Intuitive – not so much – and other iOS 7 thoughts

Have you tried using the new Air Drop sharing tools in iOS 7? I have. A few points.

  1. It is so not intuitive. I had to look up directions to even get started.
  2. Even with directions I couldn’t make it work.
  3. The option I wanted – to send images from my iPad to my computer – never worked for me even though all my devices confirmed that they saw each other and were ready to receive.

In addition to that frustration with iOS 7, I want to register the complaint that the dull grey color scheme doesn’t help me find anything and the white text on a grey background is hard to read. A little color would be useful to help find the important things – everything looks alike.

I get it, Apple wanted to move away from the skeuomorphic elements in their look. The pendulum traveled a bit too far. Let’s bring it back to the middle, okay?

Keeping up

A good part of what I do here and elsewhere on the web as a writer and in my teaching life is keep up. I enjoy learning new things, trying out new ideas, and sharing what I learn with others. I don’t mind investing my time and energy in keeping up. In fact, I love doing it. I’m happy that at this point in my life I can do what I love – that hasn’t always been the case.

I live in a world where I don’t belong. Most people who are fascinated with tech and web accessibility and social media are young people who are still working. I’m a freak (or a time traveler): an elder, retired, who loves learning the newest stuff. Most people my age are afraid of their computers and can’t figure out how to send a text message. I don’t know why but I’ve been crazy about technology since I first got my hands on an Apple IIe. I was not a young person when that occurred, and I haven’t grown any younger since. I sometimes feel I should apologize for being an elder who is interested in topics that everyone thinks belong to the young. What was I thinking?

But keeping up is a double edged sword, because keeping up with hardware and software changes is an expensive proposition. No amount of love and energy can pay for a new computer or new software. My computer is so old it is no longer upgradable. Nor will it accept the latest versions of several of the software programs I use. Even my browser is telling me daily that it won’t be upgraded any longer because my OS is too old for my browser. And don’t even ask me how often Safari hangs.

But, keeping up is where my mind goes, so keeping up is what I’m doing, whether I can afford it or not. To celebrate adding megabucks to my credit card balance, I am writing this, my first post on my new MacBook Pro. After three days of setting up, upgrading software, fiddling with settings, serial numbers, and and mail accounts the world is fast and efficient again.

Sent with great speed from the latest version of MacBook Pro.

Thoughts On Being Iconic: Is Facebook an American Icon?

Think about cultural icons. You know, things like The Statue of Liberty or movie lines like “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Think about Apple products. Think about Facebook.

That’s right. I said Facebook.

How can I think Facebook is iconic? Because it’s now become a symbol. I don’t mean a symbol on the stock exchange. I’m talking about a symbol of a way of life, of a generation, of a movement. And here’s proof in the form of Katy Perry’s latest video.

Facebook is no longer just a social media site. It’s now a way of communicating something about life and art that transcends social media. In other words, a cultural icon. If Andy Warhol were here, he would paint Facebook.

So what does it take to become iconic? Here are Virginia’s rules on becoming iconic.

1. Everybody has to Know about Whatever IT Is

Everybody knows about Facebook. Even if they don’t use it. In the U.S.A. about 59% of the online population uses it. The rest of the people just listen to endless news reports about it.

What is something everyone know about that you consider iconic?

2. Everybody has to Value Whatever IT Stands For

Everybody knows about The Statue of Liberty, too. But it’s more that just knowing about it. It stands for something important.

The Statue of Liberty = freedom. The Land of the Free. That’s what we are and we have Lady Liberty to remind you. You love freedom, right? Me, too. I scream, you scream, we all scream for freedom. We all feel a thrill when we see Lady Liberty standing in New York Harbor. We all recognize her image as she lifts her light. Why? Because we all value freedom.

Freedom is so important we are willing to die for it. The things that symbolize freedom – be they statues, flags, slogans or images – stand for those things we cherish and value. They are iconic.

What iconic symbol stands for something you value?

3. You Have to Love IT Every Single Time

Every time you watch “Casablanca” you love it, right? You can throw out lines like, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” in appropriate spots and everybody knows what you are referring to because they all loved “Casablanca” too.

It bears rewatching. You never get tired of it. You’ll go out at midnight to see it on the big screen. It’s a cultural touchstone. It’s iconic.

I could have picked something more modern than “Casablanca.” Perhaps “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” When a story like Joss Whedon’s favorite ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ episodes to marathon on LOGO makes national news, you’re dealing with the iconic.

What iconic bit of culture do you love every single time?

4. IT Can Excite and Thrill

Just looking at it, touching it, using it, has to be exciting. Has to thrill you and make you feel cool and powerful and fabulous. I’m thinking of Apple’s product line here: everything from the first aqua iMac to the minimalist interface of the iPod to the sleek and brilliant iPad. This rule applies to anything extraordinarily beautiful as well as to anything that works effortlessly and beautifully.

It’s so cool to carry or wear or be around that you are cool too. We all agree on this. We bestow coolness on you because you are smart enough to have this iconic thing beside you.

What beautifully designed and thrilling thing do you consider iconic?

5. Stories Are the Road to Iconic

We love stories. We tell stories to each other, we read stories, we follow stories on TV, we watch stories in the theater. We get personally attached and involved with the stories we love. We’re passionate about our stories, our characters. I think having a great story helps make the ordinary iconic. So many of our icons came from stories. The emotional connection comes from the story, from the idea, not from the thing.

If you set out to create something that everyone would know about and love and enjoy time and again, how would you do it? How would you create something iconic that would endure through generations and across cultures? Would you start with a good story?

I think you’d have to have a good story. That’s my step one.

What do you think is the next step?

[Note: Cross-posted at BlogHer.]

iPhone 4S- How Does Siri Work?

It’s Monday morning and you get up from the bed to get ready to office. You wonder would it rain or not. You pick up your iPhone 4S, click on the microphone tab and ask the question-

‘Siri, Will I need an umbrella today?’

‘The weather is Sunny today in Sydney. Hence no need for the umbrella.’ Comes the prompt reply.

Welcome to the world of voice recognition and artificial intelligence. With the new iPhone 4S, the world of mobile phones has transformed how we use our electronic devices and has provided us with better productivity and convenience.

The Siri application has taken the world by storm by performing certain basic activities like taking notes, sending email, scheduling appointment and many more just by following voice commands. It is better than other speech recognition software we have encountered till now as instead of functioning on pre-determined words, Siri actually tries to understand what you speak and perform tasks accordingly. This leads to an important question- How does Siri work?

When a voice input is provided to Siri, a chain of algorithm is followed which tries to understand what the command means and accordingly produce the output. The following processes occur when you give a command to Siri-

How Does Siri Work?

  1. Your sound is channeled through the noise cancelling microphone of the iPhone and is encoded into digital format and stored temporarily.
  2. The digital data is then transferred via internet connection through your ISP to the Siri server located in cloud which is loaded with pre determined AI algorithms to understand the data and provide suitable feedback to your phone.
  3. Further, the digital data in your iPhone is analyzed locally by a built in recognizer (which communicates with the server) installed in your phone which tries to determine whether the command can be resolved locally (by creating contacts, schedules etc.) or it must connect to the internet for command execution. (For more sophisticated commands like weather report, sending an email etc.)
  4. The server compares the data with various statistical algorithms already provided and tries to understand the data based on the letters and order of the letters to come up with a solution for the command (voice command). Meanwhile the local recognizer in the phone also tries to compare the data with a shorter version of the statistical algorithm and comes up with a solution. Based on the highest probability between the two solutions, a go ahead signal is given to the corresponding channel.
  5. The response is then passed through a language model which then tries to compare it with a list of probable interpretations to further ensure accuracy of the response. Then the phone will produce a voice feedback to insure that the command was properly understood. If the program is convinced with the results, then it will execute the task corresponding to what it understood.

how seri works
Image © Divya Rawat

For instance if it understands that you want to make an appointment with a certain contact, Jack, it will go ahead and ask the question ‘Do you want to make an appointment with Jack?’ to ensure that it properly understood your command.

If it receives a yes or a similar response to the question, (which will also be scrutinized in the same manner) then it will go ahead and create a new entry in the appointment folder with the appropriate note linking with the contact Jack.

The beauty of the program is that the whole process takes less than 3 seconds and can provide with instant feedback and solutions for your queries. Hence Siri can be regarded as a good start in field of Artificial intelligence and although it may not be perfect for now and make lot of mistakes, with further improvement in R&D, the future will be ruled by AI.

Guest author Divya Rawat is a mother and a self confessed SEO and tech-enthusiast. She works as a Writer @ iNetZeal (which offers variety of services including content wrting–click here to read more about their content writing service.)

Useful links: media queries, next 6 billion, iOS5

Essential Considerations for Crafting Quality Media Queries from zomigi. Anytime Zoe takes the time to write about CSS, it’s worth reading and this article is particularly timely.

The Next 6 Billion. I’m already seeing references to “the next 6 billion” as a phrase that everyone seems to understand and that carries a lot of background meaning with it, so I suggest you check the original article by John Allsopp to see what it’s all about.

In the good to know category, check out Use Text Macros on your iPhone and iPad with iOS5.