CHUCK: So how is everybody?
MIKE: I’d give it a four. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: Out of?
JAIM: Out of three or ten?
MIKE: I’ll figure that out later. [Chuckles]
ALONDO: [inaudible] An elusive fifth star?
MIKE: Four stars used to be the gold standard as – I think there had been some inflation there. [Laughter]
CHUCK: Stars inflation.
[This episode is sponsored by Hired.com. Every week on Hired, they run an auction where over a thousand tech companies in San Francisco, New York and L.A. bid on iOS developers, providing them with salary and equity upfront. The average iOS developer gets an average of 5-15 introductory offers and an average salary offer of $130,000/year. Users can either accept an offer and go right into interviewing with a company or deny them without any continuing obligations. It’s totally free for users, and when you’re hired they also give you a $2,000 signing bonus as a thank you for using them. But if you use the iPhreaks link, you’ll get a $4,000 bonus instead. Finally, if you’re not looking for a job but know someone who is, you can refer them on Hired and get a $1,337 bonus as thanks after the job. Go sign up at Hired.com/iphreaks]
CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 119 of the iPhreaks Show. This week on our panel we have Alondo Brewington.
ALONDO: Greetings from North Carolina.
CHUCK: Jaim Zuber.
JAIM: Hello, from Minneapolis.
CHUCK: Mike Ash.
MIKE: Hello, from fair-fetched Virginia.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv, and this week we have a special guest, and that is Neal Ford.
NEAL: Hello, from Atlanta.
CHUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself, Neal?
NEAL: Sure! My name is Neal Ford. I am a director and software architect and Meme Wrangler at ThoughtWorks, which is an international consultancy. We do a lot of software development for lots of different kinds of people.
CHUCK: Very cool. We patched on today to talk about Ambient Information and the Apple Watch. And I asked you about it before the show and you said that Ambient Information is part of how you think about the Apple Watch so you’d kind of want to lead us that way.
NEAL: Yup. So I said one of my titles at ThoughtWorks is ‘Meme Wrangler’, and ThoughtWorks is one of those companies where you get to pick whichever title you want. Some of them are reserved like chief scientist or CEO, but pretty much any title that you want to come up with, you can.
So I’ve met a person at ThoughtWorks who’s title is Seat Warmer on his business cards and doesn’t hand those business cards that much; but this is one of the self-fulfilling prophecies kind of things because my first in the business cards was just software architect because that reflects the work that I do at ThoughtWorks, but then I gradually become a director. And I realized that in a lot of company’s software architect means ‘post-useful’ – you just spend more time in visual [inaudible] than you do actually writing software –.
CHUCK: I’d work for this companies.
NEAL: Yeah, so it’s just quite common. And so I changed my business cards at one point to just being ‘Meme Wrangler’, and for the [inaudible] would be cultural reference there, this is something that Richard Dawkins came up with this concept of a mean – it’s a viral, unitive thought. So a mean is to a thought as a gene is to DNA, and wrangler, of course has two useful meanings in this context. Wrangling as in herding, and also wrangling as in facilitating argument between people.
And so Meme Wrangler is a much more abstract, much more ThoughtWorks kind of title. The only downside of that is when you hand your business card to people, people either say ‘oh, that’s cool’, or ‘what does this mean?’ And so no I have compromised – I have all three of those titles on a business card. But this is one of those self-fulfilling prophecy things because when I came up with that title I don’t know that I was actually doing a lot of mean wrangling, but overtime I’ve been doing more and more of that, which is go out into the marketplace and try to find not just the thing that’s happening but the real meaning behind the thing that’s happening. And this is the very long intro into this idea about Ambient Information and the Apple Watch.
So here I’m going to post a proposal to you guys. So it’s 1999 and you need to travel to Chicago on a business trip next week, and you need to find out what the weather is going to be like in Chicago next week, how can you do that?
JAIM: It’s going to be windy.
NEAL: Well, you can guess that. Beyond that, how are you going to find that 1999 what the Chicago weather is next week? [Crosstalk]
MIKE: Is it cheating if I say anything? Yeah, I’ve used a weather website.
NEAL: Well, 1999 not really many websites around, so much tougher to do that. [Crosstalk]
JAIM: Three dollars per byte on America online at that point/
NEAL: Exactly. [Laughter]
MIKE: That’s why I called it cheating because I was living on a college dorm with Ethernet access.
NEAL: Well let’s say then that [inaudible] it’s 1990 and we’re travelling to Chicago and you need to get weather, how are you going to find out?
MIKE: I can ask my dad.
NEAL: So in 1990 –.
CHUCK: You’ll call some information over there?
NEAL: You could call information but there’s also the weather channel, remember? They used to do national forecast every half hour or so, so you could watch half hour of the weather channel.
The point of this is as storms has gotten more and more ubiquitous, more and more powerful, that kind of information like weather in a foreign city has become more and more ambient overtime, more and more accessible. So now of course is trivially easy to find out what the weather’s going to like in Chicago; I can pull my phone up. I can either do a search for Chicago, or I could add it to my favorite city so I could always get a Chicago forecast. And so the general trend of that kind of information overtime is becoming more and more available, instantly more and more ambient and that’s really what the Apple Watch does.
This takes some of that information but still locked on your phone and making it that much more ambient. And so that’s the idea of customizing the watch for is just finding the things that you really want to be the most ambient information so that you can get it instantly, versus something that you have to put any kind of effort into, because going after information, any kind of effort that will require to go after that information represents a cause of that information. And so even in your phone there is a cost to get it for Chicago or whatever city you’re in and the watch is making that more ambient.
That’s the overall trend in computing in general, is to make information that people care about much more accessible and available. So that for me is the really cool thing about the Apple Watch, is that lots of things are a lot more ambient. So for example, right now in Atlanta it’s 82 degrees and sunny. The height is going to be 82, and it looks like the sunset lies at 8:21 PM, and I got all that right off my watch. [Crosstalk]
CHUCK: So in other words what you’re saying is instead of this information being something that you actually have to go out of your way to retrieve, even just pulling out your phone and opening the app, it’s ambient because you can just glance at your watch or maybe tap an app to get the information off your watch.
NEAL: My point is that the spectrum is getting better overtime that with cost of getting Chicago weather 1990 was extraordinarily high, it’s really small now but when you have something like the Apple Watch you take them smaller. And if you project into the future, we’re going to find what used to make that even more ambient overtime so that even the effort of looking down on your watch is going to become more and more of a cost to get to some sort of information.
So this has a lot of really interesting implications, so weather’s not this one word because you can customize your watch for this to get that kind of information. And let me give you another great example of the benefit of having ambient information.
So I travel a lot for business which means I end up walking around in foreign cities a lot and very frequently I’m looking for a restaurant or theater or something like that, there is no more powerful way to advertise yourself as a tourist, and therefore a target for all sorts of shinanigans to walk around with your head buried in a map application on a phone somewhere in a foreign city.
NEAL: But the beautiful things about Apple Watch is once you established where you want to go, that information now becomes ambient because your watch now can tell you at you come to a turn – vibrations will let you know you need to turn – you can glance at your watch until I’ll tell you to turn this way versus this way. And so directions, particularly in foreign cities now has become more ambient, and that’s actually a safety thing if you’re walking around in a foreign city looking at your phone too much – that’s actually a bad thing.
ALONDO: I don’t really see what you mean there. I mean that’s one of my favorite features of the Apple Watch. I actually get that benefit while driving as well because I’ve got to the point now where I typically tune out the voice directions. I’ve just gotten so used to it but it’s really hard to ignore what’s happening on my wrist so I’ve missed fewer exits now.
NEAL: So another thing that I do – another good example of that is when I get in my car and I’m going places where I know the directions to, I go ahead and tell my watch to give me directions to that place. Now, they’re using a little user experience thing going on here, that if you just ask for directions on your watch but don’t open your phone it will open the map on your phone and start giving you voice directions and [crosstalk] directions from your wrist. But if you started on your phone it’ll ought to make a hand off to your wrist.
Now if you started on your wrist and then at some point open your phone it’ll take over and start giving you directions. But the beautiful things about that is even if I know where I’m going, it will give me an ETA of when I’m going to get there, and I kind of like to know the ETA. And again, that just becomes an ambient piece of information. It’s trivial just to tell my watch, “Siri, directions to Atlanta horse field.” They’ll report – an ad will pop up and will give me an ETA taken to a cab traffic and all. The other stuff information is thoroughly locked on my phone and in fact will be too dangerous to look at to watchful driving but it’s available.
CHUCK: So this is a show for iOS developers as opposed to – well I think we’re all gizmo people and we like our gadgets and we like stuff that integrates well with our iPhone and the Apple Watch obviously does that very well. So if I am an app developer, how do I identify that I should have an Apple Watch based on what information should be ambient and which information shouldn’t.
NEAL: Well that’s the thing is that different information is important to be ambient for different people. So I very much need the Apple Watch; it’s very much a one-data thing. So one thing that I discovered with the Apple Watch is that occasionally it would forget how to do stuff, but you reboot it and it’ll remember.
So for example, boarding passes disappear for a while and I was puzzling over it when I thought, “Oh it’s in the computer; I should reboot it.” And when I reboot it the boarding passes started showing up again.
CHUCK: Like Windows?
NEAL: Exactly; very much a one-byter Wini thing. In fact if I had my [inaudible] they’d probably let it cook a little longer before releasing it, maybe one more beta cycle because I had to restart it a couple of times not because it crashed but because weird things started happening.
But it’s very much like the iPhone 1. Remember when the iPhone 1 came by you couldn’t write custom apps for it. You just have the apps that Apple gave you. That’s not true with the Apple Watch of course, but it is true that only certain things you can put, for example, directly on the watch face – they’re controlling that. I think overtime they’re going to loosen up a lot more about that and so now applications can start deciding to let people make their information more ambient.
So the real challenge for iOS developers is twofold. One is, what kind of information is in your application that people will find more valuable if they were more ambient and much more easy to get to. And the second challenge is how do you take the very constrained user interface with the watch and actually make a useful UI out of it? And that’s really a good study in building useful UIs in very constrained places because I’ve done a really good job on several of the apps on the phone, like the weather app is great. If you have Weather and you click through it, it actually open the weather app. What you find is a circle that has the current time and then ten hours into the future, and then it shows you the sunrise and the sunset, and then you tap it once and it shows you what temperature’s it’s going to be. And then you tap it again and it shows you rain precipitation chances on that same time scale.
And so I think it’s a good example of finding a way to give you really useful information in a very, very constrained UI.
JAIM: Yeah, there aren’t a whole lot of things I use my watch for, but some things that are really viable are like the exercise app. I find riding my bike, I’d like to know how fast I’m going because on average time when I’m to going some place, put them at stop lights and slowing down for people and passing. But it’s nice to know ‘okay, I can look down on my wrist’ versus pulling it out on my pocket going however fast I’m going and dropping it and splashing my phone all over the road there.
NEAL: I think you’ve touched on the mother lode of potential applications to take advantage of ambient information on the Apple Watch because I, too, use it a lot when I’m exercising. I like – when I’m on the elliptical, I like having it because it gives more of this real time pulls so you can tell how actually you’re working out.
But again that’s a one-data thing. There are other fitness trackers that give you much better health announces based on just centers on your wrists, but the cost of one data that – I think there’s kind of a perfect storm coming up here of aging baby boomers who are kind of a little bit hypochondriac about their health, and of course they’re going to start having health issues and now you’re getting these devices which can do much more sophisticated health tracking, etc., I think that very quickly you’ll find a category of applications that lets you see all sorts of health statistics in an ambient way so that you can see, for example, blood insulin level or what’s your current blood pressure is, or just a general kind of information that you could use as useful feedback to say, “Oh, my pulse rate is really high right now. And I stressed? Am I over-trained?” That kind of information is going to become more available and therefore a lot more useful and actual.
MIKE: So can you speak to like – I’m thinking in terms of a lot of this ambient information but one of the things that I do find even in this first version of the Apple Watch is notification fatigue, that there’s so many apps that do have speed on extension, or an Apple Watch app that constantly notify me to the point that it becomes annoying.
NEAL: Well, I think the first exercise – certainly the first exercise I went through is going and killing all those things off. So I was very cavalier about notifications on my phone because like, ahh, who really cares. But getting an Apple Watch makes you really go learn that notification screen on your iPhone well. And it takes a couple of weeks to go in and kill the noisy ones, but I’ve pretty much doubt now where it only really tells me something that I want to know. I get very few false pause of notifications now but we have to be diligent on top of that.
ALONDO: So from an app developer’s perspective what is the way that I could actually make sure that my app’s notifications aren’t one of the ones they give on the chopping block?
NEAL: Well I think the biggest problem people have is over notification. They’re too anxious to tell your staff, they’re too anxious to interact with you, to show you that they’re there. I think probably UNIX is a good philosophy on this that no news is good news, so only tell your staff if you really need to tell your staff.
I actually think that the Apple Fitness Test is a little too chatty for my taste because if you exercise it’ll immediately come back and tell you, “Congratulations, you’ve met your exercise goal for the day,” it’s like yeah okay. I was just exercising I know, but I exercise goals.
So with that stuff I think is a little chatty than it could be but I think it really comes down to personally preference, too. I think some people like more interaction than other so I think it’s important as you build applications to think about what is the absolute stuff I have to notify people about and can I let them mop out some of those things and be as quiet as possible for some users as well, because I think a lot of power users would are going to want to really tone down the things that give them notifications just because they have lots and lots of things notifying on and they really want to focus in on the things that are important that they want to get notifications from.
JAIM: Yes, it’s a tough balance because you might have your marketing team do some AB testings like send a bunch of notifications on sales, or simply ‘we sell things, we make more money’ which the rest of your users basically met but it makes sense to provide value because the user care about what you’re telling them [crosstalk] and not just telling them about the random stuff.
If you tell me something useful and it shows my wrist, okay cool I’m happy with it and I’ll keep it for something, but if you spam me every day of the 10% off sale, that’s going away. That’s going away pretty quick. [Crosstalk] You might – your app might be getting deleted.
NEAL: I think a good rule of thumb is for every notification you give somebody on their wrist, how many people are you going to annoy by that? How many people are going to think it’s too much and try and error on the side of two little information rather than too much.
I think most people are going to report an error on the ‘too much’ side just because it’s a shiny new toy; I will show you as much as I can and interact with you as much as I can but real value comes in less interaction but really focused interaction.
JAIM: And this is pretty much the Wild West of how to notify things on your wrist.
JAIM: We don’t even know; that’s why we are doing it [crosstalk]. We’re figuring it out as an industry.
NEAL: It took us a long time to figure out how to build really effective apps and people’s games on iOS devices. One of the things that I think was really freeing of iOS was it was the first platform in many, many years that broke away from a standard look concept of Windows icons with a mouse and pointer. And it took a long time for people to assimilate that, hey, we can build apps in completely different ways. And the Apple Watch is another one of those opportunities just like the iPhone was to connect with really cool ways to visualize information.
There’s another cool app that I use called Dark Skies that’s trying to do hyperlocal forecast, or trying to do a forecast within several miles of where you are. And they have an interesting UI that tries to predict the next few hours just to predict if it’s going to rain or not.
I think an example of getting a UI just about perfect is the way the Apple Watch does Apple Pay. That could not be nicer. Once you get everything loaded in that, okay, it’s a double click and you hold your phone up to a center and you’d paid for it. And I try to use that every chance I get just because it is so frictionless.
Of course I had to build a special mode of the watch, a special double click mode to allow that to happen, but I can’t imagine paying for something being any less friction than that.
One of the interesting challenges only Apple has is this is the first time they’ve created a fashion accessory. This is not just something you carry around, this is something that already existed out of the world as a fashion accessory. So I think there’s a lot of speculation about ‘are people going to accept things like computers on your wrist’ or ‘is that going to get a backlash’.
It’s going to be interesting to see if they can co-opt you wrist to create a new platform for people to consume iOS devices or not. I think they’ve got a reasonably good chance; I have no idea what Apple Watch sales are – I haven’t looked into that. But I know that – I think totally that several [inaudible] that were on the fit to guide in it, they’ve all been pleasantly surprised on how much more they ended up using it than they thought they would.
CHUCK: Yeah, I was on defense. I actually – I backed the Pebble Time Kickstarters so I’m probably going to be getting one of those, but I definitely want to get an Apple Watch at some point and just see how the experience compares.
I’m also curious about Ambient Control as opposed to Ambient Information – you talked about notifications and things but I’m aware that, for example, on the Apple Watch I believe you can stop, play and pause music or podcast or what have you. Are other applications taking advantage of Ambient Control and do you think that a different user experience with different constraints than Ambient Information?
NEAL: I think it is, and that’s another core use that I have. I’ve recently got – I mentioned I travel a lot and I hate wires, so I recently got a Bluetooth headset, which is really nice, it works really well. And the combination of the phone plus the Bluetooth headset plus the watch is the ideal listening experience because the watch lets you change the buy and then go through it back, etc. So that’s a good example of Ambient Control.
There’s a lot of other useful Ambient Control things, too, like timers. I buy a coffee with a French press; I constantly have to have 5 minutes time, I do all that with my watch now. I just take out my watch, set the timer for five minutes, and Siri takes over and does a five minute timer for me. So I think that most of the Ambient Control is going to happen through Siri because the form factor’s just too small to do anything really input intensive. But with Siri you can get a lot of stuff done.
So for example, texting – that’s the classic kind of interactive experience. So when you get a text on the Apple Watch, you get the text and you can read it, and then it gives you a set of answers you can reply to like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘okay’, or ‘I’ll call you later’. But you can also just kick into Siri and let Siri do voice recognition to say whatever you want or which one of the messages to be.
So I think what the watch is going to do is – I think most people who don’t like Siri never used it enough to get trained to the point where you can do really useful things with it. The same is going to be true for the watch, and just like getting a watch makes you professional about the way you handle notifications, I think getting the watch is going to make you professional about the way you handle things like Siri as well.
But here is the ultra, the ultimate kind of ambient manipulation information, and this is probably my favorite overall of all the thing that I’ve wired up together with the Apple Watch and on my iPhone. So I’m a big proponent of getting things done style of personal information management. Not the – I just like the idea of – I’m not really burdened to the whole religion of G to D of API but this is really good – this idea of getting ideas out of your head as quickly as possible. And I use OmniFocus which runs on the Mac and the phone and the iPad, and OmniFocus has really good Siri integration. So in OmniFocus what you can do is wire up OmniFocus to listen to one of your reminder inboxes.
So you can say, for example, remember the call trolls or you can say to your phone ‘add remember to call trolls to my inbox list’, and that will remind you that it goes into your inbox list which will automatically get sucked into OmniFocus. Because that works through Siri, I can now tell my watch ‘remember to call trolls, add it to my inbox list. And now as soon as I say it into my watch, it appears on my phone, on my iPad, on my computer. And so from a ‘getting things done’ standpoint is the ultimate – I’m driving and I’ve done this a hundred times since I got my watch – I’m driving somewhere, I remember something that I need to handle, I hit the button to put it into Siri mode, I tell it and add it to my inbox list, and ten when I get to my desk all of these things that I told my watch in the car, or nicely there in my [inaudible] let it to go into my information system.
ALONDO: So, you might have an interesting point there when we talked about Ambient Control in that particular example. With the phone, I can pick the phone up and I can control it with one hand.
I’m finding that with the watch I still have to use my right hand – the watch is on my left wrist so it seems like it’s limiting to use in this situation where I’m not just walking.
NEAL: I agree, it’s very limiting, which is why I think voice control is ultimately going to be the way – I think this is going to be the thing that drives them to get Siri better and better and better is to allow you to do more voice control stuff with it.
NEAL: So you don’t have to touch it much at all.
CHUCK: I can tell you though that for some people they’re like, “Siri, call grandma!” and Siri comes back and says, “I found five burger places near you!”
NEAL: Yeah. There’s a great big bang theory with the guy that has a speech impediment can’t get Siri to understand him and work with him so I can sympathize with that.
CHUCK: Are there ways to get it better? I mean you did mention training Siri – can you actually do that?
NEAL: Yeah, Siri gets better the more you use it. So that’s the things is that the more you use it, the more it learns; the way you speak words, the more you correct it. The more it remembers those corrections the more it learns, like grandma actually means Martha Smith, 1250 whatever road, so the more you use it the smarter it gets.
Siri’s not stateless, Siri is stateful for a particular person so it remembers things from previous conversations and tries to make its interactions better. It’s like when people are typing on their iPhone and they say, “Oh, my accuracy’s terrible,” I tell them to speed up, don’t slow down, because by speeding up you get the autocorrect predictive stuff kicking in, because you’re getting in the neighborhood very often you end up with better results and if you try you get really slow delivery.
CHUCK: So when you correct sir – I just did a Google search, it looks like you can actually swipe up or swipe down and then type in what you actually said and then Siri gets better that way, too.
CHUCK: It takes a little bit of deliberate work but –.
NEAL: This is like tending your notifications, but ultimately what you want to get out of that extra work that you’re putting in to. So this would be a bad bargain if putting that work in didn’t get you useful benefits out.
I can remember back in the – a while ago, reading to several different dragon pieces of software for half an hour at a time just so I could – it could understand, I mean, type. I never felt that all that reading to it gave me value back for the effort that I put into it. But I think that notifications and Siri training does pay back the efforts you put into it.
So one of the things I talked about – I read a blog about Ambient Information – one of the things I talked about as I was talking about Ambient Information is Google Glass, which is the obvious other major player in this space. And there’s a disclaimer here – I’ve never used Google Glass, but I’ve known around a few people that have Google Glass on and wearing them. And most of those people have made me much less likely to go and get Google Glass because I think it is the opposite of Ambient Information – it’s intrusive information.
You’re used to looking at other people’s eyes when they’re speaking to you and having this really obvious computer interface between you and the other person is really off-putting. And it’s really off-putting when they start using it because they get this get-glazed look in their eyes and you’re clearly not engaged with what’s going on around you.
So to me it seems like Google Glass tries to interject itself into your interaction whereas the watch is trying to scuttle out of the way as much as possible.
C; I’ve heard about people though that they start using the Google watch and then it’ll vibrate and nobody picks that up at them. Then they look down at they’re watch and that’s also a cue sometimes that you’re ready to move on to something else.
CHUCK: Yeah, you should be mindful of that as well.
JAIM: If I have to go to a social situation, I have my phone set to mode notifications. Don’t be antisocial.
NEAL: Yup, that’s right. And if you’re wearing Google Glass it’s essentially impossible not to be antisocial because it just kind of interjects itself. I’ve learned up that there’s a whole creepy candid camera aspect that it [crosstalk] anytime. It’s get to know their barriers.
This maybe one [inaudible] thing and they may come up with a really clever way to word that, but I think the best bet – this is the only real passion vector that you could take advantage of for, to add more computing to your body without getting really crazy obvious because watches have existed forever. And watches were the key piece of ambient information when information technology was really primitive. I know you want to know what time and day it is so much so that I would wear it on my wrist all the time – that’s a good example of the kind of ambient information that you could deliver back to the 1800’s that was valuable; we just have a lot more information we can deliver now.
CHUCK: Well, and the thing is a lot more put a lot more related information, too. What time is it and what time do I have to be there and what time am I going to arrive – all of these things are all related to that one thing and your watch is able to tell you all of that.
NEAL: Uh-hm, and much more stuff now like directions, and you’ll be able to pay for stuff and interact with podcasts, and TripIt out of big travelers. So TripIt gives some notifications at my watch, gate changes and things like that. We will often just turn your phone too of course, but you’ll get notifications through TripIt before the airport gets notification changes.
CHUCK: That’s awesome.
NEAL: And of course that shows you’re ambient now because it shows up in your wrist rather than you’re getting a vibration in your pocket, having to pull this out of your pocket so you wanted to this about. I’m not sure about the visual.
CHUCK: So are there apps that shouldn’t try and push ambient notification to your watch like games, for example?
NEAL: Yeah, I’ve done very little gaming on my watch. I think Rogues has a watch version – I haven’t even tried it yet because I’m not – maybe how awesome; I haven’t surly gotten around it to it yet.
But I think the thing is, and I think this is different on the watch much more so than other iOS devices is that every single person is going to have a completely different set of things they want available ambiently, and that they want to be pushed at them.
CHUCK: I guess that makes sense. So teenagers that use their watch or their phones are for primarily gaming and interacting with their friends. They want text message notifications and they want your friends send you lives on whatever game because it’s all social for them. Whereas somebody like me, I don’t want my game bug in me on my watch. I want to know what I’m going to get to where I’m going to get. I want it to remind me when I have something going on and if an important e-mail or something like that comes in, I want it to tell me.
NEAL: And I think this is one of the really challenging things about selling the Apple Watch for Apple is because that you can’t put one on and have it instantly tuned ultimately super useful to you. It really does a few weeks of experimentation and tuning. I want to know how they can make that on-boarding simpler or easier. I think it’s the first Apple device I’ve ever had that really does require a manual which is – probably a little bit of view has failed, but I think we’re finally getting down to the user experience on such a small scale but there’s just no way to make things obvious how they work. And there’s a little works bout UI stuff that I think they could’ve done a better job at.
But I think this is the most personalize of all, by far, device they they’ve ever created. And I think the real value only comes from this device once you’ve done a fair amount of personalization work with it.
CHUCK: Yeah, I don’t know if they could’ve known that before they actually put it on people’s wrists.
CHUCK: And so now they see people using it, they have better ideas of what people want from it. Yeah, they maybe able to clean that up some. And sometimes it surprise me of how well they’re able to get to the heart of some of these issues.
NEAL: Well I think it was really smart of them to make it. So they opened up pretty much any app that wanted to have an Apple Watch piece could very early on so that it wasn’t very locked down. And I think they’ve done a pretty good job – I think they’re hyper aware that the real value of this thing comes with really intense customization.
I suspect that they struggle for a while about how do you solve this thing in a way that it doesn’t take two weeks to figure it to make it useful; and they probably just eventually counted on that because I don’t know that you can. But I think this is going to be true – so again looking at the spectrum as information becomes more ambient, as it becomes more ambient that means it’s much more in your face and you’re less certainly going to want to customize that more to cut down on the noise factor that you have. So I think that’s just a natural consequence of having more ambient information available is the desire to 0customize it.
CHUCK: Yeah, so the other question I have as an Apple Watch user the, what are the trigger behaviors that you can look at and go, “Oh I should customize that; I should turn this on, turn this off.” Is it mostly that you’re getting notifications that you don’t care about or are there other things?
NEAL: Yeah. I think anytime that you get a notification that annoys you, that’s a good clue that you should probably turn that off because it’s getting too noisy. So I’ve turned off all e-mail notifications – that’s just too much for me because I get so many e-mails. It just becomes so noisy it’s not useful anymore.
I had one very low volume e-mail account that I wire notification in for that but for the most part I keep those things turned down.
CHUCK: Any others that you can think of, any other things that you should do to customize your watch experience?
NEAL: I don’t know how many other people do this, but I use different watch faces for different purposes.
So the watch face that I leave up most of the time was the highest information [inaudible] or some into-the-information piece which is the module one, which has day in, daytime, weather location, sunrise, sunset activity and moon phase are on. But I also do a fair amount of speaking at conferences, and when I speak at a conference, for some reason analog clocks work better when I’m trying to judge how much time is left rather than a digital clock. And so I switched it over to a watch face as an analog watch face, and I also put a time where on the upper right hand corner counting down how much time I have left in the talk.
NEAL: So I found that, and the other thing that I find is when I go out with friends, I switch it over to the very low information density watch face which is just the decorative watch face. Again, if you have decided to try to be more social, get to the mode where you have less information bombarding you because you’re trying to be more interactive with people around you.
I actually find that I use three watch faces on a regular basis and I customize the watch face for the level of interaction I want to have with the watch at that time, and the setting I’m in with the people I’m with. [Crosstalk]
JAIM: You probably decided a ton about that.
NEAL: I kind of stumbled upon that because I thought – I realized that when I was doing a talk – a conference site, even though it would be really nice to have a countdown timer going. But I don’t want a countdown timer on my watch all the time, and then I realized, “Well, duh you dummy you can have as many watch faces as you want, and you can use different watch faces with different purposes.
I don’t know how many people are doing that but I found that to be a very useful thing.
JAIM: So you’re setting the time for Siri. So before you go on you ‘set the timer for one hour’?
NEAL: Yup, exactly. Set the timer for an hour and 25 minutes because it’s a 90 minute talk and that gives me five minutes of [inaudible] when my watch starts vibrating.
JAIM: Pro speaker tip right there.
NEAL: That’s right! Works great.
CHUCK: So are there things that app designers – and we’ve talked a little bit about this but, are there things that app designers can do then to make their applications more approachable on the watch? So things like, maybe, make it so you can customize which notifications you get, so that instead of turning them on or off in your phone or watch preferences, you actually can go into the app and say, I only want to see e-mail notifications from these e-mail addresses,” or I only want to be notified with these kinds of events?
NEAL: As I imagined version two of Apple Watch, the only things I could imagine is much finer grained ability to do notifications both from a user and app developer’s standpoint.
So you’re limited to ask the things that you can actually have show up directly on the face of the glances which is kind of a desktop overload view of things. I think that’s more and more customizations show up around that. I think that what Apple – hopefully what they’re going to do is give you more and more fine grain control over controlling notifications and giving you a variety of different kinds of notifications. I would love for them to expose to app developers five or six different kinds of haptic tapping syntaxes so that a particular watch could tell you, for example, Dark Sky could give you three taps on your wrist if it’s going to rain within a mile of you in the next 20 minutes. So giving that level of much more fine grain notifications will allow people to tune the application toward the kind of stuff people want to know about. That is one of the ways that keep enhancing this interaction with the watch, it will be on the [inaudible] of the person.
JAIM: Yeah you can get an electric shock if an actual tornado within a mile away. [Laughter] We’re serious this time!
NEAL: If you’re going to a Samsung store, you get a mile joke. [Laughter]
JAIM: Oh, dang it I know! Dang it, aw! Actually there is a pretty good shock with your watch; I was taking my watch off and then somehow it short-circuit through my ring and something else. I get pretty shocked often so, well get better in there.
NEAL: I get pretty impressed with the battery life – I heard some early reports that the battery’s draining really fast, and one day I noticed that my battery’s draining really surprisingly fast, and I rebooted my watch and that [inaudible] so I suspect that’s just a one dido little glitch somewhere, something being too [inaudible] to Bluetooth or something. [Crosstalk]
JAIM: I think I ran through that once.
MIKE: ‘I rebooted my watch’ – that’s not something that you would’ve expected to say in 1999. [Laughter]
NEAL: Yeah, welcome to the new world. I got to say, I first got the watch and then I used boarding passes to board a couple of planes and then they stopped showing up for some reasons. I was like, “Huh, that’s weird,” and it was several days before I even thought, “Oh, I should reboot my watch as if that takes it, and sure enough that did. [Chuckles] But that’s – you got to know the thing in your life you have to remove and reboot periodically though.
MIKE: Did you just make the stuff do it by itself? Your Apple Watch reboots every two days, boom, done.
NEAL: I knew what you were talking about before that I want to come back to is the interaction between health data and – I fully expect that by Apple Watch version 5S, or whatever it is that you’re wearing a full-blown Star Trek tri-quarter on your wrist that is wired into your doctor so that if you start feeling kind of weird, you can call your doctor and say, “Can you look at my chart and see if something weird is going on with my body right now?” So I think – and that has all sorts of instant applications around security and a bunch of other stuff. If you start Bluetoothing health information back and forth between devices in the air, health information is pretty private stuff, in fact the laws cover that, that’s going to make the security information a whole lot more interesting.
So that’s the other really fascinating aspect of Ambient Information is how do you secure that information so that it gets to the people that it’s supposed to get to and doesn’t get to people who shouldn’t see it, and that’s a whole lot other can of worms. We’re going to unpack as we go along.
MIKE: Seems like prioritizing notifications is going to be an interesting thing for that, too, because you’re going to have notifications, you know. So and so like your post on Facebook, or you just got three coins on whatever game you’re playing. And by the way, you have cancer. I don’t want all of those to be at the same level.
NEAL: That’s a good example of the way that they can improve user experience is to be able to create classes of notifications. And so in some situations you can actually have a dial on the face of the watch that says ‘dial upward back’ how much you want to interact with your watch. And then depending on the level you set, that notification will come through really well. I think that would be a nice feature in the watch to say, “I’m already turning the notifications completely off,” versus sitting here around my house, bored, turn them up as high as possible.
JAIM: Yeah, that’s the interesting challenge of the next three years is to customize – how to notify people based on context of who they are without requiring them to become a power user to go in there and that’s where their notifications is. Most users are not going to do that.
MIKE: I saw something the other day about how they’re still pager networks out there and some people really benefit from them because of coverage and things like that. But one reason was, for example, if you’re a doctor and you’re on call, if you’re on call through your cellphone, you might leave your cellphone plugged in next to your bed but it’s going off all night with stupid nonsense and waking you up for no reason. Whereas if you have a pager, you can turn your phone off and leave your pager on and you’re all good.
So if you have some way to coalesce that and be able to put your phone into a mode that’s not silent but is more of an important stuff only, that’ll help a lot I imagine.
NEAL: I think that’s going to be one of the user experience challenges going forward in the interplay between the watch and the phone is exactly how do you build your interfaces and lets you specify that kind of stuff without being this nightmare of scroller boxes and spinning wheels and that kind of stuff.
And I think what we’re getting into is a level of user customization that’s like an order of magnitude more complex than what we’ve had before. But again, I think that this is a side effect of once you get information to the point of being as ambient it is now, you got to be able to do it otherwise it’s very easy for you to get noisy versus useful. There’s a really fine line here as it gets very ambient between useful versus noisy. So that’s going to be a challenge for application developers for the next few years. But I think that’s a good challenge because it force us to rethink the way we interact with things. If you told me five years ago that you’re going to have a really compelling turn by turn direction experience on a watch, I would’ve been skeptical or that suddenly got – you get someone like Siri to work on a watch even if it’s using the phone for most of its computing power.
I think the innovations that are already made are really slick, but I’m anxious to see what kind of other versions we’re going to make because it’s basically Wild West in terms of possibilities and just ideas we hadn’t had yet whereas to make that really effective.
So a lot of people are curious about it; huge number of people interrupt me while doing things in airplanes and things like that to ask me if I like it or not, and I’ll show you the effort I really like it a lot. I would fan boy of gadgets like this because people miscolor. So I knew I was going to get one right away but I actually ended up liking it more than I thought I would. I was already using a fitness tracker watch before and this is definitely a step out up not for a fitness tracking standpoint but definitely some other kind of interaction standpoint. I have very quickly insinuated it softly into my daily/hourly/minutely routine so I use it a lot.
I have a friend who was on the fence about getting it, and his final criteria for buying it was ‘I’m tired of thinking about buying it and I’ll probably eventually get one anyways so I’m just going to go and get it so I can stop thinking about whether I’ll buy it or not’. So he was that kind of on the fence about it but he’s become a huge fan off it ever since getting it. He was wearing a traditional watch, in fact, he’s wearing a very nice traditional watch which he, I think, he was kind of loathed to give up because that is one of the few status pieces of clothing a man could wear is an expensive watch. And some men wear that to show off the status symbol, and so he had to give that up but he was willing to give that up in favor of the more useful utilitarian Apple Watch so I think that’s a [inaudible] thing to come.
JAIM: Yeah. I’ve heard about some company who have made a two-faced watch where you could have your Rolex and also your Apple Watch, each one with different ties to your wrist. [Laughter]
If you have way too much money, then that’d be probably free. [Laughter]
NEAL: It has to be the expensive Apply Watch, too, I’m sure. [Crosstalk]
JAIM: Only if it fits the addition because if it’s not gold, kicks it right out.
NEAL: That’s right, though.
MIKE: Talking about walking around the city staring at your phone, looking in the map is – marks as a tourist. That sort of similar thing makers you with a rich fool, you know.
NEAL: The addition watch pretty much says that you have [inaudible].
MIKE: And then if there’s a Rolex on the other side, it’s just like ‘steal me’.
NEAL: That’s right. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: Alright, well anything else we should go over before we get into picks?
NEAL: I think that’s it for me. It’s been mostly what I’ve been thinking about the watch. I see this as a larger trend of information is going to five ways to become more and more ambient, and this is just the latest version. So I’m curious to see what the next versions are going to be.
NEAL: Yeah. And the thing is – I know we didn’t talk directly about how to do a lot of this in code or whatever, and most of it was about the experience and not necessarily about how app developers need to think about this, but I think it’s really helpful for people to get into their head, especially developers. This is how people are going to use it, this is how people are going to think about it. And so these are the kind of things that you should be considering when you’re building your watch apps.
NEAL: Well it’s a completely different paradigm but I think this paradigm is even more different than the founding paradigm when people started building stuff for it because it is so limited and it has such interesting constraints and abilities as well.
CHUCK: Awesome. Well let’s go ahead and get into some picks. Alondo, do you want to start us off with picks?
ALONDO: Sure. I have one pick this week and it is for a program called Remote Year which I am opening to produce a page in and [inaudible]. And it’s basically a year which you live in a different city in a different country for a month – 12 months consecutively but a different city each month – while you’re working. So I will be working with like-minded people who are Remote workers. And I’m really looking forward to participating; I’m in the middle of the application process right now so hopefully I’ll be accepted and I will be on my way to Uruguay in February.
CHUCK: That sounds really awesome. I would have to bring an extra six people with me if I did that.
ALONDO: I’ve heard of at least two people going so I don’t know – I haven’t heard of an entire family that size going.
CHUCK: Yeah. Jaim, what are your picks?
JAIM: I’ve got one pick and this is a grandma pick, something that grandma knows how to do but I’ve been making homemade chicken broth for the past six month or so and it’s fantastic. It’s one of the healthiest things you can eat. And it’s simple – it takes about 15 minutes. Now you just take a chicken carcass, onion, carrots, celery, a little bit of vinegar and you boil it for 12 hour. And it’s one of the healthiest things you can eat. It’s really good for gut health and things like that. And it makes food delicious – anything that you add water to like a pot roast or something, put a little chicken broth in there, it makes it much better and it’s also cool.
So I’ve read every articles about, like in New York people are not going over coffee they’re going for chicken broth just for a little healthier treat and stuff like that bone broth. But I can give it a plus one – it’s easy to make and it’s really healthy, and my wife just eats it every day, have a little cup of it and add a little salt. So homemade chicken broth; your grandma will be so proud.
CHUCK: Alright. Mike, what are your picks?
MIKE: Well, I’d like to pick this wonderful new search engine I’ve just discovered. It’s called Google; it’s way better than Alta Vista and – wait a minute, we’re not in 1999 anymore, are we? [Laughter]
Okay, for real two things today. Adafruit is a website where you can buy all sorts of electronics. I don’t know how many people who listen to this show get into that kind of thing butt there seems to be a pretty big overlap between regular iOS programmers and people who mess around with other electronics, microcontrollers are doing that kind of thing. They’ve got a great selection there, lots of help getting started, things like that. I just bought a little GPS module from them the other day which cost me a mere 30 bucks and has all sorts of cool features and it’s really easy to hook up and use.
The other pick which is vaguely related is the Soaring Society of America. Some people might know that I fly gliders. It’s a lot of fun and if you’re ever interested in aviation it’s a surprisingly economical way to get into it. And I say it’s vaguely related because I bought – that GPS is module is part of trying to build up some electronics as a flying aid. But it’s a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it.
CHUCK: Where do you get a glider from? Or do you just rent one?
MIKE: I purchased one from another member of my club. They – the major manufacturer these days are in Germany, other – some places in Eastern Europe that make them. And there’s I think one or two American manufacturers right now. But the kind I fly is basically full scale airplanes with no motors so they’re not – they’re basically airplane manufacturers.
CHUCK: Oh, interesting. So do you have to have an airplane to take you up?
MIKE: Yes. You need some sort of assistance to launch the way. We typically do it in the United States with a powered airplane and a rope that takes you to altitude then we release the rope and you’re on your own.
There are also techniques you can use with a winch on the ground that launches you and some crazy people even just push it off the side of a hill if they’ve got a suitable location, but that’s kind of uncommon.
CHUCK: Interesting. Yeah, I’m going to spend all day looking at glider planes online. [Chuckles] Alright, I’ve got a couple of picks here. I’m going to pick something that I’ve been using for quite a while. I probably picked it on the show before but I just – I love it. It’s my JAM box XT. It’s slightly larger than the JAM box – I think it was Pro or whatever. I think it’s JAM pop not JAM box – I don’t remember, but I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. It’s kind of a cylindrical external Bluetooth speaker, and I listen to podcast and music on it while I’m coding just because sometimes I don’t feel like having my headphones on, and it’s super awesome o I’m going to pick that.
And I’ve also gotten into this show. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure. It’s Orphan Black. It’s on BBC America so you go check that out, I’ll put a link to that on the show notes as well.
And finally, I am looking into doing an iOS Remote Conference – as some of you may know I’m doing one right now, putting in one on for Angular. And it’s getting a lot of attraction, people are pretty excited about it. And so I’m thinking about doing the same thing for iOS. I probably mentioned that on the show before, too, but if you’re interested just shoot me an e-mail – email@example.com, or at Twitter, I’m @cmaxw on Twitter and just let me know if you’re interested. And if I get – if I probably get 10 to 20 people saying they’re interested I can probably sell enough tickets to make it worth it.
Anyway, Neal what are your picks?
NEAL: So I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year so the new Neal Stephenson book’s Seveneves is really great – it’s really good. If you like Neal Stephenson, I’d very much would turn it into a forum. Also Kathy Sierra’s latest book Badass: Making Users Awesome is a typical Kathy Sierra book, maybe that’s typically awesome.
And talking about Bluetooth speakers, I have the Bose SoundLink II speakers that I carry on the road with me. It’s way better that listening to sounds over crappy laptop speakers even for videos and things like that. And the Beats II had a Bluetooth headset – I mentioned those, those are the newest that improved my travel life.
I tried Bluetooth headsets when they first came out, and I was super disappointed and I just went back to these and I’ve been super impressed with it.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright if people want to follow up with you or ThoughtWorks or anything else that you’re involved in, what are the best places to go?
NEAL: My website is just my name, nealford.com. I have a blog in [inaudible] called Ambient Information, which is some of the stuff I was talking about here today. My e-mail address is there as well and at ThoughtWorks you could reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, I guess we’ll wrap up the show. Thank you for coming.
NEAL: My pleasure!
CHUCK: We’ll catch everyone next week!
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