Transformation tourism

Merely looking at something almost never causes change. Tourism is fun, but rarely transformative.

If it was easy, you would have already achieved the change you seek.

Change comes from new habits, from acting as if, from experiencing the inevitable discomfort of becoming.

As usual I found something good in Seth Godin’s blog today. This is akin to the old line about the definition of insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results. This is also very much the difference between being a tourist vs. living somewhere.

Bots aren’t everything

Really nice post about bots, UI, mobile efficiency, and much more at I recommend reading the entire article but if you are pressed for time let me try to summarize:

  1. Bots are hot right now.
  2. Bots are not the final answer to interacting with our devices. The article points out several nice examples but fundamentally there are some things that are easier done *without* conversation.
  3. Good bots, the bots coming in the next generation will offer data-dense options. In other words when I contact Pagliacci Pizza I don’t want to chat back and forth about a pizza; just give me a quick menu.
  4. Good bots are integrated e.g. payments are simple, I don’t need a new app for a city every time I travel, etc.

One of the examples people should think about is from the early days of games on PCs e.g. Maria, Hammarabi, Zork, etc. These games were fun. We all played them. And yet when you could add graphics and make the game deeper, richer, and more informationally-packed the games got better. This means bots isn’t an either-or game: you don’t have to accept that bots are text-only and only about conversations. WeChat is clearly kicking butt and taking names in this realm; I look forward to Facebook, Telegram, and others joining the space and getting it right.

#bots, #mobile, #tech

On my wishlist – the snap-together, desktop trebuchet by Michael Woods

Trebuchette – the snap-together, desktop trebuchet by Michael Woods — I want one The ultimate desktop tool

Source: Trebuchette – the snap-together, desktop trebuchet by Michael Woods — I want one | Bricin

I originally wrote about this desktop trebuchet five years ago. Hard to believe that a) it was five years ago and b) I still have this thing on my wish list. As I consider heading back to “the workplace” it seems I will desperately need something like this.

The good news? These folks now offer a ballista and catapult too!

#humor, #joy, #toys, #wishlist

Going the wrong direction

Source: Microsoft Outlook comes to Android Wear smartwatches | The Verge

This is typical of most smart watch apps out there. You have a successful product on the phone so voila! put the same interface on the watch but make it small.

This is wrong. Watches are not phones. There are three very simple reasons for this:

  1. The screens are tiny therefore the fundamental way of interacting with data should not be text.
  2. Input methods are tiny therefore the fundamental way of interacting with data should not be text.
  3. Watches sit on your wrist which means you get one-handed interactions only therefore the fundamental way of interacting with data should not be text.

See a trend there? This feels like 2007 when companies with lovely desktop apps were confronted by the smart phone revolution and simply ported their desktop app to the phone only to learn that hey, the form factor and customer scenarios are different. Companies learned.

Now we are seeing smart watches on the rise (albeit slowly). And we are all going to go through the same exercise of figuring out what watches are good for and what they aren’t. Here is a quick list of the good¹:

  1. Watches measure things. Pulse, distance, etc.
  2. Watches can notify you unobtrusively. This is nice, a short haptic (buzz buzz) on your wrist for an event is really much nicer than the same buzz, dig your phone out of your pocket, check the screen, and decide the interruption wasn’t important anyway.
  3. Using #1 and #2 above watches can remind you to do things e.g. Apple’s watch reminds me to stand up and move around every hour. Yeah! It actually works and is something better than the phone. We have a winning scenario!

The smart phone isn’t going away

Too often when a new device looms the idea is that the older generation will disappear. It won’t. But some of the uses today for the smart phone will decline simply because the new, in this case the smart watch, will do a better job of it. An example – many people run today with their iPhone. This isn’t natural. We’ve bought all sorts of armbands and clothing with oddly-sized pockets simply to carry our phones to record the workout. With a watch this is no longer useful. I anticipate as watches get strong enough to do Bluetooth music that the phone will disappear from workout-land. That’s a good thing.

So the phone will stay in your pocket (or purse or backpack) more often. But it won’t be gone since you cannot effectively create text via a watch. And yes, the person who will reply “but you can dictate a message”… go try that a few times, especially in a crowded area and tell me how that goes. If you’ve ever seen photo-bombing welcome to the new world of message-bombing. Although I will admit to doing a few phone calls from my watch just so I could use the words “Dick Tracy”.

So what should apps do

Smart watch apps should focus on the scenarios that real watches do and extend them. Reminders are great. Counting things works really well e.g. take a stop watch and extend that in new ways. Tracking biometrics is an obvious win; now what can you do with all that new sensor data? Payments, ID, airline check-ins, and other simple transactions are obvious – why do I need to lug out my phone or gasp my wallet to do something simple². Games might work but the current crop is completely violating the first law of smart watches i.e. “it’s not a miniature phone”. I can imagine games that use some of the motion of the arm somewhat like the Nintendo Wii used those goofy controllers we all used for a year or two while pretending we were really getting exercise.

There’s a million other scenarios out there but first-and-foremost start with the idea that this is a) very new and interesting, a computer on your wrist and b) something very old, it’s a watch, what can we learn from hundreds of years of watches.


¹ Obviously not a complete list. If I had the complete list I’d make a bajillion dollars writing apps that relied on the complete list.

² Using Apple’s payment system at the grocery store on my watch is wonderful. I love it. The other day the payment machine glitched and I had to swipe the watch twice. The checker apologized and I smiled and gushed “are you kidding me, I just paid for my food with my watch… this is MAGIC”. It truly is.

#getting-it-wrong, #mobile, #smartwatch, #watch

Can we go back to RSS yet?

And that you’ll subscribe to your favorite blogs by RSS, because it’s mostly uninterrupted by people who’d rather you didn’t get what you were hoping for. Just you and the blogs you want to get.

Source: Seth’s Blog: The choke points

Many years ago the future was RSS. Every site worth knowing about had an RSS feed. We used Google Reader to read through our curated RSS feeds. It was quick, it was simple, it avoided spam, and best of all it generated no email. Great, right?

But somewhere along the line some chimp decided that sending information via email newsletters was a better idea. And for someone trying to peddle their wares email newsletters work; this is why markets, SEO companies, SumoMe, and everyone else under the sun¹ pitches the value of increasing your readership and hence revenue via email. And it worked. For them. For the first-movers, the people who decided to crap on the commons so to speak.

But email isn’t good for this. It means the majority of people have an inbox that is 33% stuff they need to read, 33% complete nonsense, and 33% things they subscribed to and want to read but in a very lightweight “hey, if I miss an article it doesn’t really matter anyway” way. Google is trying to combat this by breaking your inbox into different tabs. I find this incredibly inefficient but maybe others like it.

What I’d like to see is a return to good old RSS (or similar):

  1. Email is for email i.e. important things I need to handle. The less I have, the better.
  2. News-reading and all the other stuff comes in via RSS (did you know you can configure Slack to receive RSS? Not the best reading experience ever but if you think every problem can be solved with Slack this tip is for you). While Google Reader was shuttered Feedly is pretty good and if there were more RSS feeds other companies would create innovative new tools.

For this to work we’re going to need to allow the publishers to make money. So yes, the RSS feeds will have ads and you need to see them. Or pay a fee to receive the fee. If you think about it by opting-in to an email newsletter you’ve basically given the publisher that same right but have less control. Crazy.


¹ I tried these tools for Sports Brief Daily and Whalesight. Neither have been very effective in their email use but that’s likely more a statement about the content than the tools. So yes, I’ve lived in the glass house.

#email-hell, #marketing, #rss