At the Ref Desk (11/18/17): Lots of phone requests today. Wonder why... :-) [more...]
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Dept. of Bad Ideas

Opps, Maybe Not the 'Future' After All

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 6/18/17 (12:29pm)

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Interesting how titles tend to change over time. I was going through a number of old posts and saw a reference to an article in Newsweek from 10 years ago, extolling the virtues of the recently released Amazon Kindle. The title of the article was, "The Future of Reading". Since it was a relatively old link, I clicked on it just to make sure it still worked. And it did -- only the title of the article now read, "Amazon: Reinventing the Book".

That was funny. Did I get the original title wrong? I went to my best friend, Archive.org and looked the thing up -- and sure enough, the original title was "The Future of Reading"

So between 2007 and now, apparently the Kindle no longer rated as the "Future" of reading. This is understandable. For every true 'revolution' in technology, there are always a dozen (or more) false starts. This was one of them.

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The Post App Internet

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 4/12/16 (3:47pm)

Yet another bad idea bites the dust:

At the same time, it is clear that, apart from a shortlist of popular apps, most people just aren’t downloading a lot of apps anymore. Any given person spends 80% of her mobile time using her favorite three apps, according to ComScore. And few people go looking for new ones these days.*

Ya mean, I don't need to download a separate piece of software for every website I visit on my smartphone?
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* Jessi Hempel, "Facebook Believes Messenger Will Anchor a Post-App Internet", Wired (4/12/2016).

Infrastructure on the Skids

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 1/25/14 (8:58pm)

"High speed" Internet provider AT&T tells me that my connection speed sucks but instead of trying to fix it, they're throwing in the towel and lowering my monthly rate.

"About Your AT&T High Speed Internet Service - We regularly test the speed of your AT&T High Speed Internet service to ensure you have the best Internet speeds possible. Recently we sent a letter to let you know that our testing has found that your modem speed is slower than the speed shown in the AT&T High Speed Internet Terms of Service. We're moving you to a lower-priced plan more in line with your current speed, although we cannot guarantee specific speeds."

Institution: 

Design Fail

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 4/24/13 (2:56pm)

I swear if I get another one of these as a design proposal for the main page of a website, I'm going to sue Microsoft for crimes against usability. (P.S. Why Microsoft? Hint...)

On the Nature of Train Wrecks

Submitted by Leo Klein on Tue, 3/26/13 (10:02am)

Matt Enis from Library Journal writes about the 'Fail4Lib pre-conference workshop' at this year's Code4Lib Conference where people talked about failed or problematic projects and the lessons they learned.

As I wrote in comments to the piece, I find the greatest cause of failed projects to be those based on received wisdom. Let’s call it, the ‘Wrong Bandwagon Effect’. Some mis-identified trend is taken up and you can’t argue against it because "everyone knows" -- i.e. received wisdom -- that it's the way of the future. Everyone knows! Only "everyone" never seems to include the end-user. But that doesn't matter since before you know it, yet another mis-identified trend pops up and nothing says 'cutting edge' like jumping from one of these trends to the other. (Classic example.)

This isn't an argument against innovation. Rather it's an argument against not doing one's homework, of coasting along without anyone ever looking back and asking, what's the record for that guru so far?

Billboard: Color TV Film Won't Oust B&W (1953)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 2/13/13 (7:46pm)

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Tint Talk : Color TV Film Won't Oust B&W

HOLLYWOOD, July 11. -- Like motion pictures, television will continue to use a great amount of black and white film even when color becomes a regular feature in the new medium. This is the opinion expressed by veteran TV producer Jerry Fairbanks prior to his departure for Europe where he's filming a public relations film for Miller Brewing Company.

Expense of filming in color and the superiority of black and white for certain types of productions are the factors which will dictate use of b.&w. for TV, Fairbanks declared. Fairbanks cited the motion picture industry's predominant use of black and white film despite the advent of color.

Color filming is between 25 and 35 per cent more expensive than b.&w., Fairbanks pointed out, while color release prints are between four and five times as expensive. This factor, in addition to what he termed the superiority of b.&w. for low key mystery dramas, will limit the application of color film for showing on television.

"[Source: Tint Talk: Color TV Film Won't Oust B&W", Billboard (7/18/1953): p. 12.]

An Offer I Can Refuse

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/21/12 (1:23pm)

Sorry, Adobe but your emails offering me, 'All the CS6 you want -- just US $19.99 per month', is probably the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I'm frankly not interested in renting out software on a monthly basis.

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The Age of One App Per Website is Over

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 1/29/12 (1:40am)

While preparing for next week's presentation on Responsive Design, I tried to recall my original uneasiness over the phone app frenzy. You remember -- that short painful period only a few months ago when either you were developing a phone app version of your site or you just weren't serious. You thought it silly? So did I. But it took me a second to remember why. I mean, this was before Responsive Web Design had sunk in as a possible solution. So why the initial uneasiness? And then of course I remembered: the notion that your average user was going to download a separate app for every site -- the equivalent of taking your collection of bookmarks and downloading a separate program for each -- was a complete absurdity. Thank God, we're beyond that. It's history.

Just Freeze Me

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 3/16/11 (9:34am)

The Pew Research Center reports on the 'app gap':

"...[W]hile almost half of adults get local news on mobile devices, just 1 in 10 use apps to do so. Call it the 'app gap'."

Please just put me in cold storage for the next 5 years. I don't know how otherwise I'm going to endure the incessant call to build to particular brands (iPhone! iPhone! iPhone!) rather than to the platform in general. Hopefully by the time I'm revived, they'll have come up with a credible standard. I mean, that's how it usually works.

Techno-Infatuation Disorder (TID)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 2/9/11 (5:38pm)

So let's say the iPad Fairy™ comes down and gives everyone at your school a free iPad. Miracle, right?

Well, apparently not at Stanford's School of Medicine. As an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education explains:

But when Stanford's School of Medicine lent iPads to all new students last August, a curious thing happened: Many didn't like using them in class.... In most classes, half the students had stopped using their iPads only a few weeks into the term.

How's this possible? Didn't they hear their own Assoc. Dean Charles Prober describe these same students as "extremely tech-savvy" in a press release earlier in the year:

Because the population of new students is extremely tech-savvy, it makes sense to teach them through the use of the electronic devices they're familiar with, Prober said, adding, "We can either say, 'That's silly. They have to learn the old-fashioned way.' Or we embrace where they are."

Yup, 'embrace where they are'! That's the spirit!

Only they didn't. And you're entitled to ask where exactly 'they' -- in this case the extremely tech-savvy incoming class -- where exactly 'they' are.

Well, wouldn't you know, Stanford provides us with an answer! Every year the University conducts a survey of incoming students as to their computer use and in 2009, for example, they found that "90% have a Windows or Mac laptop".

So basically an overwhelming majority of students already have a computing device. It's called a laptop.

Of course the notion that a laptop might be more useful to students in college than an iPad, even in this day and age, never seems to dawn on the administrators. Instead they seem to be afflicted with a serious case of 'techno-infatuation disorder' or 'TID' for short. This is where the desire to be seen buying the latest tech gizmo overrides any consideration of whether the intended audience might actually want to use it.

Now if the administrators at Stanford's Medical School truly believed their students were 'extremely tech savvy', they might have left the decision of what to bring into the classroom up to the students themselves. But again, we're talking techno-infatuation disorder here and considerations such as what our users might actually want fade in comparison to what we might want for them.

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