Tag Archives: Robert Scoble

A New Gadget Holy War

It is mere days since the Apple iPhone hit the streets in the States, and the simmering holy war has well and truly burst into life, particularly with avid Nokia N95 fans evangelising their platform.

Perhaps one of the most interesting places to observe the current skirmishes is over on Scobleizer, the reason being that Robert Scoble has been using and enjoying an N95, but having queued with his son to get an iPhone, and then compared the two phones, is coming down in favour of the Apple.

Check out the reaction to this post where he begins:

Let’s just stop here. The iPhone is superior in almost every way to the Nokia N95. The battery life is better. The contact management is better. The Web browser is better. The photo taking experience is better. The screen is better. The wireless management is better.

After that, he does then take a pot-shot back at the Nokia fans.

However, what is happening is what has happened with the iPod before, the fans of other smartphones are quoting feature lists – highlighting that there are a number of key missing features with the iPhone – things like a GPS, 3G support and so on. The thing is though, that as with the iPod the purchasers (of which there have been over 0.5 million in the first weekend alone) are going for looks and basic usability over the feature list.

The iPhone scores highly by being cool, and by doing a few things and doing them well. True the Nokia N95 has a better camera, but the software that drives the camera, which is the same as on my Nokia N73 is lousy – certainly there is no chance of taking a decent picture quickly as you have to fiddle with all the settings every time you open the camera as they always reset to default. Based on comments around the internet, as expected the iPhone is scoring points in usability, an area where the current crop of smartphones often fall down. However much the fans of the other phones quote feature lists, whatever toys a phone has, basic usability is where it matters – I know numerous people who have never worked out how to use even the basic features of their phone – even changing a ringtone.

As to whether I’ll get one, without 3G or the ability to take a decent picture, I’m not keen. Get that sorted out and maybe I’ll take a look – of course it could all go out the window when I eventually get to play with one. Whatever happens though, I’m hopeful that having Apple at the party will give the competition a good kick in improving the usability on their models too.

MyStrands in the iPhone and in the N95 originally uploaded by MyStrands.

Popularity Contest

Pretty well as soon as he moved over to the site, Robert Scoble’s blog Scobleizer has been at the top of the blog list of those hosted on WordPress.com. However last week, came the shock news, he is no longer top! The current top site pulls in 500,000 visitors a day, and about a third of all files served by the WordPress.com servers are from the site. So what’s the content? An entire blog filled with cat pictures… (which Beth certainly is enjoying…)

Hiding Behind Anonymity

If you read much of the IT related blogs, you may well have come across the storm over Kathy Sierra and her abrupt withdrawal from an O’Reilly Conference. Certainly it has registered on the radar of the major news organisation such as the BBC.

I have to say that Kathy’s blog is not one I read regularly, however it does indirectly affect me in that Robert Scoble is suspending Scobelizer for a week as sites that mentioned Kathy have also mentioned him and Maryam, and not surprisingly both of them are freaked out by it. If you take a look at what Kathy has faced, you can understand why. There is also a good summary of what has gone on here.

The bottom line is that the blogsphere runs pretty much as an anarchy – essentially it is a society that exists without any sort of central control, that coupled with the fact that people posting and commenting can have a good deal of anonymity, means that people say things that they would never say to somebody’s face. Certainly we’ve had a few offensive comments on here, and they are usually swiftly removed, but nothing of this sort of level. Having said that, it is worth remembering that even someone apparently anonymous is not really so – WordPress logs the IP address of anyone posting a comment. For example when a couple of young gentlemen at Beth’s school decided to post an offensive comment, believing themselves totally anonymous, we were within a couple of hours able to trace the comment right back to the terminal and user account in the school that they used to post. With what has happened to Kathy Sierra there are IP addresses logged, and it is probably possible to trace back at least some of the posts in much the same way. Since it is apparent that she has involved the Police, hopefully they will be able to investigate and find at least some of the perpetrators, and I would hope that the hosts of the various sites involved will be quick to come forward with the relevant logs.

However alongside this, the event has been a catalyst for a discussion on how women are treated in the IT industry. It is sad that for some the level of argument when you don’t agree with someone’s position posted on a blog is just to post a personal attack, it is much more than that when just because the person being attacked is a woman, people can degenerate to a whole new level. Whilst I am certain this current discussion is not going to stop all the personal attacks, I’m hopeful that at least the discussion will bring some more visibility of the problems, and the way people in the IT industry, and the blogsphere as a whole treat women. Hopefully it will also lead some of the supposed A-List bloggers involved in the sites at the centre of the story to reconsider the wisdom of their actions – some it seems have, others perhaps need to learn when it is best to just shut up and apologise – there are times when however you feel, trying to justify your position or argue your point further really does you no good at all.

Does Anybody Actually Pair Program?

I’ve just been watching the latest ScobleShow videos, which include a tour, demo and interview at Smilebox, a Seattle based startup producing a flash based platform for sharing photos, videos and music with friends and family. The service seemed quite interesting, although since the design aspect won’t work on either of my main machines here as one is a Mac (the service is PC only), and the other is running Vista-64 (the design software only works on Windows XP), it’s not really of much use to me.

However, what is interesting from a professional point of view is the point early in the video where we meet the programming team, who are developing using the Agile methodology, and more specifically, they are pair programming.

The basic idea behind pair programming follows the old adage that two heads are better than one. Essentially one half of the pair is the ‘driver’ who is the person actually using the keyboard, and the other is the ‘navigator’ who is thinking about the class that is to be written. The CEO of Smilebox makes a comment when he is introducing the team that he is sure that Robert Scoble has seen loads of people working like this during his visits, however Scoble doesn’t actually give an answer. Personally, I’ve not come across anybody working in a company that is actively pair programming, and I’d expect others will be the same. Even in organisations I’ve been involved with that have started to look at Agile Programming, pair programming is one of the most difficult ideas to sell to upper management, partly because to them programmers should be bashing away at their keyboards as much as possible, and in their eyes it will see a 50% drop in the amount of work produced. However actually seeing a team that is using the process, and hearing how quickly they can turn around new features, it certainly seems to be a good advertisement for the technique. Check the video out and see what you think:

Knights that say Ning

Ok, I know it’s a tenuous link – but I’m not the only one who instantly thought of Monty Python when I heard about Ning!

I have to say, that I hadn’t come across Ning until Scoble interviewed Marc Andreessen (of Netscape fame) and Gina Bianchini recently, and also filmed Gina giving a demo of the site.

Now I have to say, some of the time with these new web offerings I tend to have the “it’s cool but…” attitude – I can see that it is a nice idea, or a good concept, but often there isn’t enough to get me to switch from the way I am currently doing things, or whatever the site is doing doesn’t really appeal. However watching the video about version 2.0 of Ning was definitely one of those light bulb moments!

I’ve discussed before the concerns about the rise of Social Networking sites such as MySpace and Bebo, particularly with regards to the Child Protection issues. For example with the Church website we have strict rules over getting permission to use pictures of anyone under 18, and even then we can’t directly identify them, but then for many of the young people, all it takes is a few minutes on MySpace and Bebo and you can get really quite detailed information about them that they have quite happily posted for the whole internet to see. However, trying to control access to the sites, whether this be through an age limit (which doesn’t even need a fake ID to get around), or through site blocking, as both schools and parents have tried to do, really doesn’t address the issue – young people want to socialise, and doing so online is just a natural extension of what they do face to face. Unfortunately many of them will regard the age limits, or site blocks as an unnecessary restriction, without really realising the serious consequences and dangers implicit on what they post to the sites.

That leaves you with trying to find a way to facilitate this socialising online, so I know of people who have tried closed blog sites, discussion forums and so on, however all of that requires some degree of technical know how, so many have just signed up to MySpace and Bebo to keep an eye on their young people. However, Ning seems to address this issue straight on. Marc Andreessen mentions Churches several times in the video, however in terms of our congregation, where for many the level of technical literacy is relatively low, I’d suggest it would probably end up being an exclusive tool rather than an inclusive tool. However in addressing the issues with MySpace, Bebo and Child Protection it does seem an excellent solution. It makes it really easy to set up a Social Networking site for a Youth Group, whilst giving you the tools to control both access, and what is posted. In this way you can allow your group to share pictures and videos – the kind of things that would never get past the Child Protection policy for a fully public site, and to control access to the members of the group. It’s all fully customisable, but for the basic sites it is drag-and-drop simplicity, so you don’t need to be technical to get a basic site up and running. It will also allow members of the group to personalise their own pages too.

The main issues would be though, that it probably doesn’t have the street-cred of MySpace and Bebo, and also that by limiting access it wouldn’t be as straightforward to include the wider networks that some of the young people have on the major sites, however as an online place to extend the social aspects of a Youth Group it does seem ideal. Certainly, it does seem well worth checking out.

This first video is the interview, which is quite long and in places technical, but also includes some good comments about the rise of Social Networking, and the Internet as a whole – there is also an interesting discussion about which sites attract which age groups:

The second video is a lot shorter, and is basically an introduction to the features of Ning:

Alongside this, both TechCrunch and GigaOM have loads more detail in their reviews of the new version of the site.