It’s TYPE but it’s also GAME. You get BADGES and everything.
Danny Sullivan found himself in a rare predicament: he ran out of space on his Gmail account, and had to jump through all sorts of hoops to delete old, useless messages and free some space up.
As Danny points out, this rather goes against the Google promise that you never need to delete an email ever again.
Indeed, Google makes a point of encouraging people not to delete. Although there’s a delete button in the Gmail interface now, there wasn’t for a long time. Google much prefers it if you archive, rather than delete.
But I delete all the time. I delete a lot of stuff, and I always have done, because I don’t want to get into the same position that Danny found himself in.
My simple rule is this: I don’t keep anything that’s archived elsewhere.
So, all mailing list traffic gets binned. Each list has an archive on the web, so I can search that for old messages if necessary. Similarly, notifications from web services all get binned. Once I’m notified, there’s no need for me to keep them. News alerts, new Twitter followers, calendar reminders, Facebook updates, Flickr comments, all of that – it all gets trashed.
The only stuff I keep is stuff that I actually need to: messages that were sent to me, and contain things that are not going to be archived anywhere else.
(Here’s a piece I wrote about the Amazon/Kindle/Orwell debacle a few weeks ago, for my PA column. The column has to be written very simply, avoiding jargon and technical mumbo-jumbo, which is sometimes quite a challenge for a technology article that’s only 250 words long. Anyway, I quite liked how this one turned out, so here it is.)
Amazon (amazon.com) is the biggest online retailer in the world. It’s also leading the pack with ebook technology. Its Kindle device – not yet on sale in the UK – has impressed many people with its high quality screen and long battery life.
But some of them were less than impressed when they woke up last Friday and found that certain ebooks had vanished from their Kindles overnight.
Amazon had reached out across the internet and instructed all Kindles with copies of George Orwell’s “1984″ and “Animal Farm” to remove those texts. Customers were refunded the cost of each title deleted.
But it’s not the money that people are upset about, it’s the principle. Affected Kindle owners were horrified.
It all turned out to be a ghastly mistake. The Orwell titles should never have been sold as ebooks in the first place; a third party had added them to the wrong list in error.
At the heart of this is the nature of ebooks. Customers think they’re just like paper books, but electronic; that they are “owned”. But some folk in the publishing industry consider them more like a library loan; something “rented”.
The Kindle is a clever bit of kit for sure, but ebooks still have a long way to go. And in the meantime, everyone’s going to have to reach some agreement about what, exactly, is being paid for.
Ha! That’ll show the foons who say Twitter’s nothing but a waste of time? Won’t it? Eh?
Recording what Russell Davies calls ambient speech was by far the most interesting and challenging aspect of creating The present sounds of London for The Morning News. Since I was only using my iPhone (for reasons of forgettingness), I had to try and get right up close to the people I was recording.
In cities it’s not hard to get close to people, because there’s often a big crowd to mingle with. But it is hard to get close to the people who are saying something interesting, or saying something dull but in an interesting way, and point a phone in their face without them noticing.
So what I did was put on my most innocent lost-tourist face, and stood as close as I could get to the talky people while looking left, right, and down at my phone, over and over again.
I hoped I gave the impression of being someone who was consulting his phone’s mapping software.
I also hoped that none of the people I was recording would notice me and offer directions.
And that I wouldn’t get mugged for my phone, which I was stupidly waving round on busy London streets, Tube stations and passageways.
Consequently, the recordings that ended up in the finished article are a fraction of the total. I recorded quite a few that didn’t work – mostly because I just didn’t get close enough, or didn’t point the phone in the right direction, or because something else happened to ruin the recording.
In Waterloo station, for example, there was a drunk woman singing her heart out. I moved in closer (still doing the innocent lost puppy face), but two police officers reached her first. She stopping singing and the conversation was then shielded by the police officers’ bodies, so that didn’t work.
It was also impossible to record conversations while moving. I spent time walking up and down some busy streets, listening in to couples or small groups walking and chatting. I could hear them, but couldn’t find a way of pushing my phone in front of them and getting away with it. I had to wait for them to stop walking – which is how I managed to get the two Americans talking about how far away from the Barbican they were. They’d been talking all the way down the street, and suddenly stopped at a pedestrian crossing. During a pause in the roaring traffic, I grabbed that snippet of speech.
Armed with some more professional equipment – a proper digital recorder, a fluffy microphone on a stick – I’d have got much higher quality recordings, but people would have, you know, noticed. It was great fun, in a sort of Famous Five sense of the word, to be sneaking around and recording in secret.
Quite addictive, in fact.
Dear Royal Mail,
I’ve got an idea that’ll make you a few bob, make me and a bunch of other people happy, and revive interest in what we folk on the internet call “snail mail”.
Geek folk have been getting quite excited about printed things in the last year or so, and that excitement is growing. Many geeks are terribly fed up with electronic communication, but they still love their computers. They want to find ways that will help them communicate on paper, via their computers.
A lot of them would love to be sending more postcards more often, for example, but it’s a hassle to buy a postcard, buy a stamp, find a postbox, send the thing.
How about you make something that would take away that hassle, but still let us send postcards to the people we love – printed objects that would arrive through the letterbox and make those people smile? Hmm?
Here’s the idea: you make a mobile application. I use an iPhone, so I’d like it to work there, but you could make it to run on all sorts of phones.
And it needn’t be complicated. Here’s what it would do:
- You open the app, and you’re asked to take a photo (or pull one in from your existing photo albums)
- You’re asked to enter some text – about 60-100 words. There’s a little counter visible on screen that tells people how much space they’ve got left as they enter text.
- You’re asked for an address. If the recipient is already in your phone’s address book, it’s simple: just tap on their name and it’s done. If not, just type in an address manually.
- Tap the “Send” button on the phone.
- Over at Royal Mail HQ, you have a few machines set up to print these postcards out. It’s all automated. The cards are done on-demand, as-needed, and posted as normal.
- A day or so later, the recipient gets their postcard, and smiles.
Now, you could give away the app itself for free, and charge for the postcards. The important thing is to charge the right sort of price – I know print-on-demand is more expensive, so people will expect to pay more for it. But don’t be greedy. The price has to be low enough to make it not-worth-thinking-about. People have to not care about spending it. That will make them send lots and lots of cards.
I’d suggest something between 50p and £1 per card would be good.
There’s room for flexibility, of course. You could have First and Second class cards, for example. You could have cards that are plain white on one side, and have the photo and the text on the other; or more expensive ones that are like a traditional postcard, with the image on one side and the text and address on the other. You could play around with these; some of them could become add-ons.
Thing is, this would be huge. Honestly. People would love it. No-one’s got time to faff around writing letters any more, but everyone’s got a phone and time to faff around on it while they’re waiting for trains and sitting on the beach. And everyone likes getting letters. They just don’t get round to writing them any more.
I think it would be so huge that you’d very quickly make profit from it. And of course, you could expand it into other services, like:
- Submit a bunch of photos, and the prints get delivered to the recipient
- Submit a longer text (perhaps via email) and it gets printed out (in a handwriting-style font of the writer’s choice), stuck in an envelope, and posted
- Super-cheap mini cards (talk to Moo about this) – a tiny photo, a line of text, and zap. Like Twitter, but in the post. Fantastic.
Anyway, that’s my idea. Hope you like it. Hope you make it. Cos I’d be using it straight away.
Ulysses 2.0 is out, and it's quite interesting to return to its plain text simplicity after getting comfy with the razzle-dazzle, do-everything, rich-text smorgasbord of Scrivener. They are both great apps, but it's clear after a few hours with Ulysses that it's a very different beast, and will appeal to very different sorts of writers.
(Intended to use this on the Cult, but clean forgot. Never mind.)
SUPERMARKET SPOTLIGHT – like Spotlight on your Mac, but for supermarkets in meatspace. You tell it that you’re in Tesco in Trowbridge, then start typing in the product you’re after. It tells you: “Aisle 12, section 2, top shelf, on the right if you’ve got your back to the cash tills.” Either that, or it simply does the augmented reality thing and takes you there, beeping louder as you get closer, like a geiger counter.
GARDENER’S DELIGHT – gardening is part science, part art, and part memory test. Every garden is different, so a gardener needs to keep records of various things – what happens when during the year, and what needs to happen next. This app would behave like a free-form database, into which you can put all the information about your garden. You control reminders about events, and you can add notes and photos too. It might also include a reference book element too, full of advice about particular plants.
KEYNOTE FLOW – only useful during Apple keynotes and special events, this Apple-made app gives you the highlights from the keynote in the form of slides and an audio soundtrack, live and as it happens. It will take some of the pressure away from Twitter.
RADIO TIMES – I don’t care about telly programmes, but I do want to know when stuff is on the radio. Yes, even in these days of iPlayer and Listen Again, sometimes I still listen to live radio. I want a thing that will tell me when stuff is on the UK radio stations of my choice; it must be searchable and allow me to bookmark or tag the shows that I want to listen to, and view that list independently of the listings. And be able to send tagged shows to my calendar and/or todo list.