Saturday, 29 August 2009

Augmented Reality and E-Book Readers.

The thing that I lust after the most is shiny new gadgets. I love them but I can never afford them, and two things that I want but can't afford are an e-book reader, and a better phone.
The big new thing in mobile phones seems to be augmented reality. This is where by holding your GPS equipped device and aiming the camera at something, the device will overlay useful information. If you cant picture that picture the scene from Terminator where it cuts to his vision and says "Target: Sarah Connor" but then imagine when the terminator is on holiday and wants restaurant reviews "Target, dodgy Greek restaurant, Average rating: 1 star". Or you could get lost and point your camera phone at the street and be told where the nearest tube station is. The really great application that I heard discussed in Cnet UK was restaurant related again, How about ending up with some text in a foreign language in your hands, such as a menu, and holding your phone up to translate it. This really is the future and you can get it on your phone is you've got an iPhone or an Android based phone, but don't expect too much, it's no terminator vision yet, just some very clever tech. Get some more info over at Wired.
Another piece of clever tech but this time being done completely wrong is e-book readers. David Byrne talks about his experiences using the Kindle DX, explaining that it's a beautiful device (not that us Europeans would know, it being US based and everything) ruined by DRM. Now as far as I can tell, the only reason that book publishers think they can get away with crippling their users experience with DRM is that, unlike with music, you cant rip a book to your computer like you can a CD. You can scan it, but then it will be a crappy photocopied book. But as Byrne points out, the big rub is going to come when you buy a new e-book reader (such as the new Apple tablet perhaps) and you have to bu all your books again! Either that or you are locked in to Amazon's kindle range because they're the only ones that support this particular DRM.
The Sony readers are looking more enticing, as they support the more accepted if still DRMed e-pub format, and Google has announced that you can get all of its public domain books for free, as well as the option for institutions, libraries, and schools to pay a subscription to get unlimited access to all of Google's books.
I assume what will really get people buying e-books is the same thing which made people decide that an iPod was good value for money- Piracy. Would you pay £100 for the opportunity not just to save some book shelf space, and save your back from lugging text books around, but also to never have to pay for a book again? I would bank on yes, and if this apple tablet becomes a success, then the stores that sell the books are no longer as closely linked to the devices, and they might just become a hit. Who knows, those people might just start paying for books again one day.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

How Much Longer Does Twitter Have?

There is little argument that Twitter is expanding ever rapidly. It has come to the point now in fact where, according to a YouTube video, Ashton Kutcher and Ellen DeGeneres have more Twitter followers than the entire population of Ireland, Norway and Panama. I am a moderate twitterer/ tweeter/ twit/twat or whatever the word is but I have never seen the point in following celebrities. Do people really want that kind of intimacy from some second rate actor or a chat show host? That said, just because they follow them doesn't mean that they ever come back, a massive proportion of Twitter's members tweet once then leave, perhaps they follow one of these people just before they leave? Or maybe people really do have more free time than I give them credit for.
But recently twitter doesn't seem to be holding up very well. Never have I seen a service with so many ways of fining out if it is down or not, and this can't just be down to the fact they they seem to be a target of DDoS attacks, they just don't have the facilities to cope with the volume of traffic they receive at the moment. Then today I read about their security problems, where, for those of you who don't like to click links, simply receiving a tweet would allow someone to take over your account, TechCrunch's advice is to stay away for the next couple of days. The other big problem is the same problem that killed MySpace, that of spam. I'm sure that any people out there who use Twitter have noticed the ever increasing numbers of spammers, and it is really annoying.
The problem, as do so many, comes down to money. I'm sure they'd love to upgrade their servers, employ enough programmers that a problem like this can be patched in a couple of hours, and employ people to hunt out and delete spam accounts but they are slow to fix things and making no money and these things are not unrelated.
The thing is, people seem increasingly fed up with Facebook in a similar was to how people were fed up with MySpace, I hear more and more people talking about how fed up they are with facebook, and the logical next place to go is Twitter. But are they ready? Not yet.
Unless Twitter finds a business model soon, I think it will collapse as people move over to a different social network, or perhaps just back to Facebook.
An option that I liked that was being discussed on a CNet podcast, I forget whether it was Buzz out Loud or CNet UK, but the idea of opening up the protocol, in the same way the blogging is implemented. This way the load could be shared amongst all of the different providers. They pointed out that Twitter would not do this until they have worked out how they are going to monetize Twitter.
An option that I don't understand for monetizing twitter is the only option they seem to be discussing, that of keeping it free (right move) but charging for analysis tools and other professional tools. I know that people like dell make money (reportedly $3 million) by posting up special offers on twitter, direct to their biggest fans, but would Dell pay extra for extra tools? how would these tools help them sell more computers?
I'm not gonna pretend that I am any kind of expert on this, I just read a lot, and I know that social networks get replaced when the public gets fed up with them. And I like Twitter, I just hate the service.

Bye Bye Big Brother.

Today, Channel 4 confirmed that Big brother will not be returning for another year. Now I'm pretty sure someone related to it had already said this. Now I am not a BB fan, or hater really but this made me really happy when I first heard it, disproportionately so in fact. A lot of people on the comment boards on the guardian article have been saying one of two things, either that Big Brother is responsible for the terrible TV we seem to have at the moment and that now finally T can get good again, or that Big Brother is responsible for the terrible TV we seem to have at the moment, but the fact that it has been on for ten years means that the damage has already been done.
Now obviously the guardian readership is not BB's target audience, but it has always surprised me how much negative feeling this show stirs up in people. When it first debuted onto our screens, I seem to remember it being heralded as ground breaking television, A psychological experiment that would be explained weekly by a top psychologist, explaining what being trapped in a house was doing to these people, and why it was happening. Eventually down the road the producers decided that it would be much more exciting if they filled the house with idiots that could be more easily manipulated, this I believe was probably their down fall, because people don't like to be irritated.
Along the way though, there were some truly great TV moments, we had Nasty Nick, the bizarre roller-coaster that was Jade Goody's celebrity life, we had a transgendered woman finally feeling like she had been accepted by the public, and the kind of romantic drama that you would expect from putting a bunch of young adults in a confined space.
Of course when a show receives massive viewing figures, it will be emulated and it did play a massive part in the reality TV that litters our screens today, some of which is terrible, some of which is fantastic (I'm looking at you dog the bounty hunter). At it's very core though, Big brother was just the next logical step from game shows (which is essentially what it is) and chat shows. People like to watch people, and you rarely get to see so much of anyone's life than you did in BB. People who look down their noses at people who enjoy this kind of television are snobs, and in this world of the internet, where viewing figures are plummeting, you will not be catered for, because there are not enough of you turning on the telly.
It was fascinating, entertaining, real, depressing, and a great dirty pleasure. It was the show that you had to watch to not be left out of your friend's conversations at school. It was pretty ground breaking TV that has been dragged through the mud for short term viewing figures and it should have stopped long ago.
But all the same, goodbye BB, thanks and good riddance.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A pretty eventful few days for pirates.

Sometimes it seems like how ever many times people say it, the people at the top just don't understand that you can't put the genie back in the bottle.
Yesterday after a long struggle the pirate bay seems to have been taken down although for how long is a different matter [edit: it's back up]. I'm sure there was a ten minute dip in piracy as people found new torrent search engines. I noticed a lot of people desperate for Demonoid invites on Digg yesterday. And this is what happens every time of course, a fairly recent example of which was oink. I'm sure that closing oink down has had relatively no impact at all on it's users habits, as will TPB.
On a closely related note, I read in music week today that the idea of banning people from the internet is being considered for cases of piracy (presumably focused on music piracy as all of this has come back into focus after Mandelson's talks with the head of Geffen the other day.) Now correct me if I'm wrong but did the European court of human rights not decide the last time this was being discussed that internet access in this modern age is a human right? The other ridiculous side of this idea that seems to be being batted around is fines as large as £50,000. Never mind the morallity of all of this, which countless people have talked about, have the majors seriously not learned from the PR disasters of the past? Suing your customers will not make them loyal to you, and your sure as hell can't sue them all.
Talking of retracing your own mistakes, another story I read in Music Week this morning was about the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) suing companies that publish song lyrics online. Now note that getting lyrics for legitimately purchased songs online for free (the only price I would ever pay to read some lyrics) is not a service that as far as I know is even offered by the NMPA, or any of the people it represents.
This news today made me decide to start a blog because I need to write this stuff down or I may very likely explode with frustration.