Facebook needs to point it’s focus back on people and privacy

** UPDATE April 2014: Facebook has begun reducing Pages spam, see here **

facebook-logo-spelledout

I’ve read a few articles recently about how Facebook is dropping in daily and monthly active users especially in the teenage demographic. Some articles pin it to the fact that more and more parents are joining Facebook, some pin it on the advent of other social services like Google+, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat etc. I’ve got some different ideas. It’s simple, Facebook has been oversharing.  1. Stop sharing everything that everyone does. Get rid of the ticker! 

Nobody likes this (Ok except attention seekers). The ticker and News Feed are filled with low quality posts like John Smith liked a picture from 2012 or Joe Bloggs commented on someone’s post who’s not your friend. People have started realising that they don’t want to share what they do especially not when it happens automatically in the background without the ability to turn it off. I personally think it’s because they see the reflection of this happening when they’re browsing facebook and how much it tells you about exactly what others are doing. This causes people to double think about everything they do on Facebook because undoubtedly someone will see what they’re doing. Why do you think engagement has gone down?

2. Provide a clear visual warning (not a dismissible tooltip) to anyone posting anything with a public privacy.

I know it’s Facebook’s ethos to make the world a more open place, I commend that but the majority of people don’t. Again, people have started realising that they don’t want to share what they do and definitely not publicly. I’ve had to review so many friends and family members’ privacy settings, especially the older demographic. They don’t understand these things until someone points it out for them and corrects it (even then some don’t understand it and there’s no stopping them from unintentionally changing it back). Facebook’s strategy regarding public data is confusing, it’s really only ‘Facebook public’. Even if someone shares something publicly, Facebook doesn’t actually let search engines crawl it’s information so it’s still not technically public. Maybe focus on educating users about that.

3. Facebook’s privacy settings are complicated again. (Although were they ever simple?)

The need to put the focus back on simplicity, a large chunk of their demographics are older people. Not that this should matter because the majority of people are not strong on IT stuff. Privacy settings

In my opinion since Facebook went public with it’s IPO’s it’s taken it’s focus away from people to revenue. This typically gets in the way of privacy. Facebook needs to gain people’s trust again and to do that privacy is the key to return engagement and slight growth.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Google Now’s latest update is… “In your face”

Dear Google,

Your latest Google Now update on Android has gone backwards and has a “In your face” attitude that I’m not liking.

Home ScreenGoogle Now TransitionGoogle Now

1. Constant notifications for weather, transport and others that I can’t turn off

  • I don’t want these on my notifications because I have to constantly swipe them away
  • It’s annoying that I used be able to control the notification for each card. Now you think you know what’s best for me, you don’t
  • Turning off the notifications for Google Now means I don’t get actually important reminder notifications. Silly right?

2. Google Now is available by swiping from the left in the Google Experience Launcher (GEL) and I can’t turn off

  • It’s actually more convenient for me to have more app shortcuts to the left and right of my home page rather than Google Now
  • It takes more swipes now to get to my other apps since I have to swipe to the right twice, you’ve added a +1 swipe to each extra home page
  • Why can’t I just turn this off without disabling Google Now entirely? I want to use Google Now just not by swiping from the left

I know what you’re thinking, just don’t use GEL. Well turning something off isn’t a solution. There are a few reasons why I actually want to use it..

  • I like the look of the new launcher
  • The large icons are nice
  • Widgets aren’t part of the app drawer
  • The ability to only have the amount of home screens that you use instead of a hard 5 is a nice change
  • Transparent navigation buttons and notifications!
  • It signifies Kit Kat 4.4 for me. It’s about the only visual change that Kit Kat introduced. At the least the main change.

I know that you’ve put Google Now a swipe away because not all devices have soft buttons which means a swipe up from the home button is not applicable to most devices but you’ve ignored the Nexus line of products by doing this.

Fear not, there are simple solutions to the above problems

  • Add a “Turn off Google Now from the left swipe” switch
  • Bring back the full list of cards in settings and allow me to control the notifications for each (Even Google Now on iOS at least lets you turn on and off cards)

/Rant

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Google Now.

It’s no longer Steve’s Apple, it’s Tim’s Apple now

iPhone5c

The guys at iSource have a very nice write up about what the iPhone 5c represents to Apple. They’ve taken a slightly different angle in their article than what I’m going to write about.

It got me thinking that time has gone by long enough that Steve’s influence has worn off (not completely) and Tim’s is starting to show. What Apple has done with the iPhone 5c is very clever, they’ve essentially made it look slightly different but kept most of the iPhone 5’s internals.

They’ve done that for 3 reasons

  1. To the general consumer it’s a shiny new iPhone, it looks different therefore it must be new! To a certain extent it’s going after the younger crowd and the developing markets. (Although I personally think that’s why they have the iPhone 4s at the lowest price point)
  2. Apple has figured out that they can sell a lot more of the previous generations hardware by just slapping on a cheaper case to manufacture. This is also coupled with the likely price drop from suppliers for previous generation hardware.
  3. Please investors, if this maneuver can increase their profit which it likely will then Apple’s profits will start climbing again which will increase their market cap.

Call me naive but I don’t think Steve would have done this, Steve was always about consolidating product lines and removing choice from the user, less choice means quick and easy choice. Steve was about having the best possible product and only the best. This is where the iPhone 5s comes into play, it’s Apple’s best choice.

iPhone5s

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

The iPhone 5C isn’t about marketshare after all | iSource.

LG Google Nexus 5

 

Nexus 5

It’s exciting times as speculations and leaks begin to come out. The LG Google Nexus 5 is shaping up to be a great smartphone to own. For me the low Nexus prices and buying them out of contract mean I can cheaply update my smartphone each year!

From the leaks/rumours so far we know what it looks like, we’ve got glimpses of Android KitKat 4.4, price and specifications. They’re shaping up to be a winning combination.

The form factor and hardware design are a very welcome step up from Nexus 4 which sported a rather ‘plain’ hardware design. Google has worked with LG to bring a little more flare to the design as you can see above.

Android KitKat 4.4

Android 4.4 from what we know so far has a slightly revised UI. This includes the colour of the status bar matching the colour of the app that is running, this providers a more ‘fullscreen’ feeling for the apps. Some of the Android icons have changes as well, sporting a flatter cleaner look. There is a leak that suggest payments will be built into the OS, while I’d love this to be the case I’m not holding my breath that this will be an out of the box feature for any country apart from USA.

The price is rumored to be $350USD although we’re not sure which version this is for. The rumor mill has it that it will come in 16 and 32GB variants so likely $350 for the 16GB version. Which is much cheaper than any other Android smartphone with similar specs from other manufacturers such as HTC, Sony and Samsung.

The hardware will be top of the line. That’s about as much as it matters to say these days when it comes to smartphones. It rivals the leading smartphone manufacturers’ flagship devices. Here are the rumored specs anyway for the Nexus 5 which will include a Full HD screen either 5in or 5.2in in size, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz and 3GB of RAM.

What we don’t know just yet is how good the camera is going to be on the Nexus 5, all we know is that’ it’s potentially an 8MP camera. I do have to say that was the most disappointing feature of the Nexus 4, a mediocre camera. Something that most manufacturers don’t have a grip on often just purchasing off the shelf components from suppliers.

As of writing this article Google is yet to announce a date for the release or press conference. Speculation is late october which is fast approaching!

Read more here

You’ll forget about Samsung’s Gear very soon

This is why Samsung fails. 1 day battery life, a camera and sluggish UI.

In typical Samsung fashion they’re cramming extra functionality that is meant to appeal to the average consumer. A combination of unintuitive and unclear use cases.

My main pain points with the Gear is the short battery life, the presence of a camera.. yes the presence of a camera and the reported sluggish and unintuitive UI (did you really expect better from Samsung??)

Why such a short battery life? It lasts just a day and worse it likely shortens your smartphone’s already short but precious battery life. Watches have batteries that last years! Now I have to put up with a device that is going to be more of a hassle than a help. It’s also reported that a dock is required to charge the ‘smart’ watch.

Having a camera on it just shows that Samsung is just trying to be first to the market with a typically average device. What’s the point of a camera when it needs to be linked with your phone which will have a better camera anyway?

Samsung is famous in my eyes for having sluggish and unintuitive UIs in general. Nothing ever produced by them has been snappy and intuitive. Their phones, tablets, TVs and now watches all suffer from sluggish UIs due to bloating from their extra software that is often built in just to add bullet points to spec sheets.

Something that most people will also consider is the price. $299 USD which is expensive. Compare that to a brand new 7″ tablet such as the Nexus 7 and it’s a lot harder to justify the price. This is by no means an impulse buy.

If Samsung is looking to replace ‘dumb’ watches with this, they’re going about it the wrong way.

Enough ranting, what are your thoughts?

Microsoft shouldn’t have reinstated the start button in Windows 8.1

win81start

If you think about it, Microsoft made a bold move by realising that there is no need for a start button specifically. At least not visually present when a user is in the desktop. It represented something they were trying to move away from, the idea of the desktop start button from Windows 7 and before. Microsoft wanted to converge desktop and tablet platforms, they realised that to do this successfully they needed to get rid of the old start menu button and behaviour along with it. It represented a distinct form of operating system from their ‘old’ desktop days, which at the time of releasing Windows 8 is what they wanted to move on from.

For everyone that complained that this is a usability issue, get it out of your head. It’s just a visual/user training issue. If a user were to point their mouse to the bottom left corner and click, the same result is achieved.  It’s likely the typical behaviour that Microsoft picked up through their user metrics, most users move their mouse all they way to the bottom left corner when there was a start button to access it.

With Windows 8 there are typically 3 ways to get to the new start menu

  1. Moving the mouse to the bottom left corner
  2. Swiping in from the right and pressing the start button
  3. Pressing the start menu key on your keyboard or tablet

Microsoft were trying to position the desktop as a minimal space, much like the rest of the OS. As little distraction as possible. They did this by simply hiding the button itself.

Microsoft’s decision to bring back the start menu will haunt them because it’s going to be a lot harder to represent their new OS as a converged OS because of this legacy that they’ve backtracked on.

If I were them I’d flip the switch and turn it off before general release. Spend more effort on educating users on the new start menu behavior.

Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below.

Sharing intents on Android

Sharing intents

Android’s sharing is a framework, apps can decide if they can share certain types of data and also receive certain types of data. So for example when you select a photo from the gallery and click share you can see all the apps that can take a photo and do something with it. For example posting to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or sending it via SMS or to Photoshop for Android to be able to edit it.

It’s nice to be able to share a photo to any app, or share links to any app which is currently not possible in iOS. I can share links to friends via email or any messaging app or to Pocket for later reading. It’s a breeze.

Android sharing intents means that apps don’t have to talk specifically develop sharing buttons to specific apps. It’s a lot easier for them.

This is a very good way to allow the Android OS to let apps feel integrated with each other and not disconnected silos that they are in iOS. This implementation also exists in the new Windows 8 as charms and it’s same concept.

This blog post set me off the other day, when I initially read the title I thought wow Facebook has done some kind of clever integration between Facebook Messenger and Instagram. Instead it seems that Facebook Messenger just included the extra folder that Instagram saves their images to when posting from the app. This is because iOS apps are basically siloed.

Windows 8.1’s first preview

I’m really liking the Windows 8.1 changes that are being previewed at the moment. They’re heading in the refining direction while listening to what users want (mind you not always a good thing, but sometimes you need to let your customers steer where you’re heading).

Windows 8.1

Below I’ve bolded what I think are important changes.

  • Lockscreen is a cloud-powered photo frame. Brings pictures from your PC and phone through SkyDrive.
  • New tiles sizes: Large and small.
  • Improved all apps screen. Swipe up from the Start screen to get all apps.
  • All apps can be sorted by most used, by name, by date installed, or category.
  • Press and hold to pin to Start
  • Press and hold like Windows Phone to manage apps on your Start screen
  • New personalization that can quickly be accessed by from the Settings charm
  • New colors for background and accent colors.
  • New motion accents for the background. Hard to explain, by attention during the 1:53 mark.
  • Desktop backgrounds can now be used on Start.
  • New search feature powered by Bing that curates searches from both the web and PC.
  • Better multi-tasking
  • Up to four Windows 8 apps on one screen each with adjustable sizes for Snap mode

Some of these should have been part of Windows 8 launch such as the tile sizes. Some of the other changes will require habit changes for users like the tile changing. Teaching users 1 way then switching to another is really bad UX and design, it’s something that Apple excels in. They pretty much never burden the users with workflow changes.

The search changes sound amazing, too bad you won’t likely be able to switch the search engine to Google. It’s interface is exactly what should come out of owning an operating system and search engine, a beautiful marriage of the 2!

Watch the video below to see a good preview of the changes.

Of course these are mostly cosmetic so it’ll be good to see what they’re holding back like boot to desktop and better multi screen support and any other general improvements.

Source WPCentral, Windows Blog

Google Samsung Galaxy S4

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Google’s best idea yet! Selling 3rd party devices via Google Play with a pure Android experience!

Every new phone that’s released I’ve thought “Too bad it doesn’t have stock Android”, but now hopefully all the popular flagship devices will come with stock Android when purchased from Google Play.

This will quiet everyone that cries fragmentation. No longer will the Samsung S4 take months to get the new Android update because Google will be in charge of that! I’m waiting on the next Android version because I want to see how Google and Samsung are going to handle the update process, because in theory the Google Samsung Galaxy S4 will receive the next Android update before Samsung’s will.

Google is being very smart about this, frankly it should have happened a lot sooner. Imagine being able to buy HTC, Samsung, Motorola and others with pure Android experiences. This allows a general consumer to buy them and not have to worry about having to flash a stock ROM on their devices to receive earlier updates. Frankly I’ve never thought any of the 3rd party operating systems added any real value over stock Android. It certainly always ran smoother and felt like more of a complete experience.

I guess my only gripe at this stage (although it’s unclear at the moment) is that it’s only available on T-Mobile and AT&T and presumably then US only.

Wearable Computers – The Sixth Sense?

People like to do as little work as possible for the most gains. The mobile era has helped facilitate that, but current mobile devices have their limitations in interactivity and productivity.
This is where new advances will help; the new advances that can help that are coming through research centres now (and have been for a while) is the idea of wearable computers.

How can these mitigate mobile device use problems while keeping productivity high? Well, the most obvious is the evolution of personal assistants such as Vlingo, Google Now and Siri. Having something like Google Glass or an iWatch means that notifications are more easily accessible than pulling out your phone and that it is quicker to interact using voice on a device that is always listening. This sounds technically good, but I think these devices don’t go far enough. If using these devices becomes essential to your workflow you now have two points for battery failure – two devices that need to be kept charged, plus all the problems currently with voice recognition – namely background noise and accents.

This is where piezoelectric devices can come in, or even organic implants. These devices harness power from your movement or your body to power sensors. This can help mitigate power consumption and battery life for a small device that offloads most of the ‘brains’ to a bigger device (your phone).

So power can be solved theoretically, but implants don’t have to stop the magic there, recently scientists have been able to enable a mouse to ‘feel’ infrared light by hooking a sensor into it’s brain in the area responsible for its whiskers. In fact there are a few people working on ‘body hacking’ giving new abilities and enhancing the ones we have. These can all be tied into a wearable computer that will enable computers to have unprecedented knowledge of us, and unprecedented knowledge of our surroundings.

Knowledge is power, and as anyone who knows anything about companies like facebook and Google know, knowledge is money. Of course, with all this extra knowledge available would be a goldmine they would be eager to get a hold of. This is in a sense a good thing, as it means these companies are keen to spend gobs of money on getting these things to market so they can exploit it. The main issue would be controlling what we let them know, which is something that the latest operating systems seem to be very incompetent at. For the power to remain in the user’s hands these wearable sensor hubs will need to have strict connectivity rules to disallow any remote control. The hub would mainly send data and control to your phone. Limiting these features allows for greater security, besides, your phone is already an established platform that can handle interaction with the outside world much better.

The future I see for wearable devices is not as a ‘remote screen’ like a watch or pair of glasses, but a hub of sensors which can include many input and output devices. Security needs to be a concern in this phase, the development, the research. We have history to show a list of reasons why.