Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Digital Digest, 18th August.

Here's some more digital bits y'all

DD w/c 17/08/02009

Hello there. This week’s DD is a mix of the usual new things – plus a few wonderful bits I’ve been meaning to show for a while now. Let’s have a look.

What exactly is happening about Augmented Reality/RFID/Wireless Power? Here’s your answer.
There’s a classic model that’s used to describe how far a technology has evolved from creation, refinement, experimental use and mainstream adoption – it’s called the Hype Cycle. With so many New Things popping up in the last few years, how to know which spangly technology is closest to being realistically used? Well, the analysts at tech firm Gartner have plotted all the Big New Things onto the Hype Cycle, and are sharing the results. The points at the ‘peak’ are the ones we read about in – well, newsletters like this. But perhaps the real slow burners are the points currently languishing in the ‘trough of disillusionment’. Jed, it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on this!

Yum, charts.
Data visualisation is a big thing right now, and if you’ve had any decks or charts from me recently you’ll notice I’m trying to work it into my way of presenting info. Basically, the mainstream are finally shrugging off Powerpoint – not only that, but they’re starting to take serious notice of the ideas of a man called Edward Tufte, venerable chart theorist. Combine that with a healthy dose of design and you get the new wave of visualisation. There are many sources, but the two I most love are the Guardian Datablog (aggregator of all such efforts) and a blog called Information Is Beautiful. You’d be right to call it nerdy, but these will make you think – and they can help you communicate, too.

Wikipedia Reaches 3 Million Articles (citation needed – oh wait, here it is)
...and that’s just the English version. Worldwise, there’s a hefty 13 million. It’s a great victory for Wikipedia, and comes a few months after Microsoft admitted defeat and acknowledged they weren’t going to make any new editions of the previously popular (certainly great for school projects) Encarta. Wikipedia appears in pretty good financial nick and its reputation as a source has never been higher. I still wouldn’t trust it outright, but we may finally be in a position where we can see that happening within a span of years.
And for comparison, Encyclopaedia Britannica reaches a piddling 500,000 articles.

Another step for convergence – the GPS unit.
TomTom have just released their navigator software for the iPhone, priced at about $80. The big story here is that it means they now see a future where the separate GPS hardware unit is basically obsolete. This was coming anyway – new cars often had them built into the dash – but smartphones accelerate the demise. And why not? A GPS only needs to work to a certain standard to satisfy 95% of users, and that standard has been reached. If there’s no name for it, let’s called it the Mitchell Benchmark. We have also reached it for mp3 playing, for example, and possibly video. The interesting question is: how long before cameras pass this test and disappear?

Facebook for iPhone 3.0
Enough said. It’s an interesting demonstration of what facebook feels its users want – not depth of experience so much as ease of use. And the keypad interface is a lovely touch.

Facebook search is coming, edges closer than ever to twitter
Last week facebook purchased FriendFeed, a lovely site which aggregates all your different social streams of info into one place. The purchase was partly for acquisition, but also bound to be to access their technology, supplementing other moves such as the changing of status updates. This is all intended to occupy Twitter’s niche – and now, with the impending release of real-time search across the whole site, they’ve never been closer. It’ll be really interesting to see if people can find a use for search – and what it is.

How does the internet feel? Find out
Here’s a new attempt to evolve search: combining mentions of data with their immediate context, and trying to make sense of it. And by this, I mean sentiment search. The latest one is evri, who do quite good info-page based search anyway, but have now added emotional search. The other really fantastic contextual search tool (which, I think, works better) is the currently running EdTwinge, which uses twitter mentions and expressions of love/hate to rank the best shows on at the Fringe right now.

Your iPhone apps are spying on you
Here’s the problem/opportunity of the smartphone’s effortless connectivity – you could be sending more back than you realise. In fact, it’s just emerged that people using apps on Pinch Media have signed up to the sharing of age and name, phone number, jailbreak status, actual current location, among other things. Now for the most part, it’s reasonable to say that this stuff won’t be used in a malicious way. But how can you be sure?

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