My weekly smartphone use…

At the Quantified Self conference a few weeks ago there was a very interesting conversation & social experiment about smartphone use. Ever since I’ve been getting more interested in the good and bad uses of smartphones, even gave a summary of ideas collected over the different sessions.

But I’ve been thinking about my low usage at the conference and decided to seek out an app which just counts the usage and nothing more (most have other types of permissions to do all types of other things). Found Timefactory’s Time used did pretty much this (although I’d like a proper data export option), seems low on resources and very simple.

So above is my regular usage of my Nexus 5X over the last week, and this week was a regular go to work everyday and social event most evenings kind of a week.

Its low, agreed but I didn’t go out to not check it or anything. I carry my Nexus with me pretty much everywhere. But having my pebble smartwatch and other devices around me certainly has a massive effect on how many times I actually have to turn on the phone screen.

Look forward to sharing the month summary too.

Tips for dealing with our unhealthy smartphone addiction?

Smartphones and shadows.

Originally I wanted to write a massive blog connecting the last blog about Thintelligenece, Tristan harris‘ essay reply, what I picked out of the quantified self, my thoughts following visiting Tokyo, Mark Manson’s smartphones are the new cigarettes and reading Alone together.

I found this from dating site review ages ago and it seems apt…

“The problem doesn’t lie with dating apps per se – technology in general is changing how we behave and interact. People are spending more time updating and commenting on their social media accounts than they are having actual conversations or meeting up with people IRL. Take a look at any bar or restaurant, and inevitably you see a group of people at a table, and none of them are talking to each other – they are staring at their phones.”

Theres a common theme that maybe our use of smartphones might not be all its cracked up to be? However I don’t really need to tell you this right? The amount of times I have walked into a lift in the last week, looked around to see glowing faces and no eye contact at all is quite scary as purely a thought experiment. I’m currently at about 90% looking at screens – if you were wondering.

Its quite easy to be slightly concerned, but I’m wondering why my phone usage pick up during the first day of the Quantified Self 2017 conference in comparison? Could there be something in the way I use my phone?

Quantified Self 2017
People put up their hands for how long they were on their phones during the conference

Not only this Aaron Parecki gave a talk about choices when choosing quantified self equipment or packages (as Justin said being things which are a mix of hardware, software and service). There seems to be some tips emerging between the 3 different sources.

So I thought I’d share them together.

smartphones looks

    • Lower the brightness, use some-kind of twilight mode or turn your screen to greyscale.
      As Tristan Harris says apps and operating systems are made to keep you looking and interacting for longer. They have this down to a science now. Theres also tons of research indicating that the blue light from LCD screens messes with your sleep routine, heck I swear by redshift and twilight. The greyscale is interesting too.
    • Turn off all sound and light alerts (vibrate will do)
      I’m totally shocked when I hear someones ring tone to be honest, I mean really? I turned off all notification lights from day one, so surprised when I see a flashing or strobing light on other peoples phones.
    • Turn off that stupid mode when it wakes up your phone screen to show you notifications.
      I always thought it was a iphone thing but seen it on Androids too. I honestly think so stupid as its battery zapping and ever so distracting. This also totally kills the doze mode on Android! Plus think about it, it lasts about 5 secs and if someone sends you a detailed message, you only get half the message forcing you to pick up the phone.

My Shadow

      • Put different apps on another phone, tablet device or smartwatch.
        My tablet is wifi only and has a very different set of apps and use. I also limit what kind of alerts I get on my pebble smartwatch, which also means I don’t need to look at my phone for the time. I had no idea the ipad doesn’t include a calculator? Each device is different and has a different purpose, there are apps which I wouldn’t dare put on my phone but I’d consider it for my tablet.
      • Don’t feel guilty for not picking up the phone!
        The guilt people put themselves under is out of control, no one will notice if you reply 5, 15, 30, 60mins later. You don’t need to reply straight away, unless you are expecting something or trying to get hold of someone.

    It Begins with Bonjour

    • Have some self-control
      Don’t use your phone as a (anti) social crutch; barrier between the physical world and you. I get the loneliness is a difficult and maybe social settings make you feel uncomfortable? But force yourself to be present in the moment, you might be missing an opportunity.
    • Don’t put your phone on the table
      I get it, Doze only works when your phone is flat and left alone for a while but since Android N it now works in your pocket. I use to do this all the time to save battery, at the end of a long conversation it would actually be stone cold! If you must, keep your screen facing down and don’t get tempted to unlock it (You should of course not have that stupid wake the screen up mode too!).
      smartphone
    • Think about your time as important
      It sounds silly when you think about it but our attention is finite and should be treated as important. When thinking about ourselves, we tend to put ourselves down, saying I’m no one special but to be frank we are important! Everyone of us are capable of such incredible things but not if we are all looking at our phones.
    • Think about what you are doing with your phone
      Are you simply filling time or doing something constructive with your time? No judgment about what you class as constructive but adding a like to a friends profile picture can wait. I recently tried to get a friend to do more constructive things with his phone but the continuous (endless/bottomless) stream of social notifications was too great it seems.
    • Stop with the selfies!
      Ok this is just my thing but if you can’t turn to a stranger and ask to take a picture, then something is seriously wrong! Live a little maybe that conversation might turn into something you wasn’t expected. Think about those Snapchat filters, encouraging you to act a certain way... Its not subtle but people get caught up in it and don’t think, and this is what the app maker wants from you. I’ll remind you of the fruit machine flow state which Natasha Dow Schüll, talks about in her book addicted by design.
      Smartphone
    • Stop with phone one upmanship
      I have seen too many times when someone shows something, then someone else pulls out their phone in response. Before long everyone has their phone out looking to out do each other. Theres even silence while everyone looks and pops up for social proof every once in a while.
  • Theres many more
  • …but that will do for now. If you can think of more, add a comment and I’ll likely do a updated blog with more soon.

Smartphones are the new Cigarettes? Really?

According to Mark Manson they are

Its quite alarmist title but to be fair his recent book “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” (I have started reading this book btw) also sums up a lot; although his blog about feminism really spoke to me.

The start of Marks arguement stems from going to gym and having people checking their phone in the middle of a session.

And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.

This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the women glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:

Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?

Point taken (although I did that nervous laugh when first reading this). I have lots of thoughts about this myself too, especially after coming back from Tokyo. I’ve been grappling with it and started thinking maybe I’m just getting old?

Smoking & Texting

I have been reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together book and haven’t even got to the part about smartphones yet. I’m still early in the book about robots and how we are react to them. Fascinating and slightly scary in someways.

Mark calls it Attention pollution

…somebody else’s inability to focus or control themselves then interferes with the attention and focus of those around them.

Then goes into detail…

…with the explosion in smart devices and internet available pretty much everywhere from Timbuktu to your mother’s ass crack, attention pollution is infiltrating our daily lives more and more without us realizing it.

It’s why we get annoyed at dinner when someone starts texting in front of us. It’s why we get pissed off when someone pulls their phone out in a movie theater. It’s why we become irritated when someone is checking their email instead of watching the ballgame.

Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.

Ok I hear you MarkAttention is precious thing, I’ve said this for years in blog posts and presentations around perceptive media.

Human attention is a scarce commodity

But I disagree on something and you would expect so as a person who finds it slight weird being offline for too long.

Its about choice, social norms and context.

For example I am writing this blog in Ezra & Gil coffee shop with no headphones listening to conversations around me. Ezra includes free wifi from Telecom which you need to click on every hour or so. Theres plugs around the sides of the Cafe, on the high tables best suited for laptop users. While I was in Iceland I spent sometime Reykjavik Roasters which has no wifi deliberately to encourage a different kind of environment. I could have gone around the block to one of the many Te & Kaffi’s but choose to give it a try (choice).

Back to Ezra, some of the conversations are person to person, some are video chat via phone or laptop (these tend to be quieter – social norms). I personally find this more useful for my own mind when writing and thinking. Hence I regularly work out of the northern quarter to help me think. However I don’t want someone on their smartphone while in the cinema (contextual).

Its helped having a smartwatch and I deliberately delay most of my notifications.

Simple but slightly naive solution to Mark gym problem. The coach makes it clear at the start what kind of attention is required. The people then have a choice if they take part or not. If this is broken social norm will take effect. If the notification is so big it cant be ignored, context will mean you can’t carry on anyway.

I do agree there is a problem but comparing it to smoking isn’t quite right in my head. Yes people fill in the silences by looking at their phones, yes I find ringtones in public very annoying (who has their phone on anything but vibrate now a days?) and yes there is a big problem with notifications. But unlike smoking there are big benefits to smartphones too (unlike smoking).

With the right amount of self control, context awareness and established social norms; it could be something incredible. But then we get into what they are actually doing on the phone which is a whole different blog.

Stop making stupid people famous

Dark data experiments?

Untitled - man in the dark
I have a lot of curiosity and one of the things which has consistently got me curious, is the challenges of the hidden. Hidden being the trick, the data, the technique, the place or the knowledge. This is why I’m very interested in Hacker House (it was almost added to my new years resolutions for 2017 even).

Currently data is the hidden which intrugued me the moment, hence my massive interest in data ethics. There’s been 3 experiments which have really got me jumping up and down about this all… thought I’d share while I eat cheese and drink wine on Christmas day

  • Click Click Click
    A perfect and fun demonstration of mouse tracking on websites using just JavaScript. This is the data the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc use to track users dwell time and implicit actions on the website. Found via some folks on our BBC R&D internal slack.
  • I know what you downloaded (…last summer or even last Christmas)
    This site collects IPs from public torrent swarms by parsing torrent sites and listening to the DHT network. They have more than 500.000 torrents which where classified and have data on peers sharing habits. The slightly twisted feature is the ability to share a link and see what people have been sharing. I promise not to do this but highlights the problem with shortern urls and long query strings you can’t be bother to read or don’t understand how they work (knowledge). Found via Torrentfreak
  • Find my phone
    Man’s smartphone is stolen in Amsterdam, so the same man decides to root another phone and deliberately track the phone. Along with the person who stole it! The results are turned into a video which you can watch on youtube.
    Found via Schneier

I thought WebOS was going Opensource?

Bypassing a Palm Pre Activation

Me and David were arguing like old times about the state of the industry and we got around to the mobile industry… We talked about mobile operating systems and got around to Firefox OS and Ubuntu. David said remember WebOS, look how that ended…

I reminded him that it was going Opensource, however today David pointed me at this

Electronics giant HP is selling off the code, staff and technology involved in its WebOS software to Korean firm LG.

HP acquired the WebOS operating system when it bought veteran gadget maker Palm in 2011 for $1.2bn (£789m).

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but HP is not thought to have recouped much of the money it paid for Palm.

LG said the WebOS code would be used to power its next-generation smart TV technology.

The WebOS was created to run smartphones, tablets and other devices developed by Palm that, in its early days, pioneered the handheld gadget industry. However, Palm’s influence has diminished as Apple, Google’s Android and RIM’s Blackberry have come to dominate the smartphone and tablet markets.

In the deal, LG gets WebOS source code, engineers working on it, documentation and the websites that promote it. HP is holding on to patents underlying WebOS as well as technology that helps it connect to web-based services.

It looks like the deal doesn’t effect the code? maybe? who knows?

So much for going Opensource?, I had thought it was going to be like the BeOS of the mobile operating systems.

A win for openness

Android on a Camera

This camera by Nikon is a win for openness, google and of course android

The first mainstream digital camera to be powered by Google’s Android system has been released by Nikon. The Japanese company’s point-and-shoot Coolpix S800c model is being marketed as a “social imaging device”. Demand for compact cameras has suffered because of the rise of smartphones.

Is it ugly? Maybe a little…

Is it fascinating and a wonderful combination? Yes…

Google always wanted Android everywhere and it started happening a while ago. Now this is just a logical extension of where digital cameras may go. Instead of some crazy proprietary embedded operating system, why not Android?

Welcome to Steve Jobs distortation field, where open is closed

infrastructures

Steve jobs is a tricky figure, theres no doubt about that. When he talks, you can feel the distortion field emerging from everything chosen word he uses. As I’ve always said Steve Jobs and Apple are against choice and therefore freedom. Evidence? Well theres tons this week

Steve jobs slagged off Android saying Android is too difficult to build for due to many different types of handsets. He then said "Twitterdeck" (yeah I know – think he meant Tweetdeck, has he got any clue about social media? This wouldn’t be a problem if he didn’t use it as a example) was having a nightmare developing for Android.

Steve Jobs’ amateur sleuthing last night brought up that gorgeous TweetDeck chart showing the vast variety of Android handsets out there, which the Apple CEO used to illustrate the "daunting challenge" he perceives developers have to face when creating apps that work across all devices and OS builds for the platform. Only problem with his assertion (aside from Steve calling the company TwitterDeck)? His opposite number on the TweetDeck team thinks nothing could be further from the truth: "we only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is."

Next evidence.

"Let’s talk about the avalanche of tablets. First, there are only a few credible competitors. And they all have seven-inch screen. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps."

"And this size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size. We’ve done extensive testing and 10 inches is the minimum tablet size."

"Given that tablet users will have a smartphone in their pocket, there’s no point in giving up screen size. Seven inch tablets are tweeners — too big to be a phone, and too small to compete with the iPad."

What a load of crap, if people want something smaller then the Android tablets are ideal to serve them. In Steve Jobs head, a 12inch tablet might be ideal but for the rest of us, its too big and too heavy to be really useful. Once again choice is the key word here. If you like the idea of smaller tablets, then Apple isn’t offering you the choice. Most iPad users I speak to wonder when the camera version is coming.

Even more crap…

We think this open versus closed argument is a smokescreen that hides the real question: What’s better for users, fragmented versus integrated?

"We believed integrated will trump fragmented every time."

"We are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as closed, and we believe that it will triumph over the fragmented approach, no matter how any times Google characterizes it as open."

Android is fragmented, we all knew it would happen but thats not a excuse to give up your choice. I have friends who would like a physical keyboard why penalize them for this? For some people the touch screen isn’t friendly, but steve jobs doesn’t care about them. In actual fact its "Its my way or the highway!"

iOS is closed and google are right to call it so.

Finally in Q&A

One of these days we’ll eventually learn the Android numbers, and I imagine we’ll compete with them for a very long time. But we have very different approaches — ours is to make devices that just work.

Oh yeah of course just work? I’m very sure Android developers are thinking the same. Your not alone in that steve. No in actual fact your only interested in telling people through hardware and software how to live there lives.

Welcome to the steve jobs distortion field…

The Smartphone…

The Smartphone segment

So over the Christmas period I've been at my parents house and they read the Mirror. I was flicking through the Sunday Mirror's pull out magazine called life and came across six pages of anime about new technology from the Far East. Its a reasonable piece and the illustrations are done by Anime artist Kanako Damerum.

One of the pages talked about the smartphone and showed off the Sharp W-Zero3. Which can scan business cards, includes a 3inch VGA touchscreen and Qwerty keypad. Wifi, 256meg of on board storage and MicroSD expansion. I was a little puzzled, my current phone does all that (I discovered Worldcard Mobile only yesterday). Yes I'm not rocking with a VGA screen (I had planned to get the glofish x850 which does have a vga screen) and the HTC Kaiser is 19mm instead of 17mm but its not far off.

So what I never quite got around to before was the fact that Smartphones are still quite novel in a lot of circles. I pulled out my Kaiser in the pub with some friend during a night out and they were like “what the heck is that? is that a computer or something?” I wasn't do it for effect but I did have it with the keyboard and tilt on (i was answering a couple of texts). I guess add the bluetooth headset blinking in my shirt pocket and they thought I'd gone all futuristic or something. But whats fun about the Windows mobile phones is that HTC make them pretty cheap. So you can get a windows mobile phone for the same price as a LG, Nokia or Motorola. So its not about the phone prices.

Maybe people don't like the complexity of the phone? But I would say the Windows Smartphone platform is no more complex that any other phone. Maybe its the style? Could be on something there, but Ted Baker now have an edition of the HTC Touch, LG Prada anyone and what about the most loved gadget of 2007? The Apple iPhone?

2008 is going to be the year of the Smartphone for sure. There is very little reason not to get one and I'm sure the phone shops will be pushing them harder that ever.

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Cheap, hackable Linux smartphone?

Prototype Linux smartphones

One of the world's largest computer and consumer electronics manufacturers will ship a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone direct, worldwide, for $350 or less, in Q1, 2007. First International Computing's (FIC's) “Neo1973” or FIC-GTA001, is the first phone based on the open-source “OpenMoKo” platform.

When I first heard about this, I didn't think much about it but then I started to check out the specs. It sounds and looks a lot like the Windows Mobile devices made by HTC. And to be honest I like the devices but I'm not super keen on the mobile windows operating system. However Symbian for me still isn't great.

The Neo1973 is based on a Samsung S3C2410 SoC (system-on-chip) application processor, powered by an ARM9 core. It will have 128MB of RAM, and 64MB of flash, along with an upgradable 64MB MicroSD card.

Typical of Chinese phone designs, the Neo1973 sports a touchscreen, rather than a keypad — in this case, an ultra-high resolution 2.8-inch VGA (640 x 480) touchscreen. “Maps look stunning on this screen,” Moss-Pultz said.

The phone features an A-GPS (assisted GPS) receiver module connected to the application processor via a pair of UARTs. The commercial module has a closed design, but the API is apparently open.

The Neo1973 will charge when connected to a PC via USB. It will also support USB network emulation, and will be capable of routing a connected PC to the Internet, via its GPRS data connection.

Moss-Pultz notes that the FIC-GTA001, or Neo1973, is merely the first model in a planned family of open Linux phones from FIC. He expects a follow-up model to offer both WiFi and Bluetooth. “By the time one ships, the next one is half done,” he says.

Like most things, its maybe best to skip the first generation and wait for the next one. There's no way I'm getting a phone with no Wifi or Bluetooth. But that super rich VGA is certainly worth checking out.

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