Bethany Mota, Glozell Green and Hank Green, three popular Youtube stars whose channels have collectively more than 13 million subscribers, had the opportunity to interview President Obama after the 2015 State of the Union address. Many traditional media channels reacted negatively and often in a derogatory fashion, which prompted Hank Green to share his thoughts on this media reaction, capturing astutely the strenuous relationship between mainstream media and personal publishing:
There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don’t trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting. These channels exist not to inform but to uphold the biases and values of particular ideologies. Ideologies and values, by the way, that very few young people embody. Even when they try to strike a balance, they do it by pitting different perspectives against each other in staged arguments. But neither perspective looks familiar to most people under the age of 40, so they just tune out.
The source of our legitimacy is the very different from their coiffed, Armani institutions. It springs instead (and I’m aware that I’m abandoning any modicum of modesty here) from honesty. In new media this is often called “authenticity” because our culture is too jaded to use a big fat word like “honesty” without our gallbladders clogging up, but that’s really what it is.
Glozell, Bethany and I don’t sit in fancy news studios surrounded by fifty thousand dollar cameras and polished metal and glass backdrops with inlayed 90-inch LCD screens. People trust us because we’ve spent years developing a relationship with them. We have been scrutinized and found not evil. Our legitimacy comes from honesty, not from cultural signals or institutions.
Invisible Boyfriend is an online service that provides “real-world and social proof that you’re in a relationship – even if you’re not – so you can get back to living life on your own terms” for $25 a month. Caitlin Dewey tried the service for the Washington Post. Unsurprisingly the service launched shortly before Valentine’s Day, which is of course by far the best time of the year to launch a service like this. There’s also a service for Invisible Girlfriends.
Justin Long has automated Tinder with Eigenfaces. The bot does all the swiping based on facial recognition training and even autonomously initiates and pursues conversations to a point were strong interest is indicated. In 48 hours the bot found 21 matches and made 4 extended conversations. Source on GitHub.
More on Tinder bots, this time of the spam variety.
How to fall in love with anyone, in 36 easy steps. There’s even an app for that (only works on mobile).
The Guardian put Google Glass on a couple of couples and watched them date. Strangely compelling.
“What I imagine my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends are doing right now“. And I thought I was driving myself crazy sometimes.
How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. Number 3 is really hard, but I can vouch that it works.
And finally, because the movie is currently tearing up the box office (I’ve already done my part contributing to its success), 50 Shades of Disney, courtesy of Cosmopolitan. Probably not quite safe for work.
The Phorm iPad mini case adds tactile feedback to your iPad’s virtual onscreen keyboard and can be turned on and off with a simple switch:
It’s impossible to tell how well this works without having tried it, but it looks intriguing nonetheless. Bringing tactile feedback to touchscreens used to be a rather popular topic in HCI research a few years back. Reminds me of Chris Harrison’s pneumatically actuated buttons.
[T]he perception that Apple is somehow hanging on by the skin of their teeth persists. I was speaking to someone about Apple’s particularly excellent China results this afternoon, and was struck at how their questions were so focused on threats to Apple – “How will Apple respond to Xiaomi” for example. This is in stark contrast to the way most think about a company like Google, where their dominance in whatever field they choose to enter is assumed, just as Microsoft’s was a decade ago. Apple, though, is always a step away from catastrophe.
It’s difficult to overstate just how absurd this is, but here’s my best attempt: last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% – a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter. And yet it’s Google that is feared, and Apple that is feared for.
Bad Assumptions | stratechery by Ben Thompson
Emphasize mine. The way Apple is represented in the media, both as being existentially threatened but also how it retained its scrappy underdog status, is truly ridiculous.
Ubisoft just announced Assassin’s Creed: Rogue for PC, and as far as I know, this is the first video game that supports eye tracking as an input mechanism: you basically just look at a point on the screen to focus your camera there. I’m not entirely sure how well that works when you start looking at the HUD elements, which are usually located at the corners and edges of the screen and would thus result in rather extreme, unwanted camera movements, but I suppose a small camera delay as well as a no-focus dead-zone around HUD elements could probably take care of that problem.
Sony also experimented with this same idea almost a year ago, but as far as I know their efforts never materialized in a commercial product:
One way to look at this is that iOS and Android have been converging – they arrived with more or less the same capabilities despite starting from opposite ends. Apple has given up control where Google has taken it. And of course Google has had to add lots to Android just as Apple had to add lots to iOS (and they’ve generally ‘inspired’ each other on the way), and just as Apple has added cloud services Google has redesigned the user interface (twice, so far).
But the underlying philosophies remain very different – for Apple the device is smart and the cloud is dumb storage, while for Google the cloud is smart and the device is dumb glass. Those assumptions and trade-offs remain very strongly entrenched.
Mobile platforms and technical debt — Benedict Evans
Microsoft’s recently announced HoloLens, a holographic augmented reality headset, looks quite impressive, but despite a deluge of media coverage, it’s quite difficult to get a proper understanding of how far advanced the technology actually is. Reading first hands-on experiences from reporters who were given the opportunity to try it out, albeit without any equipment to record the experience, it sounds like the technology is still far from being market ready. Let’s hope they figure out a way to turn this into a bigger and longer lasting success than the Kinect:
The bizarre thing is a huge amount of effort and time and money goes into researching the tech, like the Kinect tech and scanning the bodies, and there’s always this one line that hardware manufacturers – whether it be Microsoft or anyone else – say and that’s ‘we can’t wait to see what happens when it gets into the hands of developers.’ Now if Apple had said that when they introduced the iPhone, I don’t think we’d ever end up with the iPhone! What really should happen is that they put a similar amount of money into researching just awesome real world applications that you’ll really use and that work robustly and smoothly and delightfully.
Molyneux warns Microsoft: Don’t overpromise on HoloLens | GamesIndustry.biz
Dan Grover recently moved from San Francisco to Guangzhou and became a product manager on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China. In an extensive blog post he shares some insights into Chinese mobile app UI trends and how they differ from the US and Europe. There are many interesting observations in his post, such as a trend towards walled gardens and portals in China, whereas in the west there’s a trend towards app unbundling. Benedict Evans also wrote about these two contrasting trends back in August.
One of the most interesting little tidbits for me, however, came as part of the description of WeChat’s Moments feature, which provides a news feed, but in subtly different ways than we’re used to from Facebook:
When you like or comment on a friend’s post, only they and any mutual friends can see it – not all of both parties’ friends, as on Facebook. This means that only the author of a post has an accurate idea how many people liked or commented on their post. This lowers’ users inhibitions in engaging with their friends’ posts.
This makes so much more sense to me than how Facebook’s news feed works right now. On Facebook, the reach and visibility of my actions is beyond my grasp and control. In that sense, interacting with Facebook feels like an act of performance in front of an unknown audience to me, and for that reason I refrain from doing so at all. By restoring a measure of privacy in Facebook interactions, it could become a much more intimate and useful communications tool. Then again, judging by the contents of my news feed, I’m pretty sure that Facebook is much more interested in being a media publishing company than a communications service provider.
I propose post flat design – not just as a new way of thinking about design aesthetic – but also creating sensible visual hierarchy and more understandable interfaces for our users. Some qualities of a post flat interface may include:
Hierarchy defined using size, and composition along with color.
Affordant buttons, forms, and interactive elements
Skeuomorphs to represent 1:1 analogs to real-life objects (the curl of an e-book page, for example) in the name of user delight or affordance
Strong emphasis on content, not ornamentation
Beautiful, readable typography
I’m not quite sold on the Post Flat moniker, but those are some design principles I can easily and gladly get behind.