The New MacDock

This is the first step of what I want my smart phone to do. Is this too much to ask? It shouldn’t be too tough, and it shouldn’t be expensive either. iPhone would be great for this. The MacDock would simply make working with your phone easier when you are on a plane, at a client meeting, at lunch on your way to your next appointment. This is to make life on the road easier.

I see so many people at conferences with iPhones, taking notes on their netbooks. Put them together, and make it SEEMLESS. When the phone unplugs, everything stays with it.

  • The phone docks into a netbook size device, becoming the track pad.
  • As a fully functioning touch screen, the interface could be amazingly customized on the phone when functioning as a trackpad. Custom buttons, controls, anything.
  • All the main drive space is still on the phone (possibly with some type of backup drive on the MacDock, or maybe a cloud-based backup drive). All the things you do on the iPhone, you can do easier on the MacDock, just because it is bigger and has more power. It augments your phone.
  • Additional RAM.
  • Additional battery power that can charge up your phone as you use it.
  • Real keyboard
  • Bigger Screen
  • Full video conferencing capability
  • Working speaker phone
  • Optional speakers?
  • Application extension. If you have a twitter app on your phone, it expands and is easier to use on the MacDock. But when you have to run, all the data stays on the phone. Evernote would be a great app for this.
  • All photos/messages/emails/attachments/music/downloads from the phone can be off-loaded/backed up.
  • Better WiFi/cell signal reception. Better antenna? Cell phone booster?
  • Network hub capability. The MacDock could create a wireless network for an area through the cell phone connection. Would ATT be happy with this? Probably not.
  • Vehicle dock. A similar dock for a vehicle could use the phone to drive a flexible GPS system. Or even serve as a key. Plug in your phone and drive.  If not plugged in, a car could connect by Bluetooth. It wouldn’t charge your phone at this point, but would work similarly.

What else could it do? Remember, this is a tool to augment the phone, not a laptop. Let me know what you think.

Convenience Store WIP

Here are 2 shots of a 3D convenience store I am working on.

View from one of the security Cameras
View from one of the security Cameras
View from the Cashier
View from the Cashier

The plan is to shoot some video people to put into this scene when it is done. One view will be from the cashier’s perspective, interacting with a customer. We will green screen the human shots here.

Other views will be from security cameras showing a person entering the store, setting up the scene. I plan to shoot, garbage mat and do some other video trickery to composite the footage.

There are a lot of bottles, boxes, bags, and cans I have to make textures for. Thank gods for instances.

Human Online Identity

I love life. When I decide to give a talk about identity, it ends up being in front of Chris Messina AND it comes off I was totally against OpenID. Crap. 15 seconds a slide needs to be clear and to the point, and I must have veered. I actually changed some of my talk at the last minute based on things Chris said at DrupalCon on March 6. Here’s his slides. Identity starts on #27. Love the direction they are heading with identity on the web.

I’m not against OpenID at all, I’m actually into it and like it, but from the discussions I’ve had, few developers or users are actually talking about what it means to use a centralized identity manager. I want to keep the discussion moving on this because I think it is really worthwhile, for online and offline communications. Since Chris escaped Maloney’s before I could explain this, I can only hope he can telepathically read my thoughts. Transmitting now.

Thanks to John and the IgniteDenver crew for letting me rant. I had a blast and will be back for more. Props to Maloney’s Tavern for allowing us to invade. Check the Twitter stream with the tag #ignitedenver.

Here’s my point which I didn’t make very well last night:

Identity is not solely a technical issue, it is a human issue. Humans are more than a login and password combination, and will need a system that allows for the complexities of human life. We all have different aspects of our lives that we allow to mix and mingle to varying degrees, and in the online space, we need a system that allows us to control our information just as we control our identity in real life. Not just controlling where our streams show up, but also what information we offer to online entities. On the other side of that mouse pad are the sites and services that we register for. They also need certain sets of information to be able to provide their services. You trade your info for service, but you should still own and have control of your info.

When clients tell me to just use OpenID or Facebook Connect for the registration to their site, they are not realizing the position that they could be putting their user in, and all the things that could happen that they (and when it does happen, I) will be held responsible for.

Here are the notes. The first few slides are dull background crap. Find the slides here. Mine start on #57, but take some time to go through it all. Lots of great people and information.

Slide 1

Who I am now. SMS the name bugfrog to 50500 to get a text of this info.

Slide 2

Who/where I have been before now

Slide 3

Everybody has used non-secure ways to remember their passwords. The 3M Password protection system is very popular. Entries in your address book, using the same password for every site, trying to use the same login and password for every site. What have you used?

Slide 4

If you read your terms of service agreements, most sites own your data once you give it to them. And even if they explicitly say they won’t do anything with it, it is very easy for them to change their mind in the future without giving you a chance to pull out your info first.

Slide 5

OpenID is a system available to help address these two issues: Multiple logins and data ownership.

Slide 6

Estonia is adopting an OpenID system for all it’s citizens. Great. Thankfully they’ve also implemented a Data Protection Act to make sure there is no abuse of this new system. They are pretty confident that there will be no identity fraud possible in Estonia. That’s pretty confident. The word hubris comes to mind.

http://www.libertysecurity.org/article959.html

https://openid.ee/about/english

Slide 7

Problems with Open ID

Not universally adopted. Not every site uses OpenID and not every site will. Linking your login to a public standard can limit the information that a site can collect from their users, so not everybody will do it.

Not to mention that there is version 2 of out and not everyone has been able to get their systems upgraded and working. Bigger companies who have the money have been able to upgrade, but not everyone. And if it fails, you are locked out of your site. No second chances. You wait. We see the same failure pattern with new features on web browsers. Some people either don’t or can’t upgrade immediately.

Slide 8

Standard Implementation?

OpenID is a standard, but not all services implement the standard exactly the same. Does everyone implement HTML standards the same? Like any standard, some sources adopt quickly and completely, some lag behind a little, some jump ahead and add on their own special features that they feel should be there.

Open Id is one of the more successful early players in this id space. What else is going on?

OpenID provider Comparison at SpreadOpenID.org

OpenID review at Loudit

Slide 9

Lets’s expand beyond just OpenID. There are other people making a play for the identity management market. Of course. Google, Yahoo, OAuth, and the recently newsy Facebook connect.

Some say that while the OpenID system is strange and confusing, leveraging these other systems that people are already using makes sense. “I’ll just login with my facebook ID.” It’s easy, available and ready to go. Why not?

In the simplest form, we could rephrase this to “Let’s make it possible for everyone from Aunt Mable to the happy hour crew, every person in my friend list, to know about every single site that I register for, and maybe even how often I visit and what I do there. Wouldn’t that be great!”

Slide 10

Let’s expand even more. Online identity managers are not the core problem. Complex human lives are the problem. Just like you don’t go into a job interview talking about your obsession with Penguin figurines and clown porn, you also find sites you want to be a part of that you don’t want connected to your LinkedIn account through openID. So now you need to decide again, do I have many different openIDs? Do I set up multiple identity accounts, one for work, one for friends, one for clown porn sites. We all have different facets of our lives that we might control differently.

Slide 11

Human Upgrades . Our lives change. What happens when a site or service transitions from a hobby to a work related identity? Twitter for example. How many of us picked a twandle based on some goofy animal hybrid and then started using it to make contact with people that you actually do real work with? Trust and community is rooted in the concept of identity and recognition. Can you change an identity and still have that trust? If you set up an identity intending it to be private, and then need to change it over to a public realm, does every site you’ve used it for also come into the public realm also?

Slide 12

Humans in general are lazy. Most people are lazy when it comes to internet security. People who hide a house key in a fake rock aren’t going to worry about 16 random character passwords. For most people, convenience is key. They will choose the easy route over the secure route almost every time. If they are logging in to a site, they just want to get in right then. They don’t want to sit and think and consider the implications of which ID they should use. Usually they realize later “Hey. Maybe I shouldn’t be posting all my personal photos where my employer can find it. How can I change that?”

Slide 13

If there is one standard, then there is one sweet target for any hacker who needs a goal. Maybe they could all pool their resources and work together to find an exploit. Instead of having to figure out what type of obstacles each site puts in their way, they’ll be able to focus all their time on one single protocol. Keep this in mind if you bank offers standard identity system compliance.

Slide 14

Ethics and identity. Business executives have found out that what they say online, whether intended or not, is increasingly considered part of the company communication stream. If James Andrews comments on Memphis before meeting with his FedEx client, it’s considered a comment delivered by his company, not just him.

Even more murky and extended, the people who are connected to executives through Facebook or Twitter are obviously aware of and possibly connected to the company as well, possibly even shareholders. What if this executive comments about a contract issue, or the failure of a big supplier. Suddenly, there is a very real possibility of insider trading if they were to act on any information.

And what about HR issues? If your work identity is aware that you go out and drink, smoke, and party on the weekends (not on work time, but on your time) how well will they be able to disassociate the work you from the weekend you? If mandatory drug testing is a hot issue, mandatory social network registration is going to get touchy too.

Slide 15

Geolocation. Here’s another wrinkle to think about. More and more services are adding geolocation ability into their apps. At first, this is great. Find the people you know when they are nearby. Get notified of a special offer when you are near your favorite store. Cool. But lets say you are with a big client at a work dinner and your auto updating Latitude or Brightkite app tells the members of one of your less than publicly known social groups that you are present. Suddenly, 2 facets of you world collide in a way that you were not expecting or intending.

Think of the marketing mishaps that are waiting to happen. What if you opt in for special deals from some Personal Lifestyle store (whatever that might be), and as you go by that store, you get a batch of marketing messages and special offers. Normally, that is fine. But this time, you happen to be with your boss, grandmother, or friends who aren’t aware of your connection to that unique store. Could get dicey.

I love Brightkite and use it as much as I can with my clunky Q. Latitude is cool too. But the mass market is a different audience and doesn’t think the way that tech early adopters do. They still worry about things like “Who is looking at my photos on Flickr? Who knows that I am at the mall today?” We say Who cares? But the answer is They Do. And they are the users who will make your site or service successful.

Slide 16

Who are you anyway? This brings up a question: what the hell is identity anyway? Who are you? Do you talk and act exactly the same way in all situations? Probably not. You may be different with your famliy than with your friends than with your boss and coworkers.

As far as those groups are concerned, their PERCEPTION of your identity is made up of what they know about you only. Here’s a way to look at it.

If you go to your twitter page, a valid argument could be made that all the tweets that you find there make up your identity. We could construct a picture of you based on what you follow and what you tweet. Just like in real life, the people around you tell us about who you are or may be at that moment. It might not be 100% accurate, and it can be very easily taken out of context, but it is what people do – make generalizations and evaluations based on the facts at hand. It’s what we do.

Extending from that, here’s another interesting fact: some companies are experimenting with scanning the content of an employee’s email to determine what that person does. Basically trying to build a map of who each employee is and what they do based on the content of their emails. So instead of giving you a title, putting you in an org chart, and telling everyone what you should be responsible for, you will be identified by what you have written in your daily mail. In theory, you should be able to find out the go to person for a specific task by searching for that task, and the people who deal with it most will top the search. That’s sure to cut down on those non-work related messages.

Slide 17

I’m not trying to rip the idea of openid apart. But it is a young technology trying to work with an old concept of identity. The issues and behaviors that we are trying to model are things that haven’t even been worked out completely in real life.

Ever run into your Aunt Sally when you are out drinking with your friends? We all have work, social, companion, recreation, and many other circles of people that we interact with, and they all intersect to varying degrees, some a lot, some not at all, and each person has a different need and a different way to maintain those associations.

Some people would never dream of inviting work friends to a party at their house, others only have work friends, and once they leave a job, they no longer associate with those people. This is a personal choice, and a mass adopted identity system should be able to handle any degree of that choice.

Slide 18

Where can it go wrong? It never goes wrong by people doing what you expect them to do. In the geo location example, maybe the marketing messages are originally programmed to go be triggered when you are within a very short radius. One day, a programming tweak increases that radius to 5 miles. Or bad weather confuses the triangulation so that it thinks you are closer than you really are.

What if you just set up your ID account and missed a setting, or misunderstood how it worked. Again, MOST people work with convenience and ease. Going through a huge tutorial on how to properly set up your account doesn’t quite fit there.

These are not things that could happen, they are things that WILL happen. Look at some of the goofy disclaimers that are on products lately. People don’t think about what they are doing in the moment the way that a develop thinks when building a site. Developers focus on the task and how to solve a problem. Users focus on talking on the phone while they are driving, eating, reading a text message, giving a toy to their child, and trying to find a shopping list.

When considering a login schema, don’t think about a using doing what they should do, test in the ways that a user should absolutely not do, because they will.

Slide 19

Proponents of single identity systems have said that if we all have one online identity with our real name attached, people will be less rude and disruptive on the internet. Sure, because the internet is the only place that people are rude and disruptive. There ARE people who do things that they probably wouldn’t do in person, but they would also do those things in real life if they thought they wouldn’t get in trouble. How many people turn into complete assholes when they get in their car? That’s not even annonymous, just easy to get away.

Let’s be honest, rude behavior is a human thing, not a computer thing. If you’re a jerk, you’ll be a jerk online, no matter who sees you.

Slide 20

I bring all this up because if you build or advise on websites, there are no login silver bullets. Any solutions to online identity issues will be found by looking at human social behaviors, not by building on traditional computer protocols.

Until that time, Make sure you give you users options. Don’t have just way to login, let your user do what’s best for them.

That’s it.

I can see why someone might think I’m bashing OpenID, but I’m really not. I just want it to continue evolving to work with human behavior, not computer needs.

If you haven’t yet, I suggest you go get some OpenID variant. Have it ready and get familiar with it. Consider where you implement it, and why. And if someone tells you that it’s the next great thing that will rule the net, send ’em here. I’ll be waiting.

Here are some reference links you might be interested in.

OpenID for Google Apps

Poll on OpenID use

Yahoo Updates to Challenge Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect

Twitter and Ethics

Bad News for OpenID

Ignite Denver Tonight

I’m presenting at Ignite Denver tonight at Maloney’s at 14th and Market. This one’s on Human Online Identity. It started off solely about OpenID and my issues with it, but as I put it together, it expanded a little. The problems aren’t with OpenID or any other technology, they are with the human social creatures that use them.

I wrote way too much for the 15 seconds per slide, so afterwards I’m going to put up all my notes, links, and comments, so if you are interested, check back.

Hope to see you there!

Ignite Denver

Half a TechStar for a Long Day

So RedGhost was able to wrangle half an invite to the TechStars for a Day gig in Boulder on March 3. Half an invite because we could get only one, and there are two of us. James, Bryan. One, two. Get it? Half? Moving on. We offered to serve drinks, mop the floor, run the A/V equipment, whatever we needed to do to help. So if I come up to you asking for a slide projector light bulb, just give me one, I’m in a hurry.
Anyway, I get to go this time and I’m not sure what to expect. I am hoping and planning to soak up good ideas and directions for myLinkChop.com to make it even more awesome and amazing that it will already be. On the Twitterverse I saw that people are flying in, so it’s going to be a room full of creative and programmatic people. Looking forward to see the state of the game. With a few great exceptions (RedGhost), been thinking in virtual isolation for a while, so being in a hot group should be energizing. Or terrifying. Either way, I’m on. Starts at 8am and goes to 7:30 so it will be a long techy day.
After that is the Boulder Denver Tech MeetUp which will run late, and I will be late for. Ugh. That should be a great event too, so I’ll get over there. Funny how everything seems to happen on the same days. By the end of the day, I’m going to need a drink and a pair of dark shades. Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be designers with a dream. Or chipmunks. (Urban Chipmunk, anyone?)

Online Identity

I read an article here about Facebook and the future and mobile devices and how great location based apps are going to be. And I agree. Location based apps on a mobile device are going to be HUGE. And so are online identities. And that is where things are going to collide, and I’m not talking about the frustration of managing multiple logins and passwords on different sites. That can be handled with OpenId or something similar.

Here’s the problem I have now, and what I can see will become worse for everyone else as they embrace more and more mobile location based apps: The person and identity I am for one place is not always the same person I am for another.

What?

No really. Just like the person you are at work isn’t always the person you are at home, the person and information I present at LinkedIn is very different from the person I show you here. The person I am on CuteDogs.com is necessarily different from the one I am at KuddlyKittens.net, and neither one of those should ever be connected to my identity on NewJob.com, or at Psycho.net.

All of us share different things in different ways when we are with each of our social groups, and this is before we add in the technology layer. First rule of fight club is nobody talks about fight club. Same for ClownPorn club. Not a word.

So what happens when you have 2 location based applications that cause your online identities to collide? What happens when you are out with your Omaha Steaks club and your location based PETA app pings that you are near? What if you are out with your mom at the mall when your phone starts buzzing like crazy for the frequent buyers deals at Hot Topic? Or worse, what happens when you are at the secret ClownPorn convention and your Family and Friends Facebook app announces your presence to your mom at the Quilting Bee Convention next door?

The point is that in real life we have roles that we play, and identities that go with those roles. We often keep these roles separate and isolated from the others. As more an more social groups are connected online, many users will absolutely need to be able to control what information is available to which group. You wouldn’t wear your clown suit to a job interview, right?

Do you have different identities either in real life or online? How do you keep them apart? How important is it?

Thoughts on phones

The cycle repeats over and over. You embrace something new to make your life simpler, and it works that way for a little while, but then it basically leaves you in the same spot you were in before.

For example, cell phones. I got one once so that if I needed to call someone, I could. No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I could contact the people I needed to contact. If my wife needed me, she could call. Jump forward a few years, and I don’t even answer the damn thing. I will read a text message though. Send me a text, and I’ll get it and be able to respond. If you need to get ahold of me, send a text. Jump again, and now I don’t even look at texts. Twitter comes into text messages, reminders come into text messages, voice mail triggers a text message, my dog sends me text messages. WTF?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame the technology. I’m the one who is implementing it wrong, for sure. I am trying to get a handle on it, and I am cutting back. I am trying to get things to work for me instead of me becoming a slave, and I have a LOT of experience working this out. Here’s a few:

An apartment: My first apartment, at a beach town no less, everyone was welcome. If you needed a place to crash, you had one. And every single person I knew did. Constantly. Eventually, if I didn’t know that you were coming over, I didn’t answer the door.

Land line: When I got my first land phone line (in the apartment) , everyone could call, and they did. Then I stopped answering the phone unless I knew you were supposed to call. Not even then sometimes.

Answering machine: What a great invention! For about a day. Dodging calls, screening calls, the whole thing. “Pick up! I know you are there! I’m outside your house on my new cell phone.” Now I don’t even listen to the messages, and they get emailed to me when they are recorded. How lazy can I be? BTW, if you leave me a message, just leave minor details. I don’t listen that far. Actually, don’t leave a message. I just see on the caller ID that you called and I’ll call you back.

Call waiting: I have hated this since day one. If I am on the phone, I am talking to someone. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to have every freaking call interrupt me like a 6 year old (and I know all about this) was insane or had no kids.

Email: Remember when it was cool to get a funny email with a cute dog photo? 1992 was great, right? Cut it out! And then, take a few minutes and write a message that makes sense. And put a fricking subject in. I swear I will kill Travis the next time he sends me an email with the subject of “Hey”. Plus, if the topic is too complex to be covered in 160 to 400 characters, call me. Or better yet, walk over to my cube and we can talk in person. Just don’t leave me a phone message saying you sent me an email. I will slap you.

Cell Phones, Text messages, Blogs, Twitter, Brain Wave Syncing ARRRRGHHHH! They all go the same way. Great at first, then I avoid them because they cease to be a tool for my convenience, and they become a tool for someone else’s convenience. <—— Major point here

Here’s the important part: I love technology. I love that every new thing follows the same old path as the last new things. To me this is a huge opportunity for learning. Every new thing follows the same old rules as when the first nomad wandered into a new tent camp. Community is something that humans crave and need. Let’s figure out ways to make it work FOR us instead of enslaving us. That’s what I’m about. I want to build things that allow people to use technology to their advantage, not for a marketing audience.

Tell me what you think. Argue. Prove me wrong. Let’s be a community. Bring it. I’m not afraid.

Oh, yeah, open source rules!

Doomsday Machine

I’m going to go out on a limb on this one. I’m not worried about a black hole being created by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), now referred to as “The Doomsday Machine”. Nope. Not at all. Some people and major “news” organizations are worried. Either that or they are just trying to hype it up for story and ratings fodder. Would news people do that? Noooooo. Not them. They have integrity. Ish.

Link to source article.

There have been hundreds if not thousands of really smart people working on this for a long time. At last count, there are 4 scientists that I have heard of that are worried about this thing “spawning black holes that eat the planet.” Maybe they are smart too, and they are welcome to their opinion and perspective. They might even have some new data that needs to be reviewed. They could also be just trying to argue about something. Being contrarian. Academics and scientists are trained to do that. News media is trained to sensationalize. Everyone has their strong point.

Besides, if the LHC does eat the world and I am wrong, it will happen so fast that nobody will be able to say “I told you so.” I really can’t lose by taking a stance on this one. If you are concerned about it, I totally understand, and offer up this website for you to keep track of the situation. LHC status.

What about you? Have you build a black hole bunker to duck into? What would you stock it with if you did?

I’m more worried about things like toxic waste in my city, air and water pollution, homeless people freezing to death. You know, local stuff.

Busy Week. Is there another kind?

This week was interesting for sure. First item of business is a beta browser for my Q9m phone. IE is a slow and annoying beast on the phone. Pierce pointed me to SkyFire, which like most things is still in beta. It has worked great for me. Renders a page like the full size page and lets you zoom and focus on the area you want to see. Very smooth and very effective. As a quick, completely irrelevant test, I streamed from the Adele/James Morrison concert we were at using Qik (streams available), and he was able to view the stream on his phone. Worked great. IE couldn’t do it when I tried before.

Next day after the concert and without much sleep, Iwent to a writing workshop at work to guide us on writing for the web. Lots of great tips and strategies for making our writing more effective. We have lots of different goals for the content we create, so it’s a fairly challenging to make everyone happy. You probably know how that goes.

On Friday night and Saturday, I went to PodCamp Boulder hosted by Jeremy Tanner at the spanking new skinnycorp/Threadless offices in Boulder. If you’ve never been to an un-conference, get to one as soon as you can. I’m sure there’s huge possibilities for them to crash like a chandelier, but they can also fire up a lot of great discussion and thought. And Jeremy and the Boulder crew are firestarters. Any of the tech events they put on are well worth the time. Thanks to Naomi for driving up and the awesome Thriller lessons. Thanks to everyone who came to the event, contributing their great perspectives, and making it worth much more than the admission price. (Which was free.) Hey Denver crew, pay attention. Boulder is kicking our asses in getting the word out and getting people together to actually do stuff. (If you know of Denver connections and events, let me know.)

If you are a Twitter fan, search for this hash #pcb09 to catch the feeds of people who were there.

After that, we progressed on to the incredible #goremet event where good food, great people, and horror movies mix for a good time. Again, thank you to all involved for making it  an incredible evening and I look forward to the next one. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake was as scary as ever. The Hills Have Eyes would have given me nightmares.

In summary, it was a crazy week and I need some rest. Based on the feedback and info from PodCamp, there will be a lot of progress on projects over at RedGhost Labs, (and bgxLabs), so be sure to check over there for updates. myLinkChop, News Storm/News Mentor, and the Conference Assassin game all sparked interest, so we’ll keep moving on all of them and get the word out when they are ready for alpha and beta tests.

See you on the highway!