Even Amazon has bad hair days

The current pages on Amazon’s Prime Now site are all blank. Ouch, I expect volume is out of control as people race to get last second shopping done¹.

Amazing technology and usually amazing engineering talent… but still things go wrong. I’d love to read this COE (Correct of Error, Amazon’s mini post mortem process).

screen-shot-2016-12-24-at-9-01-59-am

¹ Not me, I am just buying La Croix sparkling water. Amazingly the price for Amazon to deliver this for free within two hours (!!!) is less than what the local stores sell it for.

Google Instant Apps

Of all of the nifty things I saw during the Google I/O webcast last week the most game-changing to me was Instant Apps. In the old days of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 you could navigate around the Internet happy and free. There were a few walled gardens (e.g. pay-sites) but for the most part as a consumer as long as you had a browser you could go anywhere. Then we all moved to phones and wham we hit a walled garden. In order to shop at Whole Foods I need the Whole Foods app. See something great you want to buy online; download the app for that. Pay for parking from your phone; I have six apps (!) on my phone for this depending on which lot I happen to drive into.

This is crazy. As Ellie Powers, Google PM, said “I don’t really have the Buzzfeed app on my phone… but I might want to watch a quick video”. Google has stepped fully into this fray with Instant Apps.

What is an Instant App

From a consumer point of view it’s a wonderful new way to get pieces of an application delivered to your phone at just the right time. Imagine you are in a grocery store and there is a QR code (or bar code or similar). You can the code and the coupon you wanted is on your phone. No need to download a special app, the app just arrived on your phone in about the same amount of time as downloading a website would.

No more fumbling around the App Store looking for the app, signing in, fumbling around for a credit card, and finally deciding “never mind”.

It just works…. probably

For Developers

It’s not clear yet how much work this will take for developers to enable. According to the docs it might take “as little as a day to re-factor your app”. I assume that is for apps that are fairly simple and have very straightforward User Interfaces (UI) e.g. a shopping app, a music app, video apps, etc.

What this means for the rest of us

Yeah! It’s time for Web 3.0!! But this time we will get all the power of our mobile devices, more security, and all the graphic goodness of native apps. If done right this means we can break out of the walled gardens we’ve lived in since 2007 with iPhone apps.

There are lots of caveats to this story of course, the ones that come to mind:

  1. This is Google only. Will Apple do something similar but not the same so we continue to live in this fragmented world? If Google were truly serious about making this work they would open source the deep-links required to allow these instant apps to be cross-platform (which would still require two codebases, but hey, that’s the same as today)
  2. It’s not clear *when* this will launch in the real world. 2017 seems likely.

Me, I’m excited for this development.

Bots aren’t everything

Really nice post about bots, UI, mobile efficiency, and much more at http://dangrover.com/blog/2016/04/20/bots-wont-replace-apps.html. 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.

5 years later: Photoshop for iPad Live Demo (Eric Reagan/Photography Bay) | Bricin

Another sign that the iPad is moving closer and closer to replacing many PCs. I assume the small screen size will be a blocker to some actions being simple, but those aren’t mainstream. My guess is…

Source: Photoshop for iPad Live Demo (Eric Reagan/Photography Bay) | Bricin

The two things that stand out from this post from five years ago:

  1. The iPad has not replaced laptops at work. While Apple has sold that vision and is still selling that vision if you walk into any office building you will see people using laptops. Why? At a guess the deciding factor is still the keyboard. While some people like me will invest in becoming good at typing on an iPad for most a keyboard and mouse is still critical. Maybe in five years the new iPad Pro + stylus will change this but for the moment that doesn’t seem to be true. And I was certainly more enthusiastic about this iPad reality then than I am now.
  2. The news source from which I originally gleaned this story doesn’t appear to exist anymore. It’s amazing that a business could be up, running, and then gone in the span of five years. That *shouldn’t* surprise me but it does. Somehow I thought web content would be more robust than other businesses in the sense that it’s often easier to simply let it linger on an isolated, dead-end server than to take it offline.

From Azure to Bluehost

I decided to move my personal blog form Microsoft Azure to Bluehost. The conversation in my brain went something like this:

  1. Azure-hosted WordPress sites are terribly slow. The functionality is fine, but the speed, whew.
  2. Azure offers no real support for the lowest tier of service. No chat, no help, etc. You can file a trouble ticket but my experience with Azure trouble tickets is they are long, unhelpful, and just plain wrong usually.
  3. I need to learn what else is out there in the wide world (never stop learning). Bluehost won some reviews and many friends use it. So here we go.

First, the pros:

  1. $1.95 / month.
  2. Although it was somewhat slow and painful I did get an agent on chat to help me get up and running. I found it humorous when the agent remarked that I needed my “Hostmonster” account info. “Um… this is Bluehost, right?” “Oh yes, sorry”. Apparently Bluehost and Hostmonster share the same support lines.

And now the cons:

  1. They are not set up to deal with migrating a site. Creating a new site if nice I guess, but migrating a site required a helpdesk chat. This needs to get better.
  2. $1.95 / month in fact is charged for the full year. So cancel if you will, they have your cash. You can cancel and I assume get some pro-rated money back but it requires a phone call; who does phone calls these days?
  3. My Tumblr import has messed up categories and tags so my site is all vanilla now. Reminder: back up your site more often, sigh.

It’s early in my migration. I will say that Azure somehow broke my entire admin site. Thankfully I cross-post everything to Tumblr so I still have a record of my last 5+ years. Reminder to me: back up your data more often.


thisistheverge:

The iPhone 5 forecast: a predictable 73 degrees and sunny

The weather icon on the iPhone’s homescreen always reads a pleasant 73 degrees and sunny. It has since the original iPhone was released, a comfortable, inoffensive temperature that matches the comfortable, inoffensive homescreen on iOS.The prevailing opinion after the iPhone 5 announcement is that it’s boring, but still pretty great. The hardware is without a doubt impressive from a technical and engineering standpoint, but iterative on previous designs. The software is as competent as we’ve come to expect from Apple. Together they make for a product that’s not surprising — and therefore a little boring.”Boring” doesn’t quite encapsulate what’s happening with the iPhone 5, though. The new iPhone is timid. Apple has taken very few — if any — real chances. It’s a safe, pleasant, and sunny 73 degrees on the iPhone. Read on

This is a wonderful analogy of the iPhone 5 launch. Yep, 73 degrees (22.7c for my non-US friends) is nice. Just about right. But sometimes, not always, we need tempests. And hot streaks and rain, and wind, and even the snowstorm or two. Otherwise it’s just sort of boring.

Or as they said in Bull Durham, don’t always throw strikes, it’s boring and fascist.

Max Levchin And Peter Thiel: Innovation In The World Today Is Between ‘Dire Straits And Dead’ | TechCrunch

Max Levchin And Peter Thiel: Innovation In The World Today Is Between ‘Dire Straits And Dead’ | TechCrunch


parislemon:

Apple’s vision for the future of computing versus Microsoft’s vision for the future of computing.

Any questions?

This is just silly. It shows a series of apps vs. a folder. How about showing the folder on Mac OS which is a fair comparison. Turns out the iOS app screens and OS (any OS!) files are for different uses.

Next time show a picture of a supermodel vs. an NFL lineman, ha ha, isnt the model prettier? Yep, right up to the moment you want to play football.

And yeah, that Windows UI could use a little help, I get that.

Warren Buffett: Social Networking Sites Are ‘Overpriced’

Warren Buffett: Social Networking Sites Are ‘Overpriced’