In mobile photography, "Instant takes precedence over Perfect"

1:24:36 PM Ci’en Xu: Was up last night posting Berlin photos.

1:24:51 PM Ci’en Xu: Sometimes it feels like in this day and age, editing is more redundant.

1:25:03 PM Brandon Lee: How do you mean?

1:25:56 PM Ci’en Xu: I remember the days when Flickr was kinda like a big social network, and people were more obsessed about the rules of photography and how you edited them, etc.

1:26:17 PM Ci’en Xu: I guess now with mobile, instant takes precedence over “perfect”.

1:27:06 PM Brandon Lee: Yeah you’re right.

1:27:31 PM Brandon Lee: Which is why I like Mattebox… it kinda makes you feel like getting it right in-camera is important again, and maybe even enough.

1:28:02 PM Brandon Lee: When you leave everything to the phone to do automatically, there’s always the sense that you must insert yourself into the process, and that can only happen in post.

1:28:19 PM Ci’en Xu: But I still like editing, even if just to let you linger on your photos for a little while longer.

 

The intriguing Jawbone UP, which we can’t have in Singapore

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Site: http://www.jawbone.com/up

I’m not the first or fifth person to come to mind when a friend talks about fitness gadgetry; the only time I came close to being a buyer was with last year’s iPod nano. I used the pedometer once. Then with the 3DS and StreetPass, I tracked my walking for maybe a week before forgetting about it.

The beauty of Jawbone’s UP bracelet, which I’ve been waiting for most of this year, is that you can’t really forget it. It stays wrapped around your wrist, through showers and workouts, sleep and meals, continually recording your movements and interpreting them as steps, calories, games of tennis, and fitful tosses and turns in the night. Every now and then, you plug it into your iPhone, and an app throws you beautiful infographics and logs your activity, even comparing it to friends’ if you so choose. Competition changes everything, but so does have a visual feedback loop that makes you think about your behavior, and optimizing it.

And it’s just $99.

I’m sure in 9 months we’ll have an UP+ with Bluetooth 4.0 low-power technology that will work with the iPhone 4S, so everything can be wireless, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want one of these NOW. And because this is a Jawbone product, I can’t. It’s only available in the US for now, and they won’t ship it overseas.

This reminds me of the circus that getting a Jambox speaker last Christmas was, which ended with my girlfriend arranging a chain of favors through friends that I’m sorry to have inconvenienced. Jawbone distribution in Singapore is the pits. The Jambox, currently USD$180 in the US, hit the local market late and costs SGD$328, or USD$256. The Icon and Era headsets aren’t far off. It’s criminal bullshit.

They claim it’ll roll out internationally by the end of the year, but I’m not holding my breath. If any kind Stateside soul I follow on Twitter wants to help send me one, I’ll pay by Paypal!

Ditching Read It Later for Instapaper

This evening I made the switch from Read It Later to Instapaper. The latter is by far the more popular service. On the surface, it might be hard to choose one over the other. Their iPhone apps both cost $4.99 (Read It LaterInstapaper), they both have free-to-use websites, they both suck the text out of a web article you’re too busy to read at the moment of encounter, and store it online for later enjoyment. Well, at least that’s the idea.

It seems grabbing the right text off a page isn’t that easy, and RIL was just letting me down too many times. Quite often I’d have words like Home, About, and Related Articles – clearly bits of the navigational interface missed by the dust filter – appearing before or in the middle of the story I wanted to read. Sometimes they’d be the only words on display: the article itself having been weeded out and tossed aside, 90% of the page’s content or not!
The RIL text engine wasn’t very smart about pretending to be a normal browser either. Sometimes the policing mechanisms of a website would prevent it from loading the intended content and direct RIL to the front page instead. In the instances where I might only get around to reading the article months later, there’d be simply no way to remember what I was supposed to have been saving. Salon, Edge Magazine, Wired Mobile, and The New York Times all gave it trouble, among others.
There were reasons I stayed this long, though. Read It Later excels at being social. After reading an item I really liked, I could send it to Diigo for full-text archiving, or Evernote, or tweet it, Facebook it, bookmark it in Delicious, share it in Google Reader, or even email the plain text to a friend who might be interested. The Diigo bit was closest to my heart. But for every sweet feature – a full-screen view and a scrollbar for quick skimming are two examples worth mentioning – there’d also be the disadvantages of being second-best.
I think the reason Instapaper has such a knack for sniffing out the right words from a page is that dedicated users send Marco Arment emails whenever something doesn’t work right. By his own admission, the system is a pile of hacks, but as far as the end user (me) is concerned, it just works. I wish it didn’t always have to be about Features vs. Excellence, but Instapaper definitely wins the lower-my-blood-pressure challenge. RIL probably doesn’t get enough feedback to develop a comparably intelligent engine, but missing the first paragraph of every article on the New York Times? Come on.
Also, most apps install support for Instapaper first, and the wait for RIL integration is always long and uncertain. I don’t know if Nate Weiner, Read It Later’s developer, does anything to help adoption of his service along, but like in the case of the new Twitterrific for iPhone, users like me end up being the ones petitioning other app developers to please please please consider adding RIL support. It sucks.
Plus, in the time since I last saw Instapaper, it’s received a bunch of great new features like a paginated viewing method, and an enhanced presentation with inline graphics. I’ll miss RIL’s sharing features, and hope Instapaper adds just a couple more export options to the current choices of Tumblr & Twitter (Diigo, please!), but for the moment it’s enough that I can bookmark stuff and be secure in the knowledge that they’ll be waiting for me, complete, when I get to them.
The fact that this blog somehow appears in the screenshot for Instapaper in the App Store has nothing to do with it, I swear!

➟ What if Nokia went Android?

Monday Note:
Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s CEO calls his new head of mobile devices, Anssi Vanjoki in his office, hidden inside the company’s research center at 995 Page Mill Road, in Palo Alto, California. On his desk, three devices: a Nokia N900, a Motorola Droid and an iPhone.
‘Anssi, we’re hosed.
[…]
We once were the kings of sleek design. Now, look at the N900 next and cry. We’re the land Marimekko and Iittala, of Finnish design. All over the world, people pay a premium for elegance, for exclusivity. We’re not doomed to a race to the bottom, we’re destined to a race for quality, for elegance.
And look at the numbers. We spend 13.5% of revenue for R&D while Apple, doing “everything”, spends 3%. If we stop spending this doomed to failure R&D money, we can lower our percentage below Apple’s.
Next, we only do three models: good, better and best. Three price points and we’re done. Simple message, less product managers and other corporate busybodies showing PowerPoint slides to one another over endless meetings across ten time zones.
Anssi, look at me: are you ready for the bloodbath?’
I enjoyed this “science fiction” exploration of an imaginary conversation at Nokia HQ. It does kind of make sense for Nokia to stop throwing its money into the bottomless well of Symbian patching and superficial fixes in favor of Android. Alas, today brought a post on the Nokia corporate blog vowing to continue on the Symbian/Meego path over Android. It’s rousingly titled “The Fightback Starts Now”. I’m sure a lot of Nokia fans wish it had started back in 2007 when the iPhone was announced.

Smartphone usability and my parents

I just watched my mother try to take a photo with her Nokia smartphone for the first time. An orchid in the home was blooming, and it was the closest camera within reach. She only uses it as a regular phone, and as the least technically-minded member of the family, is strangely the only one not using an iPhone. Needless to say, she was baffled by the Symbian OS. A primary hardware feature on the device, and the icon was buried in a submenu. Afterwards, she asked my father where to find the file so she could email it to herself, and he couldn’t readily answer her.

His last phone before the iPhone 3GS was a Nokia E90 Communicator, a top-of-the-line Symbian workhorse business machine. He’d spent so much time understanding how it worked, that the iPhone’s simplicity initially confused him. He’d ask how to access the file system so he could manage his data. Coming around to a task-centric model (photos are always available in the Photos app; music lives in the iPod data well, managed with iTunes) took awhile, but now that he gets it, the Nokia way is unfathomable. Managing a nested file system on a mobile device is no consumer’s idea of fun.

There’s always been the image of Macs being for stupid/lazy people who can’t work “real” computers and handle complexity in the user interface. Now the iPhone has inherited that reputation in the face of competition from Android, a system that David Pogue calls “best suited for technically proficient high-end users who don’t mind poking around online to get past the hiccups” in his review of the new Droid X. This became clearer as I got older, but I don’t consider most people over the age of 40 who struggle with technology to be stupid or lazy. It comes down to privilege, familiarity, and priorities.

One of Apple’s most prominent user experience attempts at improving accessibility involves mimicking real-world interfaces, such as using a yellow notepaper background and handwriting fonts in Notes, and superfluous flipping page animations in iBooks. Marco Arment has a good post on this: Overdoing the interface metaphor. It’s a divisive strategy that works well in the early stages of familiarization, but soon becomes a hindrance as one grows more proficient/confident. One of the best metaphors I’ve ever encountered on a mobile device was the lens cover on one of my old Sony-Ericsson cameraphones. Slide it open, and the camera application started up. Along with a physical shutter button, it was perfect, and my mother would have understood it instantly. Such a design benefits even experienced users who know how to start the camera up from the main menu. It’s easy to see how a physical feature can offer that experience, but the real challenge is finding that middle ground in software.

* I ended up taking the photo with my Panasonic LX3.

➟ CNET Behind the Scenes feature on Windows Phone 7

The company decided more than a year ago to start over yet again, with a new approach and a firm target–holiday 2010–to have the all-new Windows Phone on the market. “I think when we look back on the release five years from now, this was a foundational release, not the release that broke through,” Myerson said. “We’ve got some tough competition.

Confirmed: Copy/paste functionality won’t be included in 1.0, and the producer doesn’t consider it one of his top 10 things to add in the future. I applaud their start-from-scratch approach, but they are starting way, way behind. Although many will demand multitasking, VoIP/video-calling, and a ready to go marketplace of apps in 2010, the combination of Zune/Xbox Live/Office features may be enough to attract some customers.
Link [CNET.com]