20 May 2010

Why I Need An iPad

Lots of people have been asking me why I need an iPad (I plan on getting one really soon).

Here are the answers that I've been giving them (and myself) on why I need an iPad, before owning one:
  • It turns on really fast (much faster than a laptop). This is great for taking notes, looking something up, checking my calendar...
  • Relatively lightweight to carry around. I know a netbook may be lighter but carrying around an iPad is lighter than my laptop
  • It can do most of the essential things I need to do on my laptop, especially when on the go: email, web, docs (mainly Google docs), twitter, watching videos, Skype
  • It has a great interface for playing games
  • The non-committal data plan. Whenever I'm in the States I can just purchase a $15 dataplan for that specific month, directly from the device. Very convenient. 
  • It's cool, innovative, and really sleek (I gotta be a part of the revolution), which brings me to my final reason:
  • Cuz I'm a geek, duh :)
So it won't replace my laptop altogether but while travelling it pretty much has me covered.

Here are the things I think I will be missing by carrying around only an iPad:
  • No way to sync my iPhone (for backing up and transferring media)
  • No Bittorrent client
  • No way to convert videos for viewing on the iPad

17 May 2010

Modern Spyware

Let's start with a confession: I'm a Foursquare addict. The minute I arrive somewhere, I pull out my iPhone and check in on foursquare to let my ‘friends' know where I am. I also use Blippy when I buy stuff and I send pics of what I'm eating to Fiddme. My Last.fm account broadcasts to everyone what music I'm listening to, in real time.
Oh, and I tweet at least 30 times a day.

What's my point? Well, it's like this: A few years ago, I wouldn't even upload my photo and put it online, for fear of exposing myself to potential unwanted evils. Spyware had reared its ugly head and was out to get us.

But, enter the age of modern spyware, and we're all sucking it up. Why? Cuz it's fun, it's entertaining, it makes us feel important to have an audience. Besides, it's no longer perceived by the masses as being spyware. Hell, it's become weird NOT to do it – we're opting in, en-masse, to let companies spy on us. We're willingly and excitedly spying on ourselves and reporting in as often as possible, letting the world know pretty much everything there is to know about us.

And the more, the merrier, is the goal here; not only do we want an audience, but we follow up on who's following us, how many - we want numbers and we publish those numbers with pride: "I have 20,000 followers on Twitter!!"

So the question remains, WHY? Why do I spend so much of my time checking in and tweeting and posting? Why are so many of us unwilling to put down our smartphones before sticking the fork in our steaks, or getting on the treadmill? Is this a massive case of world-wide narcissism? Are we that attention-starved, or are we all just trying to stretch our 15 seconds of fame as far and wide as they'll go?

I've pondered this long and hard, and here's what I've come up with:
  1. I guess the number of followers I have somehow makes me feel more significant than the four real-life friends I'm sitting to dinner with in ten minutes. Yes, dammit, I need to feel important.
  2. I like the idea that I'm logging my life and can keep track of what I've done, where I've been, etc. For both me and for future generations who'll be able to look back and see that grandpa bought an iPad when it first came out (assuming they'll give a damn).
  3. There's something comforting in knowing that while the big, scary, chaotic world around us expands and accelerates, I'm part of a global community that's getting closer and cozier with knowing more about one another.
  4. To accelerate serendipity - when I arrive someplace, like a restaurant, I can immediately know if somebody I know is also there and connect with them.
  5. To get a feeling for what's hot and what's not. When I see that lots of people go to the same restaurant (over time) it basically serves as a recommendation from my friends for the place. Same for bad reviews.
  6. As a means of showing appreciation – if I get good customer service, have a tasty meal, find a great deal… I get an innate urge to share my happiness with the world and show appreciation for whoever/whatever was responsible for momentarily making me happy.
  7. It brings people into my world and gets me closer to the people around me. This is probably the gist of it. I'm no longer alone when I choose not to be.
Shit, Foursquare just let me know that my friends are already at their table, and I'm clearly late for dinner.
Gotta run...

This is a real shot taken when I went out with some friends to eat together in a restaurant.

11 May 2010

Are we in control of our own decisions?

In this great presentation from TED, Dan Ariely demonstrates how easily we are guided into making specific decisions, all while being under the illusion of being in control (not me of course :).

Here are some of the highlights, excuse the crappy screenshots (the entire 17 minute video is embedded below).

In a survey among different countries the percentages of people willing to donate their organs varied quite a bit:

When checking to see why there were such differences between countries, they checked for cultural differences between countries and saw there was no correlation (Austria and Germany for example are culturally similar but have totally different percentages of organ donors).

The answer came from checking the donor form at the DMV.
In some countries (the ones with the low organ donor rate) there was a section like this in the form:
People wouldn't read the text, not check the box, and not join the organ donor program.

In other countries the same question would appear but with a slight variation:
and people would also not read the question, not check the box, but by doing so they would join the organ donor program.
(This is a classic opt-in vs. opt-out decision used in almost all online forms)

Another example he gives is in this sign up form for a newspaper:
1. is a web only subscription
2. is a print only subscription
3. is both web and print subscription for the exact same price as option 2

When presented with these 3 options, these were the percentages of people's choices:

So the middle option is useless (nobody chose it) and can be removed, right?
Look what happened when it was removed and only option 1 and 3 were offered:

So by offering a "useless" option, that nobody chose, the perceived value of the third (more expensive) option went up and more people chose it (because they believed they were getting more for the same price).
That "useless" option made more people pay $125 instead of $59.

Not bad, ah?

Check out the entire video: