Posts Tagged ‘iPhone’

No fear for WordPress for iPhone 3.0

July 9, 2009

The post I just uploaded has been sitting on my iPhone for the last six months. I spent an hour writing it on a plane thinking that it would be breaking news. Instead a ‘communications error’ meant that that (pretty long) post was lost in limbo for a few months. I could read and edit it locally but just not publish it. Along comes the latest update and suddenly it all works.

Let me say: I love the app. It was until that fatal post one of my most used apps. But from that moment to this the fear of losing a post meant that I never used it once.

I had a similar experience recently with the Dutch national railways site booking a trip to Antwerp. Firstly the site would not allow me to find a trip because it was partly Dutch railways and partly international. Then when I tried to book the international part only, it let me enter my payment information but did not complete the transaction. Is there anything scarier for a user than realising that they have given up all their secrets but that you have not delivered on your side of the bargain?

Fear is one of the top reasons for conversion failure. Going out of your way to remove that fear is a great leap towards increasing conversions.

I still have to go a way before I trust wordpress on the iPhone again but without the fear, I am using it again and it can start again to build my trust.

ZumoDrive in public beta and on the iPhone and

February 26, 2009

ZumoDrive is not just another cloud storage service a la Dropbox or MobileMe. Rather than using the cloud as a backup of the data on your hard disk, ZumoDrive merges the cloud and your disk to give you a lot more room than you’ve been used to.

For example, you can have 10Gb in the cloud, but only take up a few hundred Mb on your laptop – or now iPhone. Performance is very good so they you barely notice the fact that are not running applications locally. There are some IO intensive apps that I don’t think are suitable.

For instance, this frees you to buy a (solid state) small 60Gb disk on your laptop but have three times that available. ZumoDrive syncs the data it expects you to need intelligently, so that you can survive without a network. However, in this day and age that is quickly becoming less and less necessary.

The iPhone app is cutely named Supersize Me. Its proposal is similar: whether you access a network over wifi, 3G or some 2.5G variant, you get to massively increase your storage space by streaming it from the network. I am writing this 3000 feet in the air on the iPhone WordPress app on the way to Copenhagen and Supersize Me works just fine in flight mode too.

In fact, this is not as revolutionary as it sounds. Plenty of apps do this already but they are limited to a single purpose. For instance, my Last.FM app streams music to my iPhone, just as my beloved Sonos system does to three different sets if speakers spread across my house. There is no difference in performance between me listening at home to Coldplay streaming from my local NAS or streaming from a Last.FM server somewhere in the cloud. What is cute about ZumoDrive is that it works with files for any app: music, photos, spreadsheets, presentations, word processing documents – you name it.

ZumoDrive was only available with an invite code until today when their public beta started. At the same time, the app is available on the iTunes app store for free — before it goes up to $5.

Pricing plans have also just gone down from where they were in the private beta. You can get 25Gb for $7 a month, 10Gb for $3 and 1Gb for free. I think this is not at all bad, and Zumo is going to get a lot of users in a pretty short time. This has got to be a default choice subscription for MacBook Air owners.

Zcapes is live

February 11, 2009

It looks like the first phase of the Zcapes go live has started. You can check out m.zcapes.com (in your mobile browser but your desktop would work too) and start reading some of the content and widgets that are already there. You’ll have to wait another week or so before you can create your own Zcapes, but that’s not so far away.

When I first wrote about Zcapes, I was in I love the idea that context is a new long tail and the use of different plug-and-play meta-data and functional services and bots to define it. Since then I have talked to a couple of people who are also trying to get at the basic building blocks — the genotype — of what makes an online experience interesting and who are trying to find how to capture these basic elements into a consistent whole. Zcapes looks like a fun way of playing around with some of these ideas.
There you’ll see a range of services and bots, e.g. messages, poll, twitter search, flickr search, RSS feed, RSVP, tagging & location. Although you can’t create any yet, and the widgets are reasonably limited, you can browse some zcapes through their tags. One to follow.

Zcapes — contextual miniblogs

January 12, 2009

Zcapes is a new Dutch start-up. I love the idea that context is a new long tail and the use of different plug-and-play meta-data and functional services and bots to define it. Meta-data covers

  • the obvious — you, who, what, where and when
  • the emerging — physiological inputs like heartrate, accelerometers
  • or combinations like the geolocation of your social graph,
  • deductions: if you’re moving on a train line, you are on a train; if you’re at a friend’s house with many friends, you are at a party

Zcapes helps segment information into appropriate contexts so that you can find the useful and usable information quickly when you’re in the context. You could think of this as the first stage of implicit search. Since who you are, what you’re interested in and who your friends are are part of your context, a first step in segmentation is individual personalisation. The only way to get that to scale is to enable people to publish information services that are useful to them, and allow others in similar contexts to find it more easily. Zcape promises to allow people to interact and transact in specific contexts, aggregate the relevant content for them. SPRXMobile, the company behind Zcapes, believes that this will make advertising something between push and pull. This is a rather familiar refrain, but one you can imagine working if the contexts are sufficiently granular and there is sufficient content. It has failed pretty spectacularly pretty regularly mostly because contexts don’t work or content is lacking (e.g. Facebook advertising), but it is unobtrusive and successful in a few situations (e.g. Adwords on Gmail).

One nice thing that drops out of this context platform is that many of the common business ideas can be recast as zcapes, e.g. geotagging iPhone or Flickr photos or playing certain music for different segments of your regular run, and yet it also gives some ways to add more social aspects to this, e.g. seeing who plays what music for location, seeing what twinsumers based on context buy in the store you’re in now. I think a key question there will be sufficient context granularity and functionality that users will want to build contextual microblogs in zcapes rather than a geo-aware twitter with photos (like twinkle).

Some of the services and bots SPRXMobile have pre-announced include the pretty ubiquitous weather for your location, flickr pix, microblogging with twitter and facebook and RSVP for invitees. It look like the launch use case will be: meeting up with a few mates downtown night, who’s in and (via implicit context search) where shall we go and what shall we do?

Indeed some of the example zcapes include a regular Friday movie night at work. Later on the roadmap are things like what is currently on TV.

All-in-all it looks like a promising mobile context platform. I for one will be trying it out when it releases

Voice activated Google iPhone app?

November 17, 2008

John Markoff, writing in the New York Times, says that Google is about to release a new version of their great mobile search app that allows voice-activated searches — any day now. Google has apparently released the app and Apple is now testing it before it will appear (for free) in the app store.

As Mr Markoff writes: “Users of the free application… can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” or “How tall is Mount Everest?” The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine. The search results, which may be displayed in just seconds on a fast wireless network, will at times include local information, taking advantage of iPhone features that let it determine its location.”

It sounds pretty incredible — although folks like Spinvox have been talking about voice activated search, implicitly baked into voicemail for a while. Google has, not surprisingly, been thinking similar thoughts. In fact, Google rolled out voice search by phone a few years back, but found the integration between phone and desktop unsatisfactory (and probably the voice recognition was not as good then).

“This is an expansion of types of applications Google has already been developing,” stated Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. “Google has GOOG411, which is the underlying technical engine. They also have a voice-search client for the BlackBerry which is limited to maps. So this is an evolutionary step.”

“Google has confidence now that voice recognition is good enough to open it up to the full Web search as opposed to the much more structured search on GOOG411.”

Microsoft’s Tellme does voice-recognition by mobile for films or for directions. Yahoo offers some services through oneSearch.

“In one sense this is new, but it’s not new, because Yahoo and Microsoft have been doing versions of voice recognition — and so has Google — for some time,” Sterling said. “A company called Dial Directions was the first to formally introduce voice search for the iPhone, but it was limited to selected local sites through the Safari browser.”

Zembling the best of the social web

September 20, 2008

I’ve been playing with Zembly and I love it. Zembly is a simple and social way to a-zemble (get it?) the best widgets and mash-ups. Zembly partners with other great services that I love (like Dapper) to enable you to extract information from your favourite websites and use them to build widgets, mash-ups and apps for the iPhone, Facebook and meebo amongst others. It’s quick and it’s easy and because Zembly comes with a whole lot of infrastructure baked-in, you don’t need to think about hosting, or scaling the architecture, because it is all in the cloud and taken care of.

Zembly is proving a breakthrough by really thinking through usability for developers: how do you make it really simple for developers to socially build social apps, and remove all the things that typically block them from doing that?

As you code your widgets (yes, you do need to hack a little to make the apps), you can clone other widgets that Zemblers have made, and tailor them to your own purposes. Zembly is part of Sun, and as you’d expect, there is some great scalable in-the-cloud infrastructure behind it. It has competition in the likes of Sproutbuilder (not to be confused with Sproutcore, which Apple used as part of the MobileMe rollout).

You can find an interesting interview with Zembly’s CTO, Todd Fast. He mentions the exponentially growing number of Facebook apps, going from 24,000 to 30,000 and above. He says that Zembly is looking at building niche applications for interesting special-interest groups — long-tail applications — by bringing the threshold for building these applications down. He also says that most social platforms, even the open ones, are very hetereogenous and fragmented. Zembly’s answer is to try to build small re-usable pieces, that you can play, standing on the shoulders of giants. He also explains why he feels that most developers don’t want to think too hard about how to scale their applications, whether it be in the form of databases with millions of rows or allowing tens of thousands of users or the analytics that measure the success of the applications. The latter functionality allows developers to measure social statistics: what kinds of users are installing the application and how, alongside measures of how virally the application is being installed.

All pretty cool and a lot of fun to play with. Zembly is currently in private beta, but if you put your name down, I think you’ll find you don’t have to wait long.

iPhone cut and paste coming out

August 20, 2008

Yes, sports fans, the one feature that is missing on an otherwise perfect phone is here.

No, not video capture.

No, camera able to take pictures larger than 2Mb.

… Fine, fine, the one software feature that is missing on an otherwise perfect phone. No, not enabling true background running of tasks, no not — OK, one of a number of fantastic features is coming out. Well, not strictly coming out, but will be available once sufficient iPhone developers have coded the thing. Real copy and pasting between applications is actually here. Magic Pad already allowed copy and pasting within the application, but not between apps. The makers of Magic Pad, Proximi are joining up with a new non-profit open source organisation, OpenClip to show how developers being can use a shared area of the iPhone SDK for copying and pasting. VentureBeat says that WordPress is signed up, although OpenClip do not mention it on the site.

Perhaps best of all for those unfortunate individuals with jaillocked phones who live in perpetual fear that upgrading them will break them, OpenClip should work on 1.x, 2.x, iPhone and iPod Touch too (although participating apps are mostly for 2.x).

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T-mobile iPhone start-up crashes and stays down; doesn’t anyone git it?

July 11, 2008

I got up early this morning and queued with the rest for my piping hot iPhone. I had visited a few different shops yesterday and found that T-mobile would not take any reservations whilst resellers like BelCompany sometimes did. As of yesterday at 2.30pm there were still a couple of white 16 gig iPhones that could be reserved in Leiden so that’s what I did. I got up at the unearthly hour that I did because rumour had it that connecting an iPhone with the T-mobile network would take 10-15 minutes, and with 16 phones and a couple of terminals that could do the connecting — that’s a few hours of connecting mostly likely.
Which is why I was the only one standing, sitting (on a bin bag), munching on sandwiches and generally enjoying the fine weather and sense of anticipation at about 7.30am this morning (OK, ‘unearthly’ revealed my true nature of someone who cannot abide getting up in the morning). Possibly with the exception of a mammoth delivery truck wanting to dump his load of perfume for the Douglas shop next door. We chatted a little — he did not understand the hype. Just down the road a queue of about 15 people had already started in front of the T-mobile shop. Around 8am a couple more curious people arrived in dribs and drabs but left shortly after when a salesperson arrived and explained that ‘if you aren’t on the list, you ain’t getting in’. A few arrived for The Phone House across the street. The Phone House took down the names of the people in the queue at about 8.30am to make their reservation list, but hadn’t allowed people to reserve the day before (I know because I tried). The real volumes kicked in around 9.15am. A number of people were pretty upset that BelCompany allowed reservations.

I was first in the door and we started the ’10-15 minute’ process. Halfway through, the system came back with a 404 error and 25 minutes later we were no further on. I went to get a coffee and when I came back it was the same story. The T-mobile system was not highly distributed (or so the salesperson told me) and 10,000 salespeople had all tried to connect their new iPhones simultaenously to no avail. The guy took my number and was going to call when everything was up and running. It’s 2pm now and I’m still waiting for that call…

This made me think about git (as it naturally would, of course). Git is a distributed source code management system. It’s very simple and very powerful. It’s not a source code management system that was built to work with one server, but it’s got distribution in its very genes. And not despite that, but because of that, it’s speedy and efficient and allows you to do all the things you naturally want to do in (say) CVS, but where you naturally end up hitting a brick wall. Splitting out branches and merging branches is whole a lot easier and more natural in git. A couple of servers falling over do very little to hurt it.

Anyhow, git is not a natural thing to think of, but as I make another of my deep dives into coding again, it makes you realise how much more common very distributed systems are now than they were five years ago. And the systems that aren’t (are you listening T-mobile?) stand out like a sore thumb. The same goes for business processes. It certainly helps the hype to batch everything and drip feed iPhones into the market, but spikes of demand with supply and gluts of supply without demand and just not profitable ways of running a business. It results inevitably in waste. Lean workflows mean happier customers.

—- Update —
Belcompany called me late that afternoon with the great news that they had got the iPhone activated and it was ready and waiting for me. They stayed open late that day to make sure that everyone who had waited actually got their phones — great service!

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