Siri, Why Aren’t You Sassy? – Megan Garber – The Atlantic

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Your iPhone, for better or for worse, is no Dorothy Parker.

That could be changing, though. Because Siri, bless her, could be getting a speechwriter. As the blog 9-to-5 Mac reported, Apple recently posted a job announcement for a “writer/editor” for Siri — a listing seeking someone to “develop and write original dialog to support new Siri capabilities.” From the sounds of things, Apple is seeking that someone in order to, essentially, re-write Siri as a sassy sitcom character.

Here’s the job description:

We’re looking for a uniquely creative individual to help us evolve and enrich Siri, our virtual personal assistant. Siri’s known for ‘her’ wit, cultural knowledge, and zeal to explain things in engaging, funny, and practical ways. The ideal candidate is someone who combines a love for language, wordplay, and conversation with demonstrated experience in bringing creative content to life within an intense technical environment.

via Siri, Why Aren’t You Sassy? – Megan Garber – The Atlantic.

New Statesman – Love rectangle (impact of the iPhone)

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The iPhone was, in effect, two inventions. The first was a smartphone that was easy to use – a revolution in itself, as all previous smartphones had been very user-hostile. Real ease of use was made possible by the capacitive touchscreen, a sheet of glass with an electrostatic field that is distorted by the touch of a finger. By fine-tuning this distortion, each touch becomes a fantastically precise control mechanism. There are only four mechanical controls on the iPhone. The machine is the screen.

The second invention was much more revolutionary. It was the “app”, short for application. When it was first launched, the iPhone was locked – it could not do any more than Apple intended. But, on 10 July 2008, Apple opened the App Store, which allowed users to download approved apps to their phones. To date there have been over 25 billion downloads of more than 700,000 apps.

The deflationary effect on software prices has been spectacular. When apps were known as applications, they were expensive and came on discs in boxes with fat and incomprehensible instruction manuals. Now they are either free or ludicrously cheap and they don’t need manuals. A wave of geek creativity has been unleashed and, largely thanks to the iPhone, people now expect their machines to do pretty much anything they want.

via New Statesman – Love rectangle.

How the Blind Are Reinventing the iPhone – Liat Kornowski – Technology – The Atlantic

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For the visually impaired community, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 seemed at first like a disaster — the standard-bearer of a new generation of smartphones was based on touch screens that had no physical differentiation. It was a flat piece of glass. But soon enough, word started to spread: The iPhone came with a built-in accessibility feature. Still, members of the community were hesitant.

But no more. For its fans and advocates in the visually-impaired community, the iPhone has turned out to be one of the most revolutionary developments since the invention of Braille. That the iPhone and its world of apps have transformed the lives of its visually impaired users may seem counter-intuitive — but their impact is striking.

Read the full article: How the Blind Are Reinventing the iPhone – Liat Kornowski – Technology – The Atlantic.

Via Kottke

Cult of Mac » Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update]

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UPDATE: the app has now been pulled from the App Store. More about it in this video. Makes you wonder what kind of moral compass Apple has, that it need other people to point these things out. I mean, they ban pornography, but apparently stalking women is okay.

Here’s a good read, with a couple of follow-ups, about the iPhone app Girls Around Me, which enables anyone with a FourSquare account to log in and stalk women see at a glance where the girls are. For those of us who have been hammering on about how young people don’t care enough about their privacy, this is just one more example of why they should. I can imagine a few people might not care that the guy who approaches you in a bar with your favourite drink, and who seems so perfect because he likes the same things you do, actually got all that information by geolocating you and checking your (open) Facebook page. But I also think that it’s fairly predatory behaviour, crossing the line from chasing into stalking.

Where is that line? It’s the line between a situation in which people wanting to chat each other up do their best to make a connection based on face-to-face communication; and one in which one party has inside information and knows which buttons to push. The article is worth a read, if only because it enumerates all the things it’s possible to learn from somebody’s Facebook account, if they choose to leave it open to the public (even down to pictures of what she looks like in a bikini):

In answer to the first question, I replied that as sleazy as this app seemed, Girls Around Me wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Sure, on the surface, it looks like a hook-up app like Grindr for potential stalkers and date rapists, but all that Girls Around Me is really doing is using public APIs from Google Maps, Facebook and Foursquare and mashing them all up together, so you could see who had checked-in at locations in your area, and learn more about them. Moreover, the girls (and men!) shown in Girls Around Me all had the power to opt out of this information being visible to strangers, but whether out of ignorance, apathy or laziness, they had all neglected to do so. This was all public information. Nothing Girls Around Me does violates any of Apple’s policies.

via Cult of Mac Mobile » This Creepy App Isn’t Just Stalking Women Without Their Knowledge, It’s A Wake-Up Call About Facebook Privacy [Update].

Here’s the first follow-up: because of the above article Foursquare revoked access to its API, so Girls Around Me can no longer use it.

Here’s the second: a blog entry by SF writer Charlie Stross, in which he discusses how your privacy has been commodified, and how it’s in Facebook’s interest to encourage you to “over share” information about yourself. They do this by constantly changing their privacy policy and settings, by introducing things like the Timeline. It works because you’re too busy to keep up with this stuff, and you get tired of constantly checking your settings. As the people around you give up and reveal too much about themselves, you also start to think that over-sharing is normal, and that people who don’t over-share are a bit odd. Here’s Charlie Stross’ final paragraph:

But as I said earlier, the app is not the problem. The problem is the deployment by profit-oriented corporations of behavioural psychology techniques to induce people to over-share information which can then be aggregated and disclosed to third parties for targeted marketing purposes.

Apple: Their Tablet Computer History – liquidpubs’ blog

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Photograph showing Apple Newton hand held comp...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a fascinating and comprehensive (i.e. long) look back at Apple’s history of tablet computer designs. Believe it or not, Steve Jobs was trying to come up with a tablet before he left Apple for the first time, in 1985.

If he’d succeeded, 2010’s iPad might have appeared 10 years earlier. On the other hand, you could argue that the company (and the industry) had to go through 25 years of development, frustration and failure before the iPhone (and then the iPad) could offer a solution.

The problem all along, it seems to me, was the insistence on using a pen and having some kind of handwriting recognition. This kind of system can be frustratingly stupid in use (you can try it today with a graphics tablet and the Mac OS built-in “ink” technology) and a colossal waste of time.

This is why Jobs was so insistent when the iPhone launched that people don’t want to use a pen. Not off the top of his head, that opinion. You might complain about the touch screen’s built-in pop-up keyboard, but it’s way better than trying to teach a computer your handwriting.

What this history shows is that Apple, as ever, were years – donkeys’ years – ahead of the competition. It’s also easy to forget that Apple did in fact have an ahead-of-its time tablet computer (the Newton) during the 1990s. It was a flop, but the company learned lots from it – and Steve Jobs cancelled it almost as soon as he returned to Apple.

This is a good read for anyone planning a case study on the iPad. It fills in the background. Snip:

However, the Batman design was still too bulky to fit into Sculley’s pocket, so the design team was ordered to make it smaller. Frustrated, they had the idea to sneak into Sculley’s office and sew his pockets so they were just big enough to fit the Newton. But they went back to work, under tight deadlines, and submitted a revised design, with a more flattened lid and pen, with streamlined corners. It fit.

via Apple: Their Tablet Computer History – liquidpubs’ blog.

Useful iPhone apps for filmmakers

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I’ve posted this on Westudyfilm, but it’s far too useful to restrict to just one blog:

There are a variety of really useful iPhone apps for filmmakers and film students. I’m using a monochrome screened old Nokia, but if I did have an iPhone, I’d be getting hold of some of these in a heartbeat.

First up, there’s Hitchcock, from Cinemek, which is a storyboarding app. Really! Looks absolutely brilliant: you take a photo of your scene. You can drag in a silhouette for where the actor would be, put in tracking and zooming movements, and then – gasp! – get the storyboard to play back with the timings you specify so that you can check pacing.

The reviewer on this site points out a couple of shortcomings, but they seem fairly minor. Watch the video and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Next, there’s MovieSlate, which turns your iPhone (or, I’m assuming, iPad), into a useful clapperboard and shot log. Blimey, and I was so pleased when I bought those acrylic clapperboards earlier this year. For just £5.99, you get a huge range of useful functions, including the ability to synch your timecode with an iTunes song for making music videos.

Finally, there’s something a bit advanced and professional, but still very cool: Artemis, which is a director’s viewfinder. You may have seen film directors looking through a lens to test a shot, and this app does just that: you can tell it the kind of lens/shot you want, it’ll show you how that looks. This is aimed at those using cameras with interchangeable lenses, which is far more advanced than we do in class, but looks amazingly useful.