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Dept. of Bad Ideas

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.

Adobe_Students_ROICS6CCM19.99V2_300x250_img.jpg

Institution: 

QR Code Fail

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 2/8/12 (10:53pm)

It's bad enough you see these things all over the place -- usually without any indication of what they're going to do. Here, not only do you have the usual enigma but you're required to choose your operating system before taking the plunge. [Larger image.]

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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.

Holiday Readings

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 12/26/11 (1:43pm)

Ethan Marcotte on the inadvisability of setting up a purely mobile site:

responsive_web_design_book_cover.png "...Fragmenting our content across different 'device-optimized' experiences is a losing proposition, or at least an unsustainable one. As the past few years have shown us, we simply can't compete with the pace of technology. Are we going to create a custom experience for every new browser or device that appears?"

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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Ding Dong, the Kindle's Dead!

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 2/5/11 (2:43pm)

Wrong Way Here's a little secret, if you ever want to evaluate the relative value of those writing on technology, have a look at what they said about the Amazon Kindle circa Late 2007-Early 2008.

From Amy Lee over at HuffPost:

The ereader's days are numbered.

Though 6 million ereaders were sold in 2010, experts predict it is all downhill from here for these devices, which will be edged out by the growing number of increasingly affordable tablets on the market.

By 2015, twice as many people will own tablets as do ereaders. By the end of 2012, the number of people owning tablets will overtake the number of those owning ereaders, according to research by Forrester, a tech research company.

As the demise of the Flip camera suggests, consumers are increasingly trading single-purpose devices for multifunction gadgets. Especially as the price of tablet computers continues to fall, experts predict users will drop ereaders for tablet PCs that offer web-browsing and video capabilities alongside ebooks. Even Amazon, which helped make ereaders and ebooks mainstream, appears to recognize the ereader's impending demise and is rumored to be developing its own tablet device. The Barnes and Noble Nook Color has already been modified to run Android's Froyo software, taking it into tablet territory.

Of course, the problem is, we're going from Kindle Mania (eInk! eInk! eInk!) to App Mania -- so I guess it never stops.

Apple More Evil with Each Passing Day: App Store Edition

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 1/7/11 (11:29pm)

So Apple thinks it's okay to download and install commercial links to itself -- not just anywhere but on the taskbar no less, all under the guise of 'Software Updates'. If MS had done this back in the day, the Justice Department would've already been after their sorry a*ses by now.

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Go to Bed with Adobe, Wake Up with Growl

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 7/23/10 (2:19pm)

Here's something I didn't know until it was too late: If you've got a Mac and download the trial version of Adobe's Creative Suite 5 (CS5), they install without telling you an application called 'Growl' which then starts displaying pop-up messages on your desktop.

To what purpose you might ask? Why -- in their words -- "to invite users to receive complimentary benefits for registering their product..." Or in plain English, for marketing purposes. Totally scandalous

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Is Steve Jobs a Role Model for Librarians?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 5/1/10 (8:08pm)

steve-jobs-ipad-apple-ap.jpg I'm hijacking the title of an editorial in the latest issue of Journal of Academic Librarianship because I believe it illustrates a problem rather than a solution to our approach as librarians to technology.

In the piece, the author describes two approaches to meeting user needs:

...[To] wait for someone to tell you what they want (which assumes they know their needs and the solution possibilities clearly) or to know your customer and the solution possibilities well enough to provide a useful solution that would likely never have occurred to them.

So which, according to the author, should we pick? Why the latter, of course, which the author calls "opportunity-driven" and characteristic of Steve Jobs:

As trained information specialists who are also dealing daily, upfront and personal, with the changing information environment, I believe we are particularly well positioned to develop the insights and perspectives that allow us to see opportunities and possibilities that are not as clear or as obvious to our patrons.

The obvious, almost classic problem with this approach is that it moves the focus from our users to ourselves and while that might make for applause lines at library confabs where we're basically talking to ourselves, it risks ending up with solutions more suited (surprise, surprise) to our own needs rather than to those of our poor 'benighted' users.

The fact is, the library doesn't exist in a vacuum. Sure, we're in the information business but so are a lot of others. When our users come to us, they don't want a "19th-century library" as the author jokes. They want everything online and easy to find -- just like they've come to expect on every other site that seeks to attract their business.

To do this, we don't have to reinvent the experience. We don't need Steve Jobs even if we could afford him. All we need is to do our homework, to keep the focus always on our users, seeing what they prefer and how they prefer to work, melding our own wares to their requirements. Our users have already told us what they want. It's in the usage statistics of the most popular websites. Now all we need are librarians smart enough and sharp enough to listen to what they're saying.

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