2010 is the Year of the Tablet

So I was at the gym the other day and noticed, and have noticed in the past, that a lot of people use their time at the gym to read.  They sit on an exercise bike, run on the treadmill, or elliptical on the elliptical machine while reading books, magazines, and newspapers.  Personally, I don’t understand it because when I go to the gym I am generally focused on why I am there and what I am trying to accomplish, but to each his own I guess.

I guess I wasn’t much focused that day because my mind drifted off to a vision of people at the gym holding tablets and reading their books, magazines, and news electronically.  How cool would it be, I thought, if people could have access to so much more than what they have right now; if their books had links to information about the story they are reading, or the author, or related reading material…if their magazine or newspaper was interactive and they could see more photos, read expanded stories, share those stories with friends, and comment on articles?

Obviously these technologies are nothing new.  We’ve been moving towards a more interactive reading experience for a number of years now.  But, to bring that technology to a device that people could always have with them (and whose screen was bigger than the palm of their hand) could open up so many more possibilities.

I had a vision of people carrying their tablets wherever they went, sitting and reading (browsing) in the park, on public transportation, doctor’s waiting areas, red lights(?), outside offices on breaks from work, coffee shops, book stores…basically…out in public.

With Wi-Fi access to the internet becoming more and more ubiquitous, it only makes sense that this is the next logical step.  Why lug a laptop around with you when you know all you are going to be doing is checking email, facebook, twitter, and reading various articles around the net.  For the majority of what people use computers for, a tablet will work just fine.

I saw people owning a tablet for their everyday computing/web browsing, and having a laptop (desktop?) at home for storage and serious computing.

I saw this all happening in 2010.  While everyone is talking about real time search, APIs, cloud music storage, and all the recent tech tag words, the tablet, I believe, will be the quiet giant of 2010 and when people look back, they will talk about how personal/mobile computing changed in 2010, just like personal/mobile music changed in 2001 with the release of the iPod.

Speaking of Apple, my vision was based on the assumption that Apple’s iTablet makes it to market in 2010 followed by a slew of other devices from Time Inc. and, hopefully, Techcrunch.  The idea of the CrunchPad is what made me first consider the tablet as a worthwhile device.

In fact, the tablet will only help perpetuate all the other technologies people are talking about right now.  All the social convergence happening across the web will happen on a tablet.

December 2010 shall tell us the story, but if I had money to put on the tablet, I would.  And, if I were a betting man (which I’m not…see preceding sentence), I would bet on the tablet making a huge impact on the world this next year.

What do you think?

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Ohpan Your iPhone

I’m a bit of a tech news junkie. Some people want to keep up on stocks and financial news. Some people want to keep up with politics. Some people have to know what’s going on right now in current events. Some people always have to know the latest automotive news. Me, I have to know what the newest gadgets are, what the latest and greatest web application is, and what’s new in social media. So, when offered the opportunity to get a never ending stream of news tailored just for me, I thought, fantastic!

A couple months back I wrote a post on a new web service called Ohpan from Atype Studios. It basically aggregates all the news in the world and streams it to you. As you tell it what stories you like and which ones you don’t it begins to learn your likes and dislikes and your news feed gradually becomes more and more you.

Now, Ohpan has taken it to the next logical level and is offering an iPhone app so you never have to be without the news you love. Instead of a left to right stream of news, you get new news articles as you scroll down. This is different than other online news feeds where the new stuff always shows up at the top, but it makes sense to have it this way on the iPhone. As you use the service, you will see why. I’m not a very technical guy so I can’t explain exactly how they do it.  I assume fairy dust and happy thoughts have something to do with it, but I could be wrong.  There are a number of features I want to cover in this review so I will just start listing them out.

  1. Stream: This is your main source of news. All the new stuff shows up here and you can tap on any of the news headlines for more information
  2. Articles: When you tap on an article you can quickly “star” it to let Ohpan know you want more news like it, or “strike” it to let them know you don’t want similar stories.  From the article you can go to the original and Ohpan will take you there.  You can email the story.  You can publish the story to a social network, or, and this is cool, you can send the story to Twitter.
  3. Localization: Ohpan will use the location from your iPhone to further tailor your experience
  4. My Stars: You can always go back to see the stories you like in the “My Stars” section to make it easier to review and share stories you have already read

As of right now I have noticed a few issues with the service, but bear with it; it is a work in progress:

  1. The stream seems to load slow unless using a wifi connection (of course I am on the antique iPhone so that could just be me)
  2. Heavy use of the stream will kill your battery
  3. I am unable to log-in using my Ohpan web account.  And, the web log-in connects to facebook and/or gmail, the iPhone app doesn’t offer these log-in options
  4. The user preferences seem to forget who you are and where you are when you close the application
  5. Location based information doesn’t do much for customization
  6. Locations are finite.  You are given a list of locations to chose from, your location may not be there…yet

There is plenty more for you all to find out about on your own, but these were some of the features that I found most useful and some of the issues I found most annoying.  As with the web based service, I found that the Stream became more and more specialized to my likes rather quickly.  There are more screen shots below for your viewing pleasure.  And here is a link to some more information (http://drop.io/ohpanPR), more screen shots, and a link to the app store.  Overall, I find this to be a very useful application for on the go news.  Look for a lot more updates, add-ons, and features from the Crazy Canadians at Ohpan.

Will Twitter Go the Way of Z. Cavaricci?

Mrinal Desai wrote a guest post on TechCrunch today where he posed the question, Is Twitter Turning Into MySpace?

I hadn’t ever thought of this before, but it’s true.  It’s following a theme I am noticing lately where one idea gets huge, then someone else comes along and does it better.  Prodigy had ISP until AOL came along.  Yahoo had search, until Google came along.  Myspace had social networking until Facebook came along?  Twitter has microblogging until…comes alone.

MySpace had it…they had the idea…make a place where people can come and connect with one another, share ideas and keep up with the people in their lives who they don’t talk to on a regular basis, share photos, music, personal interests, etc.  Then Facebook came along and made it work quicker, smoother, and slicker.  People flocked to MySpace faster than MySpace was ready and it got messy.  Facebook was ready and organized.

Now, Twitter has it.  They have the idea.  Create a place where people can come and connect with people they know, and (more often) people who share similar interests.  In that small 140 character space, people can exchange ideas, links, photos, etc.  But, like MySpace, they got too big too fast and weren’t prepared for it.  They have been playing catch up ever since.  So the only question is who will come along and be prepared for a mass influx of users; prepared with a quicker, smoother, slicker, more organized service?

It’s true, as Desai writes, that many people are just on Twitter to try to amass the most number of followers, just as on MySpace, people wanted the most friends.  This idea made me question my own motives on Twitter and I came to the following conclusion:

Yes, I have been a little liberal with following people back who follow me.  Yes, I have gone out and randomly followed people who are following people whose blogs I read on a daily basis.  And, yes, I want a lot of followers.  But, my motives for gathering these followers are purely selfish.  It’s not out of a desire to be the most popular guy on Twitter, no, it’s out of a desire to get eyeballs on my blog.  I want to build a strong reader base so that I can one day take this blog and show it to the folks at TechCrunch, or Read Write Web, or Mashable, or the like and say, “Look, I have a successful blog, won’t you pay me money to do this on a daily basis?”  Or, even better, I gain a strong enough following in the Tech World that someone credible comes to me and says, “Hey, can I pay you money to do this everyday?”  And then, instead of cutting out time in my life to write two articles a week, I can pump out 3-5 articles a day and drowned myself in Tech News…for the people…for my readers…for my bank balance.

That being said, if Twitter continues on the current path it’s going to become too trendy to be cool and will fall into obscurity with Z. Cavaricci, Skidz, the Reebok Pump, Vanilla Ice, and soon, MySpace.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am as big a fan of Twitter as anyone, and if I could, I would spend more time reading updates and trying to engage my followers.  As it is, I can really only share articles I like through services like Twitthat!  But, if history is telling us anything, quite soon, there will be another, even better micro blogging service that will do it right, and do it right from the start.  And, as in the past, Twitter will be left to keep up with this new service as they continually innovate to meet the peoples’ needs.  It will be made up of real people.  It will be genuine.  And, it will be good.  So I am keeping my eyes open.  I’m guessing Twitter will remain king for another year, maybe two, and then start to fade away.  If they are smart, they will sell the service sometime mid-2010 to a big company (for way too much money) who is trying to attract the youth and be trendy…much like NewsCorp buying MySpace and it’s parent company.

Time will tell of this theory holds up; if history will repeat itself again.  Does anyone out there know who might take the crown from Twitter?

What’s That? Twitthat!

While reading Ben Parr’s, Top 20 Ways to Share a Great Blog Post on Mashable, I came across a little service called Twitthat.

It’s a pretty simple concept.  All you do is drag the “Twitthat!” icon onto your bookmark bar, login to the service using your Twitter credentials, and Twit away.  It’s makes sharing websites, blog posts, videos, etc super easy.  You go to a website, decide you want to share it on Twitter, click the “Twitthat!” bookmark link and a new browser window pops up with the link already in place.  You tell it what you are doing, Reading, Watching, Listening To, etc etc, or add your own prefix.

picture-2

From the TwitThat website you can also view the public timeline, the most read twits, and the twits you’ve twitted.  It’s a very practical service, for everyday use.  See a need, fill a need.

What do you use to share links on Twitter?

Chi.mp 2.2 Updates

Here comes another update from Chi.mp.  There have been some much needed improvements, most notably, to me, are the updates to the contact lists.  They finally added a ‘select all’ button (not listed below) to help manage your huge list of contacts.  You now have a good place to store your entire social graph.  Check out the updates below:

Release 2.2 of chi.mp is now live!

Streamlined Navigation, Improved Persona Management and more!

Streamlined Navigation: Now that we have a solid feature set in place, we took the time to streamline your navigation. This should make getting around your chi.mp site much more intuitive.

The Dashboard tab contains your site overviews including your activity stream and persona settings.

The new Design tab makes it easy to customize your site with your personal themes, avatars and favicons.

Persona Management Overview: This great new feature makes managing your Personas much easier. Just click on your Dashboard and you will see the new Privacy & Settings tab.

oAuth for Twitter: chi.mp supports oAuth for Twitter! Go to your Twitter service subscription and click on the Twitter Login button to authenticate with oAuth.

Profile->Contact Info: We’ve added a few fields such as: birthday, gender and language which will be used when services supporting OpenID request them. Please take the time to update this page.

Dashboard: Take a moment to add your Secret Question to your Dashboard, this will safeguard you in case you need administrative help for your chi.mp site.

Ads, but not on your public facing pages: You might notice the new ads that we’ve placed on some of your internal .mp pages. Please understand that these ads will not be shown to people who come to view your .mp site.

Control the order of your profile items: Click on Preview on the top left of your screen, then re-order your profile items by dragging the arrow bars to the desired position.

Atom Feeds for your blogs: You can now paste your blog feed URI into a feed reader.

Fetch Contacts on demand: You can now update your contacts with the touch of a button in the Import Contacts section of your Contacts page.

One more thing I would like to see, and maybe I am just missing it, would be the ability to view your various contact lists separately, not just by persona.  If you add all your twitter, facebook, and email contacts, then it is difficult to go back and look at each group individually.  If anyone has found a way to do this, please let me know.

Ohpan Prepares to Blossom

It has been a week since Ohpan, the news aggregation service that sends an endless stream of news across your computer screen, opened.

I spoke to Simon Plashkes via email today to get the update on what’s been happening at Ohpan over the past week.  They have some big ideas up in Canada as to what their service can, and will, eventually do.  They are hard at work making improvements/enhancements to the service based on known issues and user feedback.  Below is the list of things Simon and his crew have been working on for us:

Over the last week we have:

  • Dealt with guest login issues impacting about 30% of attempts
  • Improved scrolling code to reduce client resource requirements
  • Implemented the much requested, pause on open feature

Sometime later today we’re launching an important enhancement to forwarding: as it currently stands, users can cause items to appear in the streams of friends (or, right now, ANYONE using the beta). You can load address books from Facebook/Google or ‘Ohpan Beta’, and double clicking on a name will add it to the recipients list.

What we are adding later tonight: ‘Now when recipients get a forwarded message, they will be able to see all of the other recipients, the message, and an immediate chance to reply. Usernames of co-recipients will also be linked to the published collection of each of those recipients – clicking will show all items that a given user has ‘published’

Obviously they are making progress.  I also asked Simon about the memory usage issues I was experiencing that were bogging down the rest of my system and he told me the performance changes on the stream should help a lot with the memory issues; on some browsers more than others.  So things are progressing.

There are still some little glitches that I see here and there.  The links on the bottom of the stream page don’t seem to work.  There is no “Sign Out” button, and still no “Pause” button (but it is under consideration).  It would also be nice to be able to see known issues and upcoming enhancement on a separate page.  This could avoid duplicate requests from users.

If anyone has the opportunity to sign on with a friend and look at trading stories back and forth, please let me know how it works for you.  And, as always, you can send email/suggestions to Simon and his team at ateam@ohpan.com or find him on Twitter.  Judging from how quickly, and thoroughly, Simon got back to me today, they should be pretty accommodating.

One last note, I meant to ask him about the progress on the iPhone app, but completely forgot.  More updates to come…

Can Facebook Steal Twitter?

Most people reading this already know about both Twitter and Facebook.  They seem to be the big 2 right now and we also know that Facebook made some kind of attempt to buy Twitter, but there was no deal made.  People have been trying to pull the details out of Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, like a dentist pulling wisdom teeth.  But, in this situation, there is no Novocaine and the teeth aren’t coming out today.

Twitter’s got something, and while most people don’t know what that something is, there is no denying that it is there.  They are growing at an exponential rate and everyone seems to be jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

Facebook, on the other hand, has been making a slow ascent to greatness ever since they opened up to the general public, and those of us who had already graduated from college long before such things as Myspace and Facebook existed, were finally allowed to join.  Add to that the development of the Facebook API platform and something special happened at Facebook.  Now, with over 175 million people sharing photos, sending out status updates, links, and playing games on the site, they are ready to be THE social network.

But, it’s funny, Facebook has this little itch on the roof of their mouth that they can’t quite scratch; Twitter.  I don’t know what happened with the deal, how much they offered Twitter ($500 million was speculated, but I don’t think it was ever confirmed), or any of that, but I do know that Twitter, for whatever reason, turned them down.  Perhaps it wasn’t enough money.  Perhaps it was as Evan Williams told Charlie Rose, that there is too much potential for Twitter at this point and it would be a shame and a disservice to us all to let it be gobbled up by ‘The Face’ at this point.  Regardless of the details of the deal, what we can be sure of is that Facebook will continue to be Facebook and Twitter will continue to be Twitter for a little while (apparently Google isn’t interested either).

Facebook has a lot of money and a lot of quality people working for them.  And, they might, just might, be able to steal Twitter without making a deal at all.  On March 4th, they announced some changes to the News Feed we are all used to staring at when we log in to Facebook:

…We’re also going to make some changes to the home page. The new home page will let you see everything that’s shared by your friends and connections as it happens. It will also provide you more control by letting you choose exactly who you see among the people and things you are connected to. You can decide you no longer want to get updates from your old friend from high school who you rarely talk to, or you can filter the stream to only see updates about your family members. And now, if you want, you can read what President Obama is saying on the same page as your best friend. You can find out what it is your mother, your high school classmate or President Obama are doing, thinking and sharing right now just by logging into Facebook.

We’ll begin rolling out the new home page next week, so please check out our home page tour to see the new design and let us know what you think about it. This is an exciting move for us and we have more coming, so keep an eye on the blog for more updates about upcoming products.

The new Facebook Stream will basically be Twitter, but not limited to 140 character.  Plus, you will have the option to filter whose information you see.  Pretty cool.  But, is this really Twitter?

The Difference

Yes, it will be Twitter-like, but not exactly the same.  The main difference lies in the “who.”  Facebook is dedicated to helping you “connect and share with the people in your life.”  This means, for most users, your friends are made up of actual friends, family, co-workers, and old high school and college acquaintances.  These are all people you know.  These are people whose email addresses you probably have, or whose phone number is in your cell phone.  At the very least, these are people whom you have, at some point, talked to face to face.

This doesn’t hold true for Twitter.  Perhaps out in Palo Alto people are following people they mostly know.  But, for the vast majority of users, the people you follow on Twitter are people who have similar interests as you.  They are people who tweet things about topics you are interested in.  And, perhaps you will engage followers in conversation from time to time, but for the most part, you are just reading peoples’ tweets and contributing your own thoughts.  It’s kind of like the old AOL chat rooms, except you get to pick who is in the room with you…even if they don’t pick you to be in their room.

This leads in to the next big difference!  On Facebook, you send a friend request to someone, and you aren’t connected to them until they approve your request, and vice versa.

On Twitter, you follow whomever you want, and if they follow you too, then great, if not, no big deal.  That’s why most people are following more people than are following them.

The Opportunity

If Facebook can change the “who” then they have a chance to steal Twitter.  They’ll continue to help people connect with one another, but they can also offer the ability for people to “follow” one another.  They could make, I would think, some minor upgrades, and give people the ability to follow whomever they want.  You would see a limited view, perhaps just the public profile, and you wouldn’t be able to post to their wall or IM them, but you could see who their friends/followers are and get their status updates.  At that point, they are one API away from offering the ability to query Facebook for the people whom you follow on Twitter and automatically follow them on Facebook too.  If this group turns out to be a large percentage, then what reason would you have to return to Twitter?  And, eventually, you might stop following these people on Twitter and start “connecting” with them on Facebook.  This would take the relationship one step further, and one step closer to personal.  Facebook already offers the ability to update your Facebook status and Twitter status simultaneously (as do about a 1000 other services), so the transition would be seamless.

I don’t know the legalities behind all this and if Twitter would be forced to go into Facebook and have a serious, lawyer present, talk, but it seems like it isn’t that far off.  It might change Facebook’s tag line (Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life…and not in your life), but wouldn’t it have changed anyway if the Twitter deal had gone through?