Tag Archives: Internet

Evernote sync issues

Evernote CEO The brain to become the second userArgh! I’ve begun to notice a fatal shortfall in Evernote’s capabilities. When used offline, it’s fine. When used online, it’s fine. When used in that grey area of theoretical connectivity or fuzzy mobile reception, it often blanks the notes you’ve written as you’re making amends, making it very, very easy to upload a ‘blank’ note over your other work. And the only way to retrieve other versions of notes you’ve synced is to cough up the $5 a month Evernote asks for the premium version (for which I have no other use).

Damnit, Evernote. You were so close to perfect.

Charlie Stross on ‘true naming’ – and Google+

I hadn’t really considered the full implications of Google+’s “true naming” policy, but Charlie has the issues mapped out perfectly here.

To start with, as Patrick McKenzie pointed out in his blog last year (before all this blew up), programmers almost always get name handling wrong because there is no universal format for a human name.

Charlie goes on to point out a whole bunch of other reasons why this is a problem for Google and it’ll be interesting to see how they resolve it. The anti-cultural bias of the ‘True Name’ policy is very unlike Google, despite the (admirable?) goal of keeping the social network honest. But as Charlie points out:

Google are wrong about the root cause of online trolling and other forms of sociopathic behaviour. It’s nothing to do with anonymity. Rather, it’s to do with the evanescence of online identity. People who have long term online identities (regardless of whether they’re pseudonymous or not) tend to protect their reputations. Trolls, in contrast, use throw-away identities because it’s not a real identity to them: it’s a sock puppet they wave in the face of their victim to torment them.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out… although of course, I’m still not quite using Google+ yet. It needs events, and more people I actually know, as opposed to randoms with no profile adding me, possibly expecting reciprocity.

As an aside, I’m still reading Charlie’s Rule 34 – took a break from novels to catch up on some DCU comics – and it continues to be awesome. Charlie’s mentioned a few AR overlays, a lot of tablets, a few 3D ‘fabbers’,  but no social networks yet – maybe, in the near future, we all forget our logins…

Legality of online tablature sites

We all want something beautifulWas having a conversation with @patrickyiu about the legality of guitar tab – after all, it straight out makes use of someone else’s copyrighted material, most of the time, even if it is someone’s interpretation of it… For the uninitiated, guitar tab is musical notation for dummies for guitars (probably for most stringed instruments, but most commonly available for guitar, bass and… drums online) – a series of dashes and numbers indicate which string you need to depress and which fret of the guitar  you need. All that’s needed is a knowledge of the song and you can use this system to learn entire songs.

I remember in the early days of the net, finding great pleasure in discovering the Online Guitar Archive – OLGA – which saved me a fortune in music books and eliminated the need for me to learn how to transpose musical notation – which I’d learned from piano lessons – to the guitar.

OLGA, however, was shut down following disputes with the record labels. In the past decade, however, other forces have arisen, including the Ultimate-Guitar site, creator of that iPhone App I mentioned the other day. Curious about how this could possibly be legal, I delved through the bowels of the Internet, finally arriving at Wikipedia (Ok, it might have bent he first place I went) – where I read about the rise of legal tablature sites.

Turns out they share ad (and presumably app) revenue with the labels, which is rather clever. Here’s to new business models on the Internet and me finally learning how to play a few songs in their entirety…

Random adds on Google+

I’m not really sure what’s going on with Google+ at the moment. Whilst I like the interface, my inability to simply syndicate posts to it (via Tweetdeck or anything else), the limited number of "Real Life Friends" on it and the growing number of randoms adding me on there (at the present rate I’ll have more followers on my largely ignored Google+ account than I do on my reasonably active Twitter account in a few months) makes it all a bit confusing.

New features keep launching though, so we’ll have to see.

I can’t help but think that this is where the closed nature of Facebook is quite nice – the option to ‘decline’ friend requests gives you a nice kind of control over who you share with. I suspect Google will have to give you an option to view the posts from a selection of circles so you can selectively ignore posts from circles like "Internet Randoms," and/or we’ll end up creating ‘supercircles’ for one click sharing – i.e. I want to share with everyone except the Internet Randoms.

And to the Internet Randoms that are following me (and everyone else) – stick a decent bio / about page in. If I have no way of knowing who you are and you have thousands of people in your circles, I will block you. Sad but true… I just don’t have the time to be interested in people’s thoughts when I have no way of establishing who they are.

Chuck Norris is the Internet – Cleverbot.com AI

cleverbotI’m always curious about attempts to challenge the Turing Test, in which machines convince humans they’re human through intelligent interaction. I remember using an ancient text-to-speech programme that attempted this – Dr Sbaitso – extremely badly in the early 90s.

I’d love a world in which there were useful simulacra of humans able to support humanity in its day-to-day dealings (Skynet, natch), but have never yet come across a useful implementation of this technology.

Of of my many blog subscriptions pointed me to Cleverbot.com, an “AI” simulator whose intelligence is predicated on human knowledge available on the Internet. The bot warns you that its insights are based on what people say and think around the Internet and therefore might potentially be offensive.

It took me three questions to get to a Chuck Norris reference. I reckon five questions in I’d be onto Nyan cats and Dogforts.

To the creators of Cleverbot: if you were going to pick a compendium of human knowledge, as wonderful as the Internet is, you might need to sling in some algorithms that limit the frequency with which people mention Chuck Norris, pirates and ninjas, hipster (and other) kitties, things-made-of-bacon-that-normally-aren’t, and a thousand other memetic ideas. Despite the fact that people talk about these things at extreme length with surprising regularity online, they don’t in real life and therefore Mr Turing and his test will remain undefeated.

Unless, of course, that’s the whole idea. Imitate and Internet Savant and people won’t know the difference. It could be inspired!

Google nonplussed

googleplusIt looks good and has some very slick features, but until it opens to the general public and we get a sense if anyone cares, it’s really difficult to tell if Google’s new social network, Google+, is going to be a useful digital platform for me. Right now, it feels a little Google Wave did – slick, pretty, but ultimately without use, and giving me one too many social networks to manage.

That said, the fundamentals are really solid – working around circles of contacts so that privacy controls should be easier to maintain (not that I’ve found those yet).

More to follow, inevitable. Thanks @qwghlm for the invite.

New online retail experiences


Against a backdrop of failing high street retailers, the growth agenda, and lots of clients involved in every aspect of the shopping supply chain, I’ve been thinking a little about how brands are making the transition to a more compelling online experience. After all, people still need stuff, so how are retailers drawing us in?

One of my agency’s clients has been doing some funky stuff to socialise its online shopping experience. NET-A-PORTER (admittedly not somewhere I shop) has launched NET-A-PORTER Live – a live, interactive Google Maps mash up showing what people are buying from the NAP store and allowing you to click through, share or buy things as they appear. It’s pretty cool, although I’d guess that it’s too early to tell if its working as a source for shopping inspiration and up-sell opportunities. NAP continues to invest in dev staff to create and evolve these experiences, which is one of the reasons they’re working with us to tell this story.

I also read/watched with interest as Pizza Express launched a partnership with PayPal to do online payments for in store eating using an iPhone. Now this looks slick-ish, but there are a few obvious questions; is paying by credit card really that fiddly (I think not), and does it really add anything to the experience that consumers really need? If NFC was involved, or QR codes automated part of the process I might think it was a better idea but as it stands, it feels like an expensive novelty.

On the other hand, Addison Lee expects to make 20m in iPhone cab bookings this year. Now that’s an app that fundamentally shifts the experience for the better, and so I’m totally unsurprised

Noticed anything else cool around?

Churchill on the Internet

Well, not really, obviously, but given my recent posts on various aspects of technology – in which Apple keeps rearing its beautiful, well-designed head – I thought it might be adapted.

Churchill reportedly said:

"Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains."

It strikes me that a similar analogue applies to openness on the Internet. At its core – openness is a good thing. It opens up consumer choice and lets those able to achieve ludicrous ends.

But in my old age (over 30 – therefore possibly not a digital native anymore!) – the practical realities of making everything work together in an open environment is just too much work. Hence the appeal of Evil Apple – with their closed, perfectly designed systems, you can’t do everything. But you don’t need a degree in software engineering to make it work.

I still believe that openness is a good and necessary thing. But I’m an increasingly practical, time-constrained man with too many hobbies for purely open technologies. So I’ll settle for a well-designed, well-executed closed system most times….

I’m still a liberal though. So in Churchill’s view, I’m either an idiot or… still young in some regards… or both.

Internet killed the traditional book store. And the record shop. And the…

There’s a lot of talk amongst our client base of the new business models and innovation possible thanks to the power of the Internet. There’s also a signficant amount of chat about what it means for the pre-web business models – particularly in the media sector.

Look at Waterstone’s, sold last week for a relative pittance. And the share price of the HMV Group – on a persistent downward spiral over the last 12 months – demonstrates how poorly that business has adapted to the Internet age. Contrast that with Amazon or even B&N and you’ll see that real innovation is needed to translate some of those legacy business models to the new delivery platforms we have for media. Amazon is selling more Kindle books than print books – absolutely astonishing. Who would have guessed that things would move this quickly?

B&N, worth around $1bn, as Tom pointed out on Twitter the other day, has managed maintain its valuation where Waterstones et al haven’t. The analysis points out that it has tried to keep on the edge of things with an innovative eBook portfolio in the US. Tom sums it up neatly:

If that’s not an advert for why old media businesses have to aggressively investing in digital platforms, I don’t know what is.

Waterstones’ e-commerce ventures were hopelessly bumbling – first a partnership with Amazon, then its own webstore, and then perhaps a slightly misjudged ebook strategy which I still don’t fully understand today.

I guess, though – that at least they tried. And establishing what insights are needed to drive appropriate customer-centric innovation requires an understanding of customers that goes beyond what they themselves think they need – three years ago when I first got an e-reader, virtually no-one I spoke to was willing to give up the feel of a rustling paperback. We would never have guessed that so many people would be reading everything on Kindle [apps] this soon – but here we are.

The worse thing anyone can do about the Internet is bury your head in the stand. It’s a rolling force for change, whether we like it or not, and is having a dramatic impact on virtually every business I come across – nowhere more dramatically than in the media sector.

My brother talked about the need for smart, digital people in the film and TV industry over on Screen Daily and the apparent dearth of them in his industry. As someone passionate about the media sector here’s hoping that the digital people find their way out of the woodwork and help with the industry in the evolution of its more traditional business models… so there’s not only aggressive investment, but sensible investment in the development of new business models…

Digital ancient

I had an email from Yahoo! the other day thanking me for being a user for the last 12 years.

I mostly use it as a spam-catch these days but find it astonishing that I signed up for it that long ago. In times before that – I had a Hotmail account (which I still use for IM) – that’ll be going back 17 years.

Holy heck, I seem to be old. Does this mean I’m no longer a Digital Native? Or that there’s some kind of ghastly Digital Native 2.0 out there?

As edgy and down with the kids as I try to be perhaps I should accept the crushing inevitability of it all, get a pipe and smoking jacket and start being irate at young people these days…