I discussed the problems with the data approach on IOS already a few times as I was discussing MicroContent on IOS. And you can find many discussions on the web. Unfortunately solutions are few. Many people prefer to see some kind File Manager as the solutions. However it was the idea of IOS to hide this as much as possible. The sandboxing which forced all this should provide better security and easy to understand file management for end-users. The Apple approach to security with their walled garden and gardens within gardens seems to be a good approach, when we see more and more malware on the much more open Android.
However we are not there yet. If IOS wants to be a solution for more complex problems and more professional users, it has to rake its garden differently. Apps should be able to access other parts of the garden. Apps should be able to open and edit documents created in other apps. This might be asking for security problems, as one App does not know what security issues another App might introduce
And this is where Apple should come to the rescue. All apps are created the Apple’s Objective-C and uses Apple’s provided frameworks. This includes frameworks for file management and data-handling. Would it be possible to create more specific framework for MicroContent and Structure Content?
For example a bookmark framework would allow a developer to access a common bookmark store. It would be possible to retrieve bookmarks, add bookmarks and edit them. It is up to the developer to add functionalities as he sees fit. This bookmark store can be shared by any app that uses bookmarks. it is up to the developer to create bookmark management functionalities.
The preferred way to implement such bookmark management will be set by Apple in an app like Safari. Any app can implement functions to synchronize with its own service, such as delicious.
The advantage of letting Apple implement such a framework, is that only they can create safeguards in a framework. Any creation and addition has to go through their API’s. They can also implement export functions to create xbel-files, etc. And more importantly the import-functions.
A similar approach can be used for more complex documents. It should be possible to find a common document format. I guess this is most likely a Pages-format. It is then up to Apple to create conversion from doc or odt files.
I am now trying all sorts of apps to see whether I can create bookmarks via tweets. Flipboard for iPad has a tweet option with an interesting twist: it allows to add a screencapture of the page you are tweeting. And this in addition to the add of the page url. This image is hosted by Flipboard.
I am not so sure of the creation of an screen image. I would have preferred to have a PDF of the page for archiving purposes.
I am not sure how the Flipboard tweets work. Sometimes they appear as a retweet and sometimes as a tweet. The retweet happens only if I see a twitter image below an entry. Must investigate this further.
The import via Twitter into Delicious, as I described in my previous post is not working as it should. All the text in the tweet is used as note. The uri in the tweet is used as link in a delicious item. Unfortunately no delicious title is created, neither are the hashtags parsed to tags.
So I am left with a very incomplete solution, where I must edit all the delicious items I create.
With the use of multiple devices for accessing and creating bookmarks, the question of storage comes to mind. Where a single storage place, local on the pc, sufficed in the past, we now have to look at other solutions. We want a storage solution that is independent of my current devices and allows me to access my bookmarks from devices that I do not have (yet). This implies that I am looking for a storage solution in the cloud. This cloud storage can be either accessed through a web-browser or specific apps/applications geared towards bookmarks.
Web-browser specific solutions do not work, as the store bookmarks only locally. With the advent of iCloud this changed for Safari. My bookmarks are now distributed and exchanged between my Apple-based devices. I am not sure whether I can access my bookmarks on icloud.com using any web-browser. It is clear however that this is only a Apple-specific solution. Furthermore Safari is a lousy solution to manage some 3000 bookmark items that I have at the moment.
The previous post on bookmark creation showed that I now have a storage solution in my bookmark twitter account and in my email bookmark mailbox. This is OK for storage, but not a management and access solution.
Already many years in the past I chose Delicious as my bookmarks solution. On my Mac I have an application (WebNoteHappy) that synchronises with Delicious. WebNoteHappy stores the bookmarks locally. I can either create a bookmark right in Delicious or in WebNoteHappy. On my Mac I create a bookmark in WebNoteHappy, which uploads it to Delicious (does this work also the other way around?).
Unfortunately with my iPad this workflow broke. There is no WebNoteHappy for IOS. And the browsers do not allow me to bookmark to Delicious. Fortunately Delicious has created a link with Twitter. Delicious can listen to a Twitter-account and create a bookmark when it sees an uri in a tweet. So that is what I did.
A few years ago it was unclear whether Delicious was going to survive and indeed not much innovation happened. I pulled all my bookmarks out Delicious and put it in an alternative service: Pinboard. A new bookmark provider would break my Mac workflow, but at least my bookmarks were saved. Delicious is still around, so I continue using it. There was mention of WebNoteHappy supporting the Pinboard API, but I do not know whether that happened.
Pinboard also follows my Twitter-bookmark account and allows for bookmark creation by email. So my bookmarks are now created in at least two places. This brings me to The problem of synchronisation and consistency. I know that not all my bookmarks are in Pinboard. They are however in Delicious. So I could restart Pinboard sometime. Or find a synchronisation solution. It seems best to keep one solution as leading storage. It used to be WebNoteHappy, but now I will move to Delicious.
I have not yet found a local IOS solution for bookmarks. And then I mean a solution, which has its own database of bookmarks. As the integration with other browsers seems impossible, there do exists bookmark solutions with their own embedded browser (which?). But that is not what I want. I do not want a browser for each of my MicroContent types. So I had to go for another solution.
There exist apps that access Delicious and Pinboard. Delicious has its own free iPhone app, which is to limited for me. I am trying now the app dbd, which can function as frontend to either Delicous or Pinboard. This fits my bill very well. I have now my bookmarks available on my iPad. The app allows me to edit bookmarks (including delete) and I can view the corresponding web-page with an embedded browser. The thing that is missing is the Pinboard-Delicious synchronisation, which would make the two services interchangeable.
Now that I am using IOS I have to review my workflow around my MicroContent. I do not know what the best way is yet, so I am discovering. The limited pro workflow support on IOS has me looking for other solutions.
The first step is the creation of a Bookmark MC item. Usually this is triggered by something that I read in a browser. Remember that a bookmark item consists of an uri, a title, tags and a note. The export function of a browser should allow me to create those elements.
I use either Safari, 1Password or Mercury as browsers. These apps allow me to export through Mail, Message or Twitter. Message is a messaging app from Apple with which I have experience yet. Message gives me the feeling of a closed system. In addition Mercury also allows me to export to Facebook or Evernote.
It also possible to Bookmark an item in Safari, but this puts a bookmark into the Apple Eco-system. I think these bookmarks are synchronized through iCloud and can also appear on Safari on other systems. 1Password does not have a bookmarking function. Mercury does allow the creation of bookmarks and can synchronize with Chrome and Firefox bookmarks. Thus also Chrome and Firefox have an ecosystem of sorts.
For me I can realistically only use Mail or Twitter. These two export options do not rely on a single application or ecosystem. Although the use of single provider Twitter is worrisome. These two export options allow me create a bookmark MC item of sorts.
Starting with the Twitter export option and going through each element of the Bookmark MC item:
The email export facility is a bit more advanced:
But one of the most important parts of creation has not been discussed: where should the tweet or mail message go to? My solution has been to create a specific Twitter-account for my bookmark tweets. I do not use the mail creation solution yet, but I should do something similar by creating a bookmark mail account.
Now that I have my bookmarks in a cloud storage solution, I can think about other functions that I need.
Last years there has been very few progress with respect to MicroContent. It seems that we made some steps backwards. The whole ecosystems of devices, clouds and providers makes our MicroContent more difficult to manage. Applications and services that I used to satisfactions are no longer available or did not keep up. So it is time to revisit my setup which takes into account these new realities.
I am somewhat in between past and future with my setup. I am still using an old PowerPC iBook from 10 years ago. It is still working to satisfaction although no new software updates are available. So I am missing out on the newest software and features. I do not have a portable, I still have no need for such a device. I do have an iPad for some 5 months now. I am very happy with the iPad and I love the Retina screen. The iPad can replace 80% of my computer work, so I use it much more than I hoped to.
I am not a great cloud user yet. I setup the iCloud, but in my current setup it does not have extra value. iCloud is not available on my old iBook. This means that when I want to move data from and to the iPad, I have to use one of the other clouds: Dropbox or Evernote. And I also use Google Docs for some data. And finally I do host some things myself, such as email and blogs (this one). I have on experience with any Android or Microsoft specific clouds.
So we have many types of devices and providers and there is a big chance that one gets locked in. I am already pretty locked into the Apple ecosystems, but I am trying to keep some independence. Especially my data should be independent from a provider and application. And if I am dependent, I demand an export function to get independence from providers and applications. This implies also that there must an import-function to get at old data.
These demands are nothing new, however my usage of the iPad shows that I need some additional measures to keep my independence. I view the iPad as a restrictive platform. I am unable to mix data from one app to another one. The approach of sandboxing an app hinders me. I see (and like) the advantage of being free of virus, trojan horses, etc. Integrity and safety of my device are more important than independence. So I have to add independence elsewhere.
I intend to look at various MicroContent types to see how I can keep my independence and what my demands should be on providers, apps, devices and applications in order to be part of my MicroContent Eco-system. Now that I have more experience with my iPad, I will try to move to the next level.
Dave Winer’s recent post on the Un-Internet has been repeated on multiple blogs and tweets that I subscribe to. I read it a few times and it strikes me a bit of a non-issue. It is all about control by corporations on their platforms, services and content. Control seems to be a common of corporations and they do not always win (or is it never)?
In the case of platform control, Apple seems to be the best target of these discussions. It is however not a black/white discussion. I would argue that Apple is in effect one of the more open platforms. At the other end of the scale one can think of gaming platforms, such as the PS3, WII, Nintendo-3DS. And nobody complains of the lack of openness of the latter. The problem is that the iOS-platform reminds people of the PC (or Mac), which is (are) at the other end of the spectrum.
The Android-platform was poised to be an open platform. However Android reseted a development environment and many independent Android-platforms have been created. Each Android-platform has it’s own controlling corporation, which determines who can publish on their platform, how it works with platform upgrades etc. I did not follow all the details, but the Android-world seems to have become less open than iOS.
The degree of openness seems also related to the user experience offered and thus to the target user group. Consumer Electronics has always been a closed environment. For me, Apple succeeded in creating a fairly open consumer experience and thus offering high end computing to a much larger user group. Windows or MacOSX never succeeded at this. With all platforms allowing access to Internet-services and having a very large amount of apps, I am not much worried here.
I am much more worried about service control. There are multiple services which seem to control to much content and to many users. Facebook and Twitter come to mind here. Facebook (the mini-Internet) can be circumvented, which I did. I am not a Facebook user, so not a specialist. There are however Facebook-service which are reaching into the rest of the Internet. I think of the like-button, which give Facebook to much control of public appreciations. The same is true of the Google +1-button.
The control of Twitter is even more worrisome. A single provider that controls a worldwide notification network! Attempts by US congress to control users here clearly indicates that things need to open up here.
What I am missing is are attempts to standardise services in an IETF-way. We could use a set of standards on which we could base a like/+1 network. Or a client-server or server-server set of specifications on which we could base a Twitter-like network.
And a key ingredient of such a standardisation drive should be a common set of MicroContent-definitions, which would allow us the interchange, save, import, export, backup all kinds of MicroContent. Do not let a corporation control your MicroContent either.
Dave Winer reacts to the recent news that the future is apps and the web is dead. He asserts that this will not be the case due to the lack of linking.
I agree with him that linking is essential. The (perma-)link is the basis of MicroContent as well. Dave Winer says that you would otherwise get closed data silos. He prefers to stay in the web. And I agree there
I wonder however whether the two (apps and web) are incompatible. I am not up to date with MicroContent in the newest (mobile) apps. However on my Mac, MicroContent applications are for me the way to consume data. It is my preferred way to follow the new, either through NetNewsWire for rss of YoruForuku for twitter. And naturally these contain browser-links, which open in my browser. For me the web-browser is an unfortunate in-between, I would rather go directly to the corresponding rss-item.
So it all depends how app-developers view this and whether they allow links, or not.
I have been using Google Plus now for several days and time to draw some conclusions: I do not like it. But I am still intrigued by it.
At it’s heart Google Plus is a blog aggregator / reader, and a lousy one at that. I much prefer to read my blogs (i.e. RSS-feeds) in NetNewsWire. Google Plus uses the Combined View layout of NetNewsWire. It is a layout that I do not like, it is not efficient enough to my liking. I like to skim headlines and go from headline to headline quick.
But it is also the way people use Google Plus. Some write original posts and thus G+ becomes a blogging service. Others republish their posts from their blogs and it becomes just another venue. Others use it as a bookmarking service, where they post URL’s with (hopefully) a small comment. And yet others use it as a photo publishing service. And again other use it as a microblogging-service.
It is nice that G+ is so diverse, but your blogging service could have done the same. For me it becomes to much. I have to inefficiently wade through posts in order to find a gem. I prefer the short messages of Twitter, where I can quickly scan and decide whether I want to dive in. G+ forces me to see all.
The discussions of G+ are an interesting feature. Normally I do not engage quickly into a discussion, but on G+ I tend to react more often. I am not sure that I want to do that, time is short. When I read a blog in my newsreader, I hardly ever descend to the blog-webpage in order to react. In my Tweet-reader I react much more often with either replies and/or retweets. This makes a lower quality channel. And my blog(s) become a higher quality channel. And it is up to the reader to chose the quality level they want to follow.
I do the same when following people, I decide what part I want to see of them. Some I follow on twitter and other on their blogs. I also can decide on the nature and type of content I want to follow. A granularity that G+ does not give me.
What is left is the whole circle thing of G+. I do not see the value of it. I never really used it the last days. I do not use it to filter my stream. I either follow somebody or I don’t. The same goes for posting: I always post to public and I leave the decision up to the reader to decide whether he wants to see it.
And finally there are some fundamental things about G+ that I do not like. I want to own what I publish. Of everything that I write a copy stays on my machine and my backups. I publish myself on my own blogs. And I republish with some service providers. I want to get my data out of a service. And I want RSS-feeds so that I can decide how I consume the content.
Well, I will follow G+ for a while more, engage from time to time, follow some people in my RSS-reader and see whether things change.
In my photostream on Google+ I found an image by Stephen Downes analysing Google+. Interestingly there was no way to move the the corresponding G+ post. Link breakage. So I had to go to STephen’s stream and track down the post. By the way: what a junk in the stream of people commenting.
I sure agree with him that a lot is lacking.
I have been using Google Plus now for some days and have been trying to deconstruct it a bit. At first instance it strikes me as a blogging and feed-reader combination with support for commenting, feed management and user directory. And all of this is nicely aggregated.
But let’s first look at the MicroContent in this service. I would like to call the blog-MicroContent, a blog-post. This post consists of a piece of text with a permalink. Note that there is no title for a post. One can add a photo/image, a video and/or an URL to a post. An URl is in addition extended with a title, a desription and an image. See this post as an example of this.
And that is about it. There exists a photofeed-page with photo’s of the people you subscribe to, but the photo’s do not appear as separate items with a permalink. There is potentially other MIcroConten, such as the photo’s, the attched links, personal profiles, comments, ratings (+1’s), network, etc.
As a MicroContent application/service it also lacks all kind of features. I could try to apply my client checklist to this service, but I already see that it would rate very low, so why bother?
So what leaves me to comment on are the aggregation features. From left to right on my screen. The stream-circle filter is nice if you have feed overload or want to focus what you read. Sparks: another feed directory? Chat: OK. In the middle with have the stream of posts of my subscriptions.
I like the comments in the stream, the ratings and reposts. But then I talk about the user interface. Strange that we still do not have an Internet standard, which can work which support this kind of aggregation possibilities. And finally on the right I see my subscription list, suggestions (very unuseful), hangout (videochat).
I guess the innovative feature is the user directory and management of circles. I am underwhelmed. What is wrong with the creation of folders? Or is the drag&drop; an invention? Or is it the wording? Circles sounds easier than folders.
In conclusion: I am underwhelmed. I do not see where the progress.
The announcement by Apple of the iCloud has made me wonder how I should look at it from a MicroContent point of view. As details are still unclear, I can only indicate where I see some touch-points between iCloud and MicroContent.
There have been already many good articles explaining the iCloud and describing the differences between the Apple, Google and Amazon approach to the cloud. Check out my Delicious icloud tag to get started.
What I get out of the iCloud is the idea of a data-centered approach. Apple talks about documents, but you might also think of MicroContent data. This data is centrally stored in the Apple iCloud and pushed to any of your iDevices. Any changes to the data locally on an iDevice is uploaded and distributed between your registered iDevices. So from a user point of view you no longer have to worry where your data is, you just have it.
So far so good. This basic idea however leaves various questions open and we will see how these are filled in.
The first is how conflict resolution is solved. This happens when the same data has been changed on different devices. Which version is then the good one? The suggestion is that Apple will decide which version is the best one, the truthful one. So no pop-up windows where the user has to decide. And if you do not agree you can revert back to another version.
The iCloud is really an Apple realm. It only concerns the data for your iDevices. it is unclear how this will include a windows PC. As no synching with iTunes is necessary anymore, no backup is necessary neither, iTunes on a PC is no longer needed. Or will this be limited to audio, video and images only?
In a larger context one wonders whether there are possibilities that non-iDevices can be included in the iCloud. I would guess the answer is no. Getting things out the iCloud and into the iCloud will still be called exporting and importing and left to an iApp.
There is still some discussion whether Apple will add a web-interface to the iCloud. However the discussion seems to be linked to a MobileMe replacement service, which is a publishing question. What if you want to access your iCloud data on a non-iDevice through a web-browser?
The data in the iCloud will be mainly personal, it is all about your data and having that available to you in the easiest possible way. Would we like to synch that data with other clouds, which ones? The Google cloud? Undoubtedly services will appear that do this for you.
Finally what about publishing data for others. Will the iCloud offer web-hosting, just like MobileMe? And how transparent will this be? Will there be links with other services, like YouTube, Flickr, etc? Or will this be handled through the iApps? This integration can be interesting and it is where MicroContent can surface.
At the moment we just have to wait.
Refusing customers to your service, is an interesting theme opened by the Wikileaks issue. Are businesses allowed to refuse customers? Many would argue that this is allowed. I learned it even in my Services Management courses. But to me not all services are created equal. There are some services that I see as fundamental. These fundamental services are part of the infrastructure of society. Without these services society does not work and disallowing service access for some people equals to a judicial sentence.
Before moving to Internet services, let’s look at some regular services.
Public transportation, such as bus, train or plane transport can be seen as fundamental. Disallowing access to transport implies that one can not well function in a society. Not being able to go to work, hospital, etc. is surely a punishment.
For shopping services one can argue the same. Not being able to get your groceries will surely put you in trouble. And not being able to pay for your groceries as well, which brings us to payment services. If you deny a bank account to someone, the person can no longer receive his wages, pay for his bills or use a payment card in a shop. This surely denies the person a good participation in society. Therefore transaction and banking services should be seen as fundamental services.
This argument of fundamental services is well defended in the NY Times editorial. And surely not everyone agrees with this. However by now we see some financial services as essential and worthy of protection by governments. So clearly there is a discussion of fundamental services that must be protected.
However does there exist the concept of fundamental consumer services? Services where businesses can not deny access? In some countries Internet Access are seen as a fundamental right, which can not be denied to its citizens.
I wonder whether these fundamental services are a new concept? This might be due to the fact that parts of society are now dominated by businesses and they can determine who gets access. In the past we did not have those large businesses. I can think of the postal services, but usage of their services is (was) pretty anonymous. Nobody knew who put the stamp on the letter. With the electricity service things already become unclear. Can they deny service to persons that they do not like? I think not. They can only deny service to persons that do not pay and even that might be hard in some countries. The same is true for telecommunication services. Depending on the country the minimal service is that one can call 112 (911), so there is a view on a minimal fundamental service as well.
Internet has complicated these things even further. If you want to see Paypal as a fundamental service, you should see Internet Access as a fundamental service. In a few countries this has happened, although in others three strike laws seem to go in the other direction. It seems no services on top of Internet are seen as fundamental. As Internet progresses I guess such a discussion will be inevitable. These services will be the same as the classic ones (mail, payment). And even hosting might be seen as fundamental for press freedom.
There should be a discussion on fundamental right services. These are services that are defined and protected by law. If a business offers a service in this category, then businesses can not deny access to customers. Only judicial intervention can deny access.
Examples of such services are:
And probably there are more.
There is now some evidence that young users prefer apps over a browser on mobile devices. I wonder when this will extend to other devices as well? It might start with an iPad, but I hope will extend to normal PC’s. Then I can retrieve my MicroContent Client posts.
There are many services that are based around GPS-tracks (GPX-format). These seem excellent services (such as GPX-view or RandoGPS.net), but unfortunately not usable for me. Maybe there are KML to GPX conversion tools available.