Dispatches from Andyland "Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever!" — The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

May 26, 2009

GlobeReader

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Andrew @ 10:24 pm

I have this big mondo blog post about the state of the media. I keep adding to it and never getting to a point where it can be finished off. I figure that I need to break it into pieces before it becomes a  Gordian Knot that I can’t untangle. Here is one easily extracted piece:

Who in the world is the GlobeReader product designed for? It promises the reader “an experience similar to your newspaper’s look and feel.” Is there really a market people who would prefer to read their news on a computer rather than paper and ink but find the web too cumbersome?  

The only other possibility that I could initially think of is the other side of news media marketing. They really have two sides to their marketing: marketing to their readers and to their advertisers. Since newspaper advertising produces far greater revenue than web advertising, it could be a product that appeals to advertisers. From what I could see of the demo, no.  At the most they show a single standard banner add at the bottom of the page. (The demo for  TimesReader, that this seems to be based on  shows no advertising at all.)

For the features that GlobeReader seems to have that Boston.com seems to lack :

  • Resizable text. (can be done to some extent with a web browser’s text resizing, but there is too much absolute positioning within the boston.com site design and you wind up with small boxes of large text.)
  • Offline access. (can be done with some RSS readers or predictive caching.)
  • Mac OS-X Aqua style transitions. 
  • An alternative, utilitiarian  site design.

Is there anything else that I’m missing?

May 23, 2009

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in. It stops my mind from wandering (where it will go..)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 10:00 am

My wife just said to me: “You have all of these ideas. If only the could be used for good rather than evil. Actually, I never see them used for evil either, but if they could wind up being used for good…”

It all started last night when my mother-in-law called saying she misplaced her mobile phone and her keys, again. (I know there are limits to how much I can I can laugh at this.) I was thinking “well a thin RFID tag could probably be taped to the back of her phone.What’s the range of a RFID reader.” Apparently not far enough. I see 10mm and 20mm versions for an unpowered RFID tag, and I’m afraid that a powered tag will run out of battery just when we really need it. So I started asking Michelle if she new what RFIDs were and described them. (they are different than security tags, explained how they can be used in the supply chain, a bit about privacy concernts, etc. Not quite what she was expecting for breakfast conversation, if she has any expectations of what I might come up with anymore.)  But the distance thing was a problem to still solve. Then it came to me, The iRobot Create! Its basically a Roomba without the vacuum cleaner parts. It can wander around the house with the RFID reader and stop when it is close to the lost item. Michelle then points out that the keys may have been outside while gardening, and my response to that was that I’d just need a different sort of device to wander outside.

OK, so now my plan is to have , if not quite an army at least a tactical team of special purpose robots scouring the property for a set of missing keys and a mobile phone. At this point, I’m willing to concede my wife’s original point.  Especially since its been done before and failed like in WoZ , and several products currently on the market.

The phone was found. It was underneath the drivers seat of the car. (when those luxury car ads boast on how quiet they are, they are usually describing how little of the engine and traffic noise gets from outside the car in, not how you can’t hear a phone ringing inside the car when you are outside.) And probably enough metal betwen it to thwart a low power RF reader. Hm, the phone probably has bluetooth built in, that can give it a bit more range. I’ve seen apps for Bluetooth proximity detection before, but usually the other way (set the computer screensaver on when the phone (and the person holding the phone) goes away from the computer.) For that matter, as long as the phone’s battery is still good (which is what has thwarted me in the past) the phone itself is a long range communication device and aGPS, we could just leveage geolocation stuff that people are already working on… (and here we go again.)

May 20, 2009

Boston.com Haiku

Filed under: Uncategorized — Andrew @ 8:42 pm

A friend of mine sent me a link to the Wayback Machine’s scrape of the old Boston.com Haiku site, pointing out that I reached the Haiku Hall of Fame. That was a fun little site. The way it was set up is that one person would create a five(ish) syllable phrase as a “seed” and others could finish it with another seven(ish)-five(ish) phrase to create a complete Haiku. From any haiku you could the other haiku based on the same seed or other haiku from that particular author. People wishing to read could still vote on the haiku and there were pages for most popular haiku and most popular author.

It was fun in the way that there were many entry points into the all the haiku, (latest haiku, latest seed, by author, etc.) and each item was linked in many ways (others with this seed, others by this author) etc. so that you could end up wandering around the site for a while being amused by everything you saw. Compare this to all the content that I read from my RSS aggregator now and just slog through the list until I’m at the end and then leave the web for something else.

Unfortunately, the site took too much time to maintain and became unwieldy. Some work was put into alleviating it (the most popular list had become filled with such highly voted items that new items could never reach, so it was split into a “most popular this week” and “hall of fame” for the most popular of all the previous weeks. The developer of the site probably should have thought ahead of time to add pagination to everything.) I’d bet that the first time that some used “I didn’t have time to …” with something their editor cared about, if any time was spent on the Haiku site instead the whole thing got the ax.

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