Thursday, April 25, 2013

All change from conTgo to Concur

It has been a long time since I have posted. Back in 2012 I left Nuance to join conTgo, a London based startup providing a solution to help communicate and manage risk for business travellers. As from the start of March 2013 conTgo was acquired by Concur to expand their portfolio of business travel services, should be a great fit. I have moved across into Concur and will be continuing to work on the mobile solution around communication and risk for business travellers. Rather than go into detail, if you want to know more about where Concur are heading, there is no better resource than the keynotes sessions from April's Fusion 2013 event (Concur's client and partner event).

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Mobile Monday London turned 7 years old this month

Last week, Mobile Monday London turned 7, the review of the un-panel event is now available on the MoMoLondon website. We have seen so much change in that period. A couple of years before we set up MoMoLondon, some of the original founders attempted to start something similar (called foneclub) but timing wasn't quite right. At that time (about 2003 I think) most of mobile was either within the mobile operators, or lots of service providers doing SMS, Ringtones and Wallpapers. There were of course innovators, but the mobile platforms just weren't open enough yet, nor the audience ready for it. Some of the recurring themes of MoMoLondon have been the mobile web, getting your idea out there (marketing etc...), the technical stuff, funding, demoing and payments. Some themes, products, discussions have been consigned to history, interesting ideas for the time, but some have grown and grown during the 7 years. I won't review everything we have ever covered, that is all covered on the blog, but it is nice to say a quick yay \o/ to mark the occasion.

Biting the web that feeds it

It seems the world of social networks is gradually undermining the way people have in the past used web feeds. Is it just me or has everyone just given this powerful mechanism to closed social networks? I think this is a shame, but it is more to do with user experience (or lack of) in the subscribing to these feeds that is helping those bury it. I must be out of touch or something, but I am finding the concept of taking web feeds and viewing them in a friendly article browser a more enjoyable way to view so much content more and more these days. I am thinking of apps/sites such as Xite, Google Reader, Flipboard etc... However, as everyone is so transfixed on providing links through the likes of twitter, it all feels rather broken. Also providing links via URL shorteners sort of breaks the web, if the provider goes away, so do a lot of links. I understand that many content providers need to monetise their content (such as the traditional press) but there has to be a better way than download 20 apps to read your content. I have a feeling we may arrive back to mobile/device friendly web sites that pull in these syndicate feeds and do interesting things with them. I also have a feeling, RSS and Atom may not be flexible enough in their current forms and we will need something that provides more of a back channel other than jumping back to the original website. I am thinking of things like location, more about the author, copyright (like creative commons), some basic authentication/verification for commercial content and so on. If you know of an open standard or effort going on in this area I would love to know.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Upcoming Mobile Monday London events

Mobile Monday London has some interesting upcoming events. On January 30th the topic will be Mobile Games, a welcome return to a subject we haven't gone back to for a while. Registration is still open as I write this post, register yourself at on EventBrite. In February, before Mobile World Congress kicks in there is another event on February 13th on Data Driven Mobile Apps (Open Data and more) ... again registration is on EventBrite.

In 2011, I decided to take a back seat on MoMoLondon events and along with Dan Appelquist formed an Advisory Board. I still help out as a volunteer and wherever I can still add value behind the scenes. If you want to sponsor or get involved in a future MoMoLondon event, either contact myself or ideally the organisers Jo Rabin or Stuart Grant ... details over on the MoMoLondon website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Identity, privacy and preferences

About 6 months ago, I was interested in how non-computer related industries provide information to consumers without confusing them with technical explanations. Good examples of this are in food label regulations and house and electrical product energy certificates. The units of measure are typically hard for a consumer to put into context without deep knowledge of the field. This made me think about how website domain names, SSL certificates and mobile application capability acceptances are communicated with the consumer. There is certainly a lot of meta data available in these areas. However, they are not written or targeted in a way for a consumer to understand and provide context. A good example of this is accessing when web sites, are they trusted, what does the certifcate actually mean, what is encryption and so on. It appears some thought has been put to this in Firefox but there is little or nothing for the user to reference when they don't understand. With the whole web and social media at our finger tips, perhaps this can provide a solution. Also when downloading a mobile application, before you install there are a whole load of things you 'ought' to read before accepting and then installing the app, but of course I doubt many do. If an app will access your contacts, you really ought to be aware of this other than just a bullet point of text somewhere in the T&Cs. So how can this be communicated? How does a user know what something is going to use and when it has been used? I am going to start illustrating some use cases over the next month, to try and open to debate how this could be done, or at least a starting point. I want to do this more in pictures or storyboards than essays of text, this is meant to be a consumers viewpoint of the experience rather than what is in place from a technical point of view. Anyway ... watch this space.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tablets discussion brings in the crowds for MoMoLondon March

Here is a quick round up of the March 2011 Mobile Monday Event themed 'Keep taking the tablets' ...

  • Theme
    • ‘Keep taking the tablets’
  • Who was there
    • Big turn out, must have been 230ish
    • Usual MoMoLondon mix of entrepreneurs, creatives, app companies, product managers, C level execs, VCs, journalists and so on
    • Kindly sponsored by Sky
    • Tablets seen around Playbook and Motorola Xoom … both rather nice devices, no iPad 2s as far as I could see, lots of 'old' iPads though
  • The hosts and panel
    • Jo Rabin – Host from MoMoLondon
    • Leila Makki, panel chair, TelecomTV
    • David Gibbs, Director of Mobile Applications and Services – BskyB
    • Matt Pollitt, Account Director – UsTwo
    • Rimma Perelmuter, Executive Director - Mobile Entertainment Forum
    • David Roth-Ey, Group Digital Director - Harper Collins
    • Mark Payton, Editorial Director - Haymarket Consumer Media
  • Coverage (so far)
  • Response
    • Lots of buzz during and after the panel
    • Worries about proecting copyrighted content
    • Interesting lack of visibility or clarity on how important HTML5 and Mobile Web is in the content space

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The 'Web' needs to learn from the Mobile Web

Not every device is going to be high powered and able to render every manner of script, plugin and rich media thrown at it. The Web as we thought of it, now needs to learn some heavy lessons from the Mobile Web. Here are a quick few thoughts why I believe it is time for many heavily used desktop web sites to go back to some basic principles, and learn from the mobile web.

The Mobile Web has evolved through attempting (ideally) to render the most appropriate level of richness to the device based off capabilities, screen size and bandwidth. Sometimes this can be done automatically with elegant results, sometimes you have to design for the differences. The desktop web has unfortunately become almost unusable, bloated and reliant on a fast browser and processor. For instance, my laptop isn't that old, however it isn't that new either (about 3 years old) and it is starting to have trouble (regardless of browser) to cope with the amount of JavaScript on each web page alongside the large amount of Flash adverts. I mean do you have to have an advert covering the entire background of the visible area on the browser, behind whatever content you are trying to read or watch. All the browsers now encourage you to open multiple tabs, bloated web pages do not work well unless your computer is beefy enough to handle it.

One of the problems with an open medium such as the web, where you can use plugins it is naturally open to abuse, you don't need to work within or understand the limitations of the browser. Well time to go back to school ... it really is all about design, something that a huge number of websites appear to have forgotton or ignored. For instance, I don't always need autocomplete when searching, it really slows down my user experience (Google, Amazon etc...) when I know what I am looking for. Commercial pressures to litter every page with every possible way of catching the user out seems to be on the increase ... whatever happened to good, simple design?

Several years ago, there felt to be a bit of an industry epiphony moment when the now very well coined phrase Web 2.0, or at least many of the design principles behind it, were seen as the future. "Less is more" seemed to be the way forward (and that was an idea dating back to the 1920s from architect Mies van de Rohe). Which is a driving force of the mobile web, typically because of on screen space and bandwidth. It appears sites are now being greedier and greedier for resource, running multiple scripts, animations and so on, this just makes my laptop processor hot, switches the fan on and gets on my nerves. Didn't think that was really an aim of the web page but perhaps I am wrong?

I think the web of 2011 should revisit these basic principles, start the building blocks to creating content that can be elegantly purposed to use from small screen, to mid screen and onto large screen. If you don't start from these principles, you are going to find it very hard down the line retrofitting to whatever devices come in the near future. Architect quote time ... Walter Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus said "many of the things that seem to be luxuries today will become the norm in the near future" ... I like to feel he was talking about design but you can assume the top end devices we see today will eventually become the norm. Otto Wagner said "something impractical cannot be beautiful", I totally agree. Alvar Aalto said "Modern Architecture does not mean the use of immature new materials; the main thing is to refine materials in a more human direction", the richness and level of content on your web site and individual pages needs to address the human in front of it ... I think these pioneering thinkers could still teach us something!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do I (really) need a new smartphone?

I bring this quetion up as I own an HTC Hero, it lets me do most of what I would like with a smartphone but do I really need to upgrade to a new handset? A question for myself ... but also the manufacturers and operators. Chances are, many people near the end of their contract may be asking the exact same question. Of course, you will always want to upgrade if your current phone has worn out or knackered ... however mine is pretty good condition and nothing has degraded ... yet, touch wood! Even the battery still gets me through a normal day. So, why would I want to upgrade, I mean do I really need to?

What do I get when I upgrade, or can I save money by not upgrading? Right now, handsets are getting better screens, better cameras and so on ... so perhaps I will upgrade soon to something a little more flashy. However, most of the interesting aspects seems to sit within the software, such as the browser and the apps. Perhaps I can upgrade the software and get most of what I need? But actually, thinking about it, I would like a better camera with a flash ... so perhaps yes, upgrade, stick with Android, stick with what I know and feel comfortable with. Will I need another one in 12-18 months time?

I assume (rightly/wrongly, please choose) this is a question all handsets manufacturers have been asking themselves these last couple of years. Rather than deliver every conceivable feature on their latest and greatest handset, they have to hold features back otherwise nobody will want or need to upgrade. But some manufacturers are more about shifting numbers of devices, they aren't really into the post sales side of things so do they really care as long as they hit their monthly targets? If the handset doesn't have all the latest wonderful features, is it ever likely to sell? Are reviewers going to damn it before it has even hit the shelf? Most handsets seem to have about 1 year shelf life these days, so whatever gets built needs to shift quick. With many manufacturers building Android handsets now, they have to be clever in differentiating their models so it has the 'must have' feature I can't do without.

I have a feeling that until something earth shattering and radical moves handset form factors beyond the current rectangular slab with a glass window on the front, the rate of change and upgrades are likely to slow down as software updates become more important to the user. We saw this happen in the desktop and laptop market. Might mean a slow down in smartphones sales at some point. So do operators really need to have 24 month contracts to recoup the costs of the handset? What incentives are there to keep your current handset ... this is the greener thing to do afterall!