Social Software

A note about Richard’s Notes


I’ve been following a web site devoted to the business side of Apple, Inc. for many years. The site was part of a larger news site but was easy to track and participate in without dealing with the larger news site. It also used DISQUS commenting and had been doing so for many years.

Without warning, last night, the site changed domains and changed comment engines (now using livefyre) and so, on Apple’s big announcement day there is chaos at that site, a site devoted to all things Apple. I feel bad for the journalist who runs the site as no doubt these changes happened behind the scenes and it seems, without his knowledge (his readers had no warning).

The site has lost a huge following, not because the site’s author said the wrong thing, but because followers couldn’t easily log on to comment and couldn’t easily find the site as there was no warning that this was going to take place.

This web site

For the past few years I’ve been experimenting with another version of this web site running on the hosted WordPress platform. It has the same theme and the same content going back two years (and some earlier content as well as I’ve had time to move it). Over the two years it’s even picked up a decent following among WordPress users. I think it’s time I published that url here and I urge any of you who frequent this site to add a bookmark and when appropriate make a comment there so that I can get you through the initial moderation process (all first time comments go into moderation there as they have here).

Here’s the url:

At some point, I may (or may not) point the domain I own (“”) at this other version of this site. I haven’t decided that yet.

If you get confused as to which site you’re at, look at the url in your browser. This one begins with, the other one begins with

If you have questions or comments about this, let me know in the comments.

Memo Touch

Introducing Memo Touch, a tablet designed for elders with short-term memory loss

While the implementation may not be the best, this is a killer good idea and it allows family members to log into the account and set up reminders.

Of course, someone might write an app like this for iOS and then one could have all the benefits of an iPad plus a custom reminder system.

The problem with any idea like this is it has to be made fully accessible to people who can’t see, hear, or use the tablet’s UI well.

I think this is a job for my friend David Niemeijer at AssistiveWare.

Ask Different

Ask Different

Ask Different is a brilliantly built discussion site that allows people to ask questions about their Apple products and get a variety of answers and tips from others.

I first heard about it back here and I decided to subscribe to its RSS feed for a while to see what kinds of questions and answers were being put up.

In short order I figured I might be able to answer a few of the questions so I registered and posted an answer. That led to another and pretty soon I was hooked, less on being a know-it-all (I know much less than most people posting there) but on the challenge of attempting to explain in words the answers to various questions (one can also post screen shot images there).

Questions and answers are rated, much like Amazon or eBay reviews might be and in this case it’s less about a popularity contest, more about helping folks find the credible sources and to support well written questions and answers. Brilliant.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this feed, not just answers to my own technical questions but also about the types of questions and problems people are having in the Apple world. Ask Different could easily turn into a more up to date and fluid source than Apple’s support area or Wikipedia (Apple products) for these types of things. Certainly a parallel source for more specific questions.

Many of my Mac and iOS using friends who read this blog could easily become addicted to this so I’m warning you, be careful.

Instagram 2.0 upgrade a downgrade

Instagram 2.0 review: Insta-grumble

I agree, the recent big Instagram upgrade was terrible, images aren’t saved into the main library anymore, the filters suck, and the entire operation of the app has been slowed down and downgraded.

I’m going to go back to using Path a bit more and I’m not crazy about its UI either but at this point its better than Instagram.

For those who don’t know about these iOS Apps they’re iPhone photography apps that allow posting to a mini social network of your friends (limited number, not the whole world). Instagram also allows simultaneous posting to Twitter and Flickr from inside the app which is very convenient.

Both apps will geotag images which is nice and allow a bit of key word tagging as well. While I don’t use my iPhone as a primary camera I do enjoy taking pictures with it and the fact that these apps allow posting pictures instantly (if one has a connection, either wifi or cellular) makes them appealing.

[via Daring Fireball]

NGrams and Culturomics

What we learned from 5 million books

Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel do a talk at TED about what they did with a huge amount of digitized book data from Google. This is a fascinating talk and worth watching.

You can mess with it yourself with Google’s Books Ngram Viewer.

As an example I graphed the use of the term “dyslexia” from 1900 to 2008. Notice that it peaks around 2000 and then starts dropping off. I’m guessing this is because it was replaced by the phrase “auditory processing disorder.” Sure enough it was.

Wow, this is amazing. Give it a go, let me know what you come up with in comments.


How Tall Is Jake Gyllenhaal?

David Rees over at Good posted a wonderful piece on our fascination with celebrities and how social networking on the internet interacts with it: How Tall Is Jake Gyllenhaal?.

I’m not the sort of person who thinks much about the height of celebrities. (I’ve always assumed most famous people are about seven feet tall.) The fact that I caught myself wondering about Gyllenhaal’s height suggested there was something uncanny about it, in the way an unsettlingly warm afternoon can bend one’s conversation toward the topic of global warming.

Beautifully written and my guess is that any of us who have ever used the web to get to the bottom of some obscure fact (pre-wikipedia) have experienced this sort of thing.

Note: wikipedia has nothing on Gyllenhaal’s height.

Lily pads at The Japanese Garden

Water lilies

The Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, California (just over the hill from west LA) is actually part of a sewage treatment plant. The garden that the water runs through is built as a traditional Japanese garden with lanterns, manicured plants, rock gardens, koi in the water, a lili pond, ducks, egrets and more. It’s actually a hidden treasure in Los Angeles that my mother and I visit often.

This was taken with the new version of Instagram, an iPhone photography app.