Note the serious demeanor, with Glass power comes great responsibility, or something.
Backstory, Anthony (@anthonyslai) finally got his Explorer Series Glass unit on Sunday. Funny story, its display had a few dead pixels, three actually. He counted. Google replaced the unit, so all’s well.
Anyway, Anthony has generously been allowing people to test-drive his Glasses, and boy, do they get attention. People wherever we go are curious. Noel (@noelportugal) and I each took a turn, and despite the bare feature set, they’re pretty amazing.
Anthony says he’s been wearing them non-stop since Sunday, and that he can’t live without them. Pretty strong endorsement. I know he’s been using them heavily because texts from him have the latest in gadgety signatures appended “Sent through Glass.”
Look for a post from him on his adventures soon. He and Noel are attending Google I/O this week, and I’m sure there will be lots of Glass news.
It’s a very simple, but difficult game. GeoGuessr drops you into a random place that Google has mapped with Street View, but without any metadata, just the images Google captured. You can navigate around, using the usual Street View controls, and the object is simple: figure out where in the World you are.
Sometimes, yes. If you land in a populated area, with signs and businesses.
Not so simple if you land somewhere remote, like this round, where I landed on a tiny island. You’ll notice there weren’t any controls. This island was small enough to map with one look around, no walking needed. Off to the left, there’s a helicopter, indicating how Google managed to get to this remote island.
That’s pretty much it. There are points awarded for guesses, but without leaderboards or any other traditional game mechanics, it’s just a fun test of your detective and geographic skills.
This blog has been around for six years, and given how varied and banal a lot of what I write is, I’m stunned it’s lasted that long.
While at Collaborate in April, John (@jpiwowar) mentioned something about the blog that resonated with me. He said he appreciated that I replied to his comments. That struck me as a bit odd, because from my perspective, I’m glad anyone reads at all, and comments are gravy.
Plus, if you take the time to comment, I should take the time to reply, even if the comments are negative. Actually, those can be fun.
John was attempting to elaborate on a nice comment from Pythian’s head honcho, Paul Vallée (@paulvallee) about this space and its community. Community is a funny word, especially when comparing this little space to an entity as large as Pythian, but over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of you IRL, which, I suppose makes us a community.
Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. As long as you do those things, I’ll probably keep writing.
And if we ever happen to occupy the same meatspace, say hi to me.
As always, find the comments, and I’ll reply.
Edit: I forgot to thank all you silent readers, who read, but don’t comment. I’ve met a few of you IRL too, always a pleasure, and no worries, I know you’re out there.
One of the aspects I like about my newish team, Applications User Experience, is access to real research. Through eye-tracking, the usability labs, ethnographic research, focus groups and a host of other tools, AUX collects data from real users to help us understand how to build better software.
This is perfect for me, since I’ve always been an anecdotal designer, relying on relatively small data sets and what I observe from those around me. Now, I have access to a wealth of data to balance what I see on my own.
Of course, the users around me most often are my family members, so I do a fair amount of observation and experimentation on them.
For me, this is a side benefit of being the family’s technical support.
My family presents a nice mix of personas too. My wife is a savvy user, whose technical knowledge has grown as I add gadgets. She also hates to rely on me for support, which is awesome, because a) I don’t have to do as much and b) I get to observe how she approaches and adapts to new gadgets.
My parents came to computing and the interwebs relatively recently. So, with them, I see the challenges faced by inexperienced users. They too have experienced technology creep, slowly adding new gadgets to their home, and they also prefer to rely on their own wits vs. calling me for support. Another win.
I now have a new user in the family, my daughter, and watching her absorb technology is fascinating. She got a Leap Pad for Christmas, one with a stylus, and it’s amazing how immersed she gets. Using the stylus is a learned behavior, and it was interesting to watch her default to touching everything, even the drawing apps, which you’d think are better with a stylus.
At some point, we tried to get her using a laptop, but the keyboard and mouse presented too big a challenge. She kept trying to touch the screen, and the mouse was nothing more than a toy, unrelated to the actions on the screen.
A couple weeks ago, I decided to wipe my OG iPad for her. It’s forever stuck on iOS 5, and I’ve replaced all its uses with Android tablets, the Xoom and Nexus 7. So, why not put it good use?
We had already bought a few apps for children, so we had content for her. Ironically, the App Store is super buggy on iOS5, so all the time I wasted trying to find more good apps for her was completely wasted.
Not that it mattered, because as soon as we identified the device as hers, she wouldn’t let me use it without complaining. Toddlers exist to possess.
The biggest observation for me is how natural touch UI is for humans. As much as it limits me personally, it’s hard to argue that touch makes more sense than keyboard and mouse.
Back to my wife, a week ago, I asked her to use Facebook Home on my Nexus 7, since she’s a heavier Facebook user than I am. She played with it for about ten minutes with no direction from me, and when I asked her about it, she said, it’s pretty much the same as on her iPad.
Turns out she immediately touched the notifications displayed on Home, which went directly into the Facebook app, bypassing the browsing capabilities of Home.
I explained the launcher concept, and she browsed some updates. She liked what she saw, but it’s clear that Facebook Home is targeted at heavy browsing of the News Feed and drive-by liking. In fact, the up-front nature of notifications actually detract from Facebook Home usage.
A Single Thread
Whether I’m asking my family to test something, supporting their usage or just observing them use technology, there’s a recurrent theme, frustration. Technology creates frustration in two big ways, first by breaking (or not working as designed) and second by creating work.
My recent focus has been on the latter. Over the past decade, Wintel dominance has been replaced by siloed ecosystems, thanks in large part to Apple’s devices and cloud services. These ecosystems tend to create inefficiencies for consumers. Simple stuff like sharing pictures is now dictated by who uses which service and who else uses that service. By who else, I mean privacy concerns.
I don’t see these ecosystems going away, but as they expand to offer as much as possible to everyone, we’ll probably see another dominant platform emerge in the next decade. That should eliminate some of the work, but there will always be frustration.
Thoughts? Find the comments.
WebKey is an Android app and accompanying service that allows you to manage your device from a browser.
It’s actually a nifty little tool. All you do is install the app, then visit webkey.cc or navigate directly to the supplied IP address on your local network to view your device’s screen. Actually, it’s a bit more involved, but that’s the gist.
WebKey is both a useful development and demonstration tool.
For development, it exposes pretty much everything you can do on the device in the browser interface. Clicking on the screen executes taps, you can launch apps, change settings, input text from a more familiar keyboard, all that. I’ve tested it over wifi, but it claims to work over 3G connections too.
For demonstration purposes, especially remote ones, it’s much quicker and easier than firing up the Android emulator.
All this in a browser window, no plugins required.
WebKey does require root, so there’s that. For the security conscious, it is fully open sourced under the GPL and supports SSL over direct connections via IP. Seems there is an issue encrypting connections through WebKey’s servers.
Not bad for a free app built by two guys.
Aside from the recent, top-of-mind examples (Google Glass, Pebble), I’m amazed at how functional smart garments have become. Innovation has been happening in both the fashion and DIY circles, but since I don’t pay very close attention to those areas, I’ve missed some nuggets.
Thinking about smart garments, I’m reminded of Ben Heck’s wind-up Android charger. Why shouldn’t your phone charge itself while in your pocket or purse? Extending the Glass/Pebble-as-smartphone-accessory idea, why couldn’t your clothes leverage the information from your phone’s many sensors to guide you through the World and collect information about you and your surroundings?
Or even include the sensors themselves, e.g. GPS, as described at the 4:04 mark in the video.
Fitness applications are mainstream by now, e.g. FitBit, Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone Up, but imagine how useful professional athletes would find the data collected from wearable gear, before, during and after exercise? I’ve heard that some athletes will use hyperbaric chambers to speed recovery time, so yeah, they’d be very interested.
Of course, that means data science and lots of software to draw conclusions from the data.
Everyday applications exist too, e.g. rolling emergency calls into clothing similar to the DIY ice cubes that monitor drinking and can text a friend if you’re over your limit, or the DIY pepper spray that also takes a picture. Tracking temperature and heart rate fluctuations collected by clothing could trigger emergency calls, or produce loud noises to deter attackers, like a safety whistle.
It’s a brave new world.
Find the comments.
When Facebook launched Home earlier this month, it marked the first time in quite a while that I was excited to use Facebook.
What excited me wasn’t using Facebook per se, but exploring the possibilities of moving beyond the app.
Despite only being officially supported for a handful of phones, the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note II, HTC One X, and the HTC One X+, and the HTC First, it is possible to get Facebook Home running on other Android devices.
My device of choice was my newish Nexus 7, which is basically a development device, so no worries about borking it seriously.
There has been rumbling about the negative reception to Facebook Home based on a relatively low number downloads, only 500,000 in the first five days, and the very high number of one-star reviews Home has garnered. One-star review outnumber all other reviews by a wide margin.
It’s a bit early to brand Home a success or failure, given its limited number of supported devices. Those reviewing it are primarily curious, early adopters, like me, who don’t fit the prime Facebook demographic anymore. Home has always seemed like a tool for avid Facebook users, and it fits that mold very well.
After a little more than a week with Facebook Home, here are my impressions.
Right off the bat, Facebook Home puts your friends’ content all up in your face, pun intended. In fact, you really can’t escape it without some effort.
Initially, Home made Facebook more interesting The full screen photos drew me in to read updates, which then reminded why I don’t use Facebook much anymore. It’s the same content, just nicely presented. This is especially true if you have Instragram-happy friends.
So, Home is really just a steady stream of imagery, which, as you’d expect, is a mixed bag. However, Home does a good job mitigating your friends’ poor content, e.g. for updates without associated photos, Facebook adds the person’s Timeline picture, a smart move.
I did find some interesting tidbits just paging through photos though, e.g. this update from Anthony (@anthonyslai)about a car that ran into the Oracle Dublin office.
I should also mention Chat Heads, the new Facebook Messenger, even though it’s a standalone update and not part of Facebook Home. When it’s not active, Chat Heads minimizes itself into a small, circular version of your friend’s profile picture which you can move around the screen as you do other things. Tapping it reopens the Messenger interface. It’s nicely done, with snazzy animations.
I tested Chat Heads out with Noel (@noelportugal) and my wife, and I really like the way it handles ongoing chats.
I don’t really have any other positive impressions to add, but that’s not to say Facebook Home is bad. It’s a very slick piece of development.
It’s just not for me, or really for anyone who doesn’t spend a lot of time using, not just browsing, Facebook. If you browse the one-star reviews on the Play Store, this impression resonates with a lot of other people.
I suspect someone like my wife, an avid Facebook user, would find it more valuable. I plan to get her to test drive it soon, so stay tuned for some ultra-scientific research.
Design-wise, Facebook Home doesn’t work with a lock-screen. You can page through updates, and I think, like and comment, without unlocking the screen. You can also see what’s installed on the device, although not open any apps.
This seems risky.
The handling of likes is rather annoying too. You can accidentally like content from Home, which could lead to rogue likes and Facebook etiquette blunders from liking and then unliking content.
Also, I don’t really care for the launcher panel Home includes. Recently installed and used apps appear in there, but it feels like a throw-in feature.
Finally, it’s predictably difficult to find your way to the standard Android desktop, which is a usage problem if you have widgets.
Most of these are design considerations that speak to the purpose for Home, i.e. making Facebook ubiquitous on the device, but Home is easy to turn off and remove. I suspect future iterations will offer more granular options that will encourage users to keep some features enabled.
Facebook Home showcases some great user experience, and you can immediately tell if you’re the target user or not. It’s clear Facebook has done extensive research to find ways to make itself more sticky for its heaviest mobile users.
I just don’t happen to be one of them, but I can appreciate the design-thinking that went into Home.
One bonus feature, at least for HTC First, is that the base OS is vanilla Android 4.1.2, without any carrier or OEM software, which is a plus.
Have you tried Facebook Home? What do you think?
Find the comments.
My trip to Guadalajara a month ago was dual-purpose. First, we’re hiring there, so we had interviews. Second, we were assisting with a hackathon.
When we joined Applications UX, Laurie (@lsptahoe) asked for our help organizing an internal hackathon, erm, developer challenge, at the Mexico Development Center (MDC) in Guadalajara. The challenge she had in mind would focus on Endeca Information Discovery and use Profit Magazine data. Those were the only two requirements.
Beyond that, entrants could add any other data they wanted and build any front-end to showcase the data discovery.
Laurie’s use case for the challenge was:
I’m an IT Manager interested in moving some of our applications to the Cloud. I need to learn about the costs and benefits of doing this to see if this would really benefit my company.
The goal was to use Endeca, Profit and other data sources to answer questions like:
- Who are the thought leaders in my company and in my industry?
- What are they saying?
- What kind of information can I find?
- What enterprises have done this already, and what problems have they run into?
- Are there security concerns about moving to the Cloud?
Once we had the tools and a problem to solve, Noel built a VM running OEL with Endeca Studio, Integrator and Server installed, and we decided to provide Twitter as another data source to augment Profit’s content.
Next Laurie’s MDC team built an API converter for Endeca to transform the SOAP output into JSON, which would make it a bit easier for entrants to build web apps and native mobile apps.
The challenge ran March 22-23, giving the entrants only about 36 hours. We encouraged teams, given the large scope of the challenge, and 22 people organized into five teams completed the challenge.
I had to miss the final judging, but yesterday, I got a recap of the top two entries.
First, the winning entry, called for some reason unknown to me, Squeedily Spooch.
Next, here are some shots of the runner-up, a native iPad app designed to showcase the serendipity of the data Endeca captured.
The challenge judges were Jeremy Ashley, head of Applications UX, Mark Burrell, Director of Endeca User Experience, and Erik Peterson, General Manager of the MDC. FYI check out Ultan’s (@ultan) post about Endeca Information Discovery and Mark’s story about its origins.
The judges saw these two entries as very even, but Mark said that Squeedily Spooch illustrated “how Endeca facilitates insight and discovery, through intuitive dialogue with and progressive exploration of diverse information.”
I know you’re wondering what the prize was. Each member of the winning team received a Raspberry Pi Model B, an appropriately geeky prize, and I’ve already seen some hacking come out of those Raspis.
But wait, there’s more. The challenge featured all the online content from Profit Magazine, dating back to 2005, so naturally, Profit’s editor, Aaron Lazenby (@alazenby) attended with a photographer and chronicled the event for a feature that will appear in Profit Magazine’s August issue.
So, look for that.
And hey, if you need a hackathon, I know some guys.
Find the comments.
The N7 ships locked, which seems a bit odd, but no biggie. This will be a development device for me, and once I got it unlocked, the fun began with MultiROM, which allows the N7 to boot from different ROMs stored locally or on attached media like SD cards or USB drives.
As I’ve said before, Android modding is a bit of dark art hobby; you always run the risk that you’ll brick your device or lose all your data. So, having the ability to boot experimental ROMs side-by-side with each other and your base ROM, is huge, especially given how many mature Android ROM projects, e.g. Cyanogen Mod, and new projects are spinning up this year, e.g. Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, Tizen, Jolla Sailfish, etc.
Installing MultiROM is a relative breeze, despite how the xda thread looks. In my experience, all xda threads look that scary. Anyway, you just download and flash a recovery image, MultiROM itself and whatever kernel your base ROM is running.
Once you’ve got MultiROM, you can add other ROMs, i.e. the cool part.
I went for the Ubuntu Touch 13.04 preview because it seems the least buggy. Firefox OS looks like it needs some time, and the others are well behind that.
The great thing is that xda’s members will eventually get around to whatever it is you want to try.
Anyway, for Ubuntu Touch, I followed the xda thread instructions, and soon was kicking the tires. If you’re wondering, Ubuntu Touch is still rough, but it definitely looks and behaves like Ubuntu, which I’ve run on a laptop for many years. All the swiping takes some experimentation and learning, and on the first boot, the keypad wouldn’t open.
It looks nice though, and I’m stoked to try future builds.
Back to a sweet feature of MultiROM, it supports external media, key for the N7, which does not have an SD card. The secret is a USB-OTG cable like this one, very cheap and super useful. OTG apparently means “on the go”, if you’re wondering. It’s just a micro USB adapter into which you can plug a USB stick or your SD card of choice, via any card reading adapter.
You’ll need the right format on the USB partitions, and although I haven’t tried this yet, Anthony (@anthonyslai) showed me MultiROM running a ROM directly from the OTG cable. I didn’t notice any lag in performance, but there probably is a degradation, albeit a small one.
So, now I can not only test out new ROMs and save space on my N7, but I have a portable image that I can boot from Anthony’s N7 or really anyone’s N7 with MultiROM installed.
Find the comments.
Here’s another installment in the never-ending documentation of stuff for posterity.
This chapter concerns a change made to Android 4.2.2 that could cause you some headaches if you’re an Android developer, modder or hobbyist. Google added a whitelist for USB debugging in 4.2.2 which adds another layer of security to your phone, so now you must allow the connected computer access to tinker with the attached device, from the actual device.
Makes sense as a feature, but in practice, it’s a bit of a hassle.
Why? Because you must have the latest version of adb (the Android development bridge, used by the SDK to communicate with the device), which currently is 1.031, in order to force the device to ask for approval.
Run adb version to check.
If you have an older version of adb, like I did, your connected device will report itself as offline, and no amount of toggling developer options, connecting/disconnecting and restarting will change that.
Believe me, I tried a fair amount of that because I’ve recently rebuilt my Mac and don’t want to clutter it up unnecessarily. I don’t need the full Android SDK so I searched long and hard for other options.
There aren’t any, but you can escape without bringing down everything the SDK requires. Setting up to build for Android requires two parts, first download the SDK and decompress it; next, you’d typically run android and pull down all the files for your version of choice, which takes a while.
If you just need adb and fastboot to do some tinkering, you can skip the second part and save yourself some time and disk space.
First, download and decompress the SDK. Then, navigate to the directory where you decompressed and find the /sdk/platform-tools directory, and from your CLI of choice, run adb.
Now that you have the latest version, your device should pop up the “Allow USB Debugging?” message. Easy peasy.
Getting back to why this feature is a bit of a hassle, given how large the SDK is, not everyone continuously keeps it updated, or at least not the Android tools. Plus, there’s no official documentation on this that I could find, and I couldn’t readily find a way to revoke a computer’s access on the device.
Anyway, hope this helps you and my future self who will likely forget all this.
Find the comments.
Even so, he was excited at the prospect of receiving it soon.
He’ll be even more stoked now that details of the Glass API and device specs are hitting the interwebs. Plus, Martin Mißfeldt has a beautiful infographic detailing how the technology inside Glass manages to augment your reality, erm, vision. I’m assuming Martin compiled his information from the many patents spawned from Glass. If you’ve ever seen one of the low-fi diagrams in a patent filing, you’ll appreciate what Martin has done.
Anyway, as soon as Anthony gets his Glass unit, I’ll start bugging him to post some thoughts.
Last week while I was traveling, I was reading a story from Wired about Firepad, a collaborative text editor that can be easily added to any web page to allow, well, collaboration. Think pair programming meets Google Docs.
A couple sentences in, I notice a quote from none other than ‘Lab alumnus, old friend and current Atlassian developer advocate, Rich Manalang (@rmanalan). Atlassian has added Firepad to its Git repo management tool, Stash, which I had to read twice hoping it was ‘Stach. Stash makes more sense, but is less funny.
Anyway, turns out Rich was also quoted in TechCrunch. Not a bad day, making Wired and TechCrunch.
For the full story on Stash and Firepad, which also has offline capabilities, check out Rich’s post.
Last week was a bit of a whirlwind.
I spent Sunday through Wednesday in Denver attending Collaborate 13 and then jetted to the Bay Area to speak at a new hire bootcamp on Thursday.
As always, Collaborate 13 was a great chance to catch up with people I only see a couple times a year, if not less often, as well as a chance to meet new people and people I know only from online personas.
Aside from that, I got a chance to see the Applications User Experience team in action with customers, including the onsite usability lab and the eye-tracking demo, as well as the usual sessions.
I got a chance to test out the eye-tracker, made by Tobii, at the AUX demo booth. Thanks to John Rogers for walking me through the demo, which involved calibrating the IR sensors and then answering basic questions by looking at a demo page, e.g. who is a person’s manager based on a profile page.
After finishing the questions, I got to see the path my eyes took and the aggregated data of all the people who had participated. The aggregation of data points was incredibly interesting, as it begins to show patterns in your software, both good and bad.
Here’s a quick video of John walking me through the results.
I love stuff like this and the usability labs because they produce hard numbers to compare to assertions.
The Tobii is a neat little gadget. The naked eye can’t see the IR sensors, but my phone’s camera picked them up, which nicely personifies the little guy into a friendly robot or something.
After leaving Collaborate, I went to HQ to sit on a panel about “User Experience and Breaking the Status Quo.” Panel is a stretch, since this was more a conversation on stage with several of my colleagues, all of whom know way more about user experience than I do. The only reason I was invited was to stir the pot, which I did happily.
Funny aside, during a recap, I heard that Jeff Smith (@thatjeffsmith), yes *that* one, had presented earlier in the week, something I wish I could have seen. Jeff would have enjoyed the way I figured out people were talking about him. They didn’t initially mention his name, but I figured it out by attributes alone.
Anyway, if you’re attending an Oracle-themed conference later this year, I highly recommend checking out the Apps UX activities, the eye-tracker, the usability labs, the sessions, at your show of choice.
Find the comments.
Not that it’s a tradition or anything, but here are some links to brighten your Friday. Or whatever day it happens to be when you see them.
Google Glass SXSW video
Google released the video of their Glass session at SXSW. Noel (@noelportugal) was in the room, and Anthony (@anthonyslai) has an Explorer set on preorder. So yeah, we’re definitely interested.
It’s all speculation at this point, but it seems like Glass will essentially be a smartphone accessory, levaraging an app on the phone and piggybacking on the phone’s connectivity.
Facebook Home and your friends
The Verge humorously asks “Facebook Home is beautiful, but what if your friends aren’t?” A nice hook, and a good point about the value derived from Home and its dependency on the quality of your friends’ content.
I’ve seen this before with services that show beautiful pictures pulled from external content sources. The result looks great if the source content is high resolution and beautiful. Android’s contacts are an example; Android pulls the contact’s picture from the Google+ profile. If that photo is a nice, high resolution shot (e.g. Noel’s), it will look sharp on the phone. If not, it’s an annoying, grainy photo. The resolution of your phone obviously matters, e.g. some photos that looked OK on my Nexus S are now grainy on my Nexus 4.
If you’re building a service that showcases photos, you really should do some pre-processing on the images to ensure bad photos from the source don’t make your UI look janky.
Google’s Knowledge Graph on tablet videos
Yes, it’s only for the Play Movies & TV app and only on tablets, but this is kind of a big deal. In short, Google is now adding metadata from its Knowledge Graph to supported video playing on tablets running the Play Movies & TV app.
When paused, tapping an actor’s face will pull up related cards, e.g. the actor’s filmography and biography, and offer to take actions for you, like search.
This fits a flow that everyone has had at one point or another, i.e. what’s that actor’s name, what was that other movie he was in, how tall is he, etc. Usually, you’d pause an hit IMDB.
I love this combination of internet information with video. It’s useful and a smart way for Google to get even more information about you. Think about the possibilities for analytics on this feature. Twitter should take note, given its rise as a medium for celebrities.
Lots of user experience goodies
Introduce Design Thinking Into Your Enterprise Implementations: From Misha’s (@mishavaughan) VoX blog, I give you Oracle UX Direct. Here’s the skinny:
The Oracle Applications User Experience team has created a program called Oracle UX Direct to provide customers, partners, and consultants in the enterprise industry with design best-practices and tools that they can leverage to make their enterprise implementations more successful. By introducing design thinking during the implementation stage, our customers have the opportunity to create a solution that best fits the needs of their users from the beginning.
Hit the source for details.
The Next Big UI Idea: Gadgets That Adapt To Your Skill: I’ve been noodling since I watched Indie Game: The Movie, i.e. level design applied to software. It raises concerns for me though, given that I would hate to buy a TV that hand-held me through all its features.
Still, there is value in learning by doing, especially for training on new enterprise software. Upgrades often require retraining of users, which means those users aren’t doing their jobs, a double whammy.
No to NoUI: This is an interesting read and a cautionary tale about hiding too much from the user.
4 Surprising App-Design Principles, From The Instagram Of Quick Quizzes: Almost a companion piece for the previous post, these four principles target the mobile, distracted user. The distracted part was an a-ha for me, since thanks to Apple, we’re conditioned to think in terms of an immersive experience. That’s just not true. The smartphone itself is immersive, but its various features and apps, with the exception of games, really aren’t.
Facebook introduced Facebook Home today, and unlike most Facebook news, I’m actually quite interested in this announcement.
Setting aside the features, the shift away from apps to focus on a holistic user experience is one that I’ve been investigating for several months.
But from a user experience standpoint, perhaps the most significant thing about Home is simply the way it thinks beyond the “app” in a broader sense. It’s something Zuckerberg harped on continually: moving beyond apps. And that’s a big departure.
The idea of mobile apps as discrete, cordoned-off experiences is something Apple entrenched with the iPhone very early on. Build whatever you want on your own rectangular plots, Apple told developers, but this phone is ours, and we’re the ones responsible for how it looks, feels, and functions.
Being surrounded by iOS users, I often struggle to explain the benefits of the Android experience, since they tend to think linearly in terms of apps as discrete experiences, separate from the overall OS. This isn’t a fault; it’s just a byproduct of usage.
One of the most common knocks on Android is that it doesn’t have the same quality of apps that iOS does, but what Android allows apps to do provides for a much deeper integration with the OS itself and for a stronger connection with the user. I’m excited to see Facebook Home take advantage of this because, inevitably, it will lead other Android developers to expand their scope beyond the app.
Plus, Facebook Home will give me a nice example of what I mean the next time I try to explain the benefits of developing a holistic experience for Android users.
Although, since Facebook says they have no plans to port Home to iOS (and realistically, how could they?), I’ll still struggle to explain the user experience benefits. Even so, this is a step in the right direction.
As with many consumer technologies, expanding this paradigm for the enterprise may be easier. While we don’t know how successful Home will be, it’s easy to see how a similar work experience might be valuable. Your employer knows a lot about you, and that’s mostly OK because of the implicit trust relationship that exists.
So, while Google Now might be creepy and Facebook Home invasive, similar work-related functions could be much more successful, e.g. visual representations of your colleagues providing easy ways to communicate with them or assistant-type features based on your job role and functions tied to your calendar and email.
There are a lot of ways this type of experience could make working from a mobile device much easier, and maybe even pleasant.
Anyway, I’m interested to see how consumers react to Facebook Home, although it seems that at least initially, availability will be relatively limited.
Find the comments.
I’ll be at Collaborate 13 this year. If you read here, you probably know what Collaborate is, but just in case, it’s a mega-conference co-organized by three Oracle users groups, the OAUG (@oaug1), IOUG (@ioug) and Quest (@questusergroup).
If you’re not into acronyms, that’s Oracle Applications Users Group and International Oracle Users Group. Oh, and Quest is the international users group for PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Oracle Utilities users.
The show rotates between cities and is back in Denver this year. My first Collaborate was in Denver, back in 2008, and this time I made sure to stay closer to the conference center.
Unlike last year, I have no official duties, but I’ll be busy chatting about Applications User Experience and my super-secret stealth projects and observing Misha (@mishavaughan) and the outreach team do their thing, including:
Onsite Usability Lab: Participate in a user feedback session
Oracle customers and partners are invited to participate in a usability feedback session, where we will test new interfaces and features for the Oracle Fusion Applications HCM entry experience and work flows that have been gamified; Fusion Applications Help; the entry experience for Fusion Applications Financial Reporting; Oracle Social Network; and Oracle E-Business Suite user experience and interactions. Get a peek at Oracle’s next-generation enterprise application designs and learn about Oracle’s pioneering user-centered design process. Your feedback will help Oracle develop unbeatable products and solutions.
Who can participate? Employees, functional subject matter experts, managers, directors, VPs, Fusion Early Adopters, Fusion Applications implementers, IT consultants, partners and more.
When and where? Sessions will be scheduled on Tuesday, April 9th, and Wednesday, April 10th, at the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel in Denver, Colorado. You may sign up to participate in a one-on-one session or a brainstorming group activity.
How do I sign up? If you are interested in participating or would like to recommend your colleagues, send an email to gozel.aamoth at oracle.com.
Demo Station: The new entry experience for Oracle Fusion Applications, mobile, design patterns, and eye-tracking
Are you looking for a simple, current, and productive way for your users to perform key, quick-entry tasks while still having direct access to the full Oracle Fusion Applications functionality? Stop by the Oracle Applications User Experience demo station at COLLABORATE 2013 and discover the new entry experience for Oracle Fusion Applications.
The Applications User Experience team will also show the latest design concepts for mobile enterprise applications on different mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Having the right mobile applications for your workforce enhances productivity, efficiency, and employee morale and satisfaction. Discuss the similarities, differences, advantages, and challenges of the mobile platform. Chat with us about how these applications and prototypes meet your needs.
Our team also wants to show you how using both enterprise and mobile design patterns in your customizations can extend the value of your applications, while also promoting standardization and consistency.
And, get a look at the cutting-edge tools in Oracle’s arsenal of usability evaluation methods, such as eye-tracking. Recording users’ visual attention with eye-tracking methods can help inform the visibility, understandability, and navigation of page elements. Discuss with us how metrics are defined, and how design implications are made.
If you’re going to the show, check out all the AUX activities and plan accordingly.
My old pals from WebCenter will be at the show too, so make sure to check out their activities too. Collaborate has something for everyone.
Hit me up in the comments, on Twitter (@jkuramot) or by email if you want to hang out at the show.
I’ve been quiet here lately. After the trip to Mexico, I took some time off to unwind and enjoy the family unit, and I decided to bite the bullet and do a clean install of OS X as the final attempt to resolve the wifi issues that have plagued me for 18 months.
Prior to the Mexico trip, I took the 10.8.3 update, just on the off-chance that would fix the problem.
It didn’t, and actually, it made life a lot worse.
Right after the update, I couldn’t even launch Chrome. After some digging and experimentation, I discovered that playing any audio caused the coreaudio service to go nuts, maxing out the CPU and running the fan very loudly.
So, I spent my trip tap-dancing to avoid that problem.
Upon my return, I invested in a 2 TB network backup drive and took a full backup (more on that in a minute) to prepare for the rebuild.
After a few days, I’m about 90% back to normal, and so far, no wifi drops. The audio problem also resolved, and I’m able to install the new VPN client that previously (and mysteriously) failed.
Everything seems to be good, fingers crossed.
The one major coda is that I’ve lost the local WordPress install I did about a year ago when I migrated off Posterous.
Since my wife got pregnant, I’ve kept a journal for my daughter to document events in her life. Seemed like a good idea. I started on Posterous, then moved to a local install when they were acquired by Twitter.
I decided to use MAMP to run WordPress locally so I could control all the services. When it came time to install MAMP again, I recovered the old WordPress files and prepared to import the old MySQL database. For the unfamiliar, WordPress stores all its content in MySQL tables; if you have those database files, you’re good. If you don’t, you’re hosed.
MAMP installs itself into a directory within Applications, where it keeps the MySQL database files.
However, when I headed into Time Machine, I didn’t see anything in Applications. I couldn’t even open the directory.
After a few hours of Googling, I finally broke down and called Apple Care, and after about an hour of support from two techs, both very helpful, I am hosed.
It turns out that Time Machine will only do full OS backups to Time Capsules over a network connection, not to third party, network-connected drives. I found this out from the senior tech at Apple Care; Time Machine didn’t alert me to this fact, so I mistakenly assumed I had a full backup.
Update: Tim’s comment has prompted me to clarify my statement. Time Machine’s restriction is that it won’t do full OS backups over a network connection to third party drives.
I specifically avoided getting a Time Capsule because of its history of hardware failures, but to be fair, recent models seem to have fixed those issues.
Unfortunately now, I’ve lost about a year’s worth of journal entries. I did have the foresight to take an export from Posterous, salvaging some content, but all the entries after I migrated are lost for good.
That is unless some WordPress expert can correct my understanding of where the content lives.
I’m not angry, just sad that I’ve lost the record of some big events in my daughter’s life like her first steps, holidays, family visits, parties, etc. Luckily, all the pictures and videos from those events were backed up, so it’s not a total loss.
Actually, I’m really sad, but that will pass. Unfortunately now, she’ll have to rely on my terrible memory for that stretch of time.
Retracing the steps of how I got here is a bit funny.
I used a free service, which was probably the first mistake. That service was bought and shuttered, so I migrated to a local solution, assuming that my backup strategy would preserve the data. That assumption was flawed, but only because of a hardware choice.
Technology is hard, so be safe out there.
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I’m drinking coffee in a Starbucks next door to an Applebee’s. Tough to tell that I’m in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Mexico is a hotbed for talented software developers, and we’re here to find the next Rich (@rmanalan) before s/he hits it big and leaves the band over creative differences.
Yeah, I’m a little punchy, been a long week.
Anyway, some nuggets from my first trip to the land down under . . . Texas, Arizona, and small parts of New Mexico and California.
Internet is air
The right to internet access movement sounds noble to me, and as soon as I landed, I started to suffocate from lack of connectivity. So, now, I’m fully on board. Internets for everyone!
International data roaming is incredibly expensive, $10-15 per MB according to Anthony (@anthonyslai), so I left the States hoping to get by on wifi and by channeling me from 2007. You remember that guy who carried a RAZR, the pre-iPhone me?
I tried to find a Mexican SIM before I left the US. After all, I’ve been bragging about the international portability of an unlocked GSM/HSPA+ phone like the Nexus S GSM or the Nexus 4 that I currently carry.
Turns out this is easier said than done, at least before you leave home, and at least here, it’s not super easy even after you arrive.
The SIM adventure
All of us were carrying unlocked phones, and we quickly found out that SIM cards were scarce. Of course, we needed two sizes, regular and micro, making our search a bit more complicated. After trying three stores and kiosks, we finally were directed to a Telcel store inside a mall.
Rafa (@rafabelloni), one of the local Applications UX developers who had been guiding us on our quest for SIMs, made what I thought was an offhand comment about avoiding the Telcel store because it would take a while.
It wasn’t offhand. He was right.
The front of the Telcel store was very inviting, like any wireless store, with lots of phones displayed on glass and white surfaces. In the back was where you do the business though, and it looked just like a DMV office.
There was the obligatory maze for queuing people and about 40 counter stations, about three of which were staffed. We first explained what we needed via two interpreters, Noel and Rafa. We then received three SIMs and went to pay.
For the activation. In another line.
Once activated, we returned to the first station to have the SIMs installed, and then went to pay.
Again. For the service plan. In another line.
So, it took four stops to get us online, and even after that, we had issues. My phone and text services never worked. Noel had issues getting his plan working. Anthony ran out of data between the activation and plan steps. The SIMs came with a courtesy 150 MB, and I think his phone ate that up before we could pay for more data.
Or maybe something else. I don’t recall exactly because I was numb to the experience.
Luckily, we arrived at a calm moment, but it still took about an hour start to finish. Even so, Rafa was right. Thanks dude.
In the end, we got a nice deal for 1 GB of data for the week, even factoring in all the wait time. And wow, was it ever liberating to have data flowing to my phone again.
Pics, it happened.
The good news is that I now have a rechargeable SIM should I venture to Mexico, or at least to Guadalajara, again.
I am very lucky to be traveling with a native Spanish speaker, i.e. Noel (@noelportugal). I’ve always meant to learn Spanish. I even bought Rosetta Stone years ago with that intention. Obviously, that never happened.
As soon as I finally got on wifi, Google fired off a suspicious activity email to my Gmail account, which was nice to see.
I’m horrible at metric conversions.
Google Now really shines when you’re traveling abroad, adding cards for currency conversation and translation to the other travel-specific cards, like flight details and tourist attractions. The workflow is still a bit wonky, i.e. pulling out the phone to convert prices and translate, but just wait for Google Glass to see these services really show utility.
Speaking of Google, two-step verification becomes a real chore when you’re using a different SIM. Why? The second step of the verification process sends a text to your phone, but if that SIM happens to be inactive, you’re stuck.
I had to burn an emergency wallet code at first, but then I realized that since my Portland number is tied to Google Voice, I could elect to receive a phone call with the code for the second step. Happily, that automated service repeated the code several times allowing voicemail to capture it. I could then listen to the voicemail via the Google Voice app.
Obviously, this only works because my phone didn’t force me to re-authenticate to Google when I swapped SIMs, which I suppose is an exploitable gap. An attacker could easily swap SIMs and pwn your phone and all its data, assuming the phone is unsecured or its unlock sequence is easily cracked.
I remember having a similar discussion with Matt (@topperge) years ago when he first started using Google’s two-step verification.
Larger point here: This is why no one uses good security practices, too damned hard.
The area around the Oracle office is very new and still under construction, including the structure next door, which is still a shell of steel. Whenever I got a little sleepy, I’d head out to the balcony on the ninth floor, which extends away from the building, to watch the construction workers do their jobs, largely untethered. Scary stuff and a great way to get the juices flowing.
By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Google will shut down Google Reader in July.
This is extremely sad for me, since Reader is an essential tool that I use several times a day to keep up with hundreds of items. I’m not joking or exaggerating; I scan hundreds of items on a (mostly) daily basis. Reader makes this manageable, and I will miss it.
When I read the news on Reader, I took to Twitter to join the hand-wringing and fist-shaking movement. That’s a double irony, reading the news on Reader and using a service that has surely hastened its demise to complain about it.
I’m not surprised by the out-pouring of sentiment. Reader has been on life-support since its neutering in late 2011. Google has given plenty of notice that Google+ is its future for social activities, and the related-but-not news of Andy Rubin’s departure shows that Google continues to narrow its focus.
Anyway, if you’d like to petition Google to save Reader, there are several you can sign over on Change.org. This one has the most signatures.
It’s actually for the best that Reader will be killed, since it was dying a slow death anyway. I think we all knew this was coming. Think about this: how awesome would it be to see Google sell Reader to its users, like I proposed years ago for Flickr?
Win-win for everyone. I would pay to keep it as-is.
So, now what? I’ll be collecting replacement options over the next three months, and they’re pretty easy to find.
Some of the more interesting or funny to me options:
- Crowdfunded RSS.GD
- Digg, yes Digg, you read that right
- The Old Reader, h/t John (@jpiwowar) and J-P (@lawduck) for that one
- Flipboard, duh
Lost in all the weeping for Reader was a possibly bigger deal, h/t to Bill (@btaroli):
CalDAV API will become available for whitelisted developers, and will be shut down for other developers on September 16, 2013. Most developers’ use cases are handled well by Google Calendar API, which we recommend using instead. If you’re a developer and the Calendar API won’t work for you, please fill out this form to tell us about your use case and request access to whitelisted-only CalDAV API.
It’s very murky, but this seems to be a Google-Microsoft tiff. Details are missing, but if Google doesn’t whitelist Apple or Mozilla, Google Calendar becomes orphaned because its users won’t be able to use their preferred clients.
Stay tuned for details.
So, cry about Reader in the comments, but this is a wake, so let’s remember Reader at its best.
News seems to come in inverse proportion to my level of busy, e.g. SXSW is happening now. Noel (@noelportugal) is attending, so here’s to hoping he brings back some content.
Anyway, here are some stories that have caught my very limited attention lately.
Another Applications UX post from Gozel over on VoX details the team’s upcoming trip to OBUG Benelux Connect in Antwerp, Belgium. If you’re going, check out all the AUX activities and find time to participate.
Troy Hunt makes a compelling case for all web sites to disclose their password storage strategies, love the idea of public shaming the properties that don’t take your privacy seriously enough. Troy’s blog is a great read; he describes complex issues in easily readable ways, a difficult task.
Steelcase did some UX research and found new postures that we’ve adopted for our new devices, fascinating stuff. How many of those do you practice?
I’m a big fan of applying interdisciplinary skills to my work, and Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling are gold for anyone making anything for other people.
Speaking of interdisciplinary skills, this brief portrait of Ralph Baer, the father of video games, is strikingly inspiring and sad all at once.
Even before the SXSW Glass session, the possibilities of Google Glass started leaking out into the world. I, for one, am stoked for Glass.
Update: Forgot these concepts from JetBlue for Glass at the airport.
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