September 8th, 2009, 7 Comments »
We’ve been doing a lot of speaking and workshops lately. At these events, people inevitably ask us “what’s the Next Big Thing?” I’m incredibly poor at predictions, but my best guess lately has been Foursquare. The buzz for this location-based social network among the early adopters mimics that of Twitter, Flickr and other tools.
Here’s a great Mashable article on what Foursquare is, and why it’s more compelling than the other location-based social networks such as BrightKite and Google Latitude:
Now weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re starting to see the app get adopted by more and more of our friends, finding traction in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, and several other hyperlocal metro hubs. These breeding grounds of Foursquare activity are creating quite a frenzy, and we thought it appropriate to take a step back and survey the surrounding location-based social networking space as it applies to mobile apps, look forward to the future, and break down the beauty of Foursquare.
As the article points out, the killer feature of Foursquare is the gaming component. In Foursquare, you earn points every time you ‘check in’ to a particular location. The point system is slightly more complex than that, but that’s the basic gist. If you check in frequently at a particular location, you can become ‘the mayor’ of that location. What does that imply? Nothing really, it’s just classic useless online cred, as old as arcade games. But I suspect that it’ll be highly addictive.
Foursquare strikes me as one of the first practical tools to have a powerful and direct connection between the web and the real world. It blends the real-time nature of something like Twitter with the physicality of the real world. It takes Twitter’s question of “what am I doing right now?” , adds “where am I doing it?” and turns the whole process into a game.
I also like that Foursquare reflects the social swarming behaviour that text-happy teens exhibit. It feels like a logical extension of this behaviour.
A Game-Changer for Local Businesses?
We’ve been mentioning Foursquare in some recent workshops, and I’ve been showing this photo from San Francisco’s Marsh Cafe (click to embiggen):
Talk about an enticement to frequent visit this cafe, eh? I’m not sure what they are yet, but I can imagine that there will be all sorts of creative applications for real-world businesses. Consider, for example, a restaurant where each subsequent check-in in the same week gets you an additional 10% off? It feels like a game-changer for local businesses who haven’t necessarily seen the point of having a robust web presence.
What About the Creep Factor?
Normal Humans tend to get seriously creeped out by location-based social networks. It’s not a surprising response, but I remind them of the fears they’ve probably already overcome as they adopted blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so forth. They may find that, in six months, Foursquare feels totally ordinary to them. Or not–I’m incredibly bad at predicting the success of these things.
In any case (thanks mostly to Chris Briekss, I gather), Foursquare has arrived in Vancouver–the first Canadian city. I won’t be able to try it out in person until I return from my pan-Canadian voyage next week, but here’s my account.
I’m not sure how (or even if) I’m going to use Foursquare. However, I’m going to try to only ‘friend’ Foursquare users who I know and have met in real life (and probably people who I’ve come to know well online). Sharing my physical location with strangers, even only occasionally, feels like a bridge too far.
UPDATE: Here’s another symptom of Foursquare’s real-world connectedness: there won’t be the same compulsive friend-counting that occurs in Facebook or Twitter. What’s the upside of having 1000 Foursquare friends? That doesn’t scale very well if you’re just trying to get some work done at Starbucks.
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August 21st, 2009, 8 Comments »
Last week Julie and I spent a couple of days working from a cabin on one of the islands off the Sunshine Coast. There’s no cable or landline phone service to the cabin, so the only way we could manage this feat was by using the Internet Tethering feature on our iPhone.
For those outside the Cult of Mac, tethering transforms your iPhone into a modem for your computer. You use the phone’s 3G signal to access the web at slow but manageable speeds. You’re not going to play World of Warcraft, but it’s good enough for email or work-related web surfing.
This is kind of a game-changer for us. It means that we can work anywhere there’s 3G cell service. How much of BC is that? Not very much, but it’s a good start and I suspect that it’ll get better. Still, the promise of working remotely more–as well as always being able to access the web on my laptop in the city–is excellent news.
Canada Line, Ho!
When we’re in Vancouver, we usually stay near Cambie and Broadway. So we’ve been anticipating the opening of the new SkyTrain line for months. Since it opened last Monday, I’ve taken it like, 17 times. Okay, maybe more like six times, but it’s fairly awesome.
The trains are frequent and spacious, and it takes only 25 minutes to get all the way out to Richmond Centre. It’s a joy to ride the Canada Line right now, because it’s entirely advertising-free. All of the poster frames are empty, and the video advertising screens are off.
My only criticism of the Canada Line is that the subterranean platforms are aesthetically banal. Having ridden subways in a bunch of other cities around the world, I’ve always enjoyed it when individual stations have distinct designs. The Canada Line platforms look pretty much identical. Maybe this is due to time or budget restrictions, and there are plans to individualize the platforms down the road.
On a vaguely related note, we went out to Richmond Centre for a meeting on Wednesday morning. We walked through the mall–I don’t think I’d ever been before–before the stores were open. We passed several hundred Chinese seniors doing calisthenics to the music of, oddly, the Counting Crows. It was, I must say, a little Maoist. There was also a smaller group doing Tai Chi. I’d heard of seniors doing mall walking, but the scope of these exercising oldies was truly impressive.
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August 4th, 2009, 17 Comments »
Let’s be clear on something: I hate exercise. I have ever since Phys Ed class in high school. It was my poorest class–I probably averaged a C+. Whenever we did any kind of long distance running, I would usually come third to last in the class. I’d beat the corpulent Chinese kid and an asthmatic Brit with skin the colour of flourescent light.
I actually don’t mind competitive (though not too competitive) sports like soccer or Ultimate frisbee, but lately my schedule has prohibited much of that. And hiking is nice.
These days I go to the gym twice a week, and loathe every minute of it. It’s a necessary evil, though, and I’m planning on adding some cardiovascular activity to the routine.
When we lived in Morocco, I did most of the Couch to 5K running plan jogging barefoot on the beach. It’s an interval program where you start with lots of walking and a little running and, after nine (though I’ll probably take 12) weeks, you’re running five kilometres.
Because it’s an interval program, you spend a lot of time glancing at your watch and saying to yourself “okay, run until the second hand goes past the three, twice”. I found it a little tricky to focus on the audio book or podcast I was listening to when this time-tracking sub-routine was always running in my head. And the audio book or podcast is critical, because it’s the only enjoyable aspect of exercising.
I’m embarking on the Couch to 5K routine again. This time, I’m going to do so armed with this nifty little iPhone app:
It provides vocal cues–in male voice, female voice or beeps–to tell you when to switch from walking to running and vice versa. You can listen to music or other audio and it just interrupts for a moment to tell you to slow down or speed up.
I’ll still hate jogging, but this will make my morning runs 4.6% less excruciating. Which is a good deal, at $1.99 for the app.
17 Comments »
August 15th, 2008, 8 Comments »
At first I laughed at the labels for the temperature control in my freezer, but then I decided they made a lot of sense. After all, it’s either ‘cold’ or it’s ‘colder’. It’s the ultimate level of abstraction for a freezer.
On a related note, does anybody know why Flickr decided that this photo was taken in ‘Harris Green, Victoria’ (see the ‘Additional Information’ metadata to the right of the photo)?
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July 21st, 2008, 6 Comments »
AdHack is running a new assignment on Rogers and the iPhone:
Rogers has been criticized for its underwhelming advertising. When the iPhone was announced they had nothing on their website until a teaser appeared. AdHack member Brendan Wilson though the teaser was “lame.” Doesn’t a great device deserve better? We think we can do better. Yeah Ã¢â‚¬â€ we know you can do better!
We call this challenge Assignment #9: Create the iPhone ad that Rogers should have used to launch and promote the iPhone in Canada. You can praise it, you can hate on it. The choice is yours. Remember to tag your submission with “Assignment #9″ when you upload!
Here’s what I came up with:
It references the fact that Rogers promised an early bird breakfast to those standing in line. But Travis says “the only food was granola bars at about 10 or 11 a.m., but only enough for about one bar for every three people”.
Thus far, I’m quite happy with my iPhone. I’ve never had a GPS-enabled device before, and I find identifying my location kind of existentially thrilling. The UI is everything people say it is, and I can certainly type on it way faster than I could text on my old phone. I haven’t really discovered any must-have apps yet. I just read about AirMe, which may become my Flickr uploader of choice.
Complaints? I want a one-tap (the iPhone term for ‘click’) means of returning to the audio I was playing from elsewhere in the UI, or from when the device is in sleep mode. More importantly, the battery life is kind of pitiful. If you’re using data functions on the phone, you pretty much have to plug it in every day. I can live with that, but it’s not really satisfactory.
UPDATE: Rob from Techvibes asked me to pimp his Ad Hack commission.
6 Comments »
July 13th, 2008, 13 Comments »
First, read about Travis’s odyssey to get an iPhone on Friday. He was tenacious, and it took most of the day, but (despite Rogers’ best efforts) he took one home. Travis cites ten problems with the iPhone launch in Canada:
So yeah, basically, from the biggest, most important factors, to the smallest details, they were simply unpreparedÃ¢â‚¬â€which is bad enoughÃ¢â‚¬â€but they were also dumb about process and shoddy and careless.
Next, read Seth’s post about scarcity and how to handle high demand and low supply:
Imagine what the Apple and AT&T stores would have been like this weekend if they were filled with happy customers who had pre-paid, pre-registered and were just dropping in for three minutes to pick up their (very coveted) phones, walking up the VIP line, past all the others just waiting for a chance to buy one…
Both posts have lots of lessons about how Apple, Rogers, Fido et al could have better managed their iPhone campaign. There’s enough material in the last six months for an MBA thesis.
You know the story–they really dropped the ball from day one. They pretty much made every error possible, from exorbitant initial pricing to promising breakfast to the early birds. Travis reports (at one of Rogers’ six national flagship stores) that “The only food was granola bars at about 10 or 11 a.m., but only enough for about one bar for every three people.” Now that’s some sweet customer service.
Come Back on Monday or Tuesday
As both Travis and Seth more or less point out, why didn’t Rogers just hand out tickets to those in line, like wristbands for a concert? They could easily have predicted excessive demand, and they knew how many phones each store was getting. I can guess why: nobody who works at a Rogers store wants to get up early to go meet and greet the alpha fans that have queued up half the night.
I went into a Fido store in Victoria yesterday, and asked about the ratio of supply to demand. They said they had 26 iPhones, and easily had 100 enquiries on the first day. Then I asked how I could buy one, and they told me to “come back on Monday or Tuesday”. No waiting list, no deposit, no nothing. They genuinely didn’t want to take my money.
If I was Bell Canada or another mobility provider, I’d be offering killer deals over the next few weeks, to try to entice iPhone enthusiasts away. You wouldn’t get the hardcore fanboys, but there would probably be some low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking.
13 Comments »
July 12th, 2008, 18 Comments »
I woke up unusually early this morning, and went for a little bike ride. I figured I’d breeze past the Fido store to inquire about timelines and waiting lists for getting an iPhone. To add a tiny complaint to the monumental PR fiasco that the iPhone Canada build-up and launch has been, Fido’s website shows the wrong operating hours for their Yates St. store.
When I got home, one of our neighbours was out in the back lane washing his fancy BMW. It occurred to me–not for the first time–that if you can afford a Beemer, you can afford to pay somebody else to wash it.
When we owned a car–a cheesy little Chevy Metro–we lived in an apartment. We (too rarely) took our car to the car wash because there wasn’t really an alternative.
So, I can think of only two reasons why my neighbour manually washes his own car:
He doesn’t trust any of the local car washes. This seems implausible, because there are plenty of high-end detailing and car wash places around.
He enjoys the process of washing his car. I can’t imagine why–I’ve always found it a loathsome task–but I may be in the minority.
So, pray tell, do you like washing your car?
18 Comments »
August 17th, 2007, 18 Comments »
As I’ve been whinging about, I’ve had a ton of meetings this week. Colleagues have been late for or cancelled a couple of those meetings. They notified me about this via email, 15 minutes or half-an-hour before the meeting, apparently assuming that I had a Blackberry or similar device that supports email.
Given that it’s 2007 and I’m in the tech industry, that’s a fair assumption. I’ve resisted getting such a device because I wanted to avoid being constantly tethered to my email. I’m just not that important, if you get my meaning.
Anyway, apparently the practice has become so ubiquitous that I need to climb on board the caboose of the mobile email train. Plus, I could obviously use a new camera phone.
Aside from the iPhone, what fancy phone thing would you recommend I get?
While looking for a photo for this entry, I was surprised and pleased to discover that Flickr users find blackberries more interesting than the Blackberry.
18 Comments »