it to work, even on my supported Symbian device.)

The simplicity and ease with with Nokia's Ovi pulls this off is rather stunning. With this aha moment, I feel like I was the last one to see this and sort it out, but in chats with other mobile maps and navigation users, they have been pained waiting for exactly this functionality, as most people it seems will get a location link and add it to their desktop maps (particularly for travel) but that does them little good as they don't take their desktop or open laptop into the car with them, they take their mobile. Understanding context of use is incredibly valuable.

Now may be a good time to check your device's capability, although iPhone does not seem to have this functionality supported by Google maps (surprised?).



October 22, 2010

Nokia to Nip Its Ecosystem?

First off, I admit it I like Nokia and their phones (it may be a bit more than like, actually). But, today's news regarding Nokia further refines development strategy to unify environments for Symbian and MeeGo is troubling, really troubling. Nokia is stating they are moving toward more of an app platform than software. It is a slight nuance in terms, but the app route is building light applications on a platform and not having access to underlying functionality, while software gets to dig deeper and put hooks deeper in the foundations to do what it needs. Simon Judge frames it well in his The End of Symbian for 3rd Party Development.

Killing A Valued Part of the Ecosystem

My love for Nokia is one part of great phone (voice quality is normally great, solidly built, etc.) and the other part is the software third party developers make. Nokia has had a wonderfully open platform for developers to make great software and do inventive things. Many of the cool new things iPhone developers did were done years prior for Nokia phones because it was open and hackable. For a while there was a python kit you could load to hack data and internal phone data, so to build service you wanted. This is nice and good, but my love runs deeper.

When my last Nokia (E61i) died after a few years, its replacement was a Nokia E72. I could have gone to iPhone (I find too many things that really bug me about iPhone to do that and it is still behind functionality I really like in the Nokia). But, the big thing that had me hooked on Nokia were two pieces of 3rd party software. An email application called ProfiMail and a Twitter client called Gravity. Both of these pieces of software are hands down my favorites on any mobile platform (BTW, I loathe the dumbed down Apple mail on iPhone/iPod Touch). But, I also get to use my favorite mobile browser Opera Mobile (in most cases I prefer Opera over Safari on iPhone platform as well). This platform and ecosystem, created the perfect fit for my needs.

Nearly every Nokia user I know (they are hard to find in the US, but most I know are in Europe) all have the same story. It is their favorite 3rd party applications that keep them coming back. Nearly everybody I know loves Gravity and hasn't found another Twitter client they would switch to on any other mobile platform. The Nokia offerings for email and browser are good, but the option to use that best meets your needs is brilliant and always has been, just as the unlocked phone choice rather than a carrier's mangled and crippled offering. If Nokia pulls my ability to choose, then I may choose a phone that doesn't.

Understanding Ecosystems is Important

Many people have trashed Nokia for not having a strong App Store like Apple does for iPhone. Every time I hear this I realize not only do people not understand the smartphone market that has existed for eight years or more prior to iPhone entering the market, but they do not grasp ecosystems. Apple did a smart thing with the App Store for iPhone and it solved a large problem, quality of applications and secondarily created a central place customers could find everything (this really no longer works well as the store doesn't work well at all with the scale it has reached).

While Apple's ecosystem works well, most other mobile platforms had a more distributed ecosystem, where 3rd party developers could build the applications and software, sell it directly from their site or put it in one or many of the mobile application/software stores, like Handango. This ecosystem is distributed hoards of people have been using it and the many applications offered up. When Nokia opened Ovi, which includes an app store with many offerings, many complained it didn't grow and have the mass of applications Apple did. Many applications that are popular for Nokia still are not in Ovi, because a prior ecosystem existed and still exists. That prior ecosystem is central what has made Nokia a solid option.

Most US mobile pundits only started paying attention to mobile when the iPhone arrived. The US has been very very late to the mobile game as a whole and equally good, if not better options for how things are done beyond Apple exist and have existed. I am really hoping this is not the end of one of those much better options (at least for me and many I know).



January 14, 2008

Ma.gnolia Goes Mobile

On Friday Ma.gnolia rolled out a mobile version of their site, M.gnolia - Mobile Ma.gnolia. This had me really excited as I now have access to my bookmarks in my pocket on my mobile. Ma.gnolia gives a quick preview in their blog post Ma.gnolia Blog: Flowers on the Go.

What Mobile Ma.gnolia Does and Does Not Do

First, off the mobile Ma.gnolia does not have easy bookmarking, which is not surprising given the state things in mobile browsers. I really do not see this as a huge downside. What I am head over heals happy about is access to my bookmarks (all 2800 plus). The mobile version allows searching through your own tags (if you are logged in). It currently has easy access to see that is newly bookmarked in Ma.gnolia groups you follow, your contact's bookmarks, popular bookmarks, your own tags, and your profile.

Mobile Site Bookmarks

One thing that is helpful for those that use mobile web browsing is having easy access to mobile versions of web sites. Yes, the iPhone and many smartphone users (I am in the Nokia camp with my well liked E61i) can easily browse and read regular web pages, but mobile optimized pages are quicker to load and have less clutter on a smaller screen. The iPhone, WebKit-based browsers (Nokia), Opera Mini, and other decent mobile web browsers all have eased mobile browsing use of regular webpages, but having a list of mobile versions is really nice.

Yesterday, Saturday, I created a Ma.gnolia Mobile Version Group so people can share web pages optimized for mobile devices (quicker/smaler downloads, smaller screens, less rich ads, etc.). One of the ways I was thinking people could use this is to find sites in this group then bookmark them for their own use with tags and organization that makes sense for themself. The aim is just to collect and share with others what you find helpful and valuable for yourself. This group will be monitored for spam as the rest of Ma.gnolia is (Ma.gnolia uses "rel="no-follow"" so there really is little value to spammers).

Ways You Can Use Mobile Ma.gnolia

This means if you tagged a store, restaurant, bar, transit site, or other item that has value when out walking around it is really nice to have quick access to it. It can also be a great way to read those items you have tagged "to read" (if you are a person that tags things in that manner) so you can read what you want in the doctor's office, bus, train, or wherever.

I have a lot of content I have bookmarked for locations I am work, live, and visit. When I come across something I want to remember (places to eat, drink, learn, hang, be entertained, etc.) I often dump them into the bookmarks. But, getting to this information has been painful from a mobile in the past. I am now starting to go back to things I have tagged with locations and add a "togo" tag so they are easier for me to find and use in the Ma.gnolia mobile interface. I have already added a bookmark for an museum exhibit that I really want to see that is not far from where I am. When a meeting is dropped, postponed, or runs short near the museum I can make a trip over and see it. There is so much information flowing through my devices and it is nice to be able to better use this info across my Personal InfoCloud in my trusted devices I have with me and use the information in context it is well suited for, when have stepped away from my desk or laptop.

I am looking forward to see where this goes. Bravo and deep thanks to the Larry and others at Ma.gnolia that made this happen!



December 18, 2007

T-Mobile Was Not the Problem with Twitter

Twitter has been having problems with T-Mobile USA customers having the ability to use Twitter's short code to send messages to Twitter (as noted in T-Mobile Shows Ignorance Blocking Twitter. But, as it turns out the problem for being able to use short codes was not T-Mobile, but was the messaging service Twitter uses to handle its messages. This highlights a couple problems with what happened: 1) Messaging service providers need better communication with customers; 2) T-Mobile was not blocking, but assumed it was.

Messaging Services Need to Improve Customer Service

I know quite a few people whose services for mobile access in the United States use messaging services to handle the SMS for them. All of them (about 7 of them, all in confidence) have said they are not fully happy with the service provider, but the options are rather thin. The two biggest complaints are poor communication when problems arise and maintenance (setup, managing, and monitoring) capabilities. The services are mostly companies who have built applications, servers, and network access to ease the sending and receiving SMS text messages to augment existing services. This is a tough market space to work as it constantly is changing and the costs can be high and staying on top of all the changes takes constant watching (policies of carries and settings change relatively often). What is missing seems to be a service that is proactive and works in a more transparent manner (alerts and metrics when errors happen).

T-Mobile Customer Service Still Good, but Management Reacted Oddly

Let me start by saying I was relieved that this problem was not T-Mobile blocking Twitter short codes, as that would have been a strong reason to move from T-Mobile. The last five years and more, I have been extremely impressed with T-Mobile's customer service. When I have a problem they answer the phone quickly or respond to e-mail quickly and immediately start working on solving the problem. I rarely have problems with their service and the odd occasions when there are problems (like getting international data roaming for a fix rate on my mobile that they do not sell) they work hard to get a great solutions and always seem to go the extra mile. This is one company whose customer service I am always quite impressed with how I am treated, the effort that is put in to provide an optimal solution, and the amount of time (relatively short when compared to all other telecom (mobile or landline - including cable)) it tasks from beginning to final resolution. T-Mobile is my measure for nearly all other customer service I receive.

What is really with the T-Mobile responses did not seem to come from Customer Service (who was not aware that there was a problem, which is slightly problematic but often attributed to a limited knowledge management application to handle trouble tickets), but came from T-Mobile management. There were quite a few people who e-mailed and escalated their problems with T-Mobile and received an [paraphrased]it is our right to block services as we see fit policy response from the management. This is quite problematic. One is that they can and will block services without notification. Second, they respond in this manner with out looking into the problem (this is incredibly counter to my experiences and I would not be a fan of T-Mobile were this the usual practice of ignorance and laziness). It seems that T-Mobile USA senior management needs to take a good look at its own practices and start learning how their customer service is done in the trenches and start replicating that as quickly as possible.



December 16, 2007

T-Mobile Shows Ignorance Blocking Twitter

Updated with response in T-Mobile Was Not the Problem with Twitter.

The news of USA T-Mobile Blocking Twitter Short Code (and now understanding of why I have been getting the service unavailable message the past few days) is deeply bothersome on many levels. First is I use Twitter a lot. It is a core communication channel for me. It is a viable outlet during emergencies. Lastly, when traveling and when out Twitter is a great broadcast medium to connect with friends to coordinate meeting and let them know of delays or problems.

These issues while they have great value and essential support, are secondary to a commercial entity blocking a service with out notice. I mostly use mobile Twitter, but the short code is something I use quite often, particularly to direct message when somebody needs a private quick answer. I don't have all of my friend's mobile numbers, but Twitter has decreased my need for them as one SMS (short code) suffices. T-Mobile is getting paid for use of the short code for the SMS traffic just the same as if I used my friend's mobile number for SMS.

Lacking Access to Twitter Short Code is Reason to Dump T-Mobile

The belief that T-Mobile has that is does not have to support any external service they do not have an agreement with is a giant problem for me the customer. I pay T-Mobile for service, if they decide not to provide service I decide to take my business to a company that will provide service. T-Mobile can cower behind its foolish policy statement, but those of us who are month-to-month with them (I own my own mobile device that I really like and I will not sign an agreement that has lock-in) should look at other options and make a decision that is in our best interest. T-Mobile seemingly does not support its customers by providing open transmission of messages/communication (this is why I pay them money, who is on the other end is never important). Lacking an understanding of why they get paid by their customers is a tragic decision.

T-Mobile Wants to Get in the Social Services Game

For months T-Mobile has been advertising for a Director for Community Products on its job board (now looking for a Senior Manager for Community Products), but to play this game T-Mobile must play well with other Community platforms. There is no lock-in as many people already have their own Community/Social platforms they use (Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku, etc.). The best way to build community is to embrace other platforms and allow open communication between the services. Rule number one in social software is people hang out and use services where their friends are. The corollary is people will use a service that easily connects with where their friends are (Jaiku gets this and has done well embracing this concept as it can pull in feeds from all platforms (allowing the listener to decide what feeds they want in their feed from the lifestreams from their friend's lives.

T-Mobile must learn this simple concept or they have proven they do not get the game and they will be moved out of the way.



August 23, 2007

Making a Mobile SmartPhone Selection

Many of you know I have a relationship of hate with my Palm Treo as it (well it has been four of them) a really poor phone and device.

The Needs

I have been trying for some time to weigh my options for a new phone. I really have wanted a phone that works globally. I needs to be a great phone. I needs to have e-mail and web capability. It must sync with my Mac and be capable of handling my full address book (1300 entries - stop your nattering) and my calendar. It must be a stable phone (not crash multiple times each day) and be responsive. It needs to have a camera of decent quality of 2 megapixels or greater.

The Should Haves

I really want an unlocked phone. This has a few advantages that include being able to change carriers if one is not meeting my needs, drop in a SIM when I travel to get lower telecom rates, and the phone is not crippled. I not only have a crippled Treo (thanks to Sprint) that keeps me from transferring files to and from it via bluetooth, but my old Nokia 3650 was crippled by the old AT&T from similar file transfers and using it as a dial-up modem. My old Nokia was moved to T-Mobile and the transfer did not fix the phone being crippled. I would really like the phone to have 3G data capability, partly for Skype and part for downloading documents. I would like the phone to have quad band, which means it will work in most countries around the globe with out changing phones.

I really would like to have WiFi capability built into the phone. It should have the ability to add Skype. I should have the ability to add applications to the phone. It should have the capability of acting as a dial-up modem via bluetooth for my laptop or one of my other devices. It should be easy to use. It should be very responsive - I touch it and it immediately does what I ask and not sit for 3 to 10 seconds before responding. It should have GPS or the capability to use external bluetooth enabled GPS devices to use with phone based applications. It should have a full QWERTY keyboard (2 character toggles could work too). I also like the Treo screen size, which works well for web browsing and reading documents. I would also like a touch interface on the screen (it is an ease of use thing I have grown accustom to with my 8 years or more on Palm devices).

The Should Not Haves

It should not be locked to one carrier (this is not a deal breaker, but for the international travel it is important). It should not be more than $600 (USD), which is about the going rate for unlocked smartphones. It should not be huge (to quantify the Treo is bulky, so it should not be thicker or wider and/or longer than the Treo). It should not crash multiple times each day. It should not require wires to transfer data between my main computer (laptop) and the phone, as well it should not route this trough the internet.

Things That Do Not Matter

I really do not care if my smartphone can play music or play videos. Having this capability would be nice, but the occasions when I want this functionality I have my iPod with in easy reach and it serves me well.

The Options

Yes, I have been looking at the Apple iPhone. I have been looking at the Nokia E61i for quite some time. I have been looking at the Blackberry devices. Lastly, I have been looking at various Sony Ericsson devices.

iPhone

This is an utterly amazing phone. I have spent a lot of time in Apple retail stores testing every inch of the iPhone. It is the most stunningly easy to use and responsive phones I have ever run across. It meets all of my must have requirements and does not match any must not have requirements. The lack of not being able to add applications (particularly GPS and Skype) means I need an data connection to get applications and functionality. This is really not good as international data rates are horrible and WiFi is not always within reach in many countries, so this is a huge problem (cheaper or unlimited international data would solve this issue, but it is not an option as of today). The lack of 3G and true GPS is also less than optimal for me. The ease of switching from mobile carrier to WiFi is fantastic and the preference for WiFi use is a great plus.

Then there is the AT&T issue, which is a provider of last resort for me. The downsides of the iPhone are not huge and can be worked through, many likely getting resolved with software updates over time (3G requires different hardware and is the only non-upgradable detractor), but AT&T/Cingular has notorious high rates for data and horrible customer service. The rates I figure could get resolved, but getting AT&T to let existing customer change with out charges or other painful experiences (read hours on the phone arguing and debating). When I compare AT&T to T-Mobile there is comparison for customer service, T-Mobile is utterly fantastic, has a great site that lets you add and remove features with out penalty and their customer service is kind and will often bend over backward to do what ever it takes to keep you (their customer) happy.

Then we have the AT&T censorship and customer monitoring issues, which are not new. In recent news AT&T admits it has censored many bands (after getting caught censoring Pearl Jam) and the censoring is nearly always political in nature. AT&T has also been overly willing to offer up customer data to the government. With all of the name changes AT&T has gone through it seems that it has also confused its own country of the USA for the USSR.

The iPhone being tied to AT&T makes it really a difficult choice for me. Moving to AT&T will be done as a last resort.

Nokia E61i

I had a lot of interest in the Nokia E61, which did not have a camera and a camera is a must for me. The Nokia has all of the must haves and none of the must not haves. It is nearly perfect in every way, but does not have a touch interface on the screen. It also can be a little quirky in Nokia kinds or ways, which means interactions are not always as easy or seamless as the could be. I have read bits with getting the E61i to work with WiFi properly problems. The E61i is not as beautiful as the iPhone, but it does cover many of the bases that I need it to, including SIM card swapping and being fully unlocked (or the ability to buy it that way). One slight downside has been finding a place to find the Nokia line up in the US to try and buy. I have resorted to trying international friends phones and looking at Mobile Planet to purchase (Dell is now selling the E61i, but it takes 2 to 3 weeks to ship).

Blackberry

I continually have looked at the Blackberry as an option. The bulk of most of the devices (other than the Pearl) has been a turn off, as the device will likely live in my pocket. While I like the functionality of the Pearl (it has a camera and meets the must haves) and I really like the size compared to other Blackberries, the lack of a full keyboard and the smaller screen are drawbacks.

Sony Ericsson

The Sony Ericsson phones have a similar problem to Nokia phone, in that they are rather difficult to find in the US unless you go to Mobile Planet. I have mostly resorted to trying international friend's phones. The lack of a full QWERTY keyboard has been a downside and some of the models have seemed a little bulky. The P1i, which is new to the market has been really interesting and could fit the bill, but I have not seen one. The P1i does not have a full QWERTY keyboard, but has a similar keyboard to the Blackberry Pearl, and it has a touch screen. It is missing WiFi too, which is not a killer. The biggest downside is it is over $600 price limit (making it more expensive than the iPhone).

Conclusion

After much debating options I am going to try the E61i as I can return it in 15 days if it does not work well for me. The little quirks and WiFi access will be the biggest potential frustrations. How much it frustrates me will be the key. It seems like it will be a large improvement over the Treo, which would be difficult to not beat. The ability to try the phone is really important for me. One thing I need to sort out is how to move my number from Sprint to the T-Mobile account easily (I will like move my T-Mobile number to Sprint or Verizon for a second phone option - as I have come to learn there are CDMA and GSM cities in the US and having at least a cheap phone on each is a good plan).

Should my trial with the Nokia E61i prove too frustrating the international carriers for the iPhone will likely be selected in the next couple weeks and I will see if that changes options for the iPhone being completely locked. The next question will be iPhone or the Sony Ericsson P1i, which will depend on the pain of AT&T.



July 21, 2007

Inline Messaging

Many of the social web services (Facebook, Pownce, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) have messaging services so you can communication with your "friends". Most of the services will only ping you on communication channels outside their website (e-mail, SMS/text messaging, feeds (RSS), etc.) and require the person to go back to the website to see the message, with the exception of Twitter which does this properly.

Inline Messaging

Here is where things are horribly broken. The closed services (except Twitter) will let you know you have a message on their service on your choice of communication channel (e-mail, SMS, or RSS), but not all offer all options. When a message arrives for you in the service the service pings you in the communication channel to let you know you have a message. But, rather than give you the message it points you back to the website to the message (Facebook does provide SMS chunked messages, but not e-mail). This means they are sending a message to a platform that works really well for messaging, just to let you know you have a message, but not deliver that message. This adds extra steps for the people using the service, rather than making a simple streamlined service that truly connects people.

Part of this broken interaction is driven by Americans building these services and having desktop-centric and web views and forgetting mobile is not only a viable platform for messaging, but the most widely used platform around the globe. I do not think the iPhone, which have been purchased by the owners and developers of these services, will help as the iPhone is an elite tool, that is not like the messaging experience for the hundreds of millions of mobile users around the globe. Developers not building or considering services for people to use on the devices or application of their choice is rather broken development these days. Google gets it with Google Gears and their mobile efforts as does Yahoo with its Yahoo Mobile services and other cross platform efforts.

Broken Interaction Means More Money?

I understand the reasoning behind the services adding steps and making the experience painful, it is seen as money in their pockets through pushing ads. The web is a relatively means of tracking and delivering ads, which translates into money. But, inflicting unneeded pain on their customers can not be driven by money. Pain on customers will only push them away and leave them with fewer people to look at the ads. I am not advocating giving up advertising, but moving ads into the other channels or building solutions that deliver the messages to people who want the messages and not just notification they have a message.

These services were somewhat annoying, but they have value in the services to keep somebody going back. When Pownce arrived on the scene a month or so ago, it included the broken messaging, but did not include mobile or RSS feeds. Pownce only provides e-mail notifications, but they only point you back to the site. That is about as broken as it gets for a messaging and status service. Pownce is a beautiful interface, with some lightweight sharing options and the ability to build groups, and it has a lightweight desktop applications built on Adobe AIR. The AIR version of Pownce is not robust enough with messaging to be fully useful. Pownce is still relatively early in its development, but they have a lot of fixing of things that are made much harder than they should be for consuming information. They include Microfomats on their pages, where they make sense, but they are missing the step of ease of use for regular people of dropping that content into their related applications (putting a small button on the item with the microformat that converts the content is drastically needed for ease of use). Pownce has some of the checkboxes checked and some good ideas, but the execution of far from there at the moment. They really need to focus on ease of use. If this is done maybe people will comeback and use it.

Good Examples

So who does this well? Twitter has been doing this really well and Jaiku does this really well on Nokia Series60 phones (after the first version Series60). Real cross platform and cross channel communication is the wave of right now for those thinking of developing tools with great adoption. The great adoption is viable as this starts solving technology pain points that real people are experiencing and more will be experiencing in the near future. (Providing a solution to refindability is the technology pain point that del.icio.us solved.) The telecoms really need to be paying attention to this as do the players in all messaging services. From work conversations and attendees to the Personal InfoCloud presentation, they are beginning to get the person wants and needs to be in control of their information across devices and services.

Twitter is a great bridge between web and mobile messaging. It also has some killer features that add to this ease of use and adoption like favorites, friends only, direct messaging, and feeds. Twitter gets messaging more than any other service at the moment. There are things Twitter needs, such as groups (selective messaging) and an easier means of finding friends, or as they are now appropriately calling it, people to follow.

Can we not all catch up to today's messaging needs?



June 30, 2007

A Love Ruined - Good Bye Palm

It used to be all love. It started in 1998 just after Christmas. It was a gift under the tree and it brought me wonderful joy. It was the Palm III by Palm. It allowed me to sync all of my address book info, my to do lists, and other "essentials" of a digital portable life. It was relatively easy to write applications for it and extend its usefulness. I learn the graffiti writing in three early mornings of waking-up on the West Coast on East Coast time.

That Palm lasted a few years and I then moved to the HandSpring Visor Deluxe, which had more internal memory, still based on the Palm operating system, and it had four times the memory. The device did most everything I needed. Just like my Palm III the HandSpring was reliable and always ready, it never failed me. I added a camera and some other tools for the plug-in slot and everything always worked.

Mobile Internet & Mobile E-mail

My big advancement was getting a Sidekick (Hiptop) that gave me web, chat, and e-mail all live and all in my pocket. I still kept the Visor as it still served a purpose (address book, notes, e-books). The Sidekick was not a great phone so I kept my Motorola 270C (a really great phone - did not much else). This was a stack of too many devices, particularly when an iPod came into my life.

Treo Moves In

Somewhere in the Spring of 2002 I got a Treo 600, which seemed like a great solution. I replaced my Sidekick, my Motorola, my Visor, and my watch (this was happenstance more than anything else). Things were good for the first 6 to 9 months, but the phone began to crash regularly after that. I had some hardware malfunctions and got a replacement. All was good again for 6 to 9 months then it started crashing when pulling e-mail and the phone rang. The hardware did not last that long on this either. By Fall (18 months after the first 600) the phone was in really poor state and I woke up one morning picked it up and it split (the day before traveling to the Bay Area). By this time the Treo 650 was out and I convinced my mobile provider to let me switch with out penalty. But the same story repeated at 6 to 9 months. After 10 months the keyboard stopped working and I got a replacement. I am 12 months into that replacement and life with this Treo is hell.

Treo Is Toiletware

The relationship with my Treo is so bad I constantly swear I am going to throw it in the toilet, but that would leave me with out a primary phone (I have an old Nokia I enjoy for international service and back-up but don't have many minutes with that carrier). The odd thing is I know quite a few people who used to work at Palm and none of them use a Palm device. All of them have had horrible problems with the Treo and it was their last device with a Palm operating system.

Palm seemed to have lost their love when they added the phone. The Treo is a really poor phone (horrible voice capability), but it also is short on memory and most useful applications were removed from the device as they needed more memory than was available or they crashed the device. Now my Treo is less useful than my Sidekick. It is a slow unreliable device. Palm went from being a company I utterly loved to one I hope dies a quick painful death. Everybody I know that has new devices say they are no better.

What is the Next Step

While I have interest in Blackberry devices, I like the open platform of Nokia and Nokia gets the phone part of the phone really well. The iPhone is interesting, but is missing the open platform, 3G, and proven platfor that Nokia has. I am still making up my mind, but I think the Nokia E61i is what I really want to replaced the horrible state the Treo has left me in.

I want a phone with decent camera, with e-mail, web, WiFi, touch keyboard, and ability to read e-books and docs easily. I want to be able to build and get solid applications that serve the purposes I need and do not crash the device.

Good bye Palm, I loved you deeply for a long time, but you betrayed me with your crap phones and lack of caring. It was not that I fell for another product, you did it to yourself.



July 6, 2006

World Cup, Power, and Mobile

Yesterday (July 4th), our power went out in the 87th minute of the World Cup match between Germany and Italy. We did not get power back for nearly 8 hours. We also lost internet access for 14 hours because of the same storm and poor infrastructure planning. I was truly amazed at the lack of World Cup on the radio, dumbfounded actually.

I was a bit peeved, but I did finally find really good mobile access to match and World Cup information from Yahoo! Mobile. When I was in Europe I found great coverage from the BBC mobile sports site on my old Nokia. The version of the site I get on my Treo in the U.S. is much different and not really usable or helpful. I had been using the ESPN mobile site which was the worst mobile access of them all.

The ESPN site essentially was not built to recognize matches would go beyond 90 minutes (did they every watch a World Cup match before?). Access to further information was really thin and tough to navigate.

The BBC site in Europe was very good with minute by minute updates. It seemed to be cached and I would get updates I had seen already (this may well could have been the carrier doing the caching). The US site for the BBC I was getting on my mobile was really difficult to find the live game and the information was sparse for the game.

Yahoo had the best site on my Treo. It allowed for very detailed coverage and updates. It has photos and annotations of the game that was better than much of the U.S. broadcasters coverage. The problem with the Yahoo coverage was finding it. It was not until the coverage link showed up on my Yahoo! mobile page on my device that I got to the best site for World Cup coverage on the mobile. Oddly the World Cup site, run/hosted by Yahoo! did not make it easy to get to the World Cup mobile content as it tired to point to a download sort of thing, which was not available for either phone I own.



June 6, 2006

To the Skies Again

I am off again, but this time I have clothes out of the cleaners and laundry done. The turn around from last trip to this trip was only a couple days. I am looking forward to being home for a bit, after this trip. I have about 18 hours of travel before I get where I am going.

I am quite looking forward to being with many people that are passionate about microcontent and microlearning. A conversation in early 2001 got me completely hooked on microcontent and its possibilities. We are finally beginning to see tangents of the microcontent world slip into use in the world of the general public. APIs, aggregation, tracking, metadata access, pushing to mobile, etc. are all components, when they work right. We are only a slice of the way there, but each little step gets better and better.



April 3, 2006

Mr. Thackara Provides Fodder for Two Loose Thoughts

Things have been busy of late after a return from Vancouver, British Columbia from the IA Summit. It took a week to get through taxes stuff for a four month old company (as of January 1) and a large stack of e-mail (in which responding meant more e-mail).

Yesterday morning I had the pleasurable fortune to have breakfast with John Tackara of Doors of Perception fame. I really need to put two things out there that popped up in conversation that I need to think about more deeply.

Children today are not into the web tied to computers, but focus on their friends through the mobile voice and text messaging. I have been running into this comment quite a bit from Europeans, but increasingly from parents of teen and pre-teens in America. Having a computer is not a large interest for them, but they live in their mobiles as a means to connect, filter, share, convene, and stay tethered to those that matter to them, their friends. The quick 10 to 20 year scenario for this could mean the web is dead and is a technology that had an immense impact, but was a technology that was relatively short lived. Are our communication technologies trending through ever shorter life spans? This could bolster my thinking that the web is increasingly a temporary terminus for information to be shared and picked up and used in context in other media that is better situated within people's lives.

This leads us to context. I keep looking at much of the information that is on the web as being out of the proper use context for most people. We read information on the web, but the web is not the context in which we will make use of this information we find. The web as it has been traditionally built is marginally better than television, in that an address for a car lot flashed on the television screen is as usable as it is plastered on a web page. The address does us more good in our pocket, in driving (or mass transit) routes, in our mobile that is in our pocket, etc. than it does on the web page, but few web pages today get that clue.

I have also been thinking about tagging and particularly tagging in the folksonomy subset as the tags providing mental context to external information. We use the tags to pull back these bits of information or to aggregate this information when we pull on the digital threads that draw what is at the ends of these tag tethers closer to ourselves. A chunk of information or media out on the web is lacking context to our lives with out these tags. When we have needs, most always framed in the context of a need related to a subject we use tags related to that subject to draw back in that which we found or other people with similar vocabularies have found. These tags provide context for the few thousand chunks of information out of the billions that we have explicitly expressed interest in and have placed the context upon based on its relationship between the information or object and ourself.



March 17, 2006

SXSW Interactive and Austin BarCamp Overview

This year's SXSW was incredible. It started out a little overwhelming as I realized there were six distinct groups that I hang out with and they don't really intermix. But, this all worked out, as by Sunday I realized that there was enough time to spend time with each group. SXSW has always been the place I escape to so to have wonderful conversations and to hang with many like minds. This year was did not let me down, in fact there were many like minds.

The Tagging 2.0 panel I was on seemed to have gone well, based on the comments that followed. (My presentation with diagram will be posted in a week or so.)

BarCamp Austin

I went over to the BarCamp Austin and had a wonderful time for the hour or so I hung out there. I was a little late for Tara's "Marketing your project: Cluetrain style presentation, but I really enjoyed what I heard. I also got to finally meet Chris Messina and thank him for making the original BarCamp enjoyable and accessible for those of use that were attending virtually (he walked the laptop around when the people moved

Best Take Away Ever

My favorite part of SXSW Interactive this year was not only getting to meet Bruce Sterling (finally), but having him sign my copy (or one of them) of his Wired Magazine article on folksonomy and myself, ":Order Out of Chaos". I got a kick out of the "Dr. Folksonomy".

When you get a chance go grab the podcast of Bruce Sterling's closing remarks, which were stellar and moving.

Killer Digits for the Pocket or Hip

This year, not only did the official SXSW site have a wonderful service to for their pushing their schedule (only the things you want) to your mobile device, but there were other great tools used enforce. It seemed many people had logged into Dodgeball for Austin, a mobile service that lets you know where your friends are and lets you ping the service to share your location. This made connecting with your friends at the right party, restaurant, or bar really easy (I do not normally have a use for this at home). I also used Upcoming to track the events I had interest in and then push them to my phone so I had the time and location with me at all times.

This is a really great example of moving information that is of value out of the web and into our real lives. As a web developer I realized years ago that most of the information that is on the web is not really usable or reusable as it is not structured to be used in the place or context where it makes most sense. Most people do not live their lives on the web they live them in the real world. Information and media must be built with this understanding.



March 8, 2006

ETech is Emergent? [updated]

I thought this would be the year I was going to ETech, but with a few other things going on it was not the year. I have many friends that go each year and I see them very rarely.

But, I think I would have been very frustrated by ETech this year. It is still about the web. Achingly, still about the web. The problem is digital information and media is increasingly living beyond the web. The web is but one platform to distribute information, but thinking people live their lives in and on the web is silly. Want the information that is on the web, but need the information in their lives, in their devices they have with them, and in context to the rest of their life.

The panel that triggered this reaction is one by friends, Jesse and Jeff "Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps". In Tom Coates review the binary approach (web for reading and web for apps) sounds so short sited and really caused the trigger. Is Emerging Tech just rehashing the current and the past? Or can it move forward? I am not seeing much of that forward movement this year.

People live their lives attracting information and focussing on the Come to Me Web and Personal InfoCloud we know people need the information to better mesh into their personal digital information workflow, which involves very little of the web. People find the information that they want and need and work very hard to keep it attracted to themself for easy refindability. Other than social bookmarking tools and a few others web based tools, much of this is done with tools that are beyond the web. Some people tuck all of their needed information and links into e-mail, others calendar, to do lists, PIMs, text files, syndication, e-mail, SMS, MMS, documents, mobile syndication, mobile documents, outlines, wiki on a stick, etc. There are many tools and many ways of working around lack of web access when people need the information most.

Many people, unlike those of us that build web-based tools (I am in that category), don't live on the web and their digital information needs to live beyond the web as well. That is the future of the web, it is a platform for just one state of information. That state that the web represents is the state of information transience. The information is in the process of moving from the creator to the person needing that information for their own use or for their reuse. This use will most likely not be on the web, but the reuse of information may be on the web.

The web as it exists now is a tool for publishing and aggregating. Some will use the web for use and reuse, but we need far more options that the web for real people to adopt their future and our now. We, as developers of tools, information, and resources must pay attention to real people. We must pay attention to their lives beyond the web and the large box in front of them. We need to understand their problems that they really have, which revolve around refindability and information reuse in their environment and context.

Now please go back to paying careful attention to the great things that friends and other alpha geeks are presenting at ETech and other conferences and un-conferences as that information is needed, but remember we are moving beyond, far beyond this current state of the web.

[update] Um, well Ray Ozzie just made me wish I was at ETech. He just showed what is emergent and what is the future. It could answer many of the items I just listed above. You go Ray!



February 3, 2006

San Franccisco Reawakens the Need for a Smart Address Book

I am back home in Bethesda, Maryland from my trip to the San Francisco Bay Area this week, coming only a couple days after getting home from Seattle. Today I was wiped out, some from the travel itself (red-eye overnight flights and getting up at 4 am on the East Coast to catch planes), but mostly from 19 to 20 hour days this week. The brain begins to go a wee bit with this shift.

I met with many wonderful people and had great conversations and business meetings, as I always do in the San Francisco Bay Area. The downside it WiFi networks blocking secure connections. I have had more mail blocked or "reached my quota" notices to fill a year all in one short trip.

Need for Better Mobile/Portable Communication

I also realized we (those of us that are not always stuck at a desk or have friends or collaborators that are not stuck at some desk) need much better communication. We need an address book and multi-medium communication tools that are a hell of a lot better than the poorly thought through mess we currently deal with. I was needing to repoint a group of people from one location to meet-up to another at 4:30 for a 7:00 gathering. People may not be pulling e-mail (which I did not have access to the account I sent the initial e-mail from and that caused 6 of 15 sent to bounce back with spam challenges, which I did not get on my mobile device for some very odd unknown reason).

Solving Communication with People in Digital Context

What is the solution? Again, (again that is for those that heard or read my Design Engaged presentation on Clouds, Space & Black Boxes, that I have yet to write-up, but come to a same conclusion for a very different reason) I know we need a very smart address book. We need an address book that has exhaustive contact information, should the person permit us to have this information, for their communication devices and means of accessing them. The address book should have contact rules based on that person's preferences. Connecting to a calendar for that person could instruct our address book the best means to connect to this person. Another alternative could be a ping service that our address book queries that tells our address book what is the best means of contacting that person.

Smart Address Book Contents

Once we have a smart address book that has all of the rules, or could be easily updated through the same ping service for the address book, we prepare our message and our address book selects the best means of contacting that person. We would have some information going out to e-mail, a blast SMS/text message to mobile devices, voice script that gets dropped directly into voicemail, calendar updates, etc. Not only should our networks (WiFi, mobile device, broadband mobile, etc.) not inhibit out transmissions, but our devices should use the best or a combination of messages that work for that person, based on their current context.

The Smart Address Book in Action

Simply it would work like this (any device will do - desktop, laptop, mobile, etc): We create a message we need to send and mark it with the proper urgency and time to live (Tuesday night the message had 2.5 hours for time to live). In our address book we select the people we want to receive the message. Our address book pings that person's communication priority file, which checks who we are requesting the ping, the urgency, and the time to live of the message. The response back to the ping weighs our request and based on the person's preferences and availability (calendar or live settings) and a rating of how good we are in their eyes we are with our requests. The response tells our address book the preferred method(s) of contact for the information. Our address book adds the address/routing for the message in that person's preferred interaction mode and sends the messages. The smart address book and message preparation can be done on a device or on an external service. Either way we should easily have the ability to do it from any device we have at our disposal.

This should some much of the information routing problems we have. If our smart address book could also capture some of the addressee's preferences and rules it would be helpful too, such as they do not answer their home phone, but may answer their mobile phone, but their preferred method of hearing from us is IM or personal e-mail. I have really been noticing in the past couple of years that the world is made up of text people and voice people. It is all about preferences and understanding personal need and personal interaction efficiencies.

Attention to Personal Information Workflow

The rules could also account for often to contact a person when you have not heard from them on a request or deadline. There are cracks in life (some very small and some large) and things fall into these cracks. The smart address book and messaging system could trigger follow-up based on one's own known personal workflow.



January 11, 2006

Real Time Flight Tracking Site for Your Mobile

Thanks to Tim Boyd I found a wonderful Mobile Flight Tracking Tool (the flight tracking tool is described by Jon Gales the developer. Tim took a photo of the flight tracking tool running on his Treo.

This is exactly the right tool to do the job that many need. Everybody complains about the lack of mobile interfaces to flight on-time information when they are needing to meet somebody at the airport. The airlines solutions either do not exist, are not detailed enough, or have interfaces that are cluttered (even on a Treo). Airlines suggested arrival times are a joke as they are trying to compensate for their tendencies for late arrivals, which they get penalized on. This has lead to a 45 minute flight from Washington to New York being stated at a flight time of 2 hours or more. On-time flight is not anything close to an efficient guide.

Most of the airline sites only think of the desktop for decent information, but where real-time flight arrival information is important is when you are on the go. Jon Gales's application solves a real life information need in the context of life. A standing ovation for his work is in order. I wish more apps like this were in existence, information solutions for people's real lives (we do not sit at our desktops and most do not carry their laptops where ever they go).

When designing for the mobile (this app horizontally scrolls on my Nokia 3650 and solving that is a relatively easy solution) we need to cut out the clutter. We need to understand the information need and the information that can be provided on that small screen. Paring away what is not essential is a vital task. Getting to what is important is also important. What is important is accurate and useful information for people's given the context that people wanting to use the information on the go face.



January 6, 2006

Yahoo! Go Launches [Updated]

I am quite interested in the newly launched Yahoo! Go, which is self described as:

Yahoo! Go - a new suite of products and services for your PC, mobile phone and even your TV.

Yahoo! Go allows you to access the information and content that is important to you on whatever device you choose.

So wherever you go, your photos, your music, your email, " your life&#quot; is right there with you. Ready to go.

The service provides your contacts (address book), photos, messanger, and mail. All great to have where ever you go. This is a very helpful service.

But wait! It is missing one thing. Yahoo! states, "allows you to access the information and content that is important to you". If that is true it is missing one giant piece. Where is the calendar? [Update] The calendar is actually there. Russ Beattie (of Yahoo! Mobile) provided the following response:

Y! Go also syncs the Calendar, it syncs with your Yahoo! Calendar and uses the Series 60 native calendar app on the phone for alerts. The SyncML service also syncs the calendar on phones like the SonyEricsson's and Nokias which support it.

What really impresses me is the SyncML work. That news is one of the most impressive things I have heard on calendaring in a while. I have been waiting for Apple to go this route for their iSync for the last couple revisions and I thought they would be the leaders on this syncing standards front. Yahoo! seems to understand the needs today and the future, which is one of the things that has impressed me about Yahoo! in the last year or two (they really get it, possibly better than any other large web company, yes I am considering Google too). If you want more info on Yahoo! and using SyncML Russ has the following post on Yahoo! Mobile Services: SyncML and More. I am still not sure why the marketing people left out calendaring. [/Update]

<ignore>Of all the things to leave out.</ignore> The calendar is one of two pieces of essential social data that people complain constantly that they do not have access to, or did not sync properly (the other is contact info). A large part of our social communication is about the "next". It could be the next call, the next meeting, the next lunch, the next... you fill-in the blank. Social is not completely about the now, it is about the future too. Not having a component to connect in the future and to ensure proper planning it is only a partial social tool.

One of my pet peeves the last four years, or so I have been working with the Model of Attraction and the Personal InfoCloud (your information you are interested, that you have attracted to your device, becomes attracted to you and moves across your devices so it is at your ready call when you want it and need it) is constant access to one's own information, which means whether you have connectivity or not and is available on the device you have with you (it must be device and platform agnostic). Yahoo! seems to get this all but for that one important bit.

In the past year Yahoo! purchased a company that provides event information (Upcoming), which could tie wonderfully into a calendar (either as events you are attending or potential events). Yahoo! also recently announced connecting Tivo and your Yahoo! calendar. We know they get the importance of the calendar. Where oh where is it? [Update] It is actually there just not advertised.[/Update]



December 29, 2005

Mobile Search is Not Interested in Mobile

One of the things that has been bugging me for a while is mobile search. I mostly use Google mobile search on my mobiles for search. It is not the interface, but the results that get me.

Mobile search should return mobile site results. I gave Google a huge clue as to my usage, "I am on a mobile device", which they have yet to find as a helpful part of their algorithm. If I search for information I on my mobile I should be able to get the search results pointing to mobile ready content. If not by default, let me set this as a preference (not that I want to with Google as they have this wonderful way of poorly allowing me to manage my identity (there is no way to manage your own identity on Google).

I would love to have mobile search engine give me mobile sites. Why? Many sites have moved to flooding their pages with rich interfaces (AJAX and Flash) for no value added to the customer. This turns a 25kb or even a (formerly large page) 60kb into a 200kb or even a 450kb page. Much of this added interface is of little value other than it is cute or cool on a desktop, but on a mobile device it make the page and the information on it inaccessible.

Myself and many people I talk with who use mobile search often have not tucked the information we want into our bookmarks or sent it to ourselves for easy access. I know what site had the information I am seeking or what site I would like to have inform me while I have a little downtime away from home or the office.



October 26, 2005

Mobile Location Needs

I have written up some of my frustrations with mobile local needs in a posting Location? Location? Where am I? over at the Personal InfoCloud. (Comments are on and it fits the Local InfoCloud theme that is also there.)



October 20, 2005

Focussing and Shingle Hanging

Three trips in the last four weeks has me playing e-mail catch-up. My outbound e-mail is not fully functioning on the road as the provider changed the SMTP port recently I have not updated the settings.

In the same time period I also have left my job and am now consulting and working on my own projects. I am focussing on helping organization better connect with the people who have an interest in their information and media. Building efficient conversations and interaction is the key to successful relationships, be they interpersonal or organization and people. Organizations also need to better understand social networks and providing information that can be used and reused across devices and the Model of Attraction and Local and Personal InfoClouds are just the tools to help provide the framework to think about this as well as making smart decisions regarding Web 2.0. Lastly, the ever present folksonomy will be a focus as well. Along all these lines I am doing research, analyzing, and providing direction and focus to help people and organizations think clearly in these changing times.

I will be posting here a little more often and you can expect more postings over at the Personal InfoCloud. There is much to be investigated and written, which I have not had the time to do in the past. I am also tackling article writing that has been a victim of elusive time. I will also be launching a site for the new company in the near future.

Please send a note with questions or inquiries for services. My time is filling up, but I am always interested in helping others as well as looking for cool projects and difficult problems. I have quite a few people and organizations to keep in touch with and get back in touch with, but if you would like attention more quickly shoot an e-mail to get my attention.



September 12, 2005

No More Waiting...

I suppose I should note here that the last day at my current job will be October 6, 2005. I am not sure what the next full step will be, but I will be focussing my full attention what I have been passionate about for the past few years. Rather than spending a few hours every evening and weekends on my passions, it will become my full-time job. The details will show themself in the next few weeks and months. I need the time to persue some options and have time to think about and consider others.

For the last couple years I have joked I commute to my day job, but telecommute to my private life. Well, my private life is where most of the Model of Attraction, Personal InfoCloud, Local InfoCloud, and work takes place. Pieces of this work make it into the day job, but not enough to keep me excited or engaged. I am really wanting to see more great work and products that easily functions for people across devices, across platforms, and is easy for real people to use and reuse.

The world has been shifting to a "come to me web". We are seeing the easiest way to make this easier for people attract what they want this is to learn what each person has an interest in, as well as what their friends and peers have interests in. This will help the findability of information and media for people, but the real problem is in the re-findability of that same information and media for people so they can have what the want and desire at their finger tips when they want it and need it. We have all of the technology needed to make this happen, but it needs research, quick iterative development, and removing the walls around the resources (information/media, unwarranted device restrictions (American cell companies have created the failure of the missing robust mobile market), and unwarranted software restrictions). Paying attention to people and people's interactions is the real key to getting things right, not trying to beat your competitor (focussing on the wrong goal gets the poor results). Make the products people need that solve problems people have (with out introducing problems) and you will have a winner. People have so many needs and desires and every person is different so one solution will not fit all and we should never make things just one way.

These will be a long few weeks with more small steps for me. There is a lot to get done and to consider in the next few weeks. In this is preparing for speaking and traveling on top of the other needed work to be done to prep for this next step. I will pop back up and fill you in when I know more. but, the count down has begun.



August 22, 2005

Personal, Portable, Pedestrian in My Hands

I am glad to have my my newest book in my hands finally. It is Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life edited by Mitzuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda. Last year's trip to Amsterdam floored me at how far behind we in the U.S. are with mobile (as well as broadband, which was really amazing). In talking with others on my trip they were pointing out how much farther ahead Japan is than Europe. What do I mean farther ahead? The trends in personal usage of mobile devices are two or three years ahead of the U.S. How people interact and use their mobile devices (text, web, information interaction, etc.). I have been watching the trends I read about in magazine articles and heard in conversation flow from other countries and after years bubble up in U.S. culture. My interest in the Personal InfoCloud draws me toward deeper understandings on personal devices around the world.

Ethnographic insights interest me, particularly for cultures and interactions with technology that I can not witness first hand. This book has come highly recommended and having met Mimi this past Spring I really have been looking forward to this book.

Wired has an overview of Personal, Portable, Pedestrian. You may also want to look at the publisher's MIT Press, page for Personal, Portable, Pedestrian.



August 20, 2005

Minor Changes in Off the Top

Last night I was able to add back the Quick Links (my current bookmarks from del.icio.us. This was due in great part to the folks at del.icio.us who now have a JavaScript that makes the process easy on you and easy on them (I am not sure how accessible this is as I have not tested it, but normally they are not accessible).

I also brought back to the link to just the Off the Top RSS feed, which has nothing but the last 10 entries in archaic RSS .91 format. I still am offering the wonderful Feedburner for Off the Top option, which has Off the Top entries, my del.icio.us entries, and my Flickr photo feed all bundled in one. I have quite a few people reading this in RSS on mobile devices at the moment and I thought I would make it easier for other that are going that route to get just the content of Off the Top.



August 13, 2005

Back from "Vacation"

I am back home from a week (um, with an interruption) at the New Jersey Shore. It was a good week, but a different week. Our usual destination of Spring Lake is undergoing change. Over the past seven years we have been going there we have watched the housing prices rise. But this year we were seeing many of the stores we knew replaced by real estate offices and many stores were saying good bye to us as it was their last year, they too are being out priced and replaced by real estate offices.

The oddity is that many who go to this quaint little slice of the shore love the quiet, the wonderful neighborly nature of the community, and the main street (3rd Street). The increasing residential housing costs have hit the main street and part of what has made Spring Lake a great destination (very much like going back in time) is being thrown away. The success is killing what has made it a success.

We also noted there were far fewer people this past week than there have been in past years. Many have said the B&Bs are getting overpriced and a couple have left the marketplace. We also have noted that the homes that are for sale are on the market for a lot longer. The quiet nature is getting some of the pushy New York feel (which is fine in NYC or the Hamptons, but that is not what we have been wanting on a week away).

This trip also had a quick jaunt out to San Francisco thrown in the middle so to speak at . I ordered a car service that picked me up at 5:40am that took me to the Newark airport. The driver was one of Jackson Browne's road keyboard players in years past. We talked about the music industry, travel and kids, Europe, and the changes in Spring Lake (echoing all that we had heard). I got to Newark to find out Continental had overbooked the flight and I did not have a seat (had I known this I would have booked on an other carrier), but it turned out well.

I had another whirl wind trip through the Bay Area and had not enough quality time with people I wished I had more time to hang with. I met a few new people that I a really would like to have gotten to know a little better. I must apologize to a couple people I cut short at as I was leaving PARC, as I was running late to, drive up 280, return my car, have a quick face-to-face meeting, and get on my plane. I am now trying to sort out my next trip back.

I got back into LaGuardia the next morning at 9am (after changing planes in a quiet Cleveland). I took the shuttles to Grand Central then to Penn Station to catch the New Jersey Transit train back to Spring Lake. I was running to get a ticket and then catch the train, but did not get the arrival time into Spring Lake. I figured I could get the information on my Treo easily enough as it was New York and it would be mobile enabled. Um, wrong. The web version is only JavaScript enabled (with no thought for no script versions) and therefore does not work on a mobile device (it can be a rather slick site on a laptop or desktop), which is what I needed.

I had a nice last few days at the shore and it was more relaxed than the first part. I had a nice chat on the beach, which may turn into a trip north in the end of September.

It is rather nice to be back on my laptop with a broadband connection. Using my Treo for connectivity to my digital life was a stretch. It was better than the year prior, but there were also times then the advances of the web toward AJAX, general DHTML, and rich interfaces left the needed information unaccessible from a mobile device. The page size for these pages was huge (many over 200kb), which is fine on broadband, but not smart on a mobile device. The lack of a link to a mobile version (I have not found a version of a site that I needed that offered a mobile option) was quite silly (a page without the JavaScript would have worked just fine or search for mobile could have been a solid solution).

Lastly, my Treo 600 seems to be on its last legs again. It has been only 18 months (or 20) since I got it, but it is not keeping up with the my wear and tear. My Startac and my Motorola 270c took more punishment and kept going for twice as long. The OS is getting buggy and crashing on me, which was not happening until my last day at the Shore. But it is a recurring problem tied to Snapper mail and the web browser in some way. The limitations of the memory, the added large SD card does not help, really show when trying to use the devices as one's main devices for a week. It is just an intermediary device, which it is designed to be, but the rigors of vacation use for light web, 50 plus e-mails a day, calendaring (although not dealing with iCal subscription) really made live tough. I did not have access to del.icio.us, Flickr, nor my RSS feeds (although I could have loaded FreeNews from FreeRange Communications if I could get Java running on my Treo again without it crashing).

Well, I am home. I have a ton to catch up on this weekend and to follow-up on from this week. I have to nail down some arrangements for the "Fall Tour". I will be back shortly with some more stuff here or over at the Personal InfoCloud site.



July 22, 2005

Make Nice with Mobile Users Easily

Those interested in making friendly with their mobile users trying to consume their content aimed at the desktop browser market should take a peek at Make Your Site Mobile Friendly by Mike Davidson. This is one method that makes for a little less sweat and keeps some dollars in our budgets for other needs.



July 17, 2005

Designing for the Personal InfoCloud presentation at WebVisions 2005 Wrap-up

I have posted my presentation from yesterday's session at WebVisions, in Portland, Oregon. The files, Designing for the Personal InfoCloud are in PDF format and weigh in at 1.3MB.

I really had a blast at the conference and wish I could have been there the whole day. I will have to say from the perspective of a speaker it is a fantastically run conference. Brad Smith of Hot Pepper Studios did a knock out job pulling this conference together. It should be on the must attend list for web developers. I was impressed with the speakers, the turn out, and how well everything was run. Bravo!

WebVisions is held in one of my favorite cities, Portland, Oregon, which has some of the best architecture and public planning of any North American city. I have more than 300 photos I have taken in 48 hours and will be posting many at Flickr in the next couple of days.



July 12, 2005

The World in Our Hands

SmartMobs announces It is official, there are more cellphones lines than landlines in the U.S.. I was thinking about this in the past couple weeks. We have already started seeing text and data uses tipping our mobile hands (it is about time we started getting to where much of the rest of the globe has already been).

Now if I could just keep my finger on the number of data enable phones and the lesser number of laptop/desktop internet connections for the globe. Every time I see this number I forget to mark it or grab it.

[Hat tip Anne]



July 6, 2005

Social Machines in MIT Technology Review

In the August issue of MIT Technology Review in Wade Roush's cover story on Social Machines (posted on Wade's site) I get a nice quote. The article is well worth the read, even worth picking up the issue when it hits the stands. The article covers the social, mobile, and continuous computing world that some of us live in and many more will be doing soon. Those of us working at the front of the curve are working on ways to make it smoother for those who will follow along soon.

Convergence and the seamless transfer from stationary computing to continuous computing leads to drastically different interactions with information and media. We are already seeing the shift of people using mobile phones as just a voice communication medium to one that includes text and media interactions, or the from people listening to their mobile phones to looking at their mobile phones. Three years ago I made this shift and I was extremely frustrated as I had many more desires than my mobile phones could assuage. But, it is getting better today even if it takes more human interaction than is really needed to sync information, let alone have moved close to me (or whomever is the wanting to have the information or media stay attracted to themselves or have attracted in certain situations). It is this that is my focus of the Model of Attraction and the focus of the Personal InfoCloud.



May 24, 2005

Wade Roush and 10,000 Brianiacs

I have been following Wade Roush' continuousblog since its inception a few weeks ago. Continuousblog is focussing on the convergence that is finally taking place in the information technology realm. I had a wonderful conversation with Wade last week and have been enjoying watching his 10,000 Brainiacs evolve in 10,000 Brianiacs, Part 1; 10,000 Brainiacs, Part 2; 10,000 Brainiacs, Part 3; and soon to be 10,000 Brianiacs, Part 4.

Wade's concept of "continuous computing" fits quite nicely in line with the Personal InfoCloud as we have access to many different devices throughout our lives (various operating systems, desktops, laptops, PDA, mobile phone, television/dvr, as well as nearly continuous connectivity, etc.). The Personal InfoCloud focusses on designing and developing with the focus on the person and their use of the information as well as the reuse of the information. It is good to see we have one more in the camp that actually sees the future as what is happening to day and sending the wake-up call out that we need to be addressing this now as it is only going become more prevalent.



May 21, 2005

Treo 600 Crashing Again

Beginning in the Fall my Treo 600 would crash. It was at its worst in late January and early February. Today the hard crashes started again. I have learned not to put the phone in sleep mode while the browser is on. This seems to be one of the triggers when the phone rings. The other is phone calls when Snapfish (mail program) goes out to grab mail (every 30 minutes). The biggest hassle is it is a hard crash, which means everything is wiped from the device and I have to reinstall from backup.

Both instances seem to be related to the Palm device no being mutli-threaded. None-the-less it is rediculous that in 2005 we have a phone (not the bottom of the line mind you) that flat out crashes. It crashes when people call and crashes while you are on it. While in San Francisco in January not only did my phone crash, but my friend I was talking with, his phone crashed while we were talking to each other.

Can somebody tell me if the Treo 650 has the same problem? I know it can not multi-task, so it has a strong chance of failing me just the same. I talked to a few folks with the 650 this past weekend and none of them had the crashing problems. This could also be my opportunity to switch to Nokia, but the phones I am interested from Nokia are not available in the US from the carriers.



April 10, 2005

Personal InfoCloud at WebVisions 2005

I, Thomas Vander Wal, will be presenting the Personal InfoCloud at the WebVisions 2005 in Portland, Oregon on July 15th. In all it looks to be a killer conference, just as it has been in the past. This year's focus is convergence (it is about time).

WebVisions is one of the best values in the web conference industry these days, as the early bird pricing is just $85 (US). You don't need an excuse, you just go. You spend a Friday bettering yourself and then Saturday in Powell's Books the evenings are spent talking the talk over some of the world's best beers served up fresh.



March 11, 2005

IA for the Personal InfoCloud

At the IA Summit 2005 (Montreal) I spoke on IA for the Personal InfoCloud, which seemed to go over quite well. The presentation of the slides of IA for the Personal InfoCloud (2.64MB PDF) can be downloaded. The time to present this was rather short, but I added a scenario to walk through a possible scenario that runs across environments (work, mobile, and home) with two contexts for each.

There is a lot I still have not presented on this that makes it more usable today in many environments. It is particularly helpful if you are designing across devices, building for personal management of the information, and/or designing for information use and reuse. If anybody would like me to present the full presentation and help them understand this better, please contact me (e-mail is above or use vanderwal on the gmail.com address).

I was asked about the cloud a few times. The Personal InfoCloud is the rough cloud of information that follows us as we go from place to place, this cloud keeps all the information the person wants to be kept nearby.

Dan Willis offered, not only great advice on my visuals, but replacement visuals. I will work to use these excellent replacements in the coming presentations.



January 30, 2005

Granular Social Networks to the Rescue

Things have been buzzing around these parts on the folksonomy subject. A few weeks ago I started thinking about social networks (Feedster, Orkut, and LinkedIn) and why they do not work, well other than LinkedIn I do not find much if any useful value. I do think there can be value in social networks and actually believe we will need social networks in the not too distant future.

Why will we need social networks? As personal electronic information publication continues to grow we have more opportunities for shared information that has value for us. The problem will be there will be even more of a deluge of information than there is today when we go seeking information. As people start annotating physical space and tagging physical space we will need the means to quickly parse through the information to find that information that may be the most valuable to us.

Consider standing in front of a restaurant in a city that is new to us. We are considering the menu and look to our mobile phone to see what others have said about the restaurant and there are more than 200 reviews and comments, which is far too many to be read on a mobile phone or even parsed on a mobile phone. But, before we request the reviews and comments our mobile device as noted our location and pushed that out to our predictive services in our Personal InfoCloud (looking at our own reviews, preferences (food and restaurants in this case), and contacts), and checks our social network based on food and restaurant interests. Our phone returns the top 3 reviews and comments that should be of value to us and two of these reviews are three and four degrees from us (could go even farther) in our social network, but based on our food preferences and our trust of our friends taste in food and restaurants and their service and their friend's same values, and so on. The other review is one who is considered to be the polar opposite of our preferences and can be used to shade our interest.

How did we get to a social network that has needed value? If we take the same folksonomy approach and apply it to social networks we could see social network tools that actually have value. This would work as a narrow folksonomy (like Flickr) with a person tagging people with the connections they trust (or even those they do not trust with a "-" prefix).

The folksonomy is just one option, but social networks have to get far more granular than the broad line that is drawn between people today.



January 28, 2005

Amazon and A9 Provide Yellow Pages with Photos

Everybody is talking about Amazon's (A9) Yellow Pages today. Amazon has done a decent job bringing photos into their Yellow Pages for city blocks. This is a nice touch, but it is missing some interaction and interconnections between the photos and the addresses, I hope this will come. I really would like to be able to click on a photo and have the Yellow Pages information show up, everything I tried on Clement Street in San Francisco, California did not work that way.

One of the things that really hit me in playing with the tool today at lunch was how the Yellow Pages still suck. I have had problems with the Yellow Pages for..., well ever. I grew up in cross-cultural environments with British and French influences in my day-time care givers growing up. I moved around a fair amount (up and down the West Coast growing up and Europe and the U.S. East Coast). Culture has their own vocabulary (let alone language) for the same items. What I call things, depends on context, but no matter what, the Yellow Pages do not match what I wish to call what I want (or sometimes need).

Today's search I used one of the Amazon search sample, "Optica", which had some nice references. Knowing how I usually approach using the Yellow Pages I search for glasses (as that is what I need to get or need repaired) or contacts. Doing this in a paper Yellow Pages usually returned nothing or pointers to a couple other places. One would thing online Yellow Pages to be different, well they are, they returned nothing related. Glasses returns restaurant supply and automotive window repairs with not one link to eye glasses, nor a reference to "you may be looking for...".

A9 is a great search tool and Amazon.com has great product tools and incredible predictability algorithms, which will be very helpful down the road for the Personal InfoCloud, but the current implementation is still a little rough. I can see where they are heading with this. And I can dream that I would have this available for a mobile device at some point in the next two or three years.

Once very nice piece that was integrated was reviews and ratings of Yellow Pages entries. This is great for the future, once they get filled out. It will also be great once it is available from mobile device (open API so we can start building a useful tool now?). But, it brings my scenario of the future to light rather quickly, where I am standing in front of a restaurant looking at over 100 restaurant reviews on my mobile device. There is no way that I can get through all of these reviews. Our supporting full complement of context tools will be needed to get pulled into play to get me a couple or four good reviews that will mean something to me.

This is but a small slice of the Personal InfoCloud, which is much broader and focusses on enabling the person to leverage the information they have and find. Pairing these two and enabling easy access to that information when it is needed.



January 13, 2005

San Francisco Bound

I will be in San Francisco and surounding Bay Area on the 20th and 21st of January. There are many folks I would like to hang and chat with. I have been swamped with a handful of things the past couple weeks, along with a huge flood of spam mail (I think I have spam abated for the moment). Interested in talking blogs, folksonomy, Personal InfoCloud, Model of Attraction, mobile, interaction design, Web Standards, etc. please drop a note. Thursday evening may be the best option at the moment. Use the contact link above (needs JavaScript on) or send to thomas at this domain.



January 8, 2005

From Tags to the Future

Merlin hit on something in his I Want a Pony: Snapshots of a Dream Productivity App where he discusses:

Tags - People have strong feelings about metadata and the smart money is usually against letting The User apply his or her own tags and titles for important shared data ("They do it wrong or not at all," the burghers moan). But things are changing for personal users. Two examples? iTunes and del.icio.us. Nobody cares what "metadata" means, but they for damn sure know they want their mp3s tagged correctly. Ditto for del.icio.us, where Master Joshua has shown the world that people will tag stuff that’s important in their world. Don't like someone else's homebrewed taxonomy? Doesn't matter, because you don't need to like it. If I have a repeatable system for tagging the information on just my Mac and it's working for me, that's really all that matters. I would definitley love that tagging ability for the most atomic piece of any work and personal information I touch.

This crossed my radar the same time as I read Jeff Hawkins' discussion about how he came up with Graffiti for Palm devices. He noticed people did not find touch typing intuitive, but they saw the benefit of it and it worked. Conversely in the early 90s people were interacting with handwriting interpreters that often did not understand one's own handwriting. Jeff came up with something that would give good results with a little bit of effort put in. Palm and Graffiti took off. (Personally, I was lucky when I got my first Palm, in that I was on the west coast and waking on east coast time, which gave me two or three hours of time to learn Graffiti before anybody else was awake. It only took two or three days to have it down perfectly).

Merlin's observation fits within these parameters. Where people have not cared at all about metadata they have learned to understand the value of good tags and often do so in a short period of time. iTunes really drives the value of proper tagging home to many (Napster and other shared music environments brought to light tagging to large segments of the population). In a sense folksonomies of del.icio.us and Flickr are decedents of the shared music environments. People could see that tagged objects, whose tags to be edited and leveraged had value in one's ability to find what one is looking for based on those tags.

As the web grew up on deep linking and open environments to find and share information. So to will tagging become that mantra for the masses. All objects, both digital and physical, will be tagged to provide immediacy of information access so to gain knowledge. Learning to search, parse, filter, and leverage predictive tools (ones that understand the person's desires, context, situation, and frame of reference so to quickly (if not instantly) gather, interpret, and make aware the information around the person). Should the person be late for a meeting their predictive filters are going to limit all be the required information, possibly a traffic jam on their normal route as well as their option A route. A person that has some free time may turn up the serendipity impact and get exposed to information they may normally have filtered out of their attention. The key will be understanding tags have value and just as metadata for other objects, like e-mail subject lines, can be erroneous and indicators of spam, our life filters will need the same or similar. We will want to attract information to us that we desire and will need to make smart and informed choices and tags are just one of the means to this end.



December 31, 2004

Books Read in 2004

I bought and read one standout book this year, Malcolm McCullough's Digital Ground mixed in with many more that I enjoyed. Digital Ground stood out as it combined a lot of things I had been thinking about, but had not quite pulled together. It brought interaction design front and center in the ubiquitous computing and mobile computing spectrum. I have been working on the Personal InfoCloud for a few years now and this really moved my thinking forward in a great leap. I considering better questions and realizing there are many next step, but few of these next steps the design community (in the broad user experience design sense) seems ready for at this time. One of the key components that is not was thought through is interaction design and the difference place makes in interaction design. It was one book that got my highlighter out and marking up, which few books have done in the past couple years.

I greatly enjoyed the troika of books on the mind that came out in 2004. The first was Mind Wide Open by Stephen Berlin Johnson, which was a relatively easy read and brought to mind much of how we use are minds in our daily lives, but also how we must think of the coginitive processes in our design work. Mind Wide Open focussed on improving one's attention, which is helpful in many situations, but I have had a running question ever since reading the book regarding focus of attention and creative problem resolution (I do not see focus of attention good for creative problem resolution).

The second book was On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. On Intelligence is similar to Mind Wide Open, but with a different frame of reference. Hawkins tries to understand intelligence through refocussing on predictive qualities and not so much on results based evaluation (Turing Test). I really like the Hawkins book, which throws in some guesses in with scientifically proven (unfortunately these guesses are not easily flagged), but the predictive qualities and the need for computing to handle some of the predictive qualities to improve people's ability to handle the flood of information.

Lastly, for in the mind book troika I picked up and have been reading Mind Hacks by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb. This is one of the O'Reilly Hack series of books, but rather than focussing on software, programming, or hardware solutions these to gents focus on the mind. Mind tricks, games, and wonderful explainations really bring to life the perceptions and capabilites of the grey lump in our head. I have been really enjoying this as bedtime reading.

Others in related genres that I have read this year, Me++: The Cyborg Self in the Networked City by William Mitchell, which was not a soaring book for me, mostly because Ihad just read Digital Ground and it should have been read in the opposite order, if I had cared to. Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Meands by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi was a wonderful read, once I got through the first 20 pages or so. I had purched the book in hardback when it first came out and I was not taken by the book in the first 20 pages. This time I got past those pages and loved every page that followed. Barabasi does a wonderful job explaining and illustrating the network effect and the power curve. This has been incorporated into my regular understanding of how things work on the internet. I have learned not to see the power curve as a bad thing, but as something that has opportunities all through out the curve, even in the long tail. On the way back from Amsterdam I finally read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, which was quite a wonderful end to that trip.

I picked up a few reference books that I enjoyed this year and have bought this year and have proven to be quite helpful. 250 HTML and Web Design Secrets by Molly Holzschlag. CSS Cookbook by Chris Schmitt. More Eric Meyer on CSS by Eric Meyer.

On the Apple/Mac front the following reference books have been good finds this year. Mac OS X Unwired by Tom Negrino and Dori Smith. Mac OS X Power Hound by Rob Griffths.

Two very god books for those just starting out with web design (Molly's book above would be a good choice also). Web Design on a Shoestring by Carrie Bickner. Creating a Web Page with HTML : Visual QuickProject Guide by Elizabeth Castro.

The year started and ended with two wonderful Science Fiction romps. Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow. Jennifer Government by Max Barry.

Update: I knew I would miss one or more books. I am very happy that 37signals published their Defensive Design for the Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points, as it is one of the best books for applications and web development on how to get the little things right. The tips in the book are essential for getting things right for the people using the site, if these essentials are missed the site or application is bordering on poor. Professionally built sites and applications should work toward meeting everything in this book, as it is not rocket science and it makes a huge difference. Every application developer should have this book and read it.



December 28, 2004

Information Waste is Rampant

Fast Company published costs facing business. The top four relate to poor design and information use: Poor knowledge harnessing ($1.4 Trillion); Digital publishing inefficiencies ($750 billion); Data quality problems ($600 billion); and Paper-based trade processes ($400 billion). That is 3.15 Trillion U.S. dollars down the tubes with no benefit.

The solutions are not that difficult, but everybody seems happy to use the rear view mirror to view the future.

Christina stated, "What me worry" about design and business. The whole CIO is a sham as the CIO is a technology driven person, which is tangentially related to information and technology still hinders information flow if not planned for properly (more on this is coming in the near future here on this site). There needs to be a chief level position that cares about the information, the people using it, and the people who create the information. To Christina's post I responded with the following on her site (posted here so I can better keep track of it):

It seems like the 80s all over again. The focus on design in the to late 80s, mostly with unified branding and creative practices formally brought in-house. There was a lot of push around design, mostly labelled branding (nearly the exact same discussions, but slightly different terms). Much of this was around the brandhouses like Landor. The business community embraced the results and tried to incorporate the creative culture as part of their own.
What happened? The innovators were bought by large advertising or public relation firms and the firms changed their industry term to communication companies. Companies created corporate communication divisions (comprised of adversising, PR, branding, and other creative endevors) and had high level management visability.
By the early 90s the corporate environment had largely subsumed the communication into marketing and business schools that has embraced the creative mindset followed suit. Today marketing is often what trumps design and there is no creative in marketing. The creative departments by the late 90s had been gutted by the web craze. This left business types with little creative craft understanding as those driving what was once good.
It is not suprising that currently named "design" is taking off, as what was good about the creative was gutted and most companies lack central design plans. There is tremendous waste in cross medium design, as few sites are built with an understanding of the digital medium, let alone cross platform design or true cross media design. Part of the problem is far too few designers actually understand cross-platform and/or cross-media design. There is millions wasted in bandwidth on poor web design that is using best practices from the late 90s not those from today. There is no integration of mobile, with a few exceptions in the travel industry. There is still heavy focus on print, but very little smart integration of design in the digital medium. This even applies to AIGA, which is a great offender of applying print design techniques on the web. How can we expect business design to get better if one of the pillars of the design profession has not seemed to catch on?

There are large problems today and we need to break some of our solutions were have been trying to get to solutions that work. Not only do today's solutions not work today, they will not work tomorrow as they are only stop gaps. Cross-platform, cross-device, and cross-medium design solutions are needed, but technology is not here to deliver and few that I have run across in the design world are ready for that change as they have not made the change to today's world.

Today's designer focusses on getting the information in front of the user and stops there. They do not consider how this person or machine may reuse the information. There is so much yet to improve and yet the world is progressing much faster than people can or want to change to keep up. There are designers and developers who will not build for mobile (it is not that hard to do) because they do not see them in the user logs. They fail to see the correlation that their sites suck for mobile and mobile users may test once and go somewhere else for their information. The people that are seeing mobile users in their logs are the ones that have figured out how to design and develop for them properly (most have found that it is relatively inexpensive to do this). This is not rocket science, it is using something other than the rear view mirror to design for now and the future.



December 26, 2004

Flickr and the Future of the Internet

Peter's post on Flickr Wondering triggers some thoughts that have been gelling for a while, not only about what is good about Flickr, but what is missing on the internet as we try to move forward to mobile use, building for the Personal InfoCloud (allowing the user to better keep information the like attracted to them and find related information), and embracing Ubicomp. What follows is my response to Peter's posting, which I posted here so I could keep better track of it. E-mail feedback is welcome. Enjoy...

You seemed to have hit on the right blend of ideas to bring together. It is Lane's picture component and it is Nadav's integration of play. Flickr is a wonderfully written interactive tool that adds to photo managing and photo sharing in ways that are very easy and seemingly intuitive. The navigations is wonderful (although there are a few tweak that could put it over the top) and the integration of presentational elements (HTML and Flash) is probably the best on the web as they really seem to be the first to understand how to use which tools for what each does best. This leads to an interface that seems quick and responsive and works wonderfully in the hands of many. It does not function perfectly across platforms, yet, but using the open API it is completely possible that it can and will be done in short order. Imagine pulling your favorites or your own gallery onto your mobile device to show to others or just entertain yourself.

Flickr not only has done this phenomenally well, but may have tipped the scales in a couple of areas that are important for the web to move forward. One area is an easy tool to extract a person's vocabulary for what they call things. The other is a social network that makes sense.

First, the easy tool for people to add metadata in their own vocabulary for objects. One of the hinderances of digital environments is the lack of tools to find objects that do not contain words the people seeking them need to make the connection to that object they are desiring. Photos, movies, and audio files have no or limited inherent properties for text searching nor associated metadata. Flickr provides a tool that does this easily, but more importantly shows the importance of the addition of metadata as part of the benefit of the product, which seems to provide incentive to add metadata. Flickr is not the first to go down this path, but it does it in a manner that is light years ahead of nearly all that came before it. The only tools that have come close is HTML and Hyperlinks pointing to these objects, which is not as easy nor intuitive for normal folks as is Flickr. The web moving forward needs to leverage metadata tools that add text addressable means of finding objects.

Second, is the social network. This is a secondary draw to Flickr for many, but it is one that really seems to keep people coming back. It has a high level of attraction for people. Part of this is Flickr actually has a stated reason for being (web-based photo sharing and photo organizing tool), which few of the other social network tools really have (other than Amazon's shared Wish Lists and Linkedin). Flickr has modern life need solved with the ability to store, manage, access, and selectively share ones digital assets (there are many life needs and very few products aim to provide a solution for these life needs or aims to provide such ease of use). The social network component is extremely valuable. I am not sure that Flickr is the best, nor are they the first, but they have made it an easy added value.

Why is social network important? Helping to reduct the coming stench of information that is resultant of the over abundance of information in our digital flow. Sifting through the voluminous seas of bytes needs tools that provide some sorting using predictive methods. Amazon's ratings and that matching to other's similar patterns as well as those we claim as our friends, family, mentors, etc. will be very important in helping tools predict which information gets our initial attention.

As physical space gets annotated with digital layers we will need some means of quickly sorting through the pile of bytes at the location to get a handful that we can skim through. What better tool than one that leverages our social networks. These networks much get much better than they are currently, possibly using broader categories or tags for our personal relationships as well as means of better ranking extended relationships of others as with some people we consider friends we do not have to go far in their group of friends before we run into those who we really do not want to consider relevant in our life structures.

Flickr is showing itself to be a popular tool that has the right elements in place and the right elements done well (or at least well enough) to begin to show the way through the next steps of the web. Flickr is well designed on many levels and hopefully will not only reap the rewards, but also provide inspiration to guide more web-based tools to start getting things right.



December 23, 2004

Mobile in Suburbia

Last weekend I stopped in one of our local malls to do a little shopping before Christmas. The mall, White Flint, is a decent small suburban shopping mall. The mall has just gone through a minor renovation. One of the things that was added were small sitting areas in the center areas of the mall. They are nice little conversation areas to stop and rest your feet, etc.

One of the things in nearly every hand in the lounge areas was a mobile device. The age range was 30s to 60s and nearly every person had a device in their hands. There where some mobile phones, but most of what I saw were BlackBerry's and Treos. I don't know what tasks these people were doing, whether it was e-mail, games, checking shopping lists, price comparing on the web, text messaging, or what.

It dawned on me. Suburbia is onto mobile. Coming back from Europe in November I was down about how far behind the U.S. is with mobile (and personal technology use in general). One of the things that gets a lot of attention is urban use of mobile devices, but much of the U.S. is not urban it is out in the 'burbs. Molly presented a view of suburbia at Design Engaged and it has had me thinking about how people deal with information and how they use personal technology in suburbia. The mobile devices at the mall was an eye opener (granted I do not live in test market America as a mall with valet parking may not count as representative of the rest of anywhere). The mobile uses in Japan are reported as largely during commutes and walking time. In Europe I witnessed similar trends. In the U.S. we are married to the car (for better or worse), but we do go to the mall and leisure activities for families in suburbia revolves around kids sporting events, extra curricular activities, shopping, and waiting in lines. There is a lot of down time and it seems mobile has an opportunity to be the snack entertainment and information consumption time.

The trick is how to integrate mobile into the rhythms of the suburban life. How to use mobile to check and reset Tivo settings, get store and price information for items on the mobile user's or their family's Amazon wishlist. There are uses for pointers about cheapest gas when your car is getting low or a nearby car wash just after it rains. The mobile device can make easy work of this and it does not require much computing power, only some location and predictive web services.

There is so much more that could be done, but the carriers are completely clueless in the U.S. about services. It seems like it is prime target area for a Yahoo, Google, or Amazon that can integrate related information and provide quick responses to the users of their service. It much be effortless and painless. It must be a benefit but unobtrusive. It must respect the person and their desires for sharing information about them, but still provide predictive input for the person's uses.

I think we just expanded the Personal InfoCloud one more rich layer.



November 29, 2004

Removing the Stench from Mobile Information

Standing in Amsterdam in front of the Dam, I was taking in the remnants of a memorial to Theodore van Gogh (including poetry to Theo). While absorbing what was in front of me, I had a couple people ask me what the flowers and sayings were about. I roughly explained the street murder of Theo van Gogh.

While I was at the Design Engaged conference listening to presentations about mobile information and location-based information I thought a lot about the moment at the Dam. I thought about adding information to the Dam in an electronic means. If one were standing at the Dam you could get a history of the Dam placed by the City of Amsterdam or a historical society. You could get a timeline of memorials and major events at the Dam. You could also get every human annotation.

Would we want every annotation? That question kept running reoccurring and still does. How would one dig through all the digital markings? The scent of information could become the "stench of information" very quickly. Would all messages even be friendly, would they contain viruses? Locations would need their own Google search to find the relevant pieces of information. This would all be done on a mobile phone, those lovely creatures with their still developing processors.

As we move to a world where we can access information by location and in some cases access the information by short range radio signals or touching our devices there needs to be an easy to accept these messages. The messaging needs some predictive understanding on our mobiles or some preparsing of content and messaging done remotely (more on remote access farther down).

If was are going to have some patterning tools built in our mobiles what information would they need to base predictions? It seems the pieces that could make it work are based on trust, value, context, where, time, action, and message pattern. Some of this predictive nature will need some processing power on the mobile or a connection to a service that can provide the muscle to predict based on the following metadata assets of the message.

Trust is based on who left the message and whether you know this person or not. If the person is known do you trust them? This could need an ensured name identification, which could be mobile number, their tagging name crossed with some sort of key that proves the identity, or some combination of known and secure metadata items. It would also be good to have a means to identify the contributor as the (or an) official maintainer of the location (a museum curator annotating galleries in a large museum is one instance). Some trusted social tool could do some predicting of the person's worthiness to us also. The social tools would have to be better than most of today's variants of social networking tools as they do not have the capability for us to have a close friend, but not really like or trust their circle(s) of friends. It would be a good first pass to go through our own list of trusted people and accept a message left by any one of these people. Based on our liking or disliking of the message a rating would be associated with this person to be used over time.

Value is a measure of the worthiness of the information, normally based on the source of the message. Should the person who left the message have a high ranking of content value it could be predicted that the message before us is of high value. If these are message that have been reviews of restaurants and we have liked RacerX previous reviews we found in five other cities and they just gave the restaurant we are in front of a solid review that meets our interests. Does RacerX have all the same interests?

Context is a difficult predictive pattern as there are many contextual elements such as mood, weather, what the information relates to (restaurant reviews, movie reviews, tour recommendations, etc.). Can we set our mood and the weather when predicting our interest in a message. Is our mood always the same in certain locations?

Where we are is more important than location. Yes, do we know where we are? Are we lost? Are we comfortable where we are? These are important questions that may help be a predictor that are somewhat based on our location. Or location is the physical space we occupy, but how we feel about that spot or what is around us at that spot may trigger our desire to not accept a location-based message. Some of us feel very comfortable and grounded in any Chinatown anywhere around the globe and we seek them out in any new city. Knowing that we are in or bordering on a red-light district may trigger a predictive nature that would turn off all location-based messages. Again these are all personal to us and our preferences. Do our preferences stay constant over time?

Time has two variables on two planes. The first plane is our own time variables while the other relates to the time of the messages. One variable is the current moment and the other is historical time series. The current moment may be important to us if it is early morning and we enjoy exploring in the early morning and want to receive information that will augment our explorative nature. Current messages may be more important than historical messages to us. The other variable of historical time and how we treat the past. Some of us want all of our information to be of equal value, while others will want the most current decisions to have a stronger weight so that new events can keep information flowing that is most attune to our current interests and desires. We may have received a virus from one of our recent messages and want to change our patterns of acceptance to reflect our new cautionary nature. We may want to limit how far back we want to read messages.

Action is a very important variable to follow when the possibility of malicious code can damage our mobile or the information we have stored in the mobile or associated with that mobile. Is the item we are about to receive trigger some action on our device or is is a static docile message. Do we want to load active messages into a sandbox on our mobile so the could not infect anything else? Or, do we want to accept the active messages if they meet certain other criteria.

Lastly, message pattern involved the actual content of the message and would predict if we would want to read the information if it is identical or similar to other messages, think attention.xml. If the Dam has 350 messages similar to "I am standing at the Dam" I think we may want to limit that to ones that meet some other criteria or to just one, if we had the option. Do we have predictors that are based on the language patterns in messages? Does our circle of trusted message writers always have the same spellings for certain wordz?

All of these variables could lead to a tight predictive pattern that eases the information that we access. The big question is how is all of this built into a predictive system that works for us the moment we get our mobile device and start using the predictive services? Do we have a questionnaire we fill out that creates our initial settings? Will new phones have ranking buttons for messages and calls (nice to rank calls we received so that our mobile would put certain calls directly into voice mail) so it is an easier interface to set our preferences and patterns.

Getting back to remote access to location-based information seems, for me, to provide some excellent benefits. There are two benefits I see related to setting our predictive patterns. The first is remote access to information could be done through a more interactive device than our mobile. Reading and ranking information from a desktop on a network or a laptop on WiFi could allow us to get through more information more quickly. The second benefit is helping us plan and learn from the location-based information prior to our going to that location so we could absorb the surroundings, like a museum or important architecture, with minimal local interaction with the information. Just think if we could have had our predictive service parse through 350 messages that are located at the Dam and we previews the messages remotely and flagged four that could have interest to us while we are standing at the Dam. That could be the sweet smell of information.



November 25, 2004

Personal Mobile Usage Pattern

One of the things that bubbled up while using a phone other than my usual phone on my trip to Amsterdam was my normal use patterns. I use my mobile phone (Palm Treo) not only to communicate with others, but also to communicate with myself.

I often send myself e-mails with ideas for projects or articles. I also send e-mails to myself on things to spend time thinking about later or to research later. I had one of these moments in talking with Peter Bogaards about Paul Otlet, whom I have problems remembering. I started reaching for my tool to send a note and had a different phone, which took a little more effort, but got the job done.

I also SMS myself with the cross streets of where I parked my car, or what garage level and other metadata. This solves an ongoing problem, particularly in Georgetown, where my normal parking patterns are ousted, I am parking in a completely new location, or parking in long term at an airport. All part of my mind occasionally not being on the task at hand or I am just deep in thought and did not make a conscious effort to remember where I parked.

One other usage I have is taking a photo of my radio display in my car or the song name and performer. This mostly happens when listening to XM Radio (satellite) as the options are broad and deep, which works wonders for coming across new music I like. The radio in my car does not have a means to save the song name, or even better would be to e-mail me the song info, a link to listen to a snippet, and buying information. I resort to the tools at hand. Yes, I only (well usually) take photos while stopped. I usually have 5 to 10 photos of my radio on my mobile at any one time. It makes it handy when I go into a music store or wait until I can put it in a wishlist online. I use my Amazon Wishlist to find items of interest in a store or to add to my Wishlist and having that live access has made things far better for me as a consumer (my only desire is to have a better mobile interface to one's own Wishlist on a mobile it would seem to have immense benefits for Amazon).

I also browse the web and read articles that I save down to my device to I have access in no-signal zones or zones that I do not have MMS or web access and just phone (DC METRO while underground). I often save down Boxes and Arrows articles for such trips. I also push articles and presentations I am working on to my mobile as back up as well as for review in down periods.

How do you use your mobile?



Treo Trio

This morning there were four of us standing chatting waiting for our grocery order. Three of us had a California connection and were talking about that as we stood there. A variant of the default Treo phone ring was heard. Three of us did a tap on our phones. After the gentleman finished his call the tree of us all showed our Treos. It was the three of us that were from California that had the Treos. We had just been talking about quality of life issues with work and leisure. This triggered a thought, could it be the Treo is the quality of life mobile super phone and the Blackberry is the work tether? These are be two dominant super phones that I see regularly.

Yes, I do have a default Treo ringtone for one of my settings. It is one of my dialer unknown settings, or something along those lines. Oh, and the 4th phone was a Palm variant too, a Samsung, I think.



2 Feet, Thousands of Miles, and Time

My first afternoon in Amsterdam I ran in to Mike Kuniavsky in the hotel. Then Ben arrived and we stood in the hallway near the registration desk chatting and trying to work out logistics. My GMS phone has SMS and so did Mike's phone, with a Dutch SIM chip. He sent the introductory hello SMS ping to my phone so that I would have his local number. Once it was sent we waited for a minute or two to have the ping leave Amsterdam, go to the U.S. hit my carrier, route the ping back to my phone in Amsterdam a couple feet from the phone that sent the SMS.

I know this has been done thousands if not millions of times already, but the time bubble was wonderful. The length of time it took seemed like forever, particularly SMS at home can hit in seconds (with the exception on CDMA networks which seconds are about a minute or two). Yet, when thinking of the vast miles the ping traveled in that short a period of time it is still astounding.



November 23, 2004

Cranky Interface to Bits and Bytes

Been a little cranky around these parts the past week or so. Much of it having to do with having personal observations of the web and design world fortified by my trip to Europe. The market I work in is somewhat behind what is going on in the U.S. in the design and information development is concerned. But, some of the problems I have been seeing as I have been working on Model of Attraction and Personal InfoCloud projects is a severe lack of understanding the cross device problems that users are running into.

My trip to Europe solidified the my hunch that others outside the U.S. are actually working to solve some the user cross device problems that occur. It seems the European market is at least thinking of the problems users face when going from a work desktop machine, to laptop, to mobile device and trying to access information. The U.S. is so desktop and laptop centered they are seemingly blind to the issues. Some of the problems everybody is facing are caused by the makers of the operating systems as the problems with syncing often begin with the operating system. Apple is definately ahead of others with their iSync, but it still has a ways to go.

It is painful to see many sites for mobile products in the U.S. that can't work on mobile devices because they are poorly designed and some even use FrontPage to throw their crud up. I have been finding many mobile users over the past year, across locations in the U.S., that find that lack of sites that will work on a mobile device appalling.

On the other side of the market I hear developers stating they do not develop for mobile users because they do not see them in their access logs. How many times do you think a user will come back and fill your user logs if your site does not work for them? Additionally we are talking about the internet here, not U.S. only information access points, and the rest of the world is mobile they are living in the present and not in the past like the U.S. I am being a little over the top? Not by much if any.

Part of the problem is only those around urban in the U.S. and ones that have usable public transit have the opportunity to use mobile devices similar to the rest of the world. Although mobile media streamed of a mobile is a killer application for those stuck in the commute drive (Fabio Sergio's From Collision to Convergence presentation at Design Engaged really woke me up to this option).

Getting back to information following the user... Providing mobile access to information is one solution and designers and developers have been making the web harder to use by not sticking to the easiest means of presenting information across all devices, XHTML. Information is posted in PDF with out notification that the information on the other side of the link is a PDF. After a lengthy download the mobile user gets nothing at best or their device locks up because it is out of memory or it can not process the PDF. This practice is getting to be just plain ignorant and inexcusable (ironically the U.S. Federal Communications Commission follows this practice for most of its destination pages, which only shows how far behind the U.S. truly is).

Another solution is to make it easier to sync devices across distance (not on the same network) or even have one's own information accessible to themself across the internet. Getting to the point of solving these problems should be around the corner, but with so many things that seem so simple to get and have not been grasped I have dented hope and frustration.



November 21, 2004

Tying Things Together from Design Engaged

Design Engaged is still interfering with the regularly scheduled thinking, which makes it one of the best gatherings I have been to in the last few years. It has been a positively disruptive experience. I have posted my notes on other's presentations, which are sketchy at best. The gaps can be filled in to some degree using Andrews links to Design Engaged posted presentation. Andrew also has wrangled the Design Engaged favorite book list.

I have two or three pieces that I am building essays or some other format from some of the ideas that bubbled up. Some are reworkings of some of my own ideas that have been changed by other's idea infusions and some are pure mashings of other's ideas. Now it is just finding time (as usual).



November 12, 2004

That Syncing Feeling (text)

My presentation of That Syncing Feeling is available. Currently the text format is available, but a PDF will be available at some point in the future (when more bandwidth is available). This was delivered at Design Engaged in Amsterdam this morning. More to follow...



October 26, 2004

That Synching Feeling in Amsterdam

No I am not in hiding, I am popping up on some favorite lists and comment sections of sites. I am spending my free time working on a presentation for Design Engaged entitled "That Syncing Feeling". The focus of the 15 minutes presentation (yes, this is hell for me) is the future of keeping your information with you, particularly when you need it. Yes, this is an essential part of the Personal InfoCloud, which still requires a manual process today. I will hopefully show how close we are and what metadata will be needed to help us accomplish this feat.

If you are not one of the 25 folks in Amsterdam for this session I will post the presentation, perhaps even an annotated version if you are good like you always are.



September 15, 2004

Breaking News Alert?

I subscribe to the CNN e-mail breaking news alert, mostly because of the times we are in and where I live. Every few days (it can go a week or two) I will get an alert about a disaster, a death of an important figure, violent weather, natural disasters, etc. I have these go directly to my mobile device as it is always with me. Today's breaking news did not need to be that important in the scope of everything going on. Martha choses to go to jail is not worthy of breaking new alert.

This was the third or fourth Martha disaster alert in the past six to nine months. Get over it, she is not worthy of the breaking news alert. Neither is Kobe Bryant showing up in court, nor what ever is going on with Michael Jackson. News that the U.S. funds for reconstructing Iraq are being diverted for security is much larger news. There have been many more life changing stories that have deeper and broader impact.

Is there a former editor of Vanity Fair choosing the breaking news alerts at CNN?



August 19, 2004

Personal InfoCloud Rescues the Day

I had a wonderful experience where my own Personal InfoCloud worked successfully (I have had many problems having the right informaiton I need at my fingertips). I had been having general conversations about a lunchtime presentation or roundtable as part of a string of Adaptive Path training, but I was not exactly clear on the concept or the format of the discussion. I knew it was to be informal, but could also use slides if wanted. I thought I would just use some handouts of the content of the Accessibility is Little More Than Web Best Practices presentation (10 copies surely would be enough for a roundtable. When I go the the training session I looked around and could not figure who other folks doing roundtables would be so I asked the manager who else was doing the lunchtime stuff and the format. I was the only one and the format was wide open.

That morning I had converted the presentation from Keynote to PDF and e-mailed it to my mobile phone address and my gmail account. I was standing next to Bryan and mentioned I had my presentation in PDF on me, which got an inquisical look until I said it was on my phone (Treo) and I could e-mail it to a laptop and present from that. So I sent the presentation to Jeff's laptop, which had WiFi (they all had WiFi actually). In a couple minutes a PDF version of the presenation was available to click through and present from.

Not only did I have the times and addresses in my phone, but I had my presenation as a back-up. The PDF was fine for these slides as they are designed as handout to use as lists. Were it not this way I would have been kicking myself for not also having the Keynote version.

As a sidenote the number of Treo users was impressive. I know of eight Treos that I saw at the sessions. I also saw many Macs laptops of attendees taking notes and only saw one or two PCs. This would be in a population of 40 or so folks.



August 13, 2004

Design Engaged Announced

A new design forum has been announced, Design Engaged has been organized by Andrew Otwell and will be held in Amsterdam, Netherlands November 12 to 14, 2004. The format sounds very tempting.



June 18, 2004

Mozilla to Go Mobile

Nokia funding Mozilla mobile browser. This is a great step forward for mobile browsing, not to knock Opera or Openwave, but another great mobile browser can only be a good thing.



June 17, 2004

Malcolm McCullough Lays a Great Foundation with Digital Ground

Today I finished reading the Malcolm McCullough book, Digital Ground. This was one of the most readable books on interaction design by way of examining the impact of pervasive computing on people and places. McCullough is an architect by training and does an excellent job using the architecture role in design and development of the end product.

The following quote in the preface frames the remainder of the book very well:

My claims about architecture are indirect because the design challenge of pervasive computing is more directly a question of interaction design. This growing field studies how people deal with technology - and how people deal with each other, through technology. As a consequence of pervasive computing, interaction design is poised to become one of the main liberal arts of the twenty-first century. I wrote this book because I ran into many people who believe that. If you share this belief, or if you just wonder what interaction design is in the first place, you may find some substance here in this book.

This book was not only interesting to me it was one of the best interaction books I have read. I personally found it better than the Cooper books, only for the reason McCullough gets into mobile and pervasive computing and how that changes interaction design. Including these current interaction modes the role of interaction design changes quite a bit from preparing an interface that is a transaction done solely on a desktop or laptop, to one that must encompass portability and remote usage and the various social implications. I have a lot of frustration with flash-based sites that are only designed for the desktop and are completely worthless on a handheld, which is often where the information is more helpful to me.

McCullough brings in "place" to help frame the differing uses for information and the interaction design that is needed. McCullough includes home and work as the usual first and second places, as well as the third place, which is the social environment. McCullough then brings in a fourth place, "Travel and Transit", which is where many Americans find themselves for an hour or so each day. How do people interact with news, advertisements, directions, entertainment, etc. in this place? How does interaction design change for this fourth place, as many digital information resources seem to think about this mode when designing their sites or applications.

Not only was the main content of Digital Ground informative and well though out, but the end notes are fantastic. The notes and annotations could be a stand alone work of their own, albeit slightly incongruous.



May 27, 2004

Dodgeball

I am intrigued with Dodgeball (location-based social software for mobile devices). Were I not home or at work most of my waking hours I would think this is a great tool. It is definitely one to watch as it could be helpful when I am out and about and can meet up with others and kill two birds (so to speak).



May 12, 2004

Accessibilty Benefits Everybody Presentation Posted

I have posted the Using Section 508 to Improve Internet Access to Information for Everybody presentation (in PDF) presented at the STC 51st Annual Conference. The session was a progressive panel on Section 508 (the U.S. law on accessibility for the U.S. Governemnt). The session focusses on the advantages of building accessible Internet information, which is very little more than using best practices for the Web. The presentation points out who else benefits from accessible sites, which is nearly everybody. But, the group the benefits the most is mobile users as accessible sites have all the optimization that mobile users need: Images can be abandoned; Navigation can be skipped; Users can use their keyboard to move about the page and site; The information linearizes properly; etc.



February 22, 2004

Treo 600 is Better than I Dreamed

My new phone has given me a lot of adventures, nearly all of them positive. The Treo 600 has been everything I had hoped and a lot more. I had thought there would be some sacrifice having all that the Treo offers in one device. I have collapsed my cellphone, mobile Internet, and Palm device all in one nice package. The phone is as good as my Motorola 270c ever was and that was my best phone up until the Treo. The mobile Internet is better than the Hiptop, mostly because my Sprint service has much better coverage than T-Moble (I am a fan of GSM as it provides me not only US coverage, but the rest of the Western world, although I have not needed that much coverage, yet). I do need to get a better e-mail application than what comes with the Sprint Treo, but that can be worked out. The Palm works very well and I have all my favorite applications functioning just as they always have, some were a little buggy at first, but downloading the updates to the applications to run under Palm v5(x) rather than v3 made the difference.

One thing I was not ready for was the constant attention the phone gets. It, in and of it self, is a conversation piece. I read news on it when on the Metro and I get stopped there and asked questions about it. I have been asked at the Apple Genius Bar, elevators at work, the street, in the bookstore (I use mobile Internet to check my Amazon Wishlist when in bookstores and compare prices as well as add new books to the list while in the store), at sporting events (checking live stats and news), in meetings (checking calendar and adding events as well as checking Google for updated information on new subjects that pop-up in the meeting - many conversations have been with CIOs who have Hiptop, Blackberry, or Pocket PC devices and are not perfectly happy and want smaller better functioning devices), and many other locations as it is also my watch for the time being. The attention much more than my TiBook received a couple years ago, mostly on flights as the screen was brighter and the battery lasted longer than anything else on the cross country flight.

I now think I have a fantastic troika of devices (Treo, TiBook, and iPod). I have been happier with my TiBook than any other computer I have ever owned. It has been more stable, secure, reliable, and friendly to letting me do my work without getting in the way than any other computer I have used since 1982, when I first started using computers. Any other laptop or computer is a waste of money.



February 14, 2004

Rael on Tech

Tech Review interviews Rael about rising tech trends and discusses alpha geeks. This interview touches on RSS, mobile devices, social networks, and much more.



February 7, 2004

Mobile Phone Area Code Oddity

My recent transition to my Treo 600, was rather smooth. Which was good since I not only collapsed three, if not four, devices into one. I had to switch cellular providers as well as my phone, but I kept my phone number. I really have been attached to my number, far more than I ever realized before. The transfer of the number from one carrier to another was very seamless and took less than 10 hours.

The number is big for me as it is the second longest phone number I have had in my life, the first being my landline phone number in Virginia, which I had for seven years plus. My cell phone number will be approaching the same and passing it later this year. I not only make it easy on myself and others by having one number that I really use for most everything (the phone at home is rarely ever for me, except for the calls from my parents on the usual night). Truthfully I am rather addicted to the pattern in the phone number, which is not as catchy as my number in college (another story for another time). The number makes it relatively to remember, so I keep it.

My mobile number is tied to a state, er make that Commonwealth, in which I no longer live and have not for nearly four years. I no longer really associate myself with that pre-fix and neither do my friends. This causes confusion when they see the number and try to think who they know in that area code. Oddly I have filled out four forms in the past few weeks that have asked for just the area code of my phone, which I consider to be my cell phone and in a couple cases the request was these digits for my cell phone.

I know New Yorkers who have kept their 202 mobile phone numbers even when they move away, just for the status. But, I am not my area code. How much longer will it be before all area codes are irrelevant?



February 6, 2004

Web Content for Mobile Browsers

Creating Web Content for Mobile Phone Browsers is a good overview for marking-up for small screens.



January 27, 2004

Project Oxygen Still Alive

Project Oxygen has progressed quite well since we last looked in (Oxygen and Portolano - November 2001). Project Oxygen is a pervasive computing system that is enabled through handhelds. The system has the users information and media follow them on their network and uses hardware (video, speakers, computers, etc.) nearest the user to perform the needed or desired tasks. Project Oxygen also assists communication by setting the language of the voicemail to match the caller's known language. The site includes videos and many details.

Project Oxygen seems to rely on the local network's infrastructure rather than the person's own device. This creates a mix of Personal Info Cloud by using the personal device, but relies on the Local Info Cloud using the local network to extract information. The network also assists to find hardware and external media, but the user does not seem to have control over the information they have found. The user's own organization of the information is important for them so it is associated and categorized in a manner that is easy for them to recall and then reuse. When the user drifts away from the local network is their access to the information lost?

This project does seem to get an incredible amount of pervasive computing right. It would be great to work in an environment that was Project Oxygen enabled.



January 23, 2004

Keeping the Found Things Found

This weeks New York Times Circuits article: Now Where Was I? New Ways to Revisit Web Sites, which covers the Keep the Found Things Found research project at University of Washington. The program is summarized:

The classic problem of information retrieval, simply put, is to help people find the relatively small number of things they are looking for (books, articles, web pages, CDs, etc.) from a very large set of possibilities. This classic problem has been studied in many variations and has been addressed through a rich diversity of information retrieval tools and techniques.

This topic is at the heart of the Personal Information Cloud. How does a person keep the information they found attracted to themselves once they found that information. Keeping the found information at hand to use when the case to use the information arises is a regular struggle. The Personal Information Cloud is the rough cloud of information that follows the user. Users have spent much time and effort to draw information they desire close to themselves (Model of Attraction). Once they have the information, is the information in a format that is easy for the user or consumer of the information to use or even reuse.



January 18, 2004

Portable Personal Information Repository

MIT's Technology Review discusses Randolph Wang's wireless PDA for personal information storage (registration for TR may be required). This brief description (I could find no longer nor explicit description at Wang's Princeton pages nor searching CiteSeer) is very interesting to me.

One PC at work, another at home, a laptop on the plane, and a personal digital assistant in the taxicab: keeping all that data current and accessible can be a major headache. Randolph Wang, a Princeton University computer scientist, hopes to relieve the pain with one mobile device. Designed to provide anytime, anywhere access to all your files, the device stores some data, but its main job is to wirelessly retrieve files from Internet-connected computers and deliver them to any computer you have access to. Wangís prototype is a PDA with both cellular and Wi-Fi connections, but the key is his software, which grabs and displays the most current data stored on multiple computers. Wang has tested his prototype with more than 40 university and home computers on and around the Princeton campus. He eventually wants to shrink the device down to the size of a wristwatch to make carrying it a snap.

This is really getting to a personal information cloud that follows the user. This really is getting to the ideal. Imagine having everything of interest always with you and always available to use. Wang's solution seems to solve one of the ultimate problems, synching. The synching portion of this seems to stem from PersonalRAID: Mobile Storage for Distributed and Disconnected Computers, which was presented at a USENIX conference. I really look forward to finding out more about this product.



January 17, 2004

Quick list of Treo Resources

A handful of Treo resources: Treo Central (info & store); Treo 600 World (news & store); Handango - Palm Software (software review and purchase); MobileWhack Palm (reviews and links); and TreoMB (news, reviews, & message boards).



Ah Treo 600 Arrives

I took the plunge and ordered a Treo 600 with Sprint PCS service. Since adding a solid portable music player to my menagerie of gadgets, I was having to attend to four devices each morning. Yes, four. My normal cell phone with very good connectivity, but horrible customer service (a the customer is always wrong mentality). My HipTop, which got me hooked on mobile e-mail, Web, and IM, but did not have great connectivity and the PIM applications did not synch (only import and overwrite). My Palm which was my true PDA/mobile PIM and all information on it truly synched, but it did not have mobile connectivity. Lastly my iPod, which has been a great addition to the daily workweek commute and will soon be nice on longer drives and with great expanse of mobile memory.

The only things that may bug me are the smaller screen and the lack of bluetooth. The bluetooth may bug me the most as I have also had it with wires running every where. I chose Sprint for two reasons, great rebates when purchasing from Amazon and the faster connectivity.

One device will now replace three (Palm, cellphone, and HipTop) devices. I have already added the AOL IM (using the UK version as it is free, thanks to Real's tip on MobileWhack). I am feeling lighter already. I will be keeping this topic running for a while, I do believe.

The customer service from Sprint has been a little slow, but insanely courteous and helpful when you do get somebody on the phone (even "Kevin" who had a hint of an Indian accent).



December 28, 2003

Mobile Audio

I picked up Audio Hijack Pro so I can record some of my favorite radio shows on the Internet to playback when I have time. Since I stopped driving to work and went back to taking the Metro I have been missing Marketplace on my drive home. I can also listen to Studio 360, which I plan to do tomorrow, when I have time. The Audio Hijack is like the Tivo for Internet audio, but missing the time schedules and recommendations.

The benefit of the portable audio is getting the top item on my wishlist, an iPod. I am wishing the iPod interface was slightly more malleable and offered how much information was available about the audio file, it would be good to have search functionality too. I am happy to have my full address-book and calendar tucked in the device also. I am surprised there has not been a thumb keyboard introduced for the iPod as of yet. I am even more surprised there is not a dial and click text entry component, just like the arcade games of yore.



December 21, 2003

Treo 600 Bluetooth answer

I found, not only a great article on the Treo 600, but the answer to the bluetooth question. I have been wondering if the Treo 600 will work with the current Palm SD Bluetooth card. It seems:

The Treo 600 family also adds an SD/SDIO/MMC slot. This slot, located on the top of the device was also found on the Treo 90, and on all current Palm models. It enables the use of SD and MMC media for storage of more programs and MP3 audio or video and SD content cards like dictionaries, or game packs. More importantly it also is SDIO enabled, meaning that it will work with hardware accessory cards like Veo's SD photo card, Margi's SD presenter-to-go, or Sandisk's upcoming Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards.

Handspring did not include Bluetooth into this device, but because of the SDIO slot it is an option in the future. Handspring told us that they are working with 3rd party companies to extend all the powers of the Treo to the Bluetooth card. This includes not only data synchronization like most cards, but the ability to use Bluetooth headsets, or act as a Bluetooth modem for a PC or Mac. Adding a Bluetooth SD card to the Treo 600 family will cost around $100 to $150. The current Palm branded card does not work with OS 5.

Phonescoop.com gives this interesting quote though: "Speaking of Bluetooth, the Handspring engineers specifically left room on the Treo 600 circuit board for a Bluetooth module. It won't be included in initial releases, but Handspring spokesperson Brian Jaquet said there was very strong possibility that an updated version would be released with Bluetooth."

Now the question is do I get one now or wait?

I did find that my current phone, Motorola Timeport 270c does have an optional Bluetooth battery cover, but it (like other Motorola products) does not support Mac, fools.



December 14, 2003

Research Lab for Human Connectedness

The Media Lab Europe's research lab for Human Connectedness really has some great things in progress. The most news worthy of late has been tunA, which is a wireless sharing of your personal music device, which extends your personal info cloud and creates a local info cloud for others. tunA was covered in Wired News: Users Fish for Music article a couple weeks ago.

The group's focus tends to be connecting people by digital tools using aural and visual presentation methods. There are some very intriguing applications that could come out of this research.



December 1, 2003

Solving the mobile smartphone issues with Treo 600

I found another very good review of the Treo 600. After using my Dad's Nokia 3650 I think the Treo 600 could be a good next phone for me.

I have tried the Treo in the stores and the keyboard size is not difficult for me to work with, actually it is very usable. The screen size is a little small, but it would work well and it is not that much smaller than my Hiptop. I have had a Palm OS device for four or five years now and I really like the interface and the breadth of applications available is great also.

Using my Dad's Nokia I was very frustrated with the interface. It could really use a scroll wheel like my Hiptop has to ease the navigating menu options (there are many). Moving between applications is rather clumsy as the phone rang when I was setting bluetooth settings to his AIBook and we could not easily jump to the incoming call. That should never happen. The Web browsing was very slow on AT&T Mmode. I could get around more quickly on my GMS Hiptop. I really like the bluetooth capabilities on that phone and the camera on the Nokia is great also.

I have always expected more out of my Hiptop than it delivered. I have only used it as a phone two or three times and I still carry my Motorola 270c as my main phone. I have really become attached to having mobile Web, AIM, and e-mail. The interface it very usable on the Hiptop and one can easily move between applications to get to incoming e-mail or a chat while in a very different set of tools. I really want to see how the Treo handles this task switching. I also would like to read a long article or two on the Treo 600 as I use my Palm for reading news, articles, and books on the train commuting.

My last option would be to get a bluetooth phone (still thinking Nokia but in the back of my mind) like a Sony Ericsson 610 and get a bluetooth enabled Palm Tungsten series PDA. At this point time will tell. But, I am narrowing down the choices.



November 21, 2003

Jack into iPod

On the ride to work on the DC Metro today I read Feel Free to Jack Into My IPod from WiredNews and loved the story. Not so much for the sharing the actual iPod, but the later discussion of integrating Bluetooth and Rendezvous into the iPod. The "jacking" an iPod is a nice social idea, but the idea of being able to listen to another's playlist on the ride to work would be a great way to find new music, as radio sucks.

I would also love for an iPod to act as a source for my laptop or desktop machine. The technology of Bluetooth is relatively small and can fit in cell phones that are much smaller than an iPod. Rendezvous is a software application (if I have understood correctly). This combination should not be that difficult to produce.

This could lead to awkward moment where one person is following another person, not to cause harm but to listen into their iPod streaming. We could end up with random acts of Stream Stalking flooding the news.



November 19, 2003

Werbach reviews Handspring Treo 600

Kevin Werbach reviews the Handspring Treo 600 in The Triumph of Good Enough



November 17, 2003

More on Urban Tapestries

More on Urban Tapestries:

Urban Tapestries is a framework for understanding the social, cultural, economic and political implications of pervasive location-based mobile and wireless systems. To investigate these issues, we are building an experimental location-based wireless platform to allow users to access and author location-specific content (text, audio, pictures and movies). It is a forum for exploring and sharing experience and knowledge, for leaving and annotating ephemeral traces of peoplesí presence in the geography of the city.


Urban Tapestries and Next Wave Interface Seminar

Uban Tapestries blog is a wonderful resource for things digital, mobile, and ubiquitous. The blog has pointed to Next Wave Interface Annual Seminar, which has supplied a great set of presentations. These two resources get to the understanding of enhanced user experience in any environment.



November 13, 2003

Real mobile choice

There has been a lot of hype of the mobile phone switch capability, which allows users to switch phone providers and have their phone number come with them. Yes, this is a good thing, but it does not go far enough.

I really would like further commoditization of the whole mobile phonemarket. I want my Verizon phone number, my connectivity from Verizon, T-Mobile's and Cingular's phone options (mostly bluetooth and better functionality), T-Mobile's customer service, and T-Mobile's billing. I really do not want Sprint's customer service, I have been in two different Sprint stores in recent weeks where customers were yelling at the store staff for help and they complained of 2 hour waits on the phone for service. Verizon's customer service is not that bad, but it is close. I like my Verizon Motorola phone for its vibrate, size, and great speaker phone, but it is not the be all and end all.

I keep two mobile phones and two phone plans, which I would love to change, but T-Mobile does not have the coverage in the Washington, DC area for me to give up my Verizon account. Verizon has horrible phone selection (limited, if any, bluetooth offerings) and I want a global phone (GSM based). Price is important too, as I want an all-you-can-eat data account for $20 like T-Mobile offers and nation-wide roaming with no long distance. I really do not need more than 400 or 500 minutes.

I really like the Treo 600, but not having Bluetooth built in is a downside as is the screen size (no I do not find the keyboard cramped as I was able to thumb-fu with out much problem). I am thinking I may replace my Hiptop and Handspring Platnium with a Nokia 3650 or a Sony Ericsson 610 as both have bluetooth and could work to synch with a Palm T3 as well as my TiBook along with providing both of these with Internet connectivity.



Ivrea Interaction Design resource

Molly Wright Steensen and the folks at Ivrea have launched Hub: Intersections of Interaction Design in conjunction with the Foundations of Interaction Design Symposium. The Hub will be a long term resource and community maintained by the students and faculty of Ivrea. The site currently offers an interaction design "intersections" weblog (which desparately needs an RSS feed) and a great design resources section. Congratulations!



November 2, 2003

Udell presents the Personal Service-Oriented Architecture

Jon Udell discusses Your Personal Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), which lays out the elements of the futuristic Apple Knowledge Navigator are actually available today, but with out the voice interaction. Jon points out that we already use search much like the navigator, but we are missing the ability to keep track of what we found valuable or not valuable from those searches that are related to similar searches the use ran in the past.

I really like this idea one's own Web browser will show you links you have followed before (within a limited amount of time), but these visited links and the metadata we add to this information does not easily transcend machines. I work on three or four machines through out a normal day as well as a few mobile devices. Each machine has bits and pieces of information strewn across them, but with only a little bit of it synched. This I would love to have worked out in the not so distant future. It takes some effort to get the information synching between the machines and devices (part of the Personal Info Cloud).

There are many gems in Jon's short article, including sharing information and searches with friends or "buddies".



November 1, 2003

iPIM and Chandler have a chair at the Personal Info Cloud

There are two articles that are direct hits on managing information for the individual and allowing the individual to use the information when they needed it and share it as needed. Yes, this is in line with the Personal Information Cloud.

The first article, The inter-personal information manager (iPim) by Mark Sigal about the problem with users finding information and how the can or should be able to then manage that information. There are many problems with applications (as well as the information format itself) that inhibit users reuse of information. In the comments of the article there is a link to products that are moving forward with information clients, which also fit into the Personal Information Cloud or iPIM concept. (The Personal Information Cloud tools should be easily portable or mobile device enabled or have the ability to be retrieved from anywhere sent to any device.

The second article is from the MIT Technology Review (registration required) titled Trash Your Desktop about Mitch Kapor (of founding Lotus Development fame) and his Open Source project to build Chandler. Chandler is not only a personal information manager (PIM), but the tool is a general information manager that is contextually aware. The article not only focusses on Mitch and the product (due late 2004), but the open and honest development practices of those that are building Chandler at the Open Source Application Foundation for Windows, Mac, Linux, etc. distribution.



October 25, 2003

Information structure important for information reuse

John Udell's discussion of Apple's Knowledge Navigator is a wonderful overview of a Personal Information Cloud. If the tools was more mobile or was shown synching with a similar mobile device to have the "knowledge" with the user at all time it is would be a perfect representation.

Information in a Personal Information Cloud is not only what the user wants to have stored for retrieval when it is needed (role-based information and contextual) but portable and always accessible. Having tools that allow the user to capture, categorize, and have attracted to the user so it is always with them is only one part of the equation. The other component is having information that is capable of being captured and reused. Standards structures for information, like (X)HTML and XML are the beginnings of reusable information. These structures must be open to ensure ease of access and reuse in proper context. Information stored in graphics, proprietary software, and proprietary file formats greatly hinders the initial usefulness of the information as it can be in accessible, but it even more greatly hinders the information's reuse.

These principle are not only part of the Personal Information Cloud along with the Model of Attraction, but also contextual design, information architecture, information design, and application development.



October 19, 2003

RSS on PDAs and information reuse

Three times the past week I have run across folks mentioning Hand/RSS for Palm. This seems to fill the hole that AvantGo does not completely fill. Many of the information resources I find to be helpful/insightful have RSS feeds, but do not have a "mobile" version (more importantly the content is not made with standard (X)HTML validating markup with a malleable page layout that will work for desktop/laptop web browsers and smaller mobile screens).

I currently pull to scan then read content from 125 RSS feeds. Having these some of these feeds pulled and stored in my PDA would be a great help.

Another idea I have been playing with is to pull and convert RSS feeds for mobile browser access and use. This can be readily done with PHP. It seems that MobileRSS already does something like this.

Content, make that information in general, stored and presented in a format that is only usable in one device type or application is very short sighted. Information should be reusable to be more useful. Users copy and paste information into documents, todo lists, calendars, PDAs, e-mail, weblogs, text searchable data stores (databases, XML respositories, etc.), etc. Digital information from the early creation was about reusing the information. Putting text only in a graphic is foolish (AIGA websites need to learn this lesson) as is locking the information in a proprietary application or proprietary format.

The whole of the Personal Information Cloud, the rough cloud of information that the user has chosen to follow them so that it is available when they need that information is only usable if information is in an open format.



September 22, 2003

Learning for lack of power

Over the past few days I have had a little more pondering time than normal. We were with out power, but thanks to the Net (wired and unwired) I could still post here, chat with friends, and had a site that was still up and running. I still had a means to communicate that allowed for updating from a mobile device, which my parents checked from a mobile device.

We did not have power, which meant no DSL (to me the dial-up was fingernails on chalkboard, only at last resort sort of endeavor. The Hiptop go me through to post. I could also e-mail with folks I had e-mail addresses for (found Hiptop truncates all my address book entries to only the primary address info, which is mostly work, and that was not were folks were the past four days around here). I really did not miss the power too much, although we cheated and went to a friend's house who had power and was out of town to do a load of laundry and recharge phones and laptops.

I did get to finish the book I started on vacation (The Discovery of Heaven), I still had nearly 300 pages left of the 735. I was rather disappointed by the ending, but the book made for a wonderful literary journey none-the-less. Much of the reading was on our screen porch and any snippet of time that was not tracking down places to get food or running errands, which took-up a great amount of time the past four days.

I not only grew with appreciation for our distributed information system, but I grew to miss the answering machine very quickly. We had a couple wired landline phone plugged in, but since Joy is still not greatly mobile I was getting the phone when it rang, well most of the time. I rarely answer the phone at home as the calls are rarely for me and I usually let the answering machine do the work for me. I also grew in appreciation for refrigerators and envious of neighbors with generators that powered their refrigerators so as not to throw out all their cold food.



September 16, 2003

New Hiptop functionality

Cory points to the new Hiptop applications some of this functionality is long over due. The one missing item is true synching of the address book and calendar. The cut and paste is one item that will help me keep it until about the new year.



September 9, 2003

OS X to AvantGo to Palm with AppleScript

MacOSXHints offers AvantGo-Palm sync using a basic AppleScript, which actually uses malsynch. This has been one last gem I have struggled to get working. This could be a project for later in the week.



August 22, 2003

Calling for messages

Yesterday I left my mobile phone in my car parked at the metro station. I had to use a landline phone to call my stationary mobile phone to get messages throughout the day.

I did have my Hiptop, but many of the stored numbers are not up to date, like Joy's new cell number. Numbers not updated is attributed to the non-synching ability of the device. The phone qualities of the Hiptop version 1 were are not too good. I do really like the ability to get POP e-mail, IM, and Internet from anywhere I get a service.



August 17, 2003


July 28, 2003

Mobile edition added

We have added a mobile edition of Off the Top capturing the last 10 entries. This should work well on nearly all mobile devices, including PDAs. The entries are provided in plain XHTML and do not have categories nor comments.

Let us know how this works for you.



July 20, 2003

Bray on browsers and standards support

Tim Bray has posted an excellent essay on the state of Web browsers, which encompasses Netscape dropping browser development and Microsoft stopping stand alone browser development (development seemingly only for users MSN and their next Operating System, which is due out in mid-2005 at the earliest).

Tim points out users do have a choice in the browsers they choose, and will be better off selecting a non-Microsoft browser. Tim quotes Peter-Paul Koch:

[Microsoft Internet] Explorer cannot support today's technology, or even yesterday's, because of the limitations of its code engine. So it moves towards the position Netscape 4 once held: the most serious liability in Web design and a prospective loser.

This is becoming a well understood assessment from Web designers and application developers that use browsers for their presentation layer. Developers that have tried moving to XHTML with table-less layout using CSS get the IE headaches, which are very similar to Netscape 4 migraines. This environment of poor standards compliance is a world many Web developers and application developers have been watching erode as the rest of the modern browser development firms have moved to working toward the only Web standard for HTML markup.

Companies that develop applications that can output solid standards compliant (X)HTML are at the forefront of their fields (see Quark). The creators of content understand the need not only create a print version, but also digitally accessible versions. This means that valid HTML or XHTML is one version. The U.S Department of Justice, in its Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities report advises:

When posting documents on the website, always provide them in HTML or a text-based format (even if you are also providing them in another format, such as Portable Document Format (PDF)).

The reason is that HTML can be marked-up to provide information to various applications that can be used by those that are disabled. The site readers that read (X)HTML content audibly for those with visual disabilities (or those having their news read to them as they drive) base their tools on the same Web standards most Web developers have been moving to the past few years. Not only to the disabled benefit, but so do those with mobile devices as most of the mobile devices are now employing browsers that comprehend standards compliant (X)HTML. There is no need to waste money on applications that create content for varied devices by repurposing the content and applying a new presentation layer. In the digital world (X)HTML can be the one presentation layer that fits all. It is that now.

Tim also points to browser options available for those that want a better browser.



July 9, 2003

Mobile video iChat with WiFi

Mike demonstrates iChat unteathered. Yes video chatting from the South Street Seaport in NYC all with WiFi (no wires). I am so glad Mike got to test this and posted it so we all could see it works.



July 6, 2003

Ozzie gets the personal info cloud

Ray Ozzie (of Groove) discusses Extreme Mobility in his recent blog. Ray brings up the users desire to keep their information close to themselves in their mobile devices and synching with their own cloud.

This is the core of the "rough cloud of information" that follows the user, which stems from the Model of Attraction. Over the last few weeks I have spent much time focussing on the "person information cloud". I have a few graphics that I am still working on that will help explain the relationship between the user and information. Much of the focus of Experience Design is on cool interfaces, but completely forgets about the user and their reuse of the information. A draft of the "MoA Information Acquisition Cycle" is avaiable in PDF (76kb).

Ozzie's Groove has had some very nice features for maintaining a personal information cloud, in that it would save copies of documents to the network for downloading by others you are sharing information with. Other people can include one's self on a different machine. One very nice feature was all information stored locally or trasmitted was encrypted. This could be very helpful in a WiFi world where security models are still forming. I have not kept up with Groove as my main machine at home is a Mac and Groove is now very tightly partnered with Microsoft. Groove was one tool I was sad to lose in my transition, but I am still very happy with using an OS that just works.

Big thanks to Mike for pointing this article out.



June 25, 2003


June 7, 2003

Gadget dreams

Danger announces a color Hiptop. Many are very excited about this, but some of the usability has me thinking I will go in another direction when my year is up with my black and white Hiptop.

Don't get me wrong I greatly enjoy my Hiptop and the functionality it has given me that no other device has done so far. But, I am now tied to three devices (and I do not have an iPod yet -- you are more than welcome to correct this malady buying it for me from my Amazon wishlist) my regular cellphone (nearly ubiquitous connectivity in area, vibrate function is strong enough to get my attention, speakerphone is outstanding, and clear auditory capabilities), Hiptop (for mobile e-mail, Internet, photos), and my Palm powered Handspring Platnium (synched calendar, addressbook, Strip, JungleSoft (city maps), and document readers (for books like Cory's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

No this is not optimal. I am seeking a Palm-based device that can pull pop e-mail and Internet using the phone, possibly through Bluetooth connection, while giving me the Palm apps that can be synched with my laptop and desktop address books and calendar. It would be nice to have the phone synch the addresses and calendar too.

No, I do not like the Hiptop apps for calendar and addressbook. One, they do not synch only have bulk over write capabilities, or at least that I have found. Two, I personally find the Hiptop calandar to be almost completely unusable. I can not move about the calendar easily, nor change and drill into the events from various views. When sitting in meetings and trying to assess my availability for follow-up meetings or deliverables the Hiptop calendar does is not easily usable for that purpose. I am also bugged by the lack of copy and paste. I do like the keyboard and the form factor for typing and surfing, much more than any other handheld I have tried.

I am thinking Sony Clie and a Sony Ericsson phone may be part of the solution. I have read many reports on the location services tied to cellphones, which use triangulation from cell phone towers and their extreme inaccuracy, I may be interested in having GPS on the one of the devices to better use location based services.



May 29, 2003

RSS offers Web content without a connection

I am happy that RSS changed by Web reading habits as the past to nights with limited Internet access I was able to crack open NetNewsWire and caught up on some reading from the 93 feeds I currently pull in. I have always been curious why some folks would post only titles of articles in RSS or RDF feeds and not even a short summary or teaser. Now this really frustrates me as I only could read titles, some which were intriguing and could have warranted me putting them in a "to read" status, but instead I ignored them and jumped to items that offered summaries or full content.



May 14, 2003

Building with Web Standards or how Zeldman got the future now

I awaiting Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards, which is available for order from Amazon (Designing with Web Standards). I have been a believer in designing with Web Standards for years, but it was Jeffrey that pushed me over the edge to evangelist for Web standards. One of the best things going for Web standards is it make validation of markup easy, which is one of the first steps in making a Web site accessible.

I work in an environment that requires Web standard compliance as it provides information to the public as a public good. Taxpayers have coughed up their hard earned dollars to pay for research and services, which are delivered to them on the Web. The public may access information from a kiosk in an underfunded library with a donated computer on a dial-up connection, but they can get to information that they are seeking. The user may be disabled and relying on assistive technology to read the public information. The user may be tracking down information from a mobile device as they are travelling across country on their family vacation. Each of these users can easily get the public information they are seeking from one source, a standard compliant Web page.

Every new page that is developed by the team I am on validates to HTML 4.01 transitional. Why 4.01 transitional and not XHTML? We support older browsers and 4.01 transitional seems to have pretty good access to information no matter the browser or device. We are not on the cutting edge, but we know nearly everybody can get the information their tax dollars have paid for. I dream of a day job building XHTML with full CSS layout, but with the clients I work for we still aim at the public good first.

I am very happy that Jeffrey has his book coming out as it should bring to light to more developers what it means to build to Web standards. Every contract that is signed buy the agency I work for must validate to HTML 4.01 transitional, but very few of the sites do when they come through the door to be posted. We provide a lot of guidance to help other developers understand, but finding a solid foundation to work upon is tough. When hiring folks many claim to have experience building valid sites, but most soon realize they never have to the degree to getting a W3C validation.

Building our pages to 4.01 does not mean we are going to stick with 4.01 forever. We plan for XHTML by closing all tags and stay away from tags deprecated in 4.01 strict. Much of what we create only needs a few scripts run to convert the pages from HTML to XHTML 1.1 transitional. Having the closing tags makes scripting to find information and search and replace much easier. (Enough for now, buy the book, we will have more later).



April 13, 2003

LSE Information Science Working Papers

I stumbled across the London School of Economics, Information Science Working Papers, which has some interesting offerings. I want to come back to this and read more of these. Mobile Services: Functional Diversity and Overload (PDF) and Mobility: an Extended Perspective (PDF) have been interesting and are sitting in my research directory for more mulling.



April 1, 2003

iSociety - Mobile Phones and Everyday Life

iSociety Mobile Phones and Everyday Life, is a report looks at the impact of mobile devices as they impact everyday life. Looking at how we work with mobile devices today will help us set a framework for the future.



March 30, 2003

Shopshifting using a Rough Cloud of Information

Shopshifting, is a well coined term I picked up from Mike Lee and something I am doing more and more with my Hiptop. In the Model of Attraction I discuss the a "rough cloud of information" that the user has following them. The mobile device can allow the user to have access to their desired information and make well informed decisions. I often use my Amazon Wishlist to find books or media I am interested in to physically see it and verify my interest in it, or to enter a new found item in the wish list. I entered one book into my wishlist while at Powells as it was full price and a large book I did not want to carry back. I did buy it yesterday with my Barnes and Noble discount and take it home. I also use IMDB while in the video store or Blockbuster to find DVD names or other movies with actors or actresses I like.

The "rough cloud of information" does take thinking about as not all information is accessible from mobile devices, it is not easy to drop into mobile devices, nor is some of the information called what I think it should be. Users often add metadata or change the descriptors for the information. I do this often as I am not attracted to what some want to call items or information chunks.



March 21, 2003

Enjoying Portland

I am enjoying Portland, even with an airplane cold in my head. You can also follow along on my Thomas Vander Wal Hiptop Nation blog.



March 14, 2003

Centrino poor WiFi functionality says Mosberg

WSJ's Walt Mossberg offers his insite on Pentium M and Centrino. The Centrino portion of the Intel solution seems to be a sham marketing ploy. If device makers use a real WiFi card with full capabilities the device makers can not use the Centrino or Pentium M monikers that are tied to all the hype.



The Web, information use, and the failure of the spacial metaphor

Francis Cairncross' book title Death of Distance is a wonderful understanding of the world around us in many way and should now apply to spacial relationships on the Web. The idea of spacial relationships on the Web have been a stretch of the truth for a long time. Initially the idea of a person going out and "navigating" other spaces helped those new to the prospect of what the Web held grasp the Web concept.

The problem with spacial explanations of the Web is they do not work very well. The truth is we go nowhere on the Web, information is brought to us. The Web user is ego-centric and rightfully so, as the world of information and commerce on the Web revolves around the user. The Web is truly omnipresent. Information is everywhere at once. The Web can even follow the user on mobile devices. The user does not go out and explore different places, the artifacts of the places come to the user's screen based on what is of interest to the user.

I was reading David Weinberger's book Small Pieces Loosely Joined and it was painful to watch him twist and turn to get the spacial metaphor to work. A whole chapter in the book is devoted to Space [on the Web] (the book as a whole is very enjoyable and worth the time to read). Weinberger first discusses how we use the Web, using surf, browse, and go to a site. This is wrapped with an analogy explaining the Web is like a library where the user does not have access to the stacks of books, but a librarian (or clerk) goes and retrieves the book, based on the request the user made, and brings it to the user. He also states:

... this is perhaps the most significant change the Web brings to the world of documents: the Web has created a weird amalgam of documents and buildings. With normal paper documents, we read them, file them, throw them out, or sent them to someone else. We do not go to them. We don't visit them. Web documents are different. They're places on the Web. We go to them as we might go to the Washington Monument or the old Endicott Building. They're there, we're here, and if we want to see them, we've got to travel.

.... the odd thing is that, of course, we're not really going any place, and we know it.

This is just painful to follow. We keep bringing up this bloodied and battered spacial metaphor trying to make it work to explain more than the very tiny bit it did explain well. The spacial metaphor has long overstayed its welcome and it now hinders us as we try to build the future information interfaces, which include mobile information access and internationalization of information.

Yes, I am saying mobile information use is hindered by a spacial metaphor. It is more than hindered it is crippled by it. When prepare information now location is largely irrelevant, but access, device, application, and information form and highly relevant. Before we prepared information on paper and sent that information to people (which can be done today) and we largely knew how that information was going to be used. Today, with digital information the ease of information reuse and the user's ego-centric view of the information world, we must think of the user and how the information will be used. The proximity of the information to the user through access, storage, or personalization is what is paramount. Proximity is the only spacial element that has significance. This equally applies to internationalization as language and culture are the barriers to the information not space. A Brazilian may be sitting on the T in Boston and want to read the most recent information on rollout of WiFi in Rio. The user should not need to find the Brazilian neighborhood in Boston to get the information in the proper language (Portuguese) with familiar cultural inflections. The user can attract that information form easily, which can be brought to the user if that information and access have been prepared and enabled. The user may have come across a resource for this information while looking for a client's most recent press release and the user forwarded the link to her mobile device to read later. Access to information can and should be based on the users actions and choices.

The user can (and has been able to for some time) create their own metadata and retrieval structures. Communication with live people or machines that can and will convey useful information at the user's desire is not only the reality of the wired world, but what mobile use is all about. The user can set their proximity to information they have come across and connectivity conduits are enablers of that information they have yet to discover.

Up to this point the spacial metaphor only provided us with the navigation, but flat out failed us with what the user could do once they found what they were seeking. The user can browse, search, receive in e-mail (based on list subscriptions), read an information feed that brings to the user new information from sites the user likes or from aggregators, or a variety of other means. Once the user comes across information they have an interest in they want to keep that information attracted to themselves, via storage, putting it on a page that is accessible to a mobile or stationary device, and/or have the information delivered at a time that will be more convenient (getting a text message on your phone with the address and time of a party at an art gallery). Proximity also plays a role in location based services, such as bringing up restaurant listing and reviews when the GPS in our mobile device indicates we are near these establishments. The user should be able to identify favorites or preferences that can help provide "best options".

The realization of the failure of the navigation metaphor to provide for much other than a nice name for the grouped set of links that provide browsing options pushed me to investigate the Model of Attraction (MoA). The MoA is not perfect, but does provide a framework to think about information use and reuse as users currently interact with it. The MoA offers a method for us to work through how we allow the user to easily reuse information they found. The devices are just conduits for the attraction interaction to take place. MoA offers a framework that is also easy to understand, but is a literal description, which helps us see building, structuring, and preparing information and applications for the future.

Navigation -- R.I.P.



March 1, 2003

Mobile use of Amazon Wish List and other adventures with mobile gadgets

Tonight was a mobile/portable device adventure. Joy and I had a wonderful dinner at Thyme Station in Bethesda. A Japanese couple sat down next to us and we could see that they were having trouble with the menu. The guy has a tiny Sony device, about the size of an Altoids tin, but a third of the height and finished like an Apple TiBook. He was using the translator and not finding what he was looking for and Joy nudged me and asked if I thought if we should help. Joy asked the couple if they needed a little help the couple giggled and then nodded. The seemed to be having the most problem with the sirloin kabob and did not know what it was. We explained it was beef cooked on a stick. They returned to tapping in word and getting translations on their device and passing it back and forth. They also seemed to have some entertainment on the device. I really am kicking myself for not getting a picture and talking with them a little more.

Joy and I tried to figure if we could catch a movie and checked the movies and listings from the Hiptop. The couple next to us seemed equally interested. We were had just missed the start times for the movies and were going to have to wait for the next round at 10 or so.

We settled on going to Barnes and Noble instead. I found a book I had read about in some RSS feed this past week and really liked it. I was not ready to spring for the book at full price, so I pulled up Amazon and checked the price on the book (Stop Stealing Sheep and Find Out how Type Works). I found the book and a 30 percent discount. But the best part is I dropped it in my Amazon Wish List, which is where I keep track of such things. I then check other items in my Wish List to see if they were in stock at Barnes and Noble. I could not find the two books I really have been wanting and could be willing to pay full price, which means I may buy off of Amazon with a couple other items that will bring me enjoyment.

My Amazon Wish List is one information store that I like having at my side. This really highlights the element of the Model of Attraction that focusses on the user being able to have information be attracted to themselves and have this rough cloud of information follow the user for use when needed. The user works to find information they are attracted to, by searching or reading articles or blogs that the user has an affinity for. Once the information is found most metaphors and models stop working (navigation, information foraging, etc.) but the MoA keeps on working. If the user has a strong enough attraction she may want a method to store the information for further access. How and where become the next questions. The next step is accessing from storage (or your personal information cloud that follows the user). Mobile devices are tools that allow for this attraction to continue, but how do we ease this use? Personalization adds another layer to the user setting attraction (like Amazon's wish list).



February 19, 2003

Mobile phones offer better control of communication

The Beeb offers Mobiles let you control your life. Increasingly the mobile phone has given people the ability to control their communication flow and their information streams. I can relate to this as I use my mobile as my primary phone, actually I have two mobiles and one is my mobile information access point. I use the my voice mobile for talking with friends, family, and work, but it works wonderfully as it does a much better job with voicemail than my work phone. I use the other phone, the Hiptop for mobile e-mail to have needed information at my fingers and to send notes to my self that are easily used from e-mail. The Hiptop also offers the ability to touch base with coworkers and digital friends as well as keep up with reading off the Web. I agree with the article I have better control of my communications with these mobile devices. I am also getting closer to having information attracted to me so that the information is there when I need it.



February 9, 2003

Europeans recycle satellites

Europeans are known to be recyclers. Now it is satellites that Europe is thinking of recycling. The Beeb reports The European Space Agency can reuse satelites for digital radio. The mobile digital services like OnStar and digital radio can be performed by older satellites. This is much less expensive than floating new birds.



February 4, 2003

Moblogging and Joe Average persona

The Online Journalism review offers up Moblogging the next big thing, which brings "Joe Average" into play. I am not sure Joe Average would want a Hiptop or find a use for a Hiptop. I do like the idea of the Smartmobs, but it is not for everybody.

In a discussion at the DC IA book reading group (this time it was The Tipping Point) we ventured on the topic of using mavens as a persona candidate. The person said they were looking for somebody less adept at finding information, like a "Joe Average". This is often how many of us build personas we go for the less adept, or make sure they are represented across our personas. The discussion later came to how to keep the mavens intrigued, which is also a valid discussion.



February 3, 2003

Hiptop helps show extending the model of attraction

I am already enjoying my Hiptop for much of the reason that I picked it up. I wanted access to information. More importantly I wanted information to be able to follow me. I found information or thought of information I really have been wanting to have access to that information from where ever I am. I wanted the ability to share the information from where I was and have others be able to use that information to better their understanding.

Yes, I have had cellphones and have called others, but the information is not that useable in voice form. The information needed to be convered to data elements that could easily be used and reused. Voice only (at the current time) allows us to hear then act upon the information and not store that information in a searchable repository or to easily share that information back out.

Yes, I have PDAs (Palm-based handhelds), but they need to synch with other devices to share information and the e-mail capabilities were not the best around. The 3rd party applications on the Palm and the fantastic operating system that is fast and small are great features that will be hard to beat by anybody.

I have been looking for a solution to have the information I wanted when I want or need it in my hands. The Hiptop gets me much closer to that goal. I tend to use e-mail to share ideas with myself and others. This weblog is another method of doing the same. Being able to search for an address and get a map is a solid tool to have at all times.

This is a personal quest to have the Model of Attraction (MoA) extend back to myself. The MoA not only helps us think about the attration between the user and information during the finding tasks, to help improve findability, but in phase where the user wants information to stay attracted to them. My Hiptop is my information attraction device. I can push an e-mail to myself that has the name, address, time, and phone number needed to do to a party with friends that have come in from out of town. I can access my Amazon Wishlist when I am in a store to help remember the author or title of a book, CD, or DVD I have been seeking. This bookstore amnesia (or musicstore amnesia) can be a thing of the past. The Hiptop provides me the information in my hand and gives me the access to the information I do not have at hand wirelessly.

There will be some experiments to see if I can improve on the information attraction to keep the information closer to me. Am I getting rid of my Palm? No, as there is information in it that I prefer in the format it is in. I will be keeping my cell phone as it has great reception and is CDMA (I found having a non-dominant cell phone technology is an advantage during emergency times, like being in San Francisco during September 11, 2001, which is a TDMA and GSM dominant city. I was one of a few that had no problem getting a signal to call out). It is rather awkward having three devices with through out the day. We will see how it goes.



February 2, 2003

Cell phones burn holes in brain cells

Cell phones cause brain damage? This has long been a discussion, but until know is has been a subjective argument. A new study examines cell phones burning holes in rat's brains. Humans don't have the brains of rats, but our grey cells are very similar.

Me, I perfer my speaker phone on my cell phone for driving and general conversation as it keeps my hands free to do other things. It seems I may be keeping other things safe also. I do have friends that that have developed tumors on their head near their ear and jaws, and yes they were regular users of cell phones. The type of cell phone seems to play a role also.



February 1, 2003

Posting from Hiptop

This is a test post from my Hiptop. This post was done from my regular management page.



January 31, 2003

Hiptop Here

Yes, my Danger Hiptop arrived today. I celebrated by posting to HiptopNation. I already have a wish list of features for the Hiptop, like the ability to use iSynch for my calendar and addressbook. The boxmodel is not so pretty on the Hiptop/AvantGo browser.

I am happy with my purchase as I now have the ability to have my information follow me easily. The mobile e-mail is a great tool. Yes I know Blackberry has this funtionality, but the price and other added functionality, including phone was far more enticing. The form factor on the Hiptop is very inviting to the hands, although the thumb-fu has my bad thumb kinda wanting a rest.

I may build an administrative interface for Off the Top that I can use in the Hiptop and other mobile devices.



January 19, 2003

Smart Mobs and the Man

Jeffrey Veen reports on the mobile technology at the San Francisco anti-war demonstration. It is just another glimpse that the Smart Mobs are taking hold here in the U.S. (the Smart Mobs site captures smart mob use at SF anti-war rally too).

In a quasi-related vein the U.S. Congress is fighting to keep its mobile technology. It seems that members of Congress and their Senior staff are hooked on their BlackBerry devices. The BlackBerry is caught up in a patent infringement case that may limit the use of the BlackBerry (yes there is irony here as Congress set the copyright and patent laws that are making this a problem for themselves). Congress was not smart in creating the laws, but wants to be a part of the smart mob. It seems like they need to figure out what they are doing before they pick up their pen to write any more laws and may want to undo some of the poor laws they created.



January 5, 2003

Smart Mobs and Emergence provide sparks

I began reading Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold the past few days. It is a fantastic book that covers a lot of ground, including free riders, game theory, mobile technology, information creation, and information use and reuse. The book is proving to be an excellent follow-on to Steven Johnson's Emergence. The two books are wonderful mind-joggers and fodder for new preceptions about information, technology, and the world around us. A trait that both share is excellent bibliographies and end-notes (the end notes in both books were not very user friendly and would seem to be structured for hypertexting and not paper books).

These two books put the focus on being future friendly, which does not mean any thing new, but reinforces my belief in properly structured information. Information use and reuse are the key elements in both books, which embrace bottom-up information creation and knowledge sharing. The need for access to information drives Smart Mobs, whether it is to grow open development or for mobile use access is important. The best access environment we have in place at the moment is valid HTML/XHTML that is used to properly structure the information.

This also requires thinking through every pixel on a Web page and understanding its purpose. Understanding the user will help provide a framework for building information interfaces. The information/content should take importance also that is why users are reading, not the entertaining graphics. Keep in mind we structured information can be reused on mobile devides that may not use your images, information may be scraped and repurposed, information may be printed, or read aloud to a person using a site reader while they are driving or read to a person with visual difficulties.

You may want to get your hands on either or both books and take a look for yourself and you may be inspired in new ways or have your beliefs in information and its used renewed.



December 10, 2002

Model of Attraction Outline - Version 1

The Model of Attraction ouline version 1 is now posted. The outline has been structured to set up a structure for filling in the blanks and providing a better strucutre for understanding the MoA. Outlines are my foundations for writing more serious works. Outlines help me find holes and provide a structure to rest content upon. This verion is largely attributed a train ride to Philly that allowed me time and untethered space to think, order, and write.

Please comment if you are so inclined. Find holes are areas that do not seem fully fleshed out enough. Thank you in advance.



August 27, 2002

Mobile info

It took $5.29 for 5 minutes on an internet kiosk to get to the right Vision.

Call it gadget issues or information problems, but I really needed access to info stored in an e-mail this evening. I was going to meet friends at a happy hour at Visions in DC. The problem was it was not Visions theater, but International Visions at 2629 Connecticuit, NW. I knew of Visions the cinema/bar/restaurant, but not the gallery. I checked the information in an e-mail before leaving and verified Visions on Connecticuit and went to the Visions just off Conn. I was wrong and did not print out the e-mail. I eventually found a Internet kiosk and paid $5.29 for a half hour to dig out the e-mail an figure out I am 10 blocks and a bridge away from the right place. Eventually I made it and had a great time.

My solution is to sent the pertinent information in a text message to my phone or write it in my Palm. Better yet do both. I synch my Palm once a day and I could set an e-mail address that only that device would get. This would allow me to not have to pull all my e-mail onto my Palm and only that which I really wanted. Days like today would require much more forethought or just send a snippet to the phone.

All this gets back to having the information you need at your fingertips when you want or need it. It is that roughly magnetized cloud of information that I want to follow me.



August 19, 2002

iPhone possible

The NY Times discusses the possibility of an Apple iPhone. The signs are in Apples upgrage to their OS X (10.2) that indicate a PDA/phone could be in the works. If this is so I really would like it combined with much of what is in the iPod. Many Gigs of music or other data, great usability, but with a better screen with color and I an there. Getting the sucker to synch with AvantGo, Vindigo, etc. would get me on board in a heart beat. I love my Palm/HandSpring, but from the sounds of the NYTimes article that does not seem to likely, bummer. I am enjoying my mobile phone with Internet access and text messaging, which I use on a regular basis (reading on a tiny phone screen is not the greatest experience, but it is better than not having great resources at your finder tips. [hat tip Damien]


August 5, 2002

Phone in your parking

Technology and parking is a wonderful match, yet to happen, but one can pay for parking by phone in Hull, England, writes BBC news. Finding avialable parking is what I eagerly await. Knowing where there is an open meter, open spot, or a garage that is not full.


June 18, 2002

Music info from Shazam

Very cool ideas are still bubbling up. In the UK Shazam is offered for mobile phones. The idea is to dial a number, let it record 20 seconds of a song, and Shazam will send a text message back to your phone with the name of the song and the artist.


April 7, 2002

Of conference interest for Web and mobile types: 9th International World Wide Web Conference in Amsterdam, NL; Thunder Lizard's Web Design World 2002. These look to be interesting, particularly the International WWW Conference, which offers the mobile perspective.


March 22, 2002

I am really enjoying my new cell phone. However it is the first phone in a long time that I really needed to learn the keylock. Not only does the phone dial easily, but the speakerphone is quite loud. I had my phone tucked away in my bag, which would believe one to believe that the loud walkie talkie sounds ("please hang up and dial again" and other gems) were from some idiot's phone or the custodial services. Nope they were from me. I have learned to easily operate the keypad lock, which also saves my pockets from talking to me.


March 15, 2002


March 14, 2002

The NY Times writes about methods to protect our laptops from theft. (I saw more laptops this past week to make it seem like it was a revolution, not to mention approximately 80% of the laptops were Apple).


March 4, 2002

This may be the first reason not to own a BMW. The first car that is easy to steal, crash, and have to dial the manufactuer if you change a part all in one. Thanks Microsoft now the everybody can be l33t. [hat tip Cam]


February 28, 2002

A note about choosing the new phone. I enjoyed my Motorola Startac flip phone for the last two and a half years, but the battery life was killing me and the keys, well had some minor issues. I really wanted a phone that would vibrate (I hate hearing other people's phone ring, so I want my phone to have the ability to be courteous). I also wanted a hands free phone for the car, so speakerphone was a need (some folks only seem to call when I am in the car and the headset is problematic at times when the cord wraps around the gear shift, particularly when shifting to 5th and your headset is ripped right off your noggin). I am interested in text messaging so friends can send quick notes to say when they are leaving work, etc. I also wanted a phone that would easily fit in my pants pocket (this feature is in no way tied to the vibrate function). These desires quickly narrowed down my choices. I am very happy with the size and weight, as it is not a great amount bigger than the Startac. It does give me web capability, which is good for testing wireless page builds (more on that in a future post) and the bizarre ability to plug in an FM stereo adapter so listen to the radio using the phone. I was very impressed with the Verizon sales guy as he was very helpful and knew their products and capabilities quite well.


Can I tell you how ready for sleep I am? This week included the approach of an ISO audit at work, end of the month usual stuff, tons of paperwork for work and home, spending time with my wonderful parents that were in town (although they stayed in a private club/hotel that lost them when I was trying to meet them for dinner), realized I could not find my running shoes I liked (hello Adidas for home delivery), figured out that the ASIS IA Summit is largely on a weekend that I have not away and close by in Baltimore (hello I am now going), finally got tired of my cell phone and its poor battery life and my non-national call plan for that phone that put me back more than $300 while stuck in SF around Sept. 11 (vavoom a new phone and a national plan, which includes e-mail, text messaging, and Web and a much longer battery life), and allergy season beginning. I also realized I leave for Austin a week from tomorrow.


February 13, 2002

The Beeb discusses payment from mobile phones a reality and the affect this has on the marketplace. Once again the Beeb looks at many, if not all, sides of an issue. The money in the mobile adds a new payment system for merchants to track. The mobile is targeted at small charges that would be too small for credit cards, but ironically most people pay their mobile bills with credit cards.


January 28, 2002


January 23, 2002

How to shoot your users in the foot, a guide from HandSpring. In the technology world the continually seems to be a lack of marketing understanding. Handspring has had a strong loyal user base, many made up from Palm users that upgraded when Palm stalled its progress. Palm has since come back on track. I have been thinking that Palm would be my next handheld again. At the core of the HandSpring old and new is the Palm OS, but is why I bought the HandSpring a while back and there was more memory and modules that could extend memory and provide a solid backup on the road.


January 13, 2002

Content management is back at the forefront of every aspect of my digital life again. Content management revolves around keeping information current, accurate, and reusable (there are many more elements, but these cut to the core of many issues). Maintaining Websites and providing information resources on the broader Internet have revolved around static Web pages or information stored in MS Word, PDF files, etc. Content management has been a painful task of keeping this information current and accurate across all these various input and output platforms. This brings us to content management systems (CMS).

As I pointed to earlier, there are good resources for getting and understanding CMS and how our roles change when we implement a CMS. Important to understanding is the separation of content (data and information), from the presentation (layout and style), and from the application (PDF, Web page, MS Word document, etc.). This requires an input mechanism, usually a form that captures the information and places it in is data/information store, which may be a database, XML document, or a combination of these. This also provides for a workflow process that involved proofing and editing the information along with versioning the information.

Key to the CMS is separation of content, which means there needs to be a way to be a method of keeping links aside from the input flow. Mark Baker provides a great article, What Does Your Content Management System Call This Guy about how to handle links. Links are an element that separates the CMS-lite tools (Blogger, Movable Type, etc.) from more robust CMS (other elements of difference are more expansive workflow, metadata capturing, and content type handling (images, PDF, etc. and their related metadata needs)). Links in many older systems, often used for newspaper and magazine publications (New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle) placed their links outside of the body of the article. The external linking provided an easy method of providing link management that helps ensure there are no broken links (if an external site changes the location (URL) it there really should only be one place that we have to modify that link, searching every page looking for links to replace). The method in the Baker article outlines how many current systems provide this same service, which is similar to Wiki Wiki's approach. The Baker outlined method also will benefit greatly from all of the Information Architecture work you have done to capture classifications of information and metadata types (IA is a needed and required part of nearly every development process).

What this gets us is content that we can easily output to a Web site in HTML/XHTML in a template that meets all accessibility requirements, ensures quality assurance has been performed, and provides a consistent presentation of information. The same information can be output in a more simple presentation template for handheld devices (AvantGo for example) or WML for WAP. The same information can be provided in an XML document, such as RSS, which provides others access to information more easily. The same information can be output to a template that is stored in PDF that is then sent to a printer to output in a newsletter or the PDF distributed for the users to print out on their own. The technologies for information presentation are ever changing and CMS allows us to easily keep up with these changes and output the information in the "latest and greatest", while still being able to provide information to those using older technologies.



January 8, 2002

MIT's Tech Review queries about mobile text messaging in the U.S. as much of the rest of the world uses it much more than Americans. I was very impressed with the mobile services in Europe last year and now really would like to have text messaging for my work. The frequency that text messaging works on is far better than mobile phones for penetrating walls and for being stable in emergencies (this may be attributed to its lack of use).


January 3, 2002

IBM DeveloperWorks has an indepth focus on wearable computers. This intrigues me to some degree (okay alot). I am also intrigued with the changes for the user to make information application more useable in “this environment”.


December 16, 2001

The Beeb takes a look at the future of mobile phones. The glimpse of the future comes from the Isle of Man.


December 4, 2001

Lucas Gonze points out Caching Trust in his O'Reilly weblog. The idea is rather intriguing in that if you find a set of data that is has not been validated, a substitute for a copy of the data is stored locally so you may verify the data. The author of the document pointed to in Gonze' log is, M. Satyanarayanan of CMU, who spends his time working on mobile computing and file sharing research and experiments (like Coda (with its associated papers and Odyssey).


December 3, 2001

The BBC reports that Intel is running field studies on mobile device use in London. The research is an ethnogrphic study of interactive use. The article states, "'One of the things that makes a successful technology is a technology that supports experiences that people want to have,' explained Ms Genevieve Bell, senior researcher and design ethnographer at Intel." This is nice news, but slightly more impressive is the general media's explainations of the study, (you go Beeb!!).


November 1, 2001

Wireless Week discusses location based services, which are seeming to be making in roads. One of the nice items in this article is the inclusion of voice in the new Kivera release. Having the ability to talk to your dashboard and return directions or nearest gas station or ATM would be a seriously great tool.

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