by andre briggs

The Best I Ever Had

Disturbingly I’m dedicating a post to the review of an item I carry with my everyday. I came from an iPhone 4 and a couple months ago upgraded to an iPhone 5. When I first purchased the iPhone 4 years ago I told myself “this was the best phone I’ve ever had”. The iPhone 5 is no different. Below are additional views on the the mobile phone ecosystems.

Connect Me With Content I Like

I spend a lot of time listening to music in my idle time. I still cling on the idea of manually managing my music and all of it’s metadata. This is probably even more important in the age of cloud music storage such at iTunes Match and Amazon Cloud Player.

The idea of letting someone else pick my music for me (e.g. Pandora & Spotify playlists) irks me. I don’t want my intimate music choices shared on the social graph. There is no point to letting others know that I played Clan In Da Front ten times in a row.

On the other hand it does sound great to have a service suggest that a friend and I should see a mutually liked artist who is performing local to us. That should be available to me while I get to own my music without being subjected to advertisements that consume CPU cycles and battery life on my mobile device. This is what we should be leveraging the buzz word “Big Data” for. To do real world things.

Quick Thoughts on Surface RT ✈

A few weeks ago I was able to get some good hands on time with the newly released Surface RT. Since then I’ve used it a few more times. I evaluated the Surface from the perspective of someone who owns 2 generations of iPads:

It’s big

The extra girth when compared to iPad makes the Surface feel less intimate. I know that sounds subjective, but it’s true. Portrait mode is awkward.

The Touch Cover is thin

The touch keyboard is surprising responsive. Typing on it was no problem, but it does take some getting used to.

It’s as heavy as it looks

Despite the Surface RT weighing marginally more than the iPad it feels an order of magnitude heavier. I’ve been using Windows 8 on desktop for quite a bit now and haven’t been sold on the “Modern UI” in desktop mode. The Surface is an example of where it makes sense.

The App experience isn’t there yet

There were no stand out app for my uses. A top notch designed apps like iOS’s iPhoto or Flipboard. The Mail app is quite underwhelming right now.

I haven’t heard anyone saying “Have your tried (super awesome app) on the Surface yet”?

The loading of some apps was just too slow. That’s a shame.

Should you get it?

The question for me is can the Surface do a laptop better than a Macbook Air or “ultrabook”? Can it be a tablet better than an iPad? Right now the answer for me is a firm “No”. Surface Pro will be heavier and noisier. That doesn’t seem to help it’s case.

I do see the Surface RT having an audience. “Business people” who can’t live without Office and don’t use their mobile device for much else. That’s the only story I can see right now. The Surface RT is a companion device. There is no way I personally could live with this being my only device.

UPDATE: This piece by Jakob Nielsen sums up many of my Windows 8 feelings.

When to Leave

One of my mentors always told me

“You should leave when you feel you’re not learning from those around you”.

I’ve always taken that advice to heart and extended it to my personal life.


I’m writing this post using the Markdown editor Mou written by Chen Luo (@chenluois). I’m giving it a test run right now.

What I like

  • What i like about it is that it’s a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Great Markup support.
  • HTML exporting.
  • CSS extensibility.

What I don’t like

  • The live-updating is not as smooth as would like.
  • The View menubar options are not intuitive.
  • No SimpleNote support.
  • Saving.


Hopefully an app like this will encourage me to write more.

Thoughts From SXSW Interactive 2012 ✈

This was my first SXSW experience. Without reading all the text below I can say that I recommend the interactive portion for people who want to expand their network and experience “nerd” spring break.

My purpose was to see what’s going on outside the Microsoft bubble. All companies have bubbles. My most optimistic thoughts were that I could find strong developers to recruit or be inspired by novel business ideas.

I’ll start with some general advice for future SXSW events:

Why Is iTunes Match Censored?

Since iTunes Match was announced June 2011 at WWDC along with iCloud I thought I could finally be free of syncing my iPhone. I skipped the beta version and waited for the proper release. At first everything seemed great. Until I notice that a few tracks on Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele were censored. Must be a few bugs I thought, Apple will work it out under the covers (or in the cloud).

As I used the service more it was apparent this was a conscious decision. Why would Apple not make this clear to users if it’s intentional? 3 reasons came to mind:

  • Record companies are forcing Apple to do this.
  • Apple/Steve Jobs wanted this.
  • The matching technology Apple uses can’t distinguish between censored and explicit.

The incentive for the record companies to enforce that matched music must be clean might be a weak way to make sure that people don’t wholly rely on the service and get rid of their physical discs. But why have a distinction for explicit music? I don’t have statistics but most of the Top 40 music is clean by design. Consequently the money making artists that have wide appeal are mostly clean.

Another theory is that Steve Jobs didn’t want dirty music in the cloud just as he didn’t want “dirty” apps in the App Store. This view may whet the appetites of Apple contrarians but the precedence of explicit iTunes music already exists. Apple would be doing themselves a disservice to not sell explicit music.

Finally the method that Apple uses to match must be somewhat similar to Shazam and other music matching services. The question is how accurate is the matching? At this point matching a song with Shazam works pretty well but is it good enough to match remixes and interpolations of a track? From my experience it’s not. With such line of thinking it could be a tall order to accurately match explicit versus clean tracks. Pile in the remixes and you could have a several legitimate permutations of a song. For Apple to “match your library in minutes” perhaps some corners had to be cut. Consider the scenario where a parent lets their child use the matching service and the clean Too Short albums they bought their child end up being dirty via the cloud. Imagine the perception of Apple then.

The software side of me wants to believe this is a technical problem. That’s why it’s so baffling that this was implemented so horribly. Hopefully in the future Apple will retroactively switch to explicit tracks, while also giving users the choice to listen to clean or dirty music from iTunes in the cloud. Until then my iPhone is still tethered to the iTunes application in one way or another.

On Tipping

The internet is rich with baseness and brutal honesty. From Reddit user Springs1:

THE SERVICE* is NOT more than a fast food cashier does. If you can truly name something that is MORE WORK, then I will change, but I bet you can’t, can you? I am not talking about if they bring it to your car, I am ONLY talking about when people pick up their food inside. Taking an order over the phone is 100% the same thing as in person, no more work involved.

I am waiting for your response to tell me what MORE WORK do you do more than a fast food cashier does? I would like to know your answer, because I cannot think of ONE THING that take-out servers do more, can you?

You are very selfish and self-centered to worry about just your money only.

Additional food for thought on the takeout tipping debate makes me view this as a class issue. Some services workers feel entitled to compensation. Some customers engage in enough libertinism to not give compensation. Service workers fail to look at the industry that they work in as not being in their financial interests.

Misdirection & Trolling for Ad Dollars

Abagond on a recent headline grabbing Forbes magazine “Tech” article:

Since Marks wrote this for Forbes it is meant to help not poor blacks but rich whites – to help them feel good about their position in society by presenting poor blacks as failing to take advantage of opportunities, as not valuing education, as lacking brains and hard work.

I don’t necessarily agree, but the spirit of the article is business as usual for many digital publications these days. There’s a follow up article from Kashmir Hill that address the trolling aspects of the original piece.

The fact that both articles are in the “Tech” category makes one scratch their head. I don’t really see Kashmir Hill as any better in this situation. In fact I have a theory that Gene Marks and Kashmir Hill are simply playing good cop/bad cop with readers.

The Tabloid Magazine Posing as a Business Magazine Cycle

  • Publish an inflammatory article.
  • Wait two days and produce an op-ed condemning the original article on the same site.
  • Both authors get exposure.
  • The opposing views of “good” and “bad” even themselves out.
  • Forbes Magazine appears fair and balanced.
  • The publishers and advertisers are happy.
  • Wash.
  • Rinse.
  • Repeat.

If Ms. Hill truly disagreed with Gene Marks article she could have taken a much more drastic steps. For instance recommend that Mark isn’t invited to contribute to Forbes. That would never happen. Their mutual trolling is too valuable to Forbes.

Online publications like Forbes and the Huffington Post don’t really care about the quality of content as long as they are getting an audience in numbers. Take a look at the amount of self-promotion occurring. Let’s deconstruct the canvas:

Forbes really really wants you to know how Gene Marks would be operate “As A Poor Black Kid”(2)(6). They want want you to share it (1). They want you to know the real Gene Marks (5). They want you to see how others feel about Marks as a poor black kid (3)(4).

When I disabled AdBlock most of the ad placements on Forbes were rich media Flash creatives with a few text ads to fill out the screen real estate. The left side of the canvas is dripping with social media links.

Not pictured in the above screenshot is an in-stream article block directing a reader to the Hill response:

Highlighted is yet another in-stream block to the original Gene Marks piece. This great way for the publisher to be able to tell an end to end story based on collected user information. If you inspect the javascript link closely they clearly indicate that user tracking and targeting is occurring. Lovely.

So this is what it’s truly all about. There’s no gain in getting upset at the content of Gene Mark or even Kashmir Hill’s occurrences of link-bait for clicks and self-promotion.

Forbes knows that nobody is going to willingly pay for the content of these attention-whores. Let’s be real. What Forbes knows is that there is an audience out there that secretly agrees with Marks or gets a chuckle out of the supposed Hill/Marks spat to donate an ad impression and some form of targeting metadata.

This is the financial transaction that takes place.