Turning Point – Steve Jobs Book Purchase

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Steve Jobs Book CoverShort post – more of a call to arms, to discuss burning point for many people today. That is, What Platform to choose to purchase this iconic Steve Jobs biography eBook. I am completely at a loss – what could have been price war between heavyweights in this category, turned into a paralyzing situation for consumers (like me) preventing our purchase completely. My interpretation is that Publisher insisted on same pricing across all platforms! What Gives?

Anyhow, let’s recap the contenders

  • Kindle – Interestingly, I don’t own any – and yet I have Tons of options for reading Kindle books (iPhone, Tablet, PC, Mac, etc) and already own many books on the platform. This is truly an achievement, which I applaud Amazon for!
  • Nook – I really have nothing against them, but I have virtually no prior books on the platform and no dedicated eInk reader. Still, their readers looking better all the time and they caught up to Amazon with Nook software reader being available on most platforms. Good job, B&N!
  • Kobo – Once partner of failed Borders, is an independent maker of eInk devices and the software platform. They are also present on many platforms and ironically I do own that eInk reader I picked up at Borders closeout. We use it once in a while, but who knows about long term prospects?

Not in the running:

  • iBooks – Apple insists on closed platform ways – show me Android iBooks reader? Or how about PC reader? And not even corporate discount Winking smile Nope, no go…
  • Google Books – Serious contender and I am glad to see they have the book available. Brand is strong with this one, but I just don’t know if this is another “Google experiment” with books, or are they in it for the long haul? Plus, no native clients on laptops detracts from reading experience a bit – although Web reader is mighty enticing. In fact, I almost forgot about this option…
  • Microsoft eReader – Um, anyone remembers this one exists? Exactly…
  • Adobe Digital Editions – I don’t even know if any store uses this… In fact, Adobe themselves didn’t post this free eReader on their Download page – seriously?!?!

So, chime in – help me decide. Weigh in your Pros and Cons and tell me where you got this book, and why! And yea, I am so crippled with this decision that I walked into retail store to buy Real hardcover. But then I got sticker-shock – where B&N employee politely explained to me that their pricing is completely different from their own Web pricing and That’s that.

Seriously – we have industry behemoths trying to set platform trends for ages to come, where should we vote with our cash – and WHY ON EARTH would publisher insist on fixed pricing!!?! I am certain everyone would be selling this one At A Loss at this ciritcal platforms’ junction, given a chance.

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Annual eBay Bashing – or Mini How-To for Large Software Base

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eBay LogoI fondly call my wife lately Commodity Investor, as she loves to scout out best deals on eBay. In fact, I would easily bet that we are in their top 10% of customers list, and let’s just leave it at that. So why is it that they allow themselves to continuously upset us?

Granted, some of the occurrences are not their fault – try as they might, bad sellers are still abound there. I understand that it is really hard to figure out who is lying, the buyer with years of track records of purchases, or seller who joined few weeks ago and got no solid feedbacks yet.

But this post is not about that, it is instead all about things that are Completely within eBay Inc’s control, or at least they ought to be. Here are just two of more Fun bugs for this week, that are live on their Production site:

  • My eBay – Whoever asked them to do Ajax on the items list, the developers must have looked back and said Huh, is that like “Food” item? They are completely clueless how to implement it properly, paging is just awful, printing completely broken, going to see item and coming back is broken.
  • eBay Search – This is funny, because clearly this is a different team and implemented “list” technology completely differently. They have complete reverse of the above bug – if you do navigate to second page, but then switch category, your new category list starts with Second page!!!

Seriously, we aren’t even trying to discuss how far the website look & feel is from anything resembling modern web. Instead, we are talking basic functionality here, leading to people being unable to view properly the Items people paying Money to display and sell. The sad part? I am sure they employ a small army of developers and testers.

In fact, I am here to say that the bigger the team gets – the harder it is to maintain consistency or quality. So what can we learn here? Here are some constructive tips for our brethren at eBay IT :

  • Hire a Small group of HIGH Quality developers (yea, expensive ones) to develop and design core Infrastructure for the site, Including UI Components and their “glue platform”.
  • Once that core platform is ready, unleash the rest of your developers to customize, reuse, enhance and repurpose it across all eBay Inc properties. Yes, that does mean that My eBay and eBay Stores and other eBay Lists will share the same components – that’s a Good Thing!
  • Create a LOT of automated tests, including ones that Render page and look at it to reflect that it functions as expected. There are plenty of frameworks for this. Still, after these automated tests, there is No Substitute for High Quality live testers, the ones who notice things with usability also, beyond plain “ugly” bugs (like my wife, who finds these things weekly).

Okay, end of annual eBay Rant – you can return to your regularly scheduled mediocrity. Oh yea, and feel free to shop on Amazon more, their site is still behind times, but still light-years ahead of eBay, and they also offer slightly used items on their marketplace Smile

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The (prison) state of social

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Sitting in Starbucks, where I seldom go, and reflecting on my nearly ended "night on the town". With many activities going on today, I ended up in Downtown Atlanta all alone with 3 hours to burn. First stop – Foursquare – where I did find people congregating on few fun activities. Alas, numbers were ridiculously small – versus what seemed a Car-and-Human apocalypse happening around me. We are probably under 1 in 100,000 checking-in on Foursquare. Are they checking-in on Facebook? Perhaps Google+, which has rather refreshing public posts with location feature. Nope, seems like not even via Yelp.
Two conclusions – we need a better way of sharing "hotspot" information. While we all value our privacy – I think there is a way to keep that and yet share major "outings".
But here is even bigger kicker – information segregation is a killer right now. Sure Foodspotting will tell you they have API, and they managed to hook up with ScoutMob even now. Heck, but it is yet another App and hence Silo in a way, locking in my photo of wonderful Frappe there. This will only continue to grow, as barrier to entry becomes smaller and smaller.
Facebook is leading the pack with the most users right now – yet their Check-in features are rather pathetic. Worse yet, most users don’t know about them at all.
I think we need to scrap our check-in approach and instead replace with:

  • No action required to check-in. Yes, I hear all the privacy screams – there are solutions. Pre-approvals, coupled with anonymity until specific friend requests to see ‘more info’.
  • Data must not be in a silo – that makes it useless! I would prefer if it could auto-flow into single place or at least be public.

I realize these sound like ramblings of a mad man – but that is because it is! Time to take our social to next level, ya’ll, before society decides that whole Facebook and Foursquare fad is a gonner the way of MySpace.
I’ll be awaiting your comments on Friendster ;-)

Update: I definitely should have checked Twitter – See the problem yet?

Update2: Live from Apple iPhone event – Introducing Family and Friends app, now you can tell where your family and friends are. Apple Heard Our pleas!?

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GeekGasm 2011 (aka: Dragon*Con)

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DragonConI managed to get out to Dragon*Con this year, but it ended up short and unpleasant experience. Granted, my planning was poor (read: non-existent). After repeatedly asking my family about it in the past few weeks, I got a very clear and solid NO from all other family members. Not wanting to hang out alone, I decided to not go this year.

Well, last night, while reading appearances schedule and panels (just for reference, really) I changed my mind.

IMG_5410Too little Too late, as they say. I hung out at the famous parade, but already felt that the crowd this year was WAY beyond anything before. I couldn’t find decent spot to snap much photos, even. So I decided to beat the crowd and while parade was still going on, I hit the registration line. Well, the photo you see is about a 3rd of line that promptly formed behind me. In front of me, the line was about twice this size. In case you struggling with math (and can’t see end of this line), a 3rd means there are 2 MORE lines like this going around the building, but in fact all 4 building sides (with surrounding parking/gardens/etc) is where the line stretched.

Since the best panel I was looking forward to has almost finished, and I was still in line about an hour later (yea, it was barely moving too), I decided to pass on Con this year and save my $50.

IMG_5420They really ought to do something!? I do know you can pre-register for entire 4 days, but apparently many people prefer 1 or 2 days (like me), and I don’t believe they offer that as pre-purchase option!!! Furthermore, why not just have some Mobile App where you can simply pay online, and just go in second(s) to pick up your badge, and voila. They already do this very successfully with Fandango for Movies and StubHub for Sports and other Events.

Overall, trip downtown was still worth it. Still grabbed good number of photos and videos of the parade and great to see so many other fans of the genre out there. Conclusion – I will just (try to) pre-register myself next year, probably still for just one day. Hopefully they will finally figure out how to make that available for people, avoiding this fiasco of 3 hours line under Hotlanta sun.

Geek On, fellow travelers!

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It is HP Touchpad weekend – Join In!

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While earlier in a week I read (just like many of you) that HP is getting out of Tablet (and most PC / Mobile Hardware) business, I only reflected on how that will change landscape of our mighty Industry. Instead, I should have been pondering what will HP decide to do with hundreds of thousands of HP Touchpads out there in supply chain!

HP TouchPadWell, late Friday night I learned that HP decided to clearance out the remaining inventory, at steep discount! Yes, the price is down to only $99 for 16 GB model and $149 for 32 GB model, effective Saturday (August 20th).

Well, apparently some people were even faster on the trigger on this item. Although I was up early on Saturday trying to snap one, they were nowhere to be found. Seems like more prudent folks out there camped out and snapped them litterally at store open time. All 30+ electronic retailers around me were out of stock virtually instantly! I even scoured Twitter, searching for tweets around people finding Touchpads in stock, but Alas, none were from my area. What Gives!?

To be fair, the hardware specs on the device are most impressive, but it’s future is uncertain. I think for such low price, it is a worthy experiment and hardware is close enough to get Android ported over (sooner or later). But even with WebOS, it’s solid Internet browsing and entertainment device, so at this price, why not? Ironically, for all the mania (there was more of it on Sunday when BestBuy dropped their prices also), most likely in about 1 year these devices will have $100 to $150 as a regular price point for this level hardware (my prediction).

Anyhow, here is how you can snap one up (if you hurry, this still maybe up). Amazon is selling via their Marketplace (OnSale when I linked).

Buy HP TouchPad via Amazon (Marketplace) – 16GB Version or 32GB Version. HURRY!

If they are all gone from there, check out SlickDeals forums for tips where to find them.

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