Smart TV is Bullshit

Smart TV is a pile of arse. Check out this latest fucktastrophe* from LG:

“When you first turn on the TV, an animated character called Bean Bird appears to help guide you through various options.”

What the shit? LG gets WebOS, lauded as one of the most promising operating systems of recent time, and uses it to create fucking Clippy for television?

It’s ironic that after reading all these “you must create!” missives, my first long-form blog post in god knows how long is inspired by the desire to burn down the creations of others, but stick with me here: “Smart TV” needs to die in a fire.

clipart
Standard-issue CD for TV interface designers

For decades now (pretty much since the invention of the remote control), TVs have had on-screen displays, which have been getting more terrible with each passing moment. More menus, more options, more inputs: all artfully designed by some half-blind shitbird with a “250,000 Web ClipArts” CD-ROM.

And somehow, in an age with practically unlimited computing power, TV manufacturers managed to build user interfaces with the responsiveness of a rolled pork roast. What the fuck is up with that? It’s not even like there are space or heat constraints limiting the chips they can use.

All this time computers and phones have been getting more usable and more responsive. What have TV manufacturers been doing? “Why Ben,” you say, “they’ve been adding features!”

Features like an unusably slow, impossible to navigate web browser! A shitty walled-garden tick-the-box-we’ve-shipped-it-boss app store! How about this awesome streaming video service that proxies traffic through our servers in Asia?  And don’t forget Angry Birds!

Fuck. Off.

Just stop. For one second stop and make me a television that looks great, operates quickly, and gets itself the fuck out of the space between me and my video entertainment. Please.

AND: if you feel the need to create a god-damn animated character to help people understand how to set up their TV, step the fuck back and ask yourself WHY you got to that point. Look yourself in the mirror, you “Smart TV” charlatans. Go fix something that is broken for a change.

 

*Credit to Nat Torkington for the word “fucktastrophe”.

 

Use Your Inside Voice

There’s something about Twitter that brings out the troll in me. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like more often than not I’m responding to public figures with ranting negativity.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/

To be fair, I’m often responding to examples of deep stupidity, but that doesn’t mean I have to reply likewise. It shouldn’t be surprising, but a calm open-letter to an MP (also sent directly) received a significantly more constructive response than would a ranty 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a few conversations recently, which — combined with my own unease at being “that guy” — have me trying hard to be more careful in my responses. Here are my tips on being less of a troll when responding to stuff that makes you grumpy:

Engaging Governments

With government interaction, a calm, considered approach makes a lot of sense. I imagine politicians are almost immune to shouty rants, due to their daily exposure in the house, and no doubt regular dose of crazy constituents.

One might get the impression that MPs are “listening” on twitter because we are able to interact with them so immediately, but the truth is that using the processes we already have in place for legislation will always get a better result. These include (among other things) submitting to select committees, official information requests, and of course emails and letters directly to MPs.

If you haven’t engaged in lawmaking before, it’s actually not at all daunting. All opinions are valid, and in many cases expert opinion on your particular area of expertise are appreciated. A good place to start might be Mai Chen’s recent book: The Public Law Toolbox. Email your local MP. Look into what processes are currently underway in parliament, or even adopt an MP.

Engaging Corporates

Unfortunately we don’t have the same level of mandated transparency with corporations. The good thing is that they seem to be a lot more sensitive to reasonable social media feedback. If you need to add more detail, a blog post or email to elaborate on a couple of level-headed tweets is a great idea. The key thing to remember is that there are real people with real feelings behind even the most “faceless” social media presence.

Besides, being a troll is a near-certain way to get ignored by corporate social media. Take a look at this classic (did social media even exist in 2008?!) response chart from the US Air Force. Their suggestion for obvious trolls: “Avoid responding to specific posts”.

The other approach to consider is accessing a true inside voice: can you get in touch with an acquaintance employed by the company? Can you get them to see your point of view and work as an ally to foment change? This approach works particularly well for socio-economic or policy issues (as opposed to specific issues with products or services, which you should take through the existing support channels).

So yeah, thanks Koz and Nigel. Like I tell my four year-old: I’m gonna use my inside voice more often. How about you?

 

Moving On

Life is change. I’m moving on from Marker Metro. To where? Who knows! The opportunity to pull an Ian Livingstone and Choose My Own Adventure* is just too exciting to pass up. The last few days have just cemented that.

figfan06

I’ve been told by a couple of people that they are curious as to why I’m moving, so to dispel any rumour or hearsay, let me tell you this: I’m super-lucky to have some personal funds turn up recently that allow me the freedom – for the first time in my career – to take a break and make a choice as to what I do next without any encumbrance at all.

Marker Metro is incredibly healthy and exciting, nothing at all is of issue there. Keith and the team are powering ahead, and are building (have built!) another superb NZ software export story. Just think of me as the pull-starter to Marker’s gas-turbine powered lawnmower of awesome. I look forward to watching fondly as they power ahead.

If you’ve got something exciting on the boil, feel free to give me a bell on 021 755392. I won’t bite, unless you’re a recruiter and/or it involves working with SharePoint.

*Deathtrap Dungeon is not an analogy for anything. It’s just the very first Choose Your Own Adventure that I remember reading.

500 Words and Sony Xperia Z

Twitter has destroyed this blog.

I don’t mean that Ev came and smashed my server with a hammer. But because my inspiration and unique thoughts go straight on to twitter without the chance of elaboration (most often to the detriment of society – sorry), I feel no compulsion to come here and write. As I type this I’m finding it difficult to drag these thoughts out of my head, and the very act of writing long-form is alien.

Is this wrong, or just new?

I was gutted, as is usual, to not attend Webstock this year, but didn’t stop me getting inspiration from the event. One suggestion I heard remotely was for creators to write 500 words each day before reading any, as an antidote to the antidata happening online – the trivialisation of news, the sound-biting of thoughts, and the selection of high-fructose corn syrup* entertainment news over the hard-news broccoli.

So this is me, steaming some fresh broccoli for you. Open wide, here comes the aeroplane!

I’ve been an Android hater for many years now. Back in the bad old days of 2.3 I was like the worst kind of Atheist: ranting against the stupid majority for blindly following their Google God; desperately explaining my stance to an unending stream of believers with closed ears. I still say that early Android was trash. Nothing more than a cheap, poorly designed, user-hostile land grab by Google.

Lately, I’ve been playing with Android 4 variants, and last night I got to take a look at the new Sony Xperia Z (both phone and tablet). Wow! Android: you’ve come a long way baby.

Xperia Z_black_frontFrom the outside, the phone is perfect. Some tech blogs are saying the screen is not the most fantastic and the camera needs work. I suggest you take a fucking step back for a minute and just look at the thing:

  • 1080p 5″ screen in a ultra-slim black rectangle
  • Quad-core 1.5 GHz (jesus christ!) processor
  • LTE radio
  • 13MP main camera
  • 2MP front camera supporting 1080p30 video
  • Completely waterproof to 1m for up to 30 minutes

In what world is that not holy-fucking-shit awesome? In what world do you pick this apart and say that the screen looks a fraction washed-out when you view it off-angle? In person the phone is outstanding. The screen looks like paper: you cannot see a single pixel, while its Android 4.1.2 OS – thankfully largely untouched by Sony – is massively fast and smooth. And a quad-core 1.5GHz processor? Son, in my day that was a kick-ass gaming PC. None of my complaints about old Android stand true here.

One of my other complaints about Android has been the shocking treatment of upgrades, with carriers and OEMs leaving customers out to dry on horribly insecure versions. Sony have mostly solved this by cosying up to the modding community, to the point that they were named XDA-Dev’s OEM of the year. One of the comments on that post grumbles that Sony aren’t releasing new versions and have left support to XDA-dev. That’s the point my man! The one thing us nerds have been asking for is the ability to upgrade our own phones, and Sony appears to give us that by default, rather than grudgingly producing a root unlock down the line when they deign it appropriate.

I started watching Burn Notice last night on the recommendation of a friend. I’m talking S01E01 old-school. I had to check IMDB because the program was recorded in 4:3 ratio and the main character was rocking a Motorola RAZR. Take a guess at the production date.

2007. In 2007 the state of the art was a Motorola RAZR. Today it’s that thing up there. I’m going to get all Matchbox Twenty up in here: Let’s See How Far We’ve Come.

*Apparently the actual analogy was pizza-vs-brocolli. My analogy is better.

 

 

Getting Active

I just listened to John Key’s 2013 opening speech. It was vacuous, condescending, and shouty. Listen to it again. It sounds like an opposition speech, belittling his opponents and complaining about their policies. Thing is John, opposition policies are irrelevant. It’s your policies and plans to help New Zealand we need to hear about. Apparently you have none.

Back when I voted ACT, my reasoning was that everyone should be able to bootstrap themselves. Just get the government out of the way and people will succeed. Anyone who didn’t was just lazy. A lot has changed since then, both in my own philosophy and in the world. You’d be mad not to see that hands-off government leads to a raft of issues from leaky buildings to fucked-up banking behaviour collapsing entire economies.

Also, the dirty secret is that at a macro level, “left” vs “right” policies make little or no difference to the performance of a country over the long term. Countries have performed exceedingly well under high tax loads (and poorly under low). What this tells me is that business will thrive in pretty much any market condition.

To my mind, the difference between left and right lie solely in two areas: regulation and social justice. Regulation means holding people to account for the true cost of their behaviour, whether that be using the wrong building materials, building unsafe vehicles, letting their cows shit in streams, or their use of diminishing resources. Social justice is an understanding that we cannot exist as individuals, rather that we owe our well-being and prosperity to this larger organism we call society, in all its glorious, smelly miasma.

I’ve never been a member of a political party. I’ve voted in every election, and in my time have voted for ACT (yes, really), National, Labour and The Greens. I’m what you might call a swing voter. Although to be fair, I’m more of a “trajectory voter”, having swung from ACT to Green. I don’t see myself swinging back.

I’ve had enough of this hands-off “market knows best” bullshit. It’s utterly bankrupt and a pile of lies. John Key’s pointless, wandering 2013 opening speech was the straw that finally made my camel lose its shit. As a result, I’m signing up as a member of The Green Party. You should too.