Google Reader – Almost too efficient…

For a few months now I’ve been using Google Reader as my primary RSS newsreader “application”. When I first tried Google Reader, right after it launched I wasn’t a fan at all – I went off and tried the Omea Reader but found that I didn’t want to have it running all the time, and when it wasn’t running I forgot about it. Another issue was I split my use across the work laptop and a desktop at home. If I read stuff on my laptop the desktop client wouldn’t be updated, and vice-versa – with a web based app it was always in sync.

Eventually I decided to give Google Reader another go and found that they had made some tweaks to the design that made it just that much more user-friendly that I stuck with it – Now with the latest revision as of a few weeks ago (along with the bug-fix last week) I’m actually amazed at how much I enjoy using the product.

The new “Share” feature is a great idea that I use all the time. I hit a point where I started to become a bit of a “human aggregator” for some friends & colleagues so to now be able to point them to my shared items (RSS Feed here) page is great. It’s much easier then firing off emails every which way.

An added bonus several months ago was the introduction of the mobile version of the reader. As far as I’m concerned they’ve basically got the mobile reader stripped down to exactly what it needs to be. Reading stories on the phone is quick, low bandwidth and efficient and because it’s all one application (as I mentioned above) I can read posts at work, some on the train home via mobile phone and finally others on my desktop at home and Google reader just allows me to pick up where I left off.

The only thing I wish they would add is a “Share” link like the web-based reader has now.

That said though – just one “complaint”. It is actually now so easy to scroll through all of the posts from your feeds (they use AJAX to basically create an infinite scroll of all your stories) that I frequently find there’s nothing in my queue (Blog faster people!) whereas before it seemed like I could never keep up.

I definitely recommend checking it out if you need an RSS Reader.

(Edited to fix linking error)

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I see the problem now…

Not to harp on this Moto Q too much but I’ve finally realized the real problem with the speech recoqnition and now, the pain in the butt procedure to unlock the phone.

Last week I finally got around to enabling the device lock on the phone – the one that requires a password after a certain amount of idle time in order to access/do anything with the phone. A smart move I figured the amount of information these things suck off your PC these days.

Setting the password was immediately a challenge, none of the keys would work (i.e. I couldn’t see any “*” filling the screen.) On a lark I tried using the ALT key and typing a number – it worked. The device lock seems to only accept numbers as characters for the passcode.

I sat and looked at the thing thinking “How stupid is that?”. In most apps on the Q where you can only enter numbers it defaults the keyboard into the “ALT” mode that you need to be in to access the numbers – but for the device lock it doesn’t. The impact is it’s borderline impossible to unlock the phone with one hand as you need to press the ALT key and then the number.

Then it dawned on me. The major issue with a bunch of the default apps on the Q is “laziness”. Basically as Motorla developed the Q they must have had a list of functions: “voice recognition”, “device lock”, etc. – then the engineers when digging in the archives and grabbed all the existing bits of code and put them on the phone. The problem? Most of these apps were designed for the previous generation of phones (pre-smartphones).

This is why voice recoqnition is so spotty. It was probably optimized for a phone that had a maximum of 99 or so names, not the several hundred to thousands that are in many people’s address books. On my old phone the “coleman” entries were pretty much limited to my wife, my parents and my brother – not my distant relatives who I call maybe once a year etc. This is why I get so many false hits when I try using the recoqnition.

The numbers only in the device lock is exactly the same issue. It was designed for a phone that used ten keys as the primary input device (numbers 0-9) rather than the QWERTY style keyboard the Q has. This is actually the feature that drives me nuts the most because it’s a simple fix that could have been fixed had someone spent just a minute or two testing how this would actually be used and the reason I blame this on laziness. The device lock code could have been fixed by a simple code tweak that set the phone into ALT mode automatically when it was in the device lock screen – instead they just copied & pasted existing code onto the new phone.

Another issue that I know is out there, but have been fortunate not to hit, is interacting with IVR systems. This isn’t a Motorola problem but basically a problem any smartphone will likely hit at some point. in many cases IVRs want you to enter a name (i.e. searching a company directory). The challenge is the IVR expects number tones in the manner that numbers 2-9 on traditional phones have three letters each on each key. With a smartphone users no longer have those guides on the buttons as the numbers are typically overlaid on the QWERTY keypad. The solution for this could be relatively straightforward if there was a mode where you could set the phone so as you pushed the letter on the QWERTY keyboard it would emit the proper tone for the number it would be on on a traditional phone.

In the end I think this is a pretty good example of why it is important to look at the context and usage of any piece of device or software before building it and sending it out to the masses. I think it’s also a relevant example, in a sense to the importance of localization. What the Motorla guys did was essentially basic “translation” they took an existing item and moved it into a new environment without taking into consideration any of the issues or considerations of the new environment. The end result, frustration and an unhappy user – when if they had just spent some time and “localized” the software based on it’s new environment things would have been much better and my past posts would have been singing the praises of this phone rather than what you’ve just read.

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"Best do-it-yourself conference"

As a complete surprise BarCamp was named the “Best do-it-yourself conference” in Toronto by Now Magazine:

BARCAMP TORONTO

http://barcamp.org/TorCamp

BarCamp was created in response to Tim O’Reilly’s ultra-exclusive FooCamp, and Toronto was quick to jump on the bandwagon. Billed as ‘un-conferences,’ these community-driven events for local tech geeks require participation from all attendees. BarCamp has several spinoffs, including the monthly DemoCamp where six presenters have 15 minutes to wow the crowd with their latest innovations.

Congratulations all around to everyone involved in the BarCamp community here in Toronto. For those interested in checking out the next BarCamp watch the Toronto BarCamp site for the next event to be announced. (I suspect it’d be sometime early next year – in the meantime be sure to come check out one of the DemoCamp events which happen every month).

A nod of congratulations to to the guys in Ottawa who held their first DemoCamp Ottawa this week – from the blog posts I’ve seen it sounds like it was a success. I believe they’ve got a second one scheduled for November already as well.

(BarCamp story Via David Crow)

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The end of lugging laptops?

I’m at the Toronto stop of the Microsoft Partner Briefing Tour today. So far it’s been quite interesting – right now they’re going through a demo of Sharepoint 2007, which seems to have had a bit of scope creep and is now their ECM (Enterprise Content Management) system – compared to the collaboration oriented system I remember it being introduced as a couple years ago. Very interesting but no mention of multiple languages though.

The reason for the post though. I’m sitting in a room of roughly 400 techies & Microsoft resellers and not counting the presentation systems I’m surprised to see an almost total lack of laptops here. From my seat I can see exactly one.

Contrast that with the Mesh conference where I was probably the only one without my latop there and open. Kind of ironic as the over arching theme here today seems to be all about being always connected.

That said I’m sitting here tapping this out on my phone and I can see dozens on ‘berries etc. In active use. Maybe the days of lugging around a laptop coming to an end? If so, I’m not sure what Micosoft’s plan is as the closest thing to a mobile solution I’ve seen today is OVA (Outlook Voice Access) – voice enabled Outlook. It’s cool but the “attendant” is a little chatty, and creepy.

Edited to add: I clearly “thought” some stuff and didn’t tap it out in my initial post. My point about ending the lugging around of laptops (which may just go without saying these days) had to do with the capabilities of many of the new phones now and how a laptop just isn’t all that necessary. I brought my laptop with me for the sessions today but upon arriving weighed what benefit it would serve me to have in there. All my current emails and contact info are on my phone, their attachments easily downloadable and viewable – I could blog via email and my RSS newsreader was right there for those lulls during breaks etc. plus, I wasn’t even sure if I’d have wi-fi inside. So in the end tiny light weight phone won out of lugging around “the brick”.

One Year Later

I realized late yesterday that it was the one year anniversary for “Found in Translation”.

It’s certainly been an interesting year. I know I’ve personally learned a lot both on and offline and I hope in my periodic ramblings here I’ve been able to share some of that with you.

As of late you may have noticed I’ve startd to stray away from purely language or translation related posts (not that I was ever entirely focused there). I’ll likely continue to meander in and out of various topics as this blog progresses.

One thing I’ve become more aware of is the interesting position I’m in between two industries/groups of people (web/web 2.0 & translation/localization) that are really still in the early stages of experimenting with each other. Wherever possible I’ll try to find topics that bridge these two spaces and share them.

Anyways – in short, thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed (and will continue to enjoy) this blog.

– Ryan