Finally the day comes to launch Closr Alpha and….

I’m in a conference in Germany. No big deal, I had planned for this. But what I didn’t realise is has implemented changes to the security of their servers restricting access from outside of Ireland.

So, that means I cannot log into the control panel to set up remote ftp from Germany. That also means I cannot contact them to log a support ticket.

I’ve reached out to them on twitter and hope I can get it sorted tomorrow. Closr needs to be out in the real world :)

Can we remember life without smartphones?

A fab little video that has been doing the rounds lately is called “I forgot my phone“. Basically it is a story about a day in the life of a person without a phone, observing those with phones. It is interesting to see a view of our world from the perspective of an alien, as it were. See below!

It is a fun little video, although clearly biased, but fun none the less. The argument that we are controlled by small little devices is simple at best. The reality is that these devices add real value to our lives and these technological artefacts are changing the way we interact with people, and the real world, as well as the way we interact with other technological artefacts. The onus on the person is to change or get left behind.

Do you remember when you were told, watching too much TV was bad for you, or playing computer games was too bad for you? It is the same now with smartphones, too much is bad for you – apparently.

The fact is, as humans, we are predisposed to do things that interest us. Unfortunately, if the poor girl in the video cannot maintain the attention of those she is having dinner with, it just means that they are more interested something else. If the content being delivered through a smartphone is more interesting then it is up to the person to determine if its use is appropriate. In the dinner example, as 80% of the attendees are on their smartphone, it appears it is appropriate.

Cognitive offloading of mental resources to smartphones mean they have now become an extension of our being. But the video is right in another way, in as much as we offload cognitive processing to these devices (e.g. remembering phone numbers on our behalf so we can collectively remember more than our brain on its own) the devices force cognitive load onto us (e.g. by making things hard to use, or distracting us).

What the video does well, is prove the argument that we need a balance… but that is the case for everything, not just smartphones.



The dark side of Smartphone photography

I am a huge believer in the future of smartphone photography. I see a future where everybody captures everybody’s special moments and we all work together to share these moments for the betterment of our world and society. But it would be naive to think that there is not an equally dark side to this future. As mobile devices become more ubiquitous so does their ability to capture those moments that we really would rather not be captured. The more we try to stop people capturing these moments the more we make it a “thing” and the more people will try to capture them and the further they will be spread. Its human nature.

So this weekend there was a very unfortunate incident with a young teenage girl at an Eminem concert in Dublin, Ireland. I won’t go into the details but they are particularly nasty and involve the photography of an under-age sex act and subsequent distribution via social media of what is essentially (and legally) child pornography.  For a while the hastag #slanegirl was trending globally, indication that a large proportion of the internet were both viewing and distributing these images and helping spread the story.

As much as I think that smartphone technology and the design of social media encourages these incidents to be recorded and spread worldwide I also think that it is so sad that our culture encouraged people to stand by, watch and even record the incident. It is the same sadness that I feel when I consider the people who shared and helped spread the incident online, of which there were 10’s of 1000’s.

As a father myself with a young daughter I really worry about what this incident will do to the girl’s mental well being and what effects it may have on her future.

Technology is designed for cognitive offloading, it is designed to become an extension of ourselves. Specifically well designed technology, like Twitter, is designed to be used on impulse. Acting on impulse without thinking is an evolutionary developed characteristic and can be seen in the simple example of fight or flight.   Sometimes we make the wrong choice and our choice backfires. Slanegirl made the wrong choice and it will resonate with her forever.

However, the users of the technologies (smartphone and twitter) also made impulsive  choices without thinking. These impulsive choices will also be recorded forever. Twitter specifically is designed to make sharing of these events easy, but  it also impresses a sense of urgency and group think on its users. Trends are time bound – twitter tells us to be a successful tweeter we must make timely commentary on relevant content. When people see such commentary trending they get caught up and ultimately become part of the trend which has an additional effect  of recruiting others to the trend. Maybe later, once the trend subsides, some of these people can think about their actions, but at this stage its too late, the digital footprint is set in stone. There is no going back, and I wonder how they feel right now. And as the story proceeds, I wonder how they will deal with the knowledge that they are no involved in the story itself, and possibly even criminally involved (as other outlets suggest

There is a dark side to this technology, we all need to think before we use, even if it goes against our evolutionary coding, because what we do will stay with us forever. Technology can be designed to exploit our weaknesses as a UX professional I know these tricks of the trade all too well (c.f. ).

Perhaps we need evolution 2.0, a way of looking at technology and assessing its value and purpose before using it. For example we can look at our smartphones and Twitter accounts and think critically about what we are doing and the wider long term implications of our actions.


Can a smartphone cameras really compete with DSLRs?

The answer is an astounding yes! Well… kinda…

The power, memory and technical capabilities of smartphones means that it is possible to take great photo’s on a smartphone. But some things will restrict you like lightings or camera shake, however tech is being created to tackle these. Certainly there is a growing divide of casual smartphone photography and professional branded photography (big old DSLR’s). Camera’s like Nokia lumia Are challenging this divide, but for the purposes of smartphone photography is there really a point?

My favourite photograph is one I took in Interlaken, Switzerland back when I was 12 and it was taken on the cheapest of cheap instamatics cameras.

My point is, if you have the passion, patience, perspective and persistence (4p’s awesome :) ) you will get a great photo regardless the medium.

Don’t believe me that smartphones can take great photo’s…

Check this out!



Mobile photography @ church!

christeningOver the last two weekends, I have been at two christenings (or baptismal ceremony), in two different religions. I was even the godfather in one :)

Of course on my list of things to do before leaving was to have all of the cameras charged and ready to go. Could I use flash, what kind of lighting would I find, what was the best lens… you know, the usual.

The first christening I went to had about 40 people present and I was only slightly surprised to see that I was the only one with a “real” camera. Everyone else had a smart phone and were snapping away happily. There was a time when you couldn’t move in a church for a range of DSLR’s and video’s!

I felt a few things; first I felt a little smug e.g. I’ll take way better pics, then quickly afterwards I felt a little old, or slightly “out of time”.

This kind of “record” photography is focused on capturing the moment and is not terribly concerned with award winning levels of photographic quality. Whilst not a watershed moment, it was nice to better understand how Closr will be a perfect product, not just for people into photography, but people into recording and sharing experiences.

This  weekend, I decided to ditch the  static gear and use my mobile to join in the rest of the “mobile posse” at the second christening. My Huawei was called into action and I took a couple of nice photo’s. Several strangers came up and asked if they could get a copy of the images. I really wanted to say just put the date and location in to and you could see them, but as we are keeping a low profile, I decided to share them via email.

We are at an exciting time, a time to “Get Closr” and share experiences :)

Fantasitic start

So yesterday “Team Closr” kicked off. The goal is to start spreading the word; of a Closr world.

Social networks are great, but most of our experiences take place with people we don’t know.

Team Closr has started spreading the idea of embracing strangers and the experiences we share with them yesterday on twitter.

Feel free to reach out @teamclosr.

My very first post became a “top tweet”. What an awesome start :)

top tweet