Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

RunKeeper iPhone App Review

October 25th, 2009
 
RunKeeper iPhone App Review

Unfortunately exercise has become something of a seasonal activity for me. Try as I might, the running and riding inevitably taper off with the onslaught of Winter. So now as the Southern hemisphere limps back towards Summer the mind games have begun. I know it’s going to hurt using those muscles that have been inactive for so long. Gotta be committed though. Once I start I’ve gotta keep it going. There’s no turning back. Hmmm, but the weather’s still a bit dicey. Yeah, I’ll hold off a bit longer. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Exercise – there’s an app for that

So this weekend the stars were aligned – no work to do, the family were out for the day and the weather was perfect. No excuses. It also presented me with the perfect opportunity to road test some new toys. Months earlier the iPhone I had been holding out for had finally arrived – the 3GS. I was quickly sucked in by the lure of apps. Even though I wasn’t exercising I was keen to find one for keeping track of my progress (when and if I ever got back into exercising). I have a Shimano FlightDeck on my bike that tracks the basics (speed, distance, etc). But I was keen to take advantage of the GPS built into the iPhone.

About the same time I noticed a Twitter friend was posting summary updates of their morning run using RunKeeper. The summary linked back to their profile on the website where you could see a map of their exercise activity, a detailed graph of their speed and elevation over the course of their exercise as well as the calories burned. All of this data was of course captured using the RunKeeper iPhone app which is available in both free and pro versions.

Going Pro

At a cost of $12.99 AUD the Pro version has no advertisements, but it does have audio cues, training workouts delivered via your headphones, geo-tagged photos/status updates and iPod playlist integration. As someone who takes their exercise seriously (even though I wasn’t doing any) I thought it seemed like a reasonable price.

Obviously the name RunKeeper implies it’s specific to running, however the settings allow you to select from a number of activities including cycling, hiking, skiing and walking. You can also change the units. I’m being picky here, but I found it frustrating that while the iPhone seamlessly syncs a mammoth amount of data with the website, you need to set the units on both. Surely if I’ve selected kilometres on the iPhone it’s safe to assume I don’t want miles on the website.

Getting Started

So once you’ve registered with the website and set up the app with the correct activity, units and music playlist (from iTunes) you’re ready to go. From there on all you need to do is hit the “Start” button to begin exercise. The screen gives you continual feedback on your distance, time and speed as you would expect from any exercise equipment with digital display. The beauty of the Pro version is the audio cues that give you this information via your headphones. This is ideal if you’ve got your iPhone tucked away in the back pocket of your jersey and you’re unable to see the screen. The downside is the music you’ve selected to play does not stop or dip in volume. So the audio cues are often muffled by the music. This is particularly annoying and hopefully future updates will address this. A great implementation of this is way the TomTom fades down the music to give you driving instructions before fading the music back up when it’s done.

Public service announcement: I should point out that while I do love to work out to music it’s also potentially quite dangerous if you’re cycling on public roads. As a result I only cycle with the curb-side earbud in place so I have an ear free.

Post Exercise

When you’ve completed your exercise simply hit the Stop button. The app will then ask you if you’d like to save the data. It then reads out a summary of the exercise and sends the data back to the website. There’s also a Pause button should you need to stop for natural breaks and the like while exercising.

Once my legs had recovered from the shock of exercising for the first time in months, I gingerly climbed the stairs and sat down at the computer. I logged into the RunKeeper website and was pleasantly surprised to find all of the data from my exercise already uploaded and waiting for me to examine. I was actually quite surprised by the accuracy of my route plotted against a Google map. Below the map is a graph showing my speed and elevation. Rolling over the graph identifies the corresponding location on the map so you can dissect your performance with incredible accuracy.

From there you can add notes (like weather or any other mitigating factors), export, compare to previous and share the activity on a number of social networks including Facebook and Twitter. I think I’ll hold off on this until I have some data I can be proud of.

Conclusion

Using this app is incredibly simple, just hit a button to start and another to stop. Yet the data it collects is incredibly detailed. The seamless integration from the iPhone to the website makes it a real no-brainer. Something I found really frustrating with my old FlightDeck was the need to manually collect the data from the device and then log it in some useful way. RunKeeper does everything for you and presents the data back to you in a meaningful way. The maps and graphs give it great visual impact. Which is handy if you want to show it off to your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Speaking of handy, the audio cues are great for providing feedback on you progress without needing to look at the screen, however the fact that the app doesn’t mute the music is really frustrating. That aside, this app should prove to be a great motivator this summer as I track and try to improve my fitness.

Has the traditional concept of search jumped the shark?

September 15th, 2009
 
Has the traditional concept of search jumped the shark?

A couple of weeks ago I referred to Alex Campbell’s post on the possible drivers behind behavioural changes in the way people use Google search. Personally, my greatest frustration with Google is trying to find up to date information and being presented with articles that are years old. Maybe that’s more of a failing with the user than the algorithm. Whatever the case, I seldom find relevant and up-to-date results the first time.

Since that article Google has rolled out the mother of all updates: A larger search box. Of course it’s not just a larger search box. There’s also larger, blocky, bespoke buttons and a new typeface. There was almost enough discussion about the typeface alone on Twitter to rival the Ikea uproar. Ok I’m exaggerating, but there was significant chatter for something I thought was, well, pretty trivial.

I’m a little dubious about Marissa’s claim that the larger search box is for added fun. Although it probably makes sense in terms of allowing for a wider drop down for the predictive keywords. Also with monitor resolutions getting higher the once sparse and clean Google homepage is really starting to get a little pokey and dated. So how do you keep up while maintaining the status quo? Easy, just upscale the search box and the buttons.

The recent addition of some visual-bling to the once barren text-based domain of search doesn’t just stop there. Google now have Fast Flip which despite the claim it emulates a news stand, it is really just a gimmick. Then there’s bling, er sorry, Bing. I actually admire Microsoft (wow, did I just say that?) for taking such an approach with Bing. The fresh image every day is really just a cheeky alternative to changing your logo every day (don’t get me started on the Google logo). I also like the way Microsoft have built in a discovery component to the images.

Microsoft have taken Bing a step further with the announcement today of Visual Search. This is not a new idea and while it has some merit I think it’s uses are pretty limited. Even in the demonstration most of the focus while using visual search was on the refinement tools on the left. The images really just served to show the number of potential matches or help provide some recognition that you were on the right path. It’s also interesting to note that in some cases selecting an image just dropped the appropriate keywords into the search bar to begin a new search. Groundhog Day anyone?

Finally, I love the way Microsoft are edging into Google’s space, quite literally. While both parties claim that Microsoft has not purchased any questionable keywords as was initially reported, it seems as though the word “search” has been. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

So with all prettying-up of search and tinkering with SEO and keywords, I can’t help but think that traditional search has really run out of genuinely new ideas. Is this as good as it gets? Have we jumped the shark?

UPDATE: Google This: 5 Reasons to Switch to Bing

Blogging tips, tricks and tardiness

September 9th, 2009
 

About a week ago it seemed as though the Interweb was going into meltdown. I think I first noticed something was amiss when my iPhone denied my my morning serve of email, tweets and analytics on the way to work. The disconnectedness continued at work when it became apparent that a major Telstra connection was down. This was soon followed by Gmail going offline and Twitter went into another tailspin (probably due to everyone tweeting complaints about Gmail being down). Finally there were the reported attacks on WordPress blogs. Luckily my blog is akin to a Mac – it’s small and insignificant so who would want to waste their time with malicious intentions?

While the folio and resume are for public consumption, the blog is really for myself anyway. If someone else finds it useful or interesting then it’s just a bonus. But really it’s just a scrap book of random thoughts and links about design that I want to save for later. It wasn’t always like that though. Back when I started my blog in 2004 there were only a handful of design blogs. I on the other hand was too busy writing about my travels around Europe. Then there was a long period of neglect before I imported my old Blogger database into WordPress. At first I was sceptical of the cookie cutter approach to applying pre-made themes, but now I am continually surprised by the ease with which you can make endless changes and additions. There really is no excuse for tardiness anymore.

It’s still early days in this new format and I’m still finding my feet, or more to the point my voice. Anyway, below is a collection of articles that will hopefully help me to get where I’m going. Where ever that may be.

100 Ways To Improve Your Blog
16 Excellent WordPress Security Plugins To Secure Your Blog
Must See SEO Guide for All WordPress Bloggers
Key Elements to Blog Visibility
The Anatomy of a Blog
Top 7 Crimes Best Bloggers Commit!
9 Things to Do To Make Sure Your Next Blog Post is Read by More than Your Mom
Writing Blog Post Titles That Grab Attention
Designers Discuss the Benefits of Running a Blog
The Benefits of Running a Blog as a Freelancer (Tips Included)

Stark Realisation: I too no longer depend on Google to find stuff

September 7th, 2009
 

This is an interesting perspective on the drivers behind behavioural change in the way people use Google. It raises and interesting point about how work to improve SEO is actually eroding trust in the results returned. It makes sense really that what was once a accurate and honest set of results is now potentially skewed by those that are stacking the odds in their favour.

Also, with the rise in social networks people can now easily tap into a trusted and known source to find businesses etc. Of course the beauty of these networks is that you no longer need to actively seek the information you need. It comes to you.

http://www.alexjcampbell.com/post/175271559/stark-realisation-i-no-longer-depend-on-google-to-find

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Twitter and Yelp on the up and up

September 3rd, 2009
 

Twitter is “aging in reverse”. Apparently 12-24 year old demographics are Twitter’s fastest growing audience segment. STATS: Young People Are Flocking to Twitter and a more detailed break down of data on the What, Where & Why Of Social Media?

According to reports Yelp Is Growing 80 Percent A Year, While Citysearch (US) Remains Flat. This is interesting given the the mix of both user and editorial comment on Citysearch versus the purely user based comment on Yelp. Speaking of comments, when you look through the comments following the article there seems to be a strong suggestion that Yelp’s success could largely be attributed to it’s SEO work. As an aside Yelp are also doing some nice stuff in the mobile space. Particularly with augmented reality.

My Digital Scrapbook

 

I no longer keep a blog, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Instead this is a scrapbook of interesting or useful design articles and artefacts.

Clipping Topics

 

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