Fascinating Finds and Observations
And now for something completely different: some of my favourite websites!
The websites listed first are the kind that might make you wonder why someone bothered. But I think they’re terrific & fun.
Human Clock (Note: Stay on this site for at least one minute to appreciate)
I always harp on about how a website should have a clear purpose. Visitors need to “get” what it is you want them to do when they land on your homepage. These sites are some of the clearest I’ve seen:
Is it old? Sadly, I see this one is down due to Twitter changes. Shame. You used to be able to plug in a URL to gauge how old & tired it was. In other words, how many times it had already been tweeted. The purpose was to save you embarrassment.
And then, there are the websites that, with a little input from you, create something amazing.
Now I know you’re wishing I’d listed that website, you know the one. And I would have – but I was saving that honor for you. Please use the comment section below.
We actively monitor the trends in the TV industry and take pleasure in predicting the road ahead. These past couple of years have seen an explosion in social TV apps, like GetGlue, SocialGuide, Miso, and the list goes on. Each of these apps continues to evolve and change, each app trying to lead the way to a new kind of television watching experience. There have been some interesting developments along the way but I have personally never seen a closer glimpse into the future of television than I did today. And it wasn’t in the form of an app.
This week the Huffington Post went live with HuffPost Live. The Huffington Post, known as an online news outlet, now offers live TV-like coverage of news, entertainment, sports, tech and science. But how it does this, in my mind, is the closest anyone’s come to the future of TV and TV watching. Here’s why.
1. Like traditional television news broadcasts, HuffPost Live still decides which stories it will serve up and in which order. This will be familiar to a passive audience and satisfy that desire for conventional TV watching. However, a more engaged audience is also served by the Featured Videos bar at the bottom of the screen offering past segments like so:
This gives control to the viewer. There is no need to sit through a segment of no interest like one has to with traditional TV watching. One can browse the archive and play only the pieces that pique curiosity.
2. There is live integration of comments from the audience in every segment. A live Twitter stream is featured prominently on the right-hand side of the screen inviting viewers to “Join This Segment”. Anyone can participate in the conversation at any time.
3. Even though HuffPost Live offers “live” coverage with real-time audience engagement, it also caters to time-shifted viewing by offering not just archived content, but also the archived conversation generated when the piece first aired. So it’s not just the content that can be seen again, it’s also the experience.
4. Every news item comes with a list of resources. Now viewers who wish to learn more than can possibly be covered in a 3-4 minute conversation, can read up. Furthermore, the resources are categorized in a helpful way. For example: “Key Article”, “Background”, “Big Picture” and so on. Of course some of the articles are from Huffington Post, but not all. Viewers can also review at any time, who the guests are. How many times have you been listening to someone speak and wished you could rewind the part where they showed the speaker’s name and title?
5. Many guests participate via Google+ Hangouts. Google+ Hangouts are entirely accessible by anyone in the world with an internet connection and a Google account. No fancy, expensive satellite trucks required… which is a great segue to the next point.
6. HuffPost Live is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. No need for a TV. No need for cable service or TV antennas.
7. HuffPost Live just might make live TV broadcasts more meaningful by letting viewers look ahead to what’s coming up – and prepare. Not only can viewers browse upcoming stories, they can also read articles related to the story in advance of its live broadcast. This could create a more enhanced understanding of the broadcast, not to mention a more enhanced television experience overall.
8. It probably won’t last but for now, HuffPost Live is commercial-free. TV of the future doesn’t have to include advertising.
9. Video playback sources on HuffPost Live include YouTube and other online video sites. Once again, no state-of-the-art playback machines required, not to mention mountains of tape.
10. Streaming live on the internet has never been so seamless. I was tuned in for almost 3 hours (in the background at times) and not once experienced significant drop-outs or buffering issues.
I’m very excited to see such a successful attempt at making the TV experience more social, more accessible and more meaningful for viewers. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
One of my favourite stories my father used to tell me when I was a girl was about a scientist and a grasshopper.
The scientist used the grasshopper to conduct an experiment.
He began by placing the insect in a metal box and telling it to jump. The grasshopper jumped.
Then the scientist picked up the grasshopper, removed one of its legs, set it back down in the metal box and asked it to jump again. It did.
The scientist then removed another leg and repeated the steps. Again, the grasshopper jumped.
The scientist removed a third leg, then a forth. Each time telling the grasshopper to jump. But each time, having to say it more than once, and with increasing volume.
Upon pulling the 5th leg off, the scientist set the grasshopper down and shouted at the top of his lungs “JUMP”. It did. Feebly.
Finally, once the 6th leg was plucked off, the scientist set the grasshopper down and said “Jump. Jump. JUMP!” until he was red in the face. The grasshopper did not jump.
Excitedly, the scientist reached for his notebook and proceeded to write his conclusion “The loss of all legs caused grasshopper to go deaf”.
I used to laugh at such a ridiculous conclusion. But now, such ridiculous conclusions are made at disturbing frequency in the land of all things Web. The reason might be attributed to too much data, not enough context. A common complaint from the wise Avinash Kaushik. Unhelpful piles of data with no one to correctly interpret them.
Or perhaps the reason is convenience. It’s convenient to conclude that no one is clicking “Buy My Book” on your website because people just aren’t interested in the book. Rather than, people aren’t clicking on it because the button is too small, or is hidden at the bottom of an internal web page. Or perhaps people ARE clicking on it, but can’t finish the purchase because no one conducted a usability test on your website – and there’s actually an error preventing people from completing a sale.
Ah… conclusions. They can be so wrong and so damaging. They can also make you deaf.
Personal electronics have become an integral part of our lives. On any given day, I could use my iPod nano, smartphone, desktop computer, laptop, iPad and television. It’s a hassle bouncing between devices each day. Why should anyone have to when so many have similar functionality?
From a consumer’s perspective, what’s common among these devices is some type of visual display, audio and input device. When you think about it, all personal electronics boil down to altering a person’s sense of sight and sound. Smartphones are emerging as the “most universal” device at this time, but its screen size still limits its use as a personal computer or television.
On February 22, 2012, news about Google’s plan to launch glasses with a heads-up display by the end of 2012 gave me hope that, maybe, this dream of a universal device is one step closer to becoming a reality.
The current information available suggests the glasses will have a low-res camera, a 3G/4G connection, motion sensors and GPS. The glasses will use head tilting navigation and display real time information about the user’s surrounding environment through augmented reality apps.
This sounds like a good start, but my vision of a universal device is much grander. Think of it as merging Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” concept with Google’s heads-up display glasses. So instead of interacting with multiple glass surfaces / devices, a user will simply interact with the images they perceive through his/her glasses. The glasses become the universal device.
As someone who has been wearing glasses for over 13 years, I realized that what I see is not actually the object or screen in front of me, but what I perceive through my glasses. If that is the case, are the objects or devices in front of me actually necessary? I would argue it’s not.
Imagine a pair of glasses with a computer built in and a single inconspicuous earpiece that allows you to hear audio. The glasses include voice command functionality and a projection keyboard that is only visible through the user’s glasses (on command). This handles the visual display, audio and input device. The glasses will, of course, be connected wirelessly and access data from the cloud.
Now here’s the really exciting feature, instead of having to physically sit in front of your desktop computer and television or take out your smartphone and tablet, you can simply prompt your glasses to display those devices and an image of the specified device will appear. The glasses will generate an image and you will perceive it as if you were looking at your regular television, sitting 10 ft way from you, for example. You will then be able to operate your television using voice commands or the projection keyboard to watch your favourite shows. Want to watch the show on a movie sized screen? Go into “movie mode” and an image of a theatre sized screen will appear in front of you. All the images and sounds produced through the glasses will only be perceived by the person wearing the glasses.
What do you think? Realistic? Creepy? Awesome?
Can you imaging the targeted marketing opportunities available with this device?
Photo Credit: IvanWalsh.com
- – - – - – - – -
What If …Series (5 most recent posts)
Last Friday a media frenzy took over the Internet, from Yahoo! News to the Washington Post, and everything in between discussing what seems to be imminent war between Iran and Israel. The tension between the two countries has been brewing for many years, and some political analyst have predicted a war to be inevitable since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Who would have guessed that a Facebook Page and a bunch of Madonna fans could have the power to delay that war? Last week Israeli Madonna fan, Kobi Zvili, created a Facebook Page begging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off any plans of war with Iran until after the Madonna concert on May 29, 2012. When I first came across this piece of news story, I was livid. I could not believe that in a time when people’s lives are at stake someone would create a Page asking to delay war for a concert. It made me wonder if we have come to a time where war has become so trivial? Have we in a way become desensitized to war due to the images and videos we are exposed to via social media? Has the power of pop culture become so large that it has taken over our psyches and blinded us to basic humanity?
I obviously don’t have the answers to my own questions, but wanted to share my thoughts and hear your perspective. After receiving a bit of backlash for creating the Page, Kobi Zvili did post a message stating: “War of any kind is bad, we call our leaders, prime minister Netanyahu and Barak, to avoid any attack of any kind against Iran or whatever, at least until Madonna’s tour visit in Israel. god save the queen!” I understand their admiration for the Queen of Pop, but what about “God save innocent people in both Iran and Israel” who will tragically suffer from any kind of war between the two countries? Is a pop icon’s life valued more than a regular citizen? The Facebook Page currently has 790 “likes”. It will be interesting to see if the Israeli government responds to this Facebook plea and whether it will have a hand in delaying war with Iran.