Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Start The New Year

New Year's Eve is upon us and with it comes renewal. After years and years of social media on the Internet, we all have accounts on many spaces, and I am getting the vibe that getting rid of that cruft is part of renewal too. People are telling me about "friends" they want to chuck off their facebook page for only contributing white noise, blogs they want to close, accounts and services they want out of their lives.

Especially the diarists seem to be quitting. Not the people with blogs about a specific subject that have created a following over time, but the ones chronicling their lives, the regular family newsletters, that often live in extensive blog networks like LiveJournal. Turns out Facebook with its short blips and easy upload of multi-media content is filling the gap just fine, and less censorship due to Harry Potter fanfic or sales to shady Russian outfits. It's just easier to commit a short update to a one-line text box than to face the large entry field crying for a multi-line piece of writing most blogs use.

I myself have the rule that for every new account I must close an old one, and coming up is last.fm. After years of connecting it with almost every way I listen to music (iTunes, Spotify, my iPods) and thus having built up years of recommendations and a taste profile on that site, it still doesn't give me any useful recommendations except a bucket load of "similar artists" to the last 5 I listened to. Except I do not select my music primarily on artist, because 80% of everything is garbage, including the catalog of most groups, conceived as they were as album fillers to go with the two hit singles. So telling me I need to explore 80% based on liking 20% just doesn't work. And why just focus on similar artists since every modern product is a combination of artist, composer, producer, and remixer? I vastly prefer Pandora that tries to recommend by finding similar songs, not artists or groups. Alas you can't get that in the UK.

So with last.fm simply not giving me use, it has to go. I need the mental space for whatever will replace facebook. Because since every Web property lives and dies, we can be sure something will.

You closing out anything?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Convergence Diverging: A Micro Trend

Nokia N95 8GBNokia 95. Image via Wikipedia
I have now heard it often enough I am considering it a trend, albeit a minor one: technologists, mobilists, smartphone carrying aficionados who proudly showed off and used their devices for making and publishing media, playing music, browsing the web, and now using a ton of applications, saying they just want a small cheap no-frills phone. The biggest Apple fan I know at work -- seriously, every morning when gets at his desk he unpacks about £2700 of Apple gear -- recently asked me where in the UK to get a phone that was so simple it didn't even have a color screen but made fabulous calls. Or these people want to go back to a generation behind the current smartphones, or stay there if they still have the old device. Especially the Nokia N95 has staying power.

The camera and the phone were really the first to merge, and they did pretty good, albeit with very low expectations of what the pictures would be like. The music player was not the most popular merge for quite some time, until the iPhone with its large touchscreen somehow made it happen. And then the apps revolution came and every manufacturer jumps into the market with a slab, usually as big as possible, sometimes with a qwerty slide-out keyboard, to get that mini-computer feel.

Just one problem with it: as more got added, the phone part got really, well, crappy. Dialing becomes an exercise of pressing fingers on unforgiving glass if you can even find the dialer amidst all the icons, the ear speaker hole is nowhere to be found because the bezel has to be small, I can't find the microphone on most of them, taking a call requires slipping and sliding over the screen while already juggling pulling the device out of a pocket or purse, hanging up is not satisfying -- especially since the batteries happily too often end the call for us by having talk times measured in too few hours and stand-by times measured in a single day, instead of the days and weeks we were used to. Making a call is just not a nice experience any more on these slabs, and us tech adopters have now had these smartphones with us long enough we are tired of mishandling calls at work for the sake of being able to pass time launching birds at pigs living in terribly dysfunctional architecture.
Nope, I am using a dedicated point-and-shoot Leica as a camera now, after years of shoot-and-upload camphone experiments of which the resulkts just always seemed so drab once they were on the web. And others are, as said, decoupling their phones from their application pads, or music players from their phones. Because in the end, some of us really need to make good calls, not just texts and leave voicemail.