We are more and more likely to turn to the advice of trusted friends in deciding “what to read, watch or listen to” rather than rely on impersonal and arguably more fallible media kingdoms whose power can give a megaphone to someone like, say, Judith Miller.
That’s why Twitter is fun: you’re hearing from a source.
Is there a point, in other words, when large news organizations, whether a national newspaper like the Times or the Journal, or a network like CNN, become synonymous with corporate sclerosis, as well as unsustainable, in the face of more nimble (and potentially more profitable) competitors?
The bigger you are, the further you get from the beat.
This video is an incredible introduction into the mind of Jonathan Harris. I would call him equal parts artist / philosopher / designer / technologist / photographer.
HIs ways of communicating his observations about his experiences are inspiring and creative. His perspective is clear, crisp, slightly provocative but always profound.
I was most struck by his perspective on startup culture and software engineers. He conjectures that there’s a small population — mostly younger dudes living in NYC and San Franciso — who are influencing the behavior of millions of people around the globe. All of these companies are vying for the resource of human attention, which, as we all know, is both valuable and limited.
As an employee of a growing startup company that focues on lifestyle change, health, and wellness, this idea is both unsettling and uplifting. While it’s exciting to realize the power of developing software that’s available on people’s mobile devices all across the world, Harris gives a lot of weight to the ethics of taking people’s attention. Make good use of your customer’s time; you have their attention, but that doesn’t mean that you can pump them for money or find ways to waste more of their time.
He also states that since technology will become harder and harder to ignore, we have to work hard now to create a shared sense of ethics to guide our future progress. Since software — especially mobile software products — is currently the best way we can test the effects of technological products at a huge scale, we should not take the access our customer’s attention lightly.
“I think it will make other people see how creative the younger generations can be and how efficient, because that’s what language is all about,” he said. “It’s a tool to communicate - the more efficient you are, the better.
It’s going too far to say that it’s always better to be efficient, but it is important to use language as a maleable tool that changes depending on the medium.
People who create great experiences will be the most valuable to startups, and startups that create great experiences will be the most valuable to users.
“Most valuable” is an over-exaggeration, but good experience is imperative. For any company, delivering that experience isn’t just a matter of hiring designers who can nail down a sexy UI. It’s about rallying everyone behind something they can be proud of.
Then, ship it and figure out how to make it better.
The Facebook + Instagram deal was a big because it melded two very different companies: one that’s hugely loved, one that’s generally hated.
The whole affair isn’t just juicy because the tech community is up in arms over another huge acquisition. Users know about it, too, and they seem to care.
New York Magazine does a great job of spelling out the drama involved, while elegantly summarizing one clear motivation behind the deal:
Tens of millions of people made a decision to spend their time with the simple, mobile photo-sharing application that was not Facebook because they liked its subtle interface and little filters. And so Facebook bought the thing that is hardest to fake. It bought sincerity.
What’s more, the article carefully takes you through the complicated history of “what is an application? a web app? a website?”
So that’s Instagram. It’s not a site, or an app. What it is, really, is a product.
In comparison to Facebook:
Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever — a chaotic mess of products designed to burrow into every facet of your life.
The article is a great read, providing valuable insight into two companies that have been major players in defining what social media is, how it works, and what we think of it.
Everyone loves a free cup of really good coffee. Even if it’s a really small cup of really good coffee, everyone loves free coffee.
What if, right after drinking that really small cup of really delicious coffee, I offered you a bigger cup of delicious coffee with your choice of cream and/or sugar for $1?
That’s how I think of the “freemium” model for stuff like software. You make something really awesome, give away a small-but-complete version for free, and then offer a biggerbetterawesomer premium version for a price. This lets people have a complete first experience (finish that delicious yet really small cup of coffee) with the option to get more (plus extra!) if they shell out some cash.
How I decided to download, trust and use another app
I’m fascinated by the way we discover “stuff on the internet.” With an increasing number of input channels feeding us all the data all the time, it’s is hard to know where you first heard about something, or where you found it originally.
A few weeks back, like many other days, I found something cool on the internet. I realized that I have a complete history in head of not only how I found it, but how I recognized, and suddenly trusted it. This is an extended look into the signals that led me to recognize one app out of many.
Step 1: I visited a blog a year ago.
Last year, I came across a blog called ISO50. I don’t know how. Since it was pretty cool, I created a bookmark:
Step 2: Forget about the blog for a 17 months.
When had I originally saved the site, I saved a link to one of the specific blogs posts that was timestamped June 2010.
Going through some older bookmarks the other day, I visited the site again and assumed it hadn’t been updated in over a year. I was actually just looking at an old post.
Step 3: See a tweet.
I see this tweet the other day and think “huh, I thought that blog was dead.”
I favorited the tweet.
Step 4: Visit Android Market.
While checking the Android Market for some stuff related to work, I noticed an app called “Nosh” in the featured section:
Step 5: Finally visit that blog.
After seeing the tweet, I remember to visit iso50.com. Sure enough, the latest post was in November 2011, meaning that I was an idiot for thinking it was dead. I scrolled through the front page. Towards the bottom, a phrase catches my eye:
I currently am working on Nosh…We had great success with the 404 page, and the Jotly project was my next move.
It’s under a post labeled “Jotly: Share Everything with Everyone.” I realize that the guy running this blog is a designer working in web, and that he’s done something that clever designers do: made a sweet 404 page.
There’s a link to this funny video, which opens again with the name “Nosh”:
The full post has this funny video:
I watch the video, then read this:
If you click almost anywhere on the Jotly website it will take you to Nosh. I was optimistic about Jotly getting at least a tiny bit of press and I wanted Nosh to be able to benefit from this, at least in a small way.
Step 6: I get it.
Nosh is an application for rating stuff, created by a bunch of people who appreciate high-quality, well-produced funny things. Jotly is a clever teaser campaign to drive Nosh downloads.
With all of this in mind, I go back the Android Market and download Nosh. I appreciate the effort, and my download is an indication of that small point. It’s a story that began 17 months ago. (Since writing this, Jotly is also a real app that’s available on iOS and Android).
Wait, why does this matter?
Aside from exposing a little too much about how I use the internet, my underlying point is that our content consumption is an incredible mix of signals and noise. Each day is a constant struggle to find the most signal-y signals among all of the noise via social media-ing.
More importantly, I’m interested in Nosh because I like the people behind it. In addition to the Nosh.com 404 page, they’ve got a sense of humor and and have fun with what they’re building. This might be just another MoLoSo app, riding the “add a layer on top of the real world” wave like Yelp and Oink, but I have a “personal” reason to like it.
This mini experience shows me me that personality is really important when it comes to products. Apps are more than just services and gimmicks. They’re about connecting with a lifestyle that you’re either a part of, or aspire to join.
Downloading apps has become a thoughtless ritual for some of us that are a little too involved in consumer-mobile-tech space. I feel myself losing interest in the latest and greatest, and more interested in community, personality and curation. This little story behind how I found about Nosh shows that our discovery channels can be most satisfying if they’re organic and dripping with authenticity. Authenticity is the holy grail of marketing. Make someone feel like that thing is just for them, created by people who know what they want, and they’ll bite. Of course, the second you realize that someone is trying to fabricate that experience, the illusion of authenticity fades.
While I’m busy “noshing” the world around me, take some time to think about why you like the things you like. Why do they make you happy? How did you find them? Why do you trust them? What is it about those things that you appreciate the most? How much time do you spend looking for things to like, instead of just enjoying things you like?
The takeaway is that the idea of Android is exciting because it gives mobile access to people who can’t/won’t pay for something like an iPhone. Sure, you don’t get that “polished” experience, but there are more situations than not where having mobile technology is more important than a cool sliding animation when you send a text message (that’s blatantly reductive, but hopefully the point is clear).
In this context, it’s important to forget about Android as “Android” and think of it as an effective mass-market mobile operating system. The Android branding is irrelevant compared to the OS’s utility.
The iPhone is heralded as the most revolutionary mobile phone in human history, but the cold and harsh truth is that for all the cheering and punditry, the iPhone’s impact on the world is negligible. Sure, it had a huge impact on the smartphone market in rich countries - but it didn’t have such an impact on the world.
For all the bad jokes directed at the company during its trying times, Nokia is the technology company that truly changed the world. Nokia put a mobile phone within every person’s reach. Even people in some of the poorest places on earth were given the ability to communicate wirelessly, thanks to Nokia making the mobile phone affordable to everyone. Personally, I see this as one of the greatest achievements of the technology world, but sadly, it’s often overlooked because “ooh Apple has pinch-to-zoom!!!1!”
What Nokia did for the mobile phone, Android is doing for the smartphone. It’s not Apple that’s going to put a smartphone in every corner of the globe - it’s not Microsoft; heck, not even Google, but Android. In ten to fifteen years’ time, we will look back and regard Android as the technology that enabled even the poorest people in this world to have access to the web (and thus, knowledge), just like we regard Nokia as the company that put the mobile phone in every corner of the globe.
When I picked up my 91 year-old grandfather last night from his apartment to bring him back to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, he had a page clipped from the NYTimes magazine in hand.
“It’s about martinis. They don’t use vermouth anymore! I want your dad to read it.”
My grandfather really likes martinis. In fact, most memories I have of martinis involve some combination of my dad and grandfather either preparing, drinking, or talking about starting on their “second half.” I wasn’t surprised that he had taken the time grab this article with my dad in mind.
When we got back to our house, Gramps gave the article to my dad telling him to read it when he got the chance. My dad said thanks, looked it over, and then started preparing martinis.
When I came downstairs this morning, the martini article was sitting on the kitchen counter.
I was suddenly struck by something very poignant. If I had found an article about martinis, it probably would have been in the online version of the NYTimes magazine (in fact, that article is here). I would have emailed it to my dad, not clipped it out.
But my grandfather, despite a successful mechanical engineering career and constant tinkering with electronics for his old cars, has no interest in the world of computers and the internet. When he reads an article, it’s in the paper version of the paper. We he wants to share something, it’s related to a topic he really cares about. And the person he shares it with is someone he knows will get a kick out of it.
Sharing, however, requires tearing out, driving over, and presenting the article to the recipent, with a verbal description of why the article is being shared: “You should read this because it’s a about martinis. They don’t use vermouth!”
This morning, the article was already buried under an emptied bowl of Goldfish, a pair of gloves, and a wooden spoon. It was just like an email that gets pushed further and further down in your inbox, gradually forgotten after the momentary thrill of entertainment.
Even though the mediums are changing, sharing is still the same deep down. It’s just about getting the good stuff to the right people and sharing they joy.