Monthly Archives: September 2009

Comments on Courier

So busy the past few weeks I haven’t come up for air. Needed to post this though:

Courier User Interface from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

Now for some commentary: When I first saw this I was extremely excited. As someone who carries their Moleskine around everywhere I’d love a more powerful and web-connected digital replacement. In fact I’ve debated buying a Modbook pro for a while, but in the end it’s just too large to effectively replace my small-format Moleskine. And the iPhone doesn’t have a stylus so UI sketches with my fat-finger on a bouncing subway is out of the question as well. So the courier seems to be the right format and size and seems to offer functionality I could put ot use right away. But the more I watched the demo, the more I realized though those page-flip metaphors have to. Have we not outgrown this yet? This was cute in 2002, old in 2005 and I feel has no place in future computing. Yes, even future computing that seeks to directly mimic and replace things that do page-flips in the first place (books/magazines/newspapers). I mean even the new google magazine browser is called flip. Cool name. Tired metaphor. I made a point a while back that the NY Times Reader AIR application hitched it’s wagons too heavily to the newspaper format reading experience and didn’t innovate in new, more powerful ways to organize content in a composition beyond the “page” layout paradigm currently in play. I feel the exact same about Courier and almost all page-flip paradigms out there. Because in the end, if flipping the page really more useful to the user than something that’s quicker, requires less gestural input from the user and taxes the graphics engine less?

Now I understand this is a pre-production demo/leak/PR piece so the more sex the better. Hence all of the juicy flipping and spatial blurring, etc. I get it. But in the end, I’d love to see Courier’s UI team look beyond the limitations of a “page/page-flip” metaphor and onto a paradigm/metaphor that is more efficient/powerful/useful than any physical analogue.

We’re ready to break the shackles of digital-metaphors-that-map-to-the-physical-world-because-we-wouldn’t-be-able-to-understand-how-to-use-the-computer-any-other-way. Recycle bin get off my digital desktop and back onto the floor next to my feet.

Approaching it From Both Ends

So if this:

eeekeyboard-pc_final_hiresv2

had a large touchscreen instead of physical keys would it be a killer tablet PC?

I look at this and think of a point Marshall McLuhan made in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man: that just before a new medium arrives, the older medium mirrors some of the behaviors of the new one. My point isn’t that this idea can be correlated 1-to-one. but there’s something to it. Are tablets really going to take off the way we all think they can (finally)? This eee Keyboard is essentially weirdly formatted laptop (with no on-board battery I presume). Why not go all the way here and merge the Optimus Tactus with the eee?

optitact-video

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Epic Yahoo FAIL

Picture 1

Almost only counts in hand grenades and nuclear bombs. Not Fantasy Football live drafts. Hasn’t Yahoo heard the news? …lots of problems today across the board – not just me. The message boards and (ironically) Yahoo Answers were lit up with complaints and rants about how poorly prepared they were this season to handle demand. I immediately rallied my team to switch to ESPN. And so goes the invisible hand of the market…

Matt Taibbi is My Hero

He’s back with a new MUST READ about healthcare:

It’s a situation that one would have thought would be sobering enough to snap Congress into real action for once. Instead, they did the exact opposite, doubling down on the same-old, same-old and laboring day and night in the halls of the Capitol to deliver us a tour de force of old thinking and legislative trickery, as if that’s what we really wanted. Almost every single one of the main players — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Blue Dog turncoat Max Baucus — found some unforeseeable, unique-to-them way to fuck this thing up. Even Ted Kennedy, for whom successful health care reform was to be the great vindicating achievement of his career, and Barack Obama, whose entire presidency will likely be judged by this bill, managed to come up small when the lights came on.

We might look back on this summer someday and think of it as the moment when our government lost us for good. It was that bad.

Are You a Future Van Jones?

Arianna brings something up that I don’t think a lot of us worry about. She says (about the Van Jones scandal where he allowed himself to be associated with the 9/11 Truther movement by signing their petition):

If the sliming of Van Jones is an indication of how things are going to be, a lot of 20-somethings posting to their Facebook pages as we speak better start worrying about the digital crumbs they are leaving behind for the future Glenn Becks of the world.

I remember right after 9/11 signing all sorts of anti-war petitions, visiting the Loose Change website and consuming other wacky points of view – completely without regard to the breadcrumbs I left behind.

Maybe that’s why Organic is asking, “Does Your CEO Really Need to Be on Facebook?“:

It’s a huge debate around the Organic circle and it doesn’t appear many CEOs are. Out of the 2009′s Fortune-100, only 19 (gasp) have a personal Facebook page. But don’t go shaking fingers just yet. What I found even more shocking was that only two had Twitter accounts — one of which has ZERO tweets.[1] Wait. I’m not done. None had blogs.

I’m sure a lot of them don’t feel the reward is worth the penalty for one false move. The thing is that I DON’T think I’ll be like that for us 20-somethings [barely!!!] when we get older. I think the penalty for a social-web misstep (even for politicians) will be akin to putting your foot in your mouth. It won’t destroy you, unless you’re calling people Macacca, because we’ll all have done it at one point or another.

Today not everyone has published a book or has a regular newspaper column, so when we see a “gotcha” moment in the written word we seize upon it – even the digitally printed word. But we’re all blogging/tweeting/updating our Facebook status. And pretty soon the hypocrite-bell will go off in our own heads when we try to condemn someone else for what digital breadcrumbs they’ve left behind in their 20s because we’ll remember the really whack shit we did way back when. I guess it just sucks for Van Jones.

Shan Zhai Honda Civic

Reading a few blogs this morning I came across a term I had never head before: Shan Zhai.

Shanzhai (simplified Chinese: 山寨; pinyin: shānzhài) refers to Chinese knockoff and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics. Literally “mountain village” or “mountain stronghold”, the term refers to the mountain stockades of warlords or thieves, far away from official control. “Shanzhai” can also be stretched to refer to people who are lookalikes, low-quality or improved goods, as well as things done in parody.

Looks like Kia is going the way of the mountain villagers, warlords and thieves. Someone check Honda’s pockets…