Eastside Mural Tour project: a critique

I want to preface this by saying I love the idea of the Eastside Mural Tour project, for so many reasons: I love Vancouver’s art, particularly the hidden, surprising art. I love graffiti art. I’m a fan of community projects, and projects that celebrate them. I’m also particularly interested in the idea of digitally curated physical objects, and finding new ways to help travel, explore, learn about communities online. That being said, I’m really disappointed with this project – they’ve missed some really simple points that I feel are critical. If you’re a developer on this project, please don’t think I’m shitting all over you for no reason: if you’ll let me, I would gladly pitch in to help.

All that out of the way, here’s the misses:

  1. The site doesn’t really work on Mobile. Load the front-page: the interactive map is done in flash. The site itself isn’t optimized in any way for a mobile experience: but this is a site destined to be used by someone on a device; most likely as their doing their tours.
  2. The most prominent links are to PDFs of the tours; the big, colourful buttons on the right side. However, hidden at top at HTML versions of the descriptions, which actually contain descriptions of the art!
  3. On these HTML pages, there’s no Map of the location. Nor is there any “next stop/previous stop” links to guide my usage of this. Nor do these HTML pages contain the dial-in directions that the PDFs do
  4. The PDFs are not styled in any way, nor do they contain any of the useful descriptions of the stops on the tour – instead, they simply contain titles of the art, in a format that appear to be links, but if they are, did not work for me in any way.
  5. This one strikes me as particularly egregious: The PDFs contain an image of a Google map that contains all the stops on the tour. So someone clearly spent some time building the geo-coded tour – why not embed that map?
  6. No social: Why not at least propose a couple of hashtags for the project, per tour, maybe per site. Pull in comments/photos from Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare to let the community participate in this beautiful project, in this art. Pinwheel is brand new, but given Caterina‘s local origins, they might be very interested in participating.
  7. Data: I couldn’t find these mural’s in Vancouver’s Data set (though maybe I just failed in my search), but why not, given you clearly have all the geo-data for these murals, release that data for others to remix?

There other, smaller quibbles, but those top 5 strike me as major faults that we should fix. The last simply betrays my personal bias towards open data, and in particular, location data.

There’s also some other ways this same sort of tour could be made. There’s a site, MapTales, that exists solely to create these sorts of self-guided tours. I don’t think it should replace the current site, but providing links to another interface would be a nice way to share these tours out in a well-designed, contemporary way. Bringing up Pinwheel again, all of these stops could exist in there. I don’t think they have the idea of “tours” currently, but by creating a hashtag, locating these places, this could open up the ability to extend & comment on by the pinwheel community. I’d also recommend creating “places” in Foursquare for each of the stops on the tours, let people check in there – or at least easily geolocate photos taken there in such a way that the project itself can re-use them.

This project is sub-titled “murals and the spirit of collaboration”, and yet feels so far from being a project that the digital community can collaborate in right now. Let’s fix it.

Editorial Aside

This brings up all sorts of thoughts around the ongoing failure to provide super-easy tools, widgets, add-ons, etc that projects like this could easily make use of. Even most plugins, themes & mapping tools still require programming knowledge to configure and drop into sites. This world of digitally-curated, real-world spaces is really just beginning. We need to find/build better tools for the average person to expose their localities, their stories in a way that works for all.

Thoughts on today’s iBooks announcement

Today’s announcement by Apple of the new iBooks 2 & the iBooks Author app were interesting in that it seemed a very high-level, long-term look by Apple at how they can disrupt the educational & textbook industries. I don’t believe that the textbook industry, as large as it may be, was truly the target here. Getting iPads into schools, replacing the 1000s of cheap, aging Compaqs and Dells that still litter public schools, getting kids to be using iPads for all sorts of educational-related activities is the goal. That they may well completely overhaul textbooks as we know it is just an added bonus.

But! and of course there’s a but or why else would I be writing this? Apple’s major competitor in this endeavour as I see it is not the traditional text book industry (and the crazy regulatory machine that exists around it), but Amazon. Amazon is likewise targeting publishing in all forms. And I’m not convinced that Apple can, as it currently works, “beat” Amazon.

When Apple first introduced the iPod, it was Mac-only. Sales of that device really didn’t take off until it a)introduced a Windows version of iTunes to sync with and b) added USB support. Like many people, I came back to being an Apple user after years of being a Windows user in part because I got an iPod, which led me to using iTunes, which made me pay attention to Apple, until I finally switched back.

The iPad is expensive. the iPod/iPhone is not terribly expensive (but they’re not really the targets for iBooks, despite support, I believe). While other tablets may not be as good, the Kindle Fire costs less than half as much. More importantly, the Kindle app is device-agnostic. I currently have it installed on my Mac, my iPhone, my iPad, my Nexus S AND my Kindle. I can buy a book in 1 place and use it in many different places, easily. when I buy an iBook, I have to use one of my iPhone or my  iPad. And as I learned in the Caribbean this spring, while I can use my Kindle just fine on the beach, I can’t use either of my iPad or iPhone. I’m not saying that education takes place on beaches, but I sure spent a tonne of time as a teenager and in university doing my reading outside, in the sun.

So here’s why it feels like a mistake to not release an iBooks for Android, Windows Phone, Mac, Windows, whatever: Sure, there’s 10s of millions of iDevice users out there. But theres 100s of millions more who aren’t. Many of those will simply use what’s given to them, not choose (because they receive gifts, or school policy, or whatever). Why the iPod was so successful, was that it was a glimpse into the world of Apple without being a major investment in infrastructure. Want to help schools shift to be using iPads instead of books? Let them all load iBooks onto their computers, whatever they may be so that kids start to use the books on whatever they already have. Apple should be confident enough that the experience will be good enough to drive many of those kids to get an iPad for an even better experience. And if not? Hey, at least they’re hooked on iBooks. If they want to create their own, then they need a mac to do so with the iBooks Author app. Which is fine.

When iBooks was first announced, it felt a lot like a “pet project” for Apple, not a major push. But this announcement changes that. In the same way that I think the decision to make the iPod windows compatible is a major reason Apple is the $400B company it is today, I think iBooks could, and should be the same sort of push for ebooks & digital education materials.

First Solo Concert: The Grateful dead

@livenationwest just asked:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/livenationwest/status/129294076674703361″]

Which got me thinking – what was my first solo show? I’d been to earlier shows with family, and I knew that in 1992 I went to  a bunch of shows. But thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have discovered which was (I think) my first “solo” concert.

On March 20th, 1992, 3 friends and myself all did the “I’m staying at so-and-so’s house” trick with our parents, and traveled from Toronto to Hamilton to see The Grateful Dead at Copps Coliseum. I can’t recall if we were discovered or not, or if my parents know to this day (if not, surprise!) that I did this. I must not have gotten in immediate trouble if I did because my second concert concert was only a few days later – U2’s ZooTV show at Maple Leaf Gardens on March 24th, 1992 – although maybe my older sister took me to that concert? I can’t remember who it was with.

Those two concerts started about a 15-year run of my seeing lots of concerts that ended more or less with the birth of Liam (I still get to the occasional show, but at a much lower frequency).

What was your first show?

 

Blast from the Past: Pencilneck Creations Site Mockup

At the turn of the century, I was finishing my degree & running my company as a sideline. Today, digging through my digital archives to find a file from that era, I found this: My photoshop mockup for the original Pencilneck Creations site (Pencilneck Software was born when I joined forces with Jeff. Given the nature of the company, we changed the company name slightly from ‘Creations’ to ‘Software’):

Pencilneck Creations
The remaining mockup from my original "corporate" site

Simple, very plain – this is definitely the style I liked at the time. Not that there was any fear of anyone confusing me with a designer. But looking at our current site (woefully out of date as it is), we’ve come a long way, baby.

The Pierley/Redford Personality Test

This Morning, the Very Short List (best newsletter going, IMO) linked to something called the “Pierley/Redford Personality Test“. Which is possibly the most bizarre, and in some ways, troubling test I’ve ever taken. And I love personality-typing tests, so I’ve taken lots of them. This one involves a series of pairs of shapes, along with a text. So you always choose shape A or shape B as being correct. The questions are bizarre, like “Where is the sin?” or “Am I You?”. I’m not sure if there’s anything to it, or if it’s no different than the million Facebook “which ${Movie Character} from ${Movie} are you?” quizzes. After taking the test, this was my result, which is more or less right:

You are in a perpetual quest to find the new, the exciting. Emotionally volatile, you are known for sudden changes of opinion, of appreciation, and behavior. Following rules and established methods is difficult for you and the difficulties of higher education are usually quite daunting. Knowledge is best gained through an intimate association with the matter at hand. Usually driven by attitudes and desires of the group, you are talented in an established field of endeavor. Emotions come and go without a strong understanding of their causes. They are unexpected guests in an otherwise placid landscape. You live by your own codes of conduct, which can be noble or terrible depending on the individual. Authority is meaningless to you. You hate to be predictable, at all costs. Rarely verbally effusive, you can at times feel as if your feelings are too deep for words. You are very observant, but rarely express these observations to others.

Check it out, let me know what you think of it.

iTunes AppStore & The Tyranny of Choice

When I’m looking to buy a new video game, I have 2 primary sources: The first is Video Game blogs (I generally read Joystiq & the IGN Xbox feeds), the second is my friends – whom I mostly to use to ask about games I’ve first heard about via one of the above.

But my practice for learning about new apps is different – it’s nearly 99% from my friends, 1% from blogs (if I’m being honest, mostly from Daring Fireball, which is my (and many, many other people’s) go-to place for new Apple/iOS-related opinion. Since about 1 month after it opened, the iTunes App Store itself has been more or less useful useless (thanks, Evan!). Cream doesn’t rise to the top in that store. Look at the top 5 apps in any category – you’re as likely to see utter garbage as you are a beautifully designed app or brilliant, original game (based on how network TV works, I’d go as far to say as the most original NEVER get the most attention). This because the metric used for the top charts is based on downloads (Top) and sales (Top Grossing). There’s not really a mechanism for “most interesting” and if there were, unless it was weighted by people’s whose opinions I like, would still not be useful.

It ends up that I now more or less completely ignore the App Store as a source of recommendations for apps. Even the app-related blogs aren’t so hot, because, for them to be useful filters, Its needs to be focused on particular categories of apps – or it’s just too general – similar to how sites that review all forms of music pale compared to sites that mine just a few genres. Whatever the issue is, the App Store is failing for me as a source of new apps – I’m paralyzed by the Tyranny of Choice: Which of the 18283 education apps do I want? Hell, even deciding between the 120 “Hot” Education apps is too much choice.

What’s needed is a sort of “social ranking” mechanism – sort of like the vote up/down of Reddit, Digg, etc. But actually, what I’d like is something even more refined. I’ll state now that I really don’t care what the vast majority of the world thinks. I care about what people that I respect think. These vote up/down algorithms should be measured in concentric circles: First & foremost, what my friends like. If, say David likes an app, there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll like it too – at least based on historic precedent. & I don’t care about 5-star ratings. All I care about is thumbs up/thumbs down. The next circle out from that should be what friends of David, but who aren’t my friends, think about an app – one of those birds-of-a-feather ideas – if David likes this people, maybe I will to. Beyond that, should be people who’re influential “generally” think. Leveraging something like Klout could be useful for this level of recommendation. I might not know the person from Adam, but if more often than not apps that they recommend are subsequently recommended by people in their circle of friends, that’s a good sign.

This seems like a perfect area to start exploring interest data-mining/app possibilities. While you could simply shoe-horn on an up/down voting method over the existing, more-or-less useless 5-star rating system, I don’t think even this is necessary. Here’s what I’m imagining:

  • An iTunes plug-in that allows me to share what Apps I own (I’m equating ownership as a “thumbs-up” – this might be overly simplistic, but it’s a place to start). This sharing could be anonymous or not. Maybe I need to actually “rate” an app to share it, so I can hide apps I don’t want to rate or share.
  • Leverage my existing social networks to see which friends I care about. This is a well-established method: Let me “follow” my twitter, facebook, linked in, google/yahoo/hotmail contacts, etc. I strongly believe that this system needs to asynchronous – more like twitter than like facebook.
  • As I like apps that someone else has already liked, the weighting the system gives to that person’s likes, relative to me, should be weighted higher – because it means that I’m more likely to agree with them in the future – a bayesian weighting system.
  • Over time, as my circle of followers grows & shrinks, as people in my circle add/remove/rate up/rate down apps, I’ll have an ever-changing list of suggested apps. Which makes app developers more money, makes apple more money, makes my devices more useful to me.

So there’s some hitches that I see in all of this as I currently have it down:

  1. People have to download a plugin to iTunes (or, they have to sign into a website then manually find their apps). This manual start-up process is a rather large barrier to entry.
  2. People actually have to rate apps & do it regularly as their app-library changes. A code-snippet that could be added into apps, similar to the existing “rate us in the app store” would be nice & helpful – but would require this get big enough.

Thoughts, people? Is there already something like this out there? If not, and you’ve got some money, want to fund me to make it? Or, want to make it yourself? Let me know – I’ll be an eager tester of it!

 

Online News, Titles & Usability: The Globe & Mail Gets It

I spend a lot of time reading news online – far too much really. And why not? It’s an easy way to get a wide view of current events. Generally, in any given week, I’ll read through at least 2 stories from The Globe & Mail, The New York Times, The Vancouver Sun, The Guardian, Al Jazeera (english) & Le Monde. There’s a slew of other sites as well, but I’m focusing on “traditional” newspapers and their online forays. Each of these sites shares some layout similarities – I don’t want to talk about their design for this post – a leading article + accompanying photo at the top, under their masthead, then a list or grid of other articles. Some look more “bloggy”, others more “newspapery”. When a story breaks, a fun little activity I do is to canvas the headline for that story from each of the news sites I read to gauge their editorial take on the issue (firmly pro, anti-, on the sidelines, reluctant, eager, etc). I’ve come to the belief that the leading headline (is that the lede?) reflects the political leanings of the paper more than any other visible element. As a result, headlines are often somewhat misleading as to the content of the story hidden behind it – the lede is there to “sell” after all.

Because all the article titles in an online paper are links, this is the information that I have to decide whether or not to read a story – there’s occasionally some intro text for the lede & other important stories, but often, I’m basing my decision whether or not to click solely on the link text. Let’s take a look at 3 photo + headline combos that are around today.

First, The New York Times:

Judy Dench
Story about Judy Dench's Memoirs in the NY Times

There’s a photo of the subject of the article, Dame Judy Dench, but slightly turned away – I suspect many readers might have no idea who she is. The headline isn’t any more informative either. We can assume that the article is about the woman in the photo, but maybe not. And do I care? I don’t know who this person is. There’s not really a lot to help me decide whether or not to read this article. I personally don’t find a compelling reason to click through this.

Now let’s have a look at a headline I pulled from the Washington post today:

Story about debt from the Washington Post

This headline I find more informative, although I’m never fan of stock art without good reason. Certainly an editor could have found a more compelling image about American debt than a piggy bank? But at least I know who wrote the article (if that matters, and when it was posted. Both useful pieces of information in the online world. I go back and forth on the WP’s habit of including a couple of related stories. I like it because it groups related stories together, but I also find it distracting, because sometimes the related story is what I end up clicking on, and forget about reading the main headline. If you click on the main headline, you can still find the related stories (oddly buried in the middle of the main story), but  not vice versa – click on a sub-story and you’ve lost the relationship established on the home page. But again, nothing here tells me what I’m going to be reading about.

Finally, the Globe and Mail:

Video interview with Bono about aid

Much like the other 2, this title isn’t terribly informative. I know from the thumbnail that I’m linking to a video (actually, this bugs me: When I see a play button, I expect to be able to play something in situ, not be sent somewhere else – why doesn’t the video just expand and play right there?). The headline is ok – not terribly informative or compelling, similar to the other papers. But here’s where the globe and mail really shines: Mouse over that headline, and they’ve made smart use of the title attribute to provide additional detail about the article underneath. In this case, it reads: Bono, singer and activist, speaks about aid getting smarter since the 1960s. “Don’t be put off by the past. The present aid is working.” So I get additional insight into what I’m about to read – some context, to help me make my decision. It makes such a difference when presented with a long list of article headlines as to which I actually click on. It’s trivially easy to program, and yet the Globe is the only newspaper that makes use of this. It’s primarily why I consume the Globe more than any other paper – they help me make my reading decisions easier. I can scan the homepage quickly, easily get more context on a given article to decide if I want to read it, without having to click through to read the intro paragraph.

It’s a simple thing, news sites: Help me make my reading decisions easier. It takes me 2 clicks to get any other newspaper in the world to read the same story – so make me want to read at your site. Adding titles with information about the article I’m interested in is one tiny little detail that isn’t hard to do, but it’s that attention to detail, sweating the small stuff to improve usability & accessibility that will make winners and losers in the age on online media.

Blogs, Contests & Comments

The Vancouver Blogger scene is incredibly well tied-in with the Vancouver PR Community. I generally think this is a good thing – they scratch each other’s backs, and I get to stay informed via voices that I know, trust (or not) and are consistent. And more often than not, this leads to contests, wherein a blog reader wins stuff, or tickets to events or whatnot. Both Miss 604Hummingbird 604 run contests regularly. I recently won a contest on Outdoor Vancouver‘s blog. So these are good things. Usually, entering the contest consists of a)tweeting a specific message b)leaving a comment and sometimes a third option on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, etc. The tweeting I get – it makes the contest (and thus the message) viral. Most of the time, I don’t mind abusingmy twitter account to do this, but just recently I’ve decided to create a separate twitter account that I’ll use just to enter contests – while I might want to enter all sorts of contests, my friends might not be so interested (I differentiate between followers & friends – I tweet for & with my friends – followers can come and go as they please), and I don’t want to spam them. But I understand, from the point of view of the blogger & sponsor why tweeting for a contest entry is good.

But then we’re often asked to comment on the blog itself. And this seems odd to me. I’m of the opinion that blog comments are for conversation, for response to ideas put forward. But contest-entry comments are inane and usesless – the vast majority exist solely to fulfill the requirements of the contest, and add nothing to the conversation. This is especially true if the contest winner will be drawn at random, rather than via a subjective evaluation of the ‘best’ response. Look at the ‘Cirque Du Soleil KOOZA: Win Tickets” post on Miss604 (I’m not, it should be noted, picking on her in particular – this is just a great recent example) – there are (as of time of writing this) 178 comments – each one an entry into the contest. The contest runs for 3 weeks, and we the public are allowed to comment once a week for an additional entry. So there’ll likely be well over 500 ‘comments’ on the post – but all will be simple contest-entries rather than any substantive content. So what’s the point? It many ways, it (for me at least) reduces the appeal of the blog as a whole – while I’ll read the posts, there’s no point in reading the comments because they’re more or less spam. And comments, retweets, Facebook links, trackbacks make up your blog’s social sphere. There’s power in having that sphere be ‘clean’ I think, which having useless contest-entry comments simply detracts from.

But, again looking at Miss 604’s site, read her post prior to the contest “A Does of Vancouver” It has but one comment, but it’s a real comment, a response to the post itself. And useful – adding something to my experience of the post. But and so, what is the answer to all of this? Here’s my suggestions to blogs that run contests, to keep your blog’s social sphere “useful”:

  1. If your contest-winner will be drawn at random via a number-generator, don’t use your comments for entries. Use a polling system perhaps – but make people register to “vote” on the poll just like leaving a comment. Then choose 1 or more votes to win.
  2. If you require specific content to be in the post, but it’s still a random-draw, use  a separate data store for that – so it’s clear throughout your archives what are contest entries, what are comments.
  3. Just use the external viral engines like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.

If you’re someone who runs contests on their site, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – not running contests, I’ve never had to put my own ideas into practice, so maybe there’s valid reasons for using the comment system that I haven’t thought of.

The Single-Serving Internet of the Future

Thinking about the internet – at least the internet since the invention of the web – it strikes me as a long journey from general-purpose to highly specialized uses. The first websites were broad, serving lots of purposes. They were muddled & messy, very amateurish – much like the industry was. We first few web developers did not have a vocabulary to work with – we had to make it. And the early web reflected that. In many ways, more than anything else, this is what the Web 2.0 “revolution” was about – standardizing the vocabulary of the web. This lead to web standards, common conventions. It is no coincidence that around this same time, the publishing industry was rife with books like “Don’t Make Me Think!” (2000) and “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” (1998) – we as industry were maturing. Along with this came specialization. Until the late 1990’s, it felt to me that everyone working on the web could, and did, do a little of everything. While I was already primarily a programmer, it was expected that I would do some design work. Designers were expected to markup and code as well. This is much less the case now – this is specialization comes with industry maturity as we all learned the particular roles and skill-sets that make up a web-team (this is not to say that people do not work more than one role now – lots of people do. But it is less common, and people now will identify more by a particular role (designer, programmer, front-end devloper) than as a generic “web developer”, which was an insanely common title in the 90s).

There was an axiom (that probably still holds true) that in order to make a good web app, you just needed to “look for a unix command-line tool & slap a web-interface on top of it”. Many, many useful web applications grew out of this ideal: Do one thing, and do it well. Sure, there were, and are, sites that do lots of things. But looking around at my fellow web professionals, we all are completely comfortable with using best-of-class tools for each problem – whether or not they interrelate particularly well. Just as we have specialized our skillsets, we are specializing our tools as well – but, all to be done in our browser. Our time-tracking software is different (though it may well talk to) our invoicing software which is different from our project management software. In many ways, the 37 Signals suite of apps embodies this the most. The trend of the “open” web (by this I mean the low-barrier-of-entry of web apps (intuitive, cheap, ubiquitous, interconnected via APIs) has in some ways run counter to the professional development of those of us working in the medium (most programmers can no longer design at a high level and vice versa). But we have gotten, thanks to an increasingly sophisticated & shared vocabulary gotten very good at inter-skill communication, much like websites have gotten very good at sharing data between themselves.

The Mobile Internet is taking specialization a step further, and in a very different direction from the web itself. Due in no small parts to the design constraints of the GUI on current-generation smart phones (Android, iPhone, Palm, Blackberry), most apps tend to do one thing, and one thing well. But here’s where things are different again – while our browser was historically a very-general tool, single-serving apps are replacing the browser. For instance, I use the New York Times app to read American News, The Guardian app to read European News, The Globe & Mail app to read Canadian news. I use the I Can Haz Cheezburger apps for that suite of blogs, etc. I use Now Playing to check theatre times & buy tickets. I use Tweetie to interact with Twitter ,the Facebook app to interact with Facebook, and so on and so forth. Each time I want to perform a different action online, I now use a different app, not just a different URL. And there’s a very good reason for doing this: each app has a highly-specialized UI that is designed to optimize my experience using it. Each app, while drawing from the same general syntactical rules of the Apple iPhone HIG (I expressly say the Apple HIG, because, from the few other smart phone apps that I’ve seen, they are all reading from this same playbook), may have it’s own dialect of interaction rules, but overall,  I know what to expect. But this specialization allows for my experience to be improved more than any web-app (to date) has been able to do. Content producers love this because it creates lock-in. In order for me to switch phones now, not only would I want every single app I commonly use to exist on my new mobile device, but I’d want there to be a better experience with some of them to make it worth my while.

We have reached a curious point in the development of our industry: To build a good mobile App, look at an existing web app and wrap a more-customized, specialized UI around it, and you’ll have a good mobile app. But, while on the surface this sort of looks like a continuation of the old unix-command-line axiom, there is a difference: For the most part, mobile apps tend to exist in silos, unaware of other apps, similarly to how web apps used to exist. There’s also the matter of lock-in. Because these apps are almost always platform-specific, it locks their consumers onto a particular platform. And because the languages used to create for each platform are (and will most likely remain) different, there’s a huge expense in porting an app from one platform to another. And, much like cross-platform development tools for the desktop create experiences that somehow fail to work great on any (see: any Adobe AIR app), the same will happen on mobile platforms (this is a very good argument in favour of Apple’s infamous section 3.3.1 update). I’m not sure what this means for the future, but I have a feeling that with the exception of “utility” apps that will be ubiquitous, we might see shaking out in the mobile environment what happened in the desktop environment. One platform will become thought of as particularly “good” for a certain segment of apps. Blackberrys might be good for “business”, Android for “development”, WebOS for “social”, iPhone for “gaming” – who knows. Right now, the iPhone(/iPod Touch/iPad) app market is so dominant that it shows up in all catgories. But already, friends who are sysadmins or in the support/service side of IT seem to be all buying Android phones (and the number & diversity of IT-related apps for Android is stellar). My colleagues in sales & HR seem to be happy to just upgrade their RIM phones. I really don’t know anyone who’s buying the Palm Pre, to be honest, but hopefully it’ll find a niche soon.

We, as an industry, still seem unsure about when to build an app, when to build a mobile website. I don’t believe the answer is always “build both”. But I’m not sure that as an industry, and more importantly, we as a culture of users of the mobile web (which already has a different flavour from the desktop web) have developed a strong enough syntax to know how to answer that yet. But I do see an continuation of this trend of specialization in skill sets & in what web sites and apps do.

My belief is that Single Serving Web Sites which today exist as mostly joke sites may actually be signs of the future to come: ever-more-specialized web sites & apps. My hope is that this, combined with semantic markup, structured data and smart APIs will actually benefit the user: I may use 200 different beautiful, optimized, specialized apps & websites  in a day, but hopefully they will exchange data in a manner that I control (via things like 1Password (which if you aren’t using – why aren’t you)), but I suspect will be controlled via things like the existing authorizations schemes of Twitter, Flickr, Facebook & Google.

Wanted: A twitter/comment plugin combo

When I post an entry (such as this one), I have a wordpress plugin (called Twitter Tools) that sends out a tweet (meta-linking update: like this) telling everyone that I’ve posted something. To manage comments, I use Disqus, which, amongst other systems, allows people to authenticate at twitter to then post a comment. Which is nice, and I like it.

But! Sometimes, seemingly more often than not, people will @-reply to me on twitter with a comment on my post. And I will often @-reply someone else about their post (that was announced on twitter). So here’s what I want:

  1. When I post an entry that sends a tweet, capture and store the ID of the tweet that I sent.
  2. Whenever someone @-replies or retweets that stored tweet, aggregate that to the comment-section of my blog, so that the entire related conversation is visible in one place.
  3. For bonus points, given that everything I post is also pushed as a post to Facebook & everything I tweet ends up as a status update on there too, it would be great to extract any responses to those as well, in the comments section of my site.

Does anyone know if such a thing exists?