Monday, 30 March 2009

The Long Promise of the Mobile Web

I distinctly remember back in 1999, working for one of the first User Experience firms, when I first saw an internet-based service on a mobile phone.

Then, diversity meant some devices had 7 lines of text other had 3.

A few months later, I moved onto a new gig where I was designing location-specific websites to be delivered to laptops and very-alpha Linux-based tablet PCs with stylus-input.

Today, there are an ever increasing menagerie of mobile devices1 accessing HTTP-based services. The differences in their interaction models, primary usage contexts, and device capabilities make the IE vs. Firefox vs. Safari design challenges look like bad case of hiccups.

The design goal can no longer be one of consistency in visual design, but consistency of brand experience across multiple contexts and appropriateness of any specific interaction within a given context.

That’s the promise the mobile web made me a decade ago.

Justin Grammens and I cover this and many other mobile computing topics in our recent podcast [mp3]

1. G1, iPhone, Kindle, Chumbly, Palm, etc. I’ll even include Twitter in this list of devices applications should be designed for.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

First Crack 119. Justin Grammens on Mobile VOIP

I have a hypothesis that mobile VOIP over WiFi will replace mobile carriers for the majority of phone conversations within 5 years. For a reality check, I called up Justin Grammens of Localtone Interactive and Mobile Twin Cities.

From the picture he paints, I think we’ll see this well within 5 years. Maybe 2.

I also share with you my strategy for developing in this new mobile, web-based application world.

[51 min].

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pragmatic Programmers eBooks now in Kindle Format

I’m a big fan of buying Pragmatic Programmers books with their the accompanying PDF. Yesterday, I popped over to their site to check for updates and noticed they’ve added .epub and .mobi (Kindle) to their electronic publication format options.

Such a huge win, thanks to everyone at Prag Prog that made this possible.

Now, perhaps I can suggest including a hyperlink in the ebooks for auto-updating. Thanks 🙂

Monday, 23 March 2009

Glad I’m Not the Only One Parallel Reading

“I got a Kindle just over a week ago. It has changed the way I think about reading. I have a couple dozen books on it and I go back and forth between them in a way that I have never done with books. I am in the process of reading about six books in parallel and I love the way the Kindle allows me to read what I am in the mood for at that moment in time.” – Fred Wilson

Fred’s experience accurately describes my Kindle relationship as well. This is why I’m convinced the Kindle has more in common with television than physical books or other mobile devices. The biggest problem I see w/ the Kindle is that there’s only one significant ‘broadcaster’. 🙂

Sunday, 22 March 2009


This weekend I made some significant head way on one of my key 2009 projects:

Right now, Kernest is also the most likely candidate for my 5 minute Ignite Mpls presentation.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

What the Hell Happened?

I’m confident the past couple years will be discussed and dissected by economics students for decades to come.

Here’s just two graphs visualizing the monetary movement that have made my jaw drop:

In both of them, there’s little to no movement for 5 years. Then…WHAM!

It doesn’t really matter what these graphs measuring – the shock is obvious.

jth’s Fed’s borrowing from May 2008:

Kedrosky’s 30-day commerical paper rates:

If this continues to fall, returning to 2006 rates in the next quarter or so, there will be as much discussion on the quickness of the recovery as there will be on the suddenness of shock itself.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Blame the Entertainer?

I was baffled by uproar from the Stewart v. Cramer bit a few days ago. I got the sense that I misunderstood what Cramer did on his show (attempt to time the stock market). Stewart made it seem like Cramer was driving the ambulance, rather than simply chasing it.

Then I remembered that Stewart’s show “followed sock puppets making prank calls” and Stewart’s show, Cramer’s show, like online dating is a great percentage of pure, value-free, entertainment.

Why CNBC should inherently be considered any more or less credible than Comedy Central is really the pre-requisite question to ask.

“If you want a television host, or network, to blame all of our troubles on, you’d do better to cast your ire on Home and Garden Television, and Flip This House. They’re the ones who told Americans, over and over and over and over, that it was possible to get rich by installing granite countertops.” – Megan Ardle

Kindle 2 as a New Electronic Medium

I do an awful lot of reading that isn’t on “books”[1] and Amazon Kindle has quickly become where I send PDFs by default – just like audio and video files get sent to iTunes by default.

And, after a couple weeks with the Kindle, I’m confident it is a new medium requiring a new interaction model [2]. An easy measure of this – I’m dusting off my Marshall McLuhan collection.

On McLuhan’s Hot & Cool Media spectrum, the Kindle 2 is cool (biasing maximum participation) where the iPhone is hot (biasing minimal participation). Meaning the Kindle makes it easy to get swallowed up for hours where as the iPhone is better for short engagements [3]. This is why Amazon’s Kindle iPhone App is only a win for selling more Kindle-formatted books – the iPhone’s brightness and glare makes it a horrid reading device.

Jakob Nielsen just published his thoughts on the Kindle.

I agree with two of his points:

“UI is not up to managing the realistic-sized book collection” – Jakob Neilsen

My Kindle currently contains 75 titles. That’s 60 more than the interface would prefer [4]. The page-based title management interface is clumsier than the iPhone’s page-based app navigation – simply because the Kindle doesn’t allow arbitrary grouping or support scrolling, so there’s no way to arbitrarily organize your electronic publications for easier navigation.

“For good Kindle usability, you have to design for the Kindle.” – Jakob Neilsen

Yes, as I mentioned up top, the Kindle is a unique device with a unique interaction model – for publications to communicate effectively within the Kindle – they should be designed for it. Until publications are designed for the Kindle, the best experience will be reading publications that are not typographically significant, e.g. straight paragraphs of text.

I disagree with Neilsen’s argument that the Kindle doesn’t work for non-fiction [5]. While it may not work for the conventional back-n-forth pagination he describes, that’s no reason to dismiss an entire category of writing. Especially, when we already agree that the most usable publication on the Kindle is one that takes advantages of the Kindle’s strengths – search, hyperlinks, etc. Additionally, non-fiction books have a greater chance of becoming obsolete than fiction books – making the easy updating feature of electronic distribution to the Kindle very attractive (Pragmatic Programmers, call me and let’s talk about your Beta book program).

For example, after my initial reading of them, the bulk of my interaction with physical non-fiction books is scanning the index for the topic I’m looking for and turning to the corresponding pages. The Kindle searches across its entire library, easily saving quite a bit of time.

The Kindle 2 feels very much like the early days of podcasting – or even web design – where we’re all figuring out how to maximize this new medium. I like it.

UPDATE 20 March 2009:
I just realized telephones were never designed for long periods of use. In fact, early telephone carriers wanting their service to be used for emergencies only – actually discouraged long term use. One more way the Kindle is more like television, less like iPod.

1. More than anything, I think the Kindle will force us to redefine ‘what a book is’ as much as HTML did (concidently the .mobi format the Kindle recognized can be written in HTML).

2. The iPhone/iPod Touch are new extensions of the existing mobile communicator models – not new mediums themselves.

3. Makes the Kindle more like television and the iPhone more like film, intriguing given Steve Jobs’ ownership in Pixar.

4. The traditional iPod navigation has the exact same problem – finding any individual track becomes difficult and time-consuming within even a modest library.

5. 85% of my Kindle library is non-fiction, technical PDFs.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Bull Markets are a Lazy Way of Measuring Happiness

Friday, 13 March 2009

RE07.US Update: Expiring URL & Widgets

RE07.US continues to make me smile. Last night’s update added a couple neat things;

  • URLs now auto-expire after 5 minutes, yes, there’s also a timer.
  • Usage data; referer, user agent, etc is now being captured.
  • and finally, I’m testing out the RE07.US javascript widget for displaying the RE07.US link on your blog.

I’ve got some ideas on where this technology could be useful, if you do as well, leave a comment.