The Promise of Honeycomb

January 12, 2011

Wow….  So, as I noted in my last post, I was watching the CES presentation of Android Honeycomb last night and ultimately I was blown away.

During the presentation, I felt like Honeycomb had some nice improvements over the current version of Froyo/Gingerbread, but nothing really mind bending.  It wasn’t until I went back to using my laptop that I realized the potential that I see from the concepts shown in Honeycomb for computing and its integration with my life and work.

Ultimately, I think what really impressed me was the interface to my data and the increases in efficiency the new interface will give me in my ability to see it and manipulate it.  I’ve already experienced this change with how I currently use my phone (a Nexus One with stock Android 2.2) in comparison to how limited the Windows interface is with the only access being a keyboard and a mouse.  From the improvements I saw during the presentation, I can see how these changes can be applied everywhere on all my computing devices.  Google is moving leaps and bounds faster than Microsoft.

The way I’m looking at it, my “data” is like a sculpture.  Throughout the day, I manipulate it to see various aspects of it, combining the pieces in various ways to use it to get work done.  My calendar here, an address there, a video here, some writing there, a picture there.  Ultimately, my data could all be accessed as if it was in one place, and it was all one thing, moldable to be able to create new things. My data today is like a bunch of blobs here and there, to the point I don’t even know where all the blobs are.  And it takes a lot of work to be able to combine it together to make what I need, whether it’s a document, or getting directions to a job I have to go to.  Put in another way, using a keyboard and a mouse to manipulate my data is like sculpting a pile of clay with a butter knife holding it in my fist; very awkward.

In the meantime, on my phone, I’m able to use my fingers to precisely and quickly do exactly what I want, and all my data is starting to come together as objects that know what each other are and are able to morph into other objects without my even telling them what to do.  Instead of having to find a program then find and open a document in the program; Widgets show my data right in front of me on the screen, and if I need more detail, I just touch the widget.

The promise of Android Honeycomb as I see it is that we’ll be able to use this same interface directly on our desktops.  Yes, there are already pieces of the functionality in Android in our desktops today – I could set up multiple desktops years ago in Windows or Mac OS, but the tools were just so clunky to me I’ve never bothered to try.  Touchscreens and widgets make my data sooo much more directly accessible that these concepts actually make sense, and widgets allow so much flexibility in presenting and using my data.

Without going into too much detail, I’m imagining a desk with a touchscreen built into the top of it, and maybe a second vertical touchscreen at the back of the desk.  And now I can drag each “desktop” into view, just like on my phone, maybe moving one up to the vertical screen, maybe turning on a keyboard on the desktop.  Who needs a physical keyboard anymore? I like the keyboard on my Nexus One just fine, which I wasn’t sure of when I bought it.  And if my desktop screen is big enough, I could display multiple “desktops” at once, and move them around as I need them like a picture puzzle, sharing data between them for the various widgets.

And as more and more of my data moves to the cloud, I don’t have to worry about what is stored where anymore.

I realize that I’m not putting forth anything new here, that this is all the vision that has been growing since time immemorial.  But I was so struck with the leap we are about to take I just had to write about it to release my excitement.  All I know is I can’t wait to see what’s coming!

The Death of Google Wave and the Coming of the New Age

January 12, 2011

Well, no news here, but the hopes I had for Google Wave have been dashed.  For the time being at least.  Seems to me that it was a great idea, but technology was just not ready for Wave yet.  Every time I tried to use it, it was slow and clunky, and overall, something was missing.  I’d have to think about it for a while to formulate what it REALLY was that I felt was missing; sure, notifications, performance, ease of use, and lots of other things, but overall, it just wasn’t complete.  Not only that, they didn’t even have a good app for it.  It was obviously going nowhere.

However, I think we are moving forward, there is hope that eventually the dream of what was Wave will be realized.

Taking a step along that path, last spring I finally moved out of the dark ages and got myself a smartphone, a Nexus One.  And IT has really changed my life.  I’d been looking for a tool like this for years but just couldn’t find what I was looking for till now.

I was never one much for those paper organizers, I could never get them to think or organize like I do.  But this phone is perfect for me.  Fast, responsive, everything at my fingertips and I can organize my thoughts, data; communicate; everything,  however I want, and change how it all works on the fly as I need it.  I can carry my presentations around, look up whatever I need to know wherever I am.  I LOVE it.  It quickly replaced about 60% to 75% of what I use computers for.  Hmm, like this is news to anyone.

But all along, I’ve been – phone is for this, desktop/laptop is for that, and each has its place and a different interface.  So last night I had my laptop connected up to my big screen TV watching a video of the CES presentation on Android Honeycomb and was totally getting into it.  Then it ended, and I popped the screen back to the Windows Vista Interface.  And I sat there and looked at it and my brain just paused….

I realized it looked sooo dinosaur.  I realized I couldn’t wait for the new age that we seem to be on the verge of.  It felt to me like something is going on similar to the turn of last century with the development of electricity and the telephone.  As if computing up to this point to what is coming compares to the difference between the telegraph and the telephone.

I guess the presentation worked 🙂

I’ll continue this thought in my next installment.

Some Etiqette for Google Wave

January 4, 2010

Another article with some excellent thoughts about Google Wave was recently posted by James Gurd – Will GW be the stand-out collaboration success of 2010? 

I especially liked his thoughts on the etiquette of waving:

New skills and practises will be needed to manage Waves

As with any new plaything, there is an adjustment required to get people using Wave effectively to communicate. Here are some of the things to look out for:

  • Keep your Wave clean. People can stray from purpose/goals and you need to be able to keep people on-topic and content relevant.
  • Guide the conversation, not control it. The personality behind the wave is important.
  • Learn how and when to edit the conversation. You can go back and change what you’ve written but do so sparingly to avoid disrupting the flow and retrieval.
  • Move towards greater collaboration, not individual domination.
  • Real time typing can be a threat. People worry about the impact of errors; there is a cultural shift in embracing this as real-time communication.
  • Participants need to be educated on the etiquette of waving. Understanding that conversations are as imperfect as conversations when speaking face-to-face.
  • Waving is not designed for one to one communication. This is for one-to-many and many-to-many.
  • Conversation flow can be personalised. Allow people to have a voice.
  • How do you make the right decision for the benefit of the wave? When do you leave? When do you edit? When do you need a summary? Who does this?

A lot of the initial waves I’ve read were pretty poor, basically a bunch of people talking about how cool Wave was.  The real problem being that the waves looked like a conversations, which I think is an inherent problem because of the way Wave works.   Too much “wasted talk” that is irrelevant to the subject being discussed, many blips that will have to be removed if the wave is going to be succinct enough for somebody to want to wade through it later.

 I really think for Wave to be a useful tool, users are going to have to be careful with what they keep in a wave, and perhaps with what they say up front.

To that end, I hope they add some tools for organizing wave information, i.e., the ability to collapse threaded blips, and even ways to annotate blips as you create them, say, “add conversation blip” choice, that a robot can look for and clean out of the wave say 2 days hence or something.  This would allow users to have a discussion live, but have those unnecessary blips automatically cleaned out after a certain date.

Engineering and the “Social Networking” tools

December 9, 2009

It seems like everyone else is talking about it, so I figured I might as well add my own thoughts to the noise – Yep, the “Social Networking” tools here to stay, and they’re actually useful for business, too!  At first glance, they may seem like a waste of time, which they can be if not used properly.  But if you don’t get to know them and at least spend some time with them, you will fall behind.  The trick is to set goals for their usage, and not get caught up in them.

Twitter – at first I didn’t get it; yeah, it was kinda cool, but I’m not all that interested in what Ashton is doing right now, and who really cares that I’m driving to work?  But then I started playing around with it watching the trending news, which led to searching for other topics, at which point I realized there really is a whole lot of information available through it, and what a great networking tool it is for looking for who’s doing what in whatever you want to know more about.  Try it yourself.  For instance, do a quick search for ‘Wind Turbines’, and you’ll find a bunch of tweets with links to information and articles about the latest technology and lots of other information.  And you’ll find people who are working in the field.  I heard another tip – follow top executives at firms you’re interested in, and this can lead to lots of great info for investment opportunities.   Just last week, Google Wave, the “latest in collaboration technology”, was trending in the top ten topics on Twitter for over a week.  And thanks to someone I met through Twitter, I got an invitation to check it out, and now all my friends have invites, too.  Thanks RMisko.  So now I’ve got two Twitter accounts, one to keep up with my friends, and another business one, so I can easily track my business interests without getting them mixed up with other info, and I use it also for my business face.  Don’t sell Twitter short, it is an AWESOME tool for following the latest technology, and for networking in whatever realm you want to delve into.

Google Wave – Yes, I’m a fanboy still, even after using it for a week.  So how do you describe this tool?  What I like to tell people is that it’s a tool for collaboration.  Kind of like an email that sits on a server and everybody who is connected to it has access to edit any part of it, add pictures, videos, documents, whatever, at any time.  And it’s being extended by gadgets everyday.  You know, those piles of emails that get sent around, each with different  replies, and you can’t delete any of them or you might lose important info, and they’re hard to follow or find the information that you need out of the conversation.  Google Wave takes this concept and puts the whole mess in one place.  Which is a good and bad thing.  Eventually, we’ll have to learn some Wave Etiquette, because these things can quickly get out of hand, just like email.  But the potential of the tool is awesome.  Comments can be added anywhere in the wave.  And everyone sees the same thing, unless a private wavelet is started within the wave, at which point only those people with access to the private wavelet even know it exists.  There are some great use cases out there, like:

  • A group of students combining their notes together into a single wave for each class.  Many times, you might miss something in class.  But it’s likely that another student captured it in their notes, but may have missed something you got.  If it all gets put in a wave, now the group will likely capture a more accurate picture of the what was taught in class
  • Capturing Meeting notes – similar to above
  • Capturing Design notes.  What a great tool for logging design notes.  All associated users can be given access to the wave(s) and can add their input in real time.  It’s accessible from any web connected device, including handhelds.  You can attach all sorts of different documents, there are even gadgets out there for creating napkin sketches within the wave, that users can all watch form in real time.

I am so psyched to see this tool and wish it had been available years ago.

Blogs – They’ve been around for a while.  I think it’s great that so many people have access to the opinions and help of so many that this format made possible.  But it’s not always easy to find the blogs you want.  The nice thing is there’s no limit on the size of the blog (as compared to a Twitter Tweet).  Of course, that could also be a problem.  But, hey, nobody’s got a gun to your head forcing you to read bad blog.

Facebook – eh, not so useful in my experience for business, though I haven’t investigated it for business use really.  To me, it’s too much of a personal place where I talk to my friends and find out what they’re up to.  I’ll be using www.linkedin.com for my business networking.  Speaking of which…

Linkedin – Now this I would call the facebook for business.  If you need to find somebody with a particular expertise, or in a particular company, you’ll very likely find who you need at www.linkedin.com  And what a great tool for connecting with colleagues you haven’t heard from in years.  Let’s face it, most development work is done through networking, a chance meeting here, a comment there, and soon an idea is born.  The more people you have access to, the more likely it is you’ll find somebody you trust who has the answer you’ve been looking for.

These are the major “social networking” tools I’ve been using and there are lots more coming down the pike.  Like Novell Pulse, which from what I understand, they are trying to position as Google Wave for the enterprise.  We’ll have to see if it will be worth it, or will it lose out to Google Wave’s extensibility as an open source application.  Another promising app is Threadsy.  Just the other day I was complaining that I don’t know who I am anymore, or know how to keep up with myself anymore.  Two twitter accounts, facebook, google wave, MySpace, … the list goes on.  Threadsy takes all your social networking tools and brings them together through a single interface, allowing you to keep up with all your selves in one place.  If they can get it working, I’ll be there.  And there are lots more, some good, some bad, and new ones coming out every day. 

What about email? Don’t worry, it’s gonna be around for a while.

Links I’ve been using to learn Google Wave

December 4, 2009

Google Wave Intro links
Why Google Wave sucks, but you’ll use it anyway
Making Sense of google wave – a 15 minute presentation by the author of The Complete Wave Guide (she’s a little too bubbly at the start, but it gets pretty good as she goes on)
Personalize Google Wave
Google Wave and the Enterprise

Manuals –
The Complete Wave Guide an online “book” (easy read and pretty good summation of how to use it)
Google Wave Guide
Lifehacker Google Wave 101
Google Wave command cheat sheet

Lists of Gadgets and bots –
125 Google Wave Bots
Plugins and Gadgets
Comprehensive List of Extensions
Google Wave Bots Wiki
http://www.googlewaveextensions.info/
Sites.google.com list of extensions

RT @masteringwave Creating a Simple Form Gadget « Mastering WAVE http://www.masteringwave.com/2009/09/simple-form-gadget/

Industrial Design and Skills for Success

December 3, 2009

I found this article written by a Chinese firm, and liked it so much I rewrote it in english to meet my own perception of its content and added a couple of additions of my own –

Industrial Design

The process of applied art, architecture and engineering which give physical shape or solution to meet industry needs. It is the visual shape, configuration, and/or pattern of a manufactured product.  Industrial design is most concerned with the interaction between people and products, at the same time considering manufacturability of the product.

The main focus of Industrial Design is:

• Functionality and Specifications
• User Experience
• Styling
• Quality
• Cost (considers many concepts here including cost of product, cost of use, cost to environment, manufacturability, etc.)

Industrial Design is creating & designing concepts with specific needs that give process, steps, and appearance of product for the benefit of the user and the manufacture of the product.

Industrial Designer
 
Industrial Designers play a key role in the development of manufactured products.  The main role of the industrial designer is concept development and implementation.

Good Industrial Design = Good Business Product = Good Output

Industrial Designers need 6 key skills:

1. An innate ability to listen to users and understand their needs
2. Creative problem-solving approach
3. Quick ability to present a concept with random sketches
4. Good verbal and written communication
5. Professional 3D design skills in modern CAD products
6. Should know mechanical, electrical, and manufacturing basics and background

Industrial Design includes:
The development of user-driven ergonomics to improve manufacturing methodology considering client specifications following standards and specifications.

Industrial Design Steps:

• Create usability goals
• Create user interface concepts
• Model the user interface
• Test the design
• Validate the design specifications – modify them if necessary
-> go back to start – repeat until design meets or exceeds specifications and specifications meet or exceed need

Industrial Design is concerned with the following:
• Human needs
• Social / cultural issues
• Ergonomics (usability)
• Environment
• Cognitive concepts
• Materials
• Technology
• ESD

Comments welcome

Misconceptions about Google Wave Preview

December 1, 2009

From a reply to comments on Paul Buchheit’s blog post http://bit.ly/5Ox7gd and many comments I’ve read —

I keep seeing comments like “I don’t get it” or “It’s useless” or “I talked to myself for a while and haven’t gone back since”.  It seems to me a whole ton of people are missing the point of what the Wave preview is all about.

Wave is a massive concept that no single company could possibly bring to fruition on its own in a reasonable amount of time. The preview is all about giving the development community access to the product so they can extend it beyond what any one person could imagine it could be. It’s kind of like watching an organism evolve. Those pieces which don’t work will whither, and the good will continue. Eventually, I assume a standards committee will come together and reign the whole process back in and a product will be born.

Wave is useless as a closed system. This preview time was not meant for users to be able to really use wave to get work done. Yes, some people will, but overall, it’s not usable yet. People’s expectations on that end are way too high.

Give it time and let it evolve. Until it’s available to the public without bounds, (or at least available to an enterprise without bounds) like email is, it really won’t be usable to get work done. I also think it’s going to be necessary to move blips around. Just like email, wave etiquette will evolve. At least useless chatter can be cleaned out.

Overall, I think the preview was a great idea, and (to risk being dangerously overhypey) I’m psyched to see Wave move forward and will definitely have a use for it when it’s done.