Monthly Archives: May 2008

Can You Understand a Whole Generation?

  • tags: toblog, generations, pop sociology, GenX, Generation X, Generation Y, popular culture, ethnocentrism, pushing buttons, curmudgeons, millennials

    Some efficient ways to gain insight into a group of human beings (say, a "generation"):

    • Engage in dialogue with some of its members.
    • Undertake participant-observation in the group.
    • Study what has already been written or said about the group.
    • Attempt to "walk a mile in their shoes."
    • Do open-ended interviews with members of other groups who may interact with members of that group.
    • Do surveys with a representative sample from that group and from other groups about the target group’s behaviour and perception by both insiders and outsiders.

    Some inefficient ways to gain insight into a group of human beings (say, a "generation"):

    • Use some arbitrary set of criteria (say, birth year, skin colour, or haircut), lump together people who may not share a common identity and make generalizing statements about them.
    • Openly target individual members of the group for ridicule.
    • Position yourself as a member of a better group (the judgemental side of ethnocentrism).
    • Use as many negative epithets as possible while describing members of that group.
    • Use references from your group’s "popular culture" to provide supporting evidence about your group’s superiority.
    • Call for a war against that group.

– post by enkerli

Reading BW on Touch Devices and Location-Based

Again, on the "Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers" iFund. This time, active reading of the BusinessWeek article.

  • Altogether somewhat disappointing.

    tags: iPhone, iPod touch, iPhone SDK, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, venture capitalism, investments, software development, Touch devices, Apple, location-based, proximity, home-automation, iFund

    • location-based services may be "the biggest breakout opportunity."
      • We "all know" that location-based is the "Next Big Thing." I just wish there were more creative thinking involved. – post by enkerli
    • home automation application
      • The rest of the article is focused on Pelago and on location-based. Home automation is another "Next Big Thing" which has trouble taking off (apart from a few, specialized usages and camera surveillance). Again, don’t you wish we all went beyond the categories and into something radically new? – post by enkerli
    • Individual User Tracking
      • Ugh! Individualization: yes. Tracking? Not just a privacy issue!! – post by enkerli
    • To make money, Pelago hopes to
      • While it makes a lot of sense in terms of convincing VC, grand "monetization" plans are often where a good service loses opportunities. – post by enkerli
    • clean bathrooms
      • Actually, despite the disgust talking about this may provoke in some circles, this is an important and untapped need. – post by enkerli
    • If Apple CEO Steve Jobs is as impressed as Murphy
      • Sounds unlikely. – post by enkerli
    • feature Whrrl in his June 9 keynote
      • This one is pretty much a given. – post by enkerli
    • Pelago preloaded on the new iPhone
      • Somewhat unlikely. Apple and preloading third-party apps… They have thousands of other developers to take care of. And it doesn’t sound like preloading would be in Apple’s advantage. Besides, the AppStore should make it convenient enough for people to load new apps at any point, it sounds like a better idea to let Pelago enter the "level playing field." OTOH, Apple could introduce similar features, which they’re wont to do. I kind of like the zoo/museum/restaurant ideas. More creative/innovative than Pelago’s, IMHO. – post by enkerli

Funded Development for Touch Devices

It’s quite possible that these two projects are more radically innovative than they sound at first blush but they do relate to well-known concepts. I personally have high hopes for location-based services but I wish these services were taken in new directions.

Swiss Made Smiling

Swiss Smile

Viral marketing at its best.

The video works well at exactly the task it was set up to accomplish.

The song is my new theme song. Downloaded the sound file and would play it in a loop if I had a portable media player.

I love the mission, the concept, the song, the video, the logo, the lyrics, the people, the humour.

The only problem I have is that the t-shirt is too expensive for me and I would really love to wear it and make the whole thing even more viral.

To be perfectly honest, the video moved me. It filled exactly the spot it had to fill.

Random acts of kindness.

Technology Adoption and Active Reading

Giving Diigo a fair shake. Turns out, it might be cool for active reading. I still have issues with it (comments are private by default and they don’t disappear on pressing "enter"), but the main usage pattern seems to make sense.
So… Actively reading this Dare Obasanjo blogpost about technology adoption. Found the link thanks to @audio on Twitter.
All of it is very "knee-jerky" («réactions à chaud»), on my part. I like that. More RERO. And more efficient, I think.

BTW, a major point developers should understand: users should be allowed to be lazy, sloppy, careless, and thoughtless. Can’t remember the term but Blacktree’s QuickSilver had a whole explanation about "not thinking." I think enough already that I don’t want to think about my use of tools while I’m using these tools. A good example of where a problem may appear: forcing users to add tags or forcing them to edit a preview version of their comments. I see why it would make sense to "incite" people to do this. But there’s a context for everything and forcing users one way or another is very patronizing.

  • tags: technology adoption

    • Pragmatists might be willing to use new technology, if it’s the only way to get their problem solved.
      • I try to adopt this strategy. – post by enkerli
    • Early Adopters are risk takers who actually like to try new things.
      • Of course, they’re the most vocal. Especially online. And the most fickle. – post by enkerli
    • Laggards pride themselves on the fact that they are the last to try anything new.
      • I do that a lot. The Swiss or Amish version of the "wait-and-see approach." Works really well with updates. – post by enkerli
    • they listened too intently to their initial customer base
      • This seems to be well-understood, now. Of course, it appears to be the focus of this post, but it’s probably not the most interesting point. – post by enkerli
    • heralded as the next big thing by technology pundits which actually never broke into the  mainstream because they don’t solve the problems of regular Internet users
      • Again, well-known. But good to keep in mind. – post by enkerli
    • aren’t many people who need a specialized feature set around searching blogs
      • And specialized searches have two unwanted side-effects: separate blogging from the mainstream and emphasize the echo-chamber effect. (This was well-discussed on TWiT, at the time.) – post by enkerli
    • Social bookmarking:
      • My sense is that it can still take off because the best solution hasn’t come up yet. Diigo (!) appears to be a good start. But there’s a lot which could be done to improve it. For instance, send pings or trackbacks when users comment on a blogpost. Importing RSS feeds from other bookmarking services should be (IMVHO) Diigo’s #1 priority. Making commenting more seamless with less button clicking would make the Diigo experience more bearable. Better auto-tagging and more obvious batch-tagging would also help. Some support for a kind of ubiquitous link clipboard would make it easy for both bloggers and "normal readers." Merging comment-tracking (à la cocomment) with Diigo’s approach to "highlight and comment" could really make sense. All in all, social bookmarking could be much bigger than it is but people do rely on it remaining geeky. I want it to be workflow. This is not a niche approach to social bookmarking. Even people who are relatively passive as readers (i.e., the statistical mainstream) would use social bookmarking if it’s really seamless. – post by enkerli
    • key technology which powers a number of interesting functionality behind the scenes (e.g. podcasting)
      • Excellent point. Podcatchers have it right, in terms of RSS. I sometimes wish RSS readers would be more like podcatchers and/or podcatchers could integrate more content types. Although… One reason podcatchers work for me is that I eventually found the right number of podcasts to subscribe to. I haven’t been able to do this with blogs and other non-podcast RSS feeds. – post by enkerli
    • RSS reader has not become a mainstream activity of Web users
      • Yup! I don’t use them. – post by enkerli
    • read so many blogs and news sites
      • Information overload (IO) in general is a big issue. Yahoo! Pipes could help, but I haven’t really been attracted to it enough to go on its learning curve (despite @ericbaillargeon talking about it so much). Some new RSS readers take a more radical approach to reducing IO, but they still don’t seem to work so well. I guess what I need is an adaptive RSS reader which will help me be more selective in the number of things I read. The reverse of StumbleUpon, in a way, though SU could probably help. Put simply, I want an RSS reader which "knows" me and which can help me decide what I want to do with a given piece of text: put on my "to read" list? Send to someone who might care? Keep on the backburner as a potentially interesting idea? Read actively? Blog about? Respond to? Send to my handheld for reading or listening while I do something else? Add to a "pile" with auto-indexing so the next time I want some info about this, the full text of the original will come up? – post by enkerli
    • How many people who aren’t enthusiastic early adopters (i) have this problem and (ii) think they need a tool to deal with it?
      • Well… I do have this problem and I do think I need a tool to deal with this. But RSS Readers don’t work, for my needs. My interests are too disparate, my attention to the blogosphere is too occasional… This is actually one context in which Twitter is helping me focus. – post by enkerli
    • harness the natural need of young people to express their individuality yet be part of social cliques
      • I don’t really like the wording (too fake-science-y) but I agree with the principle. We can probably now go into the "listening to what users need" tirade but I would prefer it if it were more ethnographic/insightful in terms of the relationship between technology adoption and innovation (invention+adoption=innovation), in social terms. It’s not a "natural need" for "young people." It’s "a common practise in a significant portions of different populations." – post by enkerli
    • flexible options
      • YES! Options, not features! – post by enkerli
    • solve problems that everyone [or at least a large section of the populace] has
      • Too bad it’s such an absolute/quantitative statement. Sure, adoption numbers matter, in meetings with investors. But what’s more important in terms of the adoption timeline may be based on the network effect and on the social butterfly effect. The same tool can be used differently by different people (unintended uses are the killer app?) if they already adopt that tool for some other reason. If it’s out of peer-pressure or just because of the invisible influence of an acquaintance, it still matters a lot in terms of making the thing "viral." We’re talking about networks, here, not a standardized population. – post by enkerli
    • Everybody wants to get laid
      • Cheap and misleading. – post by enkerli
    • are we building a product for Robert Scoble?"
      • Not a bad point and somewhat funny given the whole "make Robert Scoble cry" jokes of a few months ago. But, at the same time, Scoble is fairly good at being a cog in the wheel. People think of him as a direct influence on his "followers" (not just on Twitter). What seems to be more important, from his work, is that he has been able to get some people to think differently about some tools and companies. He’s definitely not like a journalist but it’s not accurate to think of him as the central point of a pack of geeky early adopters who would adopt those tools anyway. He’s someone who says a lot of things and some of them "don’t fall on dead ears" (is that the expression in English?). The reason he influences people, very often, is because there’s a fit between what he says and what people are open to hear. Not that he "says what people want to hear." But he says things which find a fertile ground, partly because those who first hear them run with it. Much of this about Scoble is "old." I get the perception that, at this point, he’s mostly getting "followers" who are following him because of his notoriety. Especially marketers and social capitalists. Problem with this is that these people don’t necessarily listen so much. They don’t really adopt. They sell. – post by enkerli

Nailed It! Keyboard-Less OLPC XO (Update)

It’s a strange feeling that I get fairly frequently. I dream up some tech “thing” (hardward device, software tool, service) and it’s unveiled shortly thereafter. At the risk of sounding boastful, it feels as if I have my pulse on the “industry.”

Of course, there are other explanations. One is that I dream up so many things that some of them are bound to come through at some point. Another is that I may have internalized some information about those products ready to be unveiled from some source and that I forget that I got this information. Or maybe what I’m dreaming up is so obvious that just everybody predicted it.

Still, it’s a strange feeling. I feel prescient.

Latest case in point, the OLPC’s XOXO (XO-2), will be keyboard-less, just as I dreamt about on another blog and just as I described here, yesterday. As could be expected, some people are already expressing negative opinions about the keyboard-less design. Maybe they’re just surprised. But I can’t help but think that designing the device without a hardware keyboard is an important step toward radically creative thinking. Several aspects of the XO-1 were very innovative and could be described as “creative solutions to important problems.” But the shift to a keyboard-free device is closer to “creating a new device category.” Of course I’m biased but I do think this new device category can have game-changing implications. The fact that the device is much smaller and more specifically designed as an eBook also goes with this “new device category” idea. At the risk of belabouring the point, the XOXO is almost exactly what I had in mind last night as “handheld for the rest of us.”

I’m also glad that this radical shift in design explicitly relates to cultural awareness. What I mean is, the OLPC team is actually saying that the double-screen will be used for diverse (on-screen) “keyboards.” If I hadn’t thought of the same thing myself, I would call it “genius!” 🙂

Now, to go back to the notion of feeling eerily prescient. I can wash the feeling away by myself. I’ve written a number of things about possible features for the OLPC or other devices and the lack of keyboard seems to be the only one which stuck. In fact, although I did think about a Nintendo-like dual-screen system at several points, I didn’t write it down as a prediction or even a part of my wishlist.

Keyboard-less devices are rather common, these days. Apart from the Nintendo DS and DS Lite that people are using as a point of comparison for the XOXO, there are several (multi-)touch based devices out there which may have served as inspiration for both the OLPC redesign and my own dream. In fact, some rumours seem to indicate that Apple might release a dual-screen portable at some point, maybe with double-sided panels. I, for one, would say that such a design would make the long-rumoured Apple tablet much more practical. In other words: I wasn’t prescient, in the OLPC case, I just dreamt up what was the most logical next step.

Also, it’s possible that I read or heard something which made me think specifically of a keyboard-less OLPC. I kind of doubt it and I don’t really want to look for such an occurrence, but now that I know that it was already planned, I admit that I may have seen some mention of the keyboard-less design.

[Edit, May 21, 1:20 a.m.: Apparently, the International Herald Tribune had already published a preview of the device by Friday, May 16. I’m pretty sure I had seen nothing of that IHT preview and I really don’t think I was able to see any description of a dual-screen XO by the time I posted my blog entry and other comments about a keyboard-less XO. But the fact that it was, somehow, in the open makes me more suspicious of my own intuitions.]


OLPC Linkfest

I’m still giving a try, so this is partly an excuse to try out the “send to blog” feature.
These are selected links to blogposts and articles about issues related to the One Laptop Per Child project, with my embedded annotations.