Monthly Archives: January 2005

Enabling Music Makers…

We must not forget that cell phones, unlike radios, TVs, video game consoles or most of the other home electronics devices we grew up with, are not content players. They are transceivers. Like the rest of the interactive arsenal, from Internet-enabled computers to digital cameras, they empower their users to act as content creators and distributors.

Yeah, people are getting it!! For any type of media it’s not only about allowing people access to viewing or hearing whatever they want… it’s about empowering them to be able to create their own personalized experience.

I learned this 100 fold through my advisor, Prof. Marc Davis, and Garage Cinema Research:

We are unified by our desire to transform the world of digital media technology and applications by enabling daily media consumers to become daily media producers.

I encourage everyone thinking about these things to read Marc’s work. Or alternatively, come here us both speak next week at Mobile Monday. 🙂


Mobiles at the movies

As a follow up to all things play related… here is a question: “What happens if we no longer ban phones at the movies, but instead encourage them?”

Imagine this: instead of going into a movie theater and turning your phone off, the screen says please make sure your phone is set to maximum volume or vibrate mode. How does this change the experience?

It all of a sudden can easily become a group collaborative movie. Using SMS to create a group “choose-your-own-adventure” movie – directing the path of the narrative (although it is really almost impossible to create branching narratives). Or perhaps your phone rings and you hear the villains voice whisper something in your ear. Or even better perhaps you get a text message and it tells you to do something in the theater that reveals something in the movie or to pass on a bit of information to other audience participants. Or maybe you take a video and the guy next to you takes a video, you both submit them, and you have real time movie making. The movie no longer becomes passive, but instead active… interactive! Perhaps, the experience is now something more like a Rocky Horror Picture Show. Group participation, while still having the visual and audio that the cinema does so well.

SMS voting on TV shows has been taking off quite well. In Finland they even have and SMS station where people can text in their messages and chat via TV. Now imagine a captured audience with these same capabilities. Group cohesion (or tension) built into the experience.

Think about this, then think about any situation where phones aren’t really accepted and think about how we can change that. How can we make the experience change. You are no long just connected now by physical space, but also by a virtual world. How can we make the two interact with one another?

It’s ideas like this that make me love this stuff and make me excited about just how much we can actually do with these things if we really look at what they are providing us with!! So next time you are at the movies, just think what if each person had their own personalized experience or what if we all had a collaborative one. Or in the least – what if I could I order popcorn to my seat?


Mobile Learning and Play

Over the last couple of weeks, I have attended some really great talks and seminars on mobile learning tools and play. A week and half ago, I participated in a conference at the Exploratorium, where we discussed Wireless Learning Technologies. So exciting! If you didn’t know, the Exploratorium (the hands-on science and learning museum here in SF) as well as other museums and learning venues are trying to create ways for people to “extend the experience” to their home using mobile devices. So, they want to enable participants to be able to capture their experience within the venue and then revisit, learn more, or just play, when they get home. Cool, Cool, Stuff!!! Of course being that we are currently thinking of ways you can play with your multimedia on your phones, we are extremely excited.

As well, last night I went to hear Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, authors of Rules of Play at UC Berkeley, Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium. All I can say is… RIGHT ON! If you haven’t yet picked up their book, do it! Fantastic stuff!

Things become very interesting when we start to get away from centralized, strategic gaming and begin to think about play as a method of exploration and discovery. (BTW – This was also Flickr’s beginning shtick with GameNeverEnding.)Now realize that we are all enabled all the time with a computer that fits in the palm of our hands. The phone doesn’t only enable us some sort of programming power, but more importantly social connectedness. Think about how many children like to play alone. Then think about how many like to play with friends. Now think about giving each child a device that makes them connected to each other at all times. (Didn’t it used to just be a soup can with a string?) Now also think about giving big kids the same device with the world as their game board.

And as it were, when we get back to the social aspects of games (which coincidently overlaps very nicely with the current push of social software) we learn that the very simplest games are often the most compelling. Simple rules, which allow the communities to discover and create their own rules. It enables participants to be in control of their experiences! (Isn’t that something interaction designers are all struggling for in the first place?)

We know that these devices are changing behavior especially with media. Photos are no longer archival, but now for fun, random, events. It seems like a pretty good fit. But it’s not easy. The simplest design schemes are often the hardest to create. Perhaps, its a good thing that phones still require simple designs. Perhaps it will enable us to think eloquently about what we really want to enable people to do with them.

Im really excited about the prospect of enabling children and adults alike with the ability to explore and learn while still having fun. Everyone, yes even little guys, will eventually have phones of some variety. It’s fun to think about how we can give them small tools which allow them to explore and discover more, while they are going about their everyday business. Or perhaps their everyday business just becomes one big play session.

I guess the bottom line here is: What happens when we allow play and discovery to shape our products? What happens when we give users small tools which they can create meaning with? Is it more user-driven content? Is it social networking sites? Perhaps? Or could it be more? Could it be something that adds value to many of the products that are currently out there or perhaps opens the door for new ones.


Taking my desktop everywhere? You can take it.

First, thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on my last post. I really wasn’t sure how it would go over. Thanks for embracing the human side too. I took the long weekend to relax in the snow. Im back now, caught up on my work, and really contemplating this article.

Toshiba’s Mobile Phone Works All Windows PC Functions From Afar… Why? I understand that it would be *cool* to have all your data in your palm with your mobile, but Im really struggling if it makes any sense.

Here is what the article says about the interaction and design issues:

But making a cell phone work like a keyboard and cursor mouse, and scrutinizing images for computer screens on a tiny display can be quite a challenge. You need to do a lot of button-punching and scrolling…

Mitsunobu Aoyama, a Toshiba official in charge of developing Ubiquitous Viewer, said clearer mobile phone displays and the proliferation of third-generation, or 3G, mobile services in Japan are helping make the software a smart option.

So that’s it, clearer displays and 3G networks, that’s going to solve all the problems? At least The Feature recognizes bigger problems in their review:

There are some obvious challenges. Mobile phones and desktop machines have extremely different form factors. While Toshiba tries to compensate for this by creating a virtual keyboard and mouse to work with the desktop access, it’s clearly not optimal. Advancement’s like F-Origin’s ability to tilt and scroll using a mobile phone could also make the screen size question less of a challenge — but still something of a limiting factor.

There are, however, much bigger questions about this offering. The whole idea is based on the belief that the desktop is still the center of a user’s world, and that access to that desktop machine is going to be the most important thing. While that is true in some cases, it’s rapidly changing for many users. More and more content, applications and services are all on servers, rather than back at a desktop machine somewhere. Furthermore, if you are going to access content and applications via mobile phone, wouldn’t it make sense not to simply recreate the desktop, but to better optimize for the entire mobile environment?

…It shouldn’t matter if the content is on a server, a desktop, a portable hard drive or a mobile device. The offering should fit what the user wants right then, and simply assuming that the desktop interface is king is the wrong way to go about things. It’s solving a problem from the past, and not keeping up with the ways in which people are accessing data, applications and services today and in the future.

Yay, other people are finally starting to get it, too! But, I’m still trying to think of situations where this would actually be useful and how it could work. The access model I understand. The use case they point out as being able to send files via email. Ok, I buy it. Streaming music, I get that one too. But that is still just pulling the files down. I’m trying to think of something where it would make sense to want to interact with your files. Something were when I have 5 minutes, I could actually do something useful. Maybe I can send a text with the name of the file and have it return it to me in a readable form already. Or perhaps when my colleague has finished the ppt., I get alerted and am able to view it and edit it immediately. I’m looking for something that isn’t just browsing for a file and downloading it. These types of ideas, however, fail to put the desktop at the center, they have a server at the center… and more importantly they have have a network (of people too) in the center. Maybe my colleagues file is stored on his computer, the server, and my phone. How do all of those to talk? How do they all update at the same time? How do I get notified when his copy on his desktop is altered?

So maybe if we can stop thinking of the phone as a “remote desktop” or a “remote control” into our other devices and actually think about interacting with the files, using the network power and collaborative nature of the device to drive the design, then maybe it does make sense to have access to all my files. But, if it’s just me being able to attach the files to my email… you can take it, I probably won’t wait for my files to download, Ill just plug in my flash drive to my phone and attach them that way.


The rules don’t apply any more

This morning when I got up, I decided that because this blog is about my thoughts, my perspective, and my opinions, that I can’t exclude all that I am learning about starting a company and some bits about general life learnings (which also shape my perspective). So, I’ve decided to share some of the things that I’ve had on my mind a really learned in the last few months.

This post applies to both entrepreneurship that I’ve seen thus far, as well as mobile design (as I eluded to in a previous post). But, as with most important things in life, I didn’t learn it from a book, but instead from engaging with a couple life-touching individuals.

The last few months of my life have changed outrageously. They have gone from 6:30 am scheduled alarms, 2 hours of commuting, marathon training schedules, to not ever needing to leave my apartment for days on end. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much this change has changed everything about my life. And in the last couple days, I’ve had the chance to feel it, as well as consciously really *get it*, I think.

The rules don’t apply any more!!! Whatever you thought they were: a 6:30 am wake-up, jog, and tea; clearly marked exits; or business meeting thank you letters. They don’t apply!!!

As an entrepreneur and creator, I make the rules now. All the rules. But, more than that, there are NO RULES. There is only your sensibility and more importantly your gut. And unless you have done this all before, you are bound to make mistakes and put yourself in situations you have never been before. You are vulnerable. You never know if they will love you or hate you. Will they call for a follow-up meeting or will then slam the door when you leave? It takes self trust. It takes self understanding. It takes self discovery. And it takes, not falling back on the old rules in times of stress, but instead at that very moment not fearing creating a new rule.

There is no bedtime. There is no routine. There is only your own style.

And there is little need to worry about knowing what to create because in the end what will happen and what you will create, you will never have thought of to begin with anyways. You will just do it.

And after you make something or meet with someone, whether it works or not, whether they like you or not… you’ll have learned something. So meet with them. Try it. Go and do it. And then, embrace that new thing that is sparked inside your head from that meeting or design and run with it. Allow yourself to explore those doors that open inside your head. Be courageous.

And if you do happen to meet with folks, be ever greatful. Remember to tell them:
Thanks for opening the door. Thanks for listening.


(Perhaps this was really intended for all of you who have listened to me lately in any capacity…)

The future of web technologies in the mobile revolution

First of all, I want to thank Russ for the nice words he said about me. (They really did leave me speechless last night.) And everyone else who liked, commented, and linked to my last post. It’s really encouraging to hear other’s feedback and thoughts, as well as to know if you like or dislike things I am thinking. With that said, I will try to post more, because I am learning a lot from this too.

Last night I went to Mobile Monday. It was the first night that there were presenters and topics. I liked the format and think that it went well for everyone to get on one page to begin discussions.

The presentation about Enterprise applications got me thinking a bit. I’ve never really thought about these before, but I’ve only thought about consumer applications. However, these will be important as well and how we will make them make sense will be crucial. We can’t just port the sites to the phone… So, how will we make meaning full interactions for say Accounts receivable? And well, does that even make sense? I then read Threadwatch’s post complaining about what will happen to web devs?

It’s one of the biggest misconceptions that you can just take the functionality of the web apps to the phone. And last night, there was talk of just taking the enterprise solutions and making them run through the phone browser. However, this wont work, nor does it make sense. So what’s the solution? Maybe it’s a different presentation layer… something like what Mfoundry has done. Something that combines Java and web technologies. So that the content creators can still use their backend web structures, but the presentation layer will be more applicable to the phone. But, more likely it’s also probably that somethings may not make sense to be on the mobile.

If I were a web dev, I wouldn’t worry too much about being out of work. In the next few years there is going to be so much going on to make all the different platforms talk, sync, and share data… (and who knows how that will happen)… that your skills will probably be in higher demand than ever. This revolution is not going to do away with web technologies. It’s just going to change how they work. It’s going to change what they are used for, and who is using them… meaning more work for you to do.

Revolution and change doesn’t mean destruction of something old. It usually just means reshifting it, refurbishing, rebuilding… and making it more appropriate.


What it really means to design for mobile.

Recently I have been chatting with some folks about what it really means to design for mobile devices. Many people simply think that you can port any application to the mobile phone. In the beginning it seems that this is a rather reasonable approach. However, as you begin to learn more about the actual functionality, interaction, timing, multi-tasking, little attention nature of these devices it becomes very clear that not everything should be mobile. The challenge, as I saw it, then becomes how do make a reasonable compliment to the desktop?… Something that extends the interaction and makes the user engaged during all parts of their day.

However, as I learn more, get deeper into the interaction of the phones, and understand more about how these devices are changing our everyday habits, I am beginning to see that it’s not even about making a compliment. It’s about making a “mobile system”, a “mobile interaction”, a “mobile application”. It’s not about extending the desktop. It’s not about interacting with the desktop. It’s about making the mobile device a central unit and it’s about placing a focus on the whole system… the phone and the desktop (maybe even the TV and radio). It’s about figuring out when to push, when to pull, when to alert, notify, sync, and require confirmation. It’s mostly about throwing out many of the interaction principles we’ve learned about and creating ones that make sense for that time and space. It’s about giving the user the easiest way to access what they are looking for at any time and making it feel like they are in the application… not on one specific device!

With that said, mobile phones will soon be the primary computing devices for individuals around the world… meaning that more people will have mobile phones than PCs. Therefore, if there is any place, at all, where we should place a central emphasis in this ecosystem of distributed pervasive computing, then it should be on the mobile phone. It’s going to do everything eventually anyways, it goes everywhere you go, it’s going to be your central hub… why not start thinking about it and designing for it as well? Making it your key access point into all other devices gives the user direction, portability, data access, and control over how they want to extend their experience.

Point being: Thinking about interaction and design from the phone’s point of view… makes everything else become increasing more interesting and useful!

(If you like these ideas… you might want to read what Russ had to say about some similar kinds of thoughts too.)

Happy Mobile Monday!

Back from Break

Ok, so it’s been a bit longer than I expected since I have written anything (I think Im going to stop saying that now). I got back a few days ago from my terrific holiday break!!! Really, I don’t think it could have been better! Friends, Family, Fun… what more could I ask for (especially when stuck in the cold midwest)?

So over break and a few weeks prior as well, I was working on some things with Mary Hodder, Wired proclaimed “Digital Queen”, and Lisa Rein, MobileGirl proclaimed “Video Queen”. Hmmmmm… Social communities, video, and mobile stuff … what a great idea! Anyways, I just wanted to give a shout out to them as being really GREAT to work with!

As well, I was also looking more closely at some of the photo sites. I hadn’t played with BuzzNet in a little while and I was really impressed! They have done some really great stuff recently and opened up their whole API. While Flickr still has a lot more functionality and power, Buzznet is pretty and simple. They have done a nice job on the interface and made things extremely easy to use! Which means they are drawing a nice well rounded audience. With the addition of Buzzword (community tagging) im excited to see what else comes from it. (I had the brief pleasure of meeting the founders Marc Brown and Anthony Batt at a Blogging conference over the summer… so “Well done guys!”)

Quotes of the day:
(from the Feature)

“many operators are now finding that servicing the adult market can be difficult, as they try to strike a balance between making porn available to their users while not being viewed as pornographers.”

No way, I didn’t know that was the struggle… UH, DAH!!!

(from a different article on the feature)

“Throw some money at some young, creative developers to come up with some ideas and create some services that are a little more interesting than the tired “take a picture and MMS it to us, and we’ll send it out to somebody as a postcard” idea that’s still making the rounds. Find some smart, creative kids that have used MMS, and know why it’s boring and no good, then get them to come up with better ideas. “

… 🙂 🙂 🙂