Books, Computers, Design & Usability, eBooks, iPad, Reading, Technology 3 Comments


So as pretty much everyone in the world knows, Apple announced the iPad yesterday. Unlike apparently everyone else, I actually don’t have a problem with the name. Legal pad, note pad, hockey pad, bachelor pad, launch pad…etc. etc. etc. Come on.

Anyhoo…while I’m crazily excited about the iPad (and I will be ordering one the second Apple lets me send them money), I don’t think it will be a Kindle killer for me. It could be for a lot of people, but the way I use my Kindle doesn’t really lend itself to immediate replacement by the iPad. It’s too big, for one, and too heavy. And the Kindle’s buttons are ideal — I often read my Kindle lying on my side (on the sofa or in bed) and the buttons are great. The iPad’s swipe-to-turn-the-page thing is just not going to work for that. As others have said, the LCD screen is a double-edged sword…while I desperately wish e-ink were more contrasty, I’m not sure I could spend more time staring at an LCD screen than I already do. I’m on my laptop or iMac 10-14 hours a day as it is — I use books and my Kindle as a way to rest my eyes, and the iPad won’t work for that either.

I also like that the Kindle is a single-purpose device. Like John, I’m able to read longer and more complex works on my Kindle than on my laptop, with a much better ability to focus. Reading on my laptop, I fall into the trap of responding to IM pings or just flipping over to check a quick email or jot down a note or quickly glance at my Twitterstream, at which point I get lost in the other distractions. The Kindle, on the other hand, is just for reading, a step away from the hurly burly of the internets and all the shenanigans therein. The iPad seems like it will split the difference — other apps will be available, but without background applications there won’t be IM pings and whatnot. I’m not sure what that will turn out to be like in practice.

We will see. I am going to get an iPad, and I am going to try reading some books on it. I’m very much hoping that Apple continues to allow Amazon to have their Kindle app on the iPhone and iPad because at that point they’ll have to compete on the price of content, and less expensive ebooks are something I’m Very Interested In. Once I’ve had a chance to do an actual comparison of both as an eReader device, I’ll post a review.

Honestly, this is all jetpacks and flying cars, anyhow. I like living in the future.

The Autumn of the Multitaskers

Technology No Comments

Another article from The Atlantic, this one from last year. “Multitasking, a definition: The attempt by human beings to operate like computers, often done with the assistance of computers. It begins by giving us more tasks to do, making each task harder to do, and dimming the mental powers required to do them. It finishes by making us forget exactly how on earth we did them (assuming we didn’t give up, or ‘multi­quit’), which makes them harder to do again.” The Autumn of the Multitaskers.

Is the Web making us stupid?

Reading, Technology, Web 1 Comment

There’s a great article at the Atlantic that’s worth reading: Is Google making us stupid?. I don’t think it is, but I do think it’s changing things, and probably in ways we haven’t begun to realize yet. It’s an interesting observation, and definitely something to think about.

Our culture’s hope, or our culture’s destroyer?

Internet, Technology, Web, Work No Comments

Andrew Keen wrote a book called The Cult of the Amateur: How today’s Internet is killing our culture. David Weinberger wrote a book called Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. Both of these books are more or less about the Web, only Keen thinks it’s terrible and Weinberger thinks it’s wonderful.

The Wall Street Journal set them to debating, and the full result is here: Full Text: Keen vs. Weinberger. It is a long but fascinating read.

Digital kids and the death of email

Internet, Technology, Web, Work 2 Comments

“…much has been written about the demise of e-mail, given the annoyance of spam and the rise of tools like instant messaging, voice over IP and text messaging. But e-mail has hung on to its utility in office environments and at home, even if it’s given up some ground to new challengers. It may be that social networks are the most potent new rival to e-mail, one of the Internet’s oldest forms of communication. With tens of millions of members on their respective networks, MySpace and Facebook can wield great influence over a generation living online, either through the cell phone or the Internet.”


Reclaiming my fragmented attention-stream

Internet, Productivity, Technology, Web, Work 9 Comments

I love the Internet. It is a fundamental part of my daily life — my work, my hobbies, my interests, my news, my entertainment, and my communication streams all involve computers, the Internet, and/or the Web in some way. Recently there has been an explosion in the number of applications I use to get information and to communicate with people online: email (Google, Zimbra), IRC, IM (jabber, AIM, ichat), Twitter, web feeds (back up to over 350 now), a host of forums, an even larger host of websites (both social and non), and so forth.

Unfortunately, the result is that my attention is utterly fractured. If it’s not a conversation in one of my dozen IRC channels it’s an IM message; if not an IM message then it’s a Twitter update, or an email, or my feed reader has new items, or I’m flipping through my dozens of browser tabs, or my calendar is reminding me of one or another meetings or other appointments. I am becoming overwhelmed by this firehose of information, and it’s destroying my ability to focus, to read and think deeply, and, fundamentally, to get work done.

It needs to stop. At very least, it needs to be reduced to a trickle. Thus, I am going on an information diet. The changes I will be working towards are outlined below. “Working towards” means that while I doubt I will stick strictly to this regimen, it is the disciplined ideal towards which I strive.

1) During the work day I will only be checking personal email twice — once at the beginning of the day, and once at lunch (“lunch” can range from 11am to 2pm Eastern Time). After hours, I’ll check when I happen to think of it.

2) During the non-work day I will only be checking work mail once — sometime between dinner and bed. No guarantees what time that will be or whether I’ll be doing anything more than flagging items of interest to deal with the next work day.

3) Over the weekend I will be checking both personal and work mail only twice per day — once in the morning and once before bed.

4) Scheduled meetings are sacred. If I’m scheduled and expected to attend a meeting, I will. If it’s an optional meeting, I will make the decision whether or not to attend when my iCal reminder pops up. If there’s an optional meeting you think I should definitely attend, let me know. I don’t mind meetings, I just want to keep them to a useful minimum.

5) Twitter, while entertaining, has not yet proven to be useful. It will be getting shut off during work hours from here on out. Bummer because it’s invariably good for a laugh, but it’s just too distracting.

6) I will be reducing my IRC channels to the bare minimum during work days. Outside of work hours, all bets are off. If you need to contact me try instant message first, calling my work extension second, or calling my cell third. If I respond to none of these, please email me at my work address if it’s work-related or my personal address if it’s not-work-related.

7) I’ve organized my web feeds into two major groups: “Work” and “Everything Else”. I am reducing the update frequency from every 15 mins to every 2 hours. I will only be checking the “Everything Else” group outside of work hours. Oh lolcats, I will miss you so.

8) When I’m in a phone meeting I will be minimizing all windows except those directly involved with the meeting (agenda, notes, backchannel). Harsh, but necessary. I sat through two phone meetings today and realized that I didn’t hear a single word because I was too busy yammering away in unrelated IRC channels and scanning my web feeds. This is both rude and a complete waste of time, and I apologize for it.

9) I will be unplugging for at least one work hour per day. This means I will simply go offline. During that time I will either be reading, thinking, or working on proposals/documentation/etc. If it turns out that I’m getting solid work done, I reserve the right to extend my unplugged time indefinitely. Turns out a lot of my job is thinking, reading, and writing. If I appear to be offline and you need to contact me, call my extension or my cell.

10) Kinhin. Ok, not technically kinhin, but a very distant personal approximation thereof. Kinhin is a walking form of Zen meditation. Real Zen practitioners do kinhin between periods of zazen (sitting meditation), and it is a very rigorous, formal practice. For me it just means “walking for an hour every day and trying to get my mojo back”.

“two decades have brought zero advance in productivity”

Computers, Software, Technology No Comments

From an article with an interesting, if arguable, perspective:

“User Experience” has not changed much in two decades. Due to bloated code that has to incorporate hundreds of functions that average users don’t even know exist, let alone ever utilize, the software companies have weighed down our PCs to effectively neutralize their vast speed advantages. When we compare strictly common, everyday, basic user tasks between the Mac Plus and the AMD we find remarkable similarities in overall speed, thus it can be stated that for the majority of simple office uses, the massive advances in technology in the past two decades have brought zero advance in productivity.

And that’s just plain crazy.

Read the full article here: 86 Mac Plus Vs. 07 AMD DualCore.

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