Never Forget

Nicholas Carr writes:

The unexamined life, said Socrates, is not worth living. Today, we seem to be operating under a new and very different dictum: the unrecorded life is not worth living. Thanks to digital technologies, we now have the tools to chronicle our daily actions and thoughts in the minutest detail – and to share the record with the world.

The desire to bear witness to one’s personal experience isn’t anything new, of course. Long before words and pictures turned into strings of ones and zeroes, people set down accounts of events in their lives. They painted on cave walls, wrote in diaries, took snapshots and collected keepsakes and souvenirs. What’s changed is the scale of the effort. Whereas in the past we tended to record only important events, today we can, and do, record pretty much everything. Nothing we do or think, it seems, is too insignificant to be preserved or broadcast.

Relationships, Conversations and Transactions

JP Rangaswami writes:

Relationships first. Then conversations as a result of relationships. And finally, only where necessary, transactions.

Cluetrain. Markets are conversations. (Doc has a Nigerian pastor story that shows how universal this structure is. I will link to it when I have something more than a BlackBerry to use as my internet connection.)

A few hours ago, I read that Facebook now has more transactions per day than eBay does. Given that eBay has 8 times the number of participants, this is a fascinating trend.

Normally I would expect conversations to be a multiple of relationships, and transactions to be a subset of conversations.

Language Teaching

The Economist writes about how Skype, podcasts and broadband are transforming language teaching:

Tens of millions of people in 110 countries now download the free ChinesePod podcasts, Praxis’s flagship service, says Mr Carroll. About 250,000 listen regularly and several thousand pay for the premium services, which include individual Skype chats with teachers. A second service, SpanishSense, is out, and more will follow.

The customers are everywhere from Berkeley to Alaska and the Vatican. In the past, when language instructionalong with haircuts and massageswas a non-tradable sector of the economy, many people would not have found a native Mandarin speaker as a teacher in their town at all. Now they need only a broadband connection.

Apple and Innovation

The e Economist wrote (in a cover story) a couple weeks ago:

Apple has at least four important wider lessons to teach other companies.

The first is that innovation can come from without as well as within.

Second, Apple illustrates the importance of designing new products around the needs of the user, not the demands of the technology.

A third lesson from Apple is that smart companies should sometimes ignore what the market says it wants today.

The fourth lesson from Apple is to fail wisely.

Human-Powered Search

The New York Times writes:

Last month, another company, Mahalo (Hawaiian for thank you), inaugurated a search service with manually edited results. It started with several advantages: venture capital backing, 30 editors, systematic focus on the most commonly requested search terms, and the added idea of supplying Googles search results for any search not covered by its own best-of-the-best lists.

Mahalo now has pre-prepared pages for 5,000 terms related to entertainment, travel, health, technology and other subject areas. The company plans to expand its coverage to 10,000 terms by year-end, and eventually to provide results for one-third of the most common search terms.

A hand-built Mahalo search-results page has one conspicuous advantage over Googles: grouping into subthemes, which make a page of links much easier to scan and to find items of particular interest.

TECH TALK: Apple iPhone: Features

As Apple prepares to release its iPhone with AT&T later this week in the US, the expectations are that the mobile industry is set to be changed. The expectations surrounding the release of the iPhone have been sky high ever since Steve Jobs made the announcement earlier in the year, even though it has widely anticipated that Apple would launch a mobile phone. (Engadget covered the January announcement of the iPhone.)

So, what is it about the iPhone that, despite its $500 price and locked down status, makes it such a desirable device? Let’s start with the features, as outlined on Apple’s iPhone page. iPhone is a revolutionary new mobile phone that allows you to make a call by simply tapping a name or number in your address book, a favorites list, or a call log. It also automatically syncs all your contacts from a PC, Mac, or Internet service. And it lets you select and listen to voicemail messages in whatever order you want just like email.

Wikipedia has more: The iPhone’s functions include those of a camera phone, a multimedia player, mobile phone, and Internet services like e-mail, text messaging, web browsing, Visual Voicemail and wireless connectivity. iPhone input is accomplished via touchscreen with virtual keyboard and buttons. The iPhone is a quad-band GSM phone, though Jobs mentioned in his keynote that Apple has a “plan to make 3G phones” in the future. Apple has filed more than 200 patents related to the technology behind the iPhone…The iPhone will be available from the Apple Store and from AT&T Mobility, formerly Cingular Wireless, with a price of US$499 for the 4 GB model and US$599 for the 8 GB model, based on a two-year service contract. Apple intends to make the phone available in Europe in Q4 2007 and in Asia in 2008.

One of the first things that strikes you about the iPhone is that there is no keyboard. Wikipedia writes:

The 3.5 inch (8.9 cm) liquid crystal display (320480 px at 160 ppi) HVGA touch screen topped with optical-quality glass is specifically created for use with a finger, or multiple fingers for multi-touch sensing. No stylus is needed, nor can one be used, as the touch screen requires bare skin to operate.

For text input, the device implements a virtual keyboard on the touchscreen. It has automatic spell checking, predictive word capabilities, and a dynamic dictionary that learns new words. Notably, the predictive word capabilities have been integrated with the dynamic virtual keyboard so that users will not have to be extremely accurate when typing i.e. touching the edges of the desired letter or nearby letters on the keyboard will be predictively corrected when possible. Additionally, an optional landscape mode for text entry with the virtual keyboard has been mentioned by Apple executives as a possibility for iPhone, but Apple has not yet come to a final decision as to its inclusion in the shipping version of iPhone. A possible advantage of landscape text entry would be the availability of larger keys to ease text entry, especially for individuals with larger fingers.

Tomorrow: Features (continued)