Thursday, 17 January 2013

I like my tools simple and good looking...

Today I learned that Omnifocus is going free... at least until the new version is released.  I also learned on taking a look at it, that it looks like a real time-sink.  I know that I'd spend more time curating my todo lists than actually doing the tasks.

The best task management tool I've found in recent years is Clear.  I like my tools simple and good-looking...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Is Kindle really a browsing service for real books?

I heard a discussion on Radio 4 this week about the relative merits of ebooks vs physical books.  The upshot of the debate seemed to be that, despite publishers' initial wariness, people were beginning to impulse-buy more books than ever before, due to the always available ebook-stores.  Certainly, people seem to be buying much more than they read and, as there are no bulging shelves to show for it, it's very easy to do.  

However, the radio conversation went on to suggest that people are purchasing ebooks to decide whether they like a book and, if after they have read it they have enjoyed it, they then trek out to the local bookshop and buy a physical copy... in effect, buying the same book twice.  I'm sorry but I just don't believe that.

Friday, 4 January 2013

I like books and I like music... but which is best?

There's only one way to find out...

You might have seen that Spotify has withdrawn the facility for UK users to purchase and download tracks, in favour of concentrating on its primary offering of streaming music.  

My guess is that it was because no-one was bothering to buy and download when they could stream.  Premium subscribers can also save playlists locally to iOS or Android devices as part of their deal.  What's more, those iOS users with an Apple TV can also stream their Spotify tunes through their sound systems at home too... so why buy?

Setting paid-download options alongside streaming options within the Spotify app has never made much sense to me, so it's not really a surprise to see it disappearing

Since picking up a Spotify Premium account when they first became available I've rarely bought anything from iTunes or other download stores.  I listen to hundreds of tracks new and old every month so, for me, Spotify represents great value for money.  Setting paid-download options alongside streaming options within the Spotify app has never made much sense to me, so it's not really a surprise to see it disappearing.

In discussing this on Twitter earlier, I entered a conversation where it was implied that streaming was an effective model for the distribution of audio-books too. With the assumption that the user can store local playlists in the same way as Spotify, I'd agree.  However, for me the subscription model for audio-books is a much more thorny problem.  With Spotify Premium I might listen to hundreds of tracks over a month, plus many albums in part or in full... with the equivalent cost of purchasing individual tracks averaging 99p each and albums between £7.99 and £9.99 Spotify Premium is well worth my £10 per month subscription.

With the streaming of audio-books, however, the subscription value is less clear-cut.  An audio-book might cost £10 or more, but given that they are often hours long, I'm unlikely to get through more than one a month.  What's more, with music and actually reading books competing for my time and attention, there's a good chance it might take me even longer to get through it.  Suddenly a £10 per month subscription doesn't look that attractive.  

I suppose that some of the problem is down to the fact that audio-books have a very specific demographic... including, for example, people with regular lengthy commutes, whereas music fans are more widespread.  You can listen to a track in three minutes and then move onto doing something else, you can treat it like radio and let it roll on in the background all day, or you select a specific album and dedicate an hours attention to it... either way, it fits in more people's busy lifestyles than an audio-book streaming service might.  

If they had a model where for, say £2.99 per month, I could stream a maximum of one or two books per month, that might be more interesting.

Case in point for me is the fact that I undertook Bardowl's 14-day trial last year and started listening to a great book.  However, after a couple of reasonably efficient listening sessions (whilst watching local cricket I seem to remember) I then went to the app to find that my free subscription had expired before I'd reached the end of the book.  Instead, of opting for the subscription, I simply bought the book for my Kindle instead, in the knowledge that I would never realistically listen to enough audio books to warrant the monthly subscription fee.  

I should add, that this is a shame really because I love the concept and I love the Bardowl app, but it comes down to the subscription model not meeting my needs really.  If they had a model where for, say £2.99 per month, I could stream a maximum of one or two books per month, that might be more interesting.

photo: bjmccray

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Email vs Social Media in the Enterprise

This post is actually a comment I have just left on Euan Semple's blog:

When email hit the corporate workplace I'd had it at home for years but I was unusual. For most people, the use of email at work was quite often their first run-in with it. The thing with introducing social media into the workplace is that... on the upside, many are very familiar with it in a non-work environment, but this is also the downside. 

I've run a number of projects recently introducing social platforms into the work environment and one of the major hurdles is convincing people to use it and overcome their out-of-work social media prejuduces (whether they be pro or anti). 

If employees are pro-social media outside work, the relative constraints and differing etiquette required within the organisation can be so off-putting they resist making the leap. Those who've taken against social media outside of work for whatever reason are even harder to convince... "social media is just not my thing". In the early '90s did employees say... 'oh... email is just not my thing'? Probably not, because it was new to them and it was being mandated as a business process by their employer. 

I'd be quite happy with employers taking a firmer line on mandating the use of social media, but they might need to think about removing the comfort blankets of email and other enterprise platforms in some instances in order to force the issue. 

photo: jimapics

Tuesday, 1 January 2013