iPads on Discovery

This is a single screen cap of the two pilots from Discovery (the vessel at the centre of the story in 2001: A Space Odyssey (and which returns in 2010: The Year We Make Contact).

2001: A Space Odyssey

This resonates with me because this is how I see a lot of people consuming their media in the future. Using iPad-like devices (from multiple manufacturers perhaps), they’ll consume news from multiple sources, read the commentary from whatever replaces Twitter and share the content they like.

You can see this video sequence below.

(I’m attempting some embedding of media using a Degradable HTML5 WordPress plugin. This should play H.264 on browsers capable of it but will force legacy browsers to use Flash.)

iPad Adventures in TwitterLand

On the iPhone, I use two Twitter clients. For my main Twitter account, I use Tweetie 2 and for some of the minor accounts I use EchoFon. I use EchoFon because it has Push Notifications and the accounts in that client receive messages infrequently. Tweetie 2 won me over with it’s excellent support for geo-tagging Tweets. I geo-tag everything I can. Between the two of these clients, I’m pretty comfortable.

I foresee difficulties ahead as Tweetie has been purchased by Twitter and it’s usual that official clients compromise so much that they permit others to overtake them.

On iPad, it’s somewhat different. There is no clear winner for me for a native Twitter client, and I’ll tell you why.

Twittelator is nice.

Twittelator 1  Twittelator 2

I love the floating palettes. I like the animation. I hate the big stupid envelope and I dislike the limitations around the main timeline view. And my dislike gets worse when I consider the portrait view. It’s just a jumble. But my biggest issue is in the UI for creating a Tweet. It seems I have to go to the Drafts tab and hit a + sign. Then a tiny little field entry seems to bubble up from the keyboard. I just think it’s a bad user experience.

Twittelator 3

Tweeterena 2 I don’t like.

I do not like Tweeterena. It’s simply boring. I don’t like the way it wastes the space available and the design just rotates without showing anything cool between landscape and portrait. It’s just snoozeville.

Tweeterena 2  Tweeterena 2

I’ve never liked TweetDeck.

I just don’t like the way it lays stuff out. Whether that’s on Mac, on iPhone or, seemingly, the iPad. I just don’t like it.

TweetDeck

Twitteriffic works. But meh.

There’s nothing wrong with it and the UI is nicer than Tweeterena but really, is that the best they could come up with? It’s a complete waste of the space making it an upsized version of the iPhone client.

Twitterrific  Twitterrific

It stings therefore that the IconFactory declare that the iPad made them rethink software because it’s really the second most boring Twitter client. But one thing it has over the rest of them – it’s reliable. Never once failed to refresh.

But what pisses me off is the fact that to get rid of the ads in the ‘ad supported’ version, I have to perform an in-app purchase. In-app purchase on iPad is currently only available to folk with a US iTunes account. And there is no standalone Premium version that I can buy. And I really don’t like ads. So you’ve shot yourself in the foot there, guys.

Twitepad has a lot of potential but it needs work.

The layout I love but the bits and pieces I dislike. I love the built-in browser pane, I love the buttons and the wee pop-up where you enter a tweet. I like these things. I like the Conversation support (a chain link in the tweet).

TwitePad
TwitePad

Things I don’t like. There’s no Location bar. Just a search bar. That’s annoying. It should at least work like the Chrome dual function location/search bar. Or rather – it does work a bit like that – but it’s not done nicely. The domains resolve but there’s a weird disconnect in the UI. Changing the default home page from the annoying InfoXenter page is not done in the Settings app, but is done when you click the + sign, which is conventionally used to add bookmarks. So it was hidden when I looked because I didn’t want to add a bookmark! I don’t know what the Down arrow does at the bottom of the browser screen because all it seems to do is change to an up arrow when I tap it. I don’t like the placement of the tabs along the side – being in the middle of the screen feels wrong and I think it’s because they’re in the wrong order. And last, but not least, it doesn’t always load my timeline when I switch to it and getting it to refresh at all is a challenge which makes me think they’re routing it through their own server or something? No other client has this issue but @Twitepad thinks it’s a Twitter issue. Not helping, guys. That said, having an active Twitter account is something to be commended because they tell me they’ve an update in the works and a few bugs will be ironed out.

TwitePad

So it seems like there’s heaps I don’t like about TwitePad but to be honest, I think it has the most potential of current iPad Twitter clients.

iPad

The iPad arrived on Friday afternoon and I’ve been sharing it with Arlene over the last day or so. Needless to say we both love it.

iBooks is a lovely product. But I’ve not used it in anger and there’s some UI in Stanza for iPhone which is, to be honest, much more friendly. What does it say that Stanza for iPhone is still a damned good eBook reader on iPad.

Twitter clients on iPad are a mixed bag so far. They range from poor to bad. Some of them have decent UIs in landscape but they totally break in portrait mode. At the moment I’m putting TwitePad through it’s paces.

Some apps are amazing however.

iSSH – so much more usable on an iPad and I loved it on iPhone. This version also includes an X11 and VNC server as well. Using ‘screen -DRRS iphone’ as the launch command creates a screen instance called ‘iphone’ and it means that even if I lose the connection due to bad coverage, I don’t lose the session and I can reconnect to it when coverage returns. I got this hint from Jared.

Articles for iPad – this is simply a Wikipedia browser but it’s also the nicest Wikipedia browser I have ever seen. It’s really simple, it looks scads better than the Wikipedia web site (which is the point, no?). And it’s Wikipedia – it’s full of mostly accurate information on loads of subjects – providing hours and hours of reading for someone like me.

The Elements – This is for science geeks and, to be honest, any other sort of geek. It rekindles all of the love I had for science, just like Pocket Universe. Here’s to more great science apps.

CastleCraft – I’ve not yet played this game because Izaak has dominated it. It’s a very pretty RTS which is apparently massively multiplayer, not that I know anything about that. But I am impressed that he got into so quickly, so easily. It’s not perfect – but it’s very very good.

Email is fun, the browser is really slick, battery life is amazing, and while we’ve really enjoyed typing on the screen (the gestures add a lot) it paired flawlessly with a foldaway Freedom Universal Keyboard that we had sitting in the office doing nothing which adds additional possibilities for the road warrior. The Freedom is a very compact addition and provides a solid typing experience.

2zu

Arlene has spent most of her time on Youtube (the web interface not the app) and it’s been seamless. The first thing she did was Twitpic one of the makeup videos playing on iPad. I think there may have been some blue boxes on some web sites but to be honest I’ve not really noticed them. Maybe on the BBC site. Which is doubly depressing as the BBC should be leading the charge for standards support.

I intend to use the iPad for work for a couple of days to see how it fares. I want something small and light and it will give me an excuse to not carry my laptop and a bag of crap as usual. I do have some concerns regarding work – server access and all that – but it’s something I can work on and I’ll have workarounds should I need them.

Vote for Transformational Change

My Dad is a lifelong Tory. Almost institutionalised. So he is looking forward to this election. It’ll bring change.

David Cameron said:

In Northern Ireland it is quite clear – and almost every party accepts this –that the size of the state has got too big,” Cameron said.

“We need a bigger private sector. There are other parts of the country, including in the north-east. The aim has got to be to get the private sector, to get the commercial sector going.

“Over the next parliament we have got to see a faster growing private sector, we’ve got to broaden our economic base and we need to have a rebalancing of the economy between the commercial and private sector on the one hand and between the state sector on the other.”

The thing is, this is common sense. This is not Conservative policy, this is plain economic policy and should be supported by every party. They may not due to losing potential votes – but this will need to happen anyway.

We do need a bigger private sector. And this will mean massive cuts in the private public [Thanks, Andy – M] sector but this is not a bad thing if it spurs more private sector. And we can’t always look to the government to provide jobs, we need to be part of that change.

I have ideas on how to do this. But it requires sweeping, transformational change in the way we educate, the way we support innovation and the way we legislate for business. These things need to be in place before the cuts and ready to receive the newly unemployed once the cuts hit.

Sweat

In humans, sweating is primarily a means of thermoregulation. Hence, in hot weather, or when the individual’s muscles heat up due to exertion, more sweat is produced. Sweating is increased by nervousness and nausea and decreased by cold.Perspiration, Wikipedia.

Ignoring the weather, sweat is produced by exertion, nervousness and nausea.

And this helps me define sweat equity – because if you’ve been involved in the start of a business and you have not experienced exertion, nervousness and nausea, then you do not deserve equity.

In startup culture, sweat equity is often a vital component especially in economies which have low seed funding. Giving co-founders and early employees a stake in your business (often as a way of making up for below market wages or even just not paying at all) is something that should encouraged for startups without seed capital but it has to be done carefully.

When bringing someone into the company you have to examine not only their ability but their commitment and their intentions. Investigating these factors requires a lot more than technical or purely project management skills, it’s about relating as a friend but at the same time attempting to be objective. After all, as a company director you are bound by law to look after the interests of the company as if it were a child; which in many ways, it is.

My first experience with sweat equity was also my first complete failure to deal with the ramifications. This was my publishing company. Though there was a handful of us, the sweat was all mine. While minor contributions came from others, the vast majority of the work fell on my shoulders and that was in being creative, being an administrator and also, holding down a job to allow others the free time to do their small bits. We used sweat equity because what we were doing was a lot of fun; it wasn’t work in the traditional sense. End result: we didn’t lose money but we didn’t make a whole lot. It was a game, a way of making sure we had somewhere to stow our bags when we went to games conventions rather than something we treated as a business.

My second experience was in my first proper IT company. I gave everyone equal votes in the company despite the drive to succeed being mine, the initial capital being mine and the risk being all mine. And again I failed to manage the experience; my idealism left me woefully unprepared for the concept that some people think that an equal vote means they get to do what they want. Some people don’t understand democracy, I get that now. And I would hope that I have learned something. I did learn that if you start something, don’t give it away unless you get equal commitment from others. I’ve still not made back the money I invested but it’s working, it’s profitable. And it’s a legacy.

My third was in my software company. I started this with my best friend and I believe it is to his credit that we are still on good terms. He pushed himself to create two fantastic products sacrificing sleep and family time and both times we failed to make a dent in the universe. Something that I feel very personally responsible for. Time moved on and now neither of us are part of that company and to be honest I’m glad. It was tricky letting go but it was for the best – you have to trust your co-workers implicitly and after my friend left, I found I could not trust his replacements to the same degree.

My fourth is a public service value project that I feel strongly about. The aim is to create a range of projects which people can place sweat into and the whole of society benefits. There is an opportunity for the individuals and their companies to benefit financially but for the most part, this is about social conscience.

OpenTranslink takes the data from Translink, turns it into something usable, and gives it away. the opportunity for individual companies is to make something compelling from that base, open, free platform. Whether that is a better timetable app, a tour of the tourist sites, or mashups with other services around the city.

OpenLiveNet, which I started earlier today, is an attempt to provide some assistance to the LiveNet project which is being pioneered by Mencap. They need techies, designers and people who think outside the box. And at this point it’s all just sweat. The equity comes into play once something is discovered. They might get paid to produce something or they may see the opportunity to produce something with wider appeal.

My fifth is a new games company. I love the concept of videogames because in the modern day they encompass every discipline from music to animation to documentary film-making, programming and design, user interface experimentation and marketing: everything is needed to make something amazing. I am pretty much alone in this at the moment but I’m hoping that will change – it’s just hard to find people willing to put sweat in. It may because the risk is so high, it may be because making games is hard work. And it may be because we don’t have enough people.

But this isn’t the same the world over. The recent iPadDevCamp had groups of developers and designers working together to create new innovative products. My friend, now in Canada, has inspired a small group of developers to work with him on his next idea, interestingly enough, a game. I can’t wait to play it.

Sweat is always going to be balanced by risk. It’s easier to find someone to give you an opinion or talk about an idea than it is for them to do something more. A few years ago my postman stopped my on the street and asked me if I could look at his computer for free – he had discovered that I was a some sort of computer geek according to the magazine subscriptions I maintained. I was at a loss: this was my livelihood. Would it be appropriate to ask him to deliver some parcels for free?

As soon as you encroach on someone’s day job, then you’re into sweat equity in a big way as most people do not like their work. they may be good at it but the last thing they want to do on an evening is spend even more time doing stuff that they are forced to do on a daily basis.

But what about the rewards. Only the founders of a company can put a value on sweat and it’s important they place that value correctly not only for their own benefit but for the benefit of those early stage employees as well as the retention of enough equity to sate the initial (and later) investors.

And what if you want more than just a little bit of help – what if your needs are pretty much solid work for several months? Taking on a full time commitment is something that is hard for many to stomach. It’s going to either take a massive leap of faith, quick revenues or a sizeable seed investment to get developers to come on board to build your next wonder widget. And it’s harder here than in other regions because on average we are 20% poorer than the UK as a whole. We earn less, our cost of living is the same or higher: we are poorer than our peers. This means we tend not to have savings to fall back on because we simply cannot afford them. This limits our ability to add sweat.

But this does not mean that sweat equity does not exist here. When I see local companies like AirPOS, DataSentiment or Onotate, I am inspired. I know that these guys have worked through their exertion, nervousness and nausea. I know that their sweat was earned and not freely given or taken.

Are you FTW! or WTF?

Last Friday I was in the University of Ulster at Coleraine as a guest lecturer for the Interactive Media Arts and Media Studies and Production undegraduate students. The full Keynote presentation is attached. (380K)

The content is mostly around what Digital Circle has done, what it aims to do, the sort of activities we have to manage and some of our aspirations but that’s not all, it’s meant as a primer to the digital content industry for people new to the industry but could equally serve to educate folk unfamiliar with the territory.

In my opinion, this was the best slide in the slidepack, directed at the students themselves.

FTW or WTF

But the slidepack also includes a lot of comments from the local industry – workers and employers – and their best advice to undergraduates who may be joining the workforce in the coming weeks. I’d encourage you to read some of them.

(For folk who don’t have access to Keynote, I include a PDF version here (270K))

Blizzard just made $2M selling a pony

[I originally was going to post this at lategaming.com but it’s more about the economics of internet stuff rather than games related]

It’s a “sparkle pony” to be sure, but in the end it’s just a skin on their pony entity and some attributes. It is one of the few mounts which can work as a ground mount and a flying mount (and therein is the tactical advantage) but really it’s a picture of a sparkly pony.

From TerraNova:

In case anyone thought that virtual item sales weren’t a big deal in the traditional MMO world, this morning Blizzard announced the online sale of a new “celestial steed” for use in WoW. These mounts cost $25 (on top of the retail price plus $15 monthly subscription). So in a world of free games and virtual items selling for a dollar or two, how popular could a $25 sparkly flying pony be?

Well, the queue for their purchase was at least up to over 91,000 people waiting in the queue earlier today. When I took a screen shot, it had fallen to “only” about 85,000.

90,000 X $25 = $2,250,000.

In one day. From one item. In a game that isn’t free to play anyway.

Something tells me we really, really haven’t mapped the extent of the market for fast, frictionless sales of online goods — “objects” that have a low cost of creation and essentially no cost of duplication. Even 90,000+ times.

On the other hand, getting a picture of a sparkly pony from an artist on the Internets is probably going to run you $25 at least anyway and if this one gives you a tactical advantage in a game that you play a lot anyway then it seems like a bloody bargain (I don’t play WoW FTR).

The cost of duplication and use is something that is extremely important here. This is a sure-fire illustration of how the Internets can be used to make money but it’s giving a ‘bad’ message here in a market which is trending towards free (as Chris Anderson would put it). This is a one-off feature in a software environment that has a subscription model. Think how the record companies should be responding to this. Music has a much larger target market obviously and all of the musicians I know would be extremely happy to have 90,000 people queuing up to buy anything, even something priced at $1 (but imagine how happy they would be if it was $10).

It seems ironic that there is still a question over the AppStore with the prices trending towards $1 (if you include flash sales) and that is whether apps have been priced much too low. And I think that in many cases they have been. And we’re likely to see it repeated with the iPad.

But Blizzard is showing here that with a dedicated core of fans, you can make a lot of money in a day selling something that is entirely digital, limited in use, limited in lifespan and only works inside their environment.

Media: Access versus Desire

Dylan Collins highlighted this survey on Business Insider about the media habits of 8-18 year olds.

tv-still-rules

The survey states that linear broadcast television still rules in the average youngster’s media habits. I wonder how much of this is access and availability versus desire and intent.

In 2010, probably most 8-18 year olds have access to at least one television. A vast percentage (71%) will likely have a television in their room. The television will more than likely be ‘on’ but just as we adults are conversant with co-viewing (using a laptop or mobile phone while viewing television), it stands to reason that our kids are doing much the same. The slide on media multitasking illustrates to me that kids are doing other things while watching television.

There’s also a significant trend towards on-demand content whether that’s DVD, Time-shifted TV, online video or video on iPod or cellphone. So while the consumption of Live Tv has decreased, the consumption of produced television media has overall increased – just not through the television necessarily. And I believe this trend will accelerate. A later slide indicates that only in 4% of households is the television off every time there is no-one watching it. A whopping 45% claim the TV is on when no-one is watching.

The other thing I see as significant is that printed media shows a marked skew towards books and away from magazines and newspapers. I believe this is because books represent a much less ephemeral media segment whereas newspapers and magazines have been mostly cannibalised by the internet. For example, a car bomb in Holywood at midnight last night was reported on Twitter for a full hour before it hit the main news web sites, reported on radio and television soon after and it would be unlikely to hit many print news stands this morning.

This survey measured the habits of the young. I’d be interested in viewing the desires and intent of the young with regards to media consumption. Do they want more (and presumably better) TV? Would they be in favour of faster internet? Better coverage for mobile internet? How will their habits change over the next 5 years?

Believe in Yourself.

The ‘problem’ with God and miracles as I see it is that they devalue humanity.

In early times, man could not explain the coming of rain and winds, why lightning flashed from the sky and why some were struck down by disease and others were spared. These mysteries caused men to fear nature as they could not control or predict it. Some men of greater insight could recognise the coming of these events and once recognised they could be predicted. However these men were still bound by their fear of the unknown. They interpreted these signs as portents from unknown, supernatural agents and when they saw no signs, they would appeal to these agents, placating them with prayers, sacrifices and complex ritual. This practice of magic in its most primitive form as a component of hysterical superstition formed the basis of early religion, fashioned gods from the sun and the rain and through religion man began to construct his first, great civilisations.

Customs and rituals developed over time from priest-magicians, descendants of those men of wisdom, who were charged with placating and divining the future from the gods. But this was done only in ignorance. It was only done because we could not explain what we saw.

The truth is, humans survived for hundreds of thousands of years due to adaptability and intelligence.

The trend with modern religion (and for the most part I mean Christianity here) is that it fosters dependence on a supernatural entity which has not provably done anything in 2000 years or so (if not more and if it happened at all).

Humans do not need to ascribe to the supernatural that which comes from their own wit, their own skill, their own temerity, their own will, their own desire. But thousands of them do. And they profess how it could not have happened without faith when, in every known case, it happened absolutely without faith.

Do not abdicate your victories to a myth. Do not give a fairy tale the credit for the success that you have worked so hard to achieve. Revel in your own ability, the strength in your arms, the beating of your heart, the ideas in your mind. These are yours.

This is why I do not describe myself as an atheist. I am only a humanist. Humans are brilliant. We don’t need to believe in a myth to get through the day. Belief in ourselves is more than sufficient.