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Archive for July, 2009

Latitude arrived and nobody cared

July 27th, 2009 No comments

At the end of last week Google Latitude became available for the iPhone, sort of.

If you don’t know what Google Latitude is, it is the developmental service from Google which will update your physical location and tie it back to your Google account. From there you can imagine you can share your location with others and adversely they can share their location. The end vision being that you will be able to see when you are physically close to your friends at any given moment and even port that information to other applications you may use. The concept is not new and there were already a handful of applications doing this already on the iPhone. However, this is Google, so the world stops to listen.

Google released applications for many other mobile platforms earlier this year, but the anticipated release of the iPhone app is what is needed to propel the service itself forward. I say that it is only “somewhat” released, because Google has released a web application for Google Latitude and not an actual application for the iPhone.  Just as I was about to complain that they didn’t even update the Google iPhone application with the link, it appeared in the list.

I actually went in and looked for latitude when I first heard the rumor, and blew off the fact that I could only find the web version.  Well it turns out that WAS the released version and that my quick encounter was probably accurate enough to depict how this will not take over the world… just yet.

Problem 1 – It doesn’t actually know where I am.  It knows the area, based off cell towers, but fails to dial in that GPS location. After going out on the deck to look for a better signal, it found me within a few miles of the house, but still didn’t find my exact location.  For listing purposes however, it still marks me down in Fairport, when I am actually in Penfield (the adjacent town to the North).

Just in case, I went into the Maps application and the little blue dot indicating my actual location showed up just fine.

Problem 2 – The push isn’t there.  The reason this needs to be an actual application is because after writing quick blog post, I doubt I will remember to go into latitude on a regular basis.  This needs to become an actual application, because what I want out of this, is a notification whenever I get within actual range of somebody and leave it as something I specify.  Left to my own devices, I won’t check in with Latitude.

Supposedly, it will actually keep updating your location if you leave it as the main page in Safari.  Something I have not tested or verified yet. I do however have one friend in there, and it keeps updating, so either he is really proactive, or the service might actually work in a hidden safari window.

Reading through the ARStechnica article and a few others out there, you get the impression that Apple really didn’t want Google to write an app, noting that it may conflict with Maps, already on the phone.  You have to hope that what they really said is “Let’s build this into Maps on the iPhone”, and this web version is only something to appease the masses until that is ready.

So here is my “Dear Google” wrap up.

Dear Google,

Please work on integrating Google Latitude directly into my Maps application on my iPhone, so I can see my friends whenever I am in a map. Please set it up so I can schedule my location updates whenever I want and set it up so I can setup individual warning notifications based off of my distance from other people in my list.  Oh, and thanks for keeping everything free, while still allowing me to bitch about something I paid absolutely nothing to obtain.

Thanks, Stephen

PS – Open a co-location in Rochester, NY, mainly because I want to work at Google, but can’t move to California just yet in my life.

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Microsoft Storefront, What’s the plan?

July 16th, 2009 No comments

At the Worldwide Partner Conference this week, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, Kevin Turner, announced that they would be opening retail stores in the fall.  This isn’t a surprise, as it follows their actions in February when they hired David Porter, who previously led worldwide product distribution at DreamWorks Animation SKG, and has spent 25 years at Wal-Mart. Rumors have actually been around since April 2008 of Microsoft opening up stores.

There may be some positive reasons for Microsoft going this direction, however with Turner’s statements indicating that they would be opening up “right next to Apple Stores”, it is hard to perceive this as anything but an attempt to reproduce the market that Apple has a firm grasp on.  Regardless of their intentions, I find it hard to understand how Microsoft expects this to work.

Source: appleinsider.com

Source: appleinsider.com

Microsoft doesn’t make all of the hardware that their systems run on, where as Apple does.  While this causes a complication for the sale of hardware, it causes a larger complication when you think about the service of Microsoft based systems. The value of the Apple store is that I can bring my failing machine in, knowing that Apple is responsible for everything I am handing them.  Start mixing hardware vendors with a combination of installation examples and you create a model that can not be supported by a team of Microsoft Geniuses.

So now Microsoft can sell all of their software on the shelf.  That is fine, but the retail cost of software from Microsoft has always been high. Nobody buys a piece of Microsoft software at MSRP, so you now have a model where you are paying more at the Microsoft store than you normally would online.  Microsoft can’t lower the cost, because every reseller out there would be put out of business.

In the product lineup, we forget that Microsoft does have some hardware platforms to push.  You have the Zune, which will never catch where Apple has placed the iPod, no matter what cost scheme you try to attack with.  You have the Xbox gaming platform, but unless you want the store full of kids all day who don’t buy anything, you will have to just sell the equipment without demo stations setup.

I do believe there may be a small opportunity to make these stores profit, but it is far from the actual product sales.  I think Microsoft could gain some revenue by bringing a training program to the storefront. With a new operating system coming, and with many companies still behind in the current generations of Office suites, having a place for formalized one on one or even group training could be the added value they would need.  Perhaps they could add the layers of certification training and act as centralized hubs for their Partners in the areas, but alas that is not what a retail storefront is meant for.

Microsoft, I look forward to seeing your storefront, but I have yet to understand how you expect it to be successful. It will take too long to build up the internal structure of the stores for them operate smoothly.  Knowing you will be met with harsh criticism from the day it opens, you have a hard road ahead of you.  You have also placed yourself next to the model to catch up to and I hope you have more conceptualized than I do at this point.

More Information

During the dot com boom of 1999 Microsoft had a retail store at the Metreon in San Francisco called “microsoftSF”.

Apple Insider

ArsTechnica

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Greg’s Facebook Survival Guide

July 12th, 2009 No comments

I started to write this up for my brother in law, and realized it would be useful for anybody being brought into the open exposure world of Facebook.

Welcome to Facebook.  The place where everybody talks about everybody else in the open, pictures of you are posted whether you like it or not, and those awkward conversations with those people you have been avoiding your entire life are now on public display.

For the modern day introvert, entering into the world of Facebook is horrible.  I have always been an introvert, and the idea of sharing what is going on at any given moment in my own life absolutely sucks.  Once you realize however that this is an audience you can control, with content that you can choose, it turns from overwhelming to empowering.

If implemented properly, Facebook is the perfect medium for delivering just enough content to the friends and family, that there will be a significant reduction in other communications.  Mom’s just want to know you are safe and that you are doing well, everybody wants to know about the children in the family, so feeding small updates regularly can satisfy all of those needs at once, on your own time.

I have two posts on Securing your Facebook information which you should review.  The premise is that you do not have to, want to, or need to share all of your information to the people on Facebook.  You should however be prepared to filter what people can or can’t see on your own profile, and setting up some “lists” can make that easier for you.  Mastering this technique will turn your Facebook experience into one of complete control.

Facebook Protection – Part 1

Facebook Protection – Part 2

Profile Setup

Setup the basics on the profile.  People can contact you on Facebook, so don’t put all of your contact information in there.  If they want to know what your cell phone number is, they can send you a Facebook message and ask.  Get the basic information in there, with some history that will help people identify you.  Get a real picture setup of YOU, realizing it is not the last picture that people will post.  Don’t get caught into my Top 10 useless Facebook Profile Pictures list.

Click Ignore

Ignore the bullshit requests for everything you will be sent.  Outside of the standard friend requests, there are 9 million (no idea if that is the number) applications out there, built into Facebook.  There is an application to track the movies you like.  There is an application to test your knowledge on cooking, and I am sure there is even an application to keep track of how many time your dog goes for a walk.  For the first few months, just click ignore.  If you feel obligated to click accept out of guilt, don’t.  The applications all seem to be designed to spam you entire friends list, so don’t take it as a personal invitation that you are turning down.  Once you have a grasp on the concepts, you can consider entering into a few applications.

Wall Posts versus Direct Messages

I am not sure why people don’t understand that a wall post is a public message to the entire Facebook audience.  Posting on a persons wall is not the ideal way to have a conversation about one topic between two people.  If you want to ask somebody something directly, send them a message by going to their profile or from your own inbox.

Notifications

Get a grasp on what you want Facebook to notify you about.  Turn it all off, then add the ones you really want to be notified about.  Otherwise you will spend the majority of the day getting notified about every little thing.

Settings > Account Settings > Notifications

Once you stop getting notified about every time somebody scratches their nose, consider lessening your impact on Facebook by removing your activities as being posted on other peoples status pages.  This is the area where if you add a friend, you really don’t need to broadcast it to everybody. I have everything disabled in here, but certainly turn something on if you want to.  I just like being able to change my settings without inadvertently telling everybody what I am doing.

Settings > Privacy Settings > News and Wall Feed > Actions within Facebook

World Audience

My final advice is to not say anything on here you would not say in public or in person, both to your friends, family, or employer.  Being politically correct is a challenge, but the harsh reality is that Facebook is a social networking site that has a broad audience.

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iPhone Calendar needs Attention

July 7th, 2009 No comments

NotifcationCalEverybody seems to come up with a wish list for Apple after a new release of iPhone software comes out. Like writing the letter to Santa, I am not sure it matters in the end, but it gives a good insight as to where Apple may have missed the mark on peoples expectations.  To keep Santa (Apple) focused, I will keep my list short.  In fact the only real area I want the elves to work on is the calendar.

Admittedly, I never used the calendar app until it was able to sync with my Gmail calendar.  I use Gmail to send out text messages and email notifications, which has always kept me in schedule.  After the sync was setup, I found it much more useful to add the meeting in the application itself, because of the speed.

Now there are only a few more pieces to make it really useful, so here is my wish list for the next update of the calendar app on the iPhone.

  • Make a persistent notification. Don’t pop up something on the screen, never to be seen again once I click on it. Even something as simple as a number next to the calendar icon, as you do with every other notification system. Force me to dismiss the notification before allowing it to stop bugging me.
  • Send the location to link to the maps application.  Of all of the slow pitched softballs coming your way, this was the largest no brainier.  When I currently click on the details of the event, there is nothing I can do to click on the location address, to link it to the maps application. I don’t need complete integration with the maps, just tell that field to dump the text into the maps application.
  • If you can’t get the map app integration fixed, think about updating the notification fields, so that my Email notification will tip off in Gmail.  Currently I have to have it send me the email notification, so that I will get a link back to the map.  Of course I can’t add that notification from the phone, and I need to do it from the Gmail website.

I realize my wish list quickly turned into a rant about how I would have already expected the Cal application to function.  Certainly when it does come to fruition, it will be touted as some new improved feature and not something that should have been there all along.  Luckily Google took care of putting the pieces in place that I really need to keep organized while I wait for Apple to catch up.

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4th of July Parade in Penfield NY

July 4th, 2009 No comments

With a town that has been imprisoned inside for the last week and a half because of the constant barrage of rain, today turned out to be a picture perfect day for a parade in Penfield.  After a morning of work on the yard, I grabbed the camera and took a walk along the parade route, starting from the end near the Penfield community center, down to the 4 corners and back again.

Penfield Parade Details

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Google Labels feed the Folder Mindset

July 1st, 2009 No comments

Today, Google announced changes to the way you see and use labels in Gmail along with tips in the official Google Blog on how to us them.  The intention is to make the labels act and function more like folders.

For many GMail users out there, you probably didn’t even know there were labels.  You would not be alone, as most people never used the feature. I tried to use the labels in Gmail, and I quickly found that they added no value to the Gmail experience for me. Why would I label my messages, when I knew I could just type in my search term to retrieve the message?  If I wanted to see my messages from my wife Julie, I would just type her name in and not create a label for all of her messages. Now the labels are evolving to appear like folders.

The best thing I liked about Gmail is that I don’t have folders.  I archive every message, and when I want to see it again, i type in my search string.  I have actually gotten so used to not working in folders, that I created one dumb folder in my Yahoo mail, in a lame attempt to recreate the Gmail experience.

So is Google completely off base with their move to make labels appear more like folders?  Though Google will miss the target when trying to appease my own desires, they probably will capture the larger portion of the populous who NEED to see folders.

OfficeFoldersVisualIn my previous life and many moons ago, I was involved in leading the project for a corporate Content Management System.  The story itself is a long tale of confusion and resistance with an ending I care not to reveal for those who have not experienced it.  One important lesson I learned on this project is the users need to conceptualize folders.  Despite my best efforts to explain that there really weren’t any folders, and that it was all just a database field, the user interface needed to have a graphical view of a folder structure tree.  While a handful in the group grasped the concept that each file was tagged or labeled in a database, the rest would not survive the process if it was not for the visualization of folders.

I think these updates will help a lot of people transition into using Gmail.  The new functionality of drag and drop is something people expect when using folders and I think it will be effective at capturing a large portion of the populous.

The only downside is that folder driven individuals may never know a better way of working.  While it is a step forward in increasing adoption rates, it is a step backwards for evolving users into more efficient ways of working.

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