When designers create a personalized news app, they aren’t just designing software. They are creating a platform that participates in constructing an idea of news. An app can give you exactly the type of stories you’re interested in soccer and marmots only, please or it can suggest and display stories that it suspects you should be reading. You can, if you want, design a personal service with a preference for positive news that also avoids negative terms, something which NPR reported Google was doing in its “experimental newsroom” during the World Cup.

A decision like this is significant, with wide-ranging and unanticipated effects, but it’s the latest moment in a long history of value driven news decisions. Newspaper publishers in the colonial United States were in a similar situation: “None of the early papers reached out to collect news; they printed what came to them.” Selection decisions gradually became norms of news production; they created expectations and responsibilities for journalists and publishers. Likewise, app designers are currently making choices that are reshaping our experience of everyday news reading.

via Designer or journalist: Who shapes the news you read in your favorite apps? » Nieman Journalism Lab.

Apple Watch

Star Tribune: What would it take for you to buy a smartwatch?

Local tech enthusiasts discussed that at a Mobile Twin Cities group gathering the evening before Apple’s big announcement. In a room with 20 tech savvy people, only a couple had purchased one of the existing smartwatches on the market. (Here’s a nice side-by-side comparison of Apple Watch and some of its competitors.)

What made them hesitate? Price. Concerns about battery life and the hassle of charging. Durability. Doubts that a smartwatch can do that much more than a smartphone already does.

Nevermind that a large chunk of the population ditched their watches in favor of using smartphones to keep track of time. There’s this idea (in the tech community, anyway) that the watch is where it’s at.

Greg Swan, senior vice president for digital strategy at Weber Shandwick, pointed out that the smartwatch has been a cultural touchstone for decades. Dick Tracy, James Bond, the Jetsons, Penny from the Inspector Gadget cartoons. They all had smartwatches.

“We have this amazing dream and this cultural vision of what we expect watches to do,” said Swan, who started the discussion with a presentation, “Smartwatches: Past, Present and Future.

After watching the Apple announcement, Swan put it this way: “The ability for consumers to pay for goods and services via phone or watch isn’t new, but with today’s Apple Pay announcement, it’s no longer niche.

Read the whole piece here.
See my Apple-Watch-Eve presentation on smart watches for Mobile Twin Cities here.

smartwatches

On the eve of Apple’s iPhone 6 and POTENTIAL smartwatch introduction, I was invited to share a presentation and lead a discussion about smartwatches with the intelligentsia of Mobile Twin Cities.

As a passionate fan of smartwatch technology, quantified self and consumer adoption habits, this was a fun area to research and resulted in a fantastic two-way discussion with the developers, technologists and skeptics in the room.

I guess we’ll see what Apple has in store for the market just a little later today.

Just because 84 percent of mobile owners use devices during TV time, that doesn’t mean 84 percent of TV consumers have phones in their lap while watching…

So the only truly captive audience left this is what the TV industrial complex assumes – that you are captive is those 55 years and older and the median age of any viewer at all is over 44.

By the looks of things, these folk are simply conditioned by this age to view content on the terms of media conglomerates as opposed to timeshifting and viewing on their own agenda.

Likely makes sense for this demographic.

Most young people simply are not conditioned for this behavior, and those who may have been have realized it and changed their patterns.

via Who Actually Still Watches TV? The Old.

The Verge: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality

The European: Do you think that digital curation is a greater threat to traditional print papers than regular online journalism?

Popova. I’m not exactly sure what “digital curation” even means anymore – certainly not something I identify with at this point. But I do believe the editorial and the curatorial live on a spectrum. Every nonfiction writer is essentially a curator of ideas – whether this means the selection of academic and clinical studies to be cited in a Malcolm Gladwell-style pop psychology book or the snippets of articles highlighted and contextualized in a day’s worth of Andrew Sullivan’s blog. At their best, journalists – writers, editors, “curators”, or whatever we choose to label them – help people figure out what matters in the world and why. The label under which they do it is irrelevant.

via Maria Popova on information in the digital age – The European.

Maria Popova on digital curation

We pay close attention to what the government is doing in digital/social/mobile because it either signals that cultural milestones have reached the tipping point of mainstream OR serves as leadership examples for the public and private sector (specifically thinking of the mobile-friendly website mandate in 2012).

Although this piece, The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults, focuses primarily on dress code, it also highlights the need to bring in subject matter experts and talent who are excited about emerging technology AND aren’t necessarily conformists — in dress, but also where they went to school, where they’ve worked, and how they approach business challenges.

Watching a guy in an untucked, wrinkled dress shirt and khakis walk into a White House meeting may seem shocking today, but the government is starting to think more about the value of these big thinkers over their pedigree, what they look like, and what they wear. 

It’s a great lesson and example for companies looking to make transformational changes through new sources of talent.

Key quotes:

The U.S. Government wants to hire more people like Mikey Dickerson. He’s the former Google engineer the White House recently tapped to lead the new U.S. Digital Service.

Dickerson has impeccable credentials. He comes from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. He flew into Washington a year ago to salvage the disastrous Healthcare.gov website. And by all accounts, he did an amazing job. Now, his White House on-boarding has become a kind of recruiting tool for Uncle Sam. And just for good measure, the feds want all the techies out there to know Dickerson wasn’t forced to do that amazing job in a suit and tie.

In a White House video, Dickerson says he is asked one question again and again by people curious about his new job. They “want to know if I’m wearing a suit to work every day,” Dickerson explains in the video. “Because that’s just the quickest shorthand way of asking: ‘Is this just the same old business as usual or are they actually going to listen?’”

When it comes to computers, the federal government has a nasty reputation for prizing ISO standards and regulatory checkboxes above working code. The video is the White House’s best effort at saying it’s going to get real and hire people based on what they can do, not how they dress for work.

The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults | Enterprise | WIRED.

SnowcrashPer my ongoing fascination and excitement for Virtual Reality: Science Fiction Realized, Facebook’s acquisition of the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and the new Photo Sphere 360 photo app (that looks poised to help consumers create VR content), this quote from Dan Hon’s eNewsletter was worth sharing today.

Hon has been going back through Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyber punk novel, Snowcrash (it’s a must-read!!), and often makes references of how the Metaverse could come to fruition in real life through VR (or often, how our offline and online lives are continuing to blur as only the science fiction greats could have predicted!)….

“I mean, I’m really interested to see if, post-public-Oculus and its backing from a multinational, billion-user social network, we actually end up with something like what Stephenson suggests with The Black Sun [ed. note: an exclusive online Metaverse club].

I mean, we kind of had it with Habbo Hotel, we didn’t really have it with Second Life (because the deal with Second Life wasn’t so much social as it was Hey! Build stuff in 3D! and the deal with Habbo Hotel and Virtual Magic Kingdom and all the other stuff was “chat software rocks”). No, I mean the whole thing about movie stars using it to “visit with their friends” and “strut their stuff”. I mean, seriously.

We’re about 12 months out from seeing if this is *actually going to happen*, and that’s pretty phenomenal.

Put it this way: you think single-camera amateur YouTube shows are a big thing? Imagine live streaming from an Oculus Rift instance, and allowing people to drop by.

This is like some weird virtual talk-show shit.

Dan Hon’s Things That Have Caught My Attention eNewsletter, #141

So if he’s right and we have <12 months to see if this VR stuff really pops, what brands and publishers will be leaders in the space? What will we do to help make this a reality?

And if he’s wrong, that’s fine, too. But I can't imagine some semblance of VR/Metaverse not becoming popular as hardware matures, prices improve, video games moving into immersive environments… and the fact that we're exporting more human connectivity to digital experiences than any generation before. It’s definitely worth exploring.

If you haven't yet had a Rift or Google Cardboard demonstration, you have to make it a priority. Heck, Cardboard costs <$20 put together! And some apps work on iPhone, as well as the standard Android app.

We live in an exciting time, and on this timeline, it may get more exciting quickly!

Google Cardboard works on the iPhone, too

Given my recent fascination and advocacy for live-coded audio, this piece in Harper’s Magazine really got me excited…

“In fifty years’ time…I think people will still be playing piano, guitars, and violins, but I also think they will be playing electronic instruments — actually performing virtuosic work upon them. What these will look or sound like, I don’t know. What music can we expect to hear from these new digital instruments? If a generation of people who grew up listening to plugged-in instruments and guitar solos have moved onto the computer, what happens when a generation of musicians who have learned to sample and manipulate automated audio clips are given the tools for expressive digital instrumentation?”

[Postcard] | Virtualsity, by Michael Barron | Harper’s Magazine.