1. Dan Lyons and the case for Instagram

    There are so many pretentious people in this world who are arrogant enough to tell other people who they are; without ever meeting them, without ever seeing them, without even knowing of them. Who are arrogant enough to think they can universally define things which are subjective in nature. Take Dan Lyons for instance, a technology journalist which I do respect but is in so many ways exactly what he accuses other people of being - ‘pretentious douche tards’.

    In a post on online news blog ‘The Daily Beast’, Dan Lyons thought he would be funny and write a derogatory and distasteful rant article on Instagram, the connotations of its Android extension and of course its users.

    In a nutshell his article points towards what he sees as a class warfare between iPhone users and users of the ‘lesser’ Android phones, citing the general arrogance of iPhone users and their tendency to label themselves as the tasteful, artsy demographic of the smartphone market. He takes a swipe at the whole user base of Instagram dismissing them as nauseating wannabe hipsters spending their time at back-lane coffee shops and ‘photographing’ graffiti-filled city alleyways. He discounts the output of Instagram’s filters as ‘horrific eye manure’ and finally, he attempts to vouch for his journalistic integrity by mentioning research statistics to back up his inane Instagram hatred.

    I have absolutely no problems with Dan Lyons’ feelings towards Instagram and its photos; art invites opinions and opposition with open arms. I don’t like every piece of artwork I see, particularly when people splash paint onto a canvas without thought and instead try to piece together their intentions after its completed. Some people love it, and that’s cool too. Some people hated the stark simplicity of the original World Trade Center, I loved it, and that’s cool too. 

    What pains me is that if Dan Lyons were reading this its possible that he’d be spewing at the fact that I would even associate the word art with Instagram. He mentions explicitly that he despises the fact that these ‘talentless hipsters’ are convincing themselves that their Instagram work is ‘art’ simply because they were given the opportunity to apply interesting colour filters. 

    First off, I’ve never heard of or know of anyone who has tried to label their Instagram-enhanced photographs as ‘art’. People just don’t do that, and its just an example of sensationalist nonsense propaganda that Dan Lyons tries to pull off in his article. Sure, it’s understandable why such a perception would be a stereotype but it renders the entirety of Dan Lyons stance on the pretentious culture of Instagram users moot; it’s just simply not true. We can’t play on perceptions.

    Secondly, what is art? Dan Lyons seems to think he knows what it is, as if art has boundaries, guidelines and criteria. He implies that Instagram users try to play off their ‘photography’ as ‘art’, but he fails in acknowledging specifically and with purpose what aspect of an Instagram-processed photograph isn’t art?

    Art is essentially the sum total of making decisions, our choices add up and what we get is ‘art’. When I apply the Poprocket filter over the Walden filter in Instagram, that’s an artful decision. My photograph would look substantially different had I elected an alternate pathway. 

    I’m sure Dan Lyons wouldn’t deny the fact that photography is art, and photography is rife with decision making. We make choices on angles, on lighting, on subjects on camera settings, on moments - art is a form of expression, and Instagram is merely a new medium to do that.

    It’s really juvenile that technology journalists are even commenting on this superficial aspect of Instagram. Chris Ziegler of The Verge takes a similar side to Dan Lyons minus the arrogance, stating that a century on we’ll be wondering why the hell so many photos taken today looked like they were taken in the 60s and left out mistakenly in the sun. 

    I don’t know, I don’t know why its cool to make photos look a decade older than they really are. But if you don’t like it, at least have the class to simply acknowledge it and look away, instead of finding the arrogance to accuse 40 million people for something they’re really not and to tell the world that you think you know what art is, when you clearly don’t.

  2. "In this culture, I figure people have the right to name themselves; if you feel like a geek, you are one…You feel a personal connection with technology, less its mechanics than its applications and consequences…You don’t like being told what to do, authority being a force you see as not generally on your side. Life began for you when you got out of high school, which more likely than not, was a profoundly painful experience…Now, you zone out on your work. You solve problems and puzzles. You love to create things just for the kick of it…You may have power of your own now - a family, money - yet you see youself as one who never quite fits in. In many ways, geekdom is a state of mind, a sense of yourself in relation to the world that’s not easily rewritten."

    Geeks - Jon Katz

  3. Forget the product, remember the idea

    Google’s Project Glass unveiling has erupted an enormous spray of commentary from the tech industry. There’s an aura of excitement, but so many pundits are quick to point out the technical and practical flaws behind Google’s project and point fingers at the company for trying to create artificial hype over a product they may never build. 

    I’ve adamantly defended Google as they’ve weathered through this storm of negative PR surrounding anti-trust, privacy issues and their so far futile foray into social. Project Glass is facing similar bashing, and I’m defending Google once again, not because I have a fanboy allegiance, but because I like the idea and I’m glad they’re trying. 

    Roberto Baldwin of Wired Gadget Lab published an article on the topic with research from leading universities concluding that from a purely technical standpoint, it’s unlikely Google would be able to pull off what they’ve shown in this video. Technology doesn’t yet exist, particularly in such a wearable form factor that allows the transparent display to dynamically focus in accordance with the eye. The very transparency of the glasses display also poses brightness issues as people inevitably shift between low light and bright light environments.

    Tumblogger Joe Stracci whom is likewise not keen on the notion takes a much more superficial, and dare I say naive stance to Project Glass’s unveiling, citing three key points that I’ve paraphrased economically:

    1. Wearing these glasses will invariably be a pain in the ass (or on the face)

    2. Google doesn’t care about ‘helping you explore your world’ but wants to exploit your every action to control your life, and subsequently throw targeted ads at you

    3. Google is clueless to the dynamics of the technology industry and is therefore putting this video out there to hope to gain some feedback.

    No one is wrong here. I just think too many people are interpreting Google’s video and their motives incorrectly. It’s a project, not a product. It’s not like they’re hyping this concept so they can reach into people’s pockets with something that is no better than vaporware. I’m sure they’ve considered the technical difficulties and know that this is a tall order. But Google’s just showing us their vision - ‘this is how we see the future, do you think it’s awesome too?’

    But then again, it’s silly to seek judgement from the public on a project that likely won’t bare any fruits for at least a couple of years. People change, societies change and so will their sentiments towards technology. That’s the fundamental backbone of my gripe towards much of Joe Stracci’s arguments - yeah, it probably seems stupid today to have people with 20/20 vision wear glasses constantly and have it tickle the top of their noses; but it probably seemed stupid years ago that something so restricting as skinny jeans would end up becoming a fashion staple.

    As long as there’s sufficient value, people will adapt.

    All this reminds me of one of the most eye-opening technology articles I’ve ever read - Neal Stephenson’s 'Innovation Starvation'. He points out that today’s society collectively has a problem with executing on ambitious innovative dreams and sticking to ideas, but instead letting them slip when suddenly it seems even mildly unfeasible. 

    The reaction to Google’s Project Glass is just the perfect manifestation of this - we think we knows so much and we think we’re just so goddamn smart. We’re fickle, we’re in a bubble of omniscience and therefore, we’re way too quick to shoot down ideas that step beyond the confines of our rationality. As technology lovers, we’re meant to love technology and believe in its ability to stretch that boundary. 

    But instead, too few people believe in that motive anymore and suddenly Google’s gone all corporate on us - unveiling this video to bathe in the PR aftermath, and working on this product simply to sell better ads.

    Perhaps that’s true, but heck, Project Glass is awesome. If only people would stop teaming with their over-arching hubris and see that this is something - as tech lovers - we wanted all along. And at least there’s someone out there trying.

  4. Why the iPad won’t pull off an iPod

    Since its initial inception, the iPad has been the poster child for the tablet market, representing the gold standard for tablet perfection on basically every facet. The iPad’s software is unrivalled; it’s hardware, exquisite; and the marriage between the two, a couple that was always meant to be. 

    In the face of stiff competition, the iPad is still by far the dominant force in the tablet market. Apple managed to not only detonate the entire of HP’s mobile strategy, but forced RIM and Google into a fear-fuelled frenzy, making them deliver imperfect products hurriedly in the pure fear of getting into what Apple hyped as a potentially industry-changing market far too late.The result being the absolute mess that was Honeycomb, and the incomplete hodgepodge that is Playbook OS.

    Some journalists and pundits are signalling this dominance to be a repeat of the iPod situation, where more than a decade later Apple still holds the portable media player crown with a whopping 78% market share.

    But, no. That won’t be the case. The iPad isn’t going to pull off an iPod, it will follow the path of the iPhone, and Google (we won’t count out RIM either) is going to gradually devour the iPad’s market share until the two reach somewhat of a parity.

    There’s nothing scientific about the iPod’s sustained dominance in the MP3 player market, it simply boils down to two crucial points: competing manufacturers didn’t have the double edged sword that Apple possessed in both the content store and the actual hardware product; and secondly, back when the iPod (before the iPhone) was immensely relevant, the majority of Apple’s consumer had no consumer lock-in obligations. 

    The former point is fairly self-explanatory, the combined prowess of both the iPod and the iTunes store is a compelling proposition, particularly when none of Apple’s competitors could even match the hardware in the first place. And even though we like to discount iTunes for bloatware, it’s nice to have a cohesive media management and syncing platform. 

    The crux however is in the second point. In the pre-iPhone era, Android hardly existed and was completely non-existent on the consumer radar. The likes of Blackberry and Windows Mobile were the dominant smartphone forces of the day, but the general ‘App Store’ and ecosystem concepts were hardly engrained in the products. Cross-device integration was minimal, there was no consumer lock-in to keep consumers invested in the products of a particular company.

    Had Microsoft played it smarter, Zune could have kicked off, or at least been more successful than it ended up being. But since the Zune and Windows Mobile were so sparsely contended in both their product and approach, a Windows Mobile user in the market for an MP3 player wouldn’t be at any advantage picking a Microsoft Zune over an Apple iPod. 

    Since competitors weren’t in a position to play the consumer lock-in card, the iPod was a pure and simple no-brainer. 

    But the playing field is different today, not only does Google hold a large market share in the smartphone industry with its Android operating system, like Apple, there’s an ecosystem behind it — a reason for existing citizens to never move out. 

    Why would you pay for the same app twice when you only need to pay for it once? If a user has invested in Google Music, they’d be out of their mind to not extend that service onto an Android tablet. 

    Android tablets are far from perfect, and stacked against the iPad they’re simply far too inconsistent. But Google’s ecosystem is enough of a value add to many existing Android smartphone consumers to consider an Android tablet and subsequently buy Google time - enough time before they start shipping Ice Cream Sandwich on tablets in bucket-loads. ICS, like every other tablet OS is still no iPad, but it’s certainly progressed to the point that it doesn’t seem like a joke. 

    Using Honeycomb for the first time it was hard deciding whether to laugh or puke. I’m sure the team at Apple was tempted to do both.

    Google also has the trump card of versatility and choice under their belt. Having so many different devices congregated under a cohesive umbrella is a big plus for Google and consumers. One reason why the iPod never even came close to being dethroned was the fact that its competitors were so sparse, as if diluting one another into irrelevance. 

    Even though the Android manufacturers are warring against one another, collectively they are a powerful army with a level of versatility that Apple simply can’t beat, especially with one device, even two.

    Google, through the exploitation of desperate OEMs has the flexibility to penetrate the low end market with budget devices, has the flexibility to deliver niche features for niche consumers that Apple can’t and has the power to give its consumers the flexibility to change devices without ever switching ecosystems. 

    Apple’s business model can’t compete with that.

    A repeat of the iPod situation is simply an impossibility given the dynamics of the industry today. Apple won’t fail to pull off an iPhone though - losing the market share race but raking in immense profit share - the bottom line’s just as important. 

  5. image: Download


(via What’s in a Name? | The Intercom Blog)
  6. 18:52

    Notes: 7

    Reblogged from christenduong

    Tags: social mediafunny

    image: Download


Social Media Explained a la @ThreeShipsMedia
(disclosure - I work for foursquare and I like donuts)


    Social Media Explained a la @ThreeShipsMedia

    (disclosure - I work for foursquare and I like donuts)

  7. On James Whittaker and Google

    James Whittaker’s departure from the company he once loved continues to manifest Google’s growing reputation in the tech world: they’re simply too big and too ‘corporate’ to uphold their preach to ‘don’t be evil’ anymore. The Google of today supposedly isn’t a kid anymore, and has no use to keep the words ‘fun’ and ‘passion’ stencilled in the Google-approved dictionary.

    The recount that James makes of Google is one that has lost its foundations, ethics and its very soul in the pursuit of greed and money. Profiting from ads has become the core of Google’s narrow objectives, rather than the admirable and broad-minded pursuit of rewarding intellect. The crux of his dismay is that Google has trashed the very reason why so many engineers and entrepreneurs gravitised to Google in the first place - its acclaimed 20% time and innovation labs, and instead forcing everyone into a full blown war against Facebook — the ultimate threat.

    Google was no longer the playful little boy, but the big bad bully.

    As a passionate developer, James’s departure from Google is entirely understandable, it’s not easy being forced to do things you simply don’t care about. James cared about the product, and Google cared about the money, the most classic incompatibility in the technology industry. How do you balance the necessity to remain competitive, whilst also meeting the desires from the greatest engineers to create and innovate without the limitations of corporate-mandated objectives?

    You can’t. 

    This is why James and Google didn’t work. This is why they were forced to split. You can make the argument that yes it can indeed work, Google managed to strike that perfect balance before the brainwashed pursuit of social and Google+. Google was immensely successful, immensely profitable and the engineers bursting with ideas had space sufficient to blow their mind. It was an incredible optimum. But the dreamworld circumstances that Google lived in was impossible to sustain.

    Google had virtually no competitors of note. They had a strangle-hold on the internet ads market, and their search share wasn’t looking to budge.

    20% time and Google Labs permitted sprawled innovation, the product of passionate engineers. 

    But then Facebook came to real prominence, not simply in its remarkable number of sign ups, but the time that users spent and the level of sharing. The collective information that Facebook had of its users through constant status updates, messages, pictures and hell, constant ‘Facebook-ing’ (we’ll just leave it at that) was worth the sum total if not more than the audience that Google had for their ads. 

    In a moment of threat and potential belittling, Google simply didn’t have the resources to allow engineers time to work on their own little projects, do their own little things. Despite what anyone might be fooled into thinking, Google is a company, not a playground for engineers. Google’s social endeavours against Facebook was worthy of the unparalleled focus of the collective intellect of all its employees. 

    Shutting down Google labs didn’t mean Google had lost a grip on its innovative spirit, the company just needed to be leaner and meaner to keep ahead of the game that was clearly under threat. 

    James Whittaker states that Google took the Facebook threat personally, but why wouldn’t they? Facebook was meddling on their sacred ground, threatening the very core of their money-making. James states that subsequent to the Facebook threat, Google focussed on the ads and the money. He criticises the company for not leaving ads in the periphery to continue focusing on what really mattered - innovation, innovation, world changing ideas, creativity…

    But what use on focusing on these grand and glamorous ideals when money - the very commodity that any of these ideals stand on - may potentially dwindle, dwindle and eventually topple. 

    When Google faced the Facebook threat head on, catering to the needs of their very own existence, the fact that perhaps Google hadn’t succeeded with Google+ to the extent that they may have expected or hoped hit James like a slap of betrayal. He claims that he ‘bought into’ Google’s ambitious claims to ‘fix sharing on the web’, and when he saw no fruits to his labour aside from the paycheck, he became thoroughly upset - like he was offended that Google failed.

    James’s idea is that Google was a faker this whole time, disguising big world- changing plans to deceitfully motivate engineers to do nothing more than help make Google more ad money. What James doesn’t seem to see is that 1. there is sufficient evidence for Google to believe that sharing on the web does indeed need fixing and 2. Google needs to act to protect their bottom line. 

    For James, the bottom line and ad dollars might not mean anything; but what is 20% time, what is Google labs and what is Google’s little innovation microcosm when it doesn’t have the cash in the coffers to support it?


  8. Too funny.

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    Mitt Romney — epic troll face or what?

    Mitt Romney — epic troll face or what?

  10. Un-fucking-acceptable

    That screen above is the alert that appears every single time I try to turn a page in the Kobo Books app on my Blackberry Playbook after upgrading to OS 2.0. I’ve tried reinstalling the app, restarting the Playbook, signing in and signing out of my Kobo account - all attempted, all failed. 

    I absolutely refuse to factory restore my Blackberry Playbook, I simply shouldn’t have to. A new OS, should be working flawlessly the minute that it’s shipped. In a competitive industry like this where RIM isn’t even a front-runner, anything that doesn’t meet this consumer expectation is a failure. No excuses.

    We all waited 6 months for this new OS to come out and deliver us what should have been day 1 features, and what we get is a buggy joke of an update which now allows me to add meetings, view contacts and send emails. 

    If high fives are indeed shooting across board rooms in Canada, I pray for RIM’s future. If they’re proud of what has come out of this, then surely what they have in store for us in BB10 is going to be just as ‘good’. If I were Thorsten Heins I would be physically redirecting those high fives into the faces of incompetent engineers who need to wake the hell up.

    This is not how you deliver software, this is not how you deliver software that you hyped for the good part of half a year. Obvious as a steaming horse’s diarrhoea bugs like the one’s shown above have no place in final release software, hell, it shouldn’t even be in beta software. 

    Such a glaring oversight as this makes me wonder how that 6 months was spent, because it sure wasn’t spent in rigorous product testing. And it’s hard to believe that it would take more than 6 months to develop an email client. Even if RIM’s claims of having to amend their entire infrastructure isn’t a blatant lie, that sort of timing for major updates just isn’t going to cut it in an industry where the Android ecosystem gains leaps and bounds in practically weeks and months. 

    If this update demonstrated more underlying problems than just incompetent inefficiency, then RIM better sell themselves now before they get eaten alive by competitors who are simply leaner and meaner.

    I’m not just disappointed by the outcome of the Kobo app, after all that would be a stupidly measly complaint to dedicate a whole post towards. The main source of anger/disappointment/upset/madness is the fact that aside from what was promised, RIM didn’t give me any more. Print to Go was a welcome addition (and actually really useful), but I expected more than that. And there really should’ve been.

    There should’ve been updates to the operating system all around - updates to the Adobe Reader app, a searching mechanism and a Facebook app with scrolling that doesn’t lag like a scratched DVD. And for the love of god, why can’t videos resume from where they were last left off. I mean seriously, RIM, that is ancient technology.  

    RIM never promised anything more than the email, contacts and calendar, but they should have over-delivered, having so drastically under-delivered with the original release. This update was the time for RIM to show that they still had the capability to excite with a pleasant surprise, rather than being a perfunctory clockwork machine that only does what it’s meant to.

    The good press surrounding this update is all artificial, people are just glad that the update even came. But really, RIM took far too long to deliver far too little. And that Kobo error is simply inexcusable.

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    Forever Alone

    Forever Alone

  13. Dear Hollywood, Try Keep Up

    Internet content piracy has been an issue for a fair while, but only lately has it really begun to hit its peak with the introduction, and subsequent failure of SOPA and PIPA, as well as the shutting down of many popular downloading sites such as BTJunkie and Megaupload. 

    While us as the consumer shouldn’t expect to be able to download content for free willy-nilly, with the regulation and iron clad grasp that Hollywood has on their content, the MPAA and other media bodies shouldn’t expect consumers to readily shell out the cash for their content either. Particularly at prices that aren’t even reasonable.

    Perhaps one of Steve Jobs’ greatest contributions to media aside from Pixar, was iTunes and his underlying theories on content piracy - that the only way to combat piracy is to make paying for content easier and much more accessible. His thesis is unquestioned as iTunes remains the most popular online media store. However Hollywood, almost a decade later still looks at the internet as a chaotic anarchy of deregulation where illegal behaviour is a norm and where reason doesn’t stand a chance. 

    It doesn’t have to be like this.

    What Steve Jobs acknowledged, and what Hollywood has to acknowledge is the fact that you can’t end piracy, it’s always going to be here.

    Hollywood’s off base belief is that piracy combat is a front and center war where legislation and limitations are weapons of mass destruction to eliminate a complete pirate society. No, Hollywood. The piracy war is like a game of whac-a-mol, a game that you can’t win, a game that you can’t lose but one that if you play for long enough will suck your wallet dry and drive you absolutely bonkers. 

    The media industry shouldn’t be trying to knock down this never-ending group of moles, but to turn the movie loving population to more appealing alternatives.

    Unfortunately, Hollywood is spectacularly behind the times and are still trying to sell DVDs and Blu-rays as their primary content mediums and leaving internet content distribution to players like Google, Apple and Amazon who obviously have the technology chops. But, who are they kidding, does anyone actually still buy DVDs? Well of course, but it’s benefits are being largely crossed off as the world shifts to more digital, integrated and less vertical ecosystems.

    When I buy a DVD I can shove it into my DVD player, enjoy it for two hours and then shelve it away. That’s 20 dollars of money I will never get back for entertainment I can only enjoy in one place - my living room. Can I put that DVD on my tablet? On my phone? On my hard drive? No, because of copy protection. There’s a stark value proposition issue here - what sane person would buy a DVD they can’t really enjoy anywhere, when you can pirate a free digital copy that you can enjoy everywhere? 

    When I buy content in this highly connected age, I don’t just want to buy the content, the expectation is that I buy the right to use the content anywhere I want, because hey, I paid for it and it’s mine. That’s what the movie industry has attempted to do with its fancy new UltraViolet system, which is really just a new form of Digital Rights Management hidden behind a pretty name. The idea behind it is when you buy content either through retail or digital services, you have paid for the right to play it anywhere, any time on any service. 

    It sounds functional in theory but beyond that, the majority of users have belittled the system claiming it to be utter marketing bogus since the service doesn’t actually allow you to obtain a digital copy playable on mobile devices, henceforth defeating the purpose. Not only does this show that Hollywood has no idea how to build appealing technology, but it also shows that they are clueless to the desires of modern day consumers and that DRM, as has been tried time and time again is simply not the way. 

    Leaving the internet to players like Apple and Amazon to deal with is a poor move; if Hollywood wants the internet to really work for them then it’s time they started putting a hand in it. Deliver a universal payment method for all content across all services, assign a universal login for movie purchases. If people constantly have to log in and log out of services, set up new accounts and punch in credit card numbers every time they want to purchase a new movie, they have every reason to drop their patience and just hit ‘Download torrent’ instead. 

    For consumers there’s the cost motive too, paying for content has to be a lot, lot easier than downloading it for free. 

    Hollywood’s problem though is that they’re not smart enough to do anything remotely logical.

    Hollywood’s response to Whitney Houston’s death was to pull ‘The Bodyguard’ (a film starring Whitney Houston) from streaming services to cash in on DVD sales driven by the publicity of her death. Are you kidding me? Not only is this an unethical business practice, but it shows how short sighted they are in trying so desperately to revive their declining DVD sales instead of relaying their focus entirely to the internet. 

    Additionally, for the past month Hollywood’s efforts have been focused on utilising legislation to eliminate the pirates, something you actually can’t get rid of, as opposed to a much more doable and logical approach of conquering the pirates. 

    The way the MPAA and its head honcho Chris Dodd have attempted to influence congress to pass SOPA and PIPA is phenomenally alarming - 

    "Those who count on quote ‘Hollywood’ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake. Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."

    This quote from Chris Dodd shows how corrupt America’s lobbyist political system can really be. It’s actually quite an unbelievable statement, as if Chris Dodd was completely oblivious to the potentially disastrous PR aftermath. Instead of innovating themselves around the piracy situation, Hollywood is attempting to selfishly introduce legislation that will benefit no one but them. Even though SOPA and PIPA are gone for now, once Chris Dodd gains his lobbying rights, ridiculous anti-piracy bills will be back stronger than ever.

    If we handed the whole film industry to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs we’d probably be in a better place because they’re actually, you know, intelligent. Shitcan all the old fudgepackers at the top of Hollywood who only litigate, legislate and have no idea how to innovate. 

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    Blackberry Playbook OS 2. GET KEEN!

    Blackberry Playbook OS 2. GET KEEN!