I’ve been promising that I’d give an update on the Chromebook challenge that I undertook a while ago, but one thing and another have meant that I haven’t really had enough time to do it. But, finally, here it is. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
I’m convinced we’ll see more and more media adopt the newsstand model.
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.
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?
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.
One of the things which you notice watching Google is that they make a lot of stuff. A huge amount of stuff, in fact. And a lot of the time, they don’t really shout about it much. Take this:
Isn’t that just brilliant? I can think of a hundred applications of this – and then some.
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.
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.
It’s not often that I spend time playing around with infographics, but I really like this UK petrol prices history graphic from specialist insurers Staveley Head – not only interesting, but also a nice design that gets over the information in a way that’s really clear and simple (click on the image below to go to the interactive version).
Infographic by Staveley Head
Poor Charles Arthur. Charles wrote a relatively simple post asking the question of why the Mac has proved to be so successful lately, out-performing the overall computer market and growing its market share. And in response, he got a 500+ long comment thread in which multiple geeks are arguing over how the specs of the Mac do/don’t compare to Windows machines.
I’m greatly enjoying the batting around of specs like people buy computers based on specs anymore. If there’s one thing that the huge demand for netbooks a few years ago proved, it’s that people buy because they can see how a computer can do something for them, not on megahertz.
In the case of netbooks, the “something” was being a machine they could carry everywhere, and do simple stuff on. In the case of Macs, it’s having access to easy to use, powerful software like iPhoto, iMovie, and so on – in a package that’s good looking, well designed, robust, and so on.
It’s about the whole experience: Compare buying a Mac in an Apple Store to buying a Windows machine in PC World and you’ll see what I mean. Compare the ability to take your machine back if there’s a problem with it to a Genius Bar and have someone help you sort it out in a way that’s friendly and not patronising.
This is the thing that advocates of the spec-sheet method of buying computers, or any product for that matter, don’t understand. What lifts a brand from being a making of generic boxes into a real identity isn’t simply the spec you get for the money, but the overall experience of buying and owning the product.
To give a non-Apple example, consider Dell. What set Dell apart from other PC manufacturers was the build-to-order approach which let you tailor the product to exactly meet your needs. You went to the Dell site, and you got exactly the machine you wanted. It was competitively priced, but it was rarely (if ever) the cheapest option. The experience was simple, straightforward, and gave you what you wanted. In short, a good brand experience.
Unfortunately for Dell, this was a part of the brand experience that was relatively simple for other companies to copy, and it’s lacklustre performance in the market coincides with other companies copying this approach. Now, I can get a totally customised machine from most PC makers – so what’s left for Dell to say is unique about its experience?
People buy Macs because the experience of buying, owning and maintaining a Mac is better than the experience with any other computer maker. It’s the experience that matters, not the specs.