Categories
Technology

The Flashing Webpages

I’ve noticed more and more websites now only loading images on a page when you scroll to down to them. It’s called ‘Lazy Loading‘ and I hate it. I’m all for saving bandwidth and improving page loading times but this trend is incredibly annoying. Scrolling down a page once ‘loaded’ should be smooth. But instead images flash at you as they load while you scroll. A terrible experience. Look at the Kottke homepage for an example of this. It’s a good blog with plenty of nice images and videos. But exploring it is miserable thanks to this delayed image loading ‘feature’.

Categories
Main Technology

Remembering Podcasts

Podcasts have a big problem: remembering them. Many of the podcasts I follow are overflowing with ideas, knowledge and references that I will almost certainly never remember to look into further.

A big reason for this is because like a lot of people I listen to podcasts in the background whilst doing something else. 95% of my podcast listening time is spent whilst I’m either walking, running, driving or trying to sleep. Basically times when it’s not appropriate to whip out my phone and start writing things in my notes app like ‘look up BBC news article about bees in South African plane’s engine that delayed flights’. It’s too much hassle. The most I manage to do is take a quick screenshot which lists the show, episode and timestamp. But then my phone just becomes full of screenshots and I can never be bothered to re-download the episode, find the correct spot, listen to it again and then finally do the research. I just don’t bother.

I can hear you shouting “show notes!”. True, show notes are very handy and thankfully more and more podcasts do them now. But I still have to go to their website, find the episode, and then seek out the correct section. Again, I just don’t bother.

Here’s want I want. It’s simple we kill the batman. I want my podcast player of choice (Overcast) to have an easily accessible bookmark button. In an ideal world it would then grab the audio starting from 1 minute before and 1 minute after and then email it to me, or import it into Evernote or something. But I’d settle for a ‘bookmark’ section in the app which lists all podcast episodes with bookmarks then lets you skip through the them. That feature would make listening to podcasts a lot more productive for me. Episodes wouldn’t just come and go. I could sit in front of a computer, browse through the bookmarks, and do the appropriate research.


Now that I’ve written this I just realised that I’ve blindly been using Overcast for many years now and maybe there’s an app out there that already does this? To the App Store!

Categories
Technology

Evernote Still Sucks

Soon it will be two years since I wrote this about Evernote moving to the Google Cloud. I sounded hopeful. In my head the move was just the start of the beginning of the resurgence of Evernote. Instead it has continued to stagnate. I can’t remember any new features being added – other than a few UI tweaks – and both the Mac and iOS apps remain buggy and terribly slow. Oh and the browser extension on Safari is still awful.

Right now I all my notes, stored locally on my machine, are fucking buffering.

Notes. Buffering.

I still use Evernote everyday. It’s still my digital brain. But man do I hate it at times.

Categories
Technology

The Newsletter Popup Plague

If you’re an iPhone user the popup on below will almost certainly have gotten in your way many times. It isn’t a spam or malicious popup, but it is just as annoying.

Thankfully a year or so ago it became so common and such a menace that considerate iOS developers started to remove it from their apps and it is much less prevalent today.

But now there is a new plague. This time on the web (particularly shops and blogs). It’s the ‘subscribe to our newsletter’ popup and it’s depressingly rampant. You’re slapped in the face with it the moment you visit way too many sites now.

Both these popups are the product of a few things I believe…

Fashion

The web, like most things, has fashions and trends. The newsletter popup has been around for a long time, but it appears in 2016 to be very much in fashion and to have reached a mass scale. Which leads me onto my next point.

Morally okay

When something is so ubiquitous it is less likely to be examined morally. When all your fellow online shops have fashionable newsletter popups of course you want to implement one too. Whereas if you were one of the first you would need to look at wether this is good for your users and examine its pros and cons. But at some point enough people are doing it that the general census becomes ‘this is fine’ and you no longer have to debate it.

Easy to use ‘plugins’

In the case of iOS, two open source projects called Appirater and iRate allowed developers an easy way to implement ‘rate this app’ popups. On the web WordPress has many popup newsletter plugins and store CMS’s like Shopify have plenty too. Or you can just use MailChimp and a snippet of code to accomplish it.

It works

People aren’t utterly stupid. If these popups didn’t increase newsletter signups they wouldn’t have them.

So newsletter popups are fashionable, morally okay (in their minds), easy to implement, and work. But fashions die, morally I consider it wrong, easy doesn’t mean right, and a 0.50% increase in newsletter signups isn’t worth plaguing your users. So please, let this trend die.

Below are some popup examples I’ve come across organically in just the past few days…

Categories
IRL

Angelpoise Lamp Switches Switch

I recently needed a new lamp. So I went to a store to pick up my favourite, the Anglepoise 1227. But to my horror I discovered that the model has been changed slightly, but significantly.

Previously the one/off switch was on the top of the lampshade:
Top of old Anglepoise 1227

It’s now been changed to a mid-cable switch:
Bottom of new Anglepoise 1227

That switch makes zero sense in every circumstance (and particularly on a balanced-arm lamp where you’re constantly moving the arm around). I’ve had to use those switches too often for too long now, and I still cannot see a single benefit. Imagine, you get your lamp out of the box, place it on the table top and then for time immemorial you have to bend over, squeeze your arm through the small gap between the table and the wall, and then run your fingers through the cable to find the switch.

Is there a single scenario where that is a better choice of switch? Placed on my desk, I’d have to get my arm over 4 feet of wood every time I wanted to turn it off/on. On my bed side table, I’d have to dislocate my shoulder to reach it. It’s insanity.

The only reason I can see why it’s so popular is due to low cost for the manufacturer. Or am I missing a benefit or reason? Please email me. I genuinely want to know why this switch exists so prominently.

Categories
Technology

Sony

Over at the New Yorker Nicholas Thompson has written a short article to preface the announcement of the new Sony PlayStation later on this evening:

Sony’s Moment of Truth (Nicholas Thompson)

[reading time: 2 minutes]

It’s short and makes all the right points:

[…] The company also kept putting its money on crippled horses. “3-D will sweep the world,” Howard Stringer, its previous C.E.O., said less than three years ago. And Sony holds onto products, and proprietary systems, for too long. The Walkman was awesome. And it should have been the iPod. Instead, it became the MiniDisc. By the time Sony won its fight to make Blu-ray a standard, physical discs were becoming obsolete.

Now, gaming consoles are in trouble, too. A million Angry Birds have crashed into them; Farmville Farmers have dug up the grass around them.

When I was growing up (I was born in 1991) Sony seem like the company. Everything electronic and worth more than £50 seemed to be made by Sony in my household. They were considered reliable and it was just what you naturally bought. Your old Sony TV would die, (ours died after in 2002 after 20 years of loyal service) and you’d buy a new one. Now however Sony is just one of dozens of companies making televisions that all look the same as each other. So you just go for the cheapest one which is considered reliable. (Which is either Samsung or LG in our house these days.)
However despite its demise elsewhere, one Sony product has remained with me throughout my life: the PlayStation. I use to love them. But for me each one has got worse and worse. And this new PlayStation will be Sony’s last chance. I have the standard complaint about the PS3: the software updates! They are endless and never get anywhere near maxing out my internet connection.

This is my usual routine when I want to play a game:

  • Put in disc
  • Software update is required to play game
  • Play a game on my iPhone until it’s ready
  • Software is finally updated
  • Cannot be bothered now
  • Turn off PlayStation

The only reason I haven’t switched to Xbox is simply because of the controller. The PlayStation one has stayed roughly the same for years and I find it perfect. The Xbox controller is horrible to use. That’s all that’s stopping me from switching sides. The new PlayStation had better be bloody good!

February 21, 2013: Well, the PlayStation has been what seems like 22% announced. We’ve got some of the details, but not all. I watched the event and it was dull, dull, dull. Plus, there’s a whole new controller that looks pretty terrible:

Categories
Technology

Not Using Flickr for My Mobile Uploads

Flickr has had its ups and downs over the years, but I’ve always been a fan. Since 2006 I’ve used Flickr to store ALL my photos as I’ve always thought it will be one of the few services still around in many years time. Everything I take is uploaded and tagged, because the big problem I’ve found with iPhone photos is they either end up deleted or stored in a big folder on Dropbox. So if I wanted to find a picture of my Dog in the snow I’d have to sift through thousands of photos. Instead I just go to Flickr and search “buster AND snow” and I find it instantly.

Anyway, Flickr is currently enjoying a bit of renaissance due to its new iPhone app and the fact that Instagram has announced its less than favourable new privacy policy. Lots of people on my Twitter stream are now sharing photos from their iPhone with Flickr. However, there’s two BIG reasons why I won’t be doing the same.

First: whenever you go to a Flickr photo page for the first time Flickr tries to shove their new iPhone app down your throat. A fullscreen banner pops up which you have to get rid of before you can see the photo.

Second: their mobile layout is terrible. I’m here to see a photograph right? So what do they do? They make the photo tiny!

So basically, they force you to make an unnecessary tap (which is a big deal in the fast paced, on the move, Twitter world) and don’t display the content properly.

Categories
Technology

Landing Pages

Sky and Virgin ‘provides fixed and mobile telephone, television and broadband internet’. So why is both their homepages some sort of weird 1990’s Yahoo!/Lycos landing page? If they want to change the homepage of their elderly customers computers to get a couple of pennies in advertising money, that’s fine. But why make it the main page of their domain?! Surely 99% of people going to their domain are either new customers looking into buying services, or current customers logging into their account?!

Sky homepage

Virgin Media homepage

Categories
Technology

Negative Instapaper

For me, reading is like walking. I know it’s really good for me, and I never regret doing it, but I just often struggle to find the motivation to start. I need my hand held and awesome tools to help me out. For walking it’s RunKeeper and for reading it’s Instapaper.

Instapaper is a truly great app and is the original and still the best ‘read later’ service out there.

However, there’s one thing that bugs me about the app. And that’s the way it handles read articles.

When you’re done reading that awesome New Yorker article that you’ve been putting off for weeks because it’s so long, you’re happy. You’ve doubtless enjoyed it, but are now ready to stop seeing its title and its endless page-indicating circles haunting you when you open up the app. So what do you do?

Well this is where I got confused the first time I used Instapaper. I’d heard Instapaper was basiclly a to-do list for stuff to read so I presumed once you’ve read something you’re meant to tick it off the list. But there didn’t appear to be an option for this. There was a ‘trash’ button, but I didn’t want to delete it. I stumbled around the App for a little while trying to work it out. Eventually I dropped the isssue and moved on. But after reading a bunch more articles, and with my Instapaper account clogged up I decided just to delete them. But when I did tap the trash icon I was suprisingly presented with two options:

The Top of Instapaper

This was kinda baffling. I didn’t understand what ‘Move to Archive’ meant. Is that normal procedue for a read article? These two options were so negative I presumed they weren’t the route you’re supposed to take. I thought I just couldn’t find the the ‘You’re awesome for reading that article, click here if you’re done with it’ button.

In the end I just assumed ‘Move to Archive’ was what I should be pressing and continued happily using the app to this day.

However, everytime I tap that trash icon and am presented with those two options – the ‘Delete’ one standing out in bright red – it feels like such a cop out. It’s so negative.

Marco Arment, Instapaper’s creator, says he doesn’t like to blatantly copy a competitors feature, even if it’s better. He prefers to come up with a new, smarter way of doing it. I can respect that, and I respect Marco greatly, but please, dear God, just rip off the way Read It Later handles it.

With their app, once you’ve read an article you just simply tap the ‘tick’ icon. It’s then swiftly gone, and your back at the main article list screen ready and roaring to read another article.

(Also, a tick is such a positive little fella. It reminds me of doing well in school and the ticks yogurt companies put on their pots telling me all the good stuff that is in it.)

And of course tapping the tick is quicker. It’s one tap, not two.

Read It Later
Toolbar of Read It Later

Instapaper
Toolbar of Instapaper

Categories
Technology

iOS6 Maps

In Apple’s iOS 6 mobile operating system, they decided to ditch Google’s Maps for their very own maps.

But maps are hard. Really hard. And Apple have failed. And now people are angry because this new Maps app is worse than it was before, when it used Google’s glorious Map data.

Personally, I’m not too angry, as I now use Waze for navigating in my car, and use public transit rarely. However, the Google-based Maps app was great for finding addresses, and navigating when walking. And lets be honest, a step backwards is always a bad thing. And iOS 6 Maps is a step backwards. I’ve used it just a couple times, but each time it has failed in some regard.

For example, when searching for ‘Heathrow Airport’, (one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world) Apple goes to a minicab company many miles away. And when you do eventually find the right Heathrow Airport amoungst the collection of irrelevent dots, you’ll find that Apple’s map of Heathrow is awful. Nothing is where it should be. Roads go over the terminals, and even over the bloody runway!

iOS6 Maps fail

Being Apple, the maps look beautiful, but its data is poor. So please, if you spot an error with the map, lay a pin on it within the app, tap on it, and then tap ‘Report a problem’. User power triumphs all.