Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Foursquare 5.0: Discovery and Recommendation

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

I’ve been using the upgraded version of the foursquare iOS app for the past couple weeks, and have definitely been curious about what it means for foursquare’s overall direction.

There’s more depth within the news feed – before, opening the app simply displayed a list of your friends and their recent checkin. It halfway felt like a news feed, but the checkin was the only data you were presented with. Now, you can see new friendships, tips being left, as well as back-to-back checkins. At first I found this annoying, but after getting used to it, the app feels more dynamic and real-time. The design also now matches the website more closely – especially with font choices.

While there’s obvious value to be had from an enterprise level by looking at everyone’s data on the whole, for me as a user, better recommendations are the most exciting prospect of foursquare’s future. When you look at the “Explore” tab, you’re presented with a stream of potential places. These can range from nearby venues that have a large number of current checkins, venues your friends frequently visit, and venues that fit a certain category (shopping, dinner , etc).

While this is great, I’d love to see even more advanced recommendations that lean heavily on what you’ve done in the past.

For me, the holy grail of foursquare lies in this potential:

Here’s where you’ve been, so based on the time and date, as well as what your friends are doing, here’s the one best thing you should do right now.

They’ve taken a large step in this direction and I can’t wait to see what’s next.



Windows 8: Trying to be Everything to Everyone?

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Last night, I finally downloaded and checked out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a virtual machine. I’ve been interested to see where Microsoft’s heading with Metro UI integration and was pretty pumped to grease the wheels.

I wasn’t irrecoverably disappointed, but I wasn’t blown out of the water.

The experience between a desktop and a tablet isn’t the same, and I think Windows 8 is trying to be everything to every device. It might have partially been the performance of the virtual machine I was running, but some of the gestures (dragging down from the top of the screen, exiting Metro apps, etc.) just weren’t intuitive with a mouse and keyboard. And yeah, you can switch back to Windows Explorer, but switching between two completely different modes shouldn’t even be necessary.

Much more conducive for touch instead of click.

I guess this comes down to the philosophy of differences in hardware – I’m not sold on the model of having one operating system for desktop and tablet. This is where I think Apple got it right with the breakdown between iOS and OS X. It’s a seamless enough experience, but they’re also different enough. And yes, the gap between those differences eventually needs to narrow, but the release cycle is doing that incrementally, not all at once.

That said, I’m excited about the potential for Windows 8 on a tablet. I’ve never used it on a tablet yet, but I can see things making a lot more sense in that form factor. I like Metro UI and I like Microsoft’s intentions, I just think they need to draw the line between desktop and tablet a little clearer.

Thoughts? Have you used Windows 8 on a tablet before?

Voice and Integrated Computing: What Now?

Monday, October 24th, 2011

A few months ago, I was at the Engadget Show listening to Steve Wozniak answer a question about where he thought computing was headed. His answer? Voice. At the time, I was sitting there thinking to myself “Nah, no way.”

Wow, was I wrong.

Photo: Pleated Jeans

Fast-forward to late last week. I had a fascinating conversation with Georgia Tech’s Keith McGreggor about what Siri is beginning to do to the way we interact with devices. My initial thoughts were (and to a small degree still are) that it’s unnatural to talk to a phone for the purpose of voice commands. Granted, the same thing is essentially happening when you’re talking on the phone or on Skype, but in that case, you know that an actual person is on the other end.

But in the case of Siri, is there a person on the other end? We’re starting to see the personification of computing; you’re not talking to the “Voice Activated Command Module”, you’re talking to Siri. When the release first came out, I was a little confused as to why Apple didn’t rebrand Siri to something more Apple-esque, like “Assistant” or “Navigator”. But then I thought about the personal touch that “Siri” gives. There’s even a few people named Siri. It’s human, it’s natural, and it works.

To take it a step further, it’s really mind-blowing to think about what happens if (but more likely when) this voice interaction becomes not only natural and comfortable, but integrated with everything we do. Keith mentioned the idea of building Siri into Apple TV and being able to walk into the living room, sit down, and say “Let’s watch some football.” (I wouldn’t say that myself, but you get the point).

Even cooler would be to see this tie into an Internet of Things – walk into your kitchen, say “Huh, I’m feeling like some toast”, and have two slices of bread drop from the celling into a just-activated toaster. Slight joke, but the idea stands. When Siri opens up and becomes a platform, a medium for other devices, that’s where it gets big.

And we’re only at the beginning of the beginning.