Thursday 25 October 2012

MomoSho: Mobile technology: art or science?

The second Mobile Monday Shoreditch (and my first). I think Helen (@technokitten) is aiming for these sessions to have an edgier, less corporate feel than the bigger Mobile Monday London events. The sofas for the panel certainly made it feel more intimate — and there were many fewer suits in the audience than at the typical Momolo. I’ll be coming back!

Vic Keegan @vickeegan

Alfie Dennen


  • QR codes feel clunky
  • Layar is pretty but do you use it after the first couple of times?
  • Google Glasses
    • hipster nightmare - being followed by a million bots
  • bionic contacts
    • closer than you think: a man already has an electronic camera eye!
  • makies
    • can extend with arduino & raspberry pi
  • the whole of human history has been about craft
    • we’ve stopped crafting in the last couple of generations
    • 3D printing may be bringing this back
  • Bus Tops
    • computer art in local context
    • project unfortunately coming to an end
  • Big Art Mob
    • attempt to catalogue all public art in the world
  • Street Ghosts
    • take pictures of people from street view and paint them on the wall of the actual place
  • mobile is more an extension of computing into ubiquitous technology than anything different by itself



  • AB: agile & lean seem to get rid of creativity - it’s seen as waste
  • JN: coding is creating too, not just visual
  • BK: anyone can create something now
  • AD: it normally just starts with a stupid idea!
  • BK: always looking to innovate within boundaries
    • would love to start with just a crazy idea but would probably get lynched!
  • JN: boundaries & constraints often inspire creativity
    • demoscene, 5K awards
  • AB: a creative person should know their tools
    • just coming up with an idea and having no idea how to make it doesn’t work as well

Alfie: “All mobile art is shit!”

  • AD: the art for mobile should involve using the sensors that make mobile different from desktop — otherwise just digital art
  • VK: not completely true: using a phone to draw & zoom in to add detail
    • also poems made for phones — short and fit the screen
  • JN: Japan has lots of book written for and on mobiles
    • Jürgen Scheible mobispray: virtual spray can using a projector and an N95
  • AB: for me, art is in a room with lighting
  • BK: guy using darts to recreate a Jackson Pollock style piece of artwork that others can join in to create


  • BK: iAd platform hooking into gestures & gyroscope
    • improving engagement
    • recent project — recreating a universe with gyroscope: achieved 90s engagement per unit
  • AB: brand slickness can get in the way of creativity — afraid to show things internally without making the UI slick
  • JN: a lot of people have a hard time imagining low-fi mockups as the real thing

Ilicco Elia: has anyone seen any decent mobile ads?

  • Mobile is like TV advertising at the beginning — started as presenters reading out adverts on air
    • seems to be web ads squeezed down into mobile screen
  • JN: South Korea — lunchtime sun sculpture
    • at noon, the shadows made a QR code that gave you a voucher
  • BK: hooking in to where am I and what is my context?
    • how can consumers create content that feeds into the campaign?
  • AB: don’t want banners — haven’t clicked on one for years
    • create a service, a site, an app that does something useful to engage people
  • VK: people don’t want banners on mobile
    • location-based advertising full of potential — and will be full of potential for years to come…

What in the last week, created by mobile that stuck in your head?

  • AB: lenticular image, move the device to see around
  • AD: art spotter
    • not focussed on selling stuff
  • JN: robot game that just looked so beautiful
  • BK: creatives project — james alloban
    • using your voice to select objects and create art

Social input?

  • HK: Tracey Moberly — artwork from instagram
  • AD: Normalize: the de-instagrammer app
  • BK: ascii art through twitter — playing out a car journey
  • VK: making art out of the spare bandwidth in QR codes
  • HK: social is reinvigorating arts & crafts
    • we can share the learning — it’s on the internet
  • JN: open source & creative commons
    • created an open source RPG with various international collaborators

some of the best art comes from taking a poke at society

  • harder in mobile? squandered due a need to monetize
    • flashmobs one counterexample
  • HK: rich people sponsoring art?
  • VK: certainly, but other sources of revenue available
    • last column in Guardian: can you make an app cheaply?
    • cost £300 in total
    • profit share is an alternative (Ed: but still profit driven)
  • JN: lot of people just create stuff for fun or a hobby
  • AD: technology has decimated artistic creativity
    • artists left behind by technological development
    • arts trying to address it through Digital R&D fund
    • trying to retrain visual artists digitally
    • my projects funded by people who will give me money for them!
    • starting with friends
  • BK: technology is not expensive, ideas are free, the hurdle is learning
    • “just learn enough to get you over the next hurdle”

gamification & serious games?

  • AD: Jane McGonagall turns the whole world into a game
    • academically led premise
  • AB: contextual tips as you’re playing are a great way to learn
  • VK: toby roland games manufacturer
  • AD: game where you play a real guitar at the device to progress (Rock Prodigy?)

MomoLondon: HTML vs Native

A lively and exciting debate (despite the old material!), well-run by Ewan MacLeod, Editor, Mobile Industry Review @ew4n


Team HTML5

  • Andrew Betts @triblondon
    • HTML5 apps for FT
  • Simon Arora, Biz Dev Mgr, Keynote DeviceAnywhere @devanywhere
    • Initially all about native
    • More and more customers asking for HTML5
    • More platforms with a single codebase
    • No need for appstore or marketplace certification
    • Wider reach to monetise services
  • Jose Valles, Head of Bluevia @josevalles49
    • Been an HTML5 supporter for a long time
    • Launching FirefoxOS device

Team Native

  • Alex Caccia, President, Marmalade @marmaladeapps
    • one of the leading cross-platform build platforms
    • take advantage of ARM instruction set…
    • two of top three games in US app store built using marmalade
    • HTML5 just doesn’t provide enough power - need native for performance
    • HTML5 does not solve fragmentation
  • Chris Book, Bardowl @bookmeister
    • native gives close access to device APIs
    • deal with different network situations
    • HTML5 doesn’t work for audio streaming and caching
  • Nick Barnett, CEO, Mippin @docnickb
    • make app builders for operators and manufacturers
    • provide both HTML5 and native app builders
    • it’s more about the business model and distribution
      • if you want to be in the app store, you have to be native

Last app you paid for?

  • AB: Open House London
    • because their website is appalling and doesn’t work
  • SA: Travel Deluxe
    • native london travel
  • JV: probably a skateboarding app, or tripit or spotify
  • AC: Expense Calculator
  • CB: New Star Soccer
    • 10 games free, then in-app purchases
  • NB: International Rules of Yacht Racing
    • native

All native apps. If you want to buy an app, it has to be in an app store…

What about Facebook?

  • AC: Hardware platform is moving faster than anything else
    • If you come up against an issue, you’re against the browser
    • The only way past is to know the details of the insides of the browser
    • Can’t solve it by logic (terrible for project management!)

FT web app UX

  • EM: FT webapp has to go through local cache expanding step before starting
  • AB: equivalent to installing an app from the store
    • if you say no, it still works; but in a potentially limited way
    • actually a benefit: allows levels of access

Stats from deviceanywhere

  • SA: out of 100 customers, top 25 are looking at HTML5
    • have a lot of enterprise customers
    • looking to increase their reach
  • NB: these customers already have iOS and Android apps?
  • SA: yes, looking to extend reach across devices without decent appstores

HSBC Business Banking

  • EM: it’s an utterly crap HTML5 experience
    • banks say they’d love to do HTML5, but security say no!
  • JV: why then do they have online banking?
    • want to keep customer experience
  • CB: native NatWest app is better than web experience…
    • haven’t been able to update their website in 12 years!
    • loads of apps where you use native app first rather than web site
      • e.g. Hailo, National Rail Enquiries
  • NB: cross-platform HTML5 is a nonsense
    • at Mippin, we build web app builders for each platform separately
  • AB: that’s just ‘cos you’re not doing it very well!
    • FT use same codebase for Android, iPhone, iPad
  • NB: but Windows Phone 7 UX is completely different from iOS
    • customers expect something different
    • so you need to write your UI differently anyway
    • may as well write it natively each time

How do we resolve vested interests? And designing for format?

  • AB: each format and each channel will have differing expectations
    • if you define your constraints narrowly enough, natively will always be better
    • if you have a broad strategy and vision, then web technology will win
    • what about TV? what about kiosks?
    • a single web technology solution will adapt to those situations
    • single code base works with touch, keyboard and gestures too!
    • at a recent hackday, FT Labs connected a Kinect and controlled the app without touching the screen
    • the FT webapp works in the way that the people reading the paper are used to — independent of device expectations
  • AC: want a fine degree of control over what it looks like and how it behaves
    • in gaming environment, you really want to make the app shine
  • CB: isn’t this all about the 30% that Apple want to take out of the subscription?
  • AB: it’s not (exclusively) about the 30% — it’s more about a direct relationship with the customer
    • enables customers to switch devices without losing their subscription
  • CB: but Spotify have native apps and still go cross platform whilst keeping relationship with customers
  • AB: if Apple changed their rules to say that Spotify would have to give a percentage of their revenue, then Spotify would be stuffed
  • NB: if the Daily Mail went the FT route would people get their news elsewhere?

Is it fair to say that HTML5 is destroying usability of mobile platforms?

  • JV: no, it’s building something
  • CB: Google Maps browser version just not as good as previous native version


  • NB: mippin use unique per platform wrappers
    • PhoneGap works well for iOS, not so well for Android
    • BlackBerry has WebWorks
    • hardcore gaming is a pretty specialist use case
  • CA: use the right tool for the right job
    • SDK supports HTML5 content within an app
    • and then you can switch out and use the native with ease
  • Audience: built a PhoneGap app and was appalled by performance
    • scrolling 50-100 names was just not good enough

Native provides consistent experience?

  • Spotify on some platforms lets you order playlist, Android doesn’t
  • if been written on HTML5, then would have worked fine
  • AB: people put 70% of budget into iOS
    • then 20% into Android
    • then 5% into Windows and Blackberry…
    • not surprising that non-iOS apps are crap


  • JV: 700K apps in Apple appstore, so discovery there is hard too
    • don’t see a difference
  • AB: FT not in a unique position – shared by lots of big brands
    • for small companies, app store is probably a good thing
    • FT have specialist native apps in the store which point users in the direction of the web app

Prisoners of the market owners?

  • NB: usual retail model: retailer takes 30-40% of revenue
    • and benefits can be considerable!
    • if you’re in Brazil in 2 years time with Boot2Gecko devices, then the mindset could be completely different
  • Dan Appelquist: isn’t that the issue — app stores are dragging us back into the old model that the open internet is breaking us out of
  • CB: yes, the dominance is worrying
    • but it’s a business making opportunity for startups
  • CA: native is not closed
    • hardware manufacturers trying to make best user experience

Security in native?

  • CB: difficult to securely store offline data
    • premium audio streaming is not yet possible in HTML5
  • EM: a bank developer said “the security people want a native app for encryption reasons”
  • AB: why does the online banking not just work on the phone?
    • yes, you can have encrypted storage, but do you need it

Best way in for mobile development

  • NB: use an app template toolkit for a size that fits
    • learn to be a mobile developer…
  • what if you just want to see your idea?
  • CA: most dangerous word when you start is “just”…
  • AB: the reason for the standard layouts on web is ads
    • have to build the design to fit the adverts
    • there’s been a boost in design creativity from moving to new formats
    • you can take that newfound focus on user experience and bring it back to the desktop
    • you’d never expect a mobile app to have big gutters down the side
    • unless it’s an iOS 5 app on an iPhone 5…


  • NB: issue for HTML5 apps
  • AB: W3C working on notifications as a spec…

New users from India, China & Brazil won’t be in Apple or Google’s ecosystem

  • NB: won’t be a technology decision — more of a distribution

Javascript libraries?

  • NB: 85% of development in HTML5 apps goes into javascript

Great new debugging suites for Android Chrome and iOS Safari

  • Dominic Travers: great time to develop HTML5 apps!

Will we still be arguing in 5 years’ time?

  • AB: native will always be able to innovate faster
    • web will be behind, but standardised
    • FT’s Android app is partly native for performance
    • as soon as the browser catches up, they’ll remove the native part


  • W3C community group
  • UKTI Competition Final 29th October
  • 7th Anniversary in November

dConstruct 2012

Catching up on publishing my notes from the last few months… Here’s dConstruct 2012 — a conference more about inspiring and provoking new ideas than specific technology.

The highlights were Scott Jenson demanding we come up with a better way to discover UIs for the Internet of Things; Tom Armitage telling us why we should build toys (and why they are different from prototypes); and James Burke (yes, that James Burke) taking us on a tour de force whirlwind journey through the history of technology. Not to mention Seb Lee-Delisle turning the entire audience into a giant fireworks display!

The audio for all the talks is available from the dConstruct archive. What follows is my rough notes covering the points that caught my interest.

The Flower, The Field and The Stack

Ben Hammersley @benhammersley

  • “if your code isn’t elegant, it’s probably wrong”
  • levels above individual UX:
    • social UX
    • what the experience does to the rest of society
  • how do we make those layers beautiful & elegant?
  • media does affect society
    • we deny the Daily Mail fearmongering
    • but build gamification, add marketing, etc
    • you are changing society in some way
  • what messages can or should we put out?
  • first generation in the history of humanity to have exponential growth in our capabilities (Moore’s law)
  • yet we are ruled by people who don’t quite understand that…
  • government wants us to be individual billionaires
  • but it’s not like that — the web is all community based
  • think about how to expose the interconnectedness — the symmetries

Cure for the Common Code

Jenn Lukas @jennlucas

Beyond Mobile - Beyond Web

Scott Jenson @scottjenson

  • no way that 60s mainframe guys would understand mobile phones
    • even if we told them about it they still wouldn’t understand
  • default thinking
    • e.g. when TV first came out, they read radio plays in front of the camera…
  • Scott was first mobile designer at Google
    • worked on Google Maps
  • felt tectonic plates changing from mobile OSes, to apps, to web
  • built a simple test and sent it out to a google mailing list
    • got 90,000 results in a few hours…
    • web-based — viral spreading
  • whole new world opening up and apps is an old world model

what’s happening:

  1. app glut: is there really going to be an app for every different thing?
    • the apps are like the Hitchhiker’s Guide mice – experimenting on us
    • value must be greater than pain
      • SMS: great pain but bigger value
      • Google making page load 0.4s faster: reducing pain
      • if you get pain down to zero then people usage
  2. size & cost reduction
    • e.g. pill bottle that calls your phone if you don’t open it each day!
  3. smart devices leverage other platforms
    • e.g. withings scale has interface on your phone

seen this before? where’s it going?

  • yahoo: catalogued links — grew too big
  • google: just search
  • RFID & sensors in everything (Bruce Sterling spimes)
  • triggers from physical locations
    • e.g. at bus stop want to see that departure board, not the whole app…
  • just in time interactions
    • use it, then lose it

paradigm shift

  • kuhn cycle:
    1. normal science
    2. model drift
    3. model crisis
    4. model revolution (because old science still works for most stuff)
    5. paradigm shift
    6. and back again…
  • software: if it’s so important, you have to reuse it
  • need to move to experience: discover, use, discard
  • trapped in the browser:
    • awesome experience with a command-line on top!
    • doesn’t really work so well on mobile without a proper keyboard…


  • asking for a detente between native and web
    • phones should have a discovery service
    • google my room rather than my world
    • access a list of nearby services
  • get the pain down to zero so I can get to the web as soon as possible
  • but web apps suck!
    • native is awesome and will always be more so than web
    • but talking about basic small things that can’t do apps
    • toasters, movie posters, etc
  • smart toaster, really?
    • because pain is low, the value doesn’t have to be high
    • change the “done” sound
  • use my phone all the time?
    • once you’ve got the “digital soul” of a thing
    • you can access it from anywhere
    • e.g. Sonos system: only accessible from phone with app…
  • no company will do this, no money…
    • have to think in layers
    • discover
    • interact
    • export/communicate
    • organise

chicken & egg

  • need to start building it from both ends
  • are we all going to be using iPhones 30 years from now?
  • no company will make this:
    • we are the next Apple!

The Hacker’s Guide To The Galaxy

Ariel Waldman @arielwaldman

  • black holes are like super-massive hackerspaces
    • spewing out all sorts of stuff
  • SETI are starting to look for light pulses as well as radio waves
  • planethunters - find exoplanets using human pattern detection
  • instead of discovering life in the universe, what if we put it there…?
  • astrobiology
    • water bears can survive for several days in the vacuum of space
    • lichen good at breaking down bare rock surfaces, and can live in the surface conditions of Mars
  • citizens in space
    • cubesats: 10cm^3 mini satellites
    • gathering ideas to send into space
  • university rover challenge
    • annual competition for universities to build next-gen robots
  • beard detector at science hackday
    • USB microscope connected to OpenCV
    • picked up by particle physicist to detect cosmic rays in a cloud chamber

Pixels People Play

Seb Lee-Delisle @seb_ly

  • PixelPhones
    • synchronizes phones across wifi
    • then detects positions using camera
    • open source on github
    • nyancatch — catch the nyan cat as he goes past your pixel phone
  • MMOsteroids (multi-player asteroids)
    • but not actually real…
  • digital fireworks based on motion detection at the bottom of the screen
  • using digital media to bring people together in interesting ways
    • phones normally put you in your own private world
    • pixelphones makes a gathered experience using the same
  • putting power in the control of the audience
  • web-based games: playing with the audience
    • your expectation of the other players changes your experience

Imagined Futures

Lauren Beukes @laurenbeukes

  • “those who can’t imagine the future are doomed to fuck it up”
  • the Cosby Show laid the way for Nelson Mandela
    • he made it possible for racist white south africans to see black people as people
  • Novel: Moxyland
    • looking at the gaps between the rich and the poor
    • how an apartheid state might come into being again
  • science fiction’s imagination
  • makes the future personal
  • focusing on a single person allows you to get close and understand a shocking event
  • fiction allows you greater empathy than journalism
  • re-imagining monsters
  • “the universe is made of stories not atoms”

The Save Button Ruined Everything

Backing up our digital heritage

Jason Scott, Computer Historian, owner of @sockington

  • “when my cat was being interviewed for People magazine…”
  • the floppy disk icon has no meaning to kids these days
    • they don’t know what it is
  • Timeshare system designed at MIT 1964
    • based on IBM 7094
    • SAVE command to save status
  • originally saving was a slow process
    • saving geocities etc
  • don’t delete things just because you think you’re done with them
  • it’s a responsibility
  • always provide an export function

Making Friends: Toys, Toying and Toymaking

Tom Armitage @tom_armitage,

  • father worked as an amateur woodworker — made toys
    • very impressive ones too — I’m jealous!
  • “I wonder if I make toys today because my dad made toys for me”
  • what is a toy: something you can fiddle with — a simulation
  • SimCity: not actually a good simulation of a city
    • but does expose the moving parts
    • stuff left out also important
  • caricatures:
  • Toys as Culture: Brian Sutton-Smith
  • modern day
    • The Demoscene
    • elevated by RGBA (4k program)
    • craft by Linus Åkesson (runs off a 9V battery)
  • free of work constraints
  • restricted by other constraints (file size, hardware, etc)
  • often have no utility
  • but definitely have purpose
  • Ghostcar
    • a foursquare account of yourself - timeshifted from a year ago
    • made Tom checkin more ‘cos he wanted good data
  • a time lapse video, with the scrubbing controlled by how close the viewer is to the screen
  • “we expose purpose and meaning through the making”
  • seamful design
    • emphasising the edges and transitions
  • LEGO is seams everywhere
  • so is twitter: it’s a messaging bus
  • tower bridge twitter account
    • exposed seams by its interactions with other people
    • followed by cab drivers so they knew not to drive across when it was open
  • Toca Boca: helicopter taxi
  • Chris O’Shea: makego — incomplete car
  • Makies: custom dolls
  • Toys are finished, not prototypes
    • they have seams but not rough edges
  • Thomas Heatherwick (designer of the Olympic Cauldron):
    • get things into the world quickly
    • don’t keep things in your imagination
  • Toys are small scope — that’s important: it means you can finish more stuff
  • when you’re making a toy, you have to imagine the player
    • you have to play with it while you’re making it
  • problem-solving is convergent but it’s obeying the problem
  • toy making is divergent… creative
  • making is playing is making

Does Prediction Have A Future? Admiral Shovel and the Toilet Roll

James Burke

These notes in no way capture James’s talk. Please listen to the audio recording and marvel!

  • focus is for computers
  • creativity and imagination is humans’ strong point
  • Burke working on a learning system
    • 2800 historical figures, events & ideas
    • connected 35,000 ways
  • Laplace: you want me to predict everything? fine! tell me everything
    • may soon be possible to gather, look at links and spot inconsistencies
    • but institutions often exist to maintain the status quo


  • representative democracy
    • invented because roads were slow…
    • now we have much faster comms
  • most of our social and organisational systems are based on scarcity
  • but the nanotech cornucopia machine will turn that into abundance
  • what happens to us socially? all the organisations and processes?
  • we may have only 40 years to work it out!