Keyboard or No Keyboard – it’s a matter of preference

MG Siegler wrote an article on Techcrunch titled “HTC Killed The Physical Keyboard. Smart Move.” The article quickly caught my interest because I naturally wanted to see if HTC was killing all physical keyboards for their devices. Fortunately, it wasn’t. I’m a big fan of HTC devices, particularly those with keyboards. In fact, I think it’s the differentiator for me between the iPhone and HTC devices. Reading the article, there are two arguments that stick out in my mind – the first is the physical versus virtual keyboard argument and the other is the Android versus the iPhone OS argument.

The implementation of the G1 was particularly awkward. I hate the lip because it got in the way of the keyboard. HTC has many other devices with keyboards with both slide-out implementations as well as vertical stand-up keyboards. Personally, I liked the physical keyboard implementation of the HTC Tytn 2 but the smooth screen of the HTC Touch Pro. The Tytn 2 keyboard has fewer keys but also larger and much more intuitive to use. It looks like they have brought back the same style of keyboard for the HTC Touch Pro 2. Personally, I have no issues with the extra bulk that comes with the keyboard as I use it lots. I have an iPod Touch and I never onced wish that I could bring it every where with me. In fact, it sits at home beside my bed for the most part. Ultimately, the question of physical versus virtual keyboard really is a matter of preference. I wouldn’t for one assume that all devices would only have virtual keyboards in the future. It’s like saying that the only style of cars in the future would be coupes.

While I really like the Android, the Android is not an iPhone killer. If anything, the Android will more likely be a Windows Mobile killer than an iPhone killer. After all that’s said and done, the iPhone’s strength is its multimedia capability. It’s great to watch movies, listen to music and play games. While the iPhone has a stunning design, underneath the beautiful exterior is a surprisingly weak hardware specs. In its current implementation, it only has about 20 MBs of free memory which is why it was brilliant of Apple to not allow the current generation of iPhones to allow more than one non-Apple application to run at the same time. Both the Android and Windows Mobile are more likely going to be the OS of choice for the market who wants to tweak their devices. Don’t like the browser, replace it. Don’t like the virtual keyboard, replace it. Again, it is a matter of personal preference if the Android, Windows Mobile and iPhone is better than the other. However, it is clear that the iPhone OS will continue to dominate in the consumer market because it does serve a much broader audience.

My conclusion – the physical keyboard is not dead even on the Android phones. Looking at HTC’s history of releasing devices, they will continue to release both form factors to appease both markets.

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PockeTwit – 0.74 Review

One of the things that I love about PockeTwit is that it is in constant development. One downside is that it is hard to know when is a good time to blog about it. Even though other good apps like Twikini have been launched since I last blogged, I still find myself going back to PockeTwit all the time. In fact, if I had a choice, I would use PockeTwit as my primary Twitter app instead of Tweetdeck only because it can do everything Tweetdeck can.

Outside of the features that amazed me in my first review like having a very usable user interface and integration with other providers like, PockeTwit has recently included the concept of groups, saved searches, retweeting, showing a conversation chain and emailing someone a status. Some other nice things they have included are the ability to create and change themes and the ability to clear the cache if needed. Personally not high value to me personally but still good features.

The ability to have groups is certainly quite valuable. When I started using Twitter, I followed only a handful of friends. Since Twitter has a whole universe of interesting people, I’ve found myself following many more people since then. So the ability to group them is essential. It’s allows me to better focus on conversations in groups. The nice thing about PockeTwit is that when I assign them to a group, I can either copy them to a group or move them completely. I started out with copying fellow twitters to groups but I’m starting to realize moving them to groups makes more sense. Especially in a mobile form factor.

Being able to see a conversation is phoenomenal. Most mobile clients have this feature. I’m curious as to why most desktops don’t. It’s so nice to take a tweet and check out the history of the conversation. This is one of the reasons why moving a person instead of copying works in PockeTwit.

The other great part about PockeTwit is the ability to do a search and also re-run those searches later on. This implementation is less polished as how it is implemented is that it shows you the previous searches as part of a drop-down box. I guess it should more accurately be described as remembered searches instead of saved searches. I would have liked this to be accessible the way Groups are but I can understand why it’s implemented the way it is. I haven’t figured out how to delete searches from the drop-down list. So far it hasn’t been much of a problem because I don’t execute searches very often on my mobile device.

I personally believe that the reason why PockeTwit is such a phenomenal product is because the developer uses the app all the time. If I had a choice, I would want all of the features developed here on a desktop. Features like retweeting and emailing someone a status just makes sense. I also like being able to see the person’s timeline as well as profile. Given that it’s a mobile form factor, I like the fact that profile and timeline are separated out. Other niceties are that when I click on a tweet, it quickly separates out all of the things that I can interact with such as hyperlinks and profiles. Another sign of a great product is the ability to recognize when a feature isn’t as useful as originally imagined. In between my two reviews, there was a map feature where you could see where people were tweeting from. The feature was quickly recognized as not as useful as originally thought it would be and was removed. It was a good decision because I think that means that the developer can focus on core features instead of maintaining something obscure.

Overall, I am still in love with PockeTwit as my primary Twitter client for Windows Mobile

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Follow Friday – May 22, 2009 (aka the TWEEPS post)

I can’t believe it’s Friday already and it’s time to crank out another Follow Friday post. It’s been a surprisingly busy week and I’ve not had much chance to blog or tweet of late. I’m hoping that Follow Fridays aren’t the only posts I do in May =D. So my theme for this weeks Follow Friday is Tweeps. These are folks that I met on Twitter and have had awesome conversations with. Few I’ve met in person and the rest I’d love to meet with them.

@digital_jenn: @digital_jenn is my original tweep and I’ve yet to meet her which is kind of ironic. I started to follow her as she’s a colleauge/friend of my sister but most importantly, she shared the same passion as I did for Windows Mobile devices. Takes awesome pics from her phone but she’s not as active as she once was.

@trapwire: Not yet met @trapwire but have played on Xbox Live with him. Great guy, very tech savvy. I’d love to meet in person one of these days. Has a great sense of humour, friendly, great heart and great conversationalist.

@thenaomi: Fun and Fabulous. I’ve had the opportunity to meet @thenaomi in real life. Struck a conversation with her as she was doing a position paper on Zoocasa and have continued to maintain a conversation with her. Recent MBA graduate, TRUE geek at heart, vibrant and overall lots of fun.

@jaimewoo: I’ve known about @jaimewoo through a good friend of mine but only met him for the first time through @thenaomi this year. He’s a social blogger about Toronto. I really enjoyed his work on TOin6words and looking to TastingTourTO

@tristanx: I started following @tristanx only a while ago. We share the same passion of technology. He’s a great story teller with hilarious anecdotes. Also another great conversationalist. Would love to meet in person when we get the opportunity.

@skanwar: @skanwar is a real character; he’s another great story teller and is awesome just to observe his constant chatter about life in general. Seems to be always ready for a meet up somewhere. Hopefully one day I’ll get to meet up with him.

For other Follow Friday recommendations, please look here.

Wired Wednesday – May 10, 2009 [Call to Action]

I love Wired Wednesdays. It was the first taste of a start up meetup in Toronto. It’s amazing to see how vibrant the startup culture is in Toronto. This time around was no different. I haven’t been to one since the first one and the event has grown since then. The May Wired Wednesday Toronto featured Spreed, Homestars and Zoocasa. Spreed is a white label news app, Homestars is a review site for trades people and Zoocasa IS THE BEST PLACE TO SEARCH FOR HOMES in Canada.

The reviews of the various start ups is always cool, especially Canadian startups. Even though I wasn’t born here in Canada, I am proudly Canadian. It is what I identify myself with. There were a couple of highlights of that night. The big one for me was Saul’s call to action. The one thing that we don’t do well in Canada is to highlight our Canadian startups. I think naturally Canadians are reserved. We like to remain low key and consistently humble. However, for us to be successful, we have to drum up more support for the various ideas we have here in Canada.

The second highlight of the night was Stuart Macdonald’s point that everyone in your company is the marketing department. It’s similiar idea as everyone in the company is responsible for quality of the product. The point here is that we have to be evangelists for our companies. It’s probably one of the most critical things that we can do.

For my part, I am going to spend some time after each event to play with each product and dedicate at least one blog to review the product. I’ll also be more proactive about talking about some of the internal workings of Zoocasa without revealing company secrets.

Also – directly from the horse’s mouth, check out Saul’s own blog post on his call to action for us.

Follow Friday – May 15, 2009 (aka the I LOVE LEWIN post)

One of the best suggestions someone (I think it was @flyingspatula) made about Follow Fridays is to actually suggest fewer but give reasons why. While there are very, very many people I really enjoy following, I wanted to keep this list small so that I could spend a little bit more time on highlighting why I follow each of these folks listed.

@Zoocasa – this is where I work! Primarily managed by Jason Lewin, this is the quickest way to find out what’s new and exciting about Zoocasa. I personally believe we have an awesome site if you’re looking for a home. Personally, we have a phenomenal team that makes this happen from day-to-day.

@JasonLewin – marketing guru extraordinaire. More importantly, an all around nice guy. Jason is the hardest working person on the team. He’s in early and out late. Well connected and always willing to share and introduce to others. Always willing to do anything that helps out the team or a team member out. A really classy guy. He had the ingenius idea of having me tweet something at the Realtor Quest show that ripped big benefits for our team but didn’t bother to take credit for it.

@saulcolt – the smartest man on earth. Saul is smart, witty and charming. There’s no wonder that he’s such a ladies’ man. What Saul doesn’t want you to know is that he’s really genuinely a nice guy. Despite the claim of having an enormous ego, he is humble, open and honest. Saul is all-kinds of awesome.

@flyingspatula – I share much of his views on management and leadership. It’s hard for many people to do either well. Management is getting the job done but it takes leadership to get the job done right. Getting the job done these days involve making sure the right things are done for the right reason and it’s a fine balance of people, objectives and technology for the most part.

@flexilis – Flexilis is a security product that I use for my Windows Mobile but they also tend to tweet about cool Windows Mobile news whenever relevant. I’ve used it many a time to save my bacon. Ironically enough the one feature that I use the most is Scream because I’m always leaving my phone somewhere.

@PockeTwitDev – I <3 PockeTwit. I don’t heart many things but I truly heart this app. If you use PockeTwit, be sure to follow @PockeTwitDev. It’s the fastest way to get support and feature requests for this app.

SPB Mobile Shell 3.0 – Initial Review

SPB was the first company to introduce gesture navigation for the Windows Mobile after the launch of the iPhone application. The iPhone caused a massive paradigm shift in the mobile world when it intuitively thought that a mobile device was much more usable by navigating using your fingers rather than using a stylus. It was one of the most frustrating things using a stylus such that when HTC introduced the Tytn, the fact that you could do most of your navigation via either the scroll wheel on the side or the d-pad, it instantly became the most popular Windows Mobile device of it’s time.

HTC then introduced TouchFlo 3D with the Touch line of devices (i.e. Touch Diamond, Touch Pro) and it became the interface of choice. HTC did a decent job but the reality is that it is better known as a hardware company rather than a software company. The features are actually awesome on TouchFlo 3D. However, I found it extremely unstable. One of the first things I noticed right after I got the Fuze was that it would crash Manilla (the application name for TouchFlo 3D) and cause annoyances. It was frequent enough that it caused me to start looking for ROMs to ease some of the frustrations.

Enter SPB Mobile Shell 3.0. I had purchased 2.0 earlier but stopped using it because of TouchFlo 3D. After finding the Energy ROM, I was pretty happy with TouchFlo. However, being someone who enjoys tinkering, I couldn’t help but want to install Spb Mobile Shell as soon as it was publicly released. And after 3 days, I have to say it is a great piece of software.

While there are 13 screens, the application is actually broken down into a few major sections. There is the home screens which summarizes your information, there is the phone screens which manages things like phone profile and dialer, contacts screens helps manage your quick dial information and the address book, the programs and settings screen, and lastly the weather section that gives you weather information.

The software impresses right away. On first load, Spb Mobile Shell takes about 10% less RAM then TouchFlo 3D. Other things that I really like are contact integration with Facebook. I also like how I can easily switch between professional layout to info layout at a flick of a finger. With some minor hacking, you can have more than 3 info screens. The nice thing about the info layout screen is that they are completely customizable. The idea is that in the future is to enable third-party widgets to be built. Another thing that impressed me as well is the seamless transition from portrait to landscape mode. It works exactly either way (for the most part) without any rendering issues.

One of the things I would have liked is to have better integration with existing SPB Products like Wireless Monitor and Phone Suite. One of the really nice things that I liked about the previous version of this product was that I could embed the Today screen plug-ins as a tab. I think it would be reasonable to have more SPB products generate new screens. I really like the Facebook integration and would love to see the functionality extend to more than just downloading of photos but also of contact information such as email and phone numbers. This is more minor. When I added all of the icons I wanted for a particular screen in portait mode and then flipped to landscape mode, there were some minor misalignments that I could fix. Once it was fixed, it remembered the settings.

Overall, this has been an impressive product. There were no issues that made me even once consider going back to using HTC’s Touch Flo. For me this is the killer UI that I’ve been waiting for.

Dennis Kneale and Saul Colt on CNBC

I was really curious about seeing this clip because I work with Saul and he's a really amazing person (more about that on Friday). The clip caught me by surprise as Bill came across very negatively and extremely ignorant. The reality is that social media is here to stay and will be a tool (just like email is) for many. As a business, it's definitely a tool that will evolve. I have to say that overall, Saul was really calm and collected while answering the questions quite articulately.

I want to start out by saying is that Twitter is just a tool. Different people use it for different things. There are so many different types of apps that have been created to leverage all the various aspects of this tool.
"That cartoon sums it up"
The clip starts off with the cartoon about someone tweeting inanely on Twitter. I've actually seen the full clip before on YouTube and it's very funny. It takes one common use of Twitter and completely exaggerates it. I have no problem with that. However, it isn't the only use of Twitter. To imply that it is the only use of Twitter is ignorant. It's like saying that the only way to start a car is by hand crank. I do write about what I'm doing sometimes as I've got my mum on Twitter and some friends who might find what I'm doin interesting. But this is the most basic form. It's quite true to say that the cartoon does NOT sum up the use of twitter in any means.
"Who would pay $700M for a one-hit wonder?"
I wasn't sure what Dennis Kneale meant by calling Twitter a one-hit wonder because it could mean either that Twitter only has one feature or that the company that developed Twitter only has one product. Either case, I'm not really sure what the relevance of the comment was. Personally, I view Twitter as a technology. It has popularized the concept of micro-blogging and in so many ways is not that different than Blogger not so many years ago. Twitter may have very few functions but different people have used it for different uses. Companies like Comcast have used it to successfully provide better customer support while others use it to disseminate information while others use it to look for trending information
"How many followers do you have?
The number of followers really isn't that important other than for my ego. Today is the first time when the number of followers exceeded the number I'm following. A proud moment but as Saul said – it's not particularly relevant. For me personally, it's the number I'm following. For me I am constantly looking for people to help me keep on top of tech news in particularnew web tech or mobile tech, finding out more about what goes on in the real estate industry or simply meeting new, interesting and very smart people. Fortunately for me, Twitter allows me to do all 3 rather quickly and effectively.
"Who cares?"
I actually loved Saul's answer to this question. It was a perfect answer; your followers care and no one is holding a gun to your head. If people start to be disinterested in what you're saying then, people will unfollow you. I don't take it offensively when someone does – it's just that what I write or think may not necessarily interest everyone. At the end of the day, people follow you for a reason. Frankly, I am honoured that anyone follows me at all but truth be told, I don't really know who they are most of the time.
"I read it in the newspaper"
I won't say it's archaic but I haven't bought a newspaper in years. Largely because I find other means to get information and Twitter is now one of the richest sources of information. In some ways, Twitter is provides a natural filter for information overload if used well.
"Where is the business?"
There is about as much business opportunity with Twitter as there is with Facebook. Both serve to a certain fashion the same clientele. It's another social medium to disseminate information. At the very least, it's a well known infrastructure. If you liken Twitter to RSS, can you imagine if someone pattented RSS and every provider had to pay a fee to use that technology? There is a business opportunity here for Twitter. It is the most well known medium for microblogging right now and there are many apps that have been built on top of it.
"The bloom is off the rose now – tweetwise"
The comment was a bit ironic because earlier on Dennis Kneale mocked Twitter as a one-hit wonder but in this sentence he says that Twitter is losing is lustre because it's valued at $700M. Twitter is a very simple piece of technology. There is nothing amazing about it from a geek standpoint; it can and is easily replicated. What is amazing about it is that it has won and continues to win the hearts and minds of many as a means to communicate with others.
"Twitter is an excuse not to read"
If anything, this comment goes to show the lack of understanding of how Twitter actually works and how people are using it. This is a classic case of either misinformation or misdirection. One of the most powerful things you can do in Twitter is the ability to hyperlink and most people use it to hyperlink to photos, videos and blogs that give others a much larger view of what's going on. The 140 characters is simply a summary to let someone know whether or not they want to follow up on the topic.
I don't watch much TV largely because I can get my information elsewhere in a much quicker fashion so I don't know if Dennis Kneale is generally ignorant and an ass but in this case, he was quite a bit off base. I'm not even that much passionate about Twitter other than it's a really interesting way of getting information. If interested in looking at other great uses of Twitter, check out Microplaza and CoTweet.

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Twitter via SMS for Rogers

Twitter SMS messages came back to Rogers today with some mixed reviews. Earlier on in the day, I got an tweet from Keith McArthur, who looks like the new Rogers Social Media guy, letting me know that Twitter via SMS is now available to Rogers and Fido customers. I was really excited – not that it impacted directly because I typically tweet using PockeTwit – but because that means that my friends who don't own a smart phone or aren't willing to pay for a data plan can now receive Twitter messages on their phone. It was my understanding that Rogers would treat Twitter messages like they would any other text messages. As far as I could tell, this had minimal financial impact to end-users because as of today, all incoming text messages are free. Other news also trickled about Rogers charging for incoming messages in the future but only for phones that aren't on a text messaging plan. When this news hit, there seem to be a lot of anger as there was a misconception that people were getting bombarded by Twitter messages and having to pay for it. It looks like anger has subsided by the time I'm writing this post. When I was thinking about this, I was a bit baffled by the anger because of a number of reasons. For one, by default, updates to devices are turned off when you follow someone. I actually have to specify to have device notification turned on by each person I follow. This makes sense to me – I don't care to be personally notified on SMS about everyone's status. There are probably only a handful of people I truly care about to be notified. Secondly, it would have been no different than what it was a few months ago just before SMS notification was turned off in Canada and there was an uproar about it. My frustration however is that at 10:30 pm tonight – I still haven't received one SMS update on my phone. Minimal impact to me personally but would be nice if this worked; there are other people I'd like to be able to reach out to via Twitter ๐Ÿ˜€

Update: 2009-05-08 23:00 – I have been advised to delete device and then reactivate it for SMS to work. Trying to but getting the fail whale. Hopefully will be fixed tomorrow.

Update: 2009-05-09 22:23 – Still no SMS updates although @_gloomybear_ started getting her updates via SMS. Waiting for another 2 more days before I ask for help again. Lack of communication on statuses is disturbing on Twitter

Riding for Heart

The Ride for Heart is a charity event that helps raise money for the Heart and Stroke foundation. Heart disease and stroke is responsible for 1 in 3 Canadian deaths every year. In fact, 15 Torontonians will be hospitalized every day this year, making heart disease and stroke the leading causes of death in Ontario. We need to change these statistics. Besides this hitting pretty close to home as I’ve had 2 uncles who suffered from stroke in the past 10 years and a co-worker of mine suffered a cardiac incident this year, for me it’s also a great way to combine doing something I truly enjoy while giving back to the community. Last year was the first time I did this event and had a fantastic time riding with friends and raising money. I started a little late last year but still raised almost $1000 due to some really generous contributors. This year, I’m trying to be more ambitious and triple that amount. The ride takes place on June 7 and I intend to ride 50KM for this cause.

To help me out, you can do any of these things.

1. Donate to me by following this link.
2. Forward my email to people you know to help me raise money for my ride

Thanks so much. Please donate. It’s for a worthy cause.