Popcorn Time: An App To Wa…
A new app that not only looks beautiful but also solves a real human problem just came out. The only issue is that it’s not exactly legal.
The app is called Popcorn Time and it’s for your computer (Mac or Windows). It lets you watch brand new movies that just came out in the theater from the comfort of your own home. For free. Which is why it’s not legal.
It gets the movie files from torrents but removes all the techy knowledge you need to understand, download, package and manage them.
You stream movies just like Netflix, the only difference being where they’re served from. There’s likely no adaptive streaming and you can’t watch them from anywhere, but for just watching what you want, when you want, for the price of nothing, not much beats it.
It’s what consumers want in a video product, but can’t get because of big business, negotiated deals, and too many entities to corral.
It’s a gorgeous app that works as advertised. It’s up to you whether you want to poke a sleeping giant.
iOS 7.1 Design & Developmen…
Yesterday Apple released an update to is premiere device and operating system: the iPhone’s iOS.
You’ll find a bit better usability and a fix for that pesky quick restart your phone might have done to you a million times since launch.
Apple’s typical software release cycle is as follows:
- Spend 1-2 years writing code for the major software release (e.g., iOS 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
- Fix any bugs immediately after launch (e.g., iOS 7.0.1)
- Fix any other things that aren’t up to snuff usability or functionality wise (e.g., iOS 7.1) as fast as possible
- Spend the rest of the time working on the next major software release (i.e., iOS 8)
This is a very different practice than the rest of the modern software development industry, which relies heavily on continuous deployment. That is, write some code and push it to production immediately after it passes QA and automated testing. The effect is that you rarely notice a change and instead get something that evolves slowly, surely, and steadily over time. The effect is what you’ve experienced with Facebook or Twitter over the years (minus the major UI redesigns that comes with a special launch).
The reason Apple front-loads all its development effort is for one simple reason: marketing. It gets consumers amped for all the new things that come out, do a major press push around that time, and get everyone in the world talking about it.
Imagine if iOS 7 didn’t come out in 1 day but instead gradually evolved from iOS 6 to iOS 7. Not only would it feel awkward mixing styles and visual effects (this is another reason for one major release), but you also wouldn’t get the shock and awe effect that comes with updating your iPhone in one fell swoop.
In an age where the pendulum has swung so far towards “move fast and break things”, Apple is still a breath of fresh air.
As with most things in life, I ascribe to a philosophy of “everything in moderation”, both in animation and software development.
If you’re looking for an animated overview of all the new features in iOS 7.1, I’ve yet to find a better post than this one: Here Are All The Design Tweaks Apple Made With iOS 7.1
Secret, A $50M App Idea I S…
It’s actually beginning to get a bit laughable how these things I’ve concepted or built are going on to raise tens of millions in venture capital or have huge exits.
"Doesn’t count", you say. "If you built Facebook, you would have built Facebook", you say. Agreed. But that’s not the point.
First there was group text messaging. We shut it down because there was no way to make money (and the SMS short codes were prohibitively expensive). GroupMe launched 6 months later at TechCrunch Disrupt, raised VC, then sold to Skype/Microsoft for $80 million.
Then there was Gmail Snooze. Or what you might know it as today as Mailbox. Which Dropbox bought for $100 million, I think. Can’t quite remember.
Then there was StoryApp. Or what you might know as Flipagram, which raised $60 million with what I’d call a shittier user experience but included music instead of voice (we were too early, sadly, and had to shut it down because people are still self-conscious of recording their own voice).
And now Secret, which just raised $50 million. There was a different app I saw crop up recently that actually used the same name as the one I built. I called it Confide 3 years ago. It’s still up: Post Secrets, Frustrations, Joys & Pains. It lets you post anonymous joys or pains for the world to see. Secret is just v2.0 for the mobile, non-web era.
All of this tells me that for the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve been right on the money for concept and timing (except one case). My biggest problem is I’ve been unwilling to raise venture capital or pollute my apps with advertising. Unfortunately, in the consumer market, the death bell tolls.
Maybe it’s stupidity on my part. Probably. Or maybe it just means that I’m unwilling to sell my soul to the highest bidder. I never got into technology to be the biggest celebrity in the Valley. Or the richest cat in the club.
No, I quit my job a month before graduating business school staring $100,000 in student loan debt directly in the face because I believed technology had the power to help people. I’ve witnessed it have the power to save a life.
Maybe I should sell my soul to save a life. But for some reason it just feels dirty. And because of that I’ll never create anything that gets any attention. But maybe one day I’ll create something that saves a life. And really that’s the biggest success I can imagine.
Not pursuing a startup early exit, but saving a life from one.
Greatest Rapper of All Dayl…
Today marks two significant (or insignificant, depending upon your perspective) moments in history.
The first is daylight savings time. “Spring forward” means we lost an hour last night. Hope you enjoy your extra hour of daylight.
The second is the day Notorious BIG was shot and killed. In honor of his music, and this day, lets think of all the good things in life. It’s juicy.
What Is Perfection?
Can you achieve it as an imperfect human? Can you build products that are perfectly imperfect? Do machines help us or hurt us in this endeavor?
I have two short videos for you to watch as you ponder these questions.
The first is a 7-minute short about 1 of only 3 perfect putt-putt games ever completed. 18 shots. 18 holes in one in tournament play. Simply perfect.
The second is an old favorite of mine. It’s a 10-minute short about a writer who began making hand-made knives when he failed at his first love.
Every knife is unique, but uniquely perfect. There’s a waiting list a mile long. But that’s not what the video is about. It’s about grinding through pain to make things:
Made by Hand / No 2 The Knife Maker
Japanese Business Etiquette
I’ve got a business trip planned to Tokyo this month and as a result I’ve been doing research into appropriate etiquette.
As Americans, we’ve downplayed formal etiquette so much, especially with our bosses, that it’s blurred lines between authority. We’ve dressed down to t-shirts and jeans, especially in more creative or technological settings.
But in Japan, I believe the men are still wearing suits, are clean shaven, treat business cards with respect, and rarely remark poorly on associates, competitors, or bosses.
As there are a few of us going, I’ve thought that not only getting business cards printed in Japanese would be a sign of respect, but that each one of us should bring a gift as well as one from our company.
You may have heard scotch is big in Japan, or maybe thought Sake was the thing to drink, but in fact it’s more Bourbon. So we’re getting some things you can’t find in Japan.
But what about shaking hands, bowing, and speaking Japanese? I think you follow the other person’s lead, and I’ll be studying up on some Japanese so I can converse at a basic level, but I think it all comes down to basic human principles.
Treat the person across from you with kindness and respect and forge an ongoing partnership. Not this stuff you see Kevin Spacey preaching in House of Cards. That’s a different game entirely. One that I’ll always “bow” out of.
The Private NYC Google Glas…
Two days ago I attended the Google Glass event at their Glass store across from Google’s NYC office.
There were maybe 40 people in attendance and as you might imagine, most of them were wearing their glasses. Not the dumb kind with lenses, but the smart kind with recording devices and voice recognition.
The event started with a few drinks, mingling and hors d’oeuvres (god, how the hell do you even spell this word??). It then moved into a 1-on-1 conversation between a Glass marketing representative and a reporter from Vice who wore Glass in dangerous conflict zones all over the world.
He talked about the beauty of hands free and how in some countries it saved his life, but in others it made it more at risk. The one thing he really wanted to do with it was simply say, “OK Glass, go live” and have Glass start streaming live video.
It’s not surprising to me that Glass doesn’t come with that capability out of the box. Most consumers think live streaming is as simple as just pointing your iPhone at something and hitting the record button.
There’s a ton of fancy production technology and terms like transcoding, bandwidth, player integration, and CDNs. It’s enough to make a layman’s head spin.
But if you think about what you can do when the world becomes performers and the implications for law enforcement for always-on recording, you might imagine a better world (or a more creepy one).
My sense is that Glass is a standalone consumer device, sure, but the company’s real plan for it isn’t just as a smartphone on your face, but actually creating vision technology for the robots they’re building in the secret Google[X] laboratories.
Thoughts on Apple’s New Car…
Well, you had to imagine they were going to do it eventually. It’s a huge consumer problem that’s needed solving for years.
For example, the next time you’re in a car driving down the road, look at the driver next to you. Not only is he/she not paying attention to that billboard that some company is spending $100,000 on monthly, but he/she’s also not looking at the road. Guess where drivers are looking?
That’s how great a product the iPhone is. It’s so addictive that even when driving I can’t ignore it.
So Apple had to solve a problem they created with their own product. Namely, safety and convenience. I’ll let others debate the merits of launching with Ferrari or analyzing feature sets. To me those details aren’t as important as the macro trend that Apple is addressing.
I bought a car last year and I’ll tell you that having true Apple integration with my iPhone in the car would have shifted my buying behavior. Think about the implications of that for a moment. A device that you can get into for only a few hundred dollars is impacting which cars consumers will buy to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. $200 driving $20,000. Wow, talk about a powerful product.
I was at a private Google Glass event for their beta Explorers who have a device (we have one). But I’m hard pressed to imagine Google Glass driving purchasing behavior for cars.
Apple is useful. Google is shiny and new.
More on that tomorrow. But for now, I’m giving Apple’s CarPlay a huge pat on the back. It will be fun to watch it evolve over time, just as the iPhone has done.
Scraping The Web For Profit
There’s a new tool out there called Kimono, that two enterprising young chaps spent 6 months building and is already garnering interest from acquirers and capitalists alike.
Maybe you’ve heard of it: http://ift.tt/1kuvVoqgn/2014…
In short, there turn any web page into an API. What can you do with it?
Basically anytime you’ve ever said to yourself, I have this idea but need a developer, this tool may be able to help.
As someone who’s done a bit of engineering and spent a lot of time around developers, both web and mobile, I can tell you this is a big deal and has lots of potential.
I can already imagine the crazy mashups, from giphy and the New York Times breaking news section, or something a little less comedic like Olympic medal tracking.
The biggest problem, though, of a service like this is that it’s total open playing field. The possibilities are endless and therefore the use cases are infinitely misunderstood by everyday people.
A few generations of this, and it will allow Lego style building blocks for everyday people to build any app without knowing how to code.
You thought computers were a revolution in how we worked? Wait until this vision becomes a reality. You’re going to see a renaissance of man manipulating machine like you’ve never experienced before.
Just watch out for Judgement Day. That damn Skynet always messing up people’s good times.
FaceTime Audio, Now On Your…
Per my last post (iMessage’s Frictionless New Voice & Video Messaging), here’s the new interface that shows you the volume of your voice as you talk.
Apple is preparing something big with FaceTime audio and video. They’re looking to kill the cellular carriers. Pretty insane that they’re competing with AT&T, but that’s the one thing that they need.
But that’s Apple for you: remove every possible threat to become totally vertically integrated. One company, a few incredible products, all working seamlessly together.
Add on top of that the incredible level of secrecy and the