Posts tagged could

Could You Work A Week Without Your Phone?

Before I tell you what it was like to go a week without my smartphone, I have a confession to make: I cheated. 

Not much, mind you, but when ReadWrite editor-in-chief Owen Thomas asked one of his writers to take a week’s vacation from my mobile devices and write about the experience, I volunteered. I thought it would be much easier than it was.

It was painful.

No Phone, No Fun

I expected to go through withdrawal pangs from my obsessive addiction to my iPhone and Kindle Paperwhite.

But I wasn’t counting on how the world is increasingly designed for mobile. From mobile check-in at the airport to phone calls (remember those?) to taking selfies in exotic places (like, um, Atlanta), the world expects us to have a phone. 

There are workarounds, of course, but most aren’t worth the bother.

My week without mobile was unpleasant, but oddly satisfying. It made me rethink when and why I used my devices.

Day 1 (Remember The Sabbath Day, To Keep It Less Mobile)

As a religious guy I take my Sundays seriously. “Thou shalt rest from thy mobile device” is not a harsh commandment. At least, it shouldn’t have been. But by 6:30 am, I was already having problems detoxing. I had forgotten to turn off notifications and my phone was already buzzing with inbound text messages. 

Messages which—by the rules of my personal challenge—I was forced to pretend didn’t exist.

After muttering some very un-Christian words, I solved the problem by turning to Apple’s Messages app and Skype on my Mac.

I’m a self-identified iSlave, and Apple makes it easy for people like me to trade iMessages with other people using Macs, iPads, and iPhones. But for my Android friends—maybe some Windows Phone users, too—I had to use Skype to send texts. The downside to this option is that the texts are only one-way—even if you pay for a Skype number, you can’t receive texts. Anyone wanting to respond to me would only be able to reach me by SMS in a week. 

Telegram might be faster.

After all, I can’t really call them because, well, I don’t have a phone. Not this week. While there used to be pay phones around, they’re quickly fading from the Western world. Complicating matters, we currently don’t have a home phone because, well, mobile phones. (Curse you, Owen Thomas!)

It turns out Google Voice would have been a better option here, as I could have sent and received texts using that service, but I didn’t want to set up a whole new phone number.

The day went from mobile bad to mobile worse. At church, I couldn’t fill in the dull moments with surreptitious checking of news about Arsenal, my favorite soccer team. At night I gave up on reading Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, which I was reading on my Kindle. Technically, I could have logged into Amazon’s Kindle for Mac application, but the reading experience on a laptop is too unpleasant.

I ended up going to bed early because, well, what else was I going to do without my phone?

No smartphone? No Uber.

Day 2 (Mobile-Free Days And Mondays Always Get Me Down)

I have no idea why I decided to accept Owen’s challenge this week. Living without mobile seems manageable if you aren’t very mobile. But I travel extensively for work and this week was no different.

First thing, I had to fly to New York and, sure enough, this created problems. I always check in using Delta’s mobile app, which lets me change seats, view my upgrade status and more. Not today. Today I had to print out a paper boarding pass.

Or I would have, had I not also realized that I couldn’t hail an Uber without my phone, and getting a taxi this morning was simply too complicated (for a variety of reasons). Uber adultery committed, I decided to transgress with Delta, too. (Sorry, Owen! The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.)

In the old days, I wouldn’t have had a choice about putting my phone away when the plane took off. Now that the FAA has lifted its restrictions on in-flight usage of mobile devices, I was forced to think for an unbearable stretch of 30 minutes until we got to 10,000 feet and I could inhale the Internet through a Gogo Wi-Fi connection. 

At JFK, I saw the long taxi lines and I cheated again to use Uber to get to the MongoDB office in Midtown, with its glorious Internet connection. There, I felt capable of abandoning mobile forever …

… or at least, until it came time to find my way to dinner with my daughter down in the West Village. I looked up the fastest way to get to Barbuto on my laptop and hurried out the door with this knowledge in mind. Almost immediately it was rendered moot by the arrival of a third person. I had to resort to Google Maps for updated directions. 

The score: Matt vs. mobile, 0–4.

Day 3 (Tuesdays With Mobile-Free)

My mobile-free nightmare started the moment I woke up: My phone is my alarm. Thanks to Owen Thomas, I had to relearn how to program an alarm clock last night and, worried that I messed up, I also asked the hotel to wake me. At 5:00 am both started blaring at me.

It was not pleasant.

Nor was exercising without my music. Or checking in for my flight from LaGuardia to Atlanta, or getting from ATL to my meeting in Buckhead. Or finding a way to notify my lunch appointment that I’d be late.

The only pleasant thing about the ordeal was not having a way to peep in on the fantastic vacations my friends were having on Instagram and Facebook. Both are technically available on my laptop, but without those icons and notifications nudging me, I found no urge to check them. 

But disconnecting from friends also meant disconnecting from family. Reading to my youngest daughters is a beloved routine that makes my weeks on the road bearable. Owen Thomas and the crappy hotel Wi-Fi (for which I blame him, too) ruined that. I normally read to them off my Kindle over FaceTime. Instead, I tried Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader and Skype, but the sound quality was terrible. After enduring repeated Skype stutters, we gave up.

Days 4–7 (The Upside Of No Mobile)

The rest of the week got both worse and better as the week went on. Worse, because it became abundantly clear that the Western world is made for mobile. 

Even simple pleasures like going for a run or riding my bike require a mobile device if I want to track my times and record my miles (and I do, notwithstanding the “run/ride naked” movement). 

There are things that are both easier and better with my iPhone at my side.

But here’s the other thing I discovered in my week (mostly) without mobile: I got to think again. I don’t know if Google (or, in this case, mobile) is making us stupid, as Nick Carr famously argued, but I do know that my mobile devices have prompted me to be far more frenetic and less thoughtful than I used to be. A week without mobile helped me to rediscover a certain measure of serenity.

While the first flight without a mobile device to keep me company during taxi and takeoff was brutal, by my fourth flight of the week, I looked forward to the reprieve. 

And it reset my habits, at least for a time. Driving my car back home in Utah, I no longer needed to check my phone at every red light or stop sign.

In fact, I liked the “silence” so much that I took some great advice and turned off all notifications on my mobile devices, set email to “manually fetch” (which dramatically extends my battery life, too), and went a few places (like the gym) without my phone

Bizarre, but true.

I don’t expect to go another week without mobile. Maybe on a vacation, but not in the middle of a work week that involves heavy travel. 

But even on vacation, there are practical reasons to turn to a mobile device: getting directions, keeping track of my kids, looking up information. 

The goal, then, isn’t to completely eradicate mobile from my life, but to tame it. By understanding when I truly need my mobile devices, as opposed to just wanting them, I can return to a direct experience of the world around me. That’s a trip.

Images by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite

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With Twitch, Google Could Dominate The World Of Gaming Videos

Google is reportedly purchasing video game livestreaming platform Twitch for $1 billion. A Google spokesperson has declined to comment on the rumors.

Twitch, the world’s largest gaming website and community, lets gamers broadcast their live videoplay for viewers. It’s like the Netflix or Hulu for livestreamed games.

Livestream gaming on Twitch 

The report from VentureBeat on Thursday confirms an earlier report from Variety in May. 

Google is hoping for lightning to strike twice with their affinity for online video. For what Google accomplished with online video gargantuan YouTube after its purchase in 2006 for $1.65 billion, we can expect the same from Twitch.

This reported purchase also signifies the mainstream growth of the online video gaming community and the legitimization of gaming as a sport that people actually want to watch. It’s a huge opportunity for gamers and the advertisers who can profit billions from the virality.

The livestreaming platform has already developed an enormous community, albeit a niche one within the gaming subculture. And according to Twitch’s numbers from last year, audience numbers are skyrocketing.

The gaming service saw 45 million unique visitors per month last year, and 12 billion minutes of gaming were consumed each month in 2013. With one million broadcasters, Twitch sees more peak traffic than Facebook and Hulu.

Google’s reported acquisition also shows that the search engine giant is paying attention to YouTube’s thriving gaming community. Gaming channels like Stampylonghead and The Diamond Minecart have amassed over 3 million subscribers apiece.

YouTube’s most subscribed channel of all time stars Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie, whose gaming channel has now close to 29 million subscribers. Like many other gaming channels on YouTube, Kjellberg uploads videos of himself playing and reacting to games, popular draws being games like Happy Wheels and Flappy Bird.

With such a clear connection to the gaming community, YouTube and Google’s embrace of Twitch comes at the perfect time. We’ll just have to wait and see what Googly things might come from the gaming network in the future.

Images courtesy of Flickr user The World According To MartyDucksauce on

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Who Could Fill In for Matt Cutts? by @albertcostill

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, recently posted some big news. “I wanted to let folks know that I’m about to take a few months of leave. When I joined Google, my wife and I agreed that I would work for 4-5 years, and then she’d get to see more of me. I talked about this as recently as last month and as early as 2006. And now, almost fifteen years later I’d like to be there for my wife more.” Cutts says he’ll completely unplug, meaning that he won’t be checking his work email until October. (Side note: Anyone care […]

The post Who Could Fill In for Matt Cutts? by @albertcostill appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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How to Detect and Deal With Toxic Content (That Could Poison Your Entire Site)

It’s critical to habitually audit your domains for low-value content that could negatively impact organic search visibility. Here are some efficient ways to automate and scale your efforts by leveraging the following tools, tips, and tactics.

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Why Smartwatches Could Stand Some Old-School Watchmaking

The wristwatch is on the cusp of yet another revolution. Once the province of artisans working with finely crafted gears and springs, then of factories churning out mass-produced mechanisms tuned by quartz crystals, the watch is about to be born again as a creature of silicon and software.

That would herald a comeback of sorts for the world’s first wearable device, which fell on hard times ten to 15 years ago as people started relying on ubiquitous mobile phones as timepieces. Smartwatches neatly flip that older dynamic on its head by offering convenient access to a wealth of digital information and control without the need to pull a phone out of your pocket.

Yet today’s smartwatches still have plenty of evolving to do. Most of them are still fairly rudimentary gadgets with terrible battery life, scarcely able to function unless wirelessly tethered to a nearby smartphone.

In short, the modern smartwatch remains badly in need of some old-fashioned watchmaking—the art, that is, of miniaturizing complex devices by crafting tiny components and combining them into ever more capable precision assemblies. These days, of course, that means marrying simple-to-use yet highly capable software with powerful but highly energy-efficient chips and sensors that won’t drain a small battery in less than a day. But the same basic principles are at work now as they were 500 years ago.

To see why, we’ll need to take a quick jaunt through the history of watchmaking.

Watch Out

Watchmaking has long been considered a fine art. German craftsmen built the first watches—then known as clock watches—in the 16th century, basing them on the “mainspring,” a spiraling metal ribbon that could store mechanical energy by winding and then release it slowly as it unwound.

Peter Henlein of Nuremberg, who built expensive but portable brass clocks for the nobles of his day to carry or wear as pendants, sometimes gets credit for inventing the watch, although a number of other German clockmakers were also tinkering with portable timepieces in the early 1500s. The German humanist Johann Cochlaeus immortalized Henlein in 1511:

Peter Hele, still a young man, fashions works which even the most learned mathematicians admire. He shapes many-wheeled clocks out of small bits of iron, which run and chime the hours without weights for forty hours, whether carried at the breast or in a handbag.

Over subsequent centuries, generations of craftsmen refined those mainspring-based clock watches with innovations such as the balance spring and the cylinder (and later lever) escapement. Watches grew accurate, cheaper and smaller over time—evolving first into pocketwatches, then wristwatches. By the mid-1800s, a U.S. factory began mass production of mechanical watches made with interchangeable parts.

In a crude sense, these mechanical watches essentially functioned as the first mobile devices in history—ones that offered their users both data and a form of connectedness by synchronizing them with other watch-wearers. Wristwatches boomed in popularity among military officers in the late 19th century for precisely that reason.

The mechanical watch reigned until electronic quartz-crystal watches emerged in 1969. These timepieces used a quartz crystal resonator that vibrated 8,192 times a second, driven by a battery powered oscillating circuit. That resonator could turn the hands on an analog watch face, although it took only a year for companies to produce the first digital watch with an LED display.

Quartz watches rapidly took over the market, devastating the mechanical-watch specialists of Switzerland. Swiss-style watches only began to stage a comeback in 1983 with the Swatch—a line of stylish analog (but quartz-driven) watches intended to reassert Swiss design principles in a world of cheap digital watches.

Digital quartz watches, meanwhile, exploded in popularity throughout 1980s and 1990s. New models came packed with new functions and expanded into a dizzying variety of niches, some of them evolutionary dead ends—calculator watches, the Casio Game-10 watch, and the first watch that let you watch live television on your wrist.

Time To Take A Call

Soon enough, though, the bell tolled for digital watches as well, in the form of the cellular ringtone.

“Youngsters don’t have watches today,” French watchmaker Peter Besnard told the Agence France-Presse during a 2005 watch convention in Europe. “If they want to know the time, they look at their mobile, which never leaves them.”

Up to that point, watches doubled as both timepieces and fashion accessories; afterward, they mostly turned into pure fashion symbols. Cellphones, and then the iPhone and other smartphones, quickly emerged as the go-to utility-gadget-cum-fashion-accessory for many people.

Not that watchmakers didn’t try to strike back. In 2000, Swatch announced the Swatch Talk phone, a Dick Tracy-style two-way cellphone communicator watch. The idea was to strip down a cellphone into its constituent parts to fit in a watch casing. Swatch eventually abandoned its plans because of the technical difficulty of building a watch with a cellular radio.

“I’m convinced that the Internet watch will be even more successful than the mobile,” said Nick Hayek Jr., then president of Swatch S.A. and now CEO of the Swatch Group, in a 2000 New York Times interview. Swatch may have been prescient, but it was also 14 years too early.

Samsung Gear Live, Pebble Steel, LG G

The Companion Watch

Though it’s clear that the smartwatch hasn’t yet come into its own.

Take, for instance, the first watches built to use Google’s Android Wear softwear. If you’ve happened to try out either of the first Android Wear smartwatches—the Samsung Gear Live and the LG G Watch both launched at Google’s recent I/O developer conference—you may have started to realize both their promise and their limitations.

For both developers and consumers, Android Wear is all about notifications. Regular Android app notifications automatically show up on an Android Wear smartwatch. These include text messages, emails, call alerts, social-message notices, calendar items and much more. Most of these will also you to take some kind of action—archiving an email, for instance, or sending a quick text-message reply via voice input.

Consumers don’t download apps straight to an Android Wear smartwatch. In fact, unless you’ve received a notification, the watch offers very little navigation at all—you can access voice commands to send texts or press your way into a settings menu, and that’s about it. 

Google’s Android engineering team at Google I/O 2014

Which just highlights the fact that the current round of Android Wear devices—plus the forthcoming Moto 360—are not are full blown computers in their own right. All the information they provide to you arrives via the phone’s Internet connection and is then piped to the watch via Bluetooth. 

The smartwatch we have now isn’t really close to the “Internet watch” that  Swatch envisioned nearly 15 years ago. They’re more like companion watches, wholly dependent on the phone for apps, a data connection and local processing power.

From Quartz To Silicon

Quartz may be giving way to silicon, but watchmaking is still a fine art. Digital smartwatches still require engineers who know how to miniaturize complicated components. And, of course, Moore’s Law continues to roll forward, shrinking down the size of electronic components, allowing engineers to pack them together more tightly and miniaturize the devices that rely on them. 

That gives the smartwatch lots of room to evolve.

Right now, for instance, the LG G Watch can’t make phone calls, doesn’t have a GPS sensor to track movement (for a long run or bike ride), doesn’t have a full Internet browser, the battery life is about a day-and-a-half and it runs no apps. It’s a long, long way from my own personal ideal smartwatch—one that would accurately track my progress on a 60-mile bike ride while streaming music to Bluetooth ear buds without draining the battery, all without a smartphone anywhere nearby.

See also: Why The All-In-One Smartwatch Is Not Happening Anytime Soon

That ideal smartwatch isn’t particularly close to reality right now. A couple of companies claim to make “smartwatches” that handle all those functions, but these things are basically undersized and underpowered smartphones with a wrist strap. They aren’t really watches.

Talent Wanted: Miniature Specialists

Which brings us back to the fine art of watch making.

The beauty of the talent of the early watch makers was that they were able to assemble complex mechanisms from tiny components, build them into small cases and make them both functional and very nice to look at. There’s a reason that watchmaking was considered a fine talent for hundreds of years: making complex and accurate devices that were also the height of fashion was hard to do.

Watch face for LG G with Android Wear

That’s exactly the challenge facing computer companies in the era of the smartwatch. While they’re no longer working with springs and gears and quartz crystals, they’re still trying to cram the functionality of a much larger and widely used device—the smartphone—into a package less than an inch wide and weighing a few ounces. Oh, and it has to look smart, too.

This is not going to be easy. Not for the makers of Android Wear watches, and not for Apple, should it release a smartwatch later this year as rumored. Not easy at all.

Lead image by ReadWrite: Google’s reproduction of the Jayrun Waterclock, one of the first time keeping devices built by Arab engineer Muhammad al-Sa’ati in 1203, at Google I/O 2014. All images in article body by ReadWrite. Slideshow image credit in parenthesis.

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Larry Page On Right To Be Forgotten: “Could Have Arrived At More Practical Place Than Court Ruling”

Larry Page offered his thoughts on the European court’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling during an interview at Google’s I/O conference this week with New York Times reporter Farhad Manjoo. Page claimed it would have been better if there had been more discussion around the…

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Page On EU Right To Be Forgotten: “Could Have Arrived At More Practical Place Than Court Ruling”

Larry Page offered his thoughts on the European court’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling during an interview at Google’s I/O conference this week with New York Times reporter Farhad Manjoo. Page claimed it would have been better if there had been more discussion around the…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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SEO Mistakes You Could Probably be Making – Business 2 Community

SEO Mistakes You Could Probably be Making
Business 2 Community
We have dealt with in the past blogs too about the kind of SEO mistakes that you may be committing. Even if we were to shout ourselves hoarse, you could still be making many follies, even though unintentionally. You need to understand that SEO is …

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The Cloud-Computing Market Could Be Much, Much Bigger Than We Thought

A billion dollars isn’t what it used to be. Indeed, anyone that hanging around the cloud computing industry for the past couple of years has been barraged by $1 billion strategic commitments from big vendors like IBM and HP. While $1 billion sounds like a big number, it’s not always clear how much of those billions are being spent on hand-waving marketing versus serious cloud engineering. 

Even if we credit these efforts as serious attempts to transform old-school enterprises into new-school cloud vendors—and we should—what’s more interesting is to understand just how much business is actually moving to the cloud.

A startup out of Portland, Oregon, called Cloudability may be able to tell us. And the answer is, “far more than we may have imagined.”

Billions In The Clouds

Cloudability gives companies visibility into how much money they’re spending for cloud computing services like Amazon Web Services (AWS). Last week, Cloudability crossed the $1 billion mark in cloud spending managed by its system. That’s $1 billion in cloud spend in the three years since its founding, $999,000,000 more than the company managed in 2011.

For a still relatively small startup to be notching those kinds of numbers, it suggests that even our most optimistic estimates of cloud computing spend may be low.

Earlier this week I talked with Cloudability’s CEO, Mat Ellis to get his thoughts on the significance of its own $1 billion announcement and why cloud spending is accelerating.

One of the big shifts driving more money being spent on AWS and other cloud services, Ellis points out, is the cloud is becoming an essential part of the “compute supply chain.” In other words, rather than vertically-oriented IT services built and running within the company’s own data centers, companies are shifting more IT services to public cloud services and plugging into published APIs rather than write their own code. 

A shift is taking place away from isolated, departmental deployments to public cloud resources and instead “enterprises-wide spending.” Some of this is driven by a desire to shift spending from capital expenditure to operational expenditure. Some of it is simply driven by increasing comfort with public cloud security and performance. Whatever the reason, enterprises are clearly spending lots of money on cloud computing.

Analyzing And Controlling Cloud Spend

The growing amount of dollars going into enterprise cloud deployment is why a company like Cloudability can exist. As Ellis suggests, while everybody knows cloud is growing, “what they don’t know is the havoc it’s having inside companies as they try to manage their spending.” Developers who report into a line of business are tasked with writing applications. How is of less importance. This ‘bottom-up’ IT phenomenon is “a big reason cloud cost analytics have become mandatory for large buyers of cloud services” because, “if you’re spending lots of money on cloud, you have to manage it actively,” according to Ellis.

Which, of course, is exactly what we saw happen with the growth of the open source movement.

Open source, beloved by developers even as it was initially shunned by company executives, became part of the business fabric of software development without the business leaders ever realizing what happened. Cloud spending has followed this same path. Unlike open source, where lawyers got involved to ensure nobody was giving away critical IP, in cloud computing it’s very become a mater of managing cost.


As Ellis points out, this isn’t about cutting cloud spending, but rather about channeling it:

Cloud analytics really isn’t about cutting costs, like most people think, but rather to see where it’s happening and where it could be best spent. In fact, nearly all of our enterprise customers are using us to help them expand their cloud usage, but in a controlled and efficient way. Once you’ve demonstrated this stuff works and makes you a profit there’s really no stopping it.

Developers, Developers … Developers!

When I asked Ellis what all this means for traditional IT, his response was immediate: “The CIO role is fundamentally changing.” Not changing in a “the CIO is doomed” sort of way, but changing in terms of a fundamental shift in what the chief information officer does.

CIOs, Ellis says, generally understand that the entire way they buy, sell and support IT services is shifting. One of the biggest challenges CIOs have is when and how to really engage with the cloud. I quoted Fidelity Investments’ CIO in recently, “We know about all the latest software development tools. What we don’t know is how to organize ourselves to use them.” This is true of CIOs and public cloud services, too. The spirit is willing; the flesh proves very weak.

But the first step is to understand how their users are spending money, Ellis points out.

As for developers, cloud’s impact on them is huge, too. Ellis suggests that, “They’re now operating in territory beyond the code they write,” with “corporate visibility into their spending that forces new levels of fiduciary responsibility.” But, again, it’s not really a matter of cutting down spending, but instead “analytics tools like ours give them the ability to justify asking for more resources to do more things.”

More resources to do more things. Billions more.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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Apple’s Swift Move: How Its New Coding Language Could Shake Up iOS Development

Guest author Alex Salkever is head of product marketing and business development at This piece first appeared on his Tumblr.

At the 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple released an entirely new programming language called Swift. It is a higher level coding language that aims to provide the power of Objective-C with the flexibility of higher level scripting languages such as Node.js or Python.

In theory, Swift should make it far easier to write iOS apps that run as fast or faster than those scripted painstakingly within the more cumbersome, time-consuming and risky confines of Objective-C. If Swift delivers even partly on its promise, it could be huge boon for companies that want to build iPhone apps. iPhone developers have been the hottest ticket on the global software market for a number of years.

The good ones command nose-bleed level hourly rates of $250 to $300 per hour. Starting salaries for entry level iOS coders that have passed rigorous coding challenge tests run from $120,000 per year north. Senior iOS devs have commanded $200,000 from larger enterprises seeking their experience.

Why the high prices for iOS talent? Supply and demand. It’s very hard to learn Objective-C well enough to write compelling, high-performance apps. Learning how to manage memory in iOS and how to best take advantage of the capabilities of the hardware takes time, effort and a deep understanding of Objective-C.

A Swiftly Tilting Labor Market

Enter Swift, which—again, if it works as Apple clearly hopes—will with one stroke dramatically lower the bar for writing an iPhone app. The language is designed to make it much easier for coders to write iPhone apps both quickly and well. That should rapidly expand the market for coders with iPhone skills; in turn, the cost of building iPhone apps, which is primarily a function of wages for developers, will fall.

That’s bad for existing iPhone developers, but good for everyone else. Apple will enjoy a rush of new iPhone apps entering the market.

Startups and enterprises building iPhone apps will be able to pick from a wider talent pool, and in the not-too-distant future, they’ll build those apps with developers paid mere mortal salaries in the low six figures. The only folks who don’t win here, in addition to the iOS developers who have been making huge bucks, are the iOS education programs that charge devs top dollar to upgrade their iOS chops and move up the coding salary ladder.

For consumers, too, this is a big win. Better apps. More apps. Cheaper apps. Apple, too, may hope that the switch to Swift, which might turn out to be an easier development environment than Java for Android, could help Cupertino reclaim lost handset market share. Check back in on Swift in six months for a more complete verdict.

Lead image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee, CC 2.0

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