Reporter’s Notebook: A Dozen Digital Media Discoveries

4/15/11Follow @wroush

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“trends” screen showing the content people have been consuming most. And search results are presented in a tiled grid with a handsome mix of images and text. The app behaves as if it were designed by the same team behind the  graphically snazzy Windows Phone 7 interface.

6. Google Art Project

Born as a “20 percent time” project by Google engineer Amit Sood, this is a collection of more than 1,000 high-resolution photographs of great works of art from 17 leading art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It’s a terrible thing to say, but the zooming interface lets you inspect these paintings in such fine detail that it’s almost better than standing in front of the real artifacts.

7. The Mars Curiosity Rover

Did you know that NASA is planning to follow up on the incredible success of the Mars Sojourner, Spirit, and Opportunity rover missions by sending a big brother called Curiosity? I didn’t, until I came across this slide show at CNET. The new 2.8-meter-long robotic vehicle is huge (nearly as big as the Lunar Rover, which carried two humans) and studded with the latest cameras and sensors.It will be launched to Mars on November 25, with a primary mission of determining whether the Red Planet ever supported microbial life.

8. Why Photoshop for the iPad Marks the End of the Desktop Computing Era

In this article Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo takes a close look at a preview version of the Photoshop app that Adobe is developing for the iPad. This isn’t a dumbed-down version of the powerful image manipulation package—it’s the real thing, and Diaz says the software looks like it’s going to work even better than the PC version, thanks to the iPad’s touch-based interface, which forces mobile developers to rethink things. “Why [would] normal people prefer tablets over full, powerful computers?” Diaz asks. “Why should we change when what we have now works just fine? The problem is that it doesn’t work just fine. Ask anyone who is not a nerd or a computer hobbyist and they will tell you that they hate them with the same passion they love their iPhones and iPads. The answer is in the complexity of the computer vs. the simplicity of the touch interface.”

9. Don’t Follow Your Passion

This essay by independent software developer and author Amy Hoy is a refreshing antidote to the heroic narrative running through so much of the writing about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. If you try to turn the activity you’re passionate about into a business, Hoy warns, there’s a high chance you’ll end up hating it. She calls it the “Poop Factor”: “Most of what goes into running a real business is very different from what you fantasize about.” Don’t go out and open a cute little café because you … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • JWilly48519

    So, which was this one…”cool”, or “perceptive”?

    > “Why should we change when what we have now works just fine? The problem is that it doesn’t work just fine. Ask anyone who is not a nerd or a computer hobbyist and they will tell you that they hate them with the same passion they love their iPhones and iPads. The answer is in the complexity of the computer vs. the simplicity of the touch interface.” <

    The sociopathology here is amusing…the writer categorizes himself and those like him as Normal, and relegates those not like him to Abnormal groups toward which his scorn is obvious.

    We're not all alike, we don't all perform the same tasks, and–to borrow an expression–vive la difference. It's great to celebrate improvements to tools and toys that are especially suited for particular tasks or user groups. It's not so great to show such disdain for those who don't need those improvements because they mostly perform text-oriented tasks, and/or don't regard the current paradigm as complex…particularly when the disdain is applied to what market studies show to be the majority.

    In my view, this piece was unperceptive, and definitely not cool.

  • http://dlw@alum.mit.edu Daniel L Weinreb

    I do not interpret Wade’s comments at all the way JWilly48519 does. I am in the “nerd or computer hobbyist” category (a professional software developer), and even I feel the way Wade says. He’s not being condescending; in fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s not the users who are at fault; it is the computer industry, which has made so much software that is unreliable and confusing to use.

  • http://www.xconomy.com/author/wroush/ Wade Roush

    I just want to clarify that the quote JWilly48519 is reacting to is from Jesus Diaz, writing at Gizmodo, not from me. That said, I agree with Jesus that for certain tasks — such as digital drawing and video editing — a touchscreen interface is a huge help, and can quickly come to feel more natural than a point-and-click interface. Maybe Jesus went a bit over the top in his enthusiasm. But I don’t think anyone is arguing that people who mostly perform text-oriented tasks should be forced to give up their desktop or laptop PCs for tablets.