Siri and the Digital Natives

I wrote a post a few years ago about cognitive surplus and how we’re all doing more and more stuff on the web.  One of the stories in that post was: 

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”

Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. Those are things that make me believe that this is a one-way change. Because four year olds, the people who are soaking most deeply in the current environment, who won’t have to go through the trauma that I have to go through of trying to unlearn a childhood spent watching Gilligan’s Island, they just assume that media includes consuming, producing and sharing.

This was 5 years ago.  Since then we’ve had some new technology advancements – such as Siri and voice search.  I’m seeing the impacts of this on my 1-year old (Hunter) every day.  

Both my wife and i have iPhones and we  regularly use Siri to compose text messages as we frequently have our son in our arms and no hands free.  As a result, he thinks this is just the way you interact with phones.  Check these videos out: 


These kids are definitely going to have a different experience with technology than the rest of us.  It’ll be fascinating to see.  

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps: A Rant

I recently heard someone talk about what a bad move it was for Apple to release their own Maps app on the iPhone.  I’ve heard this maybe half a dozen times lately and I couldn’t disagree more.  We should all be happy this happened.  Here’s why…

About a year ago when there was no Apple Maps, the situation was this:

  • The default map app on the phone was Google maps
  • Apple had repeatedly been negotiating with Google to have them provide turn-by-turn directions and voice navigation in their app on the iPhone.  Google had turned them down time and time again so they could promote Android phones and claim some level of superiority.
  • Apple had no alternative but to accept that Google was sandbagging their iPhone app

Fast forward to today.  Apple releases Maps which has turn-by-turn directions that are way better than the old Google app.  Google was rendered to be an optional app on phone and because of this fact they stepped up their development efforts and made the Google maps app way better than their previous app.

Today iPhone users have two great options for maps and both options are way better than they had a year ago.  If Apple hadn’t done anything, we’d probably still be stuck with a second-tier version of Google maps.

So, Apple’s probably pretty happy with their decision.  The iPhone mapping capability is at the very least comparable to Android, something they couldn’t claim a year ago.

Ok, i can now go back to work.  Thanks for letting me rant.

May 2015 Update: 

Looking at this latest report you can see that 84% of cell phone users get turn-by-turn navigation while driving.  Looks like Apple made a good call to really shake up the platform to get that functionality in there.

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My Pebble Watch

About 10 months ago, I watched this video on Kickstarter and was really intrigued about the thought of having a watch send me updates from my iPhone.

I put some money down in May 2012 and waited.  And waited. And waited.  It just so happens that I wasn’t the only one who wanted this.  The guys at Pebble raised over $10 million for their watch.  They then got started mass producing the watches which proved to be harder than they thought.  That said, last month I finally received my watch – almost 11 months after I backed the project. 
Continue reading “My Pebble Watch”

iPhone5: 3 months in

I wrote a post about 4 months ago about the iPhone5 and what I thought about it.  This was before i had purchased it or even used it.  

I have now been using my iPhone 5 for over 3 months and really love it. It’s a nice upgrade over the 4. I like the thinner size, the bigger screen, the faster processor, and the super awesome camera.   All things considered, it’s pretty damn sweet.  I even have been using Siri in the car to play music and send quick text messages.

There’s a lot of buzz around Apple maps being terrible and some android phones being better.  For me, Apple maps have been great although i just installed Google Maps and found that to be even better.  I’m sure some Android phones are better or at least come close to the iPhone, but at this point, they are all basically the same.  We’re so far past regular cell phones that are just phones that we’re all winners.  These smartphones are just ridiculous in what they can do.  Quibbling over megapixels, LTE coverage, the number of apps, and features such as turn-by-turn is such a great problem to have. 

Thoughts on the iPhone 5

At the Kapost office yesterday, about half the company was glued to live-blogging of the iPhone 5 announcement.  What we saw was only a blog but watching it was quite a show.  A few things stood out for me:

 It’s all about the LTE.  Most people don’t realize what LTE is and what it means.  Forgot the ads you see for 4G right now – those are lies.  What most people are getting as 4G isn’t really 4G. LTE is wireless internet that is 20-50x faster.  Once you get it, you won’t need to upgrade for speed for a long time.  It’s like going from a bike to a motorcycle.  Sure, in the future you can get a faster motorcycle, but the major upgrade has happened.  (more info on LTE here)

The magic of Apple.  Only two companies make money in the mobile phone business: Apple and Samsung.  You could read that as Apple and the people who are best at copying Apple.  Apple make money because they convince us to buy something that we didn’t know we need.  The iPhone 5 is really just the same phone, but they go out of their way to show us how it is both the same and something totally different.  It’s thinner (ooohhh), it’s faster (aaaahhhh) and has more and better bells and whistles than ever before (applause).  I don’t know of any other company that asks and gets an hour of my time for them to explain to my why i should buy their product.

Desktop to Mobile.  The transition from computing being a desktop/laptop world to a mobile world is totally complete.  The graphics on the iPhone 5 now rival console gaming units.  There was a demo of a race car game and the rearview mirror on the car was showing accurate graphics.  At this point, the phone is literally just a smaller computer. Sure, not everyone has a smartphone yet, but they will and it will be a fascinating world when companies start taking advantage of the fact that everyone in the world is carrying out a crapload of computing power in their pocket.

I’m still rocking the iPhone 4 and plan on preordering a new phone at midnight on the 14th.  In fact, everyone I know who has a 4 or older is planning on upgrading to the 5.  Are you?

Steve Jobs on the Post-PC World.

I listened this morning to a podcast where Steve Jobs was interviewed at the All Things D conference. He talked (around 45 min mark) about the post-PC world. I thought it was a pretty interesting analogy He states:

When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm.  As vehicles started to be used in urban centers, and as America started to move into those urban centers, cars got more popular and innovations like automatic transmissions, power steering and things you didn’t care about in a truck started to become paramount in cars. Today, maybe 1 in 25 or 1 in 30 vehicles is a truck where it used to be 100%.  PC’s are going to be like trucks. They will still be around and provide a lot of value but they will be used by 1 out of X people. 

This transformation will make some people uneasy.  People from the PC world, like you and me becasue PC’s have taken us a long way. It’s brilliant.  We talk about the post-PC era but when it really starts to happen, i think it’s uncomfortable for a lot of people. Because it’s change.  A lot of vested interests will change. Things will be different.  I think we’re embarked on that.  Is it the iPad? Who knows?  Will it happen next year, 5 years from now, 7 years from now? Who knows? But we’re headed there.

The post-PC world is interesting. I find myself doing more and more on my iPhone and i can see a day where i don’t bring my laptop with me on trips anymore as the iPad and a keyboard will be plenty. 

Steve Jobs Biography was Great

I just finished the Steve Jobs book and it was probably one of the most enjoyable books i’ve read in a long long time. I might say the past 10 years.  Here’s why:

Steve Jobs really cared about his products, deeply.  He had an intuitive feel for what the consumer wanted, and what he wanted.  He truly wanted his products to be close to art.   Even though very few in the industry believed him, even after the Macintosh had been around for over 10 years, he continued to hold on to this belief.  Each button, CD tray, color, and line was important to him. There’s a great passage in the book when he found out that the CD-ROM drive of a Mac was a tray instead a slot and it brought him to tears.

It was also fascinating to hear about the infant PC industry.  I had no idea how the PC industry started. I knew there was Apple and i knew there were was IBM but i didn’t understand how it emerged.  The narrative of the hobbyists building the board in garages makes sense to me, and i now understand.

I also didn’t understand how Jobs could get kicked out of his own company by a CEO and board that he selected.  But, after reading the story, i’m surprised he didn’t get kicked out sooner.   To hear of his return and his path back towards success was riveting.  Just a great story.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s enjoys Apple even a little bit.  Most people didn’t revere Jobs that much when he was alive (except, obviously the fanboys) but looking back at his accomplishments and commitment to excellence and innovation, we have to place him in the pantheon of business and product innovators.
I do think the world is a better place for having him here and i wish more people followed his path and held on to their dreams and reached for the stars.  It’s a great thing when it happens and actually works.

How i get stuff done

A few people asked me this week how keep track of things i need to get things done.  So, let me tell you.

First, I keep an ongoing Task list. I have a big list and then i have a line in that list that i put each day of the things i want to accomplish that day.  This way i can move things up and down that list.  I actually have two lists – a personal list and a work list. I find that it’s helpful to keep them separate as i try to accomplish the work list when i’m at work and then when i leave, i consider my time to get those tasks done as over.  Then i’m on personal time.  It’s helpful to keep them separate.  How do i keep these tasks? I use Google Tasks.  It’s nicely tied into both my email and my calendar.  Also, there’s an app (I use GooTasks) that synch with the Gmail version so i can grab tasks when i’m on the go.

Second, i have a “one-touch” policy.  I’m not sure who told me about this but the idea is that you should touch things only once.  If you can read, process and reply all at one time, it’s better than filing to do later.  I do this with physical mail and i also try to do it with email.  I’m not as good as some, but i’ve found that the more you do this, the more you get done. My business partner Toby is actually a master of this.

Third, i subscribe to the “Daily Inches” mantra of consistency. This is best expressed in the Al Pacino speech in “Any Given Sunday” (listen to it here). The idea is that if you really want to make big changes – this could be your life, your work or whatever – the best way is to make progress daily.  You don’t ahve to do it all at once, but just make a little progress every day and you’ll get there.  For instance, if you want to increase your arm strength in the gym, you don’t want to go on a weekend and try to lift weights for 20 hours straight.  No, it’s better to work out a little bit each day for an extended period of time.  Make a little progress, every day.

There it is.  My three easy steps to getting things done – Lewis-style.  Most of it is common sense, but thought i’d share.  Tasks, one-touch, and daily inches.   What is your philosophy for getting things done?

Foursquare vs. Quora: which would you invest in?

I had an interesting debate at lunch the other day with Toby about which company we’re more bullish on between Foursquare and Quora. To paraphrase Hansel, both are “so hot right now.” Both raised money at a very high valuation (Foursquare raised $20 on $95 million and Quora  11 on 86), yet both provide reasons to be skeptical.

With Foursquare you have an extremely popular mobile location app.  However, most people don’t “get it” – as in they don’t see reasons for checking in everywhere they go, don’t live in a dense-enough location where it serendipidous run-ins are possible, nor do they want to share that information.

Then there’s Quora.  It has some obsessed users who are contributing very original and valuable content.  The online Q&A industry is a great segment of the web but there are questions of whether the site ever get attention from mainstream users.

For me, my money is on Foursquare.  It’s one of the few mobile apps that capitalize on a user’s geopgraphic location.  It’s fun to use and has a lot of untapped potential.  The integration with gas stations and Starwood hotels are just the tip of the iceberg for them.  I do feel that only 10 or 5 percent of users who register end up regularly using the service but as they continue to get good deals to entice not only new user acquisition but engagement they will grow and be successful.   One criticism i have heard is that Facebook places will take out Foursquare.  I don’t think so and ironically actually wrote a response of why on Quora.  In fact, you can see from this graph how FS’s growth has increased since then.

That’s not to say that i’m anti-Quora. I’m not.  I think it’s one of the best web UI’s I’ve ever seen and I do find it useful.  I just wonder about it’s mainstream appeal.  So, if both had a $100 million valuation and i had to put my cash on one, I’d place it on Foursquare.  What about you?