“Internet magazines”

I’ve now installed a few magazine and book apps on my Android phone and my iPad, and I’m struck by how many of them attempt to reproduce the look and feel and interactive style of their print forebears (like the New Yorker app, for example).  (Same applies to catalog apps as well, like the Ikea catalog app.)

Result?  A clunky product that has a huge throw weight over the network, takes a long time to download, is hard to cache, slow to navigate, and not a pleasure to use even though individual pages are often a pleasure to look at.

Haven’t the teams that build these apps read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows?  The Internet wants to grow our brains differently from the Gutenberg era.  We need to react quickly to patterns of information, not delve deeply into a logical stream.  We need to interact with the controls of our information rendering machine, not move our lips while we read words.

I’m being a bit arch, but there is a point here.  If you want a media property — app, site, whatever — that draws a big audience (and I assume these vendors do), then build something that works with the grain of the underlying medium, not something that recalls a lost era.


Why are the “Internet of Things” interfaces so crummy?

The Internet of Things is one of those predictions that is always pending: this coming year will surely be the Year of the Internet of Things.

It will happen some time (although it’s neck and neck which will happen more slowly: the Internet of Things and the related advent of IPv6).  But the emerging flood of devices will need better interfaces than they have today.

I have a few “Internet of Things” things in my life: a home automation controller, my home router, our networked printer, our home NAS, our TiVos, Most of these devices have a Port 80 browser interface, and they are almost all… terrible.

Slow to load, buggy, clunky, non-responsive (you click on a button and it doesn’t give you feedback that it got clicked).  Ugly.  Prone to crash or seize.

Reasons are straightforward: these are proprietary browsers, written in haste (by third parties, I should imagine), with no competitive pressure to improve or revise.  They are evidence that competition is basically a force for good.

Is there a standard or standards to be set here to make the market larger, to make it worth somebody’s while to do the “non-computer edge device” browser once and for all, and right?

Let me know your thoughts.

See my article on “Disrupting the Disruptors”

Cutter Consortium was kind enough to publish an article of mine — “Disrupting the Disruptors” — in their IT Journal, a special issue on “Creative Destruction” in the IT industry.

Here’s a link to a complimentary copy of that issue of the magazine.

Cutter is a huge panel of IT experts who will give you disinterested advice on most IT questions.

My article was on how incumbents might be able to defend themselves against disruptive technology business threats.  A quick read, IMHO…

Big Data as “Computation Brought to the Data”

A recurrent meme at the Hadoop World conference last week was the idea that part of “Big Data” or even “the heart” of Big Data is “bringing the computation to the data.”

At first I thought that the main impact of this — beyond the very real observation that “shared-as-little-as-possible” architectures are great for scaling data processing — was poetic: it was sort of a democratization of compute power, or liberating compute power from the dark satanic mills of Oracle or the like.

But there appear to be architectural implications as well.  A stateless or practically stateless approach to data weakens any hope of transactional integrity, for example.  If you coordinate enough to be certain that everything will be undo-able, you’ll never get anywhere on your data.  You need probabalistic assurances, not logical ones.

Also, new approaches will be needed for security and storage in an architecture where a vast universe of data/computation nodes coordinate.  Maybe there are startups looking at this today, but would love to hear of anything interesting going on in these areas.

“Consumerization of IT” is deja vu all over again

Was in a discussion today about the “consumerization of IT”, by which people mean the trend to have consumer technology products and approaches become the leading edge for innovation in the enterprise.

The tenor of the conversation was that this was a historic shift, and that enterprise IT had formerly led innovation in consumer IT.

I found myself objecting.  It’s not that consumer IT has never led; it just hasn’t led lately.

In the ’80’s, a new machine called the PC (and even Macs were called PCs then) invaded the enterprise.  Its owners valued the pleasure of running software on a PC, the interactivity, the fun of using PC software.

Enterprise software, which was mostly time-sharing — so-called “green screen” apps — was ugly, cumbersome, and hard to learn how to use.  There was nothing fun about it.

PC software — and it was the “consumer” software of its day — led enterprise IT, and enterprises were dragged kicking and screaming into supporting it.

Throughout what you might call the “LAN-based PC” era, consumer IT led.  And then a different wind blew — mainly databases and database-based applications — and the client-server era began.  What led then was the ability to run large datasets in something less than geologic time.  Enterprise IT led, and led until… new clients came along that were a pleasure and fun to use, and users insisted that the enterprise support them.

Maybe it’s a cycle, and not a series of epochs.

Your thoughts?

Connected TVs and Convergence

If you push down on what people think is attractive about “connected TVs” (television sets with an Internet connection built in), the use cases seem to boil down to apter another kind of “convergence”: in this case, convergence between television programming and online programming.

Do you need a connected tv for that? No, but it should be a nifty medium in terms of screen real estate. Unfortunately not so nifty in terms of input device(s) unless you happen to enjoy spelling things out with a remote control or cuddling a qwerty keyboard on your lap. But maybe voice input will take care of that: the gadget-oisie is gushing about Siri, forgetting that Siri is witty but not that great at voice recognition (like a URL, say). Those of us who broke our hearts trying to do natural language stuff in the ’70s and ’80s appreciate the difference between wittiness and understanding.

In any case, I’m excited about the coupling of Internet interactivity and social connection with tv production values. Get ready for a great ride.