Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for October, 2012

Services in iOS – wild speculation about how to evolve mobile OSes

Posted by shannonclark on October 29, 2012

photo of NeXT Cube by Joachim S. Müller used under a CC license

More than 20 years ago my primary computer was a NeXT cube – still among the best computers I have ever owned and many of the features of that computer are still revolutionary. Among those features is one that showed up in the Mac OS many versions ago but which has never been widely used – the concept of Services which are pieces of functionality that one application offers and makes available to all other applications on the computer.

Potentially incredibly powerful both for day to day use and for use inside of scripts to automate routine tasks these services have, however, never been widely used or understood.

So here is my crazy speculation – in response to this recent Google+ post on the future of Context and iOS by Robert Scoble – Apple should make it possible for every iOS application to expose services to other applications on the platform

This has lots of challenges – not least of which is data security and integrity – exposing services means passing data amongst applications on the platform and opens up the device to any number of privacy and security concerns – but the advantages that this could offer are also nearly endless.

Imagine an entire new class of applications – applications that aren’t designed to be run directly but instead which enhance every other application on the platform. A few immediate examples:

A public transit application that makes public transit directions available in EVERY application on the device that uses a map

A translation application that offers on the fly translation/language lookup of any bit of text inside any application on the device

A “share to …” service that adds a new service to the core sharing services baked into the OS (i.e. currently Twitter and Facebook but this would be a way to install one core element and get sharing features potentially everywhere on the platform

Today many applications actually bake into their codebases code for various third-party services – web analytics, social network login/sharing features. game score/matching features etc. It may be possible that in the future, should services be widely adopted, that many applications could have a smaller, more nimble codebase by leveraging a single, well updated and maintained codebase for common services (such as ad serving, analytics, etc) much as today they consume core iOS services such as Maps etc)

I should note that while I pay attention to mobile development and iOS development it has been sometime since I was actively and personally involved in the development of an iOS application so I may be misremembering certain details of how to build such applications under the current iOS. And yes there are always problems when 0ne application depends upon a 3rd party application for core services (i.e. an update to that 3rd party service may impact the performance of your application in potentially unforeseen ways)

But equally such a movement away from siloed applications to emphasizing services that one application can offer to other application could open up the iOS platform to countless new opportunities while also enabling smaller and faster applications.

These new Services applications could do all kinds of potentially crazy and innovative things – actions that would then be potentially available inside of every application on the device. From allowing for enhanced auto-completion (i.e. text snippets etc) to on-the-fly translation, to enhanced geographic contextual information to new forms of analytics the possibilities are nearly endless.

So that’s my “simple” suggestion – bring back Services in a big way.

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Review – The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Posted by shannonclark on October 12, 2012

Reading The Impact Equation at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza in San Francisco

Do you know how to make an impact? How to get heard? How to have your ideas shared with the world and have an impact?

My friend Chris Brogan along with his co-author Julien Smith have a new book, The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?, which will be published on Oct 25th, 2012. They sent me a preview copy and over the past couple of weeks I have been reading it at cafes and on the muni here in San Francisco. My copy is already dog eared and flagged with post-its for easy reference back to key points in the book.

TLDR review – pre-order this book and read it

First a few disclosures and admissions. One, Chris Brogan is a friend – not an old “grew up” with friend, but not just someone whom I follow on social media channels, he’s someone whom I have met in person many times and whom I knew years ago before he had books published and a speaking schedule that takes him around the world. Two, I haven’t (yet) read Trust Agents which is Chris and Julien’s earlier book. My stack of books to be read – for fun and for business including far too many by folks I know has been large and growing over the past few years and somehow I haven’t gotten to Trust Agents yet. Three, many of the people they write about in this new book (and I suspect in their previous book) are people I know friends from here in San Francisco and from the larger tech/social media/blog/podcasting world. Four, I don’t have the 1000’s of readers/followers/listeners of folks like Chris and Julien but I am as they say “a degree away” from many people who do – folks with millions of followers and a high impact on the world.

With all of that disclosed up front I have been inspired not just to write this review but to rethink a bunch of my personal projects (including this blog) and over the next few weeks and months I anticipate making many personal and professional changes inspired in no small part by the ideas of The Impact Equation. I can’t summarize their book in a few short paragraphs but I will summarize a few of their early and key points and discuss how I plan on addressing them.

To start with the equation itself (quoting from the pre-release copy but I assume this key part won’t change in the final print edition):

Impact = C x (R + E + A + T + E)

Yes, that is, not surprisingly, the simple yet key fact that to have impact now (and in the past) you have to create – frequently, often and well. The full equation defines each part and the book illustrates each aspect of the equation. Contrast – a new idea has to familiar yet different enough to be noticed. Reach – the number of people you can get connected to your ideas. Exposure – how often do you connect with the people you can reach. Articulation – being understood and clear in communicating your idea. Trust – the subject of their previous book but still not entirely figured out – but why will people listen to you? And finally Echo – the feeling of connection that great ideas and impactful people create.

Fairly simple, fairly memorable yet also complex enough to warrant a full book (and I’m sure many more talks and presentations in the future for Chris and Julien).

On a person level my biggest takeaways from the book is a reminder to get myself back into the ongoing, frequent content creation business – that if I want to grow my own personal impact I need to create more content, more often, and more thoughtfully. Furthermore I need to think about this whether I’m going to continue being an independent consultant or if I join a larger organization. That while I may have some impact in my tweets, comments, email list participation and even events that I create if I were more thoughtful about my online (and offline) activities I could have a much greater impact on the world. With more thoughtful (and literally more frequent) effort I can have a far larger impact on the world than i do today. That I can take the conversations I have one-on-one today and still have that impact but also bring it to a far wider audience.

For some of this I will have to get out of my comfort zone – write more content, experiment with new formats for myself (video? audio?) and generate this content far more frequently than I have been for the past few years.

In each of the chapters of The Impact Equation Chris and Julien cover a mix of specific tactics (and the occasional exercise to get you thinking) as well as stories that illustrate their key ideas. Some of these stories are from business people they have met others are illustrated with celebrities they admire. But in every chapter they also focus on asking you to think about how this applies to yourself – how would you evaluate yourself on this dimension of their equation. I think most of these chapters and the book over all are compelling but not every chapter is equally strong.

The initial chapters on Ideas – on Contrast and Articulation are very good and have a lot of useful exercises for everyone. In particular they have a lot of great exercises around how to evaluate your own ideas and how to communicate them clearly.

The middle chapters on Platforms – on Reach and Exposure – however are a bit weaker. In particular I think the chapter on Exposure is the weakest chapter in the book. In part this is because Exposure is in no small part outside of your direct control. They talk in this chapter about the exposure that someone like Jimmy Fallon has from his tv show but they also talk about the impact of frequency on your exposure but the links and what will work best for most people is not entirely clear from this chapter (and it is perhaps not an easy thing to answer). They have a lot of great questions and a few answers but this chapter left me a bit unsatisfied. Yes, participating in the communities you want to reach is great advice (it is what I tell my clients in fact) but it takes more than just that to get great exposure of your ideas.

The final chapters on Network – on Trust and Echo, Echo – are perhaps surprisingly among the shortest in the book. The chapter on Trust is a revisit (per what they wrote, I haven’t yet read Trust Agents) of the topic of their earlier collaboration. The chapter on Echo (Echo, Echo) is nearly the end of the book and very important but also fairly short. It is about how your ideas resonant and connect. Very important but I think if they could have gone a bit deeper here the whole book would have “echoed” for me even more strongly. But that said they make some really important points in this last chapter leading to the conclusion of the book.

Overall as I said above my recommendation is that you go out and buy this book – in fact that you go preorder it now to be among the first to read it. I hope for my friend’s sake that it is a huge hit and given the quality of the content I’m sure it will be a successful book. More importantly on a personal front it has many parts that I will be using myself to make changes in the coming weeks to my own professional habits and practices and online (and offline) content.

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