Thursday, December 27, 2007

Making Mobile browsing better

Andrew Gray in Australia has created a service that translates standard URL addresses into numbers that make browsing on your mobile phone easier and faster.

The rationale is that a numeric interface is comfortable to use on a mobile phone, anyone who's tried to use the keypad alphabetic interface will certainly agree that it's clunky.

The service is found at http://www.digiturl.com
More information can be found at http://digiturl.blogpost.com

Found on Lifehacker Australia.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Zoops, yet another Social Network

Doing the trawl of the RSS feeds I came across an article from the BBC, Don't be lonely at Christmas time.

A rundown of alternative social network platforms.

Of interest, only because of the business model, was Capazoo. Capazoo has joined social networking with gaming and has created a currency the Zoop. A Zoop is worth $0.01 and can be earned in the following ways

  • Getting Tipped for your videos, music, photos, profiles, and more…
  • Inviting your friends to join you at Capazoo
  • Sharing in our Advertising Revenues
  • Sharing in Capazoo’s Profits
They offer the Capazoo cash card that allows a subscriber to convert Zoops into real cash at an ATM.

This convergence of gaming and other internet usage is not a new idea and has been applied to other functions, like spam reduction. Techdirt had a strong reaction to the email meets gaming idea that might prove to short sighted.

The idea of a form of stickiness like earning currency for activity will be tried in other platforms in 2008 as the disinterest starts to grow. The need to constantly reinvent yourself to maintain interest will the a domain driver through next year as more competition creeps into the space.

Niche networks will start to emerge, where disaggregation will start to occur around communities. There will pressure on today's networks to allow for tighter control and partitioning of networks, in the same way that Plaxo allows you to nominate Friends, Family or Business contacts.

Related articles.

Alec Saunders on Spock
Andy Abramson on Spock
Set Godin on Facebook

One is on YouTube

HM The Queen Elizabeth II has taken steps into Web 2.0 by starting a channel on YouTube.

The move marks the 50th anniversary of her first Christmas Speech to the nation. A tradition that sees the family sit in front to the TV after Christmas lunch to hear the summary of the year from the perspective of the Royal Family.

The content will include this years speech with the hope being that it will bring today's British youth closer to the monarchy.

Go and visit the site on YouTube.
See related story on the BBC portal

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Concrete Cows and an update on WiMax

Last year saw the first mention/promise of city wide WiMax in Milton Keynes, UK.

The combination of ConnectMK and Freedom4 are offering WiMax to residents and small businesses with synchronous speeds of 8Mb/s.

The package is being targeted at home workers who need more upload capacity as they go about their work.

This is being touted as the first commercial application of WiMax in the UK. The main differentiator that is being highlighted is no need for a BT line required to support traditional ADSL services.

This is after successful trials in both Milton Keynes and Warwick. Next stop Manchester.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Spam, is there anything it can't do?

On Click this week there was a short slot about Barracuda.

Their report highlights that upwards of 95% of email now passes directly to Junk Mail.

So apparently Spam can do nearly everything now, as in 100% of activity.

So what can we do about it read Getting Some Control of Email Back

2008 the year of the eBook?

From iTWire.

Predictions on eBook readers and the success of the partnership between Dymocks and the iLiad

VoIP = Voice Over iPod

iPhones baby brother, iTouch, looks very similar but doesn't allow you to make phone calls, or does it?

Engadget has run a series of posts on iTouch hacks that make the iTouch able to make VoIP calls.

Now today they are advertising a free download of a SIP based VoIP client app for the iTouch.

It was only a matter of time before someone found another use for the onboard WiFi connection of this nice looking device.

Thailand Offline Again!

The past couple of months have seen the entire country unplugged from the internet more times than I care to count.

You can always tell it's a national problem when you phone the call centre and end up being on hold for 10 minutes or so. I don't know if this is to stop being hassled or because there really are a lot of people reporting the problem. Suggestions of using IVR updates to handle some of the calls "If you are phoning about internet connection difficulty, there is a problem and we are working on it. Please check back for updates" would be a good option, however it falls on deaf ears.

What I'm not sure of is the cause of the problem.

  • Lack of infrastructure investment
  • More people going online
  • Fragility of links out of Thailand
There certainly is a lack of investment in infrastructure. One calculation suggests that if everybody that could go online went online at the same time each user would get 1.2Kb of bandwidth. As an example to get the copper wire to allow for phone and ADSL services to my home the supplier had to run a cable from a drop point 14KM away as all other drop points were full and they had no plans to add any more. The incumbent, TOT, took more than one year to add a new drop point into the housing complex we live in. This is in Bangkok and within sight of their headquarters.

There certainly is an upward trend of online users. Combine this with an already low investment rate and you stress the system too much.

In the region in the last year there has been other countries that have gone offline. Sri Lanka was out after a ship broke the cable between the island and India. Indonesia was knocked out when an undersea earthquake displaced the fibre that connects it to Singapore.

Is this the internet in general creaking under the strain of the volume of IP traffic generated by VoIP, browsing, downloads, P2P traffic and file transfers of email as companies become more global and more virtual.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Flash in the pod

18 months ago this post made some predictions on flash memory both increasing in size and decreasing in price.

It's time to revisit the concept of the ultimate devise of magnetic drives.

In Business Week's break down of the iTouch that lays out the differences between it's stable mate the iPhone and what is unique to the iTouch the use of Flash memory is raised.

The observation is that the iTouch is the future vision of the classic iPod and along with losing the click wheel in favour of touch screen functions the magnetic drive will replaced by ever bigger (and cheaper) flash memory storage.

The original evolution that was predicted saw the use of multiple flash memory cards to create one large logical drive. In the time that has passed large steps have been taken in Solid State Drives that seems they being used in laptops today.

While the capacity of SD cards hasn't changed much since the original post capacity has increased in flash memory technology with USB pen drives now possible up to 16Gb. If capacity hasn't increased significantly size has certainly decreased. Intel has showed it's latest SSD developments. 400 times smaller than a traditional 1.8 inch HDD and 75 times lighter the 2Gb and 4Gb devices are designed for mobile systems. They are currently extendable up to 16Gb.

Facebook for the crumblies

Too good not to share :)

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/12/so-thats-why-we.html

Monday, December 17, 2007

Social Network Aggregation - Blog Centricity?

There are many social networking platforms and content items that we want to share with our friends, contacts, family members. The problem is that with so many platforms, some of which are very specific, it is difficult to keep track of comings and goings.

Enter a new/revised role for the blog. That of Social Network Aggregation.

Many of the platforms provide some from of publishing aide, call them badges, widgets, gadgets whatever they have the same basic purpose. They allow a blogger to insert elements into their blogs to share content and site links.

Having played with some of these tools the effect can be a very cluttered blog that might send the wrong message. Some people blog on separate themes and want to partition up the content to help the subscriber base. They might blog on technology in one area, management or self improvement in an another.

Blogger has added lots of new features and the blogger community has further enhanced the capabilities of the free tool.

It is already possible to add content to a blog to aggregate feeds from blogs, micro blog updates from Jaiku or Twitter and feeds from some of your social platforms like Plaxo. You can add your wishlist from Amazon to share your wants with your friends and family. You can add contact details into your blog with options including immediate access to you on IM.

You can link blogs together and limit access to some that become mini-sites to your main blog. This allows you to control access to some and not others for you more private elements that you want to share in a limited way.

Blogging platforms are set to extend into the social networking space as people seek more control and dimensions on their business, public and private lives.

You can see some of the possibilities at my aggregation site.

It seems that others are of the same opinion, read the article from Om Malik on Wordpress.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Voice Interfaces on Phones

Ideas on how buttons can be replaced by voice interfaces.

Read my posting on the PhoneTalk blog.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Is Knol a Wikipedia Challenger?

Official Google Blog: Encouraging people to contribute knowledge

Is Knol a Wikipedia Challenger?

Information from the Grassy Knol

Google's latest venture is project Knol. A Knol is a unit of knowledge. Google are encouraging people to contribute within their particular expertise.

Sound familiar? many people are comparing this to Wikipedia which is a very different model. Wikipedia is all about collaborative authoring. Knol is individual contributions posted up on Google to be returned in the page ranks at the top of the search results.

Knol is informed, authoritative wisdom of the individual.
Wikipedia is well meaning, keen, hard working content aggregators looking to share in a collaborative effort.

What is the aim behind the project?

Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.
Udi Manber, VP Engineering.

What is the real aim behind the project? is there any love lost between Google and Wikipedia? if Google want to displace Wikipedia as one of the key search tools for your average Joe then with this side project they could "adjust" the page ranks in their favour; but they wouldn't ;) would they?

Techno Travel

There has been lots of discussion on Kindle and eBooks in general. Besides the obvious use for reference books by the IT industry, in particular IT consultants that work onsite a lot, there is another use for eBooks and gadgets.

Geek Travel.

Travel is an obvious target. Many people take the opportunity to take 6+ months off and travel the world. Guide books are heavy, bulky objects. There is a rich trade in swapping books at the natural convergence points around the world. Some people plan very carefully and take the required pages with them. But if you've only got specific pages and you want to wander off your trail you're up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Why not then take all of your books, and some for countries that you might not actually have a plan, with you on your eBook Reader. Something like Kindle, iLiad or Sony Reader.

Go get your travel books from Rough Guide, Travelfish or search through Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree project.

While you're packing throw in your Nokia N810. use the GPS to mark the co-ordinates of the places that you visit so you can add it to Google Maps when you get home. Take some photos with the camera and add the photos with location to Flickr or Google Earth. Take the time to create a cache so your friends can find the exact place you stood/sat.

Don't forget your Symbian Series 60 smart phone! you'll want to run Waymarkr as you walk the streets so you can show your buddies the sights of where you've been. Now slip over to your Jaiku mobile app and add some updates to your travel micro blog.

Not done yet? OK pull the N810 off charge and get to the nearest WiFi hotspot, any Starbucks should do unless your in a city with MetroLan. Logged on? go to Facebook and add some notes to tell people where you've been, where you are and where you're planning on going.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Would Calchas predict the future of the book?

The Greek prophet Calchas might have been successful in predicting the future of the books popularity but what would he have thought of eBooks?

Not so long after the announcement on the Kindle, which in turn has created a lot of coverage around the blogosphere, iRex have announced a partnership with Dymocks books in Australia.

This is significant as it moves the eBook reader into the traditional outlet to harness it's capabilities and potential popularity. Dymocks may be achieve first mover advantage in actively partnering with what other sellers may see as the competition.

The iLiad's on board WiFi connection can be used there in the store to download compatible books (they have to be in the mobipocket format). iLiad's strengths also include the ability to read PDF and display HTML, something Kindle can do with support through the Amazon portal only.

Let's hope that the New Zealand branches also offer the service.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Theory of TiVolution, Darwinian moves in the kingdom of DVR

TiVo, the DVR box that evolved the VCR into the first form of a timeshifting product has been building out a network of content partners in an effort to diversify it's offering beyond TV.

Why? The Techdirt Insight Community has already been asked this year on Video Store 2.0 and the potential impacts of IPTV on the regular broadcasting providers. The reality is that TV scheduling and broadcasting is under disruption and niche vendors like TiVo need to soften the impact.

I'm glad to see that they're moving in the right direction with new partnership announcements in the content and importantly user/community generated content spaces. It's been a slow and steady approach to becoming a true media company.

Announced this week are partnerships with Music Choice giving TivoCast subscribers access to a store of music videos. Combines this with the rollout of the previously integration with Rhapsody and you get a learning device that can help you comb that music video store to match your taste. It's all about control.

In a further extension of their content sharing, Family Private Network, which initially saw a YouTube like service partnerships with Google's Picasa and Photobucket give you the ability to share your photo's with your community. This moves TiVo into an enabler of one dimension of Social Networking.

This week also saw tighter integration with Amazon's Unbox service. This deal has been in the making since February. This moves the dependency on the schedule to an alternative portal for buying your favorite show or film. On the back of the Kindle release this relationship also strengthens Amazon's role as a multi media content provider.

There has been lot's of comment generated from the ad service in lieu of fast forwarding through the broadcast version. The move into less TV dependent content should reduce the need, let's hope.

The other realization from TiVo, something Telco's could learn, is the intangible asset they have in the form of their user base. They have entered a deal with NBC to provide viewing statistics, so maybe their data is becoming useful to someone.

There are some features that I'd still like to see on the DVR box. On board WiFi, get rid of the USB dongle and further elevate this former DVR into the domain of multi media centers

Promising developments to show that some players are starting to get it.

Churn, Churn the Wheels of Change

Social Networking sites have become really popular. The growth is being driven primarily by Gen Y'ers with young Gen X'ers following up.

However Gen Y is known as being quite fickle and will go looking for the next big thing if something changes. A trait that has suffered cell phone operators has started to be felt in the growth world of Facebook, MySapce and Bebo. The trait of churn.

Many users, for many reasons, have churned away from MySpace and headed over to Facebook. The reasons need to be analyzed and addressed if the share is to be maintained. Why do users churn? are they looking for more control, more privacy, more applications, less stickiness. Stickiness is usually a strong point. However one of the best example of stickiness going wrong is AOL. They make it very difficult to change ADSL vendors. One reason is the way that your email contacts are so difficult to retrieve to import to a new service like Gmail.

Bebo has recently announced support for Google's Open Social API set. Plaxo also supports this new standard that should allow better integration between social platforms. This will allow users to migrate between services and allows for the social networking equivalent of the Telco MVNO (like Ampd, ESPN Mobile etc) i.e. services that cater for a niche market or have a core brand that they wish to promote.

Something like iLike where the users share a common interest in music and get news updates, free music downloads from their favourite artists combined with the ability to network with people with similar tastes.

This not only affects the social networking sites but is starting to become visible in the business networking platforms as well. Established business network provider Linkedin could well be under pressure from Plaxo. Being a member of both I am seeing the same names appear across the platforms. Linkedin has been changing has recently offered a news service that is context sensitive to your company and competitors. Some of the restrictions have been lifted but the strength of Plaxo is it's crossover approach. With one dimension for business contacts, another for friends or family it allows the user to tailor which content is visible and shared based on which circle the connection is in.

Untying the Apron Strings

As part of the process of changing jobs I am try to move central control from my soon to be ex-company laptop to my own machine at home.

I have already followed a good set of instructions on moving my iTunes library, even though I lost all of my podcast subscriptions. Overall the process was greatly simplified by the fact that I use a USB disk to hold all of the podcast and music files.

The next big thing for me is to break the ties from my browser(s). I use bookmarks a lot and was looking for something useful to keep my bookmarks in synch.

I was playing with the idea of using Jetpaks which I have found to be extremely useful for collating and aggregating links I am using for specific research. But before I took the plunge I had a quick walk around to see if this was something easier then the good old export/import process.

I found many, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, including Foxmarks and Google Browser Synch.

I decided to try out these two:

BookIt is an extension of the export/import method that creates an online central repository of bookmarks that you can then use to synch up other machines and browsers as this supports both Firefox and IE. One of the features that I liked was the ability to copy or merge in the case of duplicates.

2Go was equally useful in terms of supporting both IE and Firefox. You need to install a small application on each subscriber/publisher and this is used to handle the export/import process. The one downside that I found with this application was the ease that it was confused by non-standard characters. Some of my bookmarks have Thai characters in them which meant that some weren't synched at all.

All in all I think I prefer the BookIt method as it is easy to browse the repository and clean up old or unwanted links. Although I haven't yet tried the synch back process as I need to wait until I am at my new central machine. Update to follow.

More ideas are available from here

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reading by Kindle Light

I was really excited to read about Kindle from Amazon.

I have been interested in the idea of a book reader for some time as I use a lot of reference books and read a lot when traveling. I still enjoy the book experience but it's not convenient to lug a load of books around with you as you move from hotel to hotel.

The other benefit is the ready access to English language books which aren't always easy to find in Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.

I have written about how book readers still could evolve to be more akin to reading a book but that is some time away.


So what is different about Kindle compared to it's peers...

  • uses e-ink to save battery power
  • wireless access to Wikipedia
But most of the differentiators are in the wireless delivery and browsing ability to the content portal from the device.

Knidle uses EV-DO to deliver the book, up to 200, on to your device. You can also use the USB connection to manage the content from your PC.

The only problem is that today Amazon isn't shipping outside of the US and the EV-DO network is Sprint only.

I really think that Amazon is on to a winner I just hope they accelerate their plans to broaden their geography...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Finally a real use for the camera phone

During some research for a submission on the Techdirt Insight Community, on the use of camera phones, I stumbled across ShotCode.

The basic idea is to use your camera and Bluetooth connection to read a simple circular barcode on a poster or object. The code is interpreted and further information is sent back to the handset for you to read.

Some usage examples:

  • History of maintenance in a server room, a code on each rack or machine
  • Further information on an object, great use to get kids interested in museums
  • Advert context, show times for a film
I was also talking to a family member about how to make the London Underground more user friendly for foreign visitors. I like the idea of using ShotCodes on the station that could give visitors an idea on what is available near this station (shops, sights etc) and potentially how to get there IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE. A different code for German, Chinese, Thai etc.

The use of this concept could finally allow camera phones to jump into the average user who wants to do more than social networking.

The good news my contribution was used so you can read the full story on camera phones at PhoneTalk.

Getting some control of email back

The pet peeve of most of us today is the amount of spam that we get. When gmail was invite only the combination of a semi-closed community and a pretty good spam filter meant that the volume was far less than I would see in Hotmail or Yahoo mail.

Unfortunately that seems to have changed, although as Joe Duck comments Gmail say it is reducing.

I have taken some steps to get some more control, starting with Yahoo. After reading Om's posting on add-ons to outlook I had a play with Boxbe and configured it against my Yahoo account. Fairly painless to do but I really want to run it for a while before commenting further.

One of the features that stands out though is the "access charge" that they levy and share with you for passing on your account details to a company that your Boxbe profile suggests would be interested in you.

This resonates with a discussion I had a couple of years ago with a friend of mine on an overall revamp of the email eco system. If you were to charge micro-money amounts to send email then this would go a long way to reducing spam.

If we were to extend the Boxbe model then some form of revenue sharing that encouraged sensible, some would say ethical, use of email could be a great way to enter the market.

At the end of the day the only sure fire way to keep spam volume low is to keep on the move. Change your email address frequently and partition up your life. I have taken the approach of having parallel email address that I use for specific purposes (blog comments, work, banking etc). This has certainly helped keep the volume of spam down on some of those accounts.