Monthly Archives: January 2010

An iPad for my grandparents

Apple released their much anticipated tablet on Wednesday and the blogosphere and Twitterverse are still feeling the aftershocks. The response has run the gamut from exuberance to total disappointment.

I will happily place myself in the excited camp but first a bit of background; I would not consider myself a convert to the cult of Apple as I have only ever owned an iPod from the Apple family of products. I’ve happily been a PC/Windows/Linux user since the early 90’s. Apple just didn’t provide enough flexibility for me, or game support, during my formative years. However, since they have entered the consumer electronics field with media players and more niche purpose devices with wide open capabilities I have found myself inching ever closer to their side.

I bought myself the second gen 15Gb iPod when it came out and haven’t bought one since as I don’t like their lock-in model and am much happier with the more open media players. However, I have purchased at least 5 different iPod devices for others as gifts. Why would I buy this device for others when I myself, as a techie, don’t like the product compared to other options? Because they work. Because I knew I wouldn’t spend hours supporting it after the wrapping paper came off.

To all the technophiles out there complaining about the lack of a built in camera, flash support, multitasking, or any of a hundred other wished for technological inclusions. YOU ARE NOT THE TARGET MARKET! Apple is brilliant in its ability to bring the least possible viable device to market. They make sure that what they do deliver is a well designed, well executed experience. They have released a device that will meet the 80% need and they will monitor developers and popular opinion to plan their iterative product development cycle so that we will happily buy the next version and the version after that. The iPad will be hacked in short order and those who want custom software will be able to have it. Like the iPhone, the iPad will sell to those who want a better [experience] than they currently have.

This is where the iPad will succeed. It will start out with the Apple faithful and, as new versions come out with the features that were wanted by the 20% at launch, older versions will make their way to the end tables of parents and grandparents as massively underutilized digital photo frames.

Last year I bought my grandparents a 10” digital photo frame for Christmas. The ugly, clunky user interface did barely more than allow me to navigate the file system. I will be very happy – in a year or two – to hand down my iPad to them so that they can see new photos as I upload them to Flickr instead of having to put them on an SD card and manually insert it into the frame.

The iPad will likely be the device that gets my grandparents to use email. They will still need some help with set-up but afterwards it will be intuitive. No more powering on, booting up, logging in, etc…

I see the iPad as a bridge device. A platform for innovation by the creative developer and a dead-simple media consumption device for end user. I see it as a way to open up digital access and media to an entire population of users that had previously given up on the Internet as too complicated.

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Facebook vs. Privacy

Facebook has reached a point now where those that use it can’t remember what life was like without it. Just as the users of Myspace before it, and Friendster before that. In the late 90’s there were hundreds of thousands of people that thought AOL was “the Internet”. My point is that while something appears indispensable today it can easily be not good enough tomorrow.

Facebook has learned many of the lessons taught by previous generations of Social Networking sites but still has a lot to learn. The lesson that I believe Facebook will teach its successor is that privacy wins. A lesson they should have already learned with the Beacon fiasco.

Zuckerberg recently said
that sharing personal information has become the new “social norm” and that Facebook has evolved along with it. There are many reasons why this is hard to believe and I won’t go into them as ReadWriteWeb has done a great job of that already. I will, however, say that even if society is trending towards public as the default instead of private then Facebook should not need to remove choice as users will share on their own.

Facebook, with the shifting sands of its privacy settings, is being positioned for a fall. I believe they are just a few public breaches away from a mass exodus and I believe “Platform” is their Achilles heel.

Platform is the underlying mechanism that allows independent developers to create such winning apps as “What kind of messed up Care Bear are you?” and the infamous Mob Wars and Farmville franchises. It also gives them access to your personal information and that of your friends.

From the Platform About Page:

“Examples of the types of information that applications and websites may have access to include the following information, to the extent visible on Facebook: your name, your profile picture, your gender, your birthday, your hometown location (city/state/country), your current location (city/state/country), your political view, your activities, your interests, your musical preferences, television shows in which you are interested, movies in which you are interested, books in which you are interested, your favorite quotes, your relationship status, your dating interests, your relationship interests, your network affiliations, your education history, your work history, your course information, copies of photos in your photo albums, metadata associated with your photo albums (e.g., time of upload, album name, comments on your photos, etc.), the total number of messages sent and/or received by you, the total number of unread messages in your in-box, the total number of “pokes” you have sent and/or received, the total number of wall posts on your Wall, a list of user IDs mapped to your friends, your social timeline, notifications that you have received from other applications, and events associated with your profile.”

With Facebook integrating site activities with outside email,  3rd party developers will have access to email addresses as well. The issue is only partially that Facebook allows them access to this information (actually the users do when they click on the EULA.) The other bigger concern in my mind is that these 3rd parties are not held to any standard of security or privacy. Much like the recent situation with the iPhone app developers, when the developer gets hacked and spews personal information all over the Internet, legal grounds or not, Facebook will be held responsible.

So… If I knew a solid team of developers I’d suggest they start building the next Facebook because, on the Internet, giants fall all the time.

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Filed under privacy, security, social media

Pick up the paper

“I’m insanely grateful to make my living as a traffiker of ideas.” – Scott Berkun

I hope one day to be able to say the same thing.

I’ve just finished reading “Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Berkun and am still absorbing all of his many incredibly useful, and well presented points. I’ve read or listened to a number of books about public speaking (one of my irrational fears) as it is something I hope to do well one day.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone that does any form of persuasive speaking. Whether you’re in the board room, a PTA meeting, or on a dais in front of an audience of thousands.

Two major themes resonate throughout:

1. Settle down. The audience is (most likely) on your side, they will give you wide latitude and likely aren’t going to remember this tomorrow anyway.

2. Be prepared. The audience has given you the opportunity to enter their lives for a short while. Respect that by taking the time yourself to be worth their time.

With excellent examples and personal illustrations from other well known public speakers he does a good job of convincing you that everyone stumbles, and that’s part of the adventure.

My most memorable public speaking crash-and-burn was while introducing a former United States Ambassador to  Afghanistan at a World Affairs Council of Oregon event. I’d prepared the night before by reading up on his resume and accomplishments. I typed up the highlights and printed them out in an extra large font so that I wouldn’t have trouble seeing them.

We had dinner with Ambassador Eliot before the event and I felt fairly comfortable with what my job was. Upon entering the room I noticed that there was no podium as I’d anticipated, just a table. Someone handed me a revised set of notes as I walked to the front of the room in a much smaller font than I’d prepared. I scanned the notes and, for some reason, was convinced that I would have to recite them from memory as it would be bad form to read them off the paper.

That was not a good idea.

I welcomed everyone and went blank. I couldn’t remember his name, the school he was dean of and no amount of mental gymnastics brought the details back to me. The paper sat on the table only 3 feet from my eyes but I wouldn’t touch it.

A long enough pause occurred that an elderly woman in the front row said, in the way that only an annoyed elderly woman can, “Just pick up the paper!”

I was mortified and then saved moments later by the Ambassador “Thanks Brad, I’ll take it from here.”

I stayed away from speaking in front of crowds for a long time after that even though I’m positive I’m the only one that remembers my performance that night. (Except for the friends I’ve reminded of the event.)

Happy 2010. Here’s to picking up the paper.


Filed under Personal