Monthly Archives: March 2010

Cookie Cutter Apps = Bad

Last week Mulvey and I were talking about the mental fork created by Apple’s app strategy. Specifically, I mentioned I sometimes get confused when I want to “switch” my context from one thing on my iPhone to another – I’ll hit the home button and search for an app if I’m looking for a web page or vice versa. This usually results in me leaving mobile Safari by hitting the home button, only to quickly realize my mistake and relaunch mobile Safari. A mental hiccup that isn’t a big deal, but is annoying nonetheless.

I just read a report on macRumors that states:

Between the developers I spoke to, the consensus was this: Apple doesn’t appear to be opposed to ‘app generators’ and templates per se, but in the last month or so it has started cracking down on basic applications that are little more than RSS feeds or glorified business cards. In short, Apple doesn’t want people using native applications for things that a basic web app could accomplish.

Good! Of course I would never sacrifice the amazing interactive experiences that native apps provide, but do the Huffington Post and NYT really need the speed and power of a native app to accomplish what their apps really do vs a full-web experience?

I have no problem with Apple guiding app builders and leading the strategic direction apps should take. Especially if they’re able to clean up the little mental hiccups that occur along the way.

Go Tufte!

(from combustion)

Edward Tufte Presidential Appointment

Edward Tufte, March 7, 2010:

I will be serving on the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel. This Panel advises The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, whose job is to track and explain $787 billion in recovery stimulus funds:

“The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 with two goals:

  1. To provide transparency in relation to the use of Recovery-related funds.
  2. To prevent and detect fraud, waste, and mismanagement.


I’m doing this because I like accountability and transparency, and I believe in public service. And it is the complete opposite of everything else I do. Maybe I’ll learn something. The practical consequence is that I will probably go to Washington several days each month, in addition to whatever homework and phone meetings are necessary.

Facebook, Twitter, Flickr (+ more) Aggregator

Walk by anyone’s desk at my office and you’ll see TweetDeck running or minimized in the background. It started as a great piece of software for the hardcore Twitterer and has matured into a pretty good social feed aggregator. I never really loved the UI though. It’s treatment of the chicklet buttons across the top always seemed to be an inelegant way to execute a button bar.

The other day I decided to incorporate social media feed monitoring into my daily routine (acquiescing is a more appropriate word) so naturally I popped open TweetDeck, but I started to feel the same “ho-hum” response I had when I first noticed the app. Yes they have a few new features, but the UI and experience of using the app has remained largely the same. It was then when I remembered Skimmer, the application built and distributed by Fallon and designed by Andy Gugel. I remember giving it a brief mention on this blog and promising to kick the tires a bit – which I’m now getting to.

Aside from the beautiful visual design of the application – with it’s strong use of a gridded structure and subtle tone-on-tone coloring – I really like how you can commingle the feed to incorporate all of your social accounts into one reverse-chron feed. You can also minimize the application into simply the feed as a widget (smaller footprint on your desktop). This feature is great. I know TweetDeck does that too, but I don’t like the way that TweetDeck’s minimized view is the same main application view – just resized to be smaller. It’s inelegant. Skimmer on the other hand actually repositions and re-imagines the UI for the smaller footprint.

So the bottom line is that I’m a Skimmer fan – great work Fallon and Andy. I prefer an application that (arguably) does less, is positioned as a great user experience rather than a hardcore workhorse, looks great and simplifies the process of interacting with its main objective over anything else.

More On Courier

From Engadget:

the interface appears to be pen-based and centered around drawing and writing, with built-in handwriting recognition and a corresponding web site that allows access to everything entered into the device in a blog-like format complete with comments

This is a fantastic idea. I’d imagine the same thing is possible with an iPhone or iPad via an “app”. However the lack of pen support makes the idea of the iPad replacing my moleskine rather unappealing.

I could do without the page-flipping, but I really like the ability to zoom out to go to a page at a macro-level. I’m also digging the positioning here that this thing is geared toward creatives who sketch, collect mood-art and ultimately create things. I could see myself benefiting from a device like this for sure…

Big Bang

Big Bang is a new trend map from iA – the same folks that brought us the Web Trend Map poster series. This sucker takes a look at a level abstracted from actual domains – social networks.

I particularly enjoyed this quote:

Since twitter is becoming an alternative web protocol that—together with facebook—gets close and closer to replacing the domain/search paradigm, we decided to make an info graphic that shows how and through whom Twitter developed into what it is now, close to its 4th birthday.

Right on. I really get annoyed at people who facebook me before (or without) emailing. I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite, but come on. i like my email program better than facebook messaging. I can sort, search, archive locally. If we want to abandon email for facebook then at least the facebook devs can have the decency to provide their messaging service API.

But I digress. Seriously though, check out their description:

We call it Big Bang. It shows the explosive development of Twitter since the beginning from its center (birth) with two people to its edges (today) with 75 Million people. Well aware that a big paper thin disc it’s probably going to be a bitch to print and a big pain to put the wall—we are still going to try to print it circle round. Please don’t faint just yet.

Sounds rad – can’t wait to see it.

David vs. Goliath (Method 10×10)

Method is gradually rolling out beautifully designed white papers illustrating insights they’ve gained over their first 10 years of operation. I just read David vs. Goliath which is about OTT services (like Hulu, Boxee, etc.) vs. Big Cable. Aside: if you’ve noticed food network briefly being unavailable or the threat that ABC 7 will leave the Cablevision airways soon then you know how volatile this discussion is on all fronts.

What I found striking about this piece is that current TV owners aren’t “cutting the cord” of cable TV, but rather new potential subscribers simply aren’t signing on to their service. I don’t quite fall into the category of digital Native, but I have family that does. And I can say that this finding looks like it’s true from my anecdotal field research.