Category Archives: Web/Tech

Google’s path is the right one. It’s just going to hurt

Sarah Lacy

Now, a source tells us that CEO Larry Page, who seems to be hell-bent on competing with Mark Zuckerberg whether it’s the right thing for Google or not, had this to say to employees at a Friday staff event after the Search Plus Your World launch: “This is the path we’re headed down – a single unified, ‘beautiful’ product across everything. If you don’t get that, then you should probably work somewhere else.” 

Page, for better or worse, has realised the lesson that Apple has been teaching: an integrated, focused, well-designed product will always stand a better chance of success than a product which is looser, less focused, but more “open”.

What I’m fascinated about is how this new direction will impact on Android – does that “across everything” include mobile devices? 

I think it does. I fully expect the Galaxy Nexus to be the last “Google Experience” phone produced by anyone other than Motorola. I also expect Google to start having its own range of pure Google Experience phones, rather than just a single device.

In other words, Google is going to start controlling Android more tightly by stealth: it will sell the best phones, with rapid, regular updates that its erstwhile-partners can’t match. Within a few years, I fully expect Motorola to have overtaken Samsung as the number one Android vendor. And, what’s more, I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung hadn’t forked Android and ended up producing its own Samsung-only variant, with its own App Store.

Heaven help me, I’m taking the Chromebook challenge

A while ago, I wrote a column for Tap on the differences between Apple and Google’s vision of “the cloud”, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) came down hard on the side of Apple’s. iCloud, as I saw it, was very much the more user-centred version.

The iPad and Chromebook represent two different views of the future of cloud computing. In one – the Chromebook – the applications as well as the data live in the cloud. In the other – the iPad – applications remain firmly on the desktop (or mobile), while the data floats wherever it needs to go.

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It’s all about discovery

The biggest problem online since the turn of the Century has been that it’s really hard to discover new stuff. Not find stuff: discovery isn’t the same thing. If I know roughly what I want, Google makes it easy to find. But finding things that I might like that I don’t know about yet? Much harder.

Part of discovery is about social. If my friends like something, I might like it too. But part of it is also about taking time to browse, and the problem, in media at least, is that good places to browse which have multiple possibilities are few and far between.

That’s why I’m not surprised at the success of projects like Apple’s Newsstand in iOS 5:

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman reports that Newsstand, the long-awaited feature in Apple’s newly released operating system for iPhones and iPads is causing explosive growth in news app downloads. A stunning 1.8 million iPhone users downloaded NYT’s free app last week, eighty-five times the rate of a week earlier, Sonderman reports, and the iPad app’s downloads were up seven times, to 189,000.

(via Audit Notes: Paying for Newspapers Edition)

Before anyone starts muttering “but that works on a closed system” under their breath, it can work on the web too. Take Slovakia’s Piano Media as an example:

For Piano Media, it gains that awareness through a thin, top bar appearing across its nine member websites. (That bar is much like CircLabs has touted in its “Circulate” concept.) Click on that banner and you get this offer: “For a single monthly payment, you can get shared access to premium content on 9 different websites.” Your choices: €0.99 for a day, €2.90 for a month, or €29 for a year. (Is “nine, nine, nine” spreading?) Sign in and get access to all: one price, one login recognized persistently by all member sites. Most buyers opt for the monthly deal.

So this is a newsstand — but it’s not a kiosk, a difference Bella emphasizes. A kiosk just lets you buy a single title, from a collection. It makes use of collective marketing, but doesn’t make use of how we like to digitally read, a little of this, a little of that, without barriers.

(via The newsonomics of Piano Media » Nieman Journalism Lab)

I’m convinced we’ll see more and more media adopt the newsstand model.

The definition of “being a dick” in comments

Martin Belam:

I’d define dick-ish behaviour on a news site as including, but not restricted too: personal attacks, using “amusing” clichés like EUSSR and Tony Bliar, making the same off-topic point day after day, being rude and grumpy and unwelcoming to newcomers, mocking other people’s spelling, bullying and hectoring staff and journalists appearing in the comment threads, asking “is this news?” on a story you are not interested in and which nobody forced you to read, hate speech, “ironic” hate speech, anything that might now or in the future potentially land the publisher in legal hot water, and any comment which includes the phrase “I don’t suppose the moderators will publish this but…”

Eliminate those and you’d eliminate 95% of the reason that I don’t tend to read comments on news sites.

The unbearable impoliteness of being, online

Why do people feel the need to be abusive online? Why do they believe that behaviour which they would never consider to be acceptable face-to-face is perfectly fine when using the Internet?

A case in point: these two tweets directed at Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat:

Calling someone a “cunt”? Declaring that you’d like to perpetrate physical violence against someone who you’ve never met? Is this acceptable behaviour anywhere?

There is, unfortunately, a nasty strain of macho bullshit that exists online that says, yes, this is perfectly acceptable. Well I don’t think it is – and I’m pretty tempted to do something about it.

What can I do? Well, one thing would be to use the Google juice of this blog to name and shame offenders. Because it’s been around for so long and linked to from so many sources, this blog tends to get rated pretty highly. If I mention someone’s name prominently, and they don’t already have a big online presence on a major site, it’s quite likely that a search for their name would turn up a page on here.

So I could name and shame people, thus displaying to friends, family and potential employers exactly what they think is an acceptable way to treat other people. Shaming them by tying them to their own words and forcing them to acknowledge their behaviour would, I think, be an excellent way to show them their behaviour isn’t on. Free speech is great – but you had better be prepared to stand behind those words when you put them out there.

I’m tempted, but I’m not going to do it… for now.

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Unhappy with social network real name policies? Do it yourself

Hugh MacLeod:

And as I’ve said many times over the years, Web 2.0 IS ALL ABOUT personal sovereignty. About using media to do something meaningful, WITHOUT someone else giving you permission first, without having to rely on anyone else’s resources, authority and money. Self-sufficiency. Exactly.i.e. not waiting for the green light. In the blogosphere, the only light IS the green light.

This is something the people complaining about “real names” policies need to remember. If you’re posting content on someone else’s site, you’re playing by someone else’s rules. If you’re not happy about that, don’t keep asking permission – pleading with the king for a “fair” approach won’t get you far. Do it yourself.

Android fragmentation

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - FEBRUARY 02:  Photos of Go...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Nick Bradbury, author of the very fine FeedDemon, on learning Android and “the fragmentation thing“:

Of course, I can’t write my first post about Android without mentioning its supposed “fragmentation” problem. It is a problem, but it’s mostly blown out of proportion. Desktop developers have always had to create software that works across different OS versions, different devices and different screen sizes, so the fact that you have to do that on Android isn’t a big deal. But it is a big deal when different Android devices handle things differently – video playback and recording, for example, are challenging due to device differences, and getting video streaming to work reliably across devices feels impossible (as Netflix discovered).

Nick, I think, gets this right. Fragmentation is real, but developers deal with it.

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