Posts Tagged ‘apps’

DSLR photos on Instagram? An app’s purpose is whatever users say it is

April 30, 2012

While I believe that sharing DSLR or edited photos on Instagram is acceptable, even desirable, whether users should is a worthy debate.

Church

A worthy debate for the user community, which holier-than-thou arguments like this one at best ignore, and at worst insult.

In opposing the publishing of DSLR or edited photos on Instagram, freelance photographer, video and content producer Nate Benson writes that uploading non-mobile, non-real time photos is not what Instagram was intended for.

I’m not sure whether he has inside knowledge of the creators’ intentions, but even if he does, that’s not for him or the creators to decide. The purpose of a social platform is whatever users say it is. Right now, some users are saying that Instagram is in part for sharing DSLR and edited photos. And other users, like Benson, are saying that it’s not.

Great. Let the debate play out. If enough users agree with Benson, their feedback, through negative reactions to DSLR or edited photos, including ignoring them, and positive reactions to unadulterated smartphone photos, will correct the behavior of users who agree with me.

Until then, or until the opposite result, who is Benson to say that users are using the platform improperly, and who am I to say that they’re using it correctly?

To accept otherwise is to stymie the generatvitiy that made the Internet what it is — or, for that matter, made the Internet. I’m perfectly open to arguments against evolutionary uses of Instagram, or any other service, but they need to be made on narrower grounds.

 

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Beauty in the blight: The accidental art of Baltimore 311 images

March 24, 2012

Beauty is everywhere, even among the blight. The following images were curated from Baltimore’s 311 app.

Dirty alley, Darley Park

Normal

Graffiti, Medfield

Buenavista

Damaged sidewalk, Highlandtown

Tree

Graffiti, Hampden

Chestnut

Dirty alley, Penn North

Clendenin

Parking complaint, Penn Station

Penn

Graffiti, Mount Vernon

Brick

Park cleaning request, Patterson Park

Courts

Open fire hydrant, Canton

Elliott

Parking complaint, Midtown

Preston

More with less: Mobile innovations from all 7 continents

January 22, 2012

Feature-phones

More with less. Whether it refers to the daily wonder that we’re carrying in our pocket or purse several times the computing power that once required entire floors, or to the growing demands a fragmenting media landscape places on shrinking legacy brands, perhaps no other single phrase so succinctly captures the triumphs and trevails of the digital age.

With mobile, the adage describes the challenge and opportunity of doing what we did before, plus all kinds of fun, visually and locationally aware new stuff on a smaller screen and, depending on the hardware and network involved, varying degrees of limitations on data speed and usage, connectivity and battery life.

Like a good copy editor, the constraints force all involved to focus on what matters: More signal, less noise.

Like a good copy editor, the constraints force developers, designers and content producers to focus on what matters, often resulting in a better user experience: More signal, less noise.

If you want to know where innovation will arise, just look at the limits. From poor cellphone users in India, to the lack of Internet infrastructure in Kenya to a saturated app market in the United States, here are seven ways, from all seven continents, mobile practitioners are doing more with less.

ASIA: Missed call ecosystem (India)

Everybody makes them and gets them. But most people, in the West at least, probably have not thought about using them. In India, missed calls, the “poor man’s text message,” are used all the time, by people, by apps, even by infrastructure.

From GigaOM, here are a few things Indians are doing with free missed calls:

  • Friends, family or business associates might place a missed call to communicate a pre-determined message or, if the recipient is able and willing to pay for a text or call back (incoming calls and texts are free in India), to signal that they would like to communicate.
  • After receiving a missed call at a designated number, a system developed by a cloud telephony company and Bangalore-based partner will call users back with dynamic information, such as the current daily deal or real-time bus schedule.
  • By attaching a receiver and SIM card, to authenticate that the call is coming from an authorized number, to a switch, startup RealTech Systems created a device that lets farmers turn on and off irrigation systems remotely, saving them from miles-long walks.

AFRICA: Texting lions (Kenya)

In East Africa, the lions are disappearing, in part because herders poison them to protect the livestock they depend on to earn a living.

If herders knew where the lions were, the thinking goes, they could instead just move their animals away from danger. Once you collar the lions with GPS units, which must be easier said than done, tracking the animals is a straightforward enough task to accomplish over a wireless or satellite network. But what if you’re in a place without established Internet infrastructure, like East Africa?

Attaching a simple modem to the lions’ collars as well, as New York-based research company Ground Lab, with the help of nonprofits, has done in Kenya, makes it possible to send lions’ locations to a centralized computer via text message, a potential model for other machine-to-machine communication across the Internet of Things, according to this Atlantic Wire summary.

EUROPE : The French Mobile Revolution

They’re calling it the French Mobile Revolution. Revolution? Yes, and one that might just spread to other nations.

When you learn it’s giving customers unlimited voice, text messages and data for the equivalent of $25.50 a month, you may start to nod your head. When you learn how Internet service provider Free is doing it, you may start head-banging.

It’s doing it, coverage by GigaOM’s Mobilize blog and PC World explains, by networking five million customers’ set-top boxes. Within range of others customers’ boxes, nanocells for data, and, being phased in now, femtocells for voice and SMS, provide Wi-Fi-quality service. Out of range, traditional towers, a 3G network, which will throttle customers who consume more than 3 GB of data in a month, and roaming agreements with other providers, fill in the gaps.

While since Free Mobile’s launch earlier this month competitors have cut prices some, because their networks depend on large, costly cell sites and antennas that took years to build out, they can’t hope to compete with Free Mobile on price long-term. 

NORTH AMERICA: Rate everything! Ever-y-thing (United States)

It’s funny ’cause it’s true?

The people behind what many assumed to be a joke app are acting kinda serious, releasing a second native version, for Android in addition to iPhone, and an API.

You’ll get more laughs if you let the above video explain it, but, the app, Jotly, in short, lets users rate anything, then snap a photo of it, tag it and geolocate it.

Yesterday, for instance, I gave the Baltimore area’s first snowstorm of the season – pretty and easy to clean up, but icy and with minimal accumulation – a “C”.

Whether Jotly indeed started off as joke or the jokes completely on us, you can decide for yourself. Either way, even if it’s not the “Best. App. Ever.” as the Web versions of users’ posts proclaim, it’s brillant commentary on marketing hype, feature creep and over-sharing in a crowded mobile app marketplace.

In a way, Jotly is the “Seinfeld” of apps. It’s about nothing, and everything, it parodies itself, it’s as one reviewer put it
, “Dumb and awesome all at once.” In short, it’s so F- it’s an A+.

AUSTRALIA: Training mojos in indigenous communities

At the heart of any mobile content, or any interactive feature for that matter, is the story, not the technology. That mantra is the focus of a government-funded citizen journalism project in Australia, NT Mojos, which seeks to give indigenous residents living in remote areas the tools and training to produce and share videos about their lives.

It’s hoped that the project provides other Australians a less marginalized view of their neighbors, promotes education and literacy in the indigenous community, and establishes enough of a foundation and momentum to sustain itself after the initial outreach has ended.

After training, which, according to an article on MobileActive, focuses on journalism fundamentals including media law, newly minted mobile journalists report, shoot, edit and upload videos on whatever topics they see fit, all on an iPhone 4 and, typically, a 3G network.

The former broadcast journalist behind the model, Ivo Burum, has launched a version in China, is adapting it for schools and educates others how to implement it on his blog.  

SOUTH AMERICA: Learning, 160 characters at a time (Brazil)

From augmented reality then-and-now historical tours, to apps that measure air pollution, to self-adaptive virtual tutors, mobile phones are doing things for education that as recently as my high school days might have seemed like science fiction.

These more spectacular m-learning implementations, of course, use smartphones. The root of their power, however, is their interactivity, which even the simplest phones, through the versatile text message, deliver just as well.

In Brazil, where smartphone adoption lags behind North American and Western European markets, SMS subscription services prepare students for a national high school exam and teach them English, among other subjects, The Next Web highlights.

With their immediacy, intimacy, simplicity and brevity, text messages have the power to be a tremendously engaging teaching tool, even more so than many flashy apps.

ANTARCTICA: Here, in fashion and tech, trends are trivial

If you’re not a scientist, it’s one of the last refuges from our hyper-connected society, and even with a purpose, and the resources, staying plugged in in the Antarctic can be difficult.

But in a place where self-sufficiency is not just a virtue but a necessity, the accessibility, versatility and generativity of personal mobile devices are a space-saving, time-saving and potentially life-saving addition to researchers’ and adventurers’ toolbelts.

Accordingly, users follow pragmatism, not trends, when choosing a mobile operating system. Linux-based Maemo 5 was a “longtime favorite due to its compatibility and expandability with virtually everything,” a May post on The Noisecast blog says. But last spring, iOS moved into the lead, according to the post, which speculated about iPhone’s and iPad’s enterprise, academic and clinical potential.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user David Paul Ohmer

#NewNewTwitter, ProPublica responsive design and New York Times election app move mobile toward unified Web

December 9, 2011

There is no mobile Web and desktop Web. There is just the Web.

As our favorite content follows us to new and smaller screens, it’s a refrain you’re like to hear more and more from webdev pundits.

If you ask me, it’s semantics. Whether or not it’s technically accurate, given the differences between who tends to access (young, minorities) content on mobile devices versus desktops and laptops and what users can do (call, text, geolocate), can’t do (often, javascript and/or Flash) and like to do (make decisions, multi-task, kill time) once they get there, “mobile Web” is a useful term.

That out of the way, there were three developments this week in the mobile-news-social sphere indicative of the desktop Web and mobile Web merging closer together.

Come Fly with us (on mobile first)

Newt

The first, most recent, and certainly the one making the biggest splash, is #NewNewTwitter, playfully branded with the tagline “Fly.”

Not only are the design and functionality of Twitter’s desktop Web, mobile Web and mobile app versions becoming more synchronized, there’s also a cognizant effort by Twitter to get desktop-only users spending time on its mobile platforms.

This push became evident last spring when Twitter placed pretty direct messaging on Twitter.com’s log-out landing page: “You’ve signed out of Twitter. Now go mobile.”

Just as aggressive was rolling out #NewNewTwitter to mobile.twitter.com and iPhone and Android apps first and letting those who download one of the apps get the revamp early on desktop as well. The smartphone prop at the beginning and end of the promotional video likewise encourages a cross-platform experience.

Responding to multi-platform challenges and opportunities

Pro2

While the average user’s browser needed some time to catch up, responsive design, essentially using CSS media queries and HTML5 semantic elements to accommodate varying screen sizes, has been around for a while. That it’s suddenly getting so much attention (I’m thinking foremost of the BostonGlobe.com launch) as a silver bullet for publishing to multiple platforms – it’s not, there are no silver bullets – has perplexed me.

One of the best of the new nonprofit journalism enterprises out there, ProPublica, explains the advantages of responsive design well in this post about its recent website redesign. Two of the biggest are that developing adaptive websites is less intensive than the user agent sniffing and native app alternatives and that, unlike apps, it connects content to the full, open Web. This has strong SEO, link economy and user experience benefits, but it also, ProPublica astutely points out, reduces the level of engagement required to get users using in the first place:

We think this explains a phenomenon we’ve noticed – that though we’ve had huge uptake of our mobile apps, we don’t see very much day-to-day usage compared to the number of people who come to our site on their smart phones. It’s our hypothesis that it’s because people have to remember to open up the app to see what’s new every day.

One native app, under Apple, but a Web version for all

Election2012

The New York Times’ new Election 2012 app, available as a native app only for iPhone, is turning heads for its heavy and prominent aggregation. The Gray Lady also deserves a nod for publishing a Web app version at mobile-elections.nytimes.com accessible on Android and BlackBerry smartphones and even more basic devices.

Perhaps this is a cost-saving measure. Or maybe they ran out of time to build out more native verisons – the Iowa caucuses are less than a month away. I’d offer, however, that for an app built around links, it would be foolish not to have a version on the open Web. A version users can search to. A version users can share (here’s the deets on my home state’s primary!). A version the aggregated (and others) can link back to.

Hack Day wish list a window into educators’ world ??? and our shared future

November 9, 2011

Mobile-graph

Whatever happens this weekend at Education Hack Day at Digital Harbor High School, the inaugural event has already succeeded by surfacing such thoughtful proposals from educators on how technology might make learning more efficient, responsive and rewarding for students in Baltimore and beyond.

Asked what problems they would like developers to address, teachers and school officials went straight to offering solutions. Demonstrating a nuanced understanding of technology’s abilities and limitations while revealing institutional and cultural symptoms technology alone cannot treat, their creative but pragmatic responses should be required reading for anyone who tries to control or critique the difficult work they do.

education-hack-day-logo2

See for yourself on the hack-a-thon’s website and distribute up to 10 votes among the ideas you like. I’m supporting the eight listed below. My favorites grow the audience and generativity of students’ work through sharing and turn potentially distracting mobile devices into instruments of learning. Oh, the classroom noise meter is also one I’m loud on. And foreign language chat roulette is too cool for words, in any tongue.

‘Share work and projects with parents/family and other teachers’

Suggested by Billy Michels

So many projects are completed and sent home and nobody gets to see them but me. I want to connect the families with the classroom more. Show work of all students, share ideas, etc.

 

‘Hey Teacher’

Suggested by Andrew Coy 

I wish there was a way for a student to “raise” their hand with a web tool or iOS app that would send a push notification over wifi to the teacher. The teacher then could have a que of students instead of having students call out or raise hands.

‘Bring native foreign language speakers into my classroom via Skype’

Suggested by Henry van Wagenberg

What if there was a fun “language learning” video chat roulette where my students could pick the language they want to learn, and a foreign student from that country popped up to chat live in that language?

‘Science animations in HTML5’

Suggested by Mark Davis

Almost every animation online (from mitosis, meiosis, seasons, moon phases, states of matter – you name it!) are all flash. Many teachers have classroom sets of iPads but still need to walk down to the clunky computer lab to learn from animations.

‘A volume meter for the classroom like yak tracker but for iPod’

Suggested by Justin

A leveled meter to remind students of the noise level in the room. Green good, yellow a bit noisey and red too lound. Once they get to that level an alarm will sound.

 

 

‘I wish there was an app that could work with a positive behavior system’

Suggested by Charlie Gerancher

The application would work in conjunction with a positive behavior system. It would allow teachers and administrators to award different types of digital badges that would be compiled within the system. The system would also have a mobile interface to provide a way for schools to integrate the use of handheld devices by students in a positive manner.

‘Create a database of good story problems’

Suggested by Scott Messinger

It’s hard to think of good, rigorous story problems for students. It would be nice to have a database curriculum writers could use to enter and organize the story problems. Teachers in the district could log on and print off relevant problems for use in the classroom.

‘Get permission slips filled out and signed by parents’

Suggested by Paul Genge

Right now our parents have to fill out the same information ten or more times per year. If there were a way to get their information and a “fresh” signature somehow then that would save an enormous amount of time and energy for parents and teachers.

Learn more about Education Hack Day in this Bmore Media article or on the event’s website. Demos of the resulting apps, scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, are free and open to the public, but organizers ask that guests register.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user opensourceway

ALSO SEE: Fast Times at Digital Harbor High: Catching the spirit of Education Hack Day

Baltimore’s burgeoning mobile app economy

October 25, 2011

Out of basements and grandparents’ guest rooms, during meetups at the city’s tech incubator and across distributed workforces who bond over barbecues, Baltimore’s slice of what’s expected to soon be a $25 billion industry is filling in.

Through the eyes of three entrepenuers, my paper’s technology reporter, Gus Sentementes, told the beginning of this developing story Sunday, comparing it to the e-commerce explosion of the 90s.

Right now, when most people hear the word “app,” they think native app. As a proponent of Web apps, I was pleased to see Gus give them a mention and so succinctly explain the difference between the two kinds. 

 Read his article on your mobile device or on your PC.

Appsrow2

What’s Baltimore building?

The developers Gus profiled, who for the most part are doing work for clients such as Johns Hopkins University, the National Archives and Long & Foster rather than marketing directly to consumers, favor iPhone and iPad native apps. So, unfortunately, this Droid boy can’t play with a lot of their creations.

Nonetheless, I was curious about just what’s being built here in Baltimore. Here are some featured apps by the companies mentioned in Gus’s story and others with Baltimore ties. If you have the right device, give ’em a spin and share your take in the comments on how the developers are representing Charm City.

Mindgrub: Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus

iPhone | Free

Campus guide gives walking directions, guided tours, tells what’s nearby and tracks construction and renovations.

Shawn’s Bits: PosePad

iPad | $4.99

Photoshoot organizer lets photographers save example poses, append notes and hand-drawn lighting diagrams and order and classify it all to complement their workflow.

Campfire Apps: Henry’s Spooky Headlamp

iPhone and iPad | Free

Seek and find game for preschoolers. Players tap and hold to move light beam and hunt for spooky objects.

Accella*: Today’s Document

iPhone, iPad and Android | Free

Showcases a daily National Archives document tied to that day in history. Users can jump forward or back a day, choose an arbitrary day, or, like a pre-Web (in some cases, pre-electricity) StumbleUpon, ask for a random one. Documents’ backstories and favoriting ability also included.

* Distributed workforce, based in Baltimore, is principally in the Mid-Alantic

Parking Panda+

Web app | Free (developer gets 20% of each sale)

Matches owners of unused parking spaces with drivers and processes transactions between parties. Owners indicate when the spot is available, upload photos and details, name their price and let the app handle the rest. Drivers can enter their destination and search ahead of time or browse spots closest to their current location.

+ Launched in Baltimore, now based in New York

Dilly Dally Apps: Happy Hour Baltimore

iPhone | Free

Locate bars and restaurants offering specials, events like trivia or amentities like outdoor seating. Receive “dispatches” straight from proprietors. Call a cab.

Baltimore 311^

iPhone, Android and Web app

Tell the city government about safety and quality-of-life issues like felled trees, misleading signs and grafitti and track when yours or others’ requests are acted upon. Data is additionally posted to an automated Twitter feed. Built on Open 311 standard.

^ Developed by New Hampshire-based Connected Bits

MGH: Ocean City, MD – Official App

iPhone and Android | Free

Guide to the beach resort town developed for Ocean City, MD Department of Tourism. Helps users hunt for real-time deals, accommodations, dining, activities, events and services and keep an eye on Twitter updates and weather reports.

Latman Interactive: Qach!

iPhone and Android | Free

Game: Save the ducks by catching and juggling falling eggs until they hatch.

Global Apptitude: Ravens iPad playbook

iPad | Proprietary

The Ravens are one of two NFL teams to replace binders with computer tablets. The app lets players check playbooks, watch film and review motivational messages. To keep game plans from leaking to rivals, data are set to self-destruct shortly after each contest.

Creative Commons image by Flickr user llimllib