DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in apps (3)


Why I miss my iPad

I left my iPad on CalTrain car #138 at 11:07 am PDT on June 27, 2013 at the Menlo Park station. If you’re the bastard that has it, please give it back.

#@argh!! I’m stupid. They’re stupid. I hate everyone. I hate myself.

I decided, after the requisite stages of grief over my loss, to go without. I mean, I’ve only had one since 2010: I survived just fine before, right? And maybe, just maybe, the friendly folks at CalTrain lost-and-found might find it, right?

Well, I can tell you, my iPad-less two weeks have convinced me: Somehow, I’ve organized my life around that damned device, and I’ll be going over to the Apple store this weekend to remedy the situation.

Why? Let me count the ways.

First off, there’s my book-reading. I’m a voracious reader in general, but really, I break into a cold sweat if there isn’t a stack of mystery novels in reach. Ironically, I recently talked all my friends into giving me Kindle downloads this year instead of physical booooks. Now have more than 20 unread digital books in my cloud, just waiting.

So by Tuesday, I had a new Kindle Paperwhite ebook reader, and quickly began reading the next selection for my bookclub: "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman. I'm almost done with the book, and so far, I'd give the device a 6 out of 10 for reading. I can read out in the sun, there's no glare. It's small, fits into my pocket. But that's about it. The UX in general is awful, kind of like a cable TV settop box from 10 years ago, only in BW. The lag time is very noticeable, certainly compared to the quick snap of the iPad, and this really makes a difference over time. And don't get me started on Kindle's "Experimental Browser" that allows you to sort of surf the web. Badddd.

So for “mobile browsing” I went back to my iPhone. Snappier, for sure, than the Amazon device, but after 15 minutes, my eyes start to hurt. And forget about typing messages any longer than a tweet. I do have access to many, though not all apps I use on the iPad. But it's just too small for a media consumption experience.

Certainly the iPad has spoiled me for video, as well. That awesome screen and semi-decent sound allow me to dive into the content. Not immersive like the big flat screen with surround sound, but better than an airline or a small TV. And portable. And connected. 

Back in the day, of course, I felt that way about my laptop. It was portable, connected and a great video player, along with everything else it does. When I try it now as an iPad replacement, my trusty 13" MacBook Pro seems so heavy, so awkward, and well, it doesn't have a touch-screen!

Plus, I now use it as my primary computer, so it’s a hassle to unplug it from my 30” monitor and speakers in the home office and bring it to the media room. Why would I need to do that? Well, duh, because the iPad lives on my couch. It's my 'second' screen, and I feel incomplete without it while watching TV.  Sometimes I’m accessing content related to a show I’m watching, either thru a second-screen app, or Twitter, or maybe IMDB. But more often, I’m just picking up the iPad and checking email, Facebook, or adding a note to my to-do list on Evernote. I may also be cruising the news on an app like Zite which isn’t on my laptop and other unmentionable sites out there on the interwebs. 

So, here I go again, back to the Apple store where I’ll drop some sawbucks and get my digital life back in order. It’s not really the money, it's a lifestyle thing. It's the way I do what I do now.  

But I confess, it's kind of the money too. Another wealth transfer from my bank to Apple's, putting me in mind of a great tool built in 2010 computer science geek Kyle Conroy who wanted to calculate the difference in dollars if he had spent his money on Apple stock instead of buying Apple product. For example, if you had invested $299 in April 2003 instead of buying that iPod, its value would be $11,000 in the then-ascendant 2010 Apple share price.

Can't get that at the Genius bar.



• Enough Year-end Predictions to Make Your Head Spin - #NGIF

My last weekly summary of interesting tweets, links and posts of 2011 is chockablock full of predictions and trends -- looks back and forward. Makes a person's head spin. For you, the year's last #NGIF (Nick's Great Information Friday).


A slew of video visionaries offered dispatches from their crystal balls, including:
  • "Five Predictions For Online Video in 2012" offers a tidy trip down the well-worn path of prognostication -- no aha moments, but well-written and reasoned. 
  • If five aren't enough, here are "50 TV Predictions for 2012" from a website called "TVPredictions" so I guess this is their thing!
  • "Twelve Things That Won't Happen in Online Video in 2012" is a terrific post by WatchMojo founder and professional opinionator Ashkan Karbasfrooshan. To hear him tell it, TV will not die; cord-cutters will not make a ripple; neither Google nor Apple will rule TV… you get the idea. 
  • He also asked "Is Video the New Software?" -- This guy is busy! 


  • Mashable lists five tech trends to watch in 2012, and JWT lists 100 "Things" of all sorts to watch next year in a seemingly endless slideshow. Slog through it though, there are some hidden gems. 
  • Another post that got a lot of heat in the blogosphere was "End of an Era: The Golden Age of Tech Blogging is Over" by tech analyst Jeremiah Owyang. Indeed, 2011 saw acquisitions, mergers, and a lot of public mud-fighting (Arianna vs Arrington). But the END?


  • "Apt Apps" is my own year-end review of favorite software of 2011, in which I note that almost all software is now seen as Apps, thanks certainly to Apple's effective store and branding. 
  • A lot of what I discuss are actually tools that make my digital life easier, which seems a good description of this post: "The  Best Productivity Apps of 2011" from The Next Web.
  • The "app-ification" debate is not settled, of course: Dominiek ter Heide writes intelligently about the debate over the "App Internet" and the "death of the web" on GigaOm.
  • Or, put another way, "Apps are Media," as Erick Schonfeld wrote in a thoughtful TechCrunch post
  • Farhad Manjoo's Slate post "2011 Was a Terrible Year for Tech" decries the trend of complexity 
  • Speaking of complexity, Ars Technica suggests that 2012 will prove to be Microsoft's turning point, as the rest of the world flees the era of the desktop.


  • Much hand-wringing in the trade press over the year-end box office tallies, which may be lower than any year in a long time. Roger Ebert opines why, proving once again why he is so influential on the web (calls a spade a spade: Hollywood makes too much bad stuff and distributes the good stuff poorly).
  • Louis C.K.'s audacious self-distribution scheme got a lot of people sitting up in the media world  -- only one of the trends that led Michael Wolf to declare that "2012 will be the year of the artist-entrepreneur."
  • Among the endless year-end best-of lists, I especially like the quirky ones like this one: IndieWire's favorite movies by their in-house editors and writers. Why? Because there is NOTHING too obscure or minor that one of these movie geeks won't elevate to their top-ten list. I immediately go to Netflix and add it to my queue, because without question most will never make it to theaters. Interestingly, some of these titles are already available on Netflix streaming. Try it!


In addition to my apps post this week, there were two other blips in the blogsophere out there that I contributed to: 
  • Check out “A Year in Transmedia,” Simon Staffans’s free ebook colllection of posts, incl intvw w/me: download here. It includes an online interview Simon conducted with me, and more than 100 pages of other goodies for the transmedia addicts among you.
  • Tribeca's Future of Film's Top 10 Transmedia Posts (two are mine) was published on Huffington Post this week if you missed it earlier. 

• Apt Apps: My Favorite Software of 2011

The “Appification” of software is undeniable, not only on mobile platforms like iOS and Android, but within web browsers (themselves software), platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) on the desktop (Apple and others sell software directly to consumers), and for the cloud (the ultimate client-server arrangement, or so it would seem if you keep up with the tech blogs). As with many aspects of our digital lives, Apple has created an easy-to-understand moniker with the stupefying success of its App Store. 

By necessity, this review of my year in software is quirkier and more customized than any other of the other year-end lists of favorites (books, television, movies). Some of the products I’m mentioning are, indeed, not even new this year! I make no claims of omniscience: I have not researched every category extensively and test-driven the competition. In other words, I’m no Walter Mossberg or David Pogue.

And yet, I have found in conversations with even my geekiest friends that my software preferences seem to be useful. It’s no wonder, given the sheer tonnage of choice confronting the user – more than half a million in Apple’s App Store alone. We all need a little help from our friends.

I myself have accumulated more than 250 apps for my Apple devices, split between iPhone, iPad and Macintosh, and that doesn’t count miscellaneous widgets and hidden apps that I probably don’t even think of as software. 
So, in no particular order, and with no great sense of “BEST”, I offer you this year-end excursion through my software life. Please comment. I mean it.


  • SCRIVENER. Whether it’s reports for clients, articles and blog posts, or episodic fits of fiction-writing, the cornerstone of my productive life remains writing. A couple of years back, fed up with the inscrutably horrible performance of the inexplicably ubiquitous Word from Microsoft (how CAN it be so bad after all these years, I ask you? – cut and paste function doesn’t work half the time) I went on a crusade to find a better writing solution.
  • The result of my search was Scrivener from a small UK developer called Literature and Latte (love that!). This year saw the release of Scrivener 2,2, which is even better, and at $45, a bargain.
  • Among the many lovely features in the app is the ability to “gray out” everything but the document you are working on; the tools that group multiple documents within a project and allow easy reorganization, structuring, outlining, and prep for production. There’s lots more: try it, you’ll like it.
  • TEXT EDIT. When I write quick documents, I avoid Word by using Apple’s TextEdit, which comes bundled with the Mac and is a legacy from the Apple acquisition of NeXT Computer, which also brought Steve Jobs back to Apple (Sorry, couldn’t resist). 
  • EVERNOTE. I discovered Evernote a couple of years back from a tweet by Ann Kirschner, who I worked with when she ran, something to the effect of “how did I manage to function before I discovered Evernote.” She’s right. This darling of the future of cloud-based software makes a LOT of things simpler, simply because it syncs content between my iPhone, iPad and desktop. This is where I keep my running lists (for shopping, books, movies, etc), so they’re always in my pocket. This is where I back up all of my blog posts. This is where I often send (via email) interesting stuff to read later (a small miracle of interoperability, actually). I love Evernote (though, I’m not QUITE so slavish in my devotion to Evernote as Paul Boag, whose post called it “My single most useful application”.)  
  • KEYNOTE. I was in the MacWorld audience in 2006 when Steve Jobs introduced Apple’s Power Point-killer, the elegant Keynote presentation package. But I didn’t start using it until this year, largely because of all the wrong reasons (laziness, for sure, but also the comfort level of knowing how to use PPT, horrible as it is, and the network effect of having so many slides available over time to refashion into this week’s deadline-driven presentation). Why did I wait? Keynote is beautiful, easy to use, and creates much more elegant slides. So long as I’m not wedded to various effects (which are fairly cool), I can also easily share PDF versions with clients who may not use Keynote). I also use the iPad version of Keynote, which is a terrific thing to access on trips, at trade shows, and for one-on-one presentations (not so good with groups). 
  • iTALK. When I started blogging this year I found myself interviewing, both in person and by phone. I no longer own a voice recording device – and I don’t need one with iTalk, a great iPhone/iPad app from Griffin Technology. With an idiot-proof interface and the ability to port audio files to the desktop, the app is everything I need to capture interviews. I also recorded my physical therapy regimen with the device, which I hook up to speakers in my home gym so that I can keep my back in shape. 

Click to read more ...