Media Shift / Cutting the Cable

Although I am probably late to the game, I just discovered two very useful tools. The first is a blog post and the second is the blog itself.

Blog post: 2012 Guide to Cutting the Cable

Blog: Media Shift

One at a time:

The article explains the available hardware and software, then provides several case studies of users who have cut the cable, and ends with a very useful list of other articles on the subject.

The blog is stupendous. Here’s local, national and international news and commentary on shifts in just about every modern media industry. The coverage gets down to the hyper-local level, and also offers an extremely wide view of, say, the recent announcement of a merger between two of U.S. publishing’s giants: Penguin and Random House (the latter wins). That article, and this blog, does what so few do: it provides context. So the article about book publishers looks not only at consolidation’s impact on publishing, but also compares the situation with consolidation in the music industry.

Kudos to PBS for this lesser-known project. I now plan to read Media Shift every day.

Do You Think You Can App?

Think back to the time when you wondered whether you could desktop publish (before you knew what a “font” was), build your own website, or shoot or edit video? All of these were once unavailable to the average person. Now, Apple has filed a patent that could lead to make-your-own apps.

No surprise that message boards are filled with doubt. Making apps is too specialized, too complicated, too much of a commitment for the average person, too demanding in terms of knowledge and training and skills. Doubters point to iWeb, which was a make-your-own website tool that Apple provided, then pulled from the market.

Still, I wouldn’t dismiss the idea too quickly. No, most of us can’t or won’t build our own websites, but technology and invention race around the rocks–so we blog, and post images, and Tweet, and distribute information via tools that weren’t available the day before yesterday.

Do I want my own app? Sure, I guess, but the question suggests a solution chasing a problem.

If we flip the question, and assume, for example, that we (jointly) own an artisanal bread bakery, we might want to make it easy for our customers to know what’s baking, and what’s fresh out of the over, and we might not want to pay someone to build an app. A bake-your-own app might be just the thing for small business, or for authors who want to provide more than an eBook can easily provide, the list of potential problems that a homegrown app could solve is large. What’s more, the interactivity of a good app creates a high level of engagement between the provider and the customer, so apps could be the step beyond blogs and tweeting.

But I think there’s even more to the question. Blogs, tweets, apps–these assume current technology. And yet, we know that current technology lasts only a few years before the whole game changes. By 2015, we’ll be into advanced optical displays, a better cloud that makes the whole idea of local storage and local apps obsolete. Quite likely, we’ll be buying a broader range of devices–and I’m sure I don’t want a circa-2012 app as the my interface with thousands of internet radio stations (I really want easy-to-use internet radio in my car with lots and lots of stations from around the world).

Nothing is standing still–and that’s one of the challenges addressed in the Apple Insider article–how to build apps that easily (and automatically) customize for an increasingly varied range of devices.

Edward Tufte Kills Two More Kittens

Last night, I was one of two keynote speakers for an innovation event. As a speaker, I’m supposed to be the teacher. Three people in the audience were fast asleep. I am their grateful student.

I spoke for over a half hour. I’m pretty sure we should pass a law, or perhaps, a constitutional amendment, that assures no speech will ever run longer than 20 minutes.

I structured my speech with over 100 clever little slides (I used Keynote, which is cooler than PowerPoint). Every visual cue was carefully tied to specific words in my written script. So I paid more attention to the script and the visuals than I did to the audience. Occasional ad-libs only made the speech longer.

The gentleman who preceded me, a college president, used Prezi. What a cool visual presentation! I remember almost nothing he said. (Too busy looking at the cool imagery.)

So here’s a digital insider take on speeches, the morning after. Just talk to the audience. Tell them what you know. Allow yourself one index card with three key points.

Anybody in the audience who want to see the charts, graphs, photos, etc., tell them to visit your website or blog. In that environment, they can study the visuals in their own time, not in a crowded auditorium. When they hear hear you talk about an important idea, they can visit your website for more information.

Which is to say: speeches are terrific for revving up the audience and introducing new ideas, but they are not very useful for detailed presentation of ideas. Websites are not a good way to rev up the audience and introduce new ideas–there is no personal touch, except, sometimes, with an extraordinary video–but for details and the day-by-day updates, they’re terrific.

I trust the guys in the back row slept well. Last night, they were the most powerful teachers in the room.

For more on Tufte/kittens:

Tufte Kitten Kill Count

Intro to Tufte:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

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