Glass Roofs Kill iPad as Ereader

@petahopkins shared a post in Google Reader describing experiences by @flexnib (Constance Wiebrands) of using the iPad as an ereader. The list of positives and negatives provided by Constance entirely and exactly matches my own experiences with reading on the iPad. In my case I compare it with my Kindle.

My only additional comment goes to the battery life. We should not hide the massive 24-fold difference in battery life between the iPad and Kobo/Kindle, 10 hours versus 10 days!

As I have mentioned in other social media contexts I am without an office due to refurbishment at present and spend a lot of productive time in the Papyrus Café in the newly opened foyer of our main library. The diffused glass ceiling makes the large foyer beautifully light and a great place to work. Except for one thing – it makes iPad use extremely annoying as the high-gloss iPad screen reflects the ceiling light at all sensible reading angles! Thus iPad friendliness is yet another constraint architects need to take into account in future.


Visualise Your Tweeps with We Meddle

Thanks to Jane Hart yet again for pointing me via a tweet about We Meddle which scans your Twitter activity and creates groups of tweeps like Inner Circle and others:


This collection is not entirely accurate and I apologise to those tweeps who are obviously missing. You can click on a tweep to remove them from a list before saving.

Nevertheless this makes a great visual of your Twiter universe. This reminds me of the book cover matrix that LibraryThing generates for you (see my last post on this). Clicking on the Make button creates a Twitter list for you automatically. It would be good to be able to drag tweeps from one list to another.

Still this is another great example of a Web 2.0 app of extreme simplicity that does one job well.

Summary of Onboarding in Social Interfaces

Since I headed up a couple of research groups in the later 1980s and early 1990s I have been interested in user interface design and its effect on user behaviour. Since these two aspects intertwine it is good to see the area now better described as user experience or UX for short. It’s taken me a while but I am now aware of the insightful UX Magazine (@uxmag) and its blog feed. [Thanks to danah (@zephoria) and her latest article in the magazine.]

Another term, onboarding, that is summarised in another article also caught my eye, mainly because it is so important for social interfaces. The maxim that you never get a second chance at a first impression is hugely important for web-based social media tools. Onboarding is also key for smartphone apps as Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox for February about low starting hurdles for iPhone reinforces the concept.

I guess onboarding applies strongly to all user generated content as generations of journalists know when they kick off a newspaper piece with a well-chosen summary. We all need to take onboarding on board.

Screencast of My First Prezi

Just for my own record this is the YouTube video showing some of the presentation animations of my first attempt at using Prezi. [See earlier post.]

Give Yourself a Prezi

It certainly has been a new user interface experience diving the depths of the Flash-based I was due to give a talk about Twitter to the class of a colleague and decided Prezi might add a wow factor. Thus I started a period of self-training which strangely was delightful and frustrating at the same time.

A presentation done with Prezi asks you to choose a template up front which they freely admit can’t be changed later – 1st hurdle. Once a template is chosen there are only 3 fonts for headings, emphasis and body text – 2nd hurdle. There is no menu to change the font size – 3rd hurdle. Different pieces of text can’t be automatically aligned – 4th hurdle. Eventually the penny drops, every object including a block of text is manipulated by the innovative Prezi transformation zebra:


Change orientation with the outer circle, change size with the rings and change position by dragging the vertical bars. Thus all hurdles are solved except for alignment where you have a grid and your own hand-eye coordination to help you. As the Prezi guys point out, beautifully aligned text/objects usually make for boring presentations.


The Prezi menu uses animated circles of decreasing size and seems obvious at first glance. However, each circle forces you into its own mode, and although the mode is well highlighted you have to move into the correct mode before a certain action is available.



I started doing my Twitter presentation in Prezi only to discover I couldn’t find how to insert links, crucial for my talk as I needed to flit between several web pages. This stopped me in my tracks, and with time running short I headed back to trusty PowerPoint.

Nevertheless after the talk the attraction of Prezi was still strong and an email to the beta testers fired my enthusiasm once again and showed how to make a Prezi public. The link to the forum allowed me soon to discover that as long as you close and reopen your Prezi then all URLs become links automatically. I only had to learn how to introduce interesting orientation changes and define a path through the presentation surface to produce a workable presentation derived from my Twitter slides. I am a little disappointed with the quality of the images but hopefully that will be improved. Being able to insert a YouTube video player in a Prezi would be good too.

I will certainly use Prezi again, and it lends itself to just throwing together text representing ideas, remarks, comments and snippets from other sources, then arranging them in a more sensible order. People will recognise mind-mapping behaviour here. Idea arrangement can be done by just defining a path through the text objects without having to go to the trouble of moving them or having to define a hierarchy. Another approach is to drag related objects into vague clusters. Zooming in and out and panning are easy once you are in the correct mode.

Now Prezi allow you to download your presentations in a Zip file containing a free standing player, at least on Windows and Mac. You then don’t need an Internet connection and a browser with the correct Flash player to use your Prezi presentations.

I recommend you to try Prezi as soon as you can get an invitation.

The Wii Mote Continues the Revolution

Via his blog post one of my students, Peter Schliehe-Diecks, alerted the class to an awesome use of the Wii mote by Jonney Chung. On his site Jonney not only shows the YouTube video below but gives us a link to his software.

Everyone interested in designing and creating simple and effective user experiences should watch this video about user interaction hardware capable of revolutionising our use of desktops, laptops and projectors.


Circling the Arc Mouse

Yes, I want one! Cool!


Thanks for the heads-up to MaximumPC.