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24 Aug 03:01

Instapaper Liked: Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters

Wired's measured and thoughtful piece on this year's Hugos. http://t.co/XynwgO1tx9 — Renée Stephen (@ReneeStephen) August 24, 2015 Tweeted by @ReneeStephen
24 Aug 23:05

Instapaper Liked: Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

Last week, the New York Times reported that working at Amazon is hell—in a truly pioneering, use-proprietary-software-to-snitch-on-your-coworkers,…
27 May 16:13

Mozilla Academy Strategy Update

by Mark Surman

One of MoFo’s main goals for 2015 is to come up with an ambitious learning and community strategy. The codename for this is ‘Mozilla Academy’ although that’s likely to change. As a way to get the process rolling, I wrote a long post in March outlining what we might include in that strategy. Since then, I’ve been putting together a team to dig into the strategy work formally.

This post is an update on that process in FAQ form. More substance and meat is coming in future posts. Also, there is lots of info on the wiki.

Q1. What are we trying to do?

Our main goal is alignment: to get everyone working on Mozilla’s learning and leadership development programs pointed in the same direction. The three main places we need to align are:

  1. Purpose: help people learn and hone the ability to read | write | participate.
  2. Process: people learn and improve by making things (in a community of like-minded peers).
  3. Poetry: tie back to ‘web = public resource’ narrative. Strong Mozilla brand.

At the end of the year, we will have a unified strategy that connects Mozilla’s learning and leadership development offerings (Webmaker, Hive, Open News, etc.). Right now, we do good work in these areas, but they’re a bit fragmented. We need to fix that by creating a coherent story and common approaches that will increase the impact these programs can have on the world.

Q2. What is ‘Mozilla Academy’?

That’s what we’re trying to figure out. At the very least, Mozilla Academy will be a clearly packaged and branded harmonization of Mozilla’s learning and leadership programs. People will be able to clearly understand what we’re doing and which parts are for them. Mozilla Academy may also include a common set of web literacy skills, curriculum format and learning approaches that we use across programs. We are also reviewing the possibility of a shared set of credentials or roles for people participating in Mozilla Academy.

Q3. Who is ‘Mozilla Academy’ for?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve started to look at who we’re trying to serve with our existing programs (blog post on this soon). Using the ‘scale vs depth’ graph in the Mozilla Learning plan as a framework, we see three main audiences:

  • 1.4 billion Facebook users. Or, whatever metric you use to count active people on the internet. We can reach some percentage of these people with software or marketing that invite people to ‘read | write | participate’. We probably won’t get them to want to ‘learn’ in an explicit way. They will learn by doing. Which is fine. Webmaker and SmartOn currently focus on this group.
  • People who actively want to grow their web literacy and skills. These are people interested enough in skills or technology or Mozilla that they will choose to participate in an explicit learning activity. They include everyone from young people in afterschool programs to web developers who might be interested in taking a course with Mozilla. Mozilla Clubs, Hive and MDN’s nascent learning program currently focus on this group.
  • People who want to hone their skills *and* have an impact on the world. These are people who already understand the web and technology at some level, but want to get better. They are also interested in doing something good for the web, the world or both. They include everyone from an educator wanting to create digital curriculum to a developer who wants to make the world of news or science better. Hive, ReMo and our community-based fellowships currently serve these people.

A big part of the strategy process is getting clear on these audiences. From there we can start to ask questions like: who can Mozilla best serve?; where can we have the most impact?; can people in one group serve or support people in another? Once we have the answers to these questions we can decide where to place our biggest bets (we need to do this!). And we can start raising more money to support our ambitious plans.

Q4. What is a ‘strategy’ useful for?

We want to accomplish a few things as a result of this process. A. A way to clearly communicate the ‘what and why’ of Mozilla’s learning and leadership efforts. B. A framework for designing new programs, adjusting program designs and fundraising for program growth. C. Common approaches and platforms we can use across programs. These things are important if we want Mozilla to stay in learning and leadership for the long haul, which we do.

Q5. What do you mean by ‘common approaches’?

There are a number of places where we do similar work in different ways. For example, Mozilla Clubs, Hive, Mozilla Developer Network, Open News and Mozilla Science Lab are all working on curriculum but do not yet have a shared curriculum model or repository. Similarly, Mozilla runs four fellowship programs but does not have a shared definition of a ‘Mozilla Fellow’. Common approaches could help here.

Q6. Are you developing a new program for Mozilla?

That’s not our goal. We like most of the work we’re doing now. As outlined in the 2015 Mozilla Learning Plan, our aim is to keep building on the strongest elements of our work and then connect these elements where it makes sense. We may modify, add or cut program elements in the future, but that’s not our main focus.

Q7. Are you set on the ‘Mozilla Academy’ name?

It’s pretty unlikely that we will use that name. Many people hate it. However, we needed a moniker to use during the strategy process. For better or for worse, that’s the one we chose.

Q8. What’s the timing for all of this?

We will have a basic alignment framework around ‘purpose, process and poetry’ by the end of June. We’ll work with the team at the Mozilla All Hands in Whistler. We will develop specific program designs, engage in a  broad conversation and run experiments. By October, we will have an updated version of the Mozilla Learning plan, which will lay out our work for 2016+.

As indicated above, the aim of this post is to give a process update. There is much more info on the process, who’s running it and what all the pieces are in the Mozilla Learning strategy wiki FAQ. The wiki also has info on how to get involved. If you have additional questions, ask them here. I’ll respond to the comments and also add my answers to the wiki.

In terms of substance, I’m planning a number of posts in coming weeks on topics like the essence of web literacy, who our audiences are and how we think about learning. People leading Mozilla Academy working groups will also be posting on substantive topics like our evolving thinking around the web literacy map and fellows programs. And, of course, the wiki will be growing with substantive strategy documents covering many of the topics above.

The post Mozilla Academy Strategy Update appeared first on Mark Surman.

25 Aug 13:00

A few more notes on rain gear

by jnyyz

There has been a fair amount of rain this year, and I’ve been making good use of my Cleverhood rain cape.

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As a slight update on my earlier post, I’ve given up using the thumb loops, and I use a patch of Velcro that adheres to a bunch of double sided velcro on my stem.

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The other feature that I’ve grown to like very much are the slits on the front where I can pass my hands thru. Not only are they handy off the bike when I want to use my hands, but when it is not raining, I can ride with my hands thru the cape which seems to give much less drag in a headwind.

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This is great on intermittently rainy days; as soon as it starts raining again, I use the cape as per usual to keep my legs dry.

cape

I’ve also replaced my old commuting pannier with an Arkel Signature V.

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Two notes about this pannier: one is that I which they had made the top extension a little longer as I’m not sure I have enough material to roll over and close when it is fully loaded. The second point is that it is much easier to take the pannier on and off the bike which is a mixed blessing. My old pannier had a hook and strap that held the lower part of the pannier whereas the new one has just the clips to the rack at the top. Given that it is so easy to take off, I’m loath to leave it on the bike when I lock it up while parked.

The final piece of rain gear is my seat cover. My old Carradice cover finally gave up the ghost, so I went looking for a replacement. The first thing I tried was this latex cover from MEC (they were out of a Planet Bike seat cover that looked OK on the web.  I didn’t like the feel of this seat cover, and despite the salesperson’s assurance that it would be good for one season, the cover failed after one ride.

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A much better bet is the Brooks seat cover. One advantage is that it comes in two sizes, and the M size fits both my Brooks B 17’s and my Selle Anatomica saddles perfectly. For a Brooks product, it is actually reasonably priced.

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25 Aug 13:11

You can now buy last year’s Moto X unlocked at Staples

by Daniel Bader

Motorola held its carrier partners quite close during the proverbial life span of its former flagship, last year’s Moto X, but as it is succeeded, the company intends to give it a second life in the unlocked retail market.

Over the weekend, Staples began selling an unlocked version of the second-generation Moto X for $399.63, the lowest price we’ve seen yet for the device in Canada. Still a formidable smartphone, it recently got updated to Android 5.1, improving an already-excellent array of features.

It’s even better than the new Moto X Play in some ways. Its Snapdragon 801 chip is considerably faster than the Play’s S615, and its smaller, aluminum-framed body is of higher quality and is more comfortable to hold. (The Play has it beat in the battery and camera department, though.)

Still, it’s a great deal on an unlocked smartphone that should receive updates for at least another 18 months to two years.

25 Aug 13:25

"Making art “requires the precise opposite of hanging out” and is often “a deeply lonely and..."

“Making art “requires the precise opposite of hanging out” and is often “a deeply lonely and unglamorous task of tolerating oneself long enough to push something out,” characterized by a “lack of financial security and the necessary hours and hours of solitude spent fucking up over and over again.””

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Miranda Campbell, Culture Isn’t Free

25 Aug 14:31

Apple's Plan to Destroy the Large Cable Bundle

by Neil Cybart

The cable bundle is misunderstood. While analysts and pundits focus on when the cable bundle will finally succumb to Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, the reality is the future of television will be built on the video bundle's back. Due to attractive economics, video bundles are one of the best values in the media space and will remain the dominant way we receive premium video content. We are quickly approaching the point where Apple can capitalize on market dislocation to destroy the modern-day big cable bundle with a leaner bundle that is built to thrive in a mobile world. 

Video Bundle Economics

The cable bundle has been one of the best consumer deals in the modern era. By subsidizing content's true cost, the bundle makes it possible for consumers to receive a vast amount of video content for an artificially low monthly price. The bundle works marvelously well as long as everyone pays into the system, and this has been the case for the last 20 years. Nielsen estimated there were 116 million homes with televisions in the U.S., of which approximately 100 million had some form of pay TV for the 2014-2015 TV season. ESPN is one of the most widely distributed cable networks, reaching 95 million homes. ESPN has a farther reach than Facebook, a testament to how much power the cable bundle holds.  

While the video bundle will remain relevant for many years, the content associated with the bundle will change. New companies have relied on the old bundle parameter, namely, selling a wide range of content to as many people as possible to carve out a piece of the subscription video streaming market. Companies like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu sell video bundles. Instead of charging viewers by individual shows and series, these companies charge for access to a wide selection of content appealing to a range of consumers.

Most cable networks are in existence today because of the large cable bundle. Without the bundle, these networks would not be able to fund their current slate of programming. The mistake many people make when analyzing the bundle is to ignore the value of access. Having a window to nearly 100 million households is in many ways more lucrative than the pennies or nickels that the average channel receives from each household each month. This is a cable distributor's key selling point, and we often see fighting between content owners and distributors over access.

The Trickiness in Going Direct to Consumer

When contemplating the future of television, many have thought the strongest cable networks can one day bypass the large cable bundle and sell their programming direct to consumer. For simplicity's sake, I position ESPN and AMC as the poster children of this theory. In the current system, ESPN receives approximately $6 per month from every household subscribing to cable. AMC receives quite a bit less, approximately $0.50, although it is still well above the average $0.15 received. If ESPN and AMC were to leave the bundle and embrace the direct to consumer model, they would need not only to make up lost subscriber fee revenue, but also contemplate losing access to 100 million households. AMC relies on that access to sell new series, like "Fear the Walking Dead," to viewers. "Fear the Walking Dead" just became the highest-rated series premiere in cable TV history thanks to AMC's reach.  ESPN also benefits from grouping sports programming into one channel, appealing to a much wider fan base, including those who may only watch a game or two each month. 

There is no question that the best networks will have loyal fans ready to pay top dollar for a direct to consumer option. However, that won't be enough since these networks are simply not built to support such a model. It will be very difficult for ESPN and AMC to stop subscribers from signing up for their content only to watch their favorite series or sports season and then cancel their membership afterwards. With the cable bundle, such month-to-month volatility does not exist. 

I am very skeptical that a cable network will be able to go 100 percent direct to consumer. The economics are just not in their favor. Instead, a hybrid approach may work although in many instances, the best case scenario would be to just get to a point that matches the current large cable bundle. There is much incentive on the part of cable networks to make the bundle work. 

Time for Action

The mobile revolution has weakened the large cable bundle's fundamental underpinning. Mobile hasn't changed just the way we communicate, but also the way we create and consume content. Having new types of video content in our pocket has led us to no longer sit in a particular room at a particular time to watch a particular show. As smartphones continue to grow in screen size, all other pieces of smart glass in our lives, including our television sets, will lose value and importance.

The old definition of TV doesn't do justice to the much wider array of available content that we now have at our fingertips. As smartphone adoption grew, the idea that anyone could be a content creator became reality. While YouTube may still lead in terms of mindshare when thinking of user-generated content, we also have plenty of interesting content found on video-sharing networks like Vine, Snapchat, and Periscope, not to mention premium content from the likes of Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, and Amazon.

One example of an entirely new form of content that people are increasingly turning to is vlogs, which is short for video blogs. The following Google Trends chart highlights vlogging's expanding popularity. The vlogging industry, notorious with young people chronicling their daily activities, is still in its infancy. Vlogging combines elements of reality TV with scripted television as many vloggers record real-life situations although the heavy use of editing and some pre-planning suggest there are also elements of a regular sitcom.

Exhibit 1: Google Trends for Vlogging

All of this new and entertaining content made available due to mobile and new video bundles suggest that the large cable bundle is a house of cards held together by cable distributors. We have evidence that the large cable bundle is fraying a bit at the edges although collapse is not imminent. Disney CEO Bob Iger started a panic on Wall Street a few weeks ago when he disclosed on Disney's earnings conference call that ESPN had continued to see modest subscriber losses. Anyone following ESPN's recent cost cutting initiatives, including a move away from expensive on-air talent, would have seen this news coming. Assuming Iger's comments about ESPN subscriber loss trends remain unchanged for the rest of the year, ESPN will likely report a 2-3 million decline in subscribers in 2015, which may actually represent a slight improvement in the rate of decline compared to last year. 

Exhibit 2: Change in ESPN Subscribers

Although ESPN is experiencing recent weakness, there is no evidence to suggest an exodus from the bundle is taking place.

I suspect cable subscriber trends are being impacted by cable distributors. As anyone trying to cancel his or her cable can attest to, it is not the easiest process, and very often consumers receive discounts or other promotions from their cable company to keep the bundle instead of completely canceling cable. The problem for many cable content owners is that if things remain status quo, we will enter a vicious cycle where weaker cable viewer ratings will result in less ad revenue, leading to inferior programming, which will only drive weaker ratings over time. Instead of there being a quick implosion, the cable bundle would deteriorate over time. The cable industry needs that one factor that will not only cause the house of cards to fall, but also address fundamental issues plaguing the large cable bundle.

Apple's Plan

The modern-day cable bundle is now vulnerable. Apple's strategy to destroy the large cable bundle would entail taking the best parts of the current bundle and creating an improved bundle. Essentially, Apple would be using a slimmer cable bundle to kill the large cable bundle. This may not seem too innovative. However, it is one way of addressing the biggest issue people have with their large cable bundle: finding and watching content at a time of their choosing. 

As has been previously reported by the WSJ and Re/code, Apple's slimmed down cable bundle would include 20-30 channels and be delivered over the internet to iOS devices. These channels could be considered as home to the best content found within the current large cable bundle. Similar to the modern cable paradigm, the combination of monthly subscriber fees and advertising revenue would represent the primary funding sources for networks included in the bundle. Add in live programming like sports, which come with a hefty price tag, and local news, which depend heavily on advertising revenue, and a new kind of bundle begins to take shape. 

Why would networks work with Apple? Having a customer base of nearly 90 million iPhone users and rising in the U.S. is very appealing to content owners. In an era where content bundles obtain their economics by having the widest access, 90 million users represent great opportunity. Similar to how Apple Music will be available on Android, it would be in Apple's best interest to make this new video streaming bundle available to Android as well. 

With a rethought cable bundle, Apple would be appealing to the 95 million households that still subscribe to cable, not those who stopped paying for cable. To destroy the large cable bundle, Apple will need to have current cable subscribers be willing to go through the hoops of canceling their current cable with their distributor. The house of cards would then collapse. 

Sling TV

On paper, Sling TV, an over-the-top video service owned by Dish Network, sounds similar to the bundle Apple would be looking to put together: a collection of 22 channels, including ESPN, for $20 per month. The problem is Sling TV is designed for those who aren't subscribed to cable, the exact opposite target market for an Apple streaming video service. Sling TV has limitations that cable payers would simply not be able to put up with such as only being accessible on a single device at a time and not including broadcast networks or stations. There are also valid questions over the quality of Sling TV's streaming with many reports of inferior viewing experience during popular shows. 

Video Bundles on a Smartphone are the New TV

Mobile will determine not just television's future, but also video's future. Any company or producer that thinks otherwise will likely be left behind to fight over legacy remnants of a bygone era. Instead of some truly revolutionary video streaming service that leaves all prior ideas about cable and TV in the dust, we are headed towards a future that has distinct similarities to the past, namely a handful of companies subsidizing a vast amount of content by offering video bundles to tens of millions of people. The large cable bundle's demise will occur when the 95 million U.S. households that still pay for cable each month are presented with an attractive alternative that takes the best parts of the bundle, adds better discovery and curation, and finally embraces mobile. 

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24 Aug 22:33

happy 125th birthday to duke

by Emily Chang

Instagram filter used: Sierra

View in Instagram ⇒

26 Aug 03:00

Slack as a Shared Notification Layer

by Federico Viticci
I'm looking forward to Nuzzel notifications here.

I'm looking forward to Nuzzel notifications here.

Here's an interesting announcement from the Slack team earlier today:

You’ll soon find a button on many of your favorite apps and sites that says “Add to Slack”. Clicking the button will take you to an authentication page where you’ll pick which Slack team you’d like to integrate with the service, and which channel (or your own @slackbot) the service will report to (provided your Team admin/owners allow team members to add integrations).

Once configured, any web apps or services that send you notifications or emails can start automatically reporting those to Slack. Many apps and services will also give you the ability to share things into Slack without leaving their app; handy!

(Emphasis mine.)

We use Slack at MacStories, and we pay for the fantastic service it offers. Something I've recently started testing is using Slack as a shared notification layer for multiple users: rather than being alerted of important news or updates myself and then having to communicate them manually to others, I can let the notification go to Slack directly so everyone can know instantly and take action more quickly. I've been doing this with integrations such as RSS, Zapier, IFTTT, and the recently launched email in both regular Slack channels as well as a dedicated #aggregator channel where bots only report notifications and links.

With today's announcement, Slack is making it easier for developers to build support for Slack notifications even if their apps have nothing to do with Slack as a chat service. This is where Slack radically differs from everything I've tried before: it's not just a chat room with a bunch of integrations – it's a whole layer of services, commands, file management, search, and collaboration that is primarily advertised as a communication tool.

It makes sense, then, to properly support rich notifications as extensions for Slack: because users are spending hours in Slack anyway, services like Nuzzel can support native device push notifications (individual) and Slack notifications (shared), allowing multiple people to receive the same notification and coordinate accordingly (inside Slack, of course).

I've set up Nuzzel integration today (on the website), and, if my understanding is correct, I can expect my Twitter alerts powered by Nuzzel (and years of carefully curating my following list) to be available to other team members through Slack notifications. I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty great addition to our Slack setup, and I fully expect more web services to start supporting Slack notifications as a feature soon.

25 Aug 16:12

McArthur Glen 2 measured in Jakriborgs – Another Perspective from Neil21

by pricetags
An excerpt from Neil21’s blog, who posted this a year ago:

I touched on all these themes in my initial reaction to the plans here I offered an alternative plan and narrative for Templeton.

And I also learned from responses – like the land has a federal/first-nation ownership which (like that other horrible new mall) incentivizes cash-grabs over seven-generation thinking.

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Budget luxury: counting Jakriborgs on Sea Island

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“Luxury outlet” isn’t the only contradiction in this architectural kitschtrosity that Vancouver Airport Authority has planned for Sea Island. …

Let us briefly examine the opportunity cost of 30 these acres, served by rapid transit, and in a Metropolitan region that is famously desperate for housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods.

Jakriborg is a village in Sweden that broke ground in 1999. It is home to 500 families on a 12.5 acre site. Many urbanist bloggers enjoy asking, when confronted with a large parking lot (mostly park-and-rides): How Many Jakriborgs Is That?

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The 30 acres of our Sea Island site could fit almost two and a half Jakriborgs. That would be home to over 1,000 families who – presumably – would all have to have a wage earner or two each. Boom: there’s your 1,000 jobs, and maybe twice that.

But wait – what kind of jobs? Well, if you were seeding a new town at this transit station, with thin walkable streets and many flanked by the active storefronts of live-work units, you might expect the businesses to be locally owned. That would bring all the local economic multipliers – use of local accountants, lawyers, suppliers etc. – that branches of international chains doesn’t.

The opportunity cost of this land use and design is unimaginable. Shame.


Picture this…

Flying from Asia to Toronto? Why not break your trip, with a night in Templeton! This gorgeous urban village of just under 4,000 people showcases some of the best West Coast modern architecture of the 21st century. The cosy, narrow streets are reminiscent of the back streets of Tokyo or Amsterdam, and the town square, with its iconic Bill Reid sculpture and dozens of small bars and restaurants, is a popular weekend spot for Vancouverites. Alternatively, catch a show downtown – only 30 minutes away by rapid skytrain – before returning to Templeton for a nightcap, and a great night’s sleep in any of the charming boutique B&Bs.

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Still reading? Here’s more.

I’m genuinely interested to learn more about the economic rationale for this move by VAA. Here’s what I think the situation was:

  • VAA owns the land outright, freehold.
  • VAA leases the land to Mall Developer Inc for 30 years, and so gets its rent. They can then ignore it, and leave the provincial taxpayer to pick up the induced congestion cost on roads etc.
  • Mall Developer Inc. pays for water, electricity connection etc. I sincerely hope no discounts are offered. They lay their pipes, build their buildings, and get in all the brands they already work with to lease the space.
  • In 30 years… well, that’s somebody else’s problem. Maybe the lease will be renewed. Maybe VAA will be left with a dead mall. Maybe someone will redevelop it.

So in order to develop a pseudo organic town, VAA would either

  • have to find a developer willing to take the lease on the whole site, or
  • would have to be willing to take a slower drip, drip of income, as the developer built the site out, sold lots and profit shared (note that VAA could potentially offer mortgage financing to those on the site, so that if they don’t pay, VAA gets the building)

Is that right?

For example, how did it work for Sean Hodgins’ Century Group on Southlands? Did they own the site outright, or a lease on it? How does it work for other New Urbanist developments?

UPDATE:

Ok, so I now see the land is Musqueam owned, held by the Feds/Queen, and leased to VAA. That makes the deal sound like grab-the-cash-and-run Tsawwassen First Nation’s mall. Sustaina-what?!

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Although McArthurGlen calls it a “joint deal” with the Airport, which may just be spin, or may indicate some skin in the game by VAA?

Note that my main beef is with VAA’s short-termist cash grab, not the mall guys. They’re doing what they do: they have a model, and they stamp it out, sucking on the generous teat of public infrastructure investments globally. A transit station, a highway investment, then parking here, open-air faux streets here. Boom. On to the next.

But is this really why the Federal Government invested taxpayers’ funds in the Canada Line? An airport at one end, real urbanism at the other, and mall crap at every stop in between? Why not seed a village at every stop? Isn’t that what transit’s for?

Here’s VAA’s local stakeholder responsibility statement. And here’s VAA’s ownership structure:

YVR is managed and operated by Vancouver Airport Authority under a long-term lease with the federal government. A not-for-profit, community-based organization, the Airport Authority reinvests all earnings into airport development and improvements and is governed by a community-based Board of Directors.

OK, so *all* the land is Federal?

Fascinatingly candid interview with the mall developer:

But you’ve still come to the conclusion that it’s worth the time and effort?

Yes, we’ve learned a lot over the years from a planning point of view as to what will and what won’t work. I think that getting closer to town centres is probably the key to obtaining permission in Germany because many of our visitors will also shop there.

For instance, an initial application near a motorway failed for Remscheid, but we are now quite optimistic about obtaining planning approval for a site at a former football stadium adjoining the town centre.

Why not go whole hog and move straight into town centres?

While we should love to go into a town centre and own it, we would need the whole town centre to make it work.

As town centres rightly need numerous small local services, such as chemists, banks, butchers, newsagents etc., it would be wrong for us to move there.

So we are a different offer, and therefore the ideal location for an outlet is to be near to, rather than directly in, a town centre so that all parties can benefit.

Comparing Sea Island and Seaside, FL.

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25 Aug 16:05

Twitter in a nutshell

O'Reilly has a series of books entitled X in a Nutshell.

They're called that because presumably nut shells are small things. So if you want to understand something in a nut shell, that means you're getting a distillation, a summary, a conclusion without the reasoning.

We used to call them Busy Developer Guides. Because you're busy and you just want to know how to do something.

With that windy preamble, here's the story of Twitter, in a nut shell.

The story

  1. Twitter is the news hub for news makers and news vendors.

  2. Kind of like GitHub for news.

  3. Now Facebook wants to be that, and is moving aggressively.

The future

As before, in a nutshell.

  1. Twitter's challenge is technology evolution, not Wall St.

  2. Once users are excited about Twitter again, investors will forget metrics.

  3. Summary: Make the news work better in Twitter, again and again.

25 Aug 17:06

Sony teases an improved camera for the Xperia Z5

by Igor Bonifacic

Sony’s often leaked Z5 may not look a lot different from its predecessors, but it will at least feature an improved camera, according to a new teaser from the company.

In a tweet posted by its Great Britain account on Monday, Sony shared an out of focus shot of what looks the upcoming Z5 and Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. The text of the tweet says, “Get ready for a smartphone with greater focus. All will become clear on 02.09.2015.”

Get ready for a smartphone with greater focus. All will become clear on 02.09.2015. pic.twitter.com/Mm7HjWKojA

— Sony Xperia GB (@sonyxperiagb) August 24, 2015

Based on this tweet, it’s safe to say that Sony will announce the Z5 and Z5 Compact at a pre-IFA keynote scheduled for September 2. What the greater focus part of the tweet entails is less clear.

GSM Arena speculates that at least the Z5 will feature a phase detection autofocus system. Without getting in to too much technical detail, it’s a type of autofocus that is relatively new to smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 was one of the first devices to feature it. Since then smartphones like the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6 and the recently released Moto X Play and Style have used it to great effect. The promise of the system is a camera that is able to focus faster and more accurately, even at times when the lighting situation is less than ideal.

Given that the recently announced Xperia M5 has phase detection autofocus, it’s a good guess that the Z5 will include a similar feature.

We also know from a previous tweet that both the Z5 and Z5 Compact are supposed to include a new power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.

In any case, we will find out next week.

SourceTwitter
25 Aug 17:17

Can Our Transit System Get Any Worse?

by pricetags
Not Vancouver’s (ours is good, we just enjoy trashing it.)  But this anaylsis by Thomas K. Wright, the president of the Regional Plan Association in New York, reveals how the U.S. went so wrong – and how we could too, now that we have cornered ourselves.  Of course, we need to invest in transit to handle and shape growth.  But no, we can’t decide, agree or legislate new revenues so long as the referendum system (only for transit, only for Metro) stays in place while the Province freely spends to build massive new bridges and extends the freeway system without such constraints.
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Can Our Transit System Get Any Worse?

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Why are our transit systems faltering just as more people than ever want to use them? Part of the answer lies with the way our government institutions are structured, and New York offers a case in point. …

Private companies built many of our subways, commuter lines and intercity railroads in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mass transit, like long-distance rail, was profitable then, especially when combined with speculation in land made accessible by new, fast rail connections.

Then came the automobile, and publicly funded highways. …

The demand was insatiable, and authorities were granted extraordinary powers. They could borrow money without having it count toward a city or state’s general debt. They were exempt from taxes on payments made to bondholders and on real property that reduced their costs by producing income. They could ignore local politicians and zoning and land-use laws as they seized private property — as long as they paid fair market value.

And at their best, they were governed by appointed professionals who reported to independent directors and served staggered terms, which diminished political influences. If a governor tried to interfere, they could point to covenants with their bondholders and argue that they could only invest in projects that would generate a reasonable return on investment.

For a while, the politicians were held at bay. Then, in the 1950s, the federal government started building the interstate highway system, offering big subsidies to states to connect to it. The combined might of the public authorities and federal outlays was astounding. From 1950 to 1975, the tristate region built more than 1,300 miles of limited-access highways.

Unsurprisingly, mass-transit operators struggled to compete with these roads and started going bankrupt. Against the operators’ will, the authorities merged the workings of mass transit and toll roads to provide cross subsidies …

And that was a problem. The addition of money-losing transit operations left the authorities more vulnerable to political intrusion in decisions. For example, tolls and fares were kept too low to raise money for capital investment. And governors started pushing investment in pet projects, rather than broad regional goals.

Which brings us to today.

The leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York’s subways and buses, has asked Albany for $26.8 billion over five years, to help replace its 50-year-old signal system and outdated subway cars, start the next phase of the Second Avenue subway and finish linking the Long Island Rail Road with Grand Central Terminal.

While that seems to be a lot of money, consider the needs. Thomas F. Prendergast, the authority’s chief executive, has said that the system’s railroads and real estate represent a $1 trillion capital asset. …

Of course, we must find money to repair and expand our subway systems, and we must sort out the interstate political rivalries at the Port Authority. But it’s our crisis-driven approach to infrastructure that most needs to change.

We can learn from others. London and Stockholm have “congestion pricing” that generates revenue for mass transit while limiting the flow of cars in their central business districts. Hong Kong’s transit agency, the MTR, is a for-profit company in which the government holds a majority stake. Because it is publicly traded, it can avoid patronage hiring. By purchasing real estate and leasing property, it acquires revenue while keeping fares low.

Those examples — superior to any American model — recognize that it is appropriate for a transit system to have diverse sources for funds. Their decision-making structures are responsive to constituents, yet insulated from politicians. They allow long-term planning.

Crumbling Hudson River tunnels have become a national symbol of aging infrastructure and political shortsightedness. They represent nothing less than our failure to keep up with the rest of the world.


25 Aug 17:52

Paris arrête tout trafic

by pricetags
Doug Clarke envoie cet article de Forbes:

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Paris Will Stop All Traffic, Literally, For One Day in September

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Imagine any big city anywhere in the world without traffic just for a day. Now, if that city were Paris, imagine further the photographic possibilities, not to mention the visual, auditory and olfactory potential.

Imagine no more because on September 27th, that’s just what Paris is going to do: “Une Journée Sans Voiture” – A Day Without Car, for the first time in the city’s history.

City Hall calls it “a crazy gamble, but achievable.” No motorized vehicle, with a few exceptions like ambulances, will be allowed to drive the streets. As Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced in March: “Paris will be completely transformed for a day. This is an opportunity for Parisians and tourists to enjoy the city without noise, pollution and therefore without stress.”

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Paris Without Cars

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Other cities including Montreal, Bogota, Mexico City, Ho Chi Minh City and Brussels have instituted Day Without Car programs, some of them permanently and some partially, closing certain streets and encouraging bike riding.


25 Aug 18:09

Twinning Tweets: Blind spots and enlightenment on health care, helmets and bike lanes

by pricetags
Ken Ohrn writes:

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Health-care dollars are in the news – this time, with twinning of one sickening and one wonderful twist.  And a strong sense that while people can change, accountability for public attacks is really all too rare (all is fair in politics and war, and memories are short, we seem to think).

First: By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver.

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A local study has shown the enormous cost of injuries to people in BC — some 456,000 injuries and $2.29 billion per year in 2010. But the article focuses on 5 percent of injuries that are recreational and, in theory, preventable (22,000 out of 456,000), and makes the absurd claim that bicycle helmet use saves health care dollars.

My opinion, and I’m not alone, is that helmet use discourages people from riding bikes (by roughly around 50 percent), and the health benefits (and ensuing lower costs of health care) exceed the risks of riding by a margin of 20:1. (See Klassen article below.)

Meanwhile, the other bogus nastiness in the article is the apparent opinion that the other 434,000 injuries are not preventable — and we all know that the largest part of these 434,000 injuries are most likely related to motor vehicle crashes.  It’s another example of the cultural blind spot we all have to the appalling death and injury toll from motor vehicle crashes. First — we just don’t “see” them; second — they’re not preventable.

So buckle up those helmets, people. And let’s just forget about road deaths and injuries altogether.

Second:  Mike Klassen writes in the Courier wanting more bike lanes, and increasing the active lifestyle, because of its large contribution to overall health, and thus to reduction of the huge medical care costs attributable to a sedentary lifestyle.

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Courier

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It marks, for me, a Wonderland-level change from the days when Mr. Klassen ran a scurrilous attack blog called City Caucus on behalf of the civic NPA.  In this now-defunct blog during the run-up to the bike-lane-heavy 2011 civic election, he published a vicious hatchet job on HUB, the non-profit advocacy organization for people who ride bikes. Because, ya know, the NPA was fundamentally against bike lanes and by extension, against people who ride bikes. HUB’s position, including the health benefits of an active life, were just a bunch of hooey. This position did not work in 2011 and in 2014, as the NPA lost both elections badly.

Now, it seems, Mr. Klassen understands that an active lifestyle is of huge importance to society as a whole, and as a result he advocates in favour of bike lanes, along with improvements for pedestrians.

He writes:  “While Vancouver abounds with runners, cyclists, paddlers and those taking a stroll on our cherished seawall pathways, we can do more. We could establish new jogging and walking routes, and combine them with safer traffic crossings right across the city. And notwithstanding the headaches they cause with opponents, the city should build more bike lanes, too.”


25 Aug 18:00

The Best Apps for LG G4

by Android Beat
The LG G4 is arguably the most balanced flagship smartphone of this year. While the handset does not feature premium build quality, it does come with decent internals, a removable battery, a microSD card slot, and a great camera. Continue reading →
25 Aug 18:33

Car-Free Day all downhill on the North Shore

by pricetags

Paris has nothing on North Vancouver.

Dan Ross, the Transportation Work Group Manager at Opus International Consultants, reports on the recent Lonsdale Car Free Day and Slide the City.

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It was a beautiful day, and for those who pre-paid their tickets and didn’t mind waiting in about a kilometre-long queue, the 1,000-foot long waterslide down Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver (6th Street to 3rd Street) was worth it.

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1 - Keith Road queue

4 - At the bottom

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6 - First StreetThe rest of the Car Free Day events were south of 3rd Street down past Esplanade Avenue and to the shipyards at Carrie Cates Ct. There weren’t the mob-deep crowds who attended Car Free days in Vancouver in July; the Lonsdale event was also a little more family friendly and genteel by comparison (this is still the North Shore), but there was a good, critical mass of attendees and it was a lot of fun.

Kudos to the City of North Vancouver for organizing and hope to see many more of these next summer.


25 Aug 18:55

The Damage Being Done: Density in a Post-Referendum Region

by pricetags

 

It’s just a matter of time before those fighting the densification of their communities figure something out: When high-density neighbourhoods are being justified by planners because they are supportive of transit, what’s the justification when there won’t be any assurance of more transit?

From today’s Sun:

Townhouses replace trees in south Surrey neighbourhood

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In Sunnyside Heights … a parcel of land has been stripped clean and covered with townhouses baking in the sun. A grove of trees shades an old rancher next door, but a city sign suggests officials will punch a road through those trees to connect with the city grid on the other side.

“It’s extremely worrisome,” said Clinker’s neighbour, Sybil Rowe. “The total character of south Surrey is being erased. This is one of the last beautiful parts of the Lower Mainland left.”

Such cries are coming from all corners of south Surrey, following massive transformations in areas such as Morgan Creek, Elgin and Sunnyside. Many residents lament the loss of the mature trees, while others like Clinker worry the city doesn’t have the infrastructure, schools or transit to handle a flood of people to the area.

City officials, often criticized for the pro-development stance, argue they have little choice. With Surrey welcoming 1,000 new residents every month, planner Jean Lamontagne said the city must create higher density around its town centres, including south Surrey.

This has led to a shift in zoning in some areas from suburban to urban, or bylaw changes to allow more units on two- or five-acre lots that have had just one home on them. Nearby Clayton, for instance, once a farming community bordering Cloverdale, is now wall-to-wall development.

“The reality is that with the price of land and the price of housing, if we want to provide an affordable product, the type of development is much more dense,” Lamontagne said.

Lamontagne acknowledges south Surrey lacks in transit and other infrastructure, but attempts to address those issues by building transit hubs and collecting development cost charges to build utilities and widen roads. The rest is out of the city’s hands, he said, as it counts on the province to upgrade Peace Arch Hospital, transit and build new schools.

The situation has led to a grassroots movement among residents, such as those in Royal Heights and Crescent Beach Annex, who have convinced the city to preserve their neighbourhoods’ character with special zoning to keep small homes on residential lots. Such zoning requires 80 per cent support of neighbours in an area.

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What this seems to be saying is that Surrey will continue to zone for high-density transit hubs, but the only money on the table will be for widening roads – no doubt connecting to the widened freeways being funded by the Province.

How long before a Council, in the face of public protest, refuses to upzone – or more dramatically downzones – a neighbourhood plan because TransLink affirms that there will be no more service (unless it removes some from elsewhere in the region, leading to more protest)?

That would send a shockwave through the development community, which so far seems to think that it is business as usual; somehow money will be found to fund the transit on which their strategies are based.

In the event of a reversal, I wonder what they would then say to the Liberal Party fundraisers.


25 Aug 15:03

The creative experience of fake phone calls

by Marek Pawlowski
The creative experience of fake phone calls

These days iPhones have made everybody a photographer, which makes the ability to nail that shot – the one that captures the essence of a place and its inhabitants, all the more precious. Enter Jay Giampietro, a New Yorker who has perfected the art of photographing passers-by from his ear while pretending to take phone calls in the street, while glancing around confusedly. — It’s Nice That

It’s Nice That, a web-site dedicated to highlighting creativity, has this post about Jay Giampietro’s unusual Instagram feed comprised of photos shot while the iPhone was held to the artist’s ear.

In addition to representing its own unique, and arguably bizarre, art form, the technique raises questions about the etiquette of photography on the street. It speaks of the artist’s own uncertainty about when it is appropriate to take a shot, and yet a stronger desire to capture the most interesting moments, even if it involves a convoluted creative process which subverts the intended user experience of the photographic device.

Of course, it also is an act made possible by the emergence of smartphones – inherently multi-functional products – which enable users to disguise one behaviour by making it appear they are engaged with another of the device’s capabilities.

In our own series about user experience at the intersection of consumption and creativity, it has been striking how often arbitrary limitations – whether imposed by technology or users’ own choices – lead to compelling experiences. This seems to be true of both modes, where limiting the format of the content to be consumed increases user satisfaction and limiting the tools for creativity inspires greater efforts to experiment.

This is part of a series on the intersection between digital consumption and creativity by Alex Guest and Marek Pawlowski. To follow the forthcoming stream of articles, UI concepts and examples, track #uxintersection on Twitter, bookmark the ‘Intersection‘ category at mobileuserexperience.com or sign-up for the weekly email newsletter. More importantly, this is an invitation for you to get involved in the discussion – we’d love to hear your feedback and ideas for taking this topic forward.

25 Aug 17:02

Twitter Favorites: [Stv] I think I should charge a flat $200 fee for any tech-support that could be answered with a single Google “I feel lucky” search.

Steve @Stv
I think I should charge a flat $200 fee for any tech-support that could be answered with a single Google “I feel lucky” search.
25 Aug 17:12

Why blogs are hurting in a nutshell

Another nutshell post!

  1. Twitter says posts must not have titles and can't be longer than 140 characters. Posts cannot contain HTML markup.

  2. Google Reader said posts must have titles, and are assumed to be essay length. Posts may have HTML markup.

  3. Facebook says posts may not have titles or markup but can be as long as you like.

  4. No discourse on Google Reader, grunts and snorts on Twitter, good engagement on Facebook.

  5. None of these are great for receiving all of what we were posting to our blogs before they came about. The APIs are inconsistent, but at least they have them.

  6. Along comes Medium, which could be great. They handle markup, titles, and lately no titles required. Any length. Great! But no API. Oh geez.

  7. Tumblr and WordPress do a pretty good job of holding onto the energy of blogs, all things considered.

  8. Just imagine if one of Twitter and Facebook had tried to really harmonize with blogs, how much smoother everything would be. We could have archives and post to our friends, who could read our gems in place without clicking on links, which they've proved over and over in so many ways they don't like to do. (How many times do you get comments on Twitter and Facebook that react to the title, ignoring the content probably because they didn't click.)

  9. There seems to be some hope Facebook might put an API on their upcoming Medium-like service, or perhaps this will inspire Medium to put an API on theirs. Or Twitter could ease up on the 140-char limit, allow markup. Any number of things could put blogging back in business.

  10. It would be nice to have a friend among the Silicon Valley tech elite.

25 Aug 18:08

On Scripting

Graham Lee writes of The death of scripting and The paradox of scripting.

But how can scripting be dead? There’s bash, and powershell, and ruby, and…even Perl is still popular among sysadmins. There’s never been a better time to be a programmer or other IT professional trying to automate a task.

True, but there’s never been a worse time for someone who doesn’t care about computers to use a computer to automate a task. Apps are in-your-face “experiences” to be “used”, and for the most part can’t be glued together.

There are counter-examples, of course — the apps I work on (Mac versions of OmniFocus and OmniOutliner) are highly scriptable. But the trend toward silos, sandboxing, and highly-controlled experiences is clear.

(First thing I did was look to see if Slack has a scripting dictionary. Of course not. Neither does HipChat. Apps these days.)

If you’re thinking about adding AppleScript support to your app, read these articles from objc.io last year:

Making Your Mac App’s Data Scriptable

Scripting from a Sandbox

In the first of these, I write:

When adding AppleScript support — which is also JavaScript support, as of OS X 10.10 — it’s best to start with your app’s data. Scripting isn’t a matter of automating button clicks; it’s about exposing the model layer to people who could use your app in their workflows.

While that’s usually a small minority of users, they’re power users — the kind of people who recommend apps to friends and family. They blog and tweet about apps, and people listen to them. They can be your app’s biggest evangelists.

Overall, the best reason to add scripting support is that it’s a matter of professionalism. But it doesn’t hurt that the effort is worth the reward.

25 Aug 21:08

Certifi-gate, Android’s newest vulnerability, could be affecting millions of devices

by Igor Bonifacic

With most carriers and device manufacturers are still working to address Stagefright, there could already be another major security vulnerability on Android’s horizon.

Dubbed Certifi-gate, the vulnerability is caused by software like TeamViewer, CommuniTake Remote Care and MobileSupport by Rsupport. These apps are used by a variety of carriers and OEMs, including Samsung, LG and HTC, to provide remote customer service to people that use their devices. They carry certificates that allow them to gain root access to the device’s operating system and hardware.

According to Check Point, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, these apps are insecure, and there’s already at least one app on the Play Store that is taking advantage of them with malicious intent.

The firm released an app that allows Android users to check if their particular device is susceptible to the vulnerability. When the firm presented its findings at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas this past week, it said that 100,000 people had downloaded the app. Of those people, 30,000 had agreed to anonymously provide information on their device to Check Point.

Using that data, which was published in a blog post, the firm says it was able to ascertain that 58 percent of Android devices are vulnerable to the bug. Moreover, 15.84 percent of those 30,000 users already have the plugin installed on their device. The most vulnerable devices are LG handsets, at 72 percent.

Unfortunately, even though it’s possible to locate the offending apps, uninstalling them does little to solve the problem; according to Check Point, the permissions for remote access are programmed into Android and require a software update to fix.

25 Aug 15:49

The Apple Watch at Work and Play

by Fraser Speirs

I've been wearing an Apple Watch Sport (black, 42mm) since I received it about two weeks after the first models shipped. I haven't written about it here because it's something that I think requires time to approach an understanding of how it fits into daily life and use.

In the time since I got the watch I've been at work, travelled away from home during the summer holidays and am now back to work again for the new term. I was reminded that I wanted to write this when I noticed how dirty my watch had become from my constantly interacting with it during the day.

One of the things about the life and work of a teacher is that, firstly, your day is highly scheduled. There are rarely more than a couple of hours in a working day where your use of time is not dictated to you. The second thing is that you live and die by your management of a hundred small things to do, tell people, collect, hand out, look for or send for.

Before I get into my thoughts about what the Watch is good for, I think we should acknowledge something: it is a complete nonsense that Apple ever shipped an operating system where in about 3 in 5 tries, an app simply will not launch. To me, this is the glaring flaw in Apple Watch: apps need to be instantly available at all times and respond quickly. Otherwise, what's the point? If it's not quicker than reaching for the phone, why bother?

I'm putting a lot of faith in watchOS 2.0 to fix this problem. I hope it's not misplaced.

The Apple Watch is many different things to many different people. For some, it's a fitness tracker or a media remote control. For me, the Apple Watch has been two very distinct devices depending on whether I'm at work or on holiday.

Apple Watch at Play

I found a few use cases for Apple Watch that were surprisingly useful when on holidays. Travel apps such as Citymapper, Passbook and British Airways were all excellent to have on the watch. Tripadvisor and Foursquare are both useful and functional apps that make sense to have on the watch.

I drive an electric car and there are apps that let you quickly find nearby car chargers. Very useful when away from home.

It seems to me that many of these handy apps are those that require zero input. They use your location and show you things close by. Other apps that I tried on my travels were not so useful and many of them were apps that wanted input on the watch. Currency converters, for example, were finicky to use when trying to tap in amounts on the watch itself. Many apps suffered from slow control response, so typing was nothing like as fast or accurate as on, say, an iPhone or iPad.

I find myself using different watch faces for work and leisure - even going so far as to switch watch faces when I'm done with work for the day. At home or travelling, I like Color or Utility. When I'm really, really, relaxing I might even be so chill as to use the Solar or Motion faces. That's when you know I'm really checking out.

As for leisure complications, I like to have the Weather, World Clock showing US Eastern time (my podcast partner Bradley's time zone) and the Timer. I use the timer constantly. Whether it's timing my kids doing something or making sure I don't forget to "put the dinner on in 30 minutes", the timer complication is on every face I use.

I've also found the voice recognition to be really poor. I slightly suspect that I may have minor water damage in my watch because the speaker doesn't sound as clear as it used to either. Perhaps that's also affected the microphone, which is affecting the quality of recognition. That said, when you're surrounded by children making constant noise, it's not a great environment for dictation of any kind.

Apple Watch at Work

While the Apple Watch is a nice-to-have in leisure times, I have found it to be indispensable at work. The range of things I use it for is narrower, but the extent to which I depend on it is far more significant.

There are three main things that I need from the Watch at work.

Firstly, my calendar. I have that front and centre on my Modular watch face. It does a great job of telling me which class is coming next and having the entire day just a single tap away on the face is a revelation.

Secondly, email notifications. At our school, a lot of "general awareness" emails go out during the day. A pupil will be late; a pupil has gone home; something has happened. These all show up by email. We're a small school, so it's generally the case that we want all teachers to know about this stuff. The fact that I can read that tiny snippet of information on my watch and then delete it from my inbox is my killer app for the watch.

The last thing that I depend on in school is other reminders. I use both Due and OmniFocus for this. OmniFocus is my medium- and long-range GTD tool of choice. Due is there for other frequent timed reminders. For example, I have a reminder daily at 8.30am that tells me to post all my iTunes U posts for the day and another at 4.10pm that reminds me to update my planner with the events of the day.

My Apple Watch is an awareness amulet. It's a small-scale organisational superpower and I would not want to teach a day without it again.

25 Aug 12:25

Digital Distributors vs Open Web: who will win?

by Dries

I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about how to win back the Open Web, but in the case of digital distributors (e.g. closed aggregators like Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Flipboard) superior, push-based user experiences have won the hearts and minds of end users, and enabled them to attract and retain audience in ways that individual publishers on the Open Web currently can't.

In today's world, there is a clear role for both digital distributors and Open Web publishers. Each needs the other to thrive. The Open Web provides distributors content to aggregate, curate and deliver to its users, and distributors provide the Open Web reach in return. The user benefits from this symbiosis, because it's easier to discover relevant content.

As I see it, there are two important observations. First, digital distributors have out-innovated the Open Web in terms of conveniently delivering relevant content; the usability gap between these closed distributors and the Open Web is wide, and won't be overcome without a new disruptive technology. Second, the digital distributors haven't provided the pure profit motives for individual publishers to divest their websites and fully embrace distributors.

However, it begs some interesting questions for the future of the web. What does the rise of digital distributors mean for the Open Web? If distributors become successful in enabling publishers to monetize their content, is there a point at which distributors create enough value for publishers to stop having their own websites? If distributors are capturing market share because of a superior user experience, is there a future technology that could disrupt them? And the ultimate question: who will win, digital distributors or the Open Web?

I see three distinct scenarios that could play out over the next few years, which I'll explore in this post.

Digital Distributors vs Open Web: who will win?

This image summarizes different scenarios for the future of the web. Each scenario has a label in the top-left corner which I'll refer to in this blog post. A larger version of this image can be found at http://buytaert.net/sites/buytaert.net/files/images/blog/digital-distrib....

Scenario 1: Digital distributors provide commercial value to publishers (A1 → A3/B3)

Digital distributors provide publishers reach, but without tangible commercial benefits, they risk being perceived as diluting or even destroying value for publishers rather than adding it. Right now, digital distributors are in early, experimental phases of enabling publishers to monetize their content. Facebook's Instant Articles currently lets publishers retain 100 percent of revenue from the ad inventory they sell. Flipboard, in efforts to stave off rivals like Apple News, has experimented with everything from publisher paywalls to native advertising as revenue models. Expect much more experimentation with different monetization models and dealmaking between the publishers and digital distributors.

If digital distributors like Facebook succeed in delivering substantial commercial value to the publisher they may fully embrace the distributor model and even divest their own websites' front-end, especially if the publishers could make the vast majority of their revenue from Facebook rather than from their own websites. I'd be interested to see someone model out a business case for that tipping point. I can imagine a future upstart media company either divesting its website completely or starting from scratch to serve content directly to distributors (and being profitable in the process). This would be unfortunate news for the Open Web and would mean that content management systems need to focus primarily on multi-channel publishing, and less on their own presentation layer.

As we have seen from other industries, decoupling production from consumption in the supply-chain can redefine industries. We also know that introduces major risks as it puts a lot of power and control in the hands of a few.

Scenario 2: The Open Web's disruptive innovation happens (A1 → C1/C2)

For the Open Web to win, the next disruptive innovation must focus on narrowing the usability gap with distributors. I've written about a concept called a Personal Information Broker (PIM) in a past post, which could serve as a way to responsibly use customer data to engineer similar personal, contextually relevant experiences on the Open Web. Think of this as unbundling Facebook where you separate the personal information management system from their content aggregation and curation platform, and make that available for everyone on the web to use. First, it would help us to close the user experience gap because you could broker your personal information with every website you visit, and every website could instantly provide you a contextual experience regardless of prior knowledge about you. Second, it would enable the creation of more distributors. I like the idea of a PIM making the era of handful of closed distributors as short as possible. In fact, it's hard to imagine the future of the web without some sort of PIM. In a future post, I'll explore in more detail why the web needs a PIM, and what it may look like.

Scenario 3: Coexistence (A1 → A2/B1/B2)

Finally, in a third combined scenario, neither publishers nor distributors dominate, and both continue to coexist. The Open Web serves as both a content hub for distributors, and successfully uses contextualization to improve the user experience on individual websites.

Conclusion

Right now, since distributors are out-innovating on relevance and discovery, publishers are somewhat at their mercy for traffic. However, a significant enough profit motive to divest websites completely remains to be seen. I can imagine that we'll continue in a coexistence phase for some time, since it's unreasonable to expect either the Open Web or digital distributors to fail. If we work on the next disruptive technology for the Open Web, it's possible that we can shift the pendulum in favor of “open” and narrow the usability gap that exists today. If I were to guess, I'd say that we'll see a move from A1 to B2 in the next 5 years, followed by a move from B2 to C2 over the next 5 to 10 years. Time will tell!

25 Aug 13:37

a nation conveniently small

by Chris

In the variety of surface, Britain is a miniature of Europe, having plain, forest, marsh, river, sea-shore; mines in Cornwall; caves in Matlock and Derbyshire; delicious landscape in Dovedale, delicious sea-view at Tor Bay, Highlands in Scotland, Snowdon in Wales; and, in Westmoreland and Cumberland, a pocket Switzerland, in which the lakes and mountains are on a sufficient scale to fill the eye and touch the imagination. It is a nation conveniently small.

English traits, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1856.

25 Aug 22:02

software you can’t make fun of

by d

factsandfictionsWe dream of Minority Report; what we have is The Drudge Report. Many of us would happily embrace the moral hazards of pre-crime enforcement—if we could only have some of the supercool holographic, seamless information technology manipulation we see in the movie.

Art is a powerful lens through which we can examine culture and society. Artistic expression is also a conduit through which we relate to each other and try to make sense of what’s happening around us. When it comes to technology, popular artistic expressions of it are interesting for two main reasons.

First, art reflects reality as widely perceived for a particular age. It acts as a mirror, and while it doesn’t represent objective reality, it can be a valid measure of how how we really see ourselves. When we see Homer Simpson struggle to use a computer, we can laugh at it because he is an oaf, but we can also relate to what he is going through, because we experience it everyday.

Second, art can also express our collective fears, desires and aspirations. For example, The Terminator falls squarely in the “fear” category (and what better way to represent fear of technology that than through a monomaniacal unstoppable killing machine with a heavy Austrian accent?) while Iron Man, at least in part, is more aspirational, a non-cynical view of Vorsprung durch Technik.

So what do popular representations of information technology in art tell us, not about what the tech industry thinks it is, but how people perceive it, how we relate to it, whether it’s doing what we want or not?

Asking this question leads to some uncomfortable answers. It is striking how art, and in particular popular art —TV, movies, bestselling books— is in almost universal agreement: in their current form software, hardware, the Internet and information technologies are (apparently) good for humor, but not much else.

The flip-side is that when information technologies have to be used for a “serious” purpose (say, by detectives trying to solve a crime, doctors trying to save a life, spies chasing terrorists), without cynicism but matter-of-factly as part of the world, they rarely if ever look like what actually exists. Not only that, they are qualitatively different than what is available today.

It’s not just in the context of science fiction: whether in contemporaneous or futuristic settings, when information technologies are involved, nothing looks or, more importantly, behaves like what’s available in our everyday reality.

Here’s a short clip with some of my favorite examples:

Think about it beyond the examples in the video. On TV, on books, on movies, and not just for comedy. If you see a “realistic” depiction of the technologies we have, it is almost invariably in the context of humor or, at best, a cynical point of view. This is not a case of confirmation bias. Examples of use of information technology in realistic settings are few and far between, and most of those are for highly specialized areas, like computer experts.

Even in those cases, it’s still notable when it happens. The new USA Show Mr. Robot (btw, watch this show, it’s awesome!) has actually gotten attention specifically because it stays true to reality.

Consider what you are exposed to everyday while using your computer or the Internet. The challenges involved in actually getting your work done (e.g., struggling to find the right information, reading through nearly incomprehensible email threads) or just everyday communication or entertainment (being bombarded with advertising, posting what you had for dinner, commenting on traffic). Now try to recall examples of media depictions of those activities in which they are just a matter of everyday life and not used as a comic foil, for humor, or acerbic/cynical commentary.

There aren’t many. We are spending significant portions of our lives in front of screens, and yet a straightforward, realistic depiction of this reality seems to automatically become a joke. Even non-fictional accounts of events tend to avoid the subject altogether.

The appearance of other technologies also involved humor, fear, cynicism, but there was also a good share of positive depictions and, more importantly, reflections of reality as reality without turning it into a punchline. Phones, for example, could be used for jokes (perhaps, most effectively, by Seinfeld) but also as an “everyday” communication mechanism. Cars, rockets, biotechnology, advanced medicine, modern industry, media itself, all have been depicted for good, for bad, but also as a staple of life.

It’s valid to consider that, perhaps, there’s something intrinsic in information technology that resists use in artistic representations, but that’s not the case.

In fact, art and popular media are awash in representations of information technologies used for purposes other than humor.

It’s just that those representations are completely removed from reality—drastically divergent from what we actually use today.

Many of these clips are for stories set in the future, but one would be hard pressed to trace a path between, say, the Mac Finder or Internet Explorer and the systems depicted. After all the main element that separates “futuristic” interfaces from those placed in alternate versions of the present like in James Bond movies is the common appearance of 3D holographic interactive displays. Even more: movies like the Iron Man series or TV Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all manage to skip the part where it’s all in the future and place those interfaces and interaction mechanisms into the fictional “present” they depict.

Computers that don’t get in the way seems to be more  part of the ‘Fiction’ than the ‘Science’ in Science Fiction.

Apparently, to have your computer help you, without interrupting, and without getting in the way, seems like a fantastical notion. To enjoy entertainment without glitches or being flooded with inane commentary seems preposterous.

Literary representations of technology, even in dystopian contexts, also tend to prefer non-linear extrapolation. William Gibson’s description of Cyberspace is a good example:

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding…”

— William Gibson, Neuromancer

What is significant is that even though these representations of information technology are unrealistic, we still connect with them. They don’t strike us as nonsensical. They just seem far-fetched, particularly as we return to the reality of pages that never load, files that can’t be found, viruses, spam attacks, and a flood of data we can’t digest into anything sensible.

If these depictions represent something worth aspiring to, we need to start moving along that path instead of burrowing deeper into the hole we find ourselves in: we need software you can’t make fun of.

At least, not as easily as it is today. :-)


Internet: Reality
Internet: Fictions
24 Aug 21:50

Lumen Price Drop

by kai

Lumen, the world's only commercially available retro-reflective bike just got better.


All Lumen bikes and framesets have been reduced in price by as much as $150. Permanently.

When it came time to have a new batch of frames packaged, shipped to L.A., coated, and returned, we made some phone calls, wrote some emails, and cut some deals for better pricing. But you don't need to bother with any of that. Here's the part for you:

    • If you want to build your own, we've got framesets $75-$100 off.
    • If you want to design your own complete, custom builds are now $100 cheaper in our bike builder.
    • If you want to just ride, our pre-designed Lumen One and Lumen Eight models offer the quickest turnaround.

By day, Lumen is a deep charcoal gray, with a slight iridescent sheen. At night, with direct light, Lumen shines with dramatic effect. There's no on/off switch and no batteries required, just integrated reflection.

For a more detailed explanation of how it works, and how it came to be, click here.

24 Aug 16:47

I Love APIs 2015: The Future of Digital Business

by olaf
No matter where you are on your digital journey, you have to be in San Jose on Oct. 12-14

Every digital business will be an API-run business. So the future of your digital business lies in San Jose, Calif., on Oct. 12-14, at I Love APIs 2015.

After all, it’s the biggest API networking and training event of the year. I Love APIs 2015 presents the year's number-one opportunity to gather hands-on experience, real-world API knowhow, and digital business perspectives.

Already registered? Need some help figuring out how to negotiate the 80-plus sessions packed into I Love APIs 2015?

Check out this tool to help you zero in on the content that’s most relevant to your interests. A few clicks, and you’ll have a handful of tailored session recommendations to help you chart your course through the powerful content at the heart of I Love APIs 2015.

25 Aug 04:05

PSA: Inserting S Pen the wrong way into the Galaxy Note 5 will break Pen detection features

by Rajesh Pandey
The Galaxy Note 5, which went on sale across major markets of the world late last week, comes with an improved S Pen with a spring-loaded design that automatically ejects the Pen when pressed once. Continue reading →