Greg Gannicott’s Blog


Evernote: Clever use of Advertising

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on July 7, 2009
Tags: ,

At the moment I’m using the tool Evernote a fair bit, and I’m finding myself strangely intrigued by the adverts they publish to end users of their product.

Evernote offer two tiers of service: Free and Premium. Among other features, the premium allows you to turn off adverts from within its desktop application.

These adverts seem to serve a purpose greater than just raking in the cents per click.

First of all, the majority of adverts are in-house adverts (ie. they relate to Evernote itself). Evernote is the kind of tool that is so versatile, one of the fun things about using it is discovering a new way to use it. Evernote the company help you with this by linking to blogs that offer inspiration, writing case studies on their own blog and also through their monthly podcast. All this encourages the user to use Evernote more and more and also encourages loyalty, which can only be good thing for them.

These in-house ads appear to be an extension of that process. The ads highlight features of Evernote and also services and products which are good companions to Evernote.

Apart from two exceptions (gmail and google search), I think they’re the only ads I don’t mind seeing.

The fact that the ads could be classed as enjoyable has a side-effect though. This is something I believe Google takes advantage of too in Gmail (where they too offer additional information in the same spot that ads appear).

As a result of the ads being relatively enjoyable, when I have time to think and I have Evernote on screen, I find my eyes wondering to that area of the screen. This means that when they do chuck in a traditional ad (ie. from an unrelated company who are attempting to sell their wares), I’m far more likely to see it. This is the complete opposite of when I browse the net and my eyes instinctively avoid adverts.

To improve things further, Evernote have mentioned that the ads are hand picked to avoid any trashy ads (eg. whack the money), which must further increase the chances of them getting a click through.

All round very clever I thought.

Shazam & Hollyoaks (& Last.fm)

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on June 10, 2009
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday I finally got my iPhone – its fantastic! But that’s a post for another time.

One of the apps I’ve downloaded for it is Shazam.

I remember hearing about Shazam (or at least a service like it) a few years back. The idea was, you hear a song but you don’t know what its called. You ring a number, put the phone’s voice piece to the speaker and Shazam would tell you what it was. Neat, but at the time I considered it a novelty. To inconvenient to be useful.

Jump forward a few years and Apple have changed the smart phone market with their iPhone. Suddenly Shazam is more convenient to use, and thanks to the open web has more information to back the service up (beyond the name of the song).

I’ve been trying to think of when I’d use Shazam. First thought was when listening to the radio. The thing is, if the DAB Digital radio display doesn’t tell you what the song is, the DJ likely will.

Hollyoaks

Earlier today though I remembered that every time I watch Hollyoaks, there tends to be a song in the soundtrack (it sounds wrong calling it a soundtrack as its just a tv show!) that I really like. It happened the other day with a song that sounded like Coldplay doing a decent impression of Radiohead (and sounding better than usual as a result). I tried to find out the artist/song but the unusually the www was unable to help. So it occured to me, why not put Shazam to use on Hollyoaks.

So at the start of tonight’s episode I got Shazam going and touched ‘Tag Now’ (strange terminology). I had the phone with me on the sofa (ie. I didn’t put it up to the speaker) and shockingly it got it right! (Turin Brakes). Amazing!

So hopefully now I’ve thought of a use that works for me, I’ll actually use it and it will go beyond novelty status.

last.fm

I think a better use could be found for Shazam though. I try to scrobble as much music on last.fm as possible. I like stats. This works fine when I’m either listening to my iPod, or iTunes on my PC. However, if I’m listening to a CD or record (as I often do), my listens go unscrobbled. Wouldn’t it be neat if last.fm used Shazam to scrobble the music I listen to beyond my PC?

Backwards Thinking on Saving Newspapers

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on May 18, 2009
Tags: , , , ,

Usually when I read an article that interests me I’ll simply share it via my Google Reader shared items, but some are worth highlighting on this blog too.

Over in America – during the past two or three months it seems – things seem to be heating up with regards to the discussion of saving the newspaper.

I’ve been fascinated by this for some time now. Although its not completely cut and dry, more often than not it seems bloggers have a better understanding of the situation than the newspapers.

This has been no more apparent than this blogger’s (Techdirt) reply to this newspaper’s (The Washington Post) article by two lawyers who propose changes to the law to help save the newspaper.

The choice quote on the part of the lawyers is:

Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the “fair use” doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts — republishing a quote to comment on it, for example — is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

What the lawyers suggest would result in search engines becoming useless and if enforced would pratically bring the web to a halt.

The choice quote from the Techdirt article is when they highlight this user’s (Dale Harrison) comment which was submitted on the Washington Post’s article. It makes an excellent point:

A lesson worth remembering is at the turn of the 20th century people had a transportation problem… and the solution turned out not to be a “faster horse”… but a Ford.

And one should note that the Ford didn’t arise out of the “Horse Industry Revitalization Act”.

I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and Toyota’s operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths.

Imagine what the passage of such ill-conceived legislation would have done to the car industry a century ago.

It would have strangled the nascent auto industry at birth, postponing its inevitable rise while sheltering a dying industry, only postponing its inevitable demise… doing great damage to both. Newspapers need to be encouraged to adapt to the future, not retreat behind legislative walls hoping the future will go away.

The newspaper industry’s troubles go to the very core of their historical business model.

What’s historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers. Newspapers have enjoyed natural localized economic monopolies that allowed each of them to exercise monopoly control over the amount of content (and advertising) they allowed into their local marketplaces.

Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. Newspapers then built costly organizational structures commensurate with that stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970’s).

The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns advertising (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad rates being “too low” is inverted… the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm.

An individual reader now has access to essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media’s monopoly control of distribution and supply.

The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content will be driven to zero… infinite supply pushes price levels to zero!

What this implies is that no one can marshal enough market power to monetize the value of content in the face of such an infinite supply and such massively fragmented distribution. Pay-walls, lawsuits and ill conceived legislation won’t allow the monopoly conditions to be re-constructed.

There are certainly ways to make online news profitable… and many of us are working to develop such approaches… but I can assure you they don’t involve inventing a “faster horse”…

The artcles can be found here – the Techdirt one in particular is worth a read. It does a great job of debunking the suggestions made by the writers of The Washington Post article:

Idea: A Phone that Warns you of Scam Calls

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on May 15, 2009
Tags: , , ,

If I ever get a call from a number I don’t recognise, using the browser on my mobile I’ll often perform a search on Google and nine times out of ten there is a post which states its a scam (also nine times out of ten its the first result in Google that tells me this).

This happened earlier today with the number ‘02920 359001’, and sure enough it appears to be a scam.

This made me think: wouldn’t it be neat if my phone did this for me whenever a number not in my address book calls me? If it comes up as a scam, then it would note it on screen. Given the speed in which it can get this information (at current mobile connection speeds), it might be that the information may only be available when you check your missed calls, but that’s better than nothing.

Whenever I do one of these Google searches it usually points to a user generated site, so a wiki of sorts would be an ideal host of this information. Obviously, in order for the phone to be able to access this information, an API should be written so phone developers can easily access the information.

The next obvious step then is for a tool such as Google Voice (which sadly isn’t available in the UK) to offer the option to outright block such calls coming through (much like gmail blocks a massive amount of spam mail). If such a block takes place, an SMS/Email/Tweet/etc would be sent to you to say that a call has been blocked. You are then free to act on it as you please.

The possible downside to this idea is the fact the public control the data which blocks calls. That obviously leaves the door open to abuse. The ideallist inside me though believes this wouldn’t be a large issue.

I’d be curious to know whether an app could be written for one of the more modern smart phones out there (eg. iPhone, an android based device or the new Palm Pre) to perform this. Do developers have such access to those phones?

Ironies: Blackberry Curve Keyboard

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on May 13, 2009
Tags: , ,

I purchased my Blackberry Curve around 16 months ago. At the time I couldn’t afford an iPhone so looked for the next best thing.

I should say now that’s I’ve not regretted the Blackberry (BB) purchase, however I’ve since saved up to get an iPhone once my 18 month contract is up.

Before getting my BB, I remember a friend telling me he purchased a BB over an iPhone because he wanted a keyboard he could blog on.

Soon after getting my BB I pointed out to him my one disappointment with it was that the keyboard was just too fiddly to write anything lengthy on.

And its because of that, I find it ironic that an hour ago – after writing a lengthy blog comment – that I figured that writing a blog post on the BB would be a piece of cake, and that I should start doing it.

And so here is my first Blackberry written blog post. Apart from the fact its hard to include hyperlinks, its worked nicely.

Its just a shame that in a couple months time I’ll switch to the iPhone and likely dislike that keypad even more 😦 until then though I hope to write more posts than I’ve been doing of late.

UltraEdit Cheat Sheet

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on April 4, 2009
Tags: , ,

When working at the PC, I find Cheat Sheets (or Crib Sheets) extremely useful.

In work, my desk is surrounded by Vi, Regex, and SED Cheat Sheets, and they’re always coming in handy for quick reference. If I had somewhere to stick them at home, I’d have PHP, MySQL, Javascript and CSS ones there too.

About a year ago I did a search to see whether an UltraEdit one exists, as I’m constantly using the App for one thing or another, so it helps to have the shortcuts to hand, ideally on an A4 sheet of paper. I couldn’t find one, so I knocked one up myself in MS Word. Its taken me this long to get around to publishing it on the net but I’ve now done it. I’ve used Google Docs (which I’m appreciating more and more every day I use it) to create a PDF UltraEdit Cheat Sheet that anyone can download.

For the time being its just keyboard shortcuts, but if anyone has any ideas I’d be more than happy to add to it. Just post a comment below.

Whilst on the topic of Cheat Sheets, here’s a couple links you might find of use:

Java Integer Annoyance in UltraEdit

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on March 15, 2009
Tags: , ,

A colleague in work occasionally comes across the same problem of his Java application failing because he spelt integer with a capital ‘I’ rather than a lowercase i. This was caused by UltraEdit auto correcting it for him each time. Basically it was too clever for its own good. One of the very few flaws of Ultraedit imho.

I did a quick Google to see whether there was an obvious solution for this but couldn’t find one. As I couldn’t find anything, I thought it would be wise to write about the workaround I figured out.

In short, edit the Wordfile so the word ‘Integer’ is no longer considered a keyword for Java. The side effect is the word ‘Integer’ will no longer appear with syntax highlights.

Below is a breakdown of how to achieve this.

This assumes you have a relatively standard ‘wordfile’. It’s quite simple and equally as obvious.

  • Open up UltraEdit
  • Select Advanced > Configuration > Editor Display > Syntax Highlighting
  • Click ‘Open’ – a document should open up in the background.
  • Click ‘Cancel’.
  • Press ctrl+f and enter “Java” into the search field. Press return and it should find “Java”.
  • Now press ctrl+f again and enter “Integer” into the search field. Press enter.
  • You might find other instances of Interger (such as BigInteger). You are looking for plain old ‘Integer’. Press F3 until you find it.
  • Once you’ve found it, delete it and save the document.

This issue should now stop happening.

Intuitive UI Design Examples

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on March 15, 2009

I’m not sure whether there’s actually a name for this, but until someone suggests otherwise I’ll refer to it as ‘Intuitive Design’. For me, what that represents is when a developer almost pre-empts the way you’re going to subconsciously use something by coding for non obvious situations (catchy, no?).

They must think to themselves “I think the user is going to try and do x because s/he thinks it should work that way.”, and I really like it when they do that.

I came across an example over the weekend by Microsoft of all people in Windows Messenger of all applications.

I wanted to send a screenshot to a mate using Messenger. Usually what I do is:

  • press the Print Screen key
  • open up Paint
  • ctrl+v to paste my screenshot
  • Save it off
  • Locate the file using Explorer
  • Drag it on to the chat window with my mate (an example of intuitive design in fact) and it sends the file (that’s providing the app doesn’t get too clever for its own good and decide on my mate’s behalf that he doesn’t really want to risk opening it – it does my head in when MS takes that approach!).

On this occasion though, without really thinking I:

  • pressed the Print Screen key
  • in the chat window, hit Ctrl+V to paste and as if by magic it sent the screenshot as a file to my mate.

Amazing (in a non-jesus changing water in to wine kind of way)! Over time that could be a time-saver, and to me and my subconscious self makes perfect sense.

So hats off to the MS developer who did that.

Another example is between iTunes and Winamp.

Until recently, I’d have Winamp open at all times on the 2nd monitor. To begin with I use to drag files from Explorer on to Winamp and placed it in the right place on the Playlist. Winamp knew what to do with this content being dragged in (another minor example).

Soon after buying an iPod – and as a result – starting rating things in iTunes, I began to listen to music based on those ratings. Not in a smart-playlist kind of way, but in a “Lets look at this band and pick a song I rated highly/haven’t rated” kind of way.

I dragged the song from iTunes and on to Winamp and quite surprisingly, Winamp lapped it up and added the song the playlist.

For me, that’s another great example of pre-empting what I want to do and how my subconscious self thinks it should be done.

I think this is one area where Web Apps show their (lack-of) age. It will be a while yet before one web app can talk to another without the user having to give it much thought. It will happen though, I don’t doubt it.

Clay Shirky: 2 Interesting Articles

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on March 14, 2009
Tags: ,

I’ve recently started reading blog posts by a chap called Clay Shirky. He appears to be up there with the likes of Tim O’Reilly (no, not him from Fox News!) in terms of insight into where the Internet is at, and where its going.

Here are a couple of lengthy pieces I’m really pleased I read:

Providing Receipts via Email

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on February 15, 2009
Tags: , ,

I’m reading an interesting and strangely inspiring article on creating a well thought out store by Robert Scoble. I really like the following example from Apple stores. If you have a gmail account and don’t delete emails you’ll never lose this receipt:

Copy Apple and get rid of checkout lines. I hate standing in line at BestBuy. In fact I’ve walked out more than once leaving my purchase right there. That’s lame. Apple’s employees walk around with little computers in their hands. They ring you up right there without making you stand in line. They email me my receipt. Forcing paper on customers is totally lame, especially in this time where we’re supposed to be conserving paper.

via What Microsoft Can Learn About Retail from Apple and Best Buy | Robert Scoble’s innovator’s and geeks’ blog | Fast Company.

Next Page »