Monday, October 31, 2011

My Notepad

For such a high-tech guy and self-professed nerd, I've had no bigger revelation in recent years than I take notes best with a notepad.  You know, that bundle of papers, bound in a cover, with a small writing instrument called a pencil.  Quite deflating for my image, I suppose.


Hey, I've tried every electronic solution.  I've taken notes on a laptop, for years, in the meeting reminders on Outlook.  That actually worked okay, but then in Office 2011, Microsoft changed things that killed my ability to do this.  Plus, I couldn't doodle.  Yes, I've tried Evernote.  Even subscribed to their ├╝ber-package, and it, like many other new fads, over the years, eventually ended up on the shelf, collecting dust.  I've even tried Evernote and Instapaper, which I like, to get around printing out all the online articles that interest me but don't currently have the time to read.  No dice.  They didn't stick.

Having admitted these shameful truths, I realize that I was programmed at a young age.  I remember taking notes in second grade.  Like, I wrote everything the teacher said, regardless of importance.  I'm not sure how much I actually go back to review the notes, but I'm sure that the act of writing the notes onto a page helps engrain the thoughts into my brain, more than anything.

It's nice to finally come out of the electronics closet.  It feels good to know who I really am.  Plus, with a notepad instead of an iPad, at least the people I'm meeting with know I'm not sending email or playing Flight Control!

Gamey, Ribeye, GroupOff



The Weekly Wrap
Monday: Lovers
Tuesday: Gamey
Wednesday: Innovation
Thursday: UX
Friday: Research
Saturday: GroupOff
Sunday: Cowboy Ribeye

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye

Last century, before kids, we used to go out to dinner a lot.  We often saw movies, as well.  We slept in.  Most impressive, however, was that when we were younger, we both could eat an entire Cowboy Ribeye, by ourselves.  With an appetizer.  And, dessert.  I repeat, by ourselves!


The Cowboy Ribeye, for the uninitiated, is a Stephan Pyles signature dish.  It originated at the now non-existant Star Canyon, in Dallas.  Thankfully, it returned to Stephan Pyles namesake restaurant in the Arts District.  It is a bone-in ribeye that sits atop a pinto bean wild mushroom ragout with red chile-dusted onion strings on top.  The steak by itself, would be a top 3 steak in Dallas, by itself, but the combination of flavors and textures of the 3 components of the dish together make one want to kiss Mr. Pyles on the lips, regardless of gender or sexual-orientation.

These days, we will occasionally wander down to Stephan Pyles on date night, without reservation, and sit at the bar in front of the kitchen.  Most times, we will get an appetizer or salad, share a dish or order second appetizers.  Occasionally, we will order the Cowboy Ribeye.  To share.  And, we don't finish it.  And, we definitely don't eat dessert.  Then, usually, one of us has to roll the other one out to the valet to get our car.

I'm most amazed at my previous self, when I reflect back on this.  How in all that is holy could I eat an entire Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye?  What has happened to me?  Have aliens done this to me with their constant experimentation on me at nights?  Either way, it's still a great dish, no matter how much I can eat of it.

Lost in all of this, of course, is that although Stephan has resurrected the Bone-In Cowboy Ribeye, he has not done the same for the Lace Cookie Taco.  The best dessert in Dallas in its day.  Not that I would have the room to eat it, though.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

GroupOff

So, I finally actually used GroupOn.  I've been signed up for a while, mind you, but there's only so much Botox and Circus School that one person can do in their lifetime.  Having said that, the daily GroupOn email flashed up on my iPhone's screen this week with a very intriguing offer: $20 iPhone screen repair.  Say what?!?  $20 iPhone screen repair.  Yup, I just wrote it, again!

Score!
First, it's a great deal.  I've had my original iPhone 3G in a drawer with a broken screen for about a half-year and did not know what to do with it.  Now, we can use it as our home phone and cut the cord, or give it to the kids (who would scoff at us, since it's 3-year old technology), or sell it.  Go ahead, make me an offer.

Second, it's the first deal that I have seen on GroupOn that:
  1. was something that did not make me giggle.  I was serious about the circus school offer.
  2. was something that was actually useful. 
  3. was something actually targeted towards me: male, 40s, nerd.
I'm not necessarily sold on all the latest fad of electronic promotion companies that have arisen, but first and foremost to be useful, they need to be contextually relevant.  I'll admit I might be looking at some of the deals that are not relavent to me, but would be for my wife and buy them for her.  Still, I think companies like GroupOn are currently selling audience for small and medium local businesses, when I think the larger opportunity is to sell electronic loyalty programs.  

I might run across town once for a great deal, but what gets me coming back to businesses frequently?

Friday, October 28, 2011

3 Fatal Misuses of Market Research

I'm not blogging to knock audience measurement or market research.  It put bread on my table for 3 years, while I worked at The Nielsen Company.  My advice, if the numbers don't help your story, turn the graph 90 degrees and check again.  You won't be the first marketing person to do so.

Do blogger moms think I'm sexy?
Having seen the sausage being made, I can say there is more science to it then some would care to recognize, but, still, I see people quote stats all the time and make three fatal errors of market data usage:

  1. Asking and understanding the methodology: What were the questions asked, or sometimes, more importantly, what was asked?  Who did they ask?  How many people did they ask?  Was the sample representative?  One classic case you see in reporting on mobile phone sales is comparing sell-through numbers with sell-to numbers.  What's in consumers hands vs. on shelves.  Big difference.
  2. Market research is only directional for the innovator: If research data could predict the future, a lot of Nielsen, Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc. analysts that I know would be retired on a beach somewhere.  They're not.  Data can definitely give you both a status of where the world stands today, and trends, so they offer great directional insight.  When it comes to innovation, however, that's probably the limit.  I've had people ask me if I had research which would validate the innovations they had planned.  That's equivalent to expecting people to say they wanted the Facebook before it was available.
  3. Cite your source: If you are going to use some data, cite the source and date of the data.  Otherwise, I can assume you made it up, or its 3 years old, which is okay if your nostalgic, but not so cool, if you are trying to make informed decisions.
Have a good weekend.  I don't have the data to prove that it's going to be good.  I just have a feeling.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You, Sir, Experience

People always wax poetically about great user interface (UI), or look-and-feel.  User experience (UX) is a science, though, and I always appreciate the science behind everything.  Developing great UX is much more than just "look and feel", though, that sounds somewhat randy when I type it again and again.

It's no wonder I have no friends...
To the UX nerd, the depths of the science likely know no bound.  While Apple gets kudos for the simplicity of its design choices on the unibody MacBook Air or the iPhone 4, this excellent article today pokes at some of Apple's not so nice design choices and teaches us about skeuomorphic vs. metaphoric design choices.

In the case of application design, I believe that sometimes the most important decisions to affect the user experience are the features that are not included.  For example, Home Depot makes an extremely rich mobile application for the iPhone.  I'm not sure there is much you can not do on the app, but I wonder if there is much that you really won't do on a mobile app.  Removing that excess allows a focus on the features that have impact on their consumer's needs or their company's goals, all while freeing up valuable UI space for better creative treatments of what is most important.

In the world of mobile and mobile apps, beauty is indeed more than skin deep.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Innovation

On the longest and toughest days at work, it's things like Oink that can wake me up, get me pumped and remind me why I like my work and my job so much.  Innovation.  It's like a stiff drink after a long day.  It's like a unsolicited kiss on the cheek from your kids.  It's the $5 bill you find in the parking lot of the grocery store.  When it happens, it's a sure smile and new energy.


Thanks to @rfijoey for tipping me to this one yesterday.  I love the different perspective of this service.  Don't just get me to a location, help me navigate inside.  What is the place known for?  Still, like Yelp and Google, it's dependent on crowd sourcing opinions, and sometimes dog+world can give you good advice, but as has been shown through research, nothing replaces the opinion of a trusted friend or family member.  Bubs, for example, is my go-to for dining in New York City.  Should be yours, too, but she doesn't blog.

This idea of enhancing our typical web services to dig deeper, inside of the places, is not unique to Oink.  Applying electronic mapping inside of big box retailers, for example, could help consumers map their path to get in and out most efficiently.  The path data from their (opted-in) consumers could help the retailers organize their product placement.  It could help those same retailers make more contextually relevant recommendations for additional purchase, "you're going to need some jelly with that peanut butter and bread that you bought."

Specific innovations aside, it's always great to explore and see innovators in action.  Sometimes, its a hit, other times a miss.  Sometimes, it's one small step to something bigger.  And, remember, if you are not trying to disenfranchise your service, someone else is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gamey

The industry often talks about gamification in mobile apps.  Sometimes, it's done well, but often times, it's gamey.  I think its rare that someone wants to take their time out of other tasks to play a game, and if they do, they will likely play an actual game, with good game play and graphics.  I play Angry Birds and 9 Innings, ad nauseam.  I'm not sure big box retailer or their suppliers want the shopper's attention diverted, shooting imaginary fiends in the rafters, though.

However, consumer do respond to their score and how their actions affect a score.  The introduction of badges to services like Foursquare add a fun element to the check-in process.  Doesn't cost anything but engages the consumer more in the experience.  Just like the bounty that a company puts on sales, the care needs to be given on the targets, the prize, and the resultant bill.

There are even gamification movements in education to revamp the way we measure success.  Some theorize that current grading methods place caps on the levels students can achieve.  If Junior has already reached Level 12 of Chemistry Zombies, why should he be able to advance to Level 13.

It makes sense to me, as long as it doesn't mean my kids are playing Flight Control during study hall.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Mobile Lovers

Nothing will get my wife more riled up then when we are out on date night, and there's a table nearby, with a similar couple, but they both are looking at their mobile phones as opposed to talking with each other.  Make me giggle actually.


I always imagine them texting each other.

Female: "ur really making me hot, 2nite!"
Male: "yea, u 2"
Female: "what are u gonna order?"
Male: "dunno, maybe the steak?  u?"

I've actually been at a restaurant, where a couple had their laptops out on the table, across from each other.  Really?  I mean, I guess you could just be there for the sustenance, but that's a little extreme, don't you think?

Different strokes for different folks.  Hey, I've been caught my fair share of times, checking a score, or texting someone at a meal, so I'm no saint.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Content, Calls, and Crap

The Weekly Wrap
Monday: Friction
Tuesday: Content
Wednesday: Gates
Thursday: Calls
Friday: Antenna
Saturday: Rant
Sunday: Margaritas

Enjoy!

Spicy Margarita Pub Crawl

Replace you regular, boring pub crawl with a Spicy Margarita Pub Crawl.  The idea is to go to each spot that serves a different spicy margarita, sit at the bar, order an appetizer and a margarita.  Enjoy, move to the next one.  Rince.  Repeat.


Here's a couple in the Dallas area, that I know of, to start you out:
1. Komali: Habanero Martini and Queso Fundido with Rajas y Chorizo.  I love their Habanero Martini (it's a margarita) a lot.  None of these spicy margaritas are painful spicy, just enough of an extra kick to make it addictive.
2. Abacus: Spicy Mango Margarita and Lobster Shooters.  The Lobster Shooters are enough of a reason to stop in, and I have to say, after trying their rolls for the first time recently, the Picasso rolls are awesome.
3. Stephan Pyles: Spicy Passion Fruit Margarita and Southwestern Caesar Salad.  The passion fruit margarita did not sound as tempting as the others on the list, but it surprised and was very good.  The masa croutons on the salad are awesome.  The kind of thing you don't feel like sharing.

And, lastly, its sad to say that the spicy margaritas at Alma are no longer an option.  It just opened this year, but it's recently closed, to my dismay.  They served very good food (awesome tres leches!) and drinks, always seemed to be full, but something must not have worked out.  Maybe they can serve the same spicy margarita at their sister restaurants Porch and Victor Tango, down the street.

Go ahead and try it out.  Take a taxi to make it easier.




Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rant

My pedestal is not so tall now that ranting online will result in anything positive, but after walking out of the local Apple store yesterday, frustrated, I have write about it.  It is the first time I have every walked out of an Apple store upset and disappointed by poor customer service.


Back in May, I was traveling a lot and my iPhone's home button stopped working reliably.  So, I made an appointment at the Genius bar to have them take a look.  My Genius listened to me, plugged it in to run some diagnostics, and said it was not the hardware, but I had some software on the phone that was slowing it down.  He prescribed that I wipe out my phone completely and reinstall everything, not restore from backup.  So sorry that all of your app contexts would be lost.  That will solve it.

It didn't.  I only realize now that he was guessing.

Fast forward to yesterday, when after having the same issue, I was able to clear off Friday afternoon to run back down to the Apple store to let them know it was still an issue.  First, the Genius told me that he would replace the phone, but that I need to get into a habit of killing all the apps that were running and restarting my phone weekly.  I can imagine Steve Jobs rolling in his grave as he uttered these words.

I was a little incredulous.  I told him, as someone who manages developers that develop for iOS and having done some iOS development myself, that this surprised me, since the way iOS multitasking works that app processes are suspended in the background and not active.  He began to backpedal and started to process my return quicker.  Then, he realized that I was no longer in warranty, so it would cost me $149 to replace it.  I wasn't going to pay.  I was more upset about him trying to BS me than having to pay for a replacement.

I asked him why that when I came in earlier in the year when I was in warranty, and the advice I was given to solve it was wrong, that I am held responsible for that?  He said it was too far out of warranty now.  I admit easily that I should not have waited so long.  I travel too much and work too much, so my time at home is precious.  Getting in there today was a big deal.  Still, letter of the law, he is in the right.

As I walked out, having done what this Genius prescribed, I easily reproduced the issue again, where the phone locked up for over a minute.  I walked back in to let him know, for the next schlep that asks him for help, that his remedy did not work.

He apologized, and I walked out.  No responsibility for their ineptness in support, though.  So disappointed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Life as an Antenna

When I was a kid, we literally got a handful of television channels, over the air.  The reception was terrible, and my brother and I would lie on the floor with our feet touching the television to act as antenna to improve the signal.  We watched whatever was shown.  We actually believed the commercials.


Today, I get hundreds of channels, much more than I want, from a satellite in space.  If I'm not available to watch a show, I can record it, digitally and fast forward through the commercials, though my wife often has to remind me to do so.  I can even watch shows while away from home, anytime, via a series of tubes known as the Internets.  It does not even require me to touch it and act as an antenna.  As a result of these advances, my 5-year old daughter does not comprehend the concept of live television.  Doesn't even register.

She thinks she can play any content from any device, but I once put my mom's music on a tree.  One day, my brother and I hung my mom's Neil Diamond albums on the branches of the tree in the back yard.  We walked upstairs to our bedroom window and using his BB gun, we held target practice.  All while Bubs was in the kitchen, watching.  Proud moment in our childhood, really.  We had maybe 2 dozen albums.  Billy Joel.  Aerosmith.  David Bowie.  George Carlin.  The White Album with coffee rings on it, so it was not exactly white.

I have a lot of music today.  My iPhone holds a fraction of my collection, which still amounts to thousands of songs.  I can play them on almost any device, except the tree, and even send the music through the air to my television or my computer to play back.  I can play them in any order, and often times, my daughter would like to hear the same song over and over and over.  Devices can do this automatically, much to my dismay.

As many parents, we often reminisce about the way things were, and talk about "if our kids only knew".  Personally, I'm glad my kids aren't shooting my iPhone with a gun, while it hangs on a tree in the back yard.  They will make their own mischief, I am sure, but I actually worry more that with all the play dates and additional structure, they can't get into enough trouble to learn better.  I guess I'm not worried that new technology is a barrier to our kids growing up normally.

My grandmother, before she passed, was notorious for 15 second phone calls.  We learned not to take it personally.  I'm sure it was a remnant from when making any phone call was expensive.  Life moves on.  Our kids will adapt, just fine, thank you.  The question is, will we?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Making Calls with Smartphones

It's an amazing idea: the ability to make a phone call with a cellular phone!  Who would have thought!?!

Actually, jokes aside, this is not to bash on the spotty coverage of your mobile operator, but to stress the fact that mobile, as opposed to tablet or PC, at its core, is a communication device first.  When you think about it that way, it's very easy to understand which apps and usage is most popular: calls, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, or quick mobile web checks for items like store locations or phone number look ups.  It's also why email has done well on mobile since its first good implementation on Blackberry.  This also explains the typical shorter session durations in apps and mobile web versus tablets found in research.  In and out, nobody gets hurt.


This is not to say that commerce or entertainment and gaming or information management do not have a place on mobile.  Au contraire, I make quick purchases and product look-ups, play Angry Birds and 9 Innings Baseball, and my mobile calendar manages me like a general.  Which is actually kind of sad, when I read it back.  Still, mobile apps that communicate get daily engagement.  It could even be daily communication from a trusted brand.

So, actually having a call to action that's actually a call is an okay response in a mobile app or site.  Sometimes, it's quicker than going through a long web form or a series of screens.  As long as your carrier doesn't drop the call or your in a dead zone.  Can you hear me now?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Oldie, but a Goodie

When you work around technology as much as I do and have, it's easy to get caught up in a new idea or concept and believe it will take the world by storm.  On top of slow technology adoption rates, most new concepts have ecosystem challenges that even if solved, are not solved overnight.

There is an excellent Bill Gates quote that always tempers me: "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

On the one hand, don't get caught up in the hype.  On the other hand, don't be a spectator when the action begins.  Great strategic planning helps you to know what to do in the first years and how to tilt the table to your advantage for when it really matters.

So, patience is a virtue, but inactivity is a trap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Have Content, Need Connection

At work, we work with retailers on how to apply digital and mobile to their marketing and to their business.  It's a ton of fun, even if that sentence just made you yawn.

In the case of mobile retail, consumers are using their phones more and more while they shop.  To price compare.  To look up more information.  To compare products.  To get coupons.  Actually, retailers have such a large opportunity here, that is largely untapped.  Maybe in a future post here or at The Rockfish Blog, I'll talk about how the current conceptual model being applied to m-commerce is incomplete, since it is based on a shopping basket and not the person pushing the basket.

Having said all of that, there's no good having lots of on-premise electronic content, if the signal in your building stinks and you don't offer free Wi-Fi that's been tuned to give great performance where you are trying to engage consumers via links, QR codes, SMS codes, and NFC taps.  Equally worse, if the content that does load is not optimized for mobile.

Never worth it to do something half-assed.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Friction

If you clicked the link to this post thinking that I was going to be talking motor oil or sexual aids, I'm going to disappoint.

As my colleague, Eric Swayne (@eswayne), likes to say: social media is not doing anything new, it reduces the friction for something that people already do.  It's a great barometer for the usefulness and value for many mobile or digital projects.  Does this reduce the friction?  Substantially?  Was there no friction to begin with?  That's probably a sign that you are not solving a real problem.

I think its a great barometer for a lot of what we do in digital and mobile marketing.  What friction are we reducing?  I was using an online ordering site for a restaurant the other night, and it took me 10 minutes to enter an order, for what takes less than 1 minute to do by phone.  The implementation on the site was pretty, but it was clearly inefficient.  It added friction, and I likely won't go back again.

The friction of finding, flipping through, and locating the number in the yellow pages became a barrier when it was easier to find the phone number of a local business on the computer.  Now, it's even easier to find it on my mobile.  Apple implements Siri on the iPhone 4S, and if it works, it will become even easier to find that same phone number.  Smaller digital friction coefficient.

Just like electricity, people will choose the path of least resistance.  What's your product's digital friction coefficient?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top 5 Desserts in Dallas

It's Sunday.  Time to get serious about food.  The topic: desserts.  The destination: Dallas.  Make a pub crawl of it.  You can't just eat one of them.

5. Quatro Leches - La Duni.  It's a classic in town.  Over the top.  We make good Tres Leches at home, although I often substitute rum for the last milk.  Dunia Borga uses a heavier cake, much like a pound cake, which holds up more after the soaking, and tops it with the world's most perfect merengue.

4. Bread Pudding - Salum.  I know.  You think your Aunt Louis from New Orleans makes the best Bread Pudding in the world, but your wrong.  Head to Abraham Salum's namesake, where his staff prepares a perfect bread pudding with the right consistency, at the right temperature, and tops it with creme anglaise, slices of toasted almonds, and fresh berries.

3. Blueberry Semifreddo - Local.  Tati made fun of me the first time I ordered it.  She has a thing about blue food.  Says it's not natural.  It's just so creamy, dreamy, yummy, you just need to go to Local, have a fabulous meal at Tracy Miller's quiet, cool locale, and save some room for dessert.  Tati tried it, under intense duress, and loved it.
2. Blueberry Buckle - Smoke.  More blueberries to drive Tati nuts.  So simple.  So well done.  Fresh blueberries, topped with a crumble top, baked, a nice dollop of firm, freshly made whip cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I'm drooling as I type.

1. S'mores Deconstructed - Stephan Pyles.  I don't know if this is a regular item, but we had it the last time we dined at Stephan Pyles, and it was awesome.  I will admit that anything that has any combination of marshmallows, caramel, or apples will always grab my attention.

And, an honorary pick that you can't get anymore, but will forever be my favorite:
0. Lace Cookie Taco - Star Canyon.  Again, simple, but exquisite.  A lace cookie, shaped like a taco shell, filled with freshly made whip cream and fresh berries with caramel lightly drizzled across the whole enchilada.  Oh, how I miss you, Lace Cookie Taco.
There.  Now, go out and eat some dessert.  Make me proud.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Morning Cartoons

As I sit here and type, at the crack of dawn this fine Saturday morning, my son's cat, Polly, sleeps, purring, on the hot-plate known as my Apple Time Capsule.  With only a peanut-sized brain, I don't expect her to have any remorse or shame for waking me up, and, if I 'm honest with myself, I've been getting up this side of the crack of dawn since I was very small.  I'm sure Bubs would be the first one to point this fact out, and she probably has a few extra gray hairs, with my names on them, to prove it.



When I was a kid, it was fun getting up Saturday morning.  Heck, I distinctly remember going out and shooting hoops in our driveway when I would wake up.  I can not imagine what our neighbors must have thought, and its shocking that I never heard from them about it.  For most of my childhood, we literally got only a handful of channels on the television.  When not torturing the neighbors with the pounding of the basketball on blacktop, I would pour myself a bowl of cereal, or cook pancakes swimming in butter, plop down in front of our television and watch whatever was shown.  There was not much choice then, especially for niches like cartoons, so you took what you got.

I watch my kids grow up today, and they really are the DVR Generation, in that regard.  My daughter truly does not understand the concept of live programming.  Sorry, Nielsen.  They have an expectation of any content, anywhere, on any device.  As a parent, it's occasionally frustrating, but as a technologist, it's fascinating.  If I think forward and assume the continued reduction of storage costs, the improvement in network throughput, and the improved services and content availability on the Internet, why not?  It's almost like that board game, Clue.  Dad watches Breaking Bad, on the toilet, with his iPhone 10.  Mom watches No Reservations, in the kitchen, on the fridge.  Junior watches Fringe, in his room, while texting and listening to Radiohead and surfing the web simultaneously, on his iPad 9S.

Why not?  As long as he keeps Polly in there with him in the morning, so I can sleep in.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Disenfranchised!

Mobile phones have done some amazing things since their creation.  The ability to speak to someone from almost anywhere.  The first internet access to rural areas in emerging nations.  African merchants making payments via SMS to avoid being robbed while carrying money in transit.  Taking HD-quality video and sharing it instantly with friends and family.

In hindsight, it's always easy to spot the disenfranchised: pay phones, the yellow pages, digital cameras, and portable DVD players.  When you look back at how you performed the same tasks previously, you wonder how you put up with it.  I'm still amazed every time the local phone company puts the yellow pages on my porch.  Straight to the recycling bin.



So, what will be disenfranchised in the coming years because of technology?  Will NFC kill credit cards?  Will tablets kill books or even PCs?  Heck, I think our kids will look at our PCs like my generation looks at minis or mainframes.  Don't get too comfortable, or it might be you that gets disenfranchised.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Missing Link for Mobile Calendars


When we look back at our calendar applications years from now, we will likely classify the current class at Cro-Magnon.  Not quite as bad as the Neanderthal species we worked with 10 years ago, but still a far cry from the sophistication we deserve.  Well, at least, that I deserve...

More seriously, it amazes me to think that calendar apps are still not location aware.  Now, I know many people do not religiously use their calendar like I do.  They don't necessarily fill in the location field.  If they do, they may not consistently enter location data.  Some locations might be internal rooms in big, nasty office buildings.  Detail, details.



The reality is there are really useful things a calendar could do, if it was location-aware.  It could estimate the time you needed to go between two appointments, and warn you if you have not left enough time to travel.  It could automatically fetch your travel directions for you between two appointments.  It could understand time zones automatically.  It could understand whether I am anywhere near my next appointment and help me take corrective action, if I have lingered too long in the bar before my dinner with the client, for example.

So, for the love of everything holy, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo...make your calendar apps location aware, once-and-for-all, and save me from missing another client meeting.  It's the Homo Sapien thing to do.  Thank you, wherever you are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Remember the Developer!

With the passing of Steve Jobs this week, and the introduction of 5 new Android phones at AT&T, I am reminded of a great Jobs quote from a 2008 Q3 earnings call where Mike Abramsky of RBC Capital was asking, basically, if Apple was going to make an iPhone Nano to sell more volume.  Steve Jobs' response was classic: "Well, I wasn’t alive then but from everything I heard, Babe Ruth had only one homerun, he just kept hitting it over and over again. So I think the traditional game in the phone market has been to produce a voice phone in a hundred different varieties. But as software starts to become the differentiating technology of this product category, I think that people are going to find that a hundred variations presented to a software developer is not very enticing and most of the competitors in this phone business do not really have much experience in a software platform business. So, we are extremely comfortable with our strategy, our product strategy going forward and we approach it as a software platform company, which is pretty different than most of our competitors."

So, when I see funky new designs from an Android phone manufacturer, with a square screens, I worry about fragmentation and if and how app designers would ever optimize solutions for this odd screen size and orientation.  Sometimes it does not pay to "think different", especially when you are thinking about platform compatibility.

Monday, October 10, 2011

When Good Mobile Design Goes Bad

The average Joe or Josephine thinks of good design, and they think about how good something looks.  As my user experience colleagues would argue, beauty is not skin deep.  Many excellent designs are the results of tireless and maniacal focus to a tight set of goals and inherent acumen to user design that is applied to a product, from components to packaging and everything within.

When something is designed well, it appeals to you from the first look, the first touch, and every interaction you have with it through your experience.  I was reminded of great design and poor design at the same time, from the same product, this weekend.  My Sony Ericsson Bluetooth HBH-IS800 Headset.

Recently, I learned that I could link my American Express points with Amazon (awesomeness!), which has led me to buy many things that I may not have necessarily needed, including this headset.  I bought it so I could jog and listen to podcasts, without the nuisance of the cord that I occasionally yank out with my clumsy arms.  I am not beauty in motion, mind you.


So, as you can see from the photo, the headset is amazing, in that its minimal, simple, and extremely light for a stereo wireless headset.  Exactly what I needed for running.

Now, look at the power adapter.  This has been my pet peeve for years with mobile phones and laptop computers.  Electrical designers would skimp on the power design and have these massive bricks that you would need to charge the phones.  So, the phone would be thin and light, but the power brick would be just that, a brick!

Sony-Ericsson has had this particular accessory/power adaptor for at least 13 years.  Look at the sleek, simple headphones plugging into this odd adaptor.  There are multiple ways to plug it in, but only one of them is right.  The power brick is bigger and heaver than the headphones.  Looking at the two connected puts visions in my mind of a nice sports car with rims from low-cost, value car.  Ideally, this should be able to plug in to a USB port, so I would not have to bring this extra cord when I travel.

Needless to say, with good design, the experience pleases from start to finish.  There's no use having a tiny laptop with a huge power brick, unless you are promising unlimited battery life, so I can travel without compromise.  Focused goals and vision, attention to every detail, and a disciplined regimen of user experience from the beginning of the produce process to the end.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bubbe's Pizza Postulate

My mom, who we will refer to as Bubs for the purpose of this blog and her anonymity, has a theory about pizza that I fully subscribe to: once you put a pizza in a box, it changes the texture of the crust, for the worse.

For me, and many pizza aficionados and foodies, the crust is critical to the execution of excellent pizza. Turning a crisp crust a little soggy is the difference between pizza bliss and, just, pizza.

So, for the love of all that is holy, if you like a pizza, get off your can and go to the restaurant and eat it there...maybe with some great friends and family. Bubs would want it that way.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

When Smartphones Were Not So Smart

I remember back in 1998, when I first made the leap from the computer industry to mobile, I had advanced visions for what smartphones were going to be able to do.  I did not apparently have as much patience.

During the first years of starting the OMAP business at Texas Instruments, I remember talking to colleagues and press about a scenario where I could hail a taxi with a single click, while traveling, and the taxi would know where to pick me up, how to bill me, and how to contact me to confirm the service.  I could even have the equivalent to Dominos Pizza Tracker and know where the taxi was on its way to pick me up.  Needless to say, I'm still waiting for this service.

Smartphones actually live up to their name today, but there is so much room for innovation.  Just as I look back at 1998 like the Stone Age, we will look back at our iPhones and apps, in 10 years, and be amazed at how crude they were.