Web 2.0 Expo Presentation Online

Just made a presentation at Web 2.0 Expo here in San Francisco. This presentation was a bit of an experiment – combining some “vision thing” stuff about the Mobile Web with some specific recommendations for building Mobile Ajax applications (and thanks to Óscar Gutiérrez Isiégas, Scott Hughes and Jonathan Jeon for their contributions). I got a lot of requests for the slides – so here they are for anyone interested!

Posted in Misc Tagged with: , , , ,

Beyond Point and Click

Pinch GestureOnce upon a time, a company called Apple came out with a great concept: a breakthrough consumer device with a new user interface that left the competitors in the dust. It brought UI to a whole new level by introducing a new visual and gestural language which greatly increased ease of use. In doing so, it lowered the barrier to entry for the general public, created new markets for its products and a revolution occured. Sound familiar? It should. I’m talking about the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. The new visual language of pointing, clicking, dragging and using overlaping windows gradually became the dominant UI paradigm. But here’s the problem: other companies stole Apple’s great ideas (which Apple had actually stolen from Xerox but never mind). What could have rocketed Apple to market dominance instead became a commodity that anyone could implement.

Flash forward to 2007. Apple again comes out with a new UI paradigm, together with a visual and gestural language, and they release it as part of a breakthrough consumer device; the first of a series of devices in different form factors which they think will undo the last 20 years and rocket them to dominance of all things digital. But this time, they’ve got an ace up their sleeve: a string of patents. As Wired reported in February, Apple is trying to patent the gestures that make up the iPhone UI – the iPhone’s equivalent of “point and click.” In fact, if Apple’s efforts succeed, I think they will be shooting themselves in the foot. Why? Because if we are, en masse, to move to a new user interface paradigm, beyond point and click, we are going to have to have some consistency. If “pinching” means “shrink” on one device and “close” on another device, this would be a disaster from a user experience standpoint, and could turn potential users off in a big way.

In fact, we don’t have to imagine for too long because some of new breed of “iPhone killer” devices now hitting the streets exhibit this very problem. I was just looking at a touch UI device manufactured by an un-named Korean company (that also coincidentally manufactured my fridge which now is on the blink after only 3 years of ownership – not that I hold a grudge). The problem with this device was that it was replicating a non-touch UI (a UI controlled by a four-way rocker switch) with a touch-screen overlaid on top. It wasn’t quite as bad as the Prada phone that I wrote up last year, but it was close. For example, instead of scrolling by simply flicking your finger up and down, it required you to (repeatedly) press soft buttons at the bottom of the screen labeled with up and down arrows. I haven’t actually had the chance to test out the Nokia “touch” Series-60 device, but when I read this article in News.com with accompanying spy shot, my blood chilled. A scroll bar? Menu buttons on the bottom? Could it be that Nokia is falling into the same trap – trying to replicate a button-based UI with a touch screen overlaid on top? I sincerely hope not — indeed, I think Nokia has enough UI expertise to understand that touch needs a new visual gestural language.

But this brings us back to Apple and their patents. I am not a lawyer, but I don’t believe patenting gestures is a good idea. It seems like there’s plenty of prior art – take a look at Jeff Hann’s talk at TED on gesture-based UI as an example – but the main thing is: in order for us to move into this brave new world of touch, I would argue that gestures need to be royalty free, and companies need to know that if they implement commonly used gestures they will not be sued. If anything, we need standardization of gestures so that users can have some kind of consistency between touch-based platforms. The people behind Interactivegestures.com are moving in this direction, but it’s unclear to me what the intellectual property around these gestures (if any) is. What is the way forward to ensure that gestural and touch-based UI can flourish and isn’t hobbled by intellectual property disputes before it’s even properly off the ground? We briefly “touched” on this issue during a discussion on the future of mobile user experience at Over the Air led by UIQ’s David Mery and Idean’s Mikko-Pekka Hanski, but this topic alone needs more discussion. At risk may be the very future of human computer interaction.

Posted in mobile 2.0 Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Over the Air Captured on BBC’s Digital Planet Podcast

BBC Digital Planet LogoI was lucky enough to be interviewed by Peter Price from BBC’s Digital Planet. Some of what we talked about got onto the Digital Planet Podcast (dated 7 April). Peter also captured Over the Air speaker/participant Brian Fling and spoke about the coming revolution of “Mobile 2.0”.

It’s a great piece, which really captures some of the flavor of the event, interviewing one of the competition entrants (Simon Maddox) who was busy learning J2ME in order to build a location-based game. Contrary to what Peter says on the podcast, Simon and his team-mate Kevin were actually one of the winners, for best location-aware app. Because of the hybrid nature of the event, Simon and Kevin had access to some top-level experts in Java J2ME from Sun, Aplix and Vodafone who had presented in earlier masterclass sessions.

I think it’s also notable what BBC’s Matthew Postgate and Bill Thompson had to say about why BBC is getting involved with events like Over the Air. It’s all because BBC’s public remit means they have a mandate to encourage and facilitate creative expression and “programming is just as valid a form of creative expression as writing books, making videos, or drawing pictures.” I think they’re absolutely right. Certainly, a lot of “creativity” was evident in the contribution entries.

The question on everyone’s lips at Over the Air was “when are you going to run another one?” I think the answer is “not for a while” but in the meantime, BBC Backstage is gearing up for their own, more PC-Web-oriented, event, Mashed happening June 21st and 22nd at Alexandra Palace. I’m definitely looking forward to that one.

Posted in mobile 2.0 Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Over the Air Covered in The Guardian

Over the Air Logo

Over the Air kicks off tomorrow at Imperial College London. But we’re already getting some great press from the Guardian’s Jemima Kiss. And they even spelled my name right!

The innovation that’s going to drive this converged Mobile/Web industry forward is going to come from the kind of people who are coming to this event. Jemima called it a “festival” in her article. That’s right, I think. Over the Air will be more than a development conference and more than a code camp. It must be a rallying cry for the mobile developer community.

I’m off to Imperial College London to start stuffing bags for tomorrow’s attendees. If you’re coming to Over the Air, I’ll see you tomorrow, and if not you’ll have to read about it in the papers.

Posted in mobile 2.0 Tagged with: , ,

iPhone Spurs Mobile Web Usage

Great blog post at the New York Times last week about the disproportionate percentage of iPhone users (84.8%) who use the iPhone regularly to access the Web (compared to users of other smart phone devices). Mark Donovan of M:Metrics is quoted in the article saying that this is because the iPhone is particularly well suited to “people who are jacked into the Internet all the time.” Doesn’t putting the Web front and center on the device, bundling the device with very Internet-friendly price plans, and making the thing so damn easy to use have just as much to do with it? It’s no surprise to me that Google has seen 50 times more searches from the iPhone than from any other mobile handset (as reported in the FT last month). I’ve spent the last 3 years in lamenting the fact that device manufacturers make it so difficult to find the place to enter the URL into the browser that most people simply give up. My three year old daughter picked up my iPhone for the first time and within seconds she had brought up the browser, found the space to enter a URL and had started typing away. That was a an ah-ha moment for me about the iPhone’s usability. Mark kind of implies that iPhone owners are using the mobile Web because only because they are naturally predisposed to such use. My gut feeling is that the iPhone is actually “crossing the chasm” into the general public. There is a latent demand for the mobile Web and the iPhone is tapping that demand, where others have failed and continue to fail.

Posted in Mobile Web Tagged with: , ,

Over the Air is Coming

Over the Air Logo

I’ve been working for a while now with the folks at BBC Backstage, Imperial College London and Betavine to put an event that has had many incarnations, but has now coalesced into its final form: Over the Air. With an expected attendance of over 450 and multiple conference tracks including talks on a range of Mobile technologies and disciplines, it’s safe to say that this is the most logistically complex event I’ve ever worked on. The result, I’m hoping, will be something entirely new: a new kind of mobile developer event that brings together the best aspects of a “code camp” with some great talks and hands-on “master class” session from thought leaders in mobile development. We’ve got Microsoft, Adobe, Nokia, Google, Sun, Thoughtworks, W3C and that’s just for starters. We’ve also got a strong element of user experience and design with speakers from Idean, Fling Media and more. Speaker list is on the site and program details will be posted to the Web site soon.

If you want to get a glimpse of the future of mobile platform innovation, register for this event and come join us at Imperial College London campus in South Kensington on the 4th and 5th of April. Did I mention that registration is free?

Posted in mobile 2.0, Mobile Web Tagged with: , ,

Reflections on the Mobile Web in Korea

Mobile Wednesday LogoI was very lucky this past week to have been invited to Seoul (along with the other members of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices, Device Descriptions and Ubiquitous Web working groups) to participate in something that came to be know as Mobile Web Week.

The week of W3C working group meetings was punctuated by a day-long open workshop which we named W3C Mobile Wednesday. (Yes, my intention is to mobilize every day of the week – already we have had Mobile Monday and Mobile Sunday. Now Wednesday has fallen. Can Thursday be far behind?) Mobile Wednesday was actually a unique opportunity to hear from people working in Korea on the sharp end of the Mobile Web and to do a little bit of a sales job about the work we’ve been doing in the W3C Mobile Web Initiative and why it might be relevant there.

One factor that greatly helped create a feeling of open dialog was the presence of simultaneous translation during the whole event. It’s a luxury I almost never get to experience, but it really can help to facilitate discussion when someone else is worrying about the burden of translation. The translators were a wonder – deftly dealing with sometimes very thick technical discussion, especially during the panel sessions.

Besides Mobile Wednesday, I also had the pleasure of speaking to many Koreans living and breathing the Mobile Web, including representatives of the Mobile Web 2.0 Forum, the Korean W3C office, ETRI, and of the Korean companies involved in W3C activities, such as SK-Telecom and Samsung.

So – what impressions am I left with after this week?

I have more questions than answers, but my overall impressions are that the challenges to the growth of the mobile Web in Korea are similar to the challenges the world over. Perceptions about usage and comparisons to the “real web” are also a problem. I have to respectfully disagree with a statement made by one of the other conference speakers that Korean use of the Mobile Web hasn’t taken off because “Koreans already have very high speed access to the Web at home and at the office.” Yes, Broadband penetration is really high in Korea. However, the use cases for using the Web on the move are different from the use cases for using it in front of a computer. Other speakers at the event highlighted some of these, particular social gaming and one-to-many messaging. Interesting side-note, nobody seemed to know what Twitter was but there are apparently a couple of similar Korean services.

One basic challenge Koreans might have to bringing the Web to the phone is the high use of Flash. Seems that most Korean (PC) Web sites are full of Flash content. Even the photo of me that appeared in the Korean tech news article was embedded in Flash for some reason. The fact that these sites aren’t working on even highly sophisticated mobile browsers is no doubt putting people off the concept of mobilizing the Web.

In any case, it was a very educational an informative week. Special thanks go out to Jonathan Jeon (전종홍) for his role in putting it all together and for posting some great video of the Mobile Wednesday event (see link).

Posted in Mobile Web, W3C Tagged with: , ,

Famous in Korea!

François Daoust of W3C and I were interviewed by the Korean press about the work of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices working group.  Unfortunately,  the article hasn’t been translated so I have no idea what they said about us, but hey — any publicity is good publicity, I suppose.

Posted in Mobile Web, W3C Tagged with: , , , , ,

Why am I Going to Korea?

Picture out the window of the Korean Airlines Lounge in Narita AirportI’m sitting in the Korean Airlines lounge in Narita (Tokyo) airport after an 11 hour flight from London, watching a seemingly endless succession of JAL 747s taking off. When I arrived, there were no promised uniformed agents showing me the way. All the doors marked “international connections” were closed. In the end, I had to find my way through a very forbidding looking corridor and I was sure I was going to be turned back and possibly detained, but the airport staff I eventually found were very helpful and guided me to the checkpoint I needed for my connection. So, here I sit, stealing WiFi from the Northwest lounge next door.

In an hour I’ll be on another flight on my way to Seoul, South Korea. I don’t speak a word of Korean, I have no local currency and I’ve most likely packed the wrong plug adapters. But on Monday morning, I will convene the next face to face meeting of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practices working group. After that, I plan to participate in an event called W3C Mobile Wednesday, a kind of east-meets-west open conference-style event bringing together people working in mobile Web standardization and those working on the sharp end of the mobile Web in Korea: people from manufacturers and operators, yes, but also entrepreneuers, bloggers, developers. It’s all thanks to the Korean Mobile Web 2.0 Forum, ETRI, and the people at the W3C offfice in Korea. I’m very excited about this event and this whole week. Besides making some real progress on the work of the Mobile Web Best Practices group, I hope to get a real flavor for how the mobile Web (and other digital services) are being delivered in Korea, a place that showcases (according to Jim O’Reilly and Tomi Ahonen in their book Digital Korea) the “Convergence of Broadband Internet, 3G Cell Phones, Multiplayer Gaming, Digital TV, Virtual Reality, Electronic Cash, Telematics, Robotics, E-Government and the Intelligent Home”.
That and enjoy some good kimchi.

Posted in Mobile Web, W3C Tagged with: , , , ,

I got vlogged at Mobile World Congress!

I got “video blogged” at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last week by Dennis Howlett. Dennis captured me talking about the landscape and future of the mobile Web. Unfortunately, he edited out the bit where I was talking about the W3C Mobile Web Initiative, which was kind of the point of the whole thing (from my perspective). The material that made it in was some scene-setting for why we created the Mobile Web Initiative and developed the Mobile Web Best Practices and MobileOK, both of which were being showcased at the W3C booth at the congress.

Posted in Mobile Web, Mobility Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Who is Daniel K. Appelquist?

I'm an American ex-pat living in London and an independent consultant and advocate for emerging web technologies, the open web, open source and open data. As well, I am co-chair of the W3C Technical Architecture Group, I am a founder and co-organizer of the Over the Air hack day series and a founder of Mobile Monday London. I'm a former .com CTO and subsequent .com refugee. I am a parent dealing with the increasing complexities of raising children in a hyper-connected world.

If you are so inclined, you may find my public key on Keybase.io.

My books:
Mobile Internet for Dummies

For more info, see my Linkedin profile.

More (probably than you ever wanted to know) about Torgo.


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