“…Google is a ruthless competitor that enters existing markets, upends them, and isolates itself with a seemingly unquenchable desire to dominate every single market in consumer online services, yet, hypocritically, its leadership describes Google as just wanting to get along, that Google is institutionally a nice company, and that they succeed by “building great things that don’t exist”, whereas what they actually do is build free versions of things that already exist and make money selling ads.”—
Gruber, succinctly describing why I’m not much of a Google fan.
It might actually be good, or even better than Evernote. But I still won’t use Keep. You know why? Google Reader.
I spent about seven years of my online life on that service. I sent feedback, used it to annotate information and they killed it like a butcher slaughters a chicken. No conversation — dead. The service that drives more traffic than Google+ was sacrificed because it didn’t meet some vague corporate goals; users — many of them life long — be damned.
I don’t know why this sort of thing is a surprise to anyone.
If you choose to rely on a free product, sooner or later decisions will be made that might be completely at odds with your best interests. For Google and their services, that means answering to their real clients - advertisers.
What is it about this particular video app? For me, a small tweak to the capture process is key. You no longer have to tap a button to start recording a video and tap that button again to stop it. (Why are we tapping a “button” that doesn’t actually exist anyway?) Instead, you simply hold your finger on the screen to record a “shot”. Taking your finger off the screen stops the recording. Then you can re-position your phone to take another shot. These are all stitched together into a very short video.
Most user-generated videos suck because the creator is not a filmmaker. They don’t do interesting things with composition or cuts. So you get an overly-long shot that is either boring (static) or vomit-inducing (all over the place). Some of the editing apps that have sprung up (such as Socialcam, which we were also an investor in before it sold to Autodesk) have helped polish the garbage footage with filters and overlays. But the underlying problem with the recordings remain.
Vine changed the equation by making users think about what they were shooting. These people weren’t worrying about “fixing it in post”, as the saying goes. Vine was teaching people Filmmaking 101 without anyone realizing it.
Evernote Tip: BCC Project Deliverables to Evernote Email Account
Evernote is a great tool. I hear from many of my friends that they gave it a shot, but unfortunately never found a way to integrate it into their daily lives. I’m sure this is a common bit of feedback for Evernote. It’s part of why their Twitter account is always sharing “how Person X uses Evernote” articles. Not surprisingly, this tweet literally just entered my Twitter feed as I wrote the first few sentences of this post:
VIDEO: How @verge editor uses Evernote - we spot Evernote 5 on your desktop! ow.ly/g2Z2D
I’ve been using Evernote for years now and I’ve read a number of “how I use Evernote” posts, some of which I’ve implemented into my day-to-day. At the same time, my own little variations have made their way into my Evernote usage. This is a post about one that I like quite a bit.
Use Evernote to Archive Deliverables
I work at an agency as a consultant where I provide strategy and execution deliverables to my clients. Sometimes those deliverables are in the form of traditional Word documents, sometimes they’re image mockups & wireframes, sometimes big Excel documents, or sometimes they’re delivered in good-old-fashioned email.
About 6 months ago I had a client that switched gears a bit and changed my point of contact. Understandably, the new POC wanted to know what sorts of items I’ve delivered in the past, so she could get on the same page. I had a doozy of a time looking through prior emails. Even with some clever Gmail search operators, this was no fun. I could use “has:attachment” and “to:@clientdomain.com” but that was not without its flaws.
From that point forward, I’ve developed a habit of BCC’ing any email that I’ve sent with anything that can be classified as a “deliverable” to my Evernote email address. This has made things super simple. Further, even if you’re giving advice deep in an email thread, you can BCC your Evernote address on just that message.
A quick how-to:
Finding your Evernote Email Address
In Evernote 5, click account info here.
There it is!
Add Evernote to your address book so you don’t have to remember that long address
This leads to the second portion of the tip, which is based off of a tip I read long, long ago (original source lost, I’m afraid).
Create a saved search for all untagged notes. Whenever you’re in the processing mood, go through and tag these deliverables as you see fit. I think the most logical would be a tag called “deliverable” and one with the client name.
This will show you all notes without a tag
Save search can be found here
Inbox seems like a good name to me
Tag it up as you see fit!
Searching through all deliverables, or a client-specific set of deliverables just got much easier.
The Evernote email address feature is awesome, and I use it in many more situations than the one above. Here’s a quickie:
When you get travel confirmations and receipts, quickly forward it off to your Evernote address. You can actually tag the note as “Travel” right from the subject line by adding a hash symbol and the tag (“#Travel”). See below:
Get one of these?
Forward it and tag the subject. You can also redirect it (no standard forward formatting like quotes and header info) with Mac’s mail.app with ⌘ + Shift + E.
With the never-officially-announced announcement of Twitter for Mac’s discontinuance, the arrival of Tweetbot is a treat. It is a superb piece of software worth all the praise it’s getting. The $20 price tag is substantial, but not without reason:
Because of Twitter’s recent enforcement of token limits, we only have a limited number of tokens available for Tweetbot for Mac. These tokens dictate how many users Tweetbot for Mac can have. The app’s limit is separate from, but much smaller than, the limit for Tweetbot for iOS. Once we use up the tokens granted to us by Twitter, we will no longer be able to sell the app to new users. Tapbots will continue to support Tweetbot for Mac for existing customers at that time.
If you’re a fan of Twitter (the platform), that should infuriate you. Twitter (the business) is doing everything it can to reel everyone back in from using the third party software that helped Twitter (the platform) grow.
Beyond the written words above from the Tapbots team, I have to wonder what the future really looks like for Tweetbot. It either:
Operates unimpeded until it runs out of tokens.
Gets gimped by Twitter in the process.
Option 2 could be outright shutting it down, but they’d face a PR shit storm (one they’d survive just fine, regardless). I would guess that they end up adding features to the platform that third party clients like Tweetbot can’t integrate into their product.
Ultimately, I’d suspect option 1 is most likely, but it’s really hard to just take Tapbots’ active development promise. What incentive do they have to continue development even 6 months after they’re forced to discontinue selling the product? Paul Haddad is an awesome dude, but come on.
That’s why the wildcard might be that Twitter just buys Tweetbot after it’s no longer generating revenue. It’s possible they’ve already tried, but it’ll be much cheaper to buy Tweetbot when they’re simply updating the app based on a promise to early adopters, and without the prospect of more sales revenue. And what’s Tapbots incentive to NOT sell?
This is the nature of not controlling the core technology. At any moment the rug can be yanked from under.
But then along came Siri, who is a marvelous transcriptionist, and suddenly this world of blogging has opened its gilded doors to me. I love Siri. I really do. If you have Siri’s home address, please send it along so that I may go over to her house and sit in a different room from her so that she’ll know that I love her.
But page-turning is a bit of a setback. It’s good that you can use the touchscreen to turn pages, but why not include dedicated page-turning buttons as well? The e-ink Kindles are designed to do one thing really well: display long-form text. Page-turning is at the heart of the Kindle reading experience. An active Kindle reader is going to go to the next page hundreds — in some cases, I’m sure, even thousands — of times every week. There should not just be buttons for page-turning, but great buttons. Buttons exquisitely designed and engineered to be perfectly placed and delightfully clickable. The problem with using the touchscreen to turn pages is that you have to move your thumb, from the bezel to the display and then back to the bezel after tapping, each time. With page-turning buttons on the bezel, like on the old pre-touchscreen Kindles, you never had to move your thumbs while reading. Not having to move your thumbs is one way a dedicated e-reader could hold an advantage over tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire — a missed opportunity here. It’s a little thing, but as always, it’s the details that matter.
Been saying this since they introduced the touchscreen Kindles. It’s why I chose the non-touch version last generation when the touchscreen was only $20 more.
Yes, the touchscreen experience is light years better than the stupid keyboard or 5-way button for highlighting, typing, getting definitions, and navigating. But all those things are secondary to the entire purpose of the device. I still don’t want to move my hand onto the display while reading to move to the next page.
I’d rather have physical buttons than a backlit screen. If I broke or lost my last gen regular Kindle, I’d still opt for the $70 Kindle.
XOXO is an arts and technology festival celebrating disruptive creativity. We’re bringing independent artists who use the Internet to make a living doing what they love together with the technologists building the tools that make it possible.
The festival and its “fringe” events were incredibly inspiring, very fun, and very delicious (PDX 671 and Salt and Straw win for best foods consumed). The attendees were universally wonderful and insanely creative. More ideas were exchanged and riffed upon in this 3 day weekend than I could count.
Throughout the scheduled talks I picked up on a few themes that seemed to repeat, or otherwise stick in the minds of myself or attendees with whom I conversed. Before getting into that, I want to quickly mention some individual talks that had an effect on me:
I thought the two “keynotes” (attendees and speakers alike poked fun at there being two keynotes at the end of each day) were the best “keynotes” I’ve seen.
Dan Harmon was hilariously self-deprecating, playing on the “Why the hell am I keynoting this event?” card well. Though it wasn’t likely intentional, he summed up one of the common themes of the day pretty well - Do what you love and forget about money.
Adam Savage spoke of some of his seriously embarrassing and crazed obsessions, like his desire to exactly recreate movie props to painful lengths. He started his presentation by claiming that he “copies” these items, but concluded by revising this obsession to copy as a desire to “continue the conversation” about the ideas he loves so much.
I also enjoyed 4chan and Canvas founder Chris Poole’s simple metric for success: You’ve succeeded when your product creates more value than it captures.
And now, the themes that seemed to permeate throughout the event talks:
Ship Dates Suck
A few talks discussed the frustration around ship dates. It seems most anything that is created by someone/some group that is obsessed with creating a great/perfect product will slip on ship dates. It’s basically unavoidable. It seemed to me that the speakers were advocating to not announce ship dates at all. There was no Q&A for the talks that mentioned ship dates, which is a shame because I think it warrants followup discussion. In a lot of ways, I disagreed. I think ship dates, even if missed numerous times, allow followers to make a connection with a product that is missing from ship date-less products. From a slightly dirty marketing and PR perspective, a missed ship date might resurface your story. That story will be ignored by users that are already familiar with your product. They probably already knew it was delayed. But those that are unfamiliar with your product are made suddenly aware of a product that apparently has a rabid enough following that a missed ship date creates a stir.
This goodwill can turn if you’re consistently missing ship dates, of course.
And anyway, Half Life 2 was still the best video game I’ve ever played. I’m sure Half Life 3 won’t disappoint.
Finding the Influencers
Quite a few of the talks mentioned the one moment where things took off. More often than not, the catalyst was a blog post, a tweet, or some other form of endorsement by one of the web’s ‘taste makers’. Working in web marketing, this is not unfamiliar territory for me. We (at distilled) don’t launch anything without having at least one ideal target. Of course, the scale is different here - we’re just looking to get a clients’ website mentioned positively across the web, while the products mentioned at XOXOFest are looking to surpass a Kickstarter funding level, sell a certain level of product, etc.
I was initially a bit frustrated when this kept coming up at the conference. The theme seemed to repeat:
I wanted to know more about that third step. Again, the lack of a Q&A kind of bugged me here.
I’ve come to terms, though. After considering step 3, I wondered what it could have even been. An outreach email? An @ mention on Twitter? Paying (gasp) someone? I’d venture to guess that step 3 for anyone who mentioned this phenomenon was some form of A) put your head down and keep working on product, and B) quickly tell people who care and get the hell back to A.
Tell A Story
So many of the presentations focused on the importance of telling a story with your product. This means chronicling the journey of your products’ creation, talk directly to your (potential) fans, and/or give your product a personality. Couldn’t agree more.
On the quality of the presentations
One thing that stood out for me was that so many of the presentations were simply stories themselves. Having attended and spoken at a number of internet marketing conferences, this was incredibly refreshing. It might simply be the nature of the beast, but there’s almost a ravenous obsession with ‘Takeaways’ in the web marketing industry. A presentation without takeaways? 0/5 Stars! Personally, I find this maddening, and its one of the reasons I don’t attend web marketing conferences. I try to walk a fine line when I present, but it takes a bit of finesse.
Many of the presenters simply went up on stage, and told you the story of their rise. It was refreshing, because I consider myself a skeptic - I don’t know everything and to pretend I do for the sake of driving people to take action is disingenuous. The talks embraced a “I don’t know everything there is to know, but at least I can tell you my story” mentality. I love that. I’d love to take that approach in my presentations moving forward.
With story-based presentations the viewer is subtly forced into drawing their own conclusions and takeways. I like that.
I knew and loved the idea of Kickstarter long before XOXOFest. But for all I understood and used it, I have to grant it an even higher level of importance after XOXOFest. In my mind, it might be one of the most important products created…I don’t know…this century? Yeah, why not?
Crowdsourcing the funding process and empowering people to pursue projects that, without an intro to a VC or big pockets, would otherwise be completely impossible? Talk about creating more value than it captures.
Sure, there’s fodder for Your Kickstarter Sucks in there, but that’s going to come with the territory. So are the copycats. The idea is just too good. As for the copycats…
Ignore the Copycats and Patents and Get Back to Work
I can’t say that I’ve even been in a position to make this decision, but it seems like a valuable lesson to hold in the brain bank. Take it from those who’ve tried: Pursuing legal action against patent violations and copy cats will lead to a world of pain that will never end.
Find the Balance between Obsession and ‘Just Ship It’
Nearly every product discussed at the festival had some obsessive-types at the helm of creation. They’re in love with their idea, and to ship some incomplete version of it seems incredibly painful. Though it wasn’t explicitly mentioned, I suspect this is some Lean Startup thinking creeping into the presentations. At some point, your obsession with tweaking your product will reach diminishing returns without customer feedback. I suspect this balance point will never be quantified, but will instead remain the holy grail that separates the successful founder from the rest. I’ve not ‘started-up’ anything quite yet, but I can only hope I’m able to recognize that point.
“I’ve been using iOS 6 for a few months, and initially chalked up the problems I’d had to likely bugs that would be worked out as the software matured. Unfortunately, now that we all have access to the release version of iOS 6, it’s evident that fundamental mapping features like venue search and directions are significantly worse than in the Google versions.”—
Rafer sez: @anildash Apple had no choice. They need to stop making Google’s maps better, which is what they’ve been doing moment-in and moment-out for years.
What’s missing from this conversation is that map usage is critical. Regardless of Google’s PR success in the Atlantic’s unintentionally misleading Google Ground Truth infomercial, more than half of Google’s mobile map usage is going away in the next month or two. I love the Atlantic, but they got punkd. Usage makes maps better a lot faster than software does.
Google’s maps are going to start degrading. Apple’s will get better. They’ll meet in the middle within 18 months.
My Entry in a Blog Contest to Win Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective Tickets
Bear Diary - Entry 1 - Location Unknown
Two days ago I awoke in a state of sheer panic with a blistering headache. My surroundings were completely unfamiliar, and though I recognized that I was famished, I wanted nothing more than a few laps of water from the river I’m used to waking up near. It is clear to me now that I must be very far from my river.
I’ve spent the last 48 hours consuming enough berries and fishes that my bear hunger is sated. I’ve drank enough river water that my thirst has been slaked. But I’ve not seen anyone other than stupid fishes since I’ve awoken.
Bear Diary - Entry 2 - 5 days In
I’ve been thinking a lot about Bruce the Moose. 5 days and nights I’ve been completely alone in this strange place, and I could be spending my time thinking about my girlbearfriend Cher or my best bearfriend Pierre…But no. Clumsy Bruce.
I’d kill to hear the familiar distant, but terribly noisy sound of Bruce slipping down the hill again. A sound that previously brought about a visceral reaction of abject irritation (you see, I like to sleep late. Bruce the Moose is a morning Moose. Countless times I’m awoken by his big, dumb, clumsy hooves falling down Big Little Hill. The clopping as he attempts to regain his hoof-ing mid-fall. The stupid, guttural groan when he finally reaches the bottom.), would now warm my bear heart.
There’s no sign of anyone and I’m beginning to worry I may never return home to my river.
Bear Diary - Entry 3 - 9 Days In
Tracks. Fresh tracks. From the looks of them, not very different from my own. Followed them and their scent to a nearby river bank, but the trail went cold.
Bear Diary - Entry 4 - 10 Days In
Still no sign of the source of the tracks.
Happened upon a shredded human-made paper posted on a tree. It was written in English, a language my bearclassmates often chided me for attempting to understand. It reads “Monster Fresh Showdown - Grizzly vs Panda Bear”. Have I been transported here by this “Monster Fresh”? For some sort of contest?
Bear Diary - Final Entry
This will be my final entry. I’ve befriended the curious bear-like “panda”, Amanda, the same one I was sent here to battle to the death. United by a shared new enemy, we’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing the creator of this “showdown” to justice. Amanda predicts we’ll arrive in Seattle in 2 or 3 weeks time, if we hurry.
Something About Google Fiber Doesn't Sit Right with Me
I was recently in Kansas City, MO, and I got to give Google Fiber a test drive. I guess I should’ve expected it, but Google’s presence in the city is hard to miss. I happened upon a colorful Google building within a half hour, and many local businesses have “Try Google Fiber” stations where folks can try out the speedy service.
As an aside, I’m not really jazzed about this “Try Google Fiber” station as a selling tool. It was just a laptop (Chromebook, obviously) with “See How Fast!” signs posted. I expect 90% of the people that give it a shot visit ESPN, CNN, or even Google.com and barely notice a difference. They should be instructed to download an album, movie, or TV show to really see the benefit. Anyway.
To get that in writing, that’s 91.58 Mbps down and 35.01 Mbps up. For basically the same price, I’m lucky if I can get 9 Mbps down from Comcast here in Seattle. And that’s probably the fastest residential I’ve had in my life.
For comparison, where with Comcast I can download a 1080p Breaking Bad episode (1.86 GB) in about a half hour, Google Fiber would get it done in under 3 minutes.
Needless to say, if I lived in Kansas City, I’d be all over that.
Something has never sat right with me about Google Fiber, though. It just has a ‘way too good to be true’ vibe to it. Google’s never revealed what the cost of deployment is to them, but Neil Lachman estimates.
Lachman explained a complex financial model he developed that assumes Google Fiber eventually gets 15 million subscribers. Using varying assumptions about average revenue per user per month (from $70 to $100) and how much it costs to connect the average user to fiber (between $850 and $1,250), Lachman concludes that Google’s investment would total between $19.8 billion and $28 billion.
Basically, everyone outside of Google that has run the numbers can not conceive of a way that Google even breaks even on this, let alone operate profitably.
Why is Google doing this? What’s their angle? It seems downright philanthropic, if nothing else. I left Kansas City still wondering.
But Timothy B. Lee at ArsTechnica wrote this morning about the less-free-market-than-you’d-think aspect of Google Fiber. It’s a good read, and it includes a quote from Fred Campbell, a former FCC official, that clears the cloudy picture just a bit.
Google received stunning regulatory concessions and incentives from local governments, including free access to virtually everything the city owns or controls: rights of way, central office space, power, interconnections with anchor institutions, marketing and direct mail, and office space for Google employees. City officials also expedited the permitting process and assigned staff specifically to help Google. One county even offered to allow Google to hang its wires on parts of utility poles—for free—that are usually off-limits to communications companies.
Well, then. It seems many Kansas City taxpayers will be paying for Google Fiber whether they sign up or not. It also seems that Google has a LOT of free and unregulated access in the city. Kansas City could become a testbed for many a Google project. Self-driving cars on the streets in KC? Real-world enhanced Google Glasses interactivity, like with say, display ads? Hell, energy?
I don’t know. But it’s foolish to think Google’s doing this just to disrupt the status quo.
The FBI is aware of published reports alleging that an FBI laptop was compromised and private data regarding Apple UDIDs was exposed. At this time, there is no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised or that the FBI either sought or obtained this data.
“The FBI has not requested this information from Apple, nor have we provided it to the FBI or any organization. Additionally, with iOS 6 we introduced a new set of APIs meant to replace the use of the UDID and will soon be banning the use of UDID,” Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris told AllThingsD.
People keep asking me what someone could do or find out about you with your iOS device’s UDID. I keep saying, “Not much, if anything.”
But if you’ve ever used OpenFeint — that green promo screen that appears the first time you launch many games promising high-score tracking, etc. — that may not be true, depending on what other information or social connections you’ve given them.
“But I believe that another important explanation for introverts who love their work may come from a very different line of research by the influential psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the state of being he calls “flow.” Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity—whether long-distance swimming or songwriting, sumo wrestling or sex. In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing. The key to flow is to pursue an activity for its own sake, not for the rewards it brings.
If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. You have the power of persistence, the tenacity to solve complex problems, and the clear-sightedness to avoid pitfalls that trip others up. You enjoy relative freedom from the temptations of superficial prizes like money and status. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless.”—From Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.