Know Your History

Its not just the things that happened which make history worth studying, but its those people who were dreamers before it did that gives clearer perspectives to where we are now and where we are going.

Tools for Thought by Howard Rheingold

Mr. Rheingold, thank you for sharing this.

Revisionist Histories of This Mobilist

Its taken me weeks to get to reading Tomi Ahonen’s 2010 Mobile Almanac. And to be honest, its had more to do with the PDF reader on my N97 than anything else (its bullocks to quote my UK friends). Nevertheless, as I read the 180 pages today, I started to ask of myself some questions towards mobile that I think have influenced why I see what I see.

For example, yesterday and today, I’ve thought about the intensity towards mobile that I’ve had and have come to realize that my history with computing started with things being mobile. I had the calculators, watches with too many features, Speak-and-Spell devices, etc, that pretty much set me on this mobile path from early on.

And this wasn’t because PCs and other sit-down computing wasn’t available. It just wasn’t available to me. For example, when others were getting the in-class computer tutor, I was denied access to that PC and had to learn how to read, research, and search without it. And then when I did get to a PC, I had very little time, so I learned quickly how to take the information that I needed, and then put it in a format that was portable to my usage.

Before a few hours ago (writing this I mean), I had assumed that one of the other reasons for my mobile-bent had to do with the fact that one of the first real personal computers that I owned wasn’t so much declared as one at all – although it very much was when we look back. It was 1st generation Nintendo GameBoy. It was this device that allowed me to stretch my brain (Tetris) and be entertained (Jordan vs Bird) moreso than any books or PCs could to date. And because it was personal media to me, I felt no need to share the findings of things I learned with others unless we swapped games, talked about high scores, etc. In a sense, the GameBoy really demonstrated to me early on that computing – when its relevant – doesn’t need to be much larger than a 2.2in screen at all. And if the software is done right, you could be incredibly productive.

And so to me, its no surprise that I’ve taken to mobile as my primary means of computing for the past decade (first PDA was purchased in Aug. 2000, a Palm IIIxe). All that has evolved out of that – going paperless, learning web design/development, messaging & comm behaviors, Mobile Ministry Magazine, etc. – has come from this history of needing information and communications for short bursts of time in mobile and non-mobile contexts.

Which is what made reading the Mobile Almanac a bit funny today. I had my N97 sitting in front of me, landscape mode with the QWERTY keyboard exposed and Bluetooth headset attached, while using the Nokia N800 to read the Almanac. You see, the N800 has a basic, but very nice PDF reader. And given the physical size of the screen of the N800, it makes for a great reading device when sitting in a coffeeshop.

I wasn’t mobile (per say), but I was scaling-up my computing so that it would be more accessible to the type of work that I wanted to do (reading).

This is where I see my history of computing differing from that of a lot of people – and definitely many of the louder persons who write about this stuff. I didn’t start on the big screen terminal. Yes, there was some diving in and out, but I couldn’t rely on that. My early computing usage consisted of short bursts of the technology for specific needs. And normally, I had to modify my expectations of the tech for those short bursts.

This is important, because what would happen is that in the longer moments in front of a PC (or any media really), I started to break down the technology and behavior into a reoccurring statement, “I’m bored.”

Side story: my family got its first family/home PC somewhere around 1995. My dad wouldn’t let me touch it for fear that I would want to take it apart and see how it works (it happened a lot). When I was finally allowed on it, it was for MS Encarta use (CDs) and a few games. When I was finally allowed to play those games for longer moments, I would beat them with increasing speed (my dad turned them into progress tournaments where he’d play for a week or more and then I’d get to play, trying to keep up with him). First, games would take a month to beat, then, I would be the famous Doom and Doom II in about two weeks (max 1 to 1.5hrs per session). Then came Rise of the Triad, beat that one in 24 game hours. Soon thereafter, the computer became less of a challenge towards sitting on for long periods, but I had to push towards other areas with it for it to remain a viable window into infotainment and entertainment. By the time I purchased my first PC in 1998, I had already learned how to rebuild PCs, do some PC support tasks, and started learning more about the behavior and adoption of the Internet and its resulting communities.

So, by the time that I got that Palm, I was merely capitalizing on the kinds of actions that would eventually pan out in all other aspects of my life.

From the Palm, I started adding accessories, applications, and behaviors that would mimic some of the PC-like computing that I was noticing, but didn’t have the extra tethers of resource and life consumption. In effect, I was groomed to do computing mobile, and one of the reasons for my discontent for how things are with computing has to do with the fact that its a non-mobile square being forced into a mobile circle. Bleh.

As I sat in the coffeeshop, I took a call from a longtime friend who purchased an iPhone just this week. The person has had the Palm Treo and Centro before then, and so I was interested in hearing about her (re)discovery of computing through this different device. Throughout the call, she mentioned how free she feels with the abilities that the iPhone presents to her. The entire time, I kept seeing how what she is opening up to now has been what I’ve been opened to for a few decades now, and that I’m constantly pushing, changing, and adjusting to understanding more about not just computing, but how I live and relate to the world around me because of it.

There’s this impact that comes when people get this revelation. This idea of a mobile device that can respond to what you need, and at the same time empower a ton of other kinds of imaginations realized. I know how I felt, but for her it has opened up things that she previously only saw from the sidelines. The change in her perceptions has been striking. So much so, that she’s had to pay more attention to app purchases, time spend in front of a new laptop, etc. Things that you’d normally not even pay attention to, but because the personal is now bigger than the computer, it has caused a behavior shift.

I can see in the future when we are looking back at a half decade of mobile computing, we will find more of these stores. More of these revised histories of computing that will start with “hey I was always [mobile] computing,” rather than mobile is something that I just stumbled upon. And as that happens, I think we will see a major change in how we do computing. We will scale our usage up, rather than sideways or down.

The result will be a different way of interacting with ourselves, our lifestyles, and the world at large that will speak towards something neat. It will be more practice than myth, and look at lot like other memories of our youth, but it will also be a more open history. One where we will do more of the crafting of the notes between the margins, where what we see will need to be adjusted to a lens that’s personal and global in ways we’ve never seen before.

Mobile Quickies v2

Another set of links, some mobile and some not so:

Becoming the Jetsons (Part 2)

In most cases, I’d not even let this get to me, but apparently, I might have said a few things yesterday that were just a bit far reaching…

…and then I watched Part 3 of the MIR Nokia/Vanjoki interviews. We are entering into some exciting times, but if not careful, it will be a slope that might hurt more than enable.

Key skills, story telling and analytics. After that, anyone who can navigate around natural and virtual worlds should be a lock for living life on their terms. How the faith-based communities will respond to this, I don’t know. But, this side of living like the Jetson’s would need to be looked at a lot harder than it is now.

Oh yea, these are exciting times. And I’ve only just begun to realize my own role in this.

Poem: I’ve Been Dreaming, Now Awake

Reluctant to keep this long
I’ve finally gotten the sleep from my eyes
Pestered to remove the blanket and keep it forward
I’d be lying if I said that I’m not sad
She’s not next to me as she just was
Nor do I have her clinging to my voice and hand for playful protection
I’ve been dreaming of my Beloved so long it felt real
And for so many days and weeks real was the dream
Frankly I’d be remiss to stop remembering
Stop fearing
Start tearing is what would transpose
For in the moments since I’ve awaken
I’ve tossed my pillow at the window in anger
I thought it was real
I thought her embrace was real
I thought her look was real
And so far as a memory is allowed a moment to be touched
The dream was real
And now I’m awake
For sure that I was going to be there always
For sure that I would finally see what was promised
Life would be good
Life would be…
A dream realized when she and I conversed
When we traveled together across the earth naming names
A case of no more curses and life spread anew
And smiles which ensued the moments our eyes embraced
We never kissed
Never sexed
Only texted
Only guessed
And found that blessed
Are those moments in tow
But now such memories leave me bruised
And therefore forward I must go
Away from the bed
Unintended distractions for some
To me I was energized
And the love note that was given
Is what remains from the high tide of the dream beside
I was dreaming He would say
And I have altogether felt what He has
Now that I’m awake I more again towards naming
Picking passions apart until another sleep
I am destined to be dreaming until again called to be awake.

Listen to this poem (yep, that’s my voice)

Is Going Mobile-Only A Myth in Practice

I don’t like the title, but it fits what’s going through my head right now. I’ve just finished reading a neat post on how a person used the Nokia Booklet 3G on the Mobile World Congress event, and how pleasing it was for him and what hit me was how much I defer to a laptop because of screen or application constraints (such as when I’m editing the links in this post).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m typing this on my mobile right now (another shout out to Danais’ MoPress widget), but what I’m really seeing is that what I was getting from my N95 (previous mobile), I’m not getting as easily from the N97. And that mainly is the ability to not just be mobile, but perform at high rates while mobile.

One off the stickies actually has to do with the file formats that documents have. For example, I need the flexibility of HTML, but the usability of doc (or similar). That’s just not happening on mobile – and not because the devices are incapable, the UI and UX to do this is more work than what many companies have. Therefore, I’ve got to default to a lappy for my poems, for writing HTML code for my upcoming presentation, etc. All these things I should be able to do easily from my mobile, even when connected to projectors or TVs, but cant because there are gaps.

And yes, I’ve had the talk with myself about just going ahead, purchasing a netbook/laptop, and letting that be the end of it. But, I don’t like the costs. And I mean things like system admin, operating systems, and applications. The mobile devices that I like best are those which are open source, those items which can have a targeted use and then just be productive. Symbian is getting there, Maemo – er, MeeGo – is there. But, still not enough to be as compelling a solution as what I need (from time to time). Besides the software, I need to just be able to work smoothly – the tech is here, let’s go.

I should be better at this. I’ve been highly mobile for nearly 4 years now in this fashion. I’ve pretty much gotten down my mobile use to the necessary elements, and have done a lot in terms of thinking about the fluff versus the needs of what I need to do. And yet, I’m in a world where others don’t (won’t or can’t) match up with that thinking or activity. That is not their fault, I am trying to break out of a/the shell, and frankly speaking, its painful when I get these moments where it doesn’t work as I think it should.

Ideally, I’d love to be working through applications designed like this one. Where the web tech is truly used to enrich the overall ability of the person. I’d leverage the fact that I have all the needed location and status information, and use that with the communication tech here to enrich other non-computer-oriented workflows. That, plus a battery that lasts a day with my kind of usage would be great.

Instead, for all of the mobile-only that I’ve been, I’m not far enough. Heck, I cannot even read the PDF documents that I’ve been wanting to because the PDF reader (Acrobat Reader LE) hasn’t seen updates in forever, is slow, and there are no alternatives. I wish that companies (and users) actually took Google’s approach of “mobile first” to heart and then made something great… not now, but a few years ago.

My wants aren’t realistic for now. I’ve got to wait until my dreams slow down to what is attainable. And in the meantime, I pester my mind and abilities on how to continue to be productive in various contexts, while also exploring new possibilities – usually in mobile, sometimes in applied-semantic-contextual-relationships. For me, this is where mobile-only conflicts with life, and where I’m hoping a mobile dream doesn’t go away come morning.

Mobile Quickies

Just some quick notes (via mobile):

Are Document Files (Formats and Containers) Necessary

Today, I’ve had two content issues which required the passing of one file to another person (via email, ew). In both cases, I wonder if those files were even needed, since both sets of content could be displayed in-browser versus needing a dedicated application.

The first instance was of an Excel document. Now, there are two of us working on this document and both need the main columns, the information would be brought together later. Thing is, with SharePoint, you cannot collab on a document like that you have to wait until the other person checks it back in and then you can append your changes. For this type of analytic work, its tedious.

What could work here is to use a SharePoint list, put the columns in there to match the spreadsheet, add choice and text fields for input areas, and then we could both work on this at the same time. And then for the 3rd party that needs to see this, they can simply go to the list (in a Read-Only account) or get the results by using the Export to Access or Excel function. Never needing to open Excel for this at all really – add some type of reporting layer and you’d really never need it.

The second one has to do with a site redesign. Now, I’ve already got the document in an online repository, but not everyone would have access to it. I could open it, but then I lose the free-form ability to create the wireframes as I had intended. This is initial thinking and very high-level, so doing detailed work doesn’t apply, and neither should a dedicated app. Problem is, I need to take it out of the dedicated app’s format, and put it into something that is more SVG *and* slide friendly that works in a browser.

This would be another collaborative event, but the kind that – again – working in the browser would come in handy for. In addition, I’m on mobile just often enough that to use the browser to display this would make sense (in SVG terms) since it would scale appropriately.

I don’t know if too many people are ready for this, but I know that I am. I’d rather have to just think about the content, instead of debating to think if they have the right plug-in or version of the application. If I know that the browser(s) are up to snuff – and most modern ones are – then collaborating like this should be where we go with computing. Not, taking yet another error message and building an application for yet another (antiquated?) format.

Worst of all, enterprises could really use this kind of thinking, but don’t even look to exploit all that beautiful hardware (servers, laptops, and people) that could make this easy.

Limited Web Apps Aren’t Enterprise Solutions

If you create a web app, and it needs a specalized piece of code for one specific browser to work – such as an ActiveX Script – then you didn’t make a solution but took the easy way out as a developer and company. And if an enterprise is wild enough to entertan the idea of using your product without asking on that basic note, then that enterprise also needs to be questioned for sanity.

In this day and age, apps that are limited like this are not solutions but locks and should be avoided.

Oh yea, if you aren’t addressing mobile browsers with certain enterprise web apps then you’ve also missed the boat. Where’s the innovation now? Ding!

Innovation, But Where I Want to Go

The post that I did about the Vodaphone 360 Krystal seems to be getting a fair amount of attention. And its for good reason, that 5in slate design really does speak well to how I’d like to be mobile-enabled. Thing is, that’s not all. There are other steps involved with where I’d want to be.

For example, I’d love to go back to a device with the screen size of my N800 (without all that hardware surrounding) and use something like that. Then, have a Bluetooth headset that has a few lines of information and works in concert with the voice and dictation features that I’d like for a mobile.

Then, I’d like to have my own web server with it – and battery life sufficient for 1.5 days. I’d love it to adapt to car, home, and various work modes – supporting things like projectors, keyboard, and other accessories as needed.

IT would have to be open source in terms of the OS – I’d like to learn how to play there even more than in UX. IT would also need to intergrate, not disrupt, how I work and live.

In effect, I’m looking for something like the Dell Mini 5 or Nokia N900 – with iPad-like usage scenairos.

Its not here yet. But, beyond my N97 – which I like a ton and serves me well – hence I’m typing this on it via the MoPress widget now – I’d like to get to someplace a lot more functional, convenient, and enabling. Where I’d like to be is a place where personal computing plays by my definition and grows with how I grow.