Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Early Adopter's Fear of the Newbie

I always take my Three MiFi to the match to use in conjunction with my iPhone.  


Well when there isn't a game on, the signal for voice and data from my provider (Vodafone) is pretty reasonable at the ground, but on match-days, especially at half-time time when you want to check the half-time scores or go on Twitter to complain about the standard of refereeing, it all dries up.  

It's understandable I suppose as 17000 people in the same cell reach for their phones at the same second, but I've always had better luck with Three.

I assumed when I got this Three MiFi about eighteen months ago (it's my second, the first didn't have HSPA) that Three were investing in their network in a much more effective way than Vodafone were, because I could always get great mobile data speeds even at the busiest times on match-day afternoons.

Not any more though. I suppose the recent growth in the Three network in terms of its competitiveness has meant that in catching up with O2, Vodafone and EE it's also begun to succumb to some of their problems. Now, even with my trusty MiFi, it takes an age for Twitter to reload, or for the Sky football scores app to refresh. Luckily I can still use my Kindle app (although it might take a while for it to recall which page I'm on if I've been reading on another device). The Kindle app is also handy for those particularly dull periods of play.

So what have we learned? 

Well, in tech, early adopters get a lot of stick. Indeed, it may be they case that they are prepared to accept buggy software or basic apps just to be at the forefront of something new or different, but what they get in return is the chance to play in a fairly empty playground, with easy access to the swings and the slides, before all the other slightly slower-witted kids arrive and start hogging the best attractions.  

Our early adopters, put up with this for a while, then they start moaning about the playground, which has owners who suddenly start putting up intrusive notices and signs that weren't there before ('Keep off the Grass', 'No Ball Games', 'Sponsored Tweet', etc) and they also start moaning at the new arrivals because they're spoiling the place.

But what the early-adopters are really doing is looking for the next playground, with the faster slides, the wilder swings, the crazier roundabouts... and the smaller queues! Who can blame them?

So, what's to be done about the early adopter looking to gain access to faster mobile data than the crowd?  Where is there to go when all the networks are becoming much of a muchness?  Not sure that even 4G will solve this one.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Thoughts on App.Net

I was one of the launch investors of App.Net which you may have read about.  (Don't get excited - only $50 - I'm no angel).  Once it launched, that became the onboarding fee for new joiners and, it's doing so well it has already brought that down to $36.  

If you're a developer and want access the the API, that'll set you back £100 per year, and many have already taken the plunge and begun to create their own desktop and mobile apps for the platform.

In the main right now, and the apps which have sprung up around it are more like Twitter than they are different from it.  That's not a problem as it's always easier to start from an existing paradigm and already some more adventurous and diverse apps are beginning to emerge.  Also, whilst the experience is Twitter-like to a degree, there are some important and fundamental differences.  In terms of the actual conversation, each post is restricted to 256 characters.  This may not sound a big deal, over and above Twitter's 140 character limit, but it's surprising how liberating it can be and how much more precise you can be in expressing an idea or a comment with that broader palette.

Best of all though, given the paid-for nature of the service, there are no ads or promoted posts.  In fact, there are very few brands in there at all just now.  Similarly, there aren't too many newsfeeds just yet.  In fact it's just real people being, in the main, positive and friendly and having conversations.  Even friends who already know each other from Twitter and other platforms are developing their relationships in a way which hasn't been possible elsewhere to date.

Here's CEO Dalton Caldwell explaining the rationale behind the network:

The conversation can get a little technical... naturally there are many app developers talking about developing apps.  However, there is so much more going on and given the relatively low numbers of people currently using the service, engagement levels are high and of great quality.  Sure it can get a little sniffy about other networks or about people cross-posting from elsewhere, but by and large it's fairly well self-policed.  

The membership fee is, without doubt, a barrier to entry for many people.  This could well be a good thing.  Those people paying to join, whether they are a developer or not, are investing more than their joining fee.  They are investing in the people across the network by actively participating in a way that rewards themselves and the other members directly, without generating unwarranted spin-off 'benefits' for third-parties, advertisers etc beyond the network.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


I've used IA Writer quite a bit on the iPad and am starting to use it on the Mac to see how it goes. 

You can run it in a small window amongst the relative clutter of your desktop, which seems a bit daft. The app makes much more sense in glorious full screen, removing all of those distractions and allowing for greater concentration. 

Focus Mode looks even more splendid on the Mac, as what you've written slowly fades from view, enabling clear focus on the very sentence… the very word you're writing. 

Now… what to write about. 

Well I'd like to get a batch of blogposts racked up. I used to be pretty prolific, both on my own blog and especially when writing for The Next Web. These days, I tend to share content in faster, shorter bursts via a range of social platforms new and old. Certainly Twitter and, to a lesser degree Facebook, but also spaces like new kid on the block, paid-for service or ADN as the kids call it. 

Actually the kids don't call it that because they aren't on That's because it costs $50 a year and they don't want to/can't afford to pay... aside from which they've never heard of it. 

I tell you where they used to be… Facebook. They were there when they couldn't get their heads around Twitter.   Now, for whatever reason, they're all over Twitter but also flooding 70s-style photo-sharing service Instagram, which is more or less a social network in its own right. 

But blogs isn't really where anyone seems to be any more… at least not in my immediate crowd. If they are blogging, I'm not reading, so something's broken. Which is a shame, because it's nice to read a good blogpost from time to time. It's often even more fun to read and get involved in the comments underneath blog-posts, but other than on mainstream news sites, all that chatter has moved to Twitter… publish a blogpost and tweet a link to it, and people engage with you in Twitter rather than underneath your blogpost. The engagement is welcome wherever it takes place I suppose, but it can be a bit scattered and unfocused, even with the best tagging strategy in the world. 

So, for what it's worth, I'm going to blog again. More for the discipline than anything else. 

Unblocking the block.

Yes I know... I've blogged about blogging... the ultimate cliche.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

They Don't Know What They're Doing

I've got a new iPhone 5.  

I really like it of course, but I feel quite a bit differently about it than I did about buying the very first iPhone.  It is, of course, a completely different animal now than it was then... but so is Apple... and so am I.

Since, the iPhone arrived, the world has changed.  We now live in the future (read this brilliant speech if you don't believe me).  The things that we take for granted, we would have given our right arms for just a few years ago.  As Apple kick-started the smart-phone world, it has managed to keep a more than slender but increasingly aggressive lead.  

For the first time, in the run up to the iPhone 5 launch I consciously considered acquiring an Android phone for the first time as my main phone (I used an HTC Wildfire S a couple of years ago as a test phone for a project... it was lousy).  However, whilst I like the look of, and the reports coming back about the latest Samsung models, it is the use of the Google Nexus tablet running Jellybean that has turned me round to the possibility that Android might actually be capable of running a decent smartphone... but then I was standing at the bar the other night musing about this possibility to a friend and a stranger standing alongside us felt compelled to chip in that her experience with Samsung was the worst ever and that I should avoid this prospect like the plague!

So I'm sticking with the iPhone for another couple of years... I tend to keep a model for two years and skip the 'S's in between... but the company's arrogance and domination of its suppliers and partners is beginning to get dull.  The 'Lightning' connector is nice, but not only have users got to buy extra cables/chargers for the office (because lets not forget iPhones struggle to make it through the day without a charge even now, five years after launch, and this model is no better), if they've invested in a fancy speaker/hifi which allows you to mount an iPhone on it they've either got to ditch it or fork out for an ugly adaptor.  Same goes if the they've bought an additional powerpack like a Mophie Juice gizmo.

Also, Apple's paranoia which lead to Antennagate when they launched the iPhone 4 a couple of years ago (i.e. not letting enough of the things out of their sight to allow for decent User Acceptance Testing) tips over into simpler things such as the complete lack of available cases and accessories on Day One.  I actually managed to buy a really cheap case on iPhone 5 launch day from a market stall and, whilst it'll do for now, it's far from ideal.  I like to use the cases that have a belt-clip but there are none available yet.  Unsurprisingly, to me anyway, my phone - in its case- fell out of my pocket when getting out of the car earlier.  It afforded little protection and I managed to chip the black aluminium rim a little bit (something that would have gone unnoticed on the 4/4S).  Frustrating.  All these people walking around with expensive iPhone 5s tucked into spare socks and the like to stop them getting damaged.

I have to say that even thinking about walking away from Apple would have been unthinkable when the iPhone 4 came out, as I was shackled to my iTunes library, but my move to Spotify Premium about eighteen months ago means that I rarely trouble my pretty extensive iTunes library on any device.  This, more than anything else for a music fan, makes it easier to contemplate walking away from Apple at some point.  Let's see how they continue to wind us up over the next two years... a lot can happen.

I haven't even mentioned the new Apple maps, but you know, they'll get that right soon enough... I used the turn-by-turn directions this morning and they worked really well.  And anyway, if Apple has crept up my little axis of evil chart, then Google and their superior mapping product are also there or there abouts these days.

And don't get me on Twitter's ongoing lurch towards unpopularity...  mainly because I need to think of another post to write.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The next big thing? It's already here!

This week I took the chance to read Sidestep and Twist, the new book on innovation by James Gardner.

James is General Manager at Spigit - the California-based crowd innovation company.  I'm thrilled to be working alongside Spigit in delivering idea management and innovation programmes to the clients I work with around Europe and so was pretty keen to get into this book for the latest perspective on why innovation within organisations can be so tough.

This, his latest business book, is based on a pretty controversial premise. Counter-intuitively, he suggests that having the best idea, being the first to market, holding the biggest R&D budget or having world-class leadership provide no guarantees when it comes to delivering highly successful and innovative products and services.  Instead, Gardner argues that, knowingly or not, the world's innovation success stories have been built on companies' ability to adopt 'Sidestep and Twist' strategies by taking products and services that are already successful across into new markets - the Sidestep - and by adding remarkable new features which ensure that the products get better and better the more they are used - the Twist.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Not The Result I Was Looking For..

I remember going to watch Blackpool FC home games in the 1970s with my Dad and whilst in the main the atmosphere was fine, I do remember some uncomfortable occasions in the late '70s and early '80s when the tension building up between opposing fans looked ready to tip over into violence... and on some occasions it did. Through the 1980s, this kind of violence became a staple and other than occasional trips with friends to Maine Road, Old Trafford or Elland Road, I stayed away from football.

Following some well-known disasters and with the advent of the Premier League and better stadia, football in the UK seemed to get its act together and become a place where families could return to enjoy the game and the atmosphere together.

I've been taking my son along to watch Huddersfield Town as a season-ticket holder for the past few seasons. It's been an enjoyable period, although not without its frustrations as Huddersfield have tried to escape League One, coming close on several occasions. As a spectacle though, it's been a fun day out and we have got to know the people sitting around us. We all enjoy the game and the fun bits and pieces which the club puts on at half time. During this period though, we haven't been to see Town play away from home.

On my son's Christmas list this year was a request to go and see an away game. I took advantage of the Christmas and New Year fixture list to book tickets to see Town play Notts County on January 2nd, along with travel tickets organised through the club, with the coach leaving from and returning to the Galpharm Stadium.

Before the journey I was a little apprehensive about the coach trip, thinking it may be a little rowdy for my ten-year-old son, but I was relieved to see a note on the travel tickets saying 'no alcohol on board' and, when we boarded I was pleasantly surprised to see the wide age-range of the travelling support. The coach was comfortable and safe; the journey warm and pleasant.

When we reached Meadow Lane and disembarked we were greeted by friendly stewards and welcomed into the stadium. Even though it was only 1:45pm, ahead of a 3pm kick-off, we grabbed a pie and headed to our seats, again assisted by very friendly stewards. We enjoyed watching the ground begin to fill and both teams warm up.

Many of the Town supporters seemed to stay in the bars and only come up to their seats in the few minutes ahead of kick-off. Nevertheless, everything was fine and we were impressed how many Town fans had made the journey, more or less filling the Jimmy Sirrel Stand where we had been allocated seats.

The teams came out and Town were warmly welcomed and as the whistle blew, the final stragglers from the bar claimed their seats and the game kicked off... as did the language, the venom and the bile.

It was like someone had flicked a switched and suddenly we were surrounded by a hail of abuse. It stemmed largely from men between around 18 and 30, but it wasn't exclusively men and there were some older people joining in too. The language was appalling, but I should say that, even though many can't, I can cope with some language if it's used with wit and humour, but this wasn't. It just kept coming, aimed, not only at the opposing team and the officials but also at many of the Town players!

I'd have been uncomfortable on my own and was even more uncomfortable in the company of my son. We'd been looking forward to singing and cheering the team along, but we couldn't participate in this. We watched the (frustrating) game and quietly looked forward to the coach home.

The swearing was unbelievable but so was the aggression and the frothing-at-the-mouth fury which accompanied it, there was even some completely bizarre and perplexing anti-semitism and homophobia. Quite breathtaking, and something we never see or hear at home games. It was massively disappointing. I thought, obviously naively, that we'd got rid of this from the English game... clearly not.

The stewards did nothing, not that I really expected them to. Neither did I raise my voice to those shouting around me for fear of immediate reprisals.

We won't be going to see Town play away again and I have to say it's put a different complexion on the prospect of regular home games.