Sunday, September 21, 2014

Apple Owns the News Cycle

The Apple event earlier in the month had the technology new cycle spinning concerning the new iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus (in addition to iOS 8). I am still on an iPhone 4s (and there are several articles that recommend not updating to iOS* 8**) so I won't be updated to iOS 8 on my phone as without the Touch ID I feel like the additions don't outweigh the potential downfalls for upgrading. I do hope to upgrade soon though for now my phone works perfectly. I did upgrade to iOS 8 on my iPad though, which went smoothly and I love the addition of extensions, which open a whole new world through app interactions. I have really been able to upgrade my workflow for managing news and information intake from the web (I'll probably post about that someday). 

Apple then grabbed the news cycle again with Apple building a new sub-section on their site devoted to user privacy and explaining how Apple protects all your data through encryption and how they don't mine your personal data for their own profit. I was excited to read this as I had hoped Apple would leverage focus on premium hardware rather than ads to focus on user privacy to help differentiate themselves from other vendors (see my earlier post here). Technology is increasingly becoming commodified and in order to compete companies to need differentiate their products.

*iOS 8 Comes out Today Don't Put it On Your iPhone 4s by Lily Hay Newman on Slate on 9/17/2014

**Whatever You Do Don't Put iOS 8 on Your 4s by Alexis Kleinman on the Huffington Post on 9/19/2014

I also wanted to mention that I've added a new section to the email resource guide to include popular plug-ins for Apple Mail (though I hope to include other plug-ins for other products shortly). 
  • Cargo Lifter (Apple Mail): Stop sending attachments via email. This plug-in automatically uploads documents to the cloud and then sends embeds a link to the document in the email. It works with Dropbox, Google Drive, You Send It and other services.
  • Mail Tags (Apple Mail): Adds tagging options to Apple Mail such as Gmail labels or finder tags.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thank you ComiXology!

On Thursday I receive an email from Comixology saying the following:
"Dear Comics Enthusiast,
You are receiving this email because we now offer DRM-free backups of one or more of the books you've purchased on comiXology. You can now download and store PDF or CBZ copies of those books..."
I have been a comics enthusiast for over a decade and have watched the digital comic movement grow into a vibrant delivery model that provides opportunities for both established and new comic publishers. Though in the last year I have become wary of the large digital comic book supplier (Comixology caring most of that mindshare) controlling access to comics I had purchased. Since they I have moved to buying non-DRM comics in either CBR or CBZ format and reading them through an open source reader (see Comicbook Lover). The news that Comixology now allows users to download an DRM-free back-up (for some titles) is great news, and got me excited about buying from Comixolgy again. Though only certain titles have DRM-free back-ups available this is a great step in the right direction, and I am happy that Comixology took this step.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Apple, Email, and the Amazon Phone

I was not overwhelmed by the Fire (i.e the Amazon phone) this past week. It shows Amazons continued fidelity to the model that has made the Kindle a success: devices that feed directly into the Amazon store. The phone service includes membership in Amazon Prime, and also has a feature called Firefly, which lets users take pictures of objects and add them to their Amazon shopping cart automatically. The phone is really an extension of the store that you happen to use to make phone calls. (There is also a feature called Dynamic Perspective that provides a 3D-like experience it seems for users through monitoring how you are looking at/holding the phone though I have never been a fan of 3D technology.)

Conversely, I found Apple's keynote at WWDC rather exciting as they announced the new version of Mac OS X, iOS, and also a new programming language. The new announcements for iCloud were particularly great as the service is growing in areas that provide real value to consumers. The ability for the service to be more file agnostic in terms of storage via iCloud Drive is fantastic, and a step in the right direction to compete with similar services via Dropbox and Google. The increased link between iPhone, iPad, and Mac (picking up phone calls via you Mac, Messages posted across all devices etc.) provides a strong service advantage over other providers. Apple's strength has always been integration between software and hardware so it is great to see the company play to its strengths.  I can't wait for the fall and the new version to be released.

Lastly, I have also added a few updates to the Email Resource Guide:

Articles About Email:
  • Thunderbird: A customizable free mail client from the same folks that brought us Firefox.
Email Add-on Services(s):
  • Signals: This service lets you know when know when you emails are open, and provides hooks into other services (Hubspot) for metrics, and CRM templates.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

iCloud: What I Would Change About the Service

Apple has built several different web services such as .Mac, Mobile Me, Ping (the music themed social network), and most recently iCloud. Many technology pundits have said that while Apple builds lovely hardware they don't have the best track record with web services. Sadly, as much as I love Apple products (as I have expressed in earlier posts) I tend to agree with general field. It is not that I dislike their services as much as I find their offerings lackluster and underwhelming. iCloud offers email, calendaring, contacts, to dos, and document syncing/storage for iWork documents. The problem with iCloud is the service provides no compelling reason to switch to iCloud over Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and other combined services platforms.

If Apple were to re-tool iCloud in a few ways they could have an amazing service that provides great value to their customers:

a) Email: The iCloud email service is workable and has no ads (unlike Yahoo and Gmail) though their is not compelling reason to switch away from your current email provider (particularly if you've been using that address for many years). Apple should allows users to set-up their domain name with iCloud email service at no cost, and hassle free.  While other services are available for hosting domain specific email many solutions are unwieldy for small businesses or independent professionals.

b) Document(s): iCloud allows for document syncing/storage for Pages, Numbers, and Keynote documents though the marketshare for those applications is small in comparison to other document formats.  As there are several alternatives for document storage like Google Drive, Dropbox without the application limits Apple could re-tool the service as flat cloud storage and also provide greater security than other services. Apple could provide full encryption for uploaded files, and for extra-points provide options for complete privacy where even Apple can't access the file contents. (This furthers Apple's stance as a strong advocate their user's privacy.*)

*For an amazing look at the security Apple has built into their iOS products I highly recommend episodes 446-448 of Security Now on the TWIT netcast network. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Everyone in an Uproar Over Apple Buying Beats Headphones

The internet has been rocketed by the news that Apple is in the process of purchasing Beat Headphones for a  $3.2 billion dollars for the past few days with a great deal of speculation on what the deal means for both Apple and Beats.

I am not an audiophile, and have never tried Beats headphones so I can't speak to their quality or value. Though clearly the brand has a strong following and they are primarily a hardware company (though my understanding is that Monster handled the actually production in the beginning), which is something the companies have in common. Beats also has a fledgling streaming service though not as popular as Spotify or Pandora and Apple has the iTunes Radio service, which while still a minor player in the streaming market is a strong contender. 

Most the uproar across the internet seems to be over the fact that Apple is buying a well-known company with a strong brand, which is something they traditionally haven't done. Regardless on how this turns out I think this definitely shows a change in Apples acquisition strategy going forward. Apple traditionally either rolls companies into the Apple mothership (e.g. La La) or keep them completely seperate (e.g. FileMaker) so it will be interesting to see how Apple handles the acquisition.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Google+ as Digital Hub

When the head of Google+, Vic Gundotra, decided to leave Google after 8 years the speculation surrounding Google+'s future began:  Google+ is Walking Dead, Minus Its Leader, What's Left at Google+, and Google+ Isn't Dead. Its Just in a Coma and on Life Support. Google's social offering is a beautifully designed social network with strong photo,video, and chat features plus a powerful audience system built around circles allowing users to selectively share across different groups. The company has also spent much energy embedding the Google+ service into other Google products making Google+ the defacto sign-in for Google services. However, as the NY Times reported earlier this year these efforts have not necessarily built a social network to rival Facebook. Though as that article mentions Google+'s value to Google is not as a social network (at-least not really).  The services real value to the company is a data river providing important social data across their different services.

The data that Google gathers through Google+ has unmeasurable value though Google doesn't need to manage a social network to maintain access to that data. Rather than creating their own platform Google could instead manage the pipes that bring the content to other services. Google could be the digital hub where users push their content (i.e. posts, videos, chats, etc.) out to other services, and networks. This builds on Googles strengths within Google Plus: photos, hangouts, and identify while maintaining access to the the social data they value to build out their services like search. Users benefit by being able to interact on their favorite social network (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and/or service where their communities reside. Social networks shift and change as users migrate and tastes changes. Through building the digital pipes that connects different services Google can cement their access to social data and provide users with a valuable service.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

More and More Email

As some folks may have gathered I can by fairly obsessive about email. I find it fascinating that while there are many alternatives email remains a mainstay for communication. As bandwidth has become cheaper and video technology developed there are many options for video conference, messaging, and photo sharing yet email is still popular.

Email is hardly a stagnant medium too as new companies develop new products built around email as a platform rather than a simple communication tool. For instance, last month the BostonInno profiled a new start-up called Pluto that was created by two law students at Harvard Law. The email service allows users to have greater control over their email through allowing senders to edit emails prior to them being read and recall them after they have been sent.

The cultural relevance of email can be explained by many factors: simplicity to understand, implementation, and ubiquity of service options. As email has embedded itself in the psyche of work culture I have created a special page on my site to collect information on email services, processes, and articles (including why not to use email). As email continues to evolve I hope to build out the page to include further resources and information, and can be useful to folks trying to figure out a use case for email (or why not to use email). If you'd like to suggest resources to include please comment below.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Death of the TV

From an article today on Recode by Dawn Chmielewski Millennials Spend More Time Watching TV on Other Devices:
"A new study from Deloitte finds that teens and young twentysomethings spend more time watching movies and television shows on their computers, smartphones and tablets than they do on their TV screens."
I am at the old end of the millennial generation and I find this to be true in my viewing habits. We have a great TV set though I often enjoying watching movies or TV on my tablet or computer. As the article also mentions this change will alter the landscape for TV consumption and also for TV tracking (i.e. Nielsens) to determine ratings. 

Secondly, the article also touches on additional screens:
"The Deloitte survey confirmed that most viewers split their attention between watching TV and glancing at another screen to browse the web, read email, send text messages or use a social network. Some 86 percent of U.S. consumers said they are multitaskers — though few are turning to their smartphones or tablets to get information related to the program they’re watching."
When I am watching shows or movies on TV I almost always have my laptop or tablet nearby to look-up actors on IMDB, search for something that I might see on the show or the show triggers me to look up. As more users adopt a second screen while consuming media content creators have an opportunity to leverage additional content toward that screen or build interactive elements into the content. Though they will need to have the vision to capitalize on the moment. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why I Choose Mac Over Windows PCs

Dave Sobotta wrote a great article on Readwrite  day before yesterday about leaving the Mac behind once he left Apple, and the article got me thinking about my progression from Windows to Mac and my subsequent loyalty to the platform. 

I have been a Mac user for a little over ten years now after spending many years using a Windows PC. This was when Apple was returning from the brink though before their renaissance spurred by the iPhone (and then the iPad). At that time Apple seemed like the Rebel Alliance fighting the Evil Empire, and I had this image that they were the plucky little company that could. (I realize this is ridiculous, I promise.) Since then I have continued using a Mac for my personal machine and have added an iPhone and an iPad to my device portfolio.

Since I switched from Windows to Mac Microsoft has gone through their own renaissance releasing Windows Vista, Windows 7, and most recently Windows 8 while re-launching their phone operating system as Windows Phone and moving into tablets (again) with the Microsoft Surface. I have used Windows at my office, and I have no major complaints using Windows 7 (save for the lack of the multiple desktops that Apple provides via Spaces). Though while I may not have many complaints with Windows I plan on being a Mac user far into the future for several reasons:

  1. Software & Hardware: Windows machines are often much cheaper than Macs, and part of the reason is that many machines come with trialware/junkware installed, and are built by OEMS. The trialware/junkware has been combated recently by Microsofts Windows Signature program though I still appreciate the simplicity in Apple providing applications coded in-house on their hardware. (Apple also offers a free word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program.)
  2. Ecosystem: Apple generally prices its machines higher than most Windows machines though backed into that price is the app and store ecosystem that enables Mac users to bring their device into an Applestore for technical support, and/or sync their information across multiple devices.
  3. Unix: Mac OS X is based on Unix, which I appreciate and enjoy. I don't often dig into the terminal application though I like know that I can if wanted to dig into the machine's systems.
  4.  Inertia: I have spent over 10 years accumulating 3rd-party software for Max OS X, and corresponding iOS applications. Returning to Windows would mean I would need to repurchase of find alternatives in the Windows install-base.
  5. Aesthetics: My main Mac is a 13'inch Macbook Pro that is frankly gorgeous. Other companies create similar looking machines though Apple often pushes physical design.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hitting "Pause" on your Inbox

I was going to write a post about the recent article from Techcrunch concerning the revamped "Inbox Pause" utility from Baydin, which allows users to "pause" their email delivery so they can interact with their inbox at their schedule. (The company behind the utility, Baydin, makes the plugin Boomerang, which runs for Gmail, and Outlook.)

Though today I ran across the article from Time magazine entitled 5 Email Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs from Martha C. White, which covers the destructive habits we build around email usage. Among the tips in the article the author mentions how important it is claim back your time from your inbox.

Newly Updated “Inbox Pause” Utility Lets You Check Email on Your Schedule, Not Theirs by Sarah Perez ( Published on: 06.06.2014 and Accessed on: 03.14.2014

5 Email Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs by Martha C. White ( Published on: 03.17.204 and Accessed on: 03.18.2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Incomplete Data Costs Money

All Things Considered from NPR ran a story yesterday by Laura Sullivan on how empty government buildings are costing the taxpayers money in upkeep and maintenance fees

According to the article:

"Government estimates suggest there may be 77,000 empty or underutilized buildings across the country. Taxpayers own them, and even vacant, they're expensive. The Office of Management and Budget says these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year."
Apparently the main database used to manage federal properties, the Federal Real Property profile, is incomplete and also inaccurate. Properties listed in great shape are actually crumbling, and are being utilized when empty. The head of the GSA is trying to help federal agencies leverage currently opened properties rather than leasing, and thus push for savings though the incomplete data hampers this effort.

Data maintenance/auditing is never easy and given the size and scope of the government's property database it is even harder in this particular case.

Governments Empty Buildings are Costing Taxpayers Billion by  ( Published on: 03.12.2014 and Accessed on: 03.14.2014

Friday, March 7, 2014

ReBump: A buoy in a crowded ocean of email

Last week Techcrunch ran an article about Rebump, which is an online service that integrates with Gmail and automatically resends (aka. rebumps) your email to someone if they haven't replied. The article in Techcrunch claims this is the worst aspect of email, and that you will be universally hated if you use the service. While I think using Rebump for every email would be a mistake I think saying that it could never be useful or you'd be hated if you used it is mistake.

Email is the universal medium though everyone interacts with their email with a specific process that matches their preferences, and needs. I have worked with folks who have 2 emails in their inbox and that makes them crazy and I have worked with folks who have over 1,000 emails in their inbox (That used to me be though no longer; though no judgement if that is your style.) The person who is agonizing over the 2 emails in their inbox won't benefit from Rebump though it could be valuable to the person who has over a 1,000. Depending on the intended recipient Rebump could be a valuable tool to help surface those important communications that you need to finish a project, move forward with a client etc.

Meet Rebump, The Worst Thing About Email by Alex Wilhelm ( Published on: 02.28.2014 and Accessed on: 03.07.2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Facebook in Space

Many have drawn comparison between the Facebook being in talks to buy Titan Aerospace and Google's Project Loon, which I think is fair comparison. I agree that if Facebook can provide cheap, free, internet to areas currently being underserved then that opens Facebook to new markets. Much like Google, Facebook makes money when more people use the internet.

Facebook Looking Into Buying Drone Maker Titan Aerospace by Sarah Perez ( Published on: 03.03.2014 and Accessed on: 03.05.2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Future of the Tablet Device

I recently came across the an article on about how the tablet vertical is in a slow death spiral ( written by Zal Bilimoria. I thought it was a great article and largely agree with his conclusions. In particular, it highlights how human information culture changes as technology changes. 

Mr. Bilimoria was head of mobile at Netflix during the tablet mania post-iPad launch and writes about how tablets were gobbling up browser share among Netflix 's customers.  In response the mobile team built out the tablet app separately from the smart phone app and designed it specifically for the tablet experience. Initially, the app was a hit, and it won awards due to great user experience. However, after awhile tablet usage dropped off and phones began to see greater browser share, which caused the mobile team to merge the tablet app back into the phone app once again creating a single user experience. 

He cites two main reasons for the growth in phone usage and subsequent decline in tablets: mobility and connectivity.  Mobility being that tablets are awkwardly sized to be that " take anywhere device" nor can they replace a desktop computer and connectivity in that only a small percentage of tablets have celluar connectivity so tablets often rely on wifi, which allies them more often with traditional computing devices. He thinks that the tablet market will eventually morph into single purpose devices like household appliances or that the same consumer energy would direct companies to produce larger phones (i.e. Phablets), and tablets as we know them today will occupy a niche market.

I agree with Mr. Bilimoria and would not call tablets a separate vertical as they couldn't replace a traditional desktop (or notebook). I would say they are an excellent secondary device. I often have my tablet sitting next to me as I work on my laptop, and I use it to play my music or chat via Google Hangout/FaceTime.  I essentially use my tablet as a "notebook-light"; I use it to consume media through for work or other serious projects I return to my notebook. If tablets do become a niche market as  Mr. Billmoria suggests I would suspect it would be in the medical field, retail sector etc where mobility is often a factor.

It will be curious to see if the larger tablets are overtaken by larger phones as the portability mentioned earlier could then become an issue due to device size.  I have seen many larger phones and personally the size seems awkward to me (though in fairness I haven't ever owned one to see how it fit into my life). 

Our Love Affair with the Tablet is Over by Zal Bilimoria ( Published on: 02.06.2014 and Accessed on: 02.25.2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

23 Mobile Things: Week 8: Calendar

Corporate libraries and information centers live on shared calendars and scheduling. For arranging meetings with stakeholders and users a shared calendar environment brings many benefits like being able to see attendees calenders and submit time changes if other meetings go long, attendees get over-scheduled etc. The system is also accessible both via the desktop and mobile devices so workers have access to the calendar on the go and in the office.

At a library level a shared calender can also allow for valuable branding and outreach. Training classe, research sessions, and project break-outs can be built into the library calendar so project managers and team principles know when information professionals are available for consults. The library can also use the calendar as way to leverage a valuable though often overlooked asset: meeting space. Conference rooms can be prime territory and the library can leverage their space for collaboration sessions, and other meetings.