An Advertising Dystopia

Today it’s getting harder and harder to escape advertising, remember when you could watch a video on any site without watching a video ad first? Modern corporate propoganda has become a finely tuned art of delivering a product that you’re more likely to want, and it could get worse. Below I’ll describe a few technologies that are all ceratainly within the realm of possibility, but hopefully, will never become a reality.

Products that are constantly listening and automatically forward reviews to their manufacturer on certain spoken keywords. This stream would be very easy to filter, bolstering a product’s rating. Posted reviews are in a converted readable format as well as their original audio format.

Eye glasses that superimpose advertising on whatever you look at. Of course you could always take the glasses off but then you couldn’t see.

Listening tables at resturants that adapt the adertising around or on the table itself to your conversation. This would ensure constatnly relevant advertising. The resturant of course gets a cut of the ad revenue.

Bar glasses that detect when the cup is empty and then make a recommendation on either another drink or to stop drinking. This recommendation could be intelligently made by a sensitive breathalizer in the glass, or a connection to a sensor in what you’re sitting that gets your weight and calculates BAC on the number of drinks you’ve had.

The same weight sensors in a resturant or bar could detect the customer’s overall health, gender, and age and direct ads based on those readings.

In case you hadn’t noticed, everyone of these ideas also violates privacy in many ways. If you are uncomfortable with thse ideas I recommend you give some thought to the ad stream just to the left of your Facebook timeline or Google Searches which have been curated based on your statuses, searches, and the ‘likes’ of you and your friends. I don’t think any of these ideas will ever manifest in real life, but in some form or another, they already have.

What iOS Lacks, Android’s Advantage

I’ve been using a Nexus 7 and an iPad on and off for the last two months. I was never against Android, but after using it on a tablet I’m seeing some major holes in iOS. Here are some critical things Android has and iOS totally lacks.

  • Fast typing. I have to look at the keyboard more, but in portrait mode swipe typing is the unrivaled native keyboard. In contrast the split keyboard in iOS is really nice in any orientation, and I wish that was in Android. Swipe typing is really nice because you only need one hand, any iOS keyboard always takes two hands to be effective split or not.
  • Widgets. In iOS I suffer from “What should I do next on my black rectangle?”. I somehow end up opening every app and checking the status of everything from Evernote to Wunderlist. This wastes time. Android abbreviates that process with widgets. I have a little window on any of my home screens for all the quick info I need. For example I have a Wunderlist window for everything I need to do this week and recent notes I’ve written in Evernote. iOS has something close to these widgets, but it’s hidden away in the notification center, it’s really just for stocks and weather too. When was the last time you actually opened the weather app in iOS? I never do, the “widget” in the notification center tells me what I need to know much quicker and easier. Other issues with the notification center lead to my next point.
  • A useful swipe down menu. What do you actually use the notification center in iOS for? Besides the weather, emails, and text, when was the last time you intentionally swiped down from the top of the screen to get some notifications? I practically never do. Perhaps if there was more functionality in that little menu. Let’s look at Android’s swipe down menus for a second. Yeah menus, plural, there’s more than one and does it save time. On Android tablets, swipe down on the left half of the screen and you get notifications. You can get rid of all of them with a single tap too, as opposed to several clicks of a tiny “x” button in iOS. Swipe down on the right half and you get some quick settings buttons. WHOA, I don’t even have to open the settings app to turn on Airplane mode? Turning on and off any of my antennae are aways a click away.

In short Android’s workflow is just quicker. When I use my Nexus 7 I usually manage to get some stuff out of the way work wise. I would conjecture the iPad offers me more distractions because it lacks these little bits that make everything flow together. iOS 7 is going to be announced sometime in the next six months. Based on this list I would like to request two things of Apple.

  • Widgets. How do the weather and stock apps in the notification center work? Make it so developers have access to that pipe, and I’ll intentionally swipe down much more. Badges are a short form of this already but they only tell me the quantity of work I have, not what the work is. The settings swipe-down menu in Android is nice, but too much to throw in iOS right now. The design language would have to change a bit in iOS before that could happen. The settings swipe-down fits Android’s holo, or Windows Phone’s live tiles themes much better.
  • Faster typing. Our descendants will laugh at us because we hunt and peck on our digital keyboards so much. Apple already changed the perception of a functional touch screen keyboard when they unveiled the iPhone. They should try to do it again. Fixing how the split keyboard affects content at the bottom of the page would be nice too but that’s another post.

Google+’s Rough Journey Ahead

For a little more that a week now I’ve been using Google’s recently unveiled social network Google+.

It’s been a service long time coming, as it is not the first social network Google has put out. In the heydays of MySpace there was Orkut, which never ever really caught on, to this day I have never heard it spoken out loud in the States. Then there was Google Buzz which quickly had some lawsuits thrown at it that Google lost. Not long after that there was Google Wave which seemed to be more of a social collaboration suite than anything, I don’t think it ever even totally got out to the public.

However successful those products were (which they weren’t really), we now have Google+ which has been taking the web by storm! Tech pundits, bloggers, and economists alike have been raving about what it means for the company, Facebook and the web as a whole. So far I really like it over Facebook, the design is clean and consistent with the new theme Google is rolling out across their sites (see the new gmail look and CosmicPanda YouTube channel layout).

There are furthermore some stupendously ingenious UI features, being able to go through photo albums with the scroll wheel is a joy! You can also view more detailed metadata of the photos, like model of camera that was used and the f-stop etc. Haven’t tried Hangouts yet (because there aren’t too many people on which I’ll talk about later) but they look cool.

The idea of circles is a huge benefit for me, if you’ve ever tried to friend me on Facebook and I have not met you in real life or we’ve never really gotten to know each other, I will not accept the invite. On Google+ I just drag you into one of my circles that’s applicable and you’ll get a confirmation that you’re in one of my circles. You won’t know which circle, which is odd in itself, I’ve heard from one of my friends that he even got rid of the standard circles and made up the nine circles of hell from Dante’s Inferno. Humourous as it may be I can only wonder which circle I’m in.

However there’s still just one thing missing from the whole experience: people, you know the part of the network that makes it social. It’s like playing on a Minecraft server with four other people who don’t log on and build or talk to you much. This is where the title of this post comes in. Google+ has a long way to go, fancy UI features and design alone won’t bring people on board. The basic challenge is how do you draw people away from Facebook? I think what it will come down to is a few “key people” in a group of friends. I’ve written out two scenarios based based on this idea and and drawn from the fictional friend network below.


What “Lost”? no not at all, I know where I’m going with this. Here we have a network of friends on Facebook, granted it’s a very scaled down model, but let’s say this is ALL of Facebook.

Scenario 1: Jacob (he’s a little unpopular with only one friend) get’s Google+ loves it and uses it. Having no friends on there where’s the motivation or incentive for others to adopt? Richard might, half his friends just left him on Facebook. So Richard joins Jacob on Google+, Ben who now only has one friend (note: a popular one though) also follows the two on to Google+. Now there is still a large majority on Facebook, none of them even really care that these three people left Facebook however, Locke the most popular person here just lost one friend to the service. Through this model, the viral chain of adoption stops there and Jacob, Richard, and Ben all have Google+ to themselves.

Scenario 2: Locke leaves Facebook and carries all his photos over to Google+ because he just likes it a whole lot more and that it’s his destiny! Holy cow! Locke has pictures of everyone and everything they’ve done together, suddenly five friends just lost a bunch of photo data, this super cool popular guy just swtiched to Google+ maybe they should too? There’s now an incentive and motivation for others to switch. Within a couple of days, the whole network is on Google+, then Jack starts saying that they have to go back but no one really listens because they’re all already there.

Scenario 1 is essentially what’s happening on Google+ right now, a few tech savvy people who don’t really like Facebook to begin with have switched over but don’t really have enough voice among their group of friends to get everyone else over. To make matters more complicated you have to still be invited to the service from someone who already uses it. Scenario 2 is the challenge Google must rise to, getting those “popular” people off of Facebook and on to Google+. Of course everyone is not and early adopter and switcher like Locke, a lot of the people I’ve seen just try out Google+ to see what it’s like, I know no one who has converted entirely. Some things are just popular because they got to it and put themselves out there first, Internet Explorer, HuskyStarcraft, and Facebook. IE shows that it’s hard to draw people away even though there are better things out there; others, like Firefox and Chrome, have show that its possible though. Not the best example because those are just browsers, no interactivity between friends, if you switch browsers, there’s no social repercussion, when you leave Facebook, especially if you’re “popular”, you will leave waves where you once were; and your friends will balk at you in real life like you don’t have a cell phone or something (hopefully a minor exaggeration).

These challenges are hopefully known, and anticipated. In the end Google+ will take some time to get better and more people to adopt it, but it’s certainly possible and if any company can do it, it’s Google. Godspeed Google!