Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hate Facebook Email

Third, Google+ conspicuously lacks its own person-to-person message system. It uses its members’ existing email accounts, which don’t need to be on Google’s Gmail system. So if you join Google+, you won’t be saddled with yet another inbox that you need to monitor, and you can reply to messages without having to go to Google+ to do so.
That is a Very Good Thing. Google is doing it this way for obvious reasons which play to their advantage, just as Facebook wanted to bypass normal email accounts, for their own advantage. However, what is good for Google, in this case, is much preferable for me. For multiple reasons, including convenience and control, I detest messaging via Facebook.

(Note: LinkedIn at least makes it easy for its messages to travel via email. If someone sends you a message via LinkedIn, and you have it configured to notify you via email, the notification email is a real email--it contains the full contents of the message, as well as your connections valid email address. So you can immediately take the conversation out of LinkedIn, into email.)

Google Shoulda Bought LinkedIn

Google is taking yet another pass at a social networking product, with Google+. I'm not really up on it, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of buzz about it (pun intended). So I have my doubts about whether it will succeed, at all.

What they should have done--instead of offering $5-6 billion for over-rated Groupon--was to buy LinkedIn. Ideally, back when I told them to, but even if they had done it around the time of LinkedIn's IPO, they might have picked it up for $7 billion or so. That would have given them a winning platform to extend.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Something I Wrote 10 Years Ago

Something I wrote 10 years ago, in a comment on the website of usability guru Jakob Nielsen's. Very interesting to look back, and see where I was way off-base (cell phone's only purpose is voice!), and the areas where I was closer to the mark (PDA size about right; battery-life concerns).

Merge PDA and Phone or Keep Separate?

Erik L. Neu writes:
I am a Palm user. I have read any number of columns recently predicting the demise of the Palm/PDA in favor of cell phone internet access. I think this is ridiculous! The form-factor of the Palm, though great for what it does, is already enough of a usability challenge. I make an analogy between the Palm and a laptop. For the most part, the form factor of the laptop was established nearly a decade ago. Rather than getting smaller, they stay the same size, with more power, functionality and screen area being crammed in the same space. I think the Palm size is about right, it fits reasonably comfortably in the pocket. Now we need the useable screen to expand to fill the footprint of the machine.
As for the cell phone, it has one purpose: voice conversations. So smaller is always better. I would never want to take my Palm jogging, but I just might (usually not, but it is conceivable) want to take my cell phone with me on my run. I am amazed at how small they have gotten already. Besides not being usable, cramming PDA features in them will interfere with this design goal.
Longer-term, yes it would be nice if the cell-phone functionality can reside in the PDA. But I don't see this as being desirable with today's technology--it's not that big a hardship to carry two devices, esp. given the shrinking size of the phone. Plus, their battery-life styles are in conflict--people will be forever finding their PDA out of juice after 2 hours of phone conversation! 
Jakob's reply: Completely agree that we need to recapture the entire surface of the Palm Pilot for screen space. One of the things done right on the Pocket PC. 
I tend to prefer a single, converged device that will be both a PDA and a telephone, especially since the PDA will need to connect to the cellular network anyway in order to get live data. However, as you noted, there is also much to be said in favor of separate devices that can be optimized for their individual features.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Modern Family

Is the first mainstream sit-com that I have mildly enjoyed in, oh, about 3 decades. And I more than mildly enjoy it--I think it is very, very funny!

Android Notifications

Android gets a lot of praise for its notifications, which iOS has recently more or less copied. I'm here to tell you that Android notifications are fine in the simple case, but they have a problem when there are too many--you run out of real estate for the important ones.

Basketball Effective FG Percentage, and Other Statistical Modernizations

Backwardness offends me, especially when there is absolutely no reason or justification for it. Happens often with popular "statistics". I'm not talking about mildly complicated statistics, as might be taught in an intro stats class. I am talking about very basic numbers and metrics.

Basketball Field-Goal Percentage
The 3-point field goal has been part of mainstream basketball for about 30 years. It is an important aspect of the game. Yet the ancient statistic of field-goal percentage--originating before the 3-pointer had been dreamt of--is still the common yardstick of shooting performance. Why?! The more useful statistic would be the "effective field goal percentage", which simply weights the 3-pointer 50% more. It is SO obvious, I do it mentally whenever they flash a players 2 and 3-point stats.

This has got to be one of the silliest traditions. Typically, grade-point averages (GPAs) are calculated using a scale where A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, with possible interpolated weights for + and - grades. With ranges for each letter: A=90-100, B=80-89, C=70-79. So let's see...students take tests, and get numerical grades. Those numerical grades are summed and averaged. That result is then placed in a rough range that translates to a letter. Then, those letters are re-translated to a GPA. Crazy stuff--lots of extra computation, all the while removing resolution! The thing that drives me crazy is that this system is universally accepted by very smart people!!!

Stock Quotes
This is a bright spot. For years, stocks were quited in binary fractions--down to sixteenths, or perhaps thirty-seconds. Ridiculous stuff, especially in the age of the digital computer. Yet it persisted. This may be a special case, because I think part of the reason it persisted was entrenched interests--brokers and dealers  benefited from the rounding. Nevertheless, at some point I think in the 1990s, the practice was eliminated. So, progress is possible!