January 22, 2011

Back-seat Surfer

With the recent addition of a GoogleTV to my system, I've been thinking a lot about what problem this actually solves. Why would people want to integrate the web with their television viewing?

When watching tv, Jo and I always have at least one internet-connected device close at hand. Whether it's an iPhone, iPad, netbook, or MacBook, the interwebs are always within reach. That's a good thing, because we are always looking things up as we watch: "What else has she been in?" "How much does that cost on Amazon?" "What was the name of that show/song/movie/group?" "Weren't they just in rehab?" You get the idea.

So wouldn't a device that could seach at the press of a button, right on your television, be perfect? The main issue, which I believe none of the designers of these devices has thought about, and certainly haven't addressed, is that while everybody wants to surf on the tv, nobody wants to watch someone *else* surf on the tv. Think about how much you like a back-seat driver. With one person driving the remote, that's exactly what you get. It's painful to watch, and painful to listen to. It's painful for everyone in the room, and it ruins the experience.

What I really want is the ability (like on the new hit drama Hawaii 5-0) to look up the information on one device and then when I've found it, send it to a common screen. Whether it's a cool flick of the wrist or a simple "send to" button, the result is what you want to share -- not the process.

Solve this and you've got yourself a winner, in my eyes. Then again, maybe my googleTV already has this feature. Too bad there's no manual, so I won't ever know.

Posted by pinkerton at 1:15 PM | TrackBack

January 8, 2011

Sliding backwards

There has been a lot of chatter in the past few days as apps from iOS have made their way onto Mac os x with the debut of the app store. A lot has been said about the iOS-ification of the Mac and how it's leading to the downfall of civilization as we know it. Honestly, I don't have a problem with it. Well-designed apps are well-designed apps, and those that aren't, well, aren't. If it's well-designed I'll use it.

One thing that has struck me is something very subtle, something that has nothing at all to do with the appearance or the animations: scrolling. All my macs have trackpads, magic or otherwise, so I don't often use a mouse or a scroll wheel. Everything is accomplished with a flick or a swipe or two or three fingers sliding across a smooth surface.

On the Mac, sliding down with two fingers scrolls down. We are all used to this (even my mother, I think). However, on iOS, sliding down with a finger scrolls *up* -- the opposite direction. We are all used to this as well. It's natural on an iOS device, because it's direct-manipulation. To do anything else would feel wrong.

So why am I bothering to bring this up at all? As more Mac apps (Reeder, Twitter, etc) begin to look stunningly like their iOS counterparts (iOS scrollbars and all), something feels wrong as you use them for a while. That something is scrolling. If it looks like iOS, my brain expects direct manipulation scrolling (since my finger is simply gliding over glass, it can't really tell the difference). However, on the Mac, that's not at all what you get. The result is this weird feeling that the world is backwards, as if the laws of physics are somehow jumbled.

I don't know what can be done about this really, I just wanted to point it out.

Posted by pinkerton at 1:22 PM | TrackBack

January 1, 2011

Daytum

I've started playing with Daytum because I saw they recently added a new iPhone interface. Yes, I am a sucker for these things. This should be no surprise by now.

Basically, Daytum is a way to log, organize, and share your everyday data, such as the number of sodas that you drink, what you eat for lunch, how many miles you run, how many books you read, or the number of times you blog. There's no limitation to what you use it for, it's totally open-ended.

Well, except you have to come up with stuff to organize. The site doesn't really do a very good job of providing examples. They do, however, show you what everyone else is organizing, and that's another interesting angle of the service. If you use it for free, you have no privacy controls. Everything is public, and may be shared on their homepage to everyone passing by. For $4/mo, you can subscribe and get privacy controls, as well as other features, but I'm not sure how many people are actually doing that.

Alas, there is no iPad-optimized interface, though their mobile site works in a pinch. I'm also a little disappointed there is no Chrome extension. Seems like something they would want to add. I think I would use it more if I could access it from anywhere in my browser.

I'm curious to see if this can help me at all, as again I'm not really sure what I'd want to track, or more importantly, what I'd want to track that I wouldn't mind the entire interwebs seeing. Most of the things I would normally track (such as my workouts, or my study habits for Japanese) are already tracked in other, more specialized, apps. I guess the only way to know for sure is to try it out.

Posted by pinkerton at 2:49 PM | TrackBack