1. 09:24 21st Dec 2012

    Notes: 554

    Reblogged from trong

     
  2. Murderous musings

    image

    Let’s make the world burn - slice it clean with the sharpest and shiniest knife we can find and watch the oceans bleed, and leech into places it was never meant to go. Lacerate the crust, and make cuts so deep and divine to make those meagre veins we call rivers and canals petty and pointless. Let’s reach the melting core of the earth and watch as the firey orange pounces from beneath our feet to progress through farmland, through our streets, through our cities with the excitement and thrill of destruction and bloodlust in its path. What’s more exhilarating than hearing the shrill cries of those facing the inevitability of impending death?

    Let’s take this world out one by one, inch by inch because our parents always told us that it’s all the little things that count, because twenty 5 cent coins make a dollar. Pay a visit to the used up old hag on the bottom floor of your building who wouldn’t let you leave your bike in the lobby. Remember the times when you were a kid, when you were only five and all you wanted to do was to make some noise, but when you saw her peering through the blinds with the stare of a jaded old bitch you’d shut up. You’d shut up because you equated age to authority, and authority to superiority. Think back to how she turned your childhood of purported freedom and joviality to a tale of caution and prudence, and how those years are years you will never relive. Grit your teeth, raid your kitchen drawer - maybe, perhaps for something sharp and reflective, and make sure she never has to see your bike in the lobby or hear your cordial cackle again - erase that thought, eye her with your most penetrating stare and chuckle so its the last thing she ever hears.

    Devise a thorough plan to deal with her husband, make it intricate, refined and elegant because you value professionalism in everything you do - because your 11th grade math teacher forced you to take pride in your presentation. Laugh hysterically over the limp corpse of your ugly fat neighbour because you imagined a plan so exquisite and meticulous that you’d probably win an award if the world respected this art as much as you do. Rummage through your neighbour’s ex-neighbour’s apartment in search for materials and equipment to fulfil the components of your flawless and beautiful plan. You find rope, an aerosol, unused slabs of wood in the laundry and pull out all the wires and cords from the admittedly impressive A/V system in the lounge. Beads of sweat congregate on your forehead, around your temple and behind your ears - your sweat glands reacting to your eagerness. It’s been a long time since you felt alive, because for once your endeavours feel purposeful and worthy of thrill. Lay your collection of materials strategically and with precision on the sweet cool tiles of the bathroom floor and howl with vehemence. Give a hypothetical high five to the life experiences that taught you to never do things half-assed. 

    Watch your plan fall into place, step by step and element by element as the man falls victim to your painstaking set up. Kick his walking stick violently out of the clutches of his hand because that wasn’t part of the plan, because it would ruin the integrity of the way you envisioned it. Push him with force and deliberation into your glorious trap and watch him stumble through the steps, with both excitement, exhilaration and frustration. The stupid old codger was meant to get his fingers sliced, sliced finely in the most exquisite linear fashion before having the aerosol can spray into his eyes. How will he see the damage? How will he see the meticulousness of your handiwork? He will only feel it. You need the appreciation of all five senses. Slam your fist with maniacal force onto the coffee table from irritation and watch as the cracks radiate from the epicentre of the impact. Watch as the blood from the wound of your enclosed hands trickles through the cracks of the broken glass like a vibrant red liquid filling a canal. Smile at the sight of destruction in its most artful form. 

    Return your concentration to the useless, and now dead, old man lying motionless in the most delightfully debilitating and crippling condition. Kick yourself because the man was too stupid to follow steps, because you don’t get a second chance, because when you were an ignorant teenager Steve Jobs taught you the value of being a perfectionist. 

    Grab what’s left of the man by the shoulders of his blood-stained corduroy blazer and drag him across the hallway leaving a trail of fresh blood for every inch he progresses across the rosewood floorboard. You’ll find the rest of his body parts later. Cackle at the notion that the man is now nothing more than a heavy wet paintbrush dispensing red - with the warm scent of copper and iron - paint through the apartment. Hold that thought, because you’re onto something. Whip out a paint brush after digging through the laundry cabinet and dip it into his open and exposed abdomen. Sigh, slightly disappointed at the runny consistency of his blood. It will have to do. Start painting the walls of the apartment because only now do you realise that this was what you always wanted - vibrant, red walls. You never cared for those drab half custard walls your parents painted in your room. Continue to paint, with the man’s open and mutilated body as your single-coloured palette and quietly weep for humanity, weep that nobody was clever enough to think of this ingenious and economical idea before. Thank the recycling company that visited your school in the fourth grade because they taught you how to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

    Finish painting the walls, the smell of metal lingering in the apartment. Step back, and stand at the doorway of the apartment and watch, admirably. Watch as the wet blood runs slowly in beads down the walls and drips intermittently from the ceiling. Stare at the morphed and still bodies of the two human beings you slaughtered, both decisively and elegantly and get satisfied by the fact that you had the power to do it. That you had the power to make a very small dent in the universe, that you left a mark and you’ll be remembered for something. You made a difference, and that’s all that counts in a world marred by irrelevance and also-rans.

    The erie aura of death and stagnation lingers in this apartment only two floors below yours. Take one last glance at this vicious and stirring tableau - that’s enough satisfaction. For the day. 

     
  3. The woman in the green blouse

    You sit lazed, composed and care-free on the cosy edge of a fake lawn, your body leaned back resting on the sturdy support of your elbow and your green blouse underneath your loose black cardigan reacts to the light breeze, with a slight and reassuring ripple. The young child, whom I’m assuming is yours, prances on the synthetic grass in front of you with the opportunistic hop not unlike the sparrow in front of me right now. Perhaps she’d just learnt to walk, and is now bound by the realisation that legs can do so much more - such is the optimism and curiosity of a child yet to discover her own physical capabilities. 

    People laze, eat, converse and traverse this small expanse of fake lawn in this public square, you remain close to the edge with the knee of your loosely crossed legs hovering over the junction where the fake lawn ends and the concrete resumes. Yours eyes are fixated with entertainment and appreciation of the happy child in front of you.

    As I watch people use the fake lawn it occurs to me what a thoughtful revelation this is in urban design - that something so simple and efficient could have the use of bringing people together and permitting for a multitude of use cases. What if this fake grass wasn’t here, and was concrete just like everything else? It would just be a large footpath, would people still stop and sit? Would this place be anywhere near as vibrant and social as it is now? Who knows, but I suppose I’m glad it’s here, if it weren’t, I probably wouldn’t be here trying to extract the story behind you - the woman in the green blouse. 

    But as much as I appreciate the lawn’s presence, it’s implementation confounds me just as much. Here it is, this refreshing touch of green occupying the centre of one of the most urban and commercialised environments of this city - this public square itself a concrete labyrinth of shop-fronts and restaurants, behind me right now is a chocolate bar, beside me a Japanese restaurant, and above me an electronics store. All this, amidst a backdrop of towering high rises that are so close, that looking up at them makes the laws of perspective appear almost comically distorted and at the same time making me feel diminutive, insignificant and small. Yet people sit, eat and sleep blissfully indifferent to the fact that this urban resource is one huge contradiction - this attempt to inject a dab of nature into this city of glass and concrete is itself nothing more than a large congregation of synthetic green strands.

    And that whimsically large Christmas tree on the square’s east side is too flawlessly conical to even be a little bit not fake. 

    I jolt out of my digression and arbitrary musings and look back at you. You’re still there, the child still in front of you with that smile seemingly permanently etched into her face. She’s still hopping on the spot. A couple of young Indian boys, who look about 5 or 6 years old play tiggy around the square while their parents, along with some friends sit at the chocolate bar behind me, enjoying themselves whilst still keeping a watchful eye on the two young boys. These two young boys are happy too, the burden of nothing on their shoulders - the only conceivable disturbance on both of their minds likely being caught and thus becoming ‘it’. I smile, not because I’m happy but from the realisation that pure, unspoilt happiness isn’t just theoretical or imaginary. But it’s fleeting, and for this happiness to eventually become tarnished and tainted is as inevitable as breathing in dust with your air.

    But I look at these children, three pure manifestations of what reality is before expectation, before money, before envy, before fear, before love - reality is happiness. Reality is contentedness. Reality is satisfaction. I smile.

    Your husband is here now, I’m fairly sure he’s your husband otherwise you might want to look into it because he’s videoing your child, and taking photos of you. You’re probably here on vacation, which isn’t particularly surprising since you don’t look Australian, but I suppose that’s a moot point since this city is so multicultural anyway. I don’t look Australian. He follows your child with the video camera, circling her slowly with care and apprehension to minimise the camera shake. Strangely, the young girl hasn’t sat down since I started looking at you and I try to remember the last time I felt like I had so much energy. The girl is oblivious to the fact that she’s being recorded, obviously she wouldn’t know what a video camera is but I’m surprised that she’s not even slightly curious as to why this shiny contraption is following her around.

    You on the other hand behave with an artificial coyness, intermittently smiling at the camera and immediately looking away shyly. I know that feeling, how do you act in front of a video camera? It’s an exhausting façade you’re portraying, switching between a candid pretense whilst simultaneously trying to not ignore the camera. Your young girl is only standing on this fake lawn entertaining herself by absorbing her surroundings with intense interest, with the wide eyes and blank face of an inquisitive toddler. Either way, it’s not exactly video-worthy material; you stand up, brush yourself off before realising that it’s only synthetic grass and there’s no dirt or soil to begrime your black jeans. Your husband acknowledges the gesture and shuts off the video camera. 

    For the first time I see you with measurable clarity, the complexion of your skin is naturally tanned, perhaps slightly lighter than that of a typical Indonesian or Phillipino. It’s hard to tell your nationality. Your body exhibits the curvature and plumpness of a woman who’s been through a pregnancy, you look like a mother, you have that look about you. But when you smile every time you look at your young girl I know you wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a smile of not only love, but appreciation. Almost on cue, the girl grabs your leg. She’s a lucky girl. 

    Your husband walks through the fake lawn towards two young girls not too much older than me, probably in their early 20s talking to each other over sushi. He kneels down and passes one of them the camera, and the girl politely nods and points the camera at you, your husband and your daughter. Family photo. It’s a nice moment, and one that really betrays the dynamic of the atmosphere in the square. It’s peak hour, and the escalators entertainingly resemble slow moving caterpillars as they fill up transporting people between the lower level and the concourse. The noise and aura of movement and progression overwhelms me as I sit idly here penning in this genuinely pointless piece of writing. You stand there with your family posing for the photo, your green blouse once again rippling in the breeze. When you look back at this photo you won’t remember how noisy it was, or how uncharacteristically cold it was for a late afternoon summer and how the slow breeze oddly felt more chilly than a violent gust would have. I don’t know what you will remember.

    Maybe you’ll remember the girl that took the picture, the young Asian girl with her friend eating the sushi. She was pretty. Her hair was long, the length just surpassing the halfway point between her shoulders and her waist. It was black with mahogany-brown tips, and straight albeit with the most subtle wave. Her hair was glossy too, not unlike the luscious long hair they have in those tragically unrealistic Pantene ads. It probably smelt good too. She had a gentle disposition, when handing the camera back to your husband she smiled bashfully without showing her teeth, and then returned to her friend and her sushi. She was pretty, but pretty in the way a shiny new iPhone is pretty - young and unscathed. 

    I finish my $1 frozen Coke and as I do you begin to leave with your husband and your daughter. Just as well, it’s getting cold and all I have on is this thin shirt and peak hour’s dying down. I’m hungry too, and I need all my money for my train fare. 

     
  4. Jensen Harris at UX Week 2012

    The great design story behind Windows 8 - worth a watch.

     
  5. Jerks

    So it’s been a big month of top-level firings in the technology industry, an eventful and insightful one too. The recent ‘departure’ of eminent figures - Sinofsky and Forstall notably - allows us a peek into the intricacies of these corporate behemoths beyond that phony facade they’re so intent in shoving down our throats.

    We rarely see this side of corporations, the side that is infinitely more real and substantially relatable - unlike the airy fairy promo videos on product launches where all the top level execs eat rainbows and shit butterflies, together. For every iPhone that emerges from the drawing board at Apple HQ and out the factories of Foxconn, the doors behind Cupertino are laden with internal affliction, divisive disagreements and tension as people have differing views on what’s beneficial to the company - or themselves. A rather amusing anecdote with the Forstall ‘departure’ is the fact that Jony Ive refused to ever be in the same meeting room as Scott Forstall. Steve Jobs often had to act as an impartial mediator before the pair ripped each other’s hair out. It’s subtly comforting to know that such juvenile passive bitch-fighting still occurs at a level so high. We’re all kids on the inside. 

    Sinofsky’s departure from Microsoft is the conclusion to a similar tale, being forced out presumably due to his prickly and unforgiving personality. There is speculation that he left for a multitude of reasons, one particularly strong viewpoint being that he didn’t receive the compensation he deserved for his successes. Sinofsky was instrumental in reviving Windows from its Vista trough up to the high-flying success of Windows 7, and pulling off a significant shift in the business with its Windows 8 venture.

    But in the end that’s unlikely, it’s a proposition that’s far too hard to believe - why would a man so passionate about his work simply leave just as the company enters an exciting new phase? I call bullshit, money ain’t no thing for a bloke so high up in the company’s ranks. Sinofsky was forced out, and based on insider talk, there’s no other reason than the fact that he was viewed as deeply divisive, single-minded and uncooperative. For the sake of brevity, let’s just call him a jerk. 

    What’s crazy is that both Forstall and Sinofsky both delivered results. Forstall was in charge of the most successful and ubiquitous mobile operating system on the planet and Sinofsky was in charge of the most successful and ubiquitous PC operating system on the planet. Businessweek wrote a long missive back in October of 2011 about Scott Forstall, labelling him the ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ at Apple because of his deep, unwavering connection with Steve Jobs and his unforgiving pursuit of goals which made him a figure of polar preferences - love and hate. Sure he made mistakes, but looking at the iOS numbers it’s impossible to say that Forstall’s presence hasn’t been a huge plus for Apple. 

    Yet, in the end it wasn’t even his phenomenal success that could save him but his personality that would send him packing. The moral of the story is that it’s often better to make friends than to unrelentingly accomplish success. Such a statement sounds weak, and stupid since the aim of a business is to roll in dough. But there’s truth in it, and despite the fact that I will always pursue the rationalist view that sometimes we have to put up with jerks to accomplish the returns, that doesn’t suddenly make it okay to be a jerk - an emerging misconception in this industry.

    In November of 2011 in an article titled 'The Jerk', MG Siegler tells us that the industry could perhaps do with a few more jerks - people that are good at making people feel like shit, telling them that their work is shit to instigate improvement and saying no to every proposal that comes by to eventually find the gems. The fundamental backing for Siegler’s contention was Steve Jobs - the fact that he was viewed almost universally as a jerk in this respect but turned the fledgling Apple of 1997 to the brilliant Apple of the 21st century. Siegler’s article may have just been really boneless linkbait, but either way the article fails in acknowledging just how being a jerk is a good thing. 

    Just because Steve Jobs was a jerk and succeeded does not mean being a jerk makes you successful. What if Steve Jobs hadn’t been a jerk? Perhaps Apple would be even more successful. Siegler appears to equate strong-headed focus with ‘jerk-itry’, like saying no and telling people their work isn’t good enough is a bad thing. That’s hardly a bad thing, if anything, it’s ironing out an issue early on before it comes back to bite you later. Saying no is the opposite of being a jerk. Jobs was absolutely right when he said focus is more about saying no than it is about saying yes. 

    But Steve Jobs was known for abrasion, according to insiders mentioned in Siegler’s article, Jobs was noted as telling someone’s idea was ‘shit’ without giving it a half glance. Words I’ve heard in the media that describe Jobs’ demeanour in the office are intimidating, harsh, unforgiving - words we’d typically associate with an unpleasant person, or for contextual relevance, someone we’d absolutely love to fire. But given how Steve Jobs’ behaviour was able to ignite such an agile turn-around in Apple’s business and inspire innovation, suddenly being a jerk is almost a label of endearment.

    An asshole who can deliver results is like god in the industry. An asshole is someone that people can’t get along with, that people can’t understand. People can’t get along with and can’t understand people who are different. Being different is a treasure chest in the technology space, because these are the only people who will dare to challenge the status quo.

    A former Apple software enginner, Mike Lee said of Scott Forstall: ‘I once referred to Scott as Apple’s chief a-hole, and I didn’t mean it as criticism, I meant it as a compliment’. This industry idolises jerks and assholes, I might as well write ‘JERK’ in bold print on my resume. 

    But nobody likes a jerk, and it’s never a good thing. It has its perks but in the long run it almost always stifles any semblance of confidence or growth. At the start, being told constantly that your work is terrible may be motivation to try harder and to reexamine your effort to deliver a better result the next time. But how many times do you have to be told your work sucks before you start to become jaded and tired of being perceived lowly? Being told that you’re not quite up to scratch is a motivational tool when it’s warranted, but when every single idea brought to the drawing board is berated, the message loses its credibility. And employees lose their motivation. 

    What if instead of being uncooperative and siloed, ‘jerk’ leaders shared their ideas, invited criticism, comment, other ideas. I respect the leader who has an unrelenting pursuit for what he believes in, but when that process involves grinding egos, severing connections and testing corporate cooperation, then much of the support that such an idea likely needs goes to the waste-bin. Sinofsky and Forstall, due to their divisive nature were both known to have invited a string of resignation letters from workers whom couldn’t manage in suffocating and uncooperative environments. Imagine the talent that the two men lost which could have been instrumental in furthering their goals. 

    Sinofsky was intensely single-minded and alienating which apparently kept the Office team at Microsoft in the dark when it came to Windows 8 and Surface RT developments. The Office team found out about the Surface RT very late into the development process which may have accounted for a lack of a fully featured Office Suite in the Surface RT. In this case, a lack of cooperation has directly resulted in a diminished product. 

    There’s every evidence to say that playing nice with others will almost always deliver greater benefits.

    Steve Wozniak shares this viewpoint too, when talking to TechCrunch TV at TedX Business Week recently he stated about Steve Jobs: ‘I don’t believe Steve had to be as much of a real rugged bastard - put people down and make them feel demeaned. I don’t think that was necessary for Apple to have the great products that it has today’. And this is coming from someone who worked alongside Steve Jobs during Apple’s earlier days and witnessed it all first-hand. 

    Jobs’ was always something of an exception though - after all desperate times require desperate measures. Steve Jobs never had his head on the chopping block after his most recent tenure at Apple because he delivered results and cultivated a cult-like level of respect from his colleagues and employees. It can be said that his harsh conduct was somewhat warranted, and his abrasive nature would have provided a shake up for a company that really needed it - to shake out of an aura of crippling mediocrity. But who says he couldn’t have been such a significant figure as a nice guy?

    Nice guys don’t always finish last. 

     
  6. 08:11

    Notes: 1939

    Reblogged from parislemon

    Tags: techdesignfacebooksubmission

    littlebigdetails:

Facebook - The notifications icon shows a different side of the globe depending on your location.
/via Thomas Park

The little things <3

    littlebigdetails:

    Facebook - The notifications icon shows a different side of the globe depending on your location.

    /via Thomas Park

    The little things <3

     
  7. An hour with Windows 8

    It’s somewhat hard to believe that I haven’t spent any valuable time with Windows 8 - just us alone (and a third-wheeling sales assistant) - until this afternoon. I’d tried the Consumer Preview version quite some time ago dual booting on a mate’s Macbook Pro extremely briefly. I didn’t really get the opportunity to fully observe the look and feel of the OS, or the OS’s quirks because I was too engrossed playing this intensely addictive game called Treehouse Stampede - a childish game where you make words out of a bunch of letters given to you, it’s actually seriously awesome. Sadly, I’m not sure if it’s made it into the Windows 8 release product.

    My first impressions were bent slightly to the negative, but I think that these initial thoughts were swayed largely by the fact that these computers in-store weren’t internet connected. This was really disappointing to see; in the end this insufficiency probably didn’t affect my final impressions of the product as such, but that’s because I know about this stuff - I eat, live, breathe, write and read the technology space everyday so experiencing Windows 8 properly for the first time was a reinforcement of my views and knowledge as opposed to a pleasant or horrendous surprise. 

    But for most consumers, seeing Windows 8 up close and personal in-store would have been their first contact with the OS - seeing a wildly frustrating continually spinning Internet Explorer loading element because of a lack of an internet connection would leave a foul taste on the mouth, which is especially problematic because Windows 8 is the OS consumers would be most apprehensive about given the steep learning curve associated with it. This was a telling demonstration of the advantage Apple has in being so rigidly in control of its distribution channels.

    The first computer I tried Windows 8 on was a huge HP Touch PC - the kind that somewhat does away with the keyboard and mouse by angling display at about 30 - 45 degrees from the desk so as to act like a huge tablet. It didn’t look anything like a quality tablet though, it was fat, clunky and reeked of mediocre quality with a bland display and relatively low pixel density. It was the kind of device that screamed size more than it did sizeable quality - but as the most prominent Windows 8 sporting PC in the store it was a decent showcase of the new OS’s paradigm-shifting capability, particularly in providing a larger and more fulfilling touch screen experience transcending the 10-inch cap that we typically see on tablets.

    I hinted at such a change back in June of 2011, and swiping on 24 inches of Windows 8 goodness was really actually marvellous. Huge touch-screen desktop slates have huge developer potential - imagine precision editing with your finger (or a stylus) an image on a touch-optimised Windows 8 version of Photoshop, imagine slashing fruit on a screen multitudinously larger than an iPad, Fruit Ninja is already available on the Windows Store. I love it.

    An issue is that the learning curve is definitely there, and it’s fairly steep. Most UI elements are not plainly obvious, or just ‘gettable’ on face value. It took me a solid 10 minutes to find the settings pane for Windows 8, and in that time I ended up at the traditional Control Panel about 5 times. It’s quite a vitiating design decision to not have combined the Control Panel and normal Settings as it only hampers the inexorable Metro style transition. It’s confusing for the user too, Windows 8 doesn’t feel as much like ‘one’ as it really should. The OS definitely feels like two environments attempting an intimate relationship in the most superficial way possible. It’s a shoddy relationship too because the pair are unalike - one’s classy and smooth, the other’s technical and socially inept  one’s noticeably young and the other’s dated.

    The reasons behind the Windows’ design team’s approach is obvious - ‘no compromise’. These two words were the resounding mantra behind the entirety of Windows 8’s development, but I can’t help but think that if they were willing to compromise just a little then it would have resulted in a much fuller and harmonised experience. The Control Panel in the Desktop environment again is a huge factor, the fact that the Desktop environment has its own set of settings makes the OS feel polarised and divided, instead of unified as the Windows team was likely aiming for. The desktop environment is only there for the sake of legacy applications. Full stop. Microsoft will eventually work towards pushing out the traditional desktop anyway, it exists in Windows 8 out of pure necessity so it deserves only features warranted out of pure necessity. Customisation is not necessary in this desktop environment when the focus of the OS should be on the new Metro Style, or Windows 8 Style UI.

    I’m likely just nitpicking here because when it comes to technology I often like to come off as pretentious and fussy. For the average user, it’s a minor inconsistency which may add slightly to the learning curve - overall, it does little to detract from the overall experience. Despite the negativity that might be emanating from the previous paragraph, I really love Windows 8. I really love Windows 8 when there’s a touch-screen involved. With a touch-screen in the picture, Windows 8 turns into the most compelling proposition Microsoft has ever offered in the PC industry - it’s a drop dead gorgeous and sublime experience. 

    After fooling around on the HP, I found a sleek looking Vaio notebook which had a touch display. It wasn’t obvious at first and I spent the first couple of minutes fooling around with the track-pad and keyboard shaking my head at how horrible it was until a thoughtful Vietnamese sales rep came up to me and told me ‘oh, this one has a touch screen too, this is the only laptop with a touch-screen we have apart from that piece of shit over there’. I chuckled at his comment and his honesty too, because the other device he gestured towards really did appear to be a pile of excrement. 

    Anyway, the touch-screen was amazing and the value proposition was immediately obvious, it essentially gets rid of having to use the touchpad on notebooks. Touchpads are often notoriously hard to use, especially when you’re more accustomed to interaction via mouse. The presence of the touch-screen really eliminates the need to use the touchpad for primal tasks such as moving and clicking to switch applications and make selections. You’ll probably be amazed at the amount of time you spend actually moving the cursor back and forth from the taskbar switching between applications or minimising or closing windows and tabs. On Windows 8 with a touch-screen, it’s simply just a swipe in from the left to switch apps, a swipe in from the right to reveal ‘charms’, a swipe down from the top to close an app and a swipe up from the bottom bezel to reveal context menus. Once you get used to remembering that, it’s truly wow

    Which brings me to a really deflating negative: absolutely. positively. do not get Windows 8 if your notebook or computer doesn’t have a touch-screen. It’s an enormous pain in the ass and simple tasks often require a laborious grab and drag process and an unnecessary amount of scrolling. Multi-touch scrolling, or any sort of scrolling on PCs are generally atrocious experiences particularly when compared to Macs, so do yourself a favour and don’t put yourself through it. Windows 8 is not worth it on a computer without a touch-screen. I was considering upgrading my current Windows 7 sporting Vaio Z to Windows 8, but after today, that’s a definite no. I’m really not sure why manufacturers are stupid enough to even build Windows 8 products without touch screens. Oh well, I suppose it justifies Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ venture. 

    Overall, Windows 8 was most things I expected it to be but at the same time a little more and a little less. The bezel gestures which enable app switching and access to ‘charms’ appeared slightly impractical in demo videos and reviews, but it’s an act that really needs getting used to. But once you get those functions somewhat hard-wired into your second nature, the experience is truly seamless and blissful. It just works. At the same time I also expected Windows 8 to be less divided in the Metro/Desktop disparity, and I found it confounding that the Desktop environment could be activated even without legacy applications running. But it’s really an issue that will only trouble someone like me with an intense fuss over unity in UI design. There’s a learning curve, but if you have a touch-screen computer, then trust me it’s worth it. If you don’t, forget it.

    So how would I rate it? Solid. But not superb. Nor is it perfect, it’s far from it. In fact, it probably isn’t even the best release of Windows, from a reviewer’s technical standpoint I’d vouch that Windows 7 trumps it. But in terms of overall significance, Windows 8 is a conspicuous turning point and positions Microsoft well in a disrupted PC market.

    Apple has a lot to think about, but more on that later. 

     
  8. Tourist-ing in my own city during Open House Melbourne 2012. Rather tragic that I forgot to post these until now - but just some quick shots in and around Melbourne.

     
  9. Dear The Verge - please stop hatin’ on Windows

    I’ve been waiting for these reviews from The Verge ever since I heard about these devices - the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X. The way it seems is that there’s a strange misguided bias against Microsoft and Windows in The Verge HQ. I don’t think that Microsoft and it’s partners are getting the credit they deserve for the effort and innovation being put into so many Windows Phone.

    It’s a harsh industry and I know that nobody gives you concessions for effort - you don’t get points for trying, you only get acknowledged for results. But I think Microsoft’s latest efforts are being unfairly put on the back-foot in these reviews for purely existential reasons, these new devices get a score shaved off them simply for being Windows Phones. I have absolutely no objections to The Verge grilling these devices and the platform they run on for that chronic app deficiency. It’s an issue which certainly plagues the young platform and until it gets fixed it’s an inherent short-coming in the user experience which readers should be aware of.

    Where I do have a problem is The Verge’s numbered scoring system which is kind of crap for two reasons - it’s inconsistent, and it poses a perception problem. I think numbers are great when used properly, but they can be a precarious conclusion in product reviews. Engadget dumped their numbered scoring system for product reviews because of this, apparently numbers are a cheap and hasty conclusion that betray the depth and complexity of reviews. And the author’s just didn’t feel that a number could justify the weight of a product’s strengths and weaknesses because these are all relative to how the author sees it, and not perhaps how readers will feel about it.

    But wait…isn’t that the point of a review? To see an author’s opinion, as opposed to an author’s opinion on what he thinks my opinion would be? After all, I think I’d be the better judge of that. I’m curious to know what different people and publications think, that’s why I read reviews. If I wanted some purely objective overview of how good something is the spec sheet would suffice. And numbers provide another immeasurable benefit - solidity. By that, I mean that numbers are numbers, they’re just digits. Unlike prose, it’s not open for interpretation or misguidance. A 7 out of 10 is a 7 out of 10 for both the enamoured and the disgusted.

    So back to The Verge, I love numbers, and I embrace opinions - but I also think that publications have an obligation to some sort of pseudo-objectivity and that reviews can’t be totally hinged on the pretensions of certain individuals. I think that publications themselves - as a collective of authors - should be the voice behind product reviews instead of individual authors. I think individual perceptions and inclinations play far too big a part in reviews on The Verge.

    I think that’s a problem that hurts my trust for The Verge product reviews and why many are markedly inconsistent and somewhat biased and unfair. The issue shines particularly well when it comes to Windows Phones which always seem to fall unfavourably with the Verge reviewers. 

    Take the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920 - both are undoubtedly fantastic phones. Speaking as objectively as an opinion can possibly be, I doubt anybody can pick up one of these and say that these suck with a straight face. But their scores don’t portray them as too flash - both of these devices received a 7.8 and a 7.9 respectively. Actually these scores aren’t too bad but relative to competitors that have been reviewed recently such as the iPhone 5 with a venerable 8.8 and the new Nexus 4 with an 8.3, it’s dismal - particularly for two phones which Microsoft would happily regard as ‘flagship’.

    I mean, ‘ouch’, people have obviously engineered and innovated the shit out of these two phones and to be handed a rather tame 7.8/7.9 from arguably the most influential technology blog on the planet has got to hurt. But when you look at the details the party pooper of the overall score was the ‘ecosystem’ category, which landed a 5/10 on both these phones - obviously Windows Phone’s lack of third party apps being the soul cause. Aside from that, these phones are stellar. The ecosystem category is the one that hurts all of Microsoft’s newest platforms on The Verge reviews, it creates a mockery of the system because it essentially means that it’s impossible for any Windows Phone to be notably ‘good’ which is absurd. 

    The fact that the ecosystem category, the single low-scoring anomaly on the latest Windows Phones is an unchangeable existential problem is something which absolutely needs to be taken into account when deciding on the final ‘Verge score’. Perhaps people will understand that these are great phones sans the ecosystem problem, but perhaps people won’t - it’s all about perception and a 7.9 doesn’t leave quite a sweet taste in the mouth when compared to the much more tried and true iPhone with an 8.8. The scores on Windows Phones need to be more heavily weighted because the ecosystem oddity is hurting them much more than it needs to. 

    Additionally, inconsistency is something which plagues these reviews. I took it upon myself to look at several first generation Windows Phone reviews done on The Verge and found something peculiar. Both the HTC Titan and Samsung Focus Flash which were both earlier - and now non upgradeable - Windows Phone models (running Windows Phone 7/7.5) scored 6/10 in the ecosystem category. Is The Verge really proposing that the Windows Phone ecosystem has gotten worse in Windows Phone 8? That’s a factual impossibility since all Windows Phone 7 apps are Windows Phone 8 compatible. These reviews were all written by different authors, but there needs to be a level of consistency before these reviews become worthless as an aggregated entity and worthless for product comparisons. 

    There also seems to be a short-sighted assumption that an ecosystem is all about apps. It’s absolutely not. In fact, it’s fair to say that ecosystem product integration in Windows Phone is second to none, this is the story of Windows Phone’s ecosystem that nobody acknowledges amidst the Marketplace bashing. Find me a platform that integrates with Xbox, Skydrive, Outlook, Office or Skype as seamlessly as a Windows Phone and then we can talk.

     
  10. Trend setting and trend following

    No doubt iPad Mini is a great product in every way you’d expect an iPad to be great - it’s fast and fluid, powerful, versatile, thin and a genuine design triumph. The iPad Mini as an idea however is far from great - it’s generic, unoriginal and fundamentally, un-Apple-like.

    Many people will challenge the generalised assertion I’m making here, but it’s undeniably true - Apple was and likely still is the unmistakeable leader in this mobile industry. And by mobile I’m talking about devices that transcend the notebook in terms of mobility and upfront useability. Apple marches to the beat of its own drum, and that’s an aspect of their business that I’ve always admired, and why I’ve always found it in me to back the company when they’ve slipped into moral or ethical grey areas. Apple doesn’t always play nice, but it always plays well and it deserves every dime of its success.

    The iPad Mini is indicative of a digression from this admirable disposition. It’s been quoted enough that Apple under Steve Jobs advocated strongly against the 7-inch tablet, citing that the physical size simply posed inherent useability disadvantages when compared to a larger 9-10 inch. We can delve into petty formalities and say that Apple really didn’t produce a 7-inch tablet which Steve Jobs adamantly stated would be DOA, but produced a 7.9-inch tablet. A minor difference if you ask me, but not according to Phil Schiller who was utterly resolute that this extra 0.9 of an inch was actually equivalent to 35% larger display area. Fair enough, you can’t argue with math - I’m an abomination at math - but that’s really besides the point. 

    35% larger or 10 billion percent larger, the crux of Apple’s philosophy lies in useability and user experience. Apple has been absolutely clear in letting us know - not directly but through subtle reinforcement over years on end - that a great user experience lies at the heart of any of their endeavours. And that really does reflect in the quality and distinctive class in their products - from the fit and finish to the fluidity of user experience, this philosophy shines. 

    The iPad Mini is most problematic from this perspective because the motive behind its inception wasn’t an enhancement in user experience, but it was a kneejerk defensive measure to counteract competitors gaining traction in a hot 7-inch market. If the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 hadn’t come around, the iPad Mini would simply be a shallow delusion marked by fabricated rumours. It wouldn’t be here, because Apple doesn’t believe in this form factor for this type of product. Tragically, the market pressures have prevailed against Apple’s idealistic sacred doctrine forcing them to play a game they never wanted to play and state a case in a battle that they never even believed in. But that’s not Apple is it? Apple creates its own games, it walks at its own pace. It never pursued the visions of others - even when the rest of the market did.

    Take the original iPad as a pertinent example, at a time when the industry was yearning for low cost computing which arrived in the form of crazily popular netbooks, Apple let this open opportunity slide for years. No doubt there would have been demand for a Mac OS X touting pseudo-notebook but it was besides Steve Jobs’ scope of vision. Apple didn’t play the netbook game, but they created a new one - the contemporary tablet - which has evidently turned out to be the better one that everybody wants to play.

    Another example - Apple’s stubborn refusal to incorporate optical disc drives and Blu-Ray drives into its products. Physical media is still a fundamental part of our media and entertainment lifestyles but it doesn’t fit in Apple’s vision. Despite not completely agreeing with the complete removal of physical media from their computing lineup, I respect the company’s passionate and adamant pursuit of a future which it just sees so clearly.

    iPad Mini will sell, but for all the wrong reasons. Farhad Manjoo of Slate Magazine writes that Apple is now a better company under Tim Cook for permitting a line-up with much greater scope and variation. There’s danger in this approach though, it’s a slippery slope towards greater commoditisation of its products, much like the Samsungs and LGs of this world - that’s hardly a good thing. Apple was the rare kind that had the conviction to transcend market pressures and pursue unrelentingly one vision, instead of throwing things to see which ones would stick. Sadly, that might be all changing.

     
  11. A start-up dilemma: Highlight - too early

    Great ideas usually take time to germinate into a model that is truly feasible. People are notoriously slow in grasping new paradigms, preferring to flirt with a comfortable present which is more often than not – entirely worthy and sufficient. This consumer mindset is an issue that faces aspiring and radical technology entrepreneurs – it is not sufficient to simply have the chops to think and execute the new ideas, but the right timing is nearly as crucial. To possess the patience and sense to release a radical idea into the wild only when the market is ripe, is a factor that can determine make or break.

    People discovery is a concept that has floated around the mobile app industry for quite some time. Apps like Badoo - which was founded in 2006 by a Russian entrepreneur and currently has a user base upwards of 150 million - operates around a fundamentally location-based model, by allowing users to see and interact with like-minded people around their specific region. Scores of other location based apps such as Banjo and Sonar have managed to find relative success in their respective niches as a location tag aggregator over various social networks and as a friend-finding system.

    However, none of these apps have managed to crack into the notion of ‘passive people discovery’ – a concept which is far more daring and out of sync with a current person’s typical lifestyle. Highlight, an iPhone exclusive application is perhaps the only app which has pursued this vision right from its inception without pivoting into more conservative and ‘present-day friendly’ fields. Highlight co-founder and CEO Paul Davison’s determined and unwavering pursuit of this utopia where ‘you’ll walk into a room and know everyone’s name’ is admirable, however his app and his team have paid the price for ignoring the warning signs. Highlight boasts a mere 5,000 daily users according to AppData, which is down from approximately 9,000 back in May.

    The sad truth is that nobody actually goes out with the expectation or intention of meeting and discovering new people along the way. For instance, if I was riding the subway to work, the idea that I would happen to stumble across my new best friend during transit is something of an outlandish view – and a wildly optimistic one too. Many people have taken this fact along with Highlight’s declining influence as reason to dismiss ‘passive people discovery’ as a niche concept far too obscure to ever succeed. The short-sightedness of a claim like this however, is embarrassing.

    For example Kirill Sheynkman of RTP Ventures says ‘a lot of these apps come from a problem that 99% of people don’t have’. Sure it’s a problem that almost nobody has, but is the app really trying to solve a problem? Is it a requirement that all apps be born out of a problem that needs to be solved? Highlight was never designed to be the kind of app which would allow people to scour the streets of downtown in order to find interesting people to meet up with. When you look at it from this perspective then Sheynkman is certainly correct, an inability to find cool and interesting people within a certain distance radius isn’t exactly a societal problem which people are screaming to be fixed. But if we’re kicking back with a coffee and find a great person to talk to in the same café, then we’d certainly be glad that the app’s there.

    Evidently, Highlight has its merits and theoretically speaking, Paul Davison’s vision for the app and the future of social encounters is appealing and enticing – it just needs a few more things to fall into place for it to be viable. Something as radical as Highlight isn’t the type of app to go viral and bask in exponential adoption rates, at least not now. The consumer is a hypocritical entity – far too fickle to take for granted but also far too invested in current trains of thought and behaviour to embrace unconventional breakthroughs.

    Privacy is the tallest hurdle that Highlight has to jump over, and it’s a remarkably tall one too. The main criticisms of Highlight from opponents of the app have been simply the fact that it’s ‘creepy’, as if it’s just inherently disturbing for like-minded people to realise that you exist within close proximity. For the sake of the app it would be preferable if the main criticisms of the app were ‘it kills my battery’ or ‘it’s intensely laggy’ because those faults can be ironed out through engineering. You can’t engineer social sentiments, at least not in the sense that would exist in Paul Davison’s nature – through streamlining code.

    The extent to which the consumer backlashes at the mere thought of being watched without explicit knowledge can be summarised adequately by looking back at the Carrier IQ scandal. Carriers and phone manufacturers installed the Carrier IQ software onto many phones, tracking the cellphone’s user activity. The ultimate aim of this tracking was simply for the purposes of troubleshooting and diagnosis, however this reassurance offered no succour for an already enraged and compromised consumer collective. The scandal raised an important discovery of particular pertinence to companies meddling with user data – consumers are intimidated by the idea of being watched, even if it’s for their ultimate benefit. This issue runs contrary to the trajectory of Highlight, which necessitates analysing user data and usage patterns in order to deliver results of greater interest and relevance.

    So how does Highlight overcome such a prohibitive consumer mindset? Well it can’t because the consumer simply isn’t ready and now simply isn’t the time. Warming up to the idea of ‘passive people discovery’ will require people to warm up to the idea of having publicly accessible information follow them around like a cloud above their heads. And for many and most users, this level of transparency exceeds the boundary with which they are comfortable.

    Facebook is the best example of great timing - right from its inception it has gradually worked towards greater transparency. User backlash has been evident, but its impact on Facebook’s growth has been negligible. Zuckerberg got people accustomed to the idea of sharing initially with the ‘what’s on your mind’ status prompt, and then he let our friends see what things we ‘became fans’ of. Then he changed ‘become a fan’ to ‘like’ because nobody becomes a fan of things in the real world, we simply like them – subtly breaking down the wall between our real world and our regulated privacy clad online persona. By making the notion of sharing much more palatable, the company then enabled location-based sharing and more recently, seamless and frictionless sharing through its Open Graph API.

    Timing is a factor which can explain why certain technologies which were deemed potentially industry-shifting haven’t found legitimate practical use. Siri on the iPhone demonstrates this; it was poised to be a game changer when it was released with the iPhone 4S and in theory it was a game changer, in the ads it was a game changer and in the eyes of Steve Jobs and co. it was too a game changer. To the user, it was just an entertaining gimmick. And it still is.

    You could argue that it’s because it doesn’t do anything as well as it should – an Android apologist certainly would – but the truth is, it does. Perhaps not to the extent that the ads portray it, but it certainly suffices in providing quick answers to everyday questions which would normally require us to jump through hoops to find. Sure it’s gimmicky, but it’s more than just a gimmick.  Samsung, through its S Voice feature have taken it upon themselves to emulate it, clearly they see the potential in the idea of the ‘virtual assistant’.

    The truth as to why Siri has been deemed by many as one of the most overrated and impractical innovations in the mobile industry is because talking to your phone is just weird. Such behaviour hasn’t yet entirely transcended the realm of science fiction, or the geek universe. It’s too radical to be normal. Nobody wants to get caught on the train talking to their know-it-all friend ‘Siri’.

    If Apple had allowed Siri queries through text as opposed to simply speech, its practicality and use would probably be significantly higher. Text entry is a much more subtle form of communication, and users need to be eased into the idea of talking to their phones, instead of having the concept dumped on them.

    Google Glass is another example, an idea that will change the world one day but is far too futuristic to digest now. Once people get acquainted to the idea of technology merging seamlessly with the way we live, then people will discover the appeal of Google Glass.

    Being a forward thinking technology entrepreneur is both a blessing and a curse. The ability to think, imagine and develop in anticipation of a distant future is an immeasurable gift, but many would be too smart to realise that society will be slower to catch up and much less open to embracing new ideas. This is Paul Davison’s dilemma; he’s developed for a future which the market simply isn’t ready for yet. People aren’t prepared to open up to a level of transparency which is necessary for an app like Highlight, but we’re getting there. When that time comes, Highlight will be in an environment where it can gain the pervasiveness in order for it to succeed. 

     
  12. Congratulations. Times a billion.

     
  13. 09:44 25th Aug 2012

    Notes: 176

    Reblogged from thisistheverge

     
  14. Microsoft Surface street art marketing in Brooklyn, NYC.

    Loving the concept: simple, smart, eye-catching and effective. 

    We’re still not sure whether this was commissioned by Microsoft directly, but it’s a win-win either way: either Microsoft knows ‘cool’ or they have fanboys passionate enough that do. 

    Source: The Verge

     
  15. 20:47 20th Aug 2012

    Notes: 21

    Reblogged from thenextweb

    Early adopters are keen to take advantage of everything that technology has to offer. Their key demands are summarized in Latitude’s report as ‘The 4 I’s’: Immersion, Interactivity, Integration and Impact. Essentially, they want to be able to explore a story in greater depth, and have it reach out of the confines of a single medium and play out in ‘the real world’.